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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Offline for a Week

Pin It Our Dearest Readers,

You've probably noticed that we were a bit sporadic with posts last week, and this week as well. It just so happens that each of us is currently in the midst of this, that, and the other with the events of the holiday season. We'll be offline for the rest of this week - and perhaps next week as well, but we will be back in full force before you know it.

Thanks for your understanding…and your continued patronage. You guys are the greatest.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Real Face Time

Pin It Well, as luck would have it, yesterday I wrote an entire post before I realized that my internet connection was on the blink and none of it but the first paragraph was saved. Have you ever done that? Written something out and then lost it but just didn't have the heart to write it again after all of the time you put into it?

About a half an hour ago our connection was restored and so here I sit, wanting to write but not in so much detail. So that's what I'm going to do.

picture found at f2f.org

I disabled my Facebook account a few weeks ago. There were many reasons behind the decision, but mostly it was in an attempt to simplify my time on the computer. One day I just decided to do it and see if I would miss it. I didn't miss it at all. I have realized many more benefits since then and have not regretted my decision even once.

One of the benefits is that I was allowing myself to become too wrapped up in people's lives. When a friend writes in her status about how her husband lost his job, I want to help. When someone talks about how unhappy they are in their life or their marriage, I worry about them. When people express opinions that I 100% disagree with, I wish I hadn't seen that side of them. When someone invites me to 'like' a page they have created I am worried they will be offended if I don't. None of that matters anymore because I don't know about it. If something were important enough for me to know about, I would find out about it in other ways.

I think the best part, though, is that the people who really are truly my friends I am still in contact with. When it comes to those whose lives I want to remain a part of, nothing changed when I left the Facebook community. I have only had one old friend from high school email my brother and ask him for my contact information so that we could stay in touch. I don't have anyone poking me or sending me 'gifts' or inviting me to join their Facebook game community. I'm just living my real, live life and it's awesome.

The one thing that social networking (among other things - like texting, which I will never understand) takes away from life is actual human interaction. If you really want to know how your friends and family are doing, how about picking up the phone and giving them a call? If they live locally, walk/drive over to their house and say hello! Or, hey - how about writing a letter? (Letters are those things that people send in envelopes in the mail... you know, you write what you want to say on a piece of paper and send it off to the person you wanted to say it to? The benefit of a letter is that it can be read over and over again.)

My main point is that the only thing missing from my life since I left Facebook is the time I spent on my computer reading people's endlessly changing status updates and (quite often) life details that I was better off not knowing about in the first place.

Do you think you could do it? Disconnect from Facebook and go back to the way things were before you had ever heard of it? I bet you could.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Thinking of Grandpa

Pin It I have a new favorite Christmas song.

Isn’t it just a little bit funny that we can hear hundreds of versions of one song, and yet we seem to fall in love with only one or two of them?

Music, I firmly believe, has the ability to touch us in a way that nothing else can. It has the capacity to evoke memories, emotions, and intertwine our lives with chords and harmonies that transcend the reaches of time.

It was many years ago that I could remember going to visit my grandfather in the rest home - the place he lived when his health had become so poor that he needed constant care. It seemed that he had no idea half of the time who was with him, or indeed even who they were.

One day, I wheeled him out on the front porch area and went to my vehicle for my guitar. We sat, my grandfather and I, on that beautiful summer day and I began to play some of the songs he knew and loved so well.

As I sang, my grandfather’s quiet and weak voice found mine and together we sang…though he’d made no previous acknowledgement before this as to whom I was. As we finished the final verse, he looked at me briefly and smiled.

I felt tears raining down from my eyes as I looked at this man whom I’d always known and loved so much. We sat and I played my guitar, the music flowing around us, intertwining us both in the moment.

Music does carry a power within it my friends.

Let this song by Dustin Christensen intertwine you as well…

Monday, December 20, 2010


Pin It I pondered titles for this post. Manic Monday, which I think I've used before. Holly Jolly Stressed Out Holiday. @#$%&! (A personal favorite.) Other Mothers That Yell, Please Tell Me I'm Not Alone. It's Not Hormones, I Swear. And the Moral of the Story Is...(always carry Nilla Wafers). I couldn't decide, hence the "Untitled."

