Monday, September 27, 2010

Rim 2 Rim

My first Rim 2 Rim experience: September 25, 2010. This is how it will go down in the record books. Or at least in my record book. I'm writing it now while the details are fresh and before any fish stories have time to develop. My perspective might be different in a few weeks or months. So here we go...

This is our crew, plus one extra Chuck. Chuck is the guy on the far left. He's Billy Rowley's brother in law. The little older man peering through next him is some random grand canyon tourist, who coincidentally also happens to be named Chuck. When we told Chuck to turn around and smile, both Chucks obediently followed directions. We were cracking up.

Next to Chuck 2 is Karalyn, Billy's sister and our driver for the weekend. Thanks so much, Karalyn. You were amazing! Then we have my cousin Karrie, Uncle Dale, cousin Luke, a fellow teacher at Stapley with Dale, Katie Vermillion (who I now count as good friend and practically family since we hiked the GC together), my cousin Matt, me, our good friend Billy Rowley, and Ryan. Nine hikers, one driver, and one extra Chuck. What a fun group we had. The drive up in the van was a blast, as was our Friday night pasta dinner at the North Rim lodge.

Ryan and I at the top of the North Rim lookout on Friday night. It was just breathtaking looking at the vast Canyon and thinking about the journey we had ahead of us.

Karrie, Matt & Dale on the North Rim Friday night, Dale's 64th Birthday. What a great tradition he started years ago, hiking the canyon for his birthday weekend. We were so excited to join the group this year. As we talked on the way up, Dale said that each year there are a few new faces in the group, and this year it was me, Ryan and Katie hiking the Canyon for the first time. Everyone else had been at least once before, and some many, many times.

We got up at 4:30 on Saturday morning, and started our hike at 5:45am. Karalyn took a picture of the whole group at the starting point, the North Kiabab Trail head, and I'm hoping to steal it off her blog as soon as she posts it. Luke took off as soon as the picture was taken and we never saw him again until the South Rim. This was Luke's 7th time doing the Rim to Rim, and he was talking about maybe attempting to beat his best time of 6:10 (which is completely insane). The rest of us started out pretty much together, but then paired off in smaller groups very quickly. This is the first picture we took on the hike. We'd been hiking for about 45 minutes or so and the sun was finally up. For the first 30 minutes, we were hiking with our headlamps in the cold and in the dark.

Ryan and I both commented that the North Rim of the canyon looked much different than we what we expected. It was so much more green and lush with vegetation. I guess we're used to all the typical GC pictures of pure red rock cliffs. It was really beautiful.

The sign post labeled this waterfall Roaring Falls. I loved listening to the sound of the water as we hiked. It is one of nature's finest sounds. At this point, most of us had split up and were hiking in small groups of two, but we met up with Katie & Matt at the water stop right after this. From there and for the next several miles, Matt, Katie, Ryan and I hiked together. Because this was our first time on the trail, Matt was our unofficial "trail guide" - and a mighty fine one at that. He showed us the detour to Ribbon Falls, a spectacular waterfall off the main trail. It was so worth it to go see, and the picture below doesn't do it any justice. I'm not sure how tall it is, but I'd guess maybe 75 feet or so??

After hiking down from Ribbon Falls, you have to cross the river to get back onto the main trail. Being the good hiker that I am, I followed Matt's lead and took off my shoes and socks. I tucked my socks inside my shoes, and started accross, trying to follow Matt. Matt asked if I wanted to toss him my shoes, but I said, "Nah, I got it." Big Mistake. The river was flowing pretty good, and on my next step, I stepped on a slimy rock and lost my balance. In my weak attempt to save my shoes from the water (which was 100% unsuccessful), I nailed my shin and toe on a rock and proceeded to take a bath. I may or may not have let a harmless four letter word slip out as I quickly pulled my dripping shoes out of the water, but then again, no one will ever tell...what happens in the grand canyon, stays in the grand canyon :)

As I was lamenting about my shoes (I obviously didn't want to hike with wet feet), Ryan took a picture of my leg for posterity sake. Yep, it's gonna leave a mark. Thankfully, I followed Dale's pre-hike directions pretty well and brought extra socks, so at least I had a dry pair to put on inside my wet shoes. And they were double wall socks, so they stayed relatively dry, all things considered. But before I put them on, I added a little preemptive duct taping to my feet in hopes of heading off any potential blisters from the wetness. I was partially successful. The parts with no duct tape did not fare as well.

