Jason and I organize an epic Easter hunt every year with my family. Virtually all our nieces and nephews on my side participate in this quest regardless of their age; no teenagers decline on the grounds of childishness for the plunder is rather ludicrous.
Jadon was the lucky locator of one of the golden eggs.
Between goodies supplied by aunts, uncles, and grandparents, the kids got way more booty than necessary but they didn’t seem to mind.
Porter, our oldest nephew, was still digging and climbing for his hoard long after the little kiddies had found theirs.
We make the hunt interesting by adding some competitive elements, golden eggs with substantial cash in them for instance, but all the kids take home a disturbingly large pile of goodies regardless of their seeking skills.
Benson discovered this gilded shell and its monetary contents.
Jason insisted on buying two outlandishly-sized bunnies for the finders of some tiny eggs.
As the “cool” aunt and uncle, we take creating memories and hyperactivity very seriously. We would never dream of letting an Easter pass without providing an opportunity for our young relatives to acquire one-pound peanut butter bunnies and cash-filled eggs. The Easter Bunny wishes he could be all that and a bag of Peeps.
There is something extraordinary about the places that evoke the remnants of childhood joy. My grandma’s house is such a place for me.
Beautiful antebellum homes can be found in unexpected places throughout the South.
My grandma lives in a rural area of the South. Her small home, humble by adult standards, always thrilled me and my siblings as children. To her grandkids that house meant endless doting, plentiful food, innumerable hugs, rows of dress-up shoes- all the standard spoilings of proud and loving grandparents. We believed our grandparents were loaded, quite erroneously, because they offered us everything they had.
Bingo is a popular pastime in the South; my grandma plays it rather religiously.
Running is not a popular pastime in the South. We ran into more rattlesnakes than runners during a 10-mile jog.
Recently, Jason and I took a trip to visit my outstanding grandma. This time, my sister and dad traveled with us. We toured the sites of my father’s youth, lost at Bingo, visited with living relatives and those no longer around, sampled Memphis barbecue, explored antebellum homes, gobbled catfish and hushpuppies, and enjoyed Easter gatherings.
We don’t see our Southern relatives often so it was nice to catch up.
My grandma now suffers from some of the afflictions that get us all in the end and doesn’t have the energy she once did but visiting her still brings back a surge of memories and an onslaught of hugs. And that’s why her stout home, unremarkable to the rest of the world, will forever remain a shrine to unconditional love to me.
Can’t go on one more day without knowing how Jason and I fared in our 2016 races? I figured as much and thus I am willingly sharing these completely mediocre finish times with the world. You’re welcome.
Tulip Festival Half Marathon
Race Specs: This is the hardest half marathon in Utah. It’s not downhill like most. It’s a rollercoaster and, as with any notable coaster, vomit’s a standard.
Race Stats: I finished in two hours and 26 minutes. Overall, a much better run for me than my last tiptoe through the tulips. I didn’t break any land speed records but I kept a steady pace and met my time goal of less than two and a half hours. Further, I only walked up three or four of the steepest hills, which was quite an accomplishment considering the bountiful bumps on this course. Jason finished under two hours, which was his aim. He crossed the line at one hour and 53 minutes. Jason’s dad, Keith, also ran this race. We were proud of him for taking on the Hungarian Horntail of half marathons on his first half attempt and slaying it.
My parents walked the Tulip Festival 5K so we had a hefty cheering section at the finish line. Thanks Ben Norell for the great pict!
Race Repercussions: Following the race, my knees hurt dreadfully the rest of the day. It was embarrassingly difficult to go up and down stairs. By the next day, the aches had retreated to mostly just my thighs but stairs were still painful. However, my discomfort was lessened by Jason’s awkward shambles. That boy really struggled with his knees both the day of the race and the day after… and probably some days after that. Within 24 hours, his calves and thighs also limped onto that bandwagon. Yup, he ran like a little boy during the race and then hobbled like an old man for days.
Lehi Roundup 10K
Race Specs: This race isn’t exotic but it is generally well planned and has become a tradition of ours over the years.
I’m not a competitive person, my only rival is myself, but I still appreciate the exhilaration of a starting line.
Remember that whole fight or flight evolutionary thing? Well, Jason is very flighty.
Race Stats: Jason won first place in his age group with 46:44. I finished at exactly 1H:3M:26S, coming in seventh in my age group. While this is nothing to be proud of, it isn’t too awful considering that typically about half the participants in any given race inevitably end up being women in my age group.
Fairy Tale Fun Run
Race Specs: Although not a timed event, this is, as its name suggests, a fun run. The course winds through Thanksgiving Point’s gardens where mermaids, pirates, princesses, and bad wolves await. I’d highly recommend this race if you’d like to get some little ones interested in exercise or just want to take your family on a running stroll through enchanted greens.
This fairy didn’t get the dust memo.
Jason galloped through the Fairy Tale Run wearing that unicorn head even though he couldn’t see where he was going and the plastic fumes choked his brain.
Race Stats: None, unless you want the speed at which Jason killed off brain cells inside his unicorn mask.
