Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Summer Hurrah!

August 21, 2011: I am a girl driven by tradition. I like nothing better than driving down the old streets, playing the familiar games, eating the comfort foods, singing the songs for the 100th time, hugging the people that have known me every day of my life. This weekend I got to do just that at the Passey Family Reunion, and it was marvelous. Last year when my aunties asked if our branch of the family would be in charge in 2011, I had no inkling what would happen over those next 12 months and how our family would stretch and pray and cry and pray and laugh and pray and bond and pray... Prayer got us through to this point and I am proud of our whole big family.

Mom and Troy arrive Thursday afternoon, and Chelsea and her family pull in that evening. My cute little grands are so excited, even if it is just to be out of their car seats after that long drive. Baby Knox has grown chubbier, Olive is a whirlwind who heads straight to the candy jar, and Lachlan greets me with a huge hug around my legs before asking if he can play the Wii. We visit for a little bit, but soon head to bed, knowing the next day will be full of more traveling and some Bear Lake water time.

The next morning we meet Dionne's kids coming from Lehi and Troy goes to Salt Lake to pick up Travis. Aaron is working and has a company party tonight, so he and Lindsey and the girls will come to Idaho in the morning. Our car is packed to the brim. There is just enough space in the backseat for Janessa and she is sad that she can't see out the opposite window because of blankets and sleeping bags (you see, this isn't just one trip to the reunion - this is also a trip to the Boynton cabin in the Uintahs!). We make a caravan of cars and go through the regular Davis County traffic into a 90 second cloudburst around Layton that gives our wipers a good workout, and then make the wide bend into Brigham City. I see the new temple for the first time, the spires reaching to heaven. Beautiful. We lose radio reception around Mantua, so Ness turns on her iPod and we bounce to her favorite bands. Troy wants to go to the cheese factory and the Stephensons want to visit Anna (and Bob) in Logan, so we part ways for a bit. I'm a sucker for curds, so we follow Troy and run into construction and detours. That's life, isn't it? Always something to make you pay attention. Inside the store, we huddle around the tasting table, shoving crackers & spread and new flavors of curds in our mouths. Mmm. I grab a bag of our favorites, Ness gets a yummy oatmeal cookie ice cream bowl, and we're back on the road. We meet up with Chels at the rest stop on top of the hill before the canyon and are back in our caravan with Troy and Travis in Mom's vehicle and Mom driving the Burton car. The canyon is pretty, but hot. We crank up the A/C. We follow a slow-moving RV for a while, but are soon able to pass him. Our first glimpse of Bear Lake makes me smile. This is tradition! I've heard it called the "Caribbean of the Rockies", and it is gorgeous. Everyone is in awe at how high the water is. In some places, it's up to the road. No mile-long hike to the beach this year! We stop for raspberry shakes (of course - another tradition!) and a quick lunch and then we're off to North Beach. It's crowded. We drive for a while and finally squeeze in where we can find a spot to set up our chairs and umbrella. The water is literally 20 steps (or less) from our car. I love it. I don my hat, grab my water bottle and camera, and start blowing up plastic mats for the kids to float on. Everyone swims except me, Mom, and Ky, and we are perfectly content in the shade. Olive is not sure about the lake - she squeals and screams if asked, "Do you want to go in?" But I catch her playing with Papa Dean in the shallows - he's got both her hands and is swinging her back and forth, her legs dragging in the water - and she's smiling. Lachlan is happy to build sand castles with Audrey. Ness and Gentry and Jed take the mats and float out until they are dots in the distance. Troy and Travis play water Frisbee and skip rocks. Chels dips Knox in the water, and then I snuggle him until he falls asleep. Rob puts on goggles and dives like a dolphin. Later, when the kids start attacking the snack bags, we know it's time to head to the motel to clean up and get ready for dinner.

After another long wait for construction (blahhh), we reach the Clover Creek Inn, the traditional place Dad liked to stay. Mom gives the desk clerk her last name and the girl says, "Oh, I've got an Yvonne Passey." Wow! Yvonne is coming? We each peel off to our own rooms to shower and sprawl out on the beds for a minute. Dinner is at the Ranch Hand, of course, and I go for my usual Cowboy Omelet with pancakes. The table is loaded with food. A few minutes of silence as we all take the first bites. Yum. So glad I can taste!! This was worth waiting for!

