Friday, January 29, 2016

Walking on Ice

Now that I have no kids at home during the day, one of the things I get to do is go for walks.  I love going for walks.  When the girls were little, I'd pack them up in the stroller just about every warm day and we'd head out for a walk around the neighborhood.  We did this in St George, in Michigan, and even here in Illinois.  We'd walk to parks and let them play.  We packed snacks and games and books to keep them occupied.  I would often go walking with a friend, which, let me clue you, if you want to get to know someone really well, make them your walking buddy.  Something about walking allows you to talk about anything and everything.  When I think back on all the walking buddies I've had, I realize that I'm really naming some of my most treasured friendships.  But I am even happy to go walking alone, I put my earbuds in and listen to my favorite podcasts.  (This American Life, Radiolab, Serial, The Mystery Show, Stuff You Missed in History Class, Invisibilia, and Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, in case you were wondering.)

Julia got too big for walks in strollers a couple years ago (she looked pretty ridiculous huddled into our double stroller), and Ella grew out of them about a year ago.  Handily, Ella was also in preschool about a year ago, so I was able to do my walking while she was at school.  But school was only 3 mornings a week, and sometimes going to the grocery store and taking a shower took precedence over a walk.  The same thing happened this fall, she was in school every day but those 2 1/2 hours flew by so fast, I didn't always get in a walk. 

But now.  Now I can go walking every day.  I most definitely have the time.  And I can even go in the afternoon, when things have warmed up a bit.  There is something so refreshing about being outside, feeling the sun on your face, hearing the birds (even in January!), and knowing that your body is completely functional and you are able to go however far you want.  It's all very freeing. 

This week's walks have been particularly enjoyable.  Why?  Because of the ice.  I know that sounds crazy, but I promise it's not.  Early in the week, we had rain, which then froze overnight.  The sidewalks all had a very thin sheet of ice on them.  Slippery, yes.  But who says slippery has to be bad?  I had such fun "ice skating" down the road!  If I needed a break, I'd walk on the snow covered grass.  But I didn't need many breaks.  I felt like a kid, wearing socks on the wood floors, "skating" everywhere I go. 

And then yesterday the ice started to melt a bit.  Which meant there were little ice sheets along the edges of the sidewalk, just waiting for me to crunch.  There is something strangely satisfying about breaking an ice sheet.  I'm not entirely sure what it is, the feeling of power, the sound of the crunch, the web of cracks left behind by my shoe?  Maybe all of the above.  Today the ice melted even more, which meant more ice sheets to crack.  It also meant the ice on the pond I walk around was even thinner.  It took a lot of will power not to find a big rock to chuck into the middle of that pond.  Oh, I wanted to do it so bad.  But if I look ridiculous skating on sidewalks and smashing the icy edges, think how I'd look chucking rocks into a pond, trying to break the surface.  I am all for finding your inner child, but let's not go overboard.

This is all to say, I'm enjoying my "retirement" from being a mother of small children.  There are times when I am sad to say goodbye to that beautiful yet exhausting phase of life, but mostly I'm excited to be embarking on this new phase, the one where kids are more physically independent (even if we are on the edge of the emotional breakdown known as puberty), and I can go walking every day.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Why Hello, 2016!

2015 was an interesting year.  It had the best of times and the worst of times.  We had a most terrible May, which honestly felt like enough to call the whole year a wash.  But then we had that dreamy summer, which was really pretty incredible.  Between their visits here and our visits there, I saw my parents 5 times this year, and seeing your mom always makes things better.  Clark was a race running fiend (see his blog for more details).  Ella started Kindergarten and learned to read.  Julia read 46,574 pages (I kid you not!), and generally rocked the end of 1st and start of 2nd grades. I think all that wonderfulness makes up for May.


And how did I do?  Well, let's take a look at last year's resolutions, shall we?

