30 Days of Gratitude - Day #30

Day #30 - Everything Else I Failed to Mention in 30 Days

"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them." --John Kennedy

How often do we really sit down and reflect on the many blessings that we have? For me, not very often. I'm seem to lack the time for a lot of things lately. Just ask my husband.

But making this "30 Days of Gratitude" project a priorty, every single day, has reminded me just how important it is. It doesn't take long. Just a few minutes is all. Over this past month, I've learned that my blessings are all around me, in every person I meet, in everything that I do. Some I realize like a slap in the  face, while other blessings are subtle feelings in my heart. A confirmation from the Spirit that I am loved.

There are so many other blessings that I'm grateful for that I failed to mention during this project, but it doesn't make them any less important or valued. I'm grateful for the experience I had over this past month. I saw things differently than before. Blessings realized seemed to suddenly have more meaning. As I work my way into the new coming year, I hope that I take the time to slow down and reflect on the many gifts that I've been giving.


30 Days of Gratitude - Day #29

Day #29 - The Tough Times

Yes, I'm one of the those people. I think to myself... "I'm so glad that Heavenly Father gave me this trial so that I could learn something."

Ha Ha Ha! I'm joking. Who really enjoys tough times?

Lets get serious. Though at the time, those experiences were not at all enjoyed or wanted, they've taught me some valuable lessons. I really do feel as though the tough times have made me stonger, brought my family closer and certainly humbled us. For that, I am grateful.

I also should express my gratitude for a Heavenly Father, who may place trials in my path, but will never leave me to face them alone.


30 Days of Gratitude - Day #28

Day # 28 - Parents / In-Laws / Grandparents

I know, it's multiple things today. But having only 3 days left of the "30 Days of Gratitude" project, I may have to squeeze in a few extra where I can.

I'm grateful for my both my parents and my in-laws, for different reasons, obviously. My parents raised me (and are hopefully proud of what I've become), taught me, supported me and loved me even through a few rough years. Even today, when I don't see them as often as I'd like, they still play a profound part in my life.

I'm grateful for my in-laws. They are such good examples of missionary service. They are kind, generous, and make huge sacrafices to be involved in their many grandchildrens lives. They raised a wonderful son, whom I love dearly, and for that, I'm indebted to them.

It's safe to say that all four were raised differently, but it's probably what I appreciate most about them. I love the lessons learned and experiences shared from each one. I believe it helps me become a better wife, a better mother and a better person.

I consider myself lucky to have my grandparents (aka Carrie & Bert) in my life. I never met Chris's grandparents, as they passed long before we ever met. He has such wonderful memories of his grandparents, while growing up and I have wonderful memories of mine. The spoil Brielle like they spoiled me (worse, probably). 

I love the friendly nature of my grandpa. The man can strike up a conversation with anyone, anywhere. He's sweet and has the most tender heart. I adore the sassy Italian nature of my grandma. Her nickname for me is "babe." See ya babe! How ya doing babe! Sounds strange (and hopefully not morbid) but I will miss that when she's gone.

I'm so grateful for my family, immediate and extended. I love them dearly and hope that they know that.


30 Days of Gratitude - Day #27

Day #27 - The Plan of Salvation

"All that we call human history - money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution,
classes, empires, slavery - is the long terrible story of man trying to find something
other than God which will make him happy.  -- C.S. Lewis

Isn't that the truth?

This evening, just before leaving work, I was visited by a colleague who quite honestly, is one of the dearest, kindest and most generous old man I've ever met. Mr. Nixon recently lost his wife, and as a highly respected REALTOR in Cache Valley, I sent flowers on behalf of our organization to his home.

Surprisingly, I wasn't greeted by a man who looked as though he was mourning, though inside, I'm sure he was. When I expressed my sadness for the loss of his wife, he simply stated "Don't be. We lived a life that most people never experience. We had hard times, but we did everything we ever wanted to do." He went on to explain that our Heavenly Father has a clock ticking on all of our lives, and that when it is our time to go, we should not question it.

I found a conference talk given by Elder L. Tom Perry in October of 2006 in which he states...

"God is the Father of our spirits. We are literally His children, and He loves us... God's whole purpose - His work and His glory - is to enable each of us to enjoy all His blessings. He has provided a perfect plan to accomplish His purpose." 

He goes on to express his concern as people try to find the answers to life's most basic questions. Where did we come from? We are we here? Where are we going? And that technology has only multiplied the confusion by spreading messages contrary to God's plan across the earth.

I sincerely appreciated the sweet testimony that had been born to me today. It made me pause and reflect on the plan of salvation. I am grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ. I'm am grateful to know that my life has a purpose and that a plan has been laid out for me to follow. I'm grateful for the reminder that my life - that this life - is the time for me (us) to prepare to meet God. And I'm grateful to know that I'm not alone in doing so.

