Happy Halloween!

We celebrated Halloween at the home office yesterday—the first Halloween festivities I’ve been able to attend in I don’t know how long. And all I can say is I hope to never miss another one. It was so much fun!

We have all kinds of activities, including a coloring contest for employees’ children, a pumpkin carving contest, a baking contest, and—of course—the traditional costume contests. We shake it up a bit, however, by having individual costume contests as well as department.

I love it when people get into it. And this year there were plenty of people who took things seriously—very seriously! We had several departments who worked together as a team, coming up with incredible ideas. The first-place winner was our product design and illustrators team, who dressed up as characters from Alice in Wonderland, complete with a full-scale flower garden and tea party!

Second place was our design department, which featured a Zoolander theme; they even put on a complete fashion show for us. (And can I just say there are a few of our photographers who have no shame! You know who you are! I couldn’t pay my husband a million bucks to put on the show you did!)

Third place was our marketing department, who entertained us all with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, complete with a chocolate fountain and an Oompa dance. Wonderful!

And get this. Our finance team even participated, complete with tattoos and full biker attire! Loved seeing these people, who are so often perceived as boring and a little strait-laced, get into the act.

We also had a group of Mac make-up artists (our concept artists) and food icons (our electronic demonstrator support, who dressed up  the Jolly Green Giant, Tony the Tiger, the Morton Salt girl, the Pillsbury Dough Boy, the Honey Nut Cheerioo Bee, and the Sun Maid Raisin girl).

And a lot of other employees dressed up individually as well--I can't even begin to name them all. I didn't get pictures of everyone, but I got a good sampling.

We also invite employees to bring their kids for an early trick-or-treat experience. The mostly younger children (dressed in their costumes, of course) wander from cubicle to cubicle, and many of the employees have candy to give them. It’s delightful to see these youngsters so enthralled with everything they see going on around them.

Most of the festivities took place around lunchtime, when we also hosted a soup bar (nothing is better when the weather is cold outside than soup, right?) and provided other tasty treats.

I realize it probably wasn’t our most productive day in terms of work done, but I did see people eventually settle down and I know deadlines were met and things were accomplished. And I’m a firm believer in working hard—and playing hard. We don’t play a lot around here, but when we do, we do it right!

I ran an errand this morning, and went to a store where a sister of one of our employees works. She told me that her sister had taken a lot of pictures yesterday, and she was showing them off last night. “I looked at her pictures, and listened to my sister talk about how much fun she had, and I wished I worked at a place like that!” this girl said.

Now that’s what I like to hear!

Fall Cleaning

I know many people do annual spring cleaning, and I have done that before. But this year for some reason (probably because I didn’t get my cleaning done in the spring!), I’ve been feeling a tremendous urge to fall clean.

I don’t remember ever having such a strong urge to organize before; it’s probably because Mom Pat is here and she’s helping me make so much progress. I leave in the morning to go to work, and when I come home, Mom has boxes for me to go through. She’s gone through piles and drawers and cupboards and closets and she’s gathered things together for me to go through. (I know, I know. I’m spoiled—and lucky—to have my mom available to help me with this!)

I love the feeling of becoming more organized. I’m actually by nature quite an organized person, but things have been so hectic and so much has been going on lately, that I’ve been slowly slipping into a bit of chaos. I’m a little bit proud that I can even function in chaos—there was a time in my life when I was so Type A that I wouldn’t have been able to. I’ve learned to relax and let go a little, and I like that I can do that. But I (and I think most of us) function better when I am in an organized, orderly environment.

So I enjoy making progress on getting organized. And while some of what Mom and I are doing is mundane and boring, even a little yucky, I know that we’re working toward a goal that is important—and exciting—to me.

I told my mom last night that she should move in for three months, and maybe by the end of that time I’d be on top of everything! As it is, I’m looking forward to what we can get done this week!

