A Fresh Start (again)

I promised myself I would start blogging again on (or before) September 1st. It's now 9:34pm, very near my bedtime and I'm tired, so here goes ...

I'm trying to start blogging again. 
I'm not making any promises to myself, like I'll blog every day for a month, but secretly I'd like to blog everyday this month. It's just that my track record for those kinds of goals is not very impressive. But enough of that. 

Greeting Chase at the Spokane airport on July 27th. He served an LDS mission for two years in the Missouri, St. Louis mission. So proud of him!

Greeting Chase at the Spokane airport on July 27th. He served an LDS mission for two years in the Missouri, St. Louis mission. So proud of him!

Today, my children returned to school. I was ready. We've enjoyed a fantastic summer. Chase returned from his two-year mission and we were ALL together again (first time in three years!) This is also the first summer since 2001 that I have not worked. When I sold Big Picture Classes, I promised myself I would NOT commit to anything during this first summer that would require sitting at my desk for long periods of time -- I eagerly kept that promise. Anyway, Clark is a Sophomore at BYU in Provo, Utah. He is majoring in Exercise Science with plans to attend Dental school. More on him later. Trey is a junior at CVHS and is working part time after school at Geoff's ENT surgery center, scanning patient charts. I won't be seeing much of him. More on Trey later. Taft, my youngest boy started high school today. What thrill it was to watch him walk away with his two good friends, turn the corner into the school and be greeted by a whole group of older students (including Trey) who serve as a freshman LINK leaders -- Taft started kindergarten after we moved into our current home and though it's been nine years, it seems like yesterday that I put him on that big, yellow bus and watched him ride away. Crazy. Addie is starting second grade at Greenacres Elementary School. She spent last year at a private school (Pioneer) but is now returning to public school -- lots more on Taft and especially Addie very soon. 

For now, I'm happy to say that I blogged. 
Good night. 


I'm 50.

I’ve been thinking about my life for a while now. This is because I’ve now been alive for half a century. 
50 years. 
I know.
Crazy, right?

It’s funny because I wrote a blog post titled “I'm almost FIFTY” when I turned forty-five. I recently re-read this post and it made me think about what’s changed and what’s stayed the same and how I feel about all of it. I have to say that scrapbooking or blogging or journaling or whatever you do to keep track is brilliant, because these everyday details matter and in reality all kinds of things change, all the time, but if you don't write stuff down, you're simply NOT going to remember and then you're not going to know how far you've come. 


Anyway, I’m learning (still) that just because life transitions are right and good doesn’t mean they will be easy or pain free. The last five years has been one of these good, but difficult transitions. As my 45th year approached, things began to unravel. I was extremely tired. I was unwell, but I didn’t really understand what was wrong or why. I struggled most days to feel optimistic or energetic—two traits that I strongly associated with my value as a person—but self talk was negative much of the time, in spite of my best efforts with proven strategies. A few of my dear friends took me to A&W for a root beer float on my birthday and I remember telling them, “Something is wrong. Maybe I’m depressed? If I am, I just want to know, so that I can figure out what to do about it!” I finally made an appointment with my internist, and she listened as I tried to express what I was experiencing and as I ultimately fell apart and bawled like a baby in her office (mortifying!) She did her routine check up and ordered some blood tests and then assured me I was the picture of health. She also said something like, “You work full-time, you have five children and you are approaching midlife. Perhaps your expectations are unrealistic.” She had scanned me for disease and determined that I was disease free and that was that. When I pushed back, she ordered a hormone panel and referred me to a pharmacist who would discuss the outcome with me and possibly work with her to prescribe bio-identical hormones. She is no longer my doctor, but this was the beginning of a significant journey to a very different way of eating and living. 

The good news is, I feel better at 50 than I did at 45. 

So, in the spirit of birthday lists, I thought it would be fun (mostly for me) to celebrate the milestone of 50 with an updated accounting of things I know, believe, wonder about and do. I've noted which items are updates from 2010 by bolding the original statement, and adding an update in italics. 


My 50th birthday List

1. I believe the ideal temperature is 70 degrees Fahrenheit. This is where the air around you cannot be detected to be warm or cool. It's just air and it's perfect!

2. I hate it when I can’t fall asleep as quickly as I would like to—super frustrating!

3. I adore clouds. And my birthday sky was filled with the MOST beautiful clouds ever—it was like a painting almost.

4. I really love the kale chips from Pacific Superfood Snacks. My favorite flavor is Olive Oil & Sea Salt. I can buy these at Costco, but I've also ordered directly from PSS. They are a bit pricey, but hey, what's better than binging on Kale?!