I do have a testimony of the plan of salvation. I do believe that true happiness is not found in having money, possessions, power or status. Happiness is found when living your life as God intended... by obedience to His law, by having eternal goals, and with the promise of heavenly blessings. And if I ever needed a reminder of this, I'm glad that I received it today from Mr. Nixon.


30 Days of Gratitude - Day #26

Day #26 - The Holidays

I had a few experiences the past few years that had me resenting the holidays, namely Christmas. Simply stated, I just didn't like what I saw around me. Greed seemed to become the overall theme.

I'm not a saint, by any means, but I began to miss the feelings I had growing up. My parents were super generous at Christmas time, but it always seemed to about more than just the gifts. That's what I wanted and what I was craving.

So, two years ago, Chris and I made a commitment to make Christmas more about helping others, making memories and remembering Christ. As a result, the last two Christmas's have been the best ever. There are fewer gifts under our tree than in years past, but no on has noticed or been disappointed. The memories we've made and the people we've been privileged to help have made our family feel far more blessed than wrapped packages ever could.


30 Days of Gratitude - Day #25

Day #25 - Italian Food

I'd just like to thank the Italians for such wonderful food (while I'm right now, making calzones stuffed with ricotta and mozzarella cheese, Italian sausage, peppers and onions).  I have yet to find an Italian dish that I don't love, but can find plenty of other ethnic foods I'd rather not touch.

I seriously cannot wait for Christmas Day Lasagna. 


30 Days of Gratitude - Day #24

Day #24 - The Arts

Brielle and I went to see the Nutcracker today at Ellen Eccles Theatre in Logan. Brielle has started getting excited about the new plays that come to town, and quite honestly, I enjoy going with her.
I remember as a kid, my parents used to take us to many plays at the Capital Theatre in Salt Lake City. Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera and The Secret Garden are a few that I remember. Now, later in life, I realize what a huge expense it must have been to take 2 adults and 4 kids to these theatrical events! $90 per person is what it would cost, now, if I took Brielle to Capital Theatre.

I will admit that the play that come to our little local theatre don't quite compare to those seen in the big city, however, for $40 bucks, Brielle and I can go and enjoy a lunch and an afternoon play. I sincerely appreciate the sacrifice my parents made to introduce us to the arts, and for the opportunity we have, even here in a small town, to the same.


30 Days of Gratitude - Day #23

Day #23 - Subtle Reminders

I am very vocal about the despise I have for Black Friday. I hate seeing the ads pile up in my garbage bin. I hate the TV ads that promote it. I hate the lines I saw outside retail stores when I drove home from having Thanksgiving dinner with my family. And I hate hearing stories about people getting shot or trampled on while fighting over the "unbeatable" deals.

Now -- please understand -- I don't want to judge those who thrive in and look forward to these events. I understand, a good deal is a good deal. But for me, Thanksgiving weekend is time when we reflect on the many blessings that we have, and prepare for a season centered around the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Black Friday does neither of those things for me. If anything, I feel as though it takes away from the meaning and spirit of both holidays.

Now, some may argue being able to score a great deal on some legos that they "intend" to give to someone else does prepare them for a season of giving. Hey, more power to ya. Retailers will be disappointed, but their Grey Thursdays, Black Fridays and Cyber Saturdays have the opposite affect on me. Because all of it -- the ads, the hype, the buildup -- all it is to me is a subtle reminder to be thankful for what I have, to prepare for a season of giving and to bring my family closer together.


30 Days of Gratitude - Thanksgiving Day

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Today, I'm grateful for the opportunity to spend time with family I don't get to see very often and eat tons of wonderful food that my mom has prepared. Oh, and I'm grateful for a Grandmother who every year, makes Pineapple Cream Pie as an alternative to that Pumpkin junk.


30 Days of Gratitude - Day #21

Day #21 - Brielle

I'll tell you what... having to write of something you are grateful every single day is a challenge. It's not that I lack things to be grateful for. The problem is narrowing down one to focus on each day. 

I've been waiting to write about my gratitude for Brielle for awhile. I knew that this would be a big one, and wanted to make sure I had the words to truly express my feelings for this amazing little girl... whose not so little anymore.

From about the time that Brielle was 2 years old until about 7, I desperately wanted another child. So much so that it consumed me. I've written about this before, but I'll give you the short version. In a nutshell, every person I met that was pregnant or had a new baby became my enemy. I hated them.

And then one day I realized that being so focused on what I didn't have (the one thing I wanted) was causing me to miss the precious blessing I did have. Brielle. And she is nothing short of amazing.

Brielle is the best Christ-like example. She is kind and caring, always aware of other peoples feelings before that of her own. It's one of my favorite qualities about her. Brielle is so funny and has such a unique personality. Not a day goes by that she doesn't make me laugh.

