Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas!!

Hope you each had the best Christmas ever. I'm so grateful for this time of the year where we get to celebrate all the things in our lives that are so wonderful... for family, friends, and for every special gift we have been given in this life. Thanks to everyone for being so amazing and for all that good you bring into this world! I know that mine would not be as good with out you in it! I hope that we can each bring something special to the new year to make it one of a kind!

Merry Christmas and Happy 2009!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Who is YOUR Role Model?

Of all the notable people in the world, this quick process will help you see who you really look up to in life. It's pretty cool and totally worked for me! Try it without looking at the answers......

1)  Pick your favorite number between 1-9

2)  Multiply by 3 then

3)  Add 3, then again Multiply by 3 (I'll wait while you get the calculator....)

4)  You'll get a 2 or 3 digit number&.

5)  Add the digits together

Now Scroll down ..............

Now with that number see who your ROLE MODEL is from the list below:

1. Einstein

2. Nelson Mandela

3. Abraham Lincoln

4. Helen Keller

5. Bill Gates

6. Gandhi

7. George Clooney

8. Thomas Edison

9. Jessi Hales

10. Abraham Lincoln

I know....I just have that effect on day you too can be like me.... :-) Believe it!

P.S.  Stop picking different numbers. I am your role model, just deal with it!!!!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

So Much To Be Thankful For...

I just have to say that I love Josh Groban's Noel Christmas album. It was so well done and seriously just makes me so happy! I think that in so many ways this song it helps me remember what Christmas is all about. I've included it in my playlist if you want to listen to it...

(on Josh Groban's Noel album)

Somedays we forget
To look around us
Somedays we can't see
The joy that surrounds us
So caught up inside ourselves
We take when we should give

So for tonight we pray for
What we know can be
And on this day we hope for
What we still can't see
It's up to us to be the change
And even though we all can still do more
There's so much to be thankful for

Look beyond ourselves
There's so much sorrow
It's way too late to say
I'll cry tomorrow
Each of us must find our truth
It's so long overdue

So for tonight we pray for 
What we know can be
And every day we hope for
What we still can't see
It's up to us to be the change
And even though we all can still do more
There's so much to be thankful for

Even with our differences 
There is a place we're all connected
Each of us can find each other's light

So for tonight we pray for
What we know can be
And on this day we hope for 
What we still can't see
It's up to us to be the change
And even though this world needs so much more

There's so much to be thankful for

Monday, December 8, 2008

Family, Fun, and Florida

I beg forgiveness for my lack of posting in over a month - my "traveling four of the last 5 weeks" excuse is finally over - and I'm back to update on those weeks I was gone. We'll start with Thanksgiving...

First, I have to say how much I think my family is totally rad! It doesn't seem to matter where we are or what we're doing, we still manage to have one heck of a good time. A few years ago my parents went to Florida for their anniversary and bought a Marriott time-share condo in Orlando. We decided right after they came home that we need a family trip to visit the condo... and other things in Orlando (of which there is no shortage!). Thanksgiving provided an awesome opportunity. We flew out on Saturday, November 21st from three different airports (Oakland, Tucson, and Salt Lake). We were able to arrange our flights so that we all had layovers in Vegas; we flew as a family in the back of a Southwest plane from Vegas to Orlando. I had only ever flown (that I remember) with my mom and with Julie... we had never flown anywhere together as a family - this was a real treat!

(I would like to say that the flight made us crazier than normal... but that would be lying. ;0)

It was especially fun for us to spend some time getting Caylee familiar with each of us. I think she had a pretty good time, floating from person to person - and always back to her Mama!

