Sunday, December 29, 2013

Happy New Year!

Without question 2013 was a red letter year for our family! Some years we find comfort in the steady, predictable and routine patterns of day to day life. And other years prove to be a bit more exciting, colorful and spontaneous. As our latest orbit of the sun comes to a close, it has become clear that for our little family, 2013 was exciting, and colorful and many ways was full of some fantastic life fireworks. 

Both Burke and I have fond memories of fireworks from our childhood. As a boy, Burke and a band of unruly cousins, joined their Uncles and helped light, load and arrange an annual fireworks show out on the family ranch and often attended the fireworks in the town of Kanab, Utah. The legend states that Granddad would drive for hours (across state lines) to procure boxes full of fireworks in preparation for the celebration. Family folk lore is complete with heroic stories of young boys (and grown men) giddy with joy as they would systematically light up the substantial collection of fireworks and then directly following happily rush to put out brush fires caused by the said fireworks show they had created. Once everything was safe (and damp) Burke and his posse, under the direction of their Uncles, would light up a next round and the process would repeat itself until the boxes were all empty. Young boys being supervised, guided and encouraged to light up illegal fireworks...adolescence perfection!   

As you may expect, being a full time city girl, my exposure to fireworks fell more into the happy observer category. Growing up some of my fondest memories were spent sitting on a blanket at Sugar House Park on the Forth of July with my head tilted skyward "oooo-ing and aahhh-ing" at the colorful synchronized explosions sanctioned by the birth of our nation. I love the racing tall ones that explode with great force. I love the dainty lacy ones that simply take their sweet time. I love the colorfully connected loops and spirals that become more powerful when coupled together. And then....there is the big finale...endless booms. Lots of color. An excited display of combustible joy. 

We both love a good firework show. We love the anticipation, the careful panning, the shrieking sound followed by the expected boom. We love the sense of organized energy changing shape at rapid speed complete with color, volume and the tiniest bit of danger. We love it all. For our family, 2013 was nothing short of a personal and professional fireworks show. There was great anticipation. There was careful planning. There were a few surprising shrieks and handful of bone rattling booms. There were "ooooo's" and there were "aahhhaaa's." Exciting things were ignited and together we scrambled to quench a few burning fires. All in all a great deal of energy was exchanged and over the last few months and things in our world have taken a much different shape. If our 2013 were a firework display, either set in a red rock canyon or the grassy slop of a city park, here are some things we can easily celebrate:
  • Liz just about exploded while working on The Wallace Foundation Summer Learning Demonstration, a national learning model and partnership between Big Thought and Dallas ISD. While the third year of this five-city project was creatively satisfying and successful-it was chronically exhausting. While in NYC for meetings She was able to sneak in a little girls trip in-between meetings and enjoyed a few Broadway musicals and much needed girl time. 
  • Burke continued to light up his co-workers at AVANCE Dallas by applying his love for technology, problem-solving and people. This year he helped to secure a large technology grant for this non-profit organization and was essential in helping to identify solutions to some burning problems by applying his keen nerd-like skills and abilities.
  • We celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary with a surprise Amtrak train trip from Dallas to San Antonio where we spent a few days enjoying the Alamo, the river walk and a lazy road trip through the Hill Country. FIVE YEARS of Burke and Liz Rich is such a fun thing to celebrate.  
  • Serving in our church happily consumed a lot of our time and we came to learn and love in aways we did not think were possible. We spent time with great friends at museums, movie theaters, restaurants and in the comforts of our own little apartment. We laughed heartily and loved much. We were mentored and taught and inspired by a handful of kindred spirits who helped us spark new thoughts and ideas about what is pending and what is possible. 
  • On a hot and sticky fourth of July weekend, following a community pancake breakfast, and after a lot of prayer and conversation, we decided to leave Dallas and return to Salt Lake City. BOOM! BIG BOOM! BIG BIG BIG EXCITING BOOM in our life! This single decision set our world on fire! From July forward, our lives were full of bright lights and big decisions. The decision to move to Utah ignited the firework show of life and transformed our world from a box of fun loving sparklers to a pick-up size collection of roman candles. We re-connected with our Utah network. We sent resumes. We interviewed and interviewed and interviewed. We gave up the lease to our apartment, made arrangements with our employers and prayed our guts out. 
  • Leaving our Dallas friends and family was so so so hard as we truly fell in love with a Texas-size handful of people. We took one final road trip to Austin, Texas with our dearest friends to eat world famous doughnuts, enjoy some amazing art, feast on finger licking BBQ and marvel at the bats who live under Constitution bridge.  
  • In September, Liz was hired to work at Westminster College which really lit the fuse to our big plans. In a matter of weeks, we packed up our life and moved to back to Utah exactly three years to the day we arrived in Dallas. Our three day road trip home was reflective, restorative, relaxing and complete with a freak Wyoming blizzard, a frustrating flat tire, and a long conversation with AAA. The most humorous part of this road trip was both Burke and I being stranded in eight inches of snow and foolishly wearing nothing but shorts, tee-shirts and flip-flops (not our most brilliant moment but clearly one of our most memorable). All of our other clothes were either packed in the belly of our snow covered trunks or in our storage crate. While at the tire shop we engaged in a humiliating (yet humorous) conversation with a family of grizzle bearded hunters who questioned both our foot ware and our mental state for attempting this perilous journey home. Our camo wearing friends continued to ask us if we had ever been through Wyoming and then then strongly encouraged us to "hunker down til' this storm passes." Being raised in Utah, home of the greatest snow on earth AND being pretty anxious to just get home, we thanked them for their concern and confidently (or stupidly, I can't decide) drove white knuckled through an ice storm in a winding canyon praying the entire way until we saw the comforting mountains of our youth and we had finally made it home. WHEW! Talk about a firecracker kind of afternoon!  
  • Liz's job at Westminster College can easily be like the trusty package of fireworks you can purchase at the grocery store. You know the affordable shrink-wrapped collection that provides the perfect balance of celebratory excitement but remains completely manageable.  Nothing too big or flashy, but large enough to generate a few well-deserving "ooo's" and "aaahh's." This new position is such a welcomed change of pace and as the Director of Field Placement, Liz mentors education majors and works with local school districts securing opportunities for these students to complete their Student Teaching and pre-practicum teaching. Its a dream! She loves the energy and enthusiasm of being on a college campus AND the fact that she is not required to pay tuition, write papers or study for exams is a serious plus. The best part of this new gig is when she happily locks her office door around 5:00 p.m. each day providing a refreshing and much needed increase of time and energy which she is dedicating to home and health and hearth. 
  • In November, we moved into a darling red brick duplex in the heart of Holladay and we have been busy building our nest ever since. Having our own little place in a city we love has often made us see stars. We spent Thanksgiving at Jacob Lake Inn with just over 100 Riches. We chopped down a Christmas tree, roped and branded cattle, ate great food, and stayed up late re-kindled connections to aunts, uncles, and cousins. Felt so good to be home. 
  • December provided an opportunity for us to exchange our flip flops for snow boots, purchase snow shovels and buckets of ice-melter and remember the joy of scraping frost off of windows in the cold morning. The first snow fall brought back a childlike sense of wonder and the magic of the Christmas season took both of us by storm. 
  • Best blessing year to date was Burke landing a terrific job at a software company called Client Track. His office is located about five minutes from our new home and he could not be happier.  As their Quality Assurance Analyst, Burke will apply his love for technology and problem-solving as he works across all departments to ensure success for the end user. Great organization. Endless opportunities for growth. New and exciting niches to explore. This new potential makes our hearts sing and its clear that this opportunity, like a well choreographed fireworks shows, has been delicately constructed, carefully arranged and artfully prepared.
In the next few days, in both communities large and small, New Year's Eve fireworks will explode in the sky celebrating another year of life and learning. The last twelve months have been very exciting for our little family and we could not be more grateful or more happy for the love and support we have received from friends and family AND for the firecracker events of 2013. 

