Friday, February 28, 2014

Quality time with my sister Shawni - and a crazy night

My sister Shawni and I are just 18 months apart in age and we grew up as best friends (read all about that and see photos here). We became extra close thanks to our family's frequent moves that made us cling to each other's friendship and support in a sea of unfamiliar faces.

I was delighted when Shawni decided to go to Boston University her freshman year and I was a junior at Wellesley just outside Boston. We got together several days a week (despite the bus ride and subway rides involved that made it a long process to get together). We decided to go on missions at the same time, went into the MTC on the very same day, and served in neighboring countries (Romania and Bulgaria), writing each other weekly letters that offered enormous comfort to each other as we went through such similar experiences at the same time.

Then when we were both married and had our first little babies, we used to talk on the phone for about an hour a day. We'd chat about our kids and the events of our lives and our worries and joys as well as the newsletters we worked on together for Joy School while cleaning our houses, feeding our kids lunch, that sort of thing.

And while I lived in California and Shawni lived in Virginia, we somehow managed to get together several times a year. Jared traveled for work a lot and we used his frequent flier miles so I could go with him on work trips frequently (Ashton was a baby and flew free). Every time Jared and I were able to get to the East coast, Shawni and I would figure out a way to get together. We'd meet up in Boston or New York or Virginia and spend a few days together, laughing and making cookies together, exploring favorite old places and exciting new places with our three little babies, Max, Elle and Ashton in tow.

Here we are at Shawni's house in Virginia - Shawni with Max and Elle and me with Ashton. This was when Max and Elle first met Ashton. We were so excited for our kids to be together for the first time!

In NYC with our boys:

In Boston:

 Boston Public Gardens:

When Shawni moved to Arizona and she had baby Grace and I had baby Isaac, Isaac and I flew out from California to help her pick out flooring and other finishes for the new house she was building. The new house they were building seemed so grand compared to my cute little Bay Area bungalow.

Max, Elle, Grace and Isaac:

As our families grew, getting together became more challenging. The frequent flier miles dried up when Jared's business travel dried up. And flying became prohibitively expensive and a big hassle with more kids. So we drove. We drove hours and hours and hours to meet up at Bear Lake for a full month every summer and found ways to get together at other times of year as well. But it kept getting harder and harder.

And while we were dealing with the needs of multiple kids day and night, getting really involved in our communities while working on our various blogs and books and other pursuits, our phone chats dwindled. Not because we didn't feel like talking but because there were just so many events and needs and people right in front of us that needed our attention. While we stayed best friends and knew we could always turn to each other in a time of need, our interactions became much more infrequent - and much more virtual. It was easy to keep up with each other via our blogs. We were in-the-know about each other's lives. But in the last couple years, we've exchanged voice mails and texts and emails a lot more often than we've actually talked in real time. And our annual family reunion at Bear Lake has become our only reliable in-person chance to get together with our husbands and kids.

Thanks to our mom, we've been able to get together with our sisters and sisters-in-law every year for our special MFME get-away for a few days. We've had such a fabulous time gathering with the women we love best to talk and eat and talk and eat and enjoy the beauty of nature and wonderful art museums and cultural events. Oh how we love these get-togethers!

But I realized I haven't had one-on-one time with Shawni for so long that I can't even remember the last time. I had some great one-on-one time with Saydi when we visited her last summer in Boston. I had some great one-on-one time with Charity when she visited over Christmas and when we met up in San Diego last month. And I've had great chances to spend quality time at the homes of several of my sisters-in-law too over the past year. But somehow Shawni and I haven't got together forever.

So it was time.

I spent the last two days enjoying great conversations, great food, and lots of beauty with Shawni. We talked about our goals for the year. We shared our issues and our joys. I got to jump into Shawni's life and understand it in a way that only comes from first-hand experience. I saw Grace cheer at a basketball game. I saw Claire do amazing flips in her gymnastics class. Lucy read me a book and showed me what a great reader she is. Max told me the latest news on volleyball and I got to see first hand how much that boy eats. And Elle took me for a drive now that she has her permit. Plus I got a chance to help Shawni explore lots of decisions for her new house - 12 years after that visit when I got to help her with decisions on the house they've now outgrown. The new house is gorgeous and they'll be moving in soon! But wow, that house-building process is crazy stuff - 1000 decisions and Shawni's like me - has to explore every option before she can feel good about a decision, then still second guessing decisions. My time with Shawni brought back memories of that crazy time when we were building our house in St George. I'm so glad that's over. I'm so glad this is almost over for Shawni and so excited for her to have her dream house.

