43 tons of rock

Good gosh, I hadn’t intended to let that much time lapse since my last blog post but life has been warp-speed ahead. BYU’s graduation was last week, I’m a couple of months ahead of schedule on our alumni magazine and work life is settling into a more reasonable rhythm–one where I dictate the wheres and the hows for the next few months. I really need to sell Mile High Mamas but that will take time and effort to redesign and revitalize it to where it needs to be, neither of which I have.

I have so many updates. Our fun spring break in San Diego. My awesome foodie group that meets every month.  The start to pumpkin season. Watching Bode score lots of soccer goals every week with Jamie as coach. The start of track season. The end to Hadley’s roller-coaster club volleyball season. A lot of seasons through the hourglass.

But if I’m being honest here, life is hard right now, really hard. I’m not a complainer but we’ve been dealt a heavy dose of C-R-A-P and every time we think we can come up for air, we’re thrust down under again.

Hard, hard, back-breaking things. Doctors. Interventions.  Mountains of medical bills.  A snowboarder who won’t pay for injuring Hadley and now we have to deal with the hassle of small claims court. My stupid bum knee(s) I can’t afford to fix. Jamie’s chronic rheumatism. This week our washing machine started wigging out and is knocking at death’s door. A part on our new dishwasher broke off and oh, don’t forget that our outdoor water spigot leaked into our walls and floorboards, forcing Jamie to punch a hole in the basement ceiling to survey the water damage and the potential for mold.

When it rains, it downpours. Sometimes inside your own house. 

We had 43 tons of rock delivered a couple of weeks ago. We’re slowing chipping away at our landscaping but it’s a slow process as Jamie repeatedly runs into problems installing the sprinkler lines. Once that is finished, then we can rock the backyard and then seed. Everything in its proper order. On Saturday, the kids tirelessly and without complaint helped me wheelbarrow and haul buckets upon buckets of rocks in our front yard. The rock pile is still there…and so are our weary muscles but the front yard is one step closer to being finished.

After yet another major blow after church yesterday, Jamie and I were feeling so darn defeated but I’m so grateful to have him by my side. “Survivor Island,” we jokingly call this new existence with the hope that pina coladas will someday be back on the menu. As I was expressing my frustrations to him last week, he said, “I really feel like we’ve got about seven years of this and then things will turn around. And then we’ll be better off than we ever were in Colorado.”

S-E-V-E-N YEARS? If you do the math, Bode will be 18. It’s no small coincidence that the end of his time frame also marks the end of the teenage years.

Jamie needs some tips on how to give an effective pep talk.

But you know what? Hard things are everywhere. My dad is a tireless caregiver for my mom. My friend Anne is an inspiring advocate for her beautiful autistic schizophrenic boy. My friend Tanya has been struggling with infertility for years after having cancer. She set the goal to do a triathlon and crushed it last year. She eagerly prepared to have a beautiful baby placed in their home via adoption, only to have the birth mom pull out right before. Tonight, she announced her cancer is back.

43 tons of rock.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland spoke at BYU’s Commencement and his words pricked my heart about the state of the world and our role in it.

No child should have to go to school fearful that they won’t live to see their parents that evening. No citizenry should have to live with a system, pick a nation, any nation, put a pin in a world map almost at random, where corruption is rampant, where chaos is the order of the day, and statesmen lack character, elevated to say nothing of elegant speech, and dignified personal behavior are seemingly alien concepts. No young people your age or any age ought to face conditions in so many places where poverty and abuse, including sexual abuse, malnutrition and disease, human trafficking and terror are still the rule, rather than the exception for too many people, including too many children.

Well, not on this day do I want to dwell on anything negative.

And you might say, ‘it has always been so down through time.’ Maybe it has but it doesn’t have to be. So, go out there and light a candle. Be a ray of light, be your best self and let your character shine. Cherish the gospel of Jesus Christ and live it. The world needs you and surely your Father in Heaven needs you if His blessed purposes for His children are to prevail. You have entered to learn…now go forth to serve and strengthen.

43 tons of rock.

We’ve got this. Even if it is one small load at a time.

My month of work in review

It has been just over a month since I started working at BYU and I’m overdue for an update. The first couple of weeks were rough trying to get into the new routine and there are still a lot of areas we need to tweak with the kids’ schedules but overall, I’m enjoying the new position and my co-workers.

Week 1. We thought we were going to die. No lie. Hadley got in her ski accident on Monday (Marin Luther King Jr. Day), she stayed home from school Tuesday and I started work Wednesday. She was unraveling in so many ways and we were emotionally and physically exhausted dealing with everything. We were supposed to start a personal finance class through the Church’s Self-reliance initiative but as we lay curled up in the fetal position on the couch, we decided the class would have to wait until spring (there was a lot of intensive homework and our camel’s back was already broken). Plus, I’m still running Mile High Mamas for the foreseeable future so I’m juggling two jobs while trying to keep everything else afloat.

