Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Out with the girls

There were crowds everywhere - this is the Red Robin Restaurant lobby

It was just a crazy Saturday night out with the girls.   Lots of people everywhere.

We did a movie and dinner in La Habra this past weekend.  The movie was fun (the book was better - I need a tee-shirt that says that) and dinner was delicious.  I could wax poetic about the joys of a movie and some good ol' popcorn - it's the complete movie experience - but I'll try to restrain myself.  And there are few things in life better than a bleu cheese burger with onion "sticks" from Red Robin.  Need I say more? 

Best of all is having good friends to hang with.  It's nice to have friends to share with and laugh (and sometimes cry) with.  I know some of the most interesting and delightful women on the planet.

Thanks, my dears.  Let's do it again soon.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Summer of '69

My brother and I in Odalen, Norway
I have a dear friend named Eva who is currently living in faraway Australia.  But back in the summer of 1969, we were both young and fancy free and met one another for the first time in her grandmother's home in the Norwegian countryside.

Eva's grandmother was a great friend of my grandparents.  She was a wonderful woman, and a faithful Latter-day Saint, even though she lived far away from any organized branches of the church.  Visiting her on her farm was a lot of fun.

Eva, her grandmother, Margit Wangen (standing); my mother and me
The summer of '69 was one of the best summers ever, in what I think was probably the best year of my life.  I had just graduated from high school and was on my way to college in the fall, and my family got to spend the summer months with my Norwegian grandparents in Oslo.
Eva rowing on the lake
Eva, just slightly older than me, is one of the most beautiful women I've ever met.  She later married a handsome Austrian chef and traveled the world with him.  She has three lovely (grown-up) daughters.  Time sure flies by!  It seems just yesterday that we were kids rowing on that Norwegian lake.
My Dad and I - Daddy rowed us in circles, as I recall!
My father had not been back to Norway since his missionary days in the late 40s, so he was nearly overcome with emotion to be back again.
Me, Margit, Mamma, and Jay

My grandfather, Einar, and my brother
I'm so grateful to Eva for posting these pictures for me!  It's fun to be able to share them with you.  This was one of the last summers I was still taller than my brother!  It was also the last summer we saw my grandmother before she passed away (she was too ill to take the trip to Odalen and passed in 1970). 

In life you get family, and then there are the friends who feel like family.  I've been blessed with a lot of both. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

Nature in Her Glory

Tuesday night, January 23rd, I walked out of the office into the most glorious sunset ever.  I tried to capture it on film, but was limited by my camera and my modest abilities (above).  In the shot above, you can see the reds and golds pretty well, but not the clouds in the sky, which were more lavender and purple as seen in the shot below:
I wouldn't have published this one at all (above) except it pretty well captured the color of the clouds.  I tried all kinds of different settings, but could not seem to get it right.  I thought my readers could just imagine the two images somehow combined.  And not so blurry. 

I thought it was just me, but then they mentioned it on the KTLA news the following morning!  Following that, I saw a post from my friend Robin saying she had been blown away by the same sunset on her way home that night.

Okay, then.  It wasn't just me.

Then I discovered that my friend and co-worker, Sabrina, had so loved that same sunset, she had taken photos of it, too!  Hers turned out way better than mine:

All I can say is, Mother Earth is pretty incredible.  As the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins once wrote, "The world is charged with the grandeur of God".   I am also reminded of the Psalmist who wrote, "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth His handywork". (Psalms 19:1)
Compare and Contrast:  The photo above is the more typical view I get when I leave the office.  This was taken from the hill just above my office the week before (Wednesday, January 18th). 

[I was trying to capture the sunset that night, too, but some lady got freaked out by my parking close to her in the dark with my lights on - she acosted me while I was concentrating on trying to take the picture and nearly scared me to death!  (Sorry, lady!  I didn't mean to frighten you, either!)  Being an amateur photographer can be perilous.]

Nevertheless, I just had to share.  I was so happy to have been able to see that sunset and know that it was seen and appreciated by so many people that evening. 

In the superlative words of e.e. cummings: 

i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Good-Bye to Chuck

The Chuck Cast
I suppose I should be grateful for getting 4 1/2 seasons out of my favorite TV show, Chuck, but I can't help but feel that NBC short-changed this fun offering.  I suppose in the long run, it's nothing personal, it's just financial - still, it's sad to see them go. 

