21 December 2008

backyard terrain park

The boys (and even Darren) hauled snow all day to complete the ramps and rails and so the fun began after the sun went down. What a way to celebrate the shortest days of the year.

18 December 2008

This is for my nieces, cousins, sisters, friends who blog and inspire me to keep on keeping on creating. Have a good one!

16 December 2008

time since... seven months

My package would arrive a few weeks before Christmas. Brightly wrapped and heavy-solid... to be opened before the holiday. A Jim Shore figurine from my mother. Bittersweet as I put them out this year wondering if I should go pick up a new one to add to the collection as if it is all the same. I decide no... I read a prayer that a woman uttered at the loss of her child:
God, we thank You for the gift...
You know what a treasure she has been for us.
It is painful to part with her physical presence.
Bless the hurt in our hearts as we trudge through each day.
Grace us with awareness...
I soak up the words of Terry Tempest Williams; she has been through this shattering,
Who will give up this world?
The catalog of forms is endless.
No one sees everything.
I am looking for a way to vocalize, perform, act out, address the commonly felt crises of my time. These are spiritual exercises.
I went back for the disembodied arms with the hands clasped in prayer, but they were gone.
Fragmentation and breaking up is indeed the essence of the twentieth century.
We are now living in the twenty-first century.
We have no compass to reorient ourselves.
Memory is redundant.
didn't we plant the seeds?
weren't we necessary to the earth?
There is an old saying that when you change your life, you also change your ideas.
I listen to a thousand tiny pieces, and lift the treasured mementos {the seeds} and tenderly arrange them on the table and anxiously await the return of the light. {the new ideas} I am filled with love. Merry Christmas Mom.

15 December 2008

who throws a shoe, honestly

Props to President Bush for quick reactions and shoe ducking skills.
{I don't even want to think of the reasons the man felt he needed to toss his shoes, but in a land of everyday bursting bombs, maybe chucking the chucks showed quite a bit of restraint while still expressing his "sole" felt point}

December Morn

Wake Up. Yoga... (hmmm, I think I cheated, unless just laying on the mat counts). Heat waffles I made last week in the toaster. Stare out at the blinding snow lining the backyard while eating. Now, go calculate the rest of the semester grades.

13 December 2008

you put the lime in the coconut

I said doctor ain't there nothin I can take
I said doctor to relieve this bellyache
The cure: Coconut Lime cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes take Over the World.

For the cupcakes you’ll need:
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup soy milk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil (I used this instead of soy yogurt or coconut oil)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp coconut extract
  • 1 Tbs lime zest
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut (or sweetened, whatever)

Then you:
Preheat your oven to 350 and line a pan with paper liners. Combine the dry ingredients together, set aside. In a large bowl, mix together the wet ingredients- this includes sugar, I don’t know why sugar is considered wet but it is. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet, mixing just until combined. Add the coconut and mix to incorporate. Fill up the cups and bake 22-25 minutes, until the tops spring back when lightly touched. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

For the lime buttercream you’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup Earth Balance margarine
  • 3 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp lime oil (I didn't have this and it was still tasty)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp lime zest

Then you:
Cream together the shortening and margarine. Add the sugar and beat for 3 more minutes. Add the vanilla, lime oil and juice and beat for 5 more minutes. Add the zest and mix. If you want to make these cute, frost the cupcakes and then roll the tops in more coconut.

09 December 2008


Turtle Trip 2008

Mission: get to San Diego, cross the border at 5:30am into Tijuana, fly Volaris airlines to La Paz, meet your new best friends, participate in sea turtle research and recovery, be changed forever.

As we began our pilgrimage I thought of the first "hero" that the "true fans" met on their pilgrimage across the nation with a basketball. He was a minister in California and his echoing advice was "make a friend, before you need a friend" and "you are seeking something". That is how I felt on this voyage... as a seeker... and what I found was... things can and do get better, just keep on the journey.

List of participants
Emily: our energetic, fearless guide from Baja Expeditions
Renatte: economics professor from SDSU, the other "mom" on the trip
Darren: "Who's the turtle guy?"(Darren is now the authentic turtle guy)
DeAnn: "I'll do anything for the turtle guy"
Antonio: chilango from Mexico City - really, a journalist dispatched to document our adventure
Tessa: 13 year old future marine biologist and turtle scientist
Daniel: computer specialist from Switzerland
Max: the youngest (11) commander and chief of Shell Island
Tom: Steve Martin incognito, engineer from San Diego, father of Max and Tessa
Jewel: grizzly woman, heads up a non-profit in LA
Dee: one word: Obama, "breathe the hope" - works in finance
Melissa: Ace Ventura (Darren's nickname) works for Merrill Lynch in Florida, but really wants to be in animal rescue... so sweet.

Here's a little press release about our adventure - more turtle posting to come!

06 December 2008

sometimes it causes me to tremble...

I am so sad today. I don't feel well, I am puffy and headachy and lightheaded. My stomach is nauseous and I can't quit crying. It is Grandpa's Christmas party right now. (check here for a bit about last year's party) I couldn't go. I feel so much is expected of me and I can't quite perform up to the standards. This has been such a difficult few years for the four of us - everything has changed - and we still don't have our feet underneath us yet. This mourner's bill of rights helped... reminding me that it is okay to venture through this in my own way.