The morning begins (after a semi-sleepless night) with me warming up pulled pork in two crockpots. Soon, our room smells like a BBQ joint. And then I look at the sky. It's dark and threatening. Rain starts. Not just a little sprinkle, but a drenching, thunderous, lightning-splitting storm! And it's Bear Lake COLD. Jeddy has to go to King's for a jacket, so we all join him (another tradition). I worry a little, but I know we have a Plan B for the church. It will be okay. When we come back from King's (and a drive down Woodlawn Ave and the old Bartschi place, plus a side trip to the old 4th ward chapel that Chels wants to take a picture of), suddenly I see a familiar face, whooping and hollering across the parking lot of the motel. It's my sister, Laura! She has come all the way from Arizona with Yvonne to be at the reunion! It's the best surprise ever. We drive to Georgetown and decide the rain and the wind and the cold are better left outside, so we will set up the reunion inside the church. I get teary passing Grandma & Grandpa's farm. They are my family. They are my heritage. My daddy grew up here, along with all his brothers and sisters. Someday we will all be together again in one place. I hope they will get to glimpse the gathering today.

The reunion is a success. I love my cute aunts and uncles. I love my cousins, too, though some I don't recognize any more unless someone points them out. We have a bond and it's tough and unbreakable, in spite of age and sickness and distance and life changes. I think all those who know about my struggle this year are relieved to see me in the flesh - they see that I am doing well, that I feel good, that I have energy, that my hair is growing and my right cheek isn't as puffy as it used to be, that I'm eating again, that my scar is barely noticeable, that I can smile and laugh and I have joy. It's a relief to them, as it has been to all of us. They see that Mom is okay after her heart surgery and she is happy. They see that we are survivors, ALL of us, every one, and it is good. We share good food, memories, even a few rounds of Bingo. We take pictures that say, "Look, I was here!" I am content.

After the reunion, Mom and Troy and the Burton kids head back to Salt Lake, while us Boyntons head south for another session of Bear Lake water therapy and some time at the cabin. We pull off the side of the road on the south end of the lake and change into suits. The water is cold, but Aaron and Robby and Janessa and Ally swim out to their waists and go underwater to check out the cool rocks. We all wish we had brought water shoes, especially Lachlan, who has a hard time staying up on the slippery rocks. Again, we break out the snacks, which keeps Avery and Jane and Olive happy, and Olive & Jane watch the "ruff-ruff"/"dogs" romping on the shore. Robby finds the remains of a floppy, shredded dead fish, and suddenly the water isn't as inviting. We stop for a(nother) raspberry shake and head over the mountain to the Uintahs. Dinner is fast food in Evanston, followed by a rainy drive to the cabin. It's dark when we arrive, but we are happy to see the place. After we unload our cars (again), we play a game of "Ticket to Ride" (Lindsey should have won, but some little person lost a couple of her blue trains) and then it's off to bed. The air is cool, but some of the rooms are hot. Aaron says they slept better once they opened a window. I think of Cal and Janice the whole time. I'm sure they were there, just as Dad & Uncle Harold & Aunt Leda & Newell & Mary were at the reunion. It's only natural to feel them in the places and with the people they love.

The next morning, it's a bike ride for big and little people. Those bikes and racks have traveled a LONG way just for this moment. Dean and I walk to the road with them, and as we start to head back to the cabin, we hear the first "accident" cry from Lachlan. He only learned to ride a 2-wheeler FOUR days ago! Bless him. They're gone long enough for me to pull myself together a bit and come back winded and glowing with the fresh air. We drive down to the long-abandoned beaver ponds. It's fun to watch Aaron & Chels explore their old haunts and reminisce about what they remember. They see things with grown-up eyes, but they want it to be like it was in their childhood. I can relate. That's how I've felt all weekend in the Bear Lake valley.

