I’m sorry I’ve neglected you for months. I’ve been….
So we’ll just nutshell it, shall we?
School year over.
Spring Concert for Bells was AMAZING. Seriously, the best concert we have ever done, which is a good thing, since we will be performing those songs again in California in a month for the National Handbell Convention. Cool, right? They even did a live web broadcast of our concert, which was super cool.
So far this summer Ryan went to Korea for a week, we took the whole clan (minus Megan, who had to work) to St. George, and then we all went to Lagoon for Ryan’s work Lagoon Day.
This week has also been busy, but it’s been emotionally draining.
–Ryan left Sunday morning for Serbia. I got to drive him to the airport instead of going to Sacrament meeting and say goodbye.
–John left for scout camp Monday morning. I had to help him find and pack all his stuff and get him over there by 7:30 Monday morning.
Then it was just us girls for the week.
–Thursday was the big goodbye for Kate. It was hard. We cried. I won’t go into that this post, but let’s just say I don’t know if I’m strong enough to say goodbye to any more people in my life.
Today was interesting. Exploring a new city by myself is a bit out of my comfort zone. At least everyone (or nearly everyone) speaks English as I muddle through this adventure. Today was even colder than yesterday, so I had a hard time getting myself motivated to get out of the hotel. It’s not like I have work to go to. And no one would care if I stayed inside and read a book all day, really. But I would know I missed opportunities to see the sights in a new city because I chickened out. So, I walked down to the museum square and by the time I got there I was pretty darn cold. Wishing I had a better scarf, thicker gloves, etc. I was even wearing an ugly black beanie! I passed the museums and found the kiosk for the canal and bus trips, and paid for my 24 hour pass. I enjoyed the canal tour (it was actually warm, which was a big surprise). When we got to the train station, I figured I should get off the boat to see some sights and find a bathroom. Not urgently, just trying to be prepared. First I walked over to the St Nicholas Church to see inside. I was very beautiful, but no picture taking, and no one was speaking, so I didn’t feel comfortable asking for a bathroom. Back to the Train station, where I knew there had to be a bathroom.
But first I was distracted by this guy playing the piano. He’s good! When he was done, he just got up and left.
I asked at the information desk where the bathroom was, and she told me to go through, and then up the stairs. Ok. So, I went through. I didn’t have a ticket card to tap, but I didn’t think it would matter. Eventually I found the WC upstairs. You have to pay 70 cents before you even go in. Good thing I had some change. After doing my business, I came back down, and people were streaming though the “turnstyles”, all tapping their cards to exit. I had no card. Surely there was a way out for people with no tickets. Hmm. I had to ask someone. “How do I get out?”
“You use your card,” she said.
“I don’t have a card”, I said, “I just came in to use the bathroom.”
“You are not supposed to do that. But I’ll let you you with my card.”
I didn’t know!
Anyway. Later tonight, we went to a Chinese restaurant for dinner. I decided to use the bathroom there, since it’s a 20 minute walk back to our hotel. No charge for this one, but there’s a tiny little anti-room with a sink, and then a door to the toilet. But the light in the toilet room doesn’t work, and if I leave the door open, someone could walk in on me. Ack! What is it with me and bathrooms today! So, I got some tp in my hand, backed up to the toilet, and shut and locked the door. Pitch black, but I still managed. Unlocked the door and came out. Whew! By the way, it’s absolutely FREEZING in there. I guess they don’t heat the bathrooms.
So, here’s to another day. Learning new things about Amsterdam, exploring and taking in the beauty of the city, and hoping to always be able to find a bathroom when I need it.
As we were driving on our Birthday surprise trip, Ryan said to me, “I have another surprise for you. Look in the glove box.”
I looked, and found a very cute card with chickens on it, and inside, was a statement from our mortgage company that our balance was zero. In other words, our house was paid off!
We had been working hard to get our house paid off, and I anticipated that we would hit that milestone within the next year, but sneaky Ryan sold off some stock and did all the jumping through hoops to pay off the rest without me knowing it. He even changed the address that the paperwork would go to, so that it would not come to the house and I would open it. He CAN pull off surprises!
That also means that I can start shopping for a couple new appliances. My oven has many problems, and my dishwasher has been fixed (by Ryan) at least 4 times. We haven’t done any upgrading or replacing of appliances, so that dishwasher is 16 years old. The microwave we got for a wedding gift, so that thing is 24 years old. Whenever I would talk about things we “need” for the house, Ryan’s standard answer has been “not until the house is paid off.” Well, now it IS paid off, and we will be putting the bulk of that mortgage money into our retirement fund, but we can also splurge a little.
So, I will be shopping for a new dishwasher in the next month or so. Any recommendations?
