Wednesday, April 8, 2015

SoCal Trip 2014....

Yeah I haven't blogged every minute of my waking life lately, but this'll make up for it!  ;)  Much of my March was spent back in SoCal where I came from and where we all belong! ;)  We all had a wonderful time spending time with our awesome extended family and friends plus making some new friends... It was a wonderful time and I can only say that I'm way radically blessed!

So hope you all enjoy this summary of our life back in SoCal!
So we did a bit of a bonsai run down there... It's the Strang way!  I spent most of the night talking with my dad and listening to music with him to help keep him awake while everyone else slept... It was great though!  This was right we before hit the grapevine.... all Californians will know exactly what that is! 
So here we are about an hour and a half outside of LA and Eden is totally sleeping behind me..... I'm sorry, but I couldn't resist!

This was our big rig.... We tripped down in a rather large RV.  Yep. 32 feet of craziness on wheels.  Let me clarify: We were the craziness inside! LOL  And too true... we sang, danced and jammed our way all the way down the I-5.  It was some serious awesomeness!  And yes... that is me on my email in the lower left corner.  No need to try to see who I was emailing! ;)

We had some amazing times for sure... soon after getting back down to the old stomping grounds, we went by our next door neighbor's house as a surprise.... so fun to spend time with them!  We all grew up with them... so it was awesome to hang out! 

And of course we went by our old house which unfortunately hasn't been kept up like it used to be when we lived there... but still.... amazing to go there.  I have SO many great memories growing up there as a child... God has blessed me from the time I was born and brought home to Costa Mesa, California... I can't think of any other place I'd rather have been raised! 

Eden and I styling and living it up in SoCal!  

So day after getting there we went and visited a church we'd visited years ago.... It was fun to meet some new friends there!  And then we went back to my grandma's who just happens to have one of the most awesome pools ever.... I say that cause of all the times I've swam there over the years!  Anddddd... She has a diving board.  So we went at it and got back up to all our old tricks! I revived my backflip that I first learned at probably about 6 or 7 years old. 

So yeah... That was fun for sure!

After that it was even further south to my other set of grandparents... We spent a great few days with them hanging out in the desert and living in the sun! ;)

Usie in Soup Plantation.... No.  Not Sweet Tomatoes!  This is California, baby! LOL

Just two random dudes who grabbed a phone and took a picture.... really no idea why I'm posting this anyway! JK

 Doing iPhone gymnastics.... or something of the like.

This is arguably the best picture of the entire trip.... for us as a group of swim teachers and life guards, it sorta made sense.  Said no one ever! 
Now this is awwwwkward. (Inside joke!)

All of us on my dad's side... taken with the self timer which is slightly less technical than the usie, but what can I say?  Taking good usies is a gift, people!

After visiting my dad's parents, we headed back to my mom's mom's house.  Call it confusing, but sometimes you got to do this in Cali, and we've all got the SoCal savvy to get crazy with scheduling!

After parking our RV in my grandma's driveway, it quickly became my job to find us a suitable car to use for our "on the town" outings.  Per our family's road trip motto (another inside joke, everyone!) I went looking for something quick, cheap, and good... I think it ended up being one of those "bottom of the food chain" Hundais on paper.  Not to hate on Hundai at all...There's been Hundais we've rented that I really liked, but I'm just saying it's not exactly the coolest car ever made!  

Anyway.... My dad and I show up at Downtown Disney to pick up a car (We're in SoCal, remember!? ;)). I'm still thinking economy.... little did I expect to end up with........

Yeah.  A red convertible mustang which just happened to end up with us secondary to a long wait time at the rental car office.  haha... God does work in mysterious ways!  And BOY was it fun to drive!!!!!!!!

My policy for driving Mustangs in Cali: When I get in the driver's seat, the top comes down.  PERIOD!!!!!!!!

Apparently it's my dad's policy too..... cause we did 80 mph on the freeway together with no top.... and LOVED every minute of it!  Even went an extra ten miles out of the way just for fun!!! :P

I even got to spend some time at the ballet studio I used to practically live at.  LOL... not quite true, but I spent a lot of time there just hanging when I was little so I went back for nostalgia's sake.... and met awesome new friends and saw awesome old friends..... so much fun!

