family

On Cleaning Up My Potty Mouth in Salt Lake City

My sister and her husband moved from Portland, Oregon to Salt Lake City, Utah about six years ago. To be honest, I still haven’t forgiven them.

(Sadly, this was Brock’s only visit to Portland to see his Aunt Mel, before they up and abandoned all hope of living anywhere nearly this cool again.)

Utah seems to be the only state somehow untouched by U.S. law. Like, how is it the only state where there are legal loopholes for polygamous marriages? And how is it legal to have students attending public schools granted released time during school hours to get LDS education on the LDS seminary campuses that seem to be conveniently located on all the public school campuses (when every other state is fighting to the death for separation of church and state)? And how is it illegal to order alcohol without having food already on the table? There’s no, “Can I start you off with a glass of wine?” No beer on tap that’s over 3.2% alcohol content? Obviously I could go on and on.

So I will.

Because, as if these things aren’t bad enough, I came across this list of Dumb Ass Laws in Utah. (Yes, I added the ass for emphasis. And fortunately I’m not in Utah right now, because if I was, I would likely be arrested. According to this list, it is illegal for women to swear! HOW IS THAT LEGISLATABLE?!)

But.

As I said, my sister lives there. And for those of you who don’t know me, I’m kind of close to my sister. (Okay, really close. Like, we’re pretty much the same person, just living in different states–and it will remain that way for as long as she lives in Utah.)

I recently went out to watch my sister’s kids while she and her husband were in Ethiopia. These little faces that the two of them made together are my favorite excuses to visit to this nonsensical place.

After many visits to Salt Lake City without ever actually going to the Great Salt Lake, I finally decided it was time to explore the place where the city got its name from. In the middle of the Great Salt Lake is a lovely little place called Antelope Island.  The kids and I headed to Antelope Island in search of antelope. Seemed reasonable. Many hours (and wrong turns) later, we had no antelope sightings to report. We did, however, sight buffalo, tens of thousands of birds, tens of thousands of dead birds (literally), cattle, and this crazy beautiful (salty) scenery.

I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised that we didn’t find antelope on Antelope Island. That would’ve made too much sense for Salt Lake City. But, as I’ve learned before, a place doesn’t need to make sense to be thoroughly enjoyed. Being with my sister and her family is enough to keep my heart and face happy.

So I suppose it’s a lot of bit because of my sister…

SLC

…and a little bit because of this view, that I am drawn back to Utah again and again.

According to Utah law, a husband is responsible for every criminal act committed by his wife while she is in his presence. Looks like I either need to clean up my potty mouth, or marry a man (or many!) before visiting my sister again.

My Mom Defied the American Dream

Thanks, Mom

Along with most movie-going Americans, I recently reread The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald opens the book with a philosophy that has had me pondering life and its luxuries this week: “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one…just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”

A girl sitting next to me at Starbucks today, Emily, confirmed my Fitzgeraldesque philosophy. She was elatedly describing to her friend the new Audi her parents just gave her for a high school graduation gift. My first reaction was, gently put, critical; and then I remembered Fitzgerald’s statement.

People don’t typically look at my life (or my 1996 Honda) and covet the advantages I’ve had. I’m here to tell you though, that I am, above all, to be envied.

As is the case with many of the advantaged (such as Emily), the life I enjoy is largely because of the hard work my parents did to provide for me. Those provisions don’t look like the ones that the American Dream implores parents to pass on to their kids. Fortunately for me, my dad was raised in South Africa, and was therefore oblivious to the American Dream. Equally as fortunate for me, my mom is a rebel. She was raised in America (welllllll….Wisconsin), but she was (is) defiant.

Mother’s Day is this Sunday. I get a little sentimental about Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day will mark the one year anniversary of this blog. This adventure. This creative outlet that really began as a result of my mom‘s incessantly annoying encouragement. Exhibit A: Here’s a quote she sent me a while back.

“If you want to really hurt your parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.” –Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without A Country

That’s right. My mom sent me this. Instructions on how to hurt her. She is the (craziest) most consistent cheerleader and challenger I’ve had. She gets me.

My mom is largely to credit (and blame) for the following:

  • My love of reading and writing

  • My adventurous spirit

  • My love for God and people

  • My love for music

  • My appreciation for a perfectly roasted coffee bean

  • My stubborn will

  • My understanding of grace (coupled with how to fall gracefully)

  • My scatterbrainedness (and ability to make up words)

  • My resolve to never settle

  • My bravery

  • My desire to change the world with a pen and paper

I may not drive an Audi, but as you see from this list, I’ve had life served to me on a (dented/tarnished/stainless steel…read: perfect) platter.

