Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Trek 2008

Carson and I at his camp.

Trek was a success! Carson had a wonderful experience and all the kids from our ward that I talked to had a great time. So - for those of you who don't know what the heck a Trek is, let me explain a little.

The handcarts are off in the distance snaking around on the trail.
About 350 kids and adults participated in a reinactment of Mormon pioneers crossing the Wyoming desert. Why the Wyoming desert? This area was chosen because there were hardships to two handcart companies that traveled the Oregon/Mormon Pioneer/Pioneer trail that crosses the length of Wyoming. These companies were the Martin and Willie Handcart companies traveling to the Salt Lake Valley to meet up with Brigham Young. Many lost their lives to exhaustion, exposure and other illnesses. The trek was put together to allow young men and women to experience in some part what men, women and children endured and experienced during the original travel across the United States and to teach them the history of the pioneer ancestors of their faith. They traveled 40 miles for the trek, 17 of those on the last day.

Sherry and I were told we could walk toward the trekers on the trail. What a great experience to see the surpise on their faces when they saw us -especially when Carson saw me.

The teenagers (ages 14-18) were split up into "families" of about 7-8 kids (teens) with a Ma and Pa (volunteer adult couple). All wore pioneer clothing for the duration of the trek. The kids slept, ate and pulled handcarts with their families. As a result, they grew very close together through work, stuggles, fun and spiritual experiences. Everyone pulled or pushed their handcart along the 40 mile trail. If someone in the family fell ill or felt they could not walk, they had to sit on the handcart along with all their supplies while everyone else pushed and pulled. That's what they would have to do if they were crossing the plains back in the 1800's. When I asked kids from our ward if they enjoyed their family they all said almost the exact same thing - "My family was awesome!"

Carson's family: Raquel (from Spain), Paz, Todd and Kyle Veenker (Ma and Pa), Joanna, Brenda
Carson, B.J., Chase, and Wendelon

Also, each family was given a "baby" (beanbag doll) to represent the youngest of those who made the original travels. Carson's family baby died early during the trek. Others died along the way just as in the original handcart companies. The biggest loss was at Rocky Ridge where eight babies died. Eight of the families had to leave their "babies" at Rocky Ridge. After several days on the trail treating these dolls as a baby, it was difficult for these young men and women to do that. Many said walking away was the hardest part because that is what many families had to do back then. It was an emotional experience for many of the kids.

Carson with his Ma and Pa.

Tammy and Jason organized all the food. Here is a pic of Jason with Sidney. Jason carried Sidney across the Sweet Water River - awwwwwwwwwwesome!

There were missionaries along the way that explained occurances that happened with the orginal handcart companies. Carson really liked Martins Cove. He said he learned a lot about the pioneers there. If fact, he was taken by surprise at how different the trek experience was for him than he thought it would be. It was a very humbling experience for him. Also, there were over 20 foreign exchange students from Spain that went on trek. They were not LDS so it gave all the kids ample missionary experiences. This was good for Carson - practice.

Carson and his family pulling into camp.

Carson really like when they crossed the Sweet Water River. Everyone brought their handcarts across and then many of the young women were asked to go back so the young men could carry them across. The original handcart companies had to pass this river 10 times in their travels, often with ice floating by. At one point when the weather was cold and snowy, some young men carried many of the company across to safety on the other side. They later died of exposure an exhaustion. Having the young men take the young women across helped all of them appreciate what those fellows did.

Another experience that really left an impression on Carson was when there was a women's pull. Just before Rocky Ridge there is a very hard hill to come up. The young men were escorted away, as many men were during the original handcart trek to join up in the army with Brigham Young. The young women were left to pull the handcarts over the rise without the help of their "brothers." It was hard for many of the guys to leave knowing the girls would have to do this by themselves. Carson said he knew his sisters would "kick butt", however he still wanted to stay and help. It was hard to walk away from them. The young men were lead away and had a talk about respecting women. Then they watched with their hats off to the young women as they pushed their handcarts up the hardest hill of the entire trek. All the young men were quite emotional about this when you talked with them afterward. It was really hard to watch and not help. Of course, all the women made it up the hill without help from the men. Carson said he learned that women are a lot stronger than he gave them credit. Stronger in many ways.

