We had our annual service auction in the branch on Saturday. Food was eaten, fun was had. In that food and fun debauchery, we also managed to provide enough food for at least 15 families this coming Thanksgiving. I managed to score a photo shoot from a friend, Scott Kipphut (check out his Facebook site), and donated a five course Italian feast to be cooked by yours truly. The great part is that I would have cooked it anyway, and now I get to do it with friends.
Lisa has quite a bit going on with the stake young women. With super Saturdays, young women in excellence and other things, I sometimes get to see her, if I go to young women's activities. Life goes on. It is good. Even though it seems as if our life tends towards the non-stop cool and not-so-cool action, we have fun. What can I say. As fall fades slowly and gradually into winter, here are my words of wisdom for the day. Don't eat yellow snow.
A little over a week ago, Lisa and I voyaged through the beautiful, bucolic setting of western New York and eastern Pennsylvania on our way to the big city. The leaves were pretty, like this one, except that there were lots of them.
While we were in the city, we were able to engage in two of our favorite activities. Lisa got to shop and I got to eat. We are quite the team. We also met up for the day with Paige Hobby, Kimball's wife, who was visiting her family in western Canada (I'm a little vague on exactly where, so I'll say Calgary) and some cousins in NYC. We laughed a lot. Made fun of Kimball a lot, and wished that he was there to hear us making fun of him.
I'm the big bald one in the middle.
I've reached the tipping point of more hair on my face than on my head. I wonder if there's a support group for that? I like this group's motto, "If you can see skin, you're in!" I digress. I think we walked about 30 miles in one day, and it was on Dan speed (that was Kimball's cousin's husband, who was gracious enough to act as tour guide all over the city, wearing his hardcore Vibram shoes, that propelled him at slightly less than race car speed down the sidewalks) but that was good, because it helped burn off the 10,000 calories that I consumed during the day. Fun times were had by all, as we cruised through central park, Washington Square Park and too many stores to name. Thanks Paige for traveling more than 10,000 miles to see us. Wow. I used 10,000 twice (now three times) in a couple of lines. One was hyperbole, the other was me being a dork to look up how far it was from Sydney to Calgary to NYC. I make my wife proud.
In other news, Wyoming is 4-3. I think they'll knock off either Utah, BYU, or TCU. Here's to hoping it's BYU. That is all.
On Saturday we were driving around in the pastoral (that one is for you Kimball) Finger Lakes area of western New York enjoying the brilliant blue sky and the beginning of changing leaves. The very definition of relaxation. It wasn't until we got home that Lisa put the weekend (at least up until that point) in perspective.
You see, we had gone dancing the night before at a country western bar with some friends, because we knew one of the members of the band and wanted to go and support. On Saturday as we traveled along the scenic Seneca Lake, one of my motives was to visit a few of the many wineries on the lake. This one is our favorite. We've gone there the last couple of years to get some of the best grape juice (and yes I do mean grape juice and not "grape juice") that I've ever had. While on this scenic tour, we also got some pumpkins, homemade candies, cheese curds, fabric for some quilting projects and some wine.
After our adventurous day, Lisa made the comment that I had treated her to a first-rate conference weekend so far. On Friday we went dancing at a bar and Saturday we spent part of the day at wineries and bought some wine. What a great way to prepare for spiritual feasting. When put that way, I think it paints a not so flattering picture of me and what I put my wife through, although to be honest she was a willing participant. Truth be told, if given the chance to redeem myself, I'd probably do it all over again.
And just so you don't think too many bad thoughts about me, I did buy the wine solely for cooking.
It was a good weekend of sunny-ness and being outside and BBQing. We served in the temple Saturday morning and then served as chef and chef-ess at some friends' laid-back reception. We cook a mean hamburger and hotdog. Sunday was equally as beautiful. Leaves starting to change. Bright blue sky. Church meetings at the Hill Cumorah. Then even more BBQ goodness. White hots. Yum.
Naps were taken, relaxation occurred. Life is good.
We worked over the kitchen, see Lisa's post here, because I'm too lazy to write one myself. We refinished cabinets, fixed some walls, moved appliances, painted, put up wallpaper, refinished light fixtures, put in a new light fixture and replaced old blinds. It ended up looking good, and was more work than I thought it would be.
We went to Cape Cod, but you already knew that, because that is the one thing that I did post about. It was fun.