Week 2. I came into this position at the worst possible time with the planning of our two biggest annual events + overseeing the editorial for our alumni magazine. Even though the position is only 3/4-time,  my commute is 1.5 hours and I’ve been working longer hours. Jamie has had to pick up a lot of my slack, driving Hadley to her many doctor’s appointments. I still felt overwhelmed with the position. My predecessor is my polar opposite: bookish, research-oriented and a Pulitzer Prize winner for spreadsheets. I seriously questioned my ability to fill her shoes and felt my creativity was being squashed. However, as I edited a 100-page donor report, there were so many stories of student internship experiences that directly correlated to our struggles. It was confirmed over and over again that landing this job was not a coincidence.

Week 3.  The awakening with our first big donor event. For three days, I hosted our guest lecturer from Vanderbilt, took his amazing wife on private tours of our art museums  and connected with them both in a meaningful way. The event was poignant and meaningful….and I started to catch a glimpse that maybe I could do this and bring my own flavor to the position.  Until I received my first paycheck. After taxes, tithing and 401K, I’m not making very much money but I guess every little bit helps, especially when we have a new car payment (Jamie bought me a Pilot for my birthday) and the mountain of medical debt we’ve accrued over the past year. And the backyard that needs to be landscaped. And the basement that needs to be finished.

Week 4. Things started to click at work. My proposal to overhaul our alumni magazine was approved and my student writers were excited about the new direction we were going with less in-depth research and more features. I celebrated my birthday with fresh snow (FINALLY), cross-country skiing after school with Bode, dinner at a delicious new restaurant, Midway Mercantile, and a live video chat with the authors of “Mustaches for Maddie” (a must-read) for our bookclub. A low-key but great day thanks to my awesome family and many sweet messages from friends.

Week 5.  We’re still surviving. Life is hard in so many ways–wading through Hadley’s struggles, Jamie’s chronic pain and my mom’s hospitalization. During those rough couple of weeks when I went back to work, Jamie was being overly accommodating and I felt badly because I knew he didn’t feel well and yet was going above-and-beyond for me. His response made me chuckle: “I just don’t like tears.”

At one of my low points, he reminded me of one of my favorite scriptures.

“And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.

“And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.

“And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord” (Mosiah 24:13–15).

We may not be in bondage to some tyrannical leader (President Trump notwithstanding :-)   but life has been overwhelming since our move. I miss the comforts of friends and our wonderful life in Colorado as we still struggle every day to find our way here. But slowly and undeniably, God’s otherworldly strength is falling upon us and through all of this messiness, I know He is guiding our way.

Delmont King Smith

Jamie’s 90-year-old Grandpa Smith passed away on New Year’s Eve and the following week, we had such a special weekend commemorating his life. Jamie and my kids were never able to meet my grandparents–my hardworking Tom and Anne Borowski with their crazy-thick Ukrainian accents (my dad didn’t even learn to speak English until he went to kindergarten). They were hardworking, poor farmers and when I came to know them, they had moved from their farm in Fork River, Manitoba to Dauphin…and had the most beautiful garden I’d ever seen.

My mom’s parents, Wallace and Virginia Wilde, lived only a couple of hours away in Raymond, Alberta and many weekends and holidays were spent with them. They were farmers but the polar opposites of my dad’s parents and very wealthy (my grandpa always had to have the latest model boat or fancy motorhome, which we often vacationed in). My grandma was an amazing cook, sweet, spiritual, and kind but a quiet force; my grandpa was the life of the party, worked hard, loved reading Western novels and could fall asleep in his recliner in 2 seconds flat.

I feel honored to have gotten to know Jamie’s wonderful grandpa even a little bit. The first time we brought our kids to him, he showed Bode his iPad (the kid was hooked) and Bode, in turn, introduced him to the marvelous world that is Angry Birds. Even up until Grandpa’s death, he sent each of his grandkids $5 and a card for their birthdays. He was a brilliant man–he had his PhD in Chemistry and was a global expert in the non-woven products industry. But his true legacy was his 8 children (3 of whom he took in following his brother’s untimely death and later adopted 1 other), 35 grandchildren and 83 great grandchildren.

Last summer at Grandpa’s 90th birthday

His legacy was confirmed at his funeral as each of his children spoke about some of their favorite memories. Jamie’s mom, Linda, shared a story of when they were living in New Jersey and a swarm of bees attacked them on a hill in their backyard. Without hesitating, her dad threw off his coat, wrapped it around a neighbor boy who was paralyzed in terror and raced him away. “That was my dad,” she said. “He made us feel safe and protected.” Another daughter shared how he always walked on the curbside of his dear wife to protect her from traffic and slept closest to the door to protect her from intruders.

