Thursday, February 27, 2014

Something to Offer

A few weeks ago in our main church meeting, Mike and I were asked to speak. Our assigned topic was "Sharing our talents and gifts." Because of my particular talents (or lack of) I made sure to emphasize the importance of recognizing the talents and gifts that are not ones to be publicly shown "on a stage". It seems the talents that can be shown on a stage are the ones we too often give the most attention to.

It wasn't until I was an adult that I realized that I really do have talents, none of which could be performed at a talent show. In fact, you likely won't see me at any talent show. Which made me have to carefully phrase certain parts of my talk, as an upcoming church party is a...talent show. (Which incidentally is safe to say the Sowby Family will not be attending.)

I have never been a fan of "talent shows." Never have and don't think I ever will. It is always the same type of outward talents being shown every time. What about the handful of people (especially children) in the group that don't have an "outward" talent to show?

Like me.

I've never been one to have talents to "show." Although I could plonk out a song on the piano as a child, I was never close to being as musical as my brother. And even though I took ballet for a few years, my mother was heard to say, she thought I had "two left feet." (Which I think is all wrapped up in my non-musical side. I can't even tell you what the beat is in a song.) There were just some "talents" I didn't (and don't!) have.

Anyway, the point I'm trying to make was one week we spoke in our church meeting and the very next week, my dear husband sang a duet with somebody! I felt like the timing of it all negated my talk. There I was last week trying to emphasize the "non-showy" talents we each have, and my husband goes and performs a duet (for the first time ever) the next week.

Let's talk about Mike just briefly...

Mike is very musically talented, but he doesn't really actively engage in any musical pursuits at this stage in his life. He has practiced and sung in our church choir almost weekly for the almost 9 years we've lived here, and occasionally he'll sit down at the piano and plonk out a song (with no music). He can also yell from the other room which note a child should be playing instead of the wrong note they played. He also accurately predicts contestants that will be in the Top 10 of American Idol each year.

Back to Mike and his duet. It was totally out of his comfort zone. He has always sung in choirs, but never in a duet. He reluctantly agreed to do it when a lady in our church asked if he would. He was pretty embarrassed about doing it, and didn't feel very confident about his ability, but he wasn't nervous about his duet debut.

I, on the other hand, was nervous for him. I was also nervous for me. You see, I sometimes have a tendency to laugh at times when laughing isn't really appropriate. Watching my husband perform a duet with a lady in front of our whole church congregation was unfortunately very close to inducing one of those inappropriate laughing episodes.

There was one small moment when I caught eye contact with my mother sitting at the other end of the pew, and I quickly looked away for two reasons. One, I was concerned it would really make me laugh and two, I was scared she'd give me "that look." You know, one of those "mom looks."  I probably haven't had one from her since I was a teenager, and the thought of her giving me one when I was 39 years old, still scared me. Maybe though, she wouldn't have given me the look, she was a little side-tracked holding Megan's head down on her lap when Megan had a brief laughing episode of her own.

I did also have to lay Joshua down at my feet for a short time until his laughing subsided.

You see, watching Mike sing a duet just isn't normal. And as proud as we all were of Mike and his efforts, it did cause a little stir among us.

After church, our friend emailed me a recording of the song. I have listened to it about 20 times since then and each time get teared up. I am so proud of Mike. If I knew how, I'd post a recording of it on here. Even though it would make him mad. (He was bugged when I told my parents he was singing, and even more bugged when I emailed the recording to his mother.)

Mike will be just as bugged that I just wrote a whole blog post about him singing a duet in church, but I consider my ability to write and record our experiences a talent of mine. He can share his talents in his way, I'll share mine, my way.

We make a good pair.


Monday, February 24, 2014

A Rare Occasion

There are A LOT of things I could say about our trip to St. George last week where we spent time with my parents, all three of my brothers and their families. Only the oldest cousin, Caleb was missing from the weekend.

I'm not going to detail all the things we did. Especially not the part about all 7 of us squeezed into a hotel room the first night. In fact, it shouldn't be called a hotel, it wouldn't even pass as a motel, but thankfully it only lasted one night. Enough about that.

