Welcome to 2018!

Admittedly, last year wasn’t a favorite and I’ve decided to be kinder with myself about it all. We uprooted our wonderful Colorado lives. Raising struggling teenagers is hard. Navigating injuries can be depressing. Health problems put what really matters into perspective. Trying to find purpose in this strange, new world takes time. There is always hope.

I’m just ready for 2017 to be behind us and I already have several appointments and courses in place to ensure we get back on track in 2018. It’s tough to feel like a horse in the starting blocks, and being repeatedly told be wait. Have patience. And the time to race is not yet at hand. But I feel like things are slowly coming together and this will be the year I start to have some perspective as to why we’re here.

At our tithing settlement, our Bishop challenged us to make 2018 the best year yet. I’ll admit I initially balked at his suggestion. We’re still very much in limbo and our glorious Colorado lives of endless travels and children unfettered by the world’s challenges are over. We’ve left our Garden of Eden and it has, at times, felt like Utah is our lone and dreary world. But then I look back on our journey about how far we’ve come. We’re making friends and formulating real relationships. I am getting offered solid freelance opportunities without even seeking them out. Jamie’s business continues to grow. We live in a beautiful place that feels like it was hand-picked for us. We have his beloved family nearby. Life is good despite all of its messiness.

I’ve recently had a renewed appreciation for the 12 years of my kids’ lives in Colorado. When you’re in the murky middle of it, you rarely see the successes, only the struggles. How grateful I am I was able to stay at home with them; I never missed a class party, a recital or a volunteer opportunity. Building a business on my own terms that centered around them gave us freedoms and opportunities to explore our world that most never have. We hiked and skied  hundreds of miles together, discovered Colorado’s greatest haunts and we instilled within them a love of adventure and happiness.

Then came Utah. I’m more determined than ever to ensure that Colorado was not the best chapter in our lives. My friend Lisa posted this quote and I love it.

Tip of the day: When you look back on 2017, don’t think of it as a year of pain but a year of growth. You made it through each day. You should be proud of yourself. You are a better you, despite all the hardships. Take a deep breath and enter 2018 with hope and confidence.

I’ve always barreled forward with everything in my life and fear hasn’t ever held me back. If I wanted something, I went after it and if I didn’t get it, something even better came along. That’s the beauty of optimism. No looking back, no regrets. But this move required a lot of great sacrifices that were at the core of my very being and figuring out a new sense of self has rocked that core. So, my word for 2018 is courage as I figure out a new path and accept that the old one is gone forever.

Let’s do this thing.

Christmas 2017: It’s a Wrap!

Christmas 2017 is a wrap! Jamie’s family has some lovely traditions and they are kind enough to let me integrate a few of my own.

Saturday

With Christmas on a Monday, our schedule was thrown a bit of a wrench because many of our activities fell on Saturday. It didn’t make much sense to drive back and forth from Salt Lake City (about an hour away) so when we saw snow was in the forecast, we stayed Saturday and Sunday night at Linda’s.  Jamie’s brother Chris drove out from Denver so the whole clan was here, which made for a tight squeeze at Grandma Linda’s Inn but was still fun.

The brunch at Grand America was our first stop. Linda is kind enough to treat the whole family and I love this tradition in one of Utah’s fanciest hotels. The selection isn’t nearly as extensive as The Broadmoor (which has ruined us for life) but the food is still delicious. They took way too many reservations so there was a long wait for the food–a line that wrapped all the way around the dining room–which is really pathetic at a buffet.  But trust my good husband to issue a complaint and get four of the meals comped because we’re those people.

Side note: Pay particular attention to Bode’s expressions. He’s a real joy with pictures right now. :-)

We took family pictures in the courtyard in the snow, Chris chucked a snowball at Jamie (can’t wait to see that photo) and we dispersed back to the hotel to check-out the life-sized gingerbread house and candy windows. From there, it was off to see “The Last Jedi,” which got two thumbs up from us all! The rest of the day/night was pizza gorging and hanging out at Grandma’s.

