A stranger died today

His name was Charles, or Charlie. He was a baby, 9 months old, with a heart condition called HLHS. His parents love him very much.

I guess all I can say is...don't take life for granted. People lose loved ones all the time. Even when you know its coming it can take you by surprise. And its never easy.


The cool parts of the East side

Tonight was the COOLEST thunderstorm! I walked home from work at about 8:30, and seriously just after I walked into my building, the heavens opened up and down came the rain. The lightning came closer and closer, getting closer and closer--I was taking a shower, and lightning came at the same moment as the thunder, bright and loud. So cool! It's still raining, and the cool breeze washes through my apartment, and it's just heavenly. I LOVE weather like this!


Beautiful Sunday

Sometimes I really love being Mormon.

This morning, I was so tired--I didn't go to bed THAT late, but I've spent that last two months or so on a schedule of 2am to bed, 10am to rise, so scaling back to midnight-8am is a challenge, and will have to go back further by next week. Long and short--getting up for church this morning was a challenge.

I got sort of lost driving to church. Last year, a Sister Hodubski drove me to church each Sunday over the summer. I vaguely remembered the way, and I looked on Google Maps, but I still managed to get a bit turned around. However, I just kept going in the right general direction, and I prayed that Heavenly Father would help me find the church. Well, I found Old French Road, and I could remember the way from there, but I was still very thankful when I saw that familiar building on the hill.

I love the church here. It's a different ward this year, since the Erie 2nd Ward now meets at one in the afternoon, and that will probably conflict with my job in a few weeks. But the 1st ward is just as good, and a lot younger. Last year, I saw with grandparents, or couples with kids out to college. The ward this year is mostly young families, with a baby and some toddlers. Its a lot more lively, but still very spiritual. I was greeted by no less than five people before Sunday School started, which is even before the Relief Society nabbed me--I got asked to say the closing prayer almost before they knew my name! So friendly, so outgoing. I admire the members out here, out in the mission field.

Speaking of which--they had four sets of missionaries. Six elders (two of which were Spanish speaking) and two sisters. Isn't that cool? This area isn't that big, but the work goes forward at a rampant pace. I find it thought provoking.

But just in general, it's such a beautiful day. I'm so glad I got up and went to church. It's just these little things that make everything worthwhile. I got to drive through the most beautiful part of Erie this morning on my way to and from church, listening to the Tabernacle Choir in my car. I'm so glad to be here, to be working with these people and the kids to come, to be able to experience what I'm here to do. Oh, and I'm also really glad to have my car. :)

All I can suggest is that you take some time this Sunday to get out of the house and enjoy the sunshine (hopefully you have some, wherever you are) and just enjoy what life (and God) have given you. It's an awesome world, and we're meant to enjoy it.


Tag again

I have been tagged by Lindsey's blog! This is a new version of blog-tag, I thought I'd indulge...so I get to list three joys, three fears, three goals, three current obsessions or collections and three surprising facts about myself. :D

#1 Leaving my windows open for a breeze, twenty-four hours a day
#2 Getting to know the new crew this year
#3 Playing music throughout my airy apartment

#1 My own stupidity (when it happens, and that it might happen at any moment. Seriously!)
#2 I fear for my Elainabug
#3 Apathy

#1 Figure out what I'm doing this fall
#2 Work my butt off this summer
#3 Learn how to play Guitar Hero functionally (a must with my current crowd.)

Current obsessions
#1 Reading. That's not current, that's always.
#2 Abbey Road. Particularly Octopus's Garden.
#3 Revising my novel.

Surprising facts
#1 I love cooking barefoot in my kitchen. I discovered that last year--especially in the evenings, with the windows open and music playing (see above).
#2 I really enjoy reading multiple books simultaneously. (Not at the same moment silly, just in the same general space of time.) I'm currently reading Alanna, New Moon, and listening to The Host on CD, and I thought about starting HP6 today, but resisted.
#3 I have never been to New York City. This is pure tragedy, particularly for a theatre person.