Outside my favorite St. George store...Judds.
Sometimes while we picnic at sunset in the red rocks, the kids go and play/hike/explore, and I beg for Mike's sweatshirt because I am cold, and then take a picture of ourselves. Not necessarily all in that order.
St. George has a fabulous children's museum that is FREE. Free!! Very entertaining for adults and children alike.
Free bounce houses at the city park.
McDonalds with a crowd. 
Mexican restaurant with only the adults!
This several hour picnic and playtime at the park was one of my highlights. I absolutely love seeing large groups of people at parks having big get-togethers. I love even more when I am part of such a group.

While my brothers, Casey and James were innocently standing eating their dinner and talking to each other, I found myself choked up with emotion as I looked at them. They are men! Dads! The age gap between them and me has always been large enough that I often feel more "motherly" towards them, than "sisterly." My two little boys, Joshua and Drew so frequently remind me of my brothers, and seeing Casey and James standing there together the other night made me realize how quickly time is indeed passing.
Ellie and the sunset at the redrocks.

Too bad there are no pictures of my brother and I engaged in a game of Speed, and my subsequent loss. There are no photos of the kids swimming. In fact there are no photos of a lot of things we did, despite this little mini-vacation being a once in life-time event. It will likely never be replicated. And that's okay...

There will always be the photos in my mind.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Birthday Tribute

Today is my Granny's birthday. Even though she is no longer alive, I always send a "Happy Birthday" greeting heavenward on February 18th.

When I mentioned the date this morning as I awoke in bed, even Mike perked up and said, "Oh it is? Are we going to celebrate it?" He knows Granny is/was one of my favorite people in the whole world. As evidenced by a handful of recent experiences too sacred to share, I believe Granny is one of my biggest cheerleaders as I plow through life.

I'm still debating whether or not I'll actually make her trademark chocolate cake with walnuts on top to celebrate the day, but I do know as we sit around the dinner table tonight I will share with my family some of my favorite memories of her. It'll go something like this...

I love that Granny always had time for us grandchildren. Whenever I wanted to sleep over at her house, she rarely hesitated, I spent many, many Friday nights sleeping over with her. Our evenings often included cheese and crackers, and sometimes ice cream and wafers. Before bed, I'd wait patiently in the kitchen watching her kettle come to a boil, while she seemed to take forever getting ready for bed in the bathroom. She would then come out, pour her hot water into a mug to take upstairs to bed. We'd share her small double bed, and she would lay there doing a crossword puzzle (I NEVER inherited that love from her), and I would read a book.

Saturday mornings always found her up and early already downstairs with the mornings paper. After breakfast of usually toast and jam, I would accompany on her Saturday morning shops for a neighbor. And there were one or two occasions I spent a Saturday with her while she volunteered at one of her favorite charity shops.

Tonight as I celebrate Granny's birthday, I'll tell my children that Granny didn't shower us with a lot of things, unless it was Christmas or birthdays, but she showered us with love and attention. When Granny was around she rarely turned us down to either do a puzzle or play a game. I'll tell them the stories they have heard over and over about games of Consequence and Scrabble.

(Christmas morning 1983, Granny, me and my new bike)

I'll tell my children about Granny's back garden, her greenhouse, and her old shed that I can still smell in my mind. I'll tell them that I never liked the apples she bought, about the bag full of rolls of tape she had in her cabinet, and I'll impersonate the way she answered the telephone. I'll tell them about the umbrellas that filled the hooks by her front door, her little spin washer, the clothes line in the back garden that I always asked to hang clothes on, the always full biscuit tin, and the spoons we always mixed our orange squash with. I'll tell them about the way Granny always waved goodbye to us from her front porch, and the sweets she carried in her purse for the drive home from church. I'll them about her tendency to be nosy, and at times, a little bit ditzy.