Fallen Officers Memorial Run 5K
Race Specs: This race’s purpose is to raise funds and promote caring for the families of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. It has a superhero theme and participants are encouraged to dress up. This year, Jason’s uncle was among the officers being honored so we felt particularly compelled to support the event.
Jason donned uncomfortable headgear again for the Fallen Officers Memorial Run for which he cut his nose and got his picture in the paper. Photo courtesy of Laura Seitz.
Race Stats: We were joined at this race by a small gang of family members. Jason, Jeremy, and Keith all placed first in their age groups. I came in 3rd in mine. Jason finished in 24 minutes exactly and Jeremy came in seconds behind him. It took me 29 minutes and 20 seconds to drag my cape to the line. How did we fit in the grand sprint? Jason came in 10th overall out of 267 participants and I came in 42nd.
Night of the Running Dead 5K
Race Specs: The Night of the Running Dead is an undying favorite of ours. It has changed management, style, and locations over the years. This time it crept over a dark route that went along parts of the Porter Rockwell Trail and unused portions of Highland Drive. Glow sticks placed here and there gave the only meager indication of the course direction. With leaves crunching unseen under our feet and a shrinking moon eyeing us behind a sharp breeze, the night felt deliciously fall. It was a far howl from previous, more theatrical, versions of this race where the undead danced about and the apocalypse was broadcasted. We’ve found all renditions terribly satisfying.
I used the strip of light from the timeclock to transform Jason into a brain biter.
Race Stats: Jason placed 2nd out of all the men. Good work Jason! His time of 26 minutes and 58 seconds was more sluggish than normal but the darkness and hills slowed everyone down. I placed 5th in my age group with a 9:56 mile average, not amazing but not too bad considering my putrid physique.
Yes, your life can go on now that you know Jason is still fast and continues to place often while I am still committed to maintaining my streak of mediocrity.
Do you live you in Utah? (If no, proceed to paragraph two.) Do you love movies? (If no, proceed to paragraph two.) Can you successfully sit for a couple hours? (If no, reflect on your unusual inability and its possible causes for a moment and then proceed to paragraph two.) If you answered “yes” to all of these questions, why don’t you go to the Sundance Film Festival? The Sundance Film Festival, unlike polygamy, is an actual perk of living in Utah so why not enjoy it?
Jason and I have been attending Sundance for many years now. Through it we have seen both obscure indies that have never been heard from again and shows that have gone on to earn Academy Award nominations. This year we saw five films, which is our typical Sundance load. They ranged from science nonfiction to science fiction but were all worthy of a watch.
Whatever your political position, you can’t deny that Al Gore is a remarkable speaker. We were thrilled to hear from him in person.
Our first festival film was Plastic China. Plastic China is a documentary that focuses on one family in a little Chinese village where thousands of small recyclers barely get by through melting down the world’s wastes. We thought it a poignant commentary on both the costs of global consumerism and the social norms in China. We attained some interesting insights from the film’s director and producers following the show.
This gang of scientists and crew members led a fascinating Q&A after Chasing Coral.
An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power was our second show. Yes, as the name suggests, it is a sequel to An Inconvenient Truth and has a similar theme. We quite enjoyed this cinematic call to action. As a bonus, Al Gore himself did a Q&A at the end of our screening; it was cool to hear from him personally. I have a policy against waxing political in public places so, without deviating much from that dogma, allow me to bring up one discussion point that’s been bothering me for some time: Why is there resistance in parts of the political arena to the possibility of global warming? If there is even a small chance that global warming is happening, why not embrace changes to counteract it? For if it isn’t happening and we act as if it is, what is the consequence? Cleaner air. Hmmm… cleaner air sounds okay to me. However, if we act as if it is not happening and it is, what is the consequence? A whole lot of catastrophic and horrible things… oh and, in the end, we run out of fossil fuels anyway. So why would any politician deny the possibility of global warming? Sadly, the answer is obvious. You fight against the notion of climate change if oil companies and other fossil fuel industries fund your career. And that is why I never trust politicians that proclaim global warming is irrelevant or a hoax; they either lack simple reasoning skills or they are looking out for their own best interests instead of those of the people they allegedly represent.
Danny Strong, the director and writer of Rebel in the Rye, was happy to interact with fans after his screening.
Chasing Coral was the third show we saw and our favorite film this year. It won the Audience Award in the U.S. Documentary category so we weren’t the only ones captivated by this vibrant movie. It provides a bittersweet look at the mysterious underwater forests of coral that have been dying at an unprecedented rate in recent years. (Spoiler alert: it’s global warming that’s killing them.) Chasing Coral is both a beautifully wondrous and incredibly distressing show.
Marjorie Prime, our fourth movie, won the Sloan Feature Film Prize, an award given to outstanding pictures with a science or technology focus. It offers a thought-provoking, and somewhat depressing, look at the science and science fiction of memory.
Along with fantastic films, part of the appeal of the Sundance Film Festival is hanging with friends.
