i am grateful for singing (not the same as karaoke…that post will be coming soon)

I have always loved to sing. Choir in elementary school was one of my favorite classes. I sang in talent shows and around the house. In middle school, I participated in our school musical, The Boyfriend (I played the French maid). And then in high school, I was part of our a cappella choir. Choir was one of the highlights of high school for me. I loved it so much.



C&J Christmas Concert

C&J Christmas Concert 2 When I got to college, I decided to audition for one of BYU’s four choirs, Women’s Chorus. I think it would be appropriate to mention here that while I LOVE to sing, I might be the worst auditioner (yes, I know that’s not really a word) of all time. Like, the worst. I get incredibly nervous. There’s something I’ve never liked about needing to “prove myself”. So, by some miracle (or the fact that the choir conductor knew what she was looking for), I made it past the first round of auditions (the soloist round) into the group auditions.

Well, in a group, I am fine. My talent is not in soloing. I’ve never had the voice quality to solo. But I am an amazing blender. So, once I made it to that round, all was well and I made it through. I loved it so much. That didn’t keep me from missing class every so often (not sure why), but really, it was so fun. And then I’d hang out after class and listen to the Men’s Chorus.

Women's Chorus 2

Women's Chorus

In fact, while in the Women’s Chorus, I had the opportunity to sing during one of the world wide meetings for the women in my church. And, besides it just being a cool opportunity, at the time, my sister was on a mission for our church in Washington D.C. and she’d been gone about nine months at that point and she got to see me singing on a big screen on the other side of the country.

If you watch this video, you’ll see me on the far right aisle at about 1m25s three rows from the bottom.

So, fast forward about *cough* 10 or 15 *cough* years, and I’ve been missing singing a lot. Shortly after moving to Tokyo, I was asked if I would lead the music in our main church meeting each week, which I’ve been doing since last August about. As part of that, I promised myself I would try and sing in church (like, in a small group or on my own) and so, I’ve done it twice now (including today). And, while I am not in the greatest vocal condition these days (I’m quite out of practice), it’s felt amazing to both be singing again and to be pushing myself out of my comfort zone a little.

With that, I am posting the two songs I’ve sung. One was a run through (when I sang in church, it was with my friend Teresa) and the other is from today, with the same friend and one of the cute girls at church who’s part of the youth group. And in fact, the song we sung today, I Need Thee Every Hour, was a song that I got to sing in the Tabernacle in Salt Lake as part of a missionary choir when I was in training before heading off to Switzerland for 18 months. And in fact, it was a pivotal point for me during that time. Music has such power and I have always felt the closest to God while singing.

And they are not perfect, but they are from my heart and soul. As much as I always love singing, I love singing the most when I am singing in praise of my Savior and my Father in Heaven.


When I was a little girl, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents. My mom was pretty sick and in and out of the hospital and so, before I started school, I would spend most weeks at her house about an hour south of my hometown with my little brother. 

The two of us would play in the backyard and go for adventures down to the creek with our grandpa. We’d go for walks with the dogs, play with trucks in the playroom, hide in the storage room, ride the big, red tricycle, and pedal the “surrey with the fringe on top” around the neighborhood. We picked tangerines off of the tree next door, went on trips to the dump with our grandpa, slid down the slide and swung on the bars on the play-set in the backyard. Besides the fact that our mom was sick and we weren’t in our own home, it was pretty idyllic.

Easter in my grandparents’ living room.

