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Lost Sense of Time


Today is Tuesday. It’s hard to keep track. I confuse which days we need to do which Zoom meetings. Last week, we missed a morning gymnastics Zoom. Today, we missed Dom’s class Zoom. This is one of my biggest struggles recently: tracking my kids’ online appointments. It’s an odd problem to have. I keep track of my own Zooms okay: with college buddies, writers’ group (above), virtual game nights, and family.

Since my last post, we experienced another big aftershock. It happened the next morning, around 7:40, as I was slowly waking up. Dom was in the family room playing Minecraft on the family computer. Gabbi was still in bed. When it hit, it rumbled for six seconds, shaking the bed, creaking the wood in the structure of the house. I checked the camera, expecting Gabbi to be crying. She simply put the pillow over her head, then after the shaking stop, curled back up with her stuffies.

Dom came in. “Mom what was that?” he asked.

“Another aftershock,” I said, forcing my tone to be upbeat. “A big one, huh? Pretty good.” I offered him an impressive smile.

“Yeah,” he said. “Shook my chair.”

I waited for him to sound scared. He shrugged his shoulders and went back to his Minecraft.

I was definitely awake for the day now, my heart rate elevated. I took some deep breaths. They didn’t seem to help. I got up and got moving. After getting breakfast for the kids, I put on some workout clothes and spent an hour lifting weights and breaking a sweat. That calmed my anxiety and I could focus on the day ahead: Dom’s schooling, Gabbi’s preschooling, my working, Nathan’s working; a house full of a family on their screens.

We would take a break, mid-day, to leave the house and drive to Muir Elementary School. We picked up our two free school lunches there. The lunch ladies wore masks. One of them clearly crocheted her own. It was pink.

Today, we are in the “orange” phase. Utah has their plan fairly well outlined. We moved out of the red phase at the end of April. In April, you couldn’t go inside Swig. I haven’t been yet this month, but perhaps the lobby is now open…?

They now allow businesses to open up as long as they can do so with social distancing, strict cleaning, and strongly-encouraged masks. I went to the store last Saturday for groceries and less people wore masks. They care less now in Davis County. Maybe Salt Lake is better. I wore my mask. The Smith’s felt crowded. It may have been my own bias, but it seemed the maskless people were cavalier with social distancing as well. I tried to keep my space. I also tried to smile at people with my eyes. There’s a distinct divide felt out in public, but also a feeling of missed connections.

I’ve found a lot of reward in my job lately. It feels good to be both challenged and competent. I finished documenting how to integrate our business product, OpenVPN Access Server, with Google’s GSuite Enterprise using Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP). I know, it’s all this techie stuff, which is why I felt both challenged and competent. Documenting the steps meant doing them myself and included setting up an LDAP client in Google, download a certificate and key, uploading those to my Linux server in AWS, and configuring the rest of the connection. Once I had it all done, I could test by logging in to my VPN with a user that had credentials set up from the GSuite account. Success. I then passed of my documentation to one of our tech gurus, who happens to be in the Netherlands, and he sent it back with a few small typos and notes. I basically got it right. I know how to do my job. I felt validated.

And then I tried to parent my kids. They ignored me. They fought. They acted like kids. And I felt not-so validated. Ah, how humbling parenting can be.

This morning, Gabbi said, “I don’t want to make any bad choices because I love Jesus.”

With all of this home schooling and upside-down living during this pandemic, I hope my kids learn one thing: kindness.

Earthquakes and pandemics and bears, oh my


There’s so much time for thinking these days.

Too much.

It can spiral. In the wrong way.

I haven’t had problems with that for a long time, though. I was mentally strong. But the world today is upside down. So I’m going to keep track of it. I haven’t used this blog for a long time. I’m dusting it off for it to be my journal for the next while. Feel free to read along. Or not. I’m doing this for mental health.