 

A Million-Dollar Visit

I’ve just wrapped up a wonderful few days, spent mostly with Lisa Fast, a million-dollar Stampin’ Up! demonstrator!

Lisa reached this milestone in July, and as is our tradition, we invited her to the home office to celebrate this significant achievement in style!

Our Events staff did everything they could to create an event that would be perfectly suited to Lisa. Her favorite colors—pink and brown—dominated the entire event, from invitation and pillow gifts to home office decorations (balloons and banners) and food tags. Everything we could make pink and brown, we did! (Check out the personalized M&M’s!)

 

Lisa arrived in Salt Lake on Wednesday morning and was whisked away to the hotel, where she and her guest (husband Verlyn) got to rest and relax a bit before heading to the home office. There, they were greeted by an impressive crowd of cheering, confetti-waving employees—and a cheesecake spread to die for! (Cheesecake is Lisa’s favorite dessert, and there were plenty of kinds and flavors to choose from!)

Wednesday night, Lisa and Verlyn went to dinner with the corporate team to a steakhouse in downtown Salt Lake City. Anyone who knows Lisa knows she’s a meat-and-potatoes girl, so we thought that might be the ideal dinner location.

At dinner, one of the corporate team members asked Lisa what she was going to do on Thursday. “Just hang out with Shelli,” she said.

And that’s exactly what we did!

Lisa arrived at my house Thursday morning around 10, and we spent most of the day in my stamp studio. Lisa worked on a 6x6 album (guess what the colors were?), while I answered a few phone calls, signed certificates, worked on some Europe convention projects, and even managed to do a little on my album.

I LOVED just visiting with Lisa and getting to know her better—and snacking on the M&Ms was nice too!

Verlyn enjoyed a special behind-the-scenes tour of Stampin’ Up! in the morning, then he arrived just in time for lunch with Lisa and I; Sterling also joined us.

Lisa and I kept stamping in the afternoon, while Verlyn and Sterling spent the afternoon checking out a few local sights. We had dinner at Thanksgiving Point, and then spent the evening watching a show at Deseret Star Theater, a local community theater that has built quite a reputation for doing productions spoofing well-known shows. We saw “Snooty and the Beast,” and it was delightful. If I had more time, I’d think about buying season tickets!

It was a very relaxing, delightful day. Lisa and I were both surprised when it was time to each lunch and then leave for dinner—the time flew by. And it’s interesting that it took someone coming in from out of town for Sterling and I to discover a local attraction that was very entertaining. On the way home last night, both Sterling and I commented about how much we’d enjoyed ourselves.

Today Lisa and Verlyn returned home, after what I hope was a fabulous three days recognizing and rewarding Lisa (and Verlyn too) for what she’s accomplished.

Congratulations, Lisa!

The Weekend Is Over

You’ve got to be sick and tired of me talking about Shanna’s Happy Halloween Homecoming party—I’ve talked about it at events, posted about it, and now—finally—it’s come and gone. With the party on Saturday and Shanna’s homecoming talk on Sunday, the whole weekend felt like one long, never-ending celebration (with never-ending photos included!).

The party was a delightful success—family and friends dressed in fabulous costumes; pins and prizes; tasty soups, salads, and sandwiches; Shanna’s famous homemade desserts; and a lot of visiting. We gave out prizes for the best costumes (most original, most funny, classic, etc.). As you can see by the photos, it was very difficult to choose the best—every costume was incredible!

Saturday was also special because Leslie was upstairs, tucked away in a bedroom, visiting with a few family and friends. She had gotten special permission to leave the hospital for the day, and she came to visit. Of course, she offered to help out with last-minute decorating! Just before she left, Mom Pat came up with the brilliant idea of hiding her upstairs (she’s not supposed to be around any crowds, defined as more than two or three people) and inviting people to come up one or two at a time to chat.

