Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wrapping Up Christmas!

Before I pack up the tree and put away the decorations, I wanted to write a little about our Christmas this year. And just to make sure I don’t bore everyone to death, I have limited my writing to our top five, okay, make that six, events—with me being the sole judge. (They are listed chronologically.)

1. Gingerbread house making! This is our second year to do this and we love it. Although my team's house didn’t quite turn out to be as cute as we envisioned, we still had a lot of fun. And we are already drawing up plans for next year so we can win the competition! (Sorry about the picture Kat!:-)

2. Games, games, and games! Kristen learned a board game at BYU from a boy who learned it from a friend who had lived in Asia—and that is why we don’t have a name for it. But Kristen made a game board from poster paper and then laminated it. We then used peanut butter M&M’s for the game pieces and had hours and hours of late night fun. (Although it is a game of strategy and requires deep concentration.)

3. Birthdays. This next event is one my two daughters participated in and one I feel is worthy of mentioning. My friend Christy, lost her son in an accident a year and a half ago. December 23 would have been his 17th birthday, and having a desire to celebrate his birthday in a positive way with his friends, Christy purchased 300 DVDs of the church film, “Families Can Be Together Forever”. About fifty youth in the area gathered together and within an hour had all the DVDs distributed throughout the neighborhood. What a wonderful way to celebrate! And what a great way to share the gospel! (Sorry I don't have pictures)

4 Smores! On Wednesday night we built a bonfire in the river bed that runs in front of our home. (There is rarely any water in an Arizona riverbed so it is a safe place to be) We then invited our neighbors, brought out the marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers and had a great time eating smores and visiting.

5. Christmas Eve at our house. Each year for the past 25 years we have celebrated Christmas Eve at our house (with the exception of the year we were in Guatemala). My sister- in-law, Judy, and her family came and spent the evening with us as well. One of her daughter’s brought her finance so it was fun to meet him. Our friends, the Farley’s were kind enough to smoke a turkey for us for our dinner and my daughter Camille, made very yummy side dishes while Kristen added the rolls. (I got the evening off!:-) Afterwards we played games, sang songs, read the Christmas story from the scriptures and then were entertained by Uncle George and his daughter, Riki, singing. I love traditions!!
After everyone left we opened our family gifts. Camille had made pj's for all the women (her first sewing project ever!!) They turned out so cute. We also bought matching pj's for the men. (If you look closely you can see how our family has gone to the dogs!)

6. Christmas morning. Always in the past the kids would wake us up at six, eager to open gifts. This year everyone slept in. I finally got up at seven and made muffins while everyone slumbered. By eight I couldn't take the suspence any longer and woke them all up. My daughter, Michelle, was hilarious. She had wanted to purchase gifts for everyone, but lacking money, she just wrapped each person something she found around the house. I got a can of corn and my husband got a razor. At least they were useful gifts! After breakfast we headed to Mesa to spend the afternoon with Grandma. It was a perfect day.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Some Really Good News!

A couple weeks ago I wrote about a mother in our stake who passed away from cancer, just a day before her son's missionary papers were submitted. I heard from several of you asking me to let you know when he received his call and where he would be serving.

Well, tonight he opened his call and will be going to Helsinki, Finland!! That is where his mother is from and where she also served her mission. (It is also one of the hardest languages in the world to learn:-)

I have not talked to Brian personally, however, my daughter was there at the time he opened his call and had the phone up for me to hear. From all the screaming that went on, I am guessing there is a lot of excitement at his house tonight! What a wonderful blessing!

Monday, December 28, 2009

All About Carly

We have had the most fun this past week with my daughter Camille, her husband Dave and their daughter Carly at our house.
Not only did we get to celebrate Christmas with them,
but it was also
Carly's First Birthday!!
And her first time eating chocolate cake!

She wasn't too thrilled with the clothes, but she did like the toys.
Christmas morning with a baby was also a fun experience.
By now she had gotten the hang of opening gifts.
And this picture is my absolutely most favorite.
It was taken by my daughter Kristen one morning just as the light came through the
kitchen window.
What a sweet baby!!
I am going to miss giving her hugs and kisses

Oh, and thanks to Kristin Klein, I have also been introduced to picnik
which you can see I have been having a lot of fun with. :-)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Earthly Poor, But Heavenly Blessed

I wrote this last year, but felt it could bear being posted again. It is one of my favorite memories and one of my favorite posts as it is one of the few I took a great deal of time to write. I hope you enjoy it.