After spending about 45 minutes at Ribbon Falls and fixing up my feet, we took off and saw Dale & Karrie coming down the path. They were doing good and we all started treking again. One thing I especially admire about both Dale and his son, Matt, was that they said hello to every single person we passed. Every single one. And I'm certain we passed at least 1,000. Really. "Hello." "Morning." "How you guys doing?" That is such a great trait.

Just one of the many beautiful water spots along with the trail...

At Phanton Ranch, which is at the bottom of the canyon about 15 miles into the hike and at about 2600 feet (per our GPS watches), we stopped for lunch, an icy lemondade, and a little foot breather. When I took my shoes off, Ryan again thought that a picture of my highly professional blister treatment merited photo documentation. Sadly, on my left big toe (where there's no duct tape), you can see the blister brewing. After that, I taped them all up and I'm so glad I did. They didn't bother me at all the rest of the way, although that big toe blister was HUGE by the end of the trek.

When we got to Phantom Ranch, we'd been hiking about 5 hours and, per Ryan's GPS calculations, we were on pace to finish in about 8-ish hours. Ha ha ha...little did we know. Katie and I were talking about what a fantastic hike this was and that the weather was so amazing and beautiful. We were both saying that this seemed pretty easy compared to all the talk we'd been hearing on the way up. Yada, yada, yada. Ya...well, I guess when you're hiking in the cool early morning, with a breeze, in the shade, largely downhill, that newbees like us might make such foolish statements.

On the trail with Katie & Matt. Ryan taking the photo op from the rear (not my best side).

(Matt, Kelli & Ryan)

Crossing the bridge from the north to the south, over the Colorado River. It was so cool to see all the river rafters going down the river and remembering some incredible rafting trips from my youth. It made me excited to do that again someday.

The Colorado River

Dale & Karrie caught up with us at Phantom Ranch again, and then we hiked together again for a bit after the bridge. It was right about here where all the fun really began...I think they called it the Sand Box. The path started slightly ascending and was much harder to traverse as it was all soft, brown sand. Add to that the lack of shade at the bottom of the canyon and the high temperature, and the hike hardness factor just kicked up a few notches.

The "Corkscrew" followed the Sand Box, which was a series of never ending switchbacks, none of which seemed to be helping us gain much altitude. Just traversing back and forth across the canyon toward Indian Gardens, a place whose very existence we were questioning. That was one long, hot stretch. Ryan ran out of water about 30 minutes before we finally ended up there. I started getting a stomach cramp, and remembered that I needed to eat more salts to overcome that. So I muscled down another big handful of trail mix and it went away.

Katie and Matt were hiking at a little faster clip than us, and they got a couple of switchbacks ahead of us during that stretch. But as we rounded one corner a mile or so from Indian Gardens, we found Matt sitting down taking a short rest on the side of the trail. He was beat red and looking a little ragged. I asked if Katie took off, and he said, "Oh ya." So Matt joined us again and said that Indian Gardens wasn't too far away. Ya, right.

Just keep swimming...Just keep swimming...
Dory from Nemo was stuck in my head.
I think Ryan took this picture right about then. Not my finest moment.

Thankfully, we finally saw the sign that said "Indian Gardens .3 miles."

I kicked it into high gear and walked with a vengeance toward my next milestone. I found it mildly amusing as I made my way into Indian Gardens to see so many fellow hikers strewn across benches, laying on the ground, finding any flat place they could to extend their legs and soak up some shade. I also felt so bad for some hikers who were clearly struggling as they approached. I watched as one dad carried 3 packs - his pack along with the two packs of his two teenage sons - as the boys both literaly limped along with their walking sticks. They did not look like they should have been on that hike.