We went camping with 20 teenage girls in the Adirondacks and called it Young Women's High Adventure/Drama. I have learned that if you put that many teenage girls together for a long enough time period, drama is a natural consequence. It's kind of like when you mix two hydrogens with one oxygen, you get water. Maybe I could write an equation representing this phenomena and patent it. Again, because I'm too lazy, here is Lisa's version of the events, with lots of nice pictures. It was a fun time, I got to fish and be outside in the mountains (hills) of the Adirondacks. The day we went on our long hike (10 miles) our big group splintered into three smaller groups of slow, medium and fast paced. Lisa stuck with the slow group, not because she is slow, but to encourage and push them on. I went with fast group, which consisted of three girls who were all runners. They wanted to run. The whole way. Up the the mountain. I made it to the top with them, but I could hardly walk the next day, and it took me a good week to be back to normal. What happened to the days of playing basketball for five hours and getting up the next day and doing it again?!
We made a quick trip to Utah for my grandma's memorial service. It was good to be able to see lots of family, especially on my dad's side, that I hadn't seen in 15 years, and some for even longer. It was a nice, simple service. I also got to meet and try and intimidate Katie's boyfriend Jameson. I know what you're thinking. Very intimidating. It looks like he will be a permanent addition to the family, so I was mostly nice. We had a lot of fun with my whole family together, which doesn't happen too often as we are all spread out pretty good. I also discovered on this trip why red eye flights are cheaper. They're awful. We left SLC at 1am going to Atlanta. Airlines already pack you in like sardines, and I'm not the smallest sardine in the can, so trying to catch a few minutes sleep was no small accomplishment. We finally got back to Rochester about noon and promptly crashed for the next six hours. Red eye flights = yuck. Again, look at Lisa's post.
We started the mandatory training courses (30 hours) to become foster/adoptive parents in New York State. It has been an interesting journey, leading up to the point of even starting this process, and then in the classes as well. The classes have generated lots of good fodder for many discussions in the Packer home as we work through wanting children, not being able to have any right now, and how we are going about trying to rectify that. We should be certified by the end of this month, so there are possible big changes coming to our home.
I've read lots of books this summer, gone on walks with my wife, tied flies for the upcoming fall fishing season, gone to baseball games, and spent a lot of time at work and at church, or church related functions. We've had a lot of BBQ, planted some new flowers and tried to get the grass to grow better under the maple trees. I'm open to suggestions on that last one.
It has been a satisfying summer, although I must admit that I can't believe that it is already gone. But that's OK, because the greatest season is now upon us. College Football Season (also known by many as fall). Besides football, I'm also excited for fall leaves/scenery/food. It's going to be a really busy fall for us, with a plethora of church activities awaiting, but we are looking forward to a trip to NYC the third weekend of October, and then maybe some family visiting for Thanksgiving, before we head back to the land of promise for the holidays. Lest there be any confusion as to where the land of promise is (although I'm not sure how anyone could mix this up), it's Wyoming.
and made tinfoil dinners the first day. Then on the fourth, we saw an old light house,
whales, interesting people, walked in the Provincetown Bay and found shells, ate incredible fish and chips and watched fireworks from the beach.
On the fifth, we mostly just relaxed and laid on the beach, played in the water, saw some seals, caught fish out of the ocean, and watched a picture perfect sunset. The only bad part of the whole trip was that unfortunately, we had to come home.
We now have to get back to the normal flow of life. We met with the home finding service for foster care/adoption in Monroe County last week, and we start with our mandatory classes this week. We have ten weeks of classes and lots of paperwork before we can be certified, so we will see what happens. It is exciting to think of having a child in our home by the end of this year. Maybe that is pushing it a little bit, but we'll have faith. Life is good.
Work has also been rather intense for me as late. In trying to be more economically minded, there have been many new projects added to what I was already managing. That means a lot more work. That is a good thing, but if anyone ever figures out where to pick up extra time, I could definitely use some. That has been my life lately. All in all, pretty good.
So I think they should have an entirely different course about listening. Not only would this help to facilitate the general increase of communication skills of UW Alumni, but it would also be an extra class that the University could require and force people to take, meaning more $$$. Had I taken such a wonderful course, then I would be much better prepared to face the rigors of daily life and actually listen to the people around me, instead of simply hearing the words coming out of their mouths. I don't mean to imply that I have absolutely zero skills in listening, I can occasionally muster up my powers of hearing beyond the spoken word to accomplish what is commonly known as "reading between the lines". As Lisa can attest to, it doesn't happen often.
