A Ronald McDonald House Evening

This weekend I attended the annual fundraising event for our local Ronald McDonald Houses here in Salt Lake City, and it was a nice evening. It was a silent auction, dinner, and dance, and several other representatives from Stampin’ Up! were there as well—it’s always nice to socialize outside of the office with people I work with.

Sterling was out of town, so he didn’t attend. That meant that I ducked out about the time the dancing started because I had no dancing partner, but the rest of the evening was enjoyable. The silent auction was very successful, with lots of great items available. I always like to see the bidding go high because the cause is so worthwhile! Dinner was delicious, and as I mentioned, the company was great!

Stampin’ Up! has earned money in the past for a variety of philanthropic efforts; however, the one organization we have actually sponsored  for the past five years has been the Ronald McDonald House Charities. We donate money and cards made by our demonstrators every year, as well as overseeing Stampin’ Up! demonstrator teams that volunteer at local Houses.

The Executive Director of the Salt Lake House came over and talked to me at the event this weekend, mentioning how much they enjoyed the regular stamping activities that our demonstrators organize. Her gratitude reminded me why we got involved in the first place!

Part of the program included a short video presentation that told the story of some families who had been guests at the House. Of course, I teared up! I’m grateful that the Ronald McDonald Houses across the world offer the families of sick children a place to call home, and I’m honored to be involved. I know that many of you are involved on our local teams as well, and I thank you for serving at the Houses.

Two Days of Delight

Everybody has a yearning to create, and the last two days I’ve been able to fulfill that yearning for the first time in weeks. I’m working on projects for my Main Stage presentation during the Australia convention, and spending the time in my stamp studio has been a sheer delight!

Sterling left yesterday to go on a horse ride (his first in weeks), and I’ve been home alone. I can play the music I want to listen to, stay up late without feeling guilty, and stamp to my heart’s content with absolutely no interruptions and without feeling rushed. (I might feel differently by Monday when I’m trying to wrap things up and make my flight!)

I enjoy the journey of creativity, mixing and matching things and hoping they’ll coordinate, trying new techniques, and coming up with different ideas. I think what I love most about creating is the sense of accomplishment when you look at a finished project and like what you see.

I’ve experienced several a-ha moments, when I’ve discovered a little tip or trick that makes something easier or unexpected. I’m looking forward to sharing a bunch of those during convention. I won’t be able to show my projects here—we reserve convention projects for convention attendees only—but I just finished a thank-you card for the employees who we let go last week that I can share.

Obviously, I couldn’t be in more than one place at a time, so I wasn’t able to thank people in person, but I wanted to at least send a card to thank them for all they did for us. 

Sterling comes back tonight, and while I love having him home, I must admit I’ve sure enjoyed these past two days.  It just doesn’t get much better than stamping and stitching and tearing and gathering to your heart’s content!

A Bunch of Reasons to Love Seattle

I loved spending this weekend in the Seattle area—for the obvious reasons shown above, of course. But there are a bunch of other reasons as well. . .

Monday Was Saturday: I don’t remember a Saturday in the past many weeks when I’ve been able to relax and wind down (isn’t that what Saturdays are supposed to be for?), and today (Monday) I finally enjoyed one of those days. There was nothing on the agenda, nothing on my to-do list, no deadlines looming or urgent issues hanging. I simply hung out with my family and loved every minute.

Sunshine and Seventy Degrees: That never happens on the Washington coast! Or at least in the many times I’ve visited! It was so nice and warm that we went out on the trampoline and watched the kids perform. Each one had a trick or two; even Stella did a rollover. We applauded and laughed and soaked in the sun, instead of the rain.

Feeling Special: When we went to church yesterday, there wasn’t an empty bench that we all could fit on, so we split up, with Sidney and me sitting on one bench, and everyone else sitting on the bench behind. As the meeting progressed, one by one, each of the grandchildren came up to sit by Grandma (except for baby Stella, of course). It felt great to be wanted and loved!

Movies and Snuggling; As I mentioned above, I didn’t have an agenda or a to-do list this weekend. So when we watched a movie last night, I snuggled with grandchildren instead of finishing a project or doing something else to keep my hands occupied.

Long Washington Walks: This morning Sara and I, each pushing a stroller, went on a walk for more than an hour. We killed three birds with one stone, so to speak. We got some great exercise, we connected and communicated (not that Sara and I ever have a problem with that!), and we got the two youngest children out in the sunshine (they sang and chattered the whole time as well!).

The Bahama Breeze Tradition: We continued our tradition at the Bahama Breeze, one of our favorite restaurants. It’s near the airport, so we often eat there with Sara and Sean and the kids. If we’re traveling through the area but don’t have enough time to go to their house, they’ll jump in the car and we’ll be able to at least get together for a meal. And if we’ve been staying with them, it’s where we eat our last meal, because it’s close enough to the airport that you know you’ll be able to make your flight and so you can relax and enjoy those last few minutes.