I'm supposed to tag 5 people, but I like Lindsey's way--if you read this blog, consider yourself tagged. Go and do!

Home away from Home

About half of the reason I drove this year was so I could bring more stuff. I'll admit--I'm a 'stuff' person, I like having nice things, I like being comfortable. In comparison to last year
I think you'll agree that it's a nice change.

Please note the electric griddle and microwave...essentials this year.

And my biggest triumph of all!


My accomplishment

I reached Erie, Pennsylvania at about 6:30pm (local time) this evening, completing my third straight day of driving. That's nearly 2000 miles, folks, and that's a lot farther than it sounds. Nearly 30 hours of driving, all told.

I drove across Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and a corner of Pennsylvania. And I'll tell you what--there's not a whole lot in most of those states, across I-80. Lots of farms. Cows and corn. Into Ohio, there started to be trees, and by Pennsylvania there were lots of trees. A few blips that were major cities and towns. Cleveland was exciting. But that was about it.

And I still love driving. This in no way quenched that exhilarating sense of freedom that driving gives me. I'll be glad to rest, but I'm looking forward to doing it all over again. Also--audiobooks rock the planet. New discovery.

And so now I'm here for the summer, working at PGSA as the ASM again this year. I'm excited--seems like a good crew this year. But I'm just excited to be busy! The monotony of the last few months has been killer, so it's great to be back surrounded by theatre people, doing what I've been trained to do.


Driving across America, listening to The Beatles

I think that most people don't realize how big this country is. I think we look at a map and comprehend the space in a moment, thinking that we live in a civilized place, when in reality there are huge wide open spaces all over it, untamed places where nothing lives but grass and weeds and deer and wandering cows. Places that stretch as far as the eye can see--again and again and again, with nothing in between but that road you're on, stretching out to the horizon.

I drove for about 11 hours today, and about the same yesterday. Today, I covered half of Nebraska, all of Iowa, and about half of Illinois. (Kearney, NE--Joliet, IL). Yesterday, I covered a corner of Utah, all of Wyoming, and that first half of Nebraska. Two days of driving, and I've covered four states. That's it. It doesn't seem like that much, when you look at a map. I look at Iowa on a map, and I think, "Wow, what a little dorky state full of cows." Driving across it, I think, "Wow, what a HUGE dorky state full of cows!"

And corn.
That's about all.

Today, I found a Barnes and Noble by accident (really! I was actually looking for a Wendys) and I bought "The Host" on CD, by Stephenie Meyer. I listened to "Twilight" yesterday, but after finishing it this morning, I decided I definitely needed another book to listen to. Neither of the bookstores I visited today (one in Omaha, one in Des Moines--which are HOURS apart, by the way) had the sequel, "New Moon", so I ended up getting her new SF novel, which I haven't read. I was nervous to listen to a book before reading it. I'm such a visual person, I wasn't sure it would be the same experience. I'm still sure that it's not, but I'm enjoying it all the same.

In between finishing Twilight and purchasing The Host, I also spent about an hour listening to The Beatles. I have decided--for the moment--that my favorite album is Abbey Road. This may change, but it's definitely my current fav. Although, I actually listened to the lyrics of "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" today, and was appalled! I should look them up and see what it really says, but I wouldn't be surprised if it is actually appalling. Silly Beatles.

I'm staying the night at a little motel in Joliet, Illinois, which is somewhat southwest of Chicago. It stands between the Motel 6, which looks like the Bates Motel, and the Comfort Inn, which only had 2-bed rooms that would cost me eighty bucks. I'm okay with this place, it's a little cheap, but clean and not too scary. The only real problem is that there's no refrigerator. This is a problem, because I am carting a cooler full of precious cargo 2000 miles across country.