And I got to be warm - even hot - thanks to the Arizona weather. I have to say that felt good.

Here's a glimpse at our time together:

Shawni picked me up at the airport and we headed out to lunch at this super delicious place - Windsor. LOVED the delicious salads and sandwiches we got and of course we ended up talking about food for a fair amount of the meal - Eyre sister trait.

We wandered through tons of antique stores getting ideas for furnishing Shawni's new house. Fun to just browse and see so many interesting things.

Then we had to get some salted chocolate chip cookies at La Grande Orange.

Loved seeing Grace cheer at a basketball game - that girl's got sparkle and spunk! And lots of cute friends.

The next day we went to Shawni's group weight lifting class and wow, my arms hurt. Great work out.

Then we went hiking through beautiful desert landscape:

There's nothing like being at the top of a mountain, feeling that wind, seeing the view. It's especially nice when you're there with your dear sister and get to talk about goals and ideas all the way up and back.

I got to see Claire in action at gymnastics. She can do some pretty darn amazing flips. Videoed her routine so I could show my kids.
I got to read with Lucy and tuck her in bed. Wow, she's a great reader and such a sweet girl. Mad I didn't get a photo.

I got to go driving with Elle and check out her skills now that she's got her permit. And I got to go with Shawni to take Max to the doctor and find out that the reason he's been feeling so awful is because he has bronchitis.

Here I am saying goodbye at the airport to Max and Elle.  How in the heck did those babies of Shawni's get so darn big! I had my tall shoes on but look how shrimpy they make me look. They're sure growing up to be wonderful people.

I'm so grateful I got a chance to slip away for 2 days and one night and reconnect with this wonderful sister of mine!

I'm determined to be a better sister and friend this year. I've been letting too many things get in the way of relationships that really really matter. And while those relationships haven't necessarily suffered, they haven't flourished either. I'm going to do a better job keeping first things first.

P.S. Last night's journey home from Arizona proved to be pretty interesting.

Here's what I wrote in an email to Shawni:

It's well past midnight now and I'm sitting here at Mom and Dad's condo in downtown SLC waiting for Jared to get here. I took a taxi to where Jared left his car for me, had the taxi driver wait while I found the key and made sure the car started ok. Then I paid the taxi driver and went to hop in the car and drive home but found that the car doors were locked. I guess when you start the car, the doors automatically lock. Why didn't I leave the door open while paying the driver? I called a locksmith but they said it would be about 75 dollars to come unlock the doors and it would take a half hour for them to come. So Jared said he'd kindly drive here, unlock the car, then stay here at the condo tonight so he'll be here for work in the morning and I can drive home to be with the kids. I've missed them!

So I left the car there running and walked over to the condo several blocks away where I could wait in a warm safe place for Jared (the car was parked in a pretty deserted place and waiting there for 45 minutes for Jared to come didn't seem like the best idea). It's actually thankfully a not-too-cold night and the stars and lit up temple were lovely. I tried not to think about how earily deserted the streets were and just enjoy a nice midnight speedwalk through an empty city. 

When I was almost to the condo these two guys started yelling at me, asking what my name was and where I was going while they laughed together. I got Jared in the phone and walked fast and ignored them. One of them started following me and kept telling that he just wanted to talk to me. When he got close I told him I was on the phone and asked him to just go on his way and leave me alone. When he kept taking to me in an aggressive uncomfortable way, I asked him if he wanted me to call the police. There was no one anywhere to be seen and I felt pretty scared. Right then a biker came by and slowed down to see what was going on and I kept Jared on the phone. After I mentioned the police and he saw the biker, the guy swore at me and took off. I was so glad to get inside this condo building! I was shaking for a while but writing all this out has calmed me down.

