Friday, December 26, 2008

A Lovely Christmas

I think after posting every day or two in November, I've come down with some serious writer's block . . . all that thinking and pondering about did me in! So, December has been bleak when it comes to posting and I'll recap the Christmas festivities with some pictures when we get back from our vacation, but for now I wanted to wish everyone a late "Merry Christmas," and an early "Happy New Year," as well as write a few thoughts.

Last Sunday was one of the highlights of this season. It was so nice to have my parents attend church with us on the Sunday before Christmas. I was touched by the talks and music; such beautiful reminders in the midst of all the holiday craziness, of the true and simple meaning of Christmas. After scurrying about getting everyone ready and just having "one of those mornings" on Sunday, I definitely wasn't the pinnacle of Christlike love getting out the door - ugh. But once I was seated (late), took a deep breath, and listened to the choir sing I was feeling much better.

One talk has stayed with me. The speaker reminded us to remember the Savior daily give those gifts that mean the most each day of our lives: a smile, a kind word, a hug, a portion of our time, extra patience, a note of gratitude, etc. I was really touched by her words and hope to remember that those are the gifts that matter most in life and can make such a difference in our families. Sunday's sacrament meeting program as well as the wonderful program in Relief Society (thanks to Chris for filling in for me on the piano so I could attend) was just what I needed to feel refreshed and focused during this week.

Christmas memories 2008:
  • Liza's pre-school program - being together in our pjs, singing, cuddling, and listening to stories together with her class on a snowy morning.
  • Time with just Sophie delivering gifts and visiting friends and relatives.
  • Making candy with Liza and Caroline.
  • Ryan's gift: "Doing whatever needs to be done without complaining" (it's been heavenly!)
  • Watching Caroline perform as a "party girl" in The Nutcracker.
  • Preparing some Christmas gifts and delivering together to a sweet refugee family from Burma.
  • Having my parents here.
  • Sophie telling us: "I know why we give presents at Christmas. It's because Heavenly Father gave us Jesus, and he's a gift" (out of the blue - she's our sensitive soul).
  • Opening Travis' gift to our family - box in a box in a box in a box . . . the kids LOVED it!
  • Watching Christmas specials under blankets with the fire going.
  • Reading Caroline's sweet note to us on Christmas morning (really, the only "gift" I ever ask for . . . a little note :-).
  • Our family Christmas outing (a play, the bookstore, and dinner together).
  • Listening to Sophie play her Christmas songs on the piano over and over - I didn't even need to turn on the Christmas music.
  • Chris' thoughtful gifts this year - way to go Love!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Christmas Spirit

Tonight we took the kids to Hale Centre Theatre's production of "A Christmas Carol." It was beautiful, touching, and inspiring. I LOVED it . . . the perfect family activity as we head into Christmas Eve tomorrow and try to keep the childrens' focus on the real reason we celebrate Christmas.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Ward Nativity

Saturday evening was the annual ward Christmas party at the church. The primary acted out the Nativity and Elizabeth was asked to be Mary. I just had to put up some pictures because she was so excited . . . the look on her face when all the shepherds and wise men came over and knelt to see the baby was just precious. I wish I had captured it on video, but unfortunately I was playing the piano (thus, the pics taken in the primary room) and Chris missed it. Here are a few that I thought were sweet:

Joseph and Mary
Silas, the "head shepherd" Liza with shepherds, Daniel and Kai, after the performance

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The holidays have officially begun . . .

OK, 48 hours. It was two days of non-stop action this past weekend and I'm finally composed to write about it. CRAZY is the word that comes to mind . . . think two different overnight guests, a dance performance, two parties you are helping host, a mother/daughter tea party, Festival of Trees, oh, and maybe a gift for one of your kids that unexpectedly is READY to go and it's not even CHRISTMAS! Did I mention trying to keep the house in order and clean? By Saturday night after the final event, I seriously had to pinch myself to believe that we actually pulled it off, and everything went even better than planned. Really folks, after last weekend I consider the Christmas season about wrapped up, wouldn't you think?

The details in a nutshell: My mom comes to spend time with the kids and visit with some friends while she's here - thank goodness, because if she didn't come on Wednesday I wouldn't have had my house cleaned EARLY. She leaves Friday morning and Chris' dad comes Friday afternoon to spend a couple nights and be here for the Cantera Family party.