We did cousin hangout at Downtown Disney to see fireworks and plain old have a good time... ironically we ended up running into friends there too.... big coincidence but really fun!

Right before my marathon to go and see if someone was someone else.... confusing I know, but it made sense in my mind at least!

Rockin' the shades at Downtown Disney!

Cutest guy ever in front of one of those SoCal destinations.... Rainforest cafe.


 Us Strangs with some of the best people ever.... This is my adopted aunt and uncle.  Gotta love them!

It was great to have my friends, the C. boys over to swim and play basketball... we had lots of fun!!!!  
My mom, Mark and me.  (Aliterations are awesome! ;))  Our family bond runs DEEP I tell you!

 And more cousin pictures, just cause I miss then so much and the pictures are so awesome!!!

And one more cousin pic.... this time with one of my uncles who happens to best uncle EVA!!!!!!

 It was a beautiful week and a half and none of us can actually wait to do it again!!!  Like the saying goes, "Once a Californian, always a Californian!!!" We're living, breathing and walking proof of that!  
 Andddd... Eden and I obviously did it right in this picture, right Eden!?!?! I believe this may have been directly before our famous "TOUCHDOWN" move! ;)

And last but definitly not least: We put oodles of great dance clips together for you in one of our Happy dance videos... if you know what I mean by Happy dance vid, then great, if not, then get ready!!!  This includes everything from 1950s swing, to salsa in the middle of the night at downtown disney to some sort of 80s going on while I was asleep....!


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Best Types of Biffs

If I had to say the number one thing that being a musician and a pianist has taught me, it'd be hard.  Really hard.  So hard in fact, that I'd probably just make some sort of joke to cover up the fact that I really don't know, and move the conversation in a different direction!

Despite the potential awkwardness that such a situation would promise, I can definitely put a few near the top of the list... They include the typical, somewhat cliche types of, "hard work, not talent, wins the day"... "You win some, you lose some."... "It's only about the artistry you display, forget about the fast, the crazy, the mind boggling.... whatever!"

Yeah.. but there's more actually.

No matter how hard you work, you're not the best.

I've heard it said other ways too... specifically,

You're not the smartest in the classroom.  If you're the smartest in the classroom, you're clearly in the wrong classroom.

And it's true... in a good way of course.  If we actually reached the top in whatever, we'd stop learning.  Not cool.  At all. 

And that's why there really are good biffs.  I've experienced them, and I'm sure you all have.  I mean, regardless of who you are, I deeply hope you have things in your life that you are ridiculously crazy about and literally overflowing with passion for.  For me, one of the many just happens to be music... I actually do spend hours biffing one thing, two things, three things... (you name it!) at the keyboard.  I'll be the first to admit: making mistakes isn't cool, isn't awesome... isn't fun.. you get my drift.  What happens after the mistake though, is the most important part; does it get us down, or do we learn from it?

My music professor is awesome.  I'm proud to study with him, and he's become almost like a mentor to me... If you walk into his house, you'll see a myriad of quotes hanging on the kitchen doors that range from stuff like, "growing up is overrated", to more serious things about learning and thinking... to the even better stuff.... which also happen to be the ones I've walked by too fast and therefore have no idea what they say! (So technically, I hope they actually aren't the best ones! ;))  Regardless though, there's one that (while I don't currently remember it word-for-word) talks about mistakes... paraphrased, it says something like, "You'll never learn if you don't make mistakes.  Be free with them, and make them frequently." I think it's true.  We're bound to make mistakes at the things we put our hands to in our lives, so it remains for us to make the best of them.

