Looking back at 2016: Highlights of a pretty sweet year for the Toone family
In the LDS hymn book, we find No. 241, “Count Your Blessings.” The chorus reads, “Count your blessings; name them one by one. Count your blessings; see what God hath done.”
That’s how I feel about 2016. My heart is full of gratitude as I think about all the wonderful blessings we’ve enjoyed in the past 12 months.
In this post I wanted to hit a few of the highlights, in no particular order.
The new house: We moved into our new house back in mid December 2015, so this was our first year there in Garland. We’ve been very happy and enjoy being part of our LDS ward. Our children are happy and have made new friends. Despite my commute to Salt Lake City three times a week, we are comfortable and happy.
Vacations: In February, we went with the Richards family to DisneyLand and had a fun time. We thought going there would be hard to top, and that we wouldn’t be able to afford going anywhere else for a long time.
But the stars aligned and only two months later Lisa and I celebrated our 15th anniversary in Hawaii while also doing some work for the Deseret News. Spending time at the Polynesian Cultural Center, BYU-Hawaii and the Laie Temple was a special experience.
New vehicle: Shortly after we returned, it became necessary to purchase a new vehicle. We became the proud owners of a dark blue Town and Country minivan. Laugh if you want to, but all I care about is that each of our family members are comfortable in this beast.
State champs: In May, I drove to Spanish Fork to see my niece Kapri Toone help lead the Lady Bears softball team win a state championship. It was fun to be there. Kapri was only a sophomore at that point and it’s clear that she has a bright future in this sport. Congratulations, Kapri.
Family History and Temple Work: Back in January, Lisa and I started attending the ward family history class. Over several months, I was able to find more than 300 names (my father’s side of the family) in FamilySearch to print out and take to the Brigham City Temple. Over Memorial Day weekend, my wife, me, my brother Ryan and his wife, and my parents spent more than an hour performing over 60 couple and child-to-parent sealings in the Brigham City Temple. That was a sweet experience. After that, we began spreading the names around the family, and work for our ancestors has been performed in temples across the United States, including the newly dedicated Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple. It’s exciting to see our whole family participate in this important work.
Relief Society: In June, Lisa was called to be the secretary in the ward Relief Society. A few months later, when one of the counselors moved out, Lisa was called to fill that vacancy. She is doing a wonderful job and has a talent for serving others. I’m grateful for the example of dedication she is setting for our children.
Scout camp: I’m grateful to have survived scout camp with the boys in late June-early July at Bear Lake’s Camp Hunt. Trevin also spent a week with Grandpa Greg at Camp Bartlett. Aside from an infected big toe (I’ll spare you the nasty photos), Trevin had a great time and earned many merit badges.
Community play: Kalen played the dual role of a prince and a palace guard in the Garland Children’s Theater production of “Aladdin” in late July. He did a spectacular job. His older brother Trevin ended up accepting a job on the stage crew. The boys enjoyed the chance to spend time with their grandma Connie, one of the play’s directors.
Sports, music and Spanish: It’s been fun to follow Trevin in his return to football and basketball this year. He is showing progress in learning to play the cello. He has also shown a spark of interest in learning Spanish, and seems to be picking it up faster than the average kid. We hope he’ll continue progressing in each one of these areas.
Memorable Deseret News articles: There is value in every article I write. I always come away having learned something. But here are a few articles that mean a little more.
- At the beginning of the year, I was invited to take the media tour of the new Provo City Center Temple. It was a great experience and a beautiful temple. I love the metaphor that like the church rebuilt the temple from the ashes of the Provo Tabernacle, so can the Lord take a wounded, battered soul and with the power of the Atonement heal him and make him strong again, even better than before.
- An interview with biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin. She shared some great insight into how families can bond through baseball and how Eleanor Roosevelt responded to her husband’s infidelity, with lessons on how to keep working in a marriage and not settle for divorce.
- I was invited to the office of Elder Steven E. Snow, church recorder and historian, where we talked about a new online missionary database. We got to use my ancestor, John Alfred Toone, as an example in demonstrating the resources of the database.
- After President Thomas S. Monson announced a temple in Zimbabwe, I exchanged emails with three general authorities from that country and was touched but their genuine, joyful reactions to the wonderful news.
- On Easter Sunday morning, I drove to Salt Lake City to attend Music and the Spoken Word and afterwards spent an hour interviewing Lloyd Newell, the voice of the choir, about his 25 years with the choir. We met in the room in the tabernacle reserved for the guest artists and he was very open and honest about his work with the choir. I came away really impressed with Newell and his legacy with the choir.
- I mentioned before going to Hawaii. It was one of the great adventures of my life so far to write a series of articles about the Polynesian Cultural Center, the Laie Hawaii Temple Visitors Center, BYU-Hawaii (including an interview with President and Sister Tanner), and ESPN draft expert Chad Ford, and three returned missionaries playing at the University of Hawaii.
- In the book department, I had fun interviews with the son (Barnard Madsen) of Truman G. Madsen, who published a biography of his father in time for Father’s Day; and Steve Young, former San Francisco 49ers QB and NFL analyst for ESPN, who published his biography with Jeff Benedict.
- By far the most read article I had this year was about a Mormon family from Bear River City that up and sold their farm and bought a boat and raised their family for 20 years in the Caribbean. Unconventional, but I got to give them props for living their dreams.
- It was the 15th anniversary of “The Other Side of Heaven,” and I got an interview with Elder John H. Groberg. What a blast for me to learn from and write about this missionary legend.
- I received the assignment to write about the release of the Joseph Smith Papers Council of Fifty Minutes, a set of volumes that had been stored in the First Presidency vault for more than a century. I love LDS Church history and it was educational and fun to sit down with two church historians and learn about the minutes.
- When the church completed the new temple in Philadelphia, I interviewed John Taylor (significant name), the director of interfaith relations for the church, who described the good will among the Saints and other faiths on the east coast. I especially loved a photo depicting a large group of Amish preparing to tour the temple during the open house. There was also a cool photo of general authorities walking next to the archbishop of Philadelphia.
- I’ve already told you about my interview with Mormon Tabernacle Choir director Mack Wilberg. 🙂
- I also enjoyed great interviews with Ed Lamb, BYU assistant, and was later interviewed on the radio about the article; Deseret Book CEO Sheri Dew, regarding the company’s 150th anniversary; LDS artist, Chad Hawkins; and retired US Army Col. Guy Hollingsworth.
- One Deseret News experience that didn’t make it into print happened on Sept. 1. After interviewing John Taylor, I wandered over to the north visitors center for something related to another article. As I was standing near the Christus Statue, a large group of people, led by security detail, walked by. In front was Gov. Pence of Indiana, Donald Trump’s VP candidate, followed by Gov. Gary Herbert, Sen. Orrin Hatch and an entourage of important people I’m sure. Pence made eye contact with me and even waved. Church PR was surprised to see me there because they had not invited any media, but when I explained I was there by chance, all was well. Given the attention Trump and his campaign was getting at the time, it was an exciting, unexpected twist in my day.
So yes, it’s been a wonderful year, and I’m counting my blessings. I pray that 2017 will be even better.
Here are a few more memorable moments from 2016.