Tuesday, July 28, 2009

My Husband Threw Away Two Million Dollars

It is true. My husband did throw two million dollars into the garbage can and it was lost to us forever.

It happened a few years ago when McDonalds was playing their $2,000,000 Monopoly game. Wes went to lunch there and along with his hamburger and fries, received the monopoly piece “Boardwalk”. Unfortunately he did not read the rules of the game at the time, but assuming the piece could have some value, he tucked it into his pocket and later that night placed it on the shelf in his closet.

A couple weeks later he went to eat at the same McDonalds and this time received the piece, “Park Place”. Knowing that having both “Boardwalk” and “Park Place” was a very good thing in the real game, he asked at the counter for the rules to see if he had won anything. It was then he read that although there were many “Park Place” pieces in circulation, there was only one “Boardwalk” and anyone who had both had beat the 700,000,000 to 1 odds and was the grand winner of $2,000,000!!

Excitedly he called home telling me to find the piece he had put on the closet shelf. I searched but could not find anything. He hurried home and searched himself, but with the same results. So he searched his desk—as perhaps he had moved it to there.


And then he remembered that only a few days before, he had noticed his closet shelf was getting a bit cluttered, and forgetting about the Monopoly piece, he gathered up all the little papers and threw them away. . .

into the garbage
to be lost

In one last effort to locate the game piece, he drove out to the city dump--hoping that somehow he would recognize our little pile of refuse in the massive piles and that miraculously the teeny tiny piece of paper would still be intact, and sitting on the top of the pile just waiting for its rightful owner to claim it.

We talked a lot in the next few days about what we would have done had things turned out differently. We could buy a new house, travel the world, pay for all of our kids to get a college education. . .

And then we comforted ourselves with the thought that if we moved we would be moving away from friends and if we stayed in our modest neighborhood with that kind of money, none of our neighbors would like us.

Eventually our disappointment lessened and we moved on, no longer thinking about the day Wes held all that money in his hands and carelessly threw it away.

The interesting thing to me is that since that time, Wes’ job position changed and we have been able to do all the things we dreamed that day of doing—but with money he earned by working. And although two million dollars is a lot and could be put to good use in many wonderful ways, there are many things in this life I value far more than any amount of money---my family, my health and my religious faith for starters. And yet there are probably many times I take them all for granted—tossing them on the proverbial closet shelf without a thought to their value. It is only when tragedy strikes or I get sick that I remember how much they mean to me.

So, what I have learned from this experience is-- sometimes we toss items or people aside without recognizing their true worth and sometimes we go to great extremes—even being willing to tread through garbage—in pursuit of worldly wealth. The trick is to be able to discern what really matters and hold on to it tight.

As that is what brings the greatest . . . joy to our journey.

Monday, July 27, 2009

AND THE WINNER IS . . . and . . . Back to reality!!!

The comments were posted, the votes were in and the drawing was held. And the winner of my very first blog give-a-way for the cute little joy plaque below is . . .

Gramee, from The View From Gramee's Porch

Thanks so very much to everyone who posted comments on my blog while I was out of town. It meant so very much to me. I loved hearing from you all. Being so far from home, it was such a comfort to get on my blog and read the comments that were written.

And Carolyn, I took your advice and kissed on the Eiffel Tower!! There was my sweet, dear husband standing next to me, looking so incredibly handsome, with rain pouring down all around us. It was so very romantic, I couldn't resist!! In fact, I am pretty sure I kissed him twice!!

But now we are home and it is . . . BACK TO REALITY!!!!

This is my life today. Or at least it should be. I have piles and piles and piles of laundry to do.
But guess what!! Our well pump is broken and being fixed so there won't be water until this afternoon!!

And that is only the beginning. We arrived home late Saturday night to discover that in addition to the well pump---my oven didn't work, the air conditioning in the basement (which is where my three daughters have bedrooms) was out and our swimming pool pump had exploded while we were gone. So, as I said . . . we were quickly back to

R. E. A. L. I. T. Y.

But we are also very grateful to my good friend Jenny for bringing us dinner yesterday. It was so very yummy and so very appreciated.

