Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A True Milestone

Twenty years ago today, I was sealed for time and all eternity to my beloved husband, John. Twenty years flew by. I had a bit of a freak-out when it was my 20th high school reunion. I felt old. (Next year is my 25th.) But I don't feel like I've been married for 20 years! I realize that I have a 19-year-old, but somehow I don't relate that to me.

That morning, Mom took John and I over to the Washington DC temple. We were there a little before 5 if I remember correctly. I can't guarantee that I remember much of anything correctly these days, so.... I remember Chris and Kim filming us getting ready. I was grumpy and a bit rude to everyone around me. If nothing else, I've grown up a little. It was a cold day and we were the first of 89 sealings that day. I was rushed from room to room, and since I wasn't changing into a wedding dress, I was not given the opportunity to go into the Bride's Dressing Room. Now, if you know me, you know I'm still a little bitter about it. When the temple was open for touring before it was dedicated, I remember Mom and I walking into it and she whispered into my year, "Someday, you'll get to get dressed in this very room." Well, I didn't. I should probably build a bridge and get over it, but it still smarts. (Maybe I haven't grown up that much.)

What have I learned? Well, I wear a lot less makeup than I used to. I look horrible with bangs. I've gained 10 pounds and have a different shape. I still can't say, "No," but I am learning slowly and quietly how to share my opinion. I straighten my hair or wear it naturally curly, depending on how the day is going. I get my eyebrows waxed and periodically, will color my hair. I still hate to exercise, but still love to dance.

After all these years, we still laugh a lot, but now we include our children. We know each other well enough to know what one or the other of us will or won't want to do. We've been through sorrow, loss, success, joy, and contentment. And it has flown by. By the time our 40th rolls around, I'll be 62. I wonder how much will have changed by then?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Best Christmas Present Ever

A few months ago, while we were visiting Pennsylvania, we got word that one of Griffin's classmates--Samantha "Sammy" Kuester, died from complications of H1N1. She was a sweet little girl and it was a devastating loss to the family.

Yesterday, this was the scene at their house.

I dreamt all night about what I could do to help. By 7:45, I was in the car with the little ones and we were at the school. I met with the principal and kind of became the liaison for the school and community with the family. I spent my day making and fielding phone calls, organizing groups, helping spread information, and just kind of making sure the right people got in touch with the right groups.

By this evening, multiple offers of housing have been made--some offering available homes or apartments, others offering to pay months worth of rent. Food has been purchased and delivered. Clothing donations are being sent from across the country (thanks to Facebook and great friends I have from high school). Money and gift cards are being freely given. And Christmas has been saved multiple times over. A group from Ogden is bringing down supplies next week. A family in Salt Lake wants to bring down homemade crocheted afghans to replace the ones the mother made for the children for Christmas. Furniture, electronics, etc. I can't tell you how many times I've cried today, astounded by the generosity of complete strangers.

At one point, I needed to go to Willard to pick up a gift for Ellie. With my cell phone ringing constantly and the need to write things down, my friend said she would drive so I could be free to continue organizing the relief efforts. She sacrificed 3.5 hours of her time. Others have sacrificed money. None have sacrificed their love and compassion for this family. She commented that she had never seen me so happy, that I was just aglow as I talked to every person and helped arrange things. It felt good.

Now this isn't a declaration that I'm leaving my job for something else. Unfortunately, I can't afford to do that. But as I've seen what total strangers are doing, it has become the greatest Christmas. With the economy as it is, Christmas was going to be scaled back anyway. In fact, I don't even think I will be getting anything more than our dollar gifts that we do for each other. Who cares? I feel great inside. I'm exhausted for a good cause. I have very little voice left. I gave it up today for everyone else who wanted to know what was happening and how they could help. It was worth it. I did my visiting teaching with texts and calls still coming in, but the sisters didn't mind. In fact, I left with more than I came.

As I took some time tonight to ponder the fact that I'm supposed to be teaching the Christmas lesson to the Laurels on Sunday and haven't prepared anything, it occurred to me that I've been learning and living the best Christmas present of all: love thy neighbor as thyself.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Winter Solstice Viking Feast (a few days early)

You may remember that Ian was invited to attend my nephew's summer Viking Feast. This time, John, Maggie and Ian were invited for the winter feast. I stayed home with Griffin and tended to the annual 1200 piece mailing I do each Christmas while Griffin finally got to watch his shows on the downstairs television. (He'd been denied access to all the TVs while we were all doing different things. Ellie was at a birthday party.)

Here are a few pictures.