We got checked in to our resort, slept in the next morning before we started our real adventures at DisneyWorld's Magic Kingdom. To enter the Magic Kingdom, you had to take either the Ferry or the MonoRail over this huge lake. It's a lot bigger than DisneyLand, with many of the same rides. I loved the other parks, but I think the Magic Kingdom will always be my favorite! All totaling, I think we came to this park at least three separate times over the next six days... sometimes just after dark (the perfect opportunity to see Cinderella's glittering castle!). We probably went on Space Mountain three or four times each... and of course riding in the Mad Hatter's Tea Cups with Dad is ALWAYS an adventure (we often hear "I've never seen anyone go that fast!!")!

Monday we decided to conquer the Animal Kingdom. This was the perfect combination of a zoo and theme park. When you enter and exit the park, you walk past this huge man-made hand-carved Tree of Life, so named because of the many creatures carved into the trunk. You could probably spend hours and not find all the different carvings! We took a wild African safari, were chased up a Matterhorn-like Mountain by a Yeti (coolest ride!!), and went back in time to find an Iguanodon while trying to avoid the Carnitaurus (that's us in the front row of the jeep... probably our second or third time on the ride - yes, it was just that scary!).

EPCOT was our Wednesday adventure. (EPCOT is an acronym for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow). We were able to travel through eleven different countries, sampling foods in several of them. We also rode Soarin' Over California (one of my favorite rides ever!), went and chatted with Crush from Finding Nemo (this was really cool - live animation that we figured was somehow connected to read facial features from the guy doing Crush's voice!), and explored the Seas - an aquarium with dolphins, manatees, rays, and all kinds of fish. Caylee discovered that she really likes fish!

Friday we went and explored Disney's Hollywood Studios... for a very short time. This park is probably only 1/4 the size of the Magic Kingdom, but I swear it had just as many people there! Mom, Julie, Kimmy, and I rode on Hollywood's Tower of Terror while Dad and Spencer took Caylee to meet the Little Mermaid. After that we went over to watch the Muppets in 3D... and then tried to leave but we got caught in the Block Party (parade featuring all the Toy Story characters riding a bunch of HUGE alphabet blocks). We stayed for the Block Party, did a little shopping... and then decided we were done.

Aside from visiting each of the DisneyWorld parks, we decided we wanted to get a glimpse of Florida too. On Tuesday, we packed in the van and drove out to the coast. It took us an hour an half to get there (give or take); Julie, Kimmy, and I used our pent-up creative juices to entertain ourselves in the back of the van - we used three carabiner lanyards, and some other odds and ends, to latch together a clothes-line/pulley system that we could probably make some money off of given the entertainment value... (I don't think Kimmy has recovered.)

On the north end of Cape Canaveral (where Kennedy Space Center is located) there is a wildlife refuge. We drove out through some coastal wetlands and identified so many types of birds that I think we'd be hard-pressed to remember them all! Caylee was simply loving this day; she was walking all over the place and pointing out all the fun things to see!

I consider myself a fan of birds. I just really like them... a lot. When we were kids, Mom would take us girls out to a Waterfowl Management Area out on the Sacramento River Delta and we would see all kinds of birds that we considered novelties. Growing up near the city, seeing seagulls and pigeons on a regular basis was not really that cool... but the birds like egrets and herons were fascinating to us. Little did we know that the "seagulls & pigeons" of Orlando are birds like egrets and herons... They were EVERYWHERE!! They would scavenge food from anyone willing to feed them, but they were also elitists. They didn't like popcorn - they liked the meat from our turkey legs! This bird was hanging out in Tomorrow Land a the Magic Kingdom; it flew right over us at one point and if we'd been with someone much taller they would have been kicked in the head!

Going out the Wildlife Refuge was fun because we got to see these birds that were everywhere in large quantities. Just driving around Orlando and then going out to the refuge, we saw tons of egrets, herons, storks, cranes, spoonbills, ibises, anhingas, grebes... They were seriously everywhere!

In addition to the many numbers of birds that we saw, there were these huge yellow spiders, alligators along the banks, and wild dolphins swimming in a canal! We're also pretty sure we saw a manatee swimming in the canal!

