Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Half Dome

We were joined by Gurmukh, Sukhvinder's brother, whom I haven't seen since he was in middle school. He's more fun now. ;) We had good Thai food for lunch and reacquainted after he rescued Marc and I from our long walk.

That night our entire group gathered together (The Fellowship of the Cables, because, yes, we are that geeky) and made the journey down to Yosemite with another stop for delicious Indian food. Mmm. Yummy food....

We had far too much fun in our car, but arrived at our hotel in a relatively timely manner. The Wawona (or as Marc said, "Vavona") was just fine for the few hours we had to rest our weary if giddy heads. In the morning we ate a good breakfast and hit the trail after a few minor setbacks.
Above, is Gurmukh posing on the hotel porch. Below are Marc and Sukhvinder. So cute.
If you look closely, you can see the steps carved into the granite. That's mostly what we climbed for seven miles Straight Up. And then seven miles straight down.
But it was beautiful. And totally worth a little pain.
That little ribbon you see was the trail. Steep. It was worse coming back down in the dark with two teeny tiny flashlights. (Oops.)

The Verizon bars! a.k.a. Sunny, Gurmukh, and Marc:
Marc, Patrick, Gurmukh, and Bobby taking a brief rest:
Sunny and Sukhvinder are so cute! They held hands for about two miles on the way back down, but I couldn't get a picture of it because we were trying to cover as much ground as possible before nightfall.  Still, there's a lovely picture of it in my head. 

The incredible view from the almost top. The picture doesn't even begin to do it justice:

"All we really are is squirrels."

Almost to the top! I climbed all the way up, except for that last little pointy piece that people need cables to get up. I was done at that point and knew that if I tried to go up the cables, I wouldn't have enough left to make it back down the mountain.
See the little ants climbing up the mountain? People climbing up the cables:
Sukhvinder looking radiant with the Half Dome behind her:

Bobby, Marc, Sukhvinder, and Patrick looking tired but happy after coming safely back down the cables:
Me, feeling quite satisfied with myself for not falling off the mountain on the way up.
It is not an easy hike. My midwestern lungs did not love the high altitude. But my muscles held up just fine. I didn't feel completely awful until the next day. (Sitting in a cramped airline seat is not a good way to keep one's sore body limber after a long hike.) Still, I'm really glad I did it. I don't think I need to do anything that challenging again. Shorter and steep or longer and flat is fine.

Now that I've spent the last year doing intense endurance training and my body is ridiculously bulky, it's time to change up my routine, lose the bulk and slim back down. Thanks, big muscles. You've served me well, but I don't need you quite so big anymore.

So, this is one more thing to check off my TTIWTDBID list. CHECK MARK!!!

A Fierce Day

After dinner, there was more walking and talking and visiting and then Marc arrived at the apartment! Marc is a good friend of Sukhvinder's from her lab days in NYC. I hadn't seen him since Caleb was a baby, so it was fun to have a chance to get to know one another better.

Sukhvinder had to work the next day, so once Marc and I were up and dressed we headed out for a walk. A very long walk as it turned out. We walked two miles down to Ocean Beach and followed the coast all the way to Baker Beach. It was a wonderful time! The weather was perfect and the company sublime. And I'm still speaking in a German accent, because I spent the entire weekend imitating everything Marc said.

These are what's left of the Sutro Baths. I had seen an old painting of them years ago, but didn't realize that's what I was walking all over until after we came back up. There are horrible warning signs all over the place, but they don't keep you out. Which made Marc comment that they should just make the signs universal and say, "People Die Here!" (It sounds even better in a German accent.)
Me standing on the edge of a wall at the edge of a cliff on the edge of the country. I like edges.
Seriously, the hottest clothed man on the beach. Although, the naked ones weren't all that much to look at. It was a chilly day.

San Francisco 2008

I'm back!

And I'm really sore. But I'm also very satisfied.

First of all, San Francisco is one of my most favorite places to visit. Part of it may be the wonderful people I visit, but I think the other part is just the feel of the city. I love it there. The weather that keeps you guessing, the beautiful terrain, and the fabulous cheap food. What's not to love?

I got three hours of sleep before I woke up to catch my plane from Columbus, so when Sunny picked me up at the airport (which he kindly offered to do despite never having met me. You rock, btw, Sunny) I was already a little out of it. Still, it was a sunny day in SF with my new friend Sunny and we headed off immediately from the airport to eat Indian food. Mmm. Indian food. Once my mouth and tummy were both sufficiently happy, he took me to Sukhvinder's apartment. He totally would have entertained me the whole day, except I really needed a nap.