***Pause... the kid just choked on a smartie. Dang Halloween candy is still lingering in my house.

At age 10, she is responsible and obedient and rarely ever back talks. She does want she's asked and certainly makes life a little easier on her parents. Brielle is smart and talented. It has been such a joy to watch her mature, develop her musical talents and get involved in sports.

Brielle is at an age where she'll do anything and go anywhere with us. She'll adventure out on a hike, help me at the grocery store, or sit by my side while we're being thrown into the air on a roller coaster ride. We even completed our first 5K together this year.

I don't think that it's possible to adequately describe the amount of joy that Brielle brings into my life. I love her with all of my heart and am so grateful to have been blessed with her.

For fun, here are a few of my favorite pictures of Brielle (just so ya know, the girl is always smiling)...

3 Months Old

2nd Birthday - SeaWorld San Diego, CA

Fishing w/Dad - 4 Years Old

5 Years Old

Bear Lake - 6 Years Old

7 Years Old

8 Years Old - Baptism Pictures

First Day with Izzle-Frizzle

Horse Show - 9 Years Old

9 Years Old (You can't see, but she really is smiling!)


30 Days of Gratitude - Day #20

Day #20 - DayQuil / NyQuil

Need I say anything more?


30 Days of Gratitude - Day #19

Day #19 - My Husband

I'll be honest, there's nothing I hate more him putting his dirty socks on the floor in front of the laundry basket, or when I hear him say "yes, I'll do the dishes... when I get around to it." Seriously, I wouldn't have asked if I didn't want them done now. Makes me insane. 

But I confess. I do take him for granted sometimes. Like tonight. I'm pretty sure I have a sinus infection and it is causing the most horrible migraines. I came home from work and crashed. He left me alone, in my dark bedroom (which makes me happy when my head hurts so bad), and brought me coke to settle my stomach, crackers to munch on and plenty of meds when requested. I appreciate those little things...

Besides that, there are many other reasons I'm grateful for my husband. He came into my life at exactly the right time and changed it for the better. He makes the most wonderful dad. He puts the needs of his family above his own. He works hard, day in and day out, to support and provide for our family. He is an incessant tease... which sometimes I hate, but most of the time, I love.

He's stubborn, and almost always has to be right, but he's never asked me to be something that I'm not or do anything that I don't want to do. He supports mine and Brielle's hobbies, even though he might never choose them as his own (i.e. the horses). He understands me enough to know when I need "me" time and allows me time out with my friends. All in all, I don't think there's anything he wouldn't do for our family.

Oh, and he doesn't make me watch those horrible science fictions shows/movies. SO thankful for that.

Babe... life would suck without you.


30 Days of Gratitude - Day #18

Day #18 - Pinterest

Today, we ate well. This morning we had "from scratch" blueberry muffins with a streusel topping. For dinner, we had spicy BBQ Pot Roast with Ranch Cheddar Grits and gravy. My husband said it was the most flavorful pot roast he'd ever had.

Brielle piped in and asked "even more than grandma's because usually you still like grandma's more?"  To which he replied that this particular roast was really the BEST he'd ever had.

But it wasn't my roast. Or my muffins. It was another persons recipes that they (thankfully) decided to share. Granted, I tweaked both recipes to fit the likes and dislikes of my family, but I could never have created the recipe base. And they were both fabulous, and I found them both on Pinterest.

There are so many talented people in the world! I'm amazed at the recipes, home decor and fun craft ideas I can find on Pinterest. Most of my meal planning lately comes from things I find on Pinterest. I'm so grateful that people I've never met, nor would every know, are willing to share their talents and ideas with the world.


30 Days of Gratitude - Day #17

Day #17 - Having the Means to Help Others

I recently received the wishes & wants list from the family that we will be providing Christmas for this year. It's for a mother living here in Cache Valley, and her son, who is currently receiving treatments for cancer. The goal of Cache Valley for Hope Cancer foundation is that each cancer family will have food for the holidays, as well as gifts under the tree.

The moms Christmas wish... that her son will get better. I cry each time I read her email.

Yesterday, Chris and I discussed what Brielle would be receiving for Christmas, how much we'd spend, what would come from us and what would come from "you know who." I also went the grocery store and purchased a weeks worth of groceries for our family.  

I wasn't worried about money. I didn't worry about how we would pay for the gifts. I didn't skimp on the groceries I purchased, thinking that some items may be frivolous and not necessary. We don't have circumstances that make us to wonder how we're going to pay for our next meal, or how we could possibly afford to provide Christmas for our family.

Not only do we have the means to provide a comfortable life for our family, we're able to help out another during the holidays. Today, I'm grateful for that.