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.

I am feeling very "rich" right now as well. My house is filled this week with my children, in laws and even a baby. What a great blessing this is!

May you all have a very Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Rolls Part II, or . . . There are Angels Amongst Us

(For this to make sense you will need to scroll down for part one)

When I arrived at the hospital, I found my friend seated by her son’s side holding his hand. He was in pretty bad shape, but after a while he did begin to respond and we all breathed a sigh of relief. I had become very good at watching hospital monitors when my mother was ill, so I took up my vigil watching. After a while several family members started filling the room, so I hugged my friend goodbye and slipped out, ready to head home and take back the roll assignment.

But then I looked at my watch. It was now 3:30 p.m. and I still hadn’t marked a single item off my original Christmas to-do list. Being just a mile from the mall, and knowing the rolls were well cared for, I decided to head south for a quick run into Penney’s.

I hurried up the stairs, found what I wanted and got in the long line of customers waiting to check out. Just before it was my turn, I noticed an older woman ahead of me wearing a “Grandma’s Rules” t-shirt. As the little old lady hobbled off, in my cheeriest voice I commented to her that I liked her shirt. She didn’t even look at me as she walked past. Note to self, “Don’t try to be friendly to old grumbling grandmas during the Christmas rush.”

I put my purchase on the counter and pulled out my wallet, when I noticed a set of unfamiliar keys sitting on the counter, most likely belonging to the old woman. I handed them to the cashier, made my purchase and hurried down the stairs to head home. But as I reached the door my conscience began to bother me and I thought I should at least look around to see if I could spot the owner of the keys. After a cursory search, my conscience was eased and I headed out.

Then into my mind came the thought to go back and leave by a different door. On my way back through the store, I glanced over and there at the cashier stand was Grandma Grumpy. I went and told her that she may have left her keys upstairs. That is when I learned I had been judging her erroneously.

She responded with, “Oh, no!” She caught hold of the table for balance and then looking at me pleadingly she added, “I can’t go up and get them. I just can’t.” She went on to explain she had recently had surgery and had only been home a few days. She was feeling okay earlier and thought she could hurry to the mall to make a few needed purchases but now she was feeling very ill and couldn’t do anything but go home.

I ran back up the stairs and across the floor to the cashier. Hoping I looked honest, I explained I had found the owner of the keys and would take them to her. She no longer had them. She had taken them to “Lost and Found” so I now needed to go there. No problem. I ran back across the floor, found “Lost and Found” and asked if I could have the keys. “Sure” the lady said, “You just need to tell me what they look like and I will give them to you.” Are you kidding me??? I didn’t think telling her they weren’t mine would be a good idea at this point, so doing my best to remember, I vaguely described them. She handed me a set, and hoping they were the right ones, I ran back across the floor, down the stairs and over to where I had left the old woman standing. Only she wasn’t there. She had wandered off in search of a chair.

Finally, I found her, gave her the keys and headed once again for the door. But just as I got there I glanced back and noticed the woman attempting to gather her packages. I knew there was no way she could carry all those items, so I went back and offered to help her to her car. She accepted my offer and we very slowly made our way across the parking lot to where her car was parked.

And then my day changed completely.

With tears in her eyes, she reached up and gave me a very big hug and said, “Thank you so much! You are my angel.”

As for the rolls . . . well, other than Lisa’s husband trying to tell me she burned them, all was well. Lisa brought beautiful, fluffy and perfectly golden rolls to the dinner that night. As I enjoyed one with my meal, the words of the grandma at the store kept echoing in my mind. I may have been her angel, but Lisa had been mine.

And then I realized something. When I ran off to help Wendy, Lisa needed to help me because I had been helping Michelle, and I was helping Michelle because she had been helping Jennifer, and Jennifer and Wendy both helped me at my daughter’s wedding.

It was a circle of sisters. It was a circle of angels.

And then I remembered a quote by Joseph Smith in this month’s visiting teaching message that said, “‘If you live up to your privileges, the angels cannot be restrained from being your associates."

I was surrounded by angels.

