Sunday, October 19, 2008

I ♥ NY

I recently returned from spending a week in New York City with my parents, who are wrapping up their LDS mission there. I loved visiting them and exploring more of New York City. In my humble opinion, New York City is the capital of the is the center of so many things, and full of interesting things to do and see.

One of the highlights was attending a performance of STOMP. Stomp is performed by eight dancers / percussionists who make music with everyday objects like brooms, newspapers, garbage cans, and even the kitchen sink! I had to smile as four of the guys came out wearing kitchen sinks on a chain around their necks, making squeaking noises with the yellow dishwashing rubber gloves they wore and the water in their sinks. Another highlight was the music they made with metal folding that point my mother turned to me and said "I hope the kids in your Sunday School class never see this!" Having your class tap and bang their chairs like that would definitely be a teacher's nightmare, but it was sure fun to watch in a performance.

Another highlight was going to Harlem to hear a gospel choir perform. We stood in a long line with other tourists to get into the Sunday services of the Abyssinian Baptist Church, but didn't get in because of the crowds. Here's a photo of me in that line:

Instead, I attended a concert held on Wednesday morning by the Addiction Recovery Choir. I found it really fun and uplifting. When I first entered the chapel, they were having a testimony meeting, where people from the choir and congregation took the microphone and told about how the Savior helped them overcome their drug and alcohol addictions. Then, the preacher gave a sermon about Peter walking on the water, and how we can do things that seem impossible to us as we trust God and look to Him. Then came the wonderful music where they enthusiastically praised the Lord...some of the people even stood up and danced in the pews. They allowed photos and videos only on the last song. Here's a little clip of it:

My mother took me to see a graffiti park, which was pretty amazing. It's actually a working warehouse. One of the owners previously held a job of cleaning up graffiti in the streets, and as he painted over it, he felt badly because much of it had artistic value. So, he setup this place where people could come to paint on Saturdays and they vote about which paintings will be painted over. Here's a photo of me in front of one of my favorites there:

I also saw art at several museums. One of my favorites was the Frick Collection, which is a collection of the personal art owned by Henry Clay Frick, displayed in his 5th Avenue mansion. He was a powerful businessman who was once partners with Andrew Carnegie. A few years before he died in 1919, he had this mansion built for the display of his art, with the intention of turning it into a museum. He collected art that was "easy to live with", and I found that I enjoyed his taste. Some of my favorites were the paintings done by Johannes Vermeer, because of his beautiful use of light. Here's a photo of the beautiful indoor courtyard there.

One of my other favorite museums was the New York Transit Museum, which is housed in an out-of-service subway station in Brooklyn. You have to look carefully, in order to not miss the's what it looks like:

They have all sorts of interesting things, such as an exhibit on how they process all the money they receive from transit riders each day (about $9 million), and examples of all the historic subway cars. My favorite part was learning about how immigrants built the subway tunnels from 1900 to 1920. Much of the subways are just below street level and so they just dug up the street and created a tunnel below it. But, the parts of the subway that are under rivers or below hills were more difficult to build. While they were digging out the ones under the river, they had to pump in compressed air, so the tunnels wouldn't collapse. A time or two there was a weak spot in the ground above them, and the people and equipment would go shooting out like a geyser. It was dangerous, hard work and the immigrants only made a dollar or two a day. Some of them went on strike, but there were always other immigrants more hungry than themselves who were willing to break the strike, and so their wages never went up.

New York is one place where the stark contrast between the rich and the poor is very obvious, even today. Many of the people my parents know there work very very hard just to rent a tiny single room. They've commented on how the rich "grind the faces" of the poor there.

