Summer 2011 - Chapter 4: Goodbye Turtle :(

First: Apologies, because I am so far behind T_T
Second: Apologies, because there are no pictures to go with this chapter. Turtle and I didn't do anything picture-worthy...

Turtle and I had known this day was coming for a long time, and finally, it had arrived.

Time for Turtle to leave Utah. :(

I don't really remember anything about the drive, other than it being its normal long-ness and listening to music. We made good time though and got in around midnight, where we were greeted by the most annoying bird. EVER. Now, I'm not a huge pet person, but pets that ANNOY are decidedly on the bottom of my list. The stupid thing squawked ALL NIGHT LONG. He would not shut up for one second. Needless to say, we didn't get much sleep.

When I'd had enough, I demanded she get up and call her mom to come right then or I was going to kill the thing. We had to finish up The Last Battle before we could start the book she was dying to read. We also camped out in front of her TV because I found episodes of American Ninja Warrior. If you haven't seen that show, you should. It's ridiculous.

Eventually Turtle's mom's friend came over and we went down to the creek to play with some littles. Then we went with her mom to some house where she was dog sitting in Wheatland. I cooked my chicken pillows and asparagus as a "last meal" sort of thing for Turtle. She loves them so much. We chilled for a while after that until the guy got home, then went home and started into the final novel of the DragonLance series. We read late into the night, and the bird (of course) didn't shut up the whole time.

Next morning we got up and continued reading. This was the last book in the series, Turtle had to know how it ended! In the middle of the day we decided to go into town, where we got ice cream and saw Green Lantern (review forthcoming). When we got back to the house, we absolutely bored Turtle's mom to death, because we only wanted to do one thing: read. Well, we had over 400 pages to cover and not much time to do it in!

Monday morning played out much the same, though we did so in the hammock outside this time while her mom lounged in the creek nearby. Then we headed over to her mom's cousin's house (to continue reading *grin*), though we did take a break to visit Joe's Crab Shack in Old Town Sacramento and do some window shopping. Somehow we got convinced that since it was the 4th, we should watch some fireworks. Personally, I could have gone without, but Turtle's mom really wanted to go. So we appeased her and went, and read there, though I was a little shy at first since I was kind of reading in public, and doing character voices is sort of embarrassing to me in a public setting (but I just admitted to all of you that I do them, so the secret is out... eep!). I got over it (I don't know if I'll get over that confession though!). We read and read and read, and pretty much did nothing else the whole 4 days, but we only made it about 3/4ths of the way through. I think when the fireworks were over we had about 200 pages left. I calculated the rate we were reading and suggested we could stay up all night and finish it, but then decided I wouldn't be able to make it. After all, my plane left super early in the morning and right after that I had to be to work. So I nixed it. She would just have to wait a little longer for the epic conclusion.

Next morning early I caught a plane back to SLC and said goodbye (not forever though!) to my Turtle :(

Love her.

So the very next weekend after going to Zion's (now 5 freaking months ago T_T), I packed my bags and flew across the country to visit two of my Besties from High School, Em and Mel.

Super exciting for me because I had not since these girls forever! (And by forever I mean Fall 2009 when Em got married. But still). I had *never* been to visit either of them where they were living, and I had never actually been to Pennsylvania (other than maybe driving through it(?)), so this was an extra exciting trip for me.

When I got there, there were squeals and laughing and smiles and hugs and a bathroom break. Then we started driving around and as I looked out the window I realized how much I miss my East Coast. SO GREEN! The trees were gorgeous. They gave me a brief driving tour/view of the City before we went back to Em's to drop off our stuff.

We hung out for a bit ad watched some GANGLAND (just because). Then when it got a bit later we decided to go get some eats and maybe do some shopping as well. Exciting!

The vote was for a German Restaurant whose name I cannot even hope to know (or pronounce) but it was for real, for real German. With the dancing girls and the accordions and everything. We got seated outside on the river! Nice view!

I was just so excited to be there! AHHHH!!! It was soooo good to be away from UT and to be having a real vacation and having it with the BEST people.

I opted for the PORK SHANK on the menu. Because. They had PORK SHANK *ON* the menu.

I mean, why NOT?

The best part was when the waitress was like, "Um, do you know what a pork shank is?"

Ummm, do I *look* like I have NEVER played a single video game in my life?! What do you think you feed warriors with?! Upside-down pineapple cake?! Of course I know what a shank is! Seriously girl! It was a pretty massive shank. I ate about half of it and got the rest boxed. Then I was totes eating again as soon we started leaving.


We rounded out the evening by going back to Em's and getting our dance on with some Wii Just Dance 2. It was actually pretty fun, except when I totally ROCKED a move and it didn't catch it. Silly sensor. I think the consensus was that doing the Monster Mash was the funnest.

Saturday was a day to be remembered for sure. A full day of being in Pitt!
We headed into town and they decided I needed to ride an incline car, which are these house-like carts that go up and down the mountainsides. They were built originally for mining (if I remember correctly) but then they were used to help transport people so they didn't have to commute as far. We opted for the Monongahela Incline.

That's me trying to do a "ta da!" a la Vanna. My hand should be turned up, though :/ Hand pose fail.

The track of the incline reminded me of Cedar Point. Sorry, I had to throw it in there... You loaded in just like at a train station, and there were different levels and benches and then it went and you just looked out the window as it went up.

Once we got to the top, we had to visit the lookout point and see the WHOLE city at once. It was gorgeous. Super pretty and breathtaking.

Photo Op!

LOVE THESE PEOPLE!!! (The 4th, previously unmentioned person there is the wonderful Em's Husband. He's an amazing man that one. So glad he has Em and she has him!) :)

After our wonderful photo shoot (there's like 10 other pictures that didn't make it on here. For the whole trip album, just go here. Fair warning, there are over 100 pictures!), it was definitely time to get some MUNCHIES!!!

ICE CREAM THAT-A WAY! Yeah, giggity. While we munched on ice cream, Mel and I wandered a bit because I was curious what some of the city streets looked like. When we were all done with ice cream it was time to head back down the mountain.

There was so much more to do! We walked around the mall a bit, and Em's Husband left us for a previous engagement he could not get out of. Then we had a stint of waiting to do.

After le wait, we went and got our tickets for the "Ducky Tour." I know, right? What the frick is a ducky tour? That's what I said. But I (and you) was about to be pleasantly surprised. A Ducky is like a truck/boat. See Exhibit 1 below.

Weird, I know. I promise it will make sense. And the Tour part is self-explanatory. In this case, of Pittsburgh. Fun! I love city history and exploring new places. This was perfect.

While we were waiting to board, some other High School friends joined us! YAY!!! So good to see L&G! Haiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii

After the exchanging of warm wishes and triggered memories, we loaded into the Ducky. I opted to sit in the very back where there wasn't a canopy roof for optimal viewing.

The truck rolled out into Downtown and the tour guide told lame jokes and explained to us various things about various buildings downtown. One of my favorites was the old courthouse.

We saw the NY Mellon building, Heinz Hall, a number of theaters, learned about Henry Clay Frick and the Flood of 1936. Pittsburgh has some REALLY cool buildings. Like breathtakingly beautiful cool.

It was like a glass Tower/Castle. Here's another view from farther away:

Eventually the truck trundled down under the freeway toward the water. Yeah, the water.

And then it went INTO the water and our truck became a boat. Because, what could be more awesome?