"1. You have the right to experience your own unique grief. No one else will grieve in exactly the same way you do. So when you turn to others for help, don't allow them to tell you what you should or should not be feeling.
2. You have the right to talk about your grief.
Talking about your grief will help you heal. Seek out others who will allow you to talk as much as you want, as often as you want, about your grief. If at times you don't feel like talking, you also have the right to be silent.
3. You have the right to feel a multitude of emotions. Confusion,
disorientation, fear, guilt, and relief are just a few of the emotions you might feel as part of your grief journey. Others may try to tell you that feeling angry, for example, is wrong. Don't take these judgmental responses to heart. Instead, find listeners who will accept your feelings without condition.
4. You have the right to be tolerant of your physical and emotional limits. Your feelings of loss and sadness will probably leave you feeling
fatigued. Respect what your body and mind are telling you. Get daily rest, eat balanced meals, and don't allow others to push you into doing things you don't feel ready to do.
5. You have the right to experience “griefbursts.” Sometimes, out of nowhere, a powerful surge of grief may overcome you. This can be frightening but is
normal and natural. Find someone who understands and will let you talk it out.
6. You have the right to make use of ritual.
7. You have the right to embrace your spirituality. If faith is a part of your life, express it in ways that seem appropriate to you. Allow yourself to be around people who understand and support your religious beliefs. If you feel angry at God, find someone to talk with who won't be critical of your feelings of hurt and abandonment.
8. You have the right to search for meaning. You may find yourself asking, 'Why did he or she die? Why this way? Why now?' Some of your questions may have answers, but some may not. Watch out for the cliched responses some people may give you. Comments such as, 'It was God's will' or 'Think of what you have to be thankful for' are not helpful and you do not have to accept them.
9. You have the right to treasure your memories. Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after the death of someone loved. You will always remember. Instead of ignoring your memories, find others with whom you can share them.
10. You have the right to move toward your grief and heal. Reconciling your grief will not happen quickly. Remember,
grief is a process, not an event. Be patient and tolerant with yourself and avoid people who are impatient and intolerant with you. Neither you nor those around you must forget that the death of someone loved changes your life forever."

03 December 2008

What a day

While attending the interior design department's holiday open house I flipped out over the new Harry holiday tunes. Gets me every time... his voice, the jazz, the big band members, especially luscious Lucien. Take a look here for a Santariffic riff. Oh my.... can you imagine if he showed up at church?

01 December 2008

all things counter, original, spare, strange;

Spring and fall

Margaret, are you grieving 
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, 
You with your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older 
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh 
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name: 
Sorrow's springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for, 
It is Margaret you mourn for.

--Gerard Manley Hopkins
I tried to memorize a poem for every letter of the alphabet, and this Hopkins gem (my favorites beside this are Pied Beauty and God's Grandeur) came to mind with its leaf-crunchy rhythm when I was jogging with the dog on Thanksgiving morning.
We had ventured to cut down a Christmas tree the day before and trudged through the "worlds of wanwood leafmeal".
I hope you all have a poetic thankful week.

21 November 2008

what's the point

I am a sucker for books. Maybe it's a good thing my discretionary funds are invested in those bindings and the pages held between them instead of the black hole of a stock market, oh so nerve racking to watch it spiral quickly downward, our money falling away like the autumn leaves in a crisp seasonal wind. Hmmm, I am easily distracted, I was not writing about the market, but about books (or was it about sewing and knitting) and my obsession with purchasing them, checking them out of the library, sleeping with them, my wild affair with books. So I picked up the Zakka Sewing volume because I was drawn to the sweet graphics and cute patterns. I took on the smallest project - a cozy for a tape measure. Yeah, its about like the time I knitted hats for Easter eggs. It's quick and they are kinda cute. Well, I actually have taken to carrying the darn thing around with me... you know a designer must be ready to size up something... of course this miniature tape only extends 60". It's still fun to pull the tape out and push the button under the batted fabric and send it whizzing back in. It has come in handy for my knitting - a cap for my egghead - not just eggs. And so until I find that cursed cord for the camera so I can share the trip to Baja... enjoy.

18 November 2008

I wish I had a River

Tomorrow morning bright and early I eat breakfast and then dinner with designer Eileen Jones from Perkins + Will. Last month I picked up Vicente Wolf in SLC and escorted him to Logan for a lecture. He was great, had an awesome sense of humor. I am in a bit of a funk wondering how to navigate the holidays this year. This song and this one fit my melancholy mood perfectly. I am frantically looking for the camera cord so I can upload my pics of the magical trip to Baja... so much to do. Whew, enjoy the ride.

13 November 2008

time since - six months

I crawled out of my sleeping bag on the morning of the 8th and unzipped the tent that was perched on a thin paradise of sea shells... our own "conchita" (shell) island. The day had been weighing on my mind, another day given a number to mark the passage of time. I was born on the 4th, double it to get to 8 the day my mother was gone, add one and you have 9, a personal anniversary that I mark utterly alone, a reminder of the ugliness of humanity, but also of resiliency. I wiggled my way out of the tent and audibly drew in my breath. The sun was brilliantly peeking over the horizon, a dazzling spectacle dancing on the aqua-green water. I thought of the words of Antonio, a fellow pilgrim on our voyage - "we are blessed to be here". I sat, still, on the beach and whispered, "mom" and that was all that needed to be said. The week before dad had moved into the new home, a beautiful gathering place, peaceful in its own right. The wind blowing gently down grandpa's mountain softly stroking this new "conchita". I heard in it's quiet whistling, "daughter".

