19 December 2015


When I bought airline tickets to Texas for Christmas break, I didn't know that I would be attending two funerals. One of those was for one of my longest friends, Sean. I was asked by his mother to speak at his memorial service in Texas; he had had a funeral service in Kentucky earlier this week. After scrambling to change my flight and enduring a few sleepless nights, I sat down to try to figure out how to do one of my favorite people justice. This is what I came up with.

“Fourteen minutes and thirty-seven seconds.” Those were the first words out of Sean’s mouth after I gave my first real talk in sacrament meeting from this very podium. He greeted me right there. He didn’t say, “good job,” or “I enjoyed your talk,” like everyone else. Just, “I thought you’d be interested.” I never asked him to time me. But Sean, knowing me as well as he knew me, knew that that was exactly the kind of thing I wanted to hear and, in his own way, he gave me the highest of compliments. It was simple, but it meant a lot to me, and I’ve found that that is just one of Sean’s many defining characteristics: showing others that he cares through his small and simple acts.

I’ve known Sean for as long as I can remember. In my earliest memories of Easter egg hunts, Sunday school, pool parties, or multi-family campouts, he is there. I would bring some of my junior high friends to dances sponsored by our church, and they all had crushes on him after the first night. As we grew older, we sang duets, built a hovercraft, led our high school marching band, took a two-day roadtrip; I have even shaved his legs.

Sean was, without doubt, talented. Our senior year of high school, Sean was selected to perform with the All-State 5A Concert Band. Let me just paint this picture for you: “All-State is the highest honor a Texas music student can receive. . . . [S]tudents are selected through a process that begins with over 64,000 students from around the state vying for this honor to perform in one of 15 ensembles. . . . This competitive process begins throughout the state in auditions hosted by 28 . . . Regions. Individual musicians perform selected music for a panel of judges who rank each instrument. . . . From this ranking, a select group of musicians advances from their Region to compete against musicians from other Regions. . . . The highest-ranking musicians judged . . . qualify to perform in a[n] . . . All-State music group. . . .”

Sean was chosen to perform with a group that included 10 trombone players. 10. Out of 64,000 who auditioned. His talent was undeniable. After high school, Sean traded in his trombone for a guitar. From my perspective, he picked it up instantly. He was naturally good at almost everything. In fact, he was so naturally good, that it sometimes really irritated others (namely, me). I recently found a letter that Sean wrote to me years ago that illustrates this exact point. In his words:

“Speaking of procrastinating, remember in high school when I would not do stuff and procrastinate and then everything would work out ok and you would get mad at me for it? or when you would demand to see my grades and I would resist, but when you finally forced me to show you, you’d get mad if mine wasn’t worse than yours? I even remember one time when you got mad even though your grade was better!”

I’d like to challenge Sean on the validity of that last statement! But I do remember being competitive in every class that we had together -- which was almost all of our classes: algebra, trigonometry, world history, chemistry, jazz band, physics . . . I eventually dropped out of calculus and decided to study linguistics (and I begrudgingly add that Sean became fluent in Spanish and I didn’t), but Sean went on to pursue a degree in chemistry, after which he began a promising career at L’Oreal.

Smart and successful as he was, Sean was definitely not all work and no play. In fact, those who knew him best might say that he was all play. It’s hard to make it through a talk about Sean without mentioning one of his all-time favorite pranks. I’m serious -- after it happened, we laughed about for years, joking about it almost every single time we spoke until the last time I saw him. Yes, Delyn, the Half-Chinese Fire Drill. After our early morning scripture class, we typically all caravaned back to Lamar High School. Delyn Dehoyos usually carpooled with the Crawford kids, and they frequently pulled stunts like super soaking other cars at stop lights, washing windows while waiting for the train, and, yes, executing Chinese fire drills. This particular morning, the Crawfords were first in the line of cars back to the high school. My brother Trent and I were second, so we had a front row seat. They stopped at the first red light, and we noticed a door open with feet jumping out. It was Delyn. And only Delyn. I think she realized at the same time we did what was happening, and she quickly tried opening the door again. I don’t think I need to tell you that it didn’t open. And because it was Sean at the wheel, simply locking the door for the length of one red light wasn’t hilarious enough, he took off as soon as the light turned green! Poor Delyn, only a freshman, was left stranded on the side of the road. She tells me that at least five cars passed her before someone gave her a ride to school. She found her backpack sitting outside of their car when she finally made it to the parking lot.