30 Days of Gratitude - Day #16

Day #16 - Girls Night Out

It's tough being a mom, and even more tough being a working mom. I have to do all the regular mom stuff... grocery shopping, laundry, house cleaning, soccer practice and voilin lessons, in less time.  When I get home from work each day, the last thing I want to do is house work. What I really want to do is just chill. And watch Grey's Anatomy.

Don't get me wrong -- I love being a mom and I love my job -- I wouldn't want to change a thing. I'm just a little tired all the time.

But what I really love, is when I get a break from it all, and get a fabulous night out with all my friends. I feel like I get to let lose, have fun, and not worry about all my mom duties at home. We gossip, we complain, we rant, but most importantly, we laugh a lot.

Tonight was dinner and movie with the ladies... Breaking Dawn, Part 2. Funnest night out in a long time. And while I'm grateful for these few nights out with friends, I'm equally grateful for a husband who supports GNO's and kisses me when I walk out the door. He clearly knows I need time with my friends as much as I do.


30 Days of Gratitude - Days #12-15

I'm behind again. Big surprise. If only there was a person to clean your house, keep up with your job, pay the bills, blog and journal all your vacation photos for you... while your on vacation... before you come home from vacation. For free. Wouldn't that be nice?  If someone knows someone, I'd love to have that person's number.

Day #12 - Technology

"I fear the day when technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots."  --Albert Einstein

It's true. People have become dumb with all the LOL's and JK's and LMAO's. Not to mention, those who hide behind a text message or Facebook, so they can say whatever they want, without regard to feeling, and without having to look the other person in the face (I'm guilty of it too). Drives me insane.

But I am grateful for technology. I love staying so closely connected to my friends and family. I love that my blog gives my family an opportunity to see what's going on in my life, without having to make the trek to Logan (and I hope they appreciate it as well). I love the sweet text messages I receive from Chris and Brielle each day. I love that with one simple text, I can join up with all my BFF's for a quick lunch break. And I love that my work has provided me with the tools I need to successfully complete my job each day.

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Day #13 -My Mom

I feel it only appropriate, since the 13th of November is my mom's birthday, to express my gratitude for my mom.

I know this may sound cliche, but my mom was and is always there for me. I can't remember a volleyball game, softball game or piano recital that she missed. She was always in the stands -- and I had a twin sister involved in just as much -- so I'm sure it wasn't easy. Even now, if I need her to watch Brielle, sew something for me, help me with something, she doesn't tell me "no."

She's good at everything she does.  Cooking, sewing, teaching, decorating, etc. I look to Pinterest for ideas, and she just comes up with them on her own. I'm constantly asked if I cook as good as my mom or decorate as well as my mom, and the answer is no.  Just no.

Most importantly though, she's a great example.  When I consider how to raise my child, I think back to the wonderful memories that I have of my mother and ask myself if I'm doing those same things.  But maybe the question should be "am I doing those same things as well as my mom?"

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Day #14 -My Home

There is nothing that makes me feel more comfortable than walking through my big, red front door. I love my home. My current home, in particular.

For several years, we floated. Looking back to the last three houses we've lived in (one in SLC and two in Cache Valley), I never felt "at home." There was always the feeling that it was a brief pit stop, and soon, we'd be on to something different.

Not any more. Here, in this house, I feel completely at home. I know I will be here for some time. It was a tough road to get here, but the sense of permanency, consistancy, warmth and coziness that I feel here has never been matched. It's not huge. It's not fancy. It's not perfect. But we're making it our own, and truly feel that the Lord has guided us to the exact place that we are supposed to be.

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Day #15 - Cache Valley

Since we are on the subject of home, I am also grateful for the community in which I live. I never knew that living in a rural area (rural to me, but not to Chris) was the life that was meant for me. I couldn't love this place any more than I do. I love the mountains that surround my home, the beautiful scenary, the wonderful people and the slower pace.

It suits me.


Redemption: Merkley Family Vacation 2012

I've been wanting to post about our family vacation for days. But since this trip was filled with jam packed days at theme parks and super late nights, I was left utterly exhausted. I'm just now getting around to moving photos from my phone to my computer, and subsequently, my blog.

The theme for this trip was appropriately title the Merkley "Redemption" Vacation. Last year, at exactly this same time, we were in Anaheim, CA for another work conference / DisneyLand family vacation. This particular vacation (if you can't remember) was plagued with pneumonia and turned out to be miserable... mostly for Brielle.  We weren't about to let anything get in the way of enjoying our time in Florida (even when Chris decided to get bronchial pneumonia just two weeks before we left AND Brielle and I had a short stint with the stomach flu). Cursed?  It's possible.

We were lucky enough to have our good friends, the Clonts family join us on this adventure. So if you see a few random kids you don't recognize, you know why...

