Since moving to Utah, we have noticed a few things that are uniquely Utah.
And one of my all-time favorites…
I am slowly getting educated on the soda culture in Utah.
I’ve seriously never seen anything like it –places like Swig, Sodalicious and Fiiz everywhere. These are small soda shops (sometimes nothing more than a small shack) with drive-thru windows that sell sodas with flavor shots.
Seriously, I’ve seen cars lined up there at 8 in the morning. And, it’s not as simple as ordering a Diet Coke at McDonald’s.
And each shop has its own lingo. Try saying, “I’ll have a 32-ounce Big Al with extra ice” or “Give me an 16-ounce Endless Summer please.”
What you’ll be ordering with the Big Al is a Diet Coke with a shot of coconut and lime. An Endless Summer is Mountain Dew, Powerade with a shot of coconut.
Yes, Utah is Soda Land.
And finally, there’s this…
The scenery is so different from one end of the state to the other. We can see lush green mountains on one end of the state and red rock canyons on the other. And, it’s all uniquely beautiful.
I keep a five-year journal , a charming little gem that allows me to write five-line entries for five years.
Every day, it tells me exactly what I was doing the previous year on the same day.
My daily entries from last year at this time included :
Last visit to our home in Virginia. That house is packed with memories. Not sure I can handle any more tears or goodbyes.
Signed our closing papers and hit the road for Utah. I can’t believe it.
Staying in Missouri.
Just outside Denver.
Arrived in Utah at our new home. Stood on the deck and marveled at the beauty.
Roughing it with a folding table, two lawn chairs and an air mattress until the moving van arrives.
As I read these entries, I thought about everything that has happened and changed in our lives in the last year.
Here are 10 lessons I’ve learned:
While moving is a major life decision and a big risk, it turned out to be easier than I expected.
At a going away party last year, a wise millennial friend said, “Don’t compare Utah to Virginia/D.C. Just take Utah for what it is.” Best advice ever. It’s not better or worse. It’s just different. (Thank you Jason McDonald.)
There is beauty everywhere. While I love the green, lush world of the East Coast, I love the spectacular mountains and scenery of Utah.
Being near family is better than I imagined.
My Virginia friends are still my friends. I’m grateful for phone calls, texting, social media, and lots of visitors.
While I miss the vibrancy and closeness of the Mormon church community in the DC area, I’ve learned there are unique cultural challenges and tests of faith in different places. Again, one place is not better or worse. It is just different.
Going to the Outer Banks is still worth it. Even if we have to fly, rent a car, and go less often, it’s definitely still worth it.
Making new friends doesn’t mean I’m forgetting my old ones. I can cherish old friends and still make new ones. In fact, it’s essential. We all need friends — near and far.
Another wise friend who has moved many times in her life told me to give it a year to adjust. She said it takes a year to find doctors, hair stylists, dentists, favorite grocery stores, etc. and to feel comfortable in a new house, new neighborhood, new community. She said not to judge whether I like it until a year passed. She’s right. It requires some patience to rebuild your life in a new place.
Finally, I’ve learned that being happy is a choice. So, I’ve decided over and over to be happy, and guess what? I am.
Yesterday I woke up to a winter wonderland, again.
Felt like the movie Groundhog Day.
Remember Bill Murray waking up day after day and experiencing the exact same thing over and over?
“I’ll give you a winter prediction: it’s gonna be cold , it’s gonna be grey, and it’s gonna last for the rest of your life.”
When I watched Groundhog Day, I felt a sensation of rising panic in my restless soul.
I hate routine and the idea of living the same day over and over endlessly made me feel like I was trapped in a funhouse that wasn’t fun. (Oh, that sounds like pregnancy..)
That’s how I expected to feel yesterday.
But, as I watched a heavy, endless stream of snowflakes dancing around in the sky and piling up on every outside surface, I actually felt happy, amazed really.
Here we are in what is often considered the power center of the world — the all-mighty American bastion of democracy, and yet, snow — that innocent-looking white, fluffy soft stuff — manages to shut down the U.S. government, close schools, stop major transportation systems, and keep all the powerful people either stuck at home or stuck in a snowdrift off the side of a road somewhere.
You’ve got to respect the weather, not just here, but everywhere.
In a metaphoric game of rock, paper, scissors, it always wins.
There’s no controlling or subduing it.
What that means is that we need to stop and control or subdue ourselves.
So, yesterday, I thought, I can hate this day and whine about the cold and the cabin fever. I can rant about how it should be spring OR I can enjoy it and honor the fact that weather always wins and make the best of it.
So, that’s what we did.