First, some notes on what’s happened:

  • We shut down the schools in Utah in March. The governor ordered a “soft closure” where they’re now learning online.
  • We picked up an iPad for Dom (1st grade) and packets of lessons for Gabbi (preschool).
  • Nathan works almost entirely for home. Every now and then he goes to the building (North Star Elementary) to let in a teacher.
  • He records stories on video to post on the school’s Facebook page.
  • He records videos for his teachers to do a type of mental health challenge each week.
  • I work from home most afternoons writing technical content for OpenVPN. I appreciate the connection with my coworkers.
  • Dom and Gabbi watch a lot of screens. It’s okay.
  • They have Zoom gymnastics and dance.
  • Dom practices his piano most days and likes to play Scarborough Fair with me.

And there was an earthquake. March 18th, I was shaken awake. I instantly knew it was an earthquake. I looked around for a second to try to find my robe to put on, but then ran upstairs to my kids’ bedrooms. I could hear Gabbi crying. I ran into her room first and the shaking had stopped.

“It’s okay, Gabbi. It was an earthquake. It’s okay.” She laid down.

I opened Dom’s door.

“Mom what was that?” he asked. I heard the fear in his voice.

“An earthquake,” I said.

“You mean I lived through an earthquake?” he asked. He sounded incredulous.

“Yes,” I said and went back into Gabbi’s room.

She was curled under her covers.

“You can go back to sleep if you want,” I said. “Or you can come downstairs.”

I went downstairs and into my bathroom to use the toilet. Nathan was in the shower. I figured he’d comment when he heard me in the bathroom near him. When he didn’t, I said something.

“Did you feel that?” I asked.

“What?”

“The earthquake.”

“There was an earthquake? I thought I just lost my balance in the shower.”

I went into my bedroom. Dom and Gabbi were on the bed. We turned on the news and watched. The first big aftershock shook us all on the bed. Nathan got dressed for work. They were handing out laptops to students at his school that day, the first official week of online school about to start. We were supposed to pick up Dom’s iPad that day as well. My heart raced a little with the second aftershock. My phone buzzed with notifications. I talked with my Dad on the phone. All well with them. The GroupMe messages went off one after another. I checked Twitter. I checked Facebook. Then I read a random woman’s post on Facebook. “This could actually be a foreshock for a bigger earthquake within the day. There’s a chance of a 7.0. If you live in an un-reinforced masonry home, you should get out to be safe.” I felt more aftershocks. Nathan had left. I don’t remember what Dom and Gabbi did that morning. My heart started racing. In the afternoon, we had a big aftershock. Nathan had finally come home because they closed down the schools and postponed handing out devices. We all sat together in Gabbi’s room. I was terrified. Dom, too.

That night, Dom slept on the couch in our bedroom. Gabbi was unphased and slept in her room. I tossed and turned the entire night. For five nights, I tried to sleep, but never got more than an hour at a time. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t slow my heart rate down. I hardly focused for work. I managed to host our team’s first retrospective meeting. It went well. We were all connected from home. It was a good distraction. For a while. I kept reading about earthquakes and aftershocks and scaring myself. It was all the wrapped up feelings of anxiety I dealt with through high school and college. But I was an adult now. I knew how to take care of myself. I needed to snap out of it. And I couldn’t. All my usual outlets were taken away with the gyms closed, church shut down, soccer season postponed, restaurants switched to take out. I tried to focus on deep breathing. My heart stayed in my throat. Pounding and pounding. Was that another earthquake? Or is it my heart shaking the bed?

The earthquake was a 5.7 magnitude with the epicenter in Magna. Since then, we’ve had over 1,200 aftershocks, five of them a magnitude 4+. Today, I am doing well, but that week after the earthquake, I lost ten pounds from not being able to eat. The Monday after the quake, I called my midwife and left a message. They said they’d try to contact her. She wasn’t in the office until Tuesday. By the afternoon, I tried another way to get help. I got on Intermountain Connect’s app. I “waited” for the doc for over four hours. When I finally connected, it was a familiar face on the phone screen, Robin. Robin and I had known each other for about 15 years. She was a PA at the employee health clinic at ARUP. We had been there together for a decade. She was both my doctor there for visits, and my friend. We shared the same birthday, though years apart. We had stayed connected over social media, but hadn’t seen each other in about 5 years. She spent nearly an hour talking with me for the appointment. It wasn’t a quick fix. It didn’t lower my heart rate. It didn’t bring back my appetite. But it was a start. I picked up a prescription she sent in to help me sleep.