Anyway, the subway museum made me appreciate the subway like never before! I've always enjoyed riding the subways in New York, not only because it makes getting around so easy and convenient, but because it gives you a close up view of the amazing diversity of the people in New York City. Here are two videos that show some of the entertainers you find around the subway system:

Another unique experience on this visit was taking a tour of Diamond Alley kindly offered by Elder and Sister Smith, who are currently serving their 2nd mission to New York City. They showed us the basement shops where each shop owner only has 5 feet of display space, and so the jewelry is crammed in, and then took us to Tiffany's and Cartier's and all the fancy places on 5th Avenue, where they have the same jewelry, but with only one or two items per foot of display space. If you buy at the fancy places, you pay several times more, just for a different shopping experience and the name. We ran into a guy at Diamond Alley who saw Sister Smith's missionary name badge and then wanted to tell us about his near death experience. After coming back from that, he did two things:

1. Changed his name to James Bond (he even pulled out his stack of credit cards to prove that "James Bond" was his legal name, although he didn't mention exactly why he felt he needed to make this name change), and

2. made a commitment to go to Church every day, which he still does.

It was fun to chat with him. Here's a photo of my parents (on the left) and the Smiths at Rockefeller Center:

This trip, I took a walking tour of the historical portions of Brooklyn, which are beautiful. I was interested to learn that Henry Ward Beecher preached his anti-slavery sermons at the Plymouth Church here. When I went to visit it, it was full of people celebrating a Jewish holiday, so I believe it may now be a synagogue. Here a photo of some of the Brownstone homes:

Here are two of the views visible from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, where you can see the artificial waterfalls that have been on display this summer:

Lower Manhattan, with the artificial waterfall to the left:

Brooklyn has a huge park similar to Manhattan's Central Park, which was built by the same developers. It's called Prospect Park. I enjoyed walking through there, but it is so huge that found myself getting lost. I think that's a common experience, because they have several color coded trails that are supposed to help you find your way around. I happened to be leaving the park at the same time as a fisherman who had been catching and releasing bass in the lake there, and so he kindly lead me out of the park (and gave directions to several other people along the way too). Here are some of the things I saw there:

The Grand Army Plaza entrance to Prospect Park:

This guy was practicing his boxing moves in one of the tunnels under a street bridge:

Here's the boathouse, with a bride and groom getting photos in front of it:

People fishing near the boathouse:

Finally, I spent a day at the American Museum of Natural History, which is an amazing place. I walked fast to try to see it all, but couldn't. I loved seeing a meteorite the size of a Volkswagen, which they found in Greenland in the 1800's when an explorer noticed that the Inuit indians there were using metal tools, even though there were no metal deposits there. They lead him to a place where there were 7 or 8 fragments of a huge meteorite...the largest weighs 34 tons and sits on special reinforced pilings in the museum there.
They have so many amazing exhibits...from dinosaur bones to gemstones, to taxidermied animals and birds, to earthquakes and volcanoes, and exhibits on peoples and cultures from around the world. It made me think that if I ever wanted to home school my children, I'd just take them there every day!

I've visited NYC 5 times and spent about a month sightseeing there over the past two years, but still feel like I've just scratched the surface. It's a unique, wonderful place.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


This past weekend I had the privilege of travelling with my sister Suzy and her three young daughters to Moab, Utah to check out Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Suzy's husband Rick was originally planning to come, but was unfortunately required to work that weekend. We were disappointed that he couldn't join us, but Suzy and I decided to be brave and continue with our trip plans.

Traveling with very young children (ages 4 years, 3 years, and 3 months) was a fun experience for me. Children definitely travel at a different pace than adults. Sometimes their pace is slower--like when 4-year-old Debbie wanted to stop to pick up many beautiful pebbles along the trail to view Delicate Arch. Here's a photo of them there, with Debbie's shirt full of pebbles whose beauty I never would have noticed without her.

Sometimes children travel at a faster pace than adults, like when 3-year-old Anna wanted to run the entire way back to the parking lot from the Pine Tree Arch. (She and Debbie were well-rested and happy after spending an hour or so playing in the sand at the foot of Pine Tree Arch where we stopped for lunch. Suzy was kind enough to wait with the girls there while I made the rest of the hike up to Landscape Arch). Here's a photo of Suzy and the girls on the Pine Tree Arch trail. I think the other tourists we met along the trail were charmed by the fact that Anna brought along her blanket and Debbie brought along her of the tourists commented that he wished he'd brought his blanket too!