I revel in the little ones playing together, in Robby's new-found love for the cabin, in laughter and smiles and "remember this". There is a huge unsaid sigh that hangs in the air when we leave. We know we want to return often, but will we?

An exhausting, exciting, stressful, rejuvenating weekend from beginning to end. Bottom line - I love my family and my heritage and my roots and my wings. I love being a daughter and granddaughter. I love being a wife and a mother and a Grammy. I am reminded by events such as this that LIFE is beautiful. Living is hard sometimes, but LIFE is wonderful. Hurrah for summer and the traditions that bring hearts together. It's the best.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Sometimes I'm the Cool Mom...

August 13, 2011: Once in a while, I do something right, like last Wednesday night (Aug 10) when Janessa and I went to a concert in downtown SLC that featured four young, up-and-coming boy bands. One of the bands, Hot Chelle Rae (big hit - "Tonight, Tonight), has been on J's fave list for quite some time--she's their biggest fan!--so it was pretty much a given that we'd have to go. I bought the tickets almost a month ago for the unbelievable price of $15 each. That should have been my first clue that it was NOT going to be your normal, arena-type concert. No, this one would be held on the same street as the homeless shelter, in a "club" called The Venue. One Monday night (for Family Home Evening - haha!), we bribed Dean with ice cream cones and gave Mag (our GPS) the coordinates so we could drive by. Not only did Mag take us on a tour of the lovely Rose Park area (tongue in cheek), but we actually winced when we saw our destination. Scary only barely describes it! Bars on the windows, cheap-looking sign, and of course, the ever-present wandering homeless. I have to admit I was nervous. J and I started to joke that it would be an adventure, as long as we didn't get mugged or killed! A week or so later, she and I happened to be at The Gateway and decided to make another pass during daylight hours. Funny how things look a bit better coming from a different direction. The Gateway kind of "classed" up the place and we decided it wouldn't be too bad - we hoped.

The day arrived with excitement and a little nervousness. This would be J's first concert and my first in a place where there would be no seating, just lots of bodies standing in front of a stage (yes, we've both led a very sheltered life - and it's not always a bad thing). J and I were both playing hookey from our usual Wednesday night church meetings, so there was already a sense that we were truly going out on a limb. One of our first choices ended up costing us a bit in the end - we both decided to change out of our summer shorts and wear jeans - a "hot" mistake. I had bought the tickets online and had printed off the copies. I didn't want to take my big, bulky purse, so a quick trip to the D.I. scored me a tiny bag with a long strap to go over my head for 75 cents. The printed start time was 6 PM, so we left our house about 5:10, not quite sure what type of crowds to expect. I was grateful to have already scoped out the place, so I knew right where I wanted to park - under the streetlights, less than a block away. There was a spot waiting for us, but so were the lines of kids, snaking around the building and halfway down the street. We quickly made our way to the end (in the shade -whew!) and began to wait.

J and I both decided that people watching is all part of the adventure - and there were some choice specimens! For the most part, the kids were junior high and high school age (yes, this club and this concert were for ALL AGES, not 21 and over like most), but J was quick to point out that there were a few "old" people, like me. Thanks, kid. I felt kind of old, but once in a while, my young teen self emerged. A couple of cute boys with the band, Paradise Fears, from South Dakota were canvassing the line, trying to sell their first CD. They gave J and I headphones so we could hear a track from the CD and it was pretty good. Unfortunately, I had only brought $20 cash, so decided $10 for an unknown CD--when there was no telling what treasures we would want once we got inside the concert--was risky. They said, thanks, and moved on down the line. About that time, a guy from the club came out to make sure we were all in the right lines, and that those of us with print-at-home tickets would have to come to Will Call to get our regular tickets. I panicked. We were in the wrong line? It proved to be a blessing though, as he whisked us away to the front doors of the building, where we stood behind a few other Will Call people, and only had to get our names checked off the online list to go inside. We were IN!