I sometimes think the new shows are just trying to out-gross each other.  And I'm not talking about money now.  I am so sick of the vulgarity and disgusting visual images in the current TV line-up.   I tried to watch a couple of new shows recently.  They were billed as comedies, but they were sad, pointless, and filled with sexual situations that I found degrading to both men and women. 

To quote President Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles:
You too live in a time of war, the spiritual war that will never end.  War itself now dominates the affairs of mankind.  Your world at war has lost its innocence.  There is nothing, however crude or unworthy, that is not deemed acceptable for movies or plays or music or converstaion.  The world seems to be turned upside down.

Formality, respect for authority, dignity, and nobility are mocked.  Modesty and neatness yield to slouchiness and shabbiness in dress and grooming.  The rules of honesty and integrity and basic morality are now ignored.  Conversation is laced with profanity.  You see that in art and literature, in drama and entertainment.  Instead of being refined, they become coarse. (See i Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Timothy 3:1-9)

You have decisions almost every day as to whether you will follow those trends..

Yvonne Strahovski, Zack Levy and Adam Baldwin of Chuck
The final episode airs this Friday on NBC, at 8 p.m. PST

Okay, to get back on topic, I spent the evening watching a DVD set of an oldie but goodie: Scarecrow and Mrs. King.  Remember that one from the 80s?  Well, it was refreshing watching a show that didn't offend me or disgust me, or gross me out.

Funny, now I think about it, the premise of Chuck was just Scarecrow and Mrs. King turned on its ear: the intelligent, but innocent, Mrs. King becoming the intelligent, but innocent Chuck Bartowski.  The invincible, good-looking spy Lee Stetson, replaced by the invincible, beautiful spy Sarah Walker.
Kate Jackson and Bruce Boxleitner of Scarecrow and Mrs. King
The networks despair over a rising generation that has so many entertainment choices that TV is far down on its list.  However, excuse me if I'm wrong, but good writing, and quality programming have always been a big draw with any generation.  If that wasn't true, we wouldn't have heard of some guys named Shakespeare or Ibsen.

Funny how we never seem to learn that.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Majestic Mount Hood

How would you like to have a view like this from your living room?  Someone in the Pacific Northwest has it!  My friend Desiree snapped this photo while at a job site last week at a home that has been blessed in the "great scenic views" department.

It's photos such as these that make it easy to understand why ancient people held the tops of mountains to be sacred.  (If you ever visit the National Observatory at Kitt Peak outside of Tucson, Arizona, they have an orientation film that mentions this concept.  Or, at least, they used to!)

Desiree writes that it's hard to get good photos of Mt. Hood as it's usually shrouded in a heavy cloud cover.  However, the weather has been unusually dry and clear this month, making this great photo possible.  (Since then they've received a wee bit o' snow, I believe!)

She calls this her "why I moved to Oregon" shot. 

Even though I enjoy living in Southern California, I totally understand.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Rain in So Cal

January is the rainy season for Southern California.  Or, I should say, January is usually the rainy season, as this January has been unusually dry.  So, the rain yesterday was really needed.

I love the rain.  I say this alot.  Mainly because I never seem to get enough of it.  That comes from growing up in the Arizona desert, and then moving to another desert environment.  Southern California may have the ocean, but it's technically a desert too, although some prefer to say we have a "Mediterranean" climate.  It sounds more chic to say it that way, I suppose.

Monday morning I was happy to be able to use my windshield wipers!

I took these pictures out my office manager's window.  The hillside below my office building looks rather beautiful in the rain, don't you think?

Have a wonderful day!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Pet Adoption Rescues People too!

A happy Toby trying to look cool for the camera
A friend of mine recently lost a pet to cancer.  It was a difficult time for her.  With loving concern, she and her vet did all they could to save the kitty, but it wasn't enough.  Sweet little Sam was only a couple of years old when he finally lost his battle with that dread disease. 

My friend decided to adopt not long afterwards.  She heard about Toby and Theo through a rescue group.  Toby and Theo were found, alone, in a vacant apartment in Compton, California.  Someone had left them with some food, water and a litter box before they had abandoned them. 

Rescue workers wanted to keep the two together.  One cat was pretty outgoing, but the other was shy and quiet.  They had been through a lot together.

My friend took them both.  She said the kitties were happy to have a home and are adapting quite well to living with her.  The boys are helping my friend heal from her loss.  They are all three settling in comfortably together. 