When Ryan and Matt walked up, Matt found a spot under a tree and took a nap. I asked Ryan if he was about ready to head out after a few minutes, and he said, without hesitation, "No. I need another five or ten." So I put my legs up on my bench by the water faucet, ate my apple and granola bar, and visited with fellow hikers refilling their Camelbacks. One guy came back three times and kept asking if it was spewing lemonade yet. On the third time, I assured him that it was indeed and he smiled broadly, took a big swig, and said, "Yep, tastes like lemonade to me." We can all dream, right?
When we were finally ready to make the final ascent to the top - only 4.5 miles to go and 3300 feet to climb on tired legs - Matt said goodbye to us and continued to rest. We later learned that Karrie and Dale found him there at that same spot. They all hiked out together.

Ryan and I were both doing pretty well, both appreciating strong lungs and hearts, but we were tired along with all of the other Indian Garden refugees. Ryan said his feet were on fire and that he felt like his shoes had shrunk. I'm sure they were swollen as his toes were pushing up against the end. I didn't really have any specific aches to complain of, just a sore toe and generally tired legs.

Ryan and I hiked together for a short bit after Indian Gardens, then I gave him a couple of Motrin for his sore feet, gave him a kiss, turned on my iPod and said I've got to keep hiking. It's kind of like running. You have to keep moving at your own pace or you get out of your groove. I just had to get out of the canyon. We met up one more time a few switchbacks later, and I asked him how he was doing. He smiled and said, "Just putting one foot in front of the other." No kiddin. At that point, every hiker I passed looked like they were doing the same thing.

(trail shot on the south side).

The last couple of miles seemed like an eternity, but the beauty of the ever-approaching cliff top kept me going, switch back after switch back. I stopped to rest a few times during that final climb, but mostly just kept pushing up and up. As I rounded one switchback with a little over a mile to go, I found our friend, Billy, taking a rest on the side of the trail. I was happy to see a familiar face, although he was struggling too. His legs were cramping up pretty bad, so he was taking short rests every couple of switchbacks. I offered him some nuts, but we both laughed since neither of us could bear the thought of eating another bite of trail mix or jerky or swigging another gulp of warm electrolyte drink. I almost tossed my cookies when I ate my last couple of warm gummy electrolyte chews. Seriously, I'm not sure I've ever swallowed anything so vile. But Billy was in decent spirts and said we were getting close. He rested a while more and I kept moving. Up and up...

Only a few minutes after that, I ran into Chuck, Billy's brother in law, coming back down the mountain to help Billy out. What a good man. I'm not sure you could have paid me enough to go back down after I made it to the top.

I made it out in 10:47, and was happily greeted by Luke (who finished in some crazy time like 8:10, Katie, who finished right around 10:00, and Karalyn, our driver). It was so awesome to be done! Ryan came up about 25 minutes behind me, and then Billy about 30 minutes behind him. We all went up to the ice cream shop and indulged in Dreyer's ice cream cones while we waited for the rest of our group.

Luke, me and Ryan at the top of the South Rim (end of the Bright Angel Trail). They say it's only 24 miles Rim to Rim, plus whatever the Ribbon Falls detour was (less than a mile I'm sure), but both my GPS and Ryan's GPS registered 26 miles and change (both within a tenth of mile of each other), so we're really not sure how far it was. Whatever it was, it was far. And we did it. We proudly joined the Rim 2 Rim Club, whose company we share with so many of my cousins and uncles and friends who have traversed many, many miles in the Great Grand Canyon. This was our first, but it won't be our last. As hard as it was, it was so worth it. I'll definitely do it again.

(the deer we saw by the car as we loaded our packs).

Probably my favorite part was waiting at the top for Matt, Karrie & Dale to surface. We could see them about a half mile or so down, and watched them traverse the final switchbacks on their way to the top. When Matt made it up, we all cheered, and then one of our crew said, "Matt, you're such a good son to stay back with your dad and make sure he made it out." He chuckled and said, "Ya, that's what we'll call it." We all cracked up.

Then Dale & Karrie rounded the bend and we all let out huge cheer. They were all grins as we met them at the top of the Rim.

