Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My Friend 8.6.10

You know how there are those people you meet and they nearly instantly become part of the very fabric of your being?

You know how they can live across the country and you may not talk more than a couple of times a year and see each other next to never but when you do it's like no time has passed? No time at all? And they just get you? And inspire you? And make you want to be a better person?

Deidre is one of those people. Twenty-one years ago, we met at the sinks in Deseret Towers brushing our teeth. We discovered we were both piano majors, both liked the same kinds of music, and I think we were friends to the core within a day. (Our group later included our soon-found friends Steph and Guen and after I got married and deserted the apartment, Rhae took my place. All five of us still have a deep, dear bond.)

Oh, and David loves Deidre, too. (In fact, they went on a date before he ever asked me out. Yes, I had a boyfriend, but it's still fun to tease him about it.)

Deidre is just plain awesome. She's a phenomenal pianist, jazz musician, and songwriter living in New York with her sweet husband Ben and their darling Mirabelle. She dreams big, she loves big, she is always thinking, always creating, and she brightens my world. We haven't been in the same city since her wedding five years ago (which is a sad sad thing), but I was thrilled to hear she was coming to SLC with her family, and we got a whole weekend together.

On Friday we hung out and talked and laughed, then went to the Gateway to let Mirabelle and Ben play in the water fountains.

Then last minute we decided to go to the Deer Valley Music Festival. It was a gorgeous night. The kids were happy. The music was fun. The thunder and lightning threatened, but held off just over the mountain.

It was a nearly perfect day.

Primary Party 8.5.10

We had our Primary (the church childrens' group) water party on a thunderstormy day. The kids started out by cleaning all the children-sized chairs with soap and water, then moved on to a giant slip and slide, and finally to popsicles. As I stood at the bottom of the slip and slide, holding it down with one foot to keep the wind from blowing it away, cheering for each of the kids as they slid down, I realized I know about 75 percent of their names (better than I know their moms' names, that's for sure) and that I was starting to feel a little bit at home.

That's a good feeling.

And I am beginning to think that the majority of pictures I take of Ben are of Ben in motion. Or Ben eating sugar.

Buddies 8.4.10

After Josh's cello lesson we stole our buddies Coleson, Emily, and Ashlee from SLC and forced them to come to our house. They didn't kick and scream too much about the kidnapping.

We miss our buddies. There's something so special about long-time friendships.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Your Birthday(s)

Today is the birthday of two people I love dearly.

It's a bittersweet day.

It's sweet because it's Christina's birthday, and I was blessed beyond measure when Eric married her, gifting me a dear beloved sister.

It's bitter because it's also Brent's birthday, and we miss him dreadfully.

On August 22, 1979, (when I was nearly eight) Brent came into the world.

He was blessed the day I was confirmed, and I remember being very proud of all the time we took up in Sacrament Meeting that day. (I was also very proud of the cute dress my mom had made me, but that doesn't have much to do with this blog post.)

I loved my little Brown Bear. He got this nickname because unlike me, Chad, or Matt, the kid had some melanin in his skin. And his smile could light up a room. I remember putting makeup on him when he was four or five (sorry, Brentie) and deciding he would have been a darned pretty girl. He was always a looker, with makeup or without.

Brent's birthday became something of a family joke. Despite evidence to the contrary (parties at Knott's Berry Farm, for example), he liked to complain that most of his childhood birthdays were spent in the car traveling home from family camp. Although this was a highly exaggerated claim, I definitely remember one year we cut up a small store-bought cake at a rest stop somewhere in California.

But Brent's birthday got a shot in the arm when Christina married Eric. We loved that she had a twin birthday with Brent, and they celebrated their birthdays together for many many years when they all lived in California.

Christina is amazing. She is funny, she has a great eye for design, she is a really good mom to four really intense kidlets, she loves my brother so much, she is loyal. She loves animals. She is faithful to a degree I admire immensely, even when her faith comes at a great cost. Her laugh is infectious. She is silly. She is giving. She is kind. And she is an excellent listener.