Discovery Cove is an aquatic park where literally, the ocean has been brought inland. Here, you get to interact and swim with dolphins, wade in the water with sting rays, snorkel with exotic fish and enjoy the beautiful beaches. This place was pricey... but included in our day was all we could eat food, snacks and treats, wetsuits, snorkel gear, towels, showers, etc.

First things first... snorkeling with Sting Rays.

Some where small, and others quite large.  I told Brielle not to worry, that they wouldn't hurt her, but I found myself wincing each time one would pass me and it's long tail would slither past my legs.  I get the creepy's just thinking about it again.

Above is Brielle... floating while the seas creatures swam beneath her. And below, you would be correct if you guessed that was a shark.  Multiple sharks, actually. Underwater, there is a glass wall to give snorkelers the illusion that they are also swimming with sharks (or near, rather).

So many places to explore.

I think we could easy say that the highlight of this day was the interaction with the dolphins. When you arrive, you are given a scheduled time to meet with a dolphin trainer for your 45 minute dolphin experience.  It was SO fun.

We met up with Stella (or dolphin) in the water, and learned about her unique characteristics, abilities and other fun facts about his friendly creature. For example, did you know that when dolphins swallow fish, they have the ability to not swallow sea water at the same time? Cause is hurts their tummies? I had no idea.

We were all staring into her mouth as he showed us how she swallowed food, showed us her teeth and let us feed her fish. The trainer taught us hand signals to different tricks, like singing, clapping and splashing. And... the signal if we wanted a dolphin kiss.

Cutest picture EVER.

 And then it was time to ride.

The kids loved this place! And so did we.

Universal Studios Orlando
The first item on the agenda for our second day in Orlando was Universal Studios, namely, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I will say that this portion of the theme park was a lot smaller than I had expected, however, they went all out on every little detail. You would have thought you were an extra in one of the movies.

From the costumes of the cast members, to the the Hogwort's Express, to the specialty shops -- they pulled out all the stops and created Hogsmead just as you'd picture it in the books and see it on the movie screen.

We found the Weasley's car... crashed in the trees, Hagrid's house and the drink made famous in the books...

Butterbeer. The only way that I can describe this deliciously sweet, way over-priced ($10 bucks a piece!) drink is this... it was like drinking liquid, slushly, creamy butterscotch. Oh man, it was good. We each had two. I'm currently scanning Pinterest for Butterbeer knock-off recipes.

I think I forgot to mention that it was topped off with frothy whipped cream. And that it was really, really, good. Did I mention how yummy it was? And came complete with multiple brain freezes.

Amazing, really it was.  If it didn't cost so much to get back into Universal, I would have gone back every day.

We wandered through the familiar corridors of Hogwards School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, passing Dumbledore's office, the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom, the Gryffindor common room and the Herbology greenhouse on our way to the Forbidden Journey ride. It was pretty awesome.  Everything was so recognizable!

We stopped at HoneyDukes Sweet Shop and Brielle (or course) chose the chocolate frog, which included a Dumbledore trading card. Sadly, the frog did not leap out of the box, but did disappear in her mouth.

Another request on Brielle's list of places to visit was Ollivander's, the Maker of Fine Wands. You can tell by the look on her face that she had a tough decision to make. Will she choose the wand that "chose" her? Or choose a wand that was unique to one of the characters in the book?  In the end, she went with the wand that chose her.

We spent 2 entire days at Universal Studios Orlando, but it's funny, I really only took pictures in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The rest of Universal was pretty to similar to the one found in California. But even still, we had a great 2 days!

SeaWorld was not on our list of things we wanted to do, however, entrance was FREE with the purchase of the Discovery Cove ticket, and you can't beat FREE in Orlando. With that said, SeaWorld was not nearly as big and as tiring as the first 3 days, so we welcomed a day to chill and catch some fun shows.

I love this next picture... I have this exact picture of her at SeaWorld San Diego when she was two years old. Sniff, sniff. It's like she went from 2 to 10 instantly!

We saw the famous Shamu show, we loved the Seal and Otter show, but if you ask Brielle about her favorite activity at SeaWorld, she'll tell you it was finding the pearl in an oyster.

You walk up to the divers in the water, request an oyster, and they will bring several to the surface. You pick your oyster and take it to the shop to say a "good luck" chant and have it cracked opened. Now, the first time we did this, Brielle ended up with a pretty pink pearl. However, it had something on it that made it look dirty, so they asked her to pick another oyster.

We were told that it's really rare to get a black pearl. Well, Brielle ended up with something even more rare...

A chocolate colored pearl. It's small, but it was beautiful! She had it set so she could wear it on a necklace.

As a kid, I thought Epcot was totally lame. I didn't think that Brielle would enjoy it, but we agreed to go for Chris. This day turned out to be one of our favorite days. We purchased a 1 day hopper pass (to jump between Epcot & the Magic Kingdom, knowing we would be rushing through the parks in an effort to see everything! In the end, we didn't have to, and it was perfect.