My birthday doesn’t have the greatest history of being celebrated. It’s right after Christmas, but before New Year. People are partied out, broke, and just want to relax. No one wants to come together for an epic party just 4 days after Christmas. So, I usually remind my kids a couple of times, and then I go out and buy myself something I want. Or, since I bought too many presents for Christmas, I tell Ryan that he can have the kids wrap one of them and give to me for my birthday before I return things.
I try not to be selfish and petty about my birthday and the lack of “special” that it is, but it’s hard. I see other people with huge birthday dates or trips or fantastic present and I tend to get a little jealous. (I’m not proud of it!)
Anyway, let’s move on to this year.
I told Ryan that I just wanted to be surprised for my birthday. That’s it. A surprise. In my mind, I’m thinking maybe a party, or dinner out with friends, or maybe even a new dishwasher (because he’s heard me complain enough about my 15 year old dishwasher that he keeps fixing). He complained a bit and said, “But that’s so hard.” Sorry. You shouldn’t have married someone with an inconvenient birthday, or someone who likes surprises and parties, then.
Mid December Ryan found out that he is definitely going to Amsterdam in Feb, and I decided I am definitely going with him. We booked the tickets. The company pays for his, mine is with miles. “Darn,” I thought, “that would have totally counted as a great surprise!” But that wasn’t the surprise.
The day before my birthday, I was just about to ask if I needed to plan anything or leave time open, and Ryan said, “I have to tell you a little bit of the surprise.” He had booked 2 nights of hotel, but my friend Robin was coming into town to stay with us, and he wanted to make sure and cancel if I wanted to stay home and party with Robin. No, that’s still good. They are only here until Friday morning, and they have a family party on Thursday night, so I’m sure they won’t mind if we leave them.
Cool! He booked 2 nights of Hotel!!! He CAN do surprises!
Of course, now that I knew we would be leaving, I had to plan. Is there food for the kids, can Megan drive Jenna to a party on Friday, etc. But I’m the mom and that’s my job.
Robin came into town on Wednesday and we spent the night talking and laughing. Thursday dawned and the two of us went to get pedicures for my birthday. Then there were presents at home. The kids had actually shopped or planned something and got me some nice things. Then Ryan handed me a present. What? I thought the trip was the surprise? Nope. New camera. In Red. Because he knows me so well. Our last point and shoot camera started flaking while we were on our cruise, and I can’t trust just a phone to take all my pictures.
Then we packed our stuff for our 3 day adventure in St. George (where it is 20 -30 degrees warmer), and took off.
We had such a great time. We went and did a session in the St. George Temple, ate dinner with some friends of ours that we haven’t seen in years (another surprise Ryan cooked up), went thrift store shopping, saw some petroglyphs, went to a movie, ate out, did more shopping, and really enjoyed our time together.
It was wonderful to be somewhere warmer (almost 50 degrees, it felt like spring), and to just relax.
We left on Saturday around noon, and stopped at a “ghost town” a little bit from Leeds.
The Wells Fargo building in this old silver mining town is still standing, and they have made it into a little museum.
There are many old structures partly standing, but we also enjoyed looking at the other houses in the town. The ones people live in. Such a eclectic mix of architecture!
We call this one the “Haunted Mansion House”. Right?
This family of deer jumped out onto the road just as we were rounding the corner. Good thing we weren’t going fast.
We got home New Year’s Eve night, in time to “celebrate” the new year, or in my case, to go to bed. It was such a wonderful surprise birthday trip. I can’t imagine him topping this one!
On a previous cruise, we went to Cozumel, Mexico. Let’s just say that nothing about that day was a good experience. From being sick, kids having diarrhea, exhausted from throwing up all day the day before, it was just doomed from the start. The kicker, though, was that we hadn’t brought enough cash, and ended up stiffing the braid lady because we thought it was cheaper than it was. A LOT cheaper. Anyway, it’s left a bad impression of Cozumel.
But, this is many years later, and we weren’t planning on being sick or having hair braided, and we planned ahead and brought cash. Our friends really wanted to do a jeep tour of the island. Sounded fun. Four of us in a jeep, and we get to drive it ourselves? We signed ourselves up.
When we got off the boat and found our group, it was a 10 minute walk through town to the jeep rental place. Imagine our surprise when they loaded us into a NEW loaded jeep. It was like a test drive!
We took off in a caravan, with a guide in front of us and in the back. We drove about 20 minutes through town, then turned off onto less traveled road through the jungle. Ryan was driving, and he was so excited!
The road got more rutted and rocky as we went deeper into the jungle. Some of it was sandy,some of it was rocky, and we even drove through a “puddle” that was at least a foot deep.
Ryan was so sad when we stopped to see the Mayan ruin.
As far as ruins go, it was not one of the major ones. We had kind of expected it to be like Chichanitza or Talum. Smaller. But still interesting.