After making sure it was OK with Shanna (who, of course, didn’t mind), we did exactly that, so many family members who came to the party got the unexpected treat of a visit with Leslie. And Leslie got to participate in a fun family party that she was thinking she’d have to miss!

We’ve had Halloween parties in the past, but not necessarily every year. As we wrapped up this party, however, it was suggested that this become a Gardner family tradition! (We’ll see. . . )

Many of those (especially family) who came on Saturday stayed for our Church meetings on Sunday, where Shanna talked about her mission. I must admit I sat in the congregation and felt a fair bit of pride as I listened to our daughter laugh and cry as she shared her mission experiences. It was very rewarding to listen to her!

After the meeting, we had another houseful of guests. We served breakfast for lunch (went through dozens of eggs, several loaves of sourdough bread, slices and slices of ham, gallons of milk and juice, and a big bowl of grapes!). The weather cooperated wonderfully—children ran in and outside all afternoon, and it was a peaceful, relaxing afternoon. I felt badly because I didn't pull the camera out until most of the guests had left (too busy cooking and visiting!), but I did manage to get a few photos. 

When the last guest left, we collapsed—Sara and Shanna fell asleep on the floor exhausted. I was tempted to join them, but I figured at least one adult should probably stay up and supervise the remaining children who were still running around. (smile)

All in all, it was a wonderful weekend—and I’m relieved it’s over!

The Last Canyon Outing

With Shanna home and Sara and Sean and their kids back in town after two years, we decided we needed to do one last Dutch Oven cookout in the canyon before it got too cold (not that it’s warm at all—you can see by the pictures that it was plenty crisp!). But we planned it earlier in the day, invited a few friends and family (nieces, Sean’s sister-in-law, etc.,), and ventured up.

I’m glad we went! It was delightful watching the cousins climb on the rocks and play together. There were still a few colorful leaves left. And the potluck food (Sterling did his Dutch Oven, but everyone else brought a contribution as well) was tasty! And if you found a spot in the sun, the temperature actually wasn’t too bad either.

So that was the big event of the day, although I have to admit that I enjoyed the rest of the day equally as much!

After the canyon, I headed up to the hospital to spend the afternoon and evening with Leslie. We had hoped that her numbers would be high enough that I’d be taking her “home” (a small apartment near the hospital she and Danny have rented specifically for this purpose), but we were disappointed.

Instead, she helped me finish the napkin rings for Shanna’s Happy Halloween Homecoming party tomorrow, and we watched HGTV, one of Leslie’s favorite channels. (I’m not really sure what that stands for—I hardly ever watch TV, so I’m not familiar with it, but there were a lot of home and remodeling shows, so I’m thinking the H might stand for Home.)

I was intrigued by the shows, and we had to laugh because every once in a while I got so interested in something on one of the shows, we had to stop visiting until the commercial. It was fascinating to see people choose a designer for a remodel and then see the remodel process, or watch how people prepare to sell their houses. We had a good time guessing if they were making the right choices (in our opinions) and then see the results that followed.

Mom Pat arrived to spend the night with Leslie, and to take her for a drive today. (Woo hoo—although she doesn’t get to go home, she can at least get out, the first time in weeks!) I hated to drag myself away but finally had to leave.

We’re hoping that Monday will be the magic day, and Leslie will be able to go to the apartment then. (Cross your fingers and pray for her. . . ) But until then, Leslie is in amazing spirits! She’s upbeat and positive, and I loved spending time with her.

Several of you have asked about sending her a card—that would be wonderful! If you want to send them to Stampin’ Up!, I’ll be happy to deliver them to her. Thank you for your thoughtfulness; she (and I) appreciate it all so much!

Working on Leadership--Already!

You may not believe this (I can hardly believe it myself!), but today I actually started working on a Leadership Conference project! Almost three months’ ahead—check me out! I know, I know, it’s not like me to be so ahead of the game, but we had our first leadership planning meeting last week, and I got so excited about some of the stuff we are going to show that I couldn't resist starting. . .

