Tuesday, July 31, 2012

On This Day

We got married on Tuesday, July 31, 1990. Happy 22nd anniversary, Roger!

Monday, July 30, 2012

And Other Delights

We went to cousin Linda's cottage for an impromptu concert tonight. Her very talented grandson, a year older than Jack, played the trumpet for us, improvising with a jazz app playing background music on his iPod. He asked for requests; my mind was completely blank.

All I could think of was this 1965 album, which we had while I was growing up. I adored it and played it over and over for years (we even used it for music class when my friends and I played school). But couldn't remember the names of any of the songs off the top of my head. I might have to ask him to play "A Taste of Honey" for me tomorrow.

After the concert we took a box of cupcakes left over from yesterday's birthday party down to the pier and ate them up after a sunset swim.

Sunday, July 29, 2012


On July 29, 1881, the French Third Republic passed the Law on the Freedom of the Press--an important enough occasion that they named a street to commemorate the date in the 1st Arrondissement in Paris.

In the year 1963, Kenya gained its independence. Next year, we'll both be celebrating 50 years. Fifty!

Obviously I have no memories of my birth on July 29, 1963.

The thing is, my mother doesn't have any either. Even though she specifically asked them not to put her under during labor and delivery, they did anyway. Apparently it was fairly common nearly half a century ago. Half a century!

When she woke up, she realized her tummy was flat. My dad was standing by her bed with a big smile on his face. That's how she found out I was born.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Plugged In

I learned yesterday that my Grandma Jan used to go down to Uncle Joe's cottage to watch the news every night (our branch of the family put off having a TV in our cottage for as long as possible). Uncle Joe and my grandmother had very different political views and she apparently exasperated him to no end.

Grandma finally got a TV for our cottage (maybe Uncle Joe had had enough?). She loved staying up on current events. 

Roger and I were lucky enough to spend an entire summer at the lake in 1996, and our being here meant that Grandma--who was too old to be here on her own--could stay as well.

It was all fine and good until we realized she intended to watch every single minute of both the Republican and Democratic conventions. At full volume because she couldn't hear very well. And with her bare feet propped up in front of a fan because it was so hot.

It's sort of nice that the TV in our cottage doesn't work anymore. Of course, now we have wireless Internet . . .

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Golden Touch

Olympics have begun!

I once swam in the pool where Mark Spitz won his seven gold medals (Munich, 1972). While we were in the water, I said something to my aunt about how utterly cool I thought it was. A German lady nearby overheard me. She leaned over and said with a grin, "And they haven't changed the water since!"

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Late Nights

Jack just got back from a late night at the neighbors' house, friends who rent from my cousins for a few weeks every summer. I sent him with a flashlight so he could navigate the narrow stone steps and the bit of woods between their cottage and ours.

I loved being a teenager here at the lake.

So many cousins and friends of cousins staying across the five cottages on the land my great-grandparents bought in the 1920s. So many late nights of swimming (very quietly so Uncle Joe wouldn't turn on the light at the pier to see what was going on), card playing (Spades was usually our game of choice), and lengthy rounds of Trivial Pursuit (cousin Peter would insist on taking his time to come up with answers, and we indulged him because he freakishly could get them right!), then making my way back to our cottage over rough terrain in the pitch dark.

It never occurred to me back then to take a flashlight.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Stocked Up

Jack and I flew out of the Provo airport for the first time this morning. (Roger has actually already flown out of the Provo airport; he took some flying lessons many years ago.) We flew through Denver to Milwaukee and, after stopping at a bait vending machine for three dozen earthworms, got to the lake shortly after 4:00. The thermometer in the car read 100 degrees.

Jack immediately changed into his swimsuit and headed down to the pier to do some fishing. I got back into the car and headed to the grocery store.

"Why would you want to do that before swimming?" he asked.

"Because once I'm in my swimsuit, I want to be in my swimsuit for the rest of the day," I said.

The fridge and cupboards are now full enough to last us at least a few days. And we swam until dark.

When I was growing up, my Grandma Jan was the one who kept the kitchen stocked. She always made sure we had good things to eat, like sweet crullers for breakfast and Jay's potato chips for lunch and big chocolate chip cookies from the bakery. The problem was that almost the entire time we were visiting, she'd beg us not to eat. We were usually a pretty big crowd and we worked up a pretty big appetite outside in the fresh air all day. I guess she was tired of going shopping all the time to keep up with us.

