Monday, July 25, 2016

Grateful for a Gun

In the hands of ordinary citizens, guns do save lives.

Here I am, going along in my comfortable oblivion, living my life as if everything is fine and dandy, never suspecting there was a night not so long ago when my son was fighting for his life. And then I was blindsided while we were in Utah when Jacob finally shared an experience from about six months ago.

"I didn't tell you when it happened, Mom, " he told me, "because I didn't want you to worry." No mother ever wants to hear a story that begins with those words.

Last year before moving to Utah, Jacob bought a pistol. He felt strongly about the need for self-defense, especially now that he's a family man. While I wholeheartedly support the right to bear arms without being burdened by ridiculous regulations, guns still make me nervous, and I wasn't too thrilled for my boy to be carrying one. He has had a moderate amount of experience with firearms, but I kept reminding him to take some gun courses to gain just a little more expertise.

His wife was about as thrilled as I was. She, too, was nervous around guns and wasn't comfortable having one so close at hand. Besides, as she told him often, "It's a waste of money."

And then, late one dark winter night, Jacob came out of a store to discover he'd locked his keys in his car. In a poorly-lit, vacant corner of the parking lot, he spent quite some time jimmying the lock, but he finally got the door open. Right at that moment, he realized there was someone behind him, and he felt a gun pressed against the back of his head.

"Give me everything you've got," said a tense male voice. Jacob said that, during the experience, it seemed obvious that the guy was affected by drugs of some kind.

Terrified for his life, Jacob told the man that he'd give him whatever he could find in the car, and he started fumbling around inside the vehicle. In his mind, though, he was focused on finding his gun, which was between the seats. 

Here's where those tender mercies come in. Danielle verified for us that Jacob had stopped carrying his gun sometime before this incident and left it at home over a long period of time. That very morning, however, he'd felt impressed to take the gun with him. Thankfully, he'd obeyed that quiet voice.

Once he had the pistol in his hand, he started to back out of the car. Whether the other man saw Jacob's gun or not no one knows, but Jacob felt something that told him the thug was starting to pull the trigger. Jacob whirled and fired, hitting the man in the hand. The injured hood ran off into the darkness.

"Did he drop the gun?" I asked, wide-eyed.

"Yes," Jacob answered, "and a couple of fingers, too."

He went on to describe the gun lying on the ground, with one finger still on the trigger and the other nearby. Both were still twitching. Ugh.

He immediately called 911 and police officers quickly arrived. The criminal was nowhere to be found, but they soon caught him when he checked into a hospital. I guess having two fingers blown off isn't something you can ignore. Jacob said he was told later that the fingers were too chewed up by the bullet to be reattached.

There were no charges against Jacob since it was a clear-cut case of self-defense. However, the officers warned Jacob that the thug who'd threatened him could accuse him of attempted murder and create months or years of legal hassles. Jacob was surprised when they told him it's usually better in self-defense cases to kill the person who's trying to hurt you.

Luckily, in this case, the gunman did not try to press charges. With his disembodied finger still on the trigger, I suppose it would be hard to convince a jury that he'd meant no harm. Since there was no trial and Jacob was never called upon to testify, this criminal must have accepted a plea deal. Jacob was told that he is now serving ten years in prison.

So there I was, sitting in our resort condo, a little shocked and trying to digest what Jacob had just shared. Then I asked, "So, did you intend to shoot him in the hand?" I was wondering if my son had suddenly become a sharpshooter.

Jacob laughed. "Mom, I just pointed the gun and fired. I was shaking so bad, all I wanted was to scare him off!" 

Needless to say, Danielle's opinion of owning a gun has undergone a drastic change. Far from being a waste of money, she completely believes it saved her husband's life that night. I agree.

There will be liberals out there who say the gunman might not have intended to shoot my son, that he would have simply taken whatever Jacob gave him and left, that the presence of Jacob's gun only aggravated the situation. As if that makes any difference to me. If someone threatens another person's life with any kind of weapon, they deserve to die. Especially when the person they threaten is my child. And nothing anyone says will ever change my opinion.

A gun in the right hands is a blessing. And I am very grateful for the gun in my son's hand that night and the still, small voice that urged him to take it with him that day. I know it saved his life...and perhaps even the lives of others this thug hadn't yet met.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

It's Blooming Apples!

July 23, 2016: We have apples!