So Sara and I spent several hours today working on a project that everyone who attends leadership will get to see—and I hope you’ll all be jazzed about it! I know I am! It was definitely the highlight of my day (unless you count my dentist appointment--smile).

I can’t really say much more. . . I’m such a tease. But I just couldn’t wait until Leadership to share. I knew you’d understand!

All About Shanna

As you know (I already mentioned it, of course!), Shanna came home on Tuesday, and this week has been all about her!

I took time off work and have just spent every minute I could with her! I’ve already talked about Wednesday (our veg day), but Thursday we had business to take care of. Almost all of the clothes she took on her mission were left, threadbare and worn, in Spain. So on Thursday Sage, Shanna, and I headed out. We didn’t do a ton of shopping, but we came up with a few basics.

We took time out for lunch at a yummy bistro, and it was the first time Shanna had really felt like eating—it was good to see her finally eating!

Most of Friday was spent unpacking the boxes Shanna had packed and stored away before she left. I guess I should say I watched while Shanna unpacked! (smile) Actually, I didn’t watch. . . while we visited I worked on the album for her Happy Halloween Homecoming party this week.

Friday night, Shanna had her first date in 18 months! She had a blind date with the nephew of a friend, to help her make the adjustment back into that whole social scene.

Sage came over to help her get ready, and Sara and her children showed up for the finishing touches—you would have thought it was prom or something! And everyone was here for dinner when the date showed up! He was a great sport though!

We even got a photo—although I’d been given strict instructions not to take one! Thankfully Sean grabbed his phone camera and took a shot, without any prompting at all from me!

The date went well, and our Shanna is transitioning nicely. We went to yoga together this morning, and this afternoon she drove a car for the first time—and survived! She went off on her own to visit some friends, and I got to spend the afternoon at the hospital with Leslie. 

This week is ending much too soon, and I’m sad—next week I'll have to start adding real life into the equation--but I'll still be spending as much time with Shanna as possible. This week has been absolutely delightful!

She's Home!

After eighteen very long but glorious (because we knew she was doing a good thing) months, our Shanna is HOME!

It’s been a wonderful 24-plus hours! Shanna arrived in the Salt Lake City Airport last night, a little before 9 p.m., leaving her beloved Spain behind but coming home to her beloved family!

I can’t describe the moments of anticipation as we waited at the airport for our first glimpse of her. Because of security, we couldn’t go to the gate, so we all (family, cousins, friends, former mission companions, even her former mission president and his wife) waited impatiently in the baggage area, at the bottom of the escalator.

We asked people as they came down to collect their baggage if they had been on the flight from Atlanta (Shanna’s connecting flight), and when the first few passengers started arriving, we cheered, and the excitement mounted. Her nieces and nephews began chanting, “Go, Shanna. Go, Shanna,” and waving the posters they’d made earlier. (We had all gathered as a family and had dinner before going to the airport.)

In all of the anticipation, we actually almost missed her. For a brief moment, when she stepped onto the escalator to come down, we didn’t recognize her. It’s terrible to admit, but we were kind of anticipating a tired, droopy sister missionary—but she looked gorgeous! Her hair has gotten longer, she’s lost a little weight, she had on a pretty purple skirt (one of the few outfits that made it home, we found out later; most were worn out and were left behind), and she had a wonderful, peaceful presence. It took us a split second to recognize her, then a cheer erupted!

And then the party began!

After everyone hugged her and chatted at the airport, family members and three of her former companions headed to our house. Shanna had made one request of her first night home—she wanted to watch the movie Twilight. So that’s what we all (including Sterling and the sons-in-law!) did.

We didn’t actually hit play on the DVD player until past midnight (we had to get at least a couple hours of catching up in before being quiet for a movie!).  By the time the movie was over and we chatted a little bit longer, it was 4:30—I finally headed to bed. Sage and Shanna took her three companions home, and then, after they got back, stayed up and talked until past 7 this morning!