Then a day or two before we left, she'd start begging us to eat. "You can't leave me with all this food!"

Ah, Grandma.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Partial Hiatus

Jack and I are heading to our family cottage on Lake Geneva in Wisconsin tomorrow, abandoning Roger for two and a half weeks. Not surprisingly, I'm scrambling to get organized.

I will be posting while we're on vacation. I might post every day. But I might not.

Monday, July 23, 2012


Another memory from Jackson, Wyoming, the summer I turned 18, with my uncle. 

I look like I'm heading for my freshman year at BYU, no?

Sunday, July 22, 2012


We just got back from a quick, spontaneous road trip to Jackson, Wyoming, to visit family. It was a lovely visit, perfect weather, good conversation. The highlight for me was swimming in crystal clear String Lake with a stunning view of the Tetons.

The first time I went to Jackson was during the summer I turned 18. In fact, that was where I turned 18.

After we had dinner at the Mangy Moose to celebrate, my cousin David, who must have been about 8 at the time, told me he had a present for me. He led us to the ski slope, away from the buildings, and pulled a firework out of his pocket. Then he lit it in my honor.

One of the best presents ever.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Unexpected

Paris--Kenya--Spain, part six.

Some of the best things about having an adventure are the unexpected things. Here are a few from our adventure.

Sunrise over Greenland on my flight from Salt Lake City to Paris.

Seeing this guy pass by while we were on the Batobus, a water bus service on the Seine.

Deciding at the last minute to hop off the Batobus and check out the botanical gardens.

Actually seeing people in the Seine, which I've never seen before. I think these two are police officers doing a training exercise. 

Using this self-cleaning rest room in Paris. In between every single user, it closes its door for a few minutes, rinses itself off, then opens to let the next the person in. I'm pretty sure there's a panic button you can push if you accidentally end up inside during the cleaning cycle.

Hanging out with our group on safari. There were eight of us, half of the group Kenyan, and our driver. Great people, great dynamics. And the food was amazing.

Having the chance to visit a Masai village.

And stay dry inside one of their homes--pitch dark except for the fire in front of us--during a rainstorm. The mother built the entire house, which kept us warm and dry, out of cow dung. It took her about two months, and it has been standing at least nine years.

Helping half a dozen other safari vans get up a muddy hill. Our driver was the only one who was able to do it without getting stuck. It was fun to watch everyone, drivers and passengers alike, putting in their two cents about how to get out of our collective predicament.

Stopping under a tree for a picnic. This isn't our safari van. Imagine a vast expanse dotted with lone trees shading safari vans and picnickers.

How quickly we became jaded about the wildlife we saw on safari. "Zebra!" someone would cry, and we'd all jump up to take photographs. "More zebra!" someone would say. "Oh," we'd reply and maybe cast a glance. "More zebra," someone would think, and not bother to say it out loud.

Discovering the existence of albino zebra at the Nairobi National Park. 

Actually feeding and touching a giraffe. They have big tongues. And yes, I was touched by a giraffe tongue. I survived, but I probably don't need to do that again.

All of the blossoming bushes in the median as we drove for hundreds and hundreds of kilometers in Spain.

The birds circling and screeching in the Alhambra courtyards. 

This sweet view from our pension window in Seville.

A parade in honor of San Cristobal--patron saint of travelers--in Ontinyent, Spain, where we stopped for the night. We heard the band play and ran out on our balcony to watch a procession of motorbikes, cars, and trucks of all sizes barrel by, blasting their horns. We followed the parade to this park, where a priest was blessing each vehicle with holy water and city leaders were passing out ribbons to drivers.

Finding geese living in the courtyard of a cathedral in Barcelona.

This smiling lobster.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Parallel Lives

A little break from my trip tonight. Back with the last few posts on that soon.

Earlier today I was enjoying Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krause Rosenthal, who I met last week at a children's literature conference (she also writes picture books). In the C's under the entry called "Childhood Memories" she wrote the following:

Amy receives a call at school; sister Katie is born, March 22. More excited about unusual occurrence of having principal deliver a message to her classroom than about having new sibling.

I realized in that moment that, except for the fact that Amy has done all sorts of things I haven't (like written New York Times bestselling books), we've basically led parallel lives.

This would be my entry. Same year, same event, slightly different details.