09 November 2008

mia (mexico in action)

Isla Espiritu Santo, our home for a few days
The past 10 days have been life-changing. Darren and I spent 10 days camping, snorkeling, diving, turtle researching, eating, friend making, stargazing, birdwatching, Obama cheering, and many more (an inside joke) in Baja, Mexico. More to come. Oh, how I love when the planets align and you know you are "blessed".

25 October 2008

Live for the Weekend

An Olsen Family Adventure unfolded two weekends ago -- one of my favorite kind. Mom and son. Land and I went to SoCal to visit Aunt Jen, Uncle Tony, and the boys. They had graciously obtained tickets for us to witness the Van's Downtown Showdown. The best part (for Land) was having three crazy cousins for an alarm clock...
"cousins, cousins, here come the boys; chaos, bedlam, noise, noise, noise; get out the star wars costumes, hide the breakable toys; cousins, cousins, here come the boys!"
ps. I'm digging the wig Jen

We went to the Crewest Gallery in downtown LA on Saturday the 11th, before the showdown. The "Z-Boy" show was displayed. (You know the original skateboard art from Dogtown and Z-boys days) It actually was a streetart gallery and we learned why certain spray paint is better than others and that there are over 30 different nozzles for your spray can... who knew. We admired some of the colorful streetart near the gallery. A whole post could be spent on why we were drawn to the 'women against palin' grafitti. Needless to say, both Land and I are not fans.

After visiting the gallery we headed to the Paramount Studios backlot for the showdown. It was quite amazing. We thought it was cool that the set was downtown NY in downtown LA. Each skate team had built an obstacle and then every team attacked the obstacle for a set amount of time and the one to lay down the best tricks won. I really, really, like skateboarders. They have their own set of rules on how to conduct life and everyone was super chill. Land is seen above with Corey Duffel (punk) and Steve Reeves (pro for Creature, that Land has known for years from Concrete Rodeo). Matt Hensley from Flogging Molly and his cool jacket are pictured above as well as a women's adorable fish purse. The Creature obstacle was nicknamed the "five points of pure evil"... hilarious. Land remarked it was one of the best events he had ever attended. Love it!

21 October 2008

sixteen candles

Ovations and applause! Land is sah...wheet sixteen! (10-20) Nothing like homemade lemon cake made by your bestest girl friend's dad (cause he is the baker). Skull candlesticks also add to a cozy October birthday celebration. And so here's to a birthday, a baker, a candlestick maker - hooray!

17 October 2008

fun boarding

Gromfest Skate Finals 2008 from Ryan Simpson on Vimeo.

Here is some video from Gromfest that we all attended in July with Land in Whistler, BC. It was an adventurous week. Land is wearing his jersey as a cape or under an arm (looks like a sling) most of the time. The "demon bowl" was held in a skatepark on the bottom level of a parking garage. Actually, very cool. Daniel (with the wrist wrap) was from the Dominican Republic and and had never skated a concrete bowl before. He was awesome.

10 October 2008

omd at hmv

Land asked me if I had ever heard of the band... Scritti Politti. Are you kidding? I immediately took a trip down memory lane to the 80's to when I bought the vinyl version of their tunes in London. So this post is a shout out to Lisa M. (whose 2nd book, A Life of My Own, is a sort of a loosely based documentation of that time in our lives) and Kelly G... the best freshmen dorm roommates anyone could start college with.
Did we not hang at the "star pit" when these songs were playing?
(I did have white lines up there and yes, I do know what white lines refers to, but that didn't stop them from playing it at BYU, and I can't bring myself to keep the video posted)

Kelly, I think I still remember the moves to the routine.