Sunday

The whole family attended church at Grandma’s ward and it was one of my most memorable Christmas Sundays ever! They combined with the Spanish-speaking congregation and having the service entirely bilingual was so touching. We were surrounded by Spanish-speaking families and I got choked up to hear them sing…and then we joined them to attempt “Silent Night” in Spanish. There were several times during the service when the speakers and singers were moved to tears and it was just so memorable to be reminded that we are all part of this big, beautiful world bonded together by our Savior, regardless of what language we speak.


Jamie’s sister, Tammy, threw a wonderful Christmas Eve party complete with my family’s pipe bells, the gift exchange game where Linda was the grand prize winner of my white elephant gift: a beautifully framed picture of The Pumpkin Man. Tammy is an amazing cook and we had smoked pork tacos and figgy pudding for dessert, and watched A Christmas Carol and the story of the Nativity.

The bells!

On the drive back to Grandma’s, we stopped at Temple Square to the see the lights. Zero crowds + the Salt Lake Temple appearing like an apparition in the flurry of snow and lights = a peacefulness that breathed the very spirit of that holy day.

Monday

Christmas!!! My loving(?!) husband excitedly woke everyone up at 7:15 a.m., which I suppose isn’t nearly as bad as my brother Pat’s family who always wake up around 4 a.m. (proof of “Crazy Canucks” is in the puddin’). I made breakfast bake with Hollandaise sauce and our famous Ebelskivers for a yummy Christmas breakfast…and the wait wasn’t nearly as long as the Grand America.

Growing up, our family’s tradition was a bit of a free-for-all with paper and presents flying everywhere. Jamie’s family is much more civilized and they elect a Santa who hands out presents and everyone takes turns opening them for all to see. It’s a bit tedious for kids (like me) who just want to get on with it but it makes the moment last longer.

A few gift highlights:

Jamie: We seem to always forgo presents to each other and pool our financial resources into other presents for the kids and family. His big gift for his birthday a couple of weeks ago was a new suit, which he proudly modeled as his “birthday suit.” His mom bought propane tanks for his new greenhouse and that will be part of my dad’s gift as well (we’re sure fun people). Jamie also bought a few Echo Dots to smart-wire our house.   He claims “Alexa” is the only woman in the house who actually listens to him and does what he says. 

Bode: Aunt Lisa and Grandma bought him a Kindle Fire and my dad sent some money to buy our own gifts so we loaded a lot of books and games onto his Kindle Fire.  Jamie also bought him a drone, only to find out (too late) it doesn’t have a video camera. We figure we’ll do an upgrade once he figures how to fly it without crashing! He loves games of all kinds so scored several classic board games like Mastermind and Rummikub.

Hadley: We’re trying to finish decorating her room so she got some lights and clips to hang pictures and we’re still searching for the perfect portrait for above her bed.  She got a tripod for her camera, Grandma Johnson bought her a lot of clothes, while Grandpa Borowski got her VANS and volleyball shoes. She was excited to get Alexa in her room because she can finally listen to music (we don’t allow phones/computers in the bedrooms); however, we have more sinister plans like wake-up calls and turning on the lights to get that teen out of bed. She had her phone taken away the week leading up to Christmas so she said her favorite gift was getting it back on Christmas. Note to self: Don’t waste money on presents next year; just regift items they already have.

Me: Now that we live next to The Best Pathway in the World (the Provo River Parkway), I bought some new roller-blades from my dad. My blades are 20+ years old and my sole outing last summer on my decrepit blades was rather disastrous. Jamie surprised me with some gorgeous new KEEN hiking shoes and I got some cookbooks and kitchen items as well.

