Monday, October 30, 2006

In praise of a danged good idea...

England Trophies
Originally uploaded by matters_1.

How many of us have trophies laying around the house? Either from our own well spent youth, bowling night with the boys, or even our own children's sporting mementos, we all have them someplace. Let's face it, after the relative moment of "IN YOUR FACE BABY!" the trophy on our shelf really doesn't get much play after that.

#1 has a bunch of old soccer trophies, and a few participant trophies from grade school events, metal ribbons, plaques of faux marble and walnut proclaiming success at spelling or 7th grade science, etc. His wife on the other hand has accumulated a zillion (yes, a zillion and I am not exaggerating a bit) trophies. She also has all the academic ribbons, medals, and trophies, but she was really good at sports. She was a gymnast; and at one time was on world tours for the Olympics doing exhibition gymnastics to promote the Olympics and Jr. Olympics. She was a cheerleader (grade, jr. high, high, and college on scholarship) and also did childhood sports. She has won numerous events as a choreographer and also as a coach for high school cheerleading and the list goes on. In essence, she kicks booty and has a gaggle of golden figures collecting dust in the garage.

Well #1 and his wife (and man! Do I need to come up with better names for the offspring and their spouses and children or what?) Any who, they have a new home. A home BTW they are both wanting to look very nice, no trophy rooms to be had, what to do? What to do?

She has a FANTASTIC idea. She, my little smarty pants daughter in law, is also the head educator for the preschool in her district for children with severe physical and mental disabilities. Her idea is to take all of those glorious reminders of their past triumphs down to the local trophy guy and have the name plates removed. The name plates are flat and easily stored in a scrapbook. New name plates will be made:

Best Smile and Attitude 2006

Most Improved Small Motor Skills 2006

Best "Best Friend" 2006

Best Mathematician 2006

Most Improved Language Skills 2006

etc. and so on. (I am making these titles up, she will have better ones I am sure.)

At the end of the year every student in her program will receive a trophy. Some will have young soccer boys shooting for the goals, while others will be girls bent over backwards, and even a few overly excitable cheerleaders with pompons raised in one hand. Some of these trophies will stand taller than the child in their wheelchair or walker. Some of the trophies will never be held by the recipient because the weight will exceed the little arms' strength. A few will be "loving cups" or punch bowls that will more than likely hold chunky cars or dolls. But every child in that preschool will receive a real trophy from a teacher who knows what really matters; that her students receive recognition for the strides they make while in her care.

Miss #1 LOVES her students like they were her own little kids. She lives to see their personalities grow along with their abilities. She understands that within each imperfect body or brain lay a perfect Spirit that hears her loving instruction and feels the warmth in her touch and voice.

This is a great idea. She is a super teacher. "Teacher of the Year!" in my book. Someone, give that gal a trophy!

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Sunday, October 29, 2006

It only happened once...then it happened again

I was called to the new stake RS presidency...again. This time I am the 2nd Counselor, still Education, but for whatever reason the Pres decided that #1 will be Enrichment gal and #2 the Education gal. O.k. So we had our first meeting together as a presidency.

In the first hour of this meeting we talked about many things. One of topic was about a small group of young women who became pregnant while still in their teens or early 20's. "They're just defiant, rebellious, I guess. They come from terrific homes, loving families. It's a puzzle why they would do this to their parents." was the response from one of the women at the table. Another said, "It's sad."

I piped up and said that "it was neither sad nor a rebellion against the parents but rather a lack of knowledge. A misunderstanding of who they really are. If one truly gets who they really are, they would never allow themselves to be abused, mistreated, disrespect, or seduced to a state where it endangered their standing in the eternities. Somewhere in their childhood they missed that 'child of God' lesson, or they didn't feel it enough to believe it."

I got three puzzled looks as they tried to understand what I was trying -obviously without success- to say. I think there is a lot of "psycho-babble" out there, a lot of excuses to be sure, but I also think there is something to knowing who you are. If I really believe that I am a literal Spirit son or daughter of God (any God- you don't have to believe in the same God as me, just that you are definitely Divine in nature) then chances are you will have self worth.

