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? 

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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