Aunt Connie shared some sacred moments of his final days on earth when the veil was very thin between this life and the next. There were spirits in the room that he talked to and at one point, he authoritatively instructed, “Make it five feet taller!” likely referring to his mansions in heaven. -) When Linda and Connie asked if he was excited to see his beloved wife who passed away 25 years earlier, his drawn-out response of  “maybe,” made them chuckle…perhaps in response that he was quick to remarry after her passing.

There were so many sweet, sacred moments at the viewing the night before and then as the family gathered for a family prayer the next morning before the funeral. As Linda tenderly held her father’s hand and kissed him good-bye before the coffin was closed for the final time, Hadley’s eyes welled up with tears as we felt the depth of love in the room. The weather was blustery at the graveside, somehow so befitting of the day. 

We were running a bit late as we arrived for the viewing at Jenkins-Soffe mortuary on Friday night. We quickly passed by a life-sized statue prominently on display in the lobby, what I assumed to be Christ with Mary at the tomb after he was resurrected.

 I was wrong. As we left the mortuary later that evening, my kids asked me if I’d noticed the statue and I nodded my affirmation. “But have you really seen it in its entirety?”

I didn’t know what they were talking about and Bode guided me to the back of the room to where I got the full view of this stunning work. It was not Jesus with Mary as I had assumed but rather, an old woman passing through the veil, only to be greeted by her Savior. What a powerful image that this life is only one part of our eternal progression. 

Mormon. 7: 5: “Know ye that ye must come to the knowledge of your fathers, and repent of all your sins and iniquities, and believe in Jesus Christ, that he is the Son of God, and that he was slain by the Jews, and by the power of the Father he hath risen again, whereby he hath gained the victory over the grave; and also in him is the sting of death swallowed up.”

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Delmont King Smith, 1927 ~ 2017

Delmont King Smith, 90, passed away peacefully on December 31, 2017 of causes incident to age. Dee was born on June 9, 1927 in Pocatello, Idaho, the third son of Henry Leslie Smith and Adelia Ada Loveland. When he was about 2 years old the family moved to Dillon, Montana where his father had purchased a dry cleaning business. His younger sister Peggy was born there. Dee enjoyed an idyllic childhood in Dillon in a neighborhood with lots of kids and outdoor activities. His parents taught their children the value of hard work and responsibility that laid the foundation for his life.

Dee was an excellent student. He skipped the sixth grade, graduating high school when he was 17 years old. He was awarded the outstanding senior cup at his graduation from Beaverhead High School, an award voted by the high school faculty. After graduation, Dee chose to attend Utah State Agricultural College (now USU). At a freshman gathering, he met a lovely girl from Burley, Idaho, Velva Lee Stokes. They dated regularly that year. In June 1945, Dee enlisted in the Navy and was assigned to the San Diego US Naval Training Station on the USS Erben. The most significant part of his naval experience was the light duty as a cook that allowed him to read the Book of Mormon from cover to cover for the first time. After his discharge in 1946, Dee returned home to marry his sweetheart from Idaho, Velva Lee, in the Salt Lake Temple on September 18, 1946.

Dee graduated from USAC (USU) in 1949 with a Bachelor of Science degree. That fall he began work on a master’s degree which he completed in 1955. In 1954 he graduated from Purdue University with a PhD in chemistry.

In February 1957, Dee’s oldest brother Don, his wife Anna Lou, and their infant daughter Deborah were killed in an airplane accident. The surviving children, Don, Sherryl, and Kathy came to live with Dee and Velva Lee and their four children, Linda, Connie, Dennis, and Shawna. Another son, David, was adopted in 1965, rounding out the family to 8 children. Dee has 35 grandchildren, and 83 great grandchildren with 3 more expected this year.

Music was always a major part of Dee’s life. He played in school bands from grade school through high school, and played drums in a dance band his older brother Don organized called Smitty’s Rhythm Rascals. He enjoyed playing the harmonica, ukulele, sweet potato, trumpet, tympani, anything with which he could make music.

His professional career included working for Rayonier Inc. in Shelton, Washington, and Johnson & Johnson in Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts and Whippany, New Jersey.

While working at J&J, he was the primary contributor to the development of Handi Wipes, disposable diapers and many other nonwoven products. After his retirement, he started his own consulting company, Smith Consulting.

In 1993 Dee lost his beloved Velva Lee. He later married Loretta Maynes Gillie. They had 10 years together traveling the world.

Dee was a dedicated member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He served in many callings including Sunday School teacher, Branch President, District President, Stake High Council, Counselor in Stake Presidency, and family history consultant.

