Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas 2008 in Michigan

This year for Christmas we rented a large house on Walloon Lake in Northern Michigan. The Lake is a short drive from Jesse and Cori’s house in Petoskey Michigan. We traveled on the 20th by plane to Detroit and then drove 5 hours to Walloon Lake. We had Thea and Grandma Bettie along with me and Marla. Sara flew in a day earlier to Traverse City from Salt Lake. Jared had to remain behind. He has a new job at the Rail City Garden Center in Sparks. This is the place he wants to get on with as an Arborist. For now he is low man on the totem pole and has to be on call for snow removal duty. We will miss him dearly for Christmas. The house where we are staying is right on the Lake. The lake is frozen solid so it appears that our back yard stretches out for miles uninterrupted except for a couple of ice fishing shacks in the middle of the lake. Marla and I are in the down stairs master suite and there are four other bedrooms for Thea, Sara, Bettie and Jesse and Cori to each have their own room. There is a converted loft that makes a perfect room for Grant and Grace. It is only five feet high but the furniture is child size and it has some antique toys to make a perfect little cubby for the kids. There is another loft on a third floor with a couple of twin beds but we don’t need the space. The house is up for sale, listed at $1,990,000. It has been a great place to hang out.

That’s what we mostly did. Hang out. We played with the kids, played games, ate and ate some more, took naps, watched Christmas Classic movies, (Muppet Christmas Carole, White Christmas, The Christmas Story, Home Alone and a bunch of Disney Movies). Every one read books. I read 1776 by David McCullough and Into the Wild by John Krakowe. I thought it was most appropriate to read of Washington’s Christmas sneak attack on Hessians in Trenton NJ on Christmas Eve. 1776 was an inspiring and very interesting book. It angers me that William Knox and Nathaniel Greene do not have a more important role in American History books and records. Into the Wild was an interesting read about Chris McCandlist who decided to go to Alaska and live totally off the land for the summer. He ended up dying on his adventure but it was something that probably calls to men everywhere. The call to travel the un named path, to live in the wild, to challenge yourself and nature, to be in remote unknown places. I know it calls to me but I rarely venture very far. Chris ventured off in the extreme.

Our Christmas tree was completely decorated with home made ornaments. We made paper chains and strung cranberries. I tried to string popcorn, but after an hour I only had about four inches so we gave up on that. We had the missionaries over for Christmas eve and Jesse did a great job with Grace re-enacting the nativity scene. I like this idea of communal living. We had nine of us together for a week. Everyone took turns cooking and cleaning, so there was never too much work to do. The kids always had someone to play with. It helped having a place big enough so every one had some personal space.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Great Weekend

Thanksgiving week 2008.
This has been a pretty good weekend. We had Thanksgiving weekend with Marla's mom. She cooked a great dinner. We had Jared and Thea with us for dinner. I had'nt seen Jared since he went back to Reno in August. He seems happy in what he is doing in school and doing well studying horticulture and Arbors. He has a job working for the Rail City Garden Center in Sparks. This could lead him into an Arborist position that he is working towards. He is pretty excited to be playing drums for a band in Reno. The Darlings. It is discribed as a "Rockabilly" band. They have a CD out that he brought for us to listen to. The closest I can describe it is like Johnny Cash. Who would have thought that after all of the music lessons, it would be Jared actually being paid as a professional musician. After dinner we went to see the latest movie with Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman called Austrailia. It was a pretty good movie. I was a little sad for the day. I was missing Jesse and Sara. After so many holidays together it always seems something is missing if we are not all together.

Saturday was near perfect. It started at Three AM. Up and ready to drive Marla to the airport for a 6:00 AM flight to Michigan to spend time watching grandbabies while Jesse and Cori go house hunting in Illinois. Then I had breakfast at Denny's ( French toast) while waiting for the airport hanger to open. I preflighted the Musketeer and with 22 degree tempuratures and just me in the cockpit, I was up to 11,500 over Lake Tahoe in no time. I started to get moderate turbulance and took her down over Hope, Faith and Charity Valleys and back into the Carson Valley. A squeaker landing and one more just for practice and put the Musketeer back in the hanger. Then back home for some left over Thanksgiving pie with a Sherlock Holmes movie. A few chores and some grocery shopping for me and Thea while Marla is gone. Then lunch to a John Wayne movie (Comancheros). Then some time with the horses, a little lunge work. Next prepared some turkey enchiladas that Thea and I enjoyed for dinner and a James Bond Movie.

