Saturday, November 30, 2013

Lovin' Life!

This has to be my very favorite time of year! Wonderful Thanksgiving Day with kids and grand kids here and more good food than we could possibly eat. Time to just sit and visit and catch up. No TV. Of course the grand kids were on their devices, but that left the grownup to contemplate the past year, dream and plan for the future and just generally talk about what was on our minds. My son even convinced his youngest that we should do a little family history - though he didn't call it that. (He is aware of our advancing age and he wants the kids to know more about our history and what we've done in our lives so if we die next year, they will have something to remember besides Gramma always in the kitchen.) So they asked about what countries we've traveled to and which ones we liked best. In past years they have asked what airplanes Grandpa flew, and what cars he's had through the years(a lot!!) Now that holiday is over, I'm about finished with Christmas shopping - hooray for on line shopping and wish lists!! I'm sure my mail lady would much rather I buy at the store and carry them home myself instead of her having to deliver them to my mailbox, but I'm happy to stay out of the stores and do it the easy way. I've pulled out my Christmas music for piano and organ, sorted through some Christmas albums to put in the car so I can have Christmas music at the push of a button, and am making menus and gathering recipes for when another set of my kids come from South Dakota for Christmas! That will be a joyous time! We don't get to see them that often any more. Then two more families will join us for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day - so we'll get to see all but our Louisiana daughter and her girls. Next on the agenda is putting up the tree. Can't wait!! We'd do it today except I have something else to do this afternoon. After the tree goes up, the nativity sets get soon as I get them back from the creche festival next weekend. We have a fake tree but hubby cuts greenery from our shrubs so the house smells of pine and juniper. Sparkling lights both sooth and excite me. Christmas music does the same. Watching the kids open their presents is a joy. Then we all have to decide what our gift to the Christ child will be next year. I need to start thinking about that now so I'll have the best possible gift to give Him who has given His all for me. I love Christmas because it helps me remember fully and completely how blessed I am because of His love, humility and obedience. There is so much to anticipate in the next four week! I can't wait!

Thursday, November 28, 2013


Thanks, dear Lord for all the blessings of life that have shaped me--the outrageously beautiful and the seriously painful. Thanks for the poignant messages that have come to me through sunrises and sunsets, through good people and bad, through funny experiences that made me laugh so hard my sides ached for day, and for the stunningly difficult challenges that have opened my heart to compassion. Thanks for my family members who are most times so wonderful that I cry with joy, and sometimes so pig-headed that I weep with frustration. Thanks for my friends who accept me with all my foibles. Thanks for the times I worked hard for very little money. Thanks for the times I worked hard raising my kids and never received a paycheck. Thanks for giving me a spirit that doesn't see success in terms of money, power, or prestige. Thanks for giving me the ability to make amends when I've messed up, and to accept apologies from others. Thanks for dogs, the many colors of green, and snowflakes. Thanks for you, dear Lord. Without your love, teachings, and Atonement I wouldn't appreciate the wonders of this life, or have the hope of the wondrous eternal life to come. So, thanks.

Thursday, November 21, 2013


I really don't like to shop.  I know the stereotype is that women live to shop, but that isn't me.  I'm not good at picking out gifts for others and I can never find anything I like for me.  Still, this time of year, shopping is inevitable unless you're the bah humbug type who skips Christmas giving.  I love everything else about Christmas; the music, the decorations, the food, the nativity story, the heart-warming stories of generosity, the giving, Christmas books, getting and sending cards, the general good will, Santa, and even the Salvation Army bell ringer . I don't even mind the hustle and bustle of wandering through overly decorated malls. I just don't like traipsing through stores or scrolling through e-catalogs.  

I did a little Christmas shopping before my surgery and in the past few weeks since I've been a little stronger one of my daughters and my husband have taken me for a few quick shopping forays.  I tire too easily to leave it until December. I even ordered a couple of things online.  I've got a good start.  In fact it has been kind of fun to shop for my two littlest granddaughters.  At one-and-a-half and two-and-a-half, they don't already have every toy I can think of and they're easy to please.  My biggest challenges this year are the five eight-to-ten-year-old boys. Then there are the teenagers and the young married couple. I love them with all my heart, but shopping for the perfect gifts for them is something else. 