Dee is preceded in death by his parents, his wife Velva Lee Smith and his wife Loretta Smith, his brothers Leslie and Don. He is survived by his children, Don (Brenda), Linda (Duane), Sherryl (Robert), Connie (Jim), Kathleen (Barry), Dennis (Joanne), Shawna (Mark), and David (Anna), and his sister Peggy (Burt).

The family wishes to thank the caregivers at Beehive House Draper, Pheasant Run in South Jordan and Silverado Hospice for their kindness and care during his final months.

Funeral services will be held on Saturday, January 6, 2018 at 11:00 am at the Glenmoor 4th Ward, 9455 South 4800 West, South Jordan, Utah. Viewings will be Friday,

January 5, 2018 at Jenkins-Soffe South Valley, 1007 W. South Jordan Parkway (10600 S), South Jordan, Utah and on Saturday from 10:00-10:45 am at the church. Interment at Wasatch Lawn Cemetery.

Week One Work Update

I’m not gonna lie. My first week of work absolutely leveled me. I only worked three days and I put in waaaaay too many hours + Hadley got in a bad ski accident on Monday, stayed home Tuesdays (the day I was supposed to do all my last-minute projects) and then I started work on Wednesday. On Tuesday, Jamie was reading the email of the push-back he was receiving from the lawyer of the snowboarder who hit us (Hadley was absolutely NOT at fault) and I had to tell him he had to handle it. I. Just. Couldn’t. Deal. More details forthcoming about that joyous situation.

My new job is a 3/4 time position but I’m coming in at the busiest possible time so my hours are currently much longer with the promise of a lighter summer schedule. We have a huge event early-February, another in early-April that is already taking a lot of time as I compile donor reports and programs, send them to the designers, then the printers, edit the student’s media release, meet with the video team who will be recording the conference but who only handle the sound for their video recordings and didn’t you know there is another department that handles the hand-held mics and another for the lavalier? And this is only scratching the surface of the literally hundreds of items on my to-do list, most of which I do not know what to do. I thankfully had two days of training with the woman I’m replacing but she said her final good-byes yesterday and I felt like a baby bird getting thrown out of the nest. Violently.

On the positive note: I really like all the people I’m working with, it feels good to be in a collegiate setting again and I feel a sense of purpose in helping to promote our college. It’s a bit too dry for my taste so I hope to breathe some creativity and life into it once I figure out what the heck I’m supposed to be doing.

Jamie and I need to figure out a system for managing the household. We’ve have a very traditional division of labor as we’ve both worked from home.  I cooked all the dinners, managed the household and ran the kids around after school while Jamie worked, handled the finances and the yardwork. This week, Jamie had to do it all, which made him stressed as he fell behind at work.  Geez, working parents, how do you do it all? And single parents, you have my UTMOST respect.

Thursday night, we were supposed to start a 12-week self-reliance class at the church on personal finances (lo, do we need it to get back on track). But as we laid there passed out on the couch, knowing there is major homework required and an overhaul of our current system, we just couldn’t mentally and physically do it. I called the facilitators and when I learned we could start their next course in April, I was ALL-IN. The less we can take on during our acclimation, the better.

I went to lunch with my BFF Lori after a four-hour training a couple of weeks ago and as I lamented about all this job entailed, she encouraged me in her Lori way: “I just know you’re going to thrive in this job.”

She looked at my doubtful expression and continued, “Maybe not right away. But you will thrive.”

Here’s to “eventually” thriving.

Workin’ Girl

It’s my first day working in an office in over 15 years! The adjustment and commute will be steep but my family will be feeling the pains the most. While Jamie has primarily taken care of finances and yardwork while working ridiculous hours at his company, I kept the house running with food, cleaning and chauffeuring. I don’t claim to be Martha Stewart but have done a pretty seamless job keeping things afloat.
But no one will be feeling my absence more than my Fat Kitty. He is my buddy as I work in my office and does not deal well with change. Plus, he’ll be left alone with Jamie all day and those two mix about as well as oil, water and whole lot of dysfunction.
I bought an Instant Pot which will hopefully help out with quick dinner prep but we need to set forth a plan and more defined chores. The kids and Jamie will now take more responsibilities for for dinners, laundry and dishes while Jamie helps drive kids around.  Admittedly, I’m the most worried about the kitchen because I’m a Nazi about having dishes in the sink and my husband and children have a mental block about loading the dishwasher.
I had hardworking parents. My dad had a stable 9-5 job at Chevron Canada and my mom was always busy with odd jobs like a grocery store food demonstrator. She even had a weekly classified newspaper route and I’d join her as we drove all around the city in our little Mini. I’d often sit on huge stacks of newspapers and delighted whenever a convenience store would give me a treat. Mom was always sewing and crafting, selling her amazing creations around the city. She opened her tea room and gift shop when I was in junior high. I can’t remember feeling like things were falling through the cracks in her absence because it became a family business and I started waitressing when I was just 12 years old.
My Aunt Sue sent me some fun memories growing up with her working mother:
Teach your kids to cook so supper is ready when you get home.  Your mom was cooking for us at age 15 and for the widower down the street, Mister Allen, and his son, Bobby. My mom went back to teaching in Stirling when I was in grade one so Chris [my mom] would have been 14. Dad came in from the farm at noon and got some lunch for me and Miriam while Chris started helping with suppers. Dad did all the laundry. We had a ringer washer in the basement and he read western novels while the clothes washed and then he would ring them out and hang them up. Thanks to our progressive mother, we had a very progressive father :)
The kids CAN keep their rooms up and help out a lot. We weren’t allowed out of the house on Saturdays until our rooms were clean, beds changed, the floors mopped and the ironing done. Old fashioned but we all learned to be good workers.
You have been seeking the path and now you are on the yellow brick road. It’s it amazing how our paths come up to meet us.