By the way, Brielle kept calling it Ep-a-cot. It was even more hilarious when we heard other kids on the train calling it that, too.

This particular day happened to be one of the final days of the Food & Wine festival. If you are not familiar with Epcot, I'll tell you this... it's not full of roller coasters and rides. Epcot is twice the size of the Magic Kingdom, and showcases the World. Small replicas of international cities line the lake, giving you the chance to experience places like Mexico, Japan, China, Italy, France, Ireland, and others, without ever leaving Florida.

Along with the Food & Wine festival, they had food vendors in each "country" with 3 samplings of the local cuisine, each costing about $5. That gave us an idea for lunch. What if we visited multiple countries, try a sampling from each one, and eat our way around the world?

Best idea ever!

We had a Bratwurst in Germany, Ravioli in Italy, Cheese Tartine in France (along with a Napolian because we could NOT pass that up), Belgian Waffle in Belgium and so much more!  If I hadn't been so full, I would have continued with the Empanadas in Mexico and Fish & Chips in Ireland. YUM.

Another thing that we loved was the Phineas & Ferb: Agent P's Showcase Adventure. Brielle got to go under cover as "Agent B" along with Agent P on a quest around the World Showcase at Epcot. Complete with a cellphone in hand, she received clues and messages that connected her with Phineas and Ferb, in an effort to stop the evil villains.

Being that we were in Mexico at the time, her clues took her through the Mexican ruins and local markets. She was determined and did successfully completed her mission. She took her assignment very seriously, and it ended up being pretty fun. Had we had more time, we could have taken additional assignments in Norway, China, France or Germany.

Another important assignment that Brielle was given was to seek out Grandpa Bert's girlfriend, Snow White. Now, I should mention that all week, I begged Brielle to take photos with Minions and other random characters, but no. She wasn't interested. Grandpa Bert asks, and she gladly stood in line for 30 minutes waiting to meet Snow White.

Then it was time to hit the Magic Kingdom. And before I begin, here is my disclaimer... It's way more expensive and not as great as the Magic Kingdom in California. The End.

Wait.. I will say that DisneyLAND is just not the same anymore without Cinderella's castle. Now the end.

We spent all of about 3 hours in the Magic Kingdom. Space Mountain, the light parade and Thunder Mountain were the highlights. Do not -- I repeat -- DO NOT ask Brielle about her Nascar driving experience. I attempted to record her first attempt at driving on video, and it ended in tears.

This girl, always so serious. But when Mickey & Minnie are speaking to the crowd, I guess you listen.

Earlier in the day, I asked Chris why Cinderella's castle was covered in nets? Now I know. And clearly, it wasn't nets.

I don't have much to say about this day, because I wasn't able to participate in all the fun. My meetings had started and I was stuck in a 40 degree, enormous convention center than spanned nearly two full blocks.  If my feet hadn't hurt after walking around theme parks all week, they certainly did now.

Here is a collection of the pictures Brielle text me from her phone...

I do know this about the picture above.  That is the space shuttle Atlantis and this day was the very last day you could see it. It is now being bubble wrapped and stored somewhere until they can build a new museum type building to hold it.

Later that night, Chris and Brielle picked me up and we headed to Downtown Disney to meet up with the Clonts family. They had spent a 2nd day at DisneyWorld while Chris & Brielle hit Kennedy Space Center. As soon as Brielle hit the Lego store, she just had  to show me "Lego Friends." I was completely unaware that Lego had finally entered the market with their version of Lego's for girls.

It's a bit dark, but this is one of the Lego Friends built entirely out of Lego's. Thank heavens, I know have ideas for Christmas gifts.

And that, my friends is the conclusion of the Merkley Redemption Vacation of 2012. Unless we mention that Delta was almost successful at not letting Chris and Brielle on the plane on their return to Salt Lake. Oh, and that they landed during the giant snow storm (thank the Lord I wasn't with them, or I would have had a full blown panic attack on the plane). Oh, and that someone forgot to put the snow scraper in the car, so Chris had to scrape 9 inches of snow of with his bare hands. And then drive back to Logan during the worst of the storm.

There, now that is the conclusion of the Merkley Redemption Vacation of 2012. Where we'll go in 2013, I don't know, but I can't wait. Traveling is the best with my two favorite people!


30 Days of Gratitude - Day #11

"The alarm can ring. The birds can peep. My bed is warm. My pillows deep.  
Today's the day I'm going to sleep!"     -- Dr. Seuss 

Day #11 - Early Morning Wake Up Calls

I love sleeping in, and this morning, I had planned on doing just that. Chris and Brielle flew back to snowy Utah yesterday and that meant 2 mornings of sleeping in, with no one to wake me up early. 

