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Friday, December 25, 2009

"What a great box!"

Several years ago, I spent Christmas Eve with some of my good friends, the Bensons. Though unforeseen situations have brought about altered life circumstances, I was very close to this family at one point in time. They were great friends to me during some of the toughest times of my early adult life, and I'm very grateful for that! At one point in time, I even lived in their basement, and their kids called me "Aunt Wendy."

Hunter Benson's favorite movie was "Toy Story." He would jump off of his top bunk like Buzz Light year and say, "To infinity and beyond." THUNK....(Hunter hitting the floor). It easy to know what to get the boys for Christmas that year....Toy Story sleeping bags. I LOVED getting a new sleeping bag when I was a kid. The new ones were always so slippery on the inside, and it was pure heaven just sliding into it. If mom let us sleep of the floor, well, that was practically nirvana! In this picture, you see Hunter (red sweater), Spencer (on the floor), Mom Becky holding then baby Michael. Just to put this in perspective, Hunter just got his driver's permit. Time LITERALLY flies by!

That year I got Michael some toy; I honestly can't remember what it was. I put the object in a box. As you can see, Michael was a bit too small to open the box by himself, and Hunter helped with the unwrapping privilege. He unwrapped the box itself thinking that was the present. When he saw the box, he exclaimed excitedly, "What a great box!" And he meant it.

We laughed and laughed.

I have thought of that moment many, many times. "What a great box!" In a day when many feel entitled and expectations for gift giving are quite high, I remember that night when Hunter cried, "What a great box!" You know what, if I had only given that kid a box, he would have been perfectly fine with it!

I attribute that attitude to great parenting. Not every kid would exclaim "What a great box!" Some would say, "Is it just a box?" "What is in the box?" "What does the box do?" Not this kid. He was so excited just to get a box! The present inside was an unexpected, added bonus.

I struggle as a parent to provide for my kids but still have them be grateful. I wish for a day when gratitude would prompt us all to say, "What a great box!" Or "what beautiful wrapping!"; "thank you for making the table look nice tonight;" "thanks for taking that little extra time to do that special thing you do to make my birthday extra special." I worry sometimes that we are an ungrateful society and that will lead to our demise. There are no guarantees in life. One lost job may drive a family to move from a comfortably warm home. One unexpected, unplanned for illness might create financial burdens. There is so much to be thankful for in our everyday, ordinary lives.

On this Christmas Day, I hope that you find joy in the great boxes in your life!

I hope Hunter, Spencer, Michael and Cameron realize how awesome their mother is. She is a great lady who tries to teach you what is right. If you continue to listen to her and follow her example, you will be great young men!

Merry Christmas!

Accolades for Elle

Elle has been going through some rough times lately, and it's been difficult for us as parents to celebrate too many things. The bad sometimes seems to overshadow the good, but it shouldn't. It is important to promote and celebrate the good things even if we hit the rough patches in life. We all make mistakes. Thankfully, we have a way to overcome all mistakes we make. Our Savior, Jesus Christ, made it possible for all of us who bring a repentant heart and a contrite spirit to repent of those things we have done and be forgiven.

Today, we want you to know only the good! Elle was named the "Mountaineer of the Day" at her middle school. Attached is her award and the very nice letter her band teacher wrote her. A few weeks into the 8th grade, Elle came to us and proclaimed that she was quitting band. We don't quit in our house. There were arguments, some tears, anger...and every possible teenage attitude you could possibly imagine, but under no terms and conditions was she going to quit band. Band is now one of her favorite classes, and she is in the Jazz Band (which she loves)! Sometimes we have to go through struggles in order to see the better part.

Congratulations, Elle! Your family is very proud of all of your accomplishments!!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

My Encounter with "Rainman"

Perhaps you've seen the Dustin Hoffman/Tom Cruise classic, "Rainman." It is a touching story about a man who discovers his true character when he is introduced to his autistic older brother and given stewardship over his care. The film won Best Picture in 1988 (the year I graduated from high school).

You may not know the back story. Rainman is, in part, based on Kim Peek--a native Utahan. I encourage you to read the details of Peek's life in this wikipedia article.

One day, I was on the same flight with Kim and his dad, Fran. I can't tell you when this was (the years all run together now) or where we were going (the flights all run together now). I remember seeing Kim in the gate area and hearing him talking loudly to people. It was very obvious that he had a mental deficiency.

I'm ashamed to write that my first thought was, "I hope he is in the back of the plane so that I don't have to hear him talk and carry on throughout the flight." When he boarded, he was seated with his dad several rows in front of me in the first class cabin. He continued to talk loudly and carry on. He was not uncomfortably disruptive; it was more of an annoyance than anything.

I had absolutely no idea who he was.

He engaged a Delta flight attendant who was so kind to him. He pulled out the Academy Award that screen writer Barry Morrow gave to him. (Morrow won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for penning "Rainman.") His father spoke to the flight attendant, and the sweet woman was genuinely engaged and interested in what Mr. Peek and his son had to say. I could visibly see on her face that she was touched by the interaction.

It was one of the rare times that I was sitting on an aisle. (I always choose a window so I can sleep.) The flight attendant who had been speaking with Kim approached me. She told me that a woman seated by the Peeks was annoyed with the noise and asked if she could be moved to another seat in First Class and would I please switch seats with the woman.

Wow! Talk about a moment of humility. I had a chance to make right all of the negative thoughts I had had by trading seats with a woman. Her weakness became my opportunity to apologize to God. I had not spoken one negative word, but I knew in my heart that I had not been charitable. Of course, I agreed.

A few minutes later, the flight attendant returned and said that the woman switched with another passenger and that it wasn't necessary for me to move. I was satisfied that I "would have" moved if I could, but.... being denied the opportunity to make the actual sacrifice, I hope that my willingness to make things right in my heart was enough for God.

Kim Peek died on Saturday. Seeing local news stories about his life reminded me of the incident I have just described.

I wish that I could tell you that my experience that day on the Delta flight made me a better person. I'm not certain it did. I still think negative things about the people around me as I prepare to board flights. Perhaps I've just become a calloused or elitist traveler. The airport experience does not bring out the best in me and is rarely a place where I exercise charity.

In this entire experience, the person who taught me the most was not Kim Peek. It was not his loving father, Fran. It was not the person who wanted to change seats to escape "noise." The Delta flight attendant taught me the most. She was kind, understanding, and charitable toward Kim and Fran Peek. She was kind to them before she knew "who he was." To her, he was a passenger. When she learned of his fame, she did not appear to treat him any differently. What did appear to happen was that she opened her heart to be touched by the experience. Her heart was prepared for the experience. Because she was prepared, the experience came to her. That was what I learned that day from the Delta flight attendant.

In a cynical world, it can be ever more difficult to find the good. As a person, I have a responsibility to be kind. As a Christian, I have a responsibility to be charitable and non-judgmental. As a child of God, I have the opportunity to repent of my short-comings, re-group and try to be better the next day.

Kim and Fran Peet

My sympathies are with those who knew and loved Kim Peek. I'm grateful that his death afforded me the opportunity to recall a memory that includes a message that I really needed today--ALL people need to be treated with respect, kindness, patience and understanding. What a great reminder!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Christmas Thought

I wrote this in 2002 to my friends and family. Seven years later when I thought about what I wanted to post for a Christmas message, this came to mind. I hope you and yours have a very Merry Christmas and take time to remember the people in your life that matter most to you.



***


Illinois Christmas 2002


I've already sent most of you Christmas cards which you may or may not get on time. I was thinking today of an experience that I had last night that I just couldn't shake. It seems appropriate this time of year to share thoughts and feelings of the season. So, if this is smarmy, sentimental or too much for you, I apologize. It happens. This message is going to some of my closest friends and a few relatives. I hope you can appreciate the meaning and intent.


