Bug,  Family Matters,  Life Lessons,  Moody Blues

Spring Break in Zion

camp girl

Bug and I just got back from a week’s vacation in Zion National Park, in Southern Utah. It was amazing. I don’t think I’ll be able to write a proper post with little stories about each picture I took because that would just take me too long. But I do need to write a little something about it because this trip was monumental in so many ways.

oh Zion

Mostly because I took this trip with Toby. When he first asked me to come along I flat-out refused. There were so many reasons I couldn’t/shouldn’t/wouldn’t go. It was crazy that he would even ask.

Firstly, I had been out of work for a complete month because my laptop died. I couldn’t afford to take a vacation now, of all times. Secondly, he’s my ex! Do I really want to spend that much time with him? Thirdly, well, there really wasn’t a thirdly but number one and number two counted enough. It was just a crazy idea.

But he talked me into it. Of course he did. I think what really got me was knowing that Bug would have a better time if I went along. I know it’s all in my imagination. I worry like crazy when she isn’t with me and it’s silly. She always has a good time with her dad and he takes great care of her. But I always picture her missing me or maybe he would forget to feed her on time or keep her up later than she should be up and she’d be tired and grumpy, etc…. (Not that that doesn’t happen with me too—heh.) I just felt like I could make things so much better if I were there.

Then there was the fact that I really love camping. Toby and I used to camp all the time. That’s what we did back in the old days. I want to say “the good old days” but those days were troubled too so I shouldn’t really cast a golden glow on them. But I am sentimental about them nonetheless.

It’s a strange thing about divorce. I don’t want to stay married to Toby and I know we are going our separate ways. (He’s moved on. He has a girlfriend. Someday I will probably move on too.) But it is still hard to let go. We had so many dreams together. I think in a way this trip was a goodbye to those dreams.

Not that the future is grim. It’s not. We both have bright, shiny new dreams and they are still overlapping because we share a child. But they are not the dreams we once had and I have to admit there is some grieving that goes along with saying goodbye to those dreams. We’ll never have that house in the country together with the greenhouse with birds and orchids. We’ll never listen to that King Crimson album again playing from a stereo in a living room with a wood floor that we daydreamed about for so long. We won’t make crepes in the morning or buy a fancy espresso maker together. He won’t take me to coffee shops along the Eastern Sierra because he knows I’m jonesing for some civilization in the middle of nowhere.

There will be a new woman doing those things with him and even though I’m happy for her and someday I want to meet her and be friends with her, there is a tiny piece of me that is sad that I am not her. She will fill the cracks that I couldn’t. I tried so hard. I really did. But I couldn’t do it.

I am moving on. This is my new life and I choose it. But I don’t choose it lightly.

And that is why this trip was such a big deal. It was a turning point. One that has been a long time coming. If my life were a book it would be a very very slow boring one with way too many chapters. I think I am finally in the middle of the story.

But it was a great trip.

on the road again!

We didn’t fight along the way. Toby played his music while the hours slowly crept by with the creosote bushes and Joshua trees. We made jokes and taught Bug about our favorite songs. I sat in the back with Bug like I always do. Strangers don’t understand but that’s okay.

road trippin'

Bug is probably the only one who will see us both as who we really are.

entering Zion

We finally got there and it was exactly how I remembered it. Zion National Park is so beautiful. The Grand Canyon is crazy big and awesome but Zion will always have my heart. The Mormons called it Zion because it was like a sanctuary from the outside world for them, a refuge from being persecuted. I understand that completely. When the walls rise up so high on both sides of you and the air is so still in the narrows of the canyon, it does feel kind of like the reverent quiet you experience when you are in a great church. The sheer size of it reminds you how small you are and how great God’s gift is to us.



I want to share all my pictures with you but they don’t really capture the magnitude of what it was like to be there. You’d probably nod off. So just make it a point to go there at some point in your life and sit on the canyon floor for a moment or two. You will understand what I mean.


But don’t go during Spring Break because it is crazy crowded there. The weather was perfect, there were no bugs, no mosquitoes, no humidity, not much cold…it’s perfect that time of year and everybody knows it. You can’t find a campsite for the life of you and you can’t go up or down a trail without having to stand aside for big giant groups to pass. But it was still awesome.


I love camping! And I love teaching my girl to love camping.

Woke up to wind.


hot chocolate!

cozy fire

The tent, sleeping outdoors, the campfire, the campfire food…it’s all a bundle of fun and wonderfulness.


Post hike.

Dinner! Everything tastes 10 times better when you are camping. We are hungry!!

