# one

One year ago today I was in Tampa with best friends Bobbie and Robert awaiting the birth of their daughter, who was currently 11 days past her due date. I had planned my trip to come AFTER the baby was born, so we had hastily filled our days with food, movies, cooking, TV, finger tapping – anything to keep our minds busy. And then the labor pains started and off we went.

One year ago today I watched the incredible process of bringing a baby into the world. Truly the miracle of life. I saw a strong woman become stronger. I saw a loving husband become a smitten daddy. And I saw an amazing friend I met at band camp in 1997 become a mother. It was beyond beautiful.

One year ago today Robert walked into the waiting room and told me about his daughter, a huge smile across his face and relief in his voice. He had borrowed my camera for the birth and, at that moment, realized he had left it in the nursery. I told him to get back to Bobbie and I went running through the hospital to the nursery where I begged to have access so I could get my camera. No, I’m not a family member. (Not by blood at least.) Yes, I know visiting hours are over and, even then, I would need to be accompanied by one of the parents. I remember yelling at a security woman that that camera was MY baby. Turns out they frown upon crazed, out-of-breath women begging access to the newborn babies. But all ended well. Actually, it was the best ending. She was perfect.

I feel so fortunate and honored to have been by their sides in one of the best days of their life. How incredible to share their joy and feel the love and excitement that surrounded that entire day, and finally seeing the precious baby who had filled our hearts, thoughts and conversations long before she arrived.

Abigail. Abby. Abster. Doodlebug. Sweet Baby Girl. You make us all so happy. I wish I could be there today to wish you a very happy birthday and tell you how much your Aunt Marci loves you.

Here’s to the last 12 months (and the first 9 months before we saw your sweet face)! We are all looking forward to many, many more. Click here to watch a video of Abby’s first year, if not showing below.

Friday Five: Life Lessons

Every Friday I’ll indulge my order-crazed brain in a list of randomness. Welcome to my Friday Fives.

It’s Friday and I’ve been in Oklahoma for just over 24 hours to say goodbye to my grandfather. After an incredible 14 years after his stroke, he is now transitioning to his next journey and we’ve all corralled to send him off. I’ve spent the last day smiling, crying, laughing, singing, celebrating, but mostly remembering. I will most definitely be writing about my dear Pops and the emotional roller coaster we’ve all been riding for a while now, but for today I offer the top five (among many) life lessons Pops instilled and impacted on us all.

5. Take Risks & Dream Big

Safety was always a concern of Pops’ and I wouldn’t say he was technically risky, but he did believe in calculated risk and he dreamed big. Well, he did everything big, but dreaming was near the top. After years as a successful insurance salesman, he built a fishing and hunting business after noticing a lack of safe equipment. It was never too late to learn, to start over, to fulfill a dream. I admire that so much about him, even though he used my nimble fingers as a child to build some of his early products! Boat whistles or tackle vests, anyone?

4. No Whining

I’ve never met someone with such a positive disposition as my Pops. He never allowed himself to waste time in the negative. And throughout this entire almost-15-year battle, no one has ever heard him complain. Not once. How easy would it have been to ask “why me?,” or be frustrated when his speech or memory failed him, but he has always loved life above all and wasn’t going to waste a minute of it feeling sorry for himself. Even if confined to an ailing body. What an inspiring gift.

3. Be Generous

Many a life has been changed forever by Pops’ generosity and compassion. He was generous in his time, money, talent, but most of all, his love. My grandparents love big and they always wanted everyone to know that there is enough love for all…and then some. The result is an incredibly close, loving family that, despite inevitable differences, believes in loving often, hard, openly and freely. That is truly another huge gift.

2. Be a Team Player

Whether it was playing baseball, coaching baseball, watching baseball, or really any group setting, Pops has always believed in the team. Loyal to the core. He had a love of community and camaraderie that would make any pro or pee wee coach jealous. We grew up cheering for the Astros through thick and thin, and even the very thin. He believed in their team. He believed in the idea and essence of a team…unless that team was from Norman, Oklahoma. #gopokes

1. Be the Better Person

If our family had a credo, this would be it. It comes in various forms: “take the high road,” “don’t get down on their level”…but it all was the same. Keep your head and your actions high. Character is of utmost importance, and boy did he have an outstanding one. I don’t know how many times my mother has said “be the better person” to me and I’ve responded “being the better person sucks,” or something poetic to that effect. But, she’s right. Be the person that you (and he) would be proud of. It works every time.