Here’s to a new yellow brick road that will hopefully be shiny and clean!

A new adventure and the courage to try

We left our beloved Colorado in August 2016 and moved into our Midway home two months later. I haven’t kept my frustrations a secret over my lack of direction. I’ve wanted to just delve into this new life, leaving behind the old but I’ve been forced to straddle both. Though I’m grateful for my continued work in Denver, I have hated having the opportunities I’m missing thrown in my face.

I’ve strongly felt I needed to go a different direction but every time I thought I had the answer, I was reeled back in with the implicit instructions “Be patient. Just wait. Just trust.” For an impatient self-starter this has, at times, felt like agony.

Early-fall, I started looking for jobs at my alma mater, BYU, located about 40 minutes away up Provo Canyon. Though my best-case scenario is to work from home forever, I’ve grown tired of the roller-coaster freelance world, need stability and am not prepared to waste my time with the Heber Valley’s $12/hour wages. BYU has a cap on full-time employees so their way around it is offer 3/4 time positions without health benefits but with some other perks like solid pay, 401K, and a reduced number of applicants because most at this level are seeking full-time.

In October, I felt certain I was going to a receive an offer for that position and when it didn’t come through, I was stunned. There was another job that had been posted around the same time but I had not applied because it wasn’t as a seamless fit and had a lot more responsibility associated with it. I interviewed twice for that position but never heard back, a relief because I really didn’t want it.

And then I saw another posting, THE posting, and applied for it. The pay was less than the other two but the responsibilities were more in line with my talents and passions. I interviewed a few days before Christmas but at the last minute, I hesitated to even go and told Jamie I wasn’t sure I could work for this particular department. Patient man that he is, he said, “JUST GO AND SEE.”

I had just interviewed in some of the most architecturally cutting-edge properties on campus so when I walked into the building with it’s 1970s tile and maze of scaffolding (they’re raising the ceilings), I balked a bit. But from the moment I walked into the office, I felt right at home. The interview with the assistant dean and executive secretary was seamless and we immediately clicked–it felt more like a conversation. Near the end of it, they said they wanted to move quickly and that they did. Within a few hours of coming home, the HR department had sent me a background check form, the next day I received an “emotional intelligence” test (which I somehow passed) and they spent the holidays checking my references.

Last week, I received the offer. With it comes excitement and mourning. It’s a fairly flexible 3/4-time position but when added with everything else on my plate (Mile High Mamas + a campaign with Park City this winter), how am I going to juggle it all? Working from home for the past 12 years has been a gift as I’ve been 100% available for my family. But now my endless summer days of play with them will be limited and it feels like the end of a wonderful era. But I also crave the stability. I’m ready to help dig ourselves out of the financial headaches of this move with so many daunting expenses that include another car, yard and finishing the basement.

My friend Kelly had posted the following on Facebook the previous week and it had really resonated with me. “Affirmation to try: I have the faith to let go of the outcome.”

How difficult is this? One of our frustration wtih Hadley right now is she gets so overwhelmed with everything that she just shuts down…she doesn’t even have the courage to try because of the fear of how it will turn out. But what if we made a new paradigm in our lives that does not define failure as not achieving our goal but instead, failure as not even attempting to try.

In my office, I had a quote from Jane Pauley before she launched her short-lived talk show on the same week that Oprah infamously gave everyone in her audience a car. She said, “Going up against Oprah I warned my kids that this was a long shot, but that I defined success as having the courage to try.”

Here’s for a year of courage and the wild ride ahead!