So then we were chilling on a boat in the river seeing the city from another angle. The driver even let everyone who wanted take a turn at driving. The little tykes ate it up (so did some big "kids"). Being in the water was really relaxing. It also allowed me to see the city of Pittsburgh from the outside, which was neat. We saw the Fort Pitt Tunnel, admired the trees, went past the Ball park, and I asked really important questions, as demonstrated in the picture below.

When we were done in the water, the boat drove back up onto land and made its way back to the mall. I was so sad for that to end. It was SUCH a cool tour. I cannot thank Em enough for thinking of it!

Fantastic use of time with friends. We joked and talked and just enjoyed ourselves. It was super good memories.

L&G had to say goodbye and then we wandered around some more. Outside one of the mall stores there were some fountains set to music a la Vegas. Dancing may have ensued. >.> This was incredibly entertaining for both Em and Mel. Then we decided we were hungry so we got some Joe's Crab Shack, which was delicious. I picked that place because I said we didn't have any in Utah (which is apparently a lie - there's one in Sandy and one in West Jordan).

After good eats we wandered over to a Half Price Books where I went crazy and bought like 7 books (which, let's be honest, I read alot, but I don't *purchase* alot. This was a big grab for me. Especially since I'm so picky about my books. But, I will be honest, I found the majority of a series I've been looking for a long, long time. I had to).

Then we went back to Em's where we debated going out, but ended up voting against it in favor of kicking it chillax-style with a movie at home. We opted for Megamind (review forthcoming). Though it had been on my radar, I'd never indulged in this particular flick. I was pleasantly surprised.

Sunday morning was so nice. We slept in, then relaxed on the back porch, enjoying Em's backyard foliage and the weather, and chatting. I packed my stuff, and we headed out to the mall(and more half price books! I had to find the rest of the series!) Eventually we gave up shopping in favor of eating and got lunch at some restaurant whose name and food is clearly not memorable as none of us can remember now where we went.

Then, all too quickly, it was time to say goodbye to Pitt and my lovely ladies. Such a fun trip. One I'll definitely have to make again soon! As if that wasn't enough, the very next weekend after saying goodbye to them, it was time to say goodbye to Turtle. :(

Stay tuned for Summer 2011 - Chapter 4: Goodbye Turtle :( coming soon!

*chirp chirp*


Sure has been quiet around here! Eesh. July?!

I'm a awful blogger.

But I'll have you know that things are settling down at work, I'm doing more writing, I'm back at it creatively, and thus am now wanting to re-emerge as a budding, young, lovely blogger as well.

I fully intend to recap my ever-so-wonderful and all-too-short summer of 2011 before the year has escaped me! So there! En garde and such!

Upcoming posts to look forward to:
- Summer 2011 (There are 4 more chapters already in draft mode, maybe a 5th if I feel like it)
- Movies! I have seen alot of movies
- Books! I apparently missed a post on books so there's a whole lot of those coming your way! The first one's been done since like May. Seriously.
- I have 9 posts in various stages of draftage. So get ready for some BLOGUNDATION! YEAHHHHH


To usher in more of Summer, we decided that we needed that all-important trip to a National Park. Last year I took Turtle to Capital Reef. She had a blast. But she'd always wanted to see Zion.

So this time it was going to happen. Turtle was getting ready to move (more on that in an upcoming post), so we knew this was our only chance. Joshy decided to join us, and we were more than happy to have him along for the ride.

I asked to leave work early as early as possible (to which my boss laughed. Me leave early? HA). My boss was in a strangely good mood and stopped what he was working on and started getting out tour books and maps and telling me all about where we should go in the park (I never even told him that's WHY I wanted to leave early... he got the info through the grapevine). I was super taken aback. Then, even funnier, he went to lunch and when he got back he was like WHY ARE YOU STILL HERE?! LOL When I asked to leave early I meant like 3pm. Not 11am. Why would I come to work for just 3 hours?! So that was a pretty humorous experience.

Joshy met me at my house and we went to Turtle's to get her. She piled in and we were off. The drive down went really fast because we were deeply engrossed in finishing off The Silver Chair (book review in an upcoming post) and starting The Horse and His Boy (ditto).

We were looking for somewhere to camp outside Zion, but we missed it on the way in, so we decided to see if there was any camping inside. There was one spot left! Lucky! It was just light enough for us to get our tent up. The pay spot was pretty much all rocks/gravel, so not the most comfortable sleeping arrangement. It wasn't bedtime yet, so we wanted to do something. We snagged a bus up canyon to the Emerald Pools (even though it was dark). Night hike! We did fine for a while just hiking in the dark, but then we got to a part with a lot of rocks so we had to bust out the flashlight. The pools were pretty cool, even though we couldn't really see them. Then we hiked back down, caught the last bus, and settled in for the night.

I didn't sleep so good that night. In and out of sleep alot, and the ground was super uncomfortable. We pretty much woke up with the sun. Joshy and I went to the first-come, first-serve campground to scope a spot. We found a really awesome one (with sand!) and a giant shade tree and I sat there and "camped" while Joshy went back, shoved everything in the car, and he and Turtle came over to our new site.

We set up the new site and staked the tent and such while Turtle made us breakfast of tortillas, peanut butter and honey. Mmm carbs! Then we hopped the bus to Angel's Landing - Turtle's dream hike.

We made Turtle go really fast because the trail was still in the shade and she was dying. But the sun was coming up and it was going to be REALLY hot, so we pushed her. She agreed that it was totally worth it.

When we were almost all the way up, we stopped in some shade and found some people who were visiting from like NYC or something, and they had to decided to quit. All that work and you aren't even going to the top!? We dragged them with us the rest of the way. We were not about to stand by and let them come that far and then just go home. Pshh.

Finally, after hours and hours (not really, but it felt like it to Turtle!) we were at the TOP!!! YAY!!!

I felt like the top of Capital Reef was cooler, but that's me. We met these two guys at the top who were reading Scripture. They were super Catholics from Ohio, right near where I grew up. They'd spent time at a monastery that Turtle's uncle was the Abbott of. We chatted with them about Ohio, and nature, and God, and all kinds of things. They were pretty cool people. I've always been interested in the way other people believe, and how that belief translates into the way that they live their lives. The underpinnings of all that intrigue me to no end.

We hung out on top for a while, had lunch, and just enjoyed the view.

Then it was time to go back down. And we knew it was a looooong way down!

The sun was out and it was indeed HOT. Turtle was struggling, but we pushed and made it okay. We took the bus back to camp and then decided we wanted to go into town and see the sights and get some food. We had lunch at a mexican restaurant, then went to a candy store. When we got back, we were trying to decide what to do. It was way hot, so we decided to go swimming. We found a spot at the Virgin river where some other people were hanging out, and we got in to join them.

This is NOT where we were swimming... that picture is of the river at a much more swollen spot. In the shallows where we were, it was barely over our ankles.

We played with rocks and waded and generally had a grand ol' time. There were some people upriver from us whose kids were rafting in tubes and having a blast. Downriver from us there were a bunch of rapids. Scary looking rapids. Especially with the river as swollen as it was.

Then came a moment I lived to regret (thank goodness), but one that I still find myself mulling over more than a month later. One of the kids, I dunno she was 7 or 8, did not get off her tube in time and stop and went past her family toward the rapids. She turned and looked at us with panic on her face and said "help me!" She was swept away and her parents were yelling and screaming. She managed to grab onto a branch halfway through the rapids, but it wasn't going to hold, and no one in her family was in a spot to reach her. I was already wading in the river, and I was the closest person.

