Monday, October 26, 2009

2 year anniversaries

Actually we have 2- 2 year anniversaries this month. Today marks the day when Bret Thomas and Laura Elizabeth were joined for time and all eternity in the Salt Lake Temple. It has been a blessing to watch how they have lived their life as a married couple. I see great strength and love for each other. I have witnessed the humor that they enjoy-which never seems to come at one another's expense. They've had some challenges (car problems, finishing their bachelor's degrees, employment and more) but as far as I've been able to see (as I'm somewhat at a distance) they continue to be equally yoked as a couple-one not trying to pull ahead of the other and working together to build their lives. Though they don't need it, they have my blessing.

Our other 2 year anniversary this month is the arrival of our sweet grandson, Ty Michael. I remember at Bret and Laura's wedding when we were anxiously anticipating his birth and praying that the young woman that had committed to placing him with Carynn and Jamie would follow through.

I think of that young woman often and wish her well. Her choice has brought so much joy into our lives, I pray that she has continued to find peace with her decision to place Ty for adoption and that she has also continued to progress in her life choices.

The festivities for Ty's second birthday won't be as huge as those for his first birthday. (I kind of hope Carynn and Jamie will decide to do what Michael and I did-our children had a friend birthday party one year and then a smaller family celebration the following year. Of course there were exceptions for "landmark" birthdays.)But though the celebration may have fewer people participating it does not mean that there is not quite a bit of planning and love going into his party. We're looking forward to being there.

Have a great week!


Ouch! I looked at the last date that I posted and I thought, "Where did the time go?"
Of course I know exactly where it went...Spending time with our children and grandson, a ward conference, getting ready for a stake meeting, two day trips to the cabin (Michael to help with the docks, the winterizing we did October 9 in preparation for the cold) and one short overnight trip. I also participated in our Young Women Stake Meeting last night which had a lot of preparation time, working on cleaning and organizing my craft room (again), writing a TON of thank you notes, teaching a lesson in Young Women, trips up and down the hill for shopping, church, planting bulbs at the temple and of course all of those mundane everyday tasks like dishes, wash, vacuuming, doctor appointments, and much more.

Time for another post!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

What I learned on our Fall Vacation

I had initially termed this trip our "American Revolution Fall Color Church History Sports Tour." It was that and so much more. Historical architecture, pre-American Revolution and American Revolution events, gorgeous trees and beaches, light houses in stone and metal and glass, quaint bridges, sacred places, sports heroes and more.

Our trip was a masterwork of preparation by my husband. I didn't realize, when Michael was briefing me prior to the trip, just how much work he had put into planning it. Yes, we did put 3100 miles on the car, and with all the ground we covered and everything we saw I know we did indeed drive those 3100 miles. But the way that Michael ahd organized and planned our stops, it wasn't a burden to drive those miles.

I enjoyed this time with my husband. It had been an incredibly busy summer and September had started that way as well; it was wonderful to reconnect with him beyond our usual day-to-day routine. I enjoyed the opportunity of getting more than a glimpse of New England. I gained an even greater appreciation for the sacrifices and challenges that those that paved the way for our country and our faith made and that have directly impacted my life.

I wore a t-shirt at our Young Women Camp in 2008 with my camp name on it. I had chosen "Thankful" because I am thankful for my many blessings. Now that shirt would have to say "Profoundly Thankful."


Home Again!

The final day of our trip was our travel day home. We were up early and ready to go. LaQuinta's van shuttled us there in good time, we checked our bags, cleared security and then we were on our way.

Although our flight from Boston to Chicago wasn't really "late," by the time we landed and taxied the 300 miles (just kidding, but we did taxi a very long time) to our gate our Chicago to Seattle flight was already boarding. We hopped off the one plane and were very glad the other one was only a few doors down. Seated and ready to go we were VERY pleased to see from the window that our luggage had made the flight too!

Safely in Seattle we grabbed our bags and then headed upstairs to check them in. For your reference-American Airlines doesn't have an "agreement" with Southwest so they don't automatically transfer your bags. Not a problem for us as we had two hours before our Seattle to Spokane flight.