I also have memories of my grandparents’ formal living and dining rooms; rooms we weren’t allowed to play in, but that I absolutely loved. Besides the pink settee that I still love, my grandma made these amazing flower arrangements and I have vivid memories of the beautiful birds-of-paradise and calla lilies she would cut from the plants in the backyard and subsequently turn into beautiful works of art using one of her many bowls and a little needle covered block called a frog. These arrangements stayed in the living room where they would not be destroyed by busy children with lots of energy.
Sydne, Ashley, me, and Daphne at JFK as I was heading to Switzerland for my mission.
This was the beginning of my love of flowers. And then my mom’s best friend in the world, Sydne, was an incredible florist (still is, in fact), which only added to it. A little later on in my life, when my mother was healthier and Justin and I had returned home for good, I would often spend late nights and early mornings with my mom over at Sydne’s. I would get to help her daughters put pearl pins in stephanotis or peel damaged petals off of roses in preparation for one of the many weddings she would be doing during any given week. It was so fun to be part of creating something so beautiful for such a special occasion. 
One of the last memories I have of my mom was of her and Sydne making these flower crowns for my senior year Homecoming game. I kept that crown in my closet for years afterward, hanging onto one of the last things I had that my mother had created for me.
Anyway, I share all of this to paint a picture for you. I know there are people out there who think flowers are kind of a waste, and I can understand that point of view. Clearly, though, I don’t share it. So, when I was home last month and made my 23-hour visit to Utah, mostly to see my grandma, I was thrilled when she gave me one of her ikebana books, some money to take a class, and the promise that I would inherit her containers and frogs. (Cousins, I hope you are committing what I just wrote to memory. 🙂 ) 
Since moving to Japan I have been wanting to take an ikebana class. This is the type of flower arranging my grandma has always done and she learned while she was living here in Japan in the early 70s. The book she gave me had a letter in it, written to her by a woman who I can only assume was one of her instructors. A letter dated 1983 and that cost 480 yen to send (the dollar was so much stronger then…). 
So, with a little research on the web, I found an introductory class in English that wasn’t ridiculously expensive. After a few emails back and forth, I scheduled my lesson for this past Saturday. It was everything I was hoping for and more. It started with a couple of demonstrations while my darling instructor, Reiko, explained some of the history behind the art of ikebana and and the different formal styles, including the type of ikebana she practices: Sogetsu. 
She also taught me about the use of different plants and flowers and how each one is said to contain a deity, and so each one represents something different. When I was looking through my grandma’s book, as well as the one Reiko had, I found a number of arrangements that I did not find especially aesthetically pleasing, but after Reiko gave me this part of the lesson, I could see that the beauty of these arrangements was to be found in what they represented.

Reiko first demonstrated the basic upright style arranged in Nageire. To say I was enthralled would be an understatement. She showed me how to make supports in the container in order to position the flowers exactly where they should be. She explained the importance of space and density, angles and lines, colors and lengths.


She then demonstrated a more modern or freestyle arrangement; the type of arrangement you can do one you have mastered the basics.

Reiko’s example: Moribana

And then it was my turn. Well, almost. First she demonstrated the most basic style, basic upright arranged in Moribana, using the same flowers I would be using. While I would have loved to have arranged it in Nagiere (seriously, creating supports from stems is just cool), I was so excited to finally be playing with a frog (aka kenzan in Japanese) having seen them so often during my childhood. And I was thrilled about the irises. I love irises.

My first try at ikebana: Moribana
It was so fun to being arranging flowers and to have to think about space and lines. Once I was done, we moved the arrangement from one container to the next, experimenting with different colors. I started with a navy blue container, then tried white, and finally decided this was my favorite, even though I didn’t think the colors would look good together, it just felt the best. And that was the end of my first class. 
In case it wasn’t obvious, there will be more. And, on top of having this awesome experience, I got to take all of the flowers we used home with me. Once back in my apartment, I pulled out my little vase and went to work. It’s amazing how just one lesson in ikebana helped me so much in my western style of arranging flowers. I used space and variety more. I thought about angles and lines. And I was pretty pleased with the finished product.
Of course I like to find metaphors in art whenever possible and I think ikebana, when compared with western flower arranging, is a perfect representation of how my life in Japan feels versus my life in New York. My life in New York was beautiful because it was full and I carefully fit as much into my days as I possibly could, ensuring I could see everyone I wanted to see and do everything I wanted to do and not miss out on anything. Like a western arrangement, it was about being full. And, as I said, it was beautiful. 
My life in Japan, on the other hand, is not as full of people or activities. I am much more thoughtful about what I want to do and everything requires a little more effort because the culture and language are not native to me. I have to think more and do less. It is also beautiful, but it’s a beauty that is as much a result of what is there as what is not there.
And if I take this idea to its logical conclusion, the end result will be that, when I return to my New York City lifestyle, it will as one who has seen a different way and will be able to take the lessons learned from my life here to make my life there that much better, easier, and more beautiful. Kind of great, right?

eighteen years of memories

Fifteen years ago today, almost to the hour that I started writing this, my mom died. I’ve written a number of posts that reference her in some way or another (some about her, some about me missing her), but what I realized in reading through these posts in the wee hours of the morning (which is why I’m still awake right now) is that I’ve never made an effort to document my favorite things about her and I think it’s time I did. So, if you didn’t know my mom (which is the vast majority of you), you might just want to skip this blog post because it’s really for me. Or you can read it. Either way.