Today was not an easy day for her. I am so sorry, Christina. I know that we all wish circumstances were different. I will say again, though, that I am so glad you share a birthday with Brent. This day will now continue to be a happy day, because we get to celebrate the day you came into the world. And that makes this world a much much better place.

So here are some pictures of my beloved birthday twins. And no, Christina, I did NOT post the Hungry Hungry Hippo picture. But oh, I was sorely tempted.

First, here is Christina:

And then, here is Brent:

I'll admit, going through these pictures of Brent was harder than I thought it would be, especially when I got to last August 22. I was with him last year for his 30th birthday. It was a great day. Mom loved to tease him every year with the trick candles that don't blow out. We played Big Boggle (and he beat us all, as expected), he played with my kids, and man, I just wish I could have a re-play. I'd love to go back and soak up every single second.

Happy birthday, Brentie B. You are so loved and so missed. There's a big hole in our hearts without you here.

And happy birthday, Nina. Thank you for being my sister. We love you bunches and bunches.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Another Casualty List

Remember this one? I know, the events two days after kind of shot those feelings of being overwhelmed out of the water. But it does seem that tribulation (little and enormous) sometimes comes in steady streams.

Some of the things we've dealt with since. Some of these are little. Some of these are enormous:

The Rodeo's transmission went out (it will be well over $1000 to fix.)

More bills than money.

Potty training a three-year-old boy who would rather be a "yitto boy" than a "big boy."

Cleaning up after a fourteen-year-old dog.

My running partner was the first on the scene when a woman (also running) collapsed (and later died) on our running route. She was 43 and left three children behind.

Weeds. Weeds. Weeds. Even more weeds than bills. So many many weeds. A plethora of weeds.

The water softener stopped working (which doesn't sound like a big deal, but my cracking skin thinks it is.)

Cracking skin. I mean, come on. I've had cracked fingertips in winter since I moved to Utah, but the constant, never-healing cracks all year long? Getting way old. Way way old.

A husband who works too much, too hard, too long (and for this I respect him greatly) for most of the summer. When does his crazy schedule end? Three days before school starts. Fair? Not fair.

My mom's cousin died after a 43 year battle with MS.

My great-uncle was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

Wednesday the van's brakes went out.

And then there are the things that aren't discussed publicly but weigh on our souls like lead. These private griefs can be ever as painful as the public griefs, but because of their nature, we suffer them alone. Suffering alone is much harder than allowing people to suffer with us, isn't it?

Through this, I've had moments (OK, even hours) of anxiety, panic, fear, and grief. But the emotion I feel most often?


Strange, isn't it?

I've listed many of the things that have forced me to my knees over the last couple of months. But here are some of the things that have kept me there, giving thanks.

You. My family and friends. Your prayers. Your love. Your kindness.

Learning to feast on the scriptures again. I'm studying carefully, taking notes, and the Lord is teaching me important things every day.

Humility. You can't have experiences like these without recognizing your own nothingness. I am weak. I am utterly imperfect. And I have found grace through my imperfections. God loves me, even when I least deserve to be loved (which is most of the time).

The sunsets.

My family reunion in Idaho.

The chukars.

Being able to run up my hill.

Having people I ADORE visit and stay in my house so we can stay up late talking.

Three-year-old hugs and kisses.

The Segullah writing retreat.

My piano group.

The Bonneville Shoreline Trail.

My sisters-in-law.

Finding strength when I don't think there is any more strength left.

Feeling peaceful even when I know I should feel anything but.

Life is hard. Yes, it is. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise or you'll be disappointed when you hit the bumps.

But it is also beautiful. I'm learning to see the beauty even when it's dark around me. And when I really see the beauty, really really pay attention? The darkness lightens, and more and more and more beauty pours in.

Neat how that works.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Piano Group Rocks 8.3.10

Seriously. I can't tell you how much I love the women in my piano group. They are intelligent, talented, funny, kind, intuitive. And they can PLAY that piano.