After re-reading this I realize I’m already using past tense. Perhaps it’s a defense mechanism, or the realization that the Pops we know is already on the other side. As we continue to wait, my heart aches for a peaceful transition…for us all. Love you, Pops.

worlds best grandpa

# bear lake, part two

Ready for another fall photo post? Good. Here we go.

On Sunday, Joe and I took his mom to Herm’s for brunch (where I finally tackled the Cinnamon Swirl Pancake!) and then headed north into the Cache Valley National Forest, similar to what we did with my Dad exactly a week prior. The only difference? We had a major freeze last week, so a lot of those gorgeous reds and oranges were no more. Sad, isn’t it? The good news is that the yellow Aspens survived and were looking pretty darn vivid.

Bear Lake 1

Bear Lake 2

I like this view because it looks like the fall colors are rolling in like smoke towards the road.

Bear Lake 3

Look familiar? We’re back at the Bear Lake Overlook!

Bear Lake 4

Bear Lake 5

What’s interesting is that the lake changes colors depending on the weather. You might remember that when we were there last week it was about to storm and the lake looked almost turquoise. Now it was pure sunlight and bright blue. Here’s your Bear Lake weather guide, as per the information desk:

Sunny: Blue
Overcast: Green
Stormy: Aquamarine

And here’s a panorama from the top. #gorgeous (Click to see full-size version.)

Bear Lake Overview Panorama

I went traipsing into the woods behind the overlook, as my Dad had done the week before, to see the Aspens up close. Look what else I found….SNOW!

Bear Lake 6

Bear Lake 7

Bear Lake 8

Instead of driving around the south side of the lake, we decided to continue north where we quickly found the Idaho/Utah border.

Bear Lake 9

Bear Lake 10

We also found that the lake was very, very low and we could even walk out on one of its sand banks. The lake bed was covered in tiny snail-ish shells and things lost to summer boaters. The Idaho hills still had a bit of red to them, but not much compared to last week.

Bear Lake 11

Bear Lake 12

Bear Lake 13

You know what one of my favorite things about Utah/Idaho is? How big, beautiful and blue the sky is.

Bear Lake 14

We couldn’t pass up the famous raspberry shakes on our way out. I really can’t tell you how delicious this is.

Bear Lake 15

On our way home we ran into one last friend. What’s crazy is that we were the first to pull over and then suddenly it was cars everywhere, people running into the field, people standing on their trucks…poor guy got scared off pretty fast. What a sight!

Bear Lake 16

Bear Lake 17

Bear Lake 18

And with that, I think we’ve had our last visitor until next spring/early summer. No one wants to come ski? I mean, I won’t go with you, but I’ll greet you with hot chocolate, soup and blankets when you come back! The door’s always open.

# BYU game

Joe’s mom made it to Utah just in time for the big game on Friday. In-state rival Brigham Young University came to a packed stadium in Logan. Joe said the tickets sold out within 45 minutes, so we caught the game from the band stands.

BYU Game 1

Which is on the student section side of the stadium. (Say that 10 times fast.) These guys know how to party.

BYU Game 2

They even made signs for the game. This one was by far my favorite. It’s about as trash-talky as it gets in these parts.

BYU Game 4

I loved sitting here, though, because we really got an up-close-and-personal view of the band and their fearless leader.

BYU Game 3

BYU Game 5

Despite freezing temps, it was a beautiful night.

BYU Game 6

If I didn’t think we’d lose our seats, I would have run to the other side of the stadium to catch what’s been the most beautiful sunset since we’ve arrived. Ah, the sacrifices I make as a wife! 😉

BYU Game 7

The band put on a great halftime show—their last performance of Les Mis. Next week starts their “fun.” show.

