Thursday, October 28, 2010

12 Things: This is Us Oct 2010

(Us at the end of a great day at Knotts Berry Farm 10/13/10)

I have too many things to write about. It's like when I don't write in my journal for far too long then finally open it up and think I have to catch up and I end up writing a novel. But I have no time for a novel today.
Life has been so good and so busy and so memorable. Lots of milestones. Lots of memories. Lots of everything. I've taken a bunch of pics, but haven't uploaded anything from my good digital camera all month. There's a treasure of photo joys on that oh-so-precious memory stick, just waiting for a good hour of my time. They're begging to be seen. But until then...a few gems from the iPhone camera.

One of my favorite journaling styles, especially in my scrapbooks (which have been 100% neglected for months and months), is lists. I'm good at lists. I can make them like the best of 'em. So here are the bullet point highlights of October 2010 before the calendar page is turned and the "HOLIDAYS" officially begin:
1) We beach camped at South Carlsbad State Beach for Fall Break. Loved it. Lots and lots of cousins and friends. Kid everywhere. Mine were in heaven. Grilled steaks, ate at our favorite Mexican food dive, Juanitas - three times. Played Rook. Barrett started reminding me of a teenager, roaming through the campground with packs of friends, just checking in for mom's sanity periodically. She's growing up. The first half of the week graced us with fantastic weather (I was out boogie boarding and loving it), the second half not so much. Still, we worshiped the beach and hoped for the sun and the kids braved the cooler weather like troopers. I've decided that they don't really care. As long as they are outside, with friends, roaming free - life is good. Sun or no sun.

2) Barrett turned 12 while we were there. We celebrated her birthday at Knotts Berry Farm and had the place to ourselves. What a great day together.

3) After a long full day of crazy theme park riding, we ate at Cheesecake Factory with the kids and my folks. Barrett ordered up a scrumptious cheesecake (of course) and even shared a little with me!

3) The next day, we went with Barrett to do baptisms for the dead at the San Diego temple. Such a great experience for all of us. In addition to a few other family names and temple prepared names, Barrett was able to be baptized for her great great Aunt Evelyn, who Barrett met and stayed with in Ohio a few years back during one her trips with Ryan (she passed away in 2007). What a great temple experience for all of us. Hopefully Evelyn is smiling up there...

4) Our 20-year Mountain View High School Reunion was last weekend. Toro Class of 1990. Everything turned out so great. It was such a neat experience heading that up with our marvelous committee and rekindling so many friendships from the past during this past year as we planned and prepared for this big event. Yes, it was a lot of work, but really, I had fun all along the way. Really, truly. So I think that's a good sign. Even our planning meetings were so fun. And Saturday night - amazing fun. I left exhausted but smiling.

Some of our committee (there were 14 of us on the committee altogether): Me, Linda Lou, Shari, Nicole, Althea & JaNae. I loved working with you! (I posted all the reunion pics on my Facebook page and our class website, so that will have to do. Too many for this blog.)

My handsome husband, and fellow Class of 1990 grad. I loved that we graduated together and were both able to enjoy this reunion together.

Some of my best high school friends: Linda, Cindy, Tara, Stacy & Me

Our spectacular Toro candy table. Isn't it awesome? That was a huge hit.

We had about 160 people at the reunion and such a great crowd. The venue was perfect at Rustler's Rooste, in their outside barn area at the top of South Mountain. Spectacular views. City lights. Perfect weather. The place was decorated so festively with all our Toro red and blue. Big blown up black and white photos of our sports teams and graduation pics. Yearbooks. Pom pons. Megaphones. Memory books keepsakes to take home on the table. Food was delicious too. We mingled, ate, laughed, watched our "Then and Now" tribute movie that turned out so good. Had funny awards, took a huge group photo, danced to some good '80's tunes whipped up by our DJ, laughed some more, talked, talked, talked. So many good friends and a good mix of people. The real "cliques" were mostly gone. Nobody really cared who you used to hang out with 20 years ago. Everyone was just so happy to see everyone else and genuinely interested in each other's lives. So many good people that we went to school with. Really, good, good to the core kind of people. And it's so good to see so many people happy and thriving in life. My favorite part of our "Then and Now" DVD was by the far the "Now." As the current family pictures scrolled across the screen, one by one, I was overcome with emotion seeing all the families of our classmates and realizing what a legacy we have. Truly, we are so blessed.