Melissa (my best friend) burst out laughing when I told her the contents of my cooler. She said to me, "If you could know somebody by food, I would know it was you just from that." Apparently, these are "Valerie" foods:

-a large package of uncooked tortillas
-a 2-lb block of Colby Jack
-a six-pack of Dr. Pepper
-a carton of fresh strawberries

If you know me, you would probably agree with Melissa. Also, I'm carrying a small package of Cotija cheese--my uncle Laurence gave it to me when I stayed with him last night, to try on my quesadillas. Apparently it's a Mexican cheese something similar to mozzarella. It will probably be part of my dinner tomorrow--I have also brought along my all-powerful griddle, to assist in the making of my favorite food while in Pennsylvania, a place sadly scarce in Mexican food.

So tomorrow I continue onward in my journey. I have about 700 miles left to go, through more civilization than the last 1400 combined (I hope). I'm going to pass through Cleveland before turning up toward Erie. And I shall continue onward through The Host as well. I'm interested to see how it turns out.


A conversation with the five-year-old

Doorbell rings. AUNT KATHY opens to find BEN, dripping onto the mat.

AUNT KATHY: Hi Ben. How's your life?

Long pause.

BEN: Wet.



My brother wants a scarf.

This is the brother who is on an LDS mission in Virginia. He asked me to make him a scarf before he left, which I never got around to doing. Besides, as I told him, by the time he got out in the field--April--he wouldn't need a scarf, he'd need a squirt-gun-fan to keep himself cool. So the scarf went unmade.

Well, he still wants a scarf. It all began, I believe, at Christmas. I made all three of my sisters and their mother scarves for their holiday gift--each different color(s) and different brands/feels of yarn. I am quite accomplished at the hat loom, which is the easiest way to make hats and scarves in the entire world. Although, I must admit, the Christmas scarves took me a lot longer than I intended, so they were late, and by the time they were done, I could barely move my fingers they were so sore.


This inspired my brother into wanting a scarf. So the other day, my mom and I were out running errands, and she decided we should run to JoAnn's to get some yarn--so that I could make my brother his scarf. I humored it, and into the yarn section we went, to look at the products on sale (which we didn't pick), and found some soft, thin black yarn. We bought three rolls, which I'm still not sure will be enough, because I'll have to double string in order to have any kind of thickness.

Today I've been packing for my upcoming jaunt to Pennsylvania. The yarn has been sitting on my desk for two weeks, waiting for me to feel inspired to start working on my brother's scarf. And as I'm sitting here packing, I have been seriously debating whether to take the yarn, loom, etc to Pennsylvania with me.

My mother would argue that I should work on it when I have time, because I don't know what will happen when I get home, whether it will ever get done.

But the sane part of me says this: IF I have time to work on it (which is seriously doubtful) do I really want to spend that precious spare time knitting a scarf? I can think of a zillion better things I could use my time for while I'm out there.

And so the debate continues. I wouldn't be surprised if the yarn ends up coming with me, just so I don't feel guilt about leaving it behind.

Oh yes. Guilty. This is the absurdity of the situation, but which I can't help but laugh at!


Long week/end: summary, nothing profound

I've spend most of this week up at Primary Children's with my cousin Hollie and her daughter Elaina, who had open-heart surgery on Thursday. Updates at Hollie's blog. It's amazing how stressful waiting can be. I mean, you're just sitting around, or pacing, or both, you're not really doing anything physically taxing, but I'll tell you what, by Thursday night our whole family was exhausted--none less so than little Elaina-bug and her mama.

Hospitals are fascinating places. You would not believe everything that goes on there unless you spend a lot of time there. I've also found that ICUs are way busier than other parts of the hospital--constant action, streams of people coming in and out. Doctors, nurses, therapists, technicians, janitors, social workers--entirely besides patients, parents and visitors. And you would not believe the Sounds! I sat for a few minutes with Elaina and just listened, identifying sounds. I mean, there's monitors watching every bodily function she has. There were bubbling sounds from the chest tubes sucking liquid from her lungs and chest. There's the ventilator pumping, breathing for her. There's people talking, in the rooms and out at the nurses' station. People washing their hands, the automatic towel dispenser nearly giving me a heart attack every time it went off. I mean, this is a hopping place! And Primary's, as I think I've said before, isn't like most hospitals. I mean, for one thing, its full of children, which entirely changes the aspect of the place. But for another, there's a lot more hope there than at other hospitals. Maybe because its children, or maybe its just because its a special place, I don't know. I think it takes special people to work there, and they sure make a difference.

