Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Spiritual Inventory Pt. 2: HAPPINESS...Real vs. Counterfeit

Does there ever seem to be a running theme in things you see online?

This morning, for me, it seems to be "happiness" and "priorities."  The wheels started to turn and it got me thinking.

When I saw the phrase "counterfeit happiness," it really got me thinking.

Counterfeit: "made in exact imitation of something valuable or important with the intention to deceive or defraud."

In other words, something that is counterfeit, like counterfeit happiness, can be very, very convincing. So convincing that we may not even realize it.

Allow me to back up.

When I first woke up this morning, I heard a short three minute podcast about the world's view of what should make us happy. Success, personal glory, wealth, possessions. Pretty shallow, right? And most of us would look at that list and agree that, no, those are not the things that cause true, lasting happiness. After all, there are plenty of people who have achieved those things and became even more unhappy because of them. (The joke, of course is..."let me test that theory!" But, in all seriousness, we already know the answer.)

But when I started to think about the phrase "counterfeit happiness," which I read in a Deseret News article a while ago, I thought of things which "appear" to create happiness that are very easily attained or consumed (for most of us.)

I will be the first to admit that unhealthy food has given me much counterfeit happiness over the years. It's easy to get, it's inexpensive, and it's everywhere in a variety of tempting shapes and colors.  I even used the counterfeit happiness of junk food to overshadow the true UNhappiness of being quite overweight. Talk about a vicious cycle.

Of course, changing weight means you need to buy more clothes to accommodate your changing body, right? More counterfeit happiness. I love new clothes. I love shopping. But I'm trying hard to love them less.

I know I'm not the only one who has been sucked into this vortex. Advertisers prey on our insecurities and tell us what we must have in order to be happy. (Like all of the happy, healthy, thin people with alcohol and cigarettes in magazine ads. The happy mom giving her happy, healthy kids junk food. The list is endless, right?)

Remember when you were a kid and achieving happiness was so easy? My mom's two best friends when I was a kid had all boys. Me and seven boys. We would play baseball. We would dig a hole in the backyard, just for the sake of digging a hole. We would draw on the sidewalk with chalk. We would race our bikes. We would have the dog pull us in our Radio Flyer wagons. We would play with the garden hose. We would play with Play Dough and cheap watercolors. We would pick lemons from our tree and blackberries in the neighbors' yard. Such simple things. And we were happy.

The real question is why does happiness seem harder to achieve as we get older?

I think the answer is found in two things. We compare ourselves with others too much and we often look for happiness externally instead of internally.

The Comparison Game. That is a dangerous game to play, yet we all do it with one thing or another. We walk into someone's house and we immediately compare it to ours. The size, the level of cleanliness, the location, the yard. Women, especially, do that little "head to toe" evaluation of another woman when we see each other. (Not always, but we do it.) At church we compare kid behaviors, marriages, Sunday clothes, callings, etc.

What makes The Comparison Game so damaging is that, even when we are doing it knowingly, we do it unfairly. We compare others' bests to our worsts.

I remember one time our Relief Society presidency went to visit a sister who had not attended church in a while. She felt inadequate and flawed, she said. And she courageously said she was especially intimidated by me. My gosh. I felt terrible.This poor sister was causing herself such anguish by comparing my bests to what she perceived as her worsts. She only saw "Sunday Kristie" and, to her, that was the whole picture. I had to assure this sister that what she saw with me and everyone else on Sunday was our bests. Our "onstage selves."

My "backstage self" is my own version of everyone else's. Monday through Saturday my life is pretty ordinary. She wasn't seeing me do laundry, cleaning out cat poops, putting my husband's lunch together, taking out the trash, struggling with my blotchy skin, sighing every time I get on the scale, and deciding which groceries not to get so I can stay within the budget.

Facebook has created a world a little bit like our Sunday selves. Most people post things that show them at their best. My profile picture is when my husband and I were in Las Vegas in April. I was slimmer and tanner than I am right now. Is it an honest representation of me? Yes. It's me at my honest best. Is it me every day, and even this very moment? Not so much.

People post themselves on vacation, especially right now in the middle of summer. Right now three different sets of friends are in Hawaii, three are in Europe, and several are doing exciting road trips and family reunions.

What am I doing right now? Sitting here in sweats and a silly-looking headband, with legs that need to be shaved and feet that need a pedicure, expounding on happiness.