The feedback has been overwhelming. Just about every single person at the reunion came up before leaving with a huge smile and hug, expressing genuine thanks for such a great night. Everyone loved the placed and the more casual atmosphere and dished kudos all the way around. And I can't even begin to count the number of personal emails, texts and Facebook messages we've received over the past several days, thanking me and our committee for such a memorable night. Truly, I've been awed and humbled by the gratitude and the response.

5) And now life moves on, still so busy but so good. My two sisters-in-laws' babies were blessed Sunday (Boston and Ava) and we had a big family dinner afterwards to celebrate that great occasion as well as all the October birthdays in the Brown family, which are many.

6) We drew names for Christmas (can't believe it's here again already). Caught up with the fam.

7) The boys gave Bob, my father in law a blessing, as he went in for his third surgery in a month. He's getting ready for kidney dialysis and has had to have a couple surgeries to prepare, and then he got a hernia that had to be repaired. Thankfully, he's been handling them all well and has been such a trooper through it all. We continue to pray for him day and night.

8) The big annual church Halloween chili & fry bread party is Saturday night. Still the activities director so I'm heading it up. Many fliers delivered Monday night with the Berrey family for FHE (thanks for taking the kiddos on the Ranger - they loved it), lots of volunteers to coordinate for Saturday, too many paper goods to count. It will be great, just as it has been every year for the past 25+ years as we live in such a great neighborhood with great people. And how can chili and fry bread and homemade root beer and kids in costumes be anything but good?

9) I got another calling on Sunday too. Now teaching the 4th Sunday Relief Society lessons as well, which will be good for me. More study, more devotion. I need it.

10) Did the last minute costume accessory shopping at lunch hour today: vampire teeth, white face makeup, fake fairy eyelashes, a little hair dazzle for the rock star. I vetoed new Halloween costumes this year. Just wasn't interested in devoting any energy or funds to that this year. We have two huge crates of past Halloween costumes - four kids' worth - so we let the peeps have it and come up with something to wear. They didn't even complain or ask once to go to the store for something new. I was pleasantly surprised. It was great. I'm doing that every year I think. They were happy as clams taking turns mixing it up and changing their minds a million times before finally landing on "the one." Easton sported the hodge podge of at least six different costume parts and cracked us all up. He was the the cat slash pirate slash lobster slash vampire slash superhero. Nice.

11) Candy ready. Treats and plates and all for four class parties tomorrow - ready.

12) And the running goes on. I'm loving the cooler weather. I was actually cold this morning at 5:50 am. Long sleeves even. Race day is 16 days away and I am getting excited. Can't wait for Ryan to be there running too. His first half marathon, my second. What a cool thing for us to do together. I want to be speedier, but I never do sprint days in my training so I'll probably never gain much speed until I do. So I'll just run my comfortable pace, which is fine. I am doing it and I am happy and life is good.

So this is Us. The Mesa Browns. Living life.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I've been ignoring my blog. A week of much needed vacation on the beach in Cali, followed by never-ending loads of beach camping laundry, work shmirk, training runs, and all the craziness of finalizing our high school reunion movie and plans and logistics for this weekend has kept me otherwise occupied.

But I'm still here and kicking. Kicking in high gear actually. I can't believe that our 20-year reunion is only a couple days away now. It's just like anything that you plan out forever in advance: at first, it seems so far away, then suddenly the day is here and you wonder where all the time went. I swore that I would not be working on the DVD the week of the reunion. I would have it long done weeks ahead...Ya, right. Well, I had good intentions anyway.

