Sunday, May 20, 2018

Ten Things of Thankful: #LanternFestival and Other Beautiful Things Edition

Today I feel like a young child, eager for Show and Tell to start, bursting with impatience for my turn to display my item and tell you all about it. I missed participating in the Ten Things of Thankful blog hop last week, and anticipate missing a few in the upcoming weeks, which means, if we were actually in an elementary school classroom, I would now be the child sitting on the edge of my seat, furiously waving my arm in the air and shouting, "Pick me! Pick me!"

You see, even on weeks when I am absent, I'm still thankful. Even when I don't blog frequently, I still think about what I would share if I did sit down and write. I have posts percolating in my brain, and one of these days, I will once again be a more productive writer and reader of blogs. In the meantime, I'm thankful for my turn to reflect on recent weeks and share with you the beauty I've observed.

1. I'm thankful that decades ago, the previous owners of the house we are renting planted a wisteria vine. I have really enjoyed this massive plant and its gorgeous, fragrant blossoms. 

Photo: Purple wisteria blossoms cascade down through the slats of the wooden patio cover
Photo: A thick wisteria trunk is wrapped around a support pole of the patio roof, and the wisteria vines climb to the very top of an evergreen tree that towers above the house. The evergreen tree is covered in purple wisteria blossoms.
2. I'm thankful that the house we bought (and will be settling into in the next couple of months!) also had previous owners who took the time to plant flowers. I enjoy the discovery of seeing the various varieties bloom. 

Photo: A bed of bearded irises. Each flower displays shades of purple, yellow, and white. 
3. I'm thankful for good-hearted people. My neighbor who lived across the street from us when we lived in our previous house called me recently. She asked if she could give my current address to the new owners of our past home, as they had received some of our mail and wanted to make sure we got it. I told her yes, but soon forgot about the conversation. 

A few days ago, the doorbell rang, and when I answered it, a man introduced himself and said he had some mail for John. I thanked him, took the envelopes, shut the door, and belatedly processed what he had just said. He was the man who bought our house in California, and he showed up on our doorstep in Utah to deliver our mail?! I quickly opened the door, but he had already left. I called my neighbor and explained what had just happened, so she could apologize for my matter-of-fact "thanks" and offer a more heartfelt "thanks" on our behalf. Apparently he happened to have a business trip here, and decided to just bring us the mail. When I gave the OK to give him our address, I fully expected the mail would be put in a big envelope and delivered by the US Postal Service, not hand-delivered by the man who bought our home!

4. I'm thankful that this over-a-year-long-process of moving is nearing an end. Don't get me wrong: I'm glad we've had the luxury of taking our time. We've enjoyed being able to live in this rental house while making renovations to our new house, and there are certainly advantages to being able to do a move little-by-little. I am, however, realizing that soon we will be living in a house with no plans to move again anytime soon. The next time we move, we might be old and physically incapable of actually doing the heavy lifting. (In other words, this might be the last time John and I have to lug heavy furniture up the stairs!)

5. I'm thankful that we are strong and healthy. Yesterday, we were not only able to move a bed upstairs, the two of us managed to move John's three big, heavy, awkward bookcases upstairs to his office. Where there's a will, there's a way. 

Photo: John, dutifully posing with his best "He Man" pose in front of the bookcases in his office
Photo: The angled staircase that we managed to bring the bookcases up
6. I'm thankful for whimsical, touching art. While John and I were walking around town the other day, we stumbled across this sculpture which appeared to be holding up the flagpole. 

Photo: Metal pieces form the shape of a man who is gripping a flagpole and looking up. His head is made of a light, similar to the Pixar light.
Photo: The same sculpture as above, but the entire flagpole is visible in this shot. The sun is directly behind the top of the flag.
7.  I'm thankful for the chance John and I had to attend a lanternfest last night. I stumbled across tickets on Groupon a couple of months ago and thought the event sounded interesting. It was absolutely beautiful! If you ever get a chance to attend one, I would highly recommend it--and check Groupon to look for discounted tickets. In the meantime, let me recap the evening for you in photos and video.

8. I'm thankful the earlier-predicted thunderstorms stayed at bay, and with the exception of a few clouds, the night was clear and the event could go on.

Photo: Big, puffy clouds hang over the mountains. A concrete fence is in the foreground. (I took the photo while riding in the car on the way to the lanternfest.)
9. I'm thankful for interesting sights on the way there, and awe-inspiring sights at the event itself. 