Guests aside, we are notified Thursday evening that Caroline's Christmas present came a little early and has weaned itself from it's mother and is in need of it's new home immediately. You mean I've got to be ready for a baby bunny and have some explanation for the kids of WHY it showed up three weeks early?? Think quick: get the cage ready, have Chris drive to Provo Friday after work and pick it up, and hurry and write a letter to put in the mail from Santa that looks legitimate so the little girls will really think an elf brought the bunny. OK, we can do that. First I just need to get my table I'm hosting ready for the big neighborhood party Friday evening, find something to wear, and pick up a ski rack.

Friday comes - oh, it's the tea party right after school, which is right after I make a Costco run for the party Saturday night, give Chris final instructions for the bunny pick-up, and help in Sophie's class room. OK - I'm running at lightning speed now . . . type the letter, sneak it into the mailbox, take Sophie to the tea-party, run home, change sheets and pick up disorderly house for the next guest, tell Sophie and friend to go get the mail, iron something to wear for the party tonight (oh this is good, a piece of CHOCOLATE is on the ironing board and melts right into my silk blouse - NO time for that - thank goodness it's on the back b/c I'm still wearing this shirt!), share in the excitement of the Santa letter, run out the door to get to the party early to help, pass Chris as he's coming in, make sure he's got the bunny, tell him to get over to the party on time! Phew, now I can enjoy myself . . . dinner, dancing, good friends and neighbors . . . . then up until after midnight helping clean up :-).

Saturday - girls giddy with excitement at the surprise Santa left overnight, putting the bunny in a box with a big ribbon for Caroline, tears of happiness from a girl who's had her heart set on this bunny for a year, pancake breakfast, costumes, hair and make-up for Sophie and Caroline, guys out the door for Ryan's hockey game, girls head down to fest. of trees for a performance and some tree viewing time, race back home to get ready for big Cantera family party at our house beginning at 4:30pm - oh, don't forget to stop at the grocery store for last minute items. BREATHE JULIE . . . put kids and husband to work, get tables set up, vacuum/dust, food in oven, candles lit, house ready . . . time for company!

After it's all said and done I absolutely love getting the family and cousins all together - lots of food, laughter, and fun with everyone. It's worth every minute of the work and stress. Which reminds me, I failed to mention the two Nutcracker rehearsals we had to get Caroline to during this same weekend. Really, what would life be like without non-stop action every once in a while?? It's no wonder we all crashed and fell asleep Sunday evening while watching the 1st Presidency Christmas message at 6pm :-).

Sophie and little friends at Anabelle's Tea Party

What fun . . . Sophie with Emily, Rebecca, Isabel, Anabelle, and Kate.


My table at the neighborhood Christmas Party (thanks to my friends who helped with the center piece - like I would know how to do that?!)

With my friend Beckie at the party . . . yes, it's a ballroom, and yes, it's inside someone's home.


Caroline's early Christmas surprise . . .

Pure excitement!

Caroline finally got her baby bunny . . .

It's the cutest animal alive . . . you'll want one once you get a look at this little guy :-)

Sophie and Carlie before they perform as dolls at the Festival of Trees.

We love looking at all the trees together

Kids table at the Cantera Christmas party

Family Talent Show - Laura and Jon performing "The Polar Express" for the kids - delightful!

Kevin and family's improv/skit - absolutely hilarious . . .

We ARE the Red Sox Nation

White Elephant exchange - always lots of laughs . . .
Looks like Chris gets the sweater this year

After the party . . . we did it!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Christmas Season

Just a few thoughts now that it's December and my favorite holiday season . . .
  • Keep it simple and meaningful. Your kids will never remember the fancy seasonal decor you spent hours arranging, but they will remember the feeling you created. The one thing my little girls can't WAIT for me to dig out of the basement is the Nativity. That's why I love this picture so much - they will play with it for hours . . . rearranging the sheep, the shepherds, and taking the baby Jesus in and out of the manger countless times. Try to find a nativity set they can play with. We began collecting the 5" Fontanini pieces a few years ago and they are perfect for little hands. (You can find them at Modern Display).
  • Spend more time reading, baking, and singing with your children and less time dragging them through the mall.
  • Create traditions, but be spontaneous at the same time. If you don't do the exact same thing every year, it's ok, your kids will survive and they might even like doing something different.
  • Watch all the fun holiday specials that are on television right now - it's the only time during the year when the entire family can really watch a show together, so pull out the blankets, turn on the fire, and snuggle!
  • Keep gifts to a minimum. Ever since our children were tiny we've told them Santa will fill their stockings with some treats and bring ONE special gift, and Mom and Dad will have something for them under the tree as well. Besides books and clothes and a family gift (usually a game or something we can all do together) each year, that's all they are given. They are very careful in selecting that one item that means more to them than anything and it keeps those "lists" kids put together to a minimum :-).
  • Serve together - visit and sing for grandparents, put together gifts and food for a needy family or neighbor and deliver secretly as a family, or participate in a food or clothing drive together.
  • Set a deadline to have all the gifts wrapped, cards mailed, projects finished . . . so when the kids get out of school for Christmas vacation and the snow starts to fall you can get out and PLAY!
Relish the season, enjoy every minute, and take time to see the magic of Christmas through the eyes of your children.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