Jamie’s parents received a financial settlement from a lawsuit so generously gave each of their children some money, as well as put some in each grandchild’s college tuition account. My first thought upon receiving their gift was to make a smart investment but Jamie’s plan made more sense: to pay down some debt. We’re still climbing out of all financial messes of our move…and the car troubles from last summer.  We’re almost out of debt and vowed to be completely debt-free before taking more on with getting another car, landscaping the backyard and finishing the basement. We had a good chuckle when we realized my Pilot is as old as our marriage–a 2003! It’s no wonder it’s falling apart.

Our 2017 had a lot of highs and lows as our first full year in Utah but I’m hopeful that this slow rebuilding process will start to have some dividends in 2018. Here’s to a great one!

Lost and Found

I came to know Jon Schmidt from the popular musical group, The Piano Guys, many years ago when he was in the Bishopric of my single’s ward. He was a struggling musician with a large family and was a kind, humble man (and I’m so happy he has remained that way even in fame).

Last year, there was a story in the media that deeply touched me when his daughter, Annie, went missing during a hike in Oregon. There was an extensive search and her body was eventually found. The mainstream media reported the basics of the search and rescue but I felt like there was more to the story so I continued digging into it even after the case wrapped and I found an article in the Standard-Examiner about her miraculous recovery.

I’ll include that story below but I was reminded of it when I saw a beautiful video The Piano Guys recently posted. The holidays are about joy but for so many who have lost loved ones or who are dealing with loneliness, it’s a sorrowful time. This music speaks to having peace.

Finding Annie Schmidt: One woman’s calling to find Piano Guys lost daughter

By Mark Saal

Millions of people followed the heartbreaking story of Annie Schmidt, the 21-year-old who disappeared last month in the rugged mountains of the Columbia River Gorge. But for one Oregon woman, finding Annie Schmidt became something of a calling.

Schmidt, daughter of a member of the Utah-based musical group The Piano Guys, was last seen Oct. 16, when she went hiking in the gorge. Her vehicle was found near the trailheads to several backcountry hikes.

Lydia McGranahan, 40, lives in the small town of Keizer, Ore., just north of Salem. Like so many others, McGranahan saw the news of a missing hiker.

“It happens to be about an hour and a half from where I live,” McGranahan said by telephone Thursday. “I’m an avid hiker and know the area quite well.”

She decided to help look for Annie.

On Oct. 23, McGranahan joined the massive volunteer effort to search for Schmidt. But when the group finished for the day around noon, McGranahan wasn’t ready to leave.

This pair of undated photos was released by the Portland, Ore., Police Bureau during the search for the young woman.This pair of undated photos was released by the Portland, Ore., Police Bureau during the search for the young woman.

“I didn’t want to go home, it wasn’t dark yet,” she said. “So I thought, ‘I’m going to stand where Annie’s car was, and try to think like her.’ ”

There are any number of trails — covering quite a bit of ground — in the area, so McGranahan just began hiking, all the while trying to imagine where Annie might have gone.

“I started walking down one trail, and then onto another trail,” she said.

McGranahan ended at Munra Point, which OregonHikers.org describes as “an exposed basalt knob at the junction of three spiny ridges … (offering) a spectacular and exposed 360-degree view up and down the Columbia River Gorge.” The website describes it as a “non-maintained trail,” with steep scrambles, and is “safest in dry weather.” It had rained the morning Schmidt had gone hiking.

When McGranahan got to Munra Point, she says, “It seemed like the place Annie would want to go; I felt like we should search there.”

That night, McGranahan had an intense dream. She felt herself falling, and as she fell, she saw Schmidt’s face — as if she were somehow inside her.

“I felt strongly, when I woke up from that, that Annie had fallen,” McGranahan says. “And that she was at Munra Point.”

McGranahan would spend seven days, daylight to dark, helping search for Schmidt.

On Oct. 26, McGranahan’s 40th birthday, she again joined the search. She’d originally planned on going to McKenzie River and hiking 40 miles on her 40th birthday.

