Friday, February 27, 2015

A Quick Look Back at Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day came amongst a flurry of events. Just for the sake of Family History, I want to record a really fun day!  My gift to Richard was a ticket to The Great Divorce, an afternoon play at the University of Utah based on one of our favorite books by CS Lewis which our terrific study group has recently read and discussed.

His gift to me was a fabulous array of flowers which included 45 gorgeous red roses for each year we’ve been married, 17 pink roses that represent our children and their spouses and 27 yellow roses in honor of our grandchildren (counting the one on the way in April).

Here’s a look at my “Surprise Master” with all those gorgeous flowers!

 

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This is what 45 long stem roses look like on their own. How he got all those flowers into one vase is beyond me!

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The day was made complete as we celebrated with my wonderful sister Lenna whose husband passed away nine years ago. Since all the restaurants were jammed, Rick ordered a lovely dinner in and we enjoyed that together and then went off to the Symphony. It was a delightful evening with an outstanding entertainer who sang Barbara Streisand songs, several of which she had written!  So sad that I didn’t get a picture of the three of us enjoying a great evening together!

Do I have an incredible husband or what?  I love that man SO much more than I did 45 years ago…and not just because he gives me flowers!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

From Benches to Birmingham and a Birthday to Bulgaria

Our church believes in allowing the members to work a little for the privilege of worshipping in a beautiful, clean ward building. The blessings are spread around to each of the three congregation who worship in our building so our turn comes to clean the building on a Saturday morning comes only once a year. Richard is having a lot more fun than he does when he tries this at home! Plus, he’s working so fast that he’s blurry! 

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Within a few hours we were on a plane to Birmingham, Alabama where we spoke to an outstanding group of parents and their kids. We stayed with the delightful family of the organizer who had a very unique living room. Yup, that’s a swimming pool!  It was all I could do to keep Richard from jumping off the balcony by our room into the pool.

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Our host was also on the board of the incredible botanical gardens in Birmingham which we enjoyed immensely!

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Elkhorn and Elephant’s Foot:

 

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We did a session with the kids on “A Secret Code” and “Making Decisions in Advance” and then another session with the parents that combined “Raising Responsible Kids” with “Keeping the Romance Alive” (because it was a Valentine’s Day event).

Scott, our organizer and his truly incredible wife Kelley, who did all the nitty gritty work(since Scott doesn’t have a phone) pulled off two first class events! This is the only picture I have of Scott as he carried out the centerpiece home for his wife. A nice reward so well-deserved!

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Scott escorted us to downtown Birmingham after the event.

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We were excited to see the Civil Rights Institute, which we enjoyed immensely! Having just seen the movie Selma (which we think everyone should see to get a glimpse of the events surrounding the Civil Rights Movement), it was especially poignant. Across the street was the famous 16th Street Baptist Church which was bombed killing four beautiful little girls and set off the firestorm at the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement.

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A BIG BIRTHDAY!

You only turn 12 once and we got home in time to celebrate that very special birthday with Eliza, Saren’s only daughter at the Grand America Tea Party. What fun!

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We watched a Jasmine flower unfold before our very eyes after it was dropped into hot water in a goblet which served as our centerpiece. It was a delightful hour!

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YUM! 

That night we went to a lovely Gala sponsored by One Heart Bulgaria, a Humanitarian organization that Eyrealm has been supporting for many years. Even though it was her birthday, Eliza chose to go with us since she helped her brothers to organize the 8th annual Loosli Children for Children Concert this year which raised a nice contribution for this organization. These wonderful people have done remarkable things to support orphans in Bulgaria.

Saren has been supporting this great cause ever since she did her missionary service in Bulgaria and worked in the orphanages they support. She even traveled back to Bulgaria when she was 7 months pregnant with the twins to help.  It was a thrill to see these beautiful women who were all missionaries in Bulgaria and have supported this terrific organization through the years.

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They presented the Looslis with this lovely painting (I think for Plovdiv):

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And they also gave Eyrealm this beautiful momento in thanks for contributions to One Heart:

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Lots of beautiful things start with B including “Benches, Birmingham, Birthdays and Bulgaria!”

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Raucous, Rainy Weekend with Josh and the Pothiers

 

Visits to AZ are always exciting!

Josh has a new third grade class that we haven’t met yet at the American Leadership Academy  so we went to pay them a visit. Josh is a much-in-demand, teacher extraordinaire so it’s always fun to meet the kids and see him in action. We forgot to take a picture that day but Shawni had visited earlier and this is the picture she took of those terrific third graders and their stellar teacher:

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Shawni and Dave left for China before we got a chance to see their beautiful new home so we decided it was time to get out there and see it, see them, get warm, play a little tennis and soak in some sun! 

Joke on us!  It never quit raining the entire time we were there. We finally got tired of waiting for the sun so the tennis fans of the family splashed out on to their good neighbor’s court with old rackets and balls and had a raucous time playing tennis!

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We also had a grand time along with about a thousand other people (literally) at a pretty spectacular new place called Top Golf. You have to see it to believe it!

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Josh joined us and we had so much fun!

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On Sunday we loved being with the Pothier’s and their friends at church. It’s a dynamic ward with so many terrific people.  Shawni leads the singing in Junior Primary and had the kids beating the rhythm with chop sticks. Here they are holding up their scriptures:

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When we got home the Pothiers had their weekly family meeting which was conducted by cute Lucy, who kept things moving along splendidly!

