Those of you who read the title and are expecting an essay on environmental issues will be disappointed today. As will anyone who wants to rant about fuel prices. (Enough, already!) Because I'm talking about emotional fuelage, and right now my tank is full, to overflowing...right into the reserve tank that keeps me alive during the dry spells.
For the past two weeks we've been blessed with a steady stream of visitors and friends from our California hometown, Pasadena.
It started over the 4th of July weekend, when we attended a barbecue that was hosted and heavily populated by friends we knew in Pasadena. Our host was the savvy Sunstoner Mary Ellen, recently relocated from California via a brief stint in South Texas. She was celebrating a milestone birthday, a new-ish marriage, an enviable new job, and a new 100-year-old home. In Utah. She's one of the sharpest wits I've come across. My favorite (well, there are LOTS, but one of my favorite memories) was a talk she gave in church on forgiveness. She described how difficult it can be as mere humans to "freely forgive" and said that while others tell her to just "bury the hatchet" she's thinking, "Sure, I'll bury the hatchet...in the back of the other person's HEAD!" That just brought down the house. Seriously the biggest laugh I've ever heard in a sacrament meeting talk. I loved her instantly.
ME is also responsible for giving a name to my biggest culinary failure to date: I was making some breadsticks in a rush for dinner before heading out to a movie with ME, and realized the only mix I had left was pumpernickel. I dutifully shaped and twisted the dough and popped it into the oven, not realizing that the dark brown baked goodies would look uncannily like...well, excrement. We came home from the movie and my delightful husband had cleaned the whole kitchen, then neatly arranged the leftover breadsticks in disgusting-looking piles on the kitchen counter. ME took one look and then laughingly dubbed it "Dumpernickel!" And I remember long strolls through the woods outside her workplace as she and I walked and talked our way through The Grief Recovery Handbook after a bad break-up for her and a stillbirth for me. Her quick wit is coupled with a heart of gold. These are people you hang onto forever.
Also there were the Ballards, our very first friends in Pasadena, now parents to a 9-year-old daughter with Down Syndrome. These are the folks who shared our tradition for making Ableskivers every 4th of July, and who put their whole souls into everything they do, whether it's Halloween costumes or a painted backdrop for the party at church. Salt of the earth. Truly.
And Brittany was there, slinging a newborn across her chest and a toddler in one hand because her husband needed a break. This is the Pioneer Woman of the 21st Century. We laughed about how we both get the Pasadena Book Group emails and try to read along with everybody. She still remembered all our kids, and had plenty of lovely things to say about our youngest's pluck, humor, and depth when she taught him in Primary four years ago. (Mr. Cool was shy, but secretly thrilled to hear she remembered him, and how well.)
The very next day our friend Michelle called. "...in town for one more day and can we PLEASE go out for Indian food?" (Twist my arm!) We met her and another couple, Ted and Allison, and laughed and laughed until they were closing down the restaurant...then went back to the house and talked and laughed some more. I finally drove Michelle home at 4 a.m. She and I have the graphic design thing in common, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. I cannot even begin to describe the lovely Michelle – über-chic, but humble and understated, soft-spoken yet powerful, great sense of humor, yet deeply spiritual, and wildly original. A kindred spirit. One of my favorite memories of her is visiting an exhibit called "Metaphorically Speaking," standing for half an hour in front of the very first piece -- a sculpture/installation called "Embrace" -- which sparked this amazingly rich discussion about Atonement.
The next night? Allison's hubby drove back to L.A. and she came to stay with me for an extra week! This is the third time she's spent a week—or more—at my house, and it's always a laugh riot! Our main activities include cooking, eating, talking, and laughing. Anything else is just gravy. But many of our discussions are also deep and spirit-filled. We've been through a LOT together, she and I. More like family than friends. There is no one quite like this brash, irreverent, hilarious and sexy dessert chef, Allison. But somehow I was blessed to also discover her spiritual side. And she runs deep.
And the night of the barbecue? Mike and Lilian called. Totally out of the blue. Got in town a couple of days ago and want to come over. Perfect! They joined right in with the whole barbecue crowd (Allison baked a fabulous cake) and sweet Lilian even invited Johanna to their Karaoke Night at BC when she gets to LA. Mike is a former sheriff's deputy and he has the craziest stories about the inmates -- complete with hilarious accents and demonstrations. The guy could do stand-up comedy. His wife, Lilian is pure angel. I've never met anyone so beautiful, inside and out.
Not only are these California friends diverse and inspiring. They also know me almost better than I know myself. They are surrogate family. These are the folks who sat through my gospel doctrine class week after week for seven years, or who babysat our kids when they were small, or nurtured us through our toughest times and celebrated our biggest triumphs. Can you see why I TOTALLY LIVE FOR my California fix, and how all these recent visits have me refueled for a good long while?
Well, it gets better, because this morning Phi-Phi called, and they're coming next Tuesday! She's a 4'10" 85-pound powerhouse who started out as a Vietnamese refugee and wound up as assistant dean of admissions for Occidental College. She was separated from her mother since age 7, and her dad died during her senior year of high school. I was her visiting teacher when she gave birth to her first child, and was somehow able to step into that maternal role for her in the absence of both her parents...a gift I will never forget. She is gentle and loving and sweet...and tough as nails. I love her dearly. When she talks to me, I feel like she's harnessed the sun and focuses its rays right on me, so the whole room glows warmer.
So, who fuels your emotional reserve tank?