This leads me back to the original intention of this blog post. I need to listen better. I will go out on a limb and say that a lot of couples are like Lisa and I, we occasionally argue. I know, hard to believe, but it is true. We disagree about things, and then when we talk (sometimes more loudly than others) about them, I think that I am right, at least that is how I feel. I tend to think that if I could just explain to Lisa so that she understood how I felt, and why I did something the way I did, then enlightenment would be reached, the argument would dissolve and the bliss often referred to as wedded would once again descend and cover up my imperfections. If she just understood, all would be well (I once made the mistake of telling my dear sweet wife that she needed to be more understanding. That did not go over well. If anyone out there is ever tempted to say something similar to your wife. Don't.). I need to listen. What I want others to do for me (try and understand my thinking) I typically don't think to reciprocate until it is too late. I know. Not really a mind blowing conclusion that I've reached. Other people want understanding too, just like me. I think this is the root cause of 80% of the arguments that I get into (which tend to be with Lisa, no one else is around me enough, also 42.7% of all statistics are made up). The other 20% of the arguments occur because I stop listening and start trying to fix. That is also a mistake, and a whole discussion in and of itself. I'll save it for another time. So the moral of the story is to take a course on listening in college. If you have already graduated from college or have never attended college and don't plan on it, I don't know what to tell you. Good luck.
*teaching you Italian one word at a time
We stayed at this great B&B on Seneca Lake on the way down to Gettysburg. The Fox and the Grapes was a beautiful old house that we had all to ourselves while we were there.
While in the Finger Lakes, we took a quick hike to Taughannock Falls, a beautiful falls of 215 ft. No picture of the falls, just Lisa, Steve and Vera walking along the trail.
Outside the Gettysburg Museum.
Lisa overlooking the field through which General Pickett and his men charged the center of the Union line.
Little Round Top
This is close to the area where the 20th Maine made it's stand at the far left flank of the Union Army and held.
The hole in the barn is from a canon ball.
We found this covered bridge just outside of the city.
We spent a few hours on a very packed train to get there, and then hauled our luggage onto a vaporetto and then dragged them through the streets to our little B&B, the Ca' Riccio. After we changed, we grabbed another boat and went out to visit the islands of Murano and Burano,which are known for their glass and lace work.
It was great to walk around and see all of the little shops. We continued our streak of shopping success, managing to pick up a couple of hand made vases, some linens, and a little blessing dress.
That night we got a good dinner recommendation and had a fabulous meal of gnocchi and tagliatelle all'aragosta. After dinner we walked around the Grand Canal and the shops by the Rialto Bridge.
There is so much to see and do in Venice that it was hard to try and cram it all in, in only a few days. We went through a few markets, walked through la Piazza San Marco,
saw the Doge's Palace, walked over many bridges, but most notably il Ponte dei Sospiri. I think the highlight of that day was our ride in a gondola through the back streets and down the Grand Canal. It was amazing to see all of the old buildings that have had to vacate the ground floor due to the water levels. Our gondoliere was great to point out the different styles of architecture and interesting facts about the buildings as well. A gondola ride in Venice, what a great way to end our trip.
We started our long trip home from Venice, and from when we checked out of Ca' Riccio, we spent about the next 48 hours traveling. We took a vaporetto to Lido, then a bus/ferry to Pellestrina, and finally another vaporetto to Chioggia. There we were met by Nadia and her daughter Elena and spent the afternoon with them. It was great to see Elena, who was 7 months pregnant at the time, and her husband Cristian. All too soon it was time to depart and they drove us to the train station in Padova where we said goodbye and then waited for our overnight train to Rome. The next morning from Rome we caught our flight home to Rochester via JFK in New York City. Now all we can talk about it wanting to go back. Anyone wants to pay, we'll be tour guides!
After dinner, we piled into their tiny car and drove out to a tiny town, Borghetto, and just enjoyed the evening walking around, taking pictures and shopping. Lisa got a little bag and we bought some gelato.
It was a very nice evening, and got rather funny on the way home. We weren't too far from Verona, but it was dark, and the Gaspari couple was a little older and he had a slight problem seeing in the dark. He was getting mad at the other cars that were driving around us and talking about how awful the other drivers were, and it was really him. He was driving so slow and really couldn't see where he was going. It was sad, but also kind of funny. He left his brights on to help him see and all of the other cars kept honking at him to get him to turn them off, and that just made him madder and yell about the lack of respect from other drivers. Again, kind of sad but also funny. He was a nice old man to be so good to us, I hope we didn't wear him out too much. We finally got home after several hours of driving around and taking wrong turns and trying to figure out where we were. About 1:40 am, the TV suddenly came to life for seemingly no apparent reason and it was REALLY loud. Random.
The next day, we walked around the entire city with our gracious host acting as a tour guide. It was really amazing, he gave us a running narrative about everything we were seeing, from how the city was constructed, when, why, and by who. There is quite the incredible history to the city. Part of Verona's fame comes from Billy the writer and his story of star-crossed lovers.
We made a stop by Juliet's house and saw her balcony and her statue. Her statue was kind of interesting in that her breasts are very well polished because it is supposed to be good luck to rub them. Can't say that it has worked.
After our fabulous tour, we headed back to nap and get ready for a great night out. One of the big attractions to Verona is the Arena di Verona, and we were visiting right in the peak of opera season.