A rescue party was sent out to help the Martin and Willie handcart companies. This is what Carp and I went Wyoming for. We were part of that "rescue party." No, we didn't go out and bring them in (well Sherry and I did!), but we were there to greet them when they came into camp. We dressed as pioneers and prepared a meal for them. All of the trek participants were grateful because they didn't have a meal like that along the trek.

Carp helping to prep the dinner. We met a lot of really nice people from other wards helping out here.

We also were able to camp overnight with all the trekers. They had a fabulous fireside and each family had a devotional back at their camps. Carp and I went to Carson's family devotional. The kids shared their thoughts about what they liked or disliked about Trek and what they learned. Carson's Ma and Pa are friends of ours, Todd and Kyle Veenker. We sure appreciate how well they took care of him!

Me, Sherry, Holly and Vicki.

The next morning we had breakfast and listened to the final missionaries speak about the rescue party and how they helped get those who survived the trail into Salt Lake City. I learned so much being able to be up there for that little time. I have a greater appreciation of not only the pioneers but any group of people who have endured hardships and trials for something they believe in.

I hope they have Trek again for my other kids!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

And they're off . .

Carson left Tuesday for the much anticipated Pioneer Trek experience he has been in prep mode for during the last few months. Honestly, most the prep was in the form of Carp picking up things at D.I. for him. The activities he was asked to complete before Trek mostly took place last week. Yes, he is my kid - putting off things to the last minute.
He seemed kind of excited to go until the beginning of this week. His excitement amped up a bit when the departure was imminent. He met his Trek "family" at the last fireside and did most the talking. I hope he doesn't drive them all crazy.

Carp dropped Carson off early Tuesday morning for the Trek departure. There were swarms of "pioneer children" - okay, teenagers, everywhere. He took some pics for me.

Brady, Brandon, Brian and Carson

Carp and I are leaving tomorrow morning to be part of the "rescue party" that meets up with the pioneers at Rock Creek Hollow. We are excited to go and feed the hungry masses. We will be staying overnight so we will be there for the fireside and breakfast before returning home. We tried to keep our involvement quiet until after Carson left so when he finds us waiting for him he will be surprised. I can't wait to see him!

Carson and Sidney

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Scout Day Camp

Nate had an opportunity to attend Scout Day Camp this past weekend. He and about 6 other boys did lots of fun stuff like archery, bb gun shooting, knot tying and whittling with their knives - which all sound quite dangerous considering they were with a bunch of men who love playing at all that kind of stuff too. Oh well, they all came home safe and had a fun time.


Our Cubscouts

Shooting BB Guns

Nate and Issac tying knots

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What a flower would say . . .

Yesterday I had to get up early to irrigate at 5:02 a.m. - not fun, but worth the watering. It was overcast, muggy and sort of sprinkling a bit. Anyway, I was all finished and decided to stomp around my garden area and grass out front to see what was watered and what was not when I came across the flower pictured below.

Now, the day before Tammy and I had noticed it when we were checking out any new produce in my garden. A single choke cherry had impaled itself on top of the cone flower. This morning, a second had fallen in just the right spot.

For some reason this picture reminds me of Wall-e. It a friendly innocent face, isn't it? It's inviting as if to say, "Notice me, I want to be your friend." It just made me feel happy after freezing my feet off in the irrigation water for 30 minutes.

Here are some more pics of what is happening among my flowers and in the garden.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Nathan is a Bear - GRRRRR

Nathan has high aspiration when it comes to Scouting. He wants to become an Eagle Scout. He has good examples in his older brothers Carson and Seth.

He received his Bear in Scouts this year. He has had a wonderful leader that helps keep him on track. He does such a great job to get to his meetings every week. He is a grrrrrreat kid! Congrats Nate!

Monday, July 14, 2008

My, how they grow

While I was purusing my pics I noticed a video I had taken with my camera at the 9th Grade Awards Night in May. Considering most the pictures I took that night did not turn out I am counting my blessings for this little clip. Carson and Sidney have pretty much grown up together and are like siblings - but without the fighting. It's just cool to see how tall Carson is (a whole head taller than Sid!) and what a beautiful young woman Sidey is. Check it out.