I've been reflecting upon the many, many blessings that I have in my life. In short, it's been one hell of a year....it's also been one hell of a life (not to be confused with that perennial classic "It's a Wonderful Life ;-) This year has brought much joy into my life. There have also been trials and burdens and "opportunity for growth" (which is just a nice way to explain a trial). At the end of each day, I feel very, very blessed. I recognize God's hand in all things in my life.


On Friday night December 20th, I was traveling home from an account in Kansas City. It was the last account that I had to do for the year, and it was a one of those "great" presentations....where you remember why you love your job. I flew from Kansas City to St. Louis, and instead of continuing on to Chicago, I got off the plane, rented a car and decided to drive home. I just wanted to "get home." A connecting flight to Chicago would have delayed me by almost a day.


There is nothing that heals the soul like a solitary road trip. Once I survived a packed airport and urban traffic, I found myself headed north on I-55. All that awaited me was 2 1/2 hours of flat highway, a few stars and bad radio stations!


I love being from Illinois; it's important part of who I am. I also love coming back to visit because I have such wonderful memories of friends and family and my formative years. I'm always amazed at how rural Illinois is. I always thought that I lived in a "city," but the truth is that the only real city in Illinois is Chicago. Illinois is laden with farmland and rural communities. Many of these communities are poor, and the outward appearance and condition reflects this depressed state.


As I drove that flat highway in the darkness, I saw a beautiful site. Far in the distance, I saw the outline of a star of lights suspended in the darkness. The points of the star were not taught or even. Some of the bulbs were burnt out, but the impression of a lighted star was evident and undeniable. As I approached the star, I realized that it was affixed to the top of a grain silo on a remote farm. That made me smile. Only in Illinois would I see a Christmas decoration perched atop a grain silo. As I continued on, more and more stars appeared in the farming communities. Some were nailed to barns, others to rooftops and many to grain silos. I thought of the wearied old farmers who climbed ladders to continue this Christmas tradition. I also thought of a new generation of farmers who are carrying on the traditions of fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers. My guess is that the tradition of hanging the Christmas star has been around for a while.


I found much meaning in these Christmas tributes. It was the star that lead the wisemen on a year-long journey to find the infant Jesus. It was the stars that lit my journey home last night. I recognize that most of our Midwestern farmers come from humble means, and it touched my heart that the effort was made to celebrate the Christmas season. The residual of that was that my way was lit home, too.


If you've ever traveled that dark path home, you'll understand and appreciate the meaning of a lit path.


I hope that you take the time to appreciate the little things this holiday season. I know that the economy is tough and that many lives have been changed in unforeseen ways. I hope that you remember your family and take time to visit with them. For better or for worse, they are still your family, and they are very important.


To my dear friends, I hope that wherever you are this Christmas that you relish in the unique things about where you live. May you find your own, lighted path this holiday season!


I wish you much peace and happiness!


Merry Christmas,


Wendy

Christmas Concert

It is a bitter sweet moment when you realize that we have attended our last elementary school Christmas concert for one of the kids. I look back on all of the elementary school performances, and it makes me a bit weepy. Dominique is the last one in elementary school, and I still remember her performances in 1st grade! What is even more crazy is that it seems like yesterday when we went to Bradley's 6th grade performances, and now he is a senior in high school!

Dom has been playing the violin for 2 years, and she's really improved since last year. (Last years' performances are in the history of this blog if you're interested.) She took violin lessons over the summer with Mary Ann Petersen (the violin teacher at the elementary school). She fights us sometimes about violin and has vowed not to continue in junior high (which makes us sad). But for now, we have these performances to enjoy!

We hope you enjoy them, too!

Jingle Bells
video

Holly Jolly Christmas
video

We Wish You a Merry Christmas
video

Friday, December 4, 2009

Ah...the makeup battles

I don't really remember exactly when I began wearing make up. I know that it wasn't a discussion point; it just kind of happened. I'm sure I "borrowed" makeup from my mom. The next door lady was an Avon Lady, so I got lots of free stuff from her. Sometimes she paid me for babysitting with make up.

I don't remember having fights with my mom about makeup, probably because my mom wore a lot of makeup herself, and there really wasn't a lot she could say anything. I, however, have not been so lucky in escaping "the makeup debate." Now, Mariah...she looks hideous without makeup. It's a fact. She'll even say it's so. When she hit 12, it was a gift to all of us when she started slathering on the foundation. She has always gone way overboard on the eye make up. Last year, I had to pay a professional 50 bucks to photo edit her eyes in our family picture so they didn't look like two black spiders. (True story).

Elle...oh, Elle. She is beautiful without makeup. She has a wonderful skin tone, and I hate to see her cover it up. We agreed (finally) that this year she could begin wearing mascara. It makes her eyes look really pretty. I don't think she wears anything but eye makeup. She really doesn't need it.

I have an illogical aversion to eye liner. I think it is hideous! I especially hate thick, black eyeliner. I REALLY hat thick, black eyeliner on Elle....for all of the reasons I've mentioned.

I know, I know, I know...."somethings don't really matter." "Let her express herself with her makeup at least it's not a tattoo." (A-hem) "Pick your battles." "It's not worth the fight." I know. I really do know all of those things. But let's face it, I'm imperfect (and that is an understatement!)

The other night Elle was in tears as we were negotiating when she could wear the offensive eye liner. First I said, "9th Grade." She didn't like that answer. I finally said that we'd re-evaluate the situation in February....just in time for her to get all over-done for Valentine's Day *sigh*.
I wrote the following poem for Elle. I'm not a poet, and I definitely don't have the panache for iambic pentameter or any pentameter for that matter. But I meant what I wrote. I gave it to her (cowardly, I left it for her to find before school). It might work for a few months, I think in February that I'll be forced to look the other way as she applies more eye-liner than Adam Lambert.


Those Beautiful Eyes

Elle, Oh, Elle…what can I say?
You’re growing faster and faster every day.


The girl in the picture has beautiful eyes

I wonder if she can realize….


Those eyes are the window to her soul.

Grey-green in color with a black center like coal


Your eyes tell when you’re happy, sad or upset;

Sometimes your eyes say you’re filled with regret.


Your eyes help you see the beauty all around:

A fine painting, the clouds…beauty abounds


With those eyes, you look for the love of your dad.

He looks back with his eyes when you’re feeling bad.


Your eyes have seen heaven before you were born.

Your eyes will see God again on resurrection morn.


Do you see how wonderful and special your eyes are?

Do you see why I want them to be how they are?


Some girls line their eyes with black lines thin or fat--

Your eyes are so perfect there’s no need for that!


I know you want to go your own way.

I know you disagree with what I have to say.


Know that I love you and your beautiful eyes.

I know that someday I will compromise.


For now, however, let those eyes shine

Before we surround them with a black line.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

My Thanksgiving Memory

Dean and I just had our 6th Thanksgiving together, and it was our 5th Thanksgiving in a row with the kids. For all but one of those, we've cooked our own dinner at home. We've got our Thanksgiving routine down, and by default, created our own tradition.

Dean always makes the turkey.
Elle always sets the table.
Bradley is always our "whatever you need" guy.
I always make the mashed potatoes.
Domi is the "will you go get this" runner.
Mariah avoids the kitchen at all costs.

This is the one time that we break out the "good dishes" and bust out the campaign glasses (Sparkling cider). We have a nice table cloth and cloth napkins. Elle sets out candles. We dust off the "real" silver silverware. It's a nice presentation, and it has become our tradition.