And quite honestly, between walking through theme parks for the past 6 days and walking across a convention center that I swear is a mile long for the past two, I desperately wanted to rest my body...and my feet.  Not to mention, Brielle is a super early morning riser, so sleeping in rarely occurs.

But when I woke up, voluntarily, before my alarm this morning, I found I was missing my usual morning wake up call. A super sweet little 10 year old voice that says "good morning mommy." Which is then usually followed by "can I watch tv?" But even still, those precious first few words start my day off right, even when earlier than expected or wanted. 

And I missed them today... Bad.


30 Days of Gratitude - Day #10

Day #10 - Electricity

"We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude."
-- Cynthia Ozick

I'm freezing today. Yes, I'm still in Florida, and the temperature outside is warm, but my hotel room is ice cold. The conference rooms at my meetings are ice cold. I held a mug of hot chocolate for fifteen minutes this morning in an effort to warm my frozen fingers.

And then I heard a news story that residents in New Jersey may not have power until after Thanksgiving. 

With the flick of a switch, I have the ability to turn on the heat, whenever I want. Here, and at home. I can cook and warm food, I can watch my tv and I can brighten a dark room.  I've been without power before and it's no picnic. You worry about how to keep food cold, how to keep your house warm, etc. the difference is, I've never spent more than a day without electricity.

Except for camping, but that doesn't count because that is intentional.

Today, I'm grateful for the daily comforts I enjoy most.

30 Days of Gratitude - Days #5-9

Yes, I'm playing catch-up. I'm out of town and spending the most wonderful time with the loves of my life. But even still, I've been thinking of the things I'm most grateful for.

"Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art...it has no survival value. Rather, it is one of those things that gives value to survival." - C.S. Lewis

Day #5 - Friends

I have the best group of friends. EVER. When I got married, having friendships wasn't all that important. Sure, I had friendly acquaintances, but not friends. After moving to Cache Valley, where I knew no one, I was desperate to find people I could visit with, call occasionally and hang out with from time to time. 

Little did I know I would find a group of women who are funny, talented and who I can count on. We have had some pretty fun times and helped eachother through some tough times. I couldn't survive without our weekly lunch meetings, our occasional late night movies and game nights. Knowing these ladies has given new meaning to the term "I gotch your back." 

And to the one who left me and moved to Sacramento... When I say "friends" you can rest assured you're still included in that group. Always will.

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Day #6 - Seasons

As I enjoy the 74 degree temps in sunny Orlando, I'm missing the big snow storm that is hitting back at home. Why would I miss a giant snow storm while I'm enjoying fabulous warm weather???

Because I love the snow!!!

One of my favorite things about Utah is the defined seasons. I love the transition from summer to fall... Fall to winter... Winter to spring and so on.  I love that with each new season brings an activity that my family enjoys. Namely skiing in the winter. 

I love that this time of year means sweaters, soup and snuggling to keep warm. And it takes my breathe away seeing Cache Valley covered in a fresh sheet of white snow.  I love snow blowing the driveway (crazy, I know, but I do). I love watching Izzy pounce in the deep snow, and every time the horses run through the snow, I hear those bells from the "Man from Snowy River" movie in my head. You know the scene I'm talking about?

So while I'm watching my friends post stories about hating the snow and wishing the storm would pass... I'm slightly jealous to have missed it. 

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Day #7 - Music

Music was a big part of my life growing up. I loved music. As an adult, every calling in the church has had something to do with music. And I have a feeling that trend will continue.

I couldn't wait for Brielle to start taking piano lessons. I wanted her to enjoy music as much as I had growing up. Well, it didn't go as planned. She hated it and suddenly music became a source of tension in our home. Little did I know, she wanted to develop her own musical talent... Not live through or recreate mine.

I love listening to Brielle play the violin. I love hearing music in our home daily. I love hearing her improve and watching her learn. When i was young, my dad used to tell me he loved hearing me play, and now I know exactly how he felt.

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Day #8 - Home Cooked Meals

It's when your away, eating theme park food multiple days in a row, that's making me crave a good, home cooked meal. Like my mom's BowTie Pasta with Chicken and Sundried Tomatoes, or my Grandma's Lasagna. Or maybe even just my creamy Chicken and Wild Rice soup. Eating out and trying new things (like shrimp or crab nachos) is fun, but there is nothing more comforting than a simple home cooked meal. 

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Day #9 - Non-Smoking Laws in Utah

It's the simple things, really. Like being able to walk down the sidewalk without walking through a puff of cigarette smoke, or walk through a park without feeling as though you've smoked a whole pack of cigarettes yourself. I'm beginning to think that everyone in Orlando smokes, and it makes me miss Utah.

In Utah, you can't smoke in any public place, including restaurants. There's no need to hold your breath when you come across a smoker(s), because, well, you're not likely to come across a smoker. Utah laws prevent that, which is one of many reasons I'm grateful to live in such a wonderful state.