Margy receives a call at school; sister Linda is born, June 7. More excited about unusual occurrence of having principal deliver a message over the intercom than about having a new sibling.

Of course, I was very excited about having a sibling. It's just that I already knew that was going to happen.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Paris--Kenya--Spain, part five.

No trip to Europe would be complete without visiting some grand cathedrals and churches. These aren't even all of the ones we saw. 

We ended up visiting Notre Dame in Paris twice. Once after standing in an extraordinarily long line, which thankfully moved fairly quickly (is it always like that now?). 

And then again when we showed up the next night to see if there were any tickets left for a concert. There were! I thought the poster said it was an organ concert, and I wanted Maryann to experience organ music wrapping around and filling us up like I remember on many Sunday afternoons when I was there before. It turned out to be a choir concert with organ accompaniment, so we didn't have the experience I was hoping for. But the choir was beautiful.

Before we left Paris, we headed up to Montmartre and Sacré Couer (photo below taken from the second level of the Eiffel Tower, which we had climbed to the day before). We happened to visit the church during mass, and it was lovely to watch people walk forward and receive communion from both a priest and a nun.

The cathedral in Granada was perhaps my favorite of the old cathedrals we visited. I loved all of the massive carved wooden cupboards, drawers--which contained the bones of saints? I wasn't sure--and doors. I also loved the pale blue dome with golden stars.

The cathedral in Seville surprised me a bit. It's jam packed with gold and silver treasures (starkly opposite of the kind they say is laid up in heaven) and more creepy gothic details then usual. For example, one of the pall bearers carrying the alleged remains of Christopher Columbus below is wearing a robe covered with bats.

The highlight of visiting this cathedral was walking the 35 floors (ramps, not stairs) up to the top of the bell tower.

It seemed fitting to visit La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona on the last day of my trip. A progression from older to newer. 

We first saw it from a distance, and were surprised by its size.

We were still surprised by its size when we got up close.

And then we went inside. Wow. Wow wow wow. I confess I was a bit ambivalent about Gaudi before visiting Barcelona. I thought his work was intriguing and I enjoyed his sense of whimsy, but I'd only seen his work in photos. They simply can't do it justice. He was genius.

Gaudi's ability to translate elements of nature and incorporate unusual geometric principles into a building of that scale absolutely blew me away. 

I also discovered something Gaudi once said that will endear him to me forever. He had been studying plainoids (curved surfaces made with straight lines), and he wanted to apply them in his architectural designs. 

But he wasn't sure why no one else had. He expressed what I believe many people who see things a little differently feel, which made him human.

The fact that they have not been applied before and that I am the first to do so has made me think a lot. This would be the only thing that, in any case, would make me hesitate. Nevertheless, I believe that, convinced as I am of the perfection they represent, it is my duty to apply them.

Apply them he did, which made him a pioneering example for those of us who see things a little differently.

Here's the exterior and interior of a building with this undulating structure. It's a school on La Sagrada Familia grounds which was used to educate the children of construction workers.

And it contains one last gem I want to share in this post: a delicious replica of Gaudi's studio. 

La Sagrada Familia, which was begun in 1882, probably won't be complete for at least another 15 years. It's comforting to know in this age of microwave ovens, tweets, and quarterly financial statements that we humans are still capable of investing in long-term projects.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Right Height

Paris--Kenya--Spain, part four.

I totally got it when Mitt Romney went to Michigan and proclaimed "the trees are the right height." As an northeasterner transplanted in the intermountain west, I appreciated what he meant. I generally feel more at home when things are the right height.

And now, after 30 years in Utah, I've discovered that I feel at home here. As I traveled through Kenya and Spain, I kept thinking that lots of things felt the right height: mountains, trees, shrubs, grasses. Of course, they were all different. But the same, too.

Here's Kenya, heading south from Nairobi across the Great Rift Valley:

Here's Utah at the northwest end of our valley:

Here's our tented camp in Kenya:

Here's a view from the car somewhere in Spain (wow, we saw a lot of olive trees!):

And here's a view in our Utah town:

Maybe the pictures don't quite capture it, but over and over I was reminded of my Utah home. All three regions were so similar in terms of color and scale, yet so different in terms of flora and fauna.

No matter how much southern Kenya reminded me of Utah, I'm pretty sure I'll never run into these guys at home.

And no matter how much southern Spain reminded me of Utah, I'm pretty sure I won't get to have breakfast under orange trees like these at home.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Trade

Paris--Kenya--Spain, part three.