Now I know, there was a time back in the 80's when we all blamed every ill character trait on our lack of self esteem... but think about it. If you think you are it and a bag of chips, you won't take crap off of anyone. No one would talk down to you without your correcting them. No one could make you feel bad, hurt your feelings, lure you into something stupid to elicit sympathy or friendship. You would be confident to say "yes" and "no" when you wanted to, rather than going along with someone else with pressure for some form of reassurance or validation. You would be king! Kings answer to no one but themselves and God. Not arrogance or conceit, but true confidence in who you really are and your worth in general - enough to stand up for yourself in any situation. There would never be a "just this once", or "He said he was sorry, but I was too pretty (or made him mad), and it happened again." - "What happens between two people is their private business. Besides, it's only now and then." - "She was my best friend, don't you do things for a best friend?" and "No one will ever know except me."

The discussion at the table went from rebellion to "perhaps these girls were trying to get attention from their parents". My argument still stands. If they know who they are -the attention would be nice, but not necessary. "My father pays no attention to me, so I am going to my boyfriend to get the love I need." O.K. you're dad's a jerk; but if you think you are o.k. then you certainly don't need him to tell you what you already know. "I'm o.k. I'm lovable. I will be loved eventually by someone who deserves me." The thought of cheating on a test, engaging in chemical abuse, driving too dangerously, lying to another person -or ourself, would be beyond our comprehension. A child of GOD would never do those things because it would be beneith them to do so. The more we realize our worth, who we are, the closer we come to not wanting to risk our personal self. We want to rid our self of those habits, tempatations, or incidents that hamper our progression towards our eternal Home.

I have a friend who, somewhere along the way, lost herself to an abusive eternal companion. She did not start out in life loathing herself. She started out thinking she was smart enough, thin, educated, and pretty enough to land a guy. Trouble is the guy she got had grown up in a home where values got skewed. Not to excuse his behaviors, after all he has agency as well as the next guy, but he learned that in order for him to be "o.k." he had to be in control. Control meant power, power meant authority, and authority meant everything. Without authority he was nothing.

Little by little he demeaned his wife to the point where he robbed her of her family, isolated her from her friends, and closed her world up teaching her through words, actions and emotional outbursts that she had somehow "changed" and was losing all value in his eyes. She was becoming stupid, weak, incompetent. Day after day these drills took their toll until she no longer believed she was worth anything. She allowed herself to be abused, fearing that she had no power and that no one would believe her because she was incapable of communicating and articulating what had become the reality of her life. "After all, [she] was the cause. [She] made him, forced him to abuse her because she was worth less and somehow less than the rest of God's children." What esteem she had for her Divinity had been slowly grated away and replaced through trusting her most sacred companion... in his eyes she had become nothing. Because she trusted his judgment of her, she believed she was nothing and that she deserved what was coming to her day after day for 30 years.

People can be taught to love themselves or to hate themselves. When the latter occurs, they begin to doubt their own judgments and allow others to make decisions for them and the abuse begins. Whether beatings, verbal, or allowing someone to seduce you into thinking they love you only to satisfy a moment in time or even to "just this once" with a promise of future (not present)'s all because we forget that "I am God's child and you better back off before you mess with me." "Mess with me and you mess with my Dad...who just happens to rule the universe, SO BACK OFF!" "I know I love you and that you love me, but I refuse to lower my standard for either of us, because I am better than this small moment of temptation."

I am not sure that I ever made my point at the meeting, or even here. However the main thing is this: We are in this together. When we sit together we need to edify each other. To build each other as much as possible. Don't allow someone near us to feel they aren't worth everything. The members of the church, moreso than any other group, should understand their worth. Yet, we can see the depression on the faces of those around us. We hear the stories of lives that have been shattered, postponed, hearts broken and Spirits struggling to find a way back into a world where they know -for sure- they belong.

I wish that I had the ability to convince people who they really are. None of us are perfect, however when we understand that this whole planet was designed for our benefit, we do try harder to keep our Divinity closer, to grow more, to be happier, to earn those things our Father has; we fight for our Spirit, we guard our selves and protect our souls from harm. We treat others with respect and Christ like love because we know who they are too.

The worth of souls is great in the sight of God...and it should be in our sight as well.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

From here to eternity...

A mid town cemetery. Encompassed within one small neighborhood block, this rolling hilled memorial land was dotted quite beautifully with all kinds of markers, stones and statues to honour and remember loved ones.

