Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Earthly poor, but heavenly blessed

While sitting in my daughter’s house this past week, I noticed her Christmas tree—sparsely decorated with two dishtowels where a tree skirt should be. It quickly took me back in time to my second Christmas with my husband. We were married in early July and had our first child, Camille, in April. In the fall, my husband quit his job to attend graduate school, and we lived off a student loan and what I could make selling Tupperware.

Going back to school necessitated moving into a less expensive apartment. We found a duplex, set back from the road and nestled in a grove of trees. It had a bright, cheery, orange door, but once inside, the apartment lost most of its charm. Green was everywhere. The sea foam green walls were devoid of artwork and emanating from the forest green, shag carpet was a musty, tobacco smell. The kitchen linoleum was so worn it was difficult to determine its original color, but the green walls, olive green appliances and dark brown cupboards gave the room a dreary and depressing appearance.

Beyond the kitchen was the laundry room, where we placed our daughter’s crib, and directly across from it was our bedroom. Next to the bedroom, in stark contrast to the rest of the apartment, was a bright, yellow bathroom from which we could easily hear the neighbor’s conversations drifting through the vents.

We filled the kitchen cupboards with cans of turkey chunks from the church cannery (a gift from my sister) and the freezer with hamburger meat purchased on sale from the butcher. We placed our worn, and I am sorry to say, green sofa along the wall that separated the kitchen from the living room and across from it we put our oak rocking chair, which was on loan from my parents. I walked from the bathroom to the kitchen and around to the living room and sat down on the floor. Looking around the apartment I realized there was no longer any use denying it. We were poor.

Fall turned to winter and the bright colored leaves lay slumbering on the ground under a blanket of snow. It was December, and while the outside world bustled about preparing for Christmas, I was in bed recovering from surgery. Then came a knock at our front door. First entered my neighbor Melinda, followed by her husband Kevin, arms laden with simmering hot casserole dishes and freshly baked rolls. Next came our neighbors Doug and Linda, returning our laundry smelling freshly washed and looking neatly pressed.

As we gathered in the living room to visit, I looked around, silently absorbing the scene before me. Dominating the room was our Christmas tree; a poor, scraggly, little thing propped up rather unceremoniously in an empty ice cream bucket and supported by river rock. Its spindly branches were draped with silver, metallic icicles in an effort to disguise the sparseness of their needles. I sat next to the tree in the rocking chair, rocking my baby, now eight months old. My husband sat cross-legged next to me on the floor and our four guests, who were providently thin, scrunched in next to each other on the couch. I could hear sweet musical laughter as stories were shared. I could smell the aroma of freshly baked bread in the kitchen begging for my attention, and I could see the Christmas tree lights twinkling next to me. I felt the warmth in the room, first on my skin and then deep down in my soul. Suddenly it hit me. We were rich.

Life has changed much since then. We moved to Arizona, added four more children to our family and our worldly possessions increased. And yet many years later, we still count as our greatest blessings---and hence the source of our greatest wealth---family members and good friends who have brought such great joy, and richness. . . to our journey.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Tribute to Three Great Girls

Kathryn 18, Michelle 15, Kristen 21
I wanted to take a minute and pay tribute to my three youngest daughters—Kristen, Kathryn and Michelle, who, despite their age, still let me dress them alike. :-)

But mostly I wanted to express my gratitude to them for their help this past week. Kristen flew home from BYU the night before I left for Colorado. Since then, she and her two younger sisters have had to clean the house from top to bottom, make treats for the neighborhood FHE/Treat Exchange, finish delivering gifts to friends and neighbors, finish the Christmas shopping, wrap the gifts, and put on the annual Christmas Eve party at our house—which included purchasing and preparing all the food, plus providing and arranging for the entertainment.

And they did it all beautifully and without complaint! Oh, how I love them!

We did have to laugh at a comment my husband made though. The night before I returned he told them that since Mom was coming home they needed to prepare themselves for change. No longer would they get to lounge around as free spirits, but instead I would be putting them to work. Kristen pointed out that he was the only one who had been taking it easy, the rest of them had been working harder than they ever had during any “vacation”.

And what a great job they did! I love you all so very much! Thank you for all the joy you have brought to my journey!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

My day with a newborn baby and a dog

11:00 p.m. Dave and Camille (the parents) put Carly (the newborn) to bed and climb into bed themselves. Missing my family in Arizona, I (the grandma) get on the internet to catch up on email.

1:00 a.m. I go to bed. Max (the dog) takes up residence on the floor at the foot of my bed.