Sean also never did things halfway. If he wanted to do something -- he did it fully. He committed and followed through, without looking back. Take, for example, his halloween costume our freshman year of college. He’d talked about this costume for weeks before he pulled it off . . . but he would never tell me what it was. I remember the moment I saw the faded argyle sweater, the 1950s browline glasses, the thick white mustache, and the shiny bald head surrounded by white, horseshoe-shaped hair. And no, he wasn’t wearing a rubber bald cap -- he actually shaved his head!

Although Sean loved having fun and being silly, he never treated his friends like they were jokes. Jared Masten, one of his companions from his mission in Seattle, shared the following experience:

“I got to know him well over the course of those two years; . . . He became my brother, and I will always see him that way. He truly was an example of leadership and I learned a lot while working with him.

“To give an example of this, I’d like to share a story of when I was still in the MTC. There I was often sick, and during the final few nights I found myself completely unable to sleep, instead lying restlessly in my bed in my bed. The final night was no different, except that we needed to depart very early in the morning. Between being sick and the stress of my situation, when the time came to head to the bus, I was unable to make the walk across campus to the loading station with my bags. Halfway there I collapsed on the pavement, feeling short of breath as if I were having an asthma attack. For the remainder of the distance our other roommates carried my bags, and Sean carried me with my arm around his shoulders. Though perhaps a small act to those who witnessed it, to me it was a demonstration of his character. Him lifting me up that day has become symbolic in my mind to much of our relationship during the remainder of my mission. That is because when times were difficult, I was frequently carried by Sean as he supported me emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, when it seemed impossible for me to find sufficient strength on my own. That was simply the kind of friend he was.”

Sean was that sort of friend to me too, for as many years as he was in my life. He looked out for me and took the time to understand who I really was. Now, I’m going to describe ways that Sean has let me know that I mattered to him, but I acknowledge that I’m only one. He touched so many lives and cared about so many people. The way he treated other people, I think, makes up a lot of who Sean is. I want to reiterate what Jared Masten said about what Sean did for him. He said, “Though perhaps a small act to those who witnessed it, to me it was a demonstration of his character.”

These are some of his small acts to me:

A few times when I didn’t quite make it to church in high school, my Sunday school class drove the 15 minutes to my house to share a quick message with me at my doorstep. During the Christmas season, they had time to sing only one carol before having to drive back to church. They sang “The First Noel,” which was not coincidentally my favorite Christmas hymn. I glanced at Sean. He knew that was my favorite, and I could tell that he made sure to tell the class.

After I printed my wedding invitations, my youngest brother pointed out that they contained a typo! What! It was just too expensive to get them all reprinted. After telling Sean, he told me to meet him at FedEx Kinkos at 3 a.m. where he was working the graveyard shift. My then-fiance and I sleepily drove to meet him, and when we opened the door and that bell chimed, Sean popped out from behind the desk, concealing remarkably well the fact that he was snoozing just seconds before. He was chipper, friendly, and ready to help us. He picked out the nicest paper and showed us a few examples. We printed just enough to send the VIPs a typo-free announcement. And he didn’t charge me a cent.

After Sean moved to a different state, he went out of his way to visit me when he came into town. The last time I saw him, he was visiting from Colorado -- and he made a point to come meet my son, Sebastian.

