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Several months ago I had the opportunity to go to the Cedar City, Utah Temple with my oldest daughter. The temples for my Church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) are sacred buildings for us. We perform ordinances and make covenants with the Lord within these temples, and you cannot enter yourself until you are at least 18 years of age. Often people enter just before they leave on their missions, or just before getting married and sealed as a couple. Our temples have been closed the last year due to Covid, but started opening up on a limited basis at the end of 2020. My daughter was preparing for her mission, and was in Cedar City as she had been attending college. My parents are temple workers, so she was able to schedule the session with them as the workers, and she was able to invite only 17 people to attend with her because of the Covid restrictions, so most of the people in attendance were family, the rest were close friends. I was able to fly down that morning, and escort her through for her first time that evening. It was an awesome experience, and brought back so many sweet memories from when I went through just before getting married. It was a wonderful evening, and I am grateful for the spiritual strength that comes from going to the temple.

But, it was also hectic in a way. I had spent the night on several airplanes getting there, then the 3 hour drive from the airport. It had been a long 36 hours by the time we got there that evening, and I was really focused on helping her have a great experience and not be worried as she went along. It was also a great reunion with my family as well, as everyone had been busy earlier in the day, so it was the first time I had seen most of them. The next few days were a whirlwind of activity, and then I got on an airplane and left to go home. It was a wonderful trip, lots of memories, but I didn’t really take the time to reflect back on exactly what had happened.

Last night I was able to attend again, this time with one of my daughters best friends and their family in the Anchorage, Alaska Temple. She is leaving on her mission as well. It was so interesting to see things from almost an “outside looking in” perspective as I was able to sit back and watch this wonderful mom helping her amazing daughter the same way I had helped mine. I was able to finally sit back and reflect a little bit on that night in April, to really think about and appreciate the experience. I remembered the instructions, the excitement, the nervousness that she had before hand. I remember the family and the opportunity we had to have most of us together in the same room for the same purpose. I remember seeing my daughter, not just as my daughter, but a future missionary, a future wife and mother, a daughter of God, one who can and will change the world around her.

There was a spirit of understanding last night, a spirit of gratitude. It was almost overwhelming several times throughout the evening, and continues to be so today as I reflect on both of these evenings and the great opportunity that it was to be in those temples on those days, with those people, some who are literal family, and some who are family by choice. I am grateful for the temples of my Church and for eternal families. I am grateful that the Lord gives us these opportunities to experience again, often from a different perspective, so that we have that chance to reflect back. Sometimes it’s to learn, sometimes it’s to experience again and remember, sometimes to see things more deeply or experience from that new perspective. Often it is a combination of many reasons. Today I am grateful to reflect and feel just a little bit deeper the love that my Heavenly Father has for me and my family, and the love He has for all His children. I hope you can see His hand in your life and that you can reflect more deeply on the love that He has for you.

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I have been reading the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. If you haven’t read it, I would highly recommend it. Some of the things I have always felt like should be common sense, but lately I feel like there isn’t much common sense left in the world, so maybe not. Each of the habits builds on the next, so it’s important to start at the beginning. But, because of this book I have been more aware of how I speak and more importantly, how I listen.

One of the things he talks about in the book is how our own story affects how we view the world. I started to look at how I projected my story on other people’s stories, or how I interject with my story sometimes without even thinking. My kids and I get talking about family experiences and the differences in perspective are sometimes quite stark. This can cause some major disagreements in our home as everyone remembers “the way it really was” just a little bit differently. It’s the same idea when we view an accident or incident. Every person is coming from the perspective of not only a different point of view because we each weren’t standing in the exact same spot, so we each saw the accident from a different angle. But we are also coming at our vantage point from our own experiences. Someone who has been in an accident will view it differently than someone who never has. Someone who knows a lot about cars will view it differently than others. People who have medical training will see different things, and pick up on differences that others may not. But each person saw the exact same thing, at the exact same time, and came away with something different. And none of the perspectives are wrong, there is value in each one.

Because we project our story into someone else’s story, we don’t listen very well. Most often we listen to reply, to share our own story, or our side of the story, or some memory that their story brought to the surface. But how often do we just listen and then just leave it there? How often do we let others have their moment. This got me thinking and wondering how often I personally listened to reply. So, at the most recent Farmer’s Market I decided to try and pay attention to my own words and behaviors.

At first it started off rough. I realized, usually as the conversation ended, that I hadn’t really listened at all to what the other person was saying. I would interject a comment here or there, try to tell my story as they were finishing up theirs, etc. Sometimes I was so focused on what was going on around me that I had a hard time concentrating on just one person talking. Once they walked away, I realized that I couldn’t even remember their whole story or why they shared it. But as I went along, I started asking questions, but then listening to the answers. Trying hard not to jump in, but to just listen. I met some wonderful people from all over the west coast as I was listening and paying attention. I learned a lot about the differences in our weather as compared to theirs, and that some people really enjoyed the heat of the day while others felt like they would melt.