From July forward, our lives exploded with big opportunities for growth and thankfully the associated answers to prayers (both big AND super gigantic) have continued to rain down upon us in the most exciting and surprising and colorful ways. Many of these firecracker opportunities have put into motion a series of tender mercies which have burned in our hearts the importance of taking careful yet determined action to move life forward. Sometimes that required big leaps into the unknown and other times it's just maintaining the steady routines of daily life.  So, regardless of where you will be this New Year's Eve, if you are in a desert canyon, a city park or standing confidently in your own drive way, we hope you know you are loved! If you celebrate by writing your name in the night sky with a simple sparkler or standing with awe as life triumphantly explodes with the unknown magic of progress right before your eyes, please know that we believe in the you AND in the firecrackers of life. 

This year, we have learned that there is great power in letting God's love burn brightly in our lives. We were both recently inspired by a message provided by President Thomas S. Monson, a leader from our church, who shared "The future is as bright as your faith." 2013 provided terrific learning opportunities for us, each one bigger and brighter and bolder than the next. Overall, the Rich family fireworks show for 2013 was pretty terrific and we are grateful that you have been a part of it. We happily send you light and love and wishes for a very merry Christmas and a very bright New Year!

Sending our best!
Burke and Liz 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas 2013 in Three Christmas Carols

I love Christmas! I love the hustle and bustle. I love the twinkle lights decoratively and creatively hung on window, roof tops, bushes and scrubs. I love plates of sweet treats baked with love and carefully placed on paper plates covered with plastic wrap and tied with ribbons to be delivered to neighbors and friends. I love decorated Christmas trees. I love shopping for the prefect gifts for loved ones and friends. I love wrapping paper and ribbons….and scotch tape. I love the smell of warm wassail. I love any excuse to wear sweaters, scarves and drink gas station hot chocolate. AND I love Christmas Carols. Tonight, on Christmas day 2013 ends, as I sit in my PJ’s in my favorite chair basking in the warm glow of white twinkle lights reflecting on my holiday season, I think my Christmas 2013 can be easily be encapsulated into three of my favorite Christmas Carols. Here goes…

A few weeks ago, Burke and I attended The Lower Lights Christmas concert and one of the songs they played has continued to run through my mind. I’ve never liked this song until I sat in this concert hall and learned the story behind “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” This song, played in churches and concert halls across the globe, is based on a poem written by Henry Wordsworth Longfellow. In 1863, Longfellow penned the courageous words one night after grappling with the pain and grief associated to the unexpected and tragic death of his young wife, the death of his oldest son, which followed shortly, and the emptiness connected to a country slowly recovering from a civil war. On a cold bleak December night, Mr. Longfellow, braved the elements outside as a distraction from the lack of the expected Christmas cheer. While wrestling through the pain of being a broken hearted widower with debts, anger, loneliness, grief and overwhelming responsibilities of caring for his young family in what seemed an impossible situation, his doubts were finally silenced by the sound of Christmas bells. The think I like about this song, now that I understand the context, is the element of surprising hope. Church bells rung loudly and consistently and clearly on that Christmas day like they had for each day and week preceding the holiday. But for some reason the circumstances were right and those, perhaps expected bells had the power to resonate and reach this man. Sometimes the details in our life can become oh so tricky and complicated and painful that they can be deafening. I totally get where this guy is coming from. BUT, on this day…for this man…the sound of hope rang through his heart. The idea that he finally heard them indicates that his heart was finally ready to let go and begin the healing process. I’m sure, like in many communities, the usual practice of ringing church bells on a consistent basis did not stop even as he was wrestling with his mental, social and emotional demons…but he was just so consumed by the messiness of life that he could not engage with the idea of hope.  My favorite part is the last few words:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep’
The wrong shall fail
The Right prevails,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.