Needless to say, we were all kind of tired today, and the morning and most of the afternoon was lazy and laidback. I hardly ever veg—I always need to have something in my hands, some project to work on. But not today! I spent all day just enjoying being with Shanna. I didn’t work, didn’t putter, didn’t even stamp!

Around 3, we got up enough energy to take that drive up in the canyon. There was some color left, and I loved watching Shanna just sit back, close her eyes, smell the pine-scented autumn air, and drink it all in!

She seems so happy! While she’s concerned about what happens next—school, job, money, all those material things that we all have to think about—there’s a maturity and peace about her that I love!

 

Time Out From Puttering

My plan today was to putter, something Mom Heather loved to do, just spend the day doing odd and end jobs that have needed to be done forever. I was looking forward to that—we’ve been gone so much lately that the puttering list is pretty long!

But my puttering urge battled my “get out and see the leaves” urge this evening, and the leaves won!

I’m so glad!

(As an aside, more than a year ago Sterling bought a stripped down Jeep. He wanted it so he could plow the driveways of some widows and single ladies in our neighborhood who can’t do it themselves. I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the idea—until he took me up the canyon last fall and I got to see the changing leaves with the wind blowing through my hair. I fell in love with the Jeep then and there—he should definitely keep it forever.)

So today I headed on my drive alone—Sterling couldn’t come because he had church meetings.

If you’ve never seen leaves changing in the mountains, I don’t know if you can understand the beauty of what we enjoy almost every autumn.  It’s difficult to describe, but it’s breathtaking. And today was even more beautiful than usual. Partly because it had snowed a few days ago, so you could see snow on top of Mt. Timpanogos, just above the colorful leaves. And partly because I was alone, driving in our Jeep with the top off, and just soaking it all in.

I was so overcome with the beauty of Mother Nature, the peace and tranquility and majesty of it all, that I actually had to pull over and wipe away a few tears. I took only one photo, and it doesn’t do the scene justice at all, but I had to share it with you.

I’m only hoping that it will last just four more days. (The colors come and go very quickly!) Shanna comes home Tuesday (I’m not excited or anything!), and I can’t wait to drag her up there and share what she’s been missing for the past 18 months!

Ending Summer on a Powell High

Warning: If you don’t want to read about Lake Powell again (we also took a family vacation there earlier this summer!), just skip this post! (smile)

Everyone who knows me well knows that Lake Powell is one of my favorite places! It’s always my first choice for a family vacation, and we try to go a couple of times a year—it’s quick, easy, and close!

We’ve ridden through a storm or two and seen Mother Nature wreak havoc down there in a matter of minutes, but we’ve never seen quite the fury we experienced yesterday—I hope it’s a day we never have to repeat!

The wind was absolutely incredible, throwing everything around, snapping thick ropes, and making what is usually a fairly easy, smooth process extremely difficult! Breaking down camp and getting ready to come off the lake was scary, and although I never feared for my life, I was certainly stressed. Thankfully, although we were drenched and exhausted, we finally got everything cleaned up and packed up safely.

And it was definitely worth it, because the weather before that was as perfect as we’ve ever had on Powell—even Sterling fell in love with the lake this time!

We really had a great time! Sara and Sean and their family were the only ones who could come, but they hadn’t been for two years, so it was a treat to see their children enjoy it all. The Douglass kids are like their mom and dad, always up for an adventure, and they loved every minute of it. Stella, the youngest, had no fear. She was a goer the entire time, and we were all on constant “Stella alert.”

I didn’t spend much time in the water—I spent most of my time with the kids (helping with homework, taking photos, reading books, crafting), cooking, and (of course) stamping. I finally finished the box invitations for Shanna’s Happy Halloween Homecoming party—got the idea straight out of the current US/CAN Idea Book & Catalog (the Happy Halloween box on page 20).

All in all, it was a great way to end the summer!