Central OR [May]

When people ask about my college degree, I often respond that, no, I had no intention of being a teacher, but the Geography: Global Studies curriculum is designed so that I should be able to take a look at a map and have a basic understanding of what a given place is like- climate and terrain based on how the world around it is based; and culture based on a number of other things. 

Had I guessed what Bend, Oregon and surrounding area would be like, I would have been way off. 

I knew it would be pretty, full of landscape changes and small patches of irrigated farm plots.  I figured evergreens and grey skies of the lush side of the Pacific Northwest would be fading into the dusty brown and vivid sky blue of the east. 

I was right on all those counts, but I didn't expect this:

Smith Rock is a climber's haven.  I climbed one challenging route, remembered that I like climbing enough to climb one challenging route every year or so, and spent the rest of the weekend damning the wind and loving every other bit of what the area had to offer.

I thought the city of Bend would be smallish in size, conservative in political skew, rural in nature.  It's like that in Redmond, where I popped into the members-only Bi-Mart to buy ice and water and was offered a lifetime membership for $5. 

Bend, however, is flush with very well-manicured parks and many a trendy shop and restaurant. 

We spent most of our time outside the city at Haystack Lake and Smith Rock. I feel a certain amount of satisfaction being married now and still hanging out with single folks. I'm also glad to have a big group of people that includes a good number of non-LDS friends.  We're all about diversity, you know?

We also enjoyed a very quick, shriek-filled jump in the frigid lake, a small but meaningful Sacrament Meeting in the wilderness, slack-lining (not my cup of tea) and reading at a local park, and lots of wandering.

Oh, and I'm apparently a hipster:

Wedding Open House [March]

One of the hardest parts about weddings is that you want to celebrate with everyone you know, but you know a lot of people.  Too many people to celebrate with, really.

Solution?  Do it anyway.

Our way to make that happen without breaking the bank was our Wedding Eve Open House, a come one come all, the more the merrier celebration on the night we were most nervous and excited.

I knew I wanted cakes.  Not a big wedding cake, really.  Mostly I knew I wanted Nan's multi-tier toasted coconut cake and built out from there.  My mom's Gourmet Group and other friends all chipped in to make a decadent display, backed by mirrors reflecting the sugar buzz right back.  German Chocolate, pavlovas, lemon poppyseed... I think there were 14 in all. 

Not that I got to enjoy any of the cakes, or any of the dips for that matter (salmon dip sounded amazing).  Our parents stood with us in the dining room and greeted incoming guests for... ever.  In my head, I thought we'd greet people for maybe 45 minutes, but they just kept on coming.  It's fun and exciting and exhausting and numbing to talk to everyone you know just about in the span of almost two hours.  I wish I could have had a full conversation with most of these people, at least more than a hello, hug, thank you! enjoy!  But I got to introduce them to my Porter man.  And his guests got to meet me, which is the point.  For these friends, just having a moment to say 'I'm getting married tomorrow!! Can you believe it!!' and for them to say 'I'm so thrilled for you!!' is most of the interaction we need.

I wanted the Open House at MY house, where it felt homey and personal (albeit crowded).  My mom did a fabulous job of playing lights, framed photos, flowers and puff balls to make our house welcoming, elegant, and just what I wanted.  Taper candles on the living room mantle, a HUGE rose arrangement on the piano, and flicker candles on the shelves above the cake table were my favorite.  My dad built (and rebuilt and rebuilt thanks to rain and windstorms) a structure over the back deck to shield guests from the elements.  Seriously hard work and it turned out great. 

I think there might have been something going on in the basement? 

Like I said, it was all a blur.

What I do remember, vividly:

 *The line of visitors snaking through the living room.  Inviting a few people to cut.  Covertly trying to move some people along.

*Looking through the kitchen and just seeing BODIES.  Looked like they were having a good time, but they were everywhere.

*David and Bonnie and their kids drove all the way from Colorado and made it like halfway into the Open House.  (I'm sure they'll love this photo). At Seretta's graduation party recently she commented about her in-laws, "They're like our family: They understand that it's important to be there for things." My Grandpa Hart instilled that in the family.  It's why my mom flew down for my cousin's wedding this weekend, and she's flying to Reno for the reception next week.  It's why we drove 14 hours as kids for mission farewells.  You're family, if there's any way to make it work, you make it work! 

*When I first saw my flowers and realized that they were more beautiful than I could have ever hand-picked.  I did pick the containers, and loved them.  I kind of pointed at flowers, textures, and colors I liked with Nan at the wholesale flower market and she just made my random opinions into something majestic I couldn't have ever thought possible.  