What should I have done? I was super sacred for this poor girl! So I made the decision to go and help her. I was crossing the river to get to the side she was clinging near, but I never made it. The current was so powerful it swept me right off my feet. If you pay attention to the news, you know there have been like 14 drownings in the last month because the rivers are so bad.

I lost my footing and was swept away. And now I couldn't think of saving the girl at all, I had to save myself! I was scared to say the least. The water was rushing so strong there was no way I was going to be able to stop and get up again - It was now a matter of incur as little damage as possible and keep my head above water. I smashed into rock after rock in the rapids. I didn't swallow any water, and eventually made it through the rapids okay, but when I managed to swim to the side at a calmer spot, my legs were bleeding all over. I was so tore up.

And then I started thinking... was that really stupid of me? I knew people were drowning, I should have realized that the current would be wicked strong, I should have realized that would happen, but what about the girl? Should I have just not cared and left her to fend for herself? Someone from her family eventually got to her and she was fine, and not one of them ever said anything to me about it. I don't even know if they noticed that I'd tried to save the girl...

I got back in the water and cooled my aching legs, which bruised badly and took weeks to completely heal, and thought about these things. Was I really dumb for trying to help her since I could have lost my own life? I haven't settled on an answer yet.

After that I was pretty much done at the river. On the way back to our campsite, we met up with the Catholic boys again. They were in our same campground! So we chatted some more and then agreed to do evening prayers with them. I was super curious about the way they worshiped. I don't know why that sort of practice is so fascinating to me, but it is.

We decided we were tired and I voted for a nap, commenting that we always seem to be go, go, go whenever we vacation, and we never just chill out. Turtle agreed and we zonked. It was an awesome nap.

After we woke up we debated doing another hike, but decided against it because it would take too long to get up the canyon. So we played cards - good ol' war and 21. And then when we were hungry we went and got ice cream and ranch dressing right outside the park (not together! the ranch was for the veggies we had back at camp. silly). Then we had dinner and just relaxed.

We hung around for a long time before the Catholics finally got back from town. We started a fire and did evening prayers and it was so neat to see them pray and sing in latin and they were so of one mind, it was really cool. A discussion ensued about belief and doctrine that I wasn't interested in in the least. I like to see how and why people do things, especially when it comes to things as deep-seated as faith, but I couldn't care less about the small places we are going to differ in tenet and principle. I already know your views aren't mine, and that's enough for me. So I went to bed while the others kept chatting.

Next morning we packed everything and moved over to the Visitor Center. We took the bus all the way to the Temple of Sinawava and hiked as far as we could up the narrows (just to the mouth - the narrows were closed because the river was too high).

So we'd seen all we could see pretty much. Time to turn around and go home. We started winding our way down the canyon and decided to visit weeping rock, since rumor had it they had hanging gardens.

It was a pretty cool spot. Water coming off the overhang all around us and such. I read a sign that told me about Observation Point, which is apparently higher than Angel's Landing, and I was like WHAT?! Why haven't I ever heard of this?! I want to do that one! We didn't have time though. I'd have to come back. We wound our way back down canyon and then went into town for some brunch at Wild Cat Willy's before heading home, which again resulted in me reading more of The Chronicles of Narnia (reviews coming soon). We wanted to leave the park early Sunday so we would still have time to do stuff that night before work Monday.

Stay tuned for more awesome summer trips!

Part of the reason I have been so lax in my blogging is that it's summer. And I ALWAYS sucks at blogging during summer, because it's awesome outside, so I hate being in my house, which means I can't be bothered to be around typing about all the wonderful things I'm doing! Seriously people! The sun is calling me! I'm really good at blogging in the winter though, as the beginning of this year proved. But I don't like being more than 6 months behind with the events in ye ole life either, so. I'm just going to have to make sacrifices.

Bring on the summer of 2011! WOOO!!!!

First event - my birthday. Well, technically that's in Spring, but whatevs. Last year Turtle rocked the awesome boat with surprise laser tag and werewolves. Rounded with an enchilada party by my former roomie. I had no idea how 2011 was going to shape up. But I wanted something fun, low-key, yummy, and amazing.

So I decided to have a party at Faustina (voted best restaurant of 2010 by me) with all my friends. We booked their private room, and my favorite server, because you can't have a party without HER!

That place looked amazing. The tables were all set up in a horseshoe shape and I got to sit in the very center, and just be loved. Balloons!

So many people came to the party! It was so great to see all of them and feel so loved!

After we ate, I totally tried to get a dessert and was talking it up to everyone. But they all said they'd ordered dessert already and I totally didn't clue in, so I ordered one anyway. Silly me. Because of course Turtle got me a birthday cake!!!

After we had delicious, it was time for presents! Woohoo! People had been bugging me about what to get, so I finally broke down and made a list, even though it was all for naught. Turtle had totally been conspiring with all my friends for months.

Jas gave me a homemade card (cute!) and movie tickets:

M&M got me WEREWOLVES (finally). LOL, I was supposed to get it last October but the give-it-to-me-via-halloween-costume-contest idea backfired. :P

Then came the kicker. Turtle's conspiracy revealed. There had been a posterboard up at the bar (hidden!) where as people came in they signed it with a love note and taped some $$$ to it. Then it was presented to me as a Friend Couch Fund!

(It looks kind empty at the initial presenting because alot of people hadn't known where to find it, so they signed and taped after the fact). I'm TOTALLY okay with that.

Such an AWESOME GIFT!!! Thank you to each and every one who contributed. Y'all's rockstars!

With the help of my friends, I was able to purchase a magnificent corduroy sectional on Memorial Day. It's pretty much my favorite! It came with 12 pillows!! SQUEEE. I slept on it every night for the first week I had it (except when other people were crashing on it >.>)

[picture of couch forthcoming]

So all in all, my birthday was FANTASTIC, everything I wanted it to be, and more. I am so thankful to have so many awesome people in my life who love and support me and that I am proud to call "friend."

Thanks for such a memorable night. Here's hoping for many more just like it!

Wow, it's taken a while to get going with Movies in 2011. Halfway through I decided to start putting the dates I saw them, so people have a better frame of reference for how soon or (more usually the case) how late I saw them. Anyway, here are the first 17 movies to cross my path in 2011. Enjoy!

Charlie St. Cloud - Grade: B-. I was actually really excited to see this movie, even though it was Efron (not an oogling, drooling fan). The trailers made it look soooo good. The movie itself was alright. I was not super emotionally invested, so it didn't hit me super hard, but it wasn't completely flat either. There were a couple points where I thought they were going to ruin a good story with some crazy Sixth Sense-esque twist. Which would have upset me AND been really cool. Bottom line: it wasn't bad. Not great, but wasn't bad.

The Mothman Prophecies - Grade: C. Wow. This movie was NOT what I was expecting to be at all. I am so glad that my friend A was over to watch with me. This movie was kind of scary! I don't know that I would have wanted to watch it alone. The plot was kind of weird and I wasn't such a fan of the end. But not terrible. Wasn't really impressed, just scared, which was alright in its own right.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader - Grade: B+. Arguably, this movie was better than Prince Caspian, but I didn't think it was as good as The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. I definitely don't like the way they keep changing the book just to give Tilda Swinton face time. I like Edmund more and more each movie that comes out. Lucy was hard to swallow though. There were parts you could tell that Georgie Henley was forcing herself to believe herself. That came through and totally took me out of being able to immerse myself in the movie. By far, the best part of this movie is Will Poulter. Hands down, no arguing. LOVED him in Son of Rambow and loved him in this. The kid is just a great actor.