We shoveled, scraped and chipped ice with everyone else, but we also marveled at the beauty of our neighborhood blanketed in what we hope was the last gasp of winter.
According to Al Roker on the Today show, it’s over. He’s getting ready to sport his pink spring coat.
I’m ready for his pink suit coat. I’m ready for anything pink and flowery.
I’m choosing to believe Al and believe that yesterday’s storm was the last big hurrah.
Yippee! Spring is on its way.
Let the thaw begin!
I need to get the frozen Christmas decorations out of the planter on the porch.
Bring on the tulips, the pansies, the daffodils, green grass and leafy trees.
I’m still enjoying the afterglow of Annie’s wedding.
One of my favorite things about the holidays and the wedding was having my house full of people — my people — my friends and family, including our new addition of a son-in-law.
A perfect kind of holiday.
I love a full house full of people; a house that exudes happy energy.
I go to sleep happier on nights when our home is filled with people who make me laugh, think, or just make me feel better because their personalities have enlivened my home.
We’ve lived in this house for 17 years and many of my favorite times have been when our house was full of people playing, sharing, celebrating, and creating memories together.
I look into the backyard and remember Annie hosting a “field day” with all of her friends or hosting all the neighborhood families for a Halloween party of a chili cook -off.
I remember Sara and Annie and their friends posing for group prom photos on the staircase or playing “capture the flag” all around the front and back yard. I remember a live band in our driveway and dancing to the “Funky Chicken” with my neighbors at a block party.
One of my friends recently said, “You can never move. This is where we come to celebrate!”
It’s true. We have bridal showers, baby showers, birthday parties, Thanksgiving dinners, and Christmas Eve celebrations that lead to irreverent (but memorable) productions of the Christmas story from the Bible.
We’ve had dinner parties, craft nights, book clubs, dance parties, garage sales, and sleepovers.
I remember the night Sara had a sleepover and I thought all the girls were sleeping peacefully in the basement.
Sara woke me up about two in the morning to tell me that a little girl’s wire in her braces sprung out of her mouth and she was having a panic attack.
The more the girls tried to fix the problem, the worse it got. By the time Doug and I were called to the scene, she had a three-inch wire sticking out of the front of her mouth. She could hardly talk or breathe because she was so upset.
Even that memory morphed into a happy one over time. It’s part of our house history –just like the hole in the basement wall that has never been fully explained.
After the holidays, we tried to “purge” our basement storage space of a lot of things we no longer need.
We opened up boxes we haven’t opened for years, and found stories wrapped up in all of them — elementary school reports, videos and photos, way too many books, costumes, trophies, awards, decorations.
They all tell stories of our lives in this house. We even found an elaborate three-month calendar on a big whiteboard that Doug used to keep track of my chemo treatments and drug and shot regime.
Some things are easier to get rid of than others, but in the end, it’s the memories we want to keep — not all the memorabilia. And, there are easier, more space-saving ways to keep the memories.
I love this house, but what I love more is what has happened in this house, and who we’ve become while living here.
Some of my favorite scenes in Downton Abbey are the sweet conversations between Carson and Mrs. Hughes over a cup of tea because even though there lives are spent taking care of a house and a family, the sweetness comes when a pair of dear friends ponder life and love.
And, like Carson so eloquently said, “The business of life is the acquisition of memories, in the end that’s all there is.”
When I met him, he said, “I am Steve. I am painter.”
I liked him immediately. He wasn’t a wishy-washy painter. He had opinions and ideas.
“Where are you from?” I asked him.
“Where you think?” He asked.
“Somewhere in Eastern Europe,” I guessed.
“I from Hungary. You know, Hungary in Europe. My English not so good but I work on it.”
While meticulously painting the white trim in our family room and kitchen, he said pointing to our amateur paint job on the walls, “Laurie, you come here. Look at this.” He shakes his head like I’m a child that disappointed him. “Ugly. This ugly. I can fix trim, but not this. I do a good job, but can’t fix ugly.”
I know our lines aren’t perfect, but we thought we’d done a decent paint job. In fact, we have a good painting system. I do the trim. Doug does the walls and ceilings. We make a good painting team.
Or so we thought.
I smile at Painter Steve’s bluntness even though I’m mildly offended.
The man has no filter, and I understand that when learning a new language, we have to get to the point. Nuances and subtleties come later.
For Steve, he think; he say.
When I showed him the paint color I’d chosen for the living room and dining room, he again looked at me like a scolding parent.
“Come. Look.” He held up my paint chip in different parts of the room and under different kinds of light. “Too dark. You will hate. But, it your house, your paint, your money, so I do what you want, but it be ugly.”