When I reinstall my scanner software I will have to post pictures of "then and now" so you can see how much the Merryweather kids and Mellott kids have changed over the last 10-11 years of my pictures taking. It's fun to see them all grow up together!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Sure, I can give a talk . . .

As I sit here at my computer trying to articulate what I will present for my assigned talk at Church tomorrow, I can't help but feel a bit stressed. I was asked to give a talk on avoiding contention, backbiting and gossip. That is a hard topic to talk about without feeling like I'm preachy. I would rather get up and discuss the reproductive anatomy of man and woman that give a talk on this subject. Then again, maybe not. Both topics make me turn red (for different reasons) and both make me sweat (again, for different reasons.)

I guess and I am grateful for the topic I was given. It sounds a little easier now.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Yes, a cello can be amped up

One day months and months ago, Tammy and I were surfing the web together. Well, actually, we were on the phone and each of us were suggesting websites to check out and videos to watch. Time waster, I know, but it's what friends do. Friends don't let friends surf the web alone. Anyway, she told me about a video that Sid had found of some crazy guys rocking out on cellos. I was directed to the video of Hall of the Mountain King, that's right, the classic piece had a makeover. Now, I know she did it in jest so we could have a good laugh, but I LOVED IT!!!!!

Now, Tammy being the good friend she is, has humored me as I sent her videos clips and filled her in on the background of this cool Finnish rock band called Apocalyptica that started out playing Metallica covers and now writes their own music that I totally dig. She even bought me an Apocalyptica CD for Christmas. What a cool friend.

As I sat here listening to my music while trying to decide what to write for my blog marathon (this is the 6th day), I decided to share one of my favorite bands to listen to. Some of the songs have just cello music (occasionally drums) and some have guest singers from places like Germany and Finland.

So, here is a video to watch - one of their milder songs, but a Metallica song non the less. It's called Nothing Else Matters.

And here is a playlist with some selections to puruse.

SeeqPod - Playable Search


Christensen Visit

A few weeks ago we got a call from my brother-in-law Tracy. He was in town from North Carolina to pick up his daughter who had been staying with her grandparents in Idaho for the last 6 months or so. Geneen was not able to come out because she couldn't get off work.

We wanted to get together to see them before then left for home. However,we had problems with the our van so Carp took all the kids but Sammy up to see Tracy and the kids at their hotel.

Carson, Kalli, Audrey, Sadie, Seth
Nathan Mallory and Gabby
Carp got an extra treat because he got to see Tracy's parents. We love Shirley and Rex. The day Carp and I got married out car was in the shop. These wonderful people were generous enough to drive Carp and I to the temple when we got married so many years ago. They are awesome.

Tracy, Kalli, Audrey, Shirley, Rex, Mallory and Sadie

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

In Memory of Evelyn D. Kendig

It's no secret that part of the reason I married Carp is because his family is so awesome. Really, they are fun and enjoyable people to be around. A big part of that is because of those whose lives have already ended in this mortal existence. In April we said goodbye to one of the kindest, most sweet natured woman I have ever known - Carp's grandmother Evelyn D. Kendig.

July 4th, 2007 Everett, PA

We got a call on Easter that Nan Kendig had taken a tumble and broke her hip. Later that week she had surgery and never really recovered from it. I could tell from the conversation with my father-in-law that she wasn't going to last too long. I could feel the anguish in his voice as he explained that she was heading down hill and he wasn't sure she would come back. Distance can really be a hinderance when you want to comfort someone.

Nan passed away a week later. Mom said she was okay with it because Nan had been talking about going home for quite some time. Nan once told me she wasn't scared of dying. She had worked out her views of life after death and was at peace with it. Letting others know that makes it easier to deal with her departure from this life.

Carp and I flew back to Pennsylvania for Nan's memorial service in May. As always it was a delight to see so many familiar faces and enjoy each others company. Carp's family is a blessing in my life.

Jack and Barb Kendig

Judy and Jeff Keller

During the memorial service people were asked to share their thoughts and feelings about Nan. We laughed and cried as friends and family shared their experiences of such a remarkable woman. The thoughts shared from great grandchildren were extra special.