Black Swan - Grade: D. Yech. So many people loved this movie. So you'll probably disagree, and you'll probably hate, but I'm fine with that. This movie was a hot mess. And there was WAY, WAY, WAY too much vag and girl parts. GROSSED to the max. I missed the crazy brilliance of it all. The story was good, but parts were unclear and confusing. My favorite part though was when Turtle screamed OUT LOUD in the theater. That was hilarious. When it was over, I was left wanting more. Dunno. Maybe I saw a different movie than everyone else, but I didn't like it.

Legends of the Fall - Grade: D. This came highly recommended from Turtle. The story was insanity. Brothers going to war and all falling in love with the same girl. The movie was full of poor choices, and I questioned more than once, "Why would x do that? Ridiculous. He/she wouldn't make that decision." The movie was confusing in many places, especially with regards to the character of Tristan. They covered way too much, way too quickly for us to invest in him as a main character.

Fight the Future (X-Files) - Grade: B. Alot of critical acclaim surrounding this movie. How hard for Chris Carter to make something that appealed to die-hard fans while being able to create something for an audience unfamiliar with any of the show. Then the added challenge of picking up the end of Season 5, and segueing into Season 6. The Season 6 opener was also painstakingly difficult, as Carter had to develop an episode the continued the series from Season 5 with the knowledge that not everyone would have seen the movie. Geez. Alot of people said that the movie could not be treated as such, and that really, it should be more viewed as a two-hour episode of the show. I can agree with that. Turtle and I watched all 202 episodes in the first half of 2011. We put the movie in between Season 5 ad 6 as it was designed. I love the X-Files, so really there can be no wrong for me. The movie helped explained alot of the Mythology behind X-Files, which was helpful for Turtle who was always wanting all the pieces to fall into place so she could understand everything. I highly recommend The X-Files to everyone willing to believe. I WANT TO BELIEVE.

I am Number Four - Grade: B-. So after seeing this movie, I learned that a) it is supposedly the first of a trilogy, and b) it is based on a series of books. So. I need to get the books. I didn't know a whole lot about this movie going into it, so I was kind of excited to be swept away in the story. The plot was definitely interesting and got me hooked. But as a stand-alone, I did not feel fulfilled at the end. Again, this raises the issue - will it be a trilogy? If so, maybe I will like the first movie more later. But when it was done, there were still a million unanswered questions for me. There was so much that was never explained. The special effects were great, the concept original, and the actors all excellent. But there was so much left undone that I was just... I guess now I know how people felt after watching The Lord of the Rings (though I can't remember now if it was the first or second that just...ended), without knowing anything of the story beforehand. We'll see how my opinion changes as the other movies come out.

Source Code - Grade: A-. I really, really liked this movie. Until the end. And then they twisted it just a little bit farther than necessary. I was happy with it, thought it was super interesting, exciting, and well acted, and then it was going to end and I was going to be fine. But then they had to add that last little twist. It was gratuitous if you ask me, and ruined an otherwise wonderful movie. The concept was definitely cool though. And no one can wrong with Gyllenhaal.

Conviction - Grade: B. First off, this is a true story, which is just incredible. Second, I saw trailers for this and immediately thought it looked good enough to see; so when the opportunity presented itself, I naturally accepted. I have always loved Hilary Swank, and this was a movie about fighting for your family. Which is paramount for me. I would do anything for the ones I love. But then there were problems. The legal portrayals were all wrong for one - trust me, I work in the industry. I know how court proceedings go. Second, Hilary and Sam Rockwell did not connect on the level that siblings should. I tried so hard to believe them and believe their emotion and it just didn't work for me. I've been saying that alot recently - I wonder if I'm desensitized? Unable to feel? I don't think so, but it's crossed my mind.

Water for Elephants (April 22) - Grade: C-. I was wholly unprepared for the screen adaption of this book I love. One of the things I absolutely loved about the book was how real and gritty it was. I fully expected this to be portrayed truthfully on screen - part of why I was so all about seeing this movie. But it wasn't. The movie adaptation was entirely romanticized and a love story. Which was so disappointing to me, because the value I placed in this book I placed in its real feel and honesty toward life as it was under the Big Top. And the movie was none of that. Not to mention puke-face Pattison played the male lead. *Gag* I tried with all my might to disassociate him from his past films (none of which I saw, so it wasn't *that* hard). Overall, though, I was totally disappointed by this movie. As is almost always true: Stick to the book.

Red Riding Hood (April 27) - Grade: A-. Saw this movie on my "holiday break" for Administrative Professional's Day. I'd missed seeing it with all my friends because of work, so this seemed fitting that I got to see it on company time. The movie was totally WEREWOLVES the game on the big screen. Being a huge fan of that party game, and having played over 100 times, I watched the movie in the same way I play the game. Absolutely everyone the movie threw suspicion on, I immediately ruled out as the Wolf. I had narrowed it down to two people by the time they did the "reveal." The one thing that was wrong with this movie was the END. If her boy becomes a wolf, then she needs to become a wolf too, and they go off and be wolves together. That's how you do a love story like this.

The King's Speech (May 8): Grade: A-. I really liked this movie. I believe it deserving of the hype and the awards. I deeply identified with King George VI, having to struggle with something within oneself viewed to be irksome, frustrating, and impeding that is inherent. His struggle was deeply personal for me and by the end of the movie, I found myself racked with emotion; heaving sobs that are not often evinced or provoked. To me, much of his impediment was not from fear of failure, or the past, but of being great. How many of us harbor this fear, while refusing to give it place by acknowledgment? How many of us are held back not by shortcoming, but by fear of being astonishingly brilliant? I may be party to this same anxiety in some areas of my life, and so as King George VI succeeded, I was awash with envy, success, pride, and happiness. I liked that the movie was able to draw so much from me. However, I wish it had done so with more characters than just Colin Firth. His performance was breath-taking, convincing, and exceptional. None of the other characters showed such depth, emotion, and commitment, and for that I was a little disappointed.

Battle of Los Angeles (May 14) - Grade: F. Not to be confused with Battle: Los Angeles. Wait, what? Yeah, that's right. Some idiots made a movie with pretty much the EXACT same title, at the same time, about the same thing. SERIOUSLY so upset. Cuz I *thought* I was watching Battle: Los Angeles, but no. I didn't think there could be a worse movie than 2012 or Legion, but this was. It was an abomination to film-making. The actors were awful, the special effects were from the 80's, it was so bad I was actually ANGRY when I found out I'd seen the wrong movie. And I watched the whole thing! It may have been trying to be CAMP, but even if it was, it failed at that too. Just abysmal.

SALT (May 14) - Grade: B. Movie 2 on my weekend marathon. (I discovered Netflix via Turtle *grin*). This one actually wasn't all that bad. I've never been a huge fan of Jolie, but I don't hate her. I liked her in WANTED. It reminded me alot of Bourne/Bond, but with it's own plot. The whole trained-as-a-kid, forgot-who-you-were was kind of a lame plot point, but eh. It was pretty good, all things considered.