I recently told Brock that the two things in life that require the most bravery are loving and writing. Love demands our utmost bravery (both in tangible and intangible relationships). I believe that writing requires the second highest level of bravery, because it commits our intangible world to tangible words. There is something permanent in the translation process–something binding about letting our words permeate the void spaces on a blank page.

My mom gifted me with the greatest advantages (that are found nowhere in the American Dream)–writing and loving.

Happy Mother’s Day to the bravest, most tenaciously loving (and crazy) mom I know. Thank you for this privileged life of mine.

(Evidence of the life I wouldn’t trade.)

Sorry, Neighbors

(but the tree is staying up.)

If my post a couple weeks back wasn’t indicator enough of the festivity that happened in our home (hearts, really) this year, this little story will.

I told Brock before bed tonight that it was time to take the tree down and put away our Christmas cheer until next year. The kid actually teared up. Like, real life tears. (I am going to partially blame the over-exhaustion.) We talked through the excitement we’ll have pulling out the boxes again next year, and how it wouldn’t be that exciting if we just left it up all year. Kind of like how our coffee table isn’t exciting anymore. He started to get it, and after a long silence, finally said, “So should I say goodbye to the tree now, or will it still be here in the morning?” (Evidently we share that gene of needing proper closure on seasons/holidays/everything ever.)

Even beyond Brock’s exhaustion though, the tears made sense. Cutting down Christmas trees has been a family tradition since I was a little kid in a grass skirt on the hillside in Papua New Guinea. We’ve always made much of the event. This was the first time he was responsible for the tree cutting process. This tree was symbolic of his manhood.

I asked him what he was looking for in a perfect tree. “One I can cut down.” (Duh, Mom.)

“Found it!”

Lumberjack2.5

“BROCKBROCKBROCK!! Let’s try a different method.”

“Here. Try this,” I said. He was annoyed. “Mom you’re not even cutting! You’re just looking at me and smiling!”

He got the idea.

Lumberjack4

Lumberjack5

I’m fairly certain our neighbors could’ve used a peace offering after we dragged that tree up three flights of stairs, laughing all the way (ha ha ha…).

We celebrated our acquisition in the way we always do.

With dancing. And chocolate.

With dancing. And chocolate.

The trimming began...

The trimming began…

...which obviously called for more chocolate. With a hot chocolate chaser.

…which obviously called for more chocolate. Followed by a hot chocolate chaser.

And because I know you wouldn’t have proper closure on our tree trimming party without a picture of the final piece, I present to you, the angel topper:

Tree4

After the party’s sugar high (and inevitable crash), we soaked in the illuminating cheer over a bowl of tomato soup and Home Alone.

Tree4

A lot of memories were made around Brock’s tree this year.

Tree5

multiple gatherings with special friends

multiple parties

multiple parties…not to be confused with gatherings with special friends

(traditions)

multiple traditions

Tree7

also known as friendly competitions

(traditions where we kick my sibling's kids' asses every year)

in which we, for the sake of tradition, kick my sibling’s kids’ asses every year

We finally tried to get “real” pictures in front of the tree before church on Christmas Eve. Brock was cooperating, and then things went downhill. I blame the lack of success on the recent return of my remised Christmas spirit. I wanted to apologize (mostly for the sake of my very proper grandmother), but realized it’d be a lie anyway. Instead, I cropped the crotch shot so as to at least maintain some of my lady-like dignity.

Although we didn’t end up with a Christmas-card-worthy picture of the two of us this year, we enjoyed making the most of this tree. Of this season. Of this revived Christmas spirit.

So, neighbors, my apologies in advance for the glow you may still be fighting off of your living room television screens tomorrow evening (the benefits of big windows and shared spaces in condo living), but Brock and I are not ready to say goodbye to our tree tonight.

In Which I Meet My Grandma’s Boyfriend

(…And Other Tales of Equal Delight.)

My family would probably have done well to invest in a private jet decades ago. This summer, the acquired stamps on the passports of my siblings and parents included countries such as Haiti, Uganda, The Philippines, Mexico, and Thailand. Within three months time, all three of my siblings, each of their spouses, and both of my parents had added to the marked pages of their passports. By the end of the summer I decided it was time to join in on their fun.

The week before Brock started Kindergarten, we boarded the plane for the exotic destination of Denver, Colorado. (And yes, I checked in with my passport. And yes, wrote “Denver” on the next blank page. That’s legal, right?)

Denver holds a special place in my heart. It is where I ran my first official road race, the BolderBoulder. (Also, it’s where I became a mom.)

