Friday, December 17, 2010

Invited to the Governor's Mansion!

The Utah's Governor's mansion, right there on South Temple Street, just a bit up the way from work...
I got invited to visit!

It was kind of our governor to extend such a lovely invitation to visit during the holiday season to see the historic mansion decked out in Christmas finery.

Governor Herbert and his wife reside on the second floor; I only got to see the first floor.
( and anyone else in the world who wanted to drop by between 2 and 5 pm on Dec. 16th that is.)
I was only a tad disappointed to learn that I would not be invited to see the second floor AND perhaps even more disappointed to learn that the third floor ball room would also not be available for my perusal.
Nor would anything inside be available for photographing.
(To see inside, click HERE)

The mansion was built in 1903 by Thomas Kearns.  He was born in Canada, then moved to Nebraska before finally coming to Salt Lake City. He worked as a miner, learned to read and figure, dug into geology books and struck silver, big time.
My favorite detail: Upon hitting the silver vein up in the Park City mountains, he then RAN back to Park City where the girl he favored was attending a dance.  He cut in on her dance partner and proposed marriage. 
She accepted!
The house they built cost close to $400,000 back then. They also gave a lot of money to the Catholic church and children's charities.
Eventually the mansion was giving to the State of Utah to be used as a Governor's mansion.
Today the mansion is heavily used for official events, including the ball room.
(I am trying to figure out what I would need to do to be invited to see the ball room. I am even willing to don a formal gown and heels if that would do the trick...)

I really hadn't paid much attention to the building until just the other day.  It was all lit up so nicely in the dark, and there was a blurb in the paper about tours being available.
I asked Bernie if he was game to go see what there was to see, for free...and he said yes.
The "tour" actually was a walk through the entry hall, living area, formal dining, library, kitchen and butler's pantry and informal dining room.
The hand carved woodwork was amazing, as was the plaster detailing on the ceiling. It looked like cake decorating and actually was created by hand using plaster and glue and a small trowel.

It is so nice to have a photographer along to record these sort of visits to the homes of elected officials.

Just a peek could be seen from the outside of the turquoise themed Christmas tree on the inside in the living room.

I can never figure out why the perspective is so weird on flag poles when shooting up...
But you can get a better feeling for the work on the upper floors of the building.

I don't know why the Kearns decided this rather grim looking person should adorn the outside of the house.

Or why TWO of them were placed, for heaven sakes.
Kearns wound up being a Utah State Senator, and a personal friend of President Theodore Roosevelt.
Roosevelt actually stayed at the mansion to visit his old friend once.

A beautiful chandelier made of sterling silver can also be seen from outside.
The tour included having several ladies inside who pointed out details about each room and gave a little bit of history about the house.
I was told it was a very brief tour; that in summer the house is also open on Tuesdays and Thursdays for a more detailed tour with more information about the Kearns and the house.
The grounds would also have the rose garden and other features at their best at that time.
Something to look forward to...
From the big mansion Bernie and I returned to our little mansion.
Packed our bags and headed up into the hills.
I wish I could say that we too would find a silver streak up there, but instead we will be staying at the Downtown Park City Marriott resort, where it is below freezing and snow is expected on Saturday.
Our timeshare has a cozy fire, a big TV, hot tubs and great restaurants.
It is our anniversary weekend...
Kisses and snuggles galore.
More later.
Have a great weekend yourself!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Aversion to letter writing

Christmas letter writing:  I used to do it all the time.

Drafting a Christmas letter was such a fun thing to do, especially once we got a computer! 

Then it got a bit trickier: I had to figure out how to space the body of the letter so the words would fit within the Christmas letter paper's design.  I had to edit the letter down to be both brief and interesting while still recounting the events of each year.

Of course before that Christmas letter writing tradition started, I used to make cookies for the neighbors.
That took a lot of time.

Then I used to hand make ALL my friends an ornament each year and also did a handwritten greeting on a Christmas card. 

Eventually the ornament making (mostly done with two babies milling about my work space) gave way to just a card, then a computer generated Christmas letter on colored paper.

It is just wonderful now to look back on those letters detailing what our little family was up to: soccer, Scouts, Church, jobs, injuries. 