Photo: A tall van, with a painting of the Utah Jazz logo and a bear on the back doors, drives up the freeway. I couldn't see if the mascot was inside or not.
Photo: A view of the Great Salt Lake, as taken from the car on the way to the lanternfest.
When we arrived at the event, we joined with thousands of other festival-goers. Before it got dark, we staked out a spot around a fire pit, decorated our lanterns, visited food booths, roasted marshmallows and made some s'mores. 

Photo: John and I take a selfie, with thousands of other festival attendees in the background.

Photo: John decorates his lantern by writing "John" on one side, and "Kristi" on the other.

(I'm just now having a problem with photo captioning. Whenever I try to add a caption, my photo ends up being relocated somewhere else on my page. I'm going to try to work-around, by captioning in the text, not by adding a caption to my photo. Kerry, please let me know if you are still able to make sense of my photos, in case this is a long-lasting problem.)

Once it got dark, the magic began! Everyone lighted their lanterns, and the glowing paper hot air balloons slowly ascended into the night.

Photo: John's lantern--I know it's his because his name is clearly marked on it--floats into the night sky.

Photo: The black sky is illuminated with glowing lanterns.

10. I'm thankful for John, and the wonderful times we spend together.

Photo: John and I take a selfie at the LanternFest, as glowing lanterns dot the night sky behind us.
What beautiful things have you noticed lately? What are you thankful for this week? Leave a comment and feel free to link up your own post!

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Sunday, May 6, 2018

Ten Things of Thankful: A Son, A Sister, and a Half-Marathon Edition

With a rare exception here and there, every week I join with other bloggers to participate in an exercise in thankfulness. By reflecting on what we are grateful for, we don't ignore challenges we might be facing, but the difficulties of life are put in their proper perspective. We welcome new participants! Feel free to visit the Ten Things of Thankful blog and join us. 

Remember my last post, when I said that John and I are empty-nesters now? Well, that doesn't mean we are actually lonely! This past week, we had the good fortune to spend time with our youngest son, as well as my sister and some of her family.

Join me for a re-cap, and look for the implied gratitude: 

Youngest son came and stayed with us for most of last week. He drove from Washington state for the wedding of a friend, but he had time for us, too. We visited Moon's Rare Books and actually got to hold a little book that belonged to George Washington! We went to BYU's Museum of Art to see the M.C. Escher exhibit and the Tiffany glass display. We went to the house we are moving into so our son could see all the projects that have been completed since last December. We hiked the trails behind the house and enjoyed terrific views. We watched the latest Avengers movie. We discovered a yummy sushi restaurant. We played games, laughed, and talked until midnight. 

Photo: John and red-headed (and red-bearded) son stand on either side of me as we take a selfie from a mountainous trail. Utah Valley and Utah Lake are behind us in the distance.
Photo: The view of Utah Valley and Utah Lake from the Grove Creek Trail. On either side of the photo in the foreground, rocky mountains with shrubby vegetation taper to the middle of the photo in a "v" shape, forming the canyon.
My sister, her husband, and their youngest child came to Utah for their oldest child's college graduation. Though their trip was short, and they had other family members and friends to see, we were able to squeeze in a dinner with them. As we did last time she visited, we were so busy talking that we forgot to snap a photo, but I promise, the visit happened!

The weather this past week was all over the place. We had a dusting of snow on Monday, but Tuesday was warmer, sunny and beautiful. Wednesday it poured rain. The rest of the week dried up, and warmed up during the daytime.

Photo: Two photos of the same scene: a round patio table and four purple chairs sit in a backyard. The yard blends into the shrubby brush of the mountain behind the yard. The photo on the left almost appears to be in black and white, due to a dusting of snow, with the purple of the chairs and some brown dirt the only color. The photo of the right shows no snow, a bright blue sky, green grass and sage green shrubs, as well as the purple chairs.
Saturday morning, John and I woke up before dawn, so we could run the Provo City Half Marathon. We parked in downtown Provo, then took one of the race buses to a campground up the canyon, where the starting line was located. The air was quite nippy, but the race organizers had built fires in the campground fire pits, and racers huddled closely around the fires as we waited for the 7:00 start time to come. When the gun went off, we were ready, and we enjoyed a pleasant, mostly downhill run. This was our second half-marathon. Although I enjoyed it, and will probably run more half-marathons in the future, I don't have any desire to run a full marathon. John, on the other hand, came home and promptly signed up for a marathon. I'm content to just cheer him on for that race. 