And that's OK! We've had three great trips this year (unprecedented for us) and I'm very grateful for them. And even if we didn't, it's still OK. We are not in a contest to see whose life is the most exciting.

Last example with The Comparison Game. Purses. For about ten years I wouldn't give a second glance to any purse unless it was a "name brand." They provided me with a delightful counterfeit happiness that I could toss over my shoulder and take anywhere. Once I discovered the "magic of eBay" I could indulge this more and spend much less. About two years ago my husband challenged me to go one year without buying a new purse. I accepted the challenge. And I was successful! There was no tangible prize except that somewhere within that year I realized that a purse is a purse is a purse! It's a bag where you keep your stuff and that's it. Lesson learned. (It only took me until I was forty-three, and if you see me with a name brand purse it is one I bought before the 1 Year Challenge. LOL)

External vs. Internal. Earlier today I found this fantastic article on the difference between "true and fake (counterfeit) happiness. Thank you, for expressing this so succinctly:

1.  "Fake happiness" is all about pursuing "pleasure."
2.  "True happiness" is all about the "education of the soul" ... and wanting to grow into one's highest potential.

In more detail:
1. "Pleasure" is all about immediate gratification.  It often includes lack of moderation, lack of insightful judgement, and lack of awareness of long-term consequences. Pleasure is impulse-driven in your choice-making. Pleasure brings a temporary blip of joy, which is unsatisfying in the long run.
2.  "Happiness" often has a time-delay until that "feel good high" kicks in, but it creates "long term joy." It is about being "growth-driven" in your choice-making. You surround yourself with people and experiences which increase your soul's self-development--hence the joy lasts as long as you last--because the joy created becomes an integral part of who you are as a unique, thriving individual.

OK. True happiness sounds like a lot of work.

Or maybe not.

Here is the conclusion I've come to today:

Pleasure, in moderation, is fine. Eat that ice cream cone. Buy those cute sandals. And then...move on from those things. The minute you tell yourself that you must have ice cream every day or that you need those sandals in all available colors in order to be happy, you are "pursuing pleasure." (Believe me, I can relate to both of these situations.)

Happiness, besides being a conscious choice, is less about pursuit and more about discovery.  Discover it in things you have already accomplished. Discover it in the joy you can bring to others: service, a smile, a phone call. Discover it in standing for five minutes in the sunshine. Discover it in spending time with your family. Discover it in your faith and in counting your blessings.

Happiness awaits discovery in the simplest of things.

Discover it, embrace it, multiply it, share it.  Then watch the ordinary become extraordinary.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Spiritual Inventory: Seeking the Quiet

As a person who likes to plan, isn't very spontaneous, and a 3rd generation worrier, finding inner peace can be a real challenge for me sometimes.  Recently, while getting ready for our Utah trip, things became especially amplified. I was thinking about our schedule, deciding which clothes I would need for each event, making packing and To Do lists, communicating with friends we would be seeing and staying with, getting new tires for the car, writing out instructions for house-sitters and ARRGH....are you tired too?

Yes, the trip was beyond anything we could have expected and we are blessed to know many wonderful people, but once the dust settled upon our return and Eric went back to work, things suddenly got very quiet.

And I was reminded...Quiet is a really good thing when Life hasn't been quiet for a while.

In the midst of the quiet I've had time to reflect and take a personal and spiritual inventory.  What matters and what doesn't? What are the best uses of my time? And finally...which things have eternal consequences?

I almost added "what do I believe?" But then I realized, I already know what I believe. That hasn't changed. But putting certain things I believe into practice on a day-to-day basis sometimes depends on how much I allow other, less important things, to interfere.

Of course, there are probably little subgroups and sub-subgroups within those "deep"questions above, but I'm trying not to worry about those.

Actually, I'm trying not to worry, period. Recently I heard this:  "Worrying is negatively anticipating that something bad will happen" Or the humorous version, "You can't tell me worrying doesn't help. The things I worry about never happen."

That last quote came from a 1977 talk by Pres. Boyd K. Packer called Balm of Gilead.  A talk I listened to this morning for the very first time and haven't stopped thinking about. I'm adding a link because you should watch it. Yes, you, reading this blog post. Well, after you finish the post.

Anyone who knows about Pres. Packer, who just passed away 2 days ago, knows that he did not mince words. He was very direct. In fact, he often forced the listener to hold a mirror up in front of him/herself.