During high school, I -- like probably many other teenage girls -- had my fair share of rough patches. You know, I thought I hid it well, but I think Sean could see through that. I'll never forget that day he turned around in seminary, handed me a folded scrap of paper, and then turned around, as if he were just handing me a pencil he thought I dropped. I unfolded that piece of paper and read the words, "I think this might help . . . Proverbs 3:5-6 - Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." He had no idea what I was struggling with then until a few years later, but he somehow knew I needed that message right then. To this day, I think of that moment, and it helps me realize that God puts people into our lives for a purpose. He gives us a friend or a brother or a son or a husband to help build us up. Sean was that friend, brother, son, or husband to every person in this room and more.

To Kristen, I am immensely sorry for your loss, and we -- all of us here -- love you and mourn with you. It only takes one look at one of the beautiful photos of you and Sean to see the love he had for you, his angelic wife. You have fulfilled one of Sean’s most noble desires, to find love that would transcend all things -- even death.

I want to share with you Sean’s own testimony that he wrote me while he was serving a mission in Seattle. He wrote, “The Lord loves each and every one of us. Every time I think about the fact that He knows you, He knows me, He knows all of us, and how much He loves us, I am overwhelmed. It’s hard to think of our relationship with the Lord as personal and really there sometimes, but I’ve really felt like He knows me and watches out for me. He’s real, He lived, He lives, and we’ll live with Him again. Yo lo sé.”

I also believe that God knows us and loves us. He has a plan for us. And like Sean wrote, we will live with God again some day. For Sean, that day is now. But I believe that he is there, expanding his talents, learning even more about chemistry, cracking ridiculous jokes, working hard, and serving his friends.

19 October 2015

Goodbye, Dad

I remember the day Curtis came home—early last year—with an ashen face. He told me he got some bad news. I thought he was going to say he lost his job. He only started a month before. But what he said was something that would never have crossed my mind. "My dad has cancer." That was a hard night. But we would carry that grief and uncertainty with us over the next year and a half.

Marty was in and out of the hospital, for what seemed like weeks at a time, for the rest of his life. One time his body reacted negatively to chemotherapy. That cost him almost a month. Then he had an invasive esophagectomy. Another few weeks. Blood count loss and dehydration cost him days and weeks, more than once. I think it goes without saying: Cancer is the worst.

After moving back from Germany, Curtis and I made it a priority to visit Boise as often as we could. That turned out to be almost every month this year. A few weeks ago, Tyler called Curtis and said, "I don't know if anyone is keeping you in the loop, but it's not looking good." We decided to come right away. We drove the seven hours on a Friday morning to spend General Conference weekend with the family.

Marty was actually feeling pretty good. He even threw out the idea of going out to milk cows that afternoon. That was a good sign. Milking a cow is one of the first items on my bucket list. Marty has always wanted to take me. In fact, he told me that one of the thoughts that kept him going through some of his weakest moments was that he still needed to teach me to milk a cow. We never got to.

After the Saturday morning session, we took a walk to the Village across the way and decided to have lunch out. We got fish tacos. He got to see his grandson show everyone how to ride a real bike. One without pedals. It couldn't have been a more beautiful day. Sunday was just as lovely. We drove home that afternoon with the irking feeling that we were saying goodbye for the last time.

Curtis went back to work, and I went to the dentist. But before the work day was even over, we got another call. We left that night and drove until four o'clock in the morning. Marty was losing blood quickly, and the nurse said it was just a matter of days. She was right.

On Thursday afternoon, about three o'clock, Eva Lu came downstairs to tell us all that it was time. We all, Eva Lu, the four children, and two children-in-law, gathered around the bed. Curtis, with his brother Tyler, laid their hands on their father's head while Curtis offered a blessing. As his dad was struggling for air, Curtis spoke the words that let his soul feel at peace. "He will watch over your children just as you have watched over His." We all felt that sacred moment when Marty took his last breath and was received by heaven.