Christmastime in the City errr…Town

It’s such a busy time of year for so many but strangely, this has been my least stressful Christmas in a while.  I finished my shopping and wrapping a few weeks ago, which has allowed me freedom from the holiday frenzy. I’ve helped my friend Kelly with her move and was also able to pick-up a last-minute freelance writing assignment.  The kids and I met Jamie’s family for Christkindlmarkt in Salt Lake City and this traditional German Christmas Market made me miss my time in Switzerland.

We enjoyed Midway’s Christmas tree lighting and candlelight walk and the Midway Town Party a couple of weeks later where the kids emerged with huge bags of candy, even though they were on the naughty list after jumping over the barrier before the program was over so they could be among the first in line with Santa.

(Bode with the Seversons; Hadley is too cool to visit Santa)

I did a huge baking session last weekend after skiing (8+ hours of all our favorites: caramel toffee squares, almond rocha, white chocolate snowball cookies, cream cheese cutout cookies and sugar-and-spice cookies). We made up about 30 treat plates and had so much fun delivering them on Sunday. Some memorable moments: Bode subtly pinching me whenever I tried to sing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” to the recipients. Andrea turning on her blinding porch light and my over-the-top response, “The light, it burns!” A certain someone who warned, “Watch the extension cord” as we talked up to the house, only to have another certain someone trip on it at that exact moment. It was a fun night with a lot of laughter and I’m grateful for this family of mine.

I’ve wanted to sponsor a family’s Christmas for ages but money always seems to be especially tight around the holidays so we went to our local “Angel Tree” to purchase some gifts to local kids in need. It was pretty sobering to see their wish lists; for too many, it was basic things like socks and underwear. We ended up buying some cars and trucks for a 5-year-old boy and then some art supplies for a 13-year-old teen with autism. It wasn’t much but it felt good to at least do something.

Everyone is gathering in Calgary for Christmas except me and I’ve been really homesick. We’re now only a 13-hour drive home but only have one functioning car that can’t make the winter drive. Airline tickets are too expensive so we’re staying in Utah. My mom’s health continues to deteriorate…I haven’t really talked to her in a year and it has reached the point where my dad can no longer care for her at home so changes will need to be made.  When you have suffered for 30 years with an unrelenting disease, grief comes in waves. The other night, I was missing her so badly and did something I haven’t really done since we moved here: I played the piano. It was late and as my fingers flew over the keys, I felt reconnected to a former life where music brought comfort and I deeply regretted I have let that go…and vowed to do better.

Things are slowly starting to click for everyone. We still miss our deep Colorado connections and I am trying to be OK that maybe we’ll never have a friend group like that again. I didn’t do a Christmas card or newsletter this year so here’s where we’re ending 2017:

Bode, 6th grade. Enjoying middle school, playing the flute and piano and made the Honor Roll. Has a handful of good friends, takes a free coding class at the library with them every week and will soon start X-country skiing at Soldier Hollow. Still gloriously drama-free.

Hadley, 8th grade. Enjoys torturing her parents by refusing to turn in her assignments until right before end-of-term when she is miraculously able to pull out acceptable grades. Made the club volleyball team, has a growing interest in photography and is enjoying weekly Young Women activities at church.

Jamie. Grew his second and third biggest pumpkins ever and is figuring out a way to get the federal government to help fund his obsession (I wish I was kidding). Health (rheumatism) isn’t great but he continues to work [too] hard and grow his business.

Amber. Mile High Mamas is still doing well and I hope to make some changes and/or sell it next year. I have had some freelance work in Utah (including a big campaign for Park City this winter) and a few job interviews at BYU. Not nearly enough outdoor playtime and hiking. Must. Do. Better.

I feel hopeful for 2018, something I haven’t felt for a couple of years with all the uncertainty of our move. I’m not sure what lessons I’ve learned in 2017. It’s been a year of rebuilding and trying to have patience with my life in limbo. But my hope for 2018 is to have courage and clarity as to why we’re here and where we should be going.

XO

 

October Musings

I can’t believe I’ve gotten so far behind on posting here…I still haven’t published all the fun details of our end-of-summer family reunion to Bear Lake!

October was a whirlwind and I can’t believe Halloween is next week. Usually, our month is chock-full of trunk-or-treats, parties, pumpkin patches and corn mazes but we haven’t done anything here besides Jamie’s pumpkin party and two weigh-offs (which are a bit of a letdown compared to Colorado).  There aren’t many seasonal opportunities in our new area and the kids just aren’t as into it all as they were when they were little. Cue the mourning. Hadley doesn’t even want to go trick-or-treating this year but I hope to convince them both to hit Park City’s Main Street because they do a fun event after school on Halloween.

A few updates:

Our ward (congregation) is like our extended family and we’ve been blessed with a great one in Midway. A couple of weeks ago, our stake (organized from a group of contiguous wards) was split into two stakes and two new wards were added in our little town (yes, it’s growing that much here!) Everyone’s boundaries were realigned and we were so relieved to stay with all of our friends!

