Saturday, January 29, 2011


Sometimes, I write poems

Because BD and I were traveling during the holidays and because it's becoming just impossible to successfully schedule time with family, this past weekend I was finally able to give my mom her Christmas present. 2010 brought about some big changes for my family. Big as in, my mom got remarried. Big as in, that changed everything. Big as in, I'm the last and slowest to adjust. As a result, 2011 will bring about even more big changes, such as my mom selling our family home. The goal this year was to give her something relevant to the house, something timeless, something that would evoke positive memories. Plus, it seems we are approaching that time when it becomes suitable to give your parents things you want to inherit. It was an obvious choice once I discovered San Francisco artist Paul Ferney's Commission Project. The result is a small 5 x 7 inch oil painting of our backyard swing. I couldn't be more pleased with it.
The original photograph taken by BD, winter 2009.
The Swing. Constructed of 20 foot high telephone poles, the swing had a direct impact on the geography of our neighborhood. It was hard to miss. Ours became the home with the swing. And we were proud of that. Above all, the swing was my imagination station. The place where I could become anything at all. I could swing really high, stand up, close my eyes and pretend I was flying on a magic carpet. I could straddle the bench and pretend I was riding a horse so fast I might get bucked off. Sometimes I did get bucked off.
A little Gina Bina about 10 years old, swinging side saddle like a pro
I wouldn't even know how to calculate how many times I saddled up to that swing. But if it were possible, I think the number would be somewhere in the ca-billions. Or thereabouts. I would swing when I was happy and care free. I would swing when I was upset or needed time alone. I would swing my niece Marley to sleep while humming Dave's Satellite when she was just a tiny babe. That girl loved to swing.
My darling nieces Marley and Shelby share a best friend swing
Alicia and Kyle swingin' August 1993. Kyle is not too sure about this quality time with his precious sister.
On summer days Dane and I would fill the run track with hose water, hold tight to the bench, back way way up, and jump! to let the swing carry us splashing through the water feet first. We called it water skiing. My parents called it babysitting. My brother Tom and the older cousins would climb all the way to the tippy top and line up like birds on a wire. Jody and Marci would stand on each others shoulders and swing. Brook would climb up the chains and twist and flip herself between them like an Olympic gymnast on rings. On summer nights we slept outside under the shadow of the swing and in the morning would pile all the blankets and sleeping bags together and jump off into them. As a family we played bocce ball up and down the yard and in between the telephone poles, taking turns giving underdogs when it wasn't our throw.
Gladiators of the Swing: Brook, Christian Hurst (we think ?), and Tom, 1980-something.
I smile big when the grand kids come crashing through the patio door, breathless, panting "someone come push me!" It's true, there is nothing more validating than getting a big push from a bigger kid. I could certainly use more underdogs in life. Reminds me of being so young, knowing there's a view of the swing from the kitchen sink window, "Mom! Look at me!" I would holler kicking bare feet straight up, just swinging my little heart out.
My nephew Jackson swing jumping after a backyard sleep over, August 2008

It's always been there, the swing. Despite having survived 30 plus winters and three generations of Richman offspring, it is getting old. The wood has rotted in spots around the base. The nails are rusty and popping out. I know it won't stand forever. It's a little rickety, but it still swings. When the house sells, the new owners may choose to take it down to make room for a hot tub or fancy jungle gym with a rock climbing wall. Someday I know it may end up as firewood. I'm secretly hoping, secretly praying, that it will stay up long enough for me to swing holding my own little one, humming Taylor's Never Grow Up, and dreaming of everything they will be.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Somebody tase that momma-bear

The Protector via
In case there was ever any question, let the record show that my momma-bear instincts are intact. Hooey. It's comforting to know that they won't expire if I don't use them, but it's also evident that they can creep up in unexpected places. Like this blog. BD was so astonished (yet supportive) at my little outburst yesterday that he threatened to use a Wildlife Taser on me to help calm the momma-bear situation. I didn't even know there was such a thing as a wildlife taser. But there is. And BD wants needs one. Thank you for all the off-line support. I hit a nerve out there in blog-land, and I think by and large people just want to feel respected. I've made my peace and now I'll shut up about it.
Also. There's a slight possibility I may have overreacted. Key word: slight. In coming up with excuses, here's what I have so far:
  • I was released from my church calling on Sunday and emotionally speaking it's been a little hit or miss this week
  • I must have more hormones pumping through me than a dairy cow
  • I burned the roof of my mouth on a piece of hot pizza, it hurts real bad, and somebody has to pay
  • My car battery died and left me stranded with BD 40 miles away. For me, this is real trauma
  • BD and I had a planning and budgeting session for our 2011 financial goals. Need I say more?
  • Side bar: I'm addicted to bullet listing right now
Lucky for me, it's Friday! I have all weekend to pull myself out of victim mode. We've received a very special dinner invitation to a friend's house tonight. There is nothing better than having someone offer to cook for you. Twice in one week! Total score. Tomorrow I get my hair cut. Funny how something so simple can completely transform you. Also squeezing in lunch with my BFF before she has her first tiny precious baby girl that I already love and adore, plus dinner with family to finally bear gifts from Brazil. Can't hardly wait!