17. The Gospel of Jesus Christ

"Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life." ~ 2 Nephi 31:20, The Book of Mormon.

Today is the last day of November and officially the final post on my gratitude list. As you can tell, I obviously didn't write everyday (um, not sure what I was thinking when I made that promise), but I think I've covered my "thankful" bases pretty well. It's been a lovely experience and really given me more of an optimistic attitude and a grateful heart. I thought it only appropriate end my list with what I consider the absolute greatest blessing in my life - the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and all it encompasses.

When I mentioned in a previous post about those things that "define me" as a person, living the gospel is definitely at the top of my list. I'm not perfect at it, far from it, but the hope, the joy, the confidence it gives me is unparallelled. I can't imagine my life without it. I believe in absolute truth; the knowledge that there is a supreme being, a creator who knows and cares deeply for us individually, is truly a gift. I am grateful for my testimony, a testimony of the reality of God and my savior Jesus Christ, of the atonement, the restoration, a living prophet, and the scriptures. My life would be empty without the wisdom, guidance, and reassurance I find each day as I read from the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon.

I know that a part of who I am is because of my complete and unwavering faith. It brings me a deep and satisfying happiness that I know cannot be found elsewhere. The message of gospel of Jesus Christ is truly one of love, peace, goodness, and joy. It blesses not only me, but my entire family and I couldn't imagine raising my children without it in their lives. What an amazing blessing.

Friday, November 28, 2008

16. Motherhood

I know I've posted this video before, but I just had to again today in celebration of being "the Mom." Seriously, it is MY LIFE she is singing about and I love it! Motherhood has got to be one of life's most amazing blessings, at least for me. As my children grow, and the more independent, social, and involved they are becoming is so exciting to observe. I don't know if it's just me, but I get such an adrenaline rush from running my kids around, taking them to activities and their friends, and especially watching them in action whether it's Ryan on the ice in a hockey game, Caroline giggling uncontrollably with her girlfriends, or Sophie and Liza busy in the art room creating their next project . . . it's all such a natural "high" for me.

I think my calling in life was to be a mom, I live for it. It's when our days get outrageously crazy when I feel most alive; when I'm racing Caroline down for a Nutcracker rehearsal, then picking Ryan up at wrestling practice, running back to fix dinner, then hoping back in the car to grab Sophie at ballet class, then gathering everyone back in the kitchen as they work on homework and I fix dinner while one child practices piano . . . definitely the best part of the day.

A wise friend once told me that it's the mother's job to "create the environment and atmosphere" for her family, and I couldn't agree more. Each day I try to remember what a blessing it is to have these children in my home, to be graced by their beautiful spirits, their individual personalities, and all they offer. It's not easy and it's not bliss every day, but when I keep life in perspective and truly remember that these little charges living in my home do not just belong to me, then I can take a step back and a deep breath, give them a big hug and tell them how truly grateful I am that they are mine and how proud I am of each one.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Today is Thanksgiving and I thought it would be ever so appropriate to express my gratitude for my family. Not just these fine looking folks in the picture above, but to my entire extended family. . . grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and in-laws, etc. I'm really grateful today that my two sister-in-laws are cooking Thanksgiving dinner for us, and all I have to bring is rolls and pumpkin pie (such a great feeling, especially after being sick yesterday).

So, while the pies are cooking in the oven I would like to share how thankful I am for FAMILY - there is nothing that can compare to being a part of the larger picture, of something greater than yourself. It makes me so happy that my kids have cousins their age and how much fun we all have when we're together. I didn't grow up with any cousins even close to my age and was envious of my friends who would come home from a family reunion talking about all the great things they did with their cousins. It is such a blessing now to watch my children have that opportunity and how much they look forward to being with their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I love being with both the Howick and Cantera sides of the family - there is always laughter, stimulating conversation, good food, and of course, chaos (especially when all 18 Cantera cousins are together).