What happens when we do that? Sometimes we like what we see and sometimes we don't.

He talks about the "vacant lot" we all have in our minds. You know...that part of ourselves that is where the uncertainties, the rationalizations, the doubts, and the "gray" areas live like little weeds. We can pick them and throw them out. We can put up a mental "No Dumping" sign. Or we can let those weeds fester.

(If I want to get really metaphorical, I could talk about those weeds that start springing little flowers and convince us that they shouldn't be picked.  I've had those too.)

I wouldn't say I've reached a big festering point in my vacant lot, but I was definitely letting weeds grow there. Most of those weeds were just unimportant things that I was allowing to become too important.

One way I've been trying to combat the weeds is by reading the Scriptures more often, more fervently, and with more thought. The Scriptures are a great "weed killer."

Another way is by eliminating, or cutting back, on things that don't matter. For me, a lot of this is device, media, and social-media based. Wow, those things are powerful and time-consuming! I have come to 2 conclusions: 1. I control my phone, not the other way around. 2. The media and social media don't get to decide what's important and what's true.

I must tell you...Reminding myself of these things and taking some personal steps to implement them has really made a difference these last few days.  The noise of the world has lessened and inner peace has grown. When I start to get worked up or negatively anticipate something that hasn't happened yet I find my saner side saying "It doesn't matter," or "It's only..." 

There was a time when the world was quieter. Now it seems like the only way we can have quiet is to actively seek it.

Psalms 107:30  

Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven. 

Life as a haven full of gladness. Doesn't that sound wonderful?  How often have I allowed weeds to grow and prevented this?

Seeking the quiet. This is my new goal. To remind myself what really matters, and to put my energies there.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

A Wonderful Week in Utah! June 19th-30th.

July already? While activity is bustling at our neighborhood lake down the road, I'm recovering from 11 days in Utah with Eric. What a trip! We've just had the best vacations this year, met so many nice people, and have made so many great memories to last a lifetime.

Our friends, Debbie and Ralph, who we met a few months ago on our back-to-back trips, were nice enough to open their home to us, the weary travelers. We stayed part of the week with them and part of the week with our friend, Darla. We're so grateful to all of them for letting us crash at their houses!

And, did I mention? This was Eric's first time traveling around the state. Talk about a golden introduction.

Here we are, the weary travelers, at Chili's with Debbie and Ralph, the night we got into Riverton, UT. After staying up late the night before due to some noisy neighbors at the hotel in Meridian, ID, we slept like rocks.
The next day was Sunday. We met up with more friends and all attended church, had a yummy meal together, and then drove to Temple Square.  I love Temple Square so much. The Salt Lake Temple is, truly, one of the most beautiful buildings ever built. Knowing the history of the Latter-Day Saints, their hard work and faith, and the fact that the temple took 40 years to build make it even more special. Here are some pictures from that day: (Click on any picture to see it full-size.)
Inside the Salt Lake Tabernacle. Brigham Young commissioned a bridge builder to design the domed building. The Tabernacle Choir still rehearses inside and, until about 15 years ago, General Conference was always here. Recently it was used for Elder L. Tom Perry's funeral service. Learn more about the Tabernacle and its history HERE.

I see this picture and all I want to do is smile when I think of the memories of the day. L-R Ralph, Debbie, Eric, me, Karen, Jay. (As you can see, all of us changed out of church clothes except 2 of the men. Kudos to them, because it was very hot!)

The Assembly Hall, which was built with granite deemed "not quite perfect enough" for the temple. Free concerts are given here on a regular basis. In front is the Seagull Monument, honoring the Lord's answer to the Saints' prayers when hoards of grasshoppers were destroying their crops. He sent seagulls to eat the grasshoppers. Considering that seagulls are usually coastal birds, this is pretty amazing. Faith can bring miracles! Learn more about the Assembly Hall HERE.

Eric and me inside one of the two Visitors Centers with the temple in the background. The best part of the whole trip was being there with my loving husband. More info on the Visitor's Center can be found HERE.

If the temple is in the picture, it's going to be a good picture!

So beautiful!

After leaving Temple Square, Ralph was kind enough to drive us up to the "This is the Place" Monument. Here are Ralph, Debbie, and Eric walkin' and talkin'. BTW, it was nearly 9 o'clock and not even dark.

This monument commemorates Brigham Young announcing to the Mormon Pioneers that, after 1300 miles of traveling, this is where they would stop to live, worship, and build a temple to the Lord.