It was so great being at Sukhvinder's again! It felt a little like coming home since it was just last year that I helped her move in and shop for furniture. Happy memories! Shower and nap complete, I made my friend, Damian, come out and play with me.

Hm. I have no pictures of that. In fact, I don't think I ever take pictures when we play. I'm usually so busy dragging him along into whatever ridiculous activity I'm making us do, that I'm afraid if I let go long enough to get my camera, he might run away. Damian took me to the beach, only slightly unwillingly.

I love beaches. I like them cold and dark and angry and I like them warm and blue and sunny. Mostly I just like seeing the edge of things. (Living in the midwest makes me a little antsy.) The sun was out and the waves all sorts of fun to play in! And Damian made the most delightful squeaking sound every time the cold water got his jeans wet. When he started getting slightly shivery, we climbed up on one of the sand dunes and watched the sun set. Have I mentioned how much I love the beach? Sukhvinder and Sunny met us on top of the dune just after sunset for hugs and introductions all around. Okay, it was just me who hugged everyone.

This is an old picture of Damian, btw: (Look we have the same hair!)

(He's single and straight and owns stock in Google, ladies. I'll forward any inquiries on to him. If you're mean to him, though, I'll beat you up.)

Anyway, the four of us went back to Sukhvinder's apartment to get changed for dinner. While changing out of my wet and sandy clothes, I realized my phone was missing. Thus began the great phone hunt. We searched the apartment. We went back and searched the beach. Damian retraced our steps along the street. (Thanks, you guys.) It was gone, though. I called Todd to let him know what had happened and he replied that he'd just sent me a goodnight text.

I decided not to call the company just in case someone found it and was feeling honest. Apparently, though, around 3 am Todd received a txt message from my phone saying "F-- you, Todd. We're thru." While slightly off-putting, he knew it wasn't from me and went and canceled my account. Poor guy.

Anyway, dinner was delightful. The food was delicious (butternut squash ravioli in a butter and cinnamon sugar sauce with toasted sage) and the company was even better. I really love my friends. I know that sounds sappy and maybe even trite, but I feel so blessed to be loved by such wonderful and amazing people. Sukhvinder, I've known since we were 11 and Damian since we were 17. They have both become more dear to me over the years as our friendships have evolved and weathered all major life changes and continued on. It never ceases to amaze me that I can walk off a plane and into their arms and pick up right where we left off last time.

I'm going to get misty if I keep this up, so on to the next post! My day with the hot German boy!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Big Day

The weekend has arrived. This Saturday I will be climbing the half dome.

Hopefully. ;) I did a ten mile hike last weekend and felt really good afterwards, so I'm feeling a little less nervous about this upcoming adventure...except for the part where we have to scale a granite wall for 500 feet. That I'm still plenty nervous about.

Thank you to everyone who has been so supportive of me while I trained and all who have offered to help watch/transport my children for the next couple of days while I'm gone.

I seriously could not have even thought about doing this without all of you.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Somehow I became the person in charge of the annual cub scout fundraiser of selling popcorn.  

There is currently $13,000 worth of popcorn in my living room.  It looks like this:

And this:
And every time I walk past it, I think of this:

And it makes me giggle.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


And it only took six days.

After much rejoicing, our boys ran down to the basement to watch "Empire Strikes Back".  And I came to check in on the cyber world.

But now I'm done.  I should go do something resposible, like run the dishwasher.

First I'd like to highlight things I've learned this week:

-We were very popular thanks to our gas stove and outdoor firepit.

-We were not as popular as the people with generators.

-glow sticks are the best nightlights.

-In future, I will make less freezer jam and tomato sauce, and can more so we're not quite so reliant on our big freezer.

-I really need to buy a car charger for my cell phone.  

-We may live in the best neighborhood ever. 

Thanks to everyone who helped out during this fun experience.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Benjamin and the Apple Tree

On Sunday we arrived home to inspect the damage to our trees in the middle of the windstorm. We ran to the back of the house when Benjamin wondered aloud why there was suddenly a hill of dirt at the base of our apple tree. Every time the wind blew, the tree would lean so far over that the roots were starting to come out of the ground. Only bad things would happen from this tree falling. It has power lines on one side and the neighbor's fence on the other.