We visited Sego Canyon to see the petroglyphs (ancient Indian art on rock canyon walls), and Anna found that place to be very frightening. I had to smile at Anna's method of finding comfort...she had a toy rat that she clung to! I've never found rats to be very comforting, but she did. Despite her fear, she bravely held her rat in one hand and held onto me with the other as we explored the trails to see the petroglyphs, such as the ones below. (They do look kind of creepy, don't they?)

I was impressed by what a good, smart, and devoted mother Suzy is. She was handing out fruit snacks to any girls who were willing to go potty in an unfamiliar toilet. Some of those porta-potties are pretty scary, but the girls were highly motivated and so we didn't have any accidents! I was impressed at how she could get up in the middle of the night to nurse Lily Beth, but still have enough energy to go traipsing around Utah with three little ones in tow during the day. When the Moab store had only one tube for floating at the pool, and the girls were struggling to take turns using it, Suzy had the bright idea to put both girls in the tube together...with their 4 arms and 4 legs, they were a happy little octopus floating around the pool! Saturday was my birthday, and Suzy had the girls sing to me and present me with hand-drawn cards. Hearing those little ones tentatively sing the birthday song to me (they were just a little uncertain since they're relatively new to the birthday song themselves) has got to be one of the sweetest experiences of my life.

One of the highlights of our trip was going to the Bar M Wranglers Chuck Wagon dinner. Before the dinner, you can explore their very fun's a photo we got there:

They also have this funny cowboy cemetery called "Boot Hill". In case you can't read it, it says "Here lies Dead Horse Dave. Forgot to pack water. Wound up in the grave".

We enjoyed playing horseshoes there, practicing our steer roping, watching a staged gun fight, and then enjoying a lovely dinner and program. They even yodelled, which I love since my mother and my siblings can yodel (but I can't yet, so I especially appreciate people who can)! Here's a video of a yodelling song:

Other highlights of the trip were stopping for lunch in Green River and finding that we were there just in time for their annual Melon Days celebration. Here's a movie showing the fun train ride and toys that the girls enjoyed while we were there.

Of course, visiting Arches and Canyonlands National Parks was really great too. Here's one of my favorite photos from the trip. This is Mesa Arch, which is located in Canyonlands National Park. It's a little scary, because it has a 1000 foot cliff immediately below the arch.

Another place I loved was the Sand Dune Arch in Arches National Park.

Here's another of my favorite photos of Canyonlands.

Canyonlands actually has two rivers flowing through it--the Green and the Colorado--which both have created huge canyons like this. The two of them cut across the park until they join to form the shape of a Y. The part of the park that is in the top of the Y is called "Island in the Sky" because there are huge canyons on both sides of you. You can go right to the point where the two canyons meet and see a stunning view. Because the girls were tired when we got to that point, we took turns going there. Here's a photo of Suzy with Debbie on the Colorado River side of the view:

Here's a photo of Suzy with Anna on the Green River side of the view:

It's a beautiful place, and I thoroughly enjoyed the company!

Monday, September 15, 2008

One individual can change the world

I was recently inspired by a Wall Street Journal article about a shy, 80-year Harvard scholar named Gene Sharp. Mr. Sharp has spent much of his life studying non-violent movements, such as those led by Gandhi, the U.S. Civil Rights movement, and uprisings in Eastern Europe. Now, he is hated by Hugo Chavez and several other dictators around the world.