I seldom shop for wedding or birthday gifts anymore; a check or gift card is usually met with enthusiasm and easier for me to handle.  Gift cards are usually welcome for Christmas too, but I think everyone, especially the younger children should have the thrill of tearing into at least one wrapped present. Our family spends Christmas Eve together and that's when we exchange family presents. So I shop. But no matter how many door buster sales begin on Thanksgiving Day or how great the bargains, I won't be shopping that day. 
Shop early or shop late, but let's keep Thanksgiving a day for family, food, and gratitude and allow as many others as possible to have the day with their families too.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Thankful Thoughts

It's been interesting to read the postings on facebook about what people are thankful for. I'm not that public a person so I'm simply recording in my daily journal those things that I'm most thankful at the moment or what has struck me as a particular blessing that day. Besides all the obvious blessings in my life of family, the gospel, abundance, freedom and good health, one thing struck me this week that I've decided I take for granted. They replaced a power pole in our back yard - it was one of those very tall utility poles that brings electricity to the homes on our street. We were "fortunate" enough to have it in our back yard for the last 28 years we've lived in this house. You can see it when you look out our big glass doors in the living room that overlook the pool and gardens unless your eyes are drawn to something more beautiful - then it is sort of invisible, snuggled against the 9 foot back fence. Of course, we see it. Glenn even painted it a redwood color up to the fence line hoping that would be less conspicuous. But it had been there since the house was built in 1974 so it needed to be replaced. They brought in a huge crane - big enough to lift that 50 or 60 foot pole over our tall trees in the front yard (think two story house or taller) and over our house. They took the old one out, replace it with a new one (the pole man called it a beautiful new pole) and restored our power. This all took from 8:00 in the morning until 3:00 in the afternoon so we were without power all that time. What to do while we had no power? Couldn't vacuum - could dust and clean bathrooms. Couldn't get on the computer. Couldn't have phone calls on our land line. Could wash windows. Couldn't do laundry. Decided to just go to the Family History Center and work on Glenn's family tree. We met for lunch when he finished golfing and came home - to a very cool house and still not able to do anything.....but read! Thank heaven for books!! But I realized how much we take for granted those things that are so important in our lives. Fortunately it was a beautiful day so we opened the sliding doors and let the sun shine in and warm us up. Basically we had no heat, no communication (thank heaven for cell phones!) no power to cook with, no lights if it got dark before they finished. We are so dependent on these modern conveniences. Then I thought of hospitals with their dependency on power, and streets with stop lights, and schools with the teaching innovations of today. Our society depends so much on this wonderful convenience! So this week I added that to my list of things I'm thankful for, and every time I flip on a light or turn up the heat, or open the refrigerator or freezer, or sit down at my computer, or pick up the phone to call someone,I acknowledge what an incredible time we live in! My Great-grandmother would have delighted in all my everyday conveniences!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Simple Giving

One of my dear friends just joined the Peace Corps and is now in Uganda where she will serve the people for two years. Peace Corps volunteers not only work hard to better the lives of the people, but are also ambassadors of peace. It is ennobling work, and my friend will do it well. Her leaving has prompted an evaluation of life: what's important, what's superfluous, how's the best way to spend my time?

My mental evaluating has brought me to the realization that there are many good ways to spend those precious minutes given us on this planet--as many ways as there are people, and they don't need to be huge commitments, like joining the Peace Corps, but can be precious small acts of thoughtfulness. Each person has the opportunity (many times a day) to overcome selfishness and choose these small acts of service. It can be as seemingly inconsequential as opening a door for someone, or responding to a cranky person with patience, or putting a few coins in someone's ready-to-expire parking meter.