Back at our gate and waiting to board and with an hour to kill, we were missing our usual "lunch" which has been for this trip anyway, ice cream cones; so at Michael's urging, okay, he didn't need to twist my arm, I walked down to find out what we could get in the frozen treat department. We ended up with frosty's from Wendy's.

Jamie (Carynn's husband) was waiting for us when we arrived. After snagging our luggage one last time we headed to their home. After being enthusiastically greeted by Ty and Carynn, checking out Claire (who had been boarding at C & J's) and visiting for a bit, Carynn did the honors and drove us home. Where we found all was well.

Good night!

Connecticut Part 2, Rhode Island, Massachusetts One Last Time

Day 17 we took our time leaving and then headed down to Stonington whre we found the Old Lighthouse Museum (closed since we were there a bit early), a cute lighthouse. We continued to work our way along the remainder of the Connecticut shore to Rhode Island. Rhode Island is the 8th state in our trip. We found more lighthouses, some sea shells and a bit of wind. We saw Newport (playground for the rich and famous) from a distance (we didn't want to pay the $4.00 toll just to say we'd been there)and we didn't really have time to stop. and then skirted our way around Providence and back into:


Back to Boston (or very near it-Somerville)where Logan Airport is located. We returned the rental car which had 3100 miles on it from our adventures. We ate next door to the LaQuinta Inn and turned in.

Massachusetts revisited, Connecticut Part 1

We're at Day 15 of our excellent adventure or if you're keeping track-Day 16 of being away from home. It's now October 5. We backtracked a bit to get to a highway that would take us east from Cooperstown through New York and into the Southwest corner of Massachusetts. We passed through a bit of the Catskills and ended up at Great Barrington, Massachusetts. The Comfort Inn had just been renovated and was a great property in which to stay. The staff was wonderful too. They really bent over backwards to be accomodating. We ate at a Mexican place-okay, but I like the less healthy version of Mexican food that we get out here and not paying for the chips and salsa. Nighty, night.

The next morning we found another covered bridge in Massachusetts before we even crossed the border into Connecticut. (I've always had issues spelling the word Connecticut-now I think I'll always get it right. We'll see...) We also ran into some folks at one covered bridge and told them about the others that were coming up. They were from Michigan. We ran into them at Kent Falls State Park too. Great minds think alike... Our last bridge of the day was Bull's Bridge. Then we concentrated on getting over to see the Elises'. Yes, there's two of them.

Elise No. 1 we met for lunch at Stamford, Connecticut. She's been someone I'd only talked to on the phone. She helps us with our investments and is based in Greenwich, Connecticut. (See if I keep typing Connecticut enough times, it's going to be automatic to get it right!). It was nice to put a face to a voice. After our enjoyable lunch we headed to:

Elise No. 2 who is now a very grown-up lady from when I first knew her 20 (gulp) years ago as her Young Women leader for church. She lives with her husband and two children south of Norwich, CT. Her children a boy age 7 and a girl age 3 1/2 are delightful. It was nice to reconnect with her and her husband, have a home cooked meal and play with the children.

Sweet dreams

Niagra Falls, NY; Harmony, PA; Cooperstown, NY

After an early start (Saturday, October 3)we headed west to Niagra Falls. I had initially thought, "No big deal," in reference to visiting the Falls, but after speaking with friends andhearing their experience, I was really glad that we had kept that on our itinerary. We pulled into Niagra by 9:30 AM and got in line to buy our tickets for the Maid of the Mist. There was a bit of a line, but we ended up being able to go on the first boat out which had been Michael's plan all along. We and perhaps a hundred of our closest friends boarded the boat with our blue ponchos on and headed out to the Falls. We got wet! It was great! In fact it was fantastic. It was a big deal. I highly recommend Niagra Falls to anyone who has the opportunity to visit that area. After our trip we sloshed back up to the park, checked out the falls by seeing them topside versus boatside and then left around 1:00 PM to continue south to Bradford, PA our stop for the night. On our way to Bradford, we passed through Boston (New York, not Massachusetts)

We had a quiet night in Bradford and then started out for Cooperstown. This was slated to be one of our LONG drive days (nearly 300 miles and approximately 5 hours of driving). We broke it up with covered bridges along the way in Pennsylvania and New York. One of my favorite stops was Harmony (now Oakland), PA.