The weekend was glorious, and I feel ready for tomorrow. I don’t remember when I’ve been ready for a work day. Not that I hate work days—I almost always enjoy heading into work—but tonight I actually feel ready. I definitely needed my weekend in Washington!

Spitting in Seattle

I’ve spent this weekend in Seattle. I’ve missed the last two regionals, and this is the last one for the year, so I was so grateful to be here.

When we got up Friday morning, it was raining outside, so those of us from the home office checked out umbrellas from the hotel and began walking the couple of blocks to the regional site. Along the way we met a demonstrator, who smiled at us and said it was obvious we were not locals, and not just because we were hiding under hotel umbrellas, but because we had umbrellas in the first place. Apparently, it wasn’t really raining—it was only “spitting.” And true Washingtonians don’t even use umbrellas when it’s just spitting. I’ll try to keep that in mind for next time! (smile)

Saturday the weather was sunny and beautiful, so we got to leave our umbrellas behind!

The regional itself was fabulous. I love being with our demonstrators. The energy was high, there were great presentations, and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute.

For my onstage presentation, I focused on the matchbox die—showing several different project ideas. I love this die because it’s so quick and easy, and you can do so much with it!

I stayed here in the Seattle area so I could spend some time with Sara and Sean and their family. I’ll share more of that tomorrow.

A Response

I don’t usually respond to comments on my blog, other than every once in awhile to answer questions you ask. But tonight I felt like I had to get on and respond to some of the comments that have been posted in response to yesterday’s blog.

First, I feel badly that one thing I said yesterday was misunderstood. When I talked about how glad I was it was over, I was referring (I thought very specifically) to the actual day. Yesterday was a terrible day in many people’s lives, and I hope we never have to repeat it.

I realize that the whole experience is not over. The consequences of what took place yesterday will affect many people, in many ways, and nothing I say will make that any easier. I’m sorry if I offended or hurt anyone by my comments.

Second, I have tried so hard throughout this very difficult situation to express my genuine sorrow and concern, and to make sure everything was handled respectfully, appreciatively, and fairly. I ask you to do the same. As it says on the first page of my blog, I invite you to share your thoughts, but please keep them appropriate. That doesn’t mean you can’t be honest—I’m a big girl and I can handle criticism. But I would appreciate it if you could share your concerns respectfully.

For those who have expressed encouragement and support (even though you don’t understand the decisions that were made), I thank you. I was touched as I read your comments and sweet expressions of love and understanding. I can’t tell you how much they mean to me.

Our demonstrators are why we do what we do. You are at the heart of every decision we make, every step we take. I understand that it may be difficult to understand, without knowing everything that was taken into consideration, why we made the decisions we made. I thank you for your trust and support, and I promise you it is not misplaced.

A Dismal Day

When I went to bed last night, it was raining—hard. It rained all night long, and when I got up this morning it was still raining. The sky was overcast and gray. And I thought to myself, if ever there was a day that could be dark and dreary, today is that day. It seemed entirely appropriate that the weather was dismal.

Today we finished what we started several weeks ago when we announced layoffs. We (meaning Stampin’ Up! corporate team members, directors, managers, and HR representatives) met with over 50 employees to tell them they were no longer working for Stampin’ Up!

There's really not much more to say about today, other than it was extremely emotional and difficult for everyone--and I'm so glad it's over! We let a lot of people go, people we've worked with for years in some cases, people we care about, people we love. Please say a prayer for our friends and their families.

Bolo Ties and Thanks

Since Grandpa Great’s funeral, I’ve been thinking about a thank-you card to send to those who donated to the Kanab City Park (a project he invested a lot of time in years ago, which the Gardner family is in the midst of renovating), sent flowers, or participated in other ways. I haven’t spent a ton of time, but I’ve spent enough time talking and thinking about it that Sterling asked me why I was going to so much bother. “Just make a simple card,” he said.

But what my darling sweetheart doesn’t understand is that I’m creating this card not just for Uke (although I believe he’ll see it and appreciate it) but also for me. This is perhaps one of the last opportunities I’ll have to express my love and appreciation for this dear man, so I want the card to be just right.

So here’s what I came up with.

Let me explain a little. Uke wore bolo ties most of his life during the week (he wore regular knotted ties to church). The braided hemp on the card is reminiscent of that type of tie. you may not have recognized that right off, but now that you know what I was going for, I hope you’ll humor me and say that that’s EXACTLY what it looks like! (smile)

The paper is Parisian Breeze Specialty DSP, which is one of my absolute favorites. While you wouldn’t think it was a terribly masculine pattern, there are enough stripes and plaids to work for this design. And then when I add a photo of Grandpa Great (I wanted people to picture him in their minds when they received the card, so I helped out with a visual), I think this card accomplishes what I wanted.

I’m looking forward to sending these to people who meant a lot to Grandpa and who continue to mean a lot to us!

An Art Show to Remember

We took a quick trip down to St. George yesterday—down and back in one day. That’s a lot of hours on the road, but it was worth it. We went down to attend a very important art show featuring a very important photographer—our son-in-law Jon Brown (who is married to Shalae)!