I’m a firm believer that life is full of seasons of hope and hopelessness. Pain and prosperity. Grief and gratitude. I am grateful for the human process and more personally for the times in life when the fog clears and you can finally begin to hear the bells of hope. The bells of forgiveness. And the bells of redemption that are so personally and yet universally connected to the Christmas season. Christmas, can be such a challenging time, steeped with expectations and nostalgia, and I’m grateful that for better or for worse, Christmas bells ring at least once a year to remind us that life, even as it is full of challenges, it can also be oh so good.

by Isaac Anderson 
Last Summer, over the fourth of July weekend, and after a series of conversations complete with lists of pro’s and con’s, Burke and I decided it was time to move back to Salt Lake City. Our three years in Dallas, Texas knit us together as a family in a way that I could not have expected. We worked hard. We were stretched and challenged and inspired and mentored. We fell in love with a foreign place and found family and friendship in the most unexpected places. We carved out an identity as a family and a couple in a way I do not think was possible had we remained in Salt Lake City. And with all of that growth and gratitude it became very clear that it was time to return home. We want children. We want to be parents and we concluded that beginning our family is far more important than climbing the professional rungs of success. We loved living in Dallas but it became clear that if we were ever going to start our own family it was time to switch gears, make a drastic change and create a new space for our lives to expand. We knew that as long as one of us had a job in Salt Lake City it would be enough to make the leap and we knew that just as important as it was for us to move to Dallas it was equally important for us to leave it. Resumes were updated. Contacts were made. Interviews were held and within weeks, I had a terrific job at Westminster College. By the middle of August we began packing up our lives and we moved back to Salt Lake City three years to the day we left it. I love living in Salt Lake City! I love the people who have made up our Utah community. Living near the mountains is a need, not a want for us. I adore the people and places that helped shaped our youth, adolesence and college years but nothing tops time spent with our siblings and parents. Twice in the last week, I have been moved to tears while being surrounded by our nieces and nephews, brothers and sisters, mom’s and dad who have willingly participated in a nativity play at my request. At both family parties, I have invited our families to dress up in fabric scraps, towels, sheets, and old curtains and act out the nativity play. Those who know me understand this event is a hallmark of my holiday season and it had been years since either of our families put on the big holiday show. At the conclusion of our humble production, we sing one of my favorite Christmas carols, Away in a Manger. Both times, without fail I became a puddle of tears when the people I love most in the world sang:

Be near me Lord Jesus, I ask thee to stay
Close by me forever and love me I pray
Bless all the dear children with thy tender care
And fit us for heaven to live with thee there.

It’s not just these words or these people…its these people singing these words, believing these words, knowing these words that creates a giant lump in my throat. For me, the whole idea of Christmas is the celebration of renewal and redemptive love. Watching my nieces and nephews, our brothers and sisters and our loving parents take part in a re-telling of the Christmas story and then together asking for the Lord’s love to always be near us…it just does not get better than that. Since the time of our conversation on the Fourth of July, we’ve moved across the country, been blessed with two great jobs, moved into the most delightful home and stand ready and prepared for the next giant adventure of life. In January, Burke and I will begin the adoption process and I keep wondering about the dear children who will join our little family. I pray daily that they will be watched over and tenderly cared for. I marvel at how the intricate aspects of life work together in concert to carefully fit us for the next phase, for the next adventure, for the next opportunity to love and be loved. I think of this little family, Mary and Joseph, and the combined joy and terror of becoming parents and I stand grateful for those in my life who so consistently show us love. The idea of becoming parents and starting our family is equal parts anxiety and anticipation. Next year at this time, if all goes as we hope and know it will, there were be a few more little shepherds or wise men or angles in our Christmas play and I know that when we reach the grand finale of this little homemade production the lump in my throat will return and then at that moment Christmas will be Christmas.

