Monday, February 29, 2016

The Best Part

Dylan got this view of Jacob and Danielle through the circle of Jacob's wedding ring.
Saturday, February 20, 2016

As thrilled as I am for Karla and Steve and as much as I enjoyed their wedding celebration, for me, the best part was that my son Jacob and his wife Danielle came all the way from their home in Midvale, Utah, to attend the wedding. We have really missed them since they moved away in September.

Danielle, Jacob, and Sarah enjoy our steak-and-salad dinner.
Thursday, February 18, 2016

Jacob and Danielle left Midvale early on Thursday morning. Jacob told me he hoped to get here by around 2:00 in the afternoon. It's at least a 10-hour drive from their town to ours. I know my son, like me, is NOT a morning person, so I secretly doubted they'd make it to our house before 10:00 p.m.

Sure enough, Jacob called me at 1:45 and told me they were in Kanab, in southern Utah, which was still more than 5 hours away, not counting stops. I figured that meant they wouldn't arrive until at least 8:00. I told him we were going to be grilling steaks for dinner, but we'd hold off on dinner until they arrived. He told me not to wait on their account. I told him not to be silly, and reminded him to save room for dinner. "Don't stop somewhere and eat a big meal," I said.

Then I proceeded to tell the rest of the family they were going to be late. "I knew they wouldn't get out of town as early as they said," I told everyone.

Mark and Jake opt to eat at the kitchen table.

Two hours later, at 3:45, I was sitting at the kitchen table making deviled eggs for the trip when someone knocked on the window above the table. Jake had just left to drive Dylan to work, so my first thought was that they'd forgotten something and come back.

No. It was Jacob and Danielle! "You liars!" I cried as I ran to throw open the door and hug them. Jacob thought he was so clever. "We were actually in Winslow when I called you," he admitted. It was the best surprise ever, but he's still a dork.

Sarah and Danielle chop macadamias for my MacTurtles.

After they got settled, Jacob and Danielle went to Walmart to see Dylan and visit their old coworkers there. When they returned, they took our cars over to the car wash and cleaned them up nicely for the trip. Then my kids and Mark got dinner started while I worked on finishing laundry and getting packed. We ended the evening by visiting and enjoying the usual uproarious and often crude behavior of my boys when they get together, much to Danielle's dismay.

It was probably after 11:00 when they headed over to Chris and Sarah's place, where they spent the night in the spare bedroom of Chris's mom's house next-door.

Jacob and Danielle at the Phoenix Zoo.
Friday, February 19, 2016

Jacob and Danielle had decided they wanted to visit the Phoenix Zoo on Friday. Dylan said he wanted to go, too, because he'd never been to a zoo before. I told him, "Yes, you ha-- Oh, wait. I guess you haven't." I was shocked. We took Sarah and Jacob to the zoo when they were small, but that was before Dylan was born.

Of course, Dylan has also done far more traveling than either of his siblings, including driving cross-country to New York in 2012, when he was 15 (plus he's been to Siegfried and Roy's Secret Garden in Las Vegas twice; doesn't that sort of count as a zoo?). However, I was forced to concede that he'd never been to a real zoo before, so he and Jake planned to go along with Jacob and Danielle.

Jake and Dylan at the Phoenix Zoo.

Their plan was to get up early on Friday and be on the road by 9:00, but this time my prediction was accurate. They slept late and didn't leave for Phoenix until almost noon, giving them only a few hours at the zoo. They made the most of their time, though. And traveling long distances does take a lot out of you.

A strange glowing reflection far to the right of the sun as we enter the Valley
around 5:45 on Friday evening.

Mark and I both had to work on Friday. I had taken Wednesday and Thursday off because I'd had a nasty cold for 12 days that I hoped to beat before the wedding, and in fact I saw my doctor on Thursday morning, who gave me an antibiotic and a shot. By Friday I felt somewhat improved, so I needed to be at work. It's always chaos after a sub is in your classroom for a couple of days, even when it's a good sub. There's so much to get caught up on.