Now that we are entering the holiday season, getting together with family is one of my top priorities. The kids can't wait for the annual Howick and Cantera parties - they are always a little crazy, but so much fun. I love the family traditions we have in our own little family, as well as the fun gatherings and traditions we all look forward to with our extended families. It is definitely during this time of year that we feel closest and enjoy the time spent together. My family is one of my greatest blessings in this life and I am so grateful for each and every member.

The annual Howick family party - Christmas tree decorating contest - "and the winner is . . . !"

Monday, November 24, 2008


"Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born." ~ Anais Nin

What can I say? My life would be empty without friends, without those people in my life that I can count on without hesitation, that I can laugh and cry with, and talk with for hours. Those special friends who just make you smile when you see their name on your caller ID or email because just hearing from them can turn your day around if you're not having a particularly good one. It is those friends who just call to check in, to relate a funny story, and are genuinely interested in what's going on in my little corner of the universe that mean so much to me . . . those people who truly complete me as a person and add another beautiful and interesting dimension to my life.

One of my greatest blessings today is the wealth of friendships I've nurtured over the years, they are priceless. I believe every person has a story, we learn so much from the people around us, and one can never have TOO many friends. I have, what Chris considers to be a major social disease, of meeting new friends wherever I find myself - the club, the gym, pre-school, tennis, kindermusik, the kids' lessons, the blogosphere, airplanes . . . really, WHEREVER. For example, just tonight at Caroline's tennis tournament I ran into two old friends and met a new one (her name is Gwen, from Park City - just moved here two months ago from California and now we're going skiing next month - lol!).

I've loved reconnecting with old friends these past few months, especially those I knew years ago from Jr. High and High School. Many were merely acquaintances that I passed in the hall each day, offered a friendly "hello" and a wave, knew who they were dating, and maybe a little of the associated drama, and that was about it. But, NOW, connecting with these friends again has been such an experience - I've been fascinated to hear what's happened to each person since we graduated almost 20 years ago; I'm thrilled by their families and successes, happy to see where they are today, and heartbroken after learning about their struggles. I've truly felt such a connection with these friends who really did play such an important role in my adolescent years, it's been remarkable.

Life gets busy, but reach out every day to someone, meet a new friend, reconnect with an old one, send a note or make that phone call to keep those relationships strong . . . you'll be glad you did and your life will be blessed for the effort!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

13. My Parents

I am so grateful for my mom and dad. I can't even begin to express my gratitude to them for all they do for our family. They are so generous with both their time and energy, and always make such an effort to stay involved in our lives as well as the lives of our children. The kids adore their grandma and grandpa and look forward to spending time with them down in St. George - especially when they get to go down alone without the rest of the family. It makes me so happy that my parents play such an active role in the kids' lives and in their activities. Just this weekend it was watching Ryan's hockey game, in a few weeks they will attend Caroline's Nutcracker performance (again . . . really, I think it will be their 4th year of the Nutcracker), not to mention the tennis lessons, ballet and piano recitals they have been to over the years. And it's not just the fact that they come to these things, it's also the relationships they are building with each child that is so meaningful.

While they were visiting this weekend I thought of how my mom and dad have enriched and blessed my life over the years. I would be lost without them and I'm grateful for their example, guidance, and friendship. I hope to one day be as thoughtful, disciplined, and talented as my mom; and as patient, generous, and selfless as my dad. They truly are a blessing to our family.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

12. Piano

"What’s great about music is that when you’re angry, you can do this: and he played Beethoven. And when you’re heartbroken, you can play this: and he played Chopin. All of that is in your heart; you just can’t get it out of your fingers yet. The reason we’re going to practice scales is so that when your heart feels, your fingers will let you express it." ~ from a music teacher.

Who would have guessed that after 20 years of rarely touching a keyboard I would find myself so in love with this inanimate object. From the moment our piano set foot in our home a couple years ago I've discovered a new passion. We don't have furniture in the living room, but we have our grand. I can't even express how much that piano means to me, and this is coming from someone who couldn't wait to QUIT playing the piano at age 15 after nine years of lessons and hours upon hours of practice. Now with some appreciation and maturity, I've discovered that there is something so relaxing, so calming about sitting and playing; feeling the keys under your fingers and stretching your mind to learn a new piece, that after all these years it's become something of an addiction. Who would have guessed that I would enjoy something so much that I once couldn't get away from fast enough? Now there are days I don't even notice how fast time is slipping by while I'm playing and wish I had more time to practice. So, I have to tell my parents "thank-you" for the years of lessons and patience as I learned to play.