We spent a glorious fall break in California last week!! We’re still paying off all our car problems from last summer but when I was invited to spend a few days at the ocean by their visitor’s bureau, we jumped at the chance to go on the cheap. And then Jamie’s car (our only functioning vehicle) broke down in Vegas while en route (just another reason to hate that place) so we have even more expenses. It’s starting to feel like we’ll never catch up and it’s tough to not feel disheartened by this.. But I would like to actually have grass someday, maybe even a finished basement, dental work done for the kids and oh, I don’t know, how about a car that works?  I’d really hoped to go home to Canada for Christmas but my Pilot is totally out of commission (it’s sitting in our garage until we can afford to replace it) and there’s no way Jamie’s Camry can endure the winter driving conditions to Canada. I try to remind myself it’s only been a year since our move and these things take time. And patience. But right now, I have too much time and zero patience!

Fall has been glorious so that has meant a lot of hikes with friends and family. I had a magazine assignment with AAA EnCompass Magazine. Once that wrapped and I found out I didn’t get that BYU job, I tried to spend as much time in the outdoors as possible. Free therapy!

Having two middle schoolers is no joke. OK, more like one 13-year-old girl. Bode is still easy but I have no doubt once the hormones kick in, he will have struggles of his own. We’ve been battling boyfriends, grades, cell phone obsessions and so much more with The Girl. During our trip to California, we put a kibosh on screentime and it was glorious to just be together and gave me hope there there is still a human inside that teenager. Somewhere.

Bode wrapped his short soccer season. We’re so pleased he still wants to play rec vs. selling our souls to competitive. He’s the superstar on his team, which (in my opinion) is a lot better than being an average player in an ultra-competitive league and being required to travel all the time without guaranteed playtime. I’m quite happy as a mediocre soccer mom! He scored four goals on his last game, a great way to end the season.

I’m not in a super great place right now and am frustrated by my lack of direction, my persisting knee problems and how out of shape I am because I can’t exercise without pain. I still have all my work out of Denver but I’m ready to move on and nothing is coming together here (and our finances aren’t helping my frustration). I’m not the kind of person who waits for things to happen but that’s what I’m being required to do.

My BFF Lori’s son got married a couple of weeks ago and I had an awesome chat with her sister, Leslie. She is one whose life hasn’t worked out how she planned but has made a tremendous go of it. “I’ve found that the answers don’t always come when or how you want them to,” she said and then made a very insightful comment: “However, I can promise you that when you pray for Peace, He will always grant you that, even if answers aren’t coming.”

Peace Out. Here’s to getting caught up and life figured out.

XO

 

Stanley B. Visits Utah!

On October 8, we celebrated our 1-year anniversary for moving into our house. It was also Canadian Thanksgiving so nothing says “Happy Thanksgiving/1-Year Housewarming quite like our favorite dish from our local Mexican restaurant: The mighty Molcajete.

My mom is no longer able to travel and my dad has been her full-time caregiver for quite some time. My brother Jade, his boys and his new bride moved back home while Jade looks for a job so there was a small window of opportunity for Dad to come visit. My sister-in-law Jane helped in the evenings after work and I’m super grateful to everyone who pitched in because we had a really wonderful visit. My dad spends so much of his life taking care of everyone else so it was nice to give him a break.

The great thing about my dad is he’s super low-maintenance and we both love the outdoors so he was easily entertained. The colors were peaking in the mountains so he witnessed some serious fall splendor.

Day 1

Arrival, tour of Midway and drive up Memorial Hill.

Day 2

The weather forecast was iffy for the first several days so when we saw a window of opportunity, we took it to bike Provo Canyon Parkway to Bridal Veil Falls. Some of my favorite memories with Dad are of biking Calgary’s extensive network of bike paths so it was fun to share with him one of mine. That night, he treated us to dinner at Tucanos Brazilian Grill in Orem. 

 

Day 3

The Pumpkin Party!!!!!!!!!!

Day 4

The pumpkin weigh-off. Jamie took us to dinner at Tarahumara Mexican Restaurant to celebrate. And yes, that’s a giant pear. Pumpkins aren’t the only things that can be grown BIG!

Day 5

Church and SNOW?! This put a damper on our plans to see the Kokanee salmon run that afternoon but believe me when I say it worked out for the best.

Day 6

This was my favorite day! Due to our weather delay, we decided to drive up to Strawberry Reservoir on Monday to catch a glimpse of the Kokanee salmon run. If we had gone at any other time, we would have seen some of the salmon in the Strawberry River next to the visitor center (pretty cool) but because we went at this exact time, we got an in-depth look at the process in the Catch House (really cool).