For those of us that are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Harmony, PA is a significant location. It's where a majority of the Book of Mormon was translated; important revelations occurred there: the Aaronic Priesthood was restored there and Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdry were baptized in the Susquehanna River. There isn't a visitor center or guides or missionaries at the site. There is a bronze monument placed in 1960 commemorating the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood. There's a cemetery next to the monument where Emma Hale Smith's parents are buried as well as Emma and Joseph's son Alvin (named in honor of his older brother who had passed away. Plaques set on posts mark the locations of Emma's parents home and Joseph and Emma's home. There's directions on how to walk to the Susquehanna. We did that. I picked up a smooth stone from the river to remind me of the significance of that spot. I'm very grateful to have been able to visit there.

We swung back up into New York state and to Cooperstown. I had read about more covered bridges and found that the oldest one in New York state isn't very far away so we determined to visit that in the morning before we headed to the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. After dinner at a local BBQ place we turned in.

Monday, October 5 we got up early, had breakfast and drove to Glimmerglass State Park. We found the bridge. It was in a lovely location and we had it to ourselves. Then it was back to town. We were too early to go to the Museum so we wandered around Cooperstown. I'm showing my ignorance in that it didn't "click" until I saw James Fenimore Cooper's statue that Cooperstown has significance beyond baseball. Yes, Cooperstown is where James Fenimore Cooper (Last of the Mohicans, etc.) is from. The cemetery there shows that his family goes back a ways there on both sides. We didn't get to the Fenimore House museum, but you get the idea. It was a fun discovery. Cooperstown is also on Ostego Lake (as is Glimmerglass State Park). Glimmerglass State Park gets its name due to J.F. Cooper using it as a place in one of his writings and calling it Glimmerglass instead of Ostego.

The Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum was a lot of fun! It's very user/people friendly. They encourage , yes, that's correct, encourage you to take pictures with the memorabilia, etc. I'v never been in a museum before that allows that. Michael was hesitant to do that, but I did persuade him to get his picture taken with the representation of Comiskey Park-the home of the Chicago White Sox. I really enjoyed reading and viewing all the artifacts they had from people that I knew about (Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, DiMaggio, etc.) and finding out about some other interesting players. It was an enjoyable morning.

Back to Massachusetts!

Palmyra and Fayette, New York

I left off with trip summary in Oswego, New York. After a nearly sleepless night for me due to the highway outside we started toward Palmyra, New York. We had done some background reading, A Lion and A Lamb by Rand H. Packer, which gave some great insights into how the church was able to obtain the property on which the Hill Cumorah stands and also improve relations with the townspeople of Palmyra. Great read. We also knew a bit of our church history so were very happy to visit where so much concerning the restoration of the gospel occurred. Our first stop was to the Hill Cumorah visitor center. Then we climbed the Hill Cumorah. Thankfully the rain didn't start until we were heading back down the hill. We also visited the property where the Smith family was living during the momentous time. The cabin is a reconstruciton using period materials. The wooden "frame" house is 85% original. It's a short walk from them to the Sacred Grove.

We call it the Sacred Grove because we believe that God the Father and His Son, our Savior appeared to Joseph Smith and answered the question that he had prayed about. I wish I could say that it was a glorious day and that we sat and pondered and meditated in the grove. Unfortunately for us, the sky had opened up and it was pouring rain so we did take a half an hour or so to walk the grove and I gingerly sat down on the end of one of the benches that are placed at intervals throughout, but it wasn't really conducive to just sitting and pondering. It was a wonderful experience though just being there. Some of the trees are old enough to have been there that spring morning in 1820 so we tried picking out the witness trees during our walk.