In 1993, he wrote a 90-page pamphlet called "From Dictatorship to Democracy". The Wall Street Journal writes:

" In his writings, Mr. Sharp teased out common principles that make nonviolent resistance successful, creating a broad road map for activists looking to destabilize authoritarian regimes.....This slim volume offers concise advice on how to plan a successful opposition campaign, along with a list of historically tested tactics for rattling a dictatorial regime. Aimed at no particular country, and easily downloadable from the Internet, the booklet has found universal appeal among opposition activists around the globe.

"Though he warns readers that resistance may provoke violent crackdowns and will take careful planning to succeed, Mr. Sharp writes that any dictatorship will eventually collapse if its subjects refuse to obey.

"He offers a list of 198 methods of nonviolent action, like the staging of mock elections to poke fun at problems like vote-rigging, using funerals to make political statements and adopting symbolic colors, a la Orange Revolution in the Ukraine. Less conventional tactics include skywriting political messages and "protest disrobings."

The article explains how his writings made their way around the world, were translated into at least 28 languages, and helped people resist tyranny in 8 or 10 various situations.

I find it inspiring, because when I see the horrible situation in which some of God's children find themselves, through no fault of their own--just because they were born into a country led by a dictator--I wish that something could be done about it. For example, one of my coworkers was born and raised in Zimbabwe. A few years ago, she and her husband were lucky enough to get visas to come to work in the U.S. The rest of her family stayed in Zimbabwe, and she's watched from a distance as they have been slowly starving, as their money loses its value, and as they've been intimidated and harrassed by government supported hoodlums. She's done what she could to help them, but with a dictator who abuses and suppresses the people, there hasn't been much she could do. As I've talked with her about the situation, I wished that I could do something about it, and have felt quite powerless.

So, I love this example of how a single individual has enabled others to throw off the shackles that bind them. It gives me hope.

Here's a link to the full article:

Unfortunately, you may need a Wall Street Journal subscription to view it. Or, I can email you a link that will allow you to view it without a subscription...just email me if you are interested.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Dirt bikes at work

Right across the street from where I work (the Triad Center in Salt Lake City) is a big parking lot, except for when they haul in tons of dirt and turn it into a BMX bike and motorcycle track for the big AST Dew Tour coming to town. It's been fun to look out the window and see the riders practicing.

Dave Terry, a coworker who is also a professional photographer, caught some fabulous photos of it all. Check them out here:

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Santa Cruz and Carmel-by-the-Sea

I spent last weekend checking out Santa Cruz, Carmel-by-the-Sea, and Pebble Beach...more places mentioned in the "1000 Places to See Before You Die" book, and places that are close to San Jose, where I happened to be attending the Unicode Consortium Conference (more about that in a later post).

It was a great of the things that made it so fun was that I rented a GPS that was pre-loaded with the location of attractions and restaurants and so forth, and so it was really easy to get around. I loved the Garmin GPS so much, that I bought one for myself when I got home! Yay! More adventures in store!

I flew into San Jose on a Friday night and drove to Santa Cruz that evening. The next morning, I drove along the Monterrey Bay area towards Carmel-by-the-Sea. The area is full of beautiful farmland...I liked seeing the rows of strawberries, artichokes, and cabbages, all being harvested by what looked like migrant farm workers.

I made it to Carmel-by-the-Sea in time for a walking tour offered by the Carmel Heritage Society. The tour was led by Kay Prine, a very spunky older lady who had grown up in Carmel. She informed me that she was in a hurry that day, because she was hosting her 69th High School reunion party that afternoon. The tour started at a historical house that had a museum within it. Among the exhibits were pictures of Kay herself, when she was a teenager in one of those cute, very modest, old-fashioned swimming suits. I enjoyed Kay...she led us around town like we owned the place...making the motorists wait for us as we crossed the streets. Here's a picture of Kay, showing us the box where the milk man left his deliveries.