I didn't stand to share any feeling I had bursting inside of me. I was having a hard time keeping my eyes clear. But I do want to share something she said to me once.

Pap Pap Kending was still alive and we were over at their home visiting. I don't remember how we got on the topic but I made a comment that I thought it was fun to see how much Nan and I had in common and how we enjoyed each other. And this is when she said one of the single most touching things I have ever heard from anyone. She put her hand on my knee and looked me strait in the eye and said, "You know, if I were younger and you were a little older we would have been best friends."

Maybe she said that to everyone. If she did, don't tell me because I like how special it made me feel. I knew there and then I wanted to be just like her as I grew older. I wanted to be kind and careful of what I say so I don't hurt others. I wanted to laugh when little kids said funny things or even if they were naughty. I want to attend special events with my family, celebrate holidays with friends and family and be in their pictures ( I love that Nan and Pap would smile for all the pictures I took.) I wanted to live a life that when I am older others will love me just as much as Nan was loved by me and so many other people. She was special and I will miss her.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Philadelphia, PA

"When in the course of human events . . ." Declaration of Independence

"We the People of the United States . . . " U.S. Constitution

I love history. I especially love American Revolution history. I get excited to read about it, I love to tour historical site about it - just standing in places our forefathers stood gives me pause and I feel reverence.

Carp and I had an opportunity to visit Philadelphia while we were in Pennsylvania in May. It was fun and exciting for me. I'm pretty sure Carp did the tours just because he knows I'm like a kid in a candy store when I have a chance to walk through history.

Carp and I visited the Liberty Bell Center. It chronicles the making and history of the bell, how historically it has provided value to different causes, what kind of trinkets have been fashioned after it and so forth. Lots of fun history.

The Liberty Bell ,which was originally the Pennsylvania State House bell, was casted in London, England. It cracked soon after it arrived in Philadelphia. John Pass and John Stow cast a new bell made from the original English Bell. Their names appear on the front of the bell - but, of course all of you National Treasure fans already know this. This picture would have been awesome if I could have asked everyone else there taking pictures to "step away from the bell. Six feet from the bell." (That was for you Tammy and Erin)

When William Penn created the Pennsylvania government he wanted the people to have the right to choose which religion they desired to worship. The people of Pennsylvania took this to heart. The Liberty Bell has a scripture on it. It reads,"Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the Land unto all the inhabitants thereof." (Leviticus 25:10)

The bell hung over the Pennsylvania State House, which is now Independence Hall, for many years after it was recasted. It was rung to gather people together to hear announcements. It was rung the day the Declaration of Independence was read to the people - Cool. A crack began to appear in the recasted bell by 1846. It was repaired to ring in the celebration of George Washington's birthday of that same year, but the crack once again reappeared and the bell was retired. No one knows why it cracked either time.

The bell was named the "Liberty Bell" by a group trying to outlaw slavery. By the late 1800's the Liberty Bell began traveling around the country to help heal the division after the Civil War and served as a reminder that our forefathers fought together to bring about our independence. Maybe we need to put that baby out traveling again!

There is a tour guide there that will answer any and all of your questions. If you plan on taking pictures, I just have to tell you it is hard to get a good picture of the front. The entire back wall is glass so you can get a picture with Independence Hall behind it. It was probably mostly user interface, but I could not get the picture light enough because of all the light behind the bell - I had to take one off to the side. So, when you go make your visit to this piece of history, refine your picture taking skills to get a better picture for me. Thanks.

Carpenter Hall is where the First Continental Congress was held in 1774 to discuss what the colonies should do about England's aggressive and unfair behavior towards the colonies. They ended up publishing a list of rights and grievances and sent them to King George. They also organized the boycott of English goods. King George did nothing about their grievances. Hind sight's 20/20 ain't it George!

Carpenter Hall was also the home of the Franklin Library Company (I love you Ben), The American Philosophical Society, and the First and Second Banks of the United States. I included the picture of the walkway leading up to Carpenter Hall because it still has the original stone. I can picture the likes of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson walking this pathway to get to that hall. Wow.