After our visit at the Joseph Smith farm we stopped by the Palmyra Temple. It's beautiful. I picked up a few leaves from the temple grounds. From there we drove into Palmyra and stopped at the E.B. Grandin Print Shop and toured that. Finally we drove out to Fayette, NY to where the church was officially organized on April 6, 1830 at the Whitmer Farm. It was a 45 minute drive from Palmyra, but worth it to feel the spirit of the place. We ate at a little place on the way home-great Italian food recommended by one of the missionaries and then went back to Palmyra. We stayed at the Palmyra Inn. I highly recommend it. Great people, nice rooms. I did wash that night.

The next morning we got up early since we had a longer day of driving. Michael got some great pictures as we were leaving of some mist over the homes at the Smith Farm.


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Shanna and Mike's Excellent Adventure continued

After leaving the Boston area we headed to Cape Cod. We were blessed again with gorgeous weather. We had great fun discovering Plymouth Rock, lighthouses, beaches and towns going all the way to P-town (that's what the locals call Provincetown) and then doubling back and spending the night at a Bed and Breakfast called The Ships Knees Inn at East Orleans (Orleans here rhymes with beans). The next day it was more lighthouses as we made our way to Salem, Massachusetts.

Since we aren't into witches we didn't do any of that in Salem (Well Michael did take a picture of the Samantha statue)-but did enjoy the four centuries of architecture represented in the town as we walked it. We stayed at the Hawthorne Hotel named after writer Nathaniel Hawthorne who lived and worked in Salem for a time. Nice hotel but tiny room.

We then started working our way up the coast of Maine-more lighthouses, great weather, beautiful scenery and we were surprised to find as we headed inland the day following that Maine had covered bridges too. Our route took us by 3.

Our first stop In New Hampshire was the Auto road up to Mt. Washington-the highest point in the Northeast (6,288 feet). You have to pay to have the privilege of driving up this very narrow 8 mile road to get to the summit. Mt. Washington holds the record for the fastest wind speed-231 miles per hour-yes that's not typo. 231 miles per hour! It happened in 1934. After the drive back down we had more covered bridges (6), quaint towns with old churches and cemeteries and beautiful fall colors.

In Vermont, where we knew they had covered bridges (we found 7) our most important stop was to Sharon, Vermont. Which is the birthplace of Joseph Smith, the prophet. We were early, but the missionary staff let us in and were very kind. Besides the monument we also saw the foundations from some family homes, part of an old fence dating back to the time that the Smith and Mack families lived in the area and an old stone bridge. The weather had changed-some rain, but the sun did come out later. One of the sister missionaries gave us a map showing covered bridges and that helped us in our quest. We stopped the car often for photo opportunities and are thankful that in most cases the fall foliage cooperated.

Continuing west we entered New York state. We spent the night in Lake Placid directly across from the facility that houses the 1932 and 1980 ice rinks. For those of you old enough to remember-that's where the "Miracle on Ice" occurred at the 1980 Winter Olympics. As we ate our pizza at Mr. Mike's (of course we had to go there), it started snowing, yes, snowing! It stopped before we finished dinner after which we walked to the Olympic complex and watched figure skaters practicing at the 1980 rink. Turns out one of them is the current Junior National Champion and an Olympic hopeful. We didn't get her name, but should be able to figure out who she is with that kind of information. We enjoyed the indoor hot tub at the inn before we turned in for the night.

Today (October 1) we woke up to snow on the car! We drove through the beautiful Adirondack Mountains. More beautiful trees, lots of lakes and one covered bridge (although it's a newer one-1985) in Old Forge. We stopped briefly at the Adirondack Museum-would have loved to have spent a lot of time there. We also enjoyed some additional tastes of American Revolution history at Ft. Stanwix in Rome, New York and Fort Ontario, in Oswego, New York. We're spending the night at Oswego not too far from one of the Great Lakes-Lake Ontario.

To be continued...