Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas 2017 from the Catmull's!

Another successful year is in the books!  We've added another little and thus expanding our circle of love a little bigger.

Splenda and mCat:
Splenda is still working at Nature's Sunshine and doing well.  The commute is getting to him though, so a few weeks ago, we found a new home in Saratoga Springs (closer to his work) and we'll be moving sometime the end of January!  Very exciting indeed!  We'll have more room for family and friend gathering's but most important, Splenda won't have to deal with that horrid commute!  We also had a chance to sneak away together in September in Hawaii!  We toured Pearl Harbor, and spent most of the time on the island of Maui.  Driving the road to Hana was a white knuckle experience, but we are so grateful for all the beautiful things to see.  mCat had the once in a lifetime opportunity to tour the Holy Land with her mom.  It was an experience beyond words and if you are interested, it's all here on the blog.  She is still working part time at her beloved Wasatch Running Center and lately has picked up driving Uber part time.  Mostly, we love having all our children and grandchildren so close and enjoying them immensely.

Corbin and Karalee: 
They've had a busy year as well.  Corbin completed his undergraduate bachelor's degree at Westminster earning high honors and recognition from his professors.  He then was awarded the Presidential Scholarship for his Master's program at John Hopkins University in Baltimore.  Luckily, it's a mostly an on line program.  He traveled out there every week for the first semester which was very hard on his family, but now he'll do the rest on line and we are looking forward to going out there to celebrate when he is done and graduates.  He's also working at the University of Utah.  Karalee is still working at the dentist office which allows her a lot of flexibility which is great and she's still running in her spare time.  Chloee is outstanding in the 5th grade!  She's grown so much!  She's a tall girl with a beautiful spirit and soft heart!

Luke and Mindy:
Luke is still working in Orem as Director of Fulfillment at Learning Systems and doing very well.  Mindy has been able to be at home with Carter this last year and has a very good year with her health!  We  are grateful for breakthroughs and new medications!  Carter is a hoot!  He started walking and keeps Mindy on her toes with his mobility.  He looks a lot like Luke, but then there is definite Mindy in there as well so he's the perfect blend of them both.  He's a darling with a wonderful personality that is the perfect fit for their goofy selves.  They are a fun family!  They had an opportunity to go to Disneyland in September and they are doing so well as a family and we are so happy for them!

Preston and Montana:
They have had a full year in that Emma was born in January, and Preston was involved in an accident in September.  He was rear ended on the freeway and then struck by another car.  We feel very blessed in that he walked away with a few bumps, and scrapes and three broken ribs.  By all accounts he should have been more injured but we are so thankful that he was watched over.  Montana has had some health challenges in that she was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, but she is such a trooper.  You wouldn't even know she was hurting and she has been able to be at home with the girls, so they are very blessed.  They also went to Disneyland in the fall for the girl;s first time! Addy started preschool in the fall and loves it.  Emma is a happy girl that is always eager to play!

It's been a year full of accomplishments that have far outplayed our trials.  In fact, as we close another year - it's evident that our family is so blessed and we are so grateful for all that we have been given and afforded!

Here's to wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy new year full of love and prosperity!

And to my dirtbags - ILYPI


Sunday, December 10, 2017

Trip of a Life Time - Chapter 20 - Holy Land - Final thoughts

Day 18/19

This was it.  We were headed home.  After our lovely dinner we went back to our room packed up and then met at the bus at 9pm.  We went to the Amman airport and boarded a plane to the Charles de Gaulle airport in in Paris.
saying good bye to our dearest friends from the trip.  Kerry and Tamera.  Seriously, they made this trip that much more special by being them and for being our friends.  Kerry is the most kind hearted, generous and loving human being I've ever met on the planet.  His good cheer and fun sense of humor had us laughing all the time.  Tamera has a heart of gold and is so kind to everyone she meets.  I truly treasure their friendship

We had about a 4 hour layover there so I shopped a little bit, got something to eat and then read.  Thankfully, I had in my carry on backpack, the converter, adapters and chargers.  Splenda had gotten me a fantastic one that had many outlets for people to charge their cell phone.  I was the most popular kid on the block!