Carmel is a very beautiful and quaint place. Here's one street where they have three styles of architecture right next to each other:

To maintain the beauty there, the town has very restrictive ordinances...some so restrictive that it is almost comical. For instance, you must have a permit to walk around the town in high-heeled shoes (probably because they don't want to be sued by people who trip on cobblestones). Because each property owner is responsible for the sidewalk in front of their place, there is a great deal of variety in their sidewalks...some of them are very artistic, others not. Here's a photo of one portion of the sidewalk that has embedded tile:

During the tour, some people wanted to join our group (of about 6 people), but Kay informed them that there were city ordinances restricting the size of groups walking around town, and so they were not invited to join. She told us about the rule that no graves can be in the town, although they did make one exception for the town dog named Pal. She showed us the city park where they used to have problems with homeless people sleeping until they decided to turn on the sprinklers there each evening. Clint Eastwood lives in Carmel and was once the mayor. I read in the local newspaper that there's currently a controversy about street lights...they are prohibited in Carmel, but one organization (it was a community center, I believe) wanted to install street lights for people's safety when they left evening events. The city council reluctantly agreed to allow the lights, as long as they were on only once or twice a month, and only during the time people would actually be leaving the building. So, all that beauty does have a dark side....I appreciate it on a short visit, but am glad I don't live there.

Here's a photo of the Biblical Gardens that surround one of the local churches. Each plant has a label with its name and the scripture reference where it is mentioned:

Here's another shot of some of the beautiful architecture there:

Next I headed to the Carmel Mission (officially named San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo Mission), which was founded in 1771 by Junipero Serra, who also founded several other of the California Missions. It's one of the most beautiful missions I've seen. Here you can see the fountain in the large courtyard (now used as a school) with the Church in the background.

The Church was being used for a wedding, so I wasn't able to go inside, but I did enjoy watching the wedding party organize themselves for the grand processional. Here's a photo of the cute little flower girls:

I was very interested to see that the graves in the cemetery were lined with dinner-plate sized sea shells. Here's a shot of the graves next to the chapel.

Next I made my way to Pebble Beach, which is a world famous golf course that sits on a little peninsula on the south end of the Monterrey Bay. You can pay a $9.50 toll to drive on the "17 mile road" that takes you around the golf course, past the huge mansions, and along the beautiful coastline. Here's a shot from that:

Santa Cruz is a big surfing town, with some of the best and biggest waves in the U.S. They have a surfing museum, housed in a cute little lighthouse, that explains how surfing was introduced to the area from Hawaiians in the 1930's. Originally, they used enormous (like 15 foot long) surfboards, and gradually moved to smaller and lighter ones. It looked like the development of a wet suit was a big breakthrough, because the area can be quite cold. Here's a photo of the surfing museum:

I had thought of signing up for a surfing class, which is scheduled around the time of the tides, but the surf school website said that there were no good times to surf that day...the optimal tides were all during the darkness hours. I did get a chance to watch some people surfing, just off the cliff from the surfing museum, and that was quite entertaining. Here's a video of a guy surfing...I wasn't much of a cameraman on this, but at least it will give you a sense of it.

I enjoyed visiting the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, a famous amusement park right along the beach. Two of its rides--the Giant Dipper roller coaster and a Carousel--are National Historic Monuments. It was a kick to ride them....I'm not usually the screaming type, but I found myself screaming for most of the Giant Dipper ride. If you were on one of the outer horses on the carousel ride, you could grab a ring from machine that held them out towards you each time you went around and try to throw the ring into a target (a clown's face) a little further around where you'd be rewarded with lights and buzzers if you hit the target. Here's a view of the Boardwalk from the nearby Municipal Pier.

Sunday I went to church at the Santa Cruz ward, and enjoyed all the friendly and welcoming people there. I also spent some time visiting the campus of the University of California at Santa Cruz, where the buildings are nestled into the middle of a redwood forest. As I was walking around the campus, I happened to see a man standing on his head, talking to two young women who were taking notes. I snapped this quick photo (sorry it's so blurry...I was working fast to capture the moment):

The girls noticed me and so the guy came down from his headstand to say hello. I asked if he was a yoga instructor (since the only adult I know who stands on her head much is my yoga instructor), but he wasn't. He's a recreation management anyway, you don't see that every day!

