Monday, October 31, 2011

I Am Glow-In-The-Dark Radiant

Almost exactly to the minute two weeks ago I heard the results of the Onco-type pathology which tests the genetic make-up of the tumor. I didn't know tumors had their own genetic make-up, but apparently they do.
The results of that test determined that I will not need chemotherapy. I won't even try to describe to you how relieved I was to hear that.
I started radiation treatments the next day. As of this morning, I have now completed 10 treatments, with 25 more to go. Mike says that I glow in the dark.
Now let me back up a little.
3 weeks ago my children did the most wonderful thing possible. They all came home. All as in our son, both daughters and our son-in-law. They did yard work, and house work. They even cleaned their rooms.
I would have been thrilled with just a visit.
Every time I went out and picked up a tool, my son-in-law scolded me to put it down. My daughters made me sit and sort through things. Then they hauled loads to the dump, and to Goodwill. And it was great having all 4 of them with us at the dinner table. That has never happened since the wedding or before, and who knows when it will happen again, so I enjoyed every moment.
Mike had to go on a quick business trip, so I asked the kids to go with me to the radiation mapping session. That is when you lie down on a skinny metal slab while they take all kinds of x-rays and measure the exact area that will get radiation. Then they tattoo several dots on you so they will always be able to line you up for each treatment. Even though the kids couldn't be in the room for that, I wanted them to see the place where I was being treated, and all the ways the building and the people work to promote healing.
The girls were able to come in with me for the exam, meet my doctor and ask questions. He took all the time they needed to answer concerns, give advice, and tell them about my case. I appreciate his efforts to point us all in a positive direction. During the 40 minute mapping session, after he and the nurse got me set up on the slab, he said, "Okay, close your eyes and go to your happy place while we do the work."
Uh huh, sure.
It was a nice thought, but even with the nice pictures of trees and sky on the ceiling, it was hard to forget that I was having to lie still on a metal slab while a radiation machine moved around me.
After that, I showed the kids the beautiful waiting room for radiation patients, and the connecting enclosed serenity garden, and they met some of the people there who want to do all that can be done to make this turn out the best way possible.
I think it was good for them to see this place, and helpful to have a better idea as to how things will go, and where it will happen. But I remember how I felt when I would help care for Dad when he was being treated, so I can only imagine what was going through their minds. I guess they were probably thinking that no matter how nice it looks, and how great the people are, this is where my mother is coming because she has cancer, and cancer means that things might never be the same.
It was great to have them here. I needed at least one more week, but I'll take what I can get. Anna said she had to pull the C card to be able to come. One of her professors wanted her working on a project during her Fall break, but she told him she was going to help her mom who had cancer. I told her she could pull the C card any time she wanted, as long as it would make it so she could come and see me.
Now I go to radiation treatment every morning, Monday through Friday. Here is an extremely over simplified version of how radiation works. The waves are directed to the area surrounding the tumor location. They cause all of the cells to lose the ability to regenerate. Normal cells recover from that fairly quickly, but cancer cells explode. Then the dead cells are carried out by white blood cells. That explains the exhaustion. My good cells are working overtime to regenerate, or to carry away the dead cancer cell garbage.
I apply special cream 4 times a day to prevent burns. I deal with being tired all the time, and go on long walks to get my heart going for physical reasons and not just for emotional ones. I don't panic when I can't retrieve thoughts (Mike calls it "radiation brain"). I let so many people around me bear me up.
When I am on that slab I think about the waves going through me zapping the cancer cells. I think about how insidious this cancer is. It is not as straight forward as having surgery that cuts it out, and pathology that shows the margins and lymph nodes are clean. There could be cells out there beyond that, and who knows where they are. Because even with all that can be done, there is still the possibility of recurrence. I am shooting for zero with that.
I am grateful for the example of my friend (see the last blog entry below). I have learned from her to do all that can be done, learn all that can be learned, surround myself with people who do the same, then hope, pray and have faith for the rest.
And through it all, enjoy the miracle of being surrounded by love.

Friday, October 28, 2011

This Amazing Not Fair Life

You know when you have a friend that makes you feel like you won the lottery every time you are around her? And even if you are only able to see her for a few hours, a few times a year, and even if you have only known her for 3 years, you feel joy each time you think of her.
And you are so amazed at the joy and courage that radiates from her, even as she battles ovarian cancer. And you love the idea that she is a part of your life so much, that her name is in every personal prayer you offer, and you write it every time you go to the temple.
And when you find out you have cancer, she and her wonderful husband send you messages of hope, sharing their experiences of the miracles they have experienced, and the love that has grown as she battled this cancer over the last 4 years, without letting you know that her cancer has returned and invaded her whole body.
Yes, I have a friend like that. It would not surprise me if thousands of people could say the same thing about her.
She died this morning.
Life is not fair.
I only became aware yesterday that her children and grandchildren were there with her and her husband to have every moment with her before she had to let go of them and move on.
It was 10 years ago when I was there with my siblings and Mom in the last months, then days, then moments of Dad's life.
Nothing can make it fair when a wonderful parent and partner is gone from family far too soon.
Life really is not fair.
10 years ago, after Dad died, I lived that thought for a while. About 6 months. I didn't sleep. I felt crummy. I was quick to get upset at anyone around.
Yeah, life with me was a real joy.
Then, in what I consider a moment of divine grace, I was able to see how blessed I was to have had such a person as my dad.
Life is really amazing.
Not a day goes by where I do not miss Dad, often so much that it hurts. And when I think of the amazing life I have because he was my dad, then all that is great about him comes to me.
So I am grateful for this life where I get to have such a father as my dad, and I get to have such a friend as Robyn.
So my thoughts and prayers are with her family. I hope and believe they also embrace the blessing of their wife and mother.
In that gratitude, love is stronger than death.
And cancer will never win.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

I'm Blue...And Tickled Pink

There are phrases I do not want to hear used in the same sentence, especially when said by certain people. For instance... I would never want to hear a police officer use the phrases "Your child" and "missing for a week" in the same sentence.
So when one of my doctors used the phrases "nuclear lab", "radioactive fluid" and "injected to trace your lymph nodes" all in one sentence, that went to the top of my Do Not Want To Hear list. But I'm sure something else will come along to knock it off the #1 spot.
Just to let you know, the next paragraph or two might be too much information. Feel free to skip it. Wish I could.
So, a couple of days ago, a few hours before surgery they wheeled me from pre-op to the nuclear lab. For some silly reason they did not let Mike come in there with me. They explained the whole procedure again. The fluid would be injected and given time to flow from the tumor to the related lymph nodes. My surgeon would use a type of geiger counter to track those nodes and remove them, then remove the tumor.
Okay, got that. I will just work on my cleansing breaths until you're done.
And the radiologist was amazing. She was so careful, she was done quicker and with less pain than I expected.
Then the nurse went over the logistics with me. She gave me a certificate explaining the procedure and said I would need it if I had to go through any metal detector or screening process in the next three days, since I would set them off. She said, "You're hot. I know your husband already thinks you're hot. Now you really are, as in radioactive."
The fluid is blue, and I could see it showing up just below the skin. Mike calls it Spidey juice, and said it should give me super powers. Is it a super power if I can set off a metal detector alarm? I would rather be able to fly. But for a few days, I got to be a blue blood.
By the way, when you are going through all this, you can get as many heated blankets as you want. That and the early pathology results saying the nodes and the tumor margins are clear were the best things about that day.
Did you know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month? Not that I need any reminders, but I do appreciate more than ever all the events and promotions. Who would have thought I might personally benefit from the research I had supported?
So Pink has become the color of my armor.
An anonymous friend gave me a bracelet with a pink awareness ribbon charm on it. My surgeon gave me a pink water bottle. The hospital gave me a very soft pink robe.
Then the best came yesterday. Two little angels who live in my neighborhood came over with a pink wrist band, a pink cake with very pink frosting decorated with an awareness ribbon and hearts (they made it themselves, with some help from Mom), and........A BRIGHT PINK FEATHER BOA!
It tickles my neck.
I know I can handle anything when I wear it.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

