Saying Goodbye to 2019

 

High moments and low moments.  Each year brings us a little of both, here are some of ours.

A new little monster…meet Kodi.  We were blessed with a new addition to our pack in January – Kodi Justice Price Harris.  Kodi is cute as a button and very animated.  She’s kept us on our toes all year and we’re grateful for the lightness and joy she brings everyday.  Our good friends, Tess and Beth, brought her into our life when she needed a new home and we feel incredibly blessed.

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Brent spent much of the year traveling the world to build Facebook’s new Oversight Board and collecting feedback on how best to design this new institution. From Delhi to Berlin, New York to Singapore, and around the world again, Brent and the amazing Governance Team at Facebook worked to turn the idea into a reality (still in progress…).  Here he is speaking at Chatham House in London and back home in Oklahoma. Their work was covered by media across the world, and I’ve included a few links below. It’s been a challenging year for Facebook and while we all have opinions on the company I’m incredibly proud of Brent, his team, and their efforts to re-imagine what’s possible for content moderation online.

India’s Economic Times, England’s Chatham House, and The New York Times.

I spend my year overseeing the Stanford Executive Program (SEP) at the Graduate School of Business.  It’s a life-changing program Stanford offers to senior executives from around the globe looking to elevate their impact in the world. Graduation day is the pinnacle of the program and always an emotional day. This year my mom and Dave were able to join. Having my family there meant the world to me. During the graduation ceremony I told the story of the crash that changed my mom’s life and the journey she’s (and we’ve all) been on since May 2017.  “As individuals, we have very little control over what happens to us. We can, however, choose our reactions and how we respond. We control our choices. We can choose to be purposeful in our actions, our words, and our decisions,” I said.  I firmly believe that leadership matters and it matters most in hard times.

While we typically head across an ocean when we have a chance, this year we stuck closer to home. In August, we spent two weeks recharging in the Hawaiian Islands. After Brent’s global travel and the Stanford Executive Program, relaxation was just what the doctor ordered. A few days on Maui followed by a week on Lani. Beach time, aerial yoga ever day, Nobu at night, and lots of swimming and reading. In a word, heaven.

Family and friends mean the world to us. This year we enjoyed visits from Wynd, Dave, and Elise (and yes, that’s a photo of Elise standing and hugging me for the first time since the crash!). We enjoying hiking and dining in Tahoe with the Salmon’s and the Johnson’s side of the family for this year’s reunion. We celebrated Aaron and Ladan’s wedding and welcomed two new little ones, Louis and Henry, into our expanding circle of friends here in the Bay Area. At the same time, we’ve struggled to grow our own family. After repeated miscarriages, we sought fertility treatment at Spring Fertility in the Bay Area. While it has not been an easy journey, it’s safe to say it would be much harder without the kindness and support of the team at Spring.

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In the photo above we are celebrating the first of several procedures I went through this year. We hope to have joyous news to share in 2020. For now, we practice patience as our journey continues.

Thank you for your support and we wish you a wonderful new year!

2018 – A Year In Review

I’m an eternal optimist.  Brent is more of a realist.  The longer we’re together the more we seem to rub off on one another.  We especially noticed it this year as 2018 has been a year of reflection for us. While we are incredibly blessed, at a personal and global level, the past couple of years have been challenging.  This year we took a step back to process and reflect.

Life is tough, but it is also sweet. When faced with the challenges life has to offer it can be difficult to imagine life beyond the challenge.  And then a moment carries you away.  Here are a few of the moments that carried us away in 2018 giving you a glimpse into our year. 

January 19

Our nephew was born. He joins his two older sisters as well as his mom and dad rounding out their family. 

April 10

Brent had been working at Facebook for a few months when Cambridge Analytica first hit the press.  To say it’s been a challenging year for Facebook and for Brent is an incredible understatement.  Friends of ours have held heated debates with us over it, and strangers stopped us in the street when we were wearing Facebook sweatshirts to comment on how disappointed they are in the company.  At the same time, Brent and an extraordinary group of people at Facebook have been taking a long, hard look in the mirror and are reinventing what it means to run the largest social media network in the world.