We arrived in the morning and then transferred planes and back to Salt Lake.  Back to reality.  Back to dealing with real life but with a now new understanding of life and humankind in general.
Splenda Daddy picked us up, we took mom home and then home to ours.

First thing I did was take a shower and wash the travel and airports off of me.  I had asked for all the kids to come for Sunday dinner so I could see them, hug them, and give them their treasures.  As exhausted as I was, I was also full of adrenaline and wanting to talk all about every minute of the trip.

Now, here it is weeks later and I'm still living the trip.  Several times a day, my thoughts go back to something we experienced.  To say it was life changing would be a gross understatement.  It's changed my life, my heart, my mind, my spirit.  It's changed my outlook on humanity, and my own self esteem.  It's changed my relationship with God, Jesus Christ and their roles in my life.  There isn't one thing about me that it didn't influence for the better.  And I will be forever grateful for the opportunity that I was given to experience it all.

I learned about the power of women in influencing the world for good. (Deborah and Barak)
I learned that callings or "progress" does not reflect testimony, or righteousness of an individual. (Jonathan)
I learned that when you break covenants with God, you lose strength and protection. (Samson)
I learned that choosing the better part is always the right thing (Martha and Mary)
I learned that the widow's mite donation is enough.  Giving all, even if it's not much, is enough.
I learned that my Jewish, Christian and Muslim brothers and sisters are exactly that.  Brothers and sisters and that we should be devout in our respective religions.  Be the very best that we can according to our belief's.
I learned how my own chosen religion (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) fits into the grand scheme of ancient religion and the Lord's gospel being restored on the earth.
I learned that if I am quiet and prayerful, I can feel the Lord's presence and hear what He has to say to me.  Individually.  Me.

I could go on and on, but here's the thing.  Not every one has to visit the Holy Land to gain such a strong testimony.  It's available to everyone, everywhere - it's a matter of seeking and working for it.  I, like others try to do that on an ongoing basis.  That being said, I certainly can witness that Heavenly Father knows us so much better than we know ourselves.  He knows of our internal struggles and questions.  He knows how to best bring us closer to Him in the most effective way as individuals.  Those of you who have children know how different each of your children are.  You know that one parenting way or trick does not fit all.  You do different tactics based on each unique child.   God is the same.  He created us, He knows how we best learn and what we will each need in our lives.  He knew I needed to strengthen my testimony.  He knew I had questions, He knew my doubts.  And in His infinite wisdom, He provided a way for me to come to know Him, in the way that He knew I needed.  I also love that He provided that opportunity to come with my Mom.  He knows why.  He knows what is best for us.  Amid all the things that strengthened me, the knowledge that HE provided this for me, is the greatest gift I could have ever received.

As things are now changing in Israel, it's more important than ever before to pray for peace in that region.  For not just our Jewish brothers and sisters, but the Christians that live there and the Muslims that are get caught in the crossfire.  It's a Holy Land to all of us for different reasons.  Let's pray for peace as we share in the rich history and sacred sites that are important to all of us.

Lastly, I think of my old mormon folk every day. I miss them.  I wonder how they are doing, how their families are, what adventure they are up to next.  We have an email thread that we keep in contact with, but it's not the same as getting on the bus every morning and sharing such wonderful adventures together.
I will love these people forever

I don't know that it will ever be safe for another pilgrimage to the Holy Land, so even more, I am holding these things/people/places in my heart and soul forever.

Peace be with you and your's forever.


Monday, December 4, 2017

Trip of a Life Time - Chapter 19 - Petra

Day 17

Some thoughts about Jordan before I dive into Petra.    As we drove, our educator  taught us that the plains of Moab and Jericho as is discussed in so much of the Old Testament.  It's rich with ancient history and it was similar to Egypt and Israel in landscape but here, there were relentless flies.  Everywhere, flies.