I quickly thought about how we could cut off a limb or two to make it fall in a better way. But I realized that there was no way to do it. I sighed and said, "Ahg! What can we do?!"

And Benjamin said, "Pray." As if it was the only obvious answer.

Dang, I love that kid.

So, we knelt down and prayed. And the tree held.

It totally should have fallen.

And so we call it "The Apple Tree Miracle."


What does one do on one's fifth day without power?

One makes jam and jelly with the berries that were defrosting in the currently useless freezer.

Lots of it.

By flashlight.

(Special thanks go to Ellen for sterilizing my jars in her working dishwasher. And Benjamin for holding the flashlight. I couldn't have done it without you.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

No Power

I realize it's ironic to talk about power outages on a blog which clearly requires power. But I'm at the library not close to our neighborhood, claiming back a few of my tax dollars by charging my cell phone here.

We had a windstorm on Sunday thanks to our friend Ike. When I say windstorm, I mean a hurricane without the rain. Friends in downtown Columbus live in a building that can withstand winds up to 90 mph. Apparently, they only got up to 86mph. And where, you ask, were we during that excitement?

Why, out on the sidewalk in front of our house with the rest of the neighborhood, of course. In our neighborhood, natural disasters are like block parties without the chips and dip. (Though the beer was present.) We stood around for hours listening to the horrible cracking sounds and watching the tops of our trees fall off. We lost the one in front of our house and an apple tree in the back was saved from falling by Benjamin's hearfelt prayers. (Story on the next post.)

The power went out on Sunday afternoon. It's Tuesday and it's still not on. They told us not to expect it until Thursday. Ugh. It's been fun in a lot of ways, though. All the neighbors hung out together yesterday helping to clean up one another's lawns from all the debris. And last night I invited people over for a bonfire (to burn the debris) and a feast to cook everything in our fridges that was going bad. It was wonderful. We sat around the fire while the kids ran around playing together. It made me unspeakable amounts of happy to have time with the people I love and to enjoy a campfire and good food, too. Lack of power seems like a tiny price to pay for such happy memories.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Lion King

I have probably attended well over 100 professional performances in my relatively short life. About 15 years ago, I noticed that people would give standing ovations for anything. Even if it wasn't great. Heck, audiences would give standing ovations for stuff that wasn't even good.

In the case of Broadway or The Metropolitan Opera, I think people feel like they've blown so much money on one show, they are going to treat it like the show of their life! I'm a little more jaded than that. Okay, maybe a lot more jaded. I am a firm believer that standing ovations should be reserved for those performances that completely blow you out of the water. (Or for the shows that your kids are in, obviously.)

Last year, I only attended one show that did that for me. "The Light in the Piazza" was amazing and wonderful and makes me smile still to think about it. However, my opinion was not shared by everyone in the entire theater. Typically, a standing ovation is like a wave. Everyone collectively realizes that they have witnessed something incredible.

Last night we took our kids and a couple extra friends to go see The Lion King.

It. Was. Breathtaking.

Everyone loved it. My four year old was SILENT and wide-eyed the entire time (until he fell asleep for the last 15 minutes because it was three hours past his bedtime by then.) My eight year old and his friend sat literally on the edges of their seats for the entire performance. The sixteen year old we brought was totally captivated by the entire thing. And Todd and I found it all delightful.

It was the first time in ages that I found myself completely swept up with the tide and stood up and clapped my heart out without any grumbling.

If you haven't. Go see it.

Monday, September 8, 2008


"Rent" opened when I was in college as a music major.  It became almost compulsory to immediately memorize all the music and lyrics, but I didn't get to see the show until Todd took me for my birthday after we were married.  (He was so excited, he couldn't keep it a secret.)

The summer after I graduated college, I drove from western Wyoming to southern Illinois all by myself.  I listened to Rent the ENTIRE time.  And I don't think Todd and I have ever painted a room without listening to at least a few songs from it.

Todd and I even considered having "I'll Cover You" as our wedding song.  (For those of you who don't know the show, it's a lovely love song, but sung by two men...not that you can tell they're both men if you're just listening.  We thought it might be pushing things a bit to do that to all of our LDS family and friends in attendance.)

My first year of teaching I had the kids sing "Seasons of Love" at one of my first concerts as their director.  