The standing angel actually stood over my head by several feet, hence the angle...but whomever was buried there had a very high and lovely crypt.

"GRIEF". Large enough to house 6-9 caskets, no one will ever know who is mourned lest they go to the house of records. Only "GRIEF" proclaimed for eternity on the monument's 2 sides.

Someone also lost, this time to weather and time, only in their 20's when they were placed beneath the small stone. Birth date: Feb. 22, 187_. Death: Dec.1, 1896.

At the center of the cemetery was a circular drive wide enough for one vehicle to make a tight U-turn. In the center of that circle were the graves of the local Fathers and Priests. A large standing cross in the exact center and their grave in spokes around it. One particular Father must have had the hearts of the locals as his memorial is much larger than all the rest and has the duty of providing the foundation for a statue of Christ surrounded by and holding lambs.

The last of the photos shows a very intricate cross with cut work detailing. Very ornate. Must have been a really nice person. Or fussy.

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Chronicler informs me that we are, indeed, relatives. Evidently she has the exact same photo of Canadian geese walking through grass. Yup, we're absolutely fascinated by Canadian geese in grass. These were in a community baseball park. Hers, Hyde Park, NYC.

"Snickers" has moved. Clicking on the photo may enlarge it enough to see that condos will now replace this business, one that was in the neighborhood for generations. The condos are extremely modern, all exposed pipe and corrugated metal, and glass. Kind of cool, but really out of place next to the old style of buildings. Interesting turn of events.

"Armstrong Laundry"- evidently the "first automated" laundry in Cleveland- also being encouraged to move and make room for condos. Kind of sad really.

Not sure if you can see the progress of the changing neighborhood in this photo, but the stone arch tells a story. Through it you can see the young man who has the assignment of remodeling this stone home and making it a tad more, well, clapboard. From what I could see on the sight, this corner home was HUGE. They have taken down most of the facade and front parts of the home. Along one side of the house they have build a new structure completely out of clap board siding with a corrugated metal roof. Pretty. (depends on your view I guess) I thought from my observations that they intend to leave the arch and some of the other rock detail on the other side of the house; but why? This house will definitely blend the old and the new. Just not in a good way.

Lastly, as election time swiftly approaches we would like to remind you to "Elect Jesus".

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Monday, October 23, 2006

more from the 'hood...

There are, seriously, so many different and varied neighborhoods! This is what Miss S'mee LOOOVEs about cities. Turn your head or walk a block and you have gone from Prussian Chapels to Mexican Barrio, or the industry of the past rolling into the condos that are replacing the old Jewish neighborhood.

These are photos (albeit mixed up because I still can't figure out why they are downloaded in one order, and posted in a terrifically different order...) photos of things I found wonderful!

The glazed Madonna in her turquoise robes and golden crown standing above the entrance to yet another church. This time Catholic. Around the corner from this Catholic church there was a Greek Orthodox with the most intricate windows of stained the basement!

In the heart of the industrial neighborhood, completely surrounded and dwarfed by the other structures was a restaurant. Hidden and cloaked down an alley way and guarded by the iron gate. How anyone finds this place (except by accident, like I did!) is beyond me! The food must be great because the street was lined with cars and folks were clamoring to get in there. But take heed to the sign on the gate and don't let the dogs escape! (there is so much here that needs to be commented on. Hidden restaurant, funky neighborhood, dogs where food is being prepared or served, dogs that want to "escape"....egads!)

I drove through a very crowded neighborhood with amazing tiny little 2, 3, and sometimes 4 story homes. Packed on each other with tiny little yards and very little space between. The tree lined streets were what brought me there first. Huge over grown, likely never pruned trees that clung to each other from across the narrow (and I ain't kiddin') street. The grasses from the lawns creeped over the sidewalks in places and happily began to grow in squiggles through the broken asphalt. Only four or five blocks deep and wide, the house were all unique; like each one had been custom build and over the last 2oo hundred years. Every style and every medium used from wood clap board, brick, stone, stucco and left over corrugated metal. Among them was a faerie tale house, the kind where you know Merlin lives if he had to live in the city. It seemed so out of place. I drove around the block twice just to get the picture. I like the brickwork around the door, the point on the porch roof and the way the soot from the street and wet is climbing its way up the unmaintained wood entry. I can imagine the visitors who are greeted through the door window as the owners peep through to see who has come to chat. Cool house.