The next few days left no time to rest for those of us left behind! We were all busy making preparations for a musical tribute on Sunday night, the viewing on Monday night, and the funeral on Tuesday morning. Although dozens of decisions needed to be made, the final result was a wonderful celebration of who Marty was—not just to us, his family—but to hundreds of people near and far.

So many beautiful things were said of Marty, our dad, but the thought that stuck out to me was said by Joe Quatrone:
"His hands were well lived. It wasn’t just all the wallpapering . . . plastering . . . home repair . . . pizza oven building . . . leatherwork, woodwork, boondoggle, and Eagle Scout projects. His hands defined him. The holding of . . . the lending of . . . the giving of . . . the sharing of."
The last few days Marty was with us, I didn't feel like I really deserved to be up in his room spending a lot of time with him. I wasn't his child or an old friend. I don't believe that I changed his life or that I was on his mind too terribly much. But when I did come up there, he gave me his hand. And he held mine. And he told me, "Don't ever feel like I don't love you . . . because I love you so much." With those last words to me, he gave me so much more than his hand. And I'll always love him for it.

28 September 2015

Blue Skies in Seattle

Since Curtis and I both have family in Seattle, we've been wanting to make a trip up there for at least a year now. It's only a three-hour car ride, after all. 

After nearly gagging as we passed the gum wall, we took a ride on the Seattle Center Monorail. The kids loved it, as did we all.

After walking around the Space Needle, we found a neat play area at the Seattle Center. Sebastian and dad (of course) had a blast climbing high and chasing. Livia likes to stay within the range of the camera.

On Monday, Christopher and Auntie Laura took us to Mt. Rainier National Park to view the mountain from a lovely high trail and to Tipsoo Lake. It couldn't have been a more beautiful day.

10 August 2015

Ape Cave

It happens to the best of us. We get stuck in the rut of everyday life and we forget to do stuff. So Curtis and I decided it was time to get out and try something new. We heard about the Mt. St. Helens Ape Cave a week ago and thought we should go explore. It turned out to be a perfect activity for a hot summer day! The cave, discovered in the 1950s, is the longest lava tube in the continental US. The temperature was a cool 40 degrees and the lighting came only from our flashlights.

Near the entrance of the cave, Sebastian was understandably "a little bit nervous." We told him that it's OK to be nervous and that we should look at the cave closer so we could see what it was.

He had a good time touching the wet walls and dripping stalactites; he even let it slip that he had "a little bit of fun . . . I mean nervous."

Livia had a great time walking through all by herself. At first, she kept falling down because she's used to walking on flat sidewalks or soft carpet. She learned quickly to look where she was stepping, and she turned into a natural spelunker. At the very end of the cave, the tunnel tapered smaller and smaller . . . and Livia kept on exploring! I had to stop her before I couldn't fit any more!

We haven't stopped talking about the cave in our house and we can't wait for our next adventure.

13 July 2015

New Year's Updates

Well, it's been seven months, so I decided to check in on my New Year's Resolutions. It's been, you know, seven months since I've checked in, but I think I've made good progress nonetheless!

Our porch isn't ideal, but I managed to plant a garden anyway! I have 12 tomato plants, 8 bush beans, and a flourishing basil plant.

I have managed to stick pretty well to a meal plan! It's hard to say whether I've stuck to $40/week, but I suppose it's between $40 and $50 each week. The most important thing to me is that we don't waste food, and I'm happy to report that haven't thrown any food away (except for that one container of leftover lentils).

I'm also pleased to report that I haven't purchase any clothes or makeup at all! I realized I had to define what "extra" meant, and for me, that was clothes and makeup.

You could also say we've already managed to save our 20% down payment for a house, but I guess that depends on how expensive the house is! We're going to keep saving until winter, and we'll see what happens then.

Sorry . . . haven't done yoga every week, but I have done some sort of exercise at least twice a week, so I call that a success!

