Saturday, December 29, 2018


I've had a to-do on my phone for about 3 months to write about the importance of creating space. #irony

A dear friend wrote to me the other day - with pen, paper, and stamp - and asked me about my focus for 2019. It got me thinking. My first thought was that we all sure need friends like that. My next thought was that I'm not sure I'm ready to let go of 2018's focus on creating margin. I think it's a meditation that needs refinement, but not one that I'm done with yet that's done with me yet.

As y'all already know, I'm a doer. Lordy, I'm good at doing. Yet in the wisdom of my 39 years (ha ha) I've come to realize that the magic really comes in the margins. The space around the doing. The extra. The part set aside for the sheer joy of life. That's where relationship happens. That's where Jesus really resides. In the margins. And I am terrible at leaving margin in my life. Because if your life is judged by what is accomplished, then the only thing that makes sense is striving to pack every moment full. But if your life is judged by God's economy, well, that striving really needs to get replaced with abiding. Breathing. Being.

I've looked for alternatives to the word "margin" for this. There are some good ones:
  • surplus (abundant lives certainly have plenty!)
  • play (I like this one - there has to be play in the system to have room to play. heh.)
  • space
  • latitude
  • leeway
I like these, but so far the best word I've found for this space is "margin" so I guess I'll stick with that as my focus for 2019.

And there are some great verses to guide my focus in 2019:
Light, space, zest—
    that’s God!
Hurry and help me;
    I want some wide-open space in my life!
God, the one and only—
    I’ll wait as long as he says.
Everything I need comes from him,
    so why not?
He’s solid rock under my feet,
    breathing room for my soul,
An impregnable castle:
    I’m set for life.
Give me space for healing, and mountain air.
He stood me up on a wide-open field;
    I stood there saved—surprised to be loved!
The reality is that I believe that there's magic in the margins. That in God's economy, being and doing freedom and beauty is as fruitful more fruitful than my striving for accomplishment.

So I think another year of letting God teach these truths to my heart is in order.

"Margin." I'll let that word be my meditation for 2019.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Album 49 and Counting

I am so very proud of myself - I've fully caught up with our photo albums! Album 49 (that is, album XLIX - the roman numerals seemed like a good idea until about 30 and now I have to look up each subsequent number because, let's face it, nobody knows roman numerals past 20ish) is complete and the first half of 2018 is documented! I am feeling very accomplished.

You see, I fell behind about 7 years ago when life got really heavy, and a few years ago I finally felt ready to pick up where I left off. It took me around 18 months to catch up to today (hooray!) and we now have 49 - can you believe that? - albums full of our stories and memories.

Now, I know what you're thinking: Jamie, you have enough actual things to do, why do you need to manufacture hobbies to eat up that pesky spare time? Plus, does anybody even print out photos anymore? Also, do you have space for those albums?

Answers in reverse order: No. Well, I do. And, yes, I do think there's a bit of a compulsion going on. But I genuinely like doing it - I print out these blog posts, buy set of assorted Sharpies, arrange the photos on pretty paper (no stickers or cut outs or crap, that's way too much work), get to use fun adhesive runners to stick the photos to the pages, and it gives me something to do when we watch TV.

But the main reason that I spend all those hours chronicling our history is that the kids really enjoy having something physical, tangible to look through. The literal story of them.

They get to laugh at the silly stories and pictures, marvel that they were ever that small, and relive the happenings that have disappeared from their memories.

It's a precious thing seeing your daughter lug album after album upstairs day after day to read while she's falling asleep.

So bring on the next 49 albums! This story is just getting started.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Albion Through the Years

Earlier this month we went camping in one of our very favorite places - Albion Basin. It's a campground up in the Wasatch National Forest nestled within Alta Ski Area in the winter. It's cool in the summer heat, above the summer haze, abounding in wildflowers and deer and moose, and one of the prettiest places on earth.

We went up to Albion again this year with our most longstanding of camping buddies, the Knappenbergers. As we hiked and watched our kids and drank a few beers, it was easy to wax nostalgic about the many summer adventures we've spent on these acres with so many folks we dearly love.

Hike 1: Catherine's Pass

Catherine's is the pass that separates Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons. If you climb up from the Alta side, you look out over Brighton Ski Resort. It's crazy to realize how interconnected our mountains are from above when you're not limited by travel by vehicle - it would take 45+ minutes to drive between Alta and Brighton in the best of weather, and we made the hike in that or less. It's also crazy that I love this little turn in the path so much that I've photographed it for 10 years!

Ben, Cody, Sam 2010
The Cases, Jamie, WanYing (in baby carrier!) 2012
Sam leads the way, 2011
Sasha and Dad walk into the sunset, 2018

When you get up to the Catherine's saddle, you can see right into Millie lake on the Brighton side. It's a lovely place for a snack and a photo.
Sam, 2007
2011, WanYing not so sure about this whole thing
Apparently apples were the theme in 2012
WanYing, Sam, Apples 2012
Steve and Jamie (in case you didn't recognize us) 2012
Sam, 2018

Hike 2: Cecret Lake

Reportedly named by miners with poor spelling skills, this "secret" lake is a favorite in Little Cottonwood Canyon. When you're not up for a big hike, you're always up for a stroll to Cecret. And, yes, all photos must be taken on this particular rock.
I'm pretty sure this was our 2005 Christmas card photo
The boys sporting some sweet hair, 2007
Morningstars and Powells (Sasha in carrier), 2010
Sasha and Dad, 2018

Hike 3: Snowbird to Alta

Our very favorite hike is a big one. We drive down to Snowbird, take the tram up, and then hike across and down to Alta. It's the best!
Look at all of those little babies! 2005
Ben and Zack are still friends... although they don't hold hands anymore, 2007
Still great friends! 2018
We had 2 more blog-worthy memories made this year at Albion. The first is our semi-successful reenactment of our winter photo skiing at Cecret lake in April.
We all had a good chuckle at the "no swimming" sign in April
And here we are in August!