For years, far before I ever met Burke Rich, each December, I would drive around Salt Lake City looking at the Christmas lights. From time to time, as a melancholy (and somewhat dramatic) single girl experiencing the holidays, I would drive through Normandie Circle admiring both the classic architecture and the charming holiday décor and I will admit thinking, “the people who live in these homes MUST have the most perfect lives. I’m betting they are all feasting on delicious foods, laughing and loving each other near a roaring fire with cookies and eggnog a plenty.” I would sigh and then exit the circle wondering about whom these people were and if my idyllic thoughts were real. Well, when I met Burke and learned that he not only grew up in a home located in Normandie Circle but so did his Grandmother and most of his family, I was both delighted and surprised. In time, I was invited to attend the very Christmas festivities of the very people I had day dreamed about. AND as I had suspected the homes were filled with fine foods, endless cookies, comfortable fires and a bounty of Christmas cheer. I realized this does sound a bit like a scene from a Meg Ryan movie but I swear this really happened. Burke and I have been married for five years but it’s been six years since my holiday dreams became a reality. I love being part of the Rich family. Like all families, my in-laws are just normal people, with normal problems, normal up’s and normal down’s. Burke’s extended family is…extensive and full of nuance and history and strength and love and tradition and as a group it does not lacking personality.  My single girl projections are mostly true but like all families we’ve got our warts and in the end its all okay and pretty normal. One of the things I love most about being a Rich is during Christmas, and a handful of other family gatherings, the family will sing “May the Lord Bless you and Keep you” a song arranged by John Rutter and based from Bible verse. The Riches sing this song ACapella and it always reminds me of what is good and honest and true about family and love. Tonight, just like every previous Christmas evening, the extended Rich family gathers and Burke’s Grandmothers home for a night of Christmas cheer. This year’s celebration was complete with the cookies and the fire and the laughter but it also had a somber tone as the family continues to remember the matriarch Mrs. Effie Dean Bowman Rich who passed away earlier this year. As the night drew to a close, as expected the family began singing Christmas songs and ended with “May the Lord Bless You” which is always the final selection. As I looked around the room at the various generations I noticed that most eyes were wet and many voices were shaking. It was sweet and sincere and had everything to do with family and Christmas and the long- standing tradition of warmth that can be found inside Normandie Circle, and especially at Christmas time. I’m not sure this is actually a Christmas carol but it should be.

The Lord bless you and keep you
The Lord make his face to shine upon you
 To shine upon you and be gracious
And be gracious unto you
The Lord bless you and keep you
The Lord make his face to shine upon you
To shine upon you and be gracious
And be gracious unto you
The lord lift up the light of his countenance upon you
And give you peace
And give you peace
And give you peace
And give you peace

Merry Christmas to all!


Last night while curled up on my couch Burke and I watched the perianal classic White Christmas. Danny Kay, Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney and the other blond I can never remember sang and swooned over the idea of SNOW. They classic swooners sang in harmony and with a charisma that just does not seem to exist with modern day performers. They sang SNOW SNOW SNOW SNOW! We went to bed prepared for a morning full of white and all of the weather reports were correct. SNOW! Beautiful white fluffy snow! I have to admit that I am completely surprised by how excited I am to see SNOW! My drive to work is not long or tricky but I kind of wish it was just a bit longer this morning because the snow covered trees were stunning. I felt the excitement of a seven year old child and my eyes were full of wonder. Each delicate branch carefully holding its proper amount of cold precipitation made for a beautiful sight. I thought about all of my teacher friends whose day instantly became trickier as distracted students will gaze outside instead of focusing on the assignment they have planned. I thought of my YouthCity friends whose day instant became both more fun AND more tricky with snow ball fights, snow angles and the never-ending search for missing boots and soggy miss-matched mittens. Will they serve hot coco and oatmeal for snack? Will the “how to be safe in the snow” talk happen today or tomorrow? I thought of my more senior friends and our newly licensed drivers….please please please more careful than you think you need to be. I thought about my Texas friends…you just don’t know what you are missing…come visit! My brief walk from the parking garage to my office this morning filled my little soul with joy. I’m totally confident that this childlike exuberance may end soon but I really hope it doesn’t….at least for a while. You just don’t get this kind of weather in the flat land of Texas. Without question, I totally get what Danny, Bing and sweet Rosemary were so excited about! SNOW! Good thing I work in a windowless office…or this day would be a total wash.

 White Christmas - SNOW

Day of Gratitude #30 – Burke Rich

Burke Rich is pretty much my favorite person in the world. He is the consistent measure and baseline for all that is good in the world. He does our laundry-happily. He is the master of my technology needs. He understands how spices should be used. He protects. He provides. He works hard and he plays hard. He listens. He supports so many of my crazy ideas. He is going to be a great father someday and he is just a very good man. I love our life and I’m forever grateful he chose me.

Day of Gratitude #29 – Siblings

The older I get…the more life I experience…the more grateful I become for my siblings. What a terrific gift it is to have a collection of people who know you better than anyone else. It’s not just the inside jokes and hard-wire appreciation for certain things…it’s the shared common experience that no matter how hard you try you just can’t escape. Growing up, my brothers were my first playmates. I was the girl who played cops and robbers and G.I. Joe and war. As a teenager, my brothers and their wives became my examples, my confidants and my trusted advisors. It was their bright example that lit the path for so many of my decisions. And now as an adult, my siblings-both mine and Burke’s, and their spouses are our dearest friends. It’s our siblings and our parents and our nieces and nephews that we moved across the country to be near. These are the people we want to celebrate both the established holidays and the random Tuesday nights with. I love talking to my brothers. Nobody can make me laugh (or cry) like they can. My sister-in-laws are the best women I know. None of us are perfect and none of us claim to be and it’s okay. We’ve all got warts and its okay. We all see the world differently and I love that. I feel both blessed and grateful for the people that a wise and knowing Creator hand selected for me to be my traveling companions for life.