I actually sat in my car, on the tracks to get the picture. The way the old tracks curved and snaked its way through the modern rail system above was just very pretty. Still used everyday, the train below doesn't deter the plants from growing along side nor the moss from making the cross rails home.

I missed the Rock and Roll Museum (except the parking lot, yeah, I took pictures from the sidewalk like a dork.) but I had so much fun driving through all the nooks and off beat places that I ran out of time to see the places I can actually see on line. Oh well, the drive was worth it.

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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Nature finds a way...

Cleveland is wet. Not as wet as New Orleans, but sitting on Lake Erie has a tendancy to make you humid even in the great heat of summer. Proof of that humidity are the many ivy covered buildings and bridges. (I have so many more of these photos, however they are in Thor's computer and I am not the technocrat I should be; so there they will stay.)

These buildings are still working businesses with people coming and going all through the day. Sitting across the street, you can see into the windows exposing rooms full of workers. Trucks drop off and pick up items; and the day goes on all without notice of what pretty surroundings the ivy seems to make to a desert girl.

Ivy is everywhere. Houses, churches, businesses, old abandoned cars, tressels, and bridges. This happens to be a draw bridge that is no longer in use. Pulled into it's upright position for quite some time the ivy decided "why not make it pretty?" and began to grow. There are parts of this bridge that the ivy hangs down fourty+ feet in long flowing stems that look like faerie hair blowing in the breezes. It really is incredibly gorgeous. I wanted a closer photo, however the building just below the bridge is a "gentleman's club" (nudey club to you and me) and I wouldn't go within 1/4 mile of the joint.

Both these photos were taken in "The Flats" area of Cleveland, known to the locals as manufacturing, industrial and unfortunately a "seedy" place to be. No one would ever go there during the evening hours without specific address and purpose from what I was told. That said, during the day it seemed quite interesting, and in some places, so pretty -I couldn't stay away after viewing it from the higher elevated neighborhoods.

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Cleveland Rock of Ages!

It's Sunday so the post will be about Cleveland's beautiful churches.

Seems that somewhere someone decided that this town needed religion and they needed it bad. A contest was held to see which religion could build the prettiest edifice, and there you go... a city that is dotted, almost to the point of every block, with gorgeous old churches.
Churches of every denomination and with stonework, brickwork, and all over architecture that begs the parishioner, "enter".

The years of standing in the exposed elements of a northern states steel mill/refining town takes its' toll; and these old houses of worship are tarnished and covered with the black soot of a coke oven. The soot filled air clings to the brick, and when the rains come it drizzles down the facade, sometimes coating the faces of saints and angels alike. To me, the blackened stone and brick add to the gothic structures and lend power to the already dramatic entry ways and adorned windows. In addition to the soot stains there are the ivy and other clinging plant life that crawl its' way up to heaven via the sides of the buildings. Sometimes the buildings were completely green with plants! Giant 'bushes' with window cutouts and doorways cleared of the growth. Amazing.

I loved the church with the obviously well maintained red doors that literally grabs you by the eye and pleads with you to pay attention. The stained glass in most of these churches is detailed and reflective of the memberships' choice of deity, saint, or particular religious lesson, history, or message to the community or passerby.

The many and varied steeples in the city were indeed dwarfed by the other buildings; sky scrapers, a zillion bridges, steel mills, factories and bill boards...however they still manage to peek out of the trees and signal just where you ought to be -instead of where it is you are headed to. Some are crosses, some are bell towered, some are multiple steeples or crosses that even differ on the same building, such as in the photo here.

They divide the congregations into race, ethnic, language and regional versions of Christianity, Muslim, Jew, and others. This town is full of God fearing folk!

I was talking with a certain missionary about the LDS church in town. I found two, and they looked as familiar as any I have ever seen. Most of my readers can spot a LDS chapel without any trouble. If nothing else the LDS are good at finding a way to simplify and organize even the building of churches. However, there was one neighborhood that went to the church and asked them to step up and take the structure up a notch...or ten. Seems that they also were familiar with the typical LDS building and, thank you very much, but that just wouldn't do sitting across the street from the other churches. So they petitioned pretty hard and finally the church gave in and produced a church that the surrounding neighborhood would feel comfy with. One with gothic features and a tad more decorative touches. Unfortunately I never found the building. Darn it all!