We learned some of the history of what kind of building would have been here, and that it was like a hurricane warning station with doors and windows that would make whistle when the wind blew through it to alert the people that a hurricane was coming.
But they had no problem with us climbing on the ruin and taking pictures.
After visiting the ruins, we drove a bit more, then stopped on a beach, where there were umbrellas all set up and people were making lunch. It was unreal! So beautiful!
Sitting on the beach, playing in the sand, listening to the waves. It was truly wonderful. AND they fed us tacos! So amazing!
When we had to leave that place, we at least got to drive the jeep again. This time Gardner drove back, and I think he took it a little slower than Ryan, but it was still bumpy. After we returned the jeep we were back near the ship, but decided to do a little shopping. It was then that I discovered that I had no driver’s license. Somewhere between entering the jeeps and exiting the jeeps, I had lost my license. Whoops. Probably bounced out.
I tried not to worry about the consequence of not having my ID while we shopped. It was raining by then.
The worst case scenario would be that Ryan would have to go and get my passport to let me get back on the ship.
But no one even asked for my ID besides my ship card when we got back on. There were two Royal Caribbean ships parked there when we came back. Ours is the one on the right.
So, all in all, I would say this Cozumel trip was MUCH better than our first experience. Who knows, maybe we’ll go again someday.
There is SO much I want to tell you about our cruise. I can’t put down every detail, but I must share some of my favorite things!
In Roatan, which is an island of Honduras, we went on a zip line excursion.
It was 12 different platforms. You hook on, and go. Fun! I was a little nervous, but really, there’s nothing to it, and you are safe. We laughed a lot, and enjoyed joking with the others in our group.
When we made it through the jungle and down to sea level, we were at the Gumbalimba park. Our guide took us through, taught us a bit of the history of the island (pirates!) and then we crossed the bridge.
It was like being in an Indiana Jones movie!
There were many birds, but the most impressive were the macaws! They even had one bird we could hold.
He bit off a button on Ryan’s shirt!
Then we went on to see the monkeys. Monkeys are not native to the island, but they have them in this park. They told us not to yell or jump if a monkey jumped onto us, and if the monkey took something, just let him have it. Eventually they would get bored with it and put it down. We weren’t allowed to bring bags or purses into the park for this reason.
It was SO AMAZING! This monkey reached into Ryan’s pocket a couple of times, just to see if there was anything in there. So fluffy and soft, and curious.
We absolutely loved the monkeys! I’m so glad a friend recommended that excursion to us. It was amazing!
One of the fun things about a cruise is the people you meet. Of course you can’t meet EVERYONE on the cruise ship (since there are about a small city’s worth of people on the ship), but you do see certain people again and again. Of course, we mostly hung out with our dear friends Tammy and Gardner. They are the reason we went on the cruise. Tammy was one of my mission companions. Gardner was also in that mission. Later they got married. Tammy LOVES cruising, and suggested we do a mission reunion cruise. Do we mind that it was only the four or us? Not at all!
For example, we met a cute couple at breakfast one day, named Kellen and Arian. Beautiful young couple that had been married about 2 weeks. He is a farmer in Oklahoma. She is a nurse. It was fun to talk to them, and then when we saw them later on the ship, we tried hard to remember their names and say hi.
There were many people that we didn’t know their names, but their faces became familiar, since we saw them again and again. There was Viagra guy and his wife that we saw while waiting for our turn at boogie boarding, the cute couple that was sitting near us that the husband did a magic trick and pulled a 50 cent piece “out of” Tammy’s ear, the other cute couple who were concerned about me when I left dinner the night the seas were so rough, the people we tubed down the river with, Saundra and Megan who we zip lined with, the table full of cute gay guys I stopped to talk to one night and then had to ask them every day how their day was.
One group of people we met was the “Royal Caribbean Pop Choir”. On Monday on the schedule there was this pop choir listed at 2:30. I decided I was going to see what that was about. Gardner also wanted to go. So, we found the bar on the 12th deck (the Olive or Twist–what a strange name) and met Lanie and Calvin Hudson. They were both in the cast of Saturday night Fever on the ship, and in charge of this little pop choir. They teach us a song and simple dance moves, then we perform it later in the week. Sadly, we only had two rehearsals scheduled, and one of them was bumped because another group had scheduled the space. It probably wouldn’t have mattered, though, because the night we were to perform it (up on a bridge), the seas were protesting. Things were rocking and rolling so much we couldn’t really dance, just hold on. We all laughed a lot about the train wreck that was our singing of Footloose. But no matter. We had fun, and we met these fun people.
I even met my dear friends George and Brad in the Casino.