Kick-Ass (May 14) - Grade: A-. I'd never really considered seeing this movie since it had Aaron Johnson at its head (whom I confused for Michael Cera (who I *don't* like (not him, but generally the type of movies he is in; although I loved Scott Pilgrim)). So I figured it was in that genre of films like Superbad that I have no interest in seeing. I was pleasantly surprised, however. The movie is definitely campy, but does so in an ethical way. I thought Chloe Moretz was wonderful, and now I am even more intrigued to see Let Me In, since she stars alongside Kodi Smit-McPhee, who I loved in The Road. It was bloody and violent, but that was to be expected for something like this, so I rolled with it. Not really a kid movie, lol

Sucker-Punch (May 15) - Grade: A. Okay, now before you say anything, I'm going to start out defending this movie. A lot, a lot, a lot of people hated this movie. It sucked, it was awful, the plot was everywhere, it was campy, and just bad. But I am not those people. I super LOVED this movie. I thought it was EPIC. I thought the plot was brilliant, I loved the messages throughout, the cinematography was breath-taking. I thought this movie deserved way more credit than it was given. I love the Inception-like layers and the intricacies in the plot, that left many people confused and lost. I loved how seamlessly fantasy and reality blurred. I loved the way they used imaginative battles/struggles to get small victories in real life. I felt like this movie said SO much in so little time about life, love, and the way we cope/deal with the things that are thrown at us. I absolutely loved this movie.

Kung Fu Panda 2 (May 29th) - Grade: B+. Not the biggest Jack Black fan out there. But I enjoyed the first one, so I went to see the second at the prompting of some friends. And I was not disappointed. The movie was funny in all the right places, the plot was creative and fun, and the villain was very ingeniously crafted.

Of these 17 movies, I'd have to say my favorite was Sucker-Punch. That movie just connected with me on all the right levels, in all the right ways. Absolutely loved it. Stay tuned for more Movies in 2011! Also coming soon: the first book reviews of 2011! Thrilling!

Today I am celebrating LIFE.

I found this video on youtube and have watched it 9 times so far. I think it's just gorgeous.

I think it's so cool to see a representation of our Earth in this way. Granted, it ignores alot of the squalor, plight, and tribulation our planet faces, but I think it's a really neat depiction of who we are as a global entity, not countries who disagree and have strife with one another. I think we, and the earth, have so much to offer in our diversity, eclecticism, and natural grace, beauty, and strength.

I found it very interesting to see that there were only 3 brief shots of industrialized countries. I think we too often forget how much more WORLD is out there, that we do not partake of on a regular basis. Today I'm thinking of that and appreciating the nature and beauty that I am surrounded with.

Why don't you take a moment and do the same. Because it's all around you - you just have to remember to look for it.

And there's nothing new. So much for my internet-bred promises. *SIGH*


But really... I will blog.

Watch me.

Please pardon the dust. Contrary to creeping suspicion, we are open.

Just wanted to drop a note so the silence doesn't kill off my lovely readers (especially the swarm of new kids (welcome!) who have just started following).

NEW POSTS COMING SOON. REAL SOON. (Like hopefully Friday soon. No later than Monday soon). Get excited.

That is all.

Remember that one time in 2009 when you all got to see a real-life piece of my writing, because it was being featured on Utah Children's Writers blog for their 30 days, 30 stories project?

Well, the loverly Sarah has coerced (just kidding, love!) me once again into participating.

So, without further adieu, here's my latest insane creation.

True confession of my soul: I only had like 2 hours to work on this, so I don't consider it "polished," nor am I particularly like "Yes, this piece. is. AWESOME." But it is what it is. It's writing, it's from my weird brain, and I hope you like it.


For my Grandfather

Today I wake
Knowing you are gone
Yet always here
In my heart
Which urges sorrow.

But I push past
Time spent
Experience shared
Memory cherished
And Life remembered.

I will mourn
The things lost
Because they will never
Be done by you again.

The buildings no longer repaired,
The poetry not written,
Gospel books never read.

The garden no longer tended,
The places not explored,
Wisdom never shared.

Yet all the while
I will celebrate
The memories
The remembrances
And the mark.

If you break me open
You will see
The impact
The influence
Now cradled
And offered
So others see you still.

You lived so rich and full
So tall and vast
So wise and gentle.

A man of duty, dedication, and commitment
To country,
To faith,
And to family.
None moreso than your dear Lorraine.

The best way I can honor you
Is to make your steps, my steps
Your deeds, my deeds
In essence, your life, my life.

I salute you
And celebrate you
By continuing to be Me,
And in so doing,
Reflecting You.

In you
Of you
Through you
The mark

I Carry
In me
Of me
Through me
To make

My own marks.

Part 5.

After the students and staff spoke, it was time for my parents to share their part in what the Graduation program called the "Journey of Vulnerability."

This was really hard for my mom because she's an amiable personality who doesn't like the spotlight. She prefers to not draw attention to herself. But, she said, if my sister can jump off a 4 inch beam to go after her success, then my mom supposed she could speak. Recognizing her nervousness, my sister moved closer and put her arm around my mom in solidarity.

My mom said she was going to read a story, a true story. "A long time ago, there lived a little girl. She had three big brothers, but she longed for a sister-" My mom choked up. My sister whispered some words of support in her ear. My mom continued, "She had friends, but that didn't stop her wishing for a sister." She choked up again, and exclaimed that she couldn't do it, and was once again reassured by my sister. Seeing my Mom being so vulnerable made me teary-eyed, and also very appreciative of the ways this journey with my sister has affected them as well.

"She even asked her parents to adopt her a sister, but they declined." My mom stopped again, to try and collect her emotions, then said off-hand, "I'd rather jump off the beam" which elicited laughter from everyone assembled.

"So she changed her dream of having a sister, to having a daughter instead. She wanted a big family of 8 kids, with a nice mix of boys and girls. Soon she met the man of her dreams and they married. And they started their family. Boy #1 arrived, then Boy #2; next was Boy #3. Surely #4 would be a girl! Alas, it was not so. Boy #4 arrived. This mom now had 4 wonderful boys. She was content for a while, but she still longed for pink bows, baby dolls, and lace. But she tucked that longing away."

Hearing my mom talk about how badly she'd wanted a sister, and then a daughter, broke my heart. I came to understand on a new level just how much my mom loved me to deny herself in that way to raise us and love us, even though we did not fit into the scope of her deepest dreams.

"The boys grew and grew. Boy #4 joined the rest of his brothers at school. The mom decided she wasn't quite ready to be home alone. So she decided to try one more time to see if she could get her girl. Being knee-deep in trucks, matchbox cars, and G.I. Joes didn't have quite the same appeal as bows, baby dolls, and lace. Boy #5 was born. He was a very cute, very fun little boy... But he was a Boy. Mom and Dad finally realized that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. They finally figured out that if they were ever going to have a girl, they were going to have to import one."

"And so the adventure began. In January 1998, they submitted the paperwork to adopt a little girl from Russia. In September 1998, we traveled to Russia to pick up our 4-year old Princess named Anastasia. She was a delightful little girl; stubborn as the day is long and full of mischief. She flushed a towel down the toilet, spread toothpaste all over the basement playroom floor with the help of her 2-year old brother, decided to water the tree that was painted on the playroom basement wall... And that was just in the first week or two. We loved her and loved her and loved her."