May 3

Wynd, Brent’s parent, graduated from her Doctorate of Ministry program at Hebrew Union College. Brent joined her for the graduation festivities. Her learning journey continues with an MSW program. We were so proud of her for her accomplishment and most of all for her continued curiosity and dedication to learning. 

July 4

Elise’s, my mom, right leg was paralyzed following the car crash last May. On July 4th this year she moved her leg on command for the first time!  Dave, my dad, found her a wonderful acupuncture doctor in New York and he’s helped her to relieve some pain and gain some movement in her right leg.

August 3

I’m blessed to lead the Stanford Executive Program team at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.  August 3rd was graduation day.  My first year as the program director for what is arguably the most challenging year for the program recently.  We faced staffing issues, personal issues, challenges in the program, and yet, it was the most successful year of the program in recent memory.  We graduated an incredible class of 220 talented and inspiring executives who remind us of the importance of our mission at the GSB.  Standing on stage this year I fought back tears several times. It was an honor to have been a part of the program and the team that made it possible.  Graduation day is always bittersweet.  Sweet for the rest I’m so close to getting.  Bitter for the loss of daily interactions with students and staff alike.  

August 18

The view from the top of Pigne d’Arolla in the Swiss Alps is breathtaking. Brent and I were guided by Eric Paternot and Paul. Brent and I made it despite the fact that I accidentally hit myself in the head with the blunt end of the ice ax. Never having summited a technical climb before it was a challenge and truly exhilarating.  

October 15

Visiting Mia, my grandmother, for a few days. When I visit we always go to the movies and dine on a dinner of Friendly’s ice cream. Yum! She’s 97 and I treasure our time together. She inspires me with her stories, words of wisdom, and laughter. Even through she’s Stephen’s, my dad, Mom. Dave, my dad, and Elise, my mom visited her to thank her for the weekly letters of support and encouragement she sends to Elise.

December 25

Christmas with Stephen, my dad, Lisa, Stevie, and Wyatt in Jackson, WY.  We skied together on a cold, snowy day. Then we watched the movie Die Hard, opened presents, and ate a holiday ham. After three years of international travel and holidays on our own, it was nice to drive out to Jackson and enjoy hugs with family. 

December 30

Horseback riding in the snow at Triple Creek in Montana before ringing in 2019.  The snow was falling thinly all around us as we rode down the mountain trail.  

As the year comes to an end we’re looking forward to the future with hope and doing our best to accept the bitterness that comes with the passing of time.  Like my grandmother, Mia, says, getting old isn’t for sissies. As we are in our mid to late 30’s we hope to have many more miles to go. 

A special thank you to all of you – our friends and family.  We are blessed all year to have incredible friends to join us in laughter, tears, and adventure.  We are grateful for all of the joy and support we rely on from each of you all year long. Cheers to 2019!

Our time in Tarasp

We spent our day in Tarasp hiking through a national park on the Italian and Austrian boarders. The views were spectacular, the climb was steep, and we soaked in as much as we could knowing it was our last hike in Switzerland for a time.

We loved our trip to Switzerland and Italy! While it was nice to come home, we’re excited for our next adventure.

Goodbye Venice – Hello Tarasp?

Our last morning we dined by the canal in our hotel garden. We stayed at the Aman Venice which had a beautiful garden on the grand canal where we ate breakfast each morning.

They humored me with a custom fruit salad of only watermelon. Yum!

We left the city by water taxis and started our drive to Tarasp in the Engadine region of Switzerland. On our way we stopped for lunch at a castle in northern Italy.

The menu has three items on it. I chose the lasagna and Brent had the sausage and polenta cakes. The castle and corresponding restaurant are run by a family who lives at the castle.

Brent’s looking pretty happy after lunch! While the climb up and down was a little steep Brent’s no traction dress shoes the risk was worth it!

We hit the road again and continued on to Tarasp.

Tarasp is a picturesque Swiss town home to about 350 people. We stayed at the Schloss Hotel which is a property that’s been owned by the same family for over 500 years. They transitioned the property from a farm to a hotel over a long period of time finally selling off the last of their cows in the 1950’s. The property is famous for excellent service and spectacular food. We met many members of the family during our short stay.