When I was inspired to begin this group, I had no idea how many dividends it would pay out within such a short time. I'm inspired by the other women, by their music, by their teaching ideas, by their lives.

We're working on duet music together, Cody played some Schubert lied accompaniments that she'll be performing with her husband, and I played the Mompou I performed for Mrs. Gibson's memorial service. We stayed late, and then I hung out talking in the parking lot for another hour. I got home about midnight. And I loved every minute.

Wedding Flowers 8.2.10

I loved many people in our last ward. Christy is one of those I loved. She taught me much about resilience and kindness. Recently she became engaged to a kind man in the ward. Both of them have faced hard things. I've been so impressed with both of them. When sweet Christy asked if I'd be willing to play the piano for their lunch/reception, I was more than willing. I was thrilled.

I used to play the piano for weddings to earn extra money in college. Sometimes it was hard, sometimes it was great, and sometimes my back just hurt after sitting for so many hours. But this time it was a privilege and I was grateful to be a part of such a joyous time.

There was one little problem: Just before leaving, I looked for my book of wedding music and the binder wedding music I put together years ago. I couldn't find them. If I lent them to you some time ago, let me know...

Christy gave me some flowers to say thank you. They brought back the happiness that flowed through that reception whenever I looked at them for the next week.

Welcome Home 8.1.10

We have some amazing friends. Some of our dearest friends have been made through Dave's association with the symphony, and it's been hard when they've moved on to new adventures.

But sometimes they come back...

OK, they NEVER come back, except this time. Jeff and Hillary moved away a year ago to try out a life in Baltimore. And their house didn't sell. And they didn't really like Baltimore. And the renters in their Salt Lake house moved out. And so they CAME HOME.

So we celebrated. And we'll continue to celebrate. Because we love them and we can't believe we get to have them in our lives on a constant basis again.

EFY Girls 7.31.10

Chelsea and Jill finished EFY (Especially for Youth, a program for LDS teenagers) and came over with Ashleigh to hang out. They had a great week, and even managed to survive on BYU food. When I relied on BYU food, I ate mostly with Lucky Charms, Yoplait, and the salad bar. I lived. So did they.

But I win the award because I did it for a whole school year and they only did it for six days. So there.

Movie Night 7.30.10

Water Party 7.29.10

Seek and find:

Crazy big water balloon.

Boy in diaper. (I try to keep him clothed. I really do.)

Boy in raincoat.

Smiling girls.

Happy summer day.

My Boy Turns Fourteen 7.28.10

Josh is now fourteen years old.

This is too old.

I am not at all prepared to be the mother of a fourteen-year-old boy. I never pictured relating to a teenage boy, deep voice and all. It's a little nutty.

But this morning at 7:55, he headed out the door with his iPod in his ears, ready to mow the (freakishly large) yard. Without being reminded.

So...fourteen? It might just turn out to be great.

In the last year, our lives changed a great deal. The changes have not all been easy for Josh, but he's learning to be resilient, to adapt and learn and grow. I'm grateful for his kindness to little kids, for his sense of humor, for his increasing love of cooking, for his good heart.

Josh's favorites:

Food: Pizza
Color: Blue
Treat: Cake
Music: Alternative (Owl City, Coldplay)
Sport: Soccer
Books: Endurance, Hunger Games, Catching Fire

My favorite teenage boy: Josh.

I'll let you know how fourteen treats us. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it will be the best kind of adventure.

Cookie Dough 7.27.10

Ben likes cookies too.

Oh, you already know that?

Yes, I may have mentioned it.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Another Trip Down Memory Lane 7.26.10

Monday morning I took Jill and Chelsea to EFY. It was a day of adventure.

It was also my NINETEENTH anniversary.

I got married very young.

(I honestly did.)

So what did I do with Chelsea and Jill? I drove by the apartment where I lived when we got engaged and also drove by our first married student apartment. And oh, the memories.

I love my sweet husband. I loved remembering our first sweet married days and the dreams and hopes we had for the future.