1:30. Carly’s robust crying awakens everyone. I get up and find Dave in the nursery changing a diaper. Camille mumbles something incoherent from her bed.

2:00. Carly cries again. I turn over and try to sleep.

3:00. I am awakened by Carly’s cries. I try to go back to sleep but Max is chasing something in his dreams and his noises keep me awake. I try covering my head with a blanket to diminish the noise.

4:00. Carly is crying and I can hear frustrated parental voices in the next bedroom. I knock on the door and ask if I can help. Dave promptly hands me the baby and closes the door.

4:00-4:30. I walk the house with Carly, trying to keep her from awakening her parents. I try to put her in her crib but she immediately protests.

4:30. I decide to try sitting with Carly in my bed as I am feeling rather exhausted. I go to my room and see that Max is now sleeping in my bed so I abandon that thought. I'll clean out the dog hair in the morning.

5:00-6:30. I feel so tired I can barely stand it. I still have Carly and still can’t put her down, so I get on the internet and start reading blogs. Thank you to all you bloggers! You kept me entertained and in good spirits when I was desperate!

6:30-7:15. I sit on the couch with Carly. Max comes and sits next to me and keeps nudging my hand to pet him. I think, “My life has come down to this?”

7:45. I wake up Camille and tell her it is time to feed her hungry baby.

9:00. Camille and I discuss the need to have Carly learn to sleep without someone holding her. Long day.

7:00 p.m. We put Carly in bed and have a strategy meeting on how to deal with her tonight. Dave ends the meeting by saying, “Okay, break!” We all laugh at his reference to a huddle. He comments he feels we are all a team and the baby is our opponent . . . and we are losing.

7:15. Carly is still in bed sleeping. I go to check on her to make sure she is breathing.
7:25. Dave goes to check on her to make sure she is still breathing.
7:40. I go to check on her to make sure she is still breathing.
7:50. Camille goes to check on her . . .

Apparently either way, we don’t sleep. :-)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Why the shepherds?

Tomorrow night is Christmas Eve and at my house they will be acting out the nativity. (I am still in Colorado so will miss out on the fun.) In the past, everyone wanted to be the angel or the wise men. The angel has an actual speaking part and the wise men are well . . . wise. And they wear the nicest costumes and bring the best gifts.

Personally, I would want to be a shepherd.

The shepherds were responsible for verifying which of the lambs were the first born and without blemish. Or in other words, which would be offered to God as a sacrifice. And so it seems only fitting that the shepherds, watching over their flocks by night, were given the glad tidings of Christ birth. They went in haste and found Him lying in a manger and became witnesses to the world that He was truly the "Lamb of God", the first born of Mary, and as such, would offer himself as a the great sacrifice. What a sight to see the angels singing and then being able to worship the Savior in the humble stable.

What an honor to be a shepherd.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Colorado Observations

I have learned a few things since being here in Colorado. Here are a few of them.

1. There is a very good reason I live in Arizona instead of Colorado. It is COLD here! When I went home last night it was 6 degrees. I don't think we have been above 17 since I have been here.

2. If you visit Colorado in the winter, bring gloves!!! Your hands freeze to the steering wheel of the car without them.

3. I also know why I don't have dogs. Hair, hair, everywhere. Camille has two dogs and since Dave has been at the hospital at night, it has fallen to me to put them out in the morning, feed them, put them out again, play with them (somewhat unwillingly on my part) and say, "Down, Cody! Down, Max!" about a hundred times a day--or at least once for each time they jump on me. And I get to clean up dog hair, which is everywhere.

4. It is so sad when hospital food tastes better than what I fix at home. Yesterday I had coconut chicken with mango salsa and the day before it was chicken breast stuffed with brie and apples. Very yummy. It is time to get out the cook books!

5. I am not as directionally challenged as I thought. I just never pay attention. I always get lost when I am somewhere new--including inside the hotels. But since being here I have had to pay attention to where I am going and can make it to the hospital, to Camille's house, church, Walmart and any number of other stores. And I haven't been lost once!

Carly Amelia Tusler

She is here, in all her glory! She didn’t arrive without a lot of drama, however. For the details you can go to Camille’s blog at http://www.tuslerfamily.blogspot.com/. For my version, however, you can stay here.

Flying to Colorado was fun. I was so excited about getting a grandbaby, that I told everyone along the way . . . the security guards, all the people in the waiting area at the airport, the stewardesses, those sitting by me on the plane. . .