But is finished. Well, mostly. The movie itself is done - finished at midnight last night - now it's just the DVD covers and DVD menu to wrap up. I have to say, I'm super excited about it. Probably too excited really (just like I always am after laboring for hours and days on a movie project near and dear to my heart) because I know all the time that went into it and that it was a special creation. Until you make your own movie (or your own homemade anything I suppose), it's hard to understand the joy that comes from delivering the finished product. You always hope the end recipient will love it like you do, but really, I think that's impossible. No one will ever love it like you do because you made it. With your own hands and your own time. It's the same with homemade quilts or scrapbooks or anything you pour yourself into. Actually, I think I might be different like that. Maybe because I like making homemade things and understand the time involved, I cherish homemade things so much more. I'm kinda sentimental like that. Actually, really sentimental like that.

Anyway, I'm digressing on the virtues of handmade things...

I've been thinking about the awesomeness of modern technology. We found Ryan's copy of our Senior Year Video (on VHS tape - which is a technology that my kids don't really understand), which Ryan then converted to DVD through a VHS to DVD recorder. Then I downloaded some MPEG Streamclip software to my Mac and converted the DVD to ".DV" format (which is the raw data file, if you will, that is editable in computer programs like iMovie.) Then I imported the video to iMovie and started excerpting footage from 20 years ago. Throw in a bunch of hard copy retro photos I scanned from all sorts of alumni, add in the recent digital pics uploaded to our class website by all of the classmates, scour through hard drives of music libraries to find the perfect 10-12 killer '80's tunes for the movie, and voila! Several days later, we have ourselves a "Toro Class of '90 Then and Now" DVD!

Seriously, technology is amazing. Someday, maybe when my peeps are grown and married with kids, I'll have this blog printed into a book and they'll be reading it wondering what the heck I'm talking about. DVD? What's that? I'm sure that in 20 years there will be something smaller and better and far more advanced. We already have Blue Ray and mini DVD's and all the music that used to fill towers of CD's (or cassettes or 8-tracks) now fits nicely with room to spare on my pink iPod Shuffle, which is 2/3rds the size of my pinky finger.


So probably after this weekend's reunion events are finished and I've slept a good 8 hours straight, I'll upload some pics of our vaca and blog about our great fall break and Barrett's birthday and the reunion I'm sure and all of the other stuff I need to write about.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Hard Things

We are funny creatures. We wake up at the crack of dawn when the moon and the backs of our eyelids tell us we should still be slumbering. We strap on our shoes and our iPods and our Garmins and hit the asphalt. We run up and down stadium bleachers countless times until our legs feel like jello. We circle the tracks, traverse the canal banks, scale the mountains. We go and go until our lungs feel like they might run out of air or until our feet beg us to stop. We make our hearts beat twice as fast as normal and we thrive in the sweat. We push our physical abilities to the limits, drive ourselves to push on and stretch to reach further than we thought we could or at least further than we've been before. We crave new experiences. We yearn for hard things - experiences that will help refine us and push us to become more than we presently are.

We do hard things. On purpose.

In one of the conference addresses Saturday (I can't remember which speaker it was), I heard a similar message about how we inherently derive satisfaction from the accomplishment of that which is hard. It's in our nature. Nothing worth having comes easy. I smiled as those words were spoken. He was talking to me. I had run my 7 miles earlier that morning, with legs still mildly tired from the 4 on Friday, and still somewhat un-recovered from the grand canyon the week before. I was rubbing my shin bruise and considering why my blisters hadn't healed yet. I was thinking about Bishop Uncle Jim and my cousin, Jimmy, who had probably just finished their marathon in St. George an hour or two earlier - just a little over a month after running the Park City marathon in August and only months after battling cancer. I was thinking about my next big race with Ryan in just six weeks and the Turkey Trot the week after that and racing again with my SIL at London's Run and the next big Rim 2 Rim hike in 2011 and getting excited about all of it. All these things, hard things...and yet I crave them.

I know that we are all at different places in our lives, and truly - just a few years ago- I couldn't have been further away from where I am now. Then, if I would have attempted a short jog around my block, I'm quite sure my lungs would have given out. I was ten years into motherhood and too many years into sleepless nights and 2:00am work sessions followed by 6:00 am risings. I hadn't made fitness a priority in a decade and the fruits of that neglect manifested themselves in every aspect of my well-being. The best thing that ever happened to me was my dad coming to work for us at RMB and lifting so much of that crazy late-night work burden from my plate. Suddenly, I realized that I really did need sleep. And exercise. And that I could feel good again - really good.

