Hi Friends! The last quarter of 2022 was a bustling time. In addition to Jeff’s work—including two trips to Modesto, California, one to Boulder, Colorado, and one to New York City—we had a family reunion in Southern California, hosted Thanksgiving with our kids, and seemed to run from one event to the next. Service activities (planned and spontaneous) were intermingled along the way. In addition to all the fall fun, there were also some not-so-fun falls. More on those later.
This blogpost begins with October 8th when Karen flew from the Philippines straight to California, where Jeff had been working for a week. The next day, our fourth grandchild was born! The problem? She was far away in Utah. It would be another 3 weeks before we met her for the first time.
Karen kept busy in Modesto with projects— two days touch-up painting in the office, ordering new lobby furniture and artwork, gathering supplies for refugees, and giving blood, which unfortunately didn’t go as well as usual. Tired and a bit dehydrated from her Philippines travel, she took one bite of her after-donation snack and suddenly felt faint. She voluntarily slid off her chair to the floor, avoiding an involuntary flop. (Fall #1) She recovered well enough to get up and drive back to the airbnb, but it took a day or two before she was feelin’ fine.
Jeff had driven the truck to California, so on our way home we did a little treasure hunting, beginning with gold-digging in Woods Creek. After 2.5 hours of back-breaking dirt-shoveling, hauling and sluicing, we found about 6 microscopic flakes of gold in our pan. Let’s just say, Jeff won’t be quitting the day job! In other locations we found obsidian, turquoise, garnet, and sunstone (labradorite).
During the next 2.5 weeks in Utah we were able to get a lot done, including some yummy baking, singing in the church choir, attending the temple, and visits with kids and grandkids, as well as Jeff’s Aunt Deanie and Uncle Ray.
We also attended 3 concerts—renowned a cappella ensemble Voces8, sometimes sassy/sometimes sultry samba from our friend Jay Lawrence’s band, and one of our favorite old rockers, Alan Parsons. We got to watch his pre-show sound check and have a Q&A session. Sons Jace & McKay joined us for the evening. It was nice to have those of the younger generation immersed in music from ours.
We flew back to California the next morning, this time for a family reunion with Jeff’s parents and most of the siblings at Oceanside. We had way too much fun eating, playing cards, singing, more eating, sunset and wave-watching, beach combing, etc.
Jeff’s fun came to an abrupt pause when he tumbled down the last 8 feet of the slippery seawall behind our airbnb, landing head and shoulder-first on the rocks below. (Fall #2) Miraculously he did not break bones, lose consciousness or show any signs of concussion. A great time was had by all, even after the fall. And Jeff got to bring home a swollen ear as a souven-ear.
We flew home from Oceanside Monday night, and the next evening Jeff boarded another plane to Colorado for 2 days of meetings at Choice House in Boulder. The pace really didn’t slow down last fall, especially for him.
When he returned we had a few more days to prepare for our Family Thanksgiving celebration. Since our Lehi house cannot accommodate the whole family for a multi-day event, we rented a beautiful new home in Heber City, Utah that worked out perfectly. Almost everyone was able to be there. We missed Emma, who was in Oregon for the holiday. And we miss Braden and Megan ALL the time since their passings 4 and 3 years ago respectively.
We put the house to good use, with its 2 kitchens, many bedrooms and bathrooms, trampoline, hot tub, and sauna. We created music, made food, ATE food (lots of it), and did our annual holiday humanitarian project—this year assembling “welcome kits” for teenaged refugees to Utah. Lifting Hands International will deliver the kits as new families with teens arrive. It was a wonderful family Thanksgiving.
Knowing that we’d be leaving the country on December 23 and missing Christmas in the USA, we started celebrating early. We enjoyed several holiday concerts and musicals, including a Messiah Sing-In with the Utah Symphony at Abravenal Hall, where (drum roll please…) Jeff performed a short solo! It had been a couple of decades since he last practiced the tenor part. During one of the choruses we were standing with the rest of the audience and singing our respective parts. The sopranos ended and next up were the tenors, with several measures of orchestral music between. Jeff got one measure ahead in the score and began singing the tenor part, nice and strong . . . and ALONE. His beautiful solo was cut short after a few notes when simultaneously he realized what he’d done and Karen nudged him. Bravo Jeff!
After Thanksgiving it was back to California for one week, where something BIG happened! Hamilton & Company completed a merger with a group of similar client-oriented firms under the umbrella of Platform Accounting Group. This is a significant step towards longevity for the firm and an eventual pathway to retirement and other opportunities. We feel very blessed to have found a great partner to move forward with.
While Jeff was involved at the office, Karen helped out with a local service project—Comfort Kits for children in Modesto’s huge foster care system. In true “weekend warrior” mode, she and two other volunteers unloaded a large U-Haul, drove to the storage unit, reloaded it, drove back, unloaded it a second time, carried numberless heavy boxes and bags up and down stairs, sorted and organized thousands of donated items, helping set up for the big assembly party the next day with 300 volunteers.
We got home from California Saturday night, and left for Manhattan on Monday morning. Another quick turn-around! Jeff had a board meeting in NYC on Tuesday. Karen was not planning to go, but there was an extra seat on the jet, so she was able to tag along for the quintessential “free ride.” We decided to stay 2 extra days to experience the Big Apple during Christmastime. And what fun we had! We attended the Manhattan Temple. We went to “A Christmas Carol” on Broadway, which we didn’t realize was a one-man show until well into the first act. It was creatively staged and well-acted. We saw “The Lion King,” took a rainy Central Park carriage ride, visited one of the Christmas markets, saw the big Christmas tree and watched the skaters at Rockefeller Center.
Our favorite show was the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes’ Christmas Spectacular. Wow, was it impressive . . . dancing reindeer, dolls, marching soldiers, there were even fairy drones. Jeff loved the two big organs and organists that popped out of the two walls flanking the stage. Everything was magical! We were especially happy that, though most of the acts were secular, near the end there was a wonderful live nativity. And in case you’re wondering . . . NO, the shepherds didn’t rip off their robes and start doing the can-can! It was very respectful—even reverent—and brought the true spirit of Christmas to the stage. A recent article congratulates Radio City Music Hall for continuing to feature Jesus in its annual holiday show. https://dailycitizen.focusonthefamily.com/radio-city-music-hall-unabashedly-and-unashamedly-continues-to-feature-jesus-in-its-christmas-spectacular/
Since we spent such a lovely Thanksgiving with the family, and almost everyone had other commitments for Christmas Day and New Years, we decided to get outta town . . . FAR outta town. Stay tuned for our next post about our 3-weeks of life in Northern Norway, with Christmas, New Years, Northern Lights, and so much more!