I yelled at Autumn today.

It was just one of those things. You know...you've waited ten minutes past time picking the child up from yet another athletic activity that stresses you out, manage to make it five minutes down the road, and the child realizes that she left every single personal belonging she owns back at the gym. And if you don't go to get it right this very instant, it will be thrown away.

I might not have been quite so close to the edge of reasonable behavior if the pick-up time hadn't been right in the middle of suppertime. Our meal was currently sitting in the oven, while I sat in the car, heaving intermittently and nibbling desperately at a stray Nilla Wafer I discovered in the console. I was going to puke up my stomach acids if I didn't get some food. Now.

So I lost it a little, was instantly ashamed, and sulked in silence the entire thirty minute drive home, even when Autumn offered a sheepish, "thank you for taking me back." I managed to choke out an "I'm sorry I yelled" about the time we made it to the driveway, but still.

Bad Mother Award Candidate: there she blows.

I'm not going to chalk it up to pregnancy, even though my husband swears I'm never as irritable and difficult to please as I am when I'm gestating. I think it had a lot to do with it being the first day of Christmas Break and my asinine decision to tackle Sam's Club and Wal-Mart in a single fell swoop to get the grocery shopping done.

What a moron I am. Who goes to Walmart and Sam's the week before Christmas? EVERYONE. And their brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, and redneck cousin twice removed. My baby will probably develop hypothermia from having to walk from the far reaches of the parking lot, and brain damage from the twenty people that shoved my cart into my stomach. What should have been a relatively simple morning shopping expedition took us until 1:00. The entire time was spent wrangling my two offspring into some semblance of appropriate behavior, which involved threatening bodily injury if they didn't stop rearranging the shelves. And/or inspecting every carton of eggs.

It was a day, and I yelled.

But I'm okay now. I've had a caffeine infusion, some food, and I'm considering chocolate. Autumn emptying the dishwasher without being asked and wrestling her brother into submission in the other room didn't hurt, either.

Here's to the next two manic weeks. May we all survive intact.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Silver Lining

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Convert difficulties into opportunities, for difficulties are divine surgeries to make you better. ~Author Unknown

I had a one of those weird nights last night. I’ve been getting over just a little sick and so was bundled in bed early (about 7:30pm) against the bitter cold outside. I studied on my computer for a while (online textbook) and then started to work on my Four Perspectives post.

The next thing I know, I woke up at about 5:30 am with the T.V. still on, the light still on and the laptop still open on my lap. I don’t really recall dozing off. I do recall putting my head back because I was trying to think of how to phrase a particular idea – and I guess that was enough - I was done for the night, out for the count and with no real recollection about the idea that I was trying to finish either.

It’s probably just as well that I didn’t finish my original idea because today has been kind of a eventful day in Provo, Utah. Sad, but eventful and it’s sparked a lot of divergent thoughts.

Being in Utah Provo is, of course, a Mormon town and a Mormon Pioneer town at that. Provo was originally settled in 1849 only a couple of years after the first Mormon settlers came to the Utah Territory. In fact, Provo was the first Mormon colony in Utah outside of the Salt Lake Valley. We Mormons love to preserve things, jam, peaches, tomatoes, but we especially love to preserve our old buildings. Maybe it’s because we left so much behind in the East. Or maybe it’s because we came to the middle of nowhere and had to work so hard to make Utah a viable place to live and to build our towns and cities and monuments. I say “we” like I had anything to do with it. But I do come from pioneer stock and “we” as a Mormon people do pay a lot of homage to the “early Saints” who sacrificed so much for their faith.