*How thrilled I was about my guestbook alternative idea: personalized decks of cards.  And how well they worked out. We had created 4 decks of cards, one with our wedding date, one with our new family name (est. 2012), one with an engagement photo, and one with a painting that fit well with our wedding theme.  The fronts of the cards were blank and guests signed them with advice, well-wishes, or memories, and pinned them on colored twine strung nearby.  We actually play with these cards and it's so fun to see what people wrote!

 *Realizing at 8:55 pm that there were still 150+ people at the house, Porter was leaving for his boys' night at 9:05 ("sharp!") and there was only way to avoid an awkward exit: sky lanterns

I had ordered a pack of 5 sky lanterns months prior when I was still campaigning for a massive Tangled in Thailand style send-off.  I think this might have been one of the only long-standing disagreements between Porter and I in the planning process.  I needed lanterns and he just needed to care about the environmental impact.  My mom and I tried out one lantern, and I tore another, which left... three... lodged in the chaos of my post-roommate pre-husband transitional bedroom. 

I grabbed the three, found some matches and handed them off to Raelle (who knows how to work 'em) and Christie (always willing to help) and started telling people to make their way to meet us outside on the front porch. 

Wax starters were lit and my parents, Porter's parents, and my soon-to-be husband and I each teamed up on a lantern.  My parents' lantern lifted off, straight and up to full cheers from our crowd (and one rendition of 'At Last I See the Light').  The Kidders' got a rocky start (only a few comments about potential fire damange) but eventually gained steam and made it's way to the sky.

By the time we released our lantern, it was full of hot air and just near BLASTED out of our hands.  Good luck, and prosperity, I'm sure that what it means.


Now, a quick change of clothes, out to dinner with the ladies (and my Portland boys, Trent and Sam who made it just in time for the send-off) at the oh so classy Sammamish Ale House (and only place open).  And this sweet note on my bed when I got home.  Cute husband of mine.

Second best night ever.


Rachmaninov and being still [October 2011]

Why is it that beautiful things make us feel vulnerable?  Why is it that beautiful things make ME feel vulnerable? I have one of those mile a minute, permanently distracted brains that makes things like yoga and enjoying a once in a lifetime moment less impactful.  Always ready for the next thing, usually reacting to my surroundings (hating on the air conditioner or a loud breather nearby or a weird twitch going on in my thigh) . Yoga and Buddhists advise on how to calm the 'monkey brain' and I frequently aim for and miss whatever that process is supposed to look like.  I believe in the power and importance of a meditative state of mind, for everything from prayer to sanity, but it's hard for me to just BE. Every once in a while, though, through no effort on my part (maybe that's the secret, eh?), something sticks and I feel it.

Last week it happened at a group visit to the Seattle Symphony's go at Rachmaninov's xx.  Most of the show (or do you call it production? Presentation?) was pretty great, but there was this moment somewhere in the middle where I Felt it.  It's that same feeling I get sometimes when I'm driving across the I-90 bridge at sunset (or sunrise, as is more frequently the case) and almost forget to breath for a moment because the view is so striking.  I had it once looking at a Kandinsky painting (looking at it again i have not been able to replicate the first experience).  Oddly enough, I've felt when I've gotten into yoga's Camel pose, where, on your knees, you drop your head and shoulders as far back as you can and open up your chest (heart) for a few breaths. It almost feels like that moment you realize you want to say 'I love you' and you kind of want to cry and smile at the same time so you have to just stop and do nothing so you don't explode. I can think of one specific high-stakes conversation with God where it was this exact feeling.  Vulnerable to my bones and paralyzed by something beautiful.  Art, love, connection... Peace in a very tangible and terrifying way.  Like if you felt like this all the time you would, I don't know, burst into flames. Or may it's that you want it to not go away, so you have to stop, just in case moving brings in some other distraction.

I don't know, but I'd like to get to a place where this happens more often. I don't think increased frequency of awe-filled vulnerability Would cheapen it, would it?  Or would it be a total overload to feel so much all the time? Maybe I like mostly robotic or surface-level connection to all things good and beautiful because it means I don't have to ... Be so invested?

Anyway, here's a clip.

Also the theme song to Somewhere in Time


Wedding Showers [Feb and March]

There are three things I think any shower should be: classy, comfortable, and intimate.  They should also have at least a little sass to them, of course. Not too over-the-top, but really if you dont blush at least a little, you're missing the point!  Somehow, I scored multiple showers, all of them just how I wanted.

First was my mom shower.  My moms friends are so classy.  I wore a dress pretty much on accident, and good thing- Nancy's house had a million candles, a full meal (heart shaped chicken pot pie with sides) and women mostly dressed in skirts and khakis. The saying goes that it takes a village to raise a child. There was a moment or more when I looked around the room and really realized that these women are my village. They were my church leaders, examples, and inspirations. As a special token, all the women signed my temple slip with white pen- this way they would always be with me. 