Do you ever have big news, or a cool experience you want to share with someone, anyone who might listen? Maybe something you just really need to get off your chest? You’re not looking for advice, you just want to be heard. I think we all have those times, and when others start telling us their story, sometimes it can be deflating to us, we feel like maybe it wasn’t as cool or as hard or as exciting as we thought it was, even if for us, it really was cool or exciting, or new. But have you ever had that one person who just listened? That one person who asked relevant questions, who helped you feel important in that moment? How good does that feel? We can each be that person. When we listen to hear and to understand we can share in that person’s excitement, fear, joy, whatever it may be. We can be reminded of experiences we had and just relive those in our own minds and allow that person the time to be excited, to be share, to smile and laugh, or to cry when needed. When that happens we no longer walk our path alone, we have a friend to walk with.

I have discovered this to be difficult. I have tried many days since Friday, and I am at least getting the hang of noticing afterward that maybe I should have just listened. But I am grateful for the reminder, and the goal. I’m not saying that you can’t have a conversation, but when we really listen, we can clarify, we can ask applicable questions, we can be interested, we can learn from someone else. It’s not that it’s a one-sided conversation, but that each person has the ability to be heard. I will continue to work on this in my life, I hope you take time to really listen today.

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Today I went to Seward to drop off 2 framed orange Octopus prints to an art gallery named Cobble company. My husband and I discussed the possibility of shipping them down, but I decided with the glass in the frames that it would be about the same price to shipping them as compared to just driving down, and then I didn’t have to worry about the glass breaking in transit. This is one of my favorite drives in Alaska. But just as I’m typing this, I remember that, no matter where I go in Alaska, it’s a beautiful drive! So for my blog today I thought I would share with you in pictures my drive down and back. First, I need to apologize, I was by myself and taking pictures as I drove, so I was paying more attention to the road than my phone. That’s were quantity comes in. Of the 50 or 60 I snapped, I got about 8 pictures that weren’t too bad.

One of my favorite parts of the drive is all the lakes along the way, and how beautiful blue/green they are. As kids we color water blue, but when you really look at most water it’s a brown/gray color. But the water here in Alaska is literally a blue/green color from the glacial silt in the water. It’s beautiful. I also love the ocean. Today was a rare day going down around Turnagain arm as there was absolutely no wind. The water was almost completely smooth and calm. I don’t drive down through there all the time, but I don’t remember the last time I drove down there when there weren’t at least small waves. It was so calm and peaceful. I also enjoy the green. I grew up in the desert, and there is a beauty in the desert that cannot be found anywhere else, but the green that is everywhere is so refreshing. This year has been quite a bit wetter than the last several, and it is evident in how healthy, lush and green everything is. The air was fresh and calm, and there couldn’t have been a better day to go for a drive.

So, without further adieu, here are the pictures I took of my drive down:

The drive into Seward

Obviously, I love the water! I am so grateful for the time I had today to head down to Seward, and the opportunity to share with you some of the beautiful scenery I was able to enjoy on my way down.

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This post has been on my mind for some time now, and I’ve really debated the best way to write it. I know that this is a volatile subject in the US right now, I don’t know about other countries and their wages. Right now there are so many people pushing for a higher minimum wage, more benefits paid by the employer, more time off, more, more, more. So I guess I am going to throw in my two cents here. I don’t say what I am going to say to judge individuals, I just wanted to share our experience as employers, just for another perspective.

My husband has been self-employed almost our entire married life. He is a general contractor. We build on average one, sometimes two custom homes a year, until the last couple of years anyway. I am an artist and have only recently (the last two or so years) begun selling my art. Over the years we have had employees, but we always end up not being able to maintain having them because of the behind the scenes costs and lack of ability finding people who can, or are willing, to actually work. So I decided to write a little bit about what it is to be an employer as we mainly seem to hear only the employees side of the story.

When my husband started building houses we couldn’t afford any employees, so I went to work with him every day. We worked six days a week, often 10-12 hours a day. Many years of our marriage we have been below, what the government considers poverty level, but we have always stayed out of debt. This has required a lot of sacrifice, and the understanding of what is actually a need and what is really just a want (this is a whole other post). I don’t say that trying to judge others or sound like I’m better than anyone because of what we did, but so much of what is purchased in society now has to do with comfort and leisure, and only a small portion of our income goes to actual necessities.

When I had our first child I couldn’t go to work any more and we decided to hire one employee. We did not realize the amount of extra money and paperwork that would be associated with an employee. All of which I got to deal with. Construction workers comp is one of the highest percentage workers comp policies there is. Then there’s all the paperwork associated with paying the employees taxes, making sure the work environment is safe, dealing with insurance companies on a regular basis along with all the computer work for keeping track of jobs, wages, workers comp, etc.

So, to list just some of the expenses of doing business: General Liability Insurance, Bond, Commercial Auto Insurance, Workers Comp Insurance, Business Licenses (he has to have 2 for the state, and one for the borough we live in), Continuing Education expenses, etc. These are a lot of the major expenses, and just these totaled over $15,000 a year. And that was with only one employee. Then there’s the expenses of things like gas, repairs for equipment, licensing of vehicles and equipment, computer programs for accounting, accountants, printing and copying on large formats for blueprints, paying inspectors, … The list goes on and on.