The next day, while out on a social distancing walk with my friend, Beth, my midwife called. We talked and discussed starting an SSRI. I hadn’t been on one since college (unless you count taking something briefly for post-partum after Dom’s birth, but I can’t remember what I had then). I picked up the prescription that day.

And then I blacked out the next day. In the morning, Nathan was making breakfast. The kids sat at the table and he set a plate down for me. I was sitting in the living room. I stood up to walk over to the table, but started seeing black squares. I grabbed for the piano to hold on and let the light headedness pass. Instead, I woke up on the floor, only remembering the sound of my head cracking on the ground. Dom was crying right above me. Nathan knelt over me, holding my hand. I had a goose egg on the back of my head. “I’m okay. I’m okay. I’m okay.” I kept saying. I slowly got up and explained that I was okay and only blacked out. It was fine. I got up too fast. I was fine. Dom, it’s okay. Yes, I’m fine.

Today, I am fine. And yet, last night, we had that big aftershock. They measured it a 4.17. It’s been weeks since the earthquake and almost that long since we had aftershocks big enough to feel them. It surprised and scared a lot of people, including my kids. I was out on a social distancing walk with my friend, Lynley. Nathan texted me.

“You doing okay?”

“Yep. Long walk.”

I figured he was just checking in because we’d been walking for almost two hours and it was just after 9:00 p.m. now.

“Did you feel the earthquake?”

“What?”

“I guess not.”

“Is Dom okay?”

“Just a little one. It was short. It shook the house for a second. Dom and Gabbi both started crying. Gabbi is fine but Dom is of course a little freaked out.”

I jogged home to help calm Dom. It happened the same day our governor announced the soft closure of the schools would continue through the end of the school year. All the way to June. Earthquakes and pandemics and bears, oh my.

Love is a sacrifice


Marc Chagall (Russian-born French painter, 1887-1985), “Abraham Slaying Isaac.”

We talked about Genesis 22 in Sunday School at church today: a familiar Bible story of God commanding Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. If you grew up in the LDS Church, this lesson is typically the same: you talk about how Abraham waited decades for this son; how God had promised him seed, numbering as great as the sands and stars; how he and Sarah cherished Isaac; how Abraham’s own father tried to sacrifice him when he was young; how Isaac was probably old enough that he was stronger than his father; how the experience is a type of the Atonement and God’s sacrifice of Jesus Christ for all of us.

We touched on that today, then went on to have a different conversation, which I won’t run through, but will instead share a thought I had at the end of class and wanted to put together in a coherent idea. Here goes. I can’t promise it’s totally coherent, though.

Sarah.

Sarah is part of this story, too. The style of the Bible text is minimalistic, played down, and unembellished writing. We’re used to the sensationalized news stories thrown at us over the internet today. Reading the Bible requires a lot of guessing about what goes on that isn’t explicitly shared. Sarah is part of that guessing.

She isn’t mentioned directly in any verse in chapter 22. You might guess some things such as did she know or did they sneak out, if “Abraham rose up early in the morning…”?

But Sarah is mentioned in Chapter 23. She’s the first two verses of that chapter: “And Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old: these were the years of the life of Sarah. and Sarah died in Kirjath-arba… and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her.”

Keep that thought in mind. Immediately after the record of Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac, Sarah dies.

Now to another thought about the LDS belief of what we have to do to be exalted: it takes fulfilling certain requirements. God expects us to earn the highest exaltation. When the disciples asked Jesus what the most important laws or commandments were, what did He say?

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love they neighbor as thyself.”

We’re commanded to love.

Love is a sacrifice.

Sarah’s sacrifice was her love: a mother who loved her son.