You Outta Be In Pictures

I am working on another entry about Nauvoo, but I wanted to post this short one about the ride. So pardon the interruption.
This is a long, tough ride. Mike and Brad are feeling the effects, especially since they rode for several hours in the pouring, drenching, very heavy rain yesterday before it finally cleared up. I got exhausted just driving through it, thinking about them trying to ride their bikes on roads that were solid ponds of water.
That being said, the farm roads and historic highways of the midwest are stunning. I feel like I am riding through locations for movies I have seen. There is Field of Dreams, or It Happened One Night, or Friendly Persuasion. The sunsets remind me of one of my favorite things about living in Minnesota years ago. The little towns that have been proudly preserved are like the historic parts of Philadelphia, without the crowds.
Today, Mike and Brad were able to do part of the ride on a bike path that has been created along a river. It led to the longest covered bridge in the state of Ohio. It is probably longer than 200 yards. It is on the Mohican path, and can only be accessed on foot, horseback, bicycle or buggy.
Yes, I said buggy. We are in Amish country, where even Walmart has a section in the parking lot for buggies.
We made our way along the path to the covered bridge, and Mike and Brad cycled through it while I waited on one side. While I was there, a horse drawn buggy with a family came up the path to the bridge. Sam barked at the horse while I held him back, but they all smiled and waved at us while they passed and rode through the bridge past the others on the other side.
For a moment, Mike wasn't tired or sore. He was just thrilled with the whole experience.
Ahh, real life.
Better than the movies.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Gearing Up

I am writing this while sitting by a huge cornfield in Illinois. I am reminded of what my curly hair does when it is 99% humidity outside. And for several hundred miles I have seen field after field of corn or soy beans. Isn’t anything else grown in the midwest?
Mike and his brother are doing the Nauvoo to Kirtland Temple to Temple Ride. My doctor strongly recommended we go ahead with this ride, and I will have surgery two days after we get back. I have been going over the volumes of information she gave me, and I can see why she wants us to do what we can before the surgery. So much will change afterwards, and since we know part of that will include at least 7 weeks of radiation, and I won’t be able to leave town during that time, and Mike needs to be recharged, prepped, energized, geared up and fortified with more than 47 vitamins and minerals in order to hang in there through this with me, going ahead with this planned trip was important.
I’m enjoying this, too.
We were able to drive to Missouri and see some church history sites around there before picking up Brad in St. Louis. Then we went on to Nauvoo. This is the first time we have been there since the Nauvoo temple was rebuilt. I will write more about that in the next blog.

It has been nice seeing Mike and Brad doing this ride together. We have not lived near Brad since we were in college, so it has only been short visits at reunions and during travels for 25+ years. This is a rare chance for them to spend time together.
Like any two siblings, they have much in common, and they are also completely different from each other. So this is interesting for me to see the dynamics.
When I periodically pass them on these farm roads, I like seeing them in active conversation, sharing their thoughts and experiences as they ride through this beautiful countryside. They are catching up on all their childhood to middle age stories.
When we sit down for dinner each night, and the conversation goes in all directions, I can tell when Mike is either just relaxing and enjoying it, or keeping his opinion to himself so everything stays relaxing and enjoyable.
Each also brings a different physical experience to this ride as well.
Brad lives at sea level. When they go up a slight hill, he can feel the air thinning.
We live at 6000 feet. Mike is feeling like he has to chew each time he breathes in, the air is so thick. When we were driving over the state line from Colorado to Kansas there was a sign that said that was the highest point in Kansas at 4039 feet. It’s been downhill since then.
Brad is in good shape, but has not been riding a bike as much as Mike. So they stick together and Brad drafts off of Mike. But several times a day Mike has to stop and be on a business call. Brad will keep riding to get ahead for a while. When Mike is done he “time trials it” until he catches up, and he loves that. I love that crazy man of mine.
I think of what it would be like to have this much time with just one sister at a time, or my brother, doing something that we both really wanted to do. Or just having time together. What an unusual and precious experience that could be.
I am glad Mike is doing this. He is covering a long road this week.
The much longer road starts next week.

Friday, September 2, 2011

"C" Is For Cookie, That's Good Enough For Me

Today is brought to you by the letter "C".
C is for Compassion and Courage.
Thanks to all of you, for everything.
I am overwhelmed. So many people sending cards and messages, sharing their own journeys, fasting and praying with us, leaving homemade cookies, soup, fresh picking from their gardens, listening, answering questions, and so much more. I knew of a number of women who are cancer survivors, now I know of many more. Some of them are very private, but they have generously and courageously told me of their experiences, let me ask many very personal questions, and helped me have more information about what is ahead.
Every time I go somewhere, when I return there is something on my doorstep. Handmade cards, drawings from children I know, nourishing foods, special treats. The other day, 10 people from church showed up to help us finish a yard project. It all lightens the load, and lets Mike and I have our strength for what cannot be handed to someone else.
I debated sharing this whole experience with others. But I remembered how much I want to help when those I know are carrying burdens. I need to take this beyond a concept, and let it be the way I live.
And I feel the thoughts and prayers of others working on me.

C is for Care, as in the Red Rocks Cancer Care Center.
I guess timing really is everything. Apparently, this tumor probably started growing about 8 to 10 years ago. I felt it a few months ago because fibrous tissue grew over it. This new cancer center was opened a few months ago. I have met with several of the specialists there, and I am amazed. They took all the time needed to go over every scan, test and report, every option, every part of my life that will impact the healing. My surgeon is not just looking at her part in removing the tumor, my radiation oncologist is not just looking at his part in therapy. They are helping Mike and I form a team with them to overcome and kill the thing that is trying to kill me. And they want me to come through it healed and stronger than ever.
After Dad died, there were people who had worked with him who told us how he was one of the few bosses or teachers they had who would pray with them and for them, and who would hug them. I can now say that I have doctors who pray for me, accept prayers for their own guidance, and who hug me.

C is for Comedy. This is not only from my sisters, it is now officially doctor's orders. So I look for ways to endure with joy. I will take surface level humor as well.
I could go with pop culture, such as the line from "The Devil Wears Prada"..."I'm only one stomach flu away from my goal weight." Maybe I am only one treatment away from my goal weight.
If you need some great humor around this subject, go to youtube and search for Jack Black Mammogram.
This is also a good time to see what kinds of crazy head pieces my artist siblings will make for me, even though (at least for now and I hope never) there is no chemo planned.

C is for Chocolate. The really good kind. I think there should be a clinical trial on the healing properties of fine chocolate. Sign me up for that one.

C is for Cheese, as in "Do you want some cheese with that whine?" Please ask me that if I ever do. Whine that is.