The second blog-worthy story came on our final evening of camping at Albion. Our friend Josh came up for the evening and remarked that he could go for a pizza. Keep in mind that the closest pizza was several miles down the mountain at Snowbird, so we were joking around about needing a delivery service. Eventually Josh said something about paying $100 for a pizza delivered to this remote campground.

A few minutes later, Ben says, "Were you serious about that $100 thing?"

Long story short, Ben embarked upon a 3 hour, 10 mile, $70 profit unicycle ride to Snowbird and back. At sundown we started to get a little worried about him and Josh drove down to make sure he was doing ok (there's no cell coverage at Albion). The kid has grit.
And that pizza, reheated over the fire, was some of the finest I've ever had.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Viva España

This summer we celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary and we decided that we were going to do it right! We started with a ginormous backyard party, which was everything we hoped it would be - good friends, good food, good music, good backyard vibe - it was a darn fine party!

But the party was just the first step in our epic anniversary plans - a few weeks later (over our actual anniversary) we flew to Spain (Spain! Can you believe it?!?) for nine days of kid-free, agenda-free, computer-free, blissfully-free adventure. It was amazing.

The most common question we get is, "what was the best part?"

Steve's answer is simple: paella. We had talked about paella for the whole trip but it wasn't until we got to Barcelona (the final stop) that we did a little research, found a well-recommended paella place (Tavern Glop... great paella, terrible name) and dug in. And it everything we had hoped it would be! Candidly, my rabbit-and-snails rice dish was a little bland. Next time, we'll keep it simple and just order 2 paellas.

My answer to the "favorite part" question is less definitive - I just really liked being together; no responsibilities, no real plans, just seeing the sights and hanging out together.

Now, we all know that Steve will laugh out loud when he reads this post because our definitions of "just hanging out" are still pretty different. When I say "no real plans" what I really mean is "a mere one structured outing or reservation per day". I mean, we had to make sure we saw the main sights, right?!?

I loved a lot about Spain,  but probably my favorite thing (after cava sangria) was that nobody will kick you out of a restaurant! I loved that we would find a cozy table with a menu that looked good, nurse a beer and a few tapas, and play cribbage for hours.

Of course, the no-pressure approach to table vacancy did mean we had to wait or wander a while to find the perfect cozy nook to hang out in, but it was well worth the search. Plus, we were the crazy Americans eating at the ungodly early hour of 8 pm, so the restaurants were still pretty empty.

I loved each of our 3 stops for how different and unique and fantastic they each were. Toledo was this very quiet, very quaint, mostly walking city with endless crooked alleys and a sword shop on every corner. Besides touring the cathedral, we mostly just wandered, ate, played cards, ate some more, and then wandered a bit more. It was slow-paced, quiet, and the perfect start to our trip.

Stop 2 was Rota, on the southern Atlantic coast of Spain. The best part of Rota was seeing my aunt and uncle, who are living the dream on the Spanish coast!

We spent hours and days walking the beaches, stopping at random beach bars to fortify ourselves, taking a nap, and then doing it all over again. Heaven.

And our final stop was Barcelona - completely different from the other two cities we visited, and also completely wonderful. Touring the Sagrada Familia and other Gaudi homes, hitting the Picasso museum, and just wandering the streets of such a beautiful, artistic, historical-yet-modern city was an excellent end to our amazing adventure.

By far, the best part of the trip was doing it together. We're pretty darn good adventure buddies and it's a blessing to have time away to remember just how much we enjoy being just about anywhere as long as we're doing it together.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Sam Explores Vietnam

In June I went on a trip to Vietnam for two weeks, and it was a blast!  The trip went all over vietnam and we got to see a lot of the countryside as well as the larger cities.

We started the trip in Ho Chi Minh city (also known as Saigon) with a trip to an outdoor museum for the Vietnam War. It was somber, but interesting. We got to see many of the traps the Vietcong used in the war, as well as cool propaganda footage. After that we went to the Mekong Delta, a beautiful region of vietnam with many rivers.  
There were so many boats!

After Mekong it was back to Ho Chi Minh for a flight to Hoi An. We had a lot of fun shopping and exploring. But we also went on a very cool “eco tour” where we saw traditional farming methods and rice paddies.
A field we helped water
Me riding a water buffalo

After Hoi An we went to Da Nang, and saw the beautiful marble mountain and some of the caves inside.
The view from the top of marble mountain. The city goes up to the base!

After Da Nang we went to Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. We got to see some of the ruins of the old imperial city. After our first day in Hanoi we took a train to Sapa, in the mountains of northern vietnam. There we got to see the incredible landscape, shaped over hundreds of years into rice paddies over every valley.
The Sapa region has many rice paddies like the ones in this picture

We did some light hiking to reach our very cool homestay, and in the morning hiked back to the town to catch our train back to Hanoi.

After that we went to one of the most beautiful places in Vietnam, Halong bay. Its really difficult to describe how impressive the bay is, but it was truly a sight to behold. The rocks towering above our ship were truly astounding. You should google for some pictures, its so cool.

After a night on the ship we drove back to Hanoi, and after a night of rest & shopping we finally left to come back home.

The trip was truly a wonder, and it was so great to see some of the most impressive parts of this beautiful country
A photo of our group. I actually don't know why I'm so far from everyone else.


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