Photo: John and I stand in front of a backdrop after finishing our half-marathon. We have our finisher medals around our necks, and I'm holding a sign that says, "I can't wait to BLOG about this #Run13 #MakingItHappen" (There were several signs to choose from, and when I saw that one, I knew I needed to hold it!)
Though I didn't actually "count my many blessing" nor "name them one by one", I am filled with a feeling of gratitude, and am sure that there were at least 10 things in this week's post. 

What are you thankful for this week?

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Sunday, April 29, 2018

Ten Things of Thankful: It's About Time Edition

I've always been fascinated by time and perspective. As a child, I was awed that adults could remember what year a particular event happened. As an adult, I've realized that it wasn't just matching a numerical year to an event; it was remembering all the peripheral situations (Which house was I living in at the time? Which children were born then? What music was playing?) and triangulating all the data to come up with the year. 

This past week has provided one reminder after another that time is passing. In writing that, I realize that my sentence will be read through the experiences of my readers. For those with more years than me, it might be internalized with a imagined pat on my head and a "just wait until you reach my age." For those younger, it might just seem the ramblings of an old woman. No matter how you interpret it, though, the fact is that another week has gone, and I am thankful: not just for the week, but for the months and years, as well. 

I'm thankful for 31 years of marriage to John. That's a long time, but not long enough.

I'm thankful for the children we raised, and I'm thankful for the grown-ups they have become. 

I'm thankful to officially be an empty-nester. Youngest child moved into an apartment this past week. It will be an adjustment for all of us, but it is as it should be, and I am excited for her burgeoning independence. 

I'm thankful for humor. Although the specific following experience never happened to me, life has provided many situations that gave me a choice of how to react. Like Marjorie Hinckley, "I prefer to laugh, because crying gives me a headache."

I'm thankful to live this year in the same college town where John and I went to school.

Photo: An illuminated "Y" on the mountain illuminates an otherwise dark night. (The Y was lit up for graduation.)
I'm thankful for the blossoms of spring. Ever since we moved into this house, I've been waiting for the wisteria to bloom, and it is now starting. This plant looks like it has been here for a very long time!

Photo: A very thick wisteria vine wraps around the metal support pole of the patio cover. The vine looks like a gnarled old tree trunk.

Photo: The purple blossoms of a wisteria vine are just starting to open up through the slats of the white wooden patio cover.
I'm thankful for the seasons that mark the passage of time. Summer will follow spring, autumn will follow summer, winter will follow autumn, and then we will be back to spring again. Time ticks on.

I'm thankful for little fleeting moments that make lasting memories, and I'm thankful to be able to share those moments with John.

Every week, bloggers from all over the world join together to express thankfulness. Please consider joining us at the Ten Things of Thankful blog.

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Sunday, April 22, 2018

Ten Things of Thankful: Never Too Late Edition

I missed writing a Ten Things of Thankful post last week, not due to lack of gratitude, but rather because I was spending time with my grandchildren and didn't pack my computer. This post will span the last two weeks, and I'm going to skip the numbering system this time. I promise there are at least 10 things! :-)

• I'm thankful that the snowy conditions only lasted for a small portion of the drive to California. The day before I left was a beautiful, sunny, warm day. The morning I headed out, however, was a different story. The flowers outside my front door wore a blanket of snow. The roads initially were clear, then started to accumulate snow. Fortunately, the storm was short-lived.

Photo: One lone red tulip amid a bed of yellow tulips pokes its head out from under a blanket of snow.

Photo: (Taken by my daughter from the passenger side of the car) Snow falls from a white sky to a snow-covered ground, as cars drive slowly on the freeway.
• I'm thankful that the brakes didn't start squeaking until we arrived safely in California. I'm thankful that a repair shop opened bright and early on Saturday morning (so the repair could be made in time to take the grandkids to Knott's Berry Farm as previously promised.) I'm also thankful that the rotors were still good (we forgot we had replaced them last time, and thought they were due for replacement), and the price quoted for the fix was very reasonable.

•I'm thankful for time spent with family. We played at Knott's Berry Farm on Saturday, attended church together on Sunday morning, and then spent the rest of the afternoon together visiting. 

(The video is of three of my grandchildren riding a kiddie ride where the kids are all seated next to each other in a row, and the ride takes them up in the air then drops them down partway, then back up again, then down, etc.)

During the church service, my oldest granddaughter drew a picture of John and me on our wedding day. Of course, our wedding day occurred decades before she was born, but I think she captured the moment very well!