I'm grateful for the music that fills our home now that we have a piano that is so expressive; really, it's amazing, the more you put into it, the more it gives back to you (I can't really say that about the Kurzweil ;-). I love hearing the kids practice and especially listen to Chris as he effortlessly plays his favorite Elton John, Jackson Browne, or Billy Joel scores. My favorite time to play is in the evening when the little girls are in bed and the big kids are in their rooms reading . . . that's when I pull out some Jon Schmidt or George Winston and let their soothing melodies resonate throughout the house. I can't think of a better way to unwind at the end of the day - what a blessing.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

11. The Mountains

"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves."
John Muir

That is one of my favorite quotes and I know I already posted it after our Yosemite Trip, but felt it needed another appearance. I have to be in the mountains, live near them, see them, climb, bike, ski, and run in them. Just breathing the fresh air while on a hike is so rejuvenating for me. I have such immense gratitude for the canyon I live, for the mountains of the Wasatch Front that I am so blessed to see every single day that it would be almost disrespectful to not include them in my gratitude list. You want to see me at my very best . . . spend a day with me in the canyon!

Monday, November 17, 2008

10. COSTCO baby!

Yes, you've got it right - I am SO thankful for Costco . . . those of you who know me well, know that my Costco fascination is more that a whim, it's an obsession. I don't like shopping, I can't do malls, boutiques, or basically anywhere there are sales people, and I have absolutely no idea what the latest fashion or home trends are at the moment . . . all the necessities of Costco worship. You shop on tables, no one bugs you, you can pick up box of tennis balls, new pjs, a book, and even a patio table in one stop, and everything is such a deal it just makes you smile. I am giddy when half way through my day I realize that my entire outfit was purchased at Costco :-). Really, I think I have a disease. Believe me, I'm not the only one who grabs their phone and calls friends about the latest deal right there in the store: "AMY, you have GOT to see these boots for the girls - they're only $13.99 and SO cute . . . oh, and I think I found the perfect table for your hallway. . . . oh, and did you see that they have a HUGE jar of pesto for only $7.99!" Disneyland has nothing on Costco when it comes to the "happiest place on earth."

Here's a story that sums up my devotion to Costco. This summer while checking out after a delightful spree, I glanced up and found an old friend helping me. I let out an excited yelp of recognition as I gasped, "GERARD!! It's been so long, how are you doing? How's the family? Is your little girl still dancing? What brings you to this Costco?" Caroline's jaw dropped as she looked at me, then back at the Costco employee, then back at me. That is the first indication that maybe my adoration for Costco has gone a little too far - I'm on a first name basis with it's store managers. As we were walking out, Caroline was beside herself with embarrassment as she began venting her frustrations: "Mom, I can't believe you remember Costco workers from PROVO . . . Mom, did you have to call him by his first name . . . Mom, do you know exactly how weird that was??" I love it when my kids use the word "weird" when describing my actions, it means I'm right on track as a parent :-).

So, in celebration of the greatest store on the planet in which I am ever so grateful, I'd like to share some of my favorite Costco finds, as my dear friend Jodelle and I use to describe anything wonderful we find at the warehouse. When it comes to Costco, we don't even speak in full sentences because it's so exhilarating, it's a language which only we understand, and in response all our kids just roll their eyes. It goes something like this: "Capris?" . . . "Costco baby!" "Love the rug" . . . "Costco baby!" "Cute vest" . . . "Costco Baby!!" "Beautiful table". . . "Oh ya, COSTCO BABY!!!"

Saturday, November 15, 2008

9. Indie Movies and Ethnic Food

OK, I was scanning my last few "thankful" blog entries and it's starting to sound like a sacrament meeting talk, and I can only act so mature and philosophical for so long :-). For the next few posts I would like to take a look at some of the fun things out there that bless my life and define me as a person. I'll start with two of my very favorite things to do with Chris on the weekend - hit an independent movie at the Broadway or Tower and then head to one of our local ethnic restaurants. Last night it was this movie, and I'm a little hesitant recommending it to anyone who finds some language and intense family drama uncomfortable (it's not for everyone), but for me, just like the majority of independent films, it was thought provoking, insightful, compassionate, and honest. If you watch that film without shedding at least ONE tear, you have no heart!