I'm still working on growing out my hair. It's seriously a daily struggle, which would make sense to those who know me well.

We went on a family camping trip for Memorial Day weekend, so check! That was my job. Curtis still needs to get us on a real vacation soon! I've been dying to go to Seattle since we got here.

Since mom is my job title, my professional goals included teaching Sebastian to ride his bike and use the toilet. Check and check! I have also started tutoring, earning a bit of extra cash too.

I haven't counted, really, but I am keeping on top of how many clothes are in my closet. I think I'll have to wear through the next season to really figure out where else I can cut. I'm not done yet, but I'm feeling confident!

All in all, I'd say I'm making good progress for the year. I still need to finish my programming course, read a book, and learn how to use a DSLR camera. I think I can do it!

02 June 2015

Livia Is One

It came and went so quickly, that first year. Livia, my sweet baby love, has been walking for two months, speaking sweet words, and trying desperately to climb on what I will allow.

A few fun facts . . .

  • Livia applied for her first passport before she was 1 month old.
  • Livia has lived in 4 different places and traveled through 13 different states (in order OR, WA, NC, VA, DC, TN, KY, IL, MO, SC, ID, UT, and TX). She has flown 5 times and visited the capitols of three different countries. 
  • Livia got her first tooth the weekend after we visited Paris.
  • Livia has eaten sand from beaches on both sides of the United States.
  • Livia takes after her dad's ears, fair skin, and blonde hair. And she LOVES her dad.
  • Livia did not sleep in a crib until she was 11 months old.
  • Livia weighs 19 pounds and a few ounces.
  • Livia currently has 8 teeth. And she's very good at chewing her food.
  • Livia's first word was her own name.
  • Livia doesn't really have a favorite food. But she will always eats rocks (or dirt or leaves or wood or other non-food items).
  • Livia can say "Livia (Wia)," "all done," "thank you," "diaper," "let go," and "shake it off."
  • Livia knows how to relax every muscle in her body. When she sleep, eats, or just cuddles, she turns into what I call "Limp Noodle."
  • Livia taught herself to blow bubbles. She does it every time she is in the bath. She can't help it.
  • Livia started walking on her 10 month birthday in the living while Sebastian was taking his evening bath.
  • Livia loves going down the slide. She just walks off the platform like she's walking the plank.

For Livia's birthday, we traveled to Boise to visit Grandma and Grandpa Hale. Grandpa is still in the hospital due to chemo complications, so we made our first stop to his room.

Since the rest of the family was busy on Livia's actual birthday (Grandma and Grandpa were in the hospital, and Dad was mountain biking with Wesley), Livia, Sebastian, and I decided to explore one of our favorite parks by ourselves. Kleiner Park is just a few years old and features lots of green space and a well-designed playground, but when we arrived, we realized we forgot about the splash pad! What a fun surprise! We ran around in the water, played on the giant spider web, and rolled down the hill for hours. Livia especially had fun, which made me so happy. I only wish that more people could have enjoyed her special day with us.

Saturday we had a birthday lunch in honor of our sweet girl. Great Grandma Dalley (or Other Grandma, as Sebastian calls her), hosted and made creamy macaroni and cheese for our special meal. I baked a gorgeous cake that is almost as beautiful as Livia: strawberry summer cake. Livia doesn't eat a lot of real food, but she does eat sticks and rocks and dirt and trash as soon as she lays her eyes on them. The cake looked and smelled amazing, and since Livia is actually eating it, it must have tasted delicious as well. 

Grandma got Livia a lovely dress from Hawaii and a sweet puppy that Livia actually carries and hugs. It turns out that Livia's next new word is puppy ([ˈpʰʌ p̬iː]), so we know she loves it.

Before we left to drive home, we made another stop at the hospital. It was a tender time for Livia to spend more time with her Grandpa, and we could tell by the look in her eyes.

