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? 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Six Sentence Story: Limb

Denise at Girlie on the Edge is the gracious host of the Six Sentence Stories link-up. Go check out the other entries, and feel free to join in with your own story. This week's cue: Limb.

Though of course she wished no harm on anyone, she thrilled at each gust of wind in this storm. She had been bedridden for weeks, and the view out the window of violently swaying evergreen trees provided much-appreciated entertainment. Suddenly, a loud bang was followed by the rushing of water. Gingerly ignoring doctor's orders, and anticipating a broken water pipe, she stood up and went outside to survey the damage. Once in the backyard, she laughed with relief and amazement: a limb had broken off of a Douglas fir, sailed across the yard, and hit the water faucet perfectly, and with enough force, to turn on the spigot! She quickly turned off the running water, then headed back inside to continue resting and watching the Inauguration Day Storm of 1993. 

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Saturday, March 31, 2018

Ten Things of Thankful: Wrapping up March Edition

Right on time, March presents, "out like a lamb." High temperatures are predicted to be in the mid-60's, and the snow that fell a week ago has vanished. Flowers continue to brighten yards. I'm thankful for mild spring weather, and I'm thankful for beautiful blossoms.

Just last month, I drove to San Diego to attend the temple with a friend of mine. This past week, my friend and her family drove to Utah and stayed with me for a couple of days. We packed a lot of fun into the short time we had, and even managed to attend a session at the Provo Temple. I'm thankful for good friends, and I'm thankful for temples. 

Photo: The white Provo Temple stands in front of the Wasatch Mountains. In front of the temple is a round reflecting pool, and in front of the water, John and I stand with our friends, Robert and Cinthia.
The day that their family left, the fun continued, because another  friend arrived. We talked, talked, and talked some more, and generally had a great time catching up. I'm thankful for her friendship.

Despite it being the week of revolving-door guests (which I thoroughly enjoyed, by the way, and am not opposed to repeating), I managed to slip in a few training runs. John and I have signed up for a half-marathon in May, so we are trying to increase our mileage. I sneaked in a 7-mile run on Thursday, and it felt good in that "wow, my legs are sore but I did it!" sort of way. I'm thankful for good health and the ability to run (albeit slowly). 

Did you see the moon last night? I happened to be out just as it was rising over the mountains. I wished I had my camera with me, but was able to snatch a photo with my phone. Sometime, I'll need to plan ahead. I'm thankful for the beauty of a full moon.

Photo: A rising moon peeks over a mountaintop. 
Today and tomorrow, General Conference for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be broadcast from Salt Lake City. I invite you to watch on I'm thankful for the messages of faith, hope, peace, and love that will be given.

Tomorrow, of course, is Easter Sunday. I'm thankful for Jesus Christ and the infinite gift He provided for all. 

Photo: A white, larger-than-life statue of Christ against a dark blue painted sky

As always, I'm thankful for John. It's been a rather unique week, but whether the days are humdrum or exciting, I'm so thankful to be taking this journey with John. 

What are you thankful for this week? I'm thankful for Josie for hosting the Ten Things of Thankful link up each week. Please join us!

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Thursday, March 29, 2018

Six Sentence Story: Vent

It's been a while since I've joined in the Six Sentence Story link-up, and I've missed it. Much has changed in the past month, and now the SSS is hosted by Denise of Girlie on the Edge. Go over there to read the other participants' stories. This week's prompt: vent.

With five children in the family, the laundry pile never seemed to disappear; and with the exception of the incident of the crayon in the dryer or the infamous cell phone baptism-by-immersion (which, incidentally, though honestly a mistake, was a great way to teach the teens to not trust Mom with the laundry and to take the task upon themselves), washing and drying the clothes remained a constant, humdrum chore. 

Was this the third load of the day, or the fourth? Hamper balanced on one hip, she flipped the switches to turn on the light and the exhaust vent fan, and instantly, the room lit up. 

"Kids, go get Dad from outside and tell him there is a fire and to come here, now!" 

To their credit, they relayed the message quickly; and to his credit, he bounded into the room and quickly extinguished the flames. 

Laundry had never been so exciting as it was that day!

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