And that is a pretty nice place to be.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Rolls That Almost Weren't or . . . "I Will Get By With A Little Help From My Friends."

Yesterday started out as a calm day. I arose early for my last day of seminary this semester, eager for my Christmas lesson and just as eager to put seminary away for the next few days while I focused on Christmas. I had a Christmas to-do list a mile long and couldn’t wait to start checking off the items on the list.

I hurried home from seminary and listened to phone messages. First message-- “I was just calling to remind you that you are bringing dessert tonight to the Relief Society meeting.” When did I sign up for that? Well, no matter. I added “make dessert” to my list of things to do. I also had a message asking to borrow some table cloths for a funeral on Saturday, so I added, "find table cloths in storage and wash" to the list--that list I was going to tackle right after I ran a gift down to a friend who was leaving town.

On the way to my friend’s house I visited with another friend. The Relief Society dinner was at her house and her assignment was rolls. She was way behind in her house cleaning and decorating as she had spent a few days helping another sister in the ward sew table cloths for her daughter’s wedding and now didn’t know how she would also find the time to make the rolls. So, I told her I could make them for her . . . and added “make rolls” to my list.

I decided to hurry and get the rolls out of the way and then I could start on my list. I got out all the ingredients, mixed up the dough and proudly set it on the counter to rise. Done! And in record time! I glanced over at the vast array of dirty dishes left behind, debating if I should wash them now or save them for later, when I saw, right there in the middle of the mess, the yeast. The very yeast that should have been mixed into the dough. Okay, deep breath. It will be all right. I will just knead the yeast into the dough mixture and pray for it to rise.

But an hour later the dough was still sitting there in its original lump.

With thoughts of “will anyone really notice if I just BUY the rolls?” running through my head, I got out all the ingredients and once again mixed them into dough, this time being careful to add the yeast.

Just then the phone rang. It was a lady in our stake calling to tell me that a son of a friend of mine was being rushed to the hospital. My friend was on her way to be with him and had asked that I come as well.

I looked at the rolls and wondered what I would do with them now. My daughter also needed a ride to basketball practice and I knew I needed to hurry to the hospital.

I quickly shaped the rolls into balls and placed them on cookie sheets (without letting the dough initially rise) I told my daughter she was going to practice early, and then called my friend Lisa. Lisa is someone you can always turn to in an emergency and I had an emergency now. I would take the rolls to her house so she could “roll-sit” them for me, and if they got ready to bake before I returned, she would bake them as well.

My only mistake was setting the pans in the back seat—on a slant, so when we arrived at Lisa’s all the rolls had slid to one side of the pan and were scrunched up next to each other. I left Lisa to care for the rolls and headed to the hospital. . .

Tomorrow—Part II

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Memories

So what Christmas do you remember most? I have a few that stand out in my mind—each for a different reason. Some of my favorite memories are . . .

1. The year I got a bike lock. I was about 14 at the time. My brother, Randy, had recently returned from his mission and was a poor student. But he had my name for Christmas and when I opened the gift it was a bike lock. I appreciated the gift, but my bike wasn’t working so it seemed like a gift I would have to save for a later day. Then he went downstairs and carried up a bike. It wasn’t a new bike, it was my old one, all fixed. Not having any money, but being a very good artist, Randy bartered with the Schwinn company to fix my bike in exchange for painting a Christmas scene on their store windows. I was so touched that he would work that hard to give me a gift that I have always remembered it.

2. The year I got photo albums. Along the same line, one year my husband gave me photo albums for Christmas. That is a gift I will always treasure, because he not only gave the albums, but he spent countless hours filling each page with pictures from our trips. It was truly a gift from the heart.

3. My first year in the mission field. I remember this Christmas mostly because I was so very lonely. I was serving in Esmeraldas, Ecuador at the time, which is a very poor town on the coast. It was very hot, very humid and very dirty. It was everything a Utah Christmas is not. It was also the first time I had been away from home for Christmas and I very much missed my family. The people were so poor that we did not eat with the families, and so for Christmas we were on our own. But my companion and I started singing Christmas carols wherever we went, on the bus, walking down the streets and on the front porch of the little house we used for a church building. We always were singing a Christmas song. That very simple act changed that Christmas for me from one of sheer loneliness to one where I felt the Christmas spirit very deeply. I will always be grateful for that memory.