Today (as with every year) we went around the table and mentioned what we were thankful for. Each year the list includes family and friends. As we devoured our meal, I asked each person about their favorite Thanksgiving memory. Every single person mentioned a memory with extended family. The kids all mentioned their grandparents in Washington and the fond memories they have of Thanksgiving meal preparations. Dean mentioned Thanksgivings in Kansas when he was a kid. My favorite Thanksgiving memory also occurred during my young childhood.

It was Thanksgiving 1975. My mom, my dad, my sister and I lived in Millington, Tennessee. My parents came and got me out of Kindergarten early that day so that we could make the trip to Illinois for Thanksgiving. My teacher sent me home with all of the handmade Thanksgiving decorations I had made. I remember nothing about the actual drive; I'm assuming I was asleep. I just know that I couldn't WAIT to get to Aunt Donna's house!!!

My dad's whole family was there (minus the Wisconsin contingency). Uncle Bill, Aunt Susie, Dad, Aunt Donna, Aunt Janine, Uncle Danny, Aunt Judy...and all of the cousins. (Only Clint and Larry were missing.) My Grandma and Grandpa Danley were also both there. My parents had an old reel to reel video camera, and I actually have a few precious minutes of footage from that day.

Why is this one of my favorite memories? I remember feeling loved by all of my extended family. I remember being caught up in the chaos of dinner preparations, football, hanging with the cousins. I also distinctly remember sitting on my Grandpa's lap that day after dinner. He told me about the day I was born. I was born in Anaheim, California on March 21, 1970. My grandpa was ill in Illinois on that day. I was born on his birthday, and because of that, he told me I was special to him! It made my day.

I didn't have very many meaningful interactions with Grandpa Danley. He died when I was just 11 years old. That brief interaction is one of the few memories I have of him. I'm OK with that. I believe that families are forever, and I believe that I will have many opportunities to sit down together and discuss whatever we want.

Here is an old picture that I have from that day. Unfortunately, it has become a bit water damaged over the 35 years that I've had it. When I see this picture, I look right past the yellow speckles. Grandpa is at the head of the "kids table." It means a lot that he chose to sit with his grandkids!Yes, that is me and my sister in matching Hee-Haw overalls! I'm not ashamed to admit that we used to watch Hee-Haw, and I actually liked it!!!

In this picture (looking at the camera) Billy and Scott. Grandpa at the head of the table. Backs to the camera: Kevin, Julie and me (with the long blonde hair).

I'm grateful for many things in my life, but above all, I'm most thankful for my family. Near or far, old or new in this world or into the next....I'm grateful for them all!

Gravy Boat or Neti Pot?

So, this is one of those Thanksgiving moments that we'll forget years down the road, so I will document in cyberspace. (And assume that cyberspace will not go away for a while).

I've used a neti pot for about a year. I saw it on Oprah one day, and Dr. Oz made it look easy. I've got to tell you, I love my neti pot. For those of you who don't know what it is, it's a way to clean our your sinus passages. It sounds really gross, but it's really awesome...especially if you suffer from allergies like I do. Anyway...google it if you want to know more about how it works.

It looks like this:This year we bought two new "kitchen things" in relation to Thanksgiving. We purchased a really nice turkey roasting pan and a gravy boat. We've always put gravy in the glass measuring cup, but a gravy boat is more classy, so we splurged.

The gray boat looks like this:I will admit that there are similarities in their shape and color. However, one is clearly a gravy boat and the other is clearly not. On two separate occasions, both Dom and Elle asked while referencing the gravy boat, "Is this your nose pot?" (Nose pot is what we affectionately call it.)

Of course the answer is, "No."

Interestingly, I couldn't get either Dom or Elle to eat the gravy. I think the thought that it might have been the neti pot was too much for them!

More Thanksgiving photos to follow!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I'm a PhD Candidate at the University of Utah!!!!

Wow!

I have to tell you that on January 1st of this year, it was not in my plan to purse my PhD. I'd thought about it, but I never REALLY gave it serious consideration. I moved to Utah in August 1995, and at that time, I enrolled in the teacher certification program at the U. I thought that I wanted to be a high school social studies teacher. I went all the way through the program at the U (minus one Utah History class and my student teaching). What changed? I got a chance to be in the classroom during one of my semesters, and I couldn't take the kids. Seriously....and that was 14 years ago. Now, it is perhaps fitting that I have 3 teenagers!!!!

I switched gears, and I applied for my masters in political science at the University of Utah. I was rejected. You read that right. I was flat out rejected. I was devastated. At that time, they didn't offer a masters in political science, they only offered a PhD track, and my grades were not good enough. I knew that, but I only wanted my masters. No go.

So, then I applied for the MPA program. I LOVED the MPA program at the U. I was about 1/3 of the way through the program when I took a job at SCT (now SunGard Higher Education). My career required travel, and I was forced to withdraw from the program. Back in 1998, the U had few online options (and still do have surprisingly few social science programs offered on line). I like to finish what I start, so in about 2000, I began looking for a way to continue my education. Don't get me wrong, my career is challenging, rewarding...and great....I just wanted to be intellectually stimulated in a way that didn't deal with software, sales and marketing. Pursuing my academic interests has provided me satisfaction in a completely different way.

I found Tim Luke and the On Line Master Program in political science at Virginia Tech. You can find a lot of MBAs on line and some MPA programs, but I challenge you to find an advanced degree in social science from an R1 university. VT's program is unique. It was designed for people like me, and I thoroughly enjoyed my program. It was challenging, and it helped me to be a better thinker and a better writer. I am proud of my thesis, and I worked hard for my degree. I earned it. Some contend that online degrees are somehow "lesser" than other degrees. I can see how that might be in some cases, but I have a degree from Virginia Tech! I took the whole family to Blacksburg in 2007, and I walked at graduation. I thought that might be the end.

I remember on graduation day, one of my thesis committee members asked me what was next. I threw out the idea of the PhD. I got an interesting response. It was a response that has stuck with me for two years. Is there a place in academia for someone like me? I've had a lot of life experience. I've had several jobs, and I've had a great 12 year career. I have a family. I've traveled the world. I'm not a "traditional" academic. I don't want to be a famous writer. I'm not necessarily interested in publishing studies that will change the world. I do want to contribute to the discipline, but I don't plan on being a poli sci "rock star." Was there a place for me? I think so. I think academia could use more people like me....mix it up a bit....bring a different perspective.....

This summer I was at Mt. SAC in Walnut, California. I did a presentation for the President and his board, and afterward, the VP of Enrollment had a 2 minute conversation with me that changed my life. I firmly believe the timing was right for the idea to be planted in my mind. He had done his EdD at Utah, and he just mentioned it in passing. The next day, I called him to quiz him about his experience in the program there. I was considering an EdD or a PhD in poli sci. I decided to "go for it," and applied for poli sci.

I've had tremendous support from Dr. Tim Luke, Dr. Georgeta Pourchot, Dr. Michael Bagley and my former manager, Dave Becker. They all wrote letters for me, and I'm very grateful.

What is my endgame? I don't know. I was talking with a dear friend today from Croatia, and he said it best, "It will all crystallize at the end; it always does." He's so right. My life has been a wonderful journey of opportunity and calculated risk. For now, I'm grateful I have a job with the best software company in the world! I'm grateful for the flexibility to pursue an education. I'm grateful for my husband who understands the words "I'm working on a paper this weekend." I'm excited to become acquainted with the other PhD candidates and get to work!!!!

Yes, it comes in email these days!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

It's been a while.....