On a different note, today was something of an adventure. My best friend Melissa is turning 22 next week, and because of my job I am going to miss it again this year, so I told her I'd come up this weekend and do whatever she wanted to do. So last night we went to the drive-in movie in Roy (or is it Ogden?). I'd never been to the drive-in before, so I was pretty excited. We took some lawn chairs and a bunch of blankets, and we set up between two cars with their windows down--we had pretty good surround sound! It's always a double feature there, so first we saw Kung Fu Panda--it was funny, but definitely a kids movie. Then we slept through Indiana Jones--but at least I'd seen it before! We didn't get home until after two, but it was fun.

I spent the morning with Melissa and her family, then I headed south. I had lunch with Gregory at a little Frenchie restaurant downtown called Les Madelines. I had a Sesame Chicken Wrap, which was quite delicious, and a pastry dessert that I couldn't even begin to spell or pronounce, but which was nevertheless delicious. And, of course, I had a chance to chat with my Gregums, which was wonderful and well-needed.

Next stop was a brief visit at Primary's--I sat with Elaina for awhile so that Hollie could take a nap. I wish I could have stayed longer! My hope is that Hollie can get some rest tonight, she's wearing herself pretty thin.

Then it was down to T-ville to visit Dixy. We never ended up having our LOST party--we were trying to set up a date that we could watch LOST together, but it didn't happen. I'm just glad I got to see her. We went grocery shopping and picked up some father's day cards, then she had to go to work.

I had been planning to stop over at my birthfather's house for a little while after that, but my sisters were gone and 'step-mom' Jenny is sick, so I ended up driving over to my Pop's work to say hi and give him his card and return "Meet the Robinsons" which I borrowed last week. It was good to see him, I'm glad I went--he would've been mad if I hadn't seen him before leaving for PA. He's way too good to me!

Then it was home to Orem at last--I feel like I haven't been here for days, because of all the time I've spend in SLC this week, so it was good to come home and crash on the couch for awhile. Poor little Ben's really sick--he's been puking on and off all day, even since I've been home. Rough day for the poor guy. But we watched Toy Story 2 together, then it was off to bed.

So, I leave for Pennsylvania on Tuesday. I'm driving out, planning to take three days to get there. It's something over 1800 miles, and the largest chunk comes first--I'll be driving to Kearney, Nebraska on Tuesday, to stay with my uncle there. My aunt--Hollie's mom--will be here helping Hollie and helping take care of Ben. I'm actually pretty excited about the drive, but we'll see how it goes.


Crazy day

Today I blogged for my cousin Hollie, since we had a crazy day together in the hospital with Elaina on the verge of surgery. Check it out on her blog.

First draft

Two o'clock in the morning: the old hours of brilliance, giving a last hurrah, perhaps, before I banish them in favor of a 7am wake-up call starting next week.

I finished the first draft of my novel. A VERY rough first draft, about 53000 words (the goal being 75000, give or take.) I've never come up short before, which caused something of a panic several days ago when I realized I was three-quarters the way through my planned material, and only half-way through my expected word count. This resulted in a pep talk from my dear Sam, who advised me to keep writing according to plan, then go back and fill in later. Thank goodness for Sam!

Anyway, so I finished this first draft tonight, and I'm not sure how I feel about it. I still feel like it's quite vague, and I'm not sure how other people--particularly the teenage target audience--will respond to it. Of course it's going to be subject to extensive revision and overhaul, but still.