4. My parents first year in Guatemala. My parents were called to serve in the Guatemalan temple and so moved there for three years. During their first year, I felt bad they would be away from everyone for Christmas so we decided to take Christmas to them. We arrived (myself, my husband, and all five of our children) late Christmas Eve and spent the next several hours wrapping presents for my parents. In the morning we all watched while they un-wrapped the gifts we brought. We also had collected clothes from the people in our stake and took down several suitcases filled with clothes for needy families. So part of our day was spent sorting through those and planning ways to distribute them. It was a Christmas I think we will all remember as it was totally focused on serving others.

5. Last year. In many ways, last year was the Christmas that wasn’t—at least in a traditional sense. My son, who had recently married, was in Utah with his bride, and I was in Colorado with my daughter who had just given birth to our first grandchild. My husband was home with our three younger daughters. I missed the Christmas Eve party at my house and being awakened early in the morning by kids eager to open their gifts. However, as I held that dear sweet baby in my arms for the first time and celebrated her birth, I felt very close to a young mother many years ago, who held her first child in her arms on that very first Christmas morning. And my heart rejoiced with her.

While reflecting over my past Christmases, I find it interesting that the most memorable gifts were not those that cost the most, or the abundance, but rather those that came wrapped in love. And the Christmas memories I hold most dear are the ones whre Christmas was the most simple.

Just a thought. . .for your journey

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

And The Winner of the Give Away Is . . .

Last night I wrote down all the names of those who had entered my drawing for Rebecca Irvine's latest Family Home Evening Book give away!!

I placed all the names in a bowl.

Then to make if really official, I had my husband draw out the winner. (After all he is a licensed CPA! :-)

And the winner is . . . (imagine a drum roll here)

Congratulations to you!!
And thanks to all of you who entered the drawing! I will be getting the book to "Be Thou Humble" soon.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Touch of Sweetness in Deep Sorrow

I had a very sweet experience last Friday night. My husband was asked to visit a woman dying of cancer and I went with him. Although she has been in my ward in the past, I did not know her well. However I know two of her children as her daughter served on the seminary council one year, and her son is a very good friend of my daughter’s.

When we arrived we found her lying in bed, very thin and frail but bright eyed. Her family’s sorrow was quickly evident as during our stay all shed tears. One daughter climbed into the bed next to her mother and sobbed on her shoulder. Another daughter was eager to tell her mother about her new boyfriend who had plans to come to Arizona after Christmas to meet the family, but her voice choked as she realized that might not be soon enough. And yet another daughter stood with a brand new baby who will never remember meeting her grandmother. And there on the floor sat her son. He will be turning in his mission papers soon. The mother asked me how long it will take before he receives his call. It nearly broke my heart to tell her it would be a couple weeks.

Sitting there in the small room, took me back to a Christmas six years ago. Then it was my friend, Meg, who was dying of cancer. It was heartbreaking to watch her slip away little by little each day. And yet, one of my most fond memories is of climbing onto the bed next to her and addressing her Christmas cards, since she was not able to do it herself. Meanwhile, entertaining us was my friend Lisa, who was also on the bed, near the bottom, reading Christmas stories. As the three of us sat there together, sharing stories and giggles, I felt warmth and love flow into the room and wrap around us like a thick soft blanket. And for a few minutes the veil seemed so thin I was sure I could reach out my hand and part it.

Now here I was again, in a room watching someone slip from this life and I yearned for something I could do, some words of comfort I could offer, or a gift I could give. Just then she shifted her position and her feet hung over the side of the bed. So I asked, “Would you like me to rub your feet?” She responded, “Would you like to do that?” I told her I would. So she directed me to some lotion and I removed one of her slippers and began a massage. Her feet were small and thin and dry and the moisture from the lotion was quickly absorbed. But it was my hope that in the midst of her pain, the massage would be pleasant. I do not know if that was the case, but it was all I had to offer. I had nothing else. And although I know it wasn’t much, while sitting there with her foot in my hands I suddenly had come into my mind a picture of the Savior washing the feet of His disciples and I felt in my heart the love He had for them and for all of us. And my heart swelled with love for this dear sister.