And in reality, those are the "Best Type of Biffs".  They're the ones that teach us something about what we were doing wrong, and what we can do better... and best of all, we can learn something from every mistake, so hey, let's have at it, right?  Just don't repeat those mistakes, right? ;)

"If you're not making mistakes, then you're not doing anything. I'm positive that a doer makes mistakes."
John Wooden

Oh yeah.... And some of the stupidest ones I've ever made.... well, uh, does jumping off a roof with a grocery bag parachute count?  For REAL, people!!!!  Or... how bout the time I started a burn pile with a burning propane torch in one hand and a full gas can in the other hand??? 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Put that thing back where it came from, or so help me..........!

So I admit:  I haven't exactly been faithful in keeping this blog up to date... everyone has their life and I'm no exception.  Hey, let's just face it: it's hard to keep everything going and write interesting, informative, intuitive, (Insert desired number of pertinent adjectives that begin with the letter "I", just cause alliterations are awesome) posts for the general public to read.

I also admit: The idea of writing on here went through my mind several times over the past few months... I didn't want this to become a "nice blog that used to have cool stuff on it" type of blog.  I even started a post.  Needless to say, it was composed of one color... White.  'Nuff said.

But I really can't claim the fact that I'm sitting down to actually write and think along the lines of getting serious about writing some stuff that's (hopefully! ;)) interesting and keeps you all captivated... (Hey, you've stuck around this long, right? Must mean there's hope!)  Thanks to a conversation with a friend (or not, or yes, or not unless three years pass and I'm still alive... take that how you will!) I've decided to actually put forth a little effort and throw my perspective on life, thoughts, conversations, travel, more life, more thoughts, more conversations, more travel, etc... out into the blogosphere.  I sincerely hope that you all stick around to read!

I refuse to apologize about the title of this post: Sorry.  You just won't get that from me.  "Putting that thing back where it came from, or so help me..." is what I'm doing here.  In essence, I'm not going to retire the blog, and state the sad but poignant idiom of "has seen better days".

So my friends, I always appreciate reader input.  I'm intending to write everything from the incidents to the introspective, but all the same, I'd love to know what types of things you'd like to see or (more specifically) read around here!  So let me know... and I hope you enjoy!

And as a side note... if the title of this post actually made sense to you, well then that's good... if not, I suggest you brush up on your pixar films!

Monday, December 29, 2014

When in doubt... do something crazy!

When in doubt do something crazy.

Call that my current motto.....

Okay, actually that's true of me a lot of the time.

This started a few weeks ago... I felt I'd had my fill of scouring the internet for international piano competitions that were of high enough caliber, not taking place in some obscure eastern European country (Anyone up for a piano themed vacation in Abkhazia? Okay wait, where even is that!??!? ;)), and were feasible for me to do in terms of time input and repertoire requirements.  Andddd.... not gonna lie, I checked the cash prize for all these things too! ;)

So cut a long story short here: Google came to my rescue one more time at midnight on a random Friday evening, or Saturday morning, or whatever you want to call it.... To cut an even longer story even shorter, I finally came upon a competition that looked pretty good and got my excitement up enough to warrant me spending hours and hours of my life at the piano... not like that's something terribly new, but you get the picture.

And that's where the crazy comes in: See, this is a step up from the "easy-peasy" type of concerto competition.... like, I have four recital programs to prepare, and a concerto for the final round... all of which have to be in tip top shape.

"So like, great." I thought to myself. "Like how am I even supposed to do this thing?"
But how does one eat an elephant?  Yes... one bite at a time.

So that's where I am..... Hours and hours of Bach, Schumann, Beethoven and Prokofiev.  And hey, this is just preselection we're talking about here... So in other words: there's more... later! ;)

Oh yes.... and the actual reason of this post! Well, I figured (with the help of a good friend.. you know who you are! ;)) that I'd put out the pieces I'm playing for the first round so to speak.... Course, all things do come in their time, and this is no exception... I'm thinking to share some short vids with you all over the next few weeks to let you in on what I'm playing.

Now this all sounds incredibly boring and academic, right?  Well... we'll do what we can, and make classical music just as interesting as it should be, I assure you!

So buckle up!!!!! ;)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Only A Fraction...

My friends, what you will see inscribed herein is only a fraction of what I have done for the past few months...

Okay... you know what, forget the formality, and let's have a good time here!