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We loved hearing the kids and their parents express their feelings about what they had learned in church and their love for each other. And we had a chance to tell them how proud we were of the grand way they had embraced living in China. It was a meeting full of light and love!

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After the meeting, Shawni got out that famous camera and took some memorable shots with us with the fam. It was a magic moment in time!

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LOVE these awesome kids!

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AND THESE INCRDIBLE KIDS TOO!

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This Sunday just happened to be Super Bowl Sunday!  We didn’t realize that when we bought out tickets and our flight was due to leave just as the game started.  Luckily, that was one hour after the Pothers were to meet their neighbors who lived in their neighborhood in China. Grace and their daughter Rebecca had become best friends. They wanted to move to the US and thought that Arizona would be a good place to settle after the Pothers bragged about their good schools and great weather.

Shawni had prepared dinner for them and left goodies at the house that she had arranged for them to rent and the excitement was pretty high by the time we got to the airport to greet this cute family. The mom was from Hungary and the Dad was a US citizen but hadn’t lived here for 20 years. Rick and I were glad to be there to hold the sign so they could hug their dear friends when wild jubilation erupted as they emerged from the concourse!

 

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Packing the car with kids, luggage and their new friends, Shawni dropped us off at our gate and then drove them to their new home. Because our plane was an hour late, we got to see the first half of the game on the TV at the gate. But we missed the breathtaking last 30 seconds and had to watch it on the news (it appeared quite a few times) when we got home.  

It was a weekend to remember!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Cavorting in the Caribbean with Fascinating New Friends

How lucky are we to have been able to speak on two Caribbean cruises in the past two months? It will probably never happen again! Our cruises were entirely different however. One was on a small ship called The Sliver Sea, full of young presidents of their companies with whom we stopped at private Islands for tours and parties. The other was on a giant Royal Caribbean ship that held 3000 people where our group was mostly older, more “experienced” grandparents where we did six presentations. 

The first cruise had a plethora of educators on board and almost every minute at sea was filled with fascinating keynote speakers and workshops. Since we were doing several workshops ourselves, we didn’t get to hear as many of the others as we would have liked.

There was a deep-sea diver who showed us unimaginable creatures that he had experienced under the sea. Elizabeth Smart was also there and was interviewed by a famous DJ from LA who put her at ease in talking about her horrendous story. She was there with her husband who is a terrific guy from Scotland and she is pregnant and due to deliver soon. We already knew many of the details of her horrible experience with her kidnapper, but we didn’t realize how much she is doing for other children who have been kidnapped or abused. She is working with several organizations who are rescuing children from sex slave rings and is doing a lot to champion kids who have suffered sexual abuse!

A most interesting 29-year-old man who was born and raised in Iraq gave one of the keynote speeches and a workshop. What he told us that really going on in that region was astonishing! With a Muslim dad, Jewish mom, a high school education in a Catholic School and a PHD from Oxford, his credibility was pretty high! He had graphic pictures showing what has and continues to be happening in the Middle East. He was a fabulous photographer and showed us in vivid detail, why the Iraqis hate Americans and why ISIS considers Americans The Great Satan.” A few really bad mistakes in judgment by inexperience American troops have rippled through the region and the result is not pretty.

He lost his wife and child in the war in Iraq as well as a brother and brother-in-law in grizzly events since then. Instead of being bitter he is committed to educating the next generation in Iraq about democracy and the unknown world of real Americans which those in the middle east have no clue about. He says that the current generation is lost. Too much “water under the bridge.”

Funded by a powerful foundation he is spending most of his time in Iraq educating Jr High and High School students with his unique knowledge of both cultures.  What he told us about what is really going on with ISIS was stunning! He had interviewed many ISIS recruits….mostly kids from Europe who were “down and out” and ISIS offered them money and a cause to live for. As unbelievable as it sounds, recruits are flocking to fight for ISIS. Thousands showed up after the bombings in response to the first beheadings, thousands more flocked to ISIS after the newspaper attack and the events that followed in Paris and thousands more probably will probably show up after this stunning new event of the brutal killing of the Jordanian pilot. Authorities on the news today said that they think that ISIS has about 50,000 in their army. It seems that they don’t mind losing a few thousand of those minions here and there! What an incredibly scary world we live in!

That was a bit of a tirade but let’s go from terror to the sublime beauty of the Caribbean! First of all, I have to say that there was some very nice food….some of which sadly remains on my body. Sad smile 

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But oh the beauty of the earth!

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And what fun we had in the mud baths and the waterfalls on our shore excursions. Guess who had the most fun of all?

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The picture below shows our great new friend George, who has just rescued those sunglasses he’s wearing for a young Korean man who was on his honeymoon with his wife. We had lost his prescription glasses in the force of the waterfall and couldn’t find them.  George wouldn’t quit until he retrieved them. In talking to the young couple afterward, we discovered that they lived in Manhattan…..about two blocks from our son Eli and his wife Julie. They had just moved to NYC for school. What a small world! Needless to say, we got those two young couple connected!

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We also met a lot of great new friends as we enjoyed our dinners on the cruise with a different group every night.

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What a grand time we had learning the stories of these remarkable people! Each one has had such an interesting life story!

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We loved our cruise managers!

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These big guys are pretty amazing!

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What a memorable experience for us!

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