It is hard to put in to words my feelings, but for me it was a very sacred experience and one I hope I always remember. I wish the best to this dear sweet sister and her wonderful family. My heart goes out to them at this challenging time. And I will be forever grateful to them that in the midst of their pain and sorrow they allowed me to come into their home for a few minutes, and learn a little more about the Savior and His love for us.

editor's note: I heard at church this morning that the sister passed away late last night.

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Great Book GIVE AWAY!!

Do your Family Home Evenings need a makeover? Are you looking for some new Family Home Evening ideas? Or do you just need a cute Christmas gift for a friend or family member?

I have just the book for you! Rebecca Irvine’s second book of FHE ideas is now available to order from the publisher. (To visit Becky's blog, click here)

Family Home Evening Adventures comes complete with a Family Home Evening planning guide, a theme for each month of the year, and a complete well thought out lesson for each. Each lesson consists of a lesson, activity, story, song, a list of additional resources and refreshment suggestions.

Although the lessons are geared toward younger children, children of all ages can benefit. As a seminary teacher I appreciate that Becky teaches doctrinal principles in a simple, easy to understand way. I am also glad to see that so many of the scriptures she uses in her lessons are scripture mastery scriptures. What a benefit to introduce your children to the same scriptures in their childhood they will use again in seminary and later on their missions!

Those of you in primary presidencies will love the book as well. Some of the lessons can be adapted for use in 2010 sharing times such as the lesson on the atonement or Faith Bingo.

One of my favorite is the lesson on Fathers. Becky helps us understand the different “father” roles of our founding fathers, mortal fathers, Heavenly Father, bishops and the Savior. Another lesson I really enjoyed was how she used feasting at Thanksgiving to teach about “Feasting on the Word” and everyone will enjoy December’s, “Journey to Bethlehem.”

You can order a copy from Amazon, Borders or the publisher at . And for a chance to win a free copy, leave me a comment in the comment section or email me at before Monday night saying you would like to be entered in the drawing. The winner will be announced on Tuesday!

Merry Christmas!!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Meet Kristen . . . It's Her Birthday!!

This is Kristen, my third child and today is her birthday!! It is hard to believe it was 22 years ago today I was in the hospital giving birth to her. My how times flies!! (oh, and she really doesn't have one arm in a sleeve and the other bare. The arm on the right is mine)

Kristen has always been a joy, although she did make me realize I was not as good of a mother as I thought. Her older brother was sleeping through the night at two and a half weeks of age, which I was sure was due to my superb mothering skills. Then Kristen came along and blew that theory. She didn't sleep through the night until she was two and a half YEARS!!

However, that one fault aside, she is a great girl--Beautiful, strong, smart, witty, creative and independent. She is also a very gifted teacher and has an amazing ability to entertain children of all ages. She likes to draw and write, play the flute, read, hike and is a great cook.

As a little girl she was always up for adventure and felt she could take on anything or anyone. At the grocery store when she was three she wanted to carry the gallon milk containers, because she was, as she told me "A super strong woman". And at four, when the boys were in the back yard playing baseball she got her own bat and while running out the door I heard her yell, "Watch out boys!! I'm gonna hit a home run!!"

She graduated second out of 640 students in her high school class. At BYU she works in the business department and is studying to be an elementary school teacher--something she has wanted to be since third grade. On a date once a young man asked her if being "just an elementary ed. major" she had a hard time communicating with the people in the business department. (Yes, he really asked her that!!) I told her she should have said, "No, as a teacher I am practiced at speaking slowly and explaining things so everyone can understand."

Her other goal is to be a mother. On career day in high school she put on an apron and went to school carrying a doll on her hip. All through her classes she bounced the baby on her knee or would rock it back and forth. Many of her teachers were shocked she would want to be a mother when she was so smart and could do anything. Some even suggested motherhood would be a "waste" of her abilities. But I was so proud of her for standing up to them and holding strong to her values.

She is also our family's best missionary as she is willing to share the gospel with anyone who will listen--just ask her friends, her co-workers from high school or the people she sits by on the airplanes.

We are so blessed to have her in our family and wish her a . . .


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Flowers Amidst Adversity

My neighbor has been going through a very tough time. Her days have been filled with surgery, tests, medication challenges, more tests, more medication challenges, radiation therapy etc. Yet, just as the challenges were beginning, she planted purple daisies in her vegetable garden, along with her vegetables.