I've been INSANELY busy...too busy to post much. That does not mean, however, that nothing has been happening. Hopefully, I'll have more of a chance the week of Thanksgiving to catch up a bit. (I took the whole week off.)

Let's see if I can give a quick update:

Dean. Well, if you haven't heard, Dean is looking for a new job. Yep, we are now officially affected by the recession. Dean's group at work had a 10% reduction in force, and he was one of the unlucky ones. The exit package was more than generous, and we're ok for a while. We're confident that he'll be able to find something...even if it has to be part time for a while.

Luckily, he's been around the house to help with house things and the kids while I've been traveling.

Wendy. I've been traveling a lot...which is always good, right! I've also had a class this term at the University of Utah. I'm waiting to see if I'm officially admitted to the PhD program in Political Science, but so far....still waiting on an accept or reject letter. I've also been engaged in some volunteer efforts with my alma mater. There is a lot going on.

Bradley. Bradley had surgery on his left shoulder at the beginning of October. He had an accident a year earlier during baseball practice, and his shoulder has never been the same. After three dislocations this summer, he finally had an operation to correct the problem. I'll scan in the surgery photos one of these days. It's quite miraculous what you can do orthoscopically these days. Bradley is a SENIOR and working toward graduation. So far, so good (barely)...but so good. He's also taken to dying his hair at home...which is freaking annoying....and also makes him look a bit freaky. His red hair is one of his distinguishing characteristics. Someday he'll appreciate it again...hopefully sooner rather than later.

Mariah. She is on the go, non-stop. She seems to be enjoying her sophomore year. She also has an after school job so that she can afford all of those extras that she wants. She's a good student and has ambitions to go into nursing. Riah has a renewed interest in exercise and eating well, and she's all but given up her favorite restaurant: McDonalds. Seriously, I tempted her the other night, and she ordered bottled water! Total determination and self control! Did I mention that she's always on the go? She enjoys spending time with her friends, going to movies, going shopping....and pretty much just going.

Elle. She's our sports girl these days. Elle continues to excel at Tae-kwon-do. She received her black belt back in September. (I'm lame and haven't gotten the pictures up yet.) She also just finished her season with her softball team, KOSS (sounds like chaos). She has been playing catcher. You'll not find a better follower of instructions than Elle and one who really wants to learn. She's becoming quite proficient at the Clarinet and absolutely LOVES Jazz band. She's growing up....

Dominique. Dom is our last one in elementary (where did the time go???). This girl loves to talk....her teacher has told me so....and I've witnessed it myself. She's a popular chick; her friends are always calling and wanting to talk, have sleepovers, hang out, go out....blah, blah, blah...you'd think she was a teenager. Dom is SO EXCITED...she recently got her very own cell phone. Let's hope she understands the privilege and doesn't get hers taken away. Domi plays violin in the advanced class, and she's quite good. She's a bit shy about playing, though. She wants to be in Jr. High so badly and acts like a teenager already. Lord, help us.

That's the 411 on what's been going on with us.

We plan to celebrate the holidays close to home....for many reasons.....not the least of which is the unemployment situation...

More postings to come as soon as I get a spare few minutes!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My thoughts on Santiago, Chile....

When the opportunity presented itself for a business opportunity in Chile, I said, "Yes!" I'd never been, and I'm always up for a new international adventure. The timing couldn't have been worse. The trip was the week that I was to take the GRE, but I went anyway.

After a VERY long flight from Atlanta, I arrived in Santiago. I came in two days in advance of my presentations to rest and to make sure that I did a bit of site seeing. I hired a tour guide to who have me a 4 hour tour of the city. That is one of the most effective ways to use a short amount of time...a personal tour guide.

As we toured Santiago, I tried to place it into my schema and relate it to other places I had been. It is a city of 6.5 million. It's divided into neighborhoods (reminiscent of Paris). It is influenced by German, Yugoslav and British cultures. It is a melding pot of religions of the world. It was very comfortable and familiar. The one thing that struck me was that there was no one "thing" that typified Santiago. I was looking for the equivalent of a Roman Colosseum, a Paris Eiffel Tower, a Statue of Liberty....an iconic landmark that I would see and say, "Yes, that's what I think of when I think of Santiago." I never found it.

I'll tell you what I did find. More than any other country I've been to (save the United States), I was impressed with the diversity of Santiago. I couldn't look at people passing on the street and find unifying physical characteristics that unified the Santiagans. You know what I mean if you've traveled....there are distinct physical characteristics in some places. I can point out a Croatian or a Bosnian. The Chileans were different. It was an interesting melting pot that I did not anticipate.

While I never found my iconic landmark, what I will remember most about Chile is the people. I was treated with kindness by everyone I met. I also have a renewed understanding that people all around the world are so much more alike than we are different. I traveled closer to Antarctica than I've ever been before, and I found the place to be oddly familiar.

I wish that we could all seek to find our points of sameness rather than fight over our differences. At heart I'm still an idealist in this respect.

If ever I have the chance to go to Chile again, I will take the opportunity to visit Easter Island and the far southern reaches of Chile. I hope to some day make it to Machu Picchu in Peru. I desire to go to the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador. I'm interested in the Aztec, Inca and Mayan cultures of Central and South America. This was my first time ever to South America, and it was a nice experience.

Here are a few photos of my city tour.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Made with Love

I've been quite busy lately with school and work. I took a few vacation days to study and write a paper. Alas, life gets in the way (and unfortunately so did work). I had to take a nap this morning to compensate for the 3 hours of sleep I got last night. (I was up until 2 working on the paper, watched Survivor on DVR, went to sleep on he couch at 3, up at 6 for a 7 AM meeting...on my day off).

Domi said, "Do you want me to get you up by 3:00 PM if you are not up?"

I said, "Thank you, but I'll be fine." She's always asking me if she can help by waking me up...keeping me on track. She's responsible that way.

I got up at about 2:00 PM to begin a long day of writing. Dom heard that I was up and came to say hello. I asked her if she would be so kind as to make me a peanut butter sandwich while I was in the shower so I could take it down to my office and start working. She took the specifics of my order (heavy on peanut butter...yes, grape jelly is fine if there is no strawberry....yes, chips would be great.....paper plate, please).

When I came downstairs, this is what I found.

The note says, "MADE WITH LOVE."

It made my day.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Why I love my neighborhood grocery store....

I'm a firm believer that I should write about the good as well as the bad. I had an experience on Saturday, and it was too cool not to share.

Let me begin by saying that I've always been a big fan of local businesses. We prefer local restaurants to chains. I prefer local vendors to national conglomerates. I have a horrible love/hate relationship with Walmart: I love the low prices; I hate the Walmart machine.

When I moved to Utah 14 years ago, I had to find a new grocery store; they don't have the same stores here as they have in Illinois. For the 10 years that I lived downtown in Salt Lake City, I adopted Albertsons as "my" grocery store. It had all of the things that epitomize downtown. In fact, we called it our "ghetto Albertsons." Sometimes I miss those day...where the bloody guy was being chased through the produce section by the EMTs....or the drunk guy whose "old lady was out in the car" came in to buy a 12 pack of beer because he just got out of jail that day....or the fight I got into with the ignorant clerk who was so rude to a young black man that I just couldn't keep my mouth shut....ah downtown, how I miss you. Sometimes Bradley and I take a trip downtown just to get good Greek food and look for hookers and tranvestites. It's great fun.

When we moved to the suburbs, I was again out of my element and forced to choose a new grocery store. We had heard about Harmons for years...seen the commercials...but had never visited one of the stores. I decided to give it a try, and I was sold! It is honestly the best grocery store ever! We joke that they have everything at Harmons, and they do! They also have a custom cheese bar and a custom olive bar...oh, and a "dollar store" within the store. They take your groceries right out of the cart for you so that you don't have to load groceries on a belt...and...wait for it....they have COMPLIMENTARY drive and load. I can't say enough good about them.