oh heartache and young love - the lyrics were a mantra

nothing like getting the autographs of OMD at HMV

08 October 2008

Time Since... Five Months

I remembered the other day when Darren and I were first married, unpacking and setting up home in that beginning of us. Darren had a collection of 'last things', those items that seem to not be able to find a place to be and in his frustration he blurted out, "Mom". Because always when a child calls for his mother, no matter what age, there is that natural expectation that mom will be there to find a solution, the fall-back plan, that quiet support... always there for you. Well, it is gone. It's like when participating in a trust exercise... lean back into someone's arms, trusting they will catch you. Will they? or will I just keep tumbling down... down? I have just finished Joan Dideon's Year of Magical Thinking and this passage on grief helped me to not feel so crazy - or maybe feel ok about being crazy.
"Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days of weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death. We misconstrue the nature of even those few days or weeks. We might expect if the death is sudden to feel shock. We do not expect this shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind. We might expect that we will be prostrate, inconsolable, crazy with loss. We do not expect to be literally crazy, cool customers who believe that their husband is about to return and need his shoes. In the version of grief we imagine, the model will be "healing." A certain forward movement will prevail. The worst days will be the earliest days. We imagine that the moment to most severely test us will be the funeral, after which this hypothetical healing will take place. When we anticipate the funeral we wonder about failing to "get through it," rise to the occasion, exhibit the strength that invariably gets mentioned as the correct response to death. We anticipate needing to steel ourselves for the moment: will I be able to greet people, will I be able to leave the scene, will I be able even to get dressed that day? We have no way of knowing that the funeral itself will be anodyne, a kind of narcotic regression in which we are wrapped in the care of others and the gravity and meaning of the occasion. Nor can we know ahead of the fact (and here lies the heart of the difference between grief as we imagine it and grief as it is) the unending absence that follows, the void, the very opposite of meaning, the relentless succession of moments during which we will confront the experience of meaningless itself."
And here is where my heart aches for my father. Our family is strong, but not many know the experiences we have journeyed through to build that strength. Harsh, violent, traumatic events, even the circumstances that caused my mother's death -- a tragic accident are hard to take, but take them we have and a familial bond of protection and endurance and love keeps us going when the odds seem stacked against us.

I heard about a plane wreck where a young mother and her husband were critically burned. Months of rehab - lives forever changed. I participated in an online auction where bloggers got together and raised over 100,000 dollars for their benefit. I bought a great necklace with a giant metal flower. I read about their recovery and pray for healing for this family and a sneaking thought enters my mind, "things could be worse" but for me, at this moment, grieving the loss of my mother is my worst. One day it will be put in perspective, but for now this is the lowest point. I hurt. We all do.

A niece wrote on her blog the reasons she blogs. I thought about why I do it. I tell the kids as I am snapping pictures that I am a documenter. It is a way to bear witness to the blessings in every day. I don't usually post about the days like today when I literally cannot stop crying and that moving through the moments is like being drowned in maple syrup so slow and sticky and tired. Or that I snap at the kids and Darren and forget too often that they are struggling too. No I post about the small "gifts of goodness" like vegetable pizza with whole wheat dough, or a new yellow lampshade, or the magical qualities of lucky jello. Another reason is my young nieces started the family blogging trend and my mother loved it. She would be so excited when they posted something new and say to me, "have you read the girls' blogspots?". I smile when I think about it. Maybe these virtual messages can be viewed much further away than just on a computer screen. I like to believe she knows how much we miss her and love her and love each other.

06 October 2008

Weekend Pizza

I am a big BYU football fan, but I am an Aggie now! so who to cheer for? The weekend started with the USU/BYU football game. The final score was 34-14, but you would have thought the Aggies had won the superbowl. They scored twice on the 8th ranked Cougars who had accumulated something like 125+ unanswered points and sacked Max Hall which is highly unusual. Our favorite part of the game was watching our friends the Kings (true blue Aggies) high five, jump and yell at the Cougar bench. As someone remarked as we left the stadium, "that's the most exciting non-close game I have ever been too." I did like the t-shirts USU made for the game, the back declaring, "win or lose, you still live in Provo."
ps: I missed you miss johnston.

Saturday was a soaking downpour with a soccer game. Land was amazing. He has been playing defense and is super fast. Nothing gets by him. They won and I'm sure it is the lucky jello - or maybe the coach (Darren).

We dined on homemade whole wheat non-cheese (because I am allergic to milk) veggie pizza. It was yummy and surprisingly flavorful. The boys ate it all up, but were still hungry and made their own dairy version. They put a bit of pepper-jack cheese, but Chase needed more cheddar steez so he invented the 'cheese-it' topping.

We also went and ate dinner with my dad. Chase and Darren stayed and visited after supper with him. Land's friend Michael was spending the weekend with us so once the rain stopped I took them (Land, Dallas, Michael) to the new Heber City skatepark. Pretty nice.

Autumn weekends spent with the family are the best.

04 October 2008

Don't Forget to...

There is a house down the lane and around the corner that I am fascinated with. I make sure my walking route and jogging path intersect its stately corner location. They have created a frontyard garden and the "merry golds" spell out a reminder of the huge election looming in some thirty days. A few of the flowers have already gone to seed so I used my new tablet to draw in stand-ins of my own. Oh technology, and neighbors, and great houses, and elections and America.

02 October 2008

Shady Characters

I'm lovin' the new lampshade from Pottery Barn. When I pull the chain to let on the light it is like the sun just popped in for a cheery hello.

01 October 2008


It's not so easy to have family dinners when your house is full of teenagers. I chopped up veggies and meat and let them assemble their own tin-foil supper this weekend. They cooked them in the backyard fire pit and ate poolside. Land actually ate while in the pool, but refused the photo-op. Good Stuff.
note: the new digs are very retro - 1970's. When we're hanging in the yard I feel we are participating in a scene from the Brady Bunch.

25 September 2008

It happens in threes

I received a text message from Land, "I read what you wrote about grandma on your blog and it blew my mind, it was really good". I received a phone call from Chase (he is now working on a project in Blythe, CA. fighting spiders, mosquitoes and 6ft. diamondbacks) "Mom are you watching Jon Stewart? It is a good episode tonight." He loves to discuss the election with me. And then Darren calls and informs me that he has gathered all the information needed to ship off to our lawyer to put together a trust. I stop him mid-sentence and say, "mmmm, thankyou and I love you". The last time I saw my mother we ate a wonderful dinner at Sette Bello in Salt Lake. We both had these amazing salads with pine nuts. The conversation being about getting our affairs in order, trusts and wills, etc. "You know, you never know", someone commented. Less than a month later we were settling her affairs.