I'll tell them about my last stay with Granny in 1996 and talking to her about Mike. I'll tell them how thrilled I was that she came to Utah for my wedding 7 months later, and how sad I am I didn't spend more time with her then. I'll tell them about our trip to England in October 2000 to introduce Megan to Granny. Only to have Megan only able to visit with Granny in her home for a couple of hours one Sunday evening--long enough for Megan to break a glass bottle of ketchup on her kitchen floor. I'll tell them how I felt when I said goodbye to her at the end of that trip, knowing it was the last time I'd see her in this life.
(Granny--Violet Eliza, me and Megan Eliza, October 2000)

One of my favorite possessions is my Granny's journal/diary. As an avid journal writer myself, I am drawn to her recordings of the everyday. Granny's journal is much more of a diary describing the days events and much less of deep thoughts and feelings. Yet, there are a handful of days, that though her words are brief, her sentiments are felt. I often think about my Granny on March 29, 1988 waving goodbye to my family, her only child and grandchildren as we drove away to the airport, leaving for a new life in the United States. She doesn't say much about it in her diary that day except, "Chris and Peter and children flew from Gatwick at 3pm for America. Spent the evening at Betty's (her best friend) as I miss them so."

Maybe I won't make chocolate cake with walnuts, and I probably can't find a bouquet of daffodils to set on my kitchen table (one of her favorite flowers), but I will spend plenty of time today remembering one of my favorite people and sharing some of my most personal memories.
(Granny in 1996 next to grave of her mother and husband.)

"What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others."
~Pericles



Thursday, February 13, 2014

Randoms of Our Lives

It's the little things that make all the other "stuff" worth it...

Joshua, Ellie and Drew spent one evening playing baseball with a spatula and a football. (While Joshua wore a basketball jersey.)
Whatever show was on the television, obviously captured all of their attentions at the same time.

Sometimes Mike does dumb things that thoroughly entertain the children, while I stand around suggesting it isn't a good idea until I realize, most things really aren't worth making a big deal of.

Winter time means weekends with sprinkler parts covering the kitchen table and counters and monopolizing the dishwasher. Don't ask. Please.

School spelling bees are boring for 4 year olds.

With my boys now having a love for football. This old treasure came out of storage and is now in a shadow box in the boys room.
 Mike and Steve Young, 1984

I love that somehow Mike and my habit of pointing out the beauties around us has sunk into the children. I absolutely love when someone yells from somewhere in the house to look out the window at the sunset, or the lighting on the mountain, or the moon. Love it! And to think when we were first married, it drove me CRAZY how much attention to detail Mike paid. As a result of my children's appreciation, I always have photos on my cell phone of some beauty somebody wanted to capture.

I enlisted my children's help on a recent day off of school to completely organize our bookshelves. There was certainly some murmuring and complaining at the beginning. But it turned into an hour and a half with the six of us hanging out in the room together reading some of our favorite books to each other and alone.
One day, I'll remember these moments as the "big things."

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Bliss

I kept a pretty accurate and regular personal journal while on our recent cruise to the Western Caribbean. I've decided to primarily leave my thoughts and feelings there, and am choosing instead to post a few pictures and just a few thoughts here on my blog.

It was a glorious trip. After our flight left Detroit (we flew from SLC to Detroit, and Detroit to FL), I never experienced a moment of anxiety. For 8 days, I didn't snap once. I never raised my voice, and the only time my blood pressure rose was when the group we were traveling with did an organized scavenger hunt and as the team captain I felt it my responsibility to secure our team a win. (1st place and $25 per couple later, I relaxed.)

Motherhood isn't quite as glamorous as cruising. As tempting (and relaxing) as becoming a full-time cruiser looks versus motherhood...I have no plans to quit my day job anytime soon.










One of the good and bad things about being on the cruise is we didn't carry our cell phones around with us constantly. Which translates into not always having a camera immediately at our disposal. Though we carried a camera around with us off of the ship, on the ship we didn't so much. And there are some things not captured on film, that are some of my favorite memories.