One of the fun surprises of the trip was to stumble across a Buddhist monastery (the Taungpulu Monastery) as I was driving through the forest on my way to Big Basin Redwood State Park. There was a big sign with two arrows--"Pagoda" one way and "Monastery" another. That triggered my curiosity, and so I parked my car and quietly walked up the steep hill towards the Pagoda. Here's what I found--not just one, but two gold domed pagodas:

One of them was a shrine that you could enter, with a fancy doorway.

This sign was on the shrine door:

The shrine was locked, and I didn't see a single soul. Walking around the quiet and peaceful place reminded me of the Buddhist friends I made in my kung-fu teacher was a Buddhist monk and several of the top students were his disciples. I respected them a great deal and tried to approach the pagoda at this forest monastery with respect also.

When I reached Big Basin Redwood Park, I went on a walking tour with a volunteer ranger. She was very good and entertaining, and had us eat huckleberries, role play as if we were trees during a storm, and so by the end of the tour, all 10 of us or so were good friends and knew a little about each other. I liked seeing the enormous trees named the mother and father of the forest (one of them was as tall as a football field and was 70 feet around at the base!). Here's a little video about a very interesting hollow tree that is still growing:

From there, I drove on a narrow road with lots of tight curves back towards San Jose. I stopped at this viewpoint, and some nice motorcycle guys took this photo for me:
That evening, I visited the missions at Santa Clara and San Jose before returning my rental car. It was a fun and relaxing weekend.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Swimming in the Great Salt Lake

On Labor Day I had the fun experience of taking a swim in the briny waters of the Great Salt Lake.

The morning started out a little was raining and hailing, but my sister Suzy's family and I had been planning a trip to Antelope Island (a large island in the middle of the Great Salt Lake) for a long time, so we decided to go despite the weather.

We first drove across the 7 mile causeway between the island and the shore, and saw many beautiful shore birds. Next we drove up the hill to the visitors center and trudged through the rain to go inside. They had fun exhibits and movies. One of them showed how each year on the last weekend in October, they use horses, cowboys, pickup trucks, and helicopters to round up the 700+ Bison that live on the island so they can vaccinate them and sell some of them off. It sounds like quite an event...the public is welcome to attend.

Another highlight of the visitors center was the aquarium filled with brine shrimp, with magnifying glasses you could use to check them out "up close and personal". With the exception of people out for a swim, brine shrimp are the only living things in the lake. They give the lake its sweet (not!) scent, and are harvested and freeze dried to be used as fish food. I think some of the eggs might also be harvested to be used for kids science nephew Parker grew some brine shrimp for one of his. Here's Debbie checking out the shrimp:

The girls loved the stuffed animals in the gift shop, and weren't sure they wanted to let them go. So, we took a photo to remember them by:

Next we headed to the Garr-Fielding Ranch that is on the island, which is where some of the LDS Church's cattle herds were kept back in Brigham Young's time. The ranch has had several owners since then.
Driving along the island is a lot like being in Yellowstone, because you see lots of animals up close, but it is less crowded. Because of all the lightening the island attracts (I'm not sure why), there are frequent fires there and so there are not many trees to block your views of the animals. At one point, we were stopped watching an antelope and another car went around us...somehow that spooked the antelope and it started running directly in front of the car. Man...that animal can run fast! We were thankful it avoided being hit.
Another time we were watching an antelope (I'm actually using the wrong term here...the official name for them is "pronghorn") when it suddenly froze in place as it noticed a coyote approaching. Once it realized the coyote wasn't after it, it relaxed and started eating again. Here's a photo of the two of them:

The Bison roam free on the island, so sometimes they cross the road in front of you. Here's one up close:

The Garr-Fielding ranch was really fun. They had a museum filled with the objects of everyday life on the ranch. Suzy commented on how funny it felt to see stuff like this in a "museum" because we had played with this kind of stuff at our family ranch as children. They had pulleys that reminded me of swinging on the big thick chain hanging from the pulley in my dad's shed. The girls loved playing on a little tricycle, sitting on a saddle, and roping their dad Rick.