The next day we went to the hospital . Camille was induced around 8:30, they broke her water in the early afternoon, and after the contractions became steady and painful, she got an epidural. Unfortunately the epidural only took on one side, and in an effort to correct that, the anesthesiologist repositioned the needle and pumped up the medication. With in minutes Camille’s blood pressure started dropping. The medicine to fix that made her heart race and after repeated attempts to stabilize her, the doctor told us they were going to perform an emergency c-section.

I started crying. Since she couldn’t handle the epidural they had to take that off and put her completely under. I felt so bad Camille was going to miss the birth of her baby, but my tears were also out of relief that it was going to be over. Watching the nurses and doctor scurrying around and watching Camille struggle to maintain consciousness over the past hour and a half, was very difficult. I was so relieved a decision was made and Carly would soon be born.

They took us to a waiting room outside the nursery door so we could wait for Dave to bring the baby to us following her birth. And we waited what was only about ten minutes, but what seemed like an eternity.
And then we heard what was one of the most memorable and profound sounds of my life. Chimes. At this hospital they play chimes each time a baby is born. We had heard several chimes during the day and listened with envy. But at 8:00 p.m., when the chimes rang, we knew it was for us and we all started to cry—Dave’s mother, sister and myself. Dave’s dad laughed at us and wondered what all the tears were about.

Since that time we have been having fun playing with the baby, watching Dave change lots of diapers (Camille has yet to do that) and helping Camille in and out of bed and making her walk. Carly is so tiny, only 6 lbs, 12 oz and 19 inches. And she has a lot of dark hair and skin. And of course, she is beautiful!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Perils of Procrastination . . .

I had the best of intentions. I was going to send out all my Christmas cards, do the bulk of my shopping, make all the treats for the neighbors and deliver gifts to friends, beginning tomorrow. I was waiting for weddings to be over (first Ryan's and then today my niece's) and seminary to be behind me. THEN I would have time to focus on Christmas.

But today we received the best of news. Our daughter Camille, whose baby is due December 26, is being induced Saturday morning. I had already purchased a ticket to fly to Denver on Christmas day, but the moment I knew exactly when the baby was coming I started to bawl. I did not just tear up, mind you. This was full fledged bawling. And I knew my heart would break if I could not be there with her.

I have never been a grandmother before. And in fact, I have never really liked that word. It sounds so old. But I have to say that today all my thoughts and feelings about grandparenting changed--in an instant.

And so tomorrow I will be flying to Denver and not returning until December 27. That means that all those cards, and gifts and treats, are going to have to wait. Even "Christmas" morning is going to be delayed a couple days so I, my husband and three daughters at home can all celebrate together.

So, do I wish I had not procrastinated? Yes. But I am still thrilled, overwhelmed, excited and ecstatic to be on my way to Colorado where I will get to welcome into the world my very first grandbaby! Something I know will add . . . joy to my journey!

Let Your Light So Shine!

Today was our last morning of seminary until after Christmas break. I teach freshmen, and I am going to miss them terribly. I love freshmen because they are always so excited about everything. And they never say, “But last year we did it this way.”

We are studying the New Testament and when we learned about the parable of the Ten Virgins, we decided to make our own lamps, earn oil to put in them and then go outside in the darkness of the early morning and light our lamps.

Today, after three months of earning oil, we did it!

I had worried about the weather. It has been raining for days. But this morning the clouds parted and a clear sky, sparkling with stars shined down upon us. It was a beautiful sight to see how much light all the lamps put off. And it was fun to walk from the cold and darkness of the pavilion across the parking lot to the warmth and light of the church building, with the lamps lighting our way. (I don’t have pictures of that; I wish I did.)

Inside we were warmed by both testimonies and hot chocolate. It was such a sweet moment to hear the youth bear powerful testimonies of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. We don’t get paychecks in seminary, at least not the monetary kind. But occasionally you have one of those moments where you know getting up at 4:30 every morning, working on lessons all day, and constantly worrying about your class, is more than worth it. Today was one of those mornings. It was a morning that brought tremendous . . . joy to my journey.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Angels round about us to bear us up . . .

I believe in angels—both those we can’t see and those we can. And I appreciate both.

Several years ago, I was driving home late at night with my daughter in the car. We pulled up to a stop sign, checked for oncoming cars, didn’t see any, so proceeded to make a right hand turn onto the next street. But instead of moving forward, I pulled the car sharply to the right on to the side of the road and stopped. I then looked at my daughter in surprise, wondering why I had done that. It was almost as if the car had a mind of its own and had taken control. Just then a car, with its head lights off, zipped by us on the wrong side of the street in an effort to pass the car next to it. Had I pulled onto the road as intended, I would have hit that car head on.