We again boarded the buses early in the morning and drove for about 3 hours or so to Petra or also known as the Rose Red City.  It has been voted one of the "Seven New Wonders of the World" and it did not disappoint!

our cute friend Sharon right there

the people were famous for carving facades, and with people, they left off the heads and faces relying on God to finish them

I have no idea what this guy was doing, but there were a couple of them dressed in costume.  I'm guessing that they would charge you to take a picture with them

Video you can watch here

There we are in front of the Treasury!  It was here that part of Indiana Jones we filmed.

So this guy was just sitting up there watching everyone below.  Petra is populated primarily by the Bedouin people it's likely he emerged from the cave where he lives to come see the people.  This area of Jordan is full of Bedouin people.  There are many who still lives in tents and in caves.

I tried to get  a selfie with a random dog

ancient tombs are up there so I climbed up to see them

my Bedouin sister that I bought some things from (see below)  She is beautiful.  And it looks like she might be wearing make up, but I assure you, she is not.

another selfie with a random dog

there's just a horse there.  Just chillin.  I'm sure someone lives back in there

Our tickets included a horse ride down and back.  We walked down and then Mom decided to ride the horse back up

She's there in the gray.  She told the man she wanted to go fast and he was having a hard time getting it done, so his friend here, on the back horse, took over and gave her a good ride.

Mom made it a little past the Treasury and then she decided that she was done and would wait in the shade for me to explore further.  So I did.  Like a lot.  Like climbed to all the tombs and went down in the farthest part one could go.  It was all so fascinating.  I didn't worry too much about mom since she's a people watcher and she would likely start back before me since we walk at different speeds.
When I finally turned around and headed back to the entrance I was noticing that I didn't recognize anyone.  Not even anyone from the other bus.  I figured that everyone was on their way back and that I could walk twice as fast so there'd be no worries, I would catch up to them.  Well, I did.  I said hello to a group as I passed, and they told me that the tour guide Diane was looking for me.   Okay, great.  I kept moving and another 5 or 10 minutes and I found Diane.  She was relieved to see me and said that my mother had gone ahead but that they were afraid that something had happened to me, the worst case scenario was being kidnapped.  I felt AWFUL for worrying my old mormon folk. I hurried as fast as I could to get back to the plaza and meet up with everyone.

Some thoughts on Petra.  It's beautiful.  It really is stunning and I am glad we got to see it.  I loved the day spent walking and experiencing it all.  I am fascinated the the Bedouins.  But most of all, I am struck at how poor the people there are.  Like super poor.  There were a lot of shops right as you enter in the plaza and another one down in the Treasury.  There were vendors sprinkled here and there and more at the very, very bottom.  Some even up on the hill as I climbed to the tombs.  I remember one little boy looking up at me with flies all over his face trying to get me to buy a map for 5 dollars.  I always try not to give to the children so that it will not encourage them to continue doing this instead of going to school, but  I realized later, that for the families that live down there, it's their only source of income.  There IS no school for those children, it's a life of trying to make enough money to feed the family for the day.

I had seen some cute bags in Israel that had elephants on them and it said Jerusalem all over and obviously machine made, but I loved it and I never pulled the trigger.  I was really disappointed that I didn't just get one when I saw them.  So I was keeping my eye out for a bag with elephants on them.  Obvio  it wouldn't say Jerusalem, but because they were machine made, I was hoping to find something similar here.

Instead I found this

all hand stitched and lookie - elephants!  It's beautiful and I love it!
I also purchased this from her
another hand stitched item.