I remember the same situation happening, and being retold to me as I rode the trolley tour in New Orleans. A LDS chapel there was also built to accommodate the surrounding neighborhood with all the New Orleans wrought iron and French influenced architectural style. The trolley conductor/tour guide pointed out that none other of the modern churches or businesses would comply with the city request. He was impressed that a bunch of "uptight folks" would even live in New Orleans, much less build to comply -and happily so.

So enjoy. I just love the red doors, the circular windows and the arched doorways, the now blackened angels and saints who watch over all who walk on the property, and the ivy and soot that compete to cover the whole of it. Cleveland still rocks, just not on a Sunday!

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006


So to change the subject back to simpler times...I give you Ohio, again. This first photo was taken as I drove through a state park during a misty rain. The colours do not come close at all to the rich greens and of course there isn't any scent on the screen so you can't tell how absolutely wonderful the woods smelled as I drove slowly through this part of the country, just a bit east of Kirtland. Gorgeous! I was quite taken by, number one (duh) the absence of hills, mountains or general large bumps in the landscape. Number two, the lush green foliage that just sprouts out of every inch of land unmaintained and unattended to. Spontaneous growth amazes this Mojave Desert chick...I was visually dazzled!

Second photo was taken in a little town that I had to drive through to get into a small Amish community just around the corner. Without my notes I am afraid I cannot remember the town's name, grrr. However I was immediately struck by the resemblance, however coincidental, to the town that is in "Back to the Future" complete with the town clock tower as in this photo. The center of town had the same little grassy mall, complete with white gazebo band stand and surrounded by the town square. There was a movie theatre at the end of the block as in the movie and small shops circling the square, plus in just the correct place, a malt shop/diner. If this isn't where the movie was filmed it was certainly the inspiration for the set at Universal Studios. Either way, this little town was typical to most of the older towns I encountered there. Simple life at it's best, and of course, magically green and filled with colourfull flowers and luscious trees.

As I drove from Kirtland out to the John Johnson farm, just 20+ miles away the country side was amazingly beautiful. Streams and small rivers crossed the highway so many times I gave up counting them. Fields of wild flowers between the fields being used by farmers to grow all manner of fruit on trees, and row after row of corn, hay, and smaller low growing crops. Tidy, smartly groomed farm houses, bright white with colourful roofs, doors and window shutters. Grass lawns that roll from home to home unimpeded by fences. Occasional buggies would mark the Amish farms, as would the black, midnight blue, and lavender clothes hanging to dry on the line just off sides of the house. I wove my way through tiny hamlets of 200 to 400 towns people. These little towns welcoming passersby with a block or two of shops and stores made of white clapboard and brightly coloured doors. Benches and rockers line the walk ways and, as our traveling companion noted the day he rode with us, the classic cars that seemed to be everywhere would make any young man drool with envy.

I guess my main impression was the green peacefulness that was constant for miles. The way the country side appeared to have stayed un-wrestled over the last 100 years, unblemished and untarnished by modernism or the conveniences of our day. Sure, they had all we have here in CA. It's was just left in proper perspective in this little neck of the woods.

As the events of last week still haunt me, all of us I guess;- I can't help but remember those peaceful few days when I thought of how lovely it was to be in a place that respected the values of quiet repose; and honoured the traditions of differing beliefs while living across the street from your neighbor in peace. The warm feeling of a community without fences; and the perfect blend of simplicity among the modern made the few days spent there a lasting memory of nostalgia for a time I have never lived. Tolerance is not something to be learned or applied with a mental note every day but something that has been so inbred that it does not need a reminder; it comes as naturally to those towns-people as does breathing. This is where we all want our children to grow up.