~ Me singing along (Karaoke style) with the Piano Man performer. I didn't really plan on it, but when he started playing "Summer Nights" from Grease as part of a "Name that Tune movie trivia", and said, "I think I need some women voices to come help me out...", I couldn't resist. It was by far one of the most bold and daring things I have ever done. I don't sing on key, but yet the microphone was held in front of me the entire time. Me and the talented Piano Man. I can only imagine how it sounded, by the look on Mike's face when I returned to my seat. I know Mike was trying to figure out how to pretend he didn't really know me, but alas when I plonked down next to him, his disguise was up. It was actually all fun and games until the next day when on a boat ride, somebody said, "Hey-you're the girl who sang last night at the Piano Bar." I was just trying to quietly acknowledge her comment, when another man began clapping and said, "Oh yeah! I was there too, that was great. Guess that's what happens when you have one drink too many." I'm not sure what was more embarrassing--having them recognize me or the fact I had to admit, "Actually, the sad reality is--I was completely sober." Heaven help me and my enthusiastic non-singing voice.

~ Mike and I made frequent trips to get ice cream cones. We may or may not have gone several times a day.

~ Mike and my walks around the deck of the ship that was used as a walking track. Mike walked plenty, but he didn't choose to participate with me in the Ship 5K Cancer Walk. Instead I ended up walking alongside a lady from North Carolina who didn't really have anything positive to say about anything. ESPECIALLY when she found out I had 5 children. I won't type her response.

~ Spending almost 24 hours a day with Mike for 8 days straight and us never tiring of each other. Okay, well if you don't count that teeny tiny snap I made at him while in Key West. But I gave him a bite of my key lime pie, so it probably cancels out.
~ The frozen daiquiris (me) and pina coladas (Mike) that were luxurious and refreshing rolled into one.

~ The 80 year old man that invited himself into our basketball game, and fell and got hurt 5 minutes later, and subsequently had to visit the ship's ER.

~ Making friends with a couple from Washington while in line for our food at the Mexican Fiesta, who happen to be LDS.

~ A girl I went to high school with tapping me on the shoulder and saying, "I know you."

~ Making friends with a couple from Northern California and enjoying many games with them while enjoying the nearby solo guitarist. 

~ Feeling an appreciation for the beauty around us at every corner. I was overwhelmed with the thoughts of the diversity of the world's creations.

~ The temporary tattoo I got on the private beach in Cozumel. One of these days I'll get the real deal, but until then I'm testing it out. For the record, I LOVE IT. Mike...not so much. (One of my biggest regrets from my college days is that I didn't get a tattoo.) I know. I know. Some of you are judging me right now. Go right ahead.)

~ Checking in via email each morning with my family at home, and having full faith they were in good hands. Serious shout-out to my cousins, Andrew and Ashley for taking on parenting 5 extra children for a week.

~ Enjoying chips and salsa and drinks at a bar in Mexico, and Mike paying two different times for men to serenade me in Spanish prose. For some reason, Mike was more amused by it than I was. His attempts at romance were somewhat lost on me.

It doesn't seem right to sum up a 7 day cruise with just a handful of photos and a few paragraphs, but it will have to suffice. I feel overwhelmed with the generosity of Mountainland Supply for sponsoring the trip, and the kindness of my cousins and BFF for helping make it all possible. And although the return to real life has been painful, I've been repeating the following Dr. Seuss quote the last few days,

"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Reality


Yesterday was brutal.

Returning to real life following 8 1/2 days of no responsibility, no deadlines and no interruptions was tough. Not to mention nobody made my bed, nobody cleared my dishes, nobody asked me if they could get anything for me, and nobody placed chocolates on my bed at bedtime.

There were no beautiful white sandy beaches to lay on, no Caribbean blue waters to gaze into and no warm sun shining on my face.

Instead.
I grocery shopped with a four year old. Held children close when we discovered the rabbit, Daisy died sometime between breakfast and after school. Fixed dinner while Mike and Luke dug a grave. Did more loads of laundry in one day than I ever have before. (And I even like laundry!?) Tried not to throw up from my head swaying all day. Helped a child in the night with stomach cramps and diarrhea. Tried to navigate through too many unanswered emails from the last week. Brought in garbage cans from the street. Wiped poop off of a toilet seat. Dug through piles of junk mail, school papers and report cards. And a myriad other things that made me wish desperately I was still in the Caribbean.

