Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Tayneshia--One Million Pictures, and Slightly Fewer Words

Around 5:30 on the thirty-first of July this year I received the phone call from one of my co-workers, letting me know that my friend Tayneshia had experienced an unexpected brain hemorrhage and passed away. At first I thought she was kidding, until it occurred to me that this particular friend (along with every other friend that I have) wouldn't joke about something like that. We hung up and I spent the rest of the evening trying to wrap my mind around the fact that my Tayneshia was gone, ironically a mere 10 days before we were going to be hosting her for a Utah visit. Rough stuff.

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It's taken me awhile to set aside the time (and gather the courage) to write a few thoughts and memories about Tayneshia. To write all that we experienced together, all the ways she blessed my life, all that I think and feel about our friendship would take more time than I can reasonably find in this season of my life, and would be longer than most people would care to read. So, this isn't going to be a definitive document (or a document at all, come to that) by any means. But, it's better than nothing, hopefully a whole lot better than nothing.

The Sugar Gliders - a lunch club we formed. Love these girls!


I met Tayneshia in 2003. We were doing a production of The Wizard of Oz, and Tayneshia was hired as the stage manager for the show. The summer was kind of a rough one, and by the end of it, the powers that be had determined that one of the solutions would be to hire a full-time Production Manager. As it turned out, Tayneshia got the job, and became an official Utah transplant--though let's be clear--I certainly never deluded myself that she had any intention of becoming a true Utahn. The woman lived here for 4+ years and never changed her Texas license plates or drivers license. A Texan through and through, that one.



Tay's birthday (which we called "Mayteenth") 2005


When Tayneshia was hired, word didn't get to me immediately, and so when she came to my office and requested a whole bunch of budget reports, I told her that I couldn't give them to her without clearance from one of the managers of the company. I can't just go out giving financial data willy-nilly you know? I mean, anyone could walk into my office and say that they were the new production manager. Where's the proof??

She got someone to let me in on the news of her hiring, and I gave her the reports. She never let me forget that though. We became fast friends, close friends, long-time friends, and through the years, she would frequently remind me that our friendship started with me not trusting her enough to give her some sheets of paper with a bunch of numbers on it. Then we'd both laugh.

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Bryce Canyon, 2004

Tayneshia and I shared an easy friendship. We were very different in our religion, political leanings, race, and a few other aspects, but we were very similar in our outlook on life, valuation of family, friends, and relationships, and love of laughter. We had much much more in common than otherwise, and it showed. We had TV nights together (American Idol and the Olympics were particular favorites), taught each other how to cook our different specialties (she taught me gumbo, I taught her tamales), shared our interests and talents (I taught Tay yoga, she took me to the eighth-largest mall in the United States and marched me up and down those shops 'till I begged for mercy!)

Early on, we discovered that we were easy traveling companions, and we capitalized on that, going places near and far.

Christmastime, 2005 (I think)

The Bahamas

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New York City

Tay and I would share religious conversations, to a point. We didn't get too far into doctrines, but we would have conversations about why Mormons do this or that and why Catholics do this or that, and how it all comes together. Tay often jested about the book she was going to write one day, entitled The Care and Feeding of Your Mormon Friends, and I considered myself (egotistically to be sure) a prime source of information for that book, and were she ever to publish it, I would definitely have tried to hit her up for a piece of what would surely be a huge cash pie.

Bryce Canyon

Versailles

As it turned out, Tayneshia and I ended up being friends during what was (in retrospect) a pretty challenging time of life for me, both professionally and personally.  Since we were co-workers as well as friends, she had a unique view of those struggles, and we would sometimes mull over some of the challenges we were encountering at work, as well as some that we would each encounter in our daily lives. She told me one time of some advice her mother had given her years before. I liked it so much that I wrote it down on a piece of paper and taped it to my computer monitor, where it stayed for many years (until I broke down and traded my big box monitor in for a sleek flat screen model). Wanna hear the advice? Of course you do! Here it is:

If you're going to pray about it, don't worry about it; 
and if you're going to worry about it; don't [bother] praying about it!

Following that bit of counsel has saved me hours and hours of worrying over the years, and probably a stomach ulcer as well.