“That’s what I set out to do, but then the night before, I found out the family was spending one more day searching for Annie,” she said. “And I thought, ‘I can’t do my own thing, not as long as she is missing.’ ”

That day, at the staging area, McGranahan told the search team about her dream and shared a few other clues that led her to believe Schmidt was near Munra Point. But the group had already searched that area, and had made plans for searching elsewhere. McGranahan decided to be a team player and go along with the group.

But midway through that search, one of the men in the group confided to McGranahan: “She’s not here,” he said.

So he, McGranahan and one other man decided to leave the group and search at Munra Point. They scoured potential areas where Schmidt could have fallen, even rappelling off a cliff edge that turned out to be not far from where Schmidt was found.

“After that, I felt such a strong pull,” McGranahan admits. “I’d come home, I couldn’t sleep. People were posting ‘It’s like finding a needle in a haystack,’ and I’m, like, ‘No it’s not.’ It’s not. I had this serious drive and intuition to find her.”

At one point, McGranahan’s 12-year-old daughter emerged from Sunday services at the nondenominational Christian church they attend with a premonition. “She came out to the car and said, ‘Mom, we were singing a song, and I felt like God was talking to me. He told me you’re going to find Annie.’ … I’d prepared myself that I would be the one to find her.”

On the day before McGranahan found Annie, the Schmidt family brought in eight search and rescue dog teams, led by Eden resident Joe Jennings, president of Great Basin K9 Search & Rescue. The plan was to search several high-probability areas, but when McGranahan was assigned to help in an area away from Munra Point, she asked to be reassigned.

“They’d asked me to go to a different place and I was, like, ‘No, I want to go to Munra.’ ” McGranahan recalls.

So she was teamed with Jennings and his golden retriever, Gunny, to search the area below the point.

“There was one large area I felt strongly about, knowing Annie liked to take shortcuts,” she said. “Joe was assigned that part, so I led him up there.”

The going was slow — steep, thick vegetation, a lot of bushwhacking — difficult terrain to walk on once you get off-trail. Then, it happened.

“Joe’s dog popped up his head,” McGranahan said. “I saw it immediately in Gunny — the attitude, nose up, whole body changed, faced uphill. I knew we were onto something.”

Gunny, a 9-year-old golden retriever, barks to alert searchers he's picked up a scent in this Nov. 10 photo. He and his owner, Joe Jennings, of Eden, were instrumental in finding the remains of Annie Schmidt, the Oregon hiker who went missing in mid-October.Gunny, a 9-year-old golden retriever, barks to alert searchers he’s picked up a scent in this Nov. 10 photo. He and his owner, Joe Jennings, of Eden, were instrumental in finding the remains of Annie Schmidt, the Oregon hiker who went missing in mid-October.

They worked their way up under the cliff, then Gunny seemed to lose the scent.

“The wind was swirling; Joe said Gunny was trying to figure it out,” McGranahan said.

Eventually, unable to pinpoint the scent, the team needed to head back down to the trailhead.

“Joe’s dog sat at the cliff edge, head up, barking,” McGranahan recalls. “Gunny was frustrated. He did not want to go — he knew Annie was close.”

McGranahan led a second team up that afternoon, but again, they were unsuccessful.

The next morning, McGranahan headed back to the same area with a fresh search team — Wyoming-based Liz Hall and her dog, Reu.

Reu led Hall and McGranahan to a spot not far from where Gunny had taken them. It was there they found Schmidt’s remains and belongings.

Annie Schmidt was found.

Officials determined the death to be accidental; they believe she slipped and fell from the cliffs above and died on impact.

McGranahan feels fortunate she was able to help with Schmidt’s recovery — and marvels they were able to find her so quickly with the dogs.

“Fall was happening,” McGranahan said. “When Annie went missing, the leaves were still on the trees. By the time we found her, all the leaves were off the trees. The trails, the evidence on the ground, even some of Annie’s stuff — they were covered with leaves.”

This highlights the need for trained search dogs like Gunny and Reu, according to Jennings.

“A lot of the human searchers didn’t — or couldn’t — get off the trails, he said. “In that terrain, you could walk a few feet from her and never know she was there.”