C is for Choice.
Since this is early detection, I still have some choice in some aspects of my treatment. So if you are wondering how important it is to get regular screenings, check-ups and do self-examination, stop wondering. It horrifies me to think how little choice I would have otherwise.
And I always have a choice in how I live. So I choose my life, and every part of it, including the cancer. This is part of my journey, and I am blessed with a wonderful life journey.
Besides that, if I gripe about not wanting this life, and complaining that things should be different, it is exhausting, boring, and makes me unbearable to be around. I'd rather not be alone right now.
Michael told me yesterday that when he gave me a blessing the night before the biopsy, he knew it was cancer, but that we would make it through this together. That is when I knew that he had chosen to make this his battle, as much as mine.
This is how powerful choice is. A few days ago I had an MRI. I had to lie on my stomach, my face laying in an uncomfortable cutout, my hands over my head, not moving for 40 minutes. The physical discomfort was there but not extreme. The mental and emotional strain of thinking about why I was there, and what the scan might show is overwhelming. Mike had talked the technicians into letting him be in the room, holding my hand the whole time. Even though we couldn't talk to each other, he would squeeze my hand every minute or so. This is our battle. And each time I would feel overwhelmed I would think of all the people praying for me, and God's awareness of each of us, knowing us by name. I felt unseen hands placed gently all over my back and legs, easing the tension and worry.
That is the journey I choose.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Big "C"

So much can change in a second, even if the days leading up to that second seem to take forever.
A few months ago I felt a lump in my breast. It didn’t change, so I went in to have my doctor check it. Within the week, I was having the diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound she had ordered. Within moments of that, they told me I needed to return for an ultrasound guided needle biopsy (yes, it is as bad as it sounds).
Now, here is the part that I don’t understand. They scheduled my biopsy 12 days away. 12 days! Plenty of time to worry and wonder and imagine what kind of things are growing out of control in my body. They said there was not an opening any sooner.
My brother-in-law is a brilliant radiologist in Salt Lake City. I talked to him about this and he was apalled the biopsy was scheduled that far out. His team has worked hard to make sure they can schedule the biopsy within a day of the diagnostic, and they are very busy as well. It takes effort, but it can be done.
This is one thing I am willing to make a fuss about. So far it has resulted in an inquiry about changing things.
But my biopsy was still 12 days out. A very long, stressful 12 days.
That part came to an end yesterday. The biopsy was in the morning. They told me I would get the results today at three. Those 30 hours dragged like the previous 12 days.
When my doctor called, even as she was saying it, I wondered if there was a class in medical school about leading a conversation to the point where you say, “Your biopsy is positive for breast cancer.”
So time has shifted again.
I give myself my moments of falling apart. But there is so much love and support. Within moments of setting up an appointment with a surgeon, and holding onto Mike for a while, and sending an email to friends and family, one of those friends was at the door with homemade frozen strawberry jam, telling me she would go through it in my place if she could. And I believe her.
There were immediate expressions of love, support and prayers through email.
This is what we do, as family, friends, Mormons, women.
It will be hard, but it will be okay. As my brilliant brother-in-law said, “Years from now, you will be in the survivor’s group at a Race For The Cure event, and this will just be something in your past.”
Surrounded by love, I can handle anything. I am so blessed.
And “C” is just a letter in the alphabet.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Long And Winding Road

We are home and trying to get back into regular life. Mike has told me several times how much he misses riding his bike 100+ miles a day, especially when the ride is through stunning scenery. We made it through the week with no crashes or serious injuries, meeting many interesting people, seeing so much wildlife and some of the most beautiful places in the world. There is a mention of the ride in the Deseret News.
Here is a rundown of superlatives, moments, memory keepers...

Friday, July 15th - Provo to Salt Lake on the Tandem. Mom was there to see us off at the Provo Temple. Everyone else was sleeping in after dressing in costumes and going to the midnight showing of the final Harry Potter movie. One of my sisters looked exactly like Bellatrix, another exactly like Trelawney. But Mike and I were ready to go early in the morning. We geared up to self support. The weather was perfect, and we made good progress to Mount Timpanogos, up over Eagle Ridge to Draper, and west to Oquirrh Mountain. That was when I wondered if we made every single red light across the valley. We spent more time waiting at lights than riding the bike. When we headed toward the Jordan River Temple we changed the route and found some residential roads with no lights. Our first real interruption came after leaving Jordan River when I was stung by a wasp. After a short break we continued. Charlotte and Reed met us at the cemetery with cold water. I realized what a difference it makes to have support. We rested and visited by Dad's grave. I had been drinking plenty of water, but did not want to eat more than an apple. I (with the metabolism of a slug) can't stand all the energy goop Mike (with his race horse metabolism) fuels himself with. We were doing the final climb to "This is the Place Park" when I said, "I feel strange" and "Whose idea was this?" and "Why are we doing this?". Mike made me sit down on the lawn in front of the house where my grandparents used to live and eat a whole granola bar, every bite, even though I didn't want to. I think Charlotte got a kick out of that. I felt better after that. At the park I told Charlotte about visiting the monument each time we would come to Salt Lake to visit family when I was a child. My grandpa would lift me up so I could climb on the statues, and he would point out which figures were our ancestors. Then we coasted all the way down to the Salt Lake Temple. It was nice to sit by the reflecting pool, talk about the memories and connections we have with this temple, and watch so many people visiting this place. Most of them did not speak english, but managed to communicate when we offered to take their pictures for them. Then we biked to Charlotte and Reed's place where they fed us and helped us recover. A good day.

Highlights - having Charlotte and Reed support us the last few miles, and cooling off with the water from the temple reflecting pool.
Saturday, July 16th - Salt Lake to Logan. Harry and Nef met us at the Salt Lake Temple to ride with Mike. Amy and Anne saw them off with me and Amy joined me in the support vehicle. Joel met Mike to join the ride within a few blocks. At the Bountiful Temple, we met a group of young women who were driving to as many temples as they could. They got a kick out of seeing the bikers ride up the same road they had driven.
In Layton we went past the house we had lived in and restored for 13 years. The family who has it now has done wonderful additions to it. They let us go in and look at what they had done. It was nice to see such a home in the hands of people who love it so much.
The Ogden Temple was a construction zone, Brigham City Temple is taking shape. We sat next to the irrigation ditch across the street and cooled off while remembering wading in irrigation ditches when visiting grandparents. Mike was born here, and we wondered where that hospital was.
Once the bikers had made it to the top of Sardine Canyon, and refilled with cold water, they blasted past us at the next support stop calling out, "See you at the temple!" Logan Temple was closed for maintenance, but some of the grounds workers let us in for a picture. It was nice having the place to ourselves. We talked about this temple and this place. My dad was born here.

Highlight - Our dear friend Nef telling us that he was dedicating his ride to his cousin who had recently died. He was only in his 40's, had a young family, was healthy, but cancer had taken this good man. I like seeing people deal with loss in positive ways.
Monday, July 18th - Logan. Mike Perdue and Mark Bolton, along with Juanita Bolton, son Trevor and friend Wyatt, met us at the temple for an early start. It was a beautiful morning. When I stopped at a store to pick up supplies, the clerk there asked me about my Temple to temple jersey. Then shared with me several amazing experiences she and her family had had at some of the temples. A little moment of grace.
We met up in Preston where Juanita and the kids enjoyed looking for Napoleon Dynamite souvenirs. Wherever we stopped, the kids would find a way to have a great time. It was fun to see them play. The Boltons had their RV, so we always had a place to set up to make lunch.
We drove and rode through National Forests, green valleys and historic towns. It was nice to be out of the cities and in gorgeous country. I drove a little way off the route to Paris, Idaho to see the historic tabernacle there. It was built by a shipbuilder that had emigrated from Europe 150+ years ago. It is nice to see the pride these little towns have in their historic buildings.
As the day went on, the bikers got further apart, and we had no cell phone coverage. I was trying to shuttle over 20 miles between Mike and the others. At one point, Mike was out of water and waiting for me at Salt River Pass. He went up to an RV that was parked there and asked for some water. They were some kind Norwegian tourists who insisted he take 2 bottles of cold water. I got there a few minutes later and he took some time to rehydrate. With support the other two made it to the pass. It was a beautiful place to end the ride for the day.
We had to keep a close eye on one of the bikers who was not recovering well. But he was better by morning.