Other than being up at 3:00 AM and having to say good bye to Marla for a week it was a great day.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Jeff and Thea's Trip to Brooks Institute Santa Barbara

The college search for Thea continues this week. We drove to Santa Barbara to tour and check out Brooks Institute, one of the premiere photography schools in the country. We were very impressed by the program and facilities. Brooks is all the business of photography. Very business like. They seem a little pushy to get Thea signed up. I don't know why it is so hard for them to understand that we plan on seeing the school before committing to the program. Santa Barbara seems like a great college town. Very nice weather and a beautiful atmosphere. Now Thea has to decide between Brooks and Academy of Art University.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Jeff and Thea's road trip.

It's college search time for Thea. The older girls were easy. BYU Utah for Jesse and BYU Hawaii for Sara. Marla and I are BYU Alumni so we knew exactly what they were in for. Jared is at UNR and TMCC both familiar entities. The world of art schools is completely foriegn to me and a little scary. After recommendations and internet searches, Thea has narrowed the search down to three. California College of the Arts in Oakland, Academy of Art University in San Francisco and Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara. This past week end we went to the Bay area to check out CA and AAU.

We first visited California College of Art (CA) in Oakland. The campus was a hodgepodge of old big houses and other buildings. It seemed like a hippy camp to me. My test of any organization's attention to detail is how clean the bathrooms are. Theirs were smelly, dirty and covered in graffiti. For thirty thousand a year you'd think they could clean the bathrooms. I didn't say anything to Thea at the time but was very relieved when she said she didn't think CA was for her.

Academy of Art University in San Francisco was a completely different story. Eight thousand student enrollment and a very organized professional operation. They have 30 buildings in down town San Francisco. The housing is in old converted hotel buildings. It is half the cost of CA and yes the bathrooms are clean. They have their own bus system that shuttles students between the classroom buildings and housing buildings. Thea is very excited about the school and the photography program they have. Next weekend we go to check out Brooks in Santa Barbara. She has been accepted into both schools.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Train to Potevka

Saturday was one of those "got all the yard work done" (but not really), "I'm exhausted and discouaged from work" "feeling sorry for my self and don't really want to do anything days". It was rainy and windy outside , too early for skiing, too nasty outside for yardwork or horse work kind of days. I did three miles on the treadmill, prepared the Sunday School lesson on the gathering of Israel and then found my self with nothing I wanted to do. (there is always something that should be done.)

So I did something I haven't done in a long time. I pulled a book off the shelf and started reading. I have had two people give me this book "A Train to Poevka" by Mike Ramsdell and I can't remember who they were. The book has sat on the shelf for a couple of years. It is about a spy in Russia on a ailed clandestine mission to extract nasty mafia types to stand international trail. I was expecting a James Bond type of read but it is turning out be a more introspective work on the blessing of America, family, simple pleasures of food and friends. I've been reminded of the horrible oppression of the Soviet Empire and the hopelessness of people under that system of government. It has been a surprising and touching good read. My problems seem small and insignificant and blessing we enjoy in this country are tremendous.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

FPA Conference Boston

One of our office traditions is to attend the annual FPA (Financial Planning Association) Convention. This year the convention was in Boston MA. This year the conference was marred by one of the biggest stock market drops in history so we had to spend a lot of time on the cell phones to deal with client questions, requests and panics. Breaks, lunches and dinners were mostly spent on the phones. We heard some good speakers and some not so good, but I was impressed by what David Gergen had to say. He has been a political advisor to presidents Regan, Ford, Bush, and Clinton. He talked about the issues and consequences of the current upcoming election. He also said that it was a bad idea to count America as being down and out. It does not pay to bet against America. We are a nation of creative, hardworking and productive people. He predicted we would survive the current problems and come out on top. I realized that that is central to my belief system and I have to have some degree of optimism in the current mess.

In between the phone calls and convention sessions we managed to take in a couple of General Conference sessions including going to Sara's old church building in Cambridge when she lived here, to take in the Priesthood session. While at the Priesthood session we ran into Elder Ayers. He is from Washington now but lived in Gardnerville for a while. It's a small world in the church.