Dale threw away his hiking shoes and socks after the hike - really - and said he's officially done. This was his last year. He said that he's never been more excited than he was this year, that he'd never trained harder, never been more ready. And this was the hardest it's ever been for him. It took him 13+ hours. His said it's an omen that he needs to call it quits. But we didn't take him too seriously since he said he was done last year and the year before too. We told him that he couldn't quit at 64, that 65 was a nicer milestone to end on. We'll see. If this was, indeed, his last year, then I'm even more honored to have traversed this final Rim 2 Rim with him than ever. He's an inspiration!

Here's our motley crew at the top of the South Rim. Happy,tired, and glad to be alive! What a great trip! Thanks for the memories!

(P.S. We showered up at that nearby campground after the hike, ate some quick dinner, and headed home at 9:00. We pulled into the driveway in Mesa at 12:45 am and crashed hard. Sunday morning greeted us with incredibly sore muscles. At church, you could tell who had hiked as we were all doing the GCS - "Grand Canyon Shuffle.")

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Big One

He's the one.
The love of my life, my best friend.
He's the guy I love to date, the one who loves to stay up late and watch movies.
He's a music guru, a concert lover, a weekly temple-goer, an athlete, and the head honcho at his company. He's an amazing dad who tries so hard to fill the gap when I'm away. He's my confidant. My forever.

And this weekend, he's my hiking partner too. In two hours, we'll be on our way to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Tomorrow is the big one - the day we've been looking forward to for one year. We're doing the Rim 2 Rim tomorrow: 24 miles, north to south, in one day. We've been running all year, doing stadiums at Mountain View, going on long hikes. We have our day packs loaded, our camelbacks ready to fill, our extra socks and duct tape in case the dreaded blisters emerge.

I hope we're ready. Neither one of us has ever hiked the big one before, and this will be a record distance for me. I'm pretty excited. Maybe a smidge nervous, too, just because it's a new experience. But mostly just excited. My Uncle Dale, whose birthday is today and who orchestrated this whole hike, is a veteran GC hiker. He's been doing the Rim 2 Rim for his birthday for the past several years. He's going, along with me, Ryan, my cousins Matt, Luke and Karrie, our neighbor & friend, Billy Rowley, his sister and brother in law, and two friends of Dale's, Steve & Katie. Ten of us riding up together, 9 hikers, one driver.

I can't wait.

So here's to little e-toast to us: may we be ever so safe, may our ipod mixes be awesome, may our feet be blister-free, may our trail mix and beef jerky taste extra delicious, and may this weekend be one to always remember!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Happy 5th, Bud!

Everyone always says it: "I can't believe my baby is ____. They've grown up so fast." Well they always say it because it's true. They do grow up so fast. Too fast. Any my little man is no exception. In less than an hour (I'm blogging late), it will officially be Easton's birthday. September 19th.

Ryan took the picture above tonight at LJ's Pizza. We took Easton there for the lunch buffet last month when the girls were in school and the kid scarfed down so much pizza and salad I couldn't believe it. He must have loved it (and the soft serve cone they bring you after the meal and the special attention he got being one on two with mom and dad for a lunch date) because that's where he requested we go for his birthday dinner. He's been talking it up all week. And he seriously cracks me up. Easton knows that Rowan doesn't like pizza, so today when I got home and we were getting ready to head out, he told me that I needed to get a babysitter for Rowan because she couldn't go. When I asked him why not, he just matter of factly told me that if she wasn't going to eat pizza, she couldn't go to his birthday dinner. So funny. Thankfully, Rowan compensates for the love loss on pizza with her true love: salad. So she filled up on salad and garlic bread (and the soft serve cone) and topped it off with some toast at home before bed - her night time crutch to get her through 'til breakfast.

None of the other kids had been to LJ's before and it was pretty much a huge hit with all of them. Afton's plotting to make it our regular Saturday night family dinner date. We'll see.

Anyhow, Easton's been asking me how many more days until his birthday since around Easter time, so for him, tomorrow can't come soon enough. But since I just got back from my girls trip to Cali around 4:00 today and knew I wouldn't be able to swing a party tonight, and since tomorrow is Sunday, our birthday celebrating will be a family dinner with his cousins (Easton's request), chocolate cake and presents. He's five, so I'm sure that tomorrow's celebration will be all that he hopes for. They are so easy to please at five. As long as his cousins are there, he has treats to eat and a couple of good somethings to unwrap, we should be golden.