  • Read Jesus the Christ.
Once again, I did not read Jesus the Christ.   It's a beast of a book.  And once again, I'm resolving that this will be the year I do it.  I've decided that Sunday morning is the perfect time to read a chapter.  And if I read one chapter each week, I'll be done before the end of the year.  I am a woman with a plan, and I've already read the first 2 chapters (because chapter 1 is the introduction).  Just you watch, 2016, I'll finish this book.
  • Finish my 30 by 30 challenge. 
Once again, I did not finish my 30 by 30 challenge.   I still have those last 4.  I guess we'll continue to put that on the resolutions list.  Maybe this is the year...
  • Go to the temple more.
I am so very happy to say that this actually happened!  I have been to the temple a LOT more than I went in 2014.  Between youth trips and going with friends and going while we were in Utah and a few actual, real deal dates with my husband to the temple, I think I made it at least 7 times, if not more.  It's not every month, but this is way more than I have been since we moved from Utah.  Win.
  • Keep learning Portuguese.
Check!  Duolingo is now a part of my daily routine, and it tells me I am now 50% fluent in Portuguese.  I think it must be the 50% that involves reading and writing, because I really can't SPEAK Portuguese, but we are getting there.  I understand a whole lotta stuff.  Win.
  • Blog more.
Not win.  Obviously.  New year, same goal.
  • Be more present with my kids.  Stop thinking about what we are going to do, and start enjoying what we are doing.
It's hard to measure if I did this or not.  I probably did sometimes, but I'm sure there was plenty of distraction in there.  Thinking back on the Summer of Dreams, I think being present is what made it so dreamy.  So there is that.  I'm calling it a win.
  • Give more.  Be quick to observe needs in others, and meet those needs if I'm able.
Again, this is hard to measure.  And, to be quite honest, this is a constant battle I have.  I am always striving to be the type of person who sees others' needs and just meets them, without a thought.  But I overthink everything, and tend to talk myself out of acting on promptings.  And I often don't see the need in the first place, which is kind of selfish of me.  I think this will be a lifelong struggle for me, but it's one worth fighting.  It's one way I can be more like the Savior, and oh, I want to be more like Him.

So, once again, I'm rolling over some goals.  Read Jesus the Christ.  Finish 30 by 30.  Blog more.  But I am also adding some new ones:

  • Walk 500 miles.
  • Read 12,000 pages.
  • Start my book blog (stay tuned, this one is VERY exciting)
  • Visit Chicago when it's not the dead of winter.  How we live here and have never been in the city in warm weather is beyond me....I'm not even talking "summer," just NOT WINTER. 
Here's to the new year!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Grandma Hurst

A couple weeks ago, my grandmother passed away.  The funeral was this past Monday. 

I've been thinking about this post for a while, but it's hard to know how to begin to describe my grandmother to someone who didn't know her.  A lot of people talk about their grandmothers being "sweet little old ladies."  My grandma was not sweet.  She was good, and kind, but not sweet.  She was compassionate, and ever present to lend support, but not sweet.  She was strong.  Firm.  Strict, at times.  She said exactly what she thought, about her life and yours.  Before I was married, there were questions of when that would happen.  Before I had kids, there were questions of when THAT would happen (which was a sore spot, and kind of kept opening a wound, but I'm willing to believe that she didn't realize that.  Or forgot.)  The past year, you'd ask how she was, and she'd reply, "Terrible."  You always knew exactly where everyone stood.


But that makes her sound mean, and she wasn't mean.  She was so full of love for her family.  She was proud of every single one of her kids and grandkids.  She and my grandpa were at every single piano recital, ballet recital, and graduation I ever had.  And they were like that for all their grandkids, all 35 of them.  They were present.  They made sure to be a part of our lives. 


Right after I graduated from college, I moved back home and started looking for a job.  It took a while before I found one, and Grandma knew I needed to make my car payment every month (which was small, but still, my one expense).  She hired me to clean her house every few weeks, which, along with a few other odd jobs, allowed me to make that payment.  And at the same time, I got to enjoy her company.  Dusting allowed me to look through each of her knick knacks as I removed them from their shelves and put them back in exactly the right spot.  Each of those items gave me glimpses into her life, the things she had done, the places she had gone.  I look back at that summer with such fondness, learning more about each of my grandparents and the lives they led.