P.S. Feeling especially grateful for good friends. Late last night I laughed so hard I think I broke an ab.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A note from management about stealing content from this site

Hi. This is a bit out of my normal sphere of topics, but I'm miffed, and so it must be said. This blog is public. I am fully aware of the risks associated with having a public blog. Yesterday one of them caught me off guard. Sort of like when the hot water suddenly disappears and you're left standing in a cold shower with a head full of shampoo and only one shaved leg going, now what? You know that what you're about to do will be unpleasant, so you'll do it fast and get it over with quickly so you can go about your day. There are people looking in on us that I don't know, people from far off places around the world, but mostly people connected to people connected to people I know. I'm OK with that. I welcome you with fuzzy slippers and hot cocoa with mallows. I hope you're cozy. I generally write about things on this blog that I would tell BD's aunt (hi Helen!) or the nice women sitting next to me at the Dr.'s office (Sharon, was it?). Anyway, sometimes, or perhaps someday, I may write about the harder stuff when I'm ready. Which leads me to...

This blog is private. Meaning that the content published on this site is mine. And because this blog contains original work by me, the creator, it is subject to a set of exclusive laws called Copyright. It also means that no one but me can copy, distribute, or adapt any content posted here without my express written consent. Let me be specific: if I have never lived with you, smoked anything organic with you, or jumped naked off a house boat with you, you do not have permission to copy my work. That narrows it down quite a bit. I never inhaled. As blogging etiquette dictates, anyone can to link to this site, as long as proper attribution is given. {end rant}

{begin rant} Here's the thing. I love to write, and this is where I write. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's not, but it's my writing so I'll own up to all of it. I harbor insecurities, just like anyone else, but by and large I retain a certain amount of pride for the way I record my history. Because that's what this has become to me, my personal folklore. And that's just it: this blog is personal. Everything I write on here is personal, to me.

I cannot believe I'm not done yet, but there's more. If you have used pictures or words from the original content of this site please take it down and replace it with something that you created, from your heart. Even if you've tweaked it ever so slightly to make it feel a little more you. It's still me. Slathered all over your stuff. No need to comment here people, just please, take it down.

Or else.



Friday, January 14, 2011

Ride, Sally, Ride

I spent much of this week in the cold and drizzly Northeast working on an exciting new project for my company. It would be my luck that the rental car agency at PDX was sold-out of the standard size class I had reserved online, and no 'mam, they didn't have anything to offer me at this time of night except a convertible sports car. Perfect. Anyone that knows me would agree that I have no business driving any such thing. I would feel more at ease shifting an excavator up the I-5 than a lip-stick red V8. And because this is so far removed from the conservative, efficient, work comes first because I have no family vibe I give off at the office, you can only imagine the amount teasing I've endured the last couple of days. I love my job.

What they don't know is that the radio dials were conveniently programmed to only the best monster jam stations I've ever heard. And that having stripes on your car really does make it go faster. And that embracing my inner f-chick was the best thing that's happened to me all year. If I'm not mistaken, my bestie TF just raised her first in the air and yelled S!#% yeah! Those of you who have a little southcounty in you know what we mean. Those of you who don't, need to look a little deeper 'cause you are missing out. 
Happy weekend! I'm so looking forward to some down-time with the beau. I'm talking veg. out. take. out. sleep. in. I'll sign off now with my best knee up - air guitar strum - head bang - pow!

Saturday, January 08, 2011

The rest of Rio, New Year's Eve Day

It seems that every where we looked in Brazil there was some sort of graffiti or street art. If there's a wall, it has paint on it. As you can see, some of it is quite good. You can tell a lot about the neighborhood you're in based on the street art nearby. We saw everything from soccer to politics to religion to famous icons.

As much as we would have loved to stay for just one more day in Rio to be there during New Year's Eve, we couldn't justify another $3000+ in airfare and hotel for just one more night. Today we found out Madonna performed that night and we've been crying in our room ever since.

Because we weren't headed to Copacabana for the actual big bash, we found ourselves in the Centro district again after visiting Niterói across the bay. Having been to the Centro on a previous day, to say we were shocked at the lack of people would be an understatement. Here are two pictures of the same road, the one on the left is Wednesday at 3pm, the one on the right is Friday (New Year's Eve) at 3pm. The city literally just died.