Chris and Sarah rode down with Mark and me in my "new" Chevy Traverse, but as soon as we drove away from my house I could tell something wasn't right. The steering felt tight and there was an odd sound when I turned the wheel. I stopped by my mechanic's shop on our way out of town. He checked under the hood and then rode around the parking lot with me. He heard the sound and told me there was a strain on my power steering system. He said the car would get me to the Valley, but if it got worse I'd need to get it in to a dealership right away. Since I'd owned the car for less than 30 days (exactly 2 weeks at that point, in fact), my dealership should cover the repairs, he told me.

Sarah, Chris, Jake, Dylan, Mark, Jacob, and Danielle enjoy 
a family dinner at Golden Corral buffet in Mesa.
Friday, February 19, 2016

The drive did go well. The car traveled as smoothly as I'd hoped, although the steering still made the odd sound on tight turns. We left my mechanic at 3:40 and arrived in Mesa just after 6:00, so we made good time. We checked into our hotel (the Howard Johnson's on Main in Mesa was a HUGE disappointment) and then, as soon as Jacob, Danielle, Dylan, and Jake joined us, we headed out to dinner. Jacob wanted to eat at Golden Corral, so that was our destination. 

Mark drools over his carb-laden dessert choices.

Those giant buffet places are deadly to those of us on low-carb diets, with all the delectable high-carb offerings, but Sarah and I stayed strong. We focused on the wide variety of meats and non-starchy vegetables and had a yummy, filling meal. And even some strawberries for dessert.

Mary and Mark at Golden Corral.

Saturday, of course, was filled with wedding activities. The advertised free continental breakfast at our hotel was pretty much a joke, if not downright nonexistent, so we went out to Denny's for breakfast. We were pressed for time, but my omelet was good.

Karla and Steve's sealing was at 11:15 in the Mesa Temple, followed by lots of pictures on the temple grounds. After that, we went to Walmart so I could buy Dylan a couple pairs of summer shorts, since his old ones are full of holes.

By the time we left Walmart, it was almost 3:00 and time for the wedding reception to begin, so we headed over to the chapel. By now, my steering was obviously not right. The around-town driving had done what the long drive down the mountainside had not, and it was finished. I tried not to worry over what I was going to do about it, being the weekend and all the dealerships closed, and instead attempted to focus on enjoying the fun of the reception activities and visiting with family and friends.

Danielle, Mark, Jacob, Dylan, Jake, and Sarah visiting our friend Gwen.
Saturday, February 20, 2016

When the reception was over, we went back to the hotel so I could change into casual clothes, and then we drove over to the apartment building where my friend Gwen moved last year. We hadn't seen her in many months. Unfortunately, on our way there, smoke began pouring out of the back of my car, accompanied by the acrid smell of something burning. We made it to a parking lot across the street from Gwen's building, but I could barely steer the car into a parking space.

Despite the stress of the car problems, we enjoyed a lengthy visit with Gwen before I called AAA to come and tow my car. I wasn't sure what to do. My AAA coverage will only tow my vehicle 100 miles, and my dealership was 170 miles away. I was informed that the minimal cost for the extra mileage would be $350, probably even more. Unable to come up with a better option, I just had them tow it to our hotel. At least it would be where I was, for now.

My car on Saturday morning, before she sputtered and died that evening.

On Sunday morning I woke up early, my brain going in circles as I tried to resolve the car issue. At 9:00 I started making phone calls. I couldn't reach anyone at my dealership, whom I felt should be responsible for the repairs, and it seemed all the other Chevy dealerships were also closed on Sundays.

The next problem was that we had to check out of our hotel at 11:00, and we had no transportation and nowhere to go (there were 8 of us, and Jacob and Danielle's new Nissan Sentra only seats 4 comfortably). I posted a "Help!" message on Facebook, which elicited some offers of assistance (bless them!) and ultimately led to my niece Mariah sending her husband Dallin to fetch us just in the nick of time. Fortunately for us, if not for them, they had stayed home from church because they and their new baby were sick with colds.

They were staying at the home of my sister Karla (Mariah's mom) to take care of Karla's youngest three children while she and Steve were on their honeymoon. Karla's house is only a couple of miles from the hotel, so it gave us a good base from which to figure out a plan. And there was a computer available. I find using my cell phone to access the internet to be a lesson in futility.