And thanks to our neighbors and good friends the Purtymuns who got our mail each day, cleaned dead mice out of our swimming pool, rescued chairs that had blown away in a bad storm, shocked our pool regularly to keep it from going green since the pump wasn't working, and even mowed our lawns as a very nice surprise!!

You all bring such great . . . joy to my journey!

And now I am off to call repair men. Ugh!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Ever wanted To Go To Paris?

Although we are going home in the morning and I think everyone is getting a little tired of our travels, I couldn't resist posting (actually having my daughter post) these pictures of Paris, where we currently are staying. Here we have continued the walking, but are certainly not eating as well since the food is so very expensive!! In truth, to order two pieces of toast from room service at our hotel is $16.00!! Yes, that is just for the toast--nothing else. Of course we have been able to find food on the street cheaper, but it is still quite costly.

However . . . that has not stopped us from having a great time! We flew into town last night and went directly to the Eiffel Tower.

While there it started to rain. Although I still loved the view, even in the fog. What I didn't love was the loud clap of thunder as lightening struck nearby. Nothing like standing on a metal building in a lightening storm to get your heart rate going.

Early the next morning we headed to the Louvre to view the wonderful masterpieces housed there. We were so glad we went early as in no time we were having to elbow our way through the crowd to see the more popular exhibits like the Mona Lisa.

We then walked along the Seine River towards the Notre Dame Cathedral. This is my favorite picture of all the ones I have taken. Although the clouds appeared rather ominous, it never rained on us--at least during this walk.

But what better way to see all the bridges and buildings of Paris than from a boat! We all enjoyed the time to rest our feet and view the sights from a different perspective. And I love this picture because you can see three of the bridges.

Or take a nap. :-)

Then it was back to the hotel room to watch the sun set from our window. I love this picture of the last rays of sunlight reflecting off the buildings below.

So, signing off from Paris, France--Adieu!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Greetings from Sweden!! And last chance for the Giveaway!!

This will be a much shorter post than my last one, as we only spent one day in Sweden. We loved Stockholm!! It is a truly gorgeous city with very friendly, helpful people. The harbor was incredible, . . .
and the small, cobble streets, enchanting.

It is a very liberal society, however. We were told by a citizen of Sweden, that any drug considered illegal in the US could be purchased in a Swedish grocery store.

In our experience, it was also not as honest as Denmark. In Denmark, the taxi driver got lost on the way to church and gave us a refund from what his meter said we owed him. In Sweden the taxi driver told us he could charge as much as he wanted as there were no controls on fares. (And then he proved it!)

In an effort to avoid crowds we headed first to the Vasa Museum. This is residence to the Vasa gun ship which sailed its maiden voyage in 1628 —a voyage that lasted all of 20 minutes before the boat, which was top heavy due to all the guns—rolled to its side and sunk, killing 50 people. For 300 years it lay on the bottom of the harbor until it was recovered in 1961.

We then took a tour around the harbor by boat (one that thankfully didn’t sink) and walked to the palace for the changing of the guard. This was interesting, but also a bit warm and very crowded. We all got a kick out of the palace band, however, which played several different pieces of classical music and ended with a piece from ABBA!

As is Germany we felt it our duty to sample the local cuisine and so stopped on the street for Swedish meatballs and a very interesting hot dog wrapped in both a bun and mashed potatoes. (Leslie ate that and said it was very good.)

And of course we had to stop for the necessary Magnum Bar. Yum!!!

By now it was time to hurry back to the boat, but not without stopping at a local tourist spot for the obligatory tourist picture.

We spent the next several hours on deck watching the beautiful view of the sun setting over the Stockholm archipelago.