20 September 2008


I made a WORDLE with the words I spoke in tribute about my mother.

16 September 2008

Myachi Martha

I blogged about the myachi masters a few weeks ago. They will be on Martha Stewart on Thursday, September 18th - in two days. It starts at 11:00 am EST so if your home check it out.

15 September 2008

Here Comes the Judge

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was on campus today to lecture. I attended and it was fascinating. I enjoy hearing really intelligent people speak. You have to be on your toes to understand, listening to each word, sentence and thought form as it is presented to you. He touched on constitutional originism, absolute moralism vs. natural law, and how social policy cannot be separated from politics. His main point seemed to be about how dangerous it is that Justices are appointed according to political parties and are expected to reframe the Constitution according to the respected parties platform. It was an interesting opportunity.

On a lighter note, I shook Bob Burnquist's hand at the Dew Tour yesterday.

11 September 2008

Random Musings about the Day

Today is the seventh anniversary of 9-11. On that morning in 2001 Chase and I were coming home from early morning violin lessons and heard the breaking news over the radio waves as it happened. Images created in our minds that have never left...

Well in order to look on the bright side of this day I remembered it is Land and Chase's friend Ricky's birthday and I always tell him that it is a good day for a birthday because it also happens to be Harry's birthday and he's all like who's Harry? And I'm all you don't know? Now it has become a bit of a joke between us. There is actually a skate video of Ricky with a serenade by Harry floating around somewhere on my computer.

Another bright spot - Brady is Chad Danforth in our community production of High School Musical. I attended opening night with his family. It was pure good fun! Go B-Rad. He is athletic, and can dance and can sing. So talented. He is the student body president in the new High School Musical 3 so look for him when it comes to theaters in October. (for those of you who don't know Brady he is one of the kids' friends who I consider another son)

I can't remember Anne Morrow Lindbergh's words exactly, but it is something like this, "Every day has joy, no matter how dull and sad".

Now fill the next 4 years with joy and vote Obama! (here's a view from a real woman that thinks like I do)

08 September 2008

Time Since - Four Months

She was beautiful! I miss her deeply... that thread that binds mothers to daughters that lengthens and shortens throughout the long days of life is pulling me close to her. She sends me messages in the way I stand or speak to my children or laugh, yes laughter is emerging slowly. She is proud of me. I can feel her brush my hair back and gently touch my forehead. The heat of a fever of grief radiating. "There, there sis - I am with you".

02 September 2008

It's Called a Lance ..... Hello

I guess my kid's have noticed. I scream when I hear Harry Connick Jr. I rushed the stage for Donny Osmond performing as Joseph in Chicago. I have crossed the tape in the tunnel to give Joe Montana a pat on the shoulder, Darren assures me it was more of a firm slap on the back. I will replay Bob Burnquist skateboarding narrating every move, "did you see that, and switch". I was in the car in a nanosecond when I heard Barack Obama was down the street, knocking over family that was in my way. They think it's odd that I have a lithograph of Harry from the New Orleans Jazz Festival and a picture I have with him at the Olympics displayed in my office, but no picture of my family. They have to know they are my first crush, my true loves, they just think it's funny (or bizarre) how transparent I can be. I did come home and find this poster displayed in the sitting room. They had been to a garage sale and picked up this sweet puppy all for me. This poster really reminds of Echo; we saw this movie twice when she stayed with us as a teenager. So ode to Heath and all those that make our hearts beat a little faster just because.

28 August 2008

because necessity is the mother of invention

I have been encouraging the boys to do more with their hands - to find a need and create a solution with their minds and own man-power. Well who doesn't need a floating adjustable lounge chair in the pool. Not exactly what I had in mind, but nevertheless, brilliant!

20 August 2008

the end of {summer} days

It is bittersweet when your child starts school at any age, especially when the summer has been "most epic" (in his own words). Land and I spent the day gathering supplies for the academic year. We made two stops - D.I. and Staples and the latter cost much more than the wardrobe and specialty items from the thrift store, in fact, I'm certain that lunch with his parents cost more than them all combined. But... spending hours with Land before he is off to conquer his sophomore year... priceless.

Puffy Pancake Recipe:
Heat Oven to 450 degrees F
Mix 3 eggs, 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt with electric mixer until light and fluffy.
Add two tablespoons melted butter.
Pour mixture into a quiche or pie plate that has been sprayed with cooking spray.
Bake 15 min. or until edges puff up and top is golden brown.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar and enjoy. Berries or apples are good as well.

15 August 2008

So Much to See

Sometimes you've just got to laugh! This is especially for my brother-in-law, for his colorful explanation of the "beach volleyball dancing beach girl cheerleaders", that he has actually witnessed in action.
(photo via CC2008NN)

12 August 2008

Myachi Master Maverick

Cody is on the right sitting on the stairs

My friend Carol just sent this link about her son Cody who is in NY "livin' the dream" as a myachi master. We were able to see him when I was there in May and he is incredibly talented. He had never really been out of Logan when he took this opportunity and ran with it. Read an article in the NY Times that explains this new pastime.

