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Monthly Archives: September 2009

Beautiful San Francisco

Last month Robin and I celebrated our 12th anniversary and so we decided to take a trip without the kids to San Francisco and the Bay area. Over the past several years, we have tried to have a couples vacation at some point during the year and it’s been very fun. We’ve been on two cruises — one to San Diego, Catalina Island and Ensenada and the other to Miami, Key West and Cozumel. We have also been to San Antonio, Las Vegas and last year we went to New York. We’ve also done some local stays at Little America and the Armstrong Mansion in SLC, the Silver Lake Lodge in Park City and the Homestead in Midway. Thanks to wonderful grandparents, relatives and friends who are willing to help with child care, we have been able to do some fun things together as a couple.

This most recent trip was a blast; here’s a quick summary:

Oakland Temple Grounds and Visitor Center – very beautiful and peaceful; amazing views of the Bay Area.

Berkeley Campus – very busy; didn’t stay long.

Muir Woods – amazing old growth Redwood forest not far from the city.

Stinson Beach – nice views with a fun drive coming and going.

Wicked – excellent musical with great sets, costumes and special effects, a good plot, wonderful acting and singing (note to self: get more sleep the night before; I struggled to stay awake)

Alcatraz – fantastic tour of this famous island/prison; cell house audio tour was a highlight.

Chinatown – lots of fun shopping and dining experiences.

Coit Tower – amazing views of the Bay Area.

Streets – 45 degree angle streets were certainly fun to drive; and a little bit scary.

Ghiradelli Square – lots of tasty, overpriced chocolate.

Fizherman’s Wharf – charming and fun place for a stroll; lots of energy and movement.

The Franciscan Restaurant – excellent food with impressive views of the bay from their wall of glass.

Golden Gate Park – huge park with lots to see and do.

China Camp State Park – old Chinese fishing village; fun to learn about shrimp fishing in the 1800s.

Bodega Bay – beach town where they filmed Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.”

Coast Drive – craggy rocks, crashing waves, very beautiful.

Sonoma Valley – vineyards that go on for miles; charming towns.

We kept the cost of the entire trip to less than $1,000 thanks to a travel voucher from Delta that we earned last year on our trip to New York. It was a great three days to spend together sans kids/distractions. It makes me more grateful for my sweet wife.

Here are some photos:

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2009 in Trips

 

New iPhone and Bedroom Set

Two weeks ago, I finally gave into and bought an iPhone 3G. I have been wanting one ever since Apple introduced the product in June 2007. But when I realized I could get a refurbished 8 GB 3G for $49 and that the monthly service plan would be discounted by 20% because of my company’s relationship with AT&T, I could resist no longer.

iPhone

I had very high expectations for this phone and so far it has met or exceeded nearly all of those expectations. I love it. It is a life-changing technology. Just like the DVR which gives users so much more control over their TV viewing, the iPhone revolutionizes the way users access and manage data and entertainment. It is fantastic. For example, the maps feature was invaluable on our recent trip to San Francisco. It helped us know where we were at all times and how to get to where we wanted to go. That feature has already proven very valuable for me as I search for clients’ addresses. I’m working to convert my contacts, calendar and To Do lists over to the phone so I have a quick, searchable way to find important information. The apps I’ve downloaded are very useful and the core functions (iPod, phone and internet / email device) are wonderful.

Two downsides:  the battery life isn’t as good as I had hoped. However, after doing some research, I found out that using the 3G network to download data really eats up the battery charge. So I’ve made a few modifications to how I use the phone. I still have to charge it every night, but that’s because I’m a “power user” and use it a lot. The other struggle is managing my minutes. I selected a plan that was as affordable as possible, but it’s required me to modify my phone usage a bit. I have 900 anytime minutes and unlimited calling on nights and weekends. But with Cricket, my old provider, I had unlimited talk time and I used at least 1500 minutes in a month. I’ve coped with that situation by simply using a landline instead of my cell phone if one is available. And I do look at my online minutes usage record every few days to make sure I’m on track not to exceed my limits. So far I’m doing okay. 