This is where I lived with three of my best friends the year I dated David. (Lucky me, I still love each and every one of them. In fact, Deidre and her family just came and stayed with me last weekend. Pictures will be coming.)

And here is where David and I began our life together. In the garage of this fine-looking place. I must say, it hasn't changed much since 1991. It was a studio apartment with no insulation (it WAS the garage, after all) and mushrooms growing in the closet. It was only $259 a month, so we ignored the mushrooms and kept a spray bottle of water near the bed to spray on the window fan that tried to keep us cool during the summer.

We spent four years in this charming place.

And I'd do it again.

Happy anniversary to my David. I loved you enough to live in a garage, and I love you even more now.

Peace and Quiet and then Not 7.25.10

I have never spent so much quiet time in my childhood home ever. EVER. Since Chelsea was at EFY in Utah, it was just Mom and Dad and me and lots and lots of peace and quiet. Sunday dinner for three? WHAT? (Yes, there are four plates, but that's because we thought Chad would come liven things up. Instead he had to patch a ceiling hole. Boring.)

I loved my weekend in California. We had lots of time to talk and laugh and remember and talk some more. Mom asked if I'd come again next month.

I wish.

And then I got home! And Sophie had made me a welcome home mat, signed by all the family. I think they missed me. But they still wouldn't listen to me when I told them it was time for bed.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Going Home Again 7.24.10

Saturday was a bittersweet day. I spent time running with my mom and then alone. I spent time in the lakebed pondering the losses of the summer. I spent time practicing my Mompou and playing lots and lots of other gorgeous music.

And then it was time to head to Long Beach for Mrs. Gibson's memorial service.

The service was held at the Unitarian Church in Long Beach. As I walked through the grounds, I remembered my first time there. It was a Mozart competition. My dad had told me that if I won my division, he would buy me a grand. I was playing the a minor sonata (K. 310), first movement, and my fingers had just had their first cracks. I was in a warmup room, waiting to play, and I showed Mrs. Gibson the cracks in the fingertips. She had me pound my fingers on a tabletop so that the pain dulled to a numb ache instead of the sharper original pain. And then I played. And I won. And my dad bought me a grand. And then he kept it. Thanks a lot, Dad.

I also remembered coming home from college and driving to the same church with Kurt to attend a chamber performance of Mrs. Gibson. I don't know if she had become Leaine to me yet. Probably not. It took many many years of adulthood before I could call her by her first name without cringing.

So even the location of the service was evocative to me. This woman loved me, coached me, taught me how to phrase a melody line, how to think for myself, how to wring joy out of life. She cared deeply about me, about my family, and about the music she taught me.

Somehow my love of music is wrapped up in my love of her. And I don't think I even realized it fully until it was too late to tell her.

The service was full of beautiful words and beautiful music. And when it ended with a video performance of Mrs. Gibson performing Chopin, we all cried and cried and cried. Her voice has been stilled in this world, but I'm sure she plays on in the next.

After the service, Mom and I drove to the CSULB campus so I could reminisce about the years we would walk to the music building for my piano lessons. I am still blown away by my mom's dedication to my music lessons. She had to cart not just me to those lessons, but anywhere from three to seven other children that she had to keep entertained and quiet. For eleven years (until I could finally drive myself). Have I mentioned that my mother is a good woman?

After CSULB, we drove by my elementary school and then finally by our first house. The day included so many memories of a rich childhood.

It was a wonderful, special day.

I am very grateful.

(Ooooo...and very exciting. I met Mrs. Gibson's main teacher, Julien Musafia, who performed two Chopin mazurkas at the service, and found out that my musical lineage goes back to Leschetizky. I'm feeling very old school and cool now.)

Going Back to Cali 7.23.10

I headed to California (all alone) to play at my first piano teacher's memorial service.

I knew it was important to be at the memorial service to honor her, to pay tribute to the major impact she had on my development as a musician and as a person.