Photo: A child-drawn ballpoint pen picture of a woman in a wedding dress (complete with train), tiara, and veil, and a man in a top hat. Each figure is smiling and raising a hand up in the air. The groom's legs appear bent, as if dancing or running.
•I'm thankful I was able to introduce my grandchildren to the music of Krazy Kirk and the Hillbillies (formerly known as Billy Hill and the Hillbillies, when they were performing at Disneyland.) When their Disney contract expired, Knott's offered them a position. I definitely miss them at Disneyland, but think that Knott's is a great fit for their show.  We enjoyed the music and comedy--a perfect mix of the familiar and new. After the performance, we got a chance to talk with Kirk for a minute and snatch a photo. 

Photo: My daughter and I stand on either side of Kirk Wall, while my granddaughters stand in front of us and my grandsons sit in the double stroller. Behind us, Anders Swanson (bass player) speaks to another fan.
• I'm thankful I was able to go with youngest daughter to Disneyland on Monday. We spent some of the day with our friends (and serendipitously ran into another friend later in the day). The Happiest Place on Earth is only happier with friends!

Photo: Our good friends pose with youngest daughter and me in front of the Walt and Mickey statue at Disneyland
 • I'm thankful for the Waze app, which directed me out of the heavy, heavy Orange County traffic on Tuesday morning. There were 3 SigAlerts in Orange County, one of which was on my preferred freeway, and one which was on an alternate. Thanks to Waze, I was able to be re-routed to avoid the problem areas.

• I'm thankful for an otherwise uneventful drive home. Yes, it started spitting snow again once we were close to home, but it was hardly noticeable. (Today is a beautiful, sunny, warm day--it's hard to believe it wasn't long ago that snow was covering my tulips!)

• I'm thankful for an upcoming move. Youngest daughter is moving out this coming week, and we are all very happy for her. I need to figure out another title for myself, as the misnomer, "Stay-at-home mom" doesn't really fit anymore, but I am absolutely convinced I will have no problem filling my time. (Who knows? Maybe I will finally turn more attention to this blog and call myself a blogger!)

• I'm thankful that John and I continue to make preparations for our move. Little by little, we are packing, moving, and unpacking boxes. We met another neighbor yesterday, who was very friendly, welcoming, and informative. She told us about many of the animals we might expect to see in our yard. Apparently our house holds the dubious distinction of being the site of the largest rattlesnake sighting in the neighborhood (as in the largest snake was spotted in one of our window wells a few years ago, not that there was a large number of snakes.) I'm thankful for the heads-up, and thankful to have been raised by a dad who enjoyed herpetology. I'm not terrified of snakes, but I'm not exactly putting out the welcome mat in my window wells, either. 

• I'm thankful for surprises. I found a little folded-up piece of paper in my mailbox earlier this week. When I unfolded it, I found someone had drawn flowers with a bright blue marker. I suspect one of the children who lives next door. It was a sweet surprise. 

Photo: Three bright blue flowers, presumably drawn by a child with marker, on a little scrap of plain white paper
• I'm thankful that another piece of mail, though worrisome, made me laugh and the issue was quickly resolved. If I were a stand-up comedian, I would definitely develop this story into a routine. Someday I might write a funnier, fleshed-out version of the incident, but for now I'll just present the rough story:

I received an envelope from the California Tax Franchise Board--not something I was expecting, and of course, I started wondering why they would be communicating with me. We filed our taxes in plenty of time, and paid what we owed. When I read the enclosed letter, I could only laugh.

Photo: The letter from the tax board states:
"We recently made an adjustment to your 2017 tax return during processing, primarily to revise the estimate payment or withholding amounts you reported on it. Although a Notice of Tax Return Change (NTRC) should have been issued to inform you of this adjustment, we determined that the NTRC was either never generated, or it was generated with insufficient information which did not explain the adjustment correctly.
" We want to make sure you are aware of the adjustment we made to your 2017 tax return which may have resulted in one of the following: a decreased or increased refund, a decreased or increased balance due, a refund instead of a balance due, a balance due instead of a refund

"If you have any questions about your 2017 tax return, please contact us.
"We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused."

It seemed to me that the tax board sent the letter to inform me that they failed to send a letter that should have informed me of changes made to my return. They presumably wanted me to be informed of the changes, but failed to tell me in this letter what the changes were. If I had questions, though, I could call them. (Sorry for the inconvenience!)