I’m going to start with a disclaimer. My mother was amazing, but she wasn’t perfect. She had flaws and my childhood had some very hard moments. And when I say hard, I don’t mean parents getting divorced hard, I mean really, truly, terrifyingly hard. And part of that was due to some not so great choices my mom made.  Having said that, you mothers who fear that you are permanently jacking up your kids, don’t worry about it. You probably aren’t. And chances are, if you love them, and do your best to like them (two very different emotions), they’ll probably turn out okay and only need a little bit of therapy…which really, who doesn’t? And even though I only had 18 years with my mom, and even though some of those years were really hard, and even though she didn’t always make great choices, I still feel like I won the Mom Lottery.

My mom instilled a love of the outdoors in me. For a number of years, during two weeks each summer, she was a camp lifeguard. She volunteered as a counselor at Two Sentinels Girl Scout Camp. All of the counselors had nicknames that they went by during camp; hers was Jaws. And because she was a counselor, I got to start going to camp several years before I was actually a Girl Scout. Camping became part of my life. As I got older, I discovered how much I loved backpacking, too. And this all started with a mom who taught me by example. That said, don’t think she didn’t have her butane curling iron with her…my mother always had her hair done and her makeup on in public.

And this is the fun part about doing this…I had completely forgotten about my mom’s butane curling iron that could always be found in her purse, you know, just in case.

Oh, and in addition to the years of the butane curling iron, she always had a perm.

My mom was a CRAZY driver, and I kind of love that about her. Not because she lacked actual driving ability…she just had so many other things to do that she couldn’t be bothered to pay that much attention; like apply her mascara, curl her hair, suck on her unicorn lollipops. Which brings me to something that I always thought was weird, but always loved, too. My mom loved this one type of unicorn lollipop. To this day, any time I see one (like the other day at Dylan’s), I think of my mom and wonder if maybe it’s the type she would have liked.

Still on the driving note, one night, after picking my sister up from gymnastics (side note – my mom was unbelievably committed to all of our commitments), we were headed home and the three of us younger kids were fighting in the back seat of our white station wagon about who knows what. My mom missed a turn because she was yelling at us, and when she went to turn the car around, she ended up backing into a ditch…like, a canal type ditch. We were totally stuck. And the best part was the bumper sticker we had on that car: “If you don’t like the way I drive, stay off the sidewalk.” I’m sure the tow-truck driver got a good laugh out of that.

My mom loved flowers. I’m not sure if this came before or after she met her best friend, Sydne, who is an amazing florist. But she loved them. Gardenias in particular. When I was deciding not to get married and walking into the building where I would have the final conversation with the soon-to-be ex-fiance–the one that would require me to hand back my ring–I walked past a gardenia bush in full bloom. I picked one and held it in my hand as I tearfully ended my engagement. And it felt like my mom was there, with me. (Okay, so this memory isn’t so much about my mom, but whatever…I feel like she was part of it…plus this is my blog post, so whatever.)

Throughout my childhood, flowers were a part of life. I remember more than a few days when I just didn’t feel like going to school was going to be something I wanted to do, my mom would sometimes let me skip so I could go over to Sydne’s and help with whatever flower arranging was being done. (It’s no wonder that, to this day, I love getting flowers.) It was during these moments that I learned how to be a friend, both from my mom’s example, and from Sydne’s. I learned about unconditional love in friendships. And with all of her skills learned from Sydne, she was able to make the flower crowns all of the senior cheerleaders wore for the homecoming football game.