I'm singing this to the tune of "Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree":

"Oh, I looked out the window and what did I see?
Little green apples on the ugly apple tree!"

The apples on the west side of the tree seem to be
slightly larger and more plentiful.

Literally, I looked out the window yesterday and saw the apples for the first time. When Mark comes home from work, he closes the living room curtains before relaxing in the recliner. He hates a brightly-lit room almost as much as I hate a darkened room. When he fell asleep in front of the TV, I woke him and reminded him that Dr. Ata said no more sleeping in the recliner. He has to nap in his bed with his bi-pap machine and mask on, because his apnea is so bad that it's contributing to the heart issues.

Once Mark had retired to his room, I immediately reopened my curtains to let the light in. And there they were, gorgeous green globes dangling from the branches. I grabbed my camera and ran outside to take pictures. When Mark got up an hour later, he paused by the window, then looked at me in surprise. "There are apples on the tree," he said. I think it's funny that we both noticed them at the same time. Did they just pop out of nowhere overnight?

However, the east side has quite a few apples, too.

The last time we had apples was in the Fall of 2011. That's when I first found out it was an apple tree and not just a big ugly bush that was growing through our chain link fence. When we bought the house in 1993, it was just a short, scrappy little shrub with nothing remarkable about it, not even pretty flowers like our lilac bush. Sometimes I even thought about chopping it down. Back in October 2011, I wrote this blog post about how I came to learn of its true nature (click on the link below if you'd like to read about it):

Unexpected Apple Tree

I only called it an "ugly" apple tree because
it still looks more like a bush than a tree.

Later that following winter, my then-husband pruned away the lower branches in an attempt to make it more tree than bush and to promote more apples in the upper branches during coming years. It hasn't worked. We haven't had a single apple since that one little crop in 2011, five years ago. There are always apple blossoms, but never apples. Sometimes a hard freeze will destroy the blossoms, so we know there will be no apples, but other times we have no idea why. 

This spring, though, my tree was covered with apple blossoms, which in turn were covered with busy, pollinating bees. That is a very good thing. We did get a few more frosts this spring, but the blossoms seemed to survive, and I wrote about it in April here:  Apple Trees and BR Games

Thus, I've been hopeful that we'd finally see those sweet little red apples this fall, and it looks as if our patience will be rewarded! Now I just need to learn how to prune an apple tree properly...

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Round Three

Mark was back in the hospital yesterday, July 22, 2016.

Sooo... Mark had an ablation to fix his atrial fibrillation at Banner University Medical Center in Phoenix on July 11. Everything went well, and when we left the hospital the following day his heart was finally beating normally. The Phoenix cardiologist, Dr. Bahu (a specialist in ablation procedures), told us to make a follow-up appointment with Mark's local cardiologist, Dr. Ata, in 2-3 weeks. We could wait 4 months before we saw Dr. Bahu in Phoenix again.

I called Dr. Ata's office and left a message on Wednesday morning, July 13. That's the day after we'd returned from Phoenix, as well as the day before we left for Utah. Since they didn't call me back that same day, we went off on our five-day trip and forgot about scheduling Mark's follow-up. When we returned home late Monday night, I found three messages on the phone from Dr. Ata's office. Still, I waited to call them back until Mark went back to work on Wednesday so I could see what his work schedule would be for the coming week. Unfortunately, Denny's only schedules their employees a week at a time. Mark finds out on Monday what his schedule will be from Wednesday to the following Tuesday. It really sucks for planning events ahead of time.

I finally called Dr. Ata's office again after Mark came home from work on Wednesday afternoon, July 20. Between Mark's work schedule, the fact that I will return to work next Thursday, July 28, and the last-minute nature of my call, the receptionist and I were having a hard time finding an appointment time that we could get to without missing more work. While we were trying to figure it out, I asked Mark again, "Your only day off this week will be Friday?" Hearing this, the receptionist said excitedly, "Wait, I do have an opening on Friday morning!" I pointed out that Friday would be only 11 days after Mark's ablation rather than the two- to three-week period Dr. Bahu had specified, but she said that would be fine. So, 10:50 on Friday it is!