Online, I was able to locate two nearby Chevrolet dealerships that were open (although, not their service departments, of course). They assured me that I could have my car towed to them and they'd look at it first thing Monday morning. So I contacted my insurance company, who said I was covered to have the car towed. We met them back at the hotel, cleared out all our stuff, and watched my Traverse once again be loaded onto the back of a tow truck and taken away.

Half of us went to El Pollo Loco to get lunch for everyone.
They had a lovely avocado chicken salad, so Sarah and I didn't have to be bad.

Perhaps our biggest hurdle was figuring out how we were going to get home on Sunday night. I could have called in and taken a few more days off work to wait for my car to be repaired, but I didn't want to. It also wasn't feasible because Mark, Sarah, Dylan, and Jake had to be at work on Monday, too (as well as school for Dylan). Besides that, Jacob and Danielle were driving back to Utah on Monday, and I didn't want to miss out on our last night together. They could have driven Dylan and Jake home, or Chris and Sarah, but not both--and either way it would have split our group up.

Although you can't tell it in these pictures, the full moon was huge.
Since I wasn't driving (for a change), I was able to try to capture the image
on my cell phone as we drove back up the mountain toward home.

My dad and Kathy were still in the Valley after Karla's wedding, visiting with Kathy's daughter Rebecca and son-in-law Dylan in Phoenix until Monday. I called my dad, as we daughters tend to do when we're in a tight spot, to tearfully ask his advice. He was as stumped as I was, but I asked him to call me back if he came up with an idea. As we got off the phone, Chris was calling his mom Brenda and telling her about our quandary. To my amazement and gratitude, she offered to make the 3-hour drive down to pick us up in her truck!

No sooner had Brenda offered to come get us than my dad called back and announced, "I got you a ride." It seems that when he was telling Rebecca and Dylan about our situation, Dylan offered to drive us home in their new van. All he asked was that we feed him dinner.

So, I went from despair to two offers of a ride in the space of an hour. I wonder often why I let myself panic when things get tough, because experience has taught me that things always work out. Always. Maybe not like you'd hoped, but there's always a solution in the end.

It's a beautiful, winding drive from the Valley to the White Mountains.
Sunday, February 21, 2016

We gratefully accepted Dylan's offer to drive us home. I filled his tank with gas, and after we got home around 7:00, we all went out for Mexican food at El Rancho, where I happily paid for his meal. He spent the night at my dad and Kathy's house (about 2 miles from my home) and then returned to his family early Monday morning. 

I am so grateful to those Good Samaritans who were there for us in our time of need!

And, best of all, we were able to spend our final evening with Jacob and Danielle before they headed back to Utah on Monday morning. Sarah and Chris got to spend that last morning with them, enjoying a breakfast of eggs and bacon together before Jacob and Danielle got on the road around 10:00 a.m. Dylan and I had to be in school that morning, dang it all! But I so loved getting to have my whole family together again for a few too-short days.

Meanwhile, my Traverse has spent the past week at the Chevy dealership in the Valley, but she's been repaired and is just waiting for me to pick her up, which I will do on Tuesday, tomorrow. We have other business in the Valley at that time. 

It turned out there was a small crack in the power steering reservoir that had widened, allowing the fluid to pour out on the hot engine and exhaust, causing the burning smell and copious smoke. The mechanic at my dealership had missed it, so they paid for the repairs. I'm thankful that they were accountable without requiring me to fight for it.

All in all, what began as an awful, stressful situation ended up studded with blessings, large and small, all along the way. For that I am grateful. But I'll still be on the edge of my seat until my "new" car makes that 3-hour drive back home safely on Wednesday!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Little Sis Gets Married

The Bride and Groom emerge from the Mesa Arizona Temple.
20 February 2016

Last weekend our whole family traveled to Mesa to attend the wedding of my younger sister Karla and her soulmate Steve. It was a beautiful event and it's awesome to see my sister so happy. I can't look at the two of them together without smiling, their joy is so contagious. She truly deserves someone who loves her like Steve does.