Saturday, I had an experience that will keep me as a Harmons customer for life.

I was in a different part of town, and I stopped at a Harmons for my Saturday grocery shopping. I came in with a list and LOADED my cart....I mean it was overflowing. As I rolled up to the check out line, a man came up to me and said, "Can I just say thank you." It was Bob Harmon....the owner....who I'd seen on TV many times. I said, "For what, spending all of my money here?" He said, "Thank you for choosing our store." Stop and think about that for a minute.....how often does that happen....that 1) the owner of the store is out and about on the floor; 2) that he stops by to make a personal introduction. You don't get that every day.

Harmons has dozen or so stores in Utah. I told Bob that this isn't my normal location and that I was just in the area because the girls were playing softball nearby. He asked how many girls I had playing softball; the answer is "2." He produced a free fruit coupon for them and told them to have a piece of fruit on him.
I've gotta tell you....I was so impressed with that brief interaction. That is hard work and relationship building at its finest! This country was founded on folks who worked hard, had dreams and open businesses. Harmons has been around for almost 100 years. Four generations of Harmons have served the people of Utah. It's clear why they are still in business and doing so well. They have a great story, and their history can be found on the web.

http://www.harmonsgrocery.com/

I hope that if you have a local business that provides excellent service in your neighborhood that you frequent that establishment. For me....I'm a Harmons girl. Bob Harmon sealed that deal for me, and the great folks who work at my local Harmons keep me coming back again and again!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Our 9/11 Tradition

I've posted this in the past, but 9/11 is a special day of remembrance in our family. I'm a bit surprised that it is not a national day of remembrance, but I'm also encouraged to know that the events of 9/11 are being shared with a generation who is too young to remember the day from their own experiences.

This year I volunteered to give a presentation to the 6th Graders at Sandy Elementary about 9/11. I approached the presentation from a historical perspective, and I smattered a few of my personal memories of that day; I was in Manhattan on that unbelievable day. I spent hours and hours preparing a power point that I thought would be appropriate for 6th Graders and do accurate justice to the day. The theme of the presentation was "remembering the heroes of 9/11."

At the end of the presentation, I asked the children how they could remember 9/11. I was stunned with some of the answers they gave. They are SMART, THOUGHTFUL kids! Many of them have an adult in their life to has told them of their personal experience on 9/11. Many of them already have 9/11 traditions with their families. I was quite surprised that many of them wanted to share their thoughts. Perhaps I underestimate 6th Graders. I learned a lot from them.

In keeping with our family tradition, we all went to the Healing Field in Sandy, Utah (now our home town), and we spent some time reflecting on that day. The following are some of the pictures. With the exception of one of these pictures, Bradley was the designated photographer for the event, and he did a fabulous job!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Mary Leonetti: May 30, 1922-September 12, 2009

I got the call this morning that my maternal grandmother, Mary Leonetti, had passed away. No one ever wants to receive that call, but unfortunately, death is a part of our lives. Mary had been suffering with cancer for a few years now, and her death was not unexpected. She was 87 years old.

When I hung up the phone, I began to cry. I was sad because I cannot make it out for the funeral. I'm certain if I insisted that I need to go that work would figure out a way to make it happen, but work is not my only consideration. This is just a bad week for me to try and make it happen, and my mom, sister and nephew will have to represent the family in my stead.
I cried because I never really knew my grandmother. I wish that I could tell you that she was the kind of grandma where you had sleep overs, she baked cookies, read stories and loved me. I know she loved me. She was just completely incapable of any of those other things. My grandma had minimal mental capacity. She had the IQ of a third grade child, and she was incapable of taking care of herself. Since the 1940s, she had been institutionalized, and she received tireless care from her family. The burden for her care has fallen to my Uncle Tony for decades, and I'm in awe of him for that.
As a child, we rarely visited Mary. Back in the day, the institutions were uninviting and quite scary for a small child. I remember visting her once and being upset by the experience. Perhaps that is why my mom didn't have us visit her much after that. Her care improved over the years as facilities and care options improved. I remember one year we had a family get together in Sherman, and Mary was there. She looked great and was quite lucid that day. I remember other visits when I was an adult that were no so pleasant. It was always upredictable when it came to visiting Mary.

There were several years in my 20s and 30s when I tried to send Mary postcards and letters regularly. Because she was incapable of doing so, I never got responses. I tried really hard to send her cards on Christmas and Mother's Day and sometimes for her birthday. One time when I visited her, one of her care givers mentioned that she loved the letters. Every time I visited her, it broke my heart to see a framed picture of me and my sister when we were about 3 and 1 years old (respectively). It is old, and the color has faded. She's had that picture for nearly 40 years, and it is still prominently displayed on her dresser.
There were some visits with Mary that were good. Sometimes she would talk and talk. Sometimes she would look at me sideways and ask me a logical question. "You went to Croatia, didn't you?" "You have a good job, don't you?" "You got married, right?" She was not un-intelligent. On a good day, we could hold a decent conversation. She told me about Pearl Harbor Day and what she remembered. She lit up when I asked her facts about her life. She seemed to remember more about her distant past then she did about current happenings.
Several years ago, Mary had a stroke, and she hasn't really been the same since. My last visit with her was quite a while a go, and it was not a good day for her. I was so upset after the visit because sometimes her behavior was hard for me to witness.

I cried today becasue I wish that I'd tried harder...had more patience...visited her more than I did. I'm trying not to be too hard on myself, but it's difficult.
I do have one bit of hope in all of this. My faith helps me understand that this life does not end with mortality. I believe that our spirits live on and that someday, we will all be resurrected in our perfected bodies. I believe in a loving God who will perfect Mary's mental capacities so that she will not suffer with this trial for eternity. I believe this. I also believe that I will see my grandmother again. I will get to sit down with her and marvel at the person she is....the person whose mind is whole...the person who I need to thank for being my grandmother and providing me with a rich family lineage.

I believe all this will be. I look forward to that day when I will see Mary, her parents, her parents parents and so on and so on....the Italian side of my family will be having a big party in Heaven. I only hope there is great food, good music and lots of Italian love!
May God Bless Mary and take her in His Grace. I love you, Grandma, and I hope that you are resting peacfully until we meet again!
Your loving granddaughter,
Wendy
My mom (left), Mary (right) with me in the baby blanket. Look how happy she looks!
The Leonetti Children- Left to right: Rose, Tony, Mary, Sam

My mom and my grandma (10 years ag0)

September 11, 2001: How I remember it

....I was digging through some old files tonight, and I found this document that I wrote in 2002. It is long, and it is detailed. I put it out here in cyberspace just to have one more record in case something happens to the file. I have not edited the document. Here it is in its entirety.


September 9, 2002

Words can’t adequately express the tumult of emotion that I feel as we approach the one year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on America. For a year now, I have had good intentions of writing my story. I feel it’s necessary as part of a healing process. I feel it’s necessary to record my thoughts for my posterity.

Each generation has a memory of a watershed event that changed world history forever. For my parents it was the assassination of John F. Kennedy. For my grandparents, it was the attack on Pearl Harbor that catapulted the United States into World War II. Before September 11, 2001, my world event was the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion in 1986. I also remember the day Ronald Regan was shot and the day that the Berlin Wall fell. Nothing in my memory compares to the raw emotion that I still feel from the events of September 11th.