Nothing tastes better than campfire food when you are starving. Nothing.

hopping along

The hiking…

rock grommet

rock climber

through the narrows

The exploring…

hanging on

The hanging-on-for-dear-life-ing…


The rocks…

not the only ones here

The canyons…


The goofballs…


The Virgin River

The rivers…

river girl

Bug is a true river rat. She was writing up her Spring Break report for school and it was all about the river for her. Maybe I’ll have her write a post about it here later.


I let her borrow my small waterproof camera as her camera for the trip and she got some great shots.

underwater photography

down by the river

snap snap snap

little photographer

Of course I got some great shots of her too. That’s the funny thing about taking pictures when you are on vacation in a beautiful spot. You want to take a picture of everything but you know when you get home, those pictures will be boring for people to look at. What makes them interesting are the people in the shot next to the amazing scene in nature. Because a picture of a river in a canyon looks the same in 1973 as it did in 1923. The only thing different would be the quality of the film or the clothes on the people in the picture. So when you’re so busy trying to crop out the tackily dressed tourists and their giant lame motor homes, maybe you should reconsider.

In fact, I thought maybe I should have made a point to take pictures of the tourists instead of trying to crop them out. That would be an interesting documentary. What do tourists have in common? How are they different? What makes someone who is obviously out of shape want to take a two hour hike up a rugged path to see a waterfall? How far will they push themselves? What epiphanies do they have when they get there? Are they working out stuff too? Sometimes you have to strip away your busy day-to-day life to figure out what is really going on and what is really important. That’s why we take vacations right? Something to think about. It’s not always escape.

walk this way

The Emerald Pools

these shoes are made for...

I wore my Crocs the entire time. Hiking, camping, kicking around in the river…they were great. And then when I got home I dusted them off and wore them to church.

heading down to the drips

red mud

Maybe you’ve noticed a theme here. Everything is red! The dirt is red. It’s something to do with the iron and oxidation. It’s pretty.

cave dweller

(She was tired. It was a long hike.)

read road

Even the roads are red in Zion.


I even got some painting done but it quickly put me to shame. How am I ever going to teach a class on watercolor this weekend? Eeek!

can't we keep her?

We made some new friends.

perched on top of the world

learning the ropes

And we survived our week! It was a great week, actually. One that I will treasure because it will probably never happen again. Toby and I talked a lot about it. He kicked around the idea of camping together again someday but I know deep down it probably won’t happen. Not unless his new girlfriend and I become fast friends. I like to daydream that we will but that’s probably silly. We are a new family now. A family of two parts.

manzanita flowers

Two parts that made one spectacular person. We are so lucky to have her. All of us.


  • J.C.

    I’ve never commented on your blog but have been a follower for a long time. This was a beautiful post…sad but uplifting all at the same time. I’m happy to have read it.

  • bethany actually

    Okay, someday we should clearly take a camping trip together to this place. It looks AMAZING. Annalie and Elliora and Bug would have SO MUCH FUN together.

    This line made me laugh:

    “If my life were a book it would be a very very slow boring one with way too many chapters.”

    And this line just struck me as completely lovely, maybe because I’ve driven through that part of the country dozens of times myself, so it made me feel all nostalgic and melancholy, remembering my own road trips:

    “Toby played his music while the hours slowly crept by with the creosote bushes and Joshua trees.”

  • Ninabi

    Zion is so beautiful. I’m glad you had this trip- a wonderful memory for your daughter. And for you, as well.

    Wonderfully written. Poignant.

  • Daphne

    I loved this post. Thank you for your honesty. :) This captured something I feel too… and it is nice to know those feelings are shared by others.

  • Ruth

    This was gorgeous. Photos, words, all of it. Thank you for sharing with us :) In particular the line about making new choices but not making them lightly…..perfect. Yes. Thank you.

  • BeachMama

    Gosh you are so eloquent and such a beautiful person inside and out. I commend you immensely for taking this trip. It may be the one and only but you gave Bug some really fantastic memories to hold on to for a very long time. Next time maybe you will be ready to have a week to yourself to work or take a little trip of your own (Paris again). Even though Hubby and I are together taking separate trips is hard, and I had to do it a lot this Spring! I still worry that the kids are doing ok, but with technology we can keep in touch and it gets easier each time. You will get there. And yeah you don’t have to be friends with the new girl if you don’t want to, you just have to be civil for Bug :D

  • Mamalang

    This may be one of my favorite posts. You and Toby are really providing Bug with the sense that she matters to you both even if you are apart. It’s one of the hardest things to do, to out aside those hurt and angry feelings and remember how to be happy with each other’s company, even just as friends. I’m glad you all had such a great trip.