Toby looks pretty mischievous to me!  And Theo reminds me very much of a sweet kitty I once knew named Doc Savage, Cat of Bronze.  Doc was one of the best little Daddy cats I've ever known.

Shy Theo
Thousands of animals are euthanized each day across America who could have been given a chance to survive.  If you are planning on getting a pet, please adopt from a shelter!  There are so many wonderful animals in the world who need a good home like yours. 

If you already have a pet - please spay and neuter your animals!  It is the responsible, kind thing to do.

This has been a public service announcement on behalf of little Theos and Tobys (and Jacks) everywhere.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Turkey Guy

Remember the bright Christmas elf from Trader Joe's?

I forgot to mention that he also appeared as Thanksgiving Turkey Guy at Thanksgiving.  And, as if to restore my faith in mankind, he offered to send me a photo of himself dressed as the aforementioned Thanksgiving Turkey Guy when I admitted I'd been too shy to ask him to pose for me in November.

In fact, he sent it to me, right then and there as I was waiting in the check-out line.  Is that nice, or what?

So, here it is, to brighten your day:  Thanksgiving Turkey Guy!  The Gobble-meister himself!  In all his All-American Turkey glory:
It gives the phrase "thunder thighs" a whole new meaning.

I wish I'd gotten a side view as well.  Sideways the effect was even better.

The feet just make the whole thing. 

When I came across him in this garb, back in November, he was chatting to a little girl sitting in a shopping cart being pushed by her mommy.  The little girl didn't think there was anything strange about this guy at all, or the way he looked. 

Or, maybe it was just that my own giggles were drowning out hers.  Could be!

I'll be looking for Thanksgiving Turkey guy again in 11 months.  In the meantime, I'll be bracing myself for Valentine's Day...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Forever Families

From Left to right: Samantha, Ashlyn, Hayden, Finn and Jude
The above is a picture of my cousin Colleen's sweet grandkids taken at Christmastime.  Colleen's oldest sister Ellen, a vibrant and wonderful soul, passed away on the 10th, leaving me thinking a lot about my own mortality, and feeling intensely grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who has given us a Plan that allows for families to be together eternally.

“Modern studies show that the public feels a widespread hunger for heaven—and family life in heaven.

“I want to be with my family eternally more than I want anything else.

“No church has a greater commitment to family history than the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does. We pursue family roots and records partly to know our ancestors but also to provide temple ordinances that build eternal bonds across the generations. Our understanding of family history also extends back to our pre-earth life, showing that our individual spirits are only one generation away from Him who is the literal Father of our spirit. Thus we pray to Him as “Heavenly Father,” and we call each other “brother” and “sister.” He sent us to earth to develop through demanding experience the personal qualities we need to live forever with Him. Then the Atonement makes it possible for us, if we are faithful, to return to be eternally “at one” with Him and with our mortal families.

“As Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said: “The fulness of eternal salvation is a family affair. … The gospel plan originated in the council of an eternal family, it is implemented through our earthly families, and has its destiny in our eternal families.”

“As the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore wrote, “Death is not extinguishing the light; it is putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.” Because of Family Future and Family Past, true love in Family Present is never wasted, and our sacrifices for the sake of eternal love signify everything.

“It isn’t easy to translate these principles into a tidy, daily reality.

“Family life is by its nature a continual struggle between the ideal and the real. But if your home often knows warm feelings of love and laughter, if your family is trying—even most of the time—to have family prayer, home evening, and honestly shared gospel experiences, you are learning the pattern for happiness. We know each other at our worst, and our best, in the closeness of family life. At our worst, we might wonder how we can keep living with each other. But in the best moments, we can’t really imagine living without each other.

“Your longing to belong forever to a loving family comes from God, and He has promised its fulfillment, if you are faithful: “For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness” (Psalms 107:9).

“I know His promise is sure.”
(Excerpts from “Joy”, an address given at BYU-Idaho on 13 Nov 2001 by Bruce C. Hafen of the Seventy)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Where in the World?

 So, Fred... Where in the world are you?

Here we are!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Happy Christmas In January

A tree!  Mark had put up a tree just for us!
My group of crazy friends has a tradition of celebrating Christmas in January.  We've been doing this for years.  It all started because there are just so many of us, and trying to schedule a Saturday in December was absurd.  There were always conflicts, and even when people did show up, they had to scurry off somewhere to do Christmas shopping, or for commitments to work or family or (shocked gasp!) other groups of friends.