I love purple. And I love the purple daisies.
As I pass from my bedroom to the family room, about a hundred times a day, I always glance out the window at the end of the hall. From that window I can see the daisies.

And each time I see them, they bring joy to my soul.

I have been thinking about that. At a time when my neighbor was struggling, she was also bringing joy to my life. It wasn't intentional, it wasn't planned, it wasn't due to any extra effort on her part. It just happened.

There once was a story in the Ensign about a woman who was working in her yard and singing hymns. She was facing some adversity and chose to sing the hymns as a way to gain strength during her challenges. Unknown to her, her neighbor was also going through some difficult times. As the neighbor walked into her back yard, she heard the singing on the other side of the fence. The melody calmed her soul and the words brought her comfort.

Without even knowing it, the first woman's way of dealing with her trials blessed the life of another.

I think my neighbor is a lot like the lady who sang. During some very dark days she blessed my life by choosing to plant something of great beauty.

The lesson I have learned from her example is this . . . how we deal with the challenges of our life, may have an effect on the lives of others. And even in our darkest days, we can still bring . . . joy to another's journey.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Why I'm Glad I'm Not A Dog

I never really appreciated my life until we got a dog. Now there isn't a day that goes by that I don't think, "I'm so glad I'm not a dog!" After hearing it so often, my husband suggested I make a list of my reasons. So here are my top ten . . .

1. I will never be found sitting under a table during meal time begging for food.

2. I don't have to be put on a leash to go for a walk--and then have someone drag me along when I'm not going fast enough. (Although my walking partner might want to do that:-)

3. When I have to "do my business" no one is standing over me watching and then saying, "Good job!!" afterwards.

4. And speaking of "doing my business" . . . when it is raining outside (like all day today) I can stay inside instead of having to run out in the rain to the grass.

5. I will never be caught smelling people, or other disgusting things.

6. You will never find me drinking out of a toilet.

7. I will never have to be kennelled.

8. No one makes me roll over, sit, beg or jump before I can have a treat.

9. Chewing on shoes/bones will never be my favorite hobby.

10. I can eat chocolate!!

Life is good!!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Learning To Be A Good Gift . . . Receiver????

"Christmas means giving. The Father gave His Son, and the Son gave His life. Without giving there is no true Christmas . . . “ (Gordon B. Hinckley)

I love that quote and believe it. I look forward to giving Christmas gifts each year. But, no matter how much time, thought and effort any of us put into giving, it would be of no value if there were no one to receive the gift.

“For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.” (D&C 88:33)

Just as important as being a good gift giver, I believe, is learning to be a good gift receiver.

A short time ago, my husband and I delivered a birthday present to a friend. I had made cinnamon rolls and we placed them in a box along with individual bottles of juice and chocolate milk, as well as all the paper products, party favors, and decorations needed to have an official family “Birthday Party Breakfast”. When we arrived at our friend’s home and gave him the gift he was extremely gracious. He expressed his delight for the cinnamon rolls, commented on how fun it was to get a gift “with a theme” and showed excitement for everything in the box. The next morning he sent a text telling us how delicious the breakfast was and the following day he once again thanked us for thinking of him and expressed his appreciation. This friend is truly a great gift receiver.

I know many other people who are also great gift receivers. Unfortunately I also know people who struggle receiving gifts, and I myself have on occasion fallen into this category. In thinking about what makes a great gift receiver, I have thought of three main qualities.

1. Humility. I know people who are simply uncomfortable being the center of attention and so resist any display of love or affection by others in the form of gifts. Other times it may be a bit humiliating to realize someone has noted our need and provided something for us we were not able to do for ourselves.

An example of this occurred when my husband and I were newlyweds. The ward was hosting a Christmas party and charging $10.00 per couple. (Back then they could do this.) We did not have the money to purchase the tickets and therefore were not planning to attend. However, the bishop, aware of our need, secured tickets for us and left them in an envelope on our front porch. At first we were embarrassed at our poverty and did not want to go. Then we felt perhaps we should find the money to purchase them ourselves. But in the end we humbled ourselves and put away our feelings of embarrassment, attended the party and thanked the bishop for the blessing.

Being a good gift receiver means putting aside our own feelings of pride and discomfort and being humble enough to focus on the feelings of the giver.