Tuesday, July 19th - Afton, Wyoming to Jackson. Mike enjoyed riding Trevor's bike while we finished breakfast. I think the bikers were glad with the way today started, 15 miles coasting downhill. Riding through Star Valley and then along the Snake River was stunning. It was greener than I have ever seen, and the river was high and dramatic. Everyone did well, and we made it to Hoback Junction, where the Boltons and Perdues (Michele and daughter Tana joined us here) were camping, in good time. Mike decided to keep riding his bike on to Teton Village to where we were staying in a hostel. I went ahead, checked in and unloaded in time to walk out and greet Mike as he came in on the bike path. This is a beautiful place at the south end of Grand Teton National Park. 5 minutes after Mike got there, a furious storm hit with stinging rain blowing sideways. Nice timing.

Highlight - Talking with a woman in Afton whose sister organizes biking events, and will teach us how to get sponsors and raise money for humanitarian causes. Several people have asked if we were raising money for something. I think it's a great idea, so I will work on that with anyone who is willing to help me.
Another highlight was coming into view of the Tetons and the stunning cloud formations over them.
Wednesday, July 20 - Jackson to Yellowstone. Since Mike loves riding through this country, he rode into Jackson to meet the others for breakfast, then back out with them to ride through Teton Village into the Park. At the park entrance, we put all the bikes on the rack, and the three riders crammed into the car until I rode into the park. It was quite a feat.

Grand Teton is beautiful, and we soon learned to avoid the crowds. An amazing thing about this park is that the perspective and view of the range changes with each mile. So as I was stopping every few miles to support the riders, I was seeing new angles of canyons, peaks, snow fields and lakes.
After leaving Teton, I was waiting for Mike at the entrance to Yellowstone so I could drive him in. A motorcycle club drove into the pull out to take pictures. They all went nuts over our dog Sam. They were fussing over him and giving him treats and talking about their dogs and how rescued dogs are the best. Sam was loving it, until they got on their motorcycles and started them up, then Sam wanted to eat the tires.

Mike and Mike both got there for me to drive them into the park. Just inside the park the Mikes went swimming under some falls next to the road. It refreshed them for the final climb and 22 miles to West Thumb. After we all met up there, we split up for the night. Mike and I were staying at West Yellowstone. Unfortunately, the Boltons and Perdues had no cell reception so we were hoping we would somehow know where to find each other the next day.
Can I just say how glad I am that Mike really wanted to get a hotel room with a full bath rather than camp out after a long ride.
Thursday, July 21 - Rest Day. We were hoping to see some of Yellowstone, leave Sam in the air conditioned RV while we rode the tandem for a few hours, then see more of Yellowstone. We were able to see many sites on the Grand Loop, including elk, bison, moose and bears, but were not able to meet up with the others, so there was no way to leave Sam. We finally found the others when we were waiting for Old Faithful to be faithful. After dinner, and arranging to meet in the morning, and seeing Old Faithful do its thing, we walked the geyser trail as the Sun set. The mosquitos tried to carry us away, but it was beautiful seeing all the geysers. As we drove back out of the park, we saw a wolf, and a herd of bison walking down the middle of the road, with a police escort. Good night, World.

Friday, July 22 - Yellowstone to Cooke City, Montana. Today would have been Dad's 78th birthday. He has been gone now for 10 years and I miss him more all the time. We continue to add things to his website and I dedicate my part of this Temple to Temple Ride to him and the difference he made in the world.
Each day just gets more beautiful. Driving into the park as the sun rose, steam was rising off the river which had been heated by the hot geyser water that flowed into it. We saw a mother elk and her tiny calf next to the road, with steam rising behind her. As we drove by middle basin, a large geyser erupted and poured into the stream. Maybe Dad was saying hi.
Soon after the bikers met up and started, I drove ahead. There in the middle of the road was a huge bison, slowly walking forward. I passed it and pulled off to get a photo of Mike passing it. But he rode by me as I got out of the car, pausing with a huge grin on his face and saying, "Wow that's cool!" before taking off. I was able to get a photo of Mike Perdue with the bison. At one of the viewpoints I was able to see a mother grizzly and 2 cubs playing in a meadow next to a bison herd.

When I was waiting for them at Dunhaven Pass, I met some retired couples who were riding their bicycles through the park, carrying all their gear with them. These couples were definitely enjoying their 70's. They would sing as they were riding to keep the wolves and bears away, since we could see bear sign all along the road.
After lunch we were on the road in the northeast corner of the park. This is where there are the fewest people, and the most bears and wolves. At one viewpoint, I stopped to looked at a huge herd of bison, hundreds spread over a long distance. Then I noticed a large grizzly in a meadow next to a bunch of mothers with calves. As it got closer to the calves, the mothers ran them off and a number of male bison moved to surround the grizzly. It was fascinating to see him try to get through them and there was a skirmish before I drove off. It was a great National Geographic moment, but I was a bit worried about the guys riding their bikes on this lonely road with bears around.
Most terrifying moment - after seeing Mike just before he left the park, we agreed he would wait for us at Cooke City. There the three bikers could decide how much further they would ride today. After checking on the others and going back to the little town, I could not find him. I went back and forth, in and out of town before seeing him in front of one of the cafes there. It was an emotional day anyway, thinking of Dad and how much he would love all this. But that part was not fun.
After they rode 15 more miles to a great waterfall, we drove to a cabin that a friend was loaning us. There were bear tracks around the cabin, and a large fox that would boldly come up to us because the neighbor fed it. So we decided to keep Sam inside.
An amazing day, with much to be grateful for. Happy Birthday, Dad.

Final day. Saturday, July 23rd - Beartooth Pass to Billings, Montana. In every direction we saw different dramatic mountain ranges. Several times I heard the guys say, "I can't imagine it getting more spectacular, and each day it does." The 27 mile climb to Beartooth Pass went up through forests, rocky gorges, waterfalls, alpine meadows, hundreds of lakes, then snowfields as the switchbacks got sharper. I missed seeing Mike at the pass, which is really a peak, and I was several miles down the other side before I turned around to look for him. He was at the top, shivering and waving me down. I made him stay in the car and thaw out before he started the descent. I got a picture of the Mikes looking down at the sharp descent. After a 20 mile descent, we met up for lunch at the bottom, and they had an almost 60 mile stretch of long flat road into Billings. I led them along the farm roads that skirted the city, and we got to the temple at 6 p.m. Since it was closed for maintenance, we had it to ourselves. It was a quiet ending to this epic ride in a beautiful setting.

Mike will be posting the route and other links at
In the end, it was almost 700 miles of riding, and over 32,000 feet of climbing, taking us to 11 temples and many heritage sites, meeting many people who asked many questions and shared so much with us.
Come September, we will head to Nauvoo where Mike and his brother will bike from there to Kirtland, Ohio. I could say, "What a long strange trip it's been", but it really has been a great ride.
On to the next.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Wildlife on the Road

The ride is going well. It is not going as planned, but it never does. The daily destination has shifted a little, but we are on track for Billings on Saturday.
We are in Yellowstone now. There are no temples here, at least not LDS temples. We have seen wildlife on the road, some of it being the elk and bison that belong here. Most of it being the large vehicles carelessly driven too fast through this gorgeous scenery.
And it has all been gorgeous. I have never seen Utah, Idaho and Wyoming so green.
There have been no crashes so far. At least not while riding the bikes. We had to carefully watch one of the bikers the other day when he didn't recover well from the day's ride. We were glad the local hospital was only a block away, and we were ready to use it, even though it was barely bigger than a house, and had a cat sitting in the window looking out at us. But we didn't need to. He is doing much better.
The biggest challenge has been coordinating support when the riders are far apart and we don't have cell phone reception. But we deal with it, and are grateful we are covering this distance with bikes and cars, not wagons and carts. Which reminds me, I only get spotty wireless, so this is the first chance I have had to connect. No big deal. I am sure your lives are continuing on just fine.
Here is my biggest challenge - It has been 6 days since my last ride. Since doing the Provo to Salt Lake ride on the tandem last Friday, I have been driving support, not riding a bike. Today we ride the tandem through Yellowstone.
That is my kind of wildlife on the road.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