So, now we just pick a Saturday in January and plan a whole leisurely day of good food, great conversation and gift exchanges.  It's really the best of both worlds.
This past Saturday was the day.  We all convened in the early afternoon.  This is what I saw (above) when I arrived.  There were already enough presents to sink the Titanic.

We even had Santa there - and Barb participating from Virginia via the wonders of modern technology!

There was even an appearance by the truly adorable spirit of Christmas present!

We saw some people we hadn't seen in a very long time...
..we gave each other silly gifts, and serious ones...
...and ate ourselves into a happy food coma.
Dinner was turkey with all the fixings imaginable, and then some.
We had a lot of laughs.
A LOT of laughs.
Piper (top of the cat tree) looks ready to pounce into the red tub while his brother Leo looks on
We even had all three cat children participating.  That was great. 

Thank you my dear friends.  What a fun day!  

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Charming Cottage in the Northwest

I was not happy when my friend Desiree moved to the Pacific Northwest.  It's way too far away!  However, she is very happy living closer to nature in this beautiful area of the world.  This is her delightful cottage.  We're getting a mini tour!
Desiree has a charming home with a Victorian theme running throughout.  This home is also filled with lots of fat cats.  Just as a home should be.
This is a photo of the foyer with a Queen Anne writing desk.  I love that you can see the cat toys on the parquet floors!  Desiree mentions that this is the kitty's play room.  Did you see the old-fashioned phone?  Lovely!
The pristine kitchen makes me sigh with... okay, I'll admit it: jealousy.  Desiree is an accomplished cook and baker.  She will put it to good use!
This is my favorite of all the pictures!  I love love love the old fashioned looking, yet modern, stove - I have no idea where you would find something like that.  Desiree says it's her pride and joy.  It may look like the old wood-burning stoves, but this one is fully modern and electric. 

Doesn't the little black and white cat look like Fat Louie of The Princess Diaries fame?  I think so! 

Desiree writes: "The kitties love my big kitchen.  They can watch the birds, humming birds, squirrels and chipmunks out the back sliding door."

I hope you have enjoyed this beautiful, and unusual, home tour.  Desiree has promised pictures of her fairy garden in the spring.  I can't wait!

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Case of the Mysterious Christmas Ribbons

One day, about a week or so before Christmas, I began finding little bits of ribbons around the house.
 At first it was just a tiny piece of green ribbon, then a piece of red...
I knew it had to be Jack's doing, but I couldn't figure out where they were coming from.  He's too little and not strong enough to get into the drawer where I keep the ribbons and wrapping paper, so I was mystified.

Until one day I saw this:
Yes, that's Jack with his head buried in the bag where I was keeping the small gifts for some of my co-workers.

I realized then that he had been systematically pulling the ribbons off the gifts in order to play with them.
Got any more of those?  They are fun!
I then discovered he had found all my hiding places for Christmas stuff.

The small boxes...
 And the bigger boxes...
 He particularly liked the ones he could curl up in.
We decided to keep the one Jack liked the best.  It's just the right size for playing with his favorite Christmas present - the bright orange fishy that Aunt Dianna sent.

So, mystery solved.  And ladies, sorry about all the little teeth marks and cat spit on the ribbons this year.  Jack was "helping".

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Wilds of Ancient Mexico

It's always fun to start the new year with something different.  This week Elder Nils writes:
"It's been a really fun week.  Today we went on a trip up to see a pyramid.  It used to be a military outpost out on top of this mountain we had to climb.  It was small, but pretty cool. 

From this picture, it looks like it was a bit of a climb to get up there!  They would have had to airlift old Auntie M in.  I love doing these tours vicariously from the comfort of the living room couch.  (Thanks, Nils!)

The view from the top was incredible
Re-enacting the human sacrifices

"Apparently they used to do some kind of sacrifices and stuff up there.  It's definitely got an incredible view.  It was interesting to learn about the history of the place. The whole little pueblo that we were in used to be a huge city of pyramids.."

Apparently the boys couldn't resist clowning around a little bit, either! 

Posing on the top, Elder Nils and his comp
Our intrepid hero explorers look pretty handsome, don't they?  I'm so glad they are able to enjoy some of the historical sites of the interesting country they are serving in.

I've never seen a pyramid up close and personal, so it's fun to hear about Nils' adventures!