Even though I am still the relief society president, I still tried out for plays this summer. I knew I couldn’t do something in the early summer because of the wedding, but I tried out for South Pacific that would run in August. I was even called back for the role of Bloody Mary, and I felt pretty good about that, but no. Didn’t get cast in that show.
Then I auditioned for Beauty and the Beast. There were SO many people at that audition. I was number 45 or something, and was there for 2 hours. All these young theater majors who aspire to play Belle are there. “What part are you auditioning for?” one of them asked me. In my mind I can just imagine her thoughts…’you’re so OLD and FAT. How could you even think of competing with someone young and pretty like me?’ (OK, so I might be exaggerating there a bit)
“Mrs. Potts,” I said.
“Oh. Well, good luck.”
I didn’t even get a call back for that show.
As I prepare for and go to these auditions, I always pray for guidance and help so that I can do my best and that I will feel good about the audition, no matter the outcome. I also leave it in the Lord’s hands and mention that I will understand if I am not supposed to be in this show (because of my calling, etc.), then I will understand. But I still take rejection hard. I especially hate it when I don’t get ANY word from the director. No email saying thank you for trying out, just…..crickets.
I am always up front about my Wednesday night commitments when they ask me to fill out the “any conflicts” part of the audition form. Maybe I shouldn’t be so honest, and just try to get out of stuff later.
This year I have auditioned for 5 different plays. At the last audition, for Nunsense, I mentioned in my prayers that if I weren’t going to be cast in the play, could I please not be called back? If I have to prepare and go to a call back, possibly miss something else, and if I go to a call back, then I get my hopes up and it’s just harder when I don’t get it.
So, when another audition came up, I prepared a song, and I went. I was surprised to see so many people there to try out for a children’s show that rehearses and performs during the day. Again, it’s a bunch of young 20 something theater majors, and then there’s me.
There ARE parts for middle aged women, you know. Few parts. I did see one person I knew who was also auditioning. I met him in my very first community theater play, Seussical the Musical. That was 9-10 years ago.
As we were all sitting around, trying to not let nerves overwhelm us so we can’t sing, I thought of this little girl and her “pep talk.”
I may need to do that a few times. Maybe not stand on the counter, but just the positive self talk is a plus. I can do anything! I can do anything great! Is that how we talk to ourselves in the morning? Maybe it should be.
After a few minutes it was my turn to go in. It’s two directors and an accompanist in a room. I plug in my phone, my music starts, and I sing my song. (A little bit in Love from Wonderfultown, in case you are wondering.) I’m a little nervous, so it’s not the best I’ve ever sung it, but I get through. Then, the director says, “That was nice, but could you sing it again, but this time…. sing it like you are in love with someone who doesn’t love you back, and you have to try to convince him with this song that you love him.”
My phone picks this moment to turn itself off, and is in the process of rebooting. Whoops. Let me just restart my phone. Small talk, carry on, go ahead and eat your food, sorry about this, awkward, more awkward, find the music app, find the song, “Actually, I meant for my phone to do that so I could just stall for a minute,” I said, then push play and sing it again.
So, NOW, since I have permission to throw myself into the song and I’m not worried about notes, I really ham it up and commit to the idea of a lovesick woman who has a hopeless crush. It was over the top, and it was fun. They were laughing, and I felt good about it.
That was it, and I left.
Miraculously, I checked my email the next day to see an email from the stage manager. That’s a good sign. It said, Good Morning! Thank you so much for auditioning for “Alice in Wonderland” we would like to have you join us in our work shop and production as the Queen of Hearts.
What? Queen of Hearts? Are you serious?! I’m so excited!
The show doesn’t run until February, with rehearsals starting in January, but it’s a new musical, so we need to “workshop” it this month for a week and then do a preview show at the end of the week. I don’t really know what that means, but I’ll find out soon.
I’m just so excited that I get to do a play again!
And who wouldn’t want to play the queen?
Monday night we went to the SLC airport to pick up our new exchange student, Katerina.
When we got there with our sign, we saw a bunch of people there already, and many of them had flags.
There were even news cameras from Fox13 there, and we were pretty sure they weren’t there to film us. Soon we realized they were there for soldiers coming home.
As they came down the walkway, we all clapped, and then watched the JOY on their faces as they embraced their family members. This little girl was right by us and was so darling just hugging her Daddy. Then she held his hand and didn’t want to let go.
It was quite a special sight, and we hoped we weren’t intruding.
Then, our new sister came down, and I’m glad we had a big sign, because her face lit up. I would be totally worried that I would arrive with no one to pick me up.
She’s a cute girl from Russia. Her English is once again impressive! She’s been here almost a whole day and we’ve gone to the Health Department, eaten Russian candy she brought, went to Wal-mart, and she’s now at a back to school party with the youth.
Here’s to another great exchange student experience.