Second up was my Utah shower, hosted by Katie, who I feel increasing amount of tenderness for as I age. There's something about having 20+ years of history with someone that just makes them more special.  You don't have to explain yourself or watch your words, you can just be and they get it.  Katie just gets it.  Katie is also thankfully not the penis and pink kind of shower host, (she was raised goiong to the same classy showers as was) so we settled on a bed and bath theme and she decorated accordingly (my favorite: a little pink bathtub filled with marshmallows as bubbles that held the silverware. Decorative, functional, with the extra bonus of a sugar buzz during cleanup). Katie made bbq chicken sandwiches (even though she can hardly handle blood and meat-how's that for dedication) and Raelle, ever the bakerista (surely that's a word by now, at least in some chick-lit book), brought cupcakes with diamond rings in them.

I loved being able to celebrate with my friends and family in Utah. Most of them were not going to make it up to the wedding in Seattle so this was their chance to wish me well and my chance to see them all in one place. Killed some 15 birds with that stone.  I love those stones.

Lastly was my local friend shower, a bachelorette party than anything, which was hosted by my seriously awesome final roommates, in the front room of our awesome house.  Thankfully still no penis-wear, but plenty of kick for a room full of mostly virgins.  Saucier than elementary school mad-libs and a vastly higher ratio of unmentionables and other supplies helped.

My co-workers also threw me a quasi-lunch shower, at the only cute cafe within eating distance of our office.  Some old coworkers made special appearances and the girls chipped in to get me a backpacking pack! It's the only gift I registered for that I really wanted but was sure I wouldn't get.  Not to much sassiness at this party, but Julie did order a beer in the middle of the work day...

In summary:

Check, check, check, and check.  What else could a girl ask for?


A Cambodian/Hawaiian/American/rustic chic/temple weddings

About a month ago, I found out on Facebook that my soul mate companion Sister Ang was finally coming to America to marry the guy who has been wanting to marry her for some 6 years.  It's a long, roller coaster-y love story where at one point she was oblivious to his affections, another closer to annoyed and borderline repulsed, shortly followed by willing, then eager, and now enamored and destined for eternity.

I 100% invited myself to the wedding and dubbed myself the official bride helper.  Nary and Ammon had a huge Cambodian wedding (in the eyes of the Cambodians) slash engagement party (as designed by the couple) before they left Phnom Phen so the bride wasn't too concerned with little traditional details like having special wedding jewelry and shoes, and being pampered with pedicures and lingerie.  The groom was mostly just stereotypically oblivious to a lot of these things, things like having something to eat for breakfast on the morning of the wedding and sending out invitations to people before a week prior to the wedding...or at all in some cases.  C'est la vie, right? Or as the Thais would say it: arai goh dai! Whatevs.

The sealing was lovely. I got to be an escort for the second time, which is really special for me.  The sealer was one of the best I've ever heard, maybe because I'm new to this wife thing and finally have some context for marriage advice.  He talked about all parts of the ceremony, which is quick as it is a blur, especially for the bride and groom.  He talked about promises and blessings and the power of these, and he talked about the importance of receiving your spouse, for everything they are and are not, and giving yourself to them as the focus of your efforts.  "You don't see eternity by looking at yourself , but when you look at your spouse," or something like that. I have for a long time not quite understood why in the LDS ceremony, the woman promises to give herself to the man, but the same is not said in return.  As the sealer talked, it clicked that when a man holds the priesthood, he has already promised to give himself to whatever is under his stewardship, which might be a church calling, but is very much a family and especially a wife.  Since women do not make any similar promises to God about giving themselves to others prior to a sealing, this is their chance.  Both husband and wife are asked to promise to receive their spouse, a new thing for everyone. A new responsibility and opportunity to be blessed.  God always has blessings for us that we have to decide to receive or not. Marriage, and the companionship, example, and stewardship that comes along with it, is one of those blessings. We choose to receive it (i.e. him or her) for better or worse, in sickness and health , yada yada yada. And the more fully we receive, the more full our blessings and more rich our  injection as a family unit.

The reception was luau style, meaning starting at 1pm and was filled with food.  The groom is half Hawaiian (I'm convinced 1/4 Polynesian must be the prettiest ace combo I've ever seen, btw) and his sister, likely a Pinterest fan, strung colorful bunting and paper butterflies around the backyard, which, by the way, was also my dream back yard full of fruit trees, a trellis shaded patio and a soft lawn.

