Monday, June 29, 2009

They say "a picture's worth a thousand words"...but words are all I've got!

Thanks to the Jerk, we currently do not have a camera to chronicle our summer adventures. So, I'll do my best to paint a picture using words of the fun things Ryan and I have been up to these past few weeks:

Concert at the Botanical Gardens: The Buffalo Botanical Gardens are in a beautiful, old, white-washed building surrounded by green lawns. We sat on a hill and had an up-close-and-personal view of three awesome groups (Safety Suit, Mat Kearney, and Matt Nathanson). The music was mostly acoustic guitar, and all of the performers have incredible voices, so we chilled out to their vocals as the sun went down on a perfect summer night. This concert is also a food festival of sorts, and local vendors set up stands (All free with admission!); so as I sat and enjoyed the music, Ryan brought me cups of hot cocoa, samples of fondue from The Melting Pot, barbecue ribs from Hard Rock Cafe, and all sorts of other goodies. Then we snuggled, sang along, and watched the seagulls swooping down over the crowd. It was really very picturesque, especially because the backdrop to all of this was the red-brick Our Lady of Victory Hospital and the teal-domed South Buffalo Basilica. LOVED IT.

Late-night bike rides: I cannot live without a bike in the summer, so I did break down and purchase a new one right after mine was stolen. I have to admit, this one may be even cooler than the original. It is another beach cruiser--but this one is bright red with chrome "fenders" and a wicker basket. As I was riding it around town the other day, some thugish looking teenagers said, "Yo, sweet bike." I thanked them but rode away as fast as possible. What is it with thugs liking my old-fashioned, cutesy bikes?!? (I am so paranoid that this one is going to get stolen as well!) I have been riding my bike everywhere lately, and I've found that riding an old-fashioned bike while wearing a skirt is very liberating. Ryan and I have also taken to hopping on our bikes late at night for a fun, fast, joy ride through the nice residential neighborhoods nearby. All of the houses are dark, the stars are out, the wind rushes through my hair as I coast down the hills. It's so relaxing.

Drive-in movie: The drive-in theater is about a 20-minute drive from Buffalo in a small town that feels very much like the "country" as compared to our bustling city. Just the drive is lovely and quite romantic. Then, the drive-in itself is, like all drive-ins, totally charming. We laid in the back of our friend's pick up truck, snuggled up with blankets and pillows, and watched a double feature, late into the night. We also saw some breathtaking shooting stars. Does it get any better?

Life is great.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Update on The Jerk

News about our robbery:

Our renters' insurance will pay for everything but our $500 deductible. This is good news (and I recommend that everyone get renters' insurance)...but I am still sad about my lost journals and photos. No insurance can replace those!

Luckily, anything that I ever posted or sent online is still available to me--so I've been able to recreate some journal entries and find some of our photos from the last two years. And hey, thank goodness I have this blog!

I also DID find the jump drive that I used to back up my laptop two years ago...so that's something.

The day after the robbery, Ryan noticed that his crusty electric razor is missing. Isn't that weird? The guy skipped over my real pearls and instead took a nasty, used razor.

I have to admit, I sometimes have flashes of affection for our robber: I was thinking the other day that he really could've taken a lot more than he did--or he could've purposely broken a lot of our possessions and really trashed the place--but he didn't. Thanks, Robber! As robbers go, he is definitely a nice one. Not such a jerk after all.

I hope he is having fun riding my cute beach cruiser bike; I can picture him, all thugged out, riding to school with his lunch stashed in the basket on the front, ringing the little bell to warn pedestrians that he is approaching.

This picture makes me laugh.

Tonight, I had some of the neighbor kids over to help me bake, and I said, "You guys, did you hear that we got robbed?"

And one of them said, "Who's Rob?"

It made me laugh.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sallybration



June 14th is my mother's birthday. Her name was Sally, so every year on her birthday, my sisters and I do something special to "Sallybrate" her life. I want to keep this tradition going with my own children throughout their lives...so they can, in a way, "know" their grandma.

The first year after her death, my sisters and I invited a few close family members and friends to come to our home for a "Sallybration," and we all ate brownies (my mom's favorite food) and went around the circle and shared a memory of her.

Since then, we've never been together on her birthday, so we've figured out ways to "Sallybrate" long-distance.

