Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sunday at Josie's

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First draft.
In the red, dusty belly of Dinosaur National Monument underneath expansive cottonwoods, surrounded by echo chambered box canyons and swampy lizard pits, sits the homestead of frontierswoman Josie Bassett Morris. A wood cabin with windows and floors made of powdery dirt rests in the shade next to a lawn of feeble grass and a remnant of a chicken coop. We made ourselves at home in the cove, pulled out a picnic blanket, made a spread of snacks, pausing to read the warning signs left there by the Park Service: BEWARE OF BEARS. THEY WILL EAT YOUR FOOD.

My girls in particular are inspired by this spot. They pretend to be Josie going in an out of the cabin, tending to the once-viable vegetable garden and following the rocky trails leading out to where the cattle would be. Their imagination mingles with the plaques we read about how Josie, living alone after having married five times and divorcing four, spent her seasons, eating canned food in the winter and decorating her cabin with wildflowers in the summer.

The sky turns dark and Erin looks up to the tops of the shaky trees, "We should stay in the cabin. It looks like it's going to rain." 

Christopher is napping on the blanket. The baby is buzzing around like the dragonflies we see by the pond. Anson wants to go back to the car and play on his phone. I feel a desire to hike into a box canyon and when I go out to explore a trail Ever and Erin follow me with bare feet.

"Where did you put your shoes?" I asked them.

But before they answer it starts to rain. We take cover underneath some trees but the rain turns into a downpour. It wakes Christopher up and he responds by scooping up the baby, the snacks and the blanket in one swoop and retreats to the car.

"Like I said," Erin says with her pointy finger in the air, "we should've stayed in Josie's cabin."

In seconds the sun returns behind steel-colored rainclouds and shines a light on the heavy, plopping rain drops. "This is a sun shower." I say to my girls who follow me back up the mud trail to the cabin.  Everything is bright and wet. 

Across gravel road is a trailhead leading through a patch of trees. I can't see where it leads but I rally my family and after a change of socks and shoes and a promise to Anson that we would leave after exploring for a bit, we all head single file up the path. The baby is shuffling right along with us, her toddler bow makes her gait a bit more like the dinosaurs we saw back in the museum than a two-legged human. Christopher spots a long-eared rabbit and tries to catch a scuttling lizard. We see more dragonflies and swat at bugs swirling around our heads and feet. Pretty soon the trees give way to a majestic orange canyon, walled in by eighty foot walls of white rock. My kids take off before me to boulder and rock climb. The rocky trail turns into soft sand and we find a spot to sit in this desert paradise.
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This is home to me. The canyon walls stained by water run-off during flash floods and spring thaw look as much like my origins as my gabled room on Fir Avenue. I think about Josie's practical and genius idea to corral her cattle in these box canyons--saving time and money by eschewing fences. I think about her resolution to live a decidedly non-traditional lifestyle. I think about all that time she had to work and be alone here with her horses and cows and wildflowers.

Being alone is such a hot commodity to me, it always has been, but lately with growing children and a lifestyle full of human interactions I find myself daydreaming of canyons of silence, a cabin of quiet. Not forever, but just for an afternoon, or a lunch break, or an hour before I fall asleep at night.

Anson is unhappy and let's me know. I sling the baby onto my shoulders and tell the others we'll meet them back at the car. We run down some of the way and end up at the bottom reading another posting about mountain lions: BEWARE OF MOUNTAIN LIONS. THEY WILL ATTACK YOU.

As we drive away I think about how I can teach my children to be like Josie. I want them to live a life  of self-sustainability, certainly, but also a life void of fear: of being alone, of transcending gender expectations, of abandoning hurtful traditions, of following their hearts, of bears, mountain lions, bare feet and the occasional sunshower.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Spa Ha Moment: Romance in the Rain

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This month Christopher and I celebrated thirteen years of marriage. Marriage is a funny thing, you can't expect that the person you married will be the same as the person you wake up to thirteen years later. You're constantly getting to know your spouse because they're constantly changing/growing/learning new things.  I feel like we're both pretty different than we were thirteen years ago. And for the record I'd just like to say we're better. BUT WHO KNOWS.

One thing that really works for me in our marriage is that we somehow continue to up the ante on the romance. If we didn't do this sort of thing I believe four kids, two careers, a dozen side projects and Netflix would probably suck the life out of our marriage.