I think I could travel to Florida every winter. It was beautiful there - warm, but not too hot or muggy. Out on the wetlands there were trees covered in Spanish Moss. Everything was green... simply beautiful! And there were literally lakes and ponds everywhere! Arguably sunsets are "best" everywhere... just different depending where you are. But Florida staked it's claim near the top of my "best sunset" list!

On our way back from the Wildlife Refuge, we stopped at a boat dock to put our feet in water that was "Atlantic". The water was SO cold! It was funny because people always complain about the Pacific Ocean being cold... but this water sure felt a lot colder! Caylee put her feet in and then was contorting every way possible to keep her feet out! It was so cold, but still peaceful, blue, and beautiful!

Thursday was awesome. After spending the morning exploring the parts of the Animal Kingdom we'd missed, we found the only restaurant open (Boston Market) and everyone ordered their Thanksgiving Dinner! We took it back to the resort, ate, played some games, and then finished our Thanksgiving back at the Magic Kingdom.

I feel very blessed that I get to spend so much time with my family. Not everyone has that ability, and not nearly as often as I do. I think that the best part about getting older is having the flexibility to take advantage of the opportunities I am given in my life. Even with all those opportunities, I still wish we were able to have them more!

Florida was amazingly fun and beautiful. I haven't always spent Thanksgiving with my family, but I know that it really is the best way to celebrate a day of thanks. This was our first BIG family vacation of this kind, but it is supplemented by so many other moments... small adventures, quiet days at home... it doesn't really matter where we are, my family manages to create the best memories for everyone!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Work and Play

This last weekend marked my first "real" business trip ("real" means I wasn't just staying at a hotel in Salt Lake City) - with many more to come. I joined the events team in August and I will be doing a lot more work-related travel in the coming months. Our first trip was to Anaheim, California where corporate put on a training session for the field distributors. We were staying at the Hilton Anaheim on Convention Way and the training sessions were held for 1300 people at the Anaheim Convention Center.

The wildfires in Hollywood and Montecito started sometime early Saturday. By lunchtime, the sky was full of thick brown smoke and ash was raining down on the walks outside. It didn't affect our work at all, though most of us had headaches by the afternoon due to the amount of smoke in the air. It was supposed to be 90 degrees that day, with 70+ mph winds. It didn't feel that hot, but it's possible that the slightly cooler weather was attributed to the smoky blanket that obscured the sunlight.

The Disney parks were completely covered, and when we went to California Adventure the next day, most of the indoor areas still smelled heavily of smoke. In the picture below, just to the right of Hollywood's Tower of Terror ride at California Adventure, you can see the orange glow that the fire reflected up into the smoke.

It's sad that such a tragedy had to occur, but in it's own way the smoke created an eerie kind of beauty. Below is a picture of the Anaheim Convention Center Arena... I have another meeting in February 2009 in that Arena.

I loved looking out at the Arena at night. I could see it well from my hotel room. I also got a great view of the Disney parks...

About 30 corporate employees went down to help out with the event. We all stayed at the Hilton Anaheim, which is probably one of the nicer hotels in Anaheim, excepting Disney's Grand California Hotel. I'd forgotten how many palm trees there are in southern California... and how pretty they are!

After four long, hard days of work, our company treated us to a short day at one of the Disney parks. Most of us went in to California Adventure. I think my favorite rides are Soaring Over California (I get really nostalgic... this ride is just a peaceful, happy ride!) and the Bugs' Life show. It's much smaller than Disneyland, but has a lot of really beautiful areas - including the backside of the GRR (Grizzly River Rapids); the waterfall there looks like something in the high Uintas!

I spent most of my day hanging out with my friends Roberth and Brandon. We had some good times touring the Mission and Boudins factorys - there was also some pretty serious competition on the new Toy Story ride... highly recommended!