Before we headed out on our trip, I mentioned to Maryann that I wanted to be sure we visited Shakespeare and Company, an infamous English bookshop on the left bank in Paris, just across from Notre Dame, and the subject of documentary entitled Portrait of a Bookstore as an Old Man.

Maryann found out from the shop's website that one of her favorite authors, Lydia Davis, would be giving a reading while we were there. So we attended. And reveled. And bought books.

We also went to the Village Voice Bookshop in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area of Paris. It's an English language bookshop that opened 30 years ago, around the time I was on study abroad. Sadly, it is closing this summer, so this visit was both my first and last. I had a nice chat with one of the shop owners and, of course, bought a couple of books.

I also wished I could move right in. 

Later on in the trip, after we toured the Alhambra in Grenada, Spain, we spent a little time browsing the gift shop. Earlier in the day, I'd seen the UPS driver deliver a stack of boxes to the shop with a hand truck, including this Baker & Taylor box. It reminded me of the old days at our bookstore, when our UPS driver delivered stacks of boxes with a hand truck, including Baker & Taylor boxes. Baker & Taylor was one of our primarily distributors. I had no idea it was an international company, but of course why not?

I bought a copy of Washington Irving's Tales of the Alhambra there and started reading it straightaway, especially enjoying his description at the beginning of traveling from Seville to Granada. We ended up going the opposite direction that afternoon, but for us crossing the Sierra Nevada mountains was fraught with far less hardship and danger. We didn't run into any contrabandistas or bandoleros along the way. In fact we didn't run into any trouble like that during our entire trip. Not even a pickpocket. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

On the Hunt

Paris--Kenya--Spain, part two.

After a bit of searching, we found my favorite crêperie in the Latin Quarter in Paris. At least I think it was the same place. It felt like it was in the same place. And whether it was the same place or not, the crêpes were très délicieux.

Despite a slightly disappointing visit to the Rodin museum (things were not very well displayed, but perhaps they are in transition), we did manage to locate one of the sculptures that remained censored and unseen in a crate while the art museum at BYU hosted a touring Rodin exhibition about 15 years ago.

On the first day of our Masai Mara safari, one of our group dropped her camera out of the van into the tall grass while we were hanging out with some elephants. Luckily we (and by we, I mean the people who looked for it while I stayed in the van and took a picture of them) found it. Can you see the elephant in the background there? It looks further away than it was in real life.

Once one of the groups on safari spotted this lioness guarding her pride's kill (a formerly massive buffalo), it wasn't hard for our driver to track her down. She wasn't going anywhere.

Unlike the lioness, it took a while to track down this cheetah with her four cubs. We kept hearing reports of sightings over the radio, but descriptions like "she's by some rocks and a tree" weren't specific enough even for James, our seasoned driver. As soon as we found her, though, a dozen other safari vans showed up. We could tell she was getting a bit concerned, wanting to protect her cubs. It was amazing to see her, but we started to feel bad about putting her in such a spot.

We opted out of renting a GPS with our car in Spain, which was basically fine until we hit the oldest section of Seville where our pension was. Streets, nearly all one way and rarely marked, curved this way and that, often dwindling down into pedestrian paths. Maryann was a great navigator, but it was just too crazy! At one point, I spied an open parking space and pulled our little black Peugeot in so we could get out and search on foot. Turns out our pension was a mere 50 feet away and we couldn't have gotten a better parking space if we tried.

Even on foot, it was nearly impossible to find a bar the woman at the pension recommended to see a more folksy--not touristy and overproduced--flamenco show. She vaguely circled the area on our map, which turned out to be fairly unhelpful. Then everyone we asked gave us different directions. After searching and searching, we were finally rewarded with a quirky venue, extremely talented musicians, and a very stern flamenco dancer. She scared me a little bit. Loved her red shoes though.

On our last morning together in Barcelona, my sister and I headed to Park Güell, a neighborhood designed by Gaudi but never fully developed. After misreading the map and ending up at Palau Güell, which was closed because it was Monday, we figured out where we really needed to be and that we should take the metro. When we emerged from the station, there were no signs directing us to the park. I think we looked confused, because a very nice gentleman stopped to tell us how to get there. We sort of understood what he said. The long hike up the steep hill without knowing exactly where we were headed or how far it was or what we would find was absolutely worth it. See?