We also took in a Boston Red Socks game. Part of the American League Championship playoff. It was the first time for any of us to see a post season base ball game. There are no fans on earth as enthusiastic and loud as Boston Red Socks fans. The game was an exciting game going twelve innings against the California Angels. We didn't get back to our room until 1:00AM. It was a great experience of baseball, fans, and history in Fenway park. We also took in the Freedom Trail that winds through downtown Boston and passes many Revolutionary War historical sites. North Church where Paul Revere received the signal of the British Invasion, Bunker Hill, Paul Revere's house and others.

Next year the conference is in Anaheim California. That is an easy one for us to go to. After that I think we'll only go every other year.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

President's Council meets in Austn

This year's President's Council meeting was in Austin Texas, the State Capital. Pictured below is the State Capital building.

We would work in the morning and then have activities in the afternoon. I chose to go horseback riding one afternoon. After all we were in Texas. I went with Mark Hoover and his wife. The other day I went golfing with Steve Anderson, the National Sales Manager and Mark Hoover again. The golf course took very good care of us. They even brought us chocolate milk shakes on the seventh hole.

Pictured above is the State Legislature room at the Texas Capital.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Aunt Jean's Sheep Camp

My Aunt Jean was quite the cowgirl. She was always interested in horses and usually had one or two. I first learned to ride horses on her little ranch in Sarasota Florida. She loved everything Western. When she moved to Utah with her third husband they bought an old warehouse that was last used as a place to store honey. They restored it into the cutest western cottage you could imagine. Her husband "Patch" Peterson was a Western Sculpture artist. As part of their various restorations they found an old "sheep camp" trailer. A sheep camp is an upgraded version of a covered wagon. It could be pulled into remote locations and provide sheep herders a place to sleep and get out of the elements. They were common between the turn of the century and the 1930s. Jean and Patch restored the sheep camp. It even had a pot belly stove in it. I always thought the sheep camp was the coolest thing ever. I liked the fact that it was compact and small. It could go just about anywhere.

Aunt Jean died of breast cancer a few years ago. I was hoping to buy the sheep camp from Uncle Patch. It had sentimental value because Aunt Jean restored it and I wanted to keep it in the family. Plus I thought it was really cool. My Uncle Patch sold it off faster than I could imagine.

Ever since then I have thought it would be nice to have a go anyway, small, compact camper trailer. I figured I could never find a restored sheep camp. I found and purchased a 16 foot Airstream Trailer. It is small and very compact. It is hardly rustic. It has solar power, satellite radio, TV, DVD surround sound. It is really cool.

We are going to take it up to Lake Tahoe next week end for my birthday.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Reno Air Races

One of the fun things about living in Northern Nevada is the Reno National Air Races. It takes place at the Stead Airport just north of Reno. This year I went with Marla on Saturday. In the past I have gone during the week and played hookey. I know now why. The traffic and crowds were in incredible. But we did make it there in time to see the US Air Force demonstratoin team " The Thunderbirds". They were amazing to watch. The Air Force also had the F22 Raptor demonstration team and the performed a demonstration of the flying capabilities of the F22. The Thunderbirds were incredible in their precision and manouvers. The F22 performed what is basically aeronatically imposible. The Air Force guys were truely inspiring. An interesting side note is that my Dad flew in the Marine Corps demonstration flying team. The planes and times were very different back then.

Friday, September 5, 2008

July 2008 I helped move Sara into her new digs in Provo. She is starting law school and just finished her first week. She is living on the South East part of town. It is not too far from were Marla and I lived when we were first married 29 years ago. She has two housemates but she has her own bedroom and bathroom. Her front door opens up onto a large and beautiful city park. So far Sara says she loves everything about being in Provo and going to law school.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


For the last several years I have participated in the BSA adult leadership program called Wood Badge. I have participated in seven courses and last year I was the Course Director. It was great especially since I had Jesse and Sara as Scribes and Jared as a participant. This year I was an assistant course director for the boy equivalent course of Wood Badge called NYLT (National Youth Leadership Training) It is a great program and is the closest thing I have ever seen to a scout troop run "by the book" We had 25 boy participants and a staff 16 or 17. Most of the staff were young men. Mike Masterpool was the Scout Master and he is the perfect Scout Master. Always in the background and let the boys lead and take charge. The boys taught the classes and directed the activities. One activity was to send the boys out for an overnight campout using GPS coordinates to find their campsite. Then we sent the boy leaders out a night to find them and bring them back for a special campfire. It is quite a challenge to find them and bring them back in the dark using just their GPS. We were at Camp Fleishmann for 10 days preparing and putting on the course. Here are some pics.