It's All Uphill From Here

I've been doing longer and harder tandem rides with Mike lately. We got a newer tandem (only 11 years old) that is smoother to ride. I got some biking shorts with a padded chamois seat that was obviously designed by a woman for women. Thank you Pearl Izumi! And thank you Ebay for having them at a great price. Another product-that-must-have-been-designed-by-a-woman is Chamois Butter. This is crucial for women who are riding a bike for longer than 20 minutes. Remember, it goes on you and on the chamois seat. Enough said.
So Mike has helped me prepare for harder rides, and he knows when I am ready to take on the tough ones. July 2 we did "High Grade". The name says it all. It is long and steep. We planned a loop from our house that would go up a couple of climbs and in and out of some canyons before we got to High Grade Road. Then after we got to the summit of High Grade we would continue on to Evergreen and then down the canyon back to our house. 55 miles, ending on 15 miles of downhill. The hardest part would be over once we got to the top of High Grade.
A "friend" of Mike's told him to take an alternate road after High Grade that would get us to Evergreen with less traffic to deal with, so we planned on that.
High Grade was tough, but I was ready and hung in there. Mike was patient, and we made it to the top. We rested a bit and refueled. I felt good and was glad the hard part was over. We headed down the other side and made good time to get to the alternate road. Once we turned onto Blue Creek, I started feeling awful. I struggled to keep pedaling fast, I felt like we were pedaling through glue. I thought I was going to exhale a lung. After a while I gasped, "I have to stop. Something is wrong." I thought I was having a heart attack or some delayed reaction to a long climb.
We pulled over and I noticed Mike was gasping too. He said, "This is a 12% grade hill. That is why it is so hard. I didn't know this was a steep hill."
12 percent! I thought the hard climb was over. I was not mentally prepared for another steep climb after High Grade (which only has short sections that steep).
What kind of "friend" would suggest an alternate road like that?
He is off my "I think I will make some cookies and give some to our friends" list.
Anyway, we rested, braced ourselves, and made it up that hill. After a few more miles of rollers, we got to the downhill stretch home. Everyone passes the tandem on the uphill, but no one passes us on the downhill. It is long, stable and fast going downhill.
2 days later we rode up to Echo Lake over Juniper Pass at almost 12,000 feet. It was gorgeous.
Tomorrow we start the Temple to Temple Ride. We will leave from the Provo Temple at 7 a.m. on the tandem. 80 miles, 6 temples and maybe 6 hours later, after crossing Utah Valley and Salt Lake Valley, and climbing over into Draper, we will arrive at the Salt Lake Temple. After that I will drive the support car, and others will join us for hours or days or a week until we get to Billings.
Wave if you see us. We'll be the ones wearing the cool jerseys and enjoying the roller coaster ride.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Leggo My Ego...uh, I mean My Logo!

So Mike asked me to design a log for the Temple to Temple Ride. He asked me to design one for the Temple to Temple 2 years ago. Now, I have seen many bicycling event jerseys, and most of them look like the cars in Nascar events. The names of sponsors and clip art images cover every inch of them. They serve a purpose. They can be viewed from any direction, and the sponsor's name will be seen.
It is rare to find a jersey that is memorable for its design. The only thing that might set one apart from another is the name of the sponsor. The cyclists I know don't seem too concerned about this, as long as the jersey fits, and wicks moisture away.
If I am going to design something, I don't want it to look like all the other jerseys. This is not just any bike ride. Two years ago, I designed something that would catch people's attention, that would get conversations going, that people would remember as different. When Mike showed it to the other riders, Mark and other Mike, there were suggestions for adding some other clip art elements. I told Mike that if they wanted to design the jersey, they could, and I would just take my design and go home.
No ego involved at all.
But here's the deal. You know what you get when a biker designs a jersey? You get a jersey that looks like it was designed by a biker.
They decided to use my design.
And, other than the colors not being what I ordered, it turned out okay. It got conversations going with people all along the way. It was also memorable. The other Mike was on a long bike ride the other day wearing that jersey. Some other bikers saw him and said, "Hey, didn't we see you two years ago when you were biking to Utah?" They remembered the jersey.
This time I had more notice, and have been working on sketches and designs for a while. I finally got the artwork the way I wanted it, scanned it into photoshop, and Mike helped me get it all ready to send to the jersey company. Under the main logo I listed all the temples Mike will be riding to, including the ones he will ride to this fall on a second epic ride this year. We emailed it to Mark and other Mike to see it.
A little background information...Four years ago mike was preparing to ride the Triple Bypass, a 120 mike event that goes over 3 mountain passes. He had registered and picked up his packet with the event jersey in it. A few weeks before the event he was in a bike race where another rider cut him off, he swerved and hit a box of water bottles, flew off and broke his collarbone. He was not able to ride the Triple on the day of the event. But he refused to wear the jersey until he had healed, and then ridden the entire course on another day. I know he rode the whole course because I followed in the car to support him. After that he wore the jersey proudly. I did not know this was a hard and fast rule for bikers - Thou shalt not wear the event jersey until you have ridden the event course. I just thought Mike was dealing with an undetected head injury and I was humoring him.
Apparently it is a hard and fast rule for bikers.
Mike, Mark and other Mike were concerned because I had listed all of the temples on the jersey design, but only Mike was going to be riding to all of the temples. The others needed to have only the temples they were riding to listed on their jerseys. And instead of saying Temple to Temple to Temple to Temple to Temple, they wanted theirs to just say Temple to Temple since they were just going from the Logan to the Billings Temple. I'm thinking, "Wait a minute. People wear concert tour t-shirts even if they haven't been to all the cities listed on the shirt. These guys are riding the longest part of the ride. What's the big deal?.....And besides, it will mess up the design. MY design."
Like I said, no ego involved at all.
Since the love of my life is into the whole Ride the Course So You Are Worthy of the Jersey thing, I was willing to compromise. Especially since he helped me with all the photoshopping. So each rider will get the jersey they will earn. I was going to be snarky and add some fine print at the bottom. Something like "By wearing this jersey I promise that I will personally ride every inch of the way from Logan to Billings. If I don't I will forfeit this jersey and my bike because I am obviously not worthy of either." But I couldn't get it to work with the design, so I didn't. Again, no ego involved here.
By the way, I will be wearing the jersey with all the temples listed. I will either be riding the tandem to them, or driving the support vehicle, so I am earning it.
So here is the jersey logo. I hope you like it. If you don't, don't tell me. I am very protective of my ego, uh, I mean my logo.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Temple to Temple to Temple to Temple...