My mother was an amazing seamstress; a perfectionist really. My senior year in high school, I was looking for a dress for homecoming and it was down to the wire…one week left. Thankfully, I managed to find a black dress that I loved. As luck would have it, my best friend found the same dress on the same night. I was devastated. And it wasn’t like I could show up wearing the same dress Ashley was wearing, since we were going in the same group. My mother didn’t miss a beat. We hopped in the car and headed to the fabric store where we found a pattern and some beautiful black taffeta. In a week, she had sewn me a dress that I loved. Of course, in true Kim fashion, she was finishing the hand-sewn hem as my date walked up to the door (the dress was on me). To this day, that is my favorite dress that I’ve ever worn.

While I don’t have a digital photo of my homecoming dress, she made this one, and just about every other dress I wore before I turned 10.

My mom loved holidays. Loved. Them. Christmas was her favorite. And she insisted on having a flocked tree (seen below in the background). We also had a kids’ tree. It was a big deal when I was finally old enough to help decorate the “nice” tree. She taught me the order in which to put the decorations on the tree (lights, bows, ornaments) so that you ended with a perfectly and evenly decorated tree. And she made most of our ornaments. My favorite are these lovely ceramic ornaments that she hand painted of various Christmas scenes.

Please ignore the weird posing going on…that’s what 16-year-olds do.

Incidentally, my mom’s last Christmas was the Christmas of my freshman year of college. She had not been feeling well, but it was so important to her that we came home to a decorated house. She actually hired my friend Wendy (far right) to help her get everything done before my sister and I got home from college. The night before we got home, she’d been making sure everything looked perfect, so she lit all of the candles. Well, she forgot about one of them and ended up scorching a little ledge and baluster in our living room. Kind of a classic Kim thing to do.

She was also an amazing cook/baker. Back when I was in elementary school (pre lawsuits and childhood obesity) she would bake a huge batch of her delicious sugar cookies (someday Alicia and I will sell these in our bakery) for each of our birthdays and would bring them into school with frosting bags and tips for our classes to decorate. For all her flaws, my mother had the patience of a saint. My favorite things that she cooked/baked: bar-b-que chicken, beef stroganoff, English muffin pizzas (for all of you mothers out there with those favorite recipes locked away in your heads…please write them down somewhere or you might end up with kids who are so sad to not have them; the pizza sauce recipe is gone forever), frosted nut cookies, my favorite punch base, apricot chicken, and swiss cheese chicken. She was alway happy to have us in the kitchen.

She was my biggest cheerleader and my best critic. She taught me to be honest with myself and others. She taught me to accept the consequences of my choices. She taught me that things always work out and that I shouldn’t borrow trouble (something I still haven’t learned). She was generous with her time and her love. She taught me that trust and love should go hand in hand. She also taught me that swearing at your kids won’t permanently damage them…and can actually be kind of hilarious. And that you can still love someone even when you don’t like them very much at a given moment.

Okay, so the more I write, the more there is to write, but for now I will end with some of the snapshots of my mom that seem to be embedded in my mind. Snapshots of her out in our pool teaching swim lessons. Of her speeding down our court in the Party Van blasting Neil Diamond. Of her telling me to wake her up if my friends and I decided to go TP-ing in the middle of the night so she would know where we were. Of her excitement when I came home after cheerleading tryouts and I told her I made it because she knew how much I wanted it. Of her coaching my swim/basketball/soccer/softball teams over the years. Of her laughing. Of her voice. Of her playing with my oldest nephew, the only grandbaby she got to meet in this life. Of her eating frozen orange Kool-Aid and cocktail onions. Of her lying in a hospital bed. Of her sitting on the couch in the den, ready for me to come in a share whatever burden was weighing me down on any given day.  And finally, of her bending over her huge purse to look for something on the last day I saw her alive.

ETA: I am loving the little memories some of you are sharing! If you have a memory you want to share, please do!

top five

I love music…probably more than I love anything else (even chocolate :-). I grew up with parents who loved it and made music a part of our lives everyday…sometimes to our chagrin. (Listening to my dad play the same four bars of music on the piano all day long did not do a lot to motivate me to learn how to play the instrument, nor did it to anything for my dislike of Cannon in D.) 