I love my Nary and I'm so happy to get to be there at many stops along her love roller coaster, especially this one.  Ammon is a good man, and he will love her and give her as much independence as much as every woman needs.


The coast, the beach, the shore. [April]

I secretly want to work for It's Just Lunch, that personal dating service that is always advertised in in-flight magazines. I believe in low pressure social introductions engineered by a thoughtful and unbiased third party who has a knack for knowing who will get along.  Let's just say I had some inspiration and though it has not yet bloomed into romance, a friendship has been formed, and who knows!

And I went to the Oregon Coast.  I can't say it enough: I love a white sky against white crashing waves.  Little kids who are somehow not too freezing to enjoy the waves makes it better.  Bonfire on the beach is also a plus, even if there is sand in my roasted corn on the cob and the potatoes in my tinfoil dinner are always just a little underdone.

Tilamook factory was not underwhelming, necessarily, but I've been on some way cooler food manufacturing tours. Several of my food donors could make a buck if they would just build observation windows and sell their off-product on-site.  Ice cream and cheese may be more exciting than soup or potatoes, sure, but I'm telling you, if they built it, people would come.


Chicago in a day

Sometimes you wake up at four in the morning thinking you're going to San Francisco. And then sometimes you end up in Chicago.
The saddest part of the excursion is that I didn't get to see these monkeys:

The worst part was deciding to join up with another whim tripper who had a totally different take on a day in the city than me.  Slow poke Snyder and her "jet lag"/"broken shoes"/"adjusting to a new city" reasons for making me split a $10 cab for a one mile trip down a well walkable city street were toast after a long hour or more. Sorry friend, I'm gonna walk the city on my own for a while, and no, you probably shouldn't have had that Cinnabun, candy, pretzel, chips, and soda on the plane. Enjoy your best ever very pepperoni pizza. I'm going to swank up with a vanilla bean creme brûlée 95 stories high at the Hancock Tower and see what this city is all about.

It seems most of Chicago's big name sites are within walking distance, and the ones that are not are at least visible from the sites that are (I.e. the massively and surprisingly far away Sears tower can be seen throughout the city and other parks and famous buildings from one of the several river and double-decker tour busses).  I opted for the combo architectural river and lake tour (awesome and so worth $30 especially on a perfect weather day like I had) and lots of wandering.

I had one moment of panic on my day trip- about 7pm when my last-minute host (the son of a family friend) informed me that he'd be out on the town until some 3 am. Not wanting to drop $100 plus on a hotel, I started frantically scouring airbnb and couch surfing to find somewhere cheap and public transit accessible to stay the night.  Not 20 minutes later, my MTC companion JoAnna texts me to report that she just landed at O'Hare, in town for her sister's graduation the next day, she saw my post on Facebook and did I need a place to stay.  SAVED!  I spent the evening with the Hunter girls in a trendy Chi-town neighborhood, ate amazing Mexican food, and slept on a safe, comfortable couch.

Good thing, since I spent most of the rest of the day at the airport, trying to get home.

My recommended itinerary for one day in Chicago:
  • Take the Blue Line into the city and get off at Clark and Lake.
  • Walk east on Lake and marvel at the public transit miracle that is the L
  • Head North on Michigan through the Miracle Mile of high end and window shop (I found my dream red lipstick at Saks and the sales lady offered to let me store my bag behind the counter).
  • Notice amazing buildings along the way: The Wrigley Building's Sky Bridge, the sand-castle looking Water Tower Building, and famous HQs for places like the Chicago Tribune and Donald Trump)
  • Book a ticket for a river tour for later in the day. I quite enjoyed Wendella's 90 minute river and lake tour but I'm sure they are all great.)
  • Head to John Hancock tower, not to the Observation Deck but the Signature Lounge. They have a small, reasonably-priced menu, free wifi and spectacular views on all sides.  While you're there look up and book a ticket to something - anything. There are tons of shows, described in detail at theaterinchicago.com, for any taste. Concerts, Broadway, Blue Man Group and Cirque. If nothing else, ask someone for a recommendation for a good comedy club or jazz bar.  I didn't do any of these things on my day in the city but it was not for lack of options or an overwhelming price range. Tickets to some shows started at $10.
  • Head back south and go on your river tour
  • Continue south to one of the many parks along the water. I ended up at whichever one houses The Bean, a giant, mirrored lump shaped like a bean.
  • Wander around the streets west of Michigan and find dinner.  If you have time, take a bus north/west towards the Lakeview or xx neighborhoods, where it feels safe and where people actually live and the variety and quality of restaurants seem to reflect that. Just ask someone on the street which bus to take. Everyone seemed to know how to get around via public transit.
  • See your show and turn in for the night!