Mike likes bikes.
No, this is not a quote from a Dr. Suess book.
Mike loves riding his road bike, and our tandem. He loves having a long ride to look forward to. He has ridden the Lotoja (210 miles in one day) several times. He rides the Triple Bypass (126 miles, 3 mountain passes) every year. But his favorite ride to train for is whatever epic ride he is planning and arranging at the moment.
Two years ago he and 2 friends, Mike and Mark planned a week long ride from the Denver Temple to the Salt Lake Temple. I drove the support vehicle. I designed their "Temple to Temple" jerseys, and those became conversation starters wherever we stopped. Our dog Sam was a great cheering section. Mike has been looking forward to another epic ride since then. So Mike, Mike and Mark have been planning another Temple to Temple ride for July. This time they will take a week to ride from the Logan Utah Temple to the Billings Montana Temple, by way of Jackson, Grand Teton National Park, and Yellowstone National Park.
Sounds pretty straight forward.
I don't think so.
My sister will be in Utah visiting from Australia, in July, the week before the Temple to Temple. We will be there for some family events. So Mike thought, "Hey, why not ride from the Salt Lake Temple to the Logan Temple on Saturday?" Then he remembered we will be staying at my mom's house in Provo. So he thought, "Hey, why not ride from Provo Temple to the Salt Lake Temple on Friday, and stop by each of the temples in between on the way?"
Hey, why not?
So the Temple to Temple has turned into the Temple to Temple to Temple to Temple...
Then I started training to ride a century on the tandem with Mike. And I thought, "Hey, why not ride the tandem on that first day? We could support ourselves. After that I can drive the support vehicle."
So we have been planning the route to ride from the Provo Temple to the Mount Timpanogas Temple to the Draper Temple to the Oquirrh Temple to the Jordan River Temple to the Salt Lake Temple. Many of these have some significance for us.
Then Mike thought, "Hey, there are many places in between the temples that are meaningful to us. Why not plan the route so we go by some of those?"
Why not?
And why not invite any family and friends who might be in Utah to join us for any part of the ride?
So here is the basic plan:
Friday, July 15th we will leave on the tandem from the Provo Temple at 7 a.m. We will follow surface roads to the temples I mentioned above. We will be taking a less direct route between the Jordan River and Salt Lake Temples. We will go by Dad's grave to invite him along, go by parks and grandparents houses that were a big part of childhood, maybe swing by the "This is the Place"monument before coasting down to the Salt Lake Temple.
Then on Saturday Mike will leave from the Salt Lake Temple ride to the Bountiful Temple, then along the bench through our Farmington neighborhood, then through Layton past the historic house we restored, up past the Ogden Temple, then the Brigham City Temple construction site and past the place where Mike was born, through gorgeous Sardine Canyon to the Logan Temple.
You are welcome to join us, or wave at us or cheer us on. We will be posting updates. If you want more specific details, message me on facebook (Jody England Hansen) and I will put you on the email blast.
Why are we doing this ride?
There is a wonderful freedom when you are on a bike. You can go almost anywhere, and see things in more detail. It is slower than driving, but not too slow. It is quiet, and easy to talk with others. I especially like the connection that you can have with the people and creatures around you, as well as an awareness of where you are. I have so many ancestors and family who walked through or lived in these places. Riding through them is another way to experience a bond with heritage that helped make me.
Hey, why not?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Looooove Boat....well, for some anyway.

Mike and I recently went on our first cruise. It was on the Carnival ship Conquest to the Caribbean. Loved it, loved it, loved it.
Did I mention we loved it?

We needed to trade some vacation points or lose them, and this was the cruise that had space. When we found out we could scuba dive at 2 of the island stops, we were on board - so to speak.
We weren't sure what to expect, but decided, no matter what, we would have a great time. No cooking, no cleaning, no cell phone, no computer, no way could it not be great.
Our flight was delayed several times, so getting to the ship was a bit stressful, but we made it. We explored the ship, watched the shore disappear as we left and, for the first time ever, dressed for dinner. There were 6 others at our table, and we were having a great time with them within minutes. I hope they didn't get tired of us asking them for tips about the islands we would be visiting, and how to get the most out of the cruise. We never lacked for conversation at dinner. We also got some dinner dancing in.
We loved walking around the decks at night, watching movies on the big screen under the stars, seeing a new towel animal in our room each evening after housekeeping came to (get this, another first) "turn down our bed".
One of the best moments for me was our first day at sea. We found a fairly calm area on one of the upper decks, slathered on the sunscreen, arranged the chairs, and laid back. Within minutes, I saw Mike visibly relax. This continued for most of the week. A few days before we returned he mentioned a small concern about his work, and I said, "No no no no no! We still have a few days. No work, no job, no stress!" He did the same thing for me when I mentioned a concern about family. That ship was our stress free zone.
Not so for everyone.
Here are some things heard and overheard during the week.
10:30 a.m. We were relaxing on deck. A waiter was walking around with a tray of specialty mixed drinks for sale. A couple walks up to him.
Man - What is this? Is this drink strong?
Waiter says something softly which I can't hear.
Woman - Yes, this is strong. I just had one.
Man - I don't want something strong this early.
Woman to the waiter - Give me another one.
Man - Honey, don't have another one. You just had one. It's early.
Woman - I want one. I'm having it. Give me one. Now.
We saw this same couple a few days later, in the afternoon, by the elevators while Mike and I were walking up the stairs.
Man, pointing at the stairs - Let's go this way.
Woman, pushing elevator button - We were just up there. Why go back up. I'm going down.
Man - We were just up there. Let's go down this way. We can go this way.
Woman - I don't want to go back up. We were just up. I'm going down. Why do you want to go up?
Man - We were just up there. Why won't you come down with me. We don't need to go up.
Mike and I to each other - I guess not everyone is having as much fun as we are.
Another day a kid was running past us with some other kids, about 11 or 12 years old. He said to Mike, "That was the best! You gotta try it!" Then he threw his hands up in the air to high five Mike and hurried on before we could find out what was "the best".
I won't go into all the conversations we heard between people who were drunk and beyond. They can all be summed up in a word - Incoherency.
I was concerned about gaining weight. I have worked hard this year to lose 40 pounds and want to lose more. I had put on some weight in the weeks before the cruise and did not want to gain more. So here are 10 things to do to keep from gaining weight on a cruise:
1. Never take the elevator, only the stairs. Since I live at 6000 feet, this was easy at the beginning of the week, and got harder after day 2.
2. Get a room on deck 2 aft. The gym is on deck 11 forward, pool is deck 9, track is deck 10 (see #1)
3. Go workout at the gym before breakfast, it has a great view.
4. Go workout at the gym before lunch.
5. Go workout at the gym before dinner.
6. Only do shore excursions that involve lots of physical exertion, such as swimming, hiking, or riding a bus on a narrow winding road.
7. Eat fresh fruit, not waffles and syrup for breakfast.
8. Drink water, not soda. Not even diet soda. But I did see people who were drinking more than a days worth of calories in one sitting, and they weren't drinking soda.
9. Avoid carbs! Carbs are evil. Carbs will destroy the world!
10. No matter what your mother told you, you do not have to finish everything on your plate.
I did all of these things, except #9. So I still gained weight. It has been hard work, but I am finally down to my one-month-before-the-cruise-weight.
But few things got me to be careful about what I was eating more than what we saw near the end of the week. Mike and I were eating lunch at a table in the buffet area. We were tasting things on our 2 plates. A few feet away, there was a young woman eating by herself. I noticed she had 7 different plates in front of her, and she was eating from all of them. She was not large, but she was eating as if this were her last meal, and she had 5 minutes to complete it. Fries, burgers, pasta, pie, cake, brownies were all combined in her mouth while she chewed constantly. After a while, a few other family members joined her with their own plates. She said she had teased her grandma for eating 3 times in one hour. I didn't have much appetite after that.
Some of my other favorite moments:
Mike getting on the disco floor to take "Thriller" dance lessons with me.
Mike getting on the stage to take ballroom dance lessons with me.

Going to 100 foot depths on our first wall scuba dive in Cozumel. I have never seen water so blue.
Seeing dozens of schools of fish all at once on the reefs at Cozumel.
But I think the favorite moment for both of us was when we put a deposit on a cruise for next year.
That's much better than Love Boat reruns.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The End Is Not Near, You Must Learn To Cope.