Anyway, one of the major preservation projects in Provo was the Provo Tabernacle. It was originally constructed from 1883 to 1898 and has been remodeled and renovated several times over the years. It really is a majestic and impressive building with towering spires, inviting stained glass windows, beautiful exterior stonework and really remarkable wood carvings in the interior. It isn’t a landmark that is just for show either. It’s a working building so to speak. Church meetings are held there pretty much every weekend. Graduation Ceremonies for BYU are held there several times a year. In fact, at one time all of the city's high school graduations were held at the Tabernacle as well because it was the largest gathering place in the area for decades. There has been a wealth of religious and civic concerts, celebrations and ceremonies over the generations. I know I’ve attended some kind of function at the Tabernacle at least two or three times a year pretty much every year since birth. I always feel proud when I drive by that we have such a beautiful and distinctive building in our town. I really am drawn to the historic nature of the building too. I imagine the generations of people that have gone up the same stairs that I have, sat on the same benches that I have, listened to the same organ that I have. While I'm in the Tabernacle I try to visualize the congregations of the past like the ladies at the turn of the last century in their big Gibson-Girl type hats and the men in their high stiff collars. I’ve seen pictures of pioneer day celebrations from the 1920’s and smiled at the homemade bunting and banners draped across the Tabernacle's carved banisters with such obvious pride. I also think a lot about the meetings and the prayers must have taken place there during war times when Provo was still a relatively small city. It must have been very emotional and very apparent that so many brethren were missing - away at war and so many others working the endless shifts at the (now defunct) local steel plant to support the war effort. Provo itself has waxed and waned and changed over the years, but the Tabernacle has remained - the ever-constant fixture and touchstone in our community.

Until today.

At about 2:30 this morning, Friday, December 17, 2010 a massive fire broke out in Provo’s Historic Tabernacle. The first thing I saw this morning when I woke was that news broadcast and an image of orange flames and smoke billowing out of the windows and roof of the Provo Tabernacle. I went to the window and could actually see the smoke rising against the morning sky. In just the few the reports that I saw before going to work this morning it was easy to see that the news wasn’t going to be good. The roof had collapsed, the firefighters were shooting water through the shattered stain glass windows and rivers of water (at least the water that wasn’t immediately turning into ice in the sub-zero temperatures) was pouring out of the doors and stairwells. There was no doubt that the pipe organ was gone, the hand-hewn benches were gone, the intricate hand-carved panel that extended across the front of the stand was gone. It was total devastation. I’ve been scanning various news sites on and off throughout the day, reading some of the reactions from people like me. People who gathered around the Tabernacle in the early light with a mixture flames, smoke, disbelief and their own Tabernacle memories reflecting in their tear-filled eyes.

I really hope it was an accident because I’d hate to think that anyone would set a fire like that on purpose. I've had a few hours to process the news now and whether accident or arson I keep thinking about the devastation that pushed the early Latter-Day-Saints across the plains. Nauvoo was a town that the Mormons built in 1839 in the state of Illinois on a bend of the Mississippi River. By all accounts it was a beautiful town complete with its’ crowning glory - a beautiful Temple. The Temple was only barely completed before the Mormons were driven out of the state by violent anti-Mormon sentiments in the area. The Saints had to leave their beautiful town and their beautiful Temple-which was then burned to the ground. But they made the trek across the plains and started again, planted again and built again. And the Provo Tabernacle was part of that legacy.

We do have a legacy – and in Provo we have a legacy to build. To be honest, as much as I loved the historic nature of the Tabernacle, those hand-hewn benches were really uncomfortable. I’m not sure whose backside those were made for, but it sure wasn’t mine (what did the ladies ever do in the days of bustles?) And if you ever had to attend Stake or regional conference in the summertime, the speaker didn’t have to try very hard to invoke hell-fire and damnation because Man! It was HOT in there! And the acoustics and sound system were such that if the “baby choir” really got going (you know all the babies in the congregation making all the noises babies make from gleeful to growling) it was kind of hard to hear the speaker. Also, as Provo has grown, if your Stake Conference was scheduled at the Tabernacle, you really had to plan to get there early to have any hope of finding a seat, not to mention a place to park.