Above is our second helping of diner- yum!

Seeing the Sites in Venice

We visited the Peggy Guggenheim, the Dogano Museum, and the Doge’s Palace.

The palace was like a maze. Paths leading from room to room or cell to cell depending on the part of the palace.

This painting symbolized the power of Venice, the empire, to be greater than that of the Vatican. It’s also enormous and was painted in ten panels created in a nearby building, the artists home wasn’t big enough to house even one panel, and then assembled on site.

The view of the courtyard and from the courtyard of the building was my favorite part.

We ended our evening with massages and dinner at our hotel which had incredible food. The beef carpaccio and saffron risotto were out of this world.

Journey to Burano

We took the ferry to Burano in the morning. Staying in the heart of the city makes it easier to get around in a city where land transportation is anything but straightforward.

We admired the brightly colored buildings and lace craftsmanship.

We also admired the leaning towers.

In one is the shops we found a print art that resonated with Brent. You can’t see it as easily but one of the social media tarot cards is about cat videos. That’s mine.

While the island is famous for lace it was really hot and I had forgotten to pack a hat. We set out in search of a hat for me as we waited for our reservation. We enjoyed a wonderful lunch at Il Gatto Nero which was recommended by a friend.

The boat ride back we admired the many abandoned islands. The day ended with a sunset cruise of the canals and the lagoon. We learned that three of the islands were hospitals. One, the largest, was turned into a Marriott hotel. The other two are abandoned.

Off to Venice

We had a wonderful time in Verbier with Eric, Laura, and Jo. We ate a lot, including several more Rosti like this happy plate!

Soon is was time for us to say goodbye and head to Venice. The drive down was easy enough. The roads were significantly better in Switzerland, but the trip went smoothly enough.

Brent and I arrived in Venice and spend the first afternoon walking the sites. Here we are on the Rialto Bridge.

It was a sharpe contrasts to the mountains of Switzerland, but Venice is a magical city. While it was busy we made it to Saint Mark’s Square to admire the main sights.

Brent got photobombed- it was very well executed.

We enjoyed our wonderings, but we enjoyed them even more when we got off the main paths and found our own way through the city.

The light in the city is so beautiful.

It was incredibly hot so we took a few breaks to dip our toes in the water.

We enjoyed a dinner on the lagoon as we wrapped up our first day in Venice.

Mini Haute Route Day 3

The morning began pre-dawn. Our plan was to summit Pigne d’Arolla and descend all the way to the village or Arolla. This would be our longest day, 8 hours total of hiking and climbing, and the steepest.

After crossing the top of the first glacier we climbed a scree field to access the next glacier.

The sun began to rise behind us as we climbed and by the time we were being roped into our harnesses it was a bright blue day.

Above you can see we are all roped together. I’m looking up at Paul as he climbs ahead to attached the ice screws.

Here’s Brent climbing after Paul. Paul would make it look so easy…we would struggle to keep up.

Eric and I are enjoying the view as the sun came up over the mountains.

Next Paul adjusted the spacing on the rope between. Initially we were roped very close together in case one of us were to fall. At this point we were roped far apart in case one of us were to fall into a crevasse. From this point it was a steady climb for about an hour through the snow to the summit.

Above is a photo as we summit Pigne d’Arolla. Below is a view from the summit. You can also see our tracks up to the summit.

From here on we walked downhill for five hours beginning with the descent of the peak and the glacier.

It was my first time ice climbing and the way down was much harder for me. Here we are deciding on our route.

And here’s our route.

Here Eric and I are watching Brent’s climb down a steep section of ice.

Once we climbed down the steep section of this glacier we continued down crossing cravasses. It was slow going.

We could see how far the glaciers have retreated in the last sixty years. It’s shocking to see the rapid changes these mountains have experienced and Paul showed us how the rock uncovered from the glaciers is not settled and creates grater dangers for mountaineers.

Here I am looking happy to be getting close to the end of the glacier.

And once we made it to the bottom of the glacier we began to climb down the scree fields.

And then down a moraine…

And finally we made it to the end of the trail and lunch!

Looking back up at the mountain it was hard to believe we had been up there just a few hours before. It was an incredible experience and we’re all planning the next one!