Outside, they had these fun barrels and sawhorses where you could practice your roping skills; the ground was too wet for us to use the rope outside, but we enjoyed the practice animals anyway.
When we checked out the real horses and chickens, Debbie was quite confident that the horse she was petting really, really liked her. We toured the farmhouse nearby, and were glad that we didn't have to sleep on the bed with a straw-filled mattress, held up by a rope lattice. We saw a huge spider in the ranch hand house that was built next to an ice house, and didn't stick around long since we're not big spider fans. One of the rangers let us borrow his binoculars to check out the great big owl sitting in the top of a tree near the house. Because it was a holiday weekend, they had special ranger programs which we enjoyed--making rag dolls, dipping strings in hot wax to make candles, and having the ranger's 10-year-old son make us each a prairie diamond ring out of a nail.

We went to another point on the island where people were flying their model airplanes. Here's a shot where you can see a model airplane on the lower left, a bison, and the city in the distance:

Finally, when it had warmed up enough, we headed to the beach for swimming. The lake is at the lowest level it's been since the 1960's, and so we had a really, really, really long walk from the car to the water.

Because of the morning's rainstorm, the Dooley's hadn't brought their swimming suits, so they found flat rocks to skip along the surface and only waded in the lake. Or, to be more precise, they *intended* to wade in the water, but the girls ended up swimming in their clothes, and going home in their underwear. To avoid embarrassing the girls when they get to be teenagers and discover that photos of them in their underwear are on the internet, I've censored the underwear photos. Instead, here's a pre-swimming photo of the Dooley Family at the water's edge:

The lake is about 12 times saltier than the ocean, so it's quite easy and fun to float. You can see all the brine shrimp swimming around you too, many of them bright orange or white so they are clearly visible. Swimming with them around you is a little bit weird if you think about it too much, but not a problem if you don't think about it! Here's a snapshot of me floating:

After swimming a bit, we left the water and made the long trek back across the beach to our car. The walk was long enough that the water evaporated off our clothes and bodies, and we noticed salt crystals forming on our legs and on the hair of our arms...wild. As we walked, we saw that someone had used a stick to write several letters in the sand, 10 or so feet apart from each other. "It's a secret message!" I said, and Debbie was very interested to discover what the secret message could be. We couldn't figure it out, and so she and Rick created a secret message of their own. I won't spoil it here...but it will be waiting there for you to decipher if you ever decide to visit Antelope Island!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Timpanogos Storytelling Festival

This weekend I attended the Timpanogas Storytelling Festival, and it was FABULOUS! There's something magical about finding yourself totally engaged and immersed in a's like watching a movie, except better, because the images are playing directly in your head.

One of my favorite tellers was Kevin Kling. He's a young man from Minnesota, who could be a stand-up comic. He had us rolling in the aisles as he told about his experience of running a marathon without bothering to train for it. He told about going to a baseball game with his buddies, and them making a bet about whether a particular teenage spectator a few rows away would lick the last of the nacho cheese directly out the container when he finished the chips. They bet money on it, and then other guys nearby wanted a piece of the action, and then the bet spread throughout the stadium like wildfire, with all eyes, even the baseball players, eventually on the "young man of destiny"...who did happen to lick the last of the cheese out of the container to a great cheer from the crowd!

I loved Kevin's fun sense of humor, but then was also touched by his humanity. He is disabled, born with an incomplete left hand and arm. Later, he was in a motorcycle accident that severed the nerves going to his right arm. In a tender, moving, and humorous way, he talked about being in a coma, how frustrating it is to be disabled, and how various people react to him. He said that once something is broken...whether it be our arms or our hearts or other parts of our lives...the truth is that that broken part will never be the same again. But, as we work around our broken parts, we find that we develop in other, unexpected areas, and that we still have the opportunity to choose what we'll be.