You have to be vulnerable to love because it is wrought with uncertainty. Will our love be reciprocated? What if those we love choose to hurt us? What if others hurt those we love? What if we lose those we love? What if we can’t help those we love? What if those we loved can’t be helped by anybody?

When we follow the commandments to love God and to love our neighbors, we sacrifice. A lot.

Part of our discussion in the class was to talk about and share personal sacrifices and how they had changed us. I couldn’t think of a good example for my own life. One parent talked about the death of a child. Another talked about an accident that left her son handicapped. Several talked about the sacrifice of time and leaving loved ones in order to serve missions. What could be my example to share?

I didn’t raise my hand, but by the very end of the class, I had thought of this. My sacrifice has been to love. We’ve all sacrificed in this way. It’s brought the greatest heartache, but it’s also brought the greatest joy.

When an Archbishop wonders about God, it’s the doubt of the century


I am a professional writer.

There. I said it. I really, truly, am paid for my writing. You may be stunned, too, because who gets paid for their hobby? This girl!

I remember, years ago, telling a boss at work that getting a degree in technical writing was hopefully setting me up for one day being a freelance writer around the schedules of small kids. That was an idea, but when Dom was born, the thought of ditching the well-paid, full-time job, while Nathan was in school, was far too risky. Turns out, writing isn’t lucrative. Unless you’re the next Stephenie Meyer.

I’m not.

I get excited about any of the times where I successfully land a contract with somebody or some company that will pay me real money for my writing. Many of the contracts I’ve had have been for more technical work so a few months ago, it was the first time that I scored some work where I was truly excited about the writing.

I was over the moon.

I had the chance to write whatever I wanted to about: faith and doubt.

That’s a pretty open topic. I mean, if your Mormon Bishop assigned that to you as your church talk, where would you go with it? What apostle would you quote?

This wasn’t a church talk assignment, though, but writing for a faith-based website. I started writing up my ideas on some graph paper one day and there was so much good stuff! As I was writing (with a pen, oooo), my thoughts and ideas took me down a specific direction that I had NEVER thought about before. It was a different angle, another perspective for me, from the familiar story of Peter walking on the water.

So I worked on this blog post for several weeks. I submitted it. They approved it. They paid me. They posted it.

This. This is one of those posts that shows a little bit about my thoughts in regards to my spiritual life. Read it. Share it. (Because, if they see that my post is read by lots of folks, maybe they’ll pay me to write again!)

I’m a professional writer.

And sometimes, I get to write about something that really resonates with my soul.

Today’s win over anxiety


Dom is a Sunbeam: the youngest class of kids in Primary at church. He’s had the opportunity to share a scripture and a turn to say a prayer. All the kids take turns with these things and the adults sitting with the classes quietly laugh when the little kids muddle up words like the time a Sunbeam named Conrad loudly stated into the microphone: “The church of Jesus Christ has been destroyed!”

Restoration, be damned.

Anyway, Dom collapsed into tears the Sunday when Nathan tried to help him say the prayer. Nathan said it instead. When the turn to say a scripture came up, a few months later, I tried to prep him. If he’s like me, he hates saying prayers in front of others anyway. The stress of being on the spot for saying the right words while speaking to God on behalf of those around: GAH!

So I’ll help him to memorize the scripture. Arm him with confidence so he’s not as scared.

I sat with him in Primary that Sunday afternoon waiting for the scripture recitation part of the church routine. We stood up, took one step towards the microphone, and he melted into tears. Too scared.

Today was the first day of the Primary program practice. All year, the kids have learned the songs, last week they each got parts to say, and now they practice their performance in the chapel leading up to their sacrament meeting.

I read Dom’s part with him this morning while we sat at the table with Gabbi, eating out gourmet hot dog lunch. We repeated it over and over. We pretended to say it into microphones, shouting because our voices are amplified, duh. Gabbi joined in and shouted into her fist. Then we practiced saying the part with our eyes squeezed shut in case we felt scared.