"What we didn't know is that she couldn't tell that we loved her. Her past experiences had hurt her too much, and closed her heart to love. Eventually when she reached her teen years she became angry, unhappy, and depressed. Her parents did everything they knew to help her, but the things they tried didn't work because they didn't understand the nature of the problem. It reached the point where she became a danger to herself, and her parents no longer knew how to keep her safe. There's no greater feeling of failure as a parent than knowing you have failed to keep your child safe. In my opinion, that's a parent's greatest responsibility."

"It was in desperation and great despair that I put out a cry for help to all my online adoption groups. It was through one of the moms on my lists that I learned about CALO. As soon as I opened the webpage, and saw that CALO used dogs in their program, I started to cry. Because I knew I had to find a way to send her here. We didn't have the money in our budget to pay for even one day, but we knew it was the right thing to do, and we decided to take a leap of faith. Through the generous help of family and friends, and some creative numbers work with our 401ks, we have made it this far. 11 months ago we left our angry, hurt, depressed, apathetic daughter, as well as our hearts, behind at CALO. Our daughter kindly thanked us for leaving her in hell when we said goodbye. I think that leaving her here was one of the hardest things I have EVER done. Yet I knew it was the right thing to do."

"The first visit she begged us to take her home. That was a very difficult visit for both of us. Staff told me it would get better. And they were right. Now, today we have a girl who has worked hard and come far. Once she gets hold of an idea or goal that she is motivated to meet, there is no stopping her. Even if she falls down many times along the way, she isn't afraid to get back up and try again. I hope that what she will take away from CALO is the motivation to believe in herself and in her dreams. Her apathy has changed to caring, her heart has begun to heal, she has learned skills to cope with her depression, and she has learned to defuse her anger much quicker than she ever could before. I look forward to continuing this journey with her as she uses all the things she's learned here to build a happy and successful life."

After my mom was done speaking, we played a powerpoint that showed pictures of my sister's journey. Sidenote: We had somehow forgotten the music we needed, so when the rest of us were running through the store like crazies, two of my brothers were trying to get an internet connection to download the songs for the slideshow, lol.

The first song was My Wish by Rascal Flatts which documented pictures of my sister when she was a baby and her first years with our family.

Next was Faith of the Heart by Rod Stewart, which consisted of pictures with us, from her being a kid to being a teenager.

Finally, we picked At the Beginning - Richard Marx and Donna Lewis to show recent pictures, including her time at CALO.

Then it was my Dad's turn to talk. He commented the slideshow was helpful because it gave him time to pull himself back together from my Mom's talk.

"It's been quite a journey. Mom shared her side of the story; mine has alot of similarities. I have one sister, and she's the oldest in my family, so she was gone from home by the time I was 12 years old. So I don't feel like I ever really got to know what it's like to have a sister. And as Mom said, she didn't have a sister. So it just seemed like we ought to have a girl. We submitted the paperwork, got everything approved, and the Agency started- the way they did it at that time was they would send us pictures, a biography, and a short video tape of the child. They sent us a baby to look at, and sent another one, then another one... they just didn't feel right. Then- now as I remember it... I don't remember why, but this one day I was home from work in the afternoon, Mom had gone somewhere, and the Adoption Agency called and they said we've got this wonderful little girl for you to look at. So I had them tell me about her, and I asked, well, what's her birthday? How old is she? They said May 8th."

My dad lost it here, and there was a long, long silence before he was able to continue, and when he was, he was still teary. Seeing my parents so vulnerable was such an empowering experience for me. I knew in those moments just how deep their love went, not just for my sister, but all of us in their family.

"That's my birthday. And for some reason, I just knew then that she was our daughter. She was the one we needed. But because we had the plans of getting two, we didn't act on it right away [Note: My parents' "plan" was to get a newborn girl and a young girl, so their daughters would have a sister]. Another month or so went by, and we finally got the point where we said, well, let's not wait for a baby. Let's just go get our girl. Which we did."

"That was the start of our journey. Not that we love any of the others any less, and of course all through this journey, we kept thinking... girl needs a sister, so we did finally achieve that. But there were lots of ups and downs, and it got to the point where there were more downs than ups. Finding CALO was definitely the answer to many prayers. I'm not sure how we can ever thank the Staff and people that run this place. I know saying thanks isn't nearly enough... but thanks for what you've done for our daughter. The day we came and left her here... it was a hard thing to do. We've never left any of our kids anywhere for very long - they were ours! We kept them. But dropping her off here, we had no idea how long it would be, we were told the average is 16 to 18 months or something, but it's not necessarily that easy; it take however long it takes. So we didn't know what the future held for us at that point. We just... said goodbye and went out the door. We were driving away and... it was hard to do. But the person here beside me that I have my arm around, she's such a wonderful person. We get to see the real Stas now. This wonderful girl who we hope to have many wonderful years with yet. So the continuing of our journey begins now. We look forward to a lot of wonderful things ahead - with all of them. So thank you all for what you've done and giving us back our daughter."

After my parents spoke, the program changed to "Personal Reflection and Insight: Student and Therapist" where my sister presented a slideshow. Mainly they were pictures of her and Toby, but there were pictures with staff and students as well. The pictures were set to what was, for me, a very poignant song. The words grabbed at me, and I knew this was my sister being as real as she could be. And I smiled through my tears.

This was honesty. This was soul-bearing. This was my sister sharing with us her truest feelings.

Then the Therapist told us all the story of her relationship with my sister. If you remember back, my sister had an aversion to touch. She wouldn't let anyone have contact with her. Therapist described how when they first started my sister would have her chair as far away as possible. So every session Therapist would scoot a little closer. Eventually, their chairs were touching. Then they started doing exercises where she would put her arm around my sister for 2 minutes. At the end of the 2 minutes, she would immediately pull away, so my sister could have her space back.

One of the most heartfelt moments of the whole ceremony was when Therapist asked my sister to demonstrate their relationship now. My sister smiled and put HER arm around Therapist. So awesome.

Then my sister has a piece to present, which she had written herself:

Imagine a very sad, depressed young lady walking in the CALO doors. What would be your first thoughts? You would probably pity her, maybe despise her, or wonder what's going on with her. Imagine that girl was me, 11 months ago. Sad and depressed with a story she needed to tell. I came to CALO on December 31, 2009. I slept all the time and read all the time to escape from having to be with people. I wasn't interested in building relationships with anyone because I felt like it was pointless because I knew I would be leaving someday and probably not ever see them again. I self-harmed because I felt stupid for being in a treatment center. When in conflicts, I thought cussing, screaming, and getting in people's space would make me seem cool, scary, and get people to stay away from me. It didn't work. It just made people not trust me. I would never let anyone touch me and if someone tried, I would cringe away from them. Staff and students would ask me how I'm doing and I would say “I'm fine.”, which we all knew was a lie. I met Toby downstairs and no one was going after him so I decided to. He was my motivation for slowly starting to trust people and work my program. I had a session with Amanda about safe-touch, and I can finally initiate it. I'm not sleeping during the day anymore. I have made tons of genuine relationships and I haven't self-harmed in 10 ½ months. I'm hardly ever in conflict and when I am I handle it appropriately and talk calmly. I know how to express my emotions in the moment and I'm honest in my answers. I have trust with my parents and family members, and am going to live my life to its full potential. I would like to thank all the coaches and students for all the help and support they have given me. A huge thank you to Landon and Ken for opening a place like CALO. I don't know where I would be without CALO. Another thanks to Amanda. She has been amazing beyond words! I will miss you all and hope to hear from you soon. Thank you family for your help in my treatment, and Mom and Dad a huge thanks for going in treatment with me and also working on yourselves! Love you all!

