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 

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