Jennings said when they abandoned the search the day before Schmidt was found, they’d assumed she’d landed on one of the many ledges and overhangs on the cliffs above.

“If we’d just gone around the corner, we would have run into her,” he said.

McGranahan has had a difficult time dealing with the memories of finding Annie Schmidt’s remains — although she knows that, with time, things will get better. And she’s been invited to Monday’s funeral, and to stay with the family of one of the two other searchers she worked with on her birthday.

McGranahan has been so affected by the experience that she wants to pursue search and rescue, eventually getting a dog to train.

“I’ve been astounded at how so many people have come together in this search, in so many different ways, and how everybody’s part was valuable,” she said. “I’d come back from a day of searching — exhausted, discouraged that we hadn’t found her — and see on Facebook that hundreds and hundreds of people were encouraging you, praying for you.

“To me, when people are still praying, I cannot stop searching.”

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

 

The poisoning

OK, I don’t know if I was really poisoned but for 24 hours, I had a really bad case of food poisoning, Norwalk Virus, or something wicked this way came. I barely left my bed yesterday except for my memorable jaunts to the bathroom. Exhausted and starving, I was awake all night because I’d slept all day and “woke up” feeling even worse when I saw the tornado that had been unleashed in our house.

I’m not sure if my family has some sort of physical ailment that prevents them from putting dishes or anything else away so I spent the morning cleaning their C-R-A-P and doing the laundry.

When I complained about it to Jamie, he told me,”It’s our way of showing just how needed you are around here.”

It’s sure nice to be loved.

Two Years Ago Today

Today’s Facebook memory brought me back to when it all began.

Two years ago today, I woke up thinking it was just another day. It was a Saturday and our dear friend Anna, who had been baptized the year prior, was going through the temple for the first time.

Two years ago today, I was standing in the Celestial Room surrounded by dear friends and thought my heart would burst with how much I loved them all…and how perfect our Colorado life was.

Two years ago today, I was sitting at my computer later that afternoon and received the very strong prompting to look for real estate in “Soldier Hollow.”

Two years ago today as I did that preliminary search, I already knew this was to be our new path.

Two years ago today as I sat at our ward Christmas party that night, I sobbed knowing it would be our final one with the dearest friends and congregation I had ever known.

It would take almost another year for this prompting to come to fruition.  What has awaited us in Utah has been an eye-opening, life-altering, trajectory-yanking journey that has been so thoroughly challenging yet filled with faith and miracles as we’ve been launched into a new world with emergent teenagers.

And I can’t help but wonder where we’ll be in 2019, two years from today.

 

Light the World this December!

My best Christmas ever was when I was 21 and serving an 18-month LDS Mission in Switzerland. We were given the challenge by our president to cancel all of our appointments and spend the entire week leading up to Christmas doing nothing but service. Our miraculous week culminated by serving Christmas Eve dinner at a homeless shelter where we were so enveloped in the love and gratitude by those around us who had nothing.

We all have so much to give and I love the #lighttheworld initiative that kicked off today. Essentially, it’s 25 days of celebrating the birth of Jesus by serving others. Each day has a short video and then a few suggestions for easy ways to serve.  You don’t have to be Mormon to do this…imagine what a wonderful December this would be if everyone took just a few minutes to lift someone’s burden and make the world a kinder place. 

November: It’s a wrap (except I have yet to wrap up August, September, or October)

It would appear I’m down to weekly updates these days so I’ll take what I can get, especially with the busy holidays coming up. In 2018, my resolution is to do better! Here’s the ’411.’

Thanksgiving was great despite the fact it’s probably my least favorite holiday. Football. Food I don’t like (except for the pies and rolls). But it’s sure nice to have Jamie’s family in Salt Lake City. We had a nice, leisurely day eating, playing Pictionary and watching movies because nothing says “Happy Thanksgiving” like watching Poltergeist. For Black Friday, Jamie’s mom took Hadley shopping (bless her heart) while Jamie and I hit a few stores. No, we’re not those crazies who get up at dawn to fight the crowds but went to stores like Ross and TJ Maxx that were ghost towns. We need to take full advantage of every opportunity when we’re in the “big city.”