The Ward Christmas Party

The annual Ward Christmas party was yesterday morning. With a breakfast of casseroles, pancakes and peaches, we ate and visited with friends and family. Ian and Maggie performed, "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" with their cousins, Ben and Sydney Roden. The Primary children sang and I played "O Holy Night" to help accompany some of the youth on their violins. It was a nice break from the shoveling we've been doing for the past four days!

A Christmas Carol at the Hale Theater

As part of Ellie's participation in the 4H program, our family received free tickets to our local theater's annual production of, "A Christmas Carol." It's "theater in the round" which always makes things a little more interesting. We've gone to a number of performances there and are usually tucked in a little corner or upper row (there aren't more than 8 rows on any side, though, so it's not a big deal), but for this performance, we were on the front row!

The evening started with one of the cast members coming out and welcoming us. They showed some ornaments they had that you could purchase and help raise funds for the theater and then hyped some of the 2010 shows, including 110 in the Shade with a special performance with Audra McDonald. He asked if anyone knew who she was and I volunteered that she was a Broadway star. He followed up by asking if I knew how many Tonys she had one, to which I replied, "4." I ended up receiving one of the ornaments just for knowledge of who she was and what she's done. The kids were thrilled!

And then it was to start the show. When you are in the front row, the cast and props are RIGHT in front of you. The actors are RIGHT in front of you, too. The part where Scrooge sees Marley in the door knocker was really well done and scared the bejeebers out of the girls and Griffin. As the scene changed, they set up with a chair right in front of Ellie and a friend that she had brought. Marley sat right in front of them and once again, kept them on edge.

My favorite scene was one where Bob Cratchit and family were in the graveyard with him singing, "What Child is This?" after his death. Oh, it was unbelievably well done. It was followed by the third and final spirit, and that one freaked Maggie out. She kept saying, "If he comes this way, I'm out of here." At one point, he was making his way to our area and she grabbed onto me and repeated that she would disappear if he came too close. Fortunately for all of us, he kept his distance.

It was a great show. I really enjoy our local theater productions and count the kids as blessed that they get to see so many as well. I wasn't sure if Griffin really liked going to these, but he said, "Mom, I love them. Don't you remember that 'Plaid' show? It's still my favorite." That was "Plaid Tidings" that we saw last year at Christmastime at the Scera theater. I love that these things make a positive impression on my kids and that it's something they remember doing together as a family. After all, isn't that what it's all about?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

I Saw Mommy Kissin' Santa Claus

For her final Music Express performance for the year, the group once again headed to the Wilkinson Center at BYU for the President's Christmas party for all the Y employees. This year she had more "solo" opportunities than ever before and was one of the few that actually held onto the mic. She did a great job--as always.

A Date with Destiny

Since we've been without heat in the house, I've been rockin the layered look. Today was no different as we went to Ellie's final Music Express performance at the BYU President's Christmas party. I put on my long underwear, pink Eagles jersey and jacket over that. As Ellie's performance wrapped up, another parent in the audience noticed my jersey and told me that former Philadelphia Eagle Chad Lewis was at the bookstore doing a book signing and I should see if he would sign my jersey. Always up for a challenge, I did just that.

Enjoy the pics!

So Chris, what do the characters mean?

We Have Heat Again!

On Thanksgiving morning, as I started the ritualistic baking, I noticed the lights all through the house flickering off and on. A little freaked out, I went to see if John was awake yet and to get his take on the happenings. About 30 minutes later, our neighbor (an electrician), was at the house and saying that our breaker was failing. Just like everything else in the house, the replacement part wasn't made any more and we would have to do some searching for a "vintage" fuse. Until it was replaced, we had a choice to make: heat or electricity. I chose electricity and we turned the furnace off.

On Friday, a week later, John was able to find and buy the right part. Today, it was installed and within minutes of installation, the heat was back on! We were very fortunate that three of those days were spent in heavy cooking mode, so the house was able to warm up from the kitchen. The temperatures were also mild, in the 50s, so it wasn't too cold inside. But in the least 2-3 days, the temps have dropped substantially, both inside and outside the house. Since we're fortunate to have two furnaces and the house wired in such a way that the two sides are completely separate, we were able to keep the kids down at the other end so they didn't freeze. John and I just bundled up with lots of blankets and hoodies. Mornings were the worst because it's just really hard to get up and moving when it's cold outside the blankets!