Then it was off to church. Dom was nervous. He told me he was scared. He didn’t want people to see him. Or to laugh at him. I didn’t blame him. I still get stupid nervous when asked to speak in church. Currently, I lead the music in sacrament meeting and, really, I DISLIKE being in front of the entire congregation.

At the end of church, I asked Dom how their practice went.

He proudly stated, “I did my part without help!”

“You did? In the microphone?”

“Yes.” Big grin.

Wow. We high fived.

If my little three-year old can be brave like that, I can, too. Next time someone asks me to pray, I’ll say okay. At least I can do it with my eyes shut.

We traveled with two small children and lived to tell about it


south-padre-islandWe just returned from a week in Texas. We swam in the Gulf. We played in the sand. We ate Mexican, BBQ, and burgers. We visited friends and family. And we managed all of this with two small children. Oh, and there was that part about spending a full day traveling to get down there and a full day traveling to get back. A few things I learned about traveling with a three-year old and one-year old:

  • Expect your one-year old to curl up sweetly in your lap and nap the entire flight to Houston
  • Expect her to simply smile at other passengers.
  • Expect no poopy diapers
  • Expect a relaxing time picking a place to eat while waiting for the next flight in the Houston airport
  • Expect that your one-year old will sleep sweetly in a storage closet at the beach house
  • Expect that your three-year old will be kind and not try to abuse others
  • Be happy that your three-year old has his Kindle to play on the flights
  • Be happy that you filled a backpack full of snacks and books
  • Be happy that your three-year old never has accidents
  • Be happy that your three-year old slept sweetly at his grandparents’ and with cousins at the beach house
  • Be happy that the water temperature was as mild as the sun
  • Be happy that the sand was perfect for building castles, moats, and crocodiles
  • Be happy that grandparents hooked us up with places to stay, driving us around, food to eat, diapers, wipes, toiletries, even a little potty for the one-year old
  • Be happy that your kids visited their great grandparents while they’re still happy to see them
  • Be happy about all of the delicious food (because Texas and Mexican combined)
  • Expect your one-year old to slip back into your daily routine once you’re back home
  • Be happy that you don’t have to sit in a cramped airplane again for another year or two

Now, I get to enjoy the memories and pictures of our vacation. It’s exhausting to take small children far from home so coming home means recovery, but the trade off was worth it. They’ve been to the beach and loved it. They spent time with family and didn’t want to leave them. And in the end, none of the other passengers said anything rude to our faces and a few nice folks even told us our children were good travelers. Kind people.

Behold the beauty of the FEASTMASTER


feastmaster

When we purchased our home two years ago, there was this random patio in the backyard that the previous owners didn’t seem to use for things other than random-crap-from-the-yard-and-house. Nathan “hired” the Young Men from our Salt Lake ward to clear out the things left behind. They devoured their pizza dinner. In that patio was this old, built-in grill, that looked like it had been untouched for at least a decade. I took a few pictures of it and showed some of the guys at work who thought, yeah, that could be saved. Sure, why not? I asked Reddit for advice (because that’s my go-to advice group), and got some direction for this DIY attempt. I had never done anything like this before, let alone used a wire wheel (because POWER TOOLS!!!), so I was embarking on some new territory.

Nothing progressed during the first year of home ownership, because duh: pregnancy. Eventually, though, I was able to find time in between diaper changes and feeding children to work on the FEASTMASTER.

How cool is that name? How sad are you that Feastmasters are no longer sold at the nearest Lowe’s? Have you ever seen the movie, Beastmaster? Tangent…

Anyway, I finished. I actually finished a project. Or at least, mostly finished. The vent still needs some high-heat paint as well, but check it out. I posted all of the images to an imgur album. WordPress doesn’t embed the album so I have to individually embed each picture, but let’s not get into the technical mumbo jumbo. I already shared this via instagram because I was pretty excited about how it turned out.

And remember how I finished a project? BAM! Go me!

Time for some grillin’!

Sending mixed messages about kindness


nice_kids

“Are you being kind and gentle?”

I ask Dom this question often. I ask it every time he is within the same breathing area as Pogi. That cat may allow Dom to do whatever, but then that means Dom does whatever. Poor cat.