The Gaspari family had gotten us tickets to that night's performance of Il Nabucco by Verdi. Wow. How do you describe sitting in a 2000 year old stadium, watching an opera written by one of the most famous composers ever? You don't. All I can say is it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I think that the most incredible part for me, was the performance of Va' Pensiero. It was one of my favorite moments of the entire trip, and an incredible finish to our stay in Verona.
Lisa overlooking the center of Verona.
The next day, Thursday, I had an appointment with Strong Orthopaedics where they took x-rays of my left knee which has been really bothering me lately. It was taking me several days to recover from playing basketball or something similar, so I finally went in. They couldn't tell anything for certain, so I went in the next day for an MRI. I get to go back in the next couple of weeks in order to see what is wrong and what will have to be done.
It was definitely a week in which I gave generously to the medical establishment. You're welcome, all of my doctor friends. Just doing my part to keep the medical industry up and running smoothly in spite of the economic downturn.
Lisa on Lake Como going up to Bellagio.
Approaching Bellagio from the western leg of the lake.
Lisa on the streets of Bellagio.
Lisa and I from a park in Bellagio looking north along the lake towards the Swiss Alps.
Lisa on Lake Como.
The magic of Italian pasticcini and me.
Lisa on the trip home.
We spent one day in Milano with me playing the tour guide to Lisa. I think my favorite part of being with Lisa in Italy was just how excited she was to see and hear and yes, taste everything. We spent most of the time in Milano running from site to site.
We started in the Piazza del Duomo and walked through the Galleria, a huge shopping center before going over to the Duomo di Milano and walking in, around and up to the top of it. It has some pretty spectacular architecture and quite the history. We took lots of photos and had some beautiful views of the city with the Alps in the background. For lunch we went and ate at Luini's. How does one explain the magical amazingness that is known as Luini's? Luini's sells panzerotti, the original pizza pocket, like a mini calzone. Just think of homemade dough, great cheeses, meats and sauces all rolled up into one and then baked. Drool. We used to the love eating there as missionaries and I wasn't disappointed when Lisa and I went. Panzerotti and aranciata sanguinella (blood red orange soda). We ate our exquisite cuisine overlooking La Scala before meandering off to Europe's most expensive street, Via MonteNapoleone. We were quite appalled at the expensive fashion on display in the windows. I think Lisa's favorite was a handbag in one of the windows, but she was out of luck as the price tag was 12,900 Euro. The rest of the day was spent walking through Castello Sforzesco, Parco Sempione and shopping on Corso Buenos Aires.
During our stay in the center of the Po River Valley, we talked and talked and talked with Nadia and Emanuele. Nadia was baptized while I was serving in Monza and she kind of adopted me. Her husband, Emanuele never joined the church but was really supportive of Nadia. It was somewhat surreal being there with Lisa. I have so many memories inside of their home, and with them, that are tied to being a missionary, so it was strange to be there and experience that with Lisa.
Nadia spent a day with us, as a guide to the fabulous city of Monza. We went to the Villa Reale in Parco Monza and walked through the city center as Nadia gave us a running history of the area. It was great just to be there and see familiar sites. It is not the prettiest part of Italy, not by a long shot, but it is my Italian home. I love it in that little city north of Milano.
About a month ago I posted about our time in Cinque Terre, the fifth stop on our magical Italy tour (all Beatles songs performed in Italian). As we embarked from Florence to go to Vernazza (one of the five towns comprising the Cinque Terre), Lisa was treated to an authentic Italian train strike. The cool authentic experience involved lots of sitting around in the train station in Florence, trying to figure out how we were going to get to Cinque Terre.
Lisa loves hydrangeas and saw them all over Italy. She even learned how to say it in Italian, ortensia.
One neat experience occurred as we were sitting on the rocks overlooking the waves and eating gelato. The waves were particularly rough that day, and there were some large breakers crashing down on the rocks and concrete dividers protecting the little harbor in front of the city. These three local guys came out to entertain all of us tourists by going out on the concrete divider, waiting for the waves to recede, and then leaping off into the ocean! It was rather amazing to watch. They would ride the waves as the water level at the divider would fluctuate by about 10 feet or so, and then when a really big wave came along, they would ride it right back onto the divider, seemingly walking out of the wave and back onto the concrete. I apologize for my lack of ability in describing the spectacle, because it really was incredible to watch.
Some of the great waves breaking just inside the little harbor.
Vernazza so far is my favorite place in all of Italy, and if I had to choose just one place to go, it would be Vernazza.
A slightly off-kilter view of the backside of Vernazza.
Here I am at sunset, at the opening of the little harbor.
Vernazza from the water.
This is another great shot of Lisa. It's very similar to the one from San Gimignano, except that we changed the background for this one.