I would anticipate that someday it will be a national memorial day. The wounds are still too fresh, though. It will be an ad hoc memorial day for all on Wednesday, September 11, 2002, an involuntary memorial day, for it is impossible to not be affected by the tragedy. It seems impossible that a year has passed. It seems like yesterday in some respects, and in other respects, it seems like a lifetime ago.

It was the day that the world changed forever. It sounds dramatic, but it is true. No other act of aggression has been so horrible against the civilian population of the United States of America. These weren’t soldiers who were killed…those who had volunteered to protect our freedom…these were citizens of my country who were otherwise proceeding with what should have been a normal day. It was anything but normal.

I have a story that needs to be written because I was in New York City on that day. I was a tacit observer to that which happened. I have never been more scared in my whole entire life. I suppose that is why they call it terrorism.

Let me back up and tell this in a chronology.

I love New York City! I first visited the city when I was a little girl. I remember that we took the subway and we went to Barnum and Bailey’s Circus at Madison Square Garden. I was very young, perhaps 5 years old, maybe even 4 years old, but I still remember it.

My love affair with the city grew as I got older. When I was 18, I traveled to the city on a trip to the National Forensics Association national speech tournament in East Orange, New Jersey. It was at Uppsala University (which closed its doors just a few years ago.)
I marveled at the grandeur and power of Time Square. I was shocked by the price of a hamburger, and I did the “Rockette’s Kickline” with girlfriends as we stood in front of Radio City Music Hall.

I returned other times as an adult. Most times it was for a quick vacation or to see friends who lived in the city. I love to shop at Macy’s all by myself! I love to do all of the touristy things! I love to eat at the greatest restaurants in the world. My heart wanes for a great Broadway show. I love New York. It is everything I wish I had the courage to try just once in my life.

In the Summer of 1997, I traveled to NYC with my friend, Kristijan, and we had a wonderful time on a shoestring budget. It was great to see the city through the eyes of one who had never seen it before. We had a wonderful time.

In the Summer of 1999, I spent the 4th of July in New York City with a group of friends. I visited Ellis Island on that day out of respect for my Italian immigrant ancestors who passed through the Island on the way to a better life and a future in Illinois. I stood on the top of the Empire State Building and watched the fireworks on the Hudson and on the East River. I was positioned between a two French tourists on top of the observation deck; it seemed rather fitting for only the French with Bastille Day rival the US with regard to celebration.

In the Spring of 2000, I traveled to the city to see friends. I had dinner with an old friend from high school, Evan. We ate at a local vegetarian restaurant in lower Manhattan where we talked about religion and philosophy and got caught up on the details of our lives. That conversation changed my life. Evan always did have that kind of effect on me. Marija, Justin and I had a wonderful Saturday in the city. We ate at Tavern on the Green and took in a Broadway show.

Last summer, the summer of 2001, I had a friend visit me from Croatia. I decided that his perception of the United States would be quite skewed if he only visited Utah. I planned a trip with him to New York. He was to return to Croatia from there, and I would return home. We left Salt Lake on Saturday, September 8, 2001.

On Saturday night, we stayed in Queens with Marija and Justin Nielsen. Justin was in law school at the time, and Marija managed a retail store in Rockefeller Plaza. On Sunday, Dubravko and I went for a day of exploration in the city. We went to the Statue of Liberty and did a bus tour of lower Manhattan. I remember on the tour that we passed the World Trade Center. It was simply the largest structure I’ve ever seen. I’d seen it before, but it doesn’t diminish in impact each time I see it. I have a picture of it from that day.

On Sunday night, Dubravko and I stayed at the Waldorf Astoria. It had always been a dream of mine to stay there. It was quite disappointing. On Monday, September 10, 2001, we moved to the Doubletree on Time Square (47th and 7th).

On Monday, we ate lunch at Planet Hollywood where we sat for hours and watched a Michael Jackson look-a-like contest. Michael was playing New York that night, and the top two impressionists got free concert tickets. We walked around Manhattan, and it rained, if I remember correctly. Eventually, we met up with Marija, Justin and a friend of theirs named Grant. We took a cab to a wonderful Hungarian restaurant on the upper west side.

I remember that we had wonderful food, great conversation and lots of laughs. It was like being back in Yugoslavia hanging out with friends and just “being.” We tried in vain to convince Dubravko to see a Broadway show with us on Tuesday, but he wanted absolutely no part of that.

I remember that we walked over 50 blocks to about 34th. It had rained that afternoon and evening, and it was nice outside. The pace was moderate, and it felt good to walk. We all parted at the subway station, and Dubravko and I went on to the Empire State Building. He wasn’t really interested, but I convinced him that one of the most spectacular views of the city is from the top of the Empire State Building late at night.

We were up there at about 10:30 or 11:00 PM. It was spectacular. The rain left a clear sky. It was windy, but it was a great time. The view is overwhelming. You get an impression of how big the city is and how small you are.

That was the last time I saw the World Trade Center, Monday, September 10th..at about 11:00 PM…from the south view of the top of the Empire State Building.

There was no way I could have ever imagined that it would be the last time I would see those buildings. There was no way that I could have ever imagined how the world would change just hours from the time that I stood at the top of the Empire State Building.

I remember that we took a cab back to our hotel, watched Monday night football (Giants vs. Broncos) and watched a movie on pay-per-view at the hotel. I was exhausted when we finally retired. For some odd reason, I remember that I feel asleep fully clothed. I was so tired that I just climbed into bed.

The next morning, my cell phone rang. It was right around 9:00 AM. It was Marija, and I chose not to answer it. I would call her later. We were both completely wiped out, and I had every intention of sleeping in on my last day of vacation. A few seconds later, the phone rang in the hotel room. I knew it had to be Marija, and I knew that she really was trying hard to get in touch with me. She knew the hotel, but to the best of my knowledge, I had not given her the number. I answered. Time stopped.

She told me to get out of bed and turn on the TV.

I did.

I was so confused. First, I was tired. Second, I was watching this horrible accident on television. I really thought it was an accident. The night before at the Empire State Building, one of the guides told a story of a plane that hit an upper floor on the Empire State Building many years ago. Everyone on the floor died except for the elevator operator. She had several broken bones but lived.

I thought that perhaps a corporate jet had gotten too close and accidentally crashed into the building. I had no idea that it was a big, passenger jet.

Immediately, we called Dubravko’s mom in Croatia. I knew that if she heard there was a plane crash in NYC that she would be so upset. We wanted to let her know that he was OK. We called her before the news hit Croatia, so she had no idea what we were talking about. He told her that he was fine and not too worry. We found out later that it was only minutes after the call that the news picked up the feed on local Croatian television. It was such a blessing that we were able to get an international line before all hell broke loose.

I called work to let them know that I was ok. My boss would worry, and she knew that I was on vacation in NYC. I recall that Sherrie answered the phone and said, “Are you calling to tell me about the thing in New York?” At that point in time, no one had any idea of the gravity of the situation.

We threw open the curtains in the hotel, but our view of lower Manhattan is, of course, obstructed by tall buildings. The sky was blue, and all indications were, from looking out the window, that everything was normal. It wasn’t. In fact, it was the most abnormal day that I can ever remember.

Dubravko and I watched the local NYC station 2. They were broadcasting live, and there were several news choppers up in the air. As we were watching the building, a small explosion happened in the other tower. From the angle of the camera, it looked like either a bomb had gone off or a news chopper became consumed in the smoke and accidentally hit the building. We all know now that it was a second plane, but from the angle that we saw it (live), it was difficult to tell. It seem like a long time later, but it was probably only a few minutes before they accurately reported that it was a second plane.