Speaking of revision: have I mentioned how much I love whiteboards? I finally got a big whiteboard last year (although, I saw that Gregory's sister had one about twice as big on her bedroom wall, and I was jealous). You would not believe how much I use this thing, especially during plotting/planning stage. Currently, my whiteboard is covered by revision notes and thoughts for contemplation. I'm also currently debating whether or not to take it to Pennsylvania with me--probably not, but it's still under consideration.

Despite everything, it's a relief to have the first draft done. The outline is there on paper, now I can twist and stretch and erase and rehaul to my satisfaction, which is entirely different from these long writing stretches.

Last year, I wrote 80,000 words in four months. This year, I wrote 50,000 words in three weeks. Granted, I wasn't in school at the time, nor did I have hours of daily rehearsal. Dedicated writing time definitely speeds up the process. Either way, it's pretty slick.

(Sorry for the scattered-ness of this blog: It's 2 in the morning, I'm tired, and I wrote about twelve thousand words just today. So...goodnight!)


Playing around

On Sunday I drove up to Kearns to celebrate my birthfather's 39th birthday. I almost got him an "over the hill" card, but decided it would, after all, be premature.

We had a lovely dinner where I watched my sister Sam eat some casserole with her sour cream--I wish I had a metabolism like hers! I drank far too much Dr. Pepper, but when it's available, that's what I do. Oh, and there was really good cantaloupe. It's not my favorite fruit, because sometimes I like it and sometimes I really don't. But that day, I really did, and ate it in good measure.

After dinner we all sat down for some games. I love playing games--board games, card games, whatever, but this is seriously one of my favorite relaxation activities. My family doesn't really play that often--it's hard to find games that can be played with only four people, and that all four of us--diverse people that we are--can enjoy together.

Not a problem with my other family. First we sat down to play the Totally Insane Card Game, a Utah-Mormon invention, I believe. It's absolute insanity--as the title suggests. There's 200 cards or so, and most of them are different. Some are useless, some are annoying, most are amusing, some downright hilarious. If you like games that make sense, this is not the game for you. Otherwise, you have to try it!

Next we played Pit, which is a game imitating the stock exchange--you switch commodities with the other players, trying to corner the market. It gets very loud and crazy--although, we did try a couple rounds of silent bidding. You had to hold up fingers to show how many cards you wanted to trade. That was interesting too. Anyway, good times!

Also, I have discovered a love for the movie "Meet the Robinsons", an animated feature that came out last year. On the surface, it's a cute movie about a kid who moves forward with his life, and becomes a cool inventor. It's got deeper levels, though, and some really strong science fiction themes. It plays with time, and each time I'm discovering something new, and I constantly enjoyed the speculative relationship between Lewis and Wilbur. Highly enjoyable, I recommend it to all.


A day for gratitude

I spent the day with my cousin Hollie at Primary Children's Hospital in SLC. Hollie's little daughter Elaina had a procedure today--a heart cath--in part to prepare for open heart surgery next week. It was a very stressful day for Hollie, waiting for news, getting only one progress report through the afternoon, and the procedure took a deal longer than it was supposed to. Poor Elaina has a big old bruise on her leg, but otherwise she came through fine, thank God and all those whose prayers have been with this little bug.

Primary Children's is an interesting place--it's bright and cheerful for a hospital, with lots of color, friendly nurses and doctors, and lots of support for families. The hospital reserved Hogle Zoo for the evening, just for the parents and families of children in the hospital. Ben and my parents went while Hollie and I waited for Elaina to get out of the PACU (Post Anesthetic Care Unit). But at the same time, its a hospital for children--a place where children unfortunately suffer. They suffer with the greatest care available, but they suffer there nonetheless.

I think we sometimes take a great deal for granted. Hollie and I talked about this a little bit today. I look at new mothers who walk around with their children, who stand in line at the grocery store with babe-in-arms, and I think of Elaina, who has spent nearly her entire five months of life chained to an oxygen tube and heart monitor, and often lots more than that. Elaina, who's usually on half a dozen medications or more just to keep her alive and as well as she can be. Elaina, who's going in for her second open-heart surgery at five months old. Elaina, who is the most beautiful, patient and good-natured baby ever.