Manti

Paris

Not that Tayneshia was a perfect, faultless saint or anything like that.  One of my favorite memories of her involved her being more than slightly self-absorbed, a trait which she freely acknowledged in herself, and as such, one that I feel comfortable in expounding a bit.

It had been a harder than usual day. I was in my office, feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, low on hope, high on discouragement. Tayneshia was sitting across the desk from me, having just picked up her mail from the slot that we kept outside my office. As I ran down the list of things that were troubling me, Tay sifted through her mail, looking over this and that. After we had commiserated a little bit, she got this giant smile on her face, and said in complete seriousness,

"I know just the thing that will cheer you up!"

Then, without another word, she opened one of the mail envelopes she had been browsing, and reached in and pulled out a 5x7 picture of a whole bunch of people I'd never seen before in my life. I looked at it, then looked at her, questioningly.

"See! It's my graduating class from Delaware (where Tayneshia had attended University)! Now, doesn't that just brighten you up?!"

I was dumbfounded, and thought for sure that she must be kidding. A bunch of pictures of utter strangers with one friend mixed in just the thing to cheer me up?! What?? Why would that cheer me up? Who cares about these people? What do they have to do with me? I'm in real pain here (well, more like real inconvenience, but still) and you are playing show and tell with me and expecting it to cheer me up???

I couldn't believe it, but at the same time, she was right, it did cheer me up. The thought of my Tay, pulling something like that out and knowing that it would naturally brighten anyone's day gave me a chuckle inside, and later that night, as I was telling the tale to my Heidi, a chuckle outside. It gives me a chuckle now, thinking about it. It's one of my favorite memories of her, and I've got a lot of good ones, so that's saying something.

(And--there are times even now when I'm feeling down, and I think to myself, "Geesh, if only someone had a nice class picture of a bunch of people I'll never know, now that would really cheer me up!" and then I laugh and it cheers me up considerably.)

My birthday, 2006 I think




I could go on and on with memories and inside jokes and joys that became a part of my life because of my association with Tayneshia. I could talk about how opinionated she could be on facebook, how one time Eric made the mistake of engaging her there on a particularly polarizing topic and they went the rounds about it all, neither giving an inch to the other, but still at the end of it finding enough enjoyment and common ground that Tayneshia offered to be Eric's second wife (platonically of course) should his crazy religion ever open up that polygamy thing again. That made me laugh, and if I ever had to have a (platonic, only platonic!) sister wife, I don't know that I could do much better than Tay.

Houston Grand Opera (where we met Bryn Terfel)


I could write about how, when I was engaged to Eric, I let Tayneshia "off the hook" (as I saw it) from throwing me a bridal shower, and she thought that I didn't trust her to do a good job and felt bad about it until she talked it over with one of our mutual friends (Heidi) who explained that throwing parties is something that stresses me out, and so I probably thought I was doing her a favor by not having her do it.

Houston


I could describe how Tayneshia nursed me through what ended up being one of the hardest times of my life, how she sat me down one time in the middle of it all and told me (with the kind of empathy that can only come from personal experience) in great detail how one day I'd look back on these days with understanding, and that one day after that, I'd share that understanding and in so doing, would be able to help another through what might end up being one of the hardest times of their life.  She was absolutely right on both counts.

Paris




I could explain about how I was looking forward to her visit, mainly for the laughs and the stories we would tell and share, but also because I wanted to pick her brain as an only child, get a few hints and/or suggestions as to how I might raise my own only child to be a kind, generous and amiable person (as Tayneshia was), while not having the (mixed at times) blessing of having to share toys, funds, parental attention and basically everything else with five other siblings (as was my experience).

The Bahamas


Obviously I could go on and on with stories and lessons and experiences all featuring Tayneshia. Probably what I should do instead is write a sentence or two, encapsulating what Tayneshia was to me, how I saw her, what she taught me, how I'm changed because of her. Only, I can't. There's too much to say and share and I just know that I can't do it justice, and probably don't need to do it justice anyway, because I have a suspicion that anyone who knew Tayneshia at all well already knows all these things and doesn't need to read them here, and this post is already marathon long. So, I'll just end with this:  Tayneshia was a gem, and I'm more happy than I can adequately express that she and I were truly friends of the road, and (as it turns out) friends of the heart as well.




Until we meet again, my friend.


