Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Joy of Giving

I love this time of year. I especially love to see how excited the kiddos get whenever they talk about Christmas. Usually I overhear them talking about what they are going to find in their presents Christmas morning. Today, however, I got to witness a sweet glimpse into the excitement of giving instead of getting.
Logan is currently off track from school. He has 5 weeks off from Thanksgiving all the way to January. I have been a little nervous about keeping him occupied while Dallin and Emma are still in school, and he has only his little brother to keep him company.
Logan is one who is usually content to do whatever one suggests, but if that particular suggestion doesn't sound fun to him, Lego's are always a good fall back. Today, he decided he would make presents for his brothers and sister and wrap them up and put them under the tree while they were at school. He decorated a couple pieces of paper, and made 2 fans; one for Porter and the other for Dallin. Then he spent a half an hour stringing some beads to make a bracelet for Emma. His poor bracelet kept coming undone, so after the beads all fell to the floor and rolled away for the fifth time, he gave up. He decided to wrap the fans and call it good.
Later this evening Logan got to go with Dad to a friend's house. They weren't gone long, but when they came back, I found Logan in the entryway of the kitchen surrounded by huge rolls of paper, given to him by our friend who is a surveyor. He had given Logan the "scratch" paper he had on hand, and Logan was thrilled to have such a prize.

Later on, he came up to me and whispered that he had a plan for the huge pieces of paper. He had decided that he wanted to decorate the paper and make a huge fan out of it, wrap it up, and put it under the tree for Dallin. He even solicited Emma's help in his cause. I was touched that gifting was still in the forefront of his mind, and that the prized paper would come in handy to that end. I can hardly wait to see how it turns out.

I don't know if Dallin will appreciate the huge fan, but I know I won't forget the love that I saw in it's construction. I can tell it's going to be another one of those wonderful Christmas seasons.



Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Joy of Disneyland

I have been to Disneyland just once in my life - well, before this last October.

I know many people, even here in Utah, who make visiting the self-proclaimed 'happiest place on earth' venue an annual outing - and some even more.  And I don't blame them for it.  It is a fun place to be.  There is something special the place has - whether it is the cast members who are busy cleaning up every last piece of litter, or simply the folk lore long ago attained.

But something that surprised me was that the happiest time on our vacation was not Disneyland.  It was not on Space Mountain, Star Tours, Splash Mountain, or the Dumbo ride - as fun as they may have been.  It definitely wasn't found on a It's A Small World After All (which, having never gone on the ride, still is my least favorite ride) or Pirates of the Caribbean (which, is probably my favorite ride, but was closed through our vacation period).  Even as fun as the new rides at the relatively new California Adventure were, were not really all that great compared to the fun we had the day prior to entering the mecca of long lines and overpriced food.

It was simply, a day at the beach.

Or rather, a sunset at the beach.

We take family pictures every year, and we decided that we would plan on the day before we go to Disneyland that we would take some family pictures at the beach.  Which is a great plan, but one that was really just a shot in the dark.  I have taken all sorts of pictures over the years - but have never lived near a beach to know what to expect or what to look for.  But we had our visions.

So being the photographer, I assign Tiffany the job of costume designer.  She has always done a great job, and knew she would come through with flying colors again.

Well, instead of colors, she wanted white shirts and khaki pants.

Which is great, until you consider you are on a beach with young kids who really have never seen the ocean or waves before.  How are you supposed to keep them from getting all wet and messy?  (My trick - threaten their very existence - it worked - mostly.)

Being a Sunday, we went to church in the morning, visited the Los Angeles Temple in the early afternoon, went back to the hotel to change, and barely had enough time to get to the beach before the sun went down.  Not being native to the area, we had no idea where to go to find the best location.  The night before, having arrived early to our hotel, we ventured out to Huntington beach and let the kids put their feet in the water as the horizon swallowed the setting sun.

We opted to head that direction again and see what we could find along the coast.  We ended up a half mile further north than we were the day prior and found a mostly secluded spot that allowed us to take pictures without a lot of people.

As we arrived, lifeguards and ambulances pulled up a few hundred yards away from us to take care of a victim of some sort, rushing away with it's lights blaring.  Tiffany huddled the family together and offered a prayer for the unknown injured individual.  Next time Tiffany tells you she is praying for you - know this - that she truly is.

Any ways, I digress.

After threatening the kids with their lives if they got wet or dirty, I set up the tripod and started to shoot.  Some shots were candid, others, not so much, but most were just candid.

You see, in years past, family pictures were simply scheduled stress.  The kids never listening, or if they did, their siblings were not.  We have a famous picture we took about 7 years ago where I am yelling at Dallin to look at me to ensure the picture turned out.  The picture looks like familial bliss!  Though it couldn't have been further from the truth.  The hope as a photographer is that I can make it look that good, no matter the situation.

So I was hoping to make some more magic this year.