Sometimes as awesome as history is (and it is), moving forward is even more important. I would never, ever go so far to say that the today’s Tabernacle fire was a blessing in disguise. I can’t see any blessing in that burned-out shell of a building and I will miss it every day. But now that the deed is done and the devastation has occurred, all that's left is an opportunity. We still have a lot of worshipping and gathering and graduating to do here in our community. There is still music to be made and songs to be sung. I hope that this devastation will evolve into an opportunity to create a monument for our time and for the generations to come. A new landmark for Provo – one that appreciates the past while embracing the opportunities of the future. And while we're at it, central air and more comfortable seats.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Pin It One of the greatest things about melding two families together in marriage is that each side brings different customs and traditions to the table. This is especially true for us when it comes to Christmas.

What is even more awesome is being able to weed out the traditions that you didn't much care for growing up - like each person taking their turn opening one gift at a time while everyone sits around watching. That one's from my family and it only lasted one year as a passed-along tradition with our kids. Now we open gifts wild banshee style and it's much more exciting and messy - the way Christmas morning should be.

Christmas traditions in Allen's family included delivering homemade treats to neighbors and friends while Christmas caroling. In my family Christmas cookies have always been a big deal (snickerdoodles made with green and red colored sprinkles and chocolate crinkles were the two you could always count on) but there was never any singing involved. We have carried on a blend of these two traditions throughout our marriage - but this year it's going to change just a bit.

And here's why:

I was amazed by the number of people who were making disparaging comments on Facebook a few weeks ago regarding the delivery of homemade treats at Christmas time. One person even said something to the extent of: If you bring my family a plate of Christmas treats they come in my front door and straight out the back door and into the garbage can. Ouch! Others mentioned that it's the sugar overload all at one time that's hard to handle. So this year we've decided to save ourselves the time and effort of making homemade treats and go with store bought for our neighbors and friends instead - something they can enjoy right away or put in the pantry for a month or two down the road.

I've actually been keeping a list over the years of fun (and almost always cheesily-clever) little sayings to pair with store-bought Christmas goodies. Lest you think I am the Chuck Norris of puns and cheesy sayings, I must confess that these were all either given to us at some point or something I've seen somewhere.

In case you're interested, here are a few ideas:

Wishing you a souper holiday season! (with a bag of soup mix)

Hope this adds a little spice to your holidays. (tied to a jar of salsa & bag of chips)

Just popping by with a holiday 'hi'! (microwave popcorn)

Have a FANTAstic holiday. (attached to a bottle of Fanta soda)

We wish you a Merry SwissMiss! (box or can of Swiss Miss brand hot chocolate)

My personal favorites, which I would probably not have the guts to actually give to anyone because it would reveal too much of my sick sense of humor and possibly reflect negatively on the rest of my family are:

You've been bad, so here's the scoop; all you get is snowman poop. (A cellophane bag filled with yogurt covered peanuts or anything round dipped in white chocolate)

Or, the same poem but with 'reindeer poop'. (Small box of Whoppers candy or any chocolate covered morsels in a cellophane bag would work)

So for this year, these are the gifts we've decided to give as we share a Christmas song or two:

We WHISK you a merry KISSmas and a happy ROOT BEER! (Wire whisk filled with chocolate kisses attached to a bottle of A&W)


You're gettin' MUFFIN for Christmas! (muffin mix tied to a muffin pan)

If you're one of my neighbors, please pretend to be surprised when we bring you these clever gifts of the season.

If you have the time, I would love to hear what your favorite neighbor gifts have been over the years. Do you like getting a plate filled with homemade goodness or do your prefer the store bought variety? Maybe you prefer non-food items (my favorite in this category is a kitchen towel and washcloth with a tag that declares: A new washer and dryer!) or nothing at all.

Talk to me.

(I'm hoping someone will have a fabulous idea for me to use next year.)

By the way, if the title of this post make you start singing a song from Fiddler on the Roof at the top of your lungs, you're my kind of person.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Forest

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I used to drive by a small wood each day on my way home from work. It’s just west of the cemetery and east of the old train yard; a thick growth of leaf-bearing coniferous giants. I’d grown accustomed to seeing this plot of foliage, deep and mysterious with dense growths of bushes and grass. I’d often contemplated hiking into this small wood to explore and see what and seeing what wonders might be secreted away there.