She was pretty honest with what was made in china and what was handmade and these to things, she claimed were hand stitched.  The bag is factory made, but the stitching was done by her grandmother.  The scarf was also done by her grandmother.  I inspected them pretty closely and when  I could find some threads in the back in the stitching, I was sure she was telling me the truth.  We negotiated for quite some time.  She started REALLY high, and when there was no way I could/would possibly pay that and was walking away, she was a little more giving.  After several minutes, we agreed on a price and she she took me down to one of the shops that her cousin ran to do the credit card machine.
Did I get hustled?  Maybe.  But our devotional on the bus that morning included singing "Because I have been give much"  and it was on my mind as I watched these poor people.  They literally have nothing.  I didn't feel bad that I probably paid more than I should have.  I was just reflecting on the fact that me and Splenda Daddy have been blessed abundantly.  It was okay to give.  This is how they earn their money, and I was in a position to help her.

After everyone was gathered in the plaza, we got back on the bus for the 3 hour drive back to the hotel.  They invited us all to a local place for authentic Jordanian food.  I was intrigued but not gonna lie, I was exhausted.  Our friends Kerry and Tamera pulled us aside and told us they just couldn't get on that bus one more time and instead were going to stay at the hotel and eat in a restaurant there.  Mom and I jumped at the chance!
Pistachio ice cream

The filet was so tender that we could use the butterknife to cut it.  I think of this steak often,

It was the BEST meal I had the entire trip!  We were so appreciative of them for thinking of us and inviting us along.  It was such fun and great food.
I didn't realize it, but that was my last meal of the trip.

We packed up everything that night, and I ended up leaving several things behind.  Well, I had left them behind all trip in various hotels but this was the night that I unloaded everything I could, to make room for all the souvenirs I was taking back.  I left things that I knew I could easily replace and that might actually benefit someone.  All in all, my swimming gear, a pair of jeans, food and three pairs of shoes all are still in the middle east somewhere and I hope they are making someone happy.

Final chapter will be a wrap up and final thoughts.

Trip of a Life Time - Chapter 18 - Border crossing into Jordan; the Dead Sea

Day 16

We were up bright and early and back on the bus with all our luggage underneath and traveled to the border of Israel and Jordan.  The same border restrictions were in place.  No pictures.  We had been warned again from the Fun 4 Less staff that we could be anywhere from a couple of hours to more.  The record for the company was 7.5 hours.  We were hoping we got lucky.

We got to the border and pulled off to the side.  After several minutes a border patrol officer began opening the luggage bins underneath the bus, while another one came on board.  We were instructed to open our passports to the picture page and hold them ready to be picked up.  It made me kind of nervous because I had always been taught, never let your passport go out of your possession, but since the whole group was doing it, I figured it must be okay.  That agent was really good, he looked at every picture and then face of the person holding it before he took it.

He then went into a building and we were left to wait.  Some played games on their phones, some read, a lot of chit chat, some sleeping.  The time went by pretty fast.  We were told that what they were doing is taking our passports and comparing each name to a manifest list that our travel company had given them prior to our arriving.  It was to ensure that everyone on the list was accounted for before entering the county.   After that was complete and randomly searched a few bags, we were back on our way.  A little over two hours.  Not bad.
We made it safely!!  Or so we thought.  We had another security check point after this but eventually we made it.

We visited the baptismal site on the Jordan side of the river.  This was a C site.  More likely that it happened here but not sure of the exact location.

There was definitely a different feel to this site than the one on the Israel side.  I preferred this one.  At least it felt more holy to me.

At the site, there were some churches as well

Back on the bus and to a resort on the Dead Sea where we were able to spend some time bobbing around.  Some of us even put on some healing mud, and then washed it off in the water.  It was great fun! 

the very edge of the sea is a shoreline of this.  All salt. 

mom at least got her feet in

Then it was back on the bus and to the Le Merdien Hotel for the night.  Since we were out of Israel and into Jordan, the water and fresh fruits & vegetables rules applied.  Cooked or peeled.  Dinners weren't as fun as they had been.

Tomorrow is our last day of touring.