Day of Gratitude #28 – Thanksgiving 2013...a low-tech and high-family experience

Slept in. Slowly made our way through ice and snow to the lodge where oodles of family members we feasting on breakfast meats, chocolate-chip pancakes, hash browns and juice. Yum. Yum. Yum. Piled into an impressing collection of Suburban’s and four-wheel drive cars and drove to the forests to hunt for Christmas trees. Dodged flying snowballs tossed by energetic nieces and nephews. Successfully identified tree. Chop. Chop. Chop. Back to the lodge to freshen up and change into stretchy pants. Set the table, mash the spuds, and carved the birds. Eat. Eat. Eat. Cleaned-up and washed remaining dishes in industrial dishwasher-a true essential for any Thanksgiving meal. Rich family talent show complete with song, dance and dramatic readings. My favorite was cousin Bryan spontaneously doing an interpretive dance and song inspired by a corporate finance principle….a new classic! Whipped the cream and cut the pie. Eat. Eat. Eat. Again. Talk. Laugh. Talk some more. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep!

Day of Gratitude #27 – Books on tape are best enjoyed when coupled with road trips

Burke and I and just over one-hundred family members made the annual pilgrimage to the Rich family’s lodge in Northern Arizona to celebrate Thanksgiving. It’s about six hours by car to travel over the river and through the woods and no trip is complete without a freshly downloaded book on tape. This year, I was so excited to listen to “David and Goliath,” the newest book written by mega nerd Malcolm Gladwell . This book breaks down the intriguing idea of how underdogs often return from battle or conflict as triumphant conquerors. FASCINATING! Gladwell consistently blends unrelated topics together to draw compelling conclusions. We have loved his other books and even as we are not finished with this text…I’m a hug fan! Mr. Gladwell is currently touring promoting the book and recently stopped in Salt Lake City. Sadly, Burke and I missed the actual lecture however he was the featured guest on a local NPR radio program Radio West. Listening to Gladwell talk about this topic was again FASCINATING! Perhaps the most interesting thing was how writing this book and examining this concept of how average people both perceived and address life’s hardships and difficulties has helped him re-establish a sense of spirituality in his life. I am grateful for really smart people who willingly share with the world the things they have learned. You know those big-brained (and in Malcolm Gladwell’s case big haired) thinkers who just seem to experience the same daily tasks that you and I experience but they just seem to see it differently. I’m grateful for technology that allows a wealth of information to literally bounce around in my purse…I am forever in awe of smart phones. I am grateful for time in a car cozily sitting next to people I love, chomping on ample road trip treats and enough down time to time to think and discuss and explore new thoughts.

Radio West

New York Times

Day of Gratitude #26 - Vacation Eve

Feeling ready to unplug, relax, reconnect and enjoy four work free days.

Day of Gratitude #25 - Simple pleasures of life

Today I am grateful for pony tails, turtle neck sweaters and the love of support of dear friends.

Day of Gratitude #24 - Twenty-one years

Twenty-one years ago today, on a bitter cold November afternoon my father died. I was sixteen years old. It was unexpected and tragic and changed my world forever. He was complex, creative, resourceful and hard working. He called me "Popsicle Parsnips" and always jingled the coins in his pockets when he walked. I think he wore brown polyester pants and a white button down shirt almost everyday. He always sang in the church choir and usually had the solo at Christmas. In his early twenties, he lived in Germany and loved riding a motorized scooter far faster than he should have. He loved taking photographs. He WAS the audio visual nerd of his high school and the best part is he did not care. One of my earliest memories is of my Dad pushing me on a swing. He pushed me for hours....forward....forward....always swinging forward. I remember the sun shining so bright that I needed to squint. I remember asking him to push me higher and higher and laughing. It was idyllic happiness...a perfect scene and one that perhaps is clouded by both time and nostalgia.

About seven years ago, while sifting through a box of childhood photos and school papers I found a crayon drawing of a big round yellow sun, some bright green lines and loops for grass and a little girl with yellow hair sitting on a swing set. Next to the swings, I drew a stick figure Dad carefully standing watch. The three letters of my name are scratched on the back side of this construction paper masterpiece. This childhood treasure is now framed and has hung on my wall ever since. 

About one month ago, I attended the funeral for Burke's grandmother. One of the speakers said something I will never forget.... He said that no matter the age, loosing a parent can be difficult but that because the bond between parent and child is so strong they can often guide and love from the other side. It's been far more than just twenty-one years since I was that little girl with yellow hair squeezing with delight on a swing set. Twenty-one years today. I'm forever grateful that it does not take much for me to realize my Dad has carefully stood watch and lovingly pushed me forward....forward...always forward. One of my favorite quotes is, "the future is as bright as our faith." I'm grateful that I believe in life after death. I'm grateful for my parents whose combined and individual love and support have made all of the difference in my life. I feel blessed when I look towards the future and sometimes I have to squint's forward...forward...always forward...

Day of Gratitude #23 - I'm grateful that I work for an institution that believes in the power of pie.

Today the staff and faculty met for the annual Westminster College pie baking competition. I can really appreciate pie and was happy to participate, with my colleagues, in the judging. Pie for lunch is not an everyday kind of decision but once a year....I can really get behind that. Would it taste as good if it were square?

Day of Gratitude #22 Tabasco

Just about every morning Burke loving prepares eggs and toast for my breakfast. Without question a key ingredient to this meal is a few determined dashes of Green Jalapeno Sauce. I love the color. I love the shape of the bottle. I love the little red cap. I love the iconic label. I love Tabasco sauce.