Friday, October 11, 2013

The Lion and the Unicorn

We start out today with a delightful poem/nursery rhyme, accompanied by statues that are a depiction of the words in the rhyme.  Both were sent to me by my cousin, Julie:

 photo juliedoverlions.jpg

The lion and the unicorn were fighting for the crown.
The lion beat the unicorn all around the town
Some gave them white bread,
And some gave them brown;
Some gave them plum cake
And drummed them out of town



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Buckingham Palace

Then, we follow up that bit if nostalgia with even more delightful lion pictures that Julie took for us in England:

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Hampton Court Palace





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Hampton Court Palace

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Buckingham Palace

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Buckingham Palace

 photo julielion3.jpg
Greenwich

I find this next one fascinatingly funky:
 photo julielion4.jpg
Greenwich

And with that, we welcome Julie as our newest official member of the United Seekers of Stone Lions!



I recently came upon this beauty as well.  This is my beloved brother (or one of them), who took the time on our Alaskan Cruise to snuggle up to this guy for a photo op. I tell ya, how many people have a circle of family and friends who indulge their whims as much as I do? Hmmmm?  Lucky, that's me for sure.
 photo lionbydoug.jpg


And finally, here's one from our good friend Cherie in China--these are lions that line (no pun intended, this time at least) the stairs at Lion Gate Temple.  How cool is that?  Lion Gate Temple?? Fabulous!
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Thursday, October 03, 2013

"Today is Free Caramel Apple Day"

Not really. But, can you name that movie?

On Saturday, we lucked into a large bag of home-grown granny smith, golden delicious, and red delicious apples, absolutely free! A little slice of heaven.

In related news, I have this crazy idea (which may come to nothing) that during the month of October, our Family Home Evenings should be a celebration of the gloriousness of fall.  So, it was my plan to spend our Monday evening driving to the canyon, and then picking different branches of orange and yellow leaves, which we would then put in a vase in our living room to remind us of this ultra-lovely time of year.

And then we got the apples.

Change of plans, we spend Monday night making caramel apples--and (get this) we made them from scratch. And, (get this!!!)  It wasn't even that hard.
 photo caramelapples.jpg
These are not my apples, I didn't take any photos in the process. But, these give a passing resemblance to what we ended up with when all was said and done.



We used the instructions I found here at comfyinthekitchen.com. It's the same basic recipe I found on about ten sites once I googled "sweetened condensed milk caramel apples", but I like this one because it shows pictures of what the caramel looks like when it's ready, and in so doing eliminates the need for using a candy thermometer. I have a candy thermometer, but I get intimidated by recipes that say that one is "needed", immediately assuming that such recipe will be above my skill level. I hope you'll believe me when I tell you that this is an easy recipe. Easy enough that there is no need to waste the money or time driving to the grocery store and to buy Kraft Caramels to melt or those wrap-an-apple kits. Just make your own caramel. It takes about 30 minutes and it's easy.

Here's the recipe:

Gourmet Caramel Apples (at home)
Prep time:  
Cook time:  
Total time:  
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 6 wooden skewers (we used craft sticks)
  • 6 Medium Granny Smith 
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¾ cup white corn syrup
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • desired toppings & parchment paper
Instructions
  1. In heavy saucepan combine sugar, corn syrup, milk and salt mixing well.
  2. Cook over medium heat stirring gently but constantly until soft ball stage --if you are using a thermometer it will be about 230 degrees- but I go by color.
  3. This will take you about 30 mins. (it only took me about 20 minutes)
  4. Remove from heat and cool for about 5 mins and stir in butter and vanilla.
  5. Cool again about 5 mins- you then may begin coating caramel over apples to cover fully…then dip in your desired topping.
  6. Place on buttered parchment paper…when finished with all apples, transport to dish and cool in refrigerator for 2 hours before enjoying!

For toppings, we used mini-chocolate chips and crushed vanilla wafers, because that's what I had on hand. The wafers looked a little funky but tasted divine. The chocolate chips melted onto the caramel which also make them look a little funky, but again, they tasted divine. The caramel was perfect, the tart apples mixed with the sweet and sticky caramel took me back to my childhood and then my college days (when I made caramel apples every year, but never from scratch), and once again, all was well with the world.

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Obviously.



top caramel apple photo courtesy of kristin-and-adam
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