There is a season for everything, a time and a place. I know that. And somehow I justified for so many years that being fit wasn't part of my season. That doesn't even make any sense in retrospect. Being fit should be part of who we are are - always. I think I put fitness on the back burner partly because I thought I couldn't fit one more thing in my crazy life - and maybe I couldn't, I don't know, but mostly because I thought it was too hard. And it is so dang hard when you're not consistent. Every time you try to recommit, you pay the price of sore muscles and aching limbs and burning lungs and then you fizzle and fail. Now I'm afraid to not run. Afraid that if I give myself too many days off that my lungs will shrink and my heart will forget that it's OK to beat at 160 and that my legs will rebel against me. Afraid that I'll have to start over.

I'm excited about the milestones I'm striving for, excited that Ryan is on the same track and that we are doing hard things - together. I'm excited that my brother and SIL are hiking with us next year and that living strong is a priority in our family. I'm excited that I have a brood of inspiring running cousins and crazy hikers and that we all thrive on the quest for the hard things. I'm an advocate for consistency and a believer that we can be more that we presently are.

Friday, October 1, 2010


My mom wanted to have a large family. She always imagined that she'd have four or five kids. But Heavenly Father had a different plan in mind for her, and blessed her with just two: Michael & me. She's told me so many times over the years how grateful she was to have us and that two turned out to be the perfect number for her. And lucky for me - I got to be the little sister to the best brother in the world, and have him all to myself. All my childhood memories with Michael are so good. Really, all of them. If we ever fought, I can't remember it. He was the big brother that every girl dreams of: fun, protective, likable, didn't tease. He always let me tag along. He was the measuring stick I used to evaluate my future husband material. When I met Ryan and quickly fell in love with him, I knew he was the one not only because my heart told me so, but because he possessed so many of the same great attributes I had always admired in Michael. Both Ryan and Michael are among those "good to the core" kind of men, and I'm blessed to have both of them in my life.

Now that we're all grown up, Mike still ranks up there in the top 3 of my life, right along side my husband and my father. Truly, he's one of a kind and I get to claim him as my favorite brother without bias.

Yesterday was his birthday. Mike turned 41, which means I must be getting old too, but I still have a year and a few months before my ticker swaps out a "3" for a "4". So I really can't be that old :).

We are getting together on Sunday night for family dinner to celebrate, but I've been thinking about him all week. These are just a few of my favorite pictures of Michael. If you know Michael, you know he has a passion for a number of things: his wife, his family, his weapons, his outdoors, and his fun. He's a "do it 100% or nothing" kind of guy, and I love that about him.

Us at Magic Mountain this summer

At Carlsbad Beach with Dad and his four terrific sons

Mike has always loved to surf. This was taken maybe 20 years ago I think?

He loves to ride and has bought and sold a number of bikes over the years. I think he's presently bike-less, but I know the love is still there...

From the time Michael was a young boy, he always had a love for weapons. True, the knife/sword goes with the pirate costume, but I would venture a guess that he chose the costume because of the sword! Just sayin'...

He was my very best friend growing up, and we still love hanging out with he and Shari now. We double date and vacation together often.

I'm not sure which birthday this was, but from the looks of my missing teeth, I would guess I was in second grade, so I'm thinking this was probably Mike's 10th birthday. He loved that dart board! In this pic: Michael, Matt Schoenthaler (sp?), Dale Jr., me, Julie & Laura

Michael with Tate & Easton two years ago on his birthday.

Shari & Mike - very much in love. One of the things I love most about Michael is the love he shows to Shari. When we are with them, you just know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he adores her.

Again, note the knife strapped onto Michael's hip. Hmmm....I wonder how it all began?