Karla and Steve Nogafsky are now husband and wife!
(Sorry about cutting off the top of your head, Steve!)

As usual, I never travel without my camera and I take pictures of pretty much everything. So, if you were unable to join us, I hope this not-so-little album of my version of their wedding photos will make you feel like you were right there with us!

Moving bodies around for various family groupings is always a challenge.
I loved Karla's cute hairdo from the back.

Karla and Steve with 9 of Karla's 10 children (Josh was unable to be there).
From left to right: Brianna, Genevieve, Addison, Elyssa, Julien, 
Jeremy, Mariah, Celesta, and Gabrielle.

Karla and Steve with Steve's son David.
His daughter and other son were unable to attend.

Karla with her girls: Gabrielle on her right, Addison on her left,
and behind: Brianna, Genevieve, Mariah, Elyssa, Celesta, and Cami.

Karla and Steve with her children, their spouses, and all the grandchildren.

Karla and Steve with all the grandchildren.

Steve and Karla with our brother Jeff. 
Our other two brothers, LeRoy and Darryl, weren't able to be there.
The photographer also took a picture of Karla, Jeff, and me, but I haven't seen it yet.

Karla's beautiful new wedding and engagement rings.

The wedding cake. I heard it was delicious, but I didn't cheat!

The bride and groom cut the cake. I like how their faces mirror their personalities:
Karla's firm determination and Steve's joy at her happiness. 

Dylan captured this image of their hands.

The moment everyone was waiting for!
But they were too nice to be messy.

The bride and groom dance, lost in each others' eyes.
Photo by Dylan.

There's something about this picture and the shadow on the wall that speaks to me.

And, of course, there were many, many people who attended the reception to celebrate this special day with Steve and Karla. My apologies to those I missed. I tried to get around to everyone, but with so many people to chat with and so many distractions (like cake cutting), I kind of lost track of whose pictures I got and whose I didn't...

Here's our dad, Myron, and his wife Kathy. He looks great for 81, doesn't he?
Kathy is only 71; Dad robbed the cradle!

Our cousins Sandra and Sherri (twins) came a long distance to be with us.
That's Sandra's husband Albert. Sherri's husband Rohn had to stay home in CA.

That's me (Mary) with Mark, photo by Dylan.

Danielle, Jacob, Jake, and Dylan at our table.

As always, Sarah finds and entertains the babies all evening!

Sarah watches Dylan sample the cake. She didn't cheat, either!

Dana and Jeff (seated, at right) with a few of their 13 children:
Elsie, Burke, Amber (baby #2 is due on May 10th), and Marcus.

Jeff and Dana's daughters Hayden and Haley with a friend.

My niece Savannah (Darryl's daughter) with Jessica (the fiance of my nephew Justin)
and my niece Elsie (Jeff and Dana's daughter).

My oldest nephew, Jeremy, with his wife Cami and
the youngest of their 5 children, Braxton and Lexy.

My niece Elyssa with her husband, Ross, and one of their babies, Brydon.

My niece Brianna with her husband Bryce and their boys, Carson and Jackson.
The kids weren't feeling very well, poor things.

My niece Mariah with her husband Dallin and their new baby, Oliver.

More nieces and a nephew: Mariah, Emma, and Julien.

And some grand-nieces and -nephews with their Aunt Addison:
Jacey, Addison, Jaren, Analyce, and Brooke.

This was the gift Jacob and Danielle brought from Utah for Karla and Steve.
It's printed on a heavy ceramic tile.

Karla liked their gift so well that she incorporated it into the decor
at the entry to the reception.

The gifts at the door.

Romantic table decor.

As with all good things temporal, the reception had to come to an end,
and the newlyweds made their getaway.

It was a beautiful wedding day and I'm so glad we got to be a part of it. Congratulations, Karla and Steve! May all the days of your forever together be as amazing as you both are!

Karla and Steve take a selfie before they speed away to their hotel.
The next day they headed off to their honeymoon, to spend several days in Sedona.
Which is, coincidentally, where Mark and I took our honeymoon way back in 1989!