I will always think of Grandma at Christmas time.  Her first name was Joy, so there are reminders of her everywhere I look this time of year!  When I was young, we all went to Grandma and Grandpa's house for Christmas Eve.  Kids ran amok, adults visited, games were played, TV was watched.  And then we were all back there in the morning, finding our gifts under the tree, eating stollen (spitting out stollen, because those fruit bits are gross), and telling of the Christmas morning we'd had at home.  As I got older, the family became too big for Grandma's house, so we would have a family Christmas party at a church.  Kids continued to run amok, adults continued to visit, we ate delicious food, and the Hurst Family Talent Show became an annual tradition.  Oh, she loved to hear all the grandkids play various instruments and sing and dance.  And I loved doing it.


Grandma made each of her kids learn a musical instrument, and 3 of them went on to gain degrees in music.  She was pretty gifted herself, going to college on a music scholarship.  This love of music carried on to my generation, and there were many times, after performing in some way, that I was asked if I was a Hurst.  I have even been announced as Shannon Hurst before.  Every time I've played the piano the past two weeks, I've thought of Grandma Hurst and the gift of music that she passed on to me.  And I will ever be grateful for it.


The funeral was wonderful.  Funerals sound like they should be full of tears and grief, but this funeral was full of celebration of life.  All her children and nearly all her grandchildren were there on Monday.  I hadn't seen some of my aunts, uncles, and cousins in years, and it was glorious to see their faces, to see us all gathered together to honor this woman.  Yes, we mourn her passing.  Yes, we will miss her.  Tears were shed as we internalized the goodbyes.  But oh, she lived a good life!  She was such a good woman, and her influence will be felt for generations.  She left behind an incredible legacy, which can be seen in each member of her family.  And she has been reunited with her dear husband, who she missed every day since he passed.  How could we not rejoice in her happy release from this life of pain and sorrow?  How could we not think of her happy reunion with her son, gone too soon?  I have felt her presence more than once, and I know I will continue to feel it throughout my life.  Most of my tears these past two weeks have been ones of gratitude: gratitude for her amazing life, and gratitude that she was my grandmother. 


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Utah, Take 2

Our trip to Utah in June was last minute, and sadly didn't include Clark.  But don't worry!  We had already planned on a big trip in August, with Clark in tow!

We drove this time, and let me just say, I much prefer flying.  HOWEVER, we try to make the best of things, and make some fun stops along the way.  Like, for instance, Winter Quarters.  They have a nice cemetery with a view of the temple where we can eat lunch, a visitor's center where we can stretch our legs, and the added bonus of driving by old houses in Omaha where Clark's parents lived.








This time we stopped in Gothenburg, NE for the night, because that was the place roughly halfway that we found a cheap hotel on Priceline.  We had planned on swimming at the hotel to get out some energy, but the pool was closed for repairs.  (This information would have been helpful to know in advance, before we had pumped our kids up about the hotel pool, but what can you do?)  So we decided to hit up the McDonald's, maybe play at the playplace.  But wouldn't you know it, no playplace in Gothenburg.  So we headed to the Pony Express museum down the road, where we found a playground out back.  Thank goodness!

This trip was paced much better than some of our previous trips to Utah, mostly because I had already been out and seen a number of friends and family.  This made it much more like a vacation, which was heavenly. 

I put together a LOT of pictures for this post, which is great and all, but could make for a very long post about something that happened almost 3 months ago.  And while I enjoy blogging, this travelogue thing isn't really something I love.  And probably not something you love either.  So.  Rather than try to remember every detail, I'll just try to explain pictures in a brief, concise manner.

We saw the Hunts!  Our very good friends from St George, who we haven't seen in YEARS, were passing through, so they made the effort to stop and see us.  It was a short visit, but oh so sweet.  Felt like no time had passed.  That's the sign of a true friend, if you ask me.

Provo temple, from the car, in the rain.


It's a Marjorie Pay Hinckley chair!  Not to be confused with The Marjorie Pay Hinckley Chair.  This struck me as funny.  Maybe I'm a nerd.