Moving on. Music has always been a huge part of my life. I can think back to any point in my life and name a song that reminds me of that time. If I were to create a “mix for my life” it would include anything from Metallica to David Lanz, and include really random stuff like The Party (anyone else remember them?). 
As I have been thinking about all of the music-related posts I would like to write, I’m going to start with this; the top five albums from my youth (through high school…not after). These are albums that I can (to this day) listen to end-to-end without skipping more than one song because I love them that much (and they hold so many memories).
  1. Shawn Colvin – Fat City
  2. Counting Crows – August & Everything After
  3. Dave Matthews – Under the Table and Dreaming
  4. U2 – War
  5. Madonna – True Blue
Eventually, I’ll make a list of all of the songs that represent my life (for my own sake…and that of my posterity), but this is where I’ll start. 

coming home

Coming home from my evening activities tonight, I drove through Provo Canyon. It was late, so there were no phone calls to make. It was dark, so there wasn’t much to see. I had some time to just think. As I came around Deer Creek Reservoir, memories just started to flood my mind.

Summer days spent on the reservoir with our wave-runners. An overnight camping trip with friends from my apartment complex. After crossing the dam, I passed a little dirt road off to the right where I would go off-roading with my sister in her Jeep…and whatever boy was currently piquing her interest.

I came to a curve in the road, where there’s no center divider, and remembered the accident that somehow didn’t happen last December, when I came around a dry bend into wet slush, losing control of my car for just long enough to send me back and forth across all four lanes multiple times, finally landing me in the center strip facing the wrong direction after spinning around.

I remembered what the highway was like before the tunnels went in. I thought about Sundance, and all of the memories I have there. Coming to Utah to visit my siblings in college and having my dad take us to the Tree Room, making all of us feel very special. A “photo-shoot” with my sister my freshmen year, just after my mom died and before my sister left on a mission for my church. I can still see what I was wearing…although I have no idea where the pictures are. I thought about the year my brother, Justin, and I had season passes for skiing. We would head up every MWF. I finished work at noon, and Justin would come pick me up in his HUGE mid-80s Chevy Blazer. He would push me to try harder and harder runs, and teach me how to maneuver them. (We never took our skis out of the car…my grades were horrible.)

Then there was my one and only snow-shoeing adventure (sad that I haven’t ever gone again) with my roommates, Caitie and Andrea. I was depressed and miserable at the time, but I remember laughing so hard as we came to the top of a hill and all fell over from exhaustion…and then started to throw snow at each other. Sledding with cousins. Hiking. Moonlight rides on the ski-lifts in early fall. Outdoor movies in the summer. Dinner with friends at The Foundry Grill. Sundance Canyon alone holds volumes of my memories.

I passed Canyon Glen Park and thought of the night my sister, roommates, and I went to see our friends’ band play around a big bonfire. Seeing the sign for South Fork made me think of the hours and hours and hours I spent running up and down the river trail during my marathon training (and at other times in my life). I thought about campfires at South Fork Park. The summers spent rollerblading up and down the river trail with my friend Courtney. Various church activities. I passed Bridal Veil Falls and could see myself hiking up to them 10 years ago. I remembered the walk I took with my friend, Aaron, just before he left on his mission.

Then I saw the place where, late at night my freshmen year, I used to park my green Mitsubishi Eclipse (a hand me down from my sister), listen to music (mainly The Promise, by Tracy Chapman, on repeat), and just cry for hours after my mom died. Living in dorms, there wasn’t really anywhere I could go to be alone. My car and that canyon became my home; the place where my heart was, where I felt close to my mom and to God, where I felt peace.

This canyon, my canyon, holds over a decade’s worth of my life in its river and trails and mountains, its waterfalls, and its moonlight. I realized just how much I really love it for holding so many of my memories, both good and bad. (Even as I write this, more memories are coming to mind.) I thought about just how much I’m going to miss it this summer, and when I eventually move away for good.

And finally, tonight, after a few very difficult and emotional days–the type that always make me miss my mom and ache for her wisdom and kindness and generosity…but most of all her unconditional love and her absolute knowlege that things always work out–I felt peace again. The peace of my canyon. The peace of my home.