Imagine an old warehouse with everything inside painted black - high ceilings, cement floor, not a lot of light, a sort of "catwalk" above and to the side where we could see the sky and (sort of) feel the outside air. There was also a little concession stand and a place where the tee shirt/CD/poster people had already started selling their goods. We bought J a HCR tee, stuffed it in my little black bag, and slipped past the lighting guy's roped-off area to the floor in front of the stage. Music was already blaring, though the stage hands were still setting up instruments. We were close enough to see the whites of their eyes! There was a ripple of excitement in the air, but I soon realized that was ALL that was in the air - no A/C! The temp outside was about 95 degrees. The temp inside? Stifling. And as more noisy, chatty, hot-blooded teens entered the building and took up their spot around us, the more warm it became. I had visions of the Michael Jackson concerts I've watched, where security people carry away dripping wet, fainting fans from the floor. Oh dear. Give me strength. Don't let me faint in front of all these teeny-boppers!

The concert began. I was armed with J's iPod to take videos; she had my camera to snap pics. More than once, we said how grateful we were that we were tall and could see above most of the heads in the crowd. I was instantly semi-deaf from the volume, but had to admit the booming beat was catchy. The first act was "Action Item", a band from New Jersey, who quickly had us all dancing and waving our arms in the air (yep, me too). They were good. I was tuned in to one of the guitarists, who was very animated. Short dark hair. Cute. They played five songs and the crowd was in a frenzy. A group of boys (who had pushed their way in front of J and I) seemed to know all the words. When the band looked our way--which was often--they reached out their hands, as if to touch them, or made "hearts" by putting their two hands together. Okay. They were fans. When the band finished and left the stage, we pulled papers out of my bag and started fanning ourselves in create a breeze. It was HOT! There were sweaty bodies everywhere! But when Jamie, the drummer of Hot Chelle Rae, appeared and started setting up for their part of the show, all that was forgotten. J and I looked at each other and couldn't stop smiling. Here came the boys! And, oh, they were good! J said the five songs they played were just the ones she was hoping for. She took dozens of pictures and I held my arms up to take videos of each of the songs. (You can actually hear me singing in the playback!) I felt giddy and happy, like they were MY teen idols! The crowd was rocking and singing along, and it was amazing. I think the boys standing next to me were rolling their eyes that this "old lady" knew all the words to the songs, but I didn't care. It was worth the heat and the cost and the scary club...

And then I sort of fell apart. As HCR left the stage, I realized my face and neck and arms were dripping wet. No amount of fanning helped. I was light-headed and my ears felt plugged. It was taking a long time for the next band, Summer Set, to get their gear together. We were on the side where a chain-link fence separated the floor from the stairs leading up to the catwalk, so I motioned to J that I needed to go lean against the fence where it wasn't quite so jammed with people. Once there, I realized I'd better sit or I was going to faint. I plunked my body down on the cement floor and started fanning myself like someone possessed. That's when I felt the oldest. That's when I felt like a cancer patient. I looked at all those young, skinny legs and feet surrounding me and I felt like an invalid. I heard the new band start to play and I couldn't get into it like I had with the first two. I secretly hoped J would say, "Okay, I've seen my guys - let's go," but she was still having fun, taking pictures and enjoying the show. I tried to stand up a few times - awkwardly, stiffly, like an old woman - but after about 30 seconds, had to sit again. Oh, I was embarrassed. By the time the band was finished, I was somewhat cooled off, but still woozy. There was one last band to go, the mainliners, We The Kings. When J leaned over and motioned to the lobby area of the club, I could have kissed her. Finally, an escape from the mushed-up crowd. We found a place near the tee shirt vendors where a huge fan was blowing out of a post. Kids were planted in front of it, their hair and shirts billowing in the breeze. Ah, relief from the stifling heat. J said the boys standing next to her had said, "Let's go get Hot Chelle Rae to sign something for us," so that's why we had come back away from the main floor. But instead of HCR, we saw the guys from Action Item and J was brave enough to approach a couple of them for a picture. Nice, nice boys. Very polite. Asked us our names and shook our hands. Said thank you for coming to the show. Gave hugs when asked. Posed for pictures. Signed autographs. I was impressed. Sad that we didn't get to meet HCR, but happy that we saw this side of the concert experience, something that would never have happened in a big arena-type show. We found a place to sit. I bought us a cold bottle of water for $3 each. I felt TONS better. I could enjoy the show again. We The Kings put on an amazing set, and even though I wasn't close enough to see the pores of their skin, I could see them - especially the red-headed lead singer, who reminded me of Shawn White, the skateboader/snowboarder. J and I watched the people, snapped more pics of the show, bought a HCR poster (just in case we saw someone to sign it), and gulped down our water. I was actually a little sad when the show ended, and as we left, I felt like it had been the adventure we were hoping for. As J and I walked the short way to the car, we both said that we hadn't felt afraid, and that this was probably a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Who knows where and when Hot Chelle Rae will come to SLC again? Will they be big stars then? Will we pay mega-bucks to see them on a Jumbotron? Yep. Glad we did it.