For our ten year anniversary we flew to NYC and did a food tour vacation. The only reason we could afford to do that is because Christopher is rich in Marriott and Delta frequent flier miles. When we were staying in the Marriott Marquee I thought about all those nights I bathed and put four little children to bed all by myself while Chup was in Orlando (or somewhere) working and let me tell you something, I really enjoyed that stay in NYC.

But I don't think upping the ante in marriage has to be a fancy trip somewhere. Christopher and I are always looking for something new to try. I'll spare you the details (UNLESS YOU WANT THEM?). A couple months ago we left our kids with my inlaws and drove out into the Idaho desert late at night to go dip in some hot springs under a full moon. That kind of stuff is good. It's goooood.

So the other night as we were celebrating out thirteen years together it started to pouring outside. There was also a magnificent distant lightning storm like a giant brigade of paparazzi in the sky. (You loved that sentence.)(So did I.) The kids were all in bed and we watched the spectacle from our front room for a while until I said to Chup, "Let's go get in the hot tub in the rain!" And he said, "I'll get my giant umbrella."

And so for about two hours we sat in our warm hot tub under a giant umbrella listening to the rain pound our nylon roof as we watched the sky make electric cracks in the clouds. If life can get more romantic than that night please don't tell me because I am not ready for that information right now. The whole night I kept thinking, "Am I swooning? I think I am swooning right now. I think I feel so romanced I am going to pass out. Is that the hot water or is that swoon? I think it's swoon. I AM SWOONING."

So even though Christopher and I are only mere teenagers when it comes to our marriage lifespan, I have to say spontaneity and adventure have never failed us when it comes to the health of our romance. (Also yesterday I was in playing barbies with my daughters when my husband walked by in jeans and sandals, and may I just say jeans and sandals also do quite nicely?)

Dear Chup, here's to thirteen more!


Thanks Bullfrog Spas!
Photo by Justin Hackworth


Monday, June 29, 2015

God Bless America!

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This weekend I judged the Battle of the Bands at Provo's most renowned music venue Velour. In between sets a man came up to me and told me this story:

"Eight years ago I left Provo angry and insulted. I felt like I didn't fit in and I would never fit in. After a few years in California, I started to notice things changing in Provo. I decided I'd come back and visit and I went to my first Rooftop Concert Series and saw Joshua James. Joshua James wasn't what I expected at all from a concert in Provo. I was amazed that someone like him--a seemingly "outsider" in Provo's culture would be given space on stage. If anyone had done that when I lived in Provo they wouldn't have lasted very long in the concert business. This opened my eyes and I realized that maybe Provo was finally a safe place for someone like me to move back."

This was an important moment for me. Our goal with the concert series was to bring people to downtown Provo to experience art and culture. Our intention has always been to first and foremost put on a great show, regardless of the performer. I mean, we never discuss the performers belief structure or sexuality before we let them on our stage. We do spend a lot of time contemplating concert dynamics and line ups. But it has been a pretty amazing thing to see that something we never intended to happen is happening: Provo is becoming safer for everyone.

A few weeks ago I was speaking to a group in Highland with the spiritual spitfire Fiona Givens about faith when someone asked brought up the high teenage suicide rate in North Utah County. I asked the people in the room--mostly all white, Mormon, conservative parents--what they were doing to show range in their community. In our massive monoculture in Utah County we unintentionally make people feel there is only one way to live a life. We don't cater to those outside the cultural confines of what we deem acceptable and in doing so we suffocate any little diversity we have. I think our teenagers feel like their lives will be useless if there are hints of fringe inside their souls.

I felt that way growing up here. I know what it's like to be an angry teenager in Utah County.

I've been a church youth leader many times. I've gone to Young Women's camps and youth conferences and hundreds of youth activities. I've spent hours listening to young women talk about their lives and their complications. But I feel like I am doing more for the youth of my community when I get up on that Rooftop stage and introduce people and music to them that conveys that everyone is ok in Utah County. The gay pop star, the atheist rapper, the mom indie folk chanteuse, the bishop drummer, the non-binary bass player, the returned missionary at the keyboards, the former Mormon songwriter, the gospel singer who questions her faith, they all fit on our stage and they should all fit in our community as well.