As I think of my friend in far away Uganda, I will try and do my little bit to make the world a better place.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Mustard Seeds Matter

This past week has caused most in my family a bit of stress. One of my sister's daughters is currently serving a mission in the Philippines. If you've seen some of the news stories that the media has presented since Typhoon Haiyan made an appearance, you will probably understand our concern. Although we have been told comforting things like most of the missionaries serving in the Philippine Islands have been accounted for, there is still a tiny fearful nudge that afflicts us all from time to time. We believe she is fine, but we want sure knowledge. We want to know where she is, if she's all right, and to hear her voice . . . or at least read an e-mail typed by her hand. The continued silence on her end is a source of worry.

I suspect that times like these are tests. Do we possess enough faith to continue on, even when the way isn't sure? It is a difficult trial.

Years ago, after I spoke at a fireside for a group of girls attending an annual YW girls' camp, I was presented with a necklace that contained a mustard seed encased in resin. It was the first time I had ever seen an actual mustard seed. This necklace became one of my treasures . . . a reminder that we can do great things if we possess faith the size of this very small seed.

In the New Testament, Matthew tells us the following story: a troubled man had brought his son to be healed by Christ's disciples. They tried--but were not successful. The man then approached our Savior and begged for His help. He healed this man's son in an instant. Later, when his disciples asked Him why they had not been able to heal this boy, Jesus told them it was because of their lack of faith. He went on to say,
 " . . .  if ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you." He then adds the following counsel: "Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting." (See Matt. 17:14-21) In other words, yes, if we possess a tiny bit of faith, great things are possible . . . but it requires effort on our part--belief, prayer, and fasting."

I believe this to be true. I have seen miraculous things take place when faith, prayer, and fasting are combined. I've been told as a Type 1 diabetic that fasting is not my friend, and to be honest, I don't attempt it very often, but when the need is great, and I've done everything else I can think of to make a positive difference, I fast. I go without food and water for as many hours as my body will tolerate. Eventually, my blood sugar level crashes, and I have to wrap things up fast, but to me, these sacred opportunities are great blessings in my life--a way to show my Father in heaven that I have done everything I can possibly do to survive a difficult trial, or on behalf of someone else who is suffering through a heart-rending test.

Things don't always turn out the way I hope or pray for--but I am usually blessed with the gift of peace and an assurance that while I may not understand why the outcome wasn't what I had desired--someday I will. Someday it will become clear why things happened the way that they did.

Periodically, I may still wish for a magic wand that makes everything better for everyone--but then again, perhaps that would defeat the purpose of this life. Without trials, we wouldn't grow into who our Father hopes we will someday become. And with faith, we can survive whatever this mortal journey brings our way.

Thursday, November 7, 2013


Sandwiched between Halloween and Christmas, Thanksgiving is almost the forgotten holiday. Since gift giving, other than a hostess gift here and there, is not part of the celebration and shoppers involvement is limited to dinner components , it doesn't get a big buzz from the advertising moguls.  After all how many turkeys can a family eat? Personally I'm glad Thanksgiving doesn't fit into the pattern of other holidays.  Instead of a noisy tribute to commercialism I think we each need a day of quiet reflection on the blessings granted to us. 

On Face Book there's a movement many people are participating in, where each day each person lists one thing he or she is grateful for. I applaud those who are taking the time to do this.  Some people do this more privately in their journals or on their desk calendars. This is great too.  However we do it, it is good to pause, and take account of the blessings, small miracles, and kindnesses in our lives. I've undergone four major surgeries in the past year and I'm deeply grateful for the doctors, nurses, and physical therapists who got me through what would have been a death sentence or at best a miserable crippled existence just a generation ago.  I'm thankful for my family, friends, and neighbors who have been generous and kind to me and my family.  I'm especially thankful for my husband who has cooked, cleaned, and watched over me in the kindest most helpful way.  And though I don't recommend losing weight the way I have, I am thankful to be fifty pounds thinner than I was a year ago. 