09 August 2008


Click here to see spectacular pictures of the opening ceremonies. The drummers were amazing.

06 August 2008

16 Days of Glory?

Bird's Nest National Stadium & Water Cube. Beijing 2008

The Beijing Olympics begin in all their spectacle on 08.08.08. I have intently watched the Olympics since I was seven years old in 1972 and Olga Korbut dazzled the world with her pixie like hair and mind-boggling flexibility... but that was overshadowed by a young girl's confusion over what exactly a guerilla was and why all this violence and bloodshed on the world stage. The Olympic games embody much of what I enjoy in life -- competition, hard work, unique architecture, a gathering of the world's cultures, design (all those team and national costumes), collecting (pins), the colors, media hype, national pride, national anthems, but as I've grown old, err older, I realize that the high ideals of the Olympics do little to hide the politics, drug use, environmental, human rights, and power abuses. Humans at their best and worst on display for each other. Nevertheless, I have just had satellite installed and will be parking my butt in front of the TV for 16 days of glory. Cheering, critiquing, crying, along with the billions of other fellow human beings. For Real.
(photo via boston.com)

30 July 2008

Honey, I'm still Free

Went and saw Mamma Mia tonight and was thankful for a bit of fun and brightness. ABBA, so glad your songs are sing-a-long and Josef Frank, props for designing such amazing fabrics for the set. (photos via yahoo)

23 July 2008

A Time to Mourn

A link you might want to read: When Bad Things Happen.
Erika and Grandpa Edison at the Christmas Party 2007
This blog of late has been tinged with sadness. Erika has died. She was very brave - she was a refugee from Germany during WWII. Her story is extraordinary, but what I'll always remember is that she sent four-leaf clovers in my birthday cards. How did she find them, one each year. My heart aches for my grandfather - he has lost a daughter and a wife during this summer season. I remarked to a friend how difficult it has been the past few months, "you know death... it's not for everyone". But it is and I'm trying to find the meaning and the joy and the gratitude for this one beautiful life we journey through.

16 July 2008

The Town so Nice They Named it Twice

Favorite shots of New York, NY in May:
Flags at Rockefeller Plaza

Flower Market Across From the Hotel

Balloon Dog and Sacred Heart by Jeff Koons on the rooftop of the Met

Staten Island Ferry just hours before I received the call about my Mother

12 July 2008

Hammerz HAD been HAD

starring: tucker, andrew, huckleberry, land, max, jake, chris, and logan. filmed and edited on the last day of Woodward - summer camp is so much fun.

03 July 2008

The Gift Outright

My mother's birthday was June 28th and we marked this melancholy day with celebration. Land and I were staying with my sister's family in Long Beach and we decided to write messages on balloons and release them into the the sky. My six-year-old nephew experimenting with his newly gained knowledge of scientific principles from kindergarten first scoffed at the idea. "They aren't going to get to her, you know that don't you". We sang happy birthday and let the strings slip from our fingers. My one-year-old nephew tried chasing the colorful bubbles, his hands reaching upward, and my three-year-old nephew ran with abandon, his arms stretched wide, "they are flying to grandma", faith streaming from his trusting eyes. Land wrote a private message and said quietly, "This is cool". We watched for what seemed like hours as they disappeared from our sight, The six-year-old starting to question his adamant stance, "Is grandma higher than heaven?" and then "I think they went all the way to God".

02 July 2008

Pleasing Paper Patterns

I am back from SoCal. I splurged on a few things... benefit makeup, a new swimsuit, but mostly paper products. Journals and address books and calendars and notebooks. I'm a sucker for paper, colors, bright design and inventive patterns. I write in a journal nearly every day so they rarely go to waste. The two in the middle are by Orla Kiely - a new favorite.

17 June 2008

Getting over the Great Wall

Somewhere back in my childhood I was imprinted with the quality of light at dusk driving on the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway). I can't recall if it is a true memory or an image and feeling I have created when the need of filling the empty space with tangible goods arises. Sometimes when I'm back in Utah and the sun is going down and the reflections and glow in the evensong is just right Darren will say, "What does this remind you of?" I answer, "Driving down the PCH just after the sun sets". Last night I walked along the PCH at this magical hour and down to the beach cottages at Crystal Cove. I sat at the picnic tables and listened to the ocean. My mind keeps wandering to an unanswerable question -- what is my family without my mother? That seems to be the barrier, the wall I can't quite conquer at the moment.

Friends keep providing ladders and boosts along the way. My very, very best Montana friend has kept me right side up countless times along the journey. We were born on the same day, she in New York City and I in Los Angeles, and we met somewhere near the middle in the wide open west. My friend Leslie in Idaho always knows what words to write to soothe me... our common ground is Terry Tempest Williams and a fierce feminism and relentlessly questioning minds. There are my high school buddies that are always there - together we could probably top anyone's checklist of traumatic events that have shaped our lives. There are too many to name in an open forum such as this, our connections and personal experiences too deep to share on a website that contains blogspot in its url.