The problem is all of our children do not grow up in a Utopian society. We (adults) do not live in a Utopian society. Our neighborhood now suffers from severe classism, racism, gangs, nearby prisons, political agendas, and many other common calamities that plague "normal" life for most of us. The key is being able to make our own "acreage" (even if that "acreage" is a one room studio in a 5 story walk up) as close to Utopia as possible. To get rid of our familial fences. To plant the kinds of fruit that will yield not just this year, but through the eternities. As any farmer knows, plants need daily care, weeding, correct pruning and staking, fertilizer, and watering. If we want good fruit we need to pay attention. The house needs to be taken care of, maintained and groomed. The need for modern convenience needs to be balanced against the need to remain simple enough to enjoy what life brings and to act instead of reacting to what life teaches us. In a Utopian society one needs to have a good work ethic, integrity, honesty, and the abilty to enjoy life as it is; to be content with what we have.

What I am eluding to, all to ineptly, is if we want Utopia we need to make it ourselves. And make it on an everyday basis, continually year after year. We need to focus more on what is important and let go of what is not.

Years ago, in the midst of personal trial, I decided to make all my decisions based on what would matter in five years. "If I leave these dishes until my guests go home or even until tomorrow morning....will it matter in five years?" "If I take the office box of paper clips home for personal use...will it matter in five years?" "If I hold onto this grudge...will it matter in five years?"

Some of these questions can be answered both yes and no depending on my personal character, however, using my "five year" plan, I have been able to let some things go and pay much more regard to other decisions.

Utopia is a decision I made, it is there, deep in my heart. A desire that I believe is divine in seed. To make sure it becomes a reality I need to yearn for it every moment, and work it out in my daily routine. I need to want it not only for myself, but also for those with whom I share community. If I want this for my self and for my neighbors, then I have a much better chance of acting in such a way as to make my seed of Utopia grow to fruit.

I do not know if I am living in Utopia yet, however I have begun to pack boxes of my personal life in antiscipation of the move. I do know one thing: I am much happier now than I was 5 years ago. I antiscipate being much happier than I am now five years from today. That's my plan.

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Saturday, October 07, 2006

three oddities in Ohio to consider...

First up, "THANK YOU FOR NOT PICKING OUR NEIGHBOR'S FRUIT" a sign at the John Johnson Farm. Years ago the LDS Church owned the land where the tempting fruit now grows and folks got used to just taking a sample now and then when the moment beguiled them. The land was sold to private family farmers (several years ago) who would prefer consumers of their fruit to have purchased it prior to eating. The church agrees; and suggests so through the signs along the shared fencing.
Next, this amazingly shocking hot pink gas and tire station I found driving around Cleveland. At first I noticed the obvious colour of the building, then started to see that the colour somehow found it way onto the cars in the facility! Across the street was a bakery that was almost as vivid only in turquoise green and brick red. Between the two colourful businesses the street was a shock of colour and advertisement, fighting for your attention and dollars.
Lastly is a final tribute to someone who adores Chevy s-10s. This was one full block of granite! It is full sized and if you look closely enough you can see where the weight of the truck has made the tires slightly flat against the road, or in this case, grass. The detail on this monument was laser perfect and something that caught my eye from a block away. The point? That this particular tomb stone carving business would not be deterred by degree of difficulty, or choice of sculpture, to honour that loved one. They are the best in town and will/can carve whatever you wish to represent you throughout eternity.

All three of the above examples are meant to get your attention and focus your way of thinking for just a moment; just enough time to leave a decision making impression. Whether subtle or in your face we are challenge each day to make decisions that can impact our eternal course. Some influences are very easy to interpret, while others are more gentle and restrained. Yet the choices we make now (based on those influences), even the small seemingly insignificant ones, can matter eternally.

I am off again to the land of glaring, in your face influence...unfortunately most of the influence in this land will be of the negative variety. Things which pervert and distort reality in hopes of luring us and our morality away just an inch or two further from what would matter eternally. Those inches add up and soon, before we know it, we are so far from what we had originally set as a goal it feels almost impossible to go back and get on track again. Lucky for me, I have other choices in this land of indulgence. Lucky for me I know I have the power of choosing for myself.

So we head out for yet another conference in Las Vegas. I am so very blessed to have family close by, the temple to visit, and Thor to keep me company in a land of illusion.

Have a grand week! I will try to post more photos from Ohio while I am in Vegas. In the meantime, what are some of the odd things in your neighborhood that try to influence the folks in your town?

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