Michael loves the great outdoors, in whatever shape it presents itself. This is him kayacking in Mexico a couple of summers ago (the one and only time we got them to join us down in Rocky Point, which was a total blast. Maybe someday they'll come back with us!)
Rappelling at Roger's Trough. He took his gear and taught all of us how to get down the mountain. That was such a great trip.

This one just melts my heart. Michael with Tater when he was just a babe. Man, Tate has come such a long way!

My sniper SWAT make me proud! And feel safe!

Happy Birthday, bro. I love you to infinity and beyond!

Girls Trip: Sept 2010

Cyndi Lauper knew what she was singing about. Sometimes, all us girls really want to do is have fun.

(me, riding my bike along the pier & beach in Santa Barbara, CA)

A couple of weeks ago, I spent four days over in Ventura Beach (about an hour north of LA) with my dear friend, Stephanie Fillmore, my SIL, Shari, and some of our girlfriends. It was such a good time to relax, decompress a little, and truly - just to have fun. I have gone to BYU Women's Conference a handful of times over the years, which I have really enjoyed, but this was my first non-church conference girls trip ever! Over the past 14 years that we've been married, Ryan and I have been blessed to take a number of trips together sans kids (thanks to fabulous grandparents who were willing to help with our precious peeps), but we very rarely travel apart.

Hmmm...actually, now that I'm reflecting back over our life together, I am remembering Ryan being gone without me quite a bit...a number of times over the past few years for his father and sons outings and myriad of scout outings (just doing his fatherly and scoutly duties, I know), and I do seem to recall a few trips over the years with his dad and/or brother to see concerts in Chicago and Vegas and LA and to watch baseball games in other cities, like Boston, and visit his grandma in Ohio a number of times. And then there were those visits to see Ted in Cali and to do off-roading with Kendrick in Mexico...Ya, I think it was my turn.

He was super supportive of me going. He and his buddies are going on a backpacking trip in Northern Cali next summer and I know he's already looking forward to that. And I definitely couldn't have done it without my mom, too. She was so great to help out a couple of extra days while I was away.

So, back to the trip. We didn't take a ton of pictures because we were just too busy talking, talking, talking the whole time, but I did capture some of our trip on film.

In a nutshell, these are some of my favorite things about our trip:

Cool weather, LOTS and LOTS of good talks, sitting on the beach laughing and crying and laughing some more, playing counselor to each other, eating the best chicken fajita burrito of my life at Johnny's - a little hole in the wall joint that Steph turned us on to, crisp morning runs along the boardwalk and by the marina (and running fast - still sub 8:00's at 5 miles YAHOO!), shopping with no kids, eating out, the fabulous little donut shop that was truly a slice of heaven, getting a pedicure, having LOLA on the GPS to guide us around the streets of Cali, our day trip to Santa Barbara where we rented bikes and cruised around the beach, shopped our hearts out and ate Kung Pao Spaghetti while not caring that our breath smelled like garlic and onions since we knew we wouldn't be making out with our husbands :), more talking, talking, talking, laughing, laughing, laughing, sleeping in as late as we wanted (which was really only 'til 7:30, which seemed like a dream compared to the norm), reading a little Mockingjay (but only a very little since we just kept talking...)

It was all good. Thanks, girls, for the memories! And a big thanks to Steph for letting us stay at your beach house on Camden Lane. I can't wait to go back! Of course I missed Ry and the kids so much, even only being gone for four days, but it was a good missing. The kind of missing that is not too long, but long enough to remind everybody that we all need each other and that our family functions so much better with all of us playing our roles. The kind of missing that makes you hungry for your next date night and excited to cuddle up and read a book with your babes.

Shari, Tricia & I enjoying our huge Yogurtland delights in Santa Barbara

Cruising up and down the Pier in Santa Barbara

We fell in love with this deep seated leather sofa at Restoration Hardware. I think Shari was trying to figure out how to get it back to AZ with us...

Tricia, Laura, Shari, Me, & Steph on the beach in Ventura (Val flew home the day before)

I couldn't resist posting this one. Right before we left to drive home on Saturday, we walked down to the beach to snap a couple of pics. Shari was cracking me up as she did her mock "cat walk" up the road.