If you've ever said any of the following things to me and I zoned out it's because I was using the lyrics from Rent to complete the sentance in my head.  My apologies.

- "You look familiar."  (like your dead girlfriend)

- "Ew" (It tastes the same.  If you close your eyes.  And thirteen orders of fries.  Is that it here?  Wine and beer!)

- "Yoga."  (To yogurt! To rice and beans and cheese!...)

-"Langston Hughs."  (To the stage!)

- "Mark."  (Mark!  Mark!  I'm Mark!)

- "Doc Martins."  (I'll kiss your Doc Martins.  Let me kiss your Doc Martins!  Your every wish I will obey!)

- "We're okay."  (We're.  O. K.)

- "Just wanted to call."  (and say 'we love you' and we'll miss you tomorrow.  Cindy and the kids are here, send their love-Oh!  I hope you like the hotplate.  Just don't leave it on, dear when you leave the house.  And Mark, we're sorry to hear that Maureen left you, I say 'C'est la vie'.  So let her be a lesbian.  There are other fishies in the sea.  Love, Mo-om!)

- "Angel."  (I'm Angel.  Aaaaaangel.  Indeed.)

-"Nice tree."  (Let's get a band-aid for your knee.)

The list goes on and on and on.  But twelve years after the show opened on Broadway, it's still in my head in full force.   It is full of clever twists and double meanings which is my favorite type of show.  It's the same reason I love Sondheim's stuff.  I love composers/lyricists who can provide singable tunes with quick wit.  Jonathon Larson certainly did that and it's so sad that he wasn't able to see the fruits of his labor.  (He died of an aortic aneurism after a final dress rehearsal in 1996.)

Friday, September 5, 2008

Hotel Smith

I know I've mentioned it before, but I have this thing about inviting people to live with us.  Sometimes siblings.  Sometimes strangers.  But always someone.

Part of it, I think, is guilt.  In New Jersey, real estate is at a premium.  There typically isn't any such thing as a spare bedroom until kids are grown and out of the house.  Living in a house with five bedrooms and not enough people to fill them, unnerves me a little.  Don't get me wrong.  I love having a spare bedroom (actually two, because Benjamin doesn't want his own room), but whenever I hear about someone who needs a place to stay, I'm first in line saying, "Oh, come live with us!"

The other part is that I genuinely enjoy having a house full of people.  I love feeling the extra energy that comes with more personalities.  

Anyway, so I've done it again.  Someone I've never met is going to come live with us for a few weeks while he waits for his apartment to be ready.  We've exchanged a few emails, but that's it.  Todd always looks a little surprised at me when I do things like this, but doesn't complain.  

Life is rarely dull here at the Hotel Smith.  Feel free to stop in any time!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Devil's Tower

Devil's Tower.

Look at us, we're so tall!

You can get a good sense of the boulder field from here.  Braver climbers brought gear and went all the way to the top!
Caleb stood on the rock whick looks over a valley so full of prairie dogs it resembles a good game of "Whack a Mole".  As we were taking a picture, he kept inching back to the sheer drop off behind him.  I nearly had a heart attack.

Totally and completely adorable.

Now that kids are back in school, I can finish blogging about vacation...from a month ago.

Devil's Tower was excellent!  Particularly because we could climb ALL over it, unlike Mt. Rushmore.  I highly reccomend going and enjoying it.  We had a great time climbing on the boulder field at the base of the tower, but I seemed to miss the sign that said we had to turn back, so I ended up all the way at the top of the boulder field.   Oops.  Nathaniel came most of the way with me, but sensibly decided it was way too windy and he didn't want to get blown off the boulders.

The whole family did a hike around the base of the tower while the boys filled out their field guides to earn their Junior Park Ranger titles.  (The very handsome Park Ranger, also had to interview the boys about what they saw on their hike.)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Shameless Plug

You should all go here immediately and buy something. My cousin, Liz, and her husband make and sell these fabulous purses. I am getting the black one, so if you live near me in Ohio, you can't have it. ;)


This morning I was listening to NPR while packing school lunches. Nathaniel came up to me and said, "Mom, I heard Barack Obama say that kids are off limits." (Obama said it when reporters wanted him to comment on the pregnancy of Palin's daughter.)

Nathaniel continued, "That means that Obama thinks that robbers and stealers can't take kids."

Mr. Obama, the six year olds of the country are totally with you. ;)