Buckle up cause it's going to be fast, and it's going to be a lot!

So don't say I didn't warn you!

So first off... just a totally random side note here... I wear contacts now...which is literally awesome!
And this is my bro and I... totally living it in the end of summer... and refusing to believe that the summer was about to end!

End of September we celebrated the event we'd been planning and waiting to have an opening to do for a while... My highschool graduation.  Wow!  I used to think I wouldn't ever get through school... course that was a long time ago.... but still, you get what I mean!  I can't believe how fast the time went in actuality.  I'm excited for what God has planned for my future and what I'll be pursuing, and I'll keep right on sharing it here with all of you!

A special blessing for me was to have my pastor speak and give me a charge and a blessing... Even though I've only known him for a little less than a year, I have learned a whole lot!

Someone gave me the mic as well.... and being that I'm a talker, that could or couldn't be a good idea!
Well, they all survived my talk... and even laughed about the time I dropped the dumpster lid on my dad's head... Totally my fault, people!  Anddd... it was a really long time ago!

And this one was really late after a whole lot of dancing.... which was awesome!!!

Next thing that happened to me was pretty awesome... So back in July a friend casually mentioned a piano competition to me... I casually listened and then went home to check out google!  Anyway... long story short, I get to play the entire Schumann piano concerto with a local orchestra... I'm excited about the opportunity cause I love to perform with orchestras... I'm going to put some info up about that in a while!  But yeah, no pictures of that competition!
At some point a week and a half or so later, I found myself recording auditions.. but this time as a accompanist for Eden... Portland, Oregon has definitely made some adjustments to cope with these rather *ahem* hyper, displaced, SoCali people! JK
And I don't care what you say.... this evening was awesomeness!  If you don't recognize that guy (not me... the other one! JK) that is Marty Goetz.  He is a really fantastic Christian artist... I got to see him play many years ago at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa (Once again, the Cali theme!) so it was really wonderful to get to see him perform once again, to spend some time visiting with him and his wife, and worship the Lord together!

So, many of you know that I work as a swim teacher..... well, this was this one evening after teaching where I found myself shirt shopping with some of my sisters...... I really couldn't find a better fit for myself than this one!

And soon after all this (Like a few days later) we all took off for Orlando, Florida 
(Literally took off! ;))
I spare you the plane pictures..... partially cause I didn't take any, and partially cause I spent a good portion of my flights talking to the people next to me, which was awesome in it's own regard!

But I digress!

First thing we actually did when we got there was.....
(Wait for it.....)

We ate.

I know, surprisingly uninspired but highly important!

I have to say... My experience in Florida is sort of impossible to explain... I can't pinpoint a favorite thing, a favorite experience or anything like that... it was all so wonderful and I'm so thankful for all of it!  So... in the words of Inigo Montoya, (And what a great quotation it is!) "Let me 'splain...No, there is too much.  Let me sum up."

I was totally stoked to make it to the final day of the National Bible Bee... all you who've read this blog for a while probably know that I did that competition for the past few years, had a great time, met a lot of friends, memorized a lot of Scripture, and so on, and so on, and so one..... ;)

But getting to come back was amazing... first off, it was different, I was a watcher and not a competitor.  Secondly, I was so thankful to go... and even more thankful to get to make it to see this guy competing in the final round...

And yes.... any of you who have read this blog for a while probably have a pretty good idea of who that is! ;)
Right... it's my crazy, amazing, awesome, so thankful to God for, friend, Daniel... We got to compete in the semifinals of the competition together last year, and if it wasn't enough for me to get to see him compete in finals this year... well.....
Wait for it.... again! :)

He won!  

I really hope he appreciated (and wasn't totally killed by) the literal football tackle some friends and I gave him directly after he came off stage! JK

Unfortunately, I didn't really take very many pictures of Bible Bee nationals.... in fact, I think I only took a few of other people... It's cause I talk with people!!!  It destroys any incentive to take pictures!

But due to the fact that we never actually got a formal picture last year, Daniel and I did get one together....
And he looks good... and I look... well... never mind!