I only mention all of this to demonstrate how things sometimes work together in strange, complex, and often difficult ways to produce the blessings we didn't even know we needed. Mark felt perfectly fine when we arrived at Dr. Ata's office at 10:50 yesterday. It was perhaps twenty minutes later that they took us into an examination room and the nurse stuck a device on the end of Mark's finger before updating his medical history. Half an hour later, everything was in an uproar and Mark was in the emergency room. If we had waited another week or two for his appointment, who knows what might have happened?

After the nurse took Mark's medical history, she looked at the little monitor on his finger and her eyes got wide. She moved the device to a different finger, saying, "I hope that's not right." She waited a few seconds, checked again, then stepped out in the hall and called to someone to bring Dr. Ata to us right away. When she walked out for a minute to get the EKG machine, Mark looked at the device and said, "Is 172 bad?" Then my eyes got big. I'd never known of anyone having a heart rate of 172!

The nurse returned and ran the EKG, then she stepped out in the hall to speak privately to Dr. Ata, who had just arrived. When he came into the room, he gravely asked Mark how he felt. Mark said he felt fine, and the doctor looked totally stunned. "Really? Are you sure?" he pressed. Mark insisted he felt perfectly normal. Then Dr. Ata explained that Mark's pulse was up to 174 and his EKG showed that he had an atrial flutter. I didn't know what that was, so he briefly explained that it was similar to and related to atrial fibrillation, and was every bit as dangerous, so I needed to drive Mark across the street to the emergency room right away.

Dr. Ata alerted the hospital that we were on our way, so when we walked into the ER they immediately put him into a wheelchair and took him back while I stayed to fill out paperwork. Then I joined him in room 1. The emergency room physician, Dr. Whiting, also asked Mark how he was feeling. Mark shrugged and gave a little laugh, saying, "I feel fine." Dr. Whiting was just as shocked as Dr. Ata. He told Mark that, with his heart rate that high, he should feel like he just finished running a marathon.

Dr. Whiting and a team of nurses (including sweet, young Brooke Larson, who once went on a snowboarding date with my younger son) set about getting Mark's pulse down below 100 beats per minute. It took a while, but they were able to accomplish getting it down and keeping it down. By then, an hour or so had passed and Dr. Ata came in to check on him. He had consulted by phone with Dr. Bahu and now, with Mark's pulse under control, they were ready to try a cardiac conversion, where they shock the heart back into a normal rhythm. Just like on TV shows where the EMTs whip out the paddles and charge the machine, shouting "Clear!" before the unconscious patient shudders convulsively on the gurney.

Except this time they shaved the middle of Mark's only-mildly-hairy chest and stuck an adhesive pad in the bare patch and another one on his back. Then they gave him a mild sedative to put him to sleep for a very short time. As the room filled with people--two doctors and about five nurses--I kept waiting for them to wheel Mark away to an operating room. When I finally realized they were going to do it right here, I thought that surely someone was going to send me out in the hall to wait. They didn't. I sat there watching, partly fascinated and partly horrified that they were apparently going to let me watch.

There was a humorous delay when Dr. Ata tried to apply the electric shock but the machine didn't work, and one of the nurses tried to show him what he was doing wrong but it didn't work for her either, and everyone laughed when she realized she'd forgotten to plug in the machine. Then, the next thing I knew, Dr. Ata had the machine charged, he pressed the button, and Mark's body jerked about an inch straight off the gurney while both his arms flew straight up toward the ceiling, dislodging a couple of the heart monitor wires attached to his chest. Mark, who'd been lightly snoring before the shock, opened his eyes when his body jerked, but when it was over he closed them again and continued snoring. He doesn't remember any of it.

It certainly was less dramatic than it appears on TV shows, but it was nonetheless shocking to see. It's also pretty miraculous what medical science can do. Mark's heart went right back to a normal sinus rhythm and held it--at least until we left the hospital. He never feels symptoms of his heart issues, which is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because Mark experiences no pain or worry, but a curse because there is nothing to signal that a problem exists.

After about four hours in the hospital, Mark was recovered and they released him to go home, with yet another new prescription. I told him he's got his own in-home pharmacy. Between his heart issues and spinal stenosis pain, he takes six pills every morning, nine at bedtime, and two more during the day. 

Today Mark was back at work and tells me he feels really good. Hopefully that means he is still in a normal rhythm. However, Dr. Ata and Dr. Whiting both expressed their belief that Mark may be that one-in-four patient who requires a second ablation procedure. With the atrial flutter, his heart was not circulating blood properly and it caused the out-of-control heart rate. The doctors concur that a second ablation would resolve the issue for good, because the flutter is easier to ablate than the fibrillation. Mark is less than thrilled with the idea, though.