I did have questions. Their answer was basically that they hadn't received payment from the escrow company that handled the sale of a property we sold. A call was made to the escrow company, and we were told that the payment had been sent. At this point, I was mad, but not sure where to direct my anger. Fortunately, on the return call to the tax board, the agent was able to find the payment and apply it correctly to our account. I'm still not sure how the payment was lost in the system, but I'm relieved that it was quickly found. 

• I'm thankful for John. He held down the fort while I took a road-trip (again!) and was always just a phone call away when I needed to consult with him about car problems, etc. Now that I'm back home, we can tackle things together. Whether the challenge is the California Tax Franchise Board, the possibility of enormous rattlesnakes, or an empty nest, together John and I will face it! 

If you've made it through this lengthy post, kudos to you! What have you been thankful for these past couple of weeks? Are you enjoying spring weather yet, or is it still snowy where you are? Have you ever had a rattlesnake in your yard or window well?

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Sunday, April 8, 2018

Ten Things of Thankful: General Conference Edition

Twice a year, in April and October, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gather together across the world to watch General Conference. I always look forward to conference weekend: the words of counsel given, the beautiful music performed, and the spirit felt. General Conference this year fell on Easter weekend, which enhanced both. It also happened to be the first General Conference since the passing of President Thomas S. Monson and the first with President Russell M. Nelson as prophet.

As if that wasn't enough, last weekend's General Conference brought plenty of changes and announcements which sent ripples of excitement--and even applause, in some cases (which is practically unheard of in Mormon meetings!)--throughout the church. 

For this week's Ten Things of Thankful post, come with me as I revisit some of the highlights of General Conference:

1. I'm thankful for Easter Sunday and the happy hope it offers to everyone.

2. I'm thankful that God has established a pattern of speaking to prophets throughout history. (This video clip is not from last weekend's conference, but it illustrates my point.)

3. I'm thankful for the new prophet, Russell M. Nelson. In one of his addresses last weekend, he mentioned that when he was young, his parents did not attend church and did not follow some of the teachings that generally are associated with Mormon teachings (such as abstaining from alcohol.) Russell M. Nelson did enjoy going to church, though. In his words: 
As I came to understand the Word of Wisdom, I wanted my parents to live that law. So, one day when I was very young, I went to our basement and smashed on the concrete floor every bottle of liquor! I expected my father to punish me, but he never said a word.
I'm thankful for a bottle-smashing boy who grew up to be a heart surgeon and later, a prophet--who still skis at age 93! 

4. I'm thankful for apostles. Robert D. Hales passed away between conference sessions in October 2017. His death, combined with Russell M. Nelson becoming the prophet, left two vacancies in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Those vacancies were filled last weekend with the calling of Elder Gerrit W. Gong and Elder Ulisses Soares. It is exciting to see more diversity introduced into that quorum, as Elder Gong is of Asian descent, and Elder Soares is from Brazil. 

5. I'm thankful for organizational changes in the church. One of those changes announced last weekend was a restructuring of priesthood quorums. To provide a little background, our Sunday services are three hours long. The first hour is sacrament meeting, our worship service. The second hour is Sunday School, and our third hour the men and women meet separately in priesthood quorums and Relief Society. Relief Society always benefited from the diversity of age and experience, as women met all together, but the priesthood was divided by quorum. By combining the High Priests and Elders together, the priesthood can now be more like the women, enjoying the contributions of all ages and stages of life. 

6. I'm thankful for additional organizational changes in the church, which allow us to better meet the needs of the members. I must admit, when it was first announced, "We have made the decision to retire home teaching and visiting teaching," I was waiting for "April Fool's!" I do believe, however, that this new ministering program is a natural outgrowth of what the visiting teaching program was meant to be. 


After President Nelson announced the retirement of home and visiting teaching, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland voiced the opinion of everyone in the first forty seconds of this next clip:

7. I'm thankful that the changes didn't stop there, though, and that President Nelson announced seven new temples will be built. (This is the clip where you can hear actual applause.)

Having temples announced for India and Russia, where no LDS temples currently are, was especially exciting. 

8. I'm thankful for the music of conference. Not only did we hear from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, other choirs, such as the one here made up of young adults, provided beautiful music.

9. I'm thankful for the messages of conference, which remind me of what is truly important. This talk, "Pure Love: The True Sign of Every True Disciple of Jesus Christ" really sums it up. We need to love God, and love each other. 

10. As always, I'm thankful for John. We enjoyed watching General Conference together, as we always do, and we enjoy re-visiting the talks, as we read them together after they are published

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What are you thankful for this week?