We felt like we had the entire city to ourselves. It was a little bit eerie but we noticed things like the beautiful cobblestone sidewalks a little bit more. We were able to snap a few photos that would normally have hundreds of people walking by in the background.
Rio Branco Avenue
In front of the Municipal Theatre

Seemingly deserted street
Even though our time in Rio was short, we saw everything we wanted to. On that last day, all of our clothes were dirty, we were exhausted and a little sunburned, but satisfied and ready to be home. We lucked out and were able to find a taxi to the airport and while THIS was going on at Copacabana, we had our own little celebration on the plane somewhere over South America. Take that Madonna.

Petrópolis with the Mattos Family

During my 9 months in the mission office I worked and lived with this elder, Rafael Mattos. We became great friends and he represents such a memorable time in my life, I have fond memories of living with and serving with him. He lives in Petrópolis which is about an hour from Rio high up in the mountains, and at 28 he serves on the Stake High Council. He's a rock. Mattos picked us up in Rio and took us up the spectacularly twisty road to Petrópolis to spend the day with his family. On a clear day you'd be able to see all the way to Rio from this scenic lookout. Once again, the clouds had other plans.
Mattos and Me
Even shrouded in the rain and clouds, Petrópolis felt like a breath of fresh air because it was a slower paced, smaller city high up in the mountains where it was quite a bit cooler. The clouds were so low and thick that you could see the tiny droplets of water hanging motionless in the air, it was like walking through a spray of mist. You can certainly see the German influence in this Quitandinha Palace Hotel.
Mattos and his wife, Debora, spent the day showing us around Petrópolis. It is such a beautiful city and felt like many cities Gina and I have been to in Europe, just a little more tropical. Here's the famous cathedral San Pedro of Alcantara where Dom Pedro II, the last ruler of the Empire of Brazil is buried with his wife, Teresa Christina.
We also went through the Imperial Museum of Brazil (the old royal family palace) and saw Dom Pedro's crown, complete with 91,000+ carats of precious stones including 639 white diamonds, 77 pearls, and nearly 5 lbs worth of 18k gold. I had to wipe the drool off Gina's chin.
Palácio Imperial
After our private guided tour around the old Royal city Mattos took us back to Debora's parents' house. Debora's brothers speak very good English and the younger one is currently attending LDS Business College and lives in Provo but was home for the holidays. Believe it or not, this was the best picture of several attempts with the camera timer. Thank you very much Mattos and Recordon families for making our day wonderful! It was hard for me to say goodbye to Mattos at the bus station that evening, I loved being able to meet his wife and two beautiful children. Gina even tried to smuggle little Lívia home with us.
Mattos, Recordon, and Duncan Families

More highlights from Rio

One of the things that Gina wanted to do the most was take a helicopter ride around Rio, particularly around Christ the Redeemer. That was our big splurge for the vacation and it was totally worth every penny. We'll have a video coming soon with footage from us in the air, but in the meantime, here are two of us with our feet still on the ground.

O Cristo Redentor
Gina was so excited she almost wet herself
One of the things that I miss most about Brazil is the fresh juices of every kind. Restaurants, bars, botecos (see below), beach huts, etc. all serve fresh juice. They simply add fruit, water (or milk), sometimes a little cane sugar and blend. I was so proud of Gina, she tried as many different kinds of juice as possible and loved most of them. This juice below was one of Gina's favorites. It's pineapple blended with milk and a bit of fresh mint leaves - served ice cold.
Enjoying suco on Copacabana
Rio is known for it's Botecos - tiny restaurant/bars scattered all over the city but particularly in our neighborhood of Santa Teresa and the nearby Lapa neighborhood. They typically started out many decades ago as bars with a bit of live music (usually samba, boss nova, etc.) but have now converted to be more of quaint little restaurants with a few tables inside. People drink too much and sing too loud, but a good time is had by all. One evening we walked down the street to a boteco hot-spot in our neighborhood and found this little gem, Marcô, where we had authentic Rio-style Feijoada (black bean stew with pork and beef, collard greens, rice, and farofa).