I also ask Dom if he’s being kind and gentle with his baby sister, because: baby.

Why do toddlers have some intense desire to press on and/or hit the baby in the head? Soft spots are particularly attractive.

I want my children to be kind. I really do. I often think of my friend, Lizzie, who I met through soccer and went to school with. Sometimes, it’s rare to find kindness in sports. And in middle school. And in high school. Kids can be cruel in their quest to be cool.

Lizzie was always kind: as our goalie, on the basketball court, in the common area during lunch. I want my kids to be like that and it’s probably a trait learned by example. I should probably have them hang out with Lizzie and her kids all of the time.

Instead, they are home with me.

I found this article and it hit home: “Are you raising nice kids? A Harvard psychologist gives 5 ways to raise them to be kind.

Things I am doing wrong:

  1. Because I want to win the game, even when I’m playing with my toddler and it’s Richard Scarry’s Busytown game (which he loves and requests to play multiple times a week). BTW, you can’t win that game because in the end, everybody rides the ferry together to the pigs’ picnic on Picnic Island. We all win. Have a trophy.
  2. It’s faster to just clean things up myself. The times when I want Dom to clean up his own toys, I find that I am very good at standing with one hand on my hip, pointing with the other hand, “pick that up, then that, then that… do you want to earn a quarter or not?” Finger wag.
  3. Do they let you take a toddler and infant to help you serve lunch at a soup kitchen? Does anybody do regular service projects with small children? Yes. You do. You are better than me and I commend you.
  4. Not yelling. Who is my kid learning his temper from? Me, of course! I put myself in timeout today at lunch. I probably just need more chocolate, right? Chocolate solves everything…?

But really, the Harvard psychologist offered good tips that I do want to work on, in all sincerity:

  1. Emphasize caring over competing.
  2. Expect kids to help and reward uncommon acts of caregiving.
  3. Say thanks to others we interact with, like the person checking out our groceries.
  4. Do community service.
  5. Improve my own temper so that I can help my kids with handling their feelings.

How do you help your kids be kind and gentle? (Besides hanging out with Lizzie whenever possible.)

thinking about mother-daughter relationships


ReedWomenEver since I was little, I imagined myself as a mother of sons. I suppose growing up with 5 brothers and only one sister played into this. Perhaps it was influenced by my tomboy leanings, my love of sports, and my preference for playing with GIJoes over Barbie’s (though I had both). Whatever the reason, I was surprised when I was told, during my 2nd pregnancy, that I was going to have a girl.

I thought of all of the boxes of boys clothes in storage that I wouldn’t be able to use.

I thought of this expectation since my childhood that I would rear up a brood of boys.

I also thought about how my childhood self wanted six kids. Silly little me.

My husband and I talked long before having another kid about what size our family should be and we knew: two would be enough. Two would be perfect. And so I assumed that I would inform my childhood self that we would be raising two boys, not six.

But now we have pink clothes and hair bows and dresses.

And for weeks after Gabbi was born, I continued to make comments about how I wasn’t prepared to raise a girl because I didn’t want to raise a daughter like me.

Until one day I realized: this comment said A LOT about what I thought about my relationship with my mother.

As I said it in the past, I thought I was communicating faults about MYSELF and my shortcomings as a daughter. But you can’t talk about a relationship and only “blame” one person in it.

And that’s when I realized that it’s not true. At all. I really WOULD want to raise me because if my daughter and I had the same relationship that my mother and I have, I would love that.

My mom is incredible. People say that about their moms and I’m sure they have great women who raised them. But they don’t have my mom.

Mom taught me to love music. I begged and begged her to teach me violin when I was little. I was jealous that my younger sister could take her violin anywhere in the house to practice. I couldn’t take the baby grand piano up the stairs and into our room to work on my latest sonatina assignment. But Mom kept me at the piano, for 14 years, in spite of the violin-lessons-begging, or the constantly increasing demand from sports teams, and other time commitments. I remember practicing in the front room, Mom was doing dishes in the kitchen, and I couldn’t figure out the right note so I kept playing the run incorrectly. I knew it sounded wrong, but I was terrible at reading music. Eventually, Mom came to the rescue, shouting from the soapy sink: “It’s an A flat, sweetheart!” Oh. That sounded better.