After shopping, I took Jamie’s sister hiking with Jamie, Bode and me. I lived in SLC for five years after college and was a trail-running beast–I knew every single trail along the Wasatch Front during those glory days. I was going to take them up one of my favorite hikes, the Living Room, but Lisa doesn’t hike much so we opted for something a bit more mild behind Red Butte Gardens. Until Jamie and Bode thought it would be a good idea to take a sketchy trail straight down to the base. Lisa did fine; I almost died (worst knee pain ever). I didn’t take any pictures because I was too busy yelling at Jamie but this is a collage Lisa posted.

I’m still actively searching for a part-time job. Business is still going well for Mile High Mamas and I’m loving all the VIP holiday invites and travel gigs I continue to pass up.  I’m not good in this waiting place–I’d rather delve in head-first, particularly when we’re under so many financial strains like needing to buy a new car. We’ve proven we can mostly get by as a one-car family but winter driving and my out-of-commission Pilot will be another story completely. My friend Kelly is a Presidential Diamond doTerra rockstar who is drowning with work and a move next month so I offered to help out in December. It’s a win-win. She needs assistance, I need some extra cash.

Related: Remember that BYU job they assured me was mine? I was curious to see who they hired instead. They were looking for a writing ventriloquist (someone who could write in several voices for different shows/series, be engaging, funny, etc.) so I tracked down some of their material and it was so bland, boring and BLAH that I could’t believe I was beat out by such a terrible writer. I’m not sure if that makes me happy or sad. Mostly sad because it really was the perfect position for me.

We moved into our house a little over a year ago and I still miss our Colorado friends like crazy. We have friends, even some good friends, but they just don’t socialize like we did in Colorado. I’m not sure if it’s because people have larger families or are busier here but I’ve struggled that we don’t have adventure buddies. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I’m the one doing the inviting and I’m burned out from always being That Person. So, I was thrilled when my friend Sarah invited us and another family to her Uncle Brandt’s cabin overlooking the Tetons in Idaho. That trip deserves a separate post unto itself but it has been one of my favorite adventures since moving here.

BYU has had one of its worst seasons in their football history so we didn’t buy tickets (and really, who could top last year’s AMAZING EXPERIENCE?) However, my friend Julie called me at the last minute and offered up her tickets. The conversation went like this:

Me: “Jamie, how busy are you today?” Him: “Really busy.” Me: “That’s too bad because Julie just called and wants to know if we can use her BYU football tickets. The game starts in an hour.” Him: “EVERYONE GET READY. WE HAVE TO GO NOWWW!!!”

 

Fortunately, BYU’s basketball team is doing much better. Jamie’s dad has season passes so we recently enjoyed a nice date night. I really like this guy despite the fact I’m a sports widow when both football and basketball are in season. And that he takes me down precipitous cliffs. 

Utah has no snow. I won’t expound any further upon my displeasure. A few weeks ago, we attended the Winter Kick-off Party at Park City Mountain. The free eats and alpine coasters confirmed we’re THOSE people who scream at anyone ahead of us who dares to brake. 

I’m trying to make lemonade despite my lack of lemons. Jamie and I did a lunchtime hike at Soldier Hollow this week (where Bode is supposed to start ski lessons in a few weeks). It’s lookin’…BROWN.

This photo was taken moments before the wipeout of a lifetime and a sprained arm from playing Pokémon Go a.k.a. Blood Sport.

Some of my favorite hikes are the ones no one knows about and my friend Mindi is the Queen of Off the Beaten Path! I was so happy to hike Sid’s Canyon with these fellow Colorado-turned-Utah gals…even if the steep climbs kicked my butt.