I am passionate and extremely selective about the movies I'll spend my time and money viewing. I've found the great majority of mainstream box-office films too predictable and even mind numbing like this film (we rented the dvd after a recommendation and were all so sick of it 1/2 through we turned it off - really, it was that awful - my apologies to those friends of mine who liked it), that I find it refreshing to sit in a theater and have your mind and soul renewed and expanded due to creative and talented writing and directing. My absolute favorite movie of all time I saw a year or so again at the Broadway after missing it's premiere at Sundance (DANG), it's one of those films that doesn't leave you, that says so much with so little and truly understands the heart. THAT my friends, you'll rarely find at the local Cinemark 16. I was shocked last summer while at a wedding reception conversing with some friends and making the remark that afterwards Chris and I were headed downtown for the latest indie . . . our friends had NO idea what we were talking about. Are you kidding? People . . . LIVE, experience, and find those things out there that are a little different, that enrich your life, that truly explore the human heart - you'll be a better person for the experience. Go see a great documentary and learn something new, or read the subtitles of an amazing foreign film, or explore a period drama, or a thoughtful biopic. You'll be glad you did!

OK, next, my insatiable desire for something with cumin, curry, or coridander. As grateful as I am for the pilgrims this time of year, they didn't bring eastern spices with them on the Mayflower, so right now I'm incredibly thankful for those immigrants who come to our little city and set up shop creating delightful aromas and victuals that tantalize the palate. Just give me anything Indian, Thai, Lebanese, Turkish, Moroccan, Greek, Indonesian, Afgani . . . ok, you get the picture. I am so thankful for the little restaurants scattered around the valley that cater to my desires, and especially to my friends Rachel and Sue who introduced me to these culinary delights while in college. So, to increase business so I'll never show up one day and see a "closed" sign, I'll put a few of my favorites here for your enjoyment:
  • Himalayan Kitchen (our choice last night - 4th S., west of State)
  • Cedars of Lebanon (152 E. 2nd S.)
  • Mazza (9th/9th and 15th/15th - I prefer this location - smaller and more intimate, plus the owner is more often up here and he's great!)
  • Royal Thai (1968 Murray-Holladay Road)
  • Cafe Madrid (for a splurge and authentic Spanish cuisine, 2080 E. 3900 S.)
I couldn't live without good food and thought provoking entertainment - my life is richer and more colorful . . . for that I am filled with gratitude!

Friday, November 14, 2008

8. Agency

"To LIVE is to CHOOSE." -- Kofi Annan

Last month my bookgroup read The Giver, an extraordinary book which in fact is written as a "young adult" novel, but is so profound that I'm recommending it for all ages. I've read the book before and thought the premise was intriguing and learned some and forgot most of it. However, this time the impact it made on me was remarkable as I continue to ponder the miraculous gift of agency, moral agency - the freedom to choose. How often do we really take time to even think about the blessing of choice and how it shapes our very being, our life, our existence? It's like the air we breathe everyday, it's just there, it just is. But to contemplate how our lives, my life, would be different if that gift was taken away is truly astounding - how would we function?

I am immensely grateful for this gift, to live in a country where I can exercise this miracle daily and truly experience all that life offers. I have deep gratitude for the agency of others, and how through their actions my life has been so richly blessed. It is this same gift that can cause terrible pain and affliction, but for that I am grateful as well, for the blessings of strength and refinement that come when each of us chooses how we will react to the choices of others. Which reminds me of this quote I posted a couple months ago. I am ultimately responsible . . . it's my agency that can either bless or hurt others, enrich or destroy myself or those closest to me . . . what a responsibility, what a blessing.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Doesn't this picture (taken a few days after Halloween) perfectly summarize the unpredictability of living in Utah and it's constant changes in the weather, no matter what the season? Today I just want to express my LOVE of Utah and all it offers. From the beautiful Wasatch mountain range to the red rocks of Southern Utah, to all the lakes and streams up in the canyons, it's one of my favorite places in the world and I'm grateful to call Utah home.

So, in lieu of a lengthy gratitude post like the last one, I'll just put up some of my favorite spots in our great state:

Arches National Park Skiing in Little Cottonwood Canyon Downtown Salt Lake City
Big Cottonwood Creek
Bell's Canyon Reservoir (i.e. "Our Lake")
Albion Basin Wildflowers