No meal in Brazil is complete without Guaraná
The breakfast at Birgit's house nearly made it worth it. Since we're not coffee drinkers, Birgit's maid Nice (pronounced Neecee) made Gina fresh lemongrass tea each morning and it became Gina's favorite part of Rio. She even cut some from their bush for us to take home. Don't tell customs.
Morning tea
Another can't-miss in Rio was the Contemporary Museum of Art in Niterói, across the bay. You know Gina and her museums, she can't come within 100 miles of a famous museum without visiting it. Because it was New Year's Eve day the museum was closed for a private function so we didn't even make it inside. We've read that the art collection isn't anything spectacular and the best thing to see there is the building itself, or at least that's what we're telling ourselves.
UFO sighting
The famous architect, Oscar Niemeyer had it easy here, he just had to design it. I feel bad for those poor engineers that had to figure out how to make it stand up on its own.
Contemporary Museum of Art - Niterói
We might have made one more trip to the Confeitaria Colombo, and it might have something to do with a certain waffle drowned in chocolate, topped with ice cream.
I honestly have no idea how I gained 10 lbs in 2 weeks...
The first time we rode the bonde over the famous Lapa viaduct we actually had no idea that we were on it. We just thought we were on a really high bridge since we couldn't see it from our vantage point inside the bonde car. We had to go back and investigate to ease Gina's acrophobic tendencies.
Bonde car on the Lapa Viaduct
Don't you worry, as with any trip we've ever been on, I did a fair amount of Landy stalking. Here we find a beautiful South American variety nestled below the neighborhood castle. Sleeping under her hood is a 300 tdi 4 cylinder turbodiesel engine. I want that.
Gina says I'm worse than the paparazzi


We've been home for a week now and it's unbelievable how life manages to fill any extra time that I might otherwise have. I'm determined to finish blogging about the rest of our trip to help me remember the amazing things we saw and did. We wanted to be at the top of Sugarloaf mountain around sunset time but part of the view was impeded by low-lying clouds which shrouded the Christ the Redeemer statue most of this particular afternoon. Even still, Sugarloaf offers the most complete view of all of Rio's eclectic mix of neighborhoods, skyscrapers, favelas, beaches, etc. With only a few makeovers, the "bondinho" has been taking tourists to the top of Sugarloaf mountain since 1912. Ninety-eight years later, here we are. Sugarloaf is certainly a Rio must-see.
At the bottom
O Bondinho
Looking towards the centro - we may look goofy, but the views are unbelievable
Copacabana in the distance
When we were leaving, unbeknownst to each other, Gina and I simultaneously hailed two different taxis. In retrospect, we learned that wasn't such a good idea. The two taxi drivers got out of their cars and started yelling and cussing at each other fighting over which one would give us a ride. One of the taxi drivers finally gave up and the other proceeded to tell us that he wanted R$40 for a R$15 taxi ride. We walked away and got another taxi down the street for a total of R$14.80. I gave him R$20 just because he was honest.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Rio in the Rain

We left sunny Salvador on Monday evening and were welcomed in Rio de Janeiro that night by a heavy rainstorm and suffocating humidity. After an animated discussion with a few cabbies about outrageously priced taxi rides, we were able to split a more reasonable taxi with a local headed in our same direction. On the way to our Bed & Breakfast the taxi broke down with a clutch problem. Did I mention it was pouring? We waited until another taxi would stop and take us the rest of the way to our destination perched high among the steep hills of Santa Teresa. It was late and had been a long travel day and we found our accommodations less than desirable, which added to the exhaustion. I teased Gina that she has lost her dare-devil backpacking spirit. She didn't argue. The next morning after a shower and breakfast we were determined to put Rio to the test. 

Our first outing in Rio was to take the trolley car or bonde (pronounced BON-jee) to the Centro. In all seriousness, it felt like a Disneyland ride complete with all the sharp jerks and squeaks and bumps (excluding the warning to keep your hands inside the ride). Good times.

It rained on and off during the 4 days we spent in Rio which thankfully helped to keep temperatures down. We purchased a cheap R$5 umbrella off the street and didn't let the rain stop us from doing everything on our must-see list. The umbrella lasted exactly 4 days and broke just before we left.
We headed first to the beach to walk along the Ipanema boardwalk and get our feet wet. Even on an overcast day the beaches here draw huge crowds. I love being in Brazil as a non-missionary with my sweetheart.
@ "The Girl from Ipanema" Park, Ipanema Beach
That afternoon we went to the Confeiteria Colombo for tea and scrumpets. Seriously, we had tea and scrumpets. And the more times I can say tea and scrumpets, the better. I think this was a highlight for both of us, but in particular Gina. It's basically a giant specialty bakery with glass cases filled with every kind of yummy thing imaginable. It's in a beautiful old building with huge framed mirrors and a stained glass ceiling. Gina loved everything from the design of the menu to the black and white gingham aprons the waiters wear, and of course the scrumpets.

Later in the afternoon it began to rain again and didn't let up the rest of the night. We mostly stayed in the Centro and hopped from store to store in the shopping district. Eventually we found ourselves at a McDonalds where we could sit for a while and plan out the next few days over a shared McFlurry (pronounced McFlu-hee). Seriously, anywhere in the world McDonalds is often the saving grace for simply a clean place to sit and use a bathroom. That night we took the bus back to Santa Teresa, another adventure. Everything is an adventure here. Sometimes the busses stop, sometimes they don't, and the drivers in Rio are absolutely no help with directions.