The next day, part of the family went to get food to supply us for the next week or so... this left some crazy people at the hotel.... and... well... I decided I like hanging in that position.  Gives a new dimension to what a bat goes through all the time! :P TOTALLY KIDDING!

And we also swam... because the Strang family really likes to swim!  This is what coordinating eight people to jump in a pool at the same time looks like... Hey!  I'm visible! 

Random selfie from some point or another!

I forget what time this was taken... but I'm pretty sure it was late! 

This one was late for sure.... As Bethany and my mom were putting schedules together, I really helped them out by making some fun jokes with them and eating coffee ice cream.... They were really appreciative of that!

And now comes the big stuff... Disneyworld! 

Next morning we were early to take Epcot center!  And take it we did.... we used kind of a Trojan Horse principle...  You know, just put way more people in a small car than should actually be in there.  Then get out when you get inside.... and the people keep coming and coming and... you get the picture.

Epcot center... where certain rides make you feel like you're literally going to go through the bottom of your seat cause of the G force... Know what I'm talking about, Eden??? ;)

Eden and I.... The only two people who braved the orange level space ride.... the one that spun like crazy and forced an "OH MY WORD!!!" out of Eden when she was sitting next to me!

 A decent (albeit somewhat casual) picture of all us seven kids... Look now, cause these are more rare than blue moons...or something like that!

The boat ride that everyone thought we were going to take but no one could figure out where it left from!  Oh, the things that happen when we travel together!  And the other guy... you all know who that is... Yep... another one of my awesome friends... Evan!  (I have a lot of awesome friends, you know! ;))

A beautifully cool picture of the sun on the water which I didn't take...
(How's that for a caption?!)

Because very fast thrill rides are awesome....

The next day was our day to conquer the magic kingdom... we did a pretty amazing job of it if you ask me... I think we did just about every single ride there!

In which we look like tourists... not that we can help it...
(Side note, but this is where you do the classic Disneyworld photobomb!)

Splash Mountain....  Where Eden and I vied for the front positions in the boat just to get wet!

And just because Space Mountain is totally epic......
...I did it four times!  Haha!!!

And the last "ride" of the evening... The tram....!

And the famous, "awka' face"... (inside joke)
This one could be a bit of a personality revealer..... :P

Next day we went to something I had looked forward to for a long time.... The totally epic, literally amazing waterpark!  The best thing ever was the free fall drop slide of 120'... That. Was. Thrilling.
And even though it's technically Google's picture... ;)
This is what it looked like.... Seriously the best thing ever! 

And yes... I plummeted over the edge of that thing... multiple times!
And we closed the evening off with an amazing fireworks show that pictures don't do justice to....

Next day we did the beach...
Feels like I'm all the way back where I belong!!!

After that.. we went north to Jacksonville, Florida to hear this artist play... His name is Paul Wilbur and he does a monthly service... it was some really wonderful worship!

 And even though we got back in way too late... and even though we only got about four hours of sleep... us four oldest kids and my dad headed out to the beach once more... 
...To go surfing!!!  This was as we said, "Our Cali, hang loose look"!
This was amazing!  Plus we had a really good coach... my dad!  He grew up surfing so we learned a whole lot from him!!!  I enjoyed myself so much in the water!  And at the end of the day, Eden and I declared ourselves surf fanatics!  This won't be the last time I surf.. I assure you on that one!

And... we updated the back of our van to prove it!  

The little kids.... going with the cool look down at the pool, while we surfed!

 And one of our last pictures down there... This was doing our five course Mexican meal inside the airport... talk about talented! jk

And lastly... once we go home, we put this video together... it sort of summarizes our trip in our own crazy way....Spontaneous dance is rather normal in our family, so we decided to have some fun with it!  Enjoy!

Wow... you read it all!  Congrats!
But seriously, it was a really incredible time to get together with friends, and to spend some wonderful time as a family making memories together... I have so much to be thankful for!

And... photo credits for some of the more random pictures on this post to Bethany... and Elanee! ;)