Listening to her words helped me appreciate just how far she had come on this path, and how much a part of it we all were; my parents more than most, but still we had all played a role, and the effects on our family would be long-lasting and far-reaching. Moments like this spelled out explicitly to me that CALO had made a difference, and it was a good one.

The Graduation wrapped up and people said their goodbyes to my sister (I went to find a box of tissues and to clean up my tear-stained face), then we had a little "Graduation Reception" in the dining hall where we had snacks. More goodbyes and then it was time to go. And take my sister with us.

To celebrate this step in the journey, we wanted to have a family dinner all together. When we got to the restaurant though, they didn't have a menu with nutritional information, which meant that my brothers couldn't figure out their crab intake. See, I have two brothers with diabetes. One has had it since he was 11, so he's had it longer than he hasn't, and is well adjusted to living life with it. The other, though, just got diagnosed and he still struggles to be at peace with who he is, and the afflictions he has to bear. So he left, and went to sleep in the car. Just like that, our idyllic family dinner was no longer complete. When prompted, my parents explained that it's still hard for him, and they forget he's not like my other brother and can easily deal with it. My mom said, "He just wants to feel normal." Well, if there's anyone who can resonate with that longing, I'd venture it's me. So it seemed the natural and correct thing to get up and leave. I had to bring my dad too since he was the only one who could drive the rental van. We left the restaurant, and got in the van. I told my brother, where do you want to go? You tell us the place that you know the carbs and content and we will take you there. So we went to Panera Bread and I got him dinner, then we all went back and rejoined the rest of the family, so our circle was complete once more.

After dinner, we went to the hotel, and played some games. There was talk of Laser Tag, like our last visit (because how fun would it be with ALL 10 of us!?!), but it was nixed. People were too tired. We took a family Christmas picture though.

Not my best, but there we are. Love that one of my brothers isn't wearing shoes! :)

Eventually we all crashed, I may have played a little more Puzzle Quest 2, lol. Then it was up SO EARLY to make the three hour drive back to the airport, and see everyone off on their separate ways. Said buy to my BigBro and his wife, then waited while the other two planes left, before going off by myself to wait for my plane. I was going to play more Puzzle Quest 2 (I mean that's why I bought the game in the first place, right? For the airport downtime!) But no dice. My computer cord decided that was the opportune moment to be shorted out. Sigh.

Oh! I forgot. Something very striking to me, that I must include. At the airport, while we were waiting, both of my parents went out of their way to thank me for what I had done for my brother. This was so new and foreign to me, I was taken aback. Receiving recognition for something that seemed to me the obvious choice. I reflected my gratitude back, and then pondered on the ways this journey has changed not just my sister, but my parents. I think the difference there may be more stark and striking than that of my sister. For which I'm grateful.

I think overall this has served to bring us closer together, to deepen our love for one another, and to prove how deep the bond of love can run. I would do anything for anyone in my family, and I hope they would return the sentiment. I love them all so much and am so thankful to have the parents and siblings that I do.

So my sister came home. She graduated, and that was that. But no. The journey is not over. There's still so much to do going forward. She's participating in CALO's after-care program to help her readjust to "normal" life and move forward with building herself back into the general societal structure.

For the moment, when my sister looks back at the journey, she feels that the BEST part of the CALO experience was The Staff. "Having someone to talk to, having someone to trust. When you put messed up kids together, you can't trust anyone, because everyone's messed up." Once she decided to open up, to build relationships, to trust, and to care, she got close with alot of the CALO staff. They were almost all crying at her graduation.

On the other hand, the WORST part for her were the chores. She hated chores. She hated walking dogs every day. And she hated having to do campus work. Basically she hated everything that wasn't easy :P Nah, I'm putting words in her mouth. But seriously, she liked all the hard work the least of all.

So where do we go from here?

We jump.
We fall.
We get back up.
We try again.

And most importantly: We keep loving.

Part 4.

[Author's note: Well, this ended up being really long, so a la Harry Potter, I decided to split it up into two posts. Just more for you!]

Two days before my sister graduated, she had a breakdown of sorts. This school didn't make her perfect. But we knew that - and don't expect perfection. We just wanted our sister/daughter back to her loving self. It was time to do school, but my sister felt she needed to prep for graduation, and wanted to get ready. She felt the staff's expectations for her to be prepared were unrealistic. So she was typing... but not doing the scheduled activity. Oops. Staff said go to school or go to regroup. After 40 minutes, they threatened escort. When they tried, my sister wasn't having it. She shoved the staff away. They wrestled, and two of them tried to get her into a hold, but they were newer staff with less experience, and couldn't manage. Finally, they brought in a more experienced staff and he took her to the ground in a couple of seconds. When my sister had a second to breathe and clear her head in the hold, she broke down crying and just sobbed. The stress of graduating had gotten to her and she didn't know what had gotten into her. She cried and cried and cried, it was all so much.


And then it was here. My sister was GRADUATING from calo! We were so excited. And by "we" I mean ALL of us. Like, all TEN, all of us. We gathered from THREE different states to support my sister and show how proud we were of her! Now THAT'S family!

I had to fly in the night before this time to meet up with my parent's early plane. But that was fine with me. Gave me an excuse to get Dice to come down and see me from all the way over in Lee's Summit (which is like 4 hours away). So while I was on a plane, she was on a train and we met in the middle! Squee! It was FREEZING cold. Like seriously, who turned off the heat and bought popsicles cold.

So once we were together, we went to tour Downtown St. Louis. Cuz I live in downtown Salt Lake and there's TONS to do! Tons!!!

Apparently St. Louie didn't get that memo. I mean it was like 6pm, and the place was CLOSED. Dead! Everything. We tried to ask people where we could go to shop... because downtown HAS to have malls right? RIIIIIIIIGHT?!!!? Fail, St. Louis. The one store we could find was a Macy's and it closed at SIX. SIX PM! That's absurd! What kind of downtown are we running people? So much for an economic and social hug. Pshh. We found an italian restaurant and ate yummy foods. Then we decided that St. Louis was pretty much the lamest thing since Twilight (which is so not a valid book, I'm not even going to italicize it), and we went back to the hotel. We got hot chocolate in the lobby and just talked. Then we went up to the room, plopped down in our separate beds and just talked. And maybe played Puzzle Quest 2 >.> Shhh. (Hey! I was only slightly addicted this time around! Way less than my first addiction.) We went to bed super late, but such is the way with friends who haven't seen each other in ages.

The next morning we had the hotel breakfast (way better than the hotel food I ate on my last trip here), then I sent Dice on her way to her train. I mucked around for a bit, showered, packed, and headed back to the airport to meet my parents and my Florida siblings. When they arrived the 4 boys went outside to toss a frisbee while the parents and my sister waited for their bags.

Then we piled into a shuttle to take us to the rental lot, where we met by my Big Bro and my sister-in-law who had come from Seattle. We got the rental (there's 10 of us!) which was a GIANT TANK VAN! Rawr. We all piled in and the 3-hour drive began.

With that many of us, there was alot of convo about books, movies, music, tech, etc., and not a whole lot of quiet, but none of us are complaining. I think some (maybe me included) may have tried to sleep, but I don't remember. 3-hour drives aren't generally the memorable part.