Now it's the next day and I'm home. Got here after 2am and I'm so tired but so happy to be safely home and to have time with these cute kids this morning. Jared got there just fine - at about 1:30am, took me in the van to his running car and i took the van home while Jared took his car to the condo and stayed there. It was all fine in the end. I feel so grateful. Grateful for the power of prayer. Grateful for that biker. Grateful for a husband who was willing to come rescue me from such a silly situation I could have prevented if I'd thought a bit harder about whether it was a good idea to close that car door while the engine was running. Grateful for the safety I usually feel. Grateful to get home to my warm safe house and see my beautiful sleeping children and read scriptures and have breakfast with them this morning. 

I have a very good life.

Now I just have to get caught up on sleep - and work!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Post-Cruise Fun in CA

I meant to post this a while back. But obviously it didn't happen. Oh well.

I've learned to just let this blog be what it is - a somewhat haphazard gathering of memories and photos and thoughts that ebbs and flows based on what else I've got going on and what my energy levels are.

After we got off the boat, we had a couple days to enjoy the warmer weather and sights of southern CA before making the long drive home.

We started off at one of my favorite places on earth - the Getty Museum. Why do I love it so much? Gorgeous architecture with great curves, angles and textures, an amazing amount of travertine imported all the way from Italy (each block a work of art on its own), unique and beautiful gardens, wonderful manageable collections from many periods of art displayed exquisitely, lovely setting overlooking LA, a great sketching room where kids can try their hands at art, headsets that tell you about each piece of art if you want more information, and it's all free (thanks for leaving all this to us, J. Paul Getty!). I love getting excited about art with the kids.

Here's the Getty in photos:

One of the twins' favorite things about the museum is that you get to ride this cool train up the hill from the parking garage to the museum.


I loved seeing how Oliver approached his sketching - he carefully drew each muscle in the feet and calves of this statue.


When we were done at the museum, we headed to Hollywood Blvd to check out the Walk of Fame and the Hollywood sign - stuff we've never done with the kids before.

As I looked at all those stars on the pavement and handprints in the cement in front of the Chinese Theater, I realized that there were lots and lots of names I didn't recognize. There are a lot of people who are famous or who have been famous who really aren't know to all that many people outside of certain circles. Being famous is relative - and often seems to be more trouble than its worth. And often it seems that people wind up sacrificing relationships and morals to get the fame they crave. They may get their "star on the pavement" or whatever other recognition that looks really exciting - but ultimately, being well-regarded by those closest to you is the only thing that really matters in the grand scheme of things.

But it was fun to find a few favorite famous people . . .


And we found a great view of the Hollywood sign.

Then the next day, we headed to San Diego to spend a good chunk of time with my dear sister Charity who was in San Diego to run a 1/2 marathon.

We visited Point Loma and fell in love with the place - ocean all around, beautiful lighthouse, great tide pools.

We learned all about what life in a lighthouse in the late 1800's would have been like and how the lights used to work. Lighthouse keepers and their families had simple, busy, solitary lives in gorgeou

This is the first European explorer to set foot on the west coast:
 I love the sparkly sea all around.

We found some interesting sea snails and clams. But I think we needed lower tide to see the best stuff.

Silas found himself a little personal cave and was pretty darn excited about it (see him tucked into the rocks?):

Then we went over to La Jolla and found a bunch of seals on the beach and were able to observe them up pretty close. They were so darn cute!

We stayed until sunset so suck the last out of our beautiful day with Charity:

Oh how I love being with my sister Charity who drinks in beauty and adventure the same way I do!

Then we spent a whole day driving home. Which actually isn't a half-bad way to spend a day now that the kids are older and don't cry or need to stop all the time. We had our own little church services in the car - Jared assigned each child a topic to research in the scriptures and present about. It was great to see that they could all do a good job with this with very little help from us. And we did a lot of talking and reading and snacking.

What a week we had!

After the Getty, we realized we weren't far from Hollywood and we figured we might as well check it out. We walked down the "Walk of Fame"


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