Aren't these guys awesome? I had a blast on my trip, but I missed my peeps so much. They didn't disappoint on arrival, either. The non-stop talking, rough housing, and just typical Saturday kid-ness was in high gear all afternoon and night. When we were driving home tonight after dinner and a quick trip to Home Depot, the volume was extra extra loud in our crowded car with four over-tired but still hyper kids (we had a new BBQ crammed in the back). All four were double buckled in the middle seat of the suburban, Rowan was "touching" Afton and Easton was making everyone crazy giddy with his funny one-liners. It was just so dang loud. Ryan just turned to look at me and I met his glance. He smiled, gave me that knowing look, and said, "Welcome Home." I hadn't missed a beat. And at that moment, really, truly...I couldn't think of anywhere else I would have rather been. These guys are my world.

Happy Birthday, Buddy Boy. You are our caboose, my baby, my big 5-year old wonder. You melt my heart and keep us laughing. Your smile is contagious and your eyes light up my world. I hope your day is great tomorrow, Bud, and that this next year is your best ever!

I love you too much!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

New Personal Best

I'm no cheetah.
I'm no gazelle.
I did run a personal best today on my four-mile day.
True, I'd still be left in the dust if I was running with my lightning speed cousins like Willy or Ryan R., but at a 7:57 mile pace for a four mile run, I'd be in the top 5% for women in most races (except for Boston, of course). Sure, most races are longer than four, but I know I can push it for longer. I know I have it in me. I was pretty stoked.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, running is so mind over matter. Yesterday at work, my friend Richard and I were talking about running. He was telling me that he ran a 7:40 on his morning route, which is huge for him. I told him that I never run sub-8:00 miles on my jogs, that I pretty consistently run between 8:20 - 8:35 on any run 4-5 mile jog. My 10k pace has been closer to 8:45 and my only half marathon was at 8:58 pace.

Up until the past month, Richard's average 3-mile time had been 8:30 -8:45. Then one day, he decided to push it, and he ran sub 8:00. Just like that. Just because he decided to. And now he runs sub-8:00 every day.

So I decided yesterday that today I could do it to. I just decided. Just like that. I'm going to run faster. My time will have a 7 in front of it, not an 8. I told Ryan my goal last night, just for extra encouragement and accountability.

And just because I decided to - because I told myself I could, I did. I ran a 7:57 for four miles, my personal best, and I felt really great. My heart rate even stayed under 160 the whole time.

Amazing (for me). Mind over matter. I can do hard things. I can run faster than my mind usually wants me to, faster than I've let myself believe. My lungs and heart are strong. I'm stoked to keep pushing it and see what I can really do.

Boston is Here!

I'm an aunt again - for the third time in three months! My Brown family sister-in-law's have been busy pumping out the kids this summer, that's for sure. Boston Cole Stoker is the latest addition to our fine family. My fabulous SIL, Jayme, delivered him via C-Section last Thursday afternoon and we finally got to meet him at Banner Desert Hospital on Saturday night when we got back from our ward campout. The baby had been breach for the past month, so they had the C-Section scheduled in case he didn't turn. Plus, the ultrasound measurements told the doctor that he was going to be really huge (but he didn't end up being too huge - only 8 lbs. 6 oz). Even though he finally turned the day of the C-Section, Jayme opted to go with the C-Section anyway due to his projected size and the fact that her labors are usually 30 hours and awful. It turned out to be a really good thing, too, since the umbilical cord was wrapped tightly around his little neck when he came out. What a blessing that he arrived here safe and perfect!

As you can see, he's pretty stinkin' cute. He's got his brother Grady's face if you ask me, but I know they change all the time so who knows what he'll look like in a week. I'm sure that Boston's three big brothers will be a big help to Jayme as she adjusts to life with four boys!

With the arrival of Boston, I now am the proud aunt of 11 nephews and 5 nieces. (Nephews: Bryant, Tanner, Tallin, Tate, Trey, Cohen, Grady, Boston, Chase, Gavin & Dax; Nieces: Randi, Avery, Lainey, Jolie, & Eva).