In other news, Robin and I finally decided to buy a bedroom set after 12 years of marriage. We’ve been sleeping on a frame queen bed we inherited from my grandmother and have never had a matching set of furniture. Robin recently received a bit of inheritance money from her grandparents and we decided that instead of frittering it away on small stuff, we’d focus on some larger-ticket items, like this:

Bedroom Set

It arrives today and we’re excited. We hope that it won’t look too big for our master bedroom, which isn’t huge. We bought a second nightstand, recognizing that it probably won’t fit in the room. We’ll use it when we get a larger house. We would have liked a king bed, but again, we have limited space in the room. And we’ll still be using the same queen mattress and box springs, so no pillow-top mattress for us just yet. All in good time.

Robin also got some new pots and pans for the kitchen and some new light fixtures for the upstairs rooms. A small spending spree doesn’t happen very often in our family, so this has been pretty fun. We probably should have put the money into savings, but Grandma and Grandpa would have wanted us to get something like that, right?!

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2009 in Random Thoughts, Technology

 

Whew, what a summer!

Labor Day Weekend always feels like the end of summer for me, so this weekend we decided to play hard. From Friday to Monday, we watched three movies, ate at three restaurants, went swimming twice and even stayed overnight at a resort. I am exhausted from my relaxing weekend! And since it was the last weekend of summer, I thought about what I did over the past three months to accomplish some specific goals. Just for fun, I counted up some of my activities and, according to my diary entries from Memorial Day to Labor Day, I did the following:

Swimming
I visited the pool 28 times, including 16 visits with my kids, 10 visits on my own to swim laps and two visits with the scouts. Most of the visits were to the South County Outdoor Pool in Riverton, but I also visited the Crestwood Pool in Sandy, the South Jordan Fitness Center and Marv Jenson Recreation Center in South Jordan, Cowabunga Bay in Draper, East Canyon Resort in Henefer, the Hyatt Place in Denver, along with pools at my siblings’ condos and Sherwood Hills Resort in Wellsville.

Hiking
I went on 10 hikes this summer, although a couple would probably be better classified as walks. In June I hiked to Timpanogos Cave with Parley’s fourth grade class and then hiked to the top of Grandeur Peak with my brother Matt, followed by a hike with my brother Dan on the Lake Blanch Trail in Big Cottonwood Canyon. In July, our family hiked on the trail around Payson Lake and then the next weekend, my son Parley joined me on a hike to Dog Lake via Butler Fork. I did a hike every Saturday in August, including a trip to Huber Grove in Midway, a hike with Robin and baby James to Ghost Falls in Corner Canyon, a strenuous climb up to Cardiff Pass in Little Cottonwood Canyon with my brothers Dan and Nate, and a hike to Red Pine Lake with the scouts. The final “hike” was on the trails at the Sherwood Hills Resort yesterday. Good times.

Tennis
Over the past nine years, I have lived very close to a park with a tennis court. I love to play tennis, but since it requires making arrangements with other players, I have seldom played over the past decade. That all changed this summer as I found a couple willing tennis partners and played 15 times, including a couple of games with Parley who got a tennis racquet for his birthday in May.

Golfing
I had intended to play more golf this summer, but time and budget constraints didn’t allow for it. (I was busy doing other things, as you can see.) I did manage to hit a bucket of balls at South Mountain and at Riverbend. I also played a round of golf at Riverbend on July 4th and at Fox Hollow in American Fork last Saturday. Perhaps there’s still time to golf before the season ends.

Camping
We did four camping trips this summer including one night at Payson Lakes in July and one night in Wasatch Mountain State Park in August. The other two were in Riverton – one in our backyard in June (does that count) and the other in the field behind our church in August. (I also camped one night at Potter’s Ponds with the scouts and a night in the dorms at Snow College in Ephraim for youth conference.)