Right before we left to go catch our airport shuttle at the hotel, we decided to do a little last-minute shopping. At one of the stores we stopped in we ran into Woody from Toy Story; he was working the cash-register scanners. Woody got his hands on a tape gun, and began holding people up with it. Brandon, unfortunately, got shot by the tape gun... but I succeeded in swiping the gun! (Truth: Woody did not nicely hand me be tape gun and motion for me to use it against him. Well... maybe...)

I wasn't going to buy anything... I'm going to Disneyworld with my family in a few days and I didn't think that I needed anything from California too. But then I saw this painting, by Joe Yakovetic and for some reason it really hit me. I love it! He has some others that are amazing too! I really love his Sleeping Beauty painting (see if you can find Philip kissing Aurora in the clouds... it's way cool!).

This is the wave fountain in the main courtyard at California Adventure. I'm a sucker for fountains and waterfalls and this one is really pretty.

The trip was a lot of fun, but I think everyone was really happy to be going home and sleeping in their own beds that night. The whole trip was also a learning experience for me - not just as far as event planning goes, but on the whole I learned a lot of things about people, about myself, and about how much I really miss certain parts of California and really don't miss a lot of others. I'm excited to have more opportunities to see different things as I travel with work... it's kind of a life-long dream, to travel and see new things, and I know that every trip will be a new adventure!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Wilde Zoo Day

Laura and I had planned to meet and go to the Hogle Zoo before it got too cold this year. We met on October 18... one of the last warm days of the year. It was fun spending the day getting to know Brett, Sarah, and Jake better.

Ok, so it's no big secret that I love going to the zoo. This was my second weekend in a row to go to a zoo (Tucson and then Hogle) and yet I still think the animals are awesome and take tons of pictures. Below are a few of my favorites... We got to watch the elephants eating their afternoon snack. I think it's fun that they make them work for their food. :0)

It was lunch time at the giraffe compound too, so they all came inside to eat. We got some really nice views... They're a lot taller when you're standing 5 feet away!

Penguins make me happy - it's just part of what they are. At the risk of promoting it way too much, penguins make me much happier after reading Evil Penguins with Kimmy when she was out here in September. This was one of the few times I've actually seen penguins in the water... and not on TV. I posted this video below because they really look like they're flying under water. Way cool!

Around 4pm, Laura and her family needed to head back home. Jake and Sarah had completed their zoo trip on the playground near the entrance and then we all took a train ride right past the bison on the hill. We'd had a lot of fun! Thanks Laura for bringing your family to share such an exciting day!

After saying goodbyes, I wandered around the area for a bit longer; I wanted to see if I could catch a better glimpse of my favorite animals. As dusk was approaching, many of the animals were a lot more active than they had been earlier in the day. Below are some pictures I got of the snow leopard and the tiger. Pretty fun stuff!

Confession: I know that I've moved away from collecting as many wolf knick-knacks as I used to, but I still think that they are my favorite animal and probably always will be. I spent a lot of time outside the little area where a lone she-wolf lives. Not long after I got there, she came down and wandered around. This was a really cool experience for me because I'd never been really close to a live wolf and had really only seen them on TV. She even howled a little while I was there... It was so cool that I probably looked really weird just sitting out there by myself grinning like a little kid - no shame! I also got a neat video, but it was being weird loading... But this just shows you how close she was getting. :0)

More of my wanderings consisted of my visiting This is the Place / Heritage Park for the first time since I'd moved to Utah... if not ever. It was really cool and quite different from what I expected. The monument area felt a lot like a church park, but there was Halloween stuff everywhere. Two days later I got to come back with my ward for Family Home Evening to visit the Haunted Village located further up the hill. It was a lot of fun... and I was proud of myself for not screaming (tho I did get pretty freaked out by the hag that followed me around for a bit).

Another thing I was excited to see was the monument that was talked about in General Conference at the beginning of October, called Eyes Westward, which is a replica of the statue that stands in Nauvoo facing east over the Mississippi River. I think it's awesome that they put the same monument on this end of the Mormon Trail as they did on the Nauvoo end... the bookends to the journey west.