My husband works on his job sites often 50-60 hours a week, and then he comes home and has to do things like bid for the next job, write proposals, call and schedule subs, makes sure bills are correct so they can be paid, write invoices, etc. I don’t bring all this up to discourage people who want to start a business, or to make people think it’s not worth the effort. I only list these things to show a little bit of what the other side of the line deals with on a daily basis. Employees have a job for a specific set of hours a day and then their time is theirs, business owners have the work they do at the business they created, as well as hours before and after their “scheduled” time, and worrying about everything associated with the business 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And yes, it’s worth it most of the time. But there is a reason that entry level jobs pay minimum wage and that minimum wage even exists. The other thing is finding someone qualified for the job and willing to do the “heavy lifting” (literally and figuratively on a construction job). People who said they were qualified but end up not knowing how to do anything, or kids who we can train, but spend half their day on their phones. It’s extremely difficult to find good help that might even be worth more than minimum wage. I find it interesting that most of those calling for higher wages have a high school education, and yet they want a job that pays as much as a college or trade school graduate, or they don’t want to start at the bottom of their chosen field and work they way up, they want a wage they could only achieve after years of work, without doing the work. I am not saying you can’t get a good job without going to college. There are so many programs out there for on the job training, there is a huge variety of certificates people can earn that aren’t super expensive and that you can finish in just a few months. There are programs for helping people get an education or certificates. There are so many options, but when an employer is looking for a minimum wage employee, it’s because that’s probably what the employer can afford at the time, and/or it doesn’t require any training to begin with, or the training can be accomplished on the job which leads to a raise in pay when the training is complete.

I guess, to sum up my thoughts, the people calling for higher pay for minimum wage jobs needs to understand where the employer is coming from. Often, we hear that someone owns their own business and we automatically assume that they have lots money, that they don’t have to work very hard, or that they are living the life of Riley on the backs of their employees. I think that can be the case sometimes, especially with large corporations, I don’t know. But with small businesses, that is rarely the case. If their business is better established, maybe they do have extra time. That’s one of the advantages of being self-employed is having the freedom to schedule your own time and be more flexible. But if it’s self-owned, they went through a lot to get there. And if it’s a newer business, you can bet there are times when they don’t know how they’re going to pay their own bills at the end of the month, let alone their employees. There are so many great employers out there, doing their best to help their employees. But, as an employee, you need to make sure you are committed to that company as well. The better you do and the more you sell the business, the better the business does and the more the employer can afford to pay. It’s hard to find good help that is committed to being good help in whatever job they may find themselves in. It’s equally hard to find people who have learned how to work in a society with the mentality of “me first.”

So, those are my thoughts on the other side of the story. I hope you found this informative and helpful in understanding where small businesses are coming from. And if you really want to help small businesses pay better wages, then you need to open your wallet and support them. Shop small instead of buying from large chain stores and corporations. And remember, small businesses are often the first to support their communities, the local kids sports teams, the bake sales, the school activities, etc. Lets work on supporting them back.

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Today, my son and I had the opportunity to drive a friend in to Anchorage to pick up a car. I don’t know this person super well, but an hour and a half car ride helps you get to know a person a little bit better. I am grateful for the opportunity to know him and his life better, to see his view points on current subjects and issues. There was no judgement on either of our parts, only thoughts. It is good to sit down with people and discuss things in this manner. Actually listening to listen. I am grateful for the time to do so, and the opportunity to get to know a friend just a little bit better.

One thing we discussed today was the amount of anger and hate found online, especially in social media. I have been thinking a lot about this as well. I am grateful for the connection that social media has given me to my family far away. I get to know my siblings and their families, cousins, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, all a little better, and feel like I know somewhat of what is going on in their lives and vise versa. But there is so much division and hate circulated as well. We see some of the good, but do we see all the bad. Parents glued to their screens instead of their kids, kids ignoring real people in favor of online chats and likes. People relying on their social media feeds to inform them of what they are to think. I have discussed the search for truth in a different post, but rarely is there any backing to the huge amount of information, good or bad, that is spread through social media.

I believe we need to get back to the basics. Do we know our own neighbors? Some of us need to go even further back to the basics, our own spouse, our kids, our parents or siblings. We may not agree with everything our neighbors do, but if we know them, really take time to see them as human beings, take time to help once in a while. We build relationships of trust that help us be at the very least civilized towards one another, and hopefully more than civilized, maybe even friends. Human relationships and interactions were limited at best for months, and for some almost an entire year. There are so many people who suffered from this lack of human interaction. We are innately social creatures, some more than others, however, and we need that contact in some way or another.

As the world opens back up again, we have the opportunity to start fresh in a way. We have the opportunity to put down our devices. Not totally. Like I said, there are some great things about the technology that we have today to stay connected with family and friends. But we can open our eyes and really see. Choose to see people, the people around us. Choose to interact with the next customer in line, or say hi to the hiker passing by the other way. Sometimes you might get a grumpy, grumbly person. But, more often than not, I have found people to be kind, grateful to have been noticed by someone else, and willing to share a little bit of who they are with me, even if it’s just a smile and a wave as they pass by on the other side of the trail. I am striving to see people better, I hope you take opportunity to as well.