When we got close to the school we had to stop at the store to get the foods for my sister's graduation reception. With an army as big as my family, it was a quick 5-minute in and out, with the needed items divided among us. Someone get crackers, another water, mom goes to the deli for the meat and cheese tray, someone get candy, etc. Pretty funny. It was like a swarm of ninja Hulets.

We were late! Agh!!! (That's one of the reasons the grocery run needed to be so quick). We made it to the school about 15 minutes late.

When we walked in we were confronted with my sister 45 feet in the air, standing on a 4 inch beam. She was attempting what the CALOers call "The Leap of Faith." Her goal was a trapeze bar 5 feet away.

One problem: My sister is AFRAID of heights. She had tried to do the Leap a month or so earlier, and never managed to muster the courage. Eventually they just pushed her off (she had a harness and belayer, not to worry), and made her resolve to do it before she graduated.

So here we were. One last obstacle to face before it was all over. It was incredible to me how instantaneously I was caught up in the emotion of the moment. You could hear the fear and panic in my sister's voice, and I was right there with her. But with an underlying surge of confidence and hope. We're here sister, and we're rooting for you! We watched from the side for a while, staff and other students gathered around, with one counselor up on the bar with her for support.

Once of the first things we heard as we entered was the counselor talking to everyone that was there to watch and support her. He said the leap to that bar represented all her hopes and dreams; it represented success. These were things that had to be fought for, things that had to be wanted, and there would be a fight to get them. She had to wrestle fear and win. The things that matter, that we want, will not come to us; we must go out and seize them. She had to jump and grab that trapeze.

After he talked, he moved away from her, and she wasn't holding on to him anymore. After a few seconds, she said she needed him back, but instead of going to her, he asked why. She said, "I need to stabilize myself." His answer was, "You can stabilize yourself." "Please!" she cried in desperation, which made me choke up. The emotions were so strong. I was scared for her. She sounded completely frightened. The counselor said he would give her his hand but she had to look him in the eye, which she did. Then he said, "You say you're gonna fall. That's okay. The safety net is in place. From now on, it's okay to fall. As long as you have your support team. Today and for the rest of your life, falling is okay. You don't need to hold on to me. You can fall. You learn, you get back up. Falling is actually one of the best things that could happen to you. As long as everything is in place, it's okay to fall. You will be safe." She knew she had the harness, the carabiners, the belay system, JB was on the other end holding the rope. All these people were there supporting her - students, faculty, family... she could do this, and if she fell, that was fine too. She steadied herself.

Earlier on he'd announced she wanted our support by us counting out loud from 10 to 0 at which point on Zero she would jump. We did audible countdowns two or three times and everytime we got to zero, she wouldn't go. It was so frustrating, we all wanted so badly for her to succeed! At one point we even moved, over from the side where we'd come in, to in front of her and all held out our arms for her. We're here for you sis, we want you to make this, we will support you, come to us. It was incredibly moving.

Finally, she was ready. See the result here (sorry the quality isn't better - it's super compressed HD):

The emotions bubbled over in that moment to a gush of success, love, and appreciation. This was my sister and she could do anything she set her mind too. Overcome fears, jump and grab bars, achieve success. In that second, all was within her reach (and from here forward also). That is power, my friends.

After the successful leap, we adjourned to the Graduation room, and got hello hugs. Unfortunately(?), my sister had figured out we were coming, because she's too smart. She had gone in the room they had set up and counted out 10 chairs against the wall - and she knew we were all coming then. Stinker. :)

The graduation ceremony began with my sister officially adopting her dog, Toby. She got an official certificate saying she was trained to handle him, and then some of the students got up to talk about my sister and her impact on them. Then select Staff spoke about her and her influence on them. Many of them cried. Once my sister decided she would go for it, she opened up and let these people see her: vulnerable, hurting, trying her best to make changes and find herself.

I needed a box of tissues.

It only got worse from there when my parents got up to talk...

Stay tuned for the last installment! Part 6: Graduation II (The Difference) and Beyond

Sorry readers, I know you are eagerly refreshing your browsers every 30 seconds, hungry for the last installment. It's taking longer than I anticipated and I've had a busy couple of days. Likewise, things are completely up in the air at work... and I've been working hecka extra hours. This week will be no different.

I'll get to it just as soon as I can! Stay tuned!

Ordinarily I am adverse to more than one post in a day. I don't want readers going "ugh, he posts too much" and to stop reading - be honest. I do this with some blogs I have in my reader. If they are too inundating with posts, and the posts are super uber long, I glance, skim, or skip. And I'd hate for that to happen here.

But I feel in this case it is justified. This post in itself is in many ways belated. It couldn't be helped. This is the first I could get to it.

Brian Jacques died over the weekend of a heart attack. Which is heart-breaking. I literally stopped breathing for a minute when I found out. I'm still not over it and I've known for like four days.

Granted, he wasn't one of my best friends, but he had a large part in my life (well, his books did anyway). I mean, in the time of this blog alone (very short), I read and reviewed 6 of his books (4 here, one here, and one here).

Here's the thing about Jacques: I can't go so far as to say he's my favorite author, or the BEST of the BEST... but I'll say this. Brian Jacques is the author I have most widely read. Hands down.

I am PROUD to have read all 24 of his novels (21 Redwall, 3 Castaways). That's right, ALL 24. And I'll confess to checking my local library repeatedly over the last few months to see if there's a new one out yet. May 3rd people. There will be one more (as I thought. I figured he'd already finished and it was at the publishers. I mean you have to be ahead on these me, I'm a writer with actual published author friends). Is it May 3rd yet?! I want to read it now!

When I discovered Brian Jacques, I fell in love instantly with his friendly creature characters, and the wonderful story-telling that had descriptive food, creative songs and ballads, memorable chants, and riveting storylines. I remember even drawing some of the characters after reading about them (>.> and people, I DON'T draw). His books stuck with me, and were always a welcome source of reading escape.

Funny story about Jacques' books. I believe I discovered them around 7th or 8th grade. I read his 8 Redwall novels, and when I finished Outcast of Redwall I remember thinking, "Dang, it's too bad he's dead. More Redwall novels would be great. Imagine my surprise when The Pearls of Lutra came out! He's NOT DEAD!? AWESOME!!!! That was a great, great day in the life of a book-lovin' kid like me.

And then he published 16 more Redwall books (soon to be 17)!

I don't know that I have a favorite novel by him. There were many I liked better than others. High Rhulain, Doomwyte and The Sable Quean are some of my more recent favorites.

I think as far as all-time favorites go, I'll have to pick two:

Castaways of the Flying Dutchman came out just when I was graduating High School. I remembering thinking Jacques was crazy for writing something outside of Redwall. That's CRAZY TALK! But I was SO excited to read it! And I loved it. The trilogy lost its glimmer as the novels went, but the first one was amazing, and so refreshing as a non-Redwall read.


Mossflower will ALWAYS have a special place in my heart. I can't remember if I read it or Redwall first, but it's the one that's stuck with me. I still remember alot of the story, and many of the others have long been forgotten. Mossflower is also one of the 5 books that I actually OWN. And it's totally the one I tried to draw the cover page. Heh. Such great memories.

Brian Jacques will be missed as such a welcome constant in my reading list. With my words, I echo the cry of the many who know the lay of the land and can hear the tolling bells Matthias and Methuselah in the distance. Whenever trouble brews, shout for your people and victory:




To Brian Jacquesssssssssssssssss!

POST EDIT: Check out this remembrance site they created:


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