The part about the kids shrunk as they left the nest for college and careers.  I still wrote about what we did as empty nesters, where we traveled, how we and our family was doing.  The saved letters served to jog our memories about which year things happened in our lives.

Then came the year that Bernie and I traveled a lot during December.  I skipped doing a letter that year.

Then we moved to Salt Lake City.

I wasn't really set up to do a letter in our temporary apartment the first Christmas we were here, so I skipped doing it. Plus I was really, really tired that year.

Then last Christmas...I just didn't get around to it.

Suddenly three Christmases have passed and I haven't sent out a single letter, or card.
I didn't even send out a change of address to most of the folks on our Christmas card list.
Last year our Christmas card basket was quite a bit short of brimming.
I really didn't care...
Those who I stayed in touch with during the year (via email, blogs and phone calls) were already up to date with my life, and I was up to date with theirs. 

Aside from my college roommate and one family in San Diego, I really didn't miss keeping in touch in our traditional "once a year at Christmas" manner. In fact it was a bit of a relief. 

Now while I had routinely sent out Christmas letters, I had never sent a photo of us at Christmas in the past, mostly because while I enjoy getting pictures of others at Christmas, I am always undecided about what I should do with their pictures after the holiday season. 

Tossing a picture of a family in the trash seems so wrong.  I would tuck the pictures into our family photo albums; it sort of made sense at the time.
(Decades later I'm afraid I don't remember some of those folk's names now...or even know where they live now.)

Then a new wrinkle (HA!) appeared in the past few years: Christmas has brought us family photos of aging friends that no longer look the way we remembered them looking before.

We found it really awful to identify a son in the picture as our friend and the old guy as his parent...whoops, the old guy IS our friend, the adult looking son is his little boy all grown up!

Stranger still is a photo of an old couple surrounded by several young adults and a few toddlers. 
A slew of names at the bottom of such a card leaves us guessing about who is who.
The guessing game gets even more difficult when there is an odd number of adult children that exceeds the number of children that we had known about before. 
Which of the smiling people in the picture are blood relatives to our friends? Which are daughter-in-laws or son-in-laws?
Which adult child has reproduced? 
Is there a spouse attached to that adult child holding a baby or ??? 

And then there are the perturbing questions raised when our old friends send us pictures which include none of their adult children in the picture, but includes a bevy of  tykes.
We wonder if our friends are now having to raise their grand children due to troubling circumstances and by simply signing their names they are simply avoiding getting into the messy details.
 (ahem..unless there is a blue pick-up truck involved of course...wink!)

Sticky questions to ponder at Christmas time. 
Another question: Why don't people realize that they would look a lot younger if they sent cards with their beaming elderly parents in the picture instead of their angelic grandchildren?  Honoring elderly seems like a most Christian concept, whereas pictured grandkids begs the question as to why my miraculously still dark haired middle age friends are not appropriately "crowned" with white hair per scripture.


This year I took a picture of Bernie and myself together outside just for fun. It struck me as the PERFECT Christmas card picture!  I raced off to get a stack of Christmas card pictures printed up with matching envelopes pre-printed with our "new" address. 

This year I have also determined to be more "personal" in my celebratory doings.  I decided to hand write letters to my roommate, the friendly family in San Diego, and to my three aunts. 

Five letters should be no big thing, and I would enjoy including congratulations about what their family has accomplished over the past years (grand in college...the usual.)

I took pen to hand and wrote a fairly detailed catch-up letter.
I explained why we decided to move to Utah, told about Laura being in grad school and buying a condo, about Jeff getting married and buying a house, about my job and Bernie's job, remodeling our house, enjoying fishing, skiing, hiking.  Added that our parents are well and that we had lost Bernie's brother to cancer last year at this time.

Included an invitation to come visit us anytime.
Also included my phone number, email address and blog site URL.

It took nearly three handwritten pages to include that information.  I'm glad to fill these people in. 
Now to address and stamp the letters and send them off.

Oh happy will I be when I am done with this task!

It should be a task taken on with joy, but somehow it is not. 

There is a touch of guilt about all the other "once a year" contact people that will not be receiving a letter from me. 
People that were important to me in college, or when we were newlywed, or raising our children together.
People that I once spent days with at work, or worshipped with or...