I just thought I'd post pictures I'd just received from Jenny, my cheeky BYU gymnastics teammate and roommate who when we get together (every 10 years or so) it is incredibly easy and seems as if we have seen each other every day since our laughs and cries in college. I first met Jenny in Australia on a gymnastics tour. She then was recruited to BYU and I have always thought she was wonderful... a bit of down under attitude comes with her. Her family just traveled to China and Thailand, she's cool like that - always up for an adventure, and will be coming to see us again at Christmas time. Hmmmm, friends are the PCH at dusk.

Jenny, Angus, Amy and Ella on the Great Wall

Jenny on the beach in Thailand

09 June 2008

Asparagus Chicken

Sunday was the beginning of our crazy summer. Land will be skateboarding for 1 month... two weeks in SoCal (the Skaterbuilt Bro-Jam) 1 week in Tehachapi (Woodward West Skatecamp) and 1 week in Whistler, BC (Great Northwest Gromfest). I'll be going to Newport Beach with my dad and then on to stay with my sister for 2 weeks. Chase will be at Ash Meadows in Nevada again doing rare plant surveys and mapping and Darren will be working hard to fund all of our travels. We will all be together in Whistler, but until then it is separation time for the Olsens. I made Chase's favorite meal - Asparagus Chicken - it was nice sitting together and talking about our plans for the future. Good Food, Good Family, Good Times.

Warm Asparagus Chicken
12 baby red potatoes, cut in half
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/4 white wine 
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 bunch fresh asparagus
2 cups mixed greens

Lemon Dill Vinaigrette
1 large shallot
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill weed (I use dried sometimes)
1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Steam the potatoes by putting them in a large pot filed with about 2" of boiling water. Cover the pot and steam until tender, approx. 30 minutes. Drain and transfer the potatoes to a large bowl.

Put the chicken into a baking dish, season with salt and pepper, and add the wine (or broth or water) basil, and parsley. Bake for 30 min. Slice the chicken diagonally.

Meanwhile, cut 2 inches off the bottom of each asparagus stalk and blanch stalks in a pot of boiling water, just until they are tender, about 2 min. Lay the asparagus on a platter and let them cool. Cut stalks lengthwise down the center. (I only do this if the stalks are chunky)

Whisk together thoroughly all the dressing ingredients in a large bowl. I usually double the dressing because the boys would drink it if they could.

Pour half the dressing on the potatoes and let them soak it up. Add the chicken and asparagus and pour more dressing on and toss gently. 

You can serve this over mixed greens (which I like) or just out of the bowl (which the boys like) Add dressing to taste and tasty it is.

06 June 2008

Everyday bla bla Blog

I like the colors and the pictures and the word (re) cycle in this photo.

It has been 4 weeks since my mother died, the time Ivan Doig refers to as the time since

"... the remembering begins out of that new silence, through the time since. I reach back along my father's tellings and around the urgings which would have me face about and forget, to feel into these oldest shadows for the first sudden edge of it all."

My friend Leslie posted a poem that she wrote on her blog Journal of Omens that describes it all for me:

Epicenter of Desire

She never said how God fell out
but she bore his impression
like a mattress seldom turned
testifies to the lover’s absence.
She tried diversion, eastern philosophy
and the state of being fully present
as the ultimate gesture of affection.

Of course, it was affection few could return
so her advice was to, with every breath
exhale thank you, and let it go.

Maybe you know that hunger.
Maybe the gnawing is a molecular code
that, because of blood on the lintel
natural selection passed over. That said
just being is evidence you were chosen 
strand by strand
to occupy this moment, this space.

Michelangelo tattooed
the epicenter of desire
on the ceiling, safe
from our greasy, egg-salad fingers
God and Adam reaching for each other.
More than anything we want God
or we don’t. There is little middle ground.
When we lie on our backs and reach upward
our hands are as large as Adam’s
as electric as God’s.

At some point, maybe vacuuming
she found where she’d lost God
and reset him like a stone in her ring.
Thank you, she exhaled.

We seem to be born with negative space
into which God might fit.
Origin of Me is the great question
not the science of creation
but the creation story that works. 
God is preserved in the heavens
of the Sistine by ducting
and a conditioned atmosphere.
Are we so different
believing we are the center
of our own narratives,
that our mythologies matter more?

What I do know of God is this:
there are children
in cutoffs and tattered boat shoes
who come to the wild place
at the back of the field
and rearrange the world.

They dam and bridge the creek
to shape little oceans.
They breach the dams and howl
as floods crash through.
They braid baling twine
with whatever drifts downstream
into mats and furniture
and lash swings into trees
too tender to hold anything
but the world’s smallest creatures.
They leave a shovel and take a rake.

When I walk to that wild place
I know immediately—
a piece of lumber bridging
a new section of the creek,
a bit of twine in a tree—
that the little gods have been here.
The little gods in my life have long hair and glide through life by skateboard or are 18, on the edge of manhood and are exhibiting such responsibility it takes my breath away.

03 June 2008

The Audacity of Hope!