BYU Game 8

You know what isn’t “fun.”? Having your star quarterback get hurt in the first quarter. Poor USU couldn’t recover from the loss of Chuckie Keeton and it’s been announced he’ll be out for the remainder of the season due to torn ligaments in his knee. Look at me talk about football! Aren’t you impressed?!

Friday Five: Snow

Every Friday I’ll indulge my order-crazed brain in a list of randomness. Welcome to my Friday Fives.

Mark the calendar. Three days into October and eleven days into Fall, we had our first snow. I ran to the bank and grocery store yesterday and remember looking at some pretty dark clouds as I climbed out of my car. I even told the bank clerk how ominous they appeared, so I wasn’t too surprised to see people running with umbrellas into the store as I was leaving. Thinking it was just rain, I started jogging to my car only to look down and see my fleece covered in thick, fat snowflakes. I literally stopped in the middle of the parking lot and just stared in shock and disbelief. I didn’t grab a photo and it didn’t accumulate on the ground, but I assure you it happened. Joe even had to stand out in it for hours during his rehearsal. It was supposed to snow more this morning, but it never made it down from the mountains—which have a pretty considerable amount of snow on them now. It’s only a matter of time, though, and it will still be in the 30s as we sit at the Utah State/BYU game tonight!

In honor of the first flurries of our Utah lives, here are my top five snow memories. I’m sure this list will change dramatically as we continue our mountain living.

5. Tulsa – Ice, Snow, but mostly Ice

Growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, I don’t remember a lot of snow. A few school snow days here and there every year, but nothing crazy. I do remember the ice and how one year the weight of it snapped a huge tree in half in our front yard. I can remember standing in my room when we heard the cracking noise and how it sounded like the world was splitting apart. Somewhere we have dramatic photos of the aftermath. Our yard was a disaster zone.

4. Baltimore – Audition Week Madness

Winters in Maryland were definitely an adjustment, but luckily it’s so near the water that we seemed to miss every big snow storm that came our way…that is, until my junior year. Every February, Peabody shuts down classes for their big Audition Week. Most students stay in town to volunteer, but some take trips or their own auditions other places. The snow storm we had dumped feet of flurries and the entire city screeched to a halt. I remember being stuck in my apartment watching QVC—a sure sign of my desperation. Actually, I bought a ring while I watched and still call it my Snow Storm ring to this day. I also remember having a brass quintet rehearsal and having to walk in thigh-high snow to school and arriving completely soaked and crying. It was pretty miserable.

3. Baltimore – Sledding down Federal Hill

Another Baltimore snow memory was the time when we had enough “pretty” snow to deem it perfect sledding conditions. I’d never been sledding before, but I wasn’t going to miss the fun. A bunch of my friends and I grabbed cafeteria trays (Sorry, Sodexho Marriott Food Services!) and headed to Baltimore’s Federal Hill. At the time I was battling some pretty serious tendonitis, so my arm was in a cast that needed a big trash bag around it, but we had fun and even made the evening news.

2. Cincinnati – A Driver’s Nightmare

The worst winters I’ve ever faced (until what may be ahead of me here in Utah) were those I spent in Ohio. One night I was working downtown when we got word of a huge snow storm unleashing its wrath outside. (We worked in a basement, so we were often clueless to what was happening above.) My boss immediately closed up shop and let us go home, which for me included a commute up a huge hill. I spent hours in traffic as we all tried our best to get up this hill in the storm. We were slipping and sliding over the road and I was pretty terrified. As soon as I made it up, I slid into a parking garage on campus and set off on foot, pretty sure that I could make better (and safer!) time walking in the snow than I could in my car. When I made it home, there was a car that had slid down my street and was hanging over the edge of a drop-off in front of my building. It was a nice reminder that I’d made the right choice, no matter how freezing I was.