Flipping through my address book I see names and addresses of people that mostly have faded from my newest life phase.  I would be more than happy to hear from them again, via email (but NOT just a forwarded joke).

I find myself quite irked that most of them have never bothered to look at my blog, and yet used to ask what is new in my life.  

(So I should be burdened with the task of telling them all about what I have already written about in detail on the blog?  Is it rude to just say "our trip was great!  read all about it on this link...."?)

Perhaps really it is just all about is letting me know about their life via their letter, or NOT letting me know about their life, via simply sending a pre-signed picture or card that wishes us a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  Perhaps keeping a friendship is not really the point at all.

I asked my BGF Gail about my mixed feelings about sending letters out at Christmas. 
I felt that I should, yet felt put upon to do so.

Bless her...she sends cards and letters to her friends through out the year simply because she enjoys doing so and has stamps, cards and addresses at the ready in her home.

To my question she counseled basically that I should not "should" on myself.
If I want to do it, and it makes me happy, then go for it!
If I didn't want to do it...then skip it!

Sometimes even at age 56 I want someone to give me permission to do what I really want to do.
She was happy to do so.

Maybe someday I will regret not keeping up with people more over the years. Perhaps their lives will intersect with ours again in the future and I will be sorry that I had not tried to stay in touch. Sorry that I didn't follow their job changes, loss and gain of family members or cared more about their fame, fortune or lack of either.

Or maybe not.  Maybe the next time our paths will cross will be in heaven and all the stuff that went on on earth will seem rather unimportant anyway.

(And to be perfectly candid...I'd much rather be playing with our kittens, or hiking in the snow or baking cookies or just about anything other than addressing envelopes. 
My other secret confession: I get a bigger kick out of seeing people's cat pictures than their grand kids. 
We've never sent cat pictures out, but give it time...just give it time.)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Having a Holiday Ball

For most company holiday parties, the dress code was "elegance", including wearing stilleto heels, a cocktail dress or a formal gown.
The parties included being flown to a city (Chicago, New Orleans, Newport Beach CA, Washington DC, Houston for instance) and staying in a fancy hotel for the weekend.
Attending a company dinner where waiters in tuxedos deliver delectable food and drink was the center point of the event.
The event usually included tossing off the heels to dance to eardrum splitting music, and trying to read the lips of people around me.
Trying to remember a few names.
Getting to see the city decked out for the holiday.
Joining with a few others for breakfast at the hotel restaurant.
Flying home on a Sunday afternoon.
Nursing sore feet acquired by dancing, sightseeing and  shopping in the city.
Nursing an inevitable cold acquired on plane flight.
Treasuring the memory of the private after party for two back in the hotel room after the party broke up.

Well, I've had my share of those sorts of company parties back in the day when companies didn't hesitate to spend millions on the annual company party.
All expense paid weekends:  Those days (for most companies) are gone forever.

Those days were wonderful, but for a really good time:
Skip the dressy high heels.
Wear bowling shoes instead.

Skip the cocktail dress, or the spaghetti strapped formal gown.
Wear a flannel shirt and sweat pants instead.

Instead of flying, just drive to the local bowling alley.
(Oh and let me tell you: it is such a joy to wear a down jacket to the company party instead of a dressy wrap in cold winter weather!)

At this company party, I already knew every one's name...and we didn't need to shout to over the music to talk either!

(I bowl "Professional" level on wii, in real life...well..I was the "J" player on this score board.)

We had to include "special" bowling techniques during our game.
I danced, I did a speed frame, and my legs were used to bowl through.
When it was discovered that a team mate playing patty cake on one's fanny tended to up the score, I was a willing participant.
(Which caused many chuckles from my 20something team mates.  We also chuckled that EVERYONE, including me, had to be carded before we could drink a beer with our pizza!)

Festive holiday wear, complete with a "carded" orange wrist band.

I had a blast!
The pizza and beer tasted great!
What a great holiday party!
Can't wait to do it again next year!
In fact, I think I might just plan a party for two really soon.
(No non-employees were invited...things really have changed in the company party world these days.)
I had no after party sore feet either, but I will own that my right wrist and tushie weree a little tender the next day.