I didn't know that the weekend would end up being so healing and lovely and relaxing and fun and poignant, but I am so so glad it did.

I had my mom and dad to myself for three days for perhaps the first time ever since I was 17 months. That was a treat.

After I flew in to Orange County, my mom and I headed to the temple, and then Dad, Mom and I drove to LA to see Bri & Mike's apartment and Ananda & Matt's apartment. We spent some lovely time visiting, eating, and laughing, and I enjoyed watching baby Celia ham it up in a way I've never seen. She was so fun.

I loved seeing the spaces my siblings and their spouses have created for themselves, and getting a little glimpse into their oh-so-urban LA lives.

Family Swim Day 7.22.10

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Massive MASSIVE Cake Fail

I have no pictures, so you'll just have to trust me on this one.

I really used to think I was a pretty good little baker. Until this. And this. And this.

But it has been a while since those minor catastrophes. And I started to feel like maybe there really is a domestic goddess inside me, just waiting for the perfect opportunity to show herself.

And today that opportunity presented itself. Our friend Bowen turned 20 yesterday. Our friend Jeff turns (ahem) 40 tomorrow. A party was planned to celebrate both today. And I thought, "What would be nicer than a different cake for each of these great guys?"

Nothing! Nothing would be nicer! Especially if someone ELSE had had the great idea and executed it a little bit better.

So I made Bowen an almond poppyseed bundt cake. It turned out mostly very well.

And I thought I'd make Jeff a triple-layer triple chocolate cake. The cake layers came out of the pans beautifully. The frosting tasted great. I assembled it, and even used skewers to keep the layers in place. I thought the frosting might be a little too soft, but figured it wouldn't be a big deal.

Well...it was a big deal. Because by the time we got to the party, the layers had shifted. It was now the Leaning Tower of Cake.

And by the time we went to light the candles? The top layer had lost a quarter of itself to gravity.

What else could be done? Nothing. We stuck in the candles and went ahead with our celebration. Jeff said the cake was perfect for the occasion: all broken-down and off-kilter. We all laughed and laughed and laughed. Maybe the darned cake was scary-looking, but it was delicious and hilarious, all at the same time.

But the next time my inner domestic goddess gets big ideas, will someone shut her up and remind her about the LAST time she got too ambitious?

(And will someone give me a foolproof cake recipe?)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Domestic Goddess? 7.21.10

We all know I'm not a domestic goddess. I've made that abundantly clear.

But wait. Maybe I am.

Because when my children are hungry at dinnertime, and neighbor kids are also hungry at dinnertime, and dinnertime has not been well-planned (OK, it hasn't been planned at all. And is 7:45 dinnertime?), wouldn't a domestic goddess figure out a way to soothe the masses with little mess and fuss?

Yes. She would.

Witness waffles for dinner, happy faces, and a happy domestic goddess wielding her trusty whisk and waffle iron.

(I think this would be even more impressive if breakfast for dinner didn't happen about twice a week during the summer. But that's just between you and me. We don't have to tell the rest of the world.)

Malisa's New House 7.20.10

Malisa bought a new house! Hooray! It's lovely and in a lovely neighborhood. I'm thrilled for her and her cute family.

I'm also fascinated by how tough moving can be emotionally. It's a little surprising to see her going through the same process I did 10 months ago, since her move was more happily anticipated.

So my hypothesis?

Moving stinks. Don't do it. Unless you really have to. And then prepare yourself for a wild ride.

But I'm still excited for Malisa.

Scout Camp 7.19.10

Josh left for Camp Steiner. Don't his patches look fantastic? They'd better, considering how late I was up trying to sew them on. And yes, I know about Badge Magic, but I had a bad experience getting his older patches OFF because of the Badge Magic, so I thought I'd better stick with stitching. That was fine until I broke two needles and went back to Badge Magic.

I am not a domestic goddess.

A Good Man 7.18.10

You've got to love a man who cleans ceiling fans.

Frozen Yogurt 7.17.10

Orange Leaf. Yummy.