1. Tulsa – Wedding Shower

You’d think that planning a wedding shower in Oklahoma…in mid-March…would be a safe bet for pretty weather. *eerrrr!* Wrong! A snow storm hit Tulsa the morning of my wedding shower, causing a lot of relatives and friends to not be able to make it! So disappointing, Mother Nature, but we still managed to have a wonderful time…until later that night when my sister hit black ice on the highway and totaled her car. (Luckily, she was fine.) Weather Fail, Oklahoma.

Here’s hoping for happier wintertime tales!

# fall-ing for Utah

We are fresh off our second round of visitors! My dad came up last Wednesday and stayed till yesterday afternoon. I was particularly looking forward to his visit because not only do we love the same things (photography, music, good food, etc.), but also because I rarely get him all to myself. It also was the perfect incentive to break away from Couch Camp 2013 and stretch my back, which is doing much better.

We had a few cold and rainy days when he first got here, but we made the most out of the sunny weekend (and a rare weekend -off for Joe) to explore the surrounding canyons in search of Fall colors. On Saturday we drove south to Ogden Canyon, but none of the colors had changed yet. #FallFail

Sunday we hit gold (and orange, and red) by conquering our own Logan Canyon. This is actually the same route Joe and I took when we moved here. The road is 29 miles of non-stop twists through the mountains and at the time I swore I’d never do it again. But it turns out that the experience is only bad when it’s 100+ degrees, you have a car full of stuff, a dog that’s freaked out and have been driving for a week. When it’s cool and calm, it’s actually a breeze…a very beautiful breeze.

bear lake map

I wouldn’t say that the colors have peaked yet, but they were definitely more vibrant than anywhere else we saw. Maybe because we’re at such a higher altitude than Ogden or Salt Lake City? Either way, color was peeking out all over the place.

Logan Canyon 1

Logan Canyon 2

Logan Canyon 3

Logan Canyon 4

Logan Canyon 5

I’m a sucker for oranges, but my dad seemed to love the Aspen yellows. They were definitely gorgeous. Here he is capturing them for Instagram.

Logan Canyon 6

At the end of this drive is Bear Lake Overlook, which towers at 7800 feet above Idaho-border-hugging Garden City and the prettiest lake this side of Lake Louise. (#bucketlisttrip)

Bear Lake is also called the “Caribbean of the Rockies” for the bright blue color of its water, which comes from its limestone deposits reflecting the sun. It’s hard to capture just how vibrant it is in real life. I also found out today that legend claims there’s a Bear Lake Monster. No sightings were reported on our trip, though.

It was dramatically colder (and windier!) up here, but worth the view to brave the elements if only for a few minutes.

Bear Lake 1a

Here’s my dad in action. He’s so much of the reason I love photography and continues to support and champion my greatest hobby.

Bear Lake 2

My photography passion falls more in the people and “moments” category, rather than landscape, so I couldn’t pass up capturing these Europeans as they took in ‘Merica and its beauty. Or Joe, as he stood like a frozen statue braced against the wind. I’m surprised I didn’t have to edit out my hair from these shots, because it was blowing all over the place up there. And, alas, no scrunchie in sight…since like 1998.

Bear Lake 3

Bear Lake 4

We then drove down into Garden City to get an up-close-and-personal view of the lake. It was about to rain, but it was still gorgeous to stand out there and breathe in the fresh, storm-filled air. Oh, and it also gave us the perfect excuse to grab a fresh raspberry shake – Garden City’s famous fare.

Bear Lake 5

Bear Lake 6

On the way to the Salt Lake airport yesterday, I wanted to stop and grab a photo of this old barn that sits on Logan’s outskirts. I love it: The Womans Tonic. They are repainting the lettering, but I liked this mix of old and new set against the mountains. Sadly, my dad was photographing it too, until he realized his memory card was in his laptop. I told him it just means he has to come back! And I mean it.

The Womens Tonic 1

The Womens Tonic 2

Thanks for the great visit, Dad! We already miss you and are already making a to-see list for our next Utah adventure!

On a final Fall note: I will continue to track the leaves and try to get a few more shots at their peak, but it may be cut close. Snow and 20-degree temperatures are on the radar for Friday, which sounds like the perfect weather for an outdoor football game, amiright? Next up: Joe’s mom arrives on Thursday!