Sunset, seen from up on the hill near the monument. We could not have asked for a better Sabbath day to start our vacation.
The next day, Monday, we went back to Temple Square. I was thrilled, because I've never been there more than one day in a row and this time we went THREE days in a row. But that wasn't all...we also went to a concert in Riverton, honoring the city's 150th anniversary, with performances by Alex Boye and our favorites, the Osmond Brothers.

I found I was constantly noticing statues on Temple Square that I had never noticed before.  I love this statue of Joseph and Emma Smith. Despite the many hardships they endured, their love for each other never faltered.
Day 2 on Temple Square we toured the Conference Center, the largest indoor auditorium in the world, with enough seats for 21,000 people. There is no way to capture the impressive quality of this building in a picture, but it is AMAZING! More info on the Conference Center can be found HERE.

Eric and me inside the Conference Center. The tours there are guided by senior couples on missions. Such an interesting tour! It lasts about an hour and is very thorough and very worth your time.

We were so happy to have our friend, Donna, from AZ, join our little group that day! Here we all are in the Conference Center. The crowd you see on the right was a group of young European singers who began singing while we were in there. They sounded beautiful and showed off the building's incredible acoustics.

One of my favorite features in the Conference Center is the artwork. All of it is Christ-centered, most are pieces I'm familiar with, but what makes them really special is that these are all ORIGINALS. This astounding painting of Christ's appearance to the Nephites in the Americas is around 20 feet long. Only a panoramic (and not a very good one, I'm afraid) could capture the whole thing.

A close up. Imagine what this must have been like. I find the different reactions of the people so powerful, and probably what it will be like one day when He returns. It makes me want to live my life in a way that seeing Him will be a happy, joyful event.

A beautiful rendering of the distant city of Jerusalem.

While on Temple Square on Sunday, we watched the film Testaments, and it showed this exact event of Christ visiting this forgotten, disabled man, who was amazed that he would be singled out and loved by the Son of God.

I have always found this sculpture of the First Vision to be fascinating. It rotates 360 degrees on a turntable, and when you see the back... see Heavenly Father's arm around the shoulder of Jesus Christ. Isn't that beautiful?

Even the Conference Center's roof is interesting! Gardens, trees, waterfalls, amazing views and yes, lampposts. I have a strange affinity for lampposts.

How's that for a view?

How's that for a happy couple in love?

This unique mural is actually an etching of people throughout the ages, showing the timelessness of the Gospel. And you, the spectator, become part of the art as your reflection and the reflection of the Temple appear. Can you see us?

More rooftop pictures. Every view from every vantage point is a good one.

From the side you can see the Utah State Capitol building and McCune Mansion (red bldg,) plus some apartments and condos. Imagine the views those residents have.

An attempt at a panoramic from the Conference Center roof.

The Church Office Building is the very tall one on the left, the Relief Society Building is the smaller one with pillars in front, and the white one on the right is the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, formerly Hotel Utah. That was our next stop.

Like the Temple and the Conference Center, the Joseph Smith Memorial Building has a majesty that is difficult to capture in a photo.

Of course, on the way to the J. Smith Memorial Building, I couldn't help but stop and take more photos of the temple. I love it so much. Learn more about the Salt Lake Temple HERE.

One of my favorite places with my favorite person. Our love for each other is beyond description. We celebrate our 5 year wedding anniversary August 7th.

I call this...Lamppost With Flowers.

Inside the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. I wish I took more pictures to show the lobby's grandeur and beauty. Still, this sculpture of Joseph Smith has an interesting history. I think I read it was found in the building's basement while it was being converted from a hotel. More info on the building can be found HERE.

On the 10th floor of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building is the best view of (L-R) the Tabernacle, the Temple, and the Conference Center.

Also on the 10th floor are two restaurants, including the Garden Restaurant, where I always try to go when visiting Temple Square. Surrounded by windows, surrounded by friends, and terrific food. Can't go wrong there! (Learn more and take a virtual tour of the restaurant HERE. Pretty cool, because the virtual tour is during winter. I've never been at that time of year.)

We did all this by 2pm on Monday! But it wasn't over yet...

Shortly after returning to Riverton, it was time to pack up again and go to the park where the city's anniversary celebration would take place. It was a very full day! And it was a very hot day with a lot of walking (I think I earned 18,000 steps on my Fitbit.) But in the end it was all worth it. (And I was very happy I remembered I had an umbrella in the car to shade from the sun a bit.)