Day of Gratitude #21 – Warm Coats for Brisk Winds

It seems that in the last few days the weather in Salt Lake City has dropped. As of today, we’ve still only encountered non-committal snow fall but the wind is bone chilling. Today I’m grateful for both my scenic walk from the parking garage to my office AND my warm coat. It’s a short walk and its chuck full of nature and the beauty of the changing seasons and I’m grateful for it every day. As I tucked my scarf around my neck this morning, I realized how blessed I am. Last night, Burke and I drove past a Best Buy and saw a line of eager shoppers lined up outside the door waiting for some amazing discount on an unknown item. While I can appreciate their dedication to securing a bargain, I did question if the discount was worth it. These shivering consumers were standing outside, wrestling the bitter winds by choice. My next thought was all those who live outside all year round…I realize some are homeless by choice while many others are not. You know those men and women, teens and kiddos who may not have warm coats and toasty offices to enter. They must be freezing and I can only imagine what this change in weather brings into their lives. I love my scarfs and gloves and I’m grateful for my warm coat, office, car and home. This weekend, I’m intending to unpack boxes as we continue to set up house. I’m thinking it’s high time to re-evaluate my coat and sweater collection and I think I’d feel better if my unworn warm clothing could be put to better use. I think it’s high time I make a visit to my local shelter and share some of my extras. Grateful for what I have and that I’ve got enough to share.

Day of Gratitude #19 – Pandora Internet Radio

Do you remember the time when if you wanted to listen to music you had to carry a Disc Man and a trapper keeper-esk binder of your favorite CD's….and before the Disc Man…the Walkman and a series of Memorex tapes? Do you remember those little zippered binders bouncing from your backpack to your car to your house…and always tossed into the luggage when traveling…heaven forbid you went without tunes on the road trip, right? They were bulky and awkward but toting them back and forth was the price we paid to have good music at our fingertips. Thankfully due to the invention of the inter webs GONE are the days of carrying around those cases. I love Pandora Internet Radio! I love the variety! I love the convenience! I love how its helps me learn about new types of music and performers! I love that I can listen in my house, in my car, on my phone! You need some soothing music at the office—DONE! You want to have a quick little dance party while doing the dishes –DONE! You want to enjoy a wide variety of related artists—DONE! Any genre…anytime…and no bulky binders full of CDs. LOVE IT! I can easily say that my little life is much richer because of my ability to access good music. God bless the brilliant men and women behind Pandora Internet Radio!

Pandora Internet Radio

Day of Gratitude #20 – The Backspace Key

If you know me at all and have ever read anything I have ever written…ever…you will know that I am in constant need of an editor. Both spelling and grammar have been my arch nemesis for as long as I can remember. And yet, I really enjoy the writing process so therefore, the backspace key is pretty much my best friend. I am so grateful for the ability we have with a few tap- tap-taps to erase, re-think, tweak, change, improve and edit. The backspace key is BY FAR the most important key on my keyboard not just because I am seriously spelling challenged…but because I’m really grateful that we have the chance to self-correct. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and my gratitude for this concepts seeps a bit deeper than the little plastic buttons on my keyboard…I’m really grateful for the idea of change and personal improvement. There are so many times I wish I had a life size backspace key so I could revisit some previous ideas, comments, beliefs and actions. I don’t think I’m alone with this kind of thinking and I’m incredibly grateful for patience and forgiveness generously given to me by those in my life. I’m grateful for the opportunity we have to apologize when we screw up, seek forgiveness when we offend and try better the next day. I am so far from where I hope to be but I am grateful that both the keyboard and real life provides an opportunity to make things right when needed.

Day of Gratitude #18 - Enough

Enough years of life to really know for myself that people are good and well intended, life is designed to be messy, anticipating the unknown is often both thrilling and terrifying, all things just seem to feel better when you go to bed with a clean kitchen.

Day of Gratitude #17- The Sunday Afternoon Nap

Is there anything more magical, more restorative, more decadent, or more stabilizing than a Sunday Afternoon Nap? I'm choosing to capitalize it due to it's importance and value. Napping on a Sunday afternoon has become a necessary part if my schedule. I worship in the morning followed by a lunchtime snack or meal and then its off to dreamland. Sometimes I snooze on the couch afternoon falling asleep reading or watching TV. Other weeks I crawl back into bed without a hint of guilt. I don't need to sleep for too long but I do need sleep during the day once every seven days. Sunday Afternoon Nap reset my internal clock and I can feel a huge difference. I think babies and toddlers have figured it out...napping just makes the world a better place.

Day of Gratitude #16 - Bubble Wrap

Spent the day unpacking, opening boxes and building our little nest. Felt a bit like Christmas morning but with less holiday flare and it lasted all day. Best part is thanks to the brilliant invention of bubble wrap all items arrived safe and sound. From all accounts everything arrived intact, scratch free and with out harm. Transporting a lifes worth of treasures across the country without loss, harm or damage...its kind of impressive. Grateful for our moving pod, for the nice people who picked it up, drove it across the country and safety delivered it to our new home. Grateful for cardboard boxes, rubber maid bins, packing tape, and the power if bubble wrap.

Day of Gratitude #15 - New neighbors

It did not take too long before a few of our new neighbors stopped by to welcome us to the neighborhood. Within an hour I was invited to a girls night. Firm handshake and warm hugs. Bright eyes and sincere welcomes. Reminded both Burke and I of those who so kindly reached out when we moved to Dallas. Grateful for the opportunity for new friends.

Day of Gratitude #14 - Costco

I'm not even kidding...I'm a big fan!

Day of Gratitude #13 – Moving Day!

Delighted to have begun the moving in process. Grateful for the manpower fueled by affordable pizza and orange soda. Grateful to be living in a new part of the city. Grateful for the new friends and neighbors.  Looking forward to day two…and let’s be honest…day three…and four. So ready. So excited. So looking forward to setting up house and fortifying our new nest. So so so grateful for moving day!