I defer to his professional judgment because on his first day, he said, “In my country, I go to school three years to be painter. I learn color — everything about color. I take tests; work, study hard to be painter.”
Then, he whispers, “In America, Mexicans come to me with paintbrush in hand and say, ‘I am painter.’ I say, ‘No, you not painter!’ Everybody in America think they painters. No. In my country, they not painters!”
In addition to new paint, we are refinishing our floors. We chose a dark stain color, and when Steve saw it, he was aghast.
He gave me that intense, reproving stare, and shook his head slowly, saying, “No. No. No.”
“Is it too dark?” I asked, already knowing his opinion.
“Yes, too dark. You will hate. It show every speck dust. It ugly.”
When the flooring man tried to tell me how beautiful it would look, Steve stepped behind him to be out of his sight and continued to shake his head, “No!”
I told Steve I had no choice. The stair treads had already been made. The floors needed to match the treads. It would cost too much money to start over.
“Fine. Your house, your floors, your money. But, you will hate. It will look like dark funeral home.” Then, he went back to his painting, while still shaking his head back and forth – “No,” he kept muttering.
Maybe the floors will be too dark. Maybe we really will hate them. I only know we liked the look in the many Houzz and Pinterest pictures I saved. We liked the sample in the showroom. I asked my decorator friends for their opinions, and they thought the dark floors would look gorgeous.
I admit I was warned about the dust showing, but that was after we placed the order.
I hope Painter Steve is wrong, and that I don’t “hate.”
This is the time to remember Dr. Spock’s parenting advice and to apply it to my decorating decisions, “Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.”
Like Dr. Joyce Brothers said, “Trust your hunches. They’re usually based on facts filed away just below the conscious level.”
I will trust my hunches, and, as opinionated Steve said, it’s my house, my money, and my floor.
While folding laundry, I thought of all the time I’ve spent over the years washing, drying, folding and putting away clothes.
Such routine and endless drudgery.
The whites, the darks, the colors, the hand washables, the line-dry — it’s enough to make a sane girl crazy.
And then there’s all that laundry on the floor of my kids’ rooms.
Who knows what is clean and what is dirty?
They assure me they know.
(I should add here that my nest is temporarily full and I couldn’t be happier about that, even with their laundry on their bedroom floors.)
I love empty clothes hampers and all the drawers in the house filled with freshly laundered clothing.
When that coincides with a clean house, I feel blissful and serene.
My brain relaxes because my “to-do” list is free of so much of what clogs it up sometimes.
My body enjoys the same benefits as a deep cleansing breath like pockets of stale air awakened then exhaled.
There is nothing as heavenly or as fleeting as having my domestic life in perfect order.
No dishes in the sink, the dishwasher empty, shoes put away in closets.
Those brief moments bring such satisfaction.
Doug experiences this fleeting enjoyment after he mows the lawn.
But just like a cereal bowl gets placed in the clean sink, each grass blade starts pushing itself higher and higher the minute he puts the mower away.
I want to stretch out the perfect moments in life because they bring on such a lovely smugness that makes me feel like there is restful order in all my chaos.
Our spring-like weather over the last few days has been so heavenly that I wish it would be permanent.
I want more days on the deck with the warm sun on my face as I water my flowers and see them lift up their vibrant heads.
But I know the heat and humidity are coming, and that watering my flowers will be a chore instead of a pleasure, and that the flowers will need to be nurtured carefully along with more regularity or they will wither away and die.
These life cycles remind me that the pauses in all my activity are earned, and that is why I enjoy them so completely.
None of them come without work and effort.
It’s like the perfect moments of family life — the laughing and sacred times of togetherness that fill the air with such strong love and appreciation for each other.
They are like much-anticipated birthday gifts that we can’t wait to open. There is wild excitement at the new, coveted items, but once unwrapped and used, they quickly become part of our accumulated “stuff” and lose their specialness.
I guess the lesson is to savor the moments.
I think of Doug’s dad and one of his nightly rituals.
He goes to bed with a delectable piece of chocolate in his mouth and lets it slowly melt and coat his throat before he falls asleep.
And as he savors the flavor of a good piece of milk chocolate, he looks forward to the next night, when at the end of another day, he gets to savor it all over again.
If I could stretch out all the perfect moments, they probably wouldn’t be so sublime.
They would be ordinary and wouldn’t mean nearly as much.
The folded laundry, the empty kitchen sink, the mowed lawn, and the melting chocolate are the little moments that make life big.
Next time I finish the laundry and feel that passing self-satisfaction, I’m going to remember that.