I must have missed the rapture. I was busy doing service. Then I went on a date with Mike.
I have no problem with those who want to be prepared and really want to know the exact day and time for an important event. I am one of them. No matter what religion, philosophy or creed we follow, we humans want to have specifics. If nothing else, we have another source to blame if things don't work out.
For those who use the Bible as a guide, it can get confusing. If you want to look, you can find plenty of conflicting messages. I read it so the the main and simple message of Christ's gospel is what I look for. Anything that does not encourage me to line up with that becomes a cultural study.
Putting huge effort and resources into trying to figure out the day and time falls into that area. There are several places where scriptures say no one knows that except God, and I can understand that.
This is not like the prom, or your 40th high school reunion. It is not going to work to diet in drastic ways to lose weight and fit into that outfit, or get a makeover so you can present a different face for the weekend.
Those things are not transfiguration proof. The person who moves on is the person you have chosen to be in this life.
My dad had a great cartoon from the New Yorker posted on his office door. It showed a bearded man in robe and sandals carrying a picket sign through the city. It said "The End Is Not Near. You Must Learn To Cope".
Since I think the need to cope will not end with this life, I think this is a good skill for me to develop. What I really like is the way so many people around me help me see that this life is not something just to endure, slog through, cope with. It is a time to learn, grow, make a difference and have a great time while doing it.
I call it following the Spirit, looking for God in everyone, At-One-Ment. Others might call it Karma, positive vibes, the Golden Rule.
I just find that I like getting a taste of heaven while I am going through mortality. It's a nice way to pass the time.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Royal Wedding, If You Like That Sort of Thing

I remember watching something like this 30 years ago. Well, kind of, sort of like this, but not quite.
I had just returned to Utah after living in London for 6 months. I was there with my family while Dad was running a student program. He stayed on longer to report on the Royal Wedding of Charles and Diana for the Salt Lake paper. I had enjoyed seeing all the fuss go on in London over the engagement and wedding preparations. I hunted for and found the cheapest and cheeziest souvenir possible (still have it). I was caught up in all the pageantry of the day, and missing being in the midst of it all. I did not consider that the tension between the bride and groom was anything more than wedding jitters. Silly me.
I think Kate and Wills have a better chance of long and happy bliss than did Chuck and Di.
I am seeing a bit more of a marriage of equals going into this, since they have both been training each other  for it for a number of years.
Here are some random thoughts as the wedding goes on...
I am still quite enjoying the pageantry. And no one does pageantry like England.
I am loving the intense colors worn by the wedding guests. And there are some wildly, outrageously cool hats. I am wondering how some of them are staying perched on the heads they adorn. There must be some super glue involved. And some hats are so big and positioned so the vision of the wearer must be seriously obscured. Talk about your blind spots. If they turned their head too suddenly, they might take someone's eye out, or at least do some serious damage.
Every time I hear the voice of the clergy begin the marriage ceremony, no matter how deep and rich, I can't help but think of the wedding scene from the movie "Princess Bride".
I really love the pealing bells. If you are fortunate enough to make it to England, try to get to a cathedral and see the bell ringers. The pealing bells are not random. It requires great skill, and is a wonderful thing to see and hear.
The music is as great as ever. I am a sucker for beautiful, traditional hymns.
It was very sweet when William looked at her when she got to the altar with him and he said, "You look beautiful."
How do they keep all of those horses in such great condition, and looking so gorgeous?
As I see them riding carriages through London, I spot places I have been. I remember all the wonderful experiences I had there with people I love. I can't wait to return.
Kate and William just pulled up to Buckingham Palace after the wedding. They seemed to take a deep breath before heading into the palace for many hours of festivities before they can relax.
Brace yourselves and hold on to each other. The ride is just beginning.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Nail Salon at the Temple?

You didn't really think I could cover my daughter's wedding in just one blog post.
After the wedding in the temple, Mike went outside to visit with family and friends while I went with Charlotte and Elizabeth to the dressing room to help her get ready for the photos. We did not rush.
In the meantime, there was a party going on outside. Everyone who was at the wedding and everyone who was waiting outside the temple were visiting.
My sister to Mike - "What is taking so long? It's been a while since I have been in the temple. Have they added a nail salon?"
Mike to my sister - "Yeah, they have. It's right next to the coffee shop."
When Charlotte and Reed came out of the temple, Anna was the first to greet Charlotte. Then she hugged me and said, "When Dad came out to see us his eyes were red."
Not surprising.
When Charlotte and Reed were kneeling at the alter, Mike and I were looking at each other. It is impossible to hear people give and receive promises like that, promises that have no end, that we made to each other and to God, and not be moved. Now we have heard Charlotte make them to Reed, and him to her.
It wasn't just Mike's eyes that were red.
So here is something else I learned about Reed before the wedding...
I mentioned we put together a slide show for the reception. We got some final photos of Reed the week before. I noticed that some were of him in pioneer garb with youth groups doing a pioneer trek. As I looked through them, I realized he was playing the part of one of the heroes.
Background information - When some of the handcart companies were crossing the plains to get to Utah in the 1850's, they were caught in some early winter storms. Many died. When Brigham Young heard about the groups that were stranded in blizzards, he cancelled meetings and called on those who could to go and rescue them. Some loaded wagons up with supplies and headed out, some hurried on ahead with what they could carry on horses. Several young men were some of the first to reach the handcart companies, freezing and starving on the other side of an icy river. They went back and forth across the river, carrying those who could not cross on their own. When youth groups reenact the trek, they often speak of this incident. In this group, Reed was one of the rescuers carrying people across the river.
I don't think many of us like the idea of being rescued, or of needing a hero. We want to be able to handle it all alone, be our own superhero. That makes for a limited and lonely life. But we are more than happy to be a rescuer or hero to someone else. I think Mike and I have learned to be that for each other. We rescue each  other, and we let the other rescue back. Mike says I am his hero, and I know he is mine.
I know Reed was playing a part as rescuer, but I think any practice is good.
I like thinking that Charlotte is with someone who will carry her when she can't go on, who will let her carry him when he can't. I like the idea that they could someday see that, together, they can leap tall buildings, be faster than a speeding bullet, and more powerful than a supercomputer (speeding locomotives are too outdated).
Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go practice.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

He Is Risen. He Is Risen Indeed.

My Easter memories go back as far as my Christmas memories.
Mom and Dad always had Easter baskets out for us, and there was always a hunt for eggs and candy. Mom would help us color the eggs. Being an artist, she would find a way for us to add a personal touch of expression, and we would know the eggs we were finding came from our kitchen. Dad had as much fun hiding the eggs and candy as we had in hunting for them. He would wander around saying things like, "The Easter Bunny was definitely over here," and "I think I smell more chocolate eggs around here."
When we got older, he still liked to hide candy for us to find, but he would make it more challenging. He loved it if the weather was nice enough to go outside. He would put some of the candy in prickly weeds or among the thorny roses. One year we wondered how he got the chocolate eggs up on the roof. I think he wanted to see how creative we would be in order to reach the candy. He seemed to have more fun every year. We provided more entertainment for him than color TV.
There was always an Easter program at church, and sometimes another program that night. I knew the words to the traditional Easter hymns before I knew all the Christmas Hymns, and I loved singing them.
We would always talk about Christ, and the events of the last week of Christ's life. I have an early memory of watching a Hollywood movie about the life of Christ, and it all culminated in His crucifixion. I had already felt the presence of God in my life, and I didn't like this image of someone defeated by mean people. I was heartbroken and inconsolable. Dad held me on his lap, and told me how there was so much more, that the love of Christ was stronger than death, and sadness, and loss. He said we can find joy at Easter time by concentrating on the Atonement and Resurrection. I liked the idea of knowing someone who was stronger than death.
A few years later Dad showed me how there was another way of saying Atonement. At-One-Ment was what Christ did for us in the garden. He felt our sorrows, suffering, pain, our joy, confusion, doubt, fear. By loving us completely, He became one with us. He became us. The presence of God was clearer to me. When I went through some years of doubting myself and everything else, it was easy to doubt that anyone, even a loving God could love me. I still liked Easter - the candy hunts, the family gathering, the story, the music all brought a familiar comfort, but a temporary one.
I have since learned that choosing to turn away from love, especially God's love, is not a joyful life. I now choose a joyful life. Easter is again a celebration of rebirth, forgiveness and repentance, connection, gathering, joy and the power of love over death. I have learned to celebrate it all year.
I will hide candy for anyone who will hunt for it. I loved the Easter Programs I saw last week and last night, and sang in this morning. I love the smell of my carrot cake and the lamb roast we will share with another family today. I love, most of all, offering the greeting Dad taught me years ago - He is risen. And receiving the response...
He is risen indeed.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I'm Only The Mother of the Bride