30 Days of Gratitude - Day #4

Day #4 - Good Neighbors

"A good neighbor is someone who smiles at you over the back fence, but doesn't cross it." 
-- Auther Baer

And so this used to be the case.  But not anymore.  My neighbors:
  1. Bring us treats
  2. Invite us to dinner
  3. Bring us soup when we are sick
  4. Fertilize our pasture arch out for Ms. Brielle
  5. And so much more
And one of the best things our neighbors do is take care of our place in our absence. This includes feeding and caring for our animals without hesitation or question.  As is the case right now while we're on vacation.  And sometimes they even do it when we are home! 

We have been blessed with the most wonderful, caring, loving and friendly neighbors for whom I couldn't be more grateful.


30 Days of Gratitude - Day #3

Day #3 - Family Vacations

"It isn't How much time you spend somewhere that makes it memorable; it's how your spend the time." -- Author Unknown 

These next several days, these posts will be short and not as detailed. The reason being the topic of my next gratitude post. 

If you're the Kardashian's, family vacations are filled with private jets, luxury hotels, fine dining and private beaches abroad.  But we are not the Kardashian's. Our family vacations involve coach seats (next to smelly, annoying, snoring people), small hotel rooms and cheap food.  Not to mention, a family fight or two. But come on, what would a vacation be without everyone getting on each others nerves?

Our family has been lucky to travel to some amazing places the past few years, and I'm enjoying every minute of it.  As Brielle gets older, the types of activities she wants to do is changing... from carousels to roller coasters, or princesses to Space centers. Our vacations aren't glamorous, but they're some of the best memories I have with my family.

Right now, we're in Orlando and I can't wait to blog about our trip!  


30 Days of Gratitude - Day #2

Day #2 - My Job

I love my job.  I love the pay!
I love it more and more each day.
I love my boss, he is the best!
I love his boss and all the rest.

I love my office and its location.  I hate to have to go on vacation.
I love my furniture, drab and grey, and piles of paper that grow each day!
I think my job is swell, there's nothing else I love so well.
I love to work among my peers, I love their leers and jeers and sneers.
I love my computer and its software; I hug it often though it won't care.
I love each program and every file, I'd love them more if they worked a while.

I'm happy to be here.  I am.  I am.
I'm the happiest slave of the Firm, I am.
I love this work.  I love these chores.
I love the meetings with deadly bores.
I love my job - I'll say it again - I even love those friendly men.
Those friendly men who've come today, in clean white coast to take me away!!!"

--Dr. Seuss

In all seriousness, I feel extremely lucky.  Each and every day, I work with wonderful people, doing a job that I love.  I get paid well and the rewards for helping and working with the local REALTORS® far out-weigh whatever challenges present themselves.  And there are challenges with my job... but I welcome them.

I've had opportunities to form relationships across the state of Utah, and travel to places I never would go otherwise.  This job has changed my life for the better, and I feel that I'm a better person doing this work. 

My job has blessed my life and the life of my family.  I am thankful for my job.


30 Days of Gratitude - Day #1

"Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, 
at least we learned a little; and if we didn't learn a little, 
at least we didn't get sick; and if we did get sick, at least we didn't die; 
so let us all be thankful."  -- Hindu Prince Gautama Siddharta

It's November, can you believe it?  The season is quickly changing and the holidays (aka Christmas -- there, I said it) is quickly approaching.  The last few months have been a sprint for me, with so much going on at work and at home.  This month, life will slow down a bit, and for that, I am grateful.

I don't wish to offend anyone, but I hate loathe cringe when asked to publicly state over Thanksgiving dinner what I'm grateful for.  One... you put me on the spot, and I'm bound to say something dumb.  And two... I'm grateful for so many things, and you want me to pick just one?  But I do look forward to any opportunity to reflect on my many, many blessings.  

This November, starting today, I'm going to think of something each day of the month that I consider a blessing in my life.  Some days, I may share two.  And before anyone gets sassy, sharing publicly on my blog is NOT the same as sharing publicly in person.  It is different.

30 days... 30 posts about "gratitude."

Day #1 - My Families Health

It seems my family has been sick a lot lately.  The stomach flu swept through our house leaving nothing but destruction in its path.  Then, the hubs was diagnosed with bronchial pneumonia.  Being that Brielle was diagnosed with pneumonia at exactly this time last year, I am so grateful that 97% of the year, my family is healthy.

We have no lingering illness that causes our family stress or suffering.  We do not need daily doses of medication or medical treatment like so many people we know.  Sure, I don't want the flu, who does?  But if that's all I get, I'll take it.

And with that... being that we are family of un-insured's, I'm grateful that we were blessed with the financial means to pay for a broken arm and a few prescriptions of anti-biotics.