So there you have most of our trip. We return late Saturday night and I will post the winner of the drawing on Monday!! Thanks so much for your comments! They have brightened my trip all along the way!

Monday, July 20, 2009

From Russia With Love

In the wildest dreams of my youth, I never thought I would touch foot in Russia. Growing up during the cold war, it seemed more terrifying than inviting. But happily times change, and the two days we spent in St. Petersburg were wonderful.

St. Petersburg was founded by Peter the Great in the early 1700's and served as the capital of the Russian Empire for 200 years. It includes 42 islands, the expansive Neva River and nearly 300 bridges, with an additional 200 in the greater St. Petersburg area.
The city itself is a study in contrasts. They have beautiful Byzantine churches, lavish Baroque palaces and drearey soviet style apartments.
And it celebrates all aspects of its hertiage. Shortly after passing a statue to Alexander II, you pass a statue of Lenin. What also surprised us were all the bright, beautiful flowers lining the steets. St. Petersburg has its first female mayor (called a "governor" here) and one of the first things she did - like any good woman - was decorate the streets with fresh flowers.

We were told that during the Soviet period the people were forbidden to attend church and all the cathedrals were mostly used as warehouses, with the exception of one that became an ice rink. Since that time, our guid informed us, the people have experienced somewhat of a spiritual revival. We were disappointed, however, not to see any missionaries while we were in town.
We also learned that most people work in the city but have a home in the country where they escape on weekends. During the week, however, two to three families will live in the same city apartment and share a kitchen and one bathroom.
On our first day we saw both th Summer Palace int he country (built as a gift from Peter the Great to his wife Catherine I)...
and the Winter Palace in town on the banks of the Neva River - which today houses the Hermitage, an impressive museum of original art work which includes Da Vinci, Rembrandt, Matisse, Renoir, etc.

At night we were treated to a local folkloric dance program, and the following day we visited Peterhof (Peter the Great's original palace about 30 miles outside of St. Petersburg and our favorite of the palaces)...

returned by hydrofoil and concluded our day with a visit to the Church of Spilled Blood and shopping in the black market. The Church of Spilled Blood was built by Alexander III on the spot where his father, Alexander II, was assassinated and the interior is covered wall to wall with breathtaking religious mosaics.

Truthfully it was an exhausting two days and we were all looking forward to Sunday for a little rest - which did not happen but I will write about that another time. :)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Welcome to Estonia and Giveaway Continues!

Thanks again to everyone for their comments. Reading them all made my day!! Please keep posting comments not only because you are all so nice—but also to enter my giveaway. (And by the way, I purchased the souvenir today that will be included in the give-away!!

Thanks also to my daughter Camille who is posting for me. I write and email it to her and she posts it-- since it takes forever to upload pictures onto the internet here on the boat. Thanks Camille!! You are a sweetheart!!

So here we are in the country you have all been waiting to learn about . . . Estonia!! :)We really did not know what to expect when docking here, but we have really enjoyed it.

Estonia was one of the Baltic States belonging to the Soviet Union until 1991 when it gained its independence. They now have an elected president and an “e-parliament” meaning it does most of its business via the internet. The official language is Estonian, although only about 1 million of its 1.4 million residents speak it. The language is from the same family as Finnish—which basically means it is very hard. One other interesting fact is that it is one of the few Soviet dominated countries that maintained its Protestant religion during domination.

Our first view of Talinn—where we docked—was of what was once a medieval town.

But from up above you can see a good mix of both modern and ancient.

We decided to get on the “Hop On, Hop Off “ bus for a tour or the city. And yes we really are in the picture below, you just have to look hard to find us (me and my three daughters as my husband took the picture).

When we “hopped off” we enjoyed walking the cobblestone roads and admiring the variety in the architecture. We saw quaint little churches to large Russian Orthodox cathedrals.

Kristen was thrilled to find a man who was the tall, strong and silent type, but alas, she had to leave him behind.

And I loved this picture of the man sitting outside his store reading the newspaper.