Mini Haute Route Day 2

Day two began with a cloudy departure from the hut. The rain soon followed as we started up the canyon leading to the glacier.

We jokingly said we were entering the South Gate of Mordor…but it was pretty much how it looked.

We walked up the glacier. All the way up and the ice surrounding us was amazing. The pure blue color and thickness of the ice were striking.

Part of our job walking up the glacier was to avoid falling in holes like that one. We successfully made it up the glacier without falling into a hole. They’re incredibly deep and I’m grateful we didn’t have any accidents.

Here you can see how far we walked up the glacier. Far back in the distance is the stream featured in the first photo of this post. The itself is covered in a beautiful patter of dust.

As we reached the top of the glacier we experienced our first crevases and snow bridges. Here’s Brent in action crossing one….

The landscape was incredible but also a little desolate. We’re above the tree line so there’s no vegetation but there are also no animals or birds or insects. In the photo below you can see the full view of the glacier we traveled up.

Next we had to climb to the hut. This involved a steep accent in our crampons (the test run for day three). Followed by a hike across the top of a second glacier, crossing over a ridge, and a hike across another glacier.

You can see the volume of ice to the left of us as we hike across the snow avoiding crevasses. The photo below is what it looks like below us to the right. Good thing we didn’t see that view until after we had already crossed!

The final part of the day involved crossing the last glacier. Paul made small footholds for us using his icepick.

The hut is an isolated place, obviously not easy to get to, but typically pretty busy. We were lucky to be one of only six people staying the night. In the photo below you can see the hut. You cannot access it from this side. This photo was taken by Eric as we were crossing the top of the second glacier.

And once we got to the hut we enjoyed the views from the hut, games, and more Rosti! In between storms we ventured out on the rocks above the hut for more sighseeing.

Off to the right of Brent you can see the second glacier we walked across. If you look closely you can see our tracks. You can also see the sleep slope and sudden drop just after the area we trekked.

Paul went up higher than we were willing to climb wearing crocks so he could make a phone call home to his family. We stayed below on the lower rocks and enjoyed the view of the area.

Before we came back down to the hut we took a group selfie with the peak of the mountain we would climb the next morning in the background.

A Mini Haute Route – Day One

Eric invited us to join him on a Mini Haute Route (or High Route) in Switzerland. The full route takes you from Chamonix to Zermatt. Eric planned a three-day route from Lake Mauvoison to Cabin de Chanrion on day one, day two we hike to d’Otemma Glacier and up to Cabin de Vignettes, and on day three we summit Pigne d’Arolla and then descend to the village of Arolla. Brent and I had never been mountaineering before and this trip required crampons, icepicks, and harnesses.

We were excited to depart Verbier for the trip…Eric is more confident than Brent and I. We set out on foot to the cable car to descend into the village below Verbier where we would meet our guide Paul and begin the drive to the lake.

Brent and I had been to this lake before when we visited Laura and Eric for their wedding six years ago. It’s the same place Laura twisted her ankle and had to be carried out by a friends. We hoped for a safer journey today.

And from above…

The photos are all courtesy of Eric who’s a fantastic photographer. We wondered through meadows like this on our hike. The first day was warm and sunny – it’s incredibly beautiful.

We met some friendly cows on our way and stopped for a picnic lunch along the way.

You can see the waterfalls that surrounded us as we traveled. They’re all from the melting glaciers high above.

We passed several small lakes along the way and crossed through several scree fields.

The first day was essentially all uphill as we ascended in altitude.

The scale isn’t clear in the photos. The landscape is vast and the scenery is breathtaking.

The first day’s hike was about 5 hours. Below is a photo of the hut we stayed in called Cabin de Chanrion. There are 100’s of huts throughout the Alps. The huts we stayed in are all owned by the Swiss Alpine Club and are staffed but the hut guardian’s who’s job is to maintain, clean, and cook for alpinists.

After arriving at the hut, above, we decided to head off to explore the surrounding lakes and vistas.

Brent found a quiet spot for a good think…

As the clouds rolled in we headed back to the hut for games, dinner, and sleep. Tomorrow were heading up a glacier.