Add to all that jogging with my dog 30 minutes per day, six days per week and I’d say it was a very active summer. I wish I could say that all this physical activity resulted in my losing a bunch of weight, but lamentably, summer BBQs and cold desserts have prevented that. I guess the good news is that I haven’t gained weight; I continue my weigh-ins with my friend Mike and that has helped. I just wish I could get skinny and stay there! Anyway, I am currently forming my game plan for fall/winter physical fitness, which likely will include weight lifting (yuck) and racquetball. We’ll see…

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2009 in Health

 

“I was in prison, and ye came unto me…”

“I was in prison, and ye came unto me…” (Matthew 25:36).

Last Sunday night, four of my friends and I had the chance to present a musical fireside to about 60 inmates at the Utah State Penitentiary. After arriving at the prison, we were directed through various gates, doors and security checkpoints. The high fences topped with barbwire and the other extreme security measures made me think about how grateful I am for my freedom.

As the inmates filed into the small chapel wearing their white jumpsuits, I wasn’t sure how to react. I couldn’t help wondering what crimes each of them had committed to end up in this awful place. And yet they greeted us with friendly smiles and warm handshakes. They were genuinely glad that we had come to visit them. We sang five songs for them in acapella four-part harmony, including “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” “Brightly Beams Our Father’s Mercy,”  “Come, Come Ye Saints,” “Amazing Grace,” and “I Love the Lord.”

Before each song, one of us would take a few minutes to share some thoughts about the song we were about to sing. The spoken word was powerful, but the music is what resonated with those in attendance. We all felt the presence of the Holy Ghost in the room that night bearing witness of the truthfulness of the messages contained in those sacred hymns, especially the messages about Christ’s grace and the power of his redeeming love. Several of the inmates were mouthing the words to the songs we sang. At the end of the program, we invited them to sing “I Know that My Redeemer Lives” and it was amazing to hear all these convicted felons raise their voices in testifying of the reality of the savior Jesus Christ.

At the beginning of the program, I made some opening remarks in which I said something like, “Gentlemen, we’re glad to be here tonight.” However, in my concluding comments, I found myself referring to them as “brethren” instead of “gentlemen.” Something had changed in me. The Spirit had softened my heart and helped me to remember that despite their mistakes, these men are still children of God with great worth. This lesson was made especially poignant for me through an experience that I had during our visit.

I didn’t expect to see any familiar faces in the crowd. But I did. A man sitting in the second row was a former first-grade teacher at my children’s elementary school. Two years ago, he was convicted of multiple counts of child abuse, a situation that shocked, angered and saddened everyone in our neighborhood. Thankfully, my own children were not affected by the actions of this man, but I personally know people who were directly affected by him. And suddenly, I wasn’t just looking into a crowd of anonymous prisoners; I was sharing music and testimony with a man whose choices had seriously impacted people I know and love.

After the fireside, he approached me and we established how we knew one another. In our brief conversation, he shed remorseful tears and asked me to convey his sincere regret for his mistakes to anyone that I might know who may have been affected by him. I told him I would.

This experience taught me two important lessons. First, I was reminded of the fact that we are free to choose our own path in life, but we must accept the consequences of our actions. This man’s choices had resulted in his losing his job, his family, his church membership and his freedom. Even after he has served his time for his crimes, he will be punished by his own regret and by the stigma society places on sex offenders. These consequences will be with him for the rest of his life.

The experience also helped me better understand the power of the Savior’s sacrifice. Even this man can obtain forgiveness and be made whole through the atonement of Jesus Christ. And while it will be a very difficult road to travel for him, Jesus Christ has the power to redeem him. Perhaps some would say he is not worth redeeming, but I believe that the “worth of souls is great in the sight of God” (D&C 18:10). I have faith and hope that Christ can redeem me. “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18). The saving power of Jesus Christ is real. What hope and joy that brings me!

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2009 in Spirituality