The second year (which would have been my mom's 50th birthday), my sisters and I compiled 50 memories of my mom, which we sent to my dad via-email (we were literally spread all over the world that summer), and he responded with many of his own memories of her. That year, I also wrote my first children's book in a series entitled The Grandma Sally Adventures. These are self-authored, self-published, self-illustrated (poorly, may I add) books which relate true events in my mother's life. I've written three and have a few more planned. I make several copies of each book and send them to my dad and sisters, so we can read them to our children.

Last year, my dad surprised us by having a professional slide show of photos from my mom's life put together. I plan to show this video to my children every year on June 14th and talk about their incredible Grandma Sally.

My mother truly was incredible. I think of her every single day, directly or indirectly, and she still has a profound influence on my decisions and actions.

This year, to "Sallybrate," I am going to post some thoughts about my mother right here on my blog. I love to share her with others. It makes me feel like, somehow, she is still impacting people for good.

She was a woman who valued people--not things or beauty or trends or money. She was remarkably kind and generous and drew all types of people into her circle of friends.

Some of my favorite anecdotes about my mother:

-For their 24th wedding anniversary, my parents went on a Scandinavian cruise. (They weren't sure if she would be alive on their 25th...which she was...she was a fighter.) During the cruise, my mom insisted on buying a tacky t-shirt from each of the countries they visited. She came home with about ten over-sized, dorky t-shirts from places like Estonia, Norway, and Sweden. These shirts and a pair of Nike "tear away" basketball pants became her "uniform." Every day, she wore a different country t-shirt with her comfy pants. According to her daughters, Mom was a "dedo" (delightful dork)--she knew it and was proud of it.

-When my mother first got diagnosed with breast cancer, she had three little girls (ages 8, 6, & 3), and we were understandably very frightened by her condition. To ease our worry, she always made a joke out of herself. When she lost all of her hair from chemotherapy and puffed up from steroids, she would call herself "Mrs. Potato Head." Sometimes, she would take off her wig and hold up our Mr. Potato Head toy next to her face so we could compare them. Later, when they removed her lymph nodes and her arm swelled up, she started calling herself "Monster Arm." Her healthy sense of humor about her illness helped us feel comfortable and unafraid. She always put our happiness before her own.

-When I was in middle school, I went through a phase when I missed the school bus almost every day. I just could not get my butt out of bed in the mornings. (I still have this problem.) My mom was fed up with this irresponsible behavior, so she told me that if I missed the bus again, she would not drive me to school...I would have to figure out a way to get to school on my own because she was not going to enable me anymore. So, the next time that I missed the bus, I called a taxi. I love that my mother fully supported this creative problem-solving. I paid for the cab with my babysitting money, and she gave me a quarter to call her from the pay phone when I arrived safely at school. Can you imagine the shock of the school attendance lady when a 12 year old girl in suburban Littleton, Colorado (This wasn't NYC!) rolled up to the middle school in a yellow taxi? But guess what...I rarely missed the bus again!! (I think I only had to take a taxi two more times during the school year.) My mom was an extremely wise parent, and I will miss her advice when I have my own children.

Here are a few photos to capture my mom's "zest for life:"


Story time was always the best!

Mrs. Potato Head


Here she is with lots of hair...and loving it!


This photo was taken at the theme dinner my mom hosted when my older sister returned from a semester in China. If you look closely, you will notice the Estonia t-shirt and tear-away pants.


When my dad served as the leader of our church congregation, my mother planned a booth at the church Halloween party titled "Pin the Wart on the Bishop's Nose." I think some people thought it was irreverent...Mom just thought it was hilarious.

Even at the very end of her life, she was always smiling...

I love her and miss her and am so grateful for the immeasurable impact she had on me--and will continue to have on generations to come.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Robbed.

A couple of hours ago, Ryan came home from school, and, lo and behold, our apartment had been ransacked.

The robber (henceforth known as Jerk) entered through the downstairs neighbor's window, and he/she went through all of his stuff. Then Jerk wandered upstairs, and, I'm sure much to his/her delight, discovered that our inner door was unlocked. We always lock the outer door, but sometimes we don't lock the inner door if we are in a hurry.

Won't do that again.

We are shocked, to say the least.

The good news: Jerk only stole my laptop (which was slow and old), my bike (which was cute but not expensive), and our digital camera (which is replaceable). He/she left behind EVERYTHING else including our passports, video camera (obviously didn't see that), and the real pearls that my dad bought for me in China (must have been a guy that robbed us).