For now, we'll hope for the best. It is possible that this shock was all he needed to get his heart back on track for good. This was actually Mark's third cardio-conversion. The first didn't work at all and the second worked for about a week before Mark's heart reverted to a-fib, but maybe third time's the charm?  We'll see Dr. Ata in a week or so and move forward from there... Meanwhile, wish Mark luck!

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Long Drive Home

Typical terrain along our drive as we came into southern Utah.
July 18, 2016

Our five-day visit to Utah ended on Monday, and we prepared ourselves for the dreaded ten-hour drive back to our homes in Arizona. At least this time we had two cars, with Dylan and Jake in the Buick LaCrosse Dylan had purchased from his brother, Jacob. Although my Chevy Traverse has three rows of seats, it was still pretty tight having five large people and all our luggage crunched together for the drive into Utah.

We checked out of the resort right at noon on Monday and drove away by 12:15 Utah time (or 11:15 Arizona time). With two fuel stops and two meal stops along the way, we pulled into my driveway in Arizona a little before 11:00 p.m. Arizona time (or midnight in Utah). I think the actual driving time was about ten hours, perhaps 30 to 45 minutes longer than it would normally have taken, thanks to some surprises as we drove through the vast Navajo Reservation.

Our stop at a gas station in Price, Utah.

We had filled the tanks of both cars in Midvale on Saturday after our visit with Jacob and Danielle. Despite having driven to Salt Lake City and back the following day, our tanks seemed full enough to get us quite a long way before we needed to fuel up again. And they did. Turns out we both got fairly good gas mileage (my Traverse gets 22-23 miles per gallon on the highway), because both of our cars had more than a quarter-tank left when we finally stopped to fill up in Price, Utah, more than an hour and about 250 miles later.

We had our picnic lunch at Kane Springs Rest Stop again.

Then we drove on for two and a half hours more before we paused at the same rest stop where we had lunched on our way to Midway on Thursday, four days earlier. This time, instead of tuna salad on French rolls, our picnic lunch was deli sandwiches of smoked turkey, ham, and provolone on nutty multi-grain bread, with leftover homemade potato salad.

Back on the road, looking through my bug-spattered windshield.

It was about 4:15 when we got back on the road headed south and, except for a few ridiculously slow tractor-trailers in no-pass zones, it was mostly smooth sailing with bright blue skies and fluffy white clouds.

This is Recapture Reservoir, just north of Blanding, Utah.

We can see there's a huge storm ahead of us.

Then, about an hour from the rest stop, we began to see dark storm clouds gathering ahead of us, with heavy downpours of rain visible, stretching from the low clouds down to the horizon below. Within fifteen minutes, the rain was pouring on us, too. It was intermittently heavy, then drizzly, then heavy, but it was continuous until after we'd passed through Bluff, Utah, and over the San Juan River, approaching the Utah-Arizona border. Finally, the rain seemed to fizzle out by the time we'd crossed back into our home state at the northern edge of the Navajo Nation.

We hit the rain showers a few miles before the small town of Bluff, Utah.
Bluff is the first town you come to when you enter the Navajo Nation
on highway 191 from the north, while you're still in Utah.

The rain lightens up as we enter Bluff, getting closer to the Arizona border.

Driving across the San Juan River, a green oasis in the middle of high desert.

Once we'd passed through the storm, we expected clear sailing ahead.

Our first 80 miles into the Navajo Nation were clear and bright.

Our first hour and a half past the storm and into the Navajo Reservation was beautiful. There was a good, stiff wind buffeting the car, but the sky was brilliant blue, and puffy white clouds scudded by overhead. There was very little traffic, and that part of the highway had recently been redone, so the asphalt was smooth under the tires and we flew along at almost 75 mph. I even commented to Mark that we'd be home in no time if only the rest of the trip were this smooth. I guess I must have jinxed us.

Then heavy dust storms began to blow across the highway.

Around 7:00... Okay, the whole time thing becomes pretty weird at this point, because we are now in Arizona and Arizona does not do Daylight Savings Time. Unless you are in the Navajo Nation, which does do Daylight Savings, even though it's in Arizona. Probably because part of the reservation is in Utah and New Mexico, both being states that do practice Daylight Savings, although I think it's pretty silly since probably more than 95% of the reservation's land mass is in Arizona... Anyway.