I have yet to write about Sweden but will do so sometime, and tomorrow we are off to St. Petersburg, Russia—and will be there on the anniversary of the day the last Russian Tsar , Nicholas II and his family were murdered. Should be interesting.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Thanks so much to all of you for your comments. They are very much appreciated. For those who are new—please keep commenting as each comment earns you a place in the drawing for my give away!

On Sunday we had the blessing of attending church in Denmark. What a moving and wonderful experience it was to attend church in one of the countries of our ancestors. We arrived in Denmark (Danmark here) early in the morning , and found our way –with the help of a taxi driver—to church.

We enjoyed the sacrament service there and meeting some of the members and missionaries. There are three chapels in Copenhagen and when deciding which to attend, Wes chose the easiest to get to. What we didn’t know at the time was that the Danish temple was not more than 100 feet away! What fun to be able to see that as well!

Following church we took a very long walking tour through the city (the walk was made longer by the fact that I did not have good walking shoes on!) and then a boat tour over to see the Little Mermaid Statue.
One interesting thing we learned about Copenhagen is a lot of people ride bikes here. But even more interesting is there doesn’t seem to be any fear of having a bike stolen. Everywhere we went bikes were lined against houses and propped against buildings.

We decided crime must be low and the people must be very trusting. What totally shocked us though was when we went to church and outside the church building during the meetings a sleeping baby in a stroller—all alone. But it was a fun and rewarding day.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Miracle in England and Giveaway Continues!

Don’t forget to post a comment and be entered in my giveaway for the joy plaque!

We have had a great time so far on our trip and have learned two interesting stories I want to share. The first involves a miracle that occurred at the London Temple visitor’s center and the second is the history of bows on wedding gifts and the saying of “tying the knot” (according to our guide at the castle).

The London visitor’s center is the first temple visitor’s center in Europe, opening just last November. In the lobby is the customary Christus statue, with a mural of the world behind. Originally the mural was painted in the states and shipped to London, however when it was being applied to the wall, the adhesive used bled through the painting and ruined it. Not wanting to wait for another mural to be painted and shipped, those in charge began searching the phone book for a mural painter. One was found who came and painted what many believe to be an even better mural--shown and in the picture below.

The interesting thing (and the miracle) is that after the painting was completed, the artist asked those in charge how they had found him. They answered they found his name in the phone book. Perplexed the man said his name had not been in the phone book for seven years. The phone books was retrieved, and opened to where his name had been located, yet it was not there. What a blessing that when an artist was needed, the Lord provided a way to find one.

We learned the second story from the guide at Leed’s Castle. Notice the lettering on the tapestry below.

It has the letter H and C with a bow tied between them. The H is for King Henry the 8th and the C for his first wife Catherine of Aragon. When they were married, the letters with the bow tying them together became a symbol of the joining of the two kingdoms. That same symbol of tying the bow (or knot) became a symbol of uniting people in marriage as well, and was the beginning of placing a bow on wedding presents. Now I have not had time to research the veracity of this, but thought it was interesting all the same.

I hope all is well with everyone. We are off to see the little mermaid in Denmark!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

100th Post Give Away!! And a return to the Mother Country

Welcome to my 100th Post Give Away!! Okay, so this is really my 114th post, but I had a hard time finding something I thought represented me and my blog and was worth giving away. But tucked in the back of a little Amish store in Jamesport, MO, I found it!

So here is the deal. By the time you are reading this post, I will be on . . .

Headed to London, England, where we (myself, my husband and three youngest daughters) will rent a car and drive to . . .

There we will leave our car behind and get on . . .
Which hopefully is much larger than it appears in this teeny little picture. On the boat we will meet up with my husband's brother from Chicago (the one who took us on the death march:-) his wife and two youngest children, and together the nine of us will sail all around . . .