If someone had said to me that five months after I'd been diagnosed with skin cancer, had major surgery, gone through 30 radiation treatments and countless doctor/hospital appointments, I'd be STANDING in a club with my beautiful teenaged daughter, singing to "Bleed" and "I like it like that" and "Tonight, Tonight", I wouldn't have believed them. I would have been hopeful, but it would have seemed impossible. And even today, when my right arm muscle still aches from holding the iPod steady to take videos (what a wimp I am!), I'm amazed that we were there, that we were dancing and singing, that we touched (wooo!) a couple of boys from Action Item, that we saw Jamie and RK and Ian and Nash from Hot Chelle Rae up close and personal. Wow. That's all I can say. Wow, wow, wow.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

August 2, 2011: August already! We are officially in the "monsoon" season in Utah, which is funny to me. We're the 2nd driest state, yet we have this "rainy" season that brings afternoon showers and higher humidity. I like the rainstorms. Could definitely do without the hum-ditity!

I'm going to whine in this post - just saying. But, I'll start off by reiterating that I'm incredibly blessed in countless ways, so I really have no just cause to whine. It simply has to come out and I'm sure my family would rather it jammed up the blogging world instead of their sensitive ears.

It's no secret that I hate to clean bathrooms. It's the worst household chore invented. Now, granted, I would rather HAVE a bathroom two steps away from my bed at night and at those times when I'm sick or I just want to close the door and have privacy, but my utmost dream would be to have maid service included in the price of a toilet and shower. Is that really too much to ask? (Apparently it is because some contractor has not come up with a package deal yet.) I've been whining about this chore for EVER, but it has become a sore trial lately because of my hair loss. Again, I will state for the record that my hair loss is minimal compared to my sweet friends who have undergone or are currently undergoing chemo treatments - radiation is nothing compared to that poison, and really, WHY am I whining about something so minuscule? But the fact is that I am (and have been) losing hair and it is EVERYWHERE in my bathroom. Gross, huh?

I've gotten a little smarter about combating the hair problem. I clean with a dry paper towel BEFORE I clean with a wet wipe - that seems to shunt the millions of hairs down to the floor instead of just rearranging them again on a different surface. I'm embarrassed to say that though I've tried to keep my bathroom wiped up and scrubbed down the past few months, the floor has been sadly ignored - until last Saturday. I took all the rugs out, stuck them in the washing machine, and then took the broom to the corners and crevices. Holy Moly!! I could have fashioned a wig for a small child with all the hair that I swept up! It was unreal, and yet, TOO real. "See?" I told my family, as if they needed confirmation besides the glaring bald spots. "Yuck!" they said, and I heartily agreed. It is yuck, with a capital Y.

I've decided that rather than whining about the obvious discomfort of thinning hair in places I've always had too much hair (wonder if that will ever be the new norm again?), I need to be grateful for the hair I do have - like eyelashes and eyebrows and enough hair on top that I've resorted to curlers instead of a curling iron. And when I think about my darling friends who are now wearing scarves and wigs and hats in place of their own beautiful hair, I have to kick myself. I have hair! Someday it will be back - and I'll be whining again about how hot it is or how unmanageable it is or how I just wish I could get a short haircut! Silly girl. Just can't please some people... And of course, there will ALWAYS be a bathroom to clean...