Mom taught me to drive. She helped me get my license and I was off, a sophomore in high school, carpooling my siblings and friends to classes each day. But she wanted me to learn to drive a stick, too, so one afternoon, she got into my brother’s old Volvo with me and explained how it worked. We pulled away from the house, jerking and dying, starting again, until I screamed and cried, two short turns away from home, getting out of the car and walking back to the house. She drove the car back home. Years later, I remembered her lessons as I sat in my friend, Byr’s, little Hyundai, in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, and she had me drive her stick. Oh. I already knew all this. I remembered from Mom. But I didn’t yell at Byr. Because she wasn’t my mom.

Mom taught me to love reading. I devoured books as a kid. When I came down with mono and spent a month home in fourth grade, I read the entire Chronicles of Narnia sitting in the branches of the chestnut tree. I learned to love reading because I saw Mom reading all of the time. She read all of the books we had to read for school. She read books she wanted to read for herself. She reread books (Pride and Prejudice). And she gave me books as gifts. I loved those birthday and Christmas presents.

Meredith_violinSometimes, I get to play the piano for my Mom. I mentioned this in a previous post, about how much I love bringing her to church with me to play. She’s the real deal and her violin resumé is simply impressive, so people don’t know what’s coming. I love to glance out at the audience, as soon as we’ve finished, and see their expressions. They’ve been moved by the beauty of music. It’s full of the spirit and listening to my Mom play, I hear (and feel) her testimony loud and clear. It’s powerful. And I get to sit behind her, at the piano, and play the background music to that. Each time, I think of my piano as a church-goer in the audience, moved by the spirit and her testimony, shouting, “Amen! Hallelujah! Oh Lordy, it’s true!” And I try to remember to lift the pedal a lot so I don’t muddle the sounds. (Piano strings pick up the violin notes, too, so lift the pedal!) When I still lived at home, I used to randomly ask her to come and play with me. Convenient beauty.

I hope that my daughter is like me. I hope that I am like my mom. I hope that we have a similar relationship. We should be so lucky.

Mr. Silverstein and me


UtahSymphonyMagazineI met Maestro Joseph Silverstein when I was 9 years old. His bushy eyebrows were my favorite feature of his although his sideburns were close runners up. I remember eating a turkey sandwich at the photo shoot. I remember wondering what he was going to eat because he was Jewish and I didn’t know what was and wasn’t allowed for kosher foods. He at a sandwich. I didn’t ask what kind. Did it have a pickle?

Silverstein died Sunday at the age of 83. He was the director of the Utah Symphony for 15 years. He put his hands on my shoulders for a photo which was in the Utah Symphony Magazine in 1989.

I know. You wish you had a bib like me. My mom made that dress, I’ll have you know. It was a favorite of mine. As was the headband. I wore that headband for my school pictures in first grade.

My parents took me to the symphony when I was little. It was a special occasion to wear Sunday best and that included my dress-length London Fog coat. I felt fancy. After the symphony, we went to Snelgrove’s for ice cream.

I’d like to say that the Utah Symphony has always been a part of my life. On the day that I was born, Mstislav Rostropovich was the cello soloist on the program that night. World famous cellists didn’t come to little Salt Lake City in 1980. My mom would not miss this. So she sent me to the nursery and hurried out into the night to the concert.

Eighteen years later, Rostropovich came back again to Salt Lake. Mom and I went together.

I have a signed and framed copy of this magazine picture. Silverstein gave it to me as a Christmas present. It was my 15 minutes of fame. Whenever I went to the symphony after that, I felt like I was just a little bit more important than the other patrons because, did that old guy sitting in front of me share a catered lunch with the Maestro?

I think not.

I was honored to have met the virtuoso.