Lucky Me!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Harris Park Ward Campout

Camp Lo Mia.
September 10-11, 2010

We came.
We ate.
We performed.
We laughed and laughed.
We ate.
We camp-fired.
We night hiked.
We roasted marshmellows.
We movie-ed.
We played cards.
We stayed up too late.
We camped.
We slept (sort of).
We woke & cooked.
We saluted the flag.
I cried.
We ate.
We played.
And played...
And played...
We ate some more.

It was all good!
A little over a year ago, I was called to serve as the Ward Activities Director in the ward. It's been a really great calling so far. When people ask me what I do, I usually reply that I'm in charge of the fun. Sometimes it seems like a lot of work (like during the week leading up to an activity), but it's also really rewarding. On the drive home, I was thinking how great it was that our ward had this experience. I know it's one that our family will always remember. My mom and dear friend, Nettie, above, were such an amazing help on this huge activity. I would have been dying without them. My mom was my sounding board for the planning, my co-shopper, my #1 kitchen help, my right hand woman. Thanks a million, mom! Nettie & Steve Horvath were such great helps too. They are always right there in the thick of service, helping to the end. I so love that about them.

And I owe a huge thanks to so many other people for their help too. To our great cooks: Spence, for hauling up his awesome cook trailer and heading up our fabulous outdoor cooking. Craig & Luann Pulver, for spearheading our dutch oven cobblers Friday night (man, were they good!) and setting up our Cat Eye Trail Friday night. Deron Horne, Barry Shelley, Doug Steiner & Steve Horvath deserve a huge thanks too for helping with our breakfast feast. Thanks to Connie & Annie too, for all their extra hands in the kitchen. And one final big shout out to J.R. & the Berrey crew for setting up our late night movie theatre Friday night, helping with the final cleanup and driving us all around camp on the ranger. We really appreciate you!

I wish I would have taken more pictures, but I was running the show and in the middle of it all for much of the time. I didn't get a single picture Friday night. Dang it! Our variety show was a hoot. I purposely didn't call it a "Talent Show" because we wanted everyone to participate in some way, whether or not they felt like they were sharing a talent or not. We had acts of all kinds. Skits, karate displays, joke telling, songs, dances, piano solos, fiddling, a puppet show, stand up comedy, etc. It was really great. I was the MC and also proudly played the role of "Walking Duck" in the Brown Family skit called called "Little Stones." We were an Indian tribe, each being chastised by Big Brave (aka Ryan) for being late to our first day of Brave School. It was silly but everyone laughed, so I guess that's the point. Maybe someday we'll reenact our little number for the big screen. I better not throw away our homemade construction paper feather headbands, just in case.

Deron, Spence, Barry & Steve, cooking up some mighty fine sausage & bacon. Our morning feast also featured pancakes with homemade buttermilk syrup, strawberries & whipped cream, and eggs with green chili and cheese. So dang good. We ate and ate and ate.

I also didn't take any pictures of our morning flag ceremony, but we did a little patriotic tribute in remembrance of the 2,997 people who lost their lives in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Since I happen to have a solid connection with our devilishly handsome ward scoutmaster (yes, I mean Ryan), I asked him to get a couple of his scouts to present colors and lead us in the pledge. It was all very official, and of course, I teared up as the boys in uniform marched the flag up and posted colors. We were all bundled up in the chilly Saturday morning of September 11th, 2010, nine years after the tragic attacks, watching our fine scouts proudly carry our country's flag. We had a word of prayer from our good Bishop, sang God Bless America, and then I read a short summary of the four plane crashes and the casualties that resulted. I was all choked up as I read (no surprise) and recounted my memory of 9/11/01. I'm sure we all remember where we were that day when we heard the news. I know I do. As I shared those feelings and memories, I was again reminded to be grateful for the life I have and the freedoms I enjoy.

After breakfast, we played games. We had a three-legged donut relay. Above is Brooklyn Hughlett being carried by Hunter Nielsen. I'd say the carrying method is probably against all three-legged relay rules, but we let it slide. It was really funny watching the ward members run and then scarf down their donuts with no hands.