I’d never done it.

You see, every day I now drive home from work past an empty dirt lot. Last week somebody cut down this little pocket of forest and plowed everything under. It must have only taken a day or two, because one day the woods were there, and the next they weren’t.

Like I said, I’d never gone into these woods. I have no fond memories of playing there as a child or anything else in this regard; however, just having those woods there—a small thicket in the middle of town—was something of a comfort. I felt like nature wasn’t all that far away. In fact, I enjoyed taking this route home because those woods gave me a feeling of reassurance. Strange to be saying something like that, isn’t it?

But the forest is gone…

I think I need to find a new route to work.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Just Keep Swimming

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Live out of your imagination, not your history. Stephen Covey

I saw an advertisement on TV the other day for kind of a personal size swimming pool . The pool is only about 8’x10’ but you can still use it to swim laps because it comes with a machine that makes an adjustable current in the water. So no matter how long you swim you always stay in the same spot.

That pool kind of reminds me of my job…especially this week – a whole lot of swimming, swimming, swimming and not getting very far.

I’m starting with that analogy just to provide a little insight into my state of mind this week. I’m feeling a little down, a little frustrated and a little tired of swimming against a current that never seems to stop.

So, while feeling like a bit of a frustrated grump-a-saurus this afternoon I happened to overhear a conversation. It wasn’t a confidential or even particularly significant conversation so the fact that I overheard wasn’t a big deal. But one of the women that was talking kept using the phrase “I’m the kind of person that…” as in “I’m the kind of person that won’t talk if I’m mad.” Or “I’m the kind of person that doesn’t like to be told what to do.”

I found myself kind of dwelling on that phrase all through the afternoon and it bugged me. I wasn’t bugged by what the woman was saying necessarily, I was bugged by the phrase itself- maybe because I feel like it’s a big part of the current I’ve been swimming against. It just seems to me that when we label ourselves in this way it’s like we give ourselves a built in excuse for whatever behavior we’ve decided on.

The students work this excuse all the time. They’ve already decided before they start what kind of guy they are and what they can and can’t do. If we’re lucky we can show them that maybe they were that type of guy but they don’t always have to be. And if we’re realy lucky all of the adults work together to provide reinforcement for change rather than justification for stagnation.

My frustration isn’t all about kids. There’s plenty of frustration to go around for the adults too – myself included I guess if I’m being honest about it. I just think that no one is exclusively the “the kind of person that…” in good ways or bad. We are all just people that make choices. Sometimes we’re “the kind of person that is always honest” but sometimes we’re not. Sometimes we’re “the kind of person that loses their temper easily,” but we don’t always have to be. We are certainly affected by what happens to us in our lives, but we shouldn’t always be a product of it - we always have the power to choose.

So maybe I’m the kind of person that eavesdrops on other people’s conversation and then rants about it…and then again maybe I should choose to mind my own business and just keep swimming.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Blogs, Serials of Society

Pin It Why do I like to read blogs? Interesting question…really.

I guess you could say that I relate blogs as serials of a society. Blogs, like syndicated programs I love to watch, allow me to know more about certain characters, about their interests, quirks, and even moments of frustration and achievement in their day-to-day living. Like favorite programs, I have my favorite blogs as well. However, I look forward to reading all of the blogs on my subscription list (currently at an undisclosed number). Some of these ‘shows’ are on more frequently, while others only have a special which comes on every once and great while (ex; Yancy’s Christmas Special).

In the words of Will from the movie, About a Boy: “The thing is, a person’s life is like a TV show. I was the star of The Will Show. And The Will Show wasn't an ensemble drama. Guests came and went, but I was the regular. It came down to me and me alone…”

Blogs, like shows, have their major and minor characters…those whom we’ve become endeared to—though perhaps we’ve never before met them. They are the characters we laugh with at the good times, mourn with when there’s tragedy, and stand up and cheer for when they rise up against the odds.