After some parachutists and an opening act by Nathan Osmond, Alex Boye was the first main performer. He sure gets the crowd pumped!

And then The Osmond Brothers! They sounded great, as always! It was fun to see them in an outdoor venue and to have their brother, Alan, join them onstage for one song too.

All that, and it was only Monday!

Tuesday...back to Temple Square for more touring! This time we went a bit later. We visited and toured the Beehive House and had lunch next door at the Lion House. Both were homes of Brigham Young and have both interesting histories. You can learn more about the Beehive House HERE.

I love this fortuitous picture. The beams of sunlight stream down on the statue of the
Restoration of the Priesthood.

Temple, the Conference Center, trees, a beautiful day and ...a lamppost.

Upon returning to the statue of Joseph and Emma Smith, I was struck by the loving intimacy shown in their hands.

Inside the Beehive House. Here is a bust of Brigham Young, also known as the "Lion of the Lord."

Our sister missionary tour guides were from Germany and France. They explained that this room was once where Church administration was done. Just think, the work in the huge Church Office Building all began right here.

Our tour group consisted of Eric, me, Debbie, Donna, and another family.

The desks along the wall, like this one, are the originals where early Church record keeping and bookkeeping was done.

My favorite part of the Beehive House. Although the Salt Lake Temple was built between 1853-1893, Brigham Young died in 1877 and never saw it completed. But, despite no architectural training, he had a revelation of how it should look and had an artist create this painting based on that vision. It must have been a great comfort to him as he neared death, nearly 20 years before the temple was finished.

Me and Eric inside the Beehive House.

The Beehive House parlor.

Although he had only a few days of formal education, Brigham Young was a lifelong learner. Here in his office are 2 things he always kept nearby...his Bible and his dictionary.

Beehive House china service.

The formal dining room.

Outside the Beehive House. Borrowed from Yahoo Images.

After the Beehive House tour we came out and walking down the street was Elder Dallin H. Oaks, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Borrowed from Bing Images
That was pretty cool! I've admired him for years and am always impressed by his talks at General Conference.

Earlier that day we also saw Dr. Mack Wilberg, who conducts the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, walking through Temple Square. He used to conduct Men's Chorus at BYU when I was a student and is a brilliant musician and arranger.
Borrowed from Bing Images

Talk about some fun, unplanned experiences!

After touring the Beehive House we went around to the adjoining Lion House for lunch. There we met up with friends, Karen and Jay, and had a very yummy plate of roast beef, potatoes, salad, dessert, and the famous Lion House rolls with honey butter.  Wow, were they good!

The Lion House, borrowed from Yahoo Images.

After lunch the six of us walked across the street to the Deseret Flagship Store, enjoying the A/C and looking around at the myriad of books, art, and other fun items. I could spend hours in there. 

Then it was time to for Eric and me to move to House #2 in Orem, where we stayed with our friend Darla for the rest of the trip. What was I thinking? I didn't take any pictures of her. I will say that she is a trusted friend, someone I consider an honorary auntie, and a wise lady I've known since I was 15 and living in California.  We were able to spend some great quality time with her over the next few days and go out to dinner 3 nights that week, twice to Kneaders and once to Cafe Rio. We only had to move one more time, to the hotel in Meridian, Idaho. I didn't have the energy to pack/unpack anymore!

On Wednesday (also no pictures, what was the matter with me?) we met up with friends, Donna and Marilyn (also from our recent cruise) at the University Mall in Orem and had lunch. After we said our goodbyes, Eric and I had an afternoon to ourselves, did some shopping, then rested back at the house, went to dinner with Darla at Cafe Rio, went for a walk, then rested some more. REST FELT GOOD.

Thursday was BYU day! Yay! Finally, finally, I got to show Eric my college campus! 

Wait, quick segue, first we went to the very cool museum about Mormon History in Mexico:
Brother Fernando Gomez has converted this building into a museum where the public can learn, free of charge, about the growth of the LDS Church in Mexico. Here he is, pointing to himself as a child in this picture of the first conference in Mexico. The man in the black suit in the middle is President George Albert Smith, president of the Church at that time.
OK, back to BYU...
I'm going to cheat a bit and insert this collage of pictures I took at BYU last summer. How I love my alma mater! 
More pictures from last year, just to show the beautiful campus. Yes, I'm a very proud alumni.