5. Speaking of food, I now eat a modified Paleo diet. This means lots of fresh, real food, like meat, veggies, good fats and limited fruit. I eat sugar on occasion. I love popcorn and (dark) chocolate. 

6. I love the smell of freshly cut grass, and the smell of sprinklers on a hot day. I'm delighted that summer is headed our way.

7. [2010] I want to buy flowers, transfer them to my colorful pots and “summerize” my front porch on Saturday. This is still true, in fact. I want to do this TODAY or tomorrow. 

8. [2010] I have a favorite water bottle that I fill up every morning and drink from. I would be very sad if I had to use another water bottle. I have lost and replaced this water bottle at least a dozen times, and I drink WAY MORE water than I did five years ago. 

9. When it comes to media and entertainment (songs, TV, movies, podcasts, blogs, etc.) I like uplifting. In fact, if it’s not, I pretty much turn it off. 

10. [2010] Toasted cheese sandwiches and tomato soup makes me happy. I don't eat bread (gluten) anymore and most soups have gluten in them. So, no more toasted cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. It took awhile, but I'm ok with this now. 

11. [2010] I have degenerative arthritis in my big toe. I found out yesterday. I am sad. Still true. My toe is the number one reason I stopped jogging—too painful. 

12. I really miss jogging, but I walk and do aerobics with weights (The Firm.) And I did buy new running shoes that are supposed to help my toe NOT hurt so much. 

13.  I ‘d like to be thinner—as in get rid of the extra layer of fat around my midsection, but at the same time, I can honestly say that healthy is now more important than thin (this is huge!)

14. I’m doing my best to become proficient with the new Photos software for Mac, so that I can prepare myself to teach Finding Photo Freedom again. 

15. Sometimes I can’t believe all of the cool experiences I’ve been blessed to enjoy, because of scrapbooking—especially the travel that has allowed me to meet so many people across the world. 

16. I’ve learned that wherever you go—even online, it’s remarkable how similar we are. 

17. [2010] I need to eat more vegetables. I eat a TON of vegetables. In fact, I often eat veggies for breakfast, with fish! I make whipped "fauxtatoes" with cauliflower and try to always have baked sweet potatoes and/or roasted carrots, Brussel sprouts or zucchini in my fridge. 

18. I still LOVE to create a traditional scrapbook page. I pull out a blank sheet of cardstock, a few photos I love and then I play. Seriously makes me happy and (honestly) this surprises me a little. 

19. I take lots of photos, primarily using my iPhone 6, and …

20. I use this app, and this app and this app to help me tell stories. It all counts!

21. [2010] I want to learn how to bake really yummy, homemade bread. I’ve always thought that by now (age 45) I would know how to bake bread. Since I no longer eat bread, I no longer want to learn how to make it, ha! What's surprising to me is that I don't even miss it. I feel so much better on a gluten-free diet that it's 100% worth giving it up!

22. I’m in the process of purging my basement studio.

23. I want a fresh coat of paint in a new color and a feeling of more open space.

24. I bought this picture of Bessie the cow to hang in my refreshed creative space.

25. [2010] With the exception of expensive Chanel foundation and lipstick from Laura Mercier I buy my makeup at Walgreens. I now use this as a foundation (love it!) I still use Laura Mercier lipstick and blush, but everything else comes from Walgreens. 

26. [2010] I believe what matters most is what lasts the longest. Foremost in my mind, faith in God, an eternal family and the freedom that comes from making wise choices and being prepared. Still absolutely true!

27. I want to tell more connection stories.

28. I especially want to tell stories that connect my children to my grandparents and great-grandparents. This family-history aspect of scrapbooking is what I'm most excited about right now! 

29. I have dozens of unfinished scrapbook albums that I am sorting through and deciding what to do with. 

30. I'm so grateful I have started School of Life albums for all of my boys. By the way, School of Life albums are something I invented a LONG time ago. I wrote about them in my book, The Big Picture. 

31.  I want to design a Project Life version of my School of Life album and make it for Addie. 

32. I’m still afraid of big trucks (think dump trucks, cement trucks and semis.) Even as a grown woman they freak me out and I hate passing them on the freeway. 

33. I love trees and I love waking up to the trees outside my bedroom window!

34. I really love flowers.

35. I wish I would spend more time outside. 

36. Maybe I will this summer. In fact, this will be the first summer in 15 years that I won't have to work. I want to hike, bike and explore with my kids. 

37. I totally dig technology. I can’t keep up with it, but it excites me and I love following it’s evolution. Hello Amazon Dash!