So around 7:00 (or 8:00 if you're Navajo or Utahan), the wind becomes really strong and tumbleweeds begin rolling across the road in front of us. First one, then a few, and then dozens. The sky turns dark, and ahead of us the landscape becomes blurred under the heavy brown veil of sandstorms blowing over the high desert toward the highway. Soon the highway, and our cars, are engulfed in the gritty stream of blowing dust.

Luckily, this was nothing like the haboobs in the Phoenix area, which are so thick that there is zero visibility and you must stop to wait for the dust storm to pass. Our visibility was reduced, yes, so we had to slow down, but we were able to continue moving.

This was my final picture, because after this we were all too scared to take our
eyes off the road. After the dust, the rain clouds rolled in and the deluge began.

That is, we had some visibility until the downpour began. Oh. My. Gosh. I've driven in heavy rains a time or two during my life, but this put them all to shame. Behind me, in the Buick LaCrosse, Dylan and Jake were terrified, having never seen rain like this before, let alone driven in it. Jake was so freaked out that he tried to call his mother to tell her he loved her--just in case--and was upset to find there was no phone reception.

I couldn't even pull over because we were in the middle of nowhere, and pulling off the road could very well have meant getting the cars stuck in the mud or a ditch, or even hitting a barbed-wire fence or a cow that I couldn't see through the heavy sheets of rain. So we pressed forward at about 20 mph while I desperately kept my eyes on the road stripes, which sometimes disappeared under the waves but were usually all I could see, other than the blurred lights of oncoming cars, also driving very slowly.

And it wasn't just the rain. Lightning was flashing all around us. And I mean all around us, 360 degrees, plus sheet lightning directly overhead. The rain was so loud that we could barely hear the blasts and rolls of thunder, but the lightning still left bright images on our retinas and lit up the sky far longer than I'd ever seen lightning do before.

It was an extremely stressful stretch of our journey and it lasted more than half an hour. When we finally reached the town of Chinle, I thought we'd stop and wait out the storm there, maybe go ahead and have dinner at the Chinle Burger King. Then we saw that the lights of the town had gone out and crews were working to restore power, so we drove on through. Thankfully, though the rain continued, it wasn't so heavy by this point and we continued on without further incident to the Burger King in the Navajo town of Ganado. We stopped there and had dinner about 8:00 (or 9:00).

Our only concern when we left Burger King was whether to take Indian Route 15 through the tiny town of Greasewood, a shortcut that chops about half an hour off the trip. I remembered when we'd used that route four days earlier that there were signs warning "Flash Flood Zone." We'd just been through the type of rain that creates flash floods, and I hated to get all that way just to be stopped by flooding, then have to turn around and take the longer route anyway. 

I asked a worker at Burger King about it. She told us that no one puts up barriers when it floods, and no one puts up warning signs at the turn-off to that road. Great. So we took a chance and, thankfully, there were no floods in those low-lying areas when we drove through.

It was a little before 11:00 p.m. Arizona time when we finally arrived back at my house. However, we didn't arrive without a nice dose of irony first. As I've mentioned earlier, Dylan's new LaCrosse had a damaged taillight from being rear-ended by another car while Jacob owned it. We had gone to great lengths to make the taillight safe enough for the trip, so it would at least light up after dark, although the brake light and turn signal on that left side didn't work. Dylan has plans to get it repaired; we just needed to get the car safely home to Arizona.

Irony. Jacob and his mother-in-law Julie had driven the car all over their town for a few days without issues before we picked it up. We drove almost 600 miles for 10 hours, passing a few law enforcement officers along the way, and never had a problem. Then, when we were literally two blocks from my house, we passed a sheriff's deputy on the opposite side of the road. We'd barely passed him when he was on Dylan like white on rice. I'd told Julie that deputies and police officers in our neck of the woods have no tolerance for defective equipment, and I wasn't even kidding. Fortunately, the officer only gave Dylan a warning and told him not to drive the car until the light is repaired.