We are calling this trip our "Return to the Mother Land" as our families come from England, Scandinavia and Germany.
We are stopping in Copenhagen, Denmark on Sunday where we will go to church, then will make two stops in Germany, one in Stockholm, Sweden, Tallin, Estonia, Helsinki, Finland (where we will attend church the following Sunday), and spend two days in St. Petersburg, Russia, and then return to Copenhagen. We are told to expect cool temperatures and lots of rain--both are items we don't see much of here in AZ.
In Copenhagen, we will disembark and get on another plane headed to . . .

Where we will spend three nights before returning to the very hot weather of Arizona. But, truth be told, I am not all that excited about flying to or from Paris since the two latest plane crashes over oceans have either been headed to Paris or leaving from there. And we are flying on Air France!!
Anyway . . . I love to travel, but when I do I get very homesick and miss hearing from people back in the states. So, assuming we will have Internet and I will be able to write the occasional post of our travels, each time someone posts a comment on my blog--beginning with this post and continuing until I return home in a couple weeks--I will enter your name in a drawing for . . .

This very cute metal plaque, AND a souvenir (yet to be determined) from one of the countries we visit.
So, come cyber travel with us, and help keep me from getting homesick by writing me comments along the way!!!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Treasure Hunting . . . Searching For What is Real.

Several years ago I heard a story that has stuck with me. It was told by a woman who had relatives living in South Africa, and as a very young girl, she traveled across the sea to visit them. She had heard about the diamond mines in that country and arrived hopeful of finding precious gems to take home with her.

The South African cousins took advantage of their American relations naivete and buried around their yard cheap glass gemstones with silver painted backs. They then told their visitors that precious gems were so abundant in their country you could find them anywhere, including in the yard. And so this young girl spent her summer vacation digging in the dirt for jewels.

Delighted to find several, she wrapped them carefully in a soft cloth for the return flight home, and once she arrived, placed them safely at the back of one of her dresser drawers. In time she forgot about the gems, but one day a few years later, while cleaning out a drawer, she re-discovered them. Quickly unwrapping her treasure she noticed something she had not noticed before---the silver painted backs.

And then she realized . . . she had spent her entire summer vacation searching for a worthless treasure.

I have often thought about this story. How often do I spend my time searching for those things that seem important at the time but in reality have no value? There have been times I have invested a lot of time, energy and effort into something, that I thought was of such great value to me, but upon closer inspection was nothing more than a cheap gemstone with a silver backing.

In contrast, today is my anniversary. I have spent the past twenty seven years living and loving a wonderful man, who has stood by my side through all our challenges and difficulties. I have five children, who although--just like their parents, have yet to reach perfection--are the best treasures of my life. My husband, my children, son and daughter in law and my grand baby, the gospel, my testimony and my other loved ones are truly my greatest treasures. They are real gemstones of great value. And they are what bring the greatest . . . joy to my journey!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

I Love These Girls!!!

My heart has been filled with gratitude these past few days for these three daughters (and yes, I love my other two children equally as well:-)
My girls always joke about how I am always volunteering them to help anyone in need. They have done a great deal of free baby sitting, cleaning, baking cookies, banana or zucchini bread, and serving at parties over the years--which I always greatly appreciate.
And this past week they helped out in a time of need and their willingness to do so made me feel so grateful for them I wanted to cry.
I have a dear friend who was moving out of her house and into an apartment and needed help with the move. Kathryn and Michelle (the two on the left) came and helped load and unload trucks for about three hours in 105 degree heat with humidity.
I was so glad to have their help as I can't lift heavy things so they did all the heavy lifting for us.
Later in the evening I went back with Kristen (on the right) who was a trooper. We stayed until 11:30 at night and even though I was so tired by then I could barely move, even at 11:30 Kristen had enough energy to run between the apartment and the trucks (3 loads) unloading everything, plus helped clean.
It would have been a much more difficult day without them, so I appreciate their help.
But what I appreciate the most is they did it willingly, happily and without any complaining.
I am so thankful for them.
I love you all!