I don't have to convince anyone that I love my real life. I do. As much as I loved everything about my last week, throughout the glorious vacation, I was reminded over and over that I love my real life at home too.

Real life will just take a few days to adjust getting back into.
And then, maybe I'll be able to write about my wonderful vacation and post glorious pictures without crying because it is over.

While I type this, my 4 year old is crying because his Teddy Graham cracker fell in the toilet. Apparently, sometimes he eats crackers while he sits on the toilet.

Welcome Home.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

An Anniversary

A year ago,Mike and I sat across from each other eating at our favorite hamburger joint. Our discussion was heavy as we talked of serious and weighty things. In that moment I was reminded that the date was February 1st. The two year anniversary of Mike's major back surgery and spiraling forward of major life changes for our little family.

It seems almost unsettling and even ironic to think that on the third anniversary, Mike and I are enjoying the last day on a cruise, given to us as a thank you from a supplier we purchase from.

For various reasons, I have declined to write about the experience of the surgery and job change as a whole. And even though is still so much I can't and won't publicly share, I can't bear to not record such a big part of our personal history any longer.

In the days of January 2011 that led up to Mike's surgery, we had a lot of uncertainty about whether or not it was the right thing to do. It wasn't so much that we questioned if fixing Mike's broken (literally) back was the best option, but we knew the recovery would be long and arduous, and we weren't sure if the company he was working for at the time would accommodate such an ordeal. It was also very unsettling for both of us to think of "the man of the house" being bed-ridden for weeks. Not to mention, the $10,000 insurance deductible that was required.

As much as we seriously considered all of those factors, ultimately we knew Mike's back issues of 20+ years were beginning to take a serious toll on him. His quality of life was drastically decreasing.

Three years later, Mike's recovery from his surgery has been nothing short of miraculous. Rarely a day goes by that he doesn't comment on how it feels to no longer live in pain. His back surgery was not all that changed three years ago...

While Mike laid in bed for 23 of the 24 hours in each day that first month, it became apparent that he would no longer stay with the company he was working for. My husband, who at this point could not dress himself, nor lift a gallon of milk, decided he was going to quit his job and start anew. With plenty of hours to spare, and a laptop atop his stomach while he laid in bed, Mike began the process of starting his own company.

As I think back to those days when I spent hours sitting in the chair by the side of our bed, attempting to remain calm in the depths of life-changing events, I'm amazed I didn't crack under the pressure. Life was hard, and so very uncertain, yet somehow we kept forging forward.

We had very little money to our name, the high surgery deductible had wiped out any extra money we had floating about, and Mike's company chose not to compensate him with sick pay. Yet, we felt undoubtedly that starting a new company was the right thing to do.

In April of 2011, Mike moved into a nearby office complex. Let me correct that, Mike told me what to put where while Yours Truly pretty much single-handedly moved him into the office. (Remember he was recovering from surgery...) With strict doctor's instructions to not lift anything more than 5lbs for 6 months, Mike successfully began building a new landscape construction company.

My 2011 personal journal lists miracle after miracle that we witnessed in our lives that first year. Building a business and a family simultaneously hasn't been easy, but I think back to the specific conversation we had when it was time to name our company. The name of our company is Sinc Constructors Co. (Sinc stands for Sowby Incorporated.) When we were choosing the name, I felt strongly we should use the word construcTORS. I liked that it was in present tense (as opposed to construcTION) and I felt that it was somewhat symbolic of the progress we were making to build a family and a business.

Each family member has small roles within the company. Despite, me being the President and Owner, Mike does 99% of the work involved in running the operations. The other 1% is divided up unequally among the rest of our family.

I always make sure there is toilet paper in the bathroom and candy to put in a dish. Luke will occasionally go to job sites and outwork most of the other workers. Joshua and Drew always ensure that there is something for the office cleaner (Mike) to clean up. Ellie occasionally shreds paper or puts stamps on envelopes, and Megan uses the office copier to gift selfies of herself to family members.

All joking aside, as the calendar turns to the 3 year anniversary of Mike's surgery and the subsequent birth of Sinc Constructors, I am humbled and grateful and fully acknowledge God's hand in our life.

Our cup runneth over.

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