Thanksgiving is a good time too, to reflect on Thanksgivings past and the loved ones who no longer share our table.  I remember the Thanksgiving Day we were moving, but midway through the day Mama managed to serve us ham and beans.  I remember too, that Mama always cooked cranberries herself, no canned ones for our family and she made the best stuffing and carrot salad.  I remember the Thanksgiving I cooked the turkey, took it to my mother-in-law's house, and later placed what was left in the trunk of our car to take home.  When we reached home, we hurried five small sleepy children into the house and only emptied those things from the trunk that wouldn't fare well in the cold car overnight.  The next morning we discovered the leftovers were ruined since while we removed the few things we thought needed to be taken inside, our cat had hopped into the trunk and spent the night feasting. 

We only have a couple of decorations that can be considered strictly Halloween; the rest are simply fall and harvest items.  We've just never been big about that particular holiday.  I never trick or treated as a child because my mother considered it begging and was adamant that none of her children should beg. I found costumes and trick or treating a fun adventure for small children when my own children were small, but I have no use for the creepy side of Halloween.  Therefore my decorations mostly stay in place and I add a few pilgrims, turkeys, and cornucopias.  

For many people Thanksgiving Day is simply a football and "get-ready-for-Christmas" day. They wolf down dinner in front of the TV, glued to a Christmas parade or ball game.  They study the sale ads in the paper and this year they'll be able to shop all day in many stores instead of leaping into action at midnight or whenever the early bird specials begin on Black Friday. I find it kind of sad, but it's their choice.  As for me, I look forward to dinner where conversation with loved ones is as important as a delicious feast. I want to hold my tiny granddaughters in my arms and leave them with no doubts that they are loved.  I want to hear from all my children and grandchildren about school, and friends, and work.  I want to feel assured my parents would be pleased with my family.  Most of all I want to feel the peace that comes with expressing gratitude to friends, to family, and to God for the life I've been privileged to live.


Friday, November 1, 2013


I must agree with Gale. I really hate Halloween. (Sorry to those of you who dress up and decorate extensively!) It just feels evil, not fun to me. Why would I invite goblins and witches into my house?? This morning, the first thing I did when the sum came up was to put my ceramic pumpkin away for another year, fold up my little pumpkin scarecrow, and put away the other scarecrow. Then my two feet tall wooden Pilgrims went on my front porch in place of the little wooden ghost, pumpkin and black cat. All the rest of my decoration are simply fall themed so they are good. Then my ceramic pilgrim figures came out from their hiding place and a cornucopia appeared with a wooden block that says "Give Thanks." I'm good for one month! The first of December all of that goes away and my red poinsettias brighten my front porch, and we decorate all the trees and bushes in the front yard and the house. Lights everywhere! I love Christmas! I love Christmas lights! And I especially love Christmas music! Sometime in the first week of December, I manage to convince my husband it really is time to put up the tree so we'll have time to enjoy it before we have to take it down. We always do it together - as far as the lights. If he hasn't yet put lights up outside, he'll escape to do that while I start unloading what seems like hundreds of blue and silver balls and ornaments and hanging them just right on the tree. I'm sure you remember doing icicles - thankfully I don't do that anymore, but it was beautiful. The first weekend in December we have our annual tri-stake Christmas Creche Festival - going on 15 years now! I've participated every year except the year we were in Armenia and a couple when we were traveling. This year, (as last) I'm only taking my foreign nativities - the ones that are different from most. As it is, putting up those 60 sets takes me at least 3 hours spread all over about 4 tables. But it is worth it. People from all over the valley come and oohh and aahh over the beautiful symbols of Christ's birth. From noon till 8:00 on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday there are musical groups from the local schools and churches, as well as solos and musical instruments of all kinds. Even Hawaiian dancers! The place is decorated to the nines...Christmas trees and glittering lights everywhere and hundreds of poinsettias that the ward members buy, leave for decoration and pick up to take home at the end of the festival. On Sunday night,a Hallelujah sing-along fills the chapel area with music lovers from all faiths joining in. It is glorious!! (I do display all 100 plus of my collection in our home, emptying bookcases, end tables, coffee tables and the buffet to show them.) Now how can you compare Halloween to that!!