Toronto trip, part 1

I love this picture so much. This IS Sam.
One of the really cool things about being married is that you get to become a sort of appendage to all the cool things your spouse is, and does. I thought a lot about this while I accompanied Sam to a workshop he was doing in Toronto, because I really was just tagging along: since I didn't know anyone there, nor they me, I basically existed in terms of being "Sam's wife" (or possibly "that cute baby's mother"). There were lots of cool women there; smart, talented, well-known, each amazing in her own right—and it made me realize how lucky I am that I so enjoy being "Sam's wife."

I did wonder, briefly, as I watched those women, if I should be more anxious to be known and respected on my own merits? But it's not that I've given up on doing and being interesting things myself—it's just that I find so much personal fulfillment in watching Sam excel. I love to hear his students talk about how he has changed their lives. I love to see people laugh at his jokes or enjoy his conversation. It feels just as good as—better than—when I excel at something. If he's doing something I can help him with directly, like writing a talk, I love that; and if he's doing something I can help him with indirectly, like keeping the baby quiet so he can work, I love that; and if he's doing something I can only just watch and marvel at, like—well, like almost everything art-related—then I love that too.

People sometimes kind of snicker at the whole "behind every successful man is a good woman" thing, and I understand that it might be said condescendingly or dismissively, but to me, it's a welcome challenge. I love being a good team. I want to be the one who helps Sam succeed in what he does. And I like the idea that when he's doing cool things and being humble and happy while doing it, other people might not even know what's making him so happy, but I'll know: that it's ME. Or, you know, at least partly me. And even though I know I can't actually take that much credit for him because he'd be an amazing person anyway—as I always say, I did have the good sense to marry him (twice), so that's got to count for something!

All that to say, I always love being with Sam when he's working, and I had a great time on this quick trip to Toronto. My mom was awesome enough to watch the rest of our kids at home ("behind every successful man and the good woman behind him, is a helpful grandmother"), and Teddy, who came with us, was sleepy and sweet and snuggle-y and probably responsible for a Baby Boom in Ontario about nine months hence. There wasn't time for much sight-seeing, but what there was was lovely, and when Sam wasn't working we got to play with Teddy, and I thoroughly enjoyed just being in a new place around a bunch of interesting new people.

The other five presenters at the workshop were impressive people. Sam was practically in raptures as he described to me how famous and inspirational and genre-defining they all were: comic book artists and painters and animators he'd looked up to for years. I didn't know all of their work (though I knew some: the director of "Tarzan" and the director of "Brave" were both there), but I was impressed with how down-to-earth and humble they all were. We spent a lot of time talking and driving and eating together as a group, and everyone seemed just as friendly and interested in me as they were in anybody else. It was very affirming.

Keith, the photographer, took so many awesome pictures (there are more here). I think he made everything seem even better than reality. He caught all these personal, warm, surprising little glimpses of interactions between people. I loved seeing Sam, and the whole weekend really, through Keith's lens.

Sam's class. Theo and I enjoyed it from the back row.

Big Sam.

There was a big line of people wanting to talk to Sam, and get autographs, after his talk. I do still find that kind of funny. :)

He has lots of adoring fans. 
Of course, Sam is used to that: he gets it from us too.

Sam and Theo were a veritable mutual admiration society!

Theo and I bowed out before the meet-the-artists party on Saturday night, but I liked seeing the pictures Keith took of the teeming masses. Sam said it was fun and exhausting at the same time, to meet and talk to so many people (and to sign and draw in so many sketchbooks).
Well, to sum up: we had such a nice time. I loved seeing Sam in his element, and being a small part of it all!


  1. I love hearing about your trips. I still can't believe Sam is such a celebrity. I mean, I CAN believe it, of course, but it makes me feel so honored by association. Then again, we have been adoring fans of all the Nielsons for some time now. So glad this is titled Part 1. I hope that means there is more to come.

  2. I thought I commented on this, but, looking back, I read it as we were driving to Bear Lake . . . slowly but surely fading off the internet grid, and so likely never actually had the chance before my connection was severed. Anywho, loved it and what mostly resonated with me (I kept losing that word -- "what is that word on the tip of my tongue? radiated? re-something? reverberated?") were your thoughts on being absolutely happy with Sam's successes, etc. I think of that fairly often when I think about how I feel about Mike or my kids. Any success they have, any "glory" they obtain makes me feel joyful just to be associated with them in it. There is no element of comparison or "they have this so I'm now less". Mortal fallen me struggles plenty with competitiveness or feeling less when someone else has or is something more than me; but I really don't think our spirits function that way. I think that is a foreign and fallen feeling for them. I think all of us being united and "one" won't be so very hard one day when we are eventually fully able to feel the same utter happiness over every other being's talents, successes, etc. It's such a happy thing when I think of feeling the same way for everyone as I feel about Mike's or my kids' joys -- like somehow they all make me better and happier.

    And, I hopped over to your Russia post. Have you managed to stay in touch with your friend? It reminded me the entire time of my current connecting with a girl from Saudi Arabia (Fatimah). She is going to school at Weber State and we met in a round about way through Mike's dad. But it is so . . . spectacular to me how much I adore her and how similar our humor and souls seem despite our drastically different cultures, etc. I love that we've been handed this surprising little connection here and feel a strange amount of anxiety about her heading back to Saudi Arabia in a few months -- maybe never to totally reconnect in this life beyond texts and emails.

  3. Nancy, yes, I so hope this feeling will extend outward as I become more perfect! It shouldnt be so different, really, to rejoice in a ward member's success or a neighbor's fame—but it's so much easier when it's my own darling kids and husband. So I truly do look forward to more of that unity. And that will make so many other disagreements, differences of opinion, etc., better too, I can imagine!

    And about Lilya--- no. It's so sad. She didnt really speak English, so all our communication was gestures and laughter, and I haven't found a way we can reconnect. She's not on facebook or anything (though her husband is, so I say hi through him sometimes). I crocheted a sweater for her baby and sent it off hopefully through the mail, with a letter I wrote in Russian (translated for me by my Russian-speaking friend). And six months later it got returned inexplicably without ever having gotten to her. It made me so sad. I wish I could see her again. I want to hear more about your Saudi Arabian friend! That sounds like such a cool connection. I hope you have better luck keeping in touch than I have :(

  4. Oh! That makes me sad! But . . . maybe the next life wI'll be extra awesome because we won't have language barriers or sent back mail. It will just be, "Lilya. Transport self to her at once." ;)


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