Independence Hall - the birthplace of the United States. This was my favorite buildings to tour. This is the only building we had to get a timed ticket to get in so they could stagger the tour groups. Beautiful, isn't it?
There was a lot of heated discussion for and against severing ties with England in this building. This was the meeting place for the Second Continental Congress in 1775. At this point there was a price on each of the representatives heads for opposing the King George. It was probably the best thing the King could have done to unite them. Benjamin Franklin said something to the like of ,"We must all hang together or assuredly we will all hang separately." Unity was the key to gaining independence.

Look familiar? If you have seen 1776 or watched the recently released John Adams movie you will notice the reproduction of the Assembly Room is right on! It was in this Assembly Room of Independence Hall that George Washington was appointed commander in chief of the Continental Army in 1775 and the Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776. Also, in this same room the design of the American flag was agreed upon in 1777, the Articles of Confederation were adopted in 1781, and the U. S. Constitution was drafted in 1787. The chair up front is the original chair that George Washington used while he presided over the Constitutional Convention. How awesome is that!?!?!

Here is the court room that is right across the hall from the Assembly Room. It was really dark in there - probably to keep those on trial from feeling any hope at all! Geeze! Check out the right hand side of the picture. There is a cage the accused would stand in. Like I said, no hope. Also the coat of arms on the top left of the picture was altered to eliminate any element associated with King George.

I had to include this picture because I remember seeing a scene from 1776 filmed on it. I just loved the blueish paint. When you enter the front of Independence Hall, the Assembly Room is on the left and the court room is on the right. Follow the walkway pass both and this is where you end up. We were not able to tour upstairs.

Here's a little trivia for you - Independence Hall is pictured on the back of the U.S. $100.00 bill, as well as the bicentennial Kennedy half dollar. The Assembly Room is pictured on the reverse side of the U.S. $2 dollar bill. Just wait for one of those to come up on Jeopardy. Now you know.

Congress Hall sits to the right of Independence Hall. The newly formed United States Congress occupied Congress Hall when Philadelphia was the capital of the United States from 1790-1800. That's right kiddies - Washington was not always the capital of this great nation. It was even moved to Lancaster, PA. for a brief time. Oops - better get back on subject.

The lower floor was occupied by the House of Representatives. Talk about grand! With the dark green valances, the long mahogany tables and leather studded chairs, I might wished I was a man who could run for office back then. Sorry the picture is so dark!

We got to sit in those chairs while the tour guide gave us the lecture on Congress Hall. George Washington had his second inauguration there and John Adams had his first.

The upper floor was used by the Senate. The chair at the head of the room is the original that John Adams sat in as the vice-president under George Washington. Many of the desks are original also. The rug is a reproduction but still totally awesome to behold.

There is a raised ceiling in the middle of the room. It has a fresco of an eagle holding an olive branch signifying peace. Also, there is a plaster medallion that has an oval sunburst design honoring the thirteen original states with thirteen stars. My picture isn't really all that great - again the room was dark. I hope you get better pictures if you ever go!

The Bill of Rights were ratified in these rooms. After Congress departed for Washington, D.C., the Hall reverted back to the Philadelphia County Courthouse.

Are you still with me? I know this is an incredibly long blog. What can I say - I've been holding it all in since May! It's just bursting out of me.

The last place we visited was the burial place of Benjamin Franklin. Ingenious, colorful, spirited Ben is my favorite revolutionary period person. I've read lots of books and articles about him. I just had to visit his grave - AND had to pay for it. Believe it or not, it cost us I think $2 to get into the cemetery he is buried in.

The headstone for Benjamin Franklin and his wife Deborah was actually a slab on the ground near the gate. I guess I could have stretched my arm in to try to get a picture, but I would never have gotten this photo centered. Plus, there are other signers of important documents buried in the same cemetery.

It was a quaint cemetery with paths among the headstones. Check out how the headstones are actually in the path. I have always loved old cemeteries back east. They have creative and decorative headstones and the cemeteries are far more interesting then those I have seen on the west coast.

So, there you have it! I would have visited more places if we had the time. I took this picture to show how Philadelphia is built up around these historic sites. If you ever have a chance to visit Philadelphia - take it! It is an experience.