That was not my first experience where I felt someone was watching over and assisting us, nor has it been my last. I am so grateful for the knowledge that we are not walking this journey alone. But I am so glad that not all angels are on the other side of the veil. Sometimes God sends family members, friends and even strangers to help us.

I had an experience a little over a year ago that I will never forget. I was on day five of recovering from major surgery. Everything hurt, my spirits, which had been high the previous four days, had plummeted, and I felt miserable, body and soul. I also had a doctor’s appointment, and not being allowed to drive, was chauffeured there and back by my husband. While returning to our home he told me he had to return to work, which meant I would be home alone.

Normally I would have been okay with that, but at that very low moment the thought of being alone was overwhelming and I began to cry. I also began to pray that Heavenly Father would send someone to my home to keep me company.

My husband got me in the house and settled into a chair and then left through the back door. He had no sooner closed the door behind him when my front doorbell rang. I called for the visitor to enter and in walked a friend, Julie, who claimed to just be passing by and thought she would drop in and give me a foot massage. For the next half hour, Julie, a trained massage therapist, massaged my feet, kept me company and boosted my spirits. When she left, I not only felt loved by her, but also by my Heavenly Father who cared enough to send someone to help me that day.
Over several weeks of my recovery, many friends and neighbors came by to watch movies with me, bring dinner, wash my dishes, and just visit. I am thankful for all of them—all angels who came and brought such great . . . joy to my journey.

Growing Pains . . .

Our daughter Camille got married this past year and will be spending her first Christmas as a married woman. She is also expecting a baby any day. The other night she and her husband were shopping at Walmart and Camille mentioned she wanted to buy some Christmas stockings. Dave (her husband) was curious as to what she was going to do with them. She explained she would fill them with candy and treats for Christmas morning. Dave then asked, "Isn't that what our parents do?" Camille answered, "Dave, we are the parents." I hope he knows he is Santa Claus too!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Snowed in? . . . Then take the snow test!

We don't get much snow in Phoenix, Arizona, but I hear it has been snowing in Utah and Colorado. So for all of you who are enjoying the snow, and even those here who aren't, here is a new quiz for you. Although I didn't agree totally with the description below, it is true I am a huge worrier. And about being a bit high strung and having a hard time relaxing. . . well, my number one pet peeve is seeing people (particularly family members who live in my house) sitting and doing nothing! All of my results are below. To find out about yourself, click on "The Snow Test."

The Snow Test
Your Snow Test Says You're Independent
You feel like something good will happen to you in the next few days.You love to work, especially when work is creative. You have the makings of a successful artist.You are an independent, individualistic person. You thrive when you're doing your own thing.Your biggest worry in life is your family. You stay up at night thinking about them.When it comes time to relax, you have difficulty relaxing. You are a bit high strung.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


At ten o'clock Thursday morning, December 11, I was in my kitchen putting chicken in the crock pot for dinner when there came a knock at my back door. It was my good friend, Lisa. She said she was kidnapping me for the day. Gathering my purse and my trust in her, and leaving the piles of laundry, dishes and life untouched behind, I got in her car and we drove away. "Where are we going?" I asked. "To lunch" was her reply. What she didn't tell me was that lunch was ninety minutes away in Prescott, Arizona. Who drives for an hour and half just to go to lunch? Well, apparently Lisa. And I love her for it.

She wanted to take me to a cute little cafe called "Sweet Tarts". The menu was filled with tempting salads and sandwiches but what was the most tempting of all was the desserts. European pastries in all their color, texture and tastes lined the display case before us.

After ordering our lunch of a small salad and cup of soup, we chose our pastries. They suggest you choose them upon arrival so they can save them for you, since once they are gone, they are gone. Lisa chose a vanilla custard tart topped with a variety of tropical fruits. I also chose vanilla custard but mine was smothered in fresh raspberries. We had a hard time limiting ourselves to just one, so we also ordered a lemon tart to share.

Following lunch we took a leisurely stroll through the quaint Christmas shops lining the streets. It was so fun to see all the ornaments, country Christmas gifts and decorations. You would think our pastries would have been enough to satisfy our sweet tooth, but as we wandered we came across some wonderfully tempting chocolates and decided to taste them as well--especially after the shop owner (who appeared to be spending a rather lonely day) told us she had tested everything at the food convention before selecting these particular chocolates as the very best, and therefore worthy of her store. And it was true. They were very yummy. But then at $2.50 each, they should have been!