Livia, I hope you know how much I love you! I know you don't always get the attention you deserve, but that's the way things go when you're second in line. But don't worry too much; I know how it feels! You are the sweet, sweet reprieve at the end of my days—especially my hard ones. I'll hold you in my arms, and your legs will dangle as you just melt into me, and just a few moments of that is more fulfilling than a whole hour at the spa. I'm serious! The way you smile when you close your teeth and squint your eyes (like this) just gets me every time.

I have love-love-loved watching you learn and focus and dream and achieve in this very short year, and I am looking forward to everything else you surprise me with this next year.

18 May 2015

The Real Five-year Anniversary

Since Curtis was out of town the week before and the week after our anniversary, our celebration waited a few weeks. And what a perfect weekend we waited for! An anniversary and Mother's Day falling on the same weekend makes for a very pampered wife and mom.

On Saturday, Curtis planned a perfect day for us. We drove just ten or fifteen minutes to the town next to ours to find a hike. Curtis found a lovely and kid-friendly trail that lead to a waterfall. The trail itself was gorgeous. We walked along the river, surrounded by lush green ferns and tall, tall, tall trees covered with moss. The sunlight streamed through the treetops, which were hundreds of feet above us. The dirt trail was not too steep that Sebastian couldn't ride his bicycle, so he pushed himself alongside us as we walked hand in hand. Another perfect moment. We heard falling water and caught glimpses of a bridge through the leaves. We crossed the bridge and found our way under it, leading to some rocks overlooking the falls. As I watched Curtis wear Livia and hold Sebastian's hand on top of that rock, I thought about what a great man I married. Two weeks late doesn't mean I can't reflect on what a great relationship we've developed over the last five-plus years. He's a near-perfect man, an adventurous dad, and a wonderful companion.

As we made our way back to the car, Sebastian started feeling adventurous enough to pick up his feet down some of the hills. It's a good thing we both forgot our cameras because I think our moms would die to watch Sebastian experience "downhill mountain biking" for the first time. At first, he skidded his feet the whole way down some of the slopes, but then he attempted to place his feet on the footrest of his bike. What an exhilarating run for Sebastian and view for Mom! And what would a mountain biking experience be without a big fall. He cried for a bit, but was back up and coasting down the next hill in no time.

Sunday we went to church, which I love on Mother's Day because there are always treats. A candy bar and giant cookies this year. Score! Sebastian, Livia, and I went outside to look for snails so Curtis could cook us a delicious meal in peace.

Mmm! I could smell the butter and garlic from outside. We had a lovely meal of salad and broiled lobster tail with a very unhealthy-but-oh-so-delicious butter sauce. I'm so spoiled!

On Monday, we stopped by the Portland Oregon Temple before we dropped Curtis off at the airport. Even though he would be gone for the next week, we were lucky to get to reflect on the reason our marriage is even possible. In the Visitor's Center, we sat at the feet of Jesus Christ, and showed Sebastian the marks in His hands and feet. He touched Jesus' feet, then looked at his own. It was a sweet moment.

We took some much-needed time to celebrate us and our life together, but if I am honest, a day rarely goes by that I don't think of how blessed my life is by my sweet husband. We are both not without our faults, but at the end of the day, we are each the best thing for the other. Curtis elevates me in ways I didn't realize a person could. He treats me with kindness and compassion that I don't think I deserve; yet, he makes me feel like I am such a deserving woman. He kisses me the moment he comes home from work and holds my hand while he's driving. In fact, he always drives. He changes diapers all weekend so I can have a day off. He speaks to me softly. He somehow knows how to answer all my tricky do-you-think-I-look-fat?-type questions perfectly. He thinks I'm the hottest woman alive. He understands my past and accepts who I am trying to be. He encourages me to do anything I want to do. He lets me relax when I need it but pushes me to work when I need that too. He is just the best. And I feel so lucky to know that five years is still only the beginning.