38. I love reading the scriptures. I read nearly every morning. I especially love reading The Book of Mormon. You can read it with this app

39. I try really hard to live the teachings of Jesus Christ.

40. My church has blessed my life beyond measure, especially as a parent. 

41. I love being a mom of teenagers. really!

42. I can barely remember what it was like to be a mom of babies and little children. It's ok though, I have photos!

43. I cannot wait for my missionary son, Chase to get home on July 27th!

44. My whole family will be together again at the end of this summer. We will take a new family photo. Just thinking of this makes me giddy. 

45. [2010] I really like milk. I always have. I like the idea of milk and think of it as the ultimate comfort food. When I travel I buy steamed milk from Starbucks. I also think chocolate milk is surprisingly satisfying. I still like the idea of milk, but I don't drink it much anymore. I do make chocolate pudding with ripe avocados, and it is definitely falls into the comfort food category!

46. I’m listening to this book about Abraham Lincoln in my car. 

47. I’m reading this book, and this book. 

48. I’m in charge of the Hall family reunion this summer. I have lots to do to prepare. 

49. This is my favorite Netflix series so far. 

50. I try to be aware of my innumerable blessings and I am very grateful for these fifty years that have taught me so much and allowed me to experience the joy, heartache, happiness and excitement of being alive. 

She Put the Music in Me (2 Mom Stories)

I'm posting from Provo, Utah, where I am attending an annual Women's Conference at BYU. I attended years ago (1999?) with my Mom, sisters and sisters-in-law and have such happy memories, but I've never made it back again, until now. My dear friend, Allison Barnes texted me about six weeks ago and asked if I wanted to meet her here. I hesitated for a moment or two, then checked the dates and realized that I could purchase a one-way ticket down and then drive back to Spokane with Clark. So, stay in the BYU dorms, reconnect with my wonderful friend and then enjoy 11 hours of alone time with my boy? Count me in!

Last night we were treated to an evening of entertainment, where we listened to several singers and musical groups. It was outstanding. I was introduced to Calee Reed and her song, She Put the Music in Me. Calee lost her mother to cancer when she was in her early twenties and this video is a tribute to her. It along with the lyrics tell her story and with actual video and images from their life together. Watch it. It will stir strong emotion for anyone who loves photos and story. 

I wrote a story for my Mom in my last post and mentioned there and on social media that I am helping StoryWorth.com promote a cool Mother's Day contest. This week I have the privilege of reading several mom stories and selecting my favorite, as a weekly winner in this "Queen for a Day" contest. All of the stories were fascinating and touching, and it was HARD to choose one over the others, but when we returned to our dorm room last night I read (again) each story, I experienced one of those moments of synchronicity. One of the stories, like the video above is about a mom who loved music and instilled that love in her daughter. As you read it, think about the things that trigger memories of your mom and then WRITE THEM DOWN! There is great power in our memories, we need to share them.

My mother inspired me with her music since I can remember. As a matter of fact, her mother was her own inspiration, and she got the musical ball rolling for my mother when she was a young girl. Growing up in the Depression era wasn't easy, but my grandmother went without anything but the bare necessities to scrape together enough money to pay for her daughter to take piano lessons through her teenage years. My mother would announce after each evening meal (and before the dishes were to be washed) that she was going to do her practicing. She knew full well that her mother would be pleased and would enjoy listening to her from the kitchen while she did dish duty in place of my practicing mother.

When I reached the first grade, it was my mother's turn to nurture the musical side of me. She would have me sit beside her on the piano bench as she lovingly played and sang "Sweet Little Buttercup.” My first exposure to music was accompanied by warmth, love and sharing. I would also hear her singing as she worked around the house. If, during a conversation with family or friend, the topic reminded her of a song, my mother would begin singing it, and everyone would listen and wait until she stopped before finishing the conversation.

I was very moved when I noticed the same thing happening when she was playing bridge in the assisted living home during her final year of life. The circumstances were tough, and in spite of not being able to play her game as skillfully as she once had, and in spite of her health issues, she would often break out in song during the middle of the game when the conversation inspired her. The other players would quietly sit and listen, and then resume playing when she finished her song. If you spent much time around my mother, you would get used to her singing interludes, as if that were what everyone did as a part of daily routines.

After she took a fall and was in the hospital for hip surgery, and was being wheeled to the operating room, the doctor complimented her on her beautiful blue eyes. Upon hearing that, her foot began tapping under the sheet, and she sang "Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue" as they wheeled her in for surgery.

That was that last time anyone ever heard her. She passed away a couple of hours later while in the recovery room and those beautiful blue eyes would be closed forever.

I miss you Mom. Thanks for all those songs!

Story written by: Susan Bright Nguyen


If you write a story for your mother, or simply share some memories of her, I hope you'll let me know. Send me a link to a blog or Facebook post or just email me. I want to champion this effort to pay tribute to mothers everywhere!