It was a comical ending to our long trip, but we were all glad to be home again. Sarah jumped into her Jeep and rushed home to see her hubby Chris and their dog Diego and guinea pig Frodo. She had to be at work by 9:00 the next morning. Dylan also had to be at work by 9:00 and Jake had a morning meeting at work, so they hopped into their old Buick Century (leaving the LaCrosse in my driveway) and headed to their apartment. As for me, I got everything unpacked and put away before I retired for the night.

It's true what they say: There's no place like home. And there's no bed quite as comfortable as my own!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


Sweet Sarah at Homestead Crater on Friday, July 15.

Even while we're traveling and taking lots of vacation pictures, Dylan does something I forget to do: he stops to focus on the faces of the individuals we love, the people who truly make the trip a wonderful memory. I've left these pictures out of the previous blog posts in order to keep them as short as possible, but I felt they needed to be featured in their own post, so here they are.

I love these sweet faces!

Dimpled Danielle at Homestead Crater on Friday, July 15.

Sarah at Temple Square on Sunday, July 17.

Jacob in the Conference Center on Sunday, July 17.
Dylan loved Jacob's natural, relaxed smile here, in contrast to
the goofy faces Jacob tends to make when a camera is around!

Dylan's self-portrait with Jake in a Conference Center mirror. 
Sunday, July 17.

Sarah (his sister is one of Dylan's favorite subjects) 
at the Conference Center on Sunday, July 17.

This is my disgruntled face at Carl's Jr. in Salt Lake City on Sunday, July 17.

I wasn't too thrilled when my camera battery died during the Conference Center tour, but I was really unhappy when my cell phone camera also stopped working properly! Luckily, Dylan had his camera to pick up the slack and capture the shots I wanted. Then, while we ate lunch at Carl's Jr., Jake discovered I had a bunch of apps (I have apps?) running in the background, interfering with the camera app. Hence my cranky face at that point. Once Jake had deleted those extra apps, my cell phone camera was fine, which Dylan demonstrated by using it to snap the above picture of his crotchety mom!

And here's three minutes from Friday, July 15, when we opened belated birthday gifts at the resort. And, of course, Pokemon Go, all the rage in today's world, became a part of the moment...

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Four Hours on Temple Square

July 17, 2016: Jake, Dylan, and Sarah in front of the Conference Center 
across from Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah.

On Sunday we decided to tour Temple Square in Salt Lake City. Before this family trip, as I mentioned in the last post, Sarah hadn't been here since she was thirteen months old, at Thanksgiving in 1990. Dylan had never even set foot in Utah ever in his life. 

Although my dad is a natural-born Utahan, having been born in Salt Lake City (the youngest of my grandparents' eleven children and the only one born in a hospital), he had moved with his parents to California when he was about nine years old and rarely went back to visit his birth state. When he did, he and Mom never took us kids along, so my visits to Utah can be counted on one hand: 

1) when my bestie Peggi and I were nineteen years old and stalked the Osmond brothers until they finally invited us to spend a week with their family in Provo during the summer of 1974; 2) the previously-mentioned visit to my parents in 1990; 3) our trip to deliver my son Jacob to the Mission Training Center in December 2010, when we also toured Temple Square; and 4) our current trip to see Jacob and Danielle, and to pick up Dylan's car.

Outside the Tabernacle on Temple Square. This building was the site of
twice-yearly LDS general conferences for 132 years. It seats 7,000 people.
The Tabernacle was constructed from 1864 to 1867.

Thus, we decided that a visit to historic Temple Square in Salt Lake City was in order. The previous day, we'd arranged to meet Jacob and Danielle here at 12:00, since they live just a 20-minute drive away. Our drive was closer to an hour, but we arrived right around noon as planned. However, it turned out that Jacob hadn't gotten off work until 4:30 a.m., so he slept late and they didn't join us until about 1:30. Since they wanted to tour the Church's new Conference Center with us, we explored the rest of Temple Square while we waited for them.

Inside the Tabernacle, this pipe organ has 11,623 pipes!

We didn't have time to see all the sights that we'd wanted to visit, but we squeezed in as many as we could. Temple Square is the home of many historical places and important events in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for those of us who are LDS (Mormon). And living history is so much more fun than plain old dates and paragraphs in history books!

Sarah, Dylan, Jake, and Mark inside the Tabernacle.

Next we toured the Assembly Hall on Temple Square, which was used for
various religious and community meetings, much as it is still used today.
Constructed between 1877 and 1882, it seats 1,400 people.