My name is Jody. It's been 3 months since my last blog.
Busy time. Charlotte's wedding and 2 receptions, one in Salt Lake City, one in Colorado are now great memories with plenty of photos to remind us. Here are some of my favorite moments and thoughts.
I made one trip to Utah each month in December, January and February to take care of arrangements for the wedding. Even though it was hectic, and Charlotte was always busy with her job and church assignments, we were able to do things together and make everything work. We weren't having stereotypical mother daughter wedding planning blow-ups. I guess TV producers will have to find others for their so-called reality shows.
I liked it when Charlotte would call me several times a day to go over details.
I love the way she used Google to gather addresses. I don't know how we got by without that. Then she used a program that printed the addresses from her data base on all the envelopes, so the only ones I hand lettered were the ones to the President and other officials, or the ones we couldn't find addresses for until the very end. So, even though the addresses looked like they were printed by Wall-E from the Disney movie, it saved the sanity of more than a few of us. I just hope there weren't too many people who thought it was junk mail because of the machine printing.

I was thrilled to find a printer in Denver who, unlike so many heathens who work at copy centers, could tell that the artwork I brought to him was hand lettered calligraphy...not some type face I had spit out of my computer so they could try to match it with some technical typeface of their own. Blessings and appreciation for Scott of Centennial Press who spent 2 hours going over the artwork after he scanned it to make sure it printed well. He deserved the brownies and ginger cookies I took to him and his family.
I am so glad Anna went with Charlotte to find a wedding dress, and that she texted me photos of Charlotte in the dress she chose. Even though I couldn't be there for this important moment, I still got to shed a tear within minutes of it.
I liked it when Reed would let us know when he was doing something to surprise Charlotte, and ask for our help with details.
Once the major stress of getting the announcements printed and sent, and choosing a caterer and venue was mostly done, it was nice to focus energy on scanning photos for the reception slide show. We had plenty of Charlotte, and we were able to get a box from Reed's family. It was bittersweet to go through 25 years of pictures in a short time. That was when it really did seem as though it was just last week that Charlotte was toddling across the floor, or jabbering in her 3 year old language, or playing in her first recital.
I was glad my friend Andi would remind us (whenever any of us would voice a different opinion from what Charlotte had chosen, and yes, my mom and siblings have strong opinions, too) that we were not the ones who had the veil and bouquet, but she would bring us a cheesy one if we really felt the need to be the bride for a while. What she really brought us was some of her fabulous homemade bread, which bestowed on us comfort and calm.

I was very glad to be there when Anna and Charlotte went up to Red Butte Gardens the week before the wedding and Anna photographed Charlotte in her dress for the Bridal pictures. Even though I had to spread a sheet on the ground for Charlotte to stand on so her dress wouldn't get wet, the fresh snow on the trees made a beautiful backdrop for a beautiful woman in some beautiful photos. It was a gift to be able to see my daughters interacting this way.
I loved being able to take Charlotte out to dinner a few days before the wedding and have some time with just her. Some others suggested I not do that during such a busy time, and I was almost ready to play the "I'm just the mother of the bride and this is all I am asking" guilt card, but I didn't have to. I got my time alone with my daughter before she formally became part of a new family, and that is all I wanted.
I am so grateful my brother Mark and sister-in-law Elizabeth run the best gelato shop outside of Italy. Their gelato was a great addition to the buffet from Cuisine Unlimited for the reception.
I am also grateful Elizabeth willingly became the hairdresser, make-up artist and florist for the reception and the wedding. She patiently supervised me, Charlotte and my sisters as we arranged flowers in vases and she created a stunning bouquet, corsages and boutonnières. She did Charlotte's hair and make-up for the reception, then again the next day for the wedding. That woman deserves some artwork.

I am thrilled Charlotte and Reed decided to have the reception Friday evening, and then the wedding on Saturday morning. It was nice to have all the fuss of the big reception on Friday, and then be able to concentrate on the more intimate gathering at the temple with family on Saturday for the wedding. That is the way Mike and I did it and I have always been glad we did.
I am glad both receptions accomplished what we hoped. It was a time and place for people to gather, celebrate and honor a new couple, see family and friends again, relax, visit and enjoy good food. The one at Red Butte was a beautiful setting and perfect for the 450+ people who came. Cuisine Unlimited did a beautiful job with the catering, Dolcetti's with the gelato and Paula with the cake, and family and friends with the ambiance. The second one at our home was crowded and fun. We were thrilled so many came and stayed the whole time.
I loved it when we walked out of the temple after the wedding, and so many family and friends were there to greet Charlotte and Reed. I am thrilled so many family members came a long way to be a part of this.
I am especially glad all my kids could be there for this.
I am glad Charlotte's friend Morgan (Morgan Leigh Photography) was willing to be her photographer for the reception and wedding, and that she did such a great job.
I am glad my nephew Jacob invited the spirit of celebration by doing some great flying leaps for the wedding. His last leap was the best, when he jumped over everyone else to snatch the bouquet when Charlotte tossed it.
I am glad Reed's parents, Ross and Eileen provided a wonderful luncheon for the family after the wedding. It was nice to have a moment to unwind, relax and get some delicious caloric sustenance after such a week.
My favorite moment after the reception was when we finished taking the gifts to Charlotte's apartment. She changed into jeans and a t-shirt, then she sat on the floor and visited with Mike while she ate some of the food the caterers had set aside for her.
Then the next morning, Mike and I went with Charlotte to my dad's grave and covered it with all the flowers from the reception. We knew that was one way to include him, and to make sure he was awake in time for the wedding. We went to the temple after that and had some quiet time walking around with her before Reed got there.
It was a nice way to begin a whole new part of life.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


So I just had my first manicure.
I am amazed at how many people, women mostly, find that hard to believe. I made it into my 50's without ever getting a manicure. I am sure there are plenty of other granola eating, tree hugging, child of the 60's, mixed-media artist types who consider their fingernails tools more than items of adornment. I guess I haven't met very many of them. But the thought that goes through my head is, "What? Pay someone money to paint color on my fingernails when I can manage to get plenty of paint, ink and glue on them myself? Thanks, but no thanks."
Then, a few weeks ago it was my sister's birthday. And my other sisters decided we should take her to a salon and treat her to a nice manicure and pedicure. And they decided that if she was getting a mani-pedi, then we all should or else she would feel uncomfortable. The idea was that we would all be sitting in a row, getting our manicures, yakking away and having a sister-bonding moment, like something out of a chick flick. So I consented to getting a manicure.
Let me just say - no sister bonding, no yakking, no scene out of a chick flick.
We were all in different parts of the salon. The only person I spoke with was the very animated young man who looked like he was in high school, who had been called in just to work on our nails, who kept showing me his gel nail treatment to talk me into getting that, and tried to talk me into getting gun metal metallic color. My attempts to talk about anything of substance went nowhere. I was glad when it was all over.
Yes, my nails look faaaaabulous. Deep metallic bronze will do that.
Did I mention I use my nails as tools? I know how thick they are, and exactly how to pry, shift, texturize or grip things. But this manicure threw the universe out of balance. It changed the shape and thickness of my nails. I feel like I have aliens on my fingers.
But that kid in the nail salon with the penchant for inane chatter was right. This gel nail polish is tough! For 3 weeks I did all kinds of chores, cleaned out a carport, did paperwork, sorted art supplies, made handbound books with assemblage covers, groomed my dog, and got used to having aliens on my fingers.
Not one chip or crack or nick on my fingernails. And all the paint and ink and glue slid right off.
Now, if I could figure out how to get this without having to pay someone, or put up with their inane chatter.