2. Charity. Often the value we place on a gift is determined by the love we have for the giver. If we value the giver, we will most likely value the gift. Learning to be a good gift receiver, therefore, includes developing a gift of love for those who give.

3. Gratitude. I learned an important lesson about gratitude when I was nine. My family drew names for Christmas each year and that year my sister had my name. One day I discovered the Christmas gift she had purchased for me—large hair clips. I was a bit disappointed in getting hair clips for Christmas and expressed my feelings to her. Her response was, “Then I won’t give them to you.” And she didn’t. She didn’t get me anything else either. That Christmas morning when everyone else opened their family gifts, I was wishing very much I had just been grateful for the hair clips and I was ashamed of my selfishness.

I have often heard people say, “But that isn’t what I wanted” or “I don’t want anything so don’t give me anything”. I have learned that it isn’t always about what we want, it is also about what the giver wants to give. Our job is to learn to be grateful for what we are given.

I think it is also important to learn to see beyond the gift and appreciate the time and effort that may have gone into preparing the gift itself. I am reminded of a story of a man who walked many miles to the seashore to get a sea shell. In giving the gift he told the receiver that the long walk was part of the gift. Gratitude entails not only being grateful for the gift itself, but also recognizing the time and effort made to prepare the gift.

I hope this Christmas Season we can all not only be good gift givers, but also good gift receivers. Because the greatest gift ever given was the birth, life and atoning sacrifice of our Lord, Jesus Christ. And His is a gift that only benefits us if we are willing to receive it. May we always receive His gift with humility, love and appreciation, for receiving the gift of His life into our hearts is what will truly bring . . . joy to our journey.

Friday, December 4, 2009

You Know Basketball Reigns Supreme When . .

My first date with my husband was to a basketball game. In fact, when I was asked out, I was given a choice of three different nights he was available, but the activity for all three would be basketball. His brother was a high school basketball coach at the time and playing in a tournament so that was Wes' activity of choice.

It should have been a warning to me of what the future would bring. But I was so smitten after just one date (I don't remember much about the game, but I do remember our fun conversation afterwards) that I didn't pay attention to the warning signs.

After we were married he ditched me on the night we had planned to decorate our first Christmas tree to go to a college basketball game with some family members. And on another occasion, very early in our marriage, he even stood me up on Valentine's for basketball. (He has since repented--numerous times --for that one.)

Over the years I came to understand that it really wasn't his fault. It was genetic. His three brothers are just the same. All four boys in his family love to play the game, they all love to watch it and two have coached professionally, with one currently being a coach of a college team.

So I guess it shouldn't have been surprising when my niece recently announced she was moving up her wedding date to coincide with her uncle's basketball game. Apparently Ken's college team will be in Phoenix early January to play Grand Canyon University. So Riki thought, "What better day to get married?" The wedding will be in the morning. A luncheon will follow and instead of a wedding reception at night, everyone is invited to attend the basketball game!! Of course! It makes perfect sense, right?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Arizona "Rain" Storm . . . and oh so pretty party decorations.

Here is a picture of our rain storm the other night. Lots of wind and dust, even a rainbow, but only a few drops of rain. Ahhh, life in the desert. :-)

And in other news . . .

Last night was the party at my house I have been working on the past several days. I had a vision of everything in gold but was worried it might look boring. I think it turned out beautifully though!! I got the table cloths from and at first didn't like them, as I thought they looked a bit dull. But then I put them on the table and when the light would shine on them they would glisten!! I loved it!!

My friend Susan helped set everything up and made the beautiful center pieces. They were so simple yet so elegant!

The party was so much fun. The food was delicious (everyone brought something--15 couples) and we played the most simple but fun game--Christmas Carol Pictionary.
We first divided into four teams. Each person was given one of four different song titles and at the same time everyone started singing their song until all members of their team were identified. Then each team was given a dry erase board and a marker. One person from each team was selected as the artist. I gave the four artists the name of a Christmas carol (I wrote them out ahead of time on slips of paper and drew them from a basket). Each person then went back to their team and at the same time all four started drawing. The team that named the carol first, won that round. Each round a different person was selected to draw.
It was so much fun and got very crazy!!
Thanks Jenny and Suzy for all your party planning help and all your hard work to make everything turn out so well!!
And in case anyone was wondering . . . only 16 more days until all my kids are home!!!