For some reason, it did not compute in my brain. Others processed it immediately as an act of war or an act of terrorism. I, either out of disbelief or shock, could not comprehend what was happening. I was overwhelmed to know that this was happening just a few miles away from where I sat. Even as I write this now, I can recall every detail of that hotel room, the bed spread, the TV, the position of the bathroom. It’s like the moment is burned in my mind. I’ve been in 30 hotel rooms since that day, but this one in more clear in my mind that the one I was in two nights ago.

I remember that I frantically flipped TV stations toggling between local New York news and CNN, FOX, Headline News and any thing else that could tell me what was happening.

I called my sister, Julie, and got her out of bed to watch the whole thing.

My memories of chronology are sketchy during about the first 6 hours. I remember events and feelings more than I remember the order in which they occurred.

I remember watching the first tower fall. If you have never seen the towers, you have no idea of their size. I can’t believe that it fell. I can’t believe it fell so soon after the hit.

I remember when the plane hit the Pentagon. That is when I went into shock. I literally freaked out. I finally believed that it was terrorism. My first thought was, “No one attacks the United States.” I said this out loud. I paced the floor and ran my fingers through my hair. I remember that I was very, very upset.

Poor Dubravko. This was overwhelming for him, too. I have never reacted this way to anything, and I’m sure that he was in shock on many different levels. I’m sure that it must have been strange to see me in such a condition. There was nothing that he (or anyone) could say that would have brought me any comfort at that time.

I remember thinking (and saying out loud) that I had to call people in Chicago, LA and San Francisco and warn them to get out of big buildings. Dubravko said that I was overreacting. I told him that we had no idea where this could end. I firmly believed that every plane in the air could have been a potential hijack and a potential threat. I was near hysterical. No, I was hysterical.

I vaguely recall the plane crash in Pennsylvania. This is not to in any way discredit the good people who died on flight 93. It is just to say that of all of the tragedies that day, that is the one which I recall the least.

My cell phone was receiving message after message, but the phone wasn’t ringing. I couldn’t get a cell signal, and I couldn’t get a landline. It was a horrible feeling of helplessness. I just wanted to start talking about it, and I wanted to contact my friends and family.

The second tower fell, and in an odd way, things went silent. The city was in complete and total chaos, but I felt silent. Was there going to be something else? I feared an attack on the Empire State Building. I feared that other explosives were planted in the city. I was so close to Time Square. Could that have been the destination for an attack?

I waited. What would be next? There were rumors that the White House was a target. What would be next? Was it over? There was a terrible period of “not knowing.” There was a terrible period in lower Manhattan where smoke covered the city. Dust and debris floated through the streets like a powerful gust of air had pressurized the contents and exploded on an unsuspecting public.

The images were shocking. The thought of the number of dead was heart wrenching. I can say that great anxiety and sorrow and fear filled my heart, and I feared it would burst under the strain of containment.

I did not cry. I was in shock, and for some reason, I was incapable of tears.

I was able to make calls to friends and family. The strangest calls of all were those from people who I rarely hear from. Messages on my machine that said, “Hi, I’m sure you’re nowhere near New York, but I thought of you today, and if you could just let me know you’re ok.” The irony of it all…..

I remember talking with my dad. He said, “I really don’t like it that you’re there.” What an odd thing to say. I didn’t like it either, but at that point, I had no choice. My mom…was really worried, but when I finally talked to her, she was pretty calm. She said to go buy food and hunker down for the night. Kevin, my cousin, was really upset and wanted to “come and get me.” It is funny what we think about when we’re stressed. His desire was completely illogical, but it was a powerful urge to “do something.” Julian was gravely concerned, and he called me frequently. After telling the story over and over again, I had Julie call family members with updates. I just couldn’t spend all of my time on the phone. It was too taxing. Between my cell phone, my calling card and my hotel phone bill, I spent over $1000.00 in phone calls on September 11th…and the days following thereafter.

One of Marija’s employees, Arlene, had to evacuate the store in Rockefeller Plaza, and since they closed the subway, she had no way to get home. Arlene stayed with us until about 8:00 PM that night.

At about 3:00 PM on September 11th, we realized that we were hungry, and left the hotel suite to find something to eat. The city was at a stand still, and everything was shut down. McDonalds was a few blocks away, and it was opened. People there were all in shock. All eyes were turned to the TVs, and strangers were sharing stories with each other. Some in the restaurant had been in lower Manhattan and a few had been in the towers. It was surreal.

We were sitting in the upper part of McDonalds when Dubravko said, “How am I going to get home tomorrow?” We were both to return to our respective homes on the 12th. Poor guy. I unloaded on him. It old him he could get a boat and start rowing for all I cared. There were thousands of people dead, the international air system had been shut down, the United States had just been attacked, and he wanted to know how he was getting home???

He took a long walk that afternoon that lasted several hours. It was good for both of us. He walked down to Tribeca until the police stopped him. They had cordoned off a large part of lower Manhattan for emergency personnel only. He took some pictures of lower Manhattan.

He came back to the hotel, and we all ate in the hotel restaurant. We got Arlene off on a working subway so she could get back to Brooklyn. Dubravko and I bought some sandwiches, cookies, fruit and water and took them back to the room. Sometime late that night, we finally turned off the TV. It was too much to watch such devastation for that many hours. I really think it was unhealthy. We wanted to know the details, but it was like re-living the whole thing all day long. I don’t know how it could have been any different, but I do know that my anxiety was never lessened because the TV was constantly on…telling every sad story I’ve ever heard in my whole entire life. It was traumatic.

On Wednesday no planes flew.

I knew that the US had stopped all international in bound flights, and therefore, there were no outbound flights. We tried and tried to get Dubravko on a flight, but the airlines were in such a flux for days that it was impossible to secure anything.

We went to Marija’s and Justin’s, and we stayed there on Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday when planes didn’t fly to Salt Lake from New York, I decided that we would go to Philadelphia and catch a Delta flight from there to Salt Lake. I couldn’t sit for one more day watching the television and wondering what was going to happen. I needed to do something.

I was extremely agitated and suffering from high anxiety. It made for very tense relations between me and Dubravko. The situation was already difficult as it was, and the stress of him not being able to get home was almost unbearable. It became apparent that he would travel back with me to Salt Lake and that we would then be able to make arrangements for him to get home.

On Thursday, I found my way to the Howard Beach branch library where I could finally access the Internet. I had been out of touch for a week, and it was killing me.

My boss, Carol Shear, was great! I was technically off of vacation. SCT paid for me to get home, and that was a great comfort to have that burden alleviated.

On Friday afternoon, Dubravko and I took a taxi from NYC to Philadelphia. It was about $260 for both of us. The cabbie had a brother in Philadelphia, and it was worth it to him to take us. It was about $300 with tips and tolls, but it was a fair price for a two hour cab ride that crossed three states. We stayed at the airport Sheraton. We tried to forget…for just a little while. The consumption of 24 hour news coupled with speculation was unhealthy. We watched mindless television and movies to distract our minds. Our flight was scheduled for Saturday night.

On Saturday morning, we found that our flight was cancelled. Dubravka freaked out for some reason, and she really wanted Dubravko to come home. I understand. And if there were any way that I could have gotten him home, I would have done it. It was simply impossibility. At about Noon, I left Philadelphia to drive to Cincinnati. I figured that we had a better chance with a flight between Cincinnati and SLC since both are Delta hub cities.

The ride on the Pennsylvania turnpike was therapeutic. Dubravko and I had a chance to talk and relax. For the first time in days, I felt like I had some kind of control. I was driving as far as I could away from New York City. I had that car reserved all the way to Salt Lake City, and if need be, I was prepared to drive it that far.