As I’ve mentioned before, Jon graduated this year with a degree in photography, and he’s heading to graduate school this fall. To celebrate, Stampin’ Up!’s legal counsel and firm (Jones Waldo) offered to host an art show during St. George’s annual art festival. They did a wonderful job—designing, printing, and mailing out postcard invitations, advertising the show, setting things up, arranging for delicious hors d’oeuvres. . . it was fabulous!

Of course, it was all the backdrop to a wonderful art show with (as one attendee said—not me, by the way!) “not your average art—this is extraordinary!” Jon went to Italy on a study abroad program last summer and took tons of photos, and he’s done some amazing things with those photos. He had lots of them looped on a DVD that ran throughout the show, but then he took several of the photos and transferred them to different media, such as fabric, vellum, or paper with colors. The result was stunning. (Here are just a few of his pieces.)

The show lasted through today (although the law firm is going to keep the pieces up for awhile), and several of them sold. One man from Italy came in yesterday and then returned today; he purchased my favorite (Weathered Venice) to give to his wife, also Italian, for Easter.

Jon’s birthday was also yesterday, so after the show, the four of us went out for dinner and celebrated. We didn’t leave St. George until quite late, which meant we didn’t arrive home until even later (it’s about a four-hour trip), but it was time well spent with Jon and Shalae—it was the highlight of the week. 

Giacomo's 2nd Birthday Party

A couple of weeks ago, Amy Swartz, our vice president of marketing at Stampin' Up!, showed me some projects she was creating for her son Giacomo's upcoming birthday. I fell in love with them, and asked her to guest blog and share her creations with us once the party was over.

I love an excuse for a party. And a party with a great theme that runs through every element of the party is even better! So months prior to the big event, I started thinking about what the perfect theme for Giacomo’s 2nd birthday party might be. Luckily, the first theme that came to mind--Noah's ark--was a winner. 

So the next step was the invitation. To make the ark, I used the Wild About You stamp set, the striped paper in the Parisian Breeze Specialty Designer Series Paper pack, Chocolate Chip and Close to Cocoa textured card stock, Antique Brass Jumbo Eyelets, and (discontinued…sorry!) Chocolate Chip felt ribbon from the Ribbon Originals.

Giacomo loves animals – all animals—so Noah had many types of animals on his ark. I used every animal in the Wild About You set and rotated them on the individual invitations. And because Giacomo was turning two, there had to be two of each animal, plus no naked envelopes!

Once the invitations were in the mail, I started work on the decorations and party favors. I created a banner, party hats, and personalized name tags. Parents were also invited, so there had to be a little something for them.  

I just had to do something else with the ark used for the invitations, so I came up with a little mobile that hung above the fabulous Noah’s Ark cake (which I did not make!).  

And  Noah was kind enough to let one of his pony’s come to the birthday party too!  

A Weekend of Celebration

Well, considering I haven’t written for an entire week, I really don’t have a lot to say! We spent last week primarily focused on one thing—planning Grandpa Great’s funeral. We wanted it to be a wonderful celebration of a wonderful man’s life and legacy, and I hope it was.

Uke’s funeral was Saturday, and the weather forecast predicted a cold, snowy day. I was thrilled when we woke up Saturday to a beautiful, clear, sunny sky. While it was brisk, it was lovely—and so much better than we’d expected.

His services were sweet, funny, and short; everyone who participated did a wonderful job. One of his oldest granddaughters gave a life sketch, and both Sterling and I learned a few things. Sterling’s brother-in-law gave a tribute on the influence Uke had had on him, and Sterling’s remarks focused on the lessons he’d learned from his dad.

The younger grandchildren sang “I Am a Child of God,” and the closing song was “There Is Sunshine in My Soul Today,” the only song Grandpa Great ever sang at church during the time he lived with us. I think it was because he couldn’t see very well, and it was the only church song he had memorized. It may have been an unusual choice for a funeral, but I am certain Grandpa had sunshine in his soul that day as he was with his Maker and reunited with many loved ones who had gone before.

The services were short—an hour and five minutes to be exact—which we think Grandpa would have liked. And after a touching graveside service as well, his family and dear friends gathered together at our Stampin’ Up! facilities in Kanab for a late lunch/early dinner and to celebrate Grandpa Great. It was so pleasant to hang around and chat, sharing stories and visiting. By the time everyone left and we cleaned up, it was fairly late—but it had been a beautiful day, and certainly a fitting tribute to an amazing man.

Sunday was relaxing. We spent the day with family in Kanab and attending church in our jammies. That may sound unusual, but every six months my church has what is called “general conference,” when our main church leaders speak to members all over the world. There are several sessions throughout Saturday and Sunday, which are broadcast on television and the Internet. We had all agreed to stay in our pajamas and meet at my sister Vonna’s new house and watch together. It was a nice ending to the weekend.

Sterling and I left Kanab after the last session and got home late last night. It was different to come home without Grandpa—it will be an adjustment. But there is great joy in looking back at his life, and we are so grateful for the opportunity we’ve had to be so close to him the last six and a half years.