My brother and his wife now live in the city I loved and left. (Also, it’s where my brother’s wife will soon become a mom.)

There were a few reasons this recent trip was significant:

  1. I was able to celebrate my sister-in-law transitioning into her new role as mom (far more gracefully than I did, if I may add). We celebrated with a high tea.

    My sister-in-law is the goddess with child (front right).

    Being my first high tea, I was under the misconception that celebrating with a high tea meant I would have the opportunity to get high with my sister-in-law while we drank tea. I mean, we were Boulder, guys! I guess I hadn’t thought through the fact that she was pregnant, though. Pregnant and intelligent. The tea ended up being more of an opportunity for me to practice my lady-like manners, which we’ve previously established are meager at best.

    (Did you see me being all lady-like and sipping on tea, Grandma? And you thought I’d never grow up and be a proper lady.)

  2. I was able to spend quality time with my brother and one of my sisters, and their families.

    I have to say, there are no people in this world that I love or respect more than my family. There are also no people in this world that I drink more with than I do my family.

  3. I was able to introduce Brock to people, places, and things that are very important to me.

     

  4. I was able to love on my sweet baby girl.

    Trin is my only niece (as of right now), and she owns my heart. The whole thing really doesn’t make much sense, as I am not especially fond of kids. Or girls, for that matter.

    But she melts me every time.

As wonderful as the trip was, I do have one regret. I met my grandma’s boyfriend, but DID NOT GET A PICTURE OF THE EVENT!!! Maybe it was because I was caught up in his charm (really, he is a delightful man to be around). Maybe it was because I was distracted by the buffet of soft foods at the assisted living home they reside in. Or maybe it was because I am (still) in denial that my grandma is currently getting more action than I am. Whatever the case may be, I give you my word that I will capture the wonderment of Grandma’s new love next time I am in town.

In the meantime, can we please start looking into a private family jet, Mom and Dad?

Breaking News

***I now interrupt the previously made promise of a sequel to Summer’s Best to bring you some breaking news.***

My kitchen remodel is done. (Trust me, this is as big of a deal as I’m making it out to be.)

One of the perks of adventuring away from home so often is that my house stays quite clean. One of the downsides is that projects around the house take me a ridiculous amount of time to complete. Take, for example, my kitchen.

My uncle graciously gave a few of his free days to help me remodel my kitchen. Four months ago. I was left with a to-do list. Details to wrap up the project. FOUR MONTHS AGO. Today, ladies and gentlemen, I finally pulled the last of the blue painter’s tape off of the walls. (I suppose that technically speaking, it still isn’t quite finished, unless light fixtures hanging from the ceiling are an acceptable form of decorating now, but we’re going to just call it complete for the sake of this post. And my dear uncle.)

(Side note: It appears that I am experiencing some technical difficulties 😦 I will therefore have to post this without the pictures for now.)

There are a few things I’ve learned from doing this kitchen remodel:

    1. Crowbar is king. I’ve never felt as powerful as I do with a crowbar in hand. I’ve decided to invest in one, just to hold on those days I’m feeling powerless.
    2. After every parenting book I’ve read, and every trick I’ve tried, turns out the most effect method of disciplining a 6-year-old is a trip to Home Depot. For the sixth time. In one day.
    3. I have far more important things to do with my time and money than DIY projects. If you’re anything like me, you have this ambitious idea that even sounds a little fun. Also, you think it might save you a few bucks–BONUS! So you end up buying a kitchen chair (purely for decoration, mind you) that desperately needs reupholstering, only to discover that the cost of the chair itself, the fabric, the stuffing (what’s that fancy word that doesn’t sound so…Thanksgivingish?) the tools, the new fabric because you botched up the first fabric you bought, and OH! Look at that. Turns out you DO need a sewing machine for this project after all. So $300 later, your $50 chair needs to be turned over to the professionals anyway. Lesson learned. (Toughest part of the lesson? Not being able to show off that DIY project you honestly started with the sole intent of posting a pic with the caption “DIM!”)
    4. So many things we take for granted really could be considered optional. Say, for instance, dining room tables. Drapes. Properly installed lighting.
    5. So many things we take for granted really could NOT be considered optional. Say, for instance, family. There are days I’ve tried to avoid their phone calls. There are days I’ve tried convincing them (and myself) that I don’t need their help–I can pull off this single mom gig on my own. But they are relentless. I continue to be overwhelmed by their steadfast love for me and my son. Whether or not I return their calls. Whether or not I can ever repay them for any of the things they have done for me. Whether or not I share my crowbar.

Love you, Uncle Craig!