You know what though? The ‘show’ would not be worth watching if it weren’t for the good times, as well as the bad. We need both to recognize the other—and to appreciate them. I never feel so good about feeling well as I do right after I’ve just been sick.

There have been times over the pasts few years when some my favorite ‘characters’ have taken a turn for the worst, are met up with insurmountable odds and trials, or quite simply, jumped in the lineup for a cancellation.

I guess I write this because I need to remind myself that a serial does not have a happy ending…at least, not yet. Sure, there are those episodes which make us feel good at the end when the credits start to roll, but there are others which leave us feeling frustrated or upset.

Just know that the writers will eventually get past that particular hurtful episode, and will get it right. But in the meantime, don’t cancel your show just yet.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Week End

Pin It You know how sometimes you start a blog post and it just doesn't quite work?

You've spent close to an hour laboring over two paragraphs, and they actually sound okay...they just don't go anywhere.

That's sort of what I've been doing this morning.

I'm tired, I think, and it's affecting my ability to be witty and creative. I'm coming off of one of those weeks, filled, as the one following Thanksgiving always is, with frenetic, non-stop activity. Preparing for Autumn's birthday party, decorating the house for the holidays, shopping for a family our Sunday School class sponsors, accompanied by the normal business of keeping things going.

And then there was the weekend. All I can really say about the weekend is that I survived intact. Sort of, anyway--I do think I may be missing a few brain cells.

It was a weekend full of shrieking sixth grade girls, high on sugar and slumber party mayhem as Autumn ushered in her twelfth year. It involved baking a cake, making pizza, and carting those same sixth grade girls to a movie. I fell into a three hour nap Saturday afternoon, succumbed to puking Sunday morning and went on to teach Sunday School, clean a church closet, and decorate our classroom for the youth Christmas party that evening.

I stumbled exhausted into bed at nine 'o clock, fully anticipating that a good nine and a half hours would be enough to renew me, but I dragged upon the heralding of the alarm clock. But it was a new day nonetheless, so I dragged myself into it, whining only a little.

And so now, I find that I have nothing really to say except I'm glad the week is done, and a new one begun.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Devil's Food

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Inside some of us is a thin person struggling to get out, but they can usually be sedated with a few pieces of chocolate cake. ~Author Unknown

I have some really great friends. But one of my friends is, apparently, in league with the devil – aka the Great Tempter.

Here’s the problem.

I’m not usually a big fan of chocolate cake, but there is one big giant chocolaty -good exception. There is a local restaurant around here called Magleby’s that has a line on the best chocolate cake in the world. And I don’t say that lightly either. As I mentioned, usually chocolate cake isn’t a big temptation for me. I’m not drawn to the mountain-of death-by-chocolate fudge cake with the chocolate-mousse filling that’s drizzled with the warm chocolate ganache and topped with chocolate whipped cream. But the Magleby’s cake is different. Magleby’s doesn’t actually make the cake in their restaurant – they have a source – a woman. A woman that I’m sure must be a member in good standing of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers (the Utah equivalent of the Daughters of the American Revolution). I’m sure she must be a member of the DUP because I recognize this cake. I recognize it from when I was a little girl. It was the cake that all of the women in my family - two generations removed from me (so grandmother and great-aunts etc.) made for every birthday, Ward Social or Funeral that required a cake. In our family it was called “Aunt Emma’s Chocolate Cake,” Aunt Emma being the apparent family baking expert. I feel confident that this "Aunt Emma" recipe that was created over a long time, through a painstaking process of trial and error, then handed down from generation to generation finally coming across the plains to land here in Utah where the dedicated fore-mothers of DUP baked this glorious creation to fortify the brethren while they toiled to make the dessert blossom as a rose – how else could they have built that Temple? This pioneer chocolate cake is chocolaty but not too chocolaty. It is dense, it is moist it is covered in real honest-to-Brother Brigham chocolate frosting – it is quite simply divine.

Now since I broadcasted my weight loss treatise a couple of blogs ago, you may be wondering why I am writing an ode to a chocolate cake.