There are only two mornings open for the public to access their fish trap station and it was FASCINATING to see the hundreds of bright red fish. We piggy-backed on an elementary school’s tour and listened as DWR biologists talked about the peculiar life cycle of the fish and how the Kokanee usually spawn when they are four years old and die quickly thereafter. As the fish instinctively swim up the river, they are caught in the trapping station and the male and females are separated until they’re ready to spawn. Since the females are going to die anyway, they are cut open and the eggs are squeezed out. They then take the males and squeeze the milt out of their bellies and fertilize the eggs.  In the wild, the average female has 1,200 eggs but only two survive in the wild. Through this process, there is a 98 percent survival rate that helps guarantee the survival species in Strawberry Reservoir.

eggs

One of Dad’s must-do activities was a leisurely soak in the Homestead Carter, a geothermal spring hidden in a 55-foot tall beehive-shaped limestone rock formation so the kids joined us after school.

To top off the day, we participated in the final Monday Midway Cruiser Cruise of the season. Every Monday night May through September, people in our quirky town gather for a casual bike ride on the beautiful country roads. For the final ride of the season, organizers christened it “The Bike Prom” and it was so fun to see all the awesome costumes. Jamie called me a flamingo but Hadley’s friend Zoe said I looked like a 1980s princess with this ugly outfit I found at the local thrift store.

Day 7

For Dad’s final full day, we did the Park City tour! We drove up Guardsman Pass with the oaks and maples positively on fire, cutting over to Park City where we strolled along the Poison Creek Trail past Shoe Tree Park and cutting over to historic Main Street. We had a late lunch at Cafe Zupas before heading back to Midway.

I love love love showing off our beautiful cut of paradise and I’m so grateful my dad was able to catch a glimpse.

 

Oh Canada: The Wedding

Our trip to Calgary was not one of leisure. When my car broke down, we were a day behind schedule so we delved into a busy schedule of wedding prep, Bode’s birthday and our favorite traditions.

Bode is a low-maintenance kid and thankfully so because I didn’t have energy to pull together a big soiree. He was perfectly happen with Timbits (famous doughnut holes) for breakfast, lots of video game time, and Peter’s Drive-in for dinner. My friend Stacey’s dad belongs to this gorgeous private lake community, Lake Sundance, so we were thrilled  to spend the afternoon there. Thanks, Burton!

What would a trip to Calgary be without our hidden mud pits in Fish Creek Provincial Park.

And cleaning up in our favorite swimming hole.

The kids always love going for a ride in Grandpa’s fancy convertible. Kind of.

I usually do a 40-mile loop on Calgary’s extensive network of bike paths but there was no time on this trip. (Insert sad face). Fortunately I was able to sneak away a couple of mornings to ride through Fish Creek and it was enough.

There was a lot of pre-wedding chaos as we helped with the flowers. While the boys were at their bachelor party, Mom treated the girls to a night out as well.

The night before Jade’s wedding, my brother Pat and his wife Jane threw a big pizza party so both sides of the family could meet. My friend Stacey was a lifesaver and picked up Jamie from the airport so I could help with the festivities that involved a lot of fun and food (two of Jane’s specialties).

Apparently I didn’t take any pictures of Jade and his bride Jen or her side of the family. They were allegedly in attendance. :-)

And then came the big day! My brother Jade is one of the best people I know–a kind, practical jokester with infinite integrity and endless forgiveness. He has been through A LOT the past several years and I’m so glad he found a good woman to take to the LDS Calgary Temple. Mom’s health has been rapidly declining. I’ve been barely able to talk to her this year because her hearing is so bad, she’s often incoherent and sleeps 95% of the time. The morning of the wedding, my niece Ashton came over to do her hair and make-up and she looked beautiful.

I feel like she’s been hanging on to see my brother get remarried but she was often confused as we were getting ready and driving to the temple. “Why is everyone all dressed up? Are we going to church? Where are you taking me?” 

But as soon as we entered the sacred sealing room in the temple, she was 100% lucid and connected as she watched her youngest son get married for time and eternity. Following pictures in front of the temple, she insisted on treating everyone to Smashburger and then somehow was able to stay awake for the dinner at the reception and several of the speeches. Only after my dad spoke did he finally take her home.  What a tender mercy she was able to be there!

The reception at the Alma Hotel was light-hearted and fun with beautiful speeches, a horrible prank (yes Jade, I’m talking about that blackmail photo you included of me during your courtship slideshow), Emily catching the bouquet and lots of dancing (best moment: dragging reluctant cousin Richard to awkwardly dance Gangnam Style with us. It was a night, a couple to be celebrated and I couldn’t be happier for my brother and his beautiful new bride!

P.S. Hey Jeek, just remember payback will be sweet.