Only, I didn't need any.  The kids were happy, enjoying playing in the sand while the ocean breeze blew in their faces.  The few family shots we took were not very contrived, and in fact, in many ways natural.  As the sun continued to set, and as we had enough pictures for what we wanted, we allowed the kids to get a little wet.  Which turned into a lot wet.

And as they did, Tiffany and I sat back, and enjoyed the view.  Not of the sunset.  Not of the waves.  But the very lives that we get to be a part of each day.  And then it hit us.

Disneyland would not match the happiness and joy that Tiffany and I found in that moment.

Not even close.



Thanksgiving - don't ruin it please!

Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times take twelve minutes. This is not coincidence. ~Erma Bombeck
I am tempted to say that this won't impact my life.  But long term - I think it will.

Target, Best Buy, and Kohls opens Friday morning at midnight.  Walmart opens at 10:00 Thursday night.  Old Navy isn't closed at all this Thanksgiving.

How do I know this?  Because I am listening to Pandora and the the commercials being played are all about these openings.  I don't go shopping on Black Friday unless it is due to the regular course of life.  And when I have, even at a decent hour - say 11:00 am, the stores are dead.  At least compared to their opening hour.

But what I fear is that the all-powerful Christmas dollar continues to sneak it's dirty head into the doors of otherwise great holidays.  Thanksgiving and Christmas are generally the only days of the year that *stores close and individuals get time off to spend time with family.  All other holidays retail establishments are usually staffed at normal levels. 

I go back and suggest that this trend this year won't impact me.  And it likely won't this year.  But with time I think the social blessings Thanksgiving and Christmas instill in our country, will be diminished.  Yes, a slippery slope argument in that life will be altered as we move to opening Thanksgiving to everyday life.

I can see it now - I am 70 years old talking to my great grand kids;

"I remember when we had a day of Thanksgiving.  A holiday that the whole country stopped for a moment to give gratitude - for whatever."

"Nice grandpa - like anybody has anything to be grateful for, let alone to take a day of to contemplate these thoughts."
Yep - Thanksgiving will be gone one day.  Oh, it will be around like most of our other holidays.  But it will be gone.  The only hope I have is that "Black Thursday", as some are starting to call it, turns out just dismal crowds and that the backlash is great.

But one thing that Walmart has taught us - we are willing to do anything as long as it is at a good price.

I wonder when Christmas won't feel so sacred?

I hope I am not around to find out - though I fear I will be.



*Yes, I know that this is not 100% true - but it's pretty close.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Time to Change

Tiffany has wanted a name change to the blog.  She doesn't want it named after her.  Since we have hit the year mark from the news of cancer and all seems fine (fingers are still crossed) - and since she has agreed to post a couple of times a week - I have agreed to change the name of this blog to simply,

Joy of the Journey

Here is to hoping we can keep it up.



One Year Ago...

Life is normal, if there is such a thing.

Bills continuously get paid. Almost done!

The kids are a bit older and wiser.

And Tiffany continues to be fine.

Can there be a better blessing than this?

The answer is yes, but not much.

I will always be more greatful for the Savior who saves our souls. Pain, sickness, illness, disease is all a part of mortality. Sin and transgression receives an eternal consequence if it wasn't for the Savior.

I think I am only more greatful for the atonement. It allows me to be with my sweet wife into the eternities - no matter when either of us go in this mortal journey.

A Year of Living

Today marks the one year mark (based on the two days before Thanksgiving appointment we had down in Huntsman Cancer Institute) that life really seemed turned upside down.

Sure, before that day, we had already received the news that Tiffany, as it would appear, had cancer.  But it was the second opinion that got my emotions stirred.

The doctor came in to talk to Tiffany and I after having sat in an office for what seemed like an hour, though it was likely much less than that.  She sat down in front of us, and told us her confirmation of the diagnoses, the next steps and that there was no other option than to beat it. 

Never in our minds at that time did we understand how it would all play out.  Both the bad, and the good.

The bad was the surgery, the emotional roller coaster, the recovery, the unknown.  There was major stress being induced on both of us.  Most of it was stress due to the life and health concerns of my wife.  She and I had independently researched the cancer, and both of us privately held the information - not wishing to share the scary scene played out in each of our minds, though there were a few times that we did discuss the issue - even at length.

But mostly, we discussed about the faith, hope, and healing we had to focus upon.  We had decided that there was little use to consider the alternative. 

It is in some of the darkest places and times in our life that we lift ourselves and find out what we truly are or have become.  And we found a strength - together, that allowed us to move forward with faith and strength.

The rest - as they say, is history.  If you haven't, feel free to read this blog from the beginning.  The first intent of this was to keep people updated with Tiffany's condition, her treatments, and outlook.

It turned into something much more about faith, hope, and love.

So today - I would like to thank all those that helped us through that trying time.  The gifts, the well wishes.  The prayers, the understanding.

We felt the love that so many had for us, especially Tiffany.

Thank you.

And we continue to have hope and faith that things will continue as they have.



PS - Tiffany went to the doctor the other day for another checkup.  He told her things continue to look great and that she will soon move to 6 month checkups rather than 3 month checkups!