30 May 2008


Memorial Day Flowers For My Mother
(I had to put a filter on the photo, because I put the flowers in the fridge to keep them bright and some of them froze - I can't decide if it is morbid or hilarious, probably just what mom would expect from me)

I'm unsteady and off balance and can't quite get my feet underneath me. When I wake in the morning I feel it the most. An ache and a hunger that I don't quite yet understand how to soothe. I miss you mom.

Lucky Jello

When I was in high school, Sandy Kunz from the Sandy 1st ward, would make her nephews, neices, friends and whoever else might like to try it out "Lucky Jello" before big games and events at the school. Well, I have kept that tradition and have made lucky jello for the hockey team and the soccer team. I made some recently for the last soccer game of the season... it makes me giggle seeing 15 year old boys totally get into the stellar good karma properties of gelatin.

18 May 2008

Hour of Lead

My Dad Saying Goodbye to my Mom

I was in the middle of New York City on May 8th, by myself, when I received the news my mother had been killed in a horrific accident at the construction site of her and my father's new home. I became disoriented and confused with the shock and grief, but a young girl named Banika and friends I was traveling with guided me back to the hotel and on to a plane to join my family in Utah. I am still speechless. There is a rock upon my chest that feels heavy and tight. Here are the words I gave in tribute at her funeral:

I have spent years trying to be nothing like my mother. And when I opened the paper this past Sunday, Mother's Day, and saw her picture, I saw so much of myself reflected in her image, it brought me to my knees... I felt honored to be my mother's daughter.

Our relationship was sometimes tenuous... she is a fierce mother of strong daughters. I remarked to my dad yesterday that through this time of coming together I have noticed that the Toole women are very controlling, he replied, "You've just noticed". That tenacity, grit and inner resolve was a gift she gave to each of us.

My mother was like no other. She opened up a world of wonder and adventure to us. Exploring the edges of Blue Lake at East Fork, taking in the beauty of the freshly bloomed bluebells. She took us to the Seely Ranch in Colorado where we climbed the shale hills along the river and rode the horses for miles. She let us roam freely at her childhood home creating bonds with our cousins that provide the glue of strong families. She was a brilliant conspirator of snipe hunts at Girl Scout camp. My mother brought home refrigerator boxes and we would construct fantastic forts with every blanket, sheet, pillow, trinket and toy from the house and she would let us keep them up for weeks. She frequently took us to the zoo and let me perfect my roar at the mountain lions and introduced me to Shasta the Liger. She helped us dye thousands of Easter eggs to be thrown at other relatives in a bizarre ritual of the Stephens clan. She was a room mother and my husband and I remember being in Mrs. Sadler's third grade class where she left an indelible impression on both of us wearing cat-eye glasses and a flashy polka-dot shift which we now fondly refer to as the "wonder-bread dress".

My mother was mischievous and ditzy and flirtatious. I'm certain she acquired the mischievous trait from her own father whom she will always be remembered in the family lore as the one who shot him while deer hunting. Melanie and my mom came to visit me years ago in Missoula and I insisted we get in the car and drive to Spokane to do some shopping. As we passed Lake Coeur d'Alene I remarked that I didn't realize it was so big. My mom said, "Well you know it is an inlet from the ocean. Melanie and I looked at each other laughing and said, "Mom, we don't think Idaho has ever been on the coast." She had a not so hidden crush on Howie Long. And even though I think she was a bit insecure she had PRESENCE. She had a way of standing with her weight on one foot and with the other just have her heel touching the ground and give this look from under her brow that was just absolutely classy.

Her name is beautiful. The letters and their loops form an incredible rhythm and when I have writer's block or designer's block I trace them... S A U N D R A. Saundra Stephens Toole.

My mother was many things to many people. When we almost lost her a few years ago due to the blood clots I was so consumed in my own grief and sorrow, and then I looked around the room and saw that she was also Doug's wife, and Edison's daughter, and an aunt, a grandma, a friend - we are surrounded my so many who her life impacted and with whom we share this incredible pain at losing her. She had an uncanny ability to form individual relationships with all that she met. Private sanctuaries where even I, her own daughter, could not enter.

My mother's greatest trait however was not in being my mother, but by being so accepting of people. She loved her son's in law, her nephews and nieces, her dad, her grandchildren. Her friends. She belonged to so many worlds. She lived hard.

I have struggled over the past few days asking the question "why"? This is not fair, we got jipped! After all the countless people my mom and dad have helped it is just cruel irony that she was taken from us due to a tragic accident. I was comforted remembering conversations with my sons that my mom was particularly fond of recalling. Land had a classmate, a young girl in his first and second grade class who had experienced trauma and had become mute. When my mom asked Land why she didn't talk he replied in that innocent 6 year old voice, "That's the mystery grandma", I suppose now that is the only answer - it's the mystery and the mystery will sustain us.

When Chase was three we had a conversation that I have written down and shared with my mother. It was near Easter and after speaking about the Easter Story he asked, "Mom, do Chase's die?" I said, "You probably don't have to worry about it until you are old." He asked again, "Mom, are you old?" I replied, "a little, but I mean old like a grandma." His profound reply was, "But grandma can't die, because she can't lift that cross up all by herself". And I suppose we can take comfort in that - we don't have to carry this cross ourselves.

And to all of you, but to my dad and my sisters especially I want to conclude with the words to a song:

I love you Mom. (and I blew her a kiss)