And today, I went mountain biking. I have a map that says there is a perimeter trail around Jordanelle Reservoir but my explorations navigating broken bridges, streams, mud pits and ice in the Rock Cliffs area testified otherwise.

 

“That Amber, she sure is a smart girl.” #saidnoonever .

P.S. I’m totally bringing my kids back there.

Small Town Living at its Finest

Some of the things that attracted us to Midway were its small-town appeal, charming Swiss architecture and mountain living with easy access to city life. Unfortunately, a lot of other people feel that way and Midway is experiencing a population boom. We’re part of the problem but my gosh, if we’re not going to join the fight to slow down development.

Charleston is bordered by Midway to the North, Heber City to the east, the Wallsburg Rise to the south, and Deer Creek Reservoir to the west. It is a mostly rural community (last census in 2000 listed a population of 378 but it’s grown since then) and they have smart measures in place to prevent over-development.

Midway just elected a new mayor and I was reading the results in our newspaper, The Wasatch Wave (albeit a week late because, you know, it’s a weekly). And I LAUGHED OUT LOUD at this funny announcement: “Due to Charleston’s Mayoral Election ending in a tie, a coin toss will determine the winner.”

The plus side: At least it wasn’t a duel.

Teenage Musings

One term down, three more to go. For Hadley, that is. You’d better believe the middle school countdown is on because we’ve all hated the last 10 months (minus summer break). I’m not sure what it is about this age for girls but it is brutal beyond what I ever could have imagined.

Bode is fine. He’s doing great in all of his classes and does the monthly “math bus” where he goes to the high school for more challenging math opportunities.  He made the honor roll and commemorated it by handing me this.

 

My friend suggested I frame it as-is. I think she may be onto something.

Part of my frustration with traditional public schools is they just don’t fit the mold for everyone. If you’re a linear learner like Bode, you excel. If you’re an experiential, artistic person, you just feel stupid. It doesn’t help the middle school doesn’t have any extracurriculars or any teachers who go above-and-beyond to help. When you struggle in elementary school, your teacher works through it with you because you have an established relationship; in middle school, you’re hung out to dry. Some kids adapt quickly to this new paradigm while many fall short.

Hadley has zero motivation until the end-of-term when the heat is on and then can generally pull off reasonable grades. How do you motivate the unmotivatable? “It’s too hard.” She hates her classes so it’s easy just not to care.  If it was only school, that would be one thing but she lacks motivation in most areas in her life and we’re really struggling to find something she’s passionate about. Even for volleyball, which she enjoyed playing last year, she told us if she doesn’t make the competitive team (which she has zero motivation to practice for tryouts), she’s prepared just to drop it altogether.

I guess if there’s any age where you’re going to struggle with figuring out life, 13 years old is the time to do it. But what if you don’t emerge unscathed? She is such an amazingly strong spirit, so stubborn but full of so much power. She’s a leader and makes things happen (but only when she wants to). She’s fun, she’s hilarious, she creates beauty in so many forms and when she figures out how to harness the gifts and talents she’s been given, she will be unstoppable.   When we first moved to Utah, she was on fire and landed on the honor roll her first term, proving she can do anything when she puts her mind to it.

Bode cares deeply about people and as a peacemaker, hates contention. Over the weekend, we went shopping for Hadley’s ski jacket. We tried a few second-hand stores and of course, the only coat she liked was a full-priced one at REI, blowing most of her Christmas budget. If we were to compare the amount of money we spend on her vs. low-maintenance Bode, there would be no comparison so I bought him a cool hat for school. Hadley immediately fell in love with it but I was firm that it was Bode’s and she didn’t argue after all the money we’d just dropped on her.

Last night as we gathered for family prayer, he casually mentioned that she had been bugging him to borrow her hat so he bribed her. I was surprised because he’s not really the bribery type and plus, what does she have that he wants?

“I told her she could borrow the hat if she worked really hard tomorrow to pull up one of her failing grades.”

That sweet kid. Maybe I’ll turn over all parental duties to him.