Day of Gratitude #12 – Pilot G2 Retractable Gel Roller

The Pilot G2 Retractable Gel Roller is my favorite pen. If given the opportunity, I always enjoy writing in colorful ink however most days I find the blue ink to be my go to color. I will make due with Extra Fine or Fine but if given a choice I always reach for the Bold point type. I like the weight of this pen. I like the diameter of the barrel. I like the rubber finger grip…not too thin and not too think. I like how the ink looks on the page. Perfect for note taking and list making and even better for mid-meeting doodling. They are cheap enough to buy in bulk but not so cheap that you freely lend them out to those who you think may walk away with them. Should you be in the market of a good pen…I just can’t recommend this pen enough. Thank you Pilot…I’m a big fan!

Day of Gratitude #11 – Norm Wendell and Veterans Day

Tuesday, November 11th was Veterans Day and I could not help but think about my high school choir teacher. The Taylorsville High School Concert Choir was under the direction of Mr. Norm Wendell for I’m sure close to twenty years. I have clear and distinct memories sitting in his class singing warm ups….me may ma may…me may ma may...while he took role moving his glass up and down so he could read the white painted numbers on the back of our hard plastic chairs. Our choir was well over one hundred people and this man should win a medal for putting up with us….our graduating class was no picnic and for the most part he remained professional, encouraging and principled while he successfully taught us how to sing. Our performance dresses were bright shiny purple with a huge lace collar that only rivaled our huge bangs and over stylized and teased premed hair. Looking back, I’m not exactly sure if this dress concepts and fabric choice was ever really in style for the time or if we just got a really good deal on a giant bolt of fabric. I think the guys wore navy blue suits and a quasi-matching tie and I think suspenders…but that detail is a bit hazy. We sang show tunes, spirituals, a handful of few classic madrigals, endless of Christmas songs, Mozart’s Requiem, Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus and what seemed like the entire cannon of American patriotic music. We sang all over the valley and throughout the school year but the concert that stands out in my mind the most was the Veterans Day concert held at the University of Utah. I remember the basketball arena was full of high school choirs from around the state who had all learned the same patriotic songs. There was a professional marching band, lots of American Flags and I’m sure some dramatic reading and remembrances celebrating those men and women who have served our country. Here is the thing…as a high school senior, I’m not sure I really understood or appreciated the opportunity to help celebrate the veterans of our community…but I will never forget how Mr. Wendell reverenced both the music we were singing and our intended audience. I’ll never consider myself a great or even good vocalist. I can’t sight read to save my life and I really should only sing while surrounded by a LARGE group of people. But every November, I think about Mr. Wendell and his determination to create an experience for a bunch of self-centered teenagers. I may not be able to successfully read and understand music but his leadership and example clearly made a difference in my life. Now, as an adult, I’ve become a bit of a news and political junky and I’ve come to understand and better appreciate the contribution of those serving in the armed forces. I’m grateful for their service and I’m grateful that they get a national day of recognition. Individually and collectively they have far more guts and courage than I could muster and I could not be more grateful for their sacrifice. God bless American! God bless our troops! And God bless all of those courageous music teachers who help plant seeds of patriotism that fully bloom later in life.

Day of Gratitude #10 – Zip Lock Bags

I’m serious! Look in any cupboard, drawer, bin or basket in my home and you will find every size successfully holding and organizing my life treasures. Just really grateful for Zip Locks.

Day of Gratitude #9 – My index finger and its amazing ability to heal itself

So, about a month and a half ago, while feverishly trying to finished a sink full of dishes, I sliced a huge chunk out of the index finger on my right hand as I was cleaning one of our paring knives. This is the point when I am sure you are thinking…seriously…she is posting about her finger???…Well, its not just my finger…it’s the fact that my body healed itself…right before my own eyes and I am constantly reminded of how cool that is. This cut was a real doozey and I carved out nice deep cannel almost an inch long. I clearly should have gone to the clinic for a few stitches but we were moving, I had to get on an airplane, my “to do before we move list” was endless and I really really really hate dealing with insurance forms. So. I cleaned it really well and liberally gooped Neosporin and applied band-aid after band-aid after band-aid for almost a month. It didn’t really hurt much but it was just a pain to keep clean and dry. And now, approximately one month later…my finger is not only fine…but, you can’t even tell where the gash was. It’s completely healed! Seriously! My body grew back together! Completely! Do you, do we realize how totally impressive that is? I have absolutely no medical training beyond a few first aid classes taught at girls camp about a million years ago so, I’m totally clueless as to how this whole healing thing works and to be honest -I’m okay remaining in the dark as to the details…but I have say that I am so incredibly grateful for my body and how the great Creator designed a way for our bodies to regenerate. This little cut was just that…a little cut and I realize there are so many bigger medical and physical and emotional conditions stretching and challenging us. I’m just so grateful that I’ve had a whole month to marvel at this process. It’s just truly so inspiring how things that were once broken can be healed. I’m grateful for band-aids and Neosporin and all of the much more sophisticated medical advances that help put us back together, heal up our wounds, and remind us what is really most important. We are blessed!