The biggest loss of all is my laptop--and not because of the value of the actual machine. My laptop was our repository for all of our photos, and it had many many important and priceless documents on it: my journals, my annual Mother's Day letters to my mom, all of the documentation for the non-profit we work with...

I am so sad. Go ahead and steal my money--but please don't steal my memories. I haven't backed up my computer since we moved here, and I can't find the jump drive on which it is backed up. I don't know if I lost it or if Jerk took it.

I feel sick about this.

It could be way way worse--that's what I keep telling myself. What if our apartment burned down and we lost everything? What if Jerk had taken more of our stuff? Worse case scenario, what if one of us had come home while he was here, and he had hurt us?

Lessons I have learned from this:

1) Buy an external hard drive and back up my computer every week. Keep the hard drive in a hidden, safe place.
2) Always lock the inner door.

Ryan and I feel very violated that someone was in our home, and we are now going to go and try to process that as we clean up...

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Belated Birthday Report

I had a great birthday week and was spoiled rotten by so many people:


My dad sent me some money, which I used to buy myself a cute “birthday dress” and “birthday heels” from the outlet mall. Nothing beats a new, fun outfit on your special day! (I think the orange towel hanging in front of our messy kitchen table really adds to the cuteness of the above photo.)


My mother-in-law sent me an exquisite purse/teacher bag from Anthropologie. She has great taste. I have to admit, when I opened it, I jumped up and down on the bed in excitement. (I mean, I would never buy myself something so nice, so it’s pretty exciting to have someone else do it for you!!) I had a friend comment that, some day, I can use it as an adorable diaper bag. I think my mother-in-law would lobby for that to occur sooner rather than later.


My “Still Life kids” (the club I advise at the school) came over for our end-of-the-year dinner, and they must know me too well…because they brought a Caramel Pecan Brownie cake from Panera! Dessert was delicious, but the company was even better…I truly love those students. It was fun for Ryan to meet them.


My good friends the Majeronis were so kind as to host a spur-of-the moment birthday gathering with a few friends from church. When they found out Ryan and I didn’t really have anything planned, they insisted we come over for cake. (Kristin even made my favorite--double chocolate--for the occasion!)

Ryan gave me the best gifts of all: 1) He deep-cleaned the entire apartment. When I came home from school, he was on his hands-and-knees scrubbing the wood floors. I love that man. 2) He organized a little “surprise” for me on my big day.

This “surprise” deserves to be recorded for posterity: I love to get emails, and Ryan knows this. Often, I ask him to email me during his lunch, just so I can have something exciting to read during mine. (Sure beats opening my email and seeing junk mail from Viagara and UK Lotto in the inbox!) Well…on my birthday, I suddenly started getting tons of emails from friends and family around the country. At first, I was genuinely puzzled and kept saying to Ryan, “How do all these people know it’s my birthday?” I mean, usually I get a few calls or emails, but these were coming from former students and long-lost friends who I haven’t seen in years! After about the 13th email came in, I turned to Ryan, who was studying beside me, and pointed an accusatory finger at him.

“YOU!” I demanded.

“What?” he answered ever-so-innocently.

“You told all these people it was my birthday, didn’t you?? You requested these emails!”

“What are you talking about? No I didn’t!” He insisted—but he is a pathetic liar.

I eventually got it out of him that he had infiltrated by inbox, gone through my contact list, and emailed some close friends requesting special messages on my birthday. I found this to be both adorably thoughtful and totally embarrassing. Begging for birthday mail is a little sad—but I have to admit, opening each message was like a little gift from many of my favorite people.

I have to say, I feel like I am THE LUCKIEST GIRL IN THE WORLD after such a wonderful week of love from friends and family.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Mi Corazon

Ryan and I oversee the volunteer work at an orphanage for persons with disabilities in El Salvador. One of the current volunteers there is a photography major at BYU, and I am so excited about the photos she has taken of the residents. Here are a few of my favorites:







I know and love each of these smiling faces, and so the photos feel like a little lens into my heart. I love them. Ry and I get to go back and see the kids in August, and I can't wait.

If you'd like to see all of the photos that Molly Hunter has taken of the orphanage residents, go to mmacphotography.blogspot.com. She will continue to add more throughout her three-month stay.