Well that’s where my Devil friend comes in. My birthday was a few days ago and my delightful Devil-friend gave me my very own personal size (about 6”x6”) Magleby’s chocolate cake. And now its’ sitting there…in my kitchen… calling to me…enticing me and stirring up such a devilish desire to grab a fork and dive in that I’m am driven to distraction. The cup of fruit juice and crushed ice that is my snack this evening just isn’t doing the trick and I’m just not quite sure what to do. It doesn’t seem right to throw it away (there are other people in the house after all that might enjoy it). Plus it was a gift. It’s just plain bad manners to receive a gift and then just toss it even if it isn’t part of the diet plan.

Someone pointed out to me the other day that STRESSED spelled backwards is DESSERTS. Coincidence?

I think not!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Blue Sweater

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As I have been reading various blog posts this week the spirit of Christmas has begun to slowly seep into my heart. When I think of what Christmas is really about my first thoughts are always of the Christmas memories that helped shape who I am and how I choose to celebrate. To me, Christmas is the most meaningful when it is a season of sharing and giving. This story is one reason why these things are especially meaningful for me at this time of year.

Christmas! The season is here. I have so many reasons to love this holiday, but the most prominent are the memories of the years that we had the least - monetarily, anyway.

Our first few years in California were tough. After my Dad lost his job in Iowa we moved to California to live with my Aunt Bonnie and Uncle Dick. They were generous enough to not only offer my father employment but to also welcome us into their home. We lived with them for quite a while until Mom and Dad felt like we could try to make a go of things on our own and we moved into a nearby apartment. Mom and Dad told us that there would not be much for Christmas that year, but we would all be receiving a little something.

I remember well a trip to the mall a few days before Christmas to see the holiday displays and do some window shopping, something we did often. As I passed one particular window I caught sight of a beautiful blue sweater. Oh, how I wanted that sweater! I was at one of the most awkward social stages of my life. I had difficulty making friends and I was sure this sweater could help me in that department. With this sweater? Instant popularity! Friends galore! I slipped into the store, waving my family ahead.

I found my size and held it in front of me. It was so soft and warm. I looked into a mirror and could see how its blue color brought out the color of my eyes. I didn't dare try it on for fear that it would be a perfect fit, cementing the thought in my mind that we were made for each other, this sweater and I. I looked at the price tag... there was no way. I couldn't even ask.

I folded the sweater up and placed it back with the others in shades of red, purple and green. After one last, longing look, I hurried to catch up with my family.

Over the next couple of days we enjoyed some simple holiday traditions together - making cookies and decorating the tree. On Christmas Eve we delivered cookies to a few of our neighbors and friends then came back home to enjoy some Christmas treats. As we watched some holiday programs on the T.V. a loud knock sounded at our door. We ran to find who was coming to visit on Christmas Eve, throwing the door open eagerly. There was no one there. We were excited when we looked down and noticed a large box, filled with canned food, a ham and a gift for each of us! Christmas morning could not come quickly enough.

After a long, restless night, Christmas morning dawned. We gathered around the tree, eagerly anticipating the opening of gifts. There were a few things for each of us and we (im)patiently sat as each person took turns opening their presents one at a time, the way Mom liked to have us do it. Why we weren't allowed to just tear into the paper like wild banshees and get to what was inside was beyond me, but Mom made the rules.

I don't recall what my other gifts were but when it finally came my turn to open the mysterious gift left anonymously, I said a little prayer in my mind... "Please, Heavenly Father, let it be the blue sweater..." then I stopped. I felt a bit embarrassed. Who was I to ask God for a silly sweater? And why get my hopes up? The chances were slim to none. I slowly opened the gift and could not believe my eyes.

There it was. My sweater. The right size, the right color. We were made for each other.

Some may chalk it up to coincidence, but I choose to believe that God knows us personally and He knows what our needs are. And I think He works through others to bless us in simple ways when He knows we need it most.

This may sound over dramatic to you, but to a young pre-teen girl in need of a boost in the self-esteem department?

It was my own Christmas miracle.
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