Around 2:30 we reluctantly headed home, where laundry, dishes and the challenges of life awaited me. But I had spent a wonderful, calm, peaceful and much needed day with a very good friend, who knew I needed a day away. Thank you! Thank you! Lisa, for kidnapping me!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A lesson from the scriptures

We were studying the feeding of the five thousand in seminary the other day. I love that story. Five thousand plus people were all fed with only five loaves of barley and two small fishes. Yet somehow it was not only enough but there were twelve baskets of food left over.

I have been thinking about that story and how it might relate to life in general and in particular to the Christmas season. It seems there is so much to do to get ready for Christmas day and especially this year, so many people in need. I feel pulled in many different directions, and so lacking in my abilities to do everything that needs to be done and to assist all those who need assistance. But perhaps the lesson for me in this story is this . . . you give what you can, and somehow the Lord makes it be not only enough, but more joy comes back into your life than you yourself give to others. Just a thought . . . for our journeys.

Monday, December 8, 2008

And the journey begins . . .

Life is marked by certain events. Birth, of course, starts us on our journey, then in our church we have baptism at the age of eight, marriage comes later and eventually death. Of course there are many other exciting milestones in between, but these are some of the more important ones.

On November 30, our family participated in one of these life markers when my son Ryan married his sweetheart Kali, in the Mesa, Arizona temple for both time and eternity. We love Kali and are thrilled to have her in our family. Besides being a wonderfully sweet and kind young woman, we also joke she adds some much needed genes to our family gene pool. First-- she is short. Short isn’t necessarily better, but my shortest daughter is 5’7” and the other three are 5’9” so short just isn’t a word we relate to. And she is a size 2, proving that life just isn’t fair. The last time I wore a size 2 it had a large T after the number and even then I was probably only 12 months old.

With one week of marriage behind them they are learning what life is really all about—work, school, paying bills and taking care of their dog. Here are a few pictures of the big event.

While taking their engagement pictures at a park these nuns walked by. We joke we had hired them as chaperons.

This picture is a little blurry but I still like it because it shows the joy on their faces.

Here we are with the entire family who attended the wedding (on my side, my husband's family had left already). It was fun to be together for the celebration.

And here were are at the reception waiting for the fun to begin. I thought the room was beautifully decorated and the entire evening enchanting!
Congratulations Kali and Ryan. And may you always find . . . joy in your journey!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

What kind of pie are you?

I took this quiz and came out mud pie. I really think I am apple though--and not at all mud pie. I don't even like mud pie. But my girls were described perfectly in theirs, so if you are bored and curious go to the link below. (Sorry I haven't learned how to do it so you just have to "click here")
You Are Mud Pie

You're the perfect combo of flavor and depth.You are overpowering and dominant - and that's what people like about you.You bring energy and a new direction to most interactions.People crave you in a serious way. You're that important to them.Those who like you give into their impulses.You don't represent reason. You represent pure temptation.People get addicted to you rather easily. You offer people a dark side that is very hard to resist.


Best Ever Banana Bread

If you are looking for something besides fudge to give to your neighbors this year, you might want to try this recipe for banana bread. It is the best I have ever had. Enjoy!

Banana Bread

2 1/4 C Flour
1 2/3 C. Sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 C shortening
2/3 C buttermilk (no substitutes)
3 eggs
1 1/4 C mashed bananas
2/3 C nuts (optional)
3 oz package vanilla instant pudding

Mix together and pour batter into two well greased loaf pans. Bake at 350 35-45 minutes or longer until golden brown.You will love it!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Tis the Season . . .

I love Christmas! I love getting Christmas cards, shopping for just the right gift for someone I love and even holiday baking. I love the family Christmas parties, having my children come home and especially celebrating the birth of our Savior. But I know it can also be a stressful time so here are a few quotes to bring a smile to your face if you are feeling the stress of the season, more than the joy of it.

A Christmas candle is a lovely thing; it makes no noise at all, but softly gives itself away; while quite unselfish, it grows small. Eva K. Logue

A Christmas shoppers complaint is one of long-standing. Unknown

A goose never voted for an early Christmas. Irish saying

A three-year-old gave this reaction to her Christmas dinner. "I don't like the turkey, but I like the bread he ate."

In the old days it was not called the Holiday Season. The Christians called it "Christmas "and went to church. The Jews called it "Hanukka" and went to synagogue. The atheists went to parties and drank. People passing each other on the street would say, "Merry Christmas!" or "Happy Hanukka!" or to the atheists, "Look out for the wall!" Dave Barry

Christmas gift suggestions: To your enemy, forgiveness; to an opponent, tolerance; to a friend, your heart; to a customer, service; to all, charity; to every child a good example; and to yourself, respect. Oren Arnold