I loved Rex Ellis, a black man who had worked at Williamsburg Virginia and at the Smithsonian. He told stories from his childhood, about his attempts to woo a girl in his 4th grade class, and about how he came to God (when as a child he broke the screen door for a second time and was sure his father was going to kill him!). During one hour, he played on his banjo, preached a sermon on liberty that had been given to slaves before the civil war, and then shared an African prayer. He told a true story about a slave who escaped by being nailed in a wooden box and getting mailed to Philadelphia...he told the story by relating the dialog between the slave and his mother as he planned the escape. His mother thought he was crazy and didn't want him to go. He reassured her, and told her that the first thing he would do when he got out of that box, was sing a song for her. And, the history books show that that's exactly what he did.

Carmen Deedy is a little spunky Cuban woman, who grew up in the American South and used several accents...Cuban, Appalachian, refined Georgian lady, and she told hilarious stories about her life there.

Two of the storytellers were also mimes....Motoko is a young Japanese lady and had us laughing our heads off at the stories she told as she mimed the actions. Antonio Rocha is a Brazilian of African descent who told several Africa-related stories...I was amazed at his ability to move like an animal so much that you believed it as he told his stories. One of his stories used no words at was a pantomime of a fearful flier on an airplane, and was hilarious.

There are too many tellers to tell about, so I'll just have to say that I highly recommend this event. It's held in Orem every Labor Day weekend. It's going to be my new Labor Day tradition....maybe I'll see you there sometime!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Pergola Party

This past Saturday my good neighbors, faithful home teachers, and kind family helped me finish a project I've been putting off for a couple of years...they helped me put up a pergola in my back yard.

The word "pergola" isn't familiar to many people, so first I'll post a photo of the finished product, so you'll know what I'm talking about. (And, I just realized that I've been mis-pronouncing the's not per-GO-la, but PER-guh-la).

I am so appreciative to all the people who helped!!
From left to right, there's
  • me,
  • Pete and Lee Skolmoski (who live across the street and are the best neighbors I've ever had--they are always looking out for me. Their wife/mother Danielle is taking the photo),
  • McKay, Spencer, and John Downs. John is one of my home teachers and also a great scout leader to my nephew Parker. McKay and Spencer are in the Sunday School class I teach, and always know the answers and are helpful and respectful to all in the class.
  • Steve Baldridge, the one holding the level, is my other faithful home teacher. Steve was the driving force behind actually getting this project done. I mentioned it to him a few months ago, and he took the responsibility to organize a crew and get the work done...I was the one dragging my feet!
  • Tracy and Parker Schofield, my sister and her son. Tracy took the initiative to plan and cook a beautiful breakfast for all the people who came to help.
  • Suzy and Rick Dooley, my sister and her husband, who live nearby with their three daughters. Suzy, Rick, and Tracy helped me slowly assemble the pergola piece by piece over the past few years, until we got stuck at the step that required 8 people to place the top on the pillars.

I also owe gratitute to LaVon Driggs, who borrowed a truck to help me haul the pergola from Costco to my house when I bought it a few years ago.

Here are a few more photos from the day.

Here's a photo of my neice Mallory (seated, Tracy's daughter), with Anna, Lily Beth, and Debbie (Suzy's daughters).

Here's Parker and McKay showing off their "gravel slinging" skills:

Here are my faithful home teachers:

Here are the wives of my faithful home teachers:

Here's Steve, Pete, and Tracy, planning how we were going to do this.

Thanks to everone who helped! Now I just need to figure out what I'm going to do with this area. I've thought of growing grapes over the pergola, or maybe roses. Or making a rock garden. Or, painting the cinderblock fence with a garden scene of a fountain and potted plants and putting a few real potted plants around. If you have any ideas or suggestions, I'd love to hear them!