The last screening we went to was for Rebel in the Rye, an excellent way to finish up the festival. This well-done film is about J.D. Salinger, the cloistered author of Catcher in the Rye. Jason and I both appreciated its themes about the process and price of creation.
The Sundance Film Festival supplied ample company, commentaries, and curiosities of thought this year. Good thing this event is for real, unlike Utahans extra wives.
Despite a great tragedy in Jason’s family, Jason and I made a planned trip to Yellowstone National Park with my family work out. Although there were some schedule hiccups, weather glitches, foot wrenches, and strain-induced illnesses, I’m glad we chose to make this outing happen regardless of the circumstances. The experience was perfectly contrasting; cruising around Yellowstone in winter felt as alien as hanging with my family felt familiar.
Due to all the runoff from thermal features, the Madison River doesn’t freeze so wildlife congregates along its path in the winter. That was where we found these bald eagles.
Jason and I reserved a posh condo in West Yellowstone months ago for the purpose of exploring Yellowstone National Park during its most inhospitable season. We invited the hardiest of my family to join us. Via a self-selecting method, the “hardiest” ended up being my parents, sister, brother-in-law, and two nephews. The whole group, except for my parents, spent a day snowmobiling through the park; my parents opted to take a milder snowcoach.
This coyote was waiting to be served a dozy-bird breakfast burrito.
Our many-layers look was stylishly completed by coveralls.
When we headed out the morning of our snowmobile reservation, the temperature was -39 degrees F. Yes, you read that right, as in almost 40 degrees below zero. We had to wait for about an hour at the snowmobile center for the temperature to rise to about-20. Evidently, if you go snowmobiling in weather below -20 it’s a lot like an ice cream truck came into town and you’re the popsicles.
Kristen and I rented telephoto lenses so we could give wildlife a zoom.
That a.m.’s -39 was about 30 degrees colder than I have ever been in my life. What did it feel like? It felt crunchy. Everything crackled from car doors to backpacks. Touching metal felt a lot like stabbing yourself in the hand. Sound seemed slow and muted. Oddly, other than a few weird things like that, -39 didn’t feel much different than 0. When you’re unthinkably cold, what’s 40 degrees less?
I had to remind myself that I was still on planet Earth when this scene came into view.
Yellowstone’s bacterial mats seemed even more striking when surrounded by a blanched palette.
When temperatures finally hit the balmy negative twenties, we were able to depart on our private snowmobile tour of the park. Kristen didn’t take to snowmobile operating. After an incident with a snowbank, which resulted in a sprained ankle, she wouldn’t drive above 5 MPH. I was therefore tasked with taking over the driving of her machine. I was starting to come down with a respiratory infection, one that would eventually become my worst sickness in years, so I wasn’t feeling exceptional to begin with and the mighty negatives were taking their toll but when we hit the splendor of Yellowstone all of that was forgotten.
The Lower Geyser Basin contained many marvelous fountains and pots.
Yellowstone looked like a misplaced land with snow-masked hillsides and meadows framed between wavy vapors and steamy rivers beaded by ice chunks. It was unreal! Since only about 1000 tourists enter the park daily during the winter, the animals are rather sociable and uninhibited while they are unpleasantly cold. (That sounds like a lot of people until you consider that over 30,000 visitors encroach on Yellowstone every day during the summer months.) We met bald eagles, coyotes, elk, and trumpeter swans. We plowed right through a herd of lethargic bison. Moving among them on a snowmobile, with nothing but frigid air between you, is quite a different experience than passing them in a car. We traveled through a valley where plumes of geothermal steam billowed toward the sky and crept along the horizon in a hazy dance full of a motion at odds with the utter stillness of the rest of the scene.
Red Spouter’s name makes more sense after seeing it in the winter. In the summer, it’s too dry to do any spouting.
The trees near pools, pots, and geysers looked more like gritty beasts than plants.
Did I stay warm? Shockingly, yes. Thanks to -60-degree boots, two pairs of socks, various foot warmers, a down jacket, a down coat, a thermal top, a snowboarding jacket, three layers of thermal pants of various sizes to allow for their overlay, two glove liners, mittens, two balaclavas, half a dozen handwarmers, and one hideous one-piece snowmobiling suit I stayed unexpectedly cozy. How I even moved while wearing all of that remains a mystery. I wasn’t the exception; no one in our group got cold. In fact, Miles was so comfy that he kept falling asleep on the back of Jason’s snowmobile. It was nerve-racking cruising behind them while he slid this way and that in a speedy slumber.
Even the more typical features of Yellowstone’s landscape didn’t look typical.
Although our trip passed too quickly, we still reserved some time at the condo for poker and conversation. It was pleasant and mellow thanks to my great family.
The only time we were assailed by other tourists was when everyone was heading out of the park for the day.
Spending time with my family was a delight as always.
What a memorable vacation! I will never forget the astonishing scenery, chummy wildlife, crinkly cold, and family warmth. Of course, I will also never forget how sick I was afterward. The day we left, my body was so worn out and ill that I could barely move. I slept the entire way home and had a fever the whole night. Yet, oh what a trip!