(And every single time I get up to host these concerts I have to call my friend/therapist Janna and have her remind me that's it's also ok for these youth to see a woman (me) who doesn't fit into accepted body standards get up on stage and be confident. And she always reminds me that we need to stand up and let the youth see women of all sizes on our stage. Thankfully the more I see women in my life confident with their bodies the easier it is for me to host this concert series.)

So this weekend when we were celebrating the Supreme Court decision with rainbows and tears I was also keenly aware that while we have A LOT of work to do to help everyone--from sexuality to race--feel accepted in our community, culture, county and country (alliteration not intended) things are getting better and it was nice to celebrate the progress.

Last night before I went to bed I saw a Facebook update of a friend who grew up understanding the complications of not being mainstream. She posted a picture of her two kids who will inevitably feel the same way. But her words were hopeful: I'm grateful that these two are growing up in a world that is getting more accepting of differences.

Amen and amen.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Down on the Rooftop



It's crazy to me that a couple years ago, thanks to this cute blog here, we started a concert series downtown Provo and it grew and grew and grew so much we had to move it off our rooftop location on the street below.

Who knew blogs could start a concert series and change communities?

Well now you know.

If you're going to be around for the biggest night in Provo--July 3rd--please come! This might be our biggest show ever. We'd love to have you there too. And plus my favorite band is playing. I love them. I've never been shy about that.

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Monday, June 22, 2015

Spa Ha Moment: How I Got A Hot Tub

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So I got a hot tub--a spa they call it.

It started earlier this year with some silly tweets about me wanting a hot tub. I pledged I could be a better writer if I had a place to sit and think. Also, I just really wanted a hot tub and I won't be able to afford that kind of luxury for a LONG time. Maybe ever.

Some of my friends on twitter started to get in on the conversation with clever responses and before I knew it there was a hashtag and an inside joke.

But then one morning I woke up to find that my friend Scott had actually tweeted @bullfrogspas and said "You should give C Jane a hot tub" AND THEY HAD RESPONDED. Bullfrog Spas is a local company here in Utah that ships luxury, energy-efficient hot tubs all over the world. I have loved their company for many many MANY years.

Suddenly my dream of having a hot tub was in reach! I couldn't believe it. I ran throughout my house squealing. Like a pig. Like a pig who was maybe going to get a hot tub.

After a few attempts at proving I would be a great candidate for a spa, Jake (my new best friend) from Bullfrog contacted me and said he had read my blog and thought we could work something out. The best part is that he wanted to give me a spa so I could be inspired to write more. (Two things activate the writing center in my brain: walking and sitting in a tub.)

I promised I would write once a month for a year in a series I will call (are you ready?) SPA HA MOMENT (get it?). The series purpose is to use this amazing gift as a means to becoming more relaxed and thoughtful in a lifestyle that is overwhelming and mind-melting (literally, I think I can prove it).

I feel a little embarrassed at my luck here. I keep saying to myself, For ten years I cultivated a blog and wrote my guts out! It's ok to have a hot tub to self-congratulate! And I pledge to be a responsible spa writer and write about the issues that are meaningful and relevant!

But I wasn't exactly convinced of my worthiness until the morning after it was delivered and we filled it up and let it heat over night. I woke up early, slipped out of my bedroom door outside and jumped in to my spa to watch the sun crawl over the mountain in my backyard.

I've never felt more luxurious in my life. And I thought, I am just going to live this up.

But in total disclosure the hot tub has taken on a life of its own in our family. It's like we got a dog. It gets petted and groomed and fed. The kids do all their morning jobs just for the reward of getting in and splashing around (we keep it on the cool side for summer). Right after we got it Chup did something wretched to his back and now every night he soaks for an hour or so putting the jet technology to good use. I made him get a water case for his iPhone so I could check on him from my bedroom on the other side of the wall. He cares for it like an aquatic lover and I suppose there has been some jealousy on my behalf (okay?). Cousins, neighbors, friends all pile in for special social hours. We've never been so popular.

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I don't think I've been in it by myself for more than ten minutes. But that's ok. That's my life right now. You do what you can.

Let's just hope I start writing some masterpieces here or I am in trouble. It won't be the first time I've oversold myself (to be honest).

Thanks Jake and team from Bullfrog Spas. I love you. I seriously mean that.

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