  • nicole

    Love everything about this – I cannot WAIT to take my (one day) kid/s camping and teach them to love it as much as I do. And i think it’s so great you were both able to spend a week with her – I’m sure it was priceless for her now, and in the future.

  • Jen Wilson

    Bug’s a pretty fantastic mix of both you and Toby. I’m glad that you guys can get along so well, for her sake. You’re giving her the BEST gift you could ever give her.

    I hung out with my ex, Kaylie’s bio-dad, on the weekend, he even stayed in our hotel room with us. It was a little weird, but mostly I was glad to give Kaylie a little time with both her biological parents together. It’s hard, though. As I know you know, too.

    Your photos are fantastic. I’d love to see that place one day.

  • Susan:)

    Beautiful pics and words. And now I want to go camping again! I haven’t in years, but I love it too!

  • Annie

    Not only are you lucky to have Bug, she is immensely lucky to have two parents who understand the big picture. So many children with divorced parents never have an opportunity to see their parents in the same room, let alone taking a trip together. You are giving her a gift and even though it is hard at times, it will be so worth it.

  • JohnE

    Thanks for writing that even though it was difficult. Reminded me of my parents divorce back in 1989, which I don’t think of very often. My parents should have divorced long before they did. Bug is lucky to have two sane rational parents.

  • JennyCNo3

    Brenda, that was truly beautiful and heartfelt. Thank you for sharing your story, thoughts and photos with us. I’ve been following your journey through your blog (my daughter is a year younger so I think that’s how I first found your little piece of the interwebs) and I know it’s been a long road for you. It seems like you have a new-found peace and I want to let you know that you and Bug are in my prayers. God has good things in store for you and I know all will work out in the end as it seems to be already. God bless.

  • Danna

    That was beautiful. Zion is amazing too…we stayed there for two days in the middle of winter after three long days in Las Vegas….Zion was a welcome respite from all the sights and sounds in Vegas.
    I love Zion.

  • Marcia (123 blog)

    I don’t think I commented before but I really feel like I need to tell you this post is so beautiful and it made me a little sad too for what would have been but now isn’t.


    Beautiful pics, and even more beautiful words to go along with it all.

  • a chris

    What a post! Really good. Many reasons.

    “Bug is probably the only one who will see us both as who we really are.” Striking, a bit uplifting, a bit bittersweet. Will ponder re: my own kids.

  • gretchen

    I really loved reading this. And yes you hit a nerve with the comment about Bug being the only one to know you each as you are.

    Beautiful post about this moment in your life. Thank you for writing it.

  • Natalie

    I always read you but rarely comment…but I jsut wanted to say this was so wonderful to read…my parents had a very mean spirited divorce and even now it still weighs on my (20 years later)…I think this is amazing and you should be so proud of yourself…and you never know maybe one day you will be friends. I hope it happens

  • norm

    Such a wonderful and heartbreaking post. Our “thing” was always camping, and now that the kids are all grown and mostly moved away we’ll probably not do it all together again, either, so I know *some* of that feeling you’re having. But on our last trip a few weeks ago the kids spent some time recapping all the places we’ve gone and the good times we had together as a family and it heartened us tremendously. Bug will remember this forever! :D

  • Clownfish

    What an beautiful, heartfelt post of an amazing camping trip and the personal feelings that were just as big a part as the journey itself. – It’s been some time since I have read your blog, I’m sorry…my loss. Life takes it’s many twists and turns, too much time dedicated to FB and the next thing you know, you’re missing awesome blog posts such as this. Both the story and the photos touched me and moved me. As always, wishing you the best B.

  • LB

    Thank you for sharing. This brought tears to my eyes. What a gift you are giving your daughter. Someone above said that you are handling this with grace, I wholeheartedly agree.

  • ememby

    I saved this post in my reader so I could come back and comment… I loved the words you wrote here and that you shared them. And these pics are gorgeous, makes me want to go there! What a journey, all around!

  • Kuky

    That was a beautiful. And I’m probably…no….most definitely being over emotional maybe due to it being near the tine (ha ha typo I’m keeping it in) of the month. Madame (another funny typo auto correct) tear up. WBA ha ha (another’s and another typo)! Oh my! I’m laughing so hard I can’t remember what I originally meant to say.

    Oh yeah I remember now. Took me a few minutes to get back to it. I’ve never gone camping like this with my family. But I’m sure as immigrants we grew up quite different. You probably never had rice for breakfast ;-D

  • Karen

    I’ve read your blog off and on over the years and am always impressed by how wonderfully you write. And your photography is amazing. And of course, your illustrations are fabulous. Personally, I think you should be submitting some written work to magazines. Maybe you already have? Anyway, I just wanted to pass along the comment. You deserve all the best!