Day of Gratitude #8 – The Island of Naboombu and a few much needed Spoon Fulls of Sugar

As a child, we enjoyed almost weekly trips to Adventure Land Video located inside the Five Point Mall not too far from our home.  With each visit, my two brothers and I were allowed to rent one video each which we would then watch over and over and over until our Mom returned them to the store a few days later. There was always a bit of strategy at play involved with our selections and our family had some perennial favorites rentals. Two classics rentals have magically returned to the forefront of my mind over the last few months…Walt Disney’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks the ever-popular Mary Poppins. I love these two classics films and all that they represent about creativity, storytelling and childhood. Both films blend catchy songs, classic animation, and strongly connected siblings who bond together on various adventures. These films became childhood staples thanks to the brilliant performance of Angela Lansbury and Julie Andrews. Burke and I watched these movies a few weeks ago (yes, we are that lame) and were both reminded of happy memories of our individual childhoods. These films shaped how we saw the world during the development years and as adults we were became grateful for the inspirational concepts and story arcs that only grow up can understand and appreciate. I love the low-tech special effects. I love that for days after I was humming the music and singing the lyrics. Several years ago, while vacationing in London my heart leaped when I saw the streets of London and the very steps where troubled Mr. Banks pauses to “feed the birds.” And, I’ve never stopped dreaming of and looking for a brass bed of my very own. I guess there is just part of me that still hopes the act of twisting a loose bedknob and faithfully singing about “Treguna Mekoides and Tracorum Satis Dee” would actually transport us from the worries of adult life to the magic of the “beautiful briny, shimmering shiny, beautifully briny sea.” And in the last few months, I have easily identified a few modern day Mary Poppins’ in my life…you know those “practically perfect in every way” kind of mentors who gracefully float into your life at just the right time and magically provide the perfect emotional elixir--all the while prompting hope, hard work, respect for all, and skillfully reminds you that its not only important but its critical to take time “feed birds” and that I really do “love to laugh.” God bless Walt Disney and all whose hard work and creativity make a grown woman stop and think.

Day of Gratitude #7 – Bacon + Brussels Spouts

Could you find a better pairing? I love Brussels sprouts and I just can’t trust anyone who does not love bacon…and together….well, how could you not think they are not the most delicious vegetable on the planet? The thing about Brussels sprouts is they are the epitome of adult food….or the food that as a child you would never choose to eat on your own and refuse to eat just on childhood principle but now as an adult you can easily consider simply divine.  Did you know that they are officially listed as plural as in Brussels sprouts not the singular Brussels sprouts? AND when referring to these happy little leafy bundles you should always capitalize the “B”…take that broccoli! Its’ true…look it up. Brussels sprouts do not suffer fools and I just really like that about them. They are not begging you to love them. They don’t care nor do they need your acceptance or praise. Upon close inspection you may discover that yes, they really do look like miniature cabbages but I have a sinking feeling they really DO NOT appreciate being minimized whatsoever! They are just fine all on their own thank you very much. Brussels sprouts grow strong and confidently in the garden and if personified Brussels sprouts would wear sensible shoes, thick glasses, ride the bus, donate to NPR without being coerced by the biannual pledge drives and I’m sure they would not own a television. I enjoy my Brussels sprouts roasted with just olive oil, salt, pepper and sometimes a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar. I like them best when they crisp up a bit and yet I enjoy them just as much the next day cold for lunch or a sophisticated afternoon snack. You rarely have to worry that someone will swipe your Brussels spouts from the lunchroom fridge which I personally appreciate…its like they have their own built in security system….so practical…so caring! I’ll happily eat them chopped in a salad or smothered a gratin style. And when Brussels sprouts are coupled with bacon…well, that makes for bowl full of culinary perfection and a very happy girl.   

Day of Gratitude #6 – Westminster College

I remember distinctly thinking I was not ready to leave the beautiful Westminster College campus when I finished my graduate program a few years ago. When I started graduate school, I remember feeling like my brain started working again after years of mental autopilot. Sitting in a classroom, carrying a backpack, pacing my days and weeks off of a printed syllabus provided a refreshing challenge at just the right time of my life. Now that I’m back on campus, I don’t carry a backpack anymore but like before, my brain has started working again and this time in a whole different way. It’s been so interesting to sit on the opposite side of academia and each day I find myself comparing and contrasting the academic world with the real educational systems I sampled in Dallas. Over the last few years, like many in my academic cohort, I’ve experienced both the strengths and weakness of the modern American school system…and measured the real world against the educational theories developed by John Dewey, Lev Vygotsky, Jerome Bruner and then later theorized by Jonathan Kozol and Steve Seidel . Kozol’s stark commentary of the current academic inequalities within the modern American school system were at the forefront of my mind while working with Dallas ISD teachers and administrators. I felt like I was living inside any one chapter of his various books. While working at Big Thought my brain was constantly ping-ponging between what I was seeing play out inside over one hundred elementary schools in a huge urban school district and the printed words of constructivist writers assigned to me by the Westminster faculty.  The endless hours spent writing lesson plans that were graded, then revised and graded again helped to develop and refine a skill that led to an opportunity to write curriculum for a national educational model.  Working in Dallas provided an education about education and all through a Texas size lens. It would not have been half as meaningful had I not slugged through grad school at Westminster. And now, like before, being back on campus, as I talk with students who are overwhelmed by the details carefully laid out on a variety of syllabus I continue to see how each individual assignment and project are designed to work together.  When I think about all the projects and readings and assignments I find my brain making brand new connections…to what is actually happening inside schools and the wheels in my brain continue to churn in ways that it hasn’t’ in the past. AND if that were not enough…this time around…they are paying me…I don’t even have to pay tuition for the next round of educational nerd-vonna.  Anyway you slice it…this Westminster things is a pretty good gig.