We took a golf cart tour of BYU, and it was the best thing EVER!  No lugging small children all around campus, no tired legs, and thanks to the cover on the cart, no need to worry about rain!  I don't know why we haven't done that before.  They run them every hour at the alumni house, I think, and they are free for alumni.  Seriously, why haven't we done that before?



This also struck me as funny.  Poor kid fell down I guess!


Rainbow threads at the MOA.



We met up with the Fox family (minus Garrett) for some ice cream from the BYU creamery.  We knew each other in Michigan, and now neither one of us lives in Michigan, but we all have family in Utah, so we get to see each other on vacation!  This visit was fabulous in every way.  Again, I love old friends.  Why can't we all live in the same town??


Playing at the park with Liam!  The Wild West Jordan playground is amazing.  Everyone had fun :)


Donut Falls!  Hiking in the mountains is probably my favorite thing to do in Utah, and the thing I miss the very most. 




Temple Square!





Have you all heard of Scheels?  We went looking for some running shoes for Clarky, and ended up riding a Ferris wheel.  As you do in sporting goods stores.


THE ZOO!  Always a highlight of the trip, and the first thing the girls request when we are asking for ideas on what to do in Utah.







Ella declined having her picture taken with a bald eagle.  Because she is crazy.  Or at least crazy stubborn.


Yum, Block-burgers!




I made him do this.  And I don't regret it.



Another thing the girls always request?  Running through Mount Tikki-Soaki at Grandma and Grandpa's house.  This is apparently the best sprinkler in the world.


We played Monopoly!  It turned out exactly how it always does!  Some things never disappoint.


For my birthday, Clark and I went on a real, live, actual date!  We headed into the foothills about the avenues, and found the place we went on our first date, and the very spot Clark proposed.  Again, hiking is one of my favorite things.  I'll even take hills, if there are no mountains!  I need to move to a state with topography. (We also went to the Red Iguana for dinner, which was yummy, though I'm not sure what all the hype is about...don't hate me...)




Neptune Park in Saratoga Springs is also amazing.  Utah has some great parks, you guys.


Since my parents have a pass to Thanksgiving Point, we hit up the gardens with Kim and Liam.  Beautiful gardens, and great company to boot!





I seriously love that little boy.


Also at Thanksgiving Point: The Museum of Natural Curiosity.  A child's dreamland.  A parent's nightmare.  OK, that might be taking it a bit far, but holy moly, there were a lot of kids there!  Of course, it is in Utah County, so what did I expect?  (Just joking around, Utah County!  Love you!  And all your kids!)




Perhaps one of my favorite parts of this trip was heading up to Mountain Green to see the Millars for a couple days.  Really, they have made my life so much easier by moving up there.  Now I am guaranteed to see my grandfather's grave when we go to Utah.  As well as my uncle's.  And numerous other extended family members.



More hiking, but this time on trails I've never been on before, and without kids.  Another fantastic idea.  This trip was full of them. 



It bears mentioning that our visit with the Millars was also fabulous in every way, and once again, I love old friends.  Again: WHY DON'T WE ALL LIVE IN THE SAME NEIGHBORHOOD?  I think we need to make this happen.  Seriously.

And then we hopped on I-80 for hundreds of miles and came home.  Fewer interesting stops on the way back, though the hotel did have a pool this time.  And kind of an awesome one, though I didn't get any pictures of it.  I did get a picture of my truck. 


And we stopped at this random Lincoln monument in Wyoming.  Oh, excuse me, it's not a monument, it's a rest stop.  But I think it might be the best rest stop Wyoming has to offer, so it at least holds that distinction.

And just like that, our time in Utah was over.  This year we really tried to mix it up, to do some of the old, familiar things we do every year, but add in some new things we've never done.  And I think we succeeded.  But after one of these long trips, I always wonder if we'll make it out again the next year.  Because you know what?  That is a lot of driving.  And sometimes, I want to see other things, go new places.  But then I think of all our family and friends, and I know we'll be back.  Peace out, UT.