As we stopped at a PA rest stop, I needed a map and a phone charger for the car. The rest stops were all out of both…everywhere along the highway. It was like a mass Exodus of people had gathered up essentials and maps and cell phone chargers were top on the list. In Harrisburg, PA we finally found one at a Radio Shack in the mall.

Somehow, I took a wrong turn, and our trip to Cincinnati was via Cleveland..exactly three hours out of the way. Oh well, at that point in time, you just drive. India.Arie was our company. We listened to her music for hours and hours; it has such a calming effect. I think it is the honesty of her artistry.

Right outside of Cincinnati, I pulled the car over. I needed to cry. I had not cried about the tragedy. I had been in too much shock. I pulled over, and gained my composure. I knew if I started to cry that I would not stop for days and days. I was exhausted…physically, mentally, and spiritually. I was so exhausted.

We finally pulled into the National Car rental facility shortly before 2:00 AM. We slept at the airport hotel for a few hours and rose early for our flight. We were at the airport three hours in advance, and waited for 2 hours and 45 minutes after we cleared security. I slept in the Delta Crown Room and prayed that the flight would leave today.

It did.

I slept the whole way.

I just wanted to get home to go to church. I knew that I would find comfort and solace in worshipping with the saints. The Salt Lake 11th Ward had a memorial service that day, and that was exactly what I needed. I needed to grieve. I needed to weep. I didn’t weep…not for months….but I was patriotically weepy. I have such a sense of welled up pride when I sing the national anthem.

Dubravko went home on Wednesday, a full week after he was originally to go home.

I returned to a normal travel schedule 10 days later.

My life has changed forever.

I’m touched by the stories of those who died. I’m touched by the stories of those who survived. I’m affected by my government as it struggles to balance global power and fight terrorism. My travel life has become stressful as security procedures at airports affect how I travel.

The 2002 Winter Olympics were here in Salt Lake City in February, and it was a military state here. Blackhawk helicopters were audible during the opening ceremonies, soldiers patrolled venues, and it was noticeably a “different” Utah. We all survived the long lines, and I had the time of my life at the Olympics.

I remember during the Sunday morning session of General Conference in October 2001, the news broke that the United States had bombed Afghanistan. It was historic. It took almost a full month after September 11th to strike back. The conflict still ensues, and I fear that it will only intensify.

In December 2001, I was watching a news re-cap of the year, and I saw the footage of the planes hitting the WTC. I had seen it 100 times before, but that night, it affected me deeply. I cried and cried and cried. It was like I was seeing it for the first time. It was overwhelming.

In March, I watched a CBS special about documentary film makers who had an up close and personal view of the events. I had to turn it off. It was like re-opening a wound.

I don’t think I’m in denial. I just know my limits.

As the anniversary approaches, I am filled with emotions. I want to cry. I want to remember. I want to forget. I want to lock myself in my room. I want to be with those I love.

I have heard that time heals all wounds. I don’t know if that is true or not. There are a lot of people still suffering from September 11, 2001. My wounds are insignificant compared to others, but this is my story. I needed to write it down.


September 10, 2002

Twenty four hours later, and the media reports have reminded me of many things. One thing I remember is that on the night of September 11, 2001 Time Square was empty. The mayor had asked everyone who could to leave the city and clear the way for emergency vehicles. We had planned on staying at the Doubletree on the 11th, and we didn’t change those plans. We spent most of the day in the hotel glued to the television.

After we ate dinner and saw Arlene off to the subway, we noticed how empty the city was. People stood in the MIDDLE of Time Square…I mean in the middle of the street. There were police officers on every corner, and the city was eerily quiet. They shut down Broadway (no shows played that night), and you couldn’t find a restaurant open. In fact, the whole city was shut down. It was really, really strange, but in comparison to what had happened that day, it…well, there is no comparison.

Long time New Yorkers got out of their cars, stood in the middle of Time Square and took a picture. It was that strange of an occurrence. New York was such a paradox that night. It was the most devastating place to be, but it was also one of the safest places to be. There were police everywhere; ships in the harbor; F-16s patrolling the skies. It was a military state with a war wound bigger than any imaginable.

As I write this now, I’m watching an NBC news report by Tom Brokaw. It’s just really traumatic to watch the events as “history” on TV. It’s too new to be history. It’s too raw.

I remember that Mayor Guiliani was a rock for New York City. He was traumatized himself, but he kept the city and the world informed. I watched with great interest when he spoke and gave updates. I felt that I was a citizen of New York in an odd way. Everyone knows the mayor; everyone knows New York. We grew up with it…in movies…in books…the sports teams…the New Year’s Eve traditions.

I remember that the people of New York rose to the occasion. They dropped everything to run down and help…to run down and donate blood…to run down and search for loved ones. A city typically known for an attitude that is direct, curt….and can only be described as “New York.” Hearts were softened in the city. Strangers shared stories because now each person in the city had something in common with each other person. They had all been through September 11th together.

I remember taking the train to Marija’s house on Wednesday during the midday. It was strange to walk down the street to the subway. I really wanted to believe that nothing had happened. After all, I never saw the site with my own eyes. In an odd way, I hoped that it wasn’t true. It was a strange state of denial, but I knew that it was real. I knew it was real.

We got on the subway, and people were actually talking to each other. Generally, you ignore everyone on the subway. One elderly woman was headed down to the site to “help.” Another passenger encouraged her to heed the word of city officials and stay away from the site. They had more volunteers than they needed, and added volunteers only hindered rescue efforts. At this point in time, just over 24 hours later, there was still a lot of hope that potentially hundreds of injured would be found. As we now know, that never happened.

The locals who had lost loved ones made posters and begged for information about the missing. Hope was evident for several days, but as time wore on, it was clear that the grim reality was that there would be few survivors. That was one of the most difficult things for me to handle. I thought that more people would be found in the building. The truth was that the devastation was too great and the fires were too intense to spare many lives. I have a copy of the Daily News from September 12, 2001. The headline read 10,000 Dead. Wow. That was hard to take.

In Queens one day (it was probably on Thursday…) I took a long walk along the main road by Marija’s house. I got thirsty and stopped in a local grocery store to buy a bottle of water. As I waited in the check out line, the cashier talked to the customers. Obviously, people knew each other in the store. The woman in line behind me started to cry when the cashier called her by name and asked how she was. Her husband was a fire fighter. He was alive, but many of his friends didn’t make it. I remember the cashier said, “Oh, honey baby, I’m so sorry.”

Suddenly, my problems didn’t seem so important. I was 2000 miles from home, but I was alive. My family was alive, and all of my friends were alive. I was fine.

I do want to record that Delta Airlines was really, really great to me. I called them almost every three hours to check on the status of flights. It was a time of crisis for everyone. They booked me on many, many flights to try and get me home. I literally talked with probably 50 different agents over the course of a few days, and with RARE exception, they were phenomenal professionals.

My corporate travel agents were equally competent.

I wrote many thank you notes in the weeks that followed.

I’m sure that I’ll have more thoughts tomorrow on the one-year anniversary.

December 27, 2002

I had good intentions of writing on the anniversary, but, clearly, that didn’t happen. I was in Edwardsville, Illinois on the Anniversary. I went to observe my teammates demo in the morning, and in the afternoon, I went to the St. Louis Temple. There were so many feelings that I had on that day, but I just really felt that I needed to be as worshipful as possible.

I don’t think I focused that much on the temple session, but that’s OK.

My good friend, Mike, was really upset around the anniversary. Mike kept saying, “No one remembers.” I don’t agree with him. I think that everyone remembers and no one knows quite how to handle the situation. There is a fine balance to be achieved between the desire to remember and memorialize and “dwelling” in the past. People haven’t figured it all out yet.


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