OK, time warp over. We met up with Karen and Jay, had lunch, walked around campus and inside the Administration Building and the Harold B. Lee Library. Then we went into the Museum of Art and took this fun picture together:
Later I introduced Eric to Indian food at the Bombay House in Provo, which I've been talking about since last summer. Hooray! He loved it! We're definitely going back there in August when we're on campus for Education Week.

Coconut shrimp with naan bread. YUMMMM

Next was ice cream at the BYU Creamery. An iconic place on campus. Also yum.

On Friday Eric and I went back to campus and did some more touring inside of buildings. I showed him the Harris Fine Arts Center, the Hinckley Alumni Building, and other buildings where classes will be held for Education Week in August. As in next month! We finished the day at SubZero for ice cream with Karen and Jay, then said our goodbyes to them. 

Lastly, we headed over to the Riverwoods Mall, where I bought my sweet husband a small leather-bound journal as a gift and a thank you for being my loving partner in all things.

One goal on this trip was to take pictures of as many temples as possible. Thankfully, Eric indulged me on this. We stopped at the Provo Temple, which I visited many times as a BYU student in the 1990s. Eric liked this one the best.

On Saturday we had plans with Debbie and Ralph in the afternoon. As we headed out of the Provo/Orem area in the morning, knowing our trip was coming to an end, we made a detour to see more historic buildings, especially special buildings that have been revived and repurposed.

For example, the Provo Tabernacle, which was nearly destroyed by fire a few years ago, is being reconstructed into the Provo City Center Temple. Some very interesting information about it can be seen HERE.

And Brigham Young Academy, which was an abandoned, desolate building when I was a college student, is, happily, now the Provo City Library. Isn't that amazing? Learn more HERE.

 Then we drove up to Sandy and met Debbie and Ralph for some adventures in Snowbird, up the canyon. We took a sky tram to the top and got some great pictures.

 And then we took ski lifts DOWN. That was one of our favorite things the entire trip. 
Down, down, down...

What a view!

Two Tired Goobers in Love on A Ski-lift

"Take a picture of my feet!"

After we got back on the ground and drove to our car in Sandy, we had a really yummy dinner (and terrific service) at Texas Roadhouse. And we said our goodbyes until the next day.  On the way back to Orem, we stopped in American Fork at the Mount Timpanogos Temple.

That evening, as we rested up from another full day, I saw on Facebook that a missionary we had gotten to know in Washington was now home in Salt Lake City and giving his homecoming talk the very next day. I asked Eric how adventurous he felt, since we had committed to attending church in South Jordan with Agaath, another new friend from our recent trips. Eric was on board and Agaath was wonderfully supportive of us altering our plans. 

It was a race the next day, but we made it and were able to attend to everything we had committed to do, sacrament meeting with Agaath (in the most beautiful chapel I have ever seen,) sacrament meeting again in SLC to see Elder Nitz, then scurrying back to Riverton where Debbie had cooked an amazing dinner for everyone. (We were so hungry!) We appreciate everyone's patience with us that day so we could do all of these things!

Eric and Elder Nitz, and Elder Nitz with his happy parents. They invited us to dinner too!
Monday and we were on the road to home, with an overnight stop again in Meridian, Idaho. Really, the best place to rest.
But first, we stopped at the Emergency Essentials store in South Jordan. We've seen their website, but it was really cool to be in a store. The saleslady we talked to was awesome. Very informative!

Last 2 temple stops for pictures. The Jordan River Temple.

The Oquirrh Mountain Temple

400 miles later.....Sushi in Meridian, and then a VERY good night's sleep and quiet neighbors this time. Thank goodness!

Our last, and longest day of travel, 500 miles, detouring along the Scenic Highway in Oregon at Horsetail Falls.  Or as I call this, "Two Tired Goobers in Front of a Waterfall."

Almost home...we stopped at the Vista House. Eric knows my taste so well and how I love historic buildings with fascinating stories.

After the Vista House, traffic got really, really heavy and the GPS took us through some dodgy areas off the freeway to "try" to avoid it, but without success. We crawled into our neighborhood around 6:30pm, made a quick grocery run, then arrived HOME.

But, wow, WHAT A TRIP. What an amazing introduction to Utah for Eric! What generous and gracious friends we have there. What memories we made. We feel incredibly, incredibly blessed.