Lily Berrey & Cassie Thompson eating their donuts.

Bishop Uncle Jim & Rowan were partners on the Blue Team

Rowan was laughing so hard she could hardly eat her donut.

Chandler Hughlett & Marisa Nielsen teamed up in the race.

Amanda Horvath & Reagan Rowley

Liam Stuart & Garrett Rowley (the little guys), and Riley Colvin & Dallin Horne

We had a basketball relay too. Here's Roxane Udall, Barrett's piano teacher, taking her shot. It was fun to see so many adults joining in the fun too.

Here's Afton & Samantha Hopkinson dribbling down the court

Then we played a good ole 7-inning game of kickball and had too much. I think those of us adults who played might have had even more fun than the kids. Bishop Uncle Jim and Deron were on my team, but we lost by a handful. Ryan was on the winning team, along with Dallin Horne & a few other heavy hitters (I mean kickers).

After all the games, people hiked and played cards or just sat around and just enjoyed the morning. Then Spence cooked up some tasty hot dogs and we feasted one final time on dogs, veggies, and chips before cleaning up camp and heading home around 1:30.

It was such a great weekend. I was dead tired and my feet were screaming by the time we headed home, but it was all worth it.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


I was feeling extra patriotic yesterday evening. After we got home from the cabin and scarfed down some quick dinner, Ryan hitched up the trailer and we loaded up the kids in the back. I drove slowly through Harris Park while Ryan and the kids and one of his scouts took turns jumping in and out, collecting all the flags posted earlier that morning by the scouts.

As we went up and down every street, I couldn't help but feel grateful. Flags were proudly waving from the yards of so many of our neighbors. I felt instant gratitude for the freedoms we enjoy. Sure, it's frustrating - maddening in fact - thinking about the state of our government, the corruptness in politics, and the ills of our society at large. Sometimes I feel like I have to shut out the news and the talk radio just to stay sane. Yet I'm pretty sure that still, despite these serious imperfections in our government, there's still no other place I'd rather live.

I'm free to travel. Free to worship. Free to bear children - however many I want, free to speak, free to work, free to learn.

Last night as I funneled the kids through the shower factory, Ryan got a phone call from an old mission companion. He served his mission in the Philippines from Jan 1991 - Jan 1993, so it's been a long time since he's been back. This particular companion is a Phillipino, never married, and has been working in Saudi Arabia for the past 11 years. He found Ryan on Facebook a few months back and they have reconnected a bit since then. His former mission companion was in the States visiting family and another mission companion in Utah. He called last night to visit with Ryan and to let him know that he was engaged to be married.

As Ryan recounted their conversation to me, my gratitude for the freedoms I enjoy and the country in which I live soared. His companion said that his mother finally gave permission for him to marry, at age 38, which apparently is a cultural custom. His fiance was his childhood sweetheart, and he sees her only a couple of times each year when he returns from work in Saudi Arabia to visit his family in the Philippines. They all live in relative poverty. After they marry, spend a couple of days honeymooning and then having a reception, he will return to live and work in Saudi Arabia and she will stay in the Philippines. While they both have jobs and neither can afford to let them go, the main reason that she will not accompany her new husband to live with him is that in Saudi Arabia, women are seriously oppressed. According to Ryan's friend, they cannot even go out to the store unaccompanied and they have no societal rights.

While I realize that at one point in our society the rights of certain races and of women in particular were also severely disadvantaged, and that cultures and traditions vary vastly across the globe, it is difficult for me to imagine living in such a time or place where I couldn't be as free as I am today. I've been thinking a lot about 9/11 too and what has happened in our world since the Twin Towers toppled. So much, it seems, has changed, and really not too much of it for good in my very humble opinion. The war and the shifts in political leadership have divided our great nation. Too many are living on the dole and much our society holds fast to the absurd notion that the world owes them something.

And yet...even with all of this...

I am still grateful to live in America. I am grateful that we can (and do) fly our flag. I am thankful for the right to vote and let my small voice be heard. I'm proud to be free and grateful for my agency and my life.