I think sometimes we take a great deal for granted.


Something of being an adult

Adult relationships. I'm not talking romance, I'm talking friendship, between adults. It's a lot different than childhood friendships, or even college-buddy friendships. But, as I am finding, they are still extremely satisfying.

Are you still friends with any of your high school buddies? (I am speaking to you, my compadres who are in or have graduated from college.) I mean really friends, you go to their house, spend hours in their company on a regular basis. If you are, I congratulate you. You are one of the lucky few. (Or is it unlucky, in your case? j/k)

Friendships, I have found, are such a tentative thing. They are beautiful, don't get me wrong. My friends are a crucial part of my life. But so often they are dependent on mutual circumstances and a frequent almost-necessity of shared company. Take high school--you probably have some classes together, you most likely eat lunch together every day, and sometimes you hang out for a couple hours after school. These are mutual circumstances--the rigors of high school--and frequent almost-necessity of shared company--simply being in the same place every day.

College is a little different, because the scheduling is a little more scattered. In this case, your friends are most likely your roommates, or people you spend a lot of class/club time with, like a shared major. Sometimes these friendships linger after the circumstances change (ie old roommates). Sometimes they don't.

But what about afterward? And particularly following a marriage, which usually changes circumstances and shared experiences drastically. What happens after you move in different directions, or when you no longer share an apartment, or when you no longer see each other every day, or...ever?

A lot of the time, friendships fail. They just diminish, and there's very little we can do about it. We still call, every now and then, we email and say hi on Facebook and Myspace. Eventually those drop off in frequency too. It's human nature. We'll still think fondly of each other, still remember the good times with a laugh. It just will be a thing of the past.

On very rare occasions, we are able to maintain friendships simply by virtue of the depth of the initial relationship, or by changing the boundaries of the relationship to include the new circumstances. A best friend that you call often to talk, even though you can't be together. A married friend whose spouse you also befriend to stay close, taking part now in their shared existence. These friendships are the ones who have hope of continuing, the ones that both parties are dedicating to continuing. These are the adult relationships. They may or may not have the fervor of the previous friendships enjoyed, but they will have a maturity and depth that will surpass them. These friendships will have a beauty and a value to cherish in the years to come.


My own words

While camping a few weeks ago, I got into a brief discussion with my friends Melissa and Dixy about music--in particular, the fact that I don't typically listen to the lyrics of songs, only to the music itself. I listen to the singers, but only the notes of their voices in combination with the instruments--not the words. We got into the discussion while debating the virtues of Evanescence, and what particular moods we are in while listening. Melissa's mood would be dictated by the words of the songs, while mine (and to some degree, Dixy's) would depend entirely upon the feel of the music itself.

You know, there are songs that I can sing almost verbatim--I can sing each and every word (or an approximation of the word)--and I still have next to no idea what the song actually says. I got caught in this once. I was at my friend Ellen's house for a little party, and we were singing "All Star" from the Shrek album. The words are "the world is gonna roll me" but I had been singing it as "the world is kinda roamy" (which isn't a word at all. That's what it sounded like to me, and since I wasn't thinking about the words, just the sounds, that's how it came out. It's still something of a joke, but mostly one I use to laugh at myself.

Today, I bought a Coldplay album, "X & Y". I've never listened to Coldplay before, but I found it, I liked what I heard, and so I bought it. (This plays into my natural impulsiveness, but that's a story for another time.) I'm sitting here listening to these songs for the first time--I couldn't even begin to tell you what they're about. I just like the music.

Musicians would probably be furious/devastated/irritated/insert-emotion-here to learn of people like me (assuming they don't know already), people who don't listen to their words. Sometimes I try, but I don't really listen to music for the words. I listen for the mood--to help emphasize a mood I'm already in, or to help create I mood I desire. I use music to incite emotions within myself--particularly when I'm writing. I bought this Coldplay album because it feels like glorious writing music for my current project. That's what is important to me--I make my own words, set to other people's music.