All windows in the Assembly Hall feature stained glass, which is pretty from outside...

...but absolutely breathtaking when seen from inside, illuminated by sunlight.

The organ inside the Assembly Hall.

The centerpiece of Temple Square, of course, is the beautiful Salt Lake Temple,
which took forty years to build and was dedicated on April 6, 1893.

A side view of the Salt Lake Temple .

The front face of the Salt Lake Temple, and the reflecting pool.

With his powerful telephoto lens, Dylan got this great shot
of the Angel Moroni atop the Salt Lake Temple.

Inside this window of the South Visitors Center is a replica of the Salt Lake Temple.
Surrounding the replica is a reflection on the glass of the real Salt Lake Temple behind us.

The grounds of Temple Square are filled with monuments, statues, and fountains.
These seagulls perch on top of a monument commemorating the Miracle of the Gulls,
when gulls swooped in to save the first harvest in 1848 from invading swarms of insects.

The full Seagull Monument.

As always, Dylan is fascinated with capturing the motion of water.

A monument to the handcart pioneers who endured great hardship.

Monument to the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood.

Monument to the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood.

A fountain in front of the South Visitors Center.

A monument to the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon, who testified
of handling the gold plates: Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris.

Statue of the prophet, founder, and first President of the Church,
Joseph Smith (on the right), with his beloved brother Hyrum Smith to the left.

Small statue of Joseph Smith outside the Joseph Smith 
Memorial Building, which was being renovated.

The front of the new Conference Center, completed in April 2000.
This 1.4 million square-foot structure seats more than 22,000.

Fountains of recirculated water splash over and through the building.

Sarah, Jacob, Dylan, Danielle, Jake, and Mark listen to our tour guide, 
Elder Fairbanks, in the main auditorium of the Conference Center..

This main auditorium is where our church leaders gather every April and October
to speak to our worldwide membership of more than 15.6 million people. This room
seats 21,200 people, not including the 360-voice Mormon Tabernacle Choir, who
sit in the seats below the beautiful 7,667-pipe, 130-rank Schoenstein pipe organ.

Even beyond the auditorium, there are many interesting things to see,
such as this fountain, as viewed from the main floor...

...and as viewed from two stories above.

Original oil paintings and sculptures are found on every floor, in every room. This one,
called "Certain Women," depicts the faithful, nameless women who followed Christ.

Amazing floral arrangements, vases, and Native American artwork abounded.

A bust of our current prophet and President of the Church, Thomas S. Monson.
One room is filled with busts of every prophet since Joseph Smith.

I could have sat in this area forever, relaxing to the sound of 
the fountain waters rushing outside the window.

The dome of the Tabernacle as seen from the upper floor of the Conference Center.

The Tabernacle as seen from the roof of the Conference Center.

The Salt Lake Temple as seen from the roof of the Conference Center.

By the time our tour of the Conference Center ended, it was nearly 3:30 and Jacob had to leave so he could get ready for work. Sadly, we said our final good-byes to him and Danielle, since we would be leaving directly from the resort to return home on Monday. I'm so happy and grateful we got to spend a few days with them!

The spire at the top of the Conference Center, and the top of the pool and
fountain, which were on-again, off-again since it was being repaired that day.

Sarah and I were all for continuing our exploration of Temple Square, but the guys all wimped out, expressing instead their desire to go find some lunch and then return to our condo. So we skipped several items on my list, such as the Beehive and Lion Houses and some favorite presentations in the visitor centers, and we settled for driving around Salt Lake City, looking for somewhere to eat lunch.

The huge roof of the center is laid out for gatherings of people, as well as
a garden place filled with native trees and plants, arranged to be naturally
beautiful when viewed from the surrounding business offices and apartments.

We found a nearby Carl's Jr. and then headed back to the resort to relax and eventually enjoy a dinner of spaghetti and garlic bread. Sarah rented another video, which we watched together at the end of the evening. Since we'd be heading home the next morning, we also washed our laundry and cleaned up the kitchen and got a little head-start on packing. Then it was off to bed for one last night of sleep in our comfy resort beds.

Mark paused to rest or close his eyes at every couch and chair we passed!
Well, we must remember that he'd had a heart procedure just six days earlier.
Behind him, Jake, Dylan, and Jacob return from the drinking fountain.