Thanks for all the offers of heaters, housing, and sympathy. It's so good to have friends!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Ellie Gives a Talk in Sacrament Meeting

Last Sunday, one of the boys in Primary (a classmate of Griffin) was asked to give a talk in Sacrament Meeting. We were all stunned that first, he said yes, and that second, he delivered it with such excellence. As the bishop tells us, Ellie walked by his office and said that she could do that to. So, much to her chagrin, he said, "Okay, the subject is 'How integrity can bring me closer to Christ' and you're talking next Sunday." She did a great job and wrote this on her own.

My talk today is on how integrity brings us close to Jesus. At first I didn't know what integrity meant so I looked it up. The definition was: Soundness, adherence to a code of value, completeness. I didn't really get what that meant either so I asked my mom. She handed me the young women personal progress booklet which had been opened up to the section on integrity. Then she asked what I thought integrity was. I told her I thought it was being perfect. Apparently that was wrong because she said it was being honest.

Then she asked if I knew what courage was. I told her of course I knew that! It meant that you were very brave. She told me I was right. Then she asked if I knew what moral was; I didn't, so we looked it up. It said "moral" was "relating to principles of right and wrong." She then asked what courage, honesty, and being moral had to do with each other. I told her to be honest you have to be courageous and usually if you have courage you're choosing right from wrong. She told me all the things I had just said were integrity, then she told me to read the section about integrity she had given me. It said to read Moroni 10:30-33. I read it and understood some of it. It said you should deny yourself of all ungodliness and love God with all your might, mind and strength; that his grace is sufficient for you and that through his grace you will become perfect in Christ.

I knew what ungodliness was. Ungodliness is when you're not doing what Christ wants you to do. Then I realized Captain Moroni was a perfect example of integrity. Captain Moroni wrote the title of liberty. In Alma 48:11 it reads: And Moroni was a strong and mighty man, a man of perfect understanding yea a man that did not delight in bloodshed, a man whose soul did joy in the liberty and the freedom of his country, and his brethren from bondage and slavery." Moroni was honest in what he believed in, he was courageous to choose what he wanted and not the rest of the people wanted.

Joseph of Egypt is another example. As we all know by now, Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers and falsely accused by Potiphar's wife, resulting in his being thrown into the Pharaoh's jail. After nearly 20 years of being wronged by his family and other people, he never lost his faith or would tell lies just to make his life easier. He always did what was right, even if the consequences were terrible. Because the Pharaoh knew that he was a man of integrity, he was chosen to save the children of Egypt as well as his own family.

Another good example is Esther. She was a Jewess and married the King. His servant tried to convince him that the Jews were "disgraceful and making their own laws," so he ordered that all of them should be killed. Even though she knew she could be killed just for walking into the king's presence without his permission, she went in, with the fasting and prayers of herself and all of her people, and asked that they NOT be killed. It was granted.

In my life I have a lot of examples of integrity. My favorite one is my teacher, Mrs. Draper. She always tells the truth, she is very courageous and is always trying to make right choices and she's an AWESOME teacher, too. She cares about each and every one of us, she knows when we are struggling and is always there to support us, even when it may mean having to do something that we don't like or that is hard.
Another great example is my aunt Liisa. She's so honest in everything she says and does, and she's not afraid to do what's right. I'm so lucky to have her as my aunt and her kids are lucky to have her as their mom.

My last and best example is my brother, Ian. Ian is so honest and loving and caring but he is never afraid to tell anyone that he believes in Jesus Christ. That's why he's going on a mission. He always stands up for what he believes is right, even if people get mad at him for it. I'm so glad he's my brother and I'm very happy I get to be with him forever.

(Bear testimony). By following these examples and doing these things I know I can be closer to Jesus every day and get much closer to living with him someday. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

PS: Notice Ellie's new haircut in the pictures.

Joseph and His Coat (November 12-13)

It has been a month (really?) since my last post. Our ward has been involved in a production of "Joseph and His Coat" since October and it has taken up a majority of our time. (I did stall on posting about it because I was waiting for pictures. I wish there were some of Griffin who did the robot during the dance portion and also gave the big "Broadway finish" that everyone was looking for.) Griffin and Ellie were in the kids' chorus, Maggie was one of the wives/dancers, Ian was the technical director, and I was one of the narrators. John provided emotional support as needed and came to both of our performances.

I was thrilled to have Chris Hopkins in attendance at our Saturday performance, as well as John's parents, 2 of his sisters and their families, and a niece who is attending the Y. As thrilled as I was to be one of the narrators, the time, energy, and brain space was a bit overwhelming. It was a great experience for everyone, but I think we're all glad that it's over.

Here are the pictures. This was performed in a church cultural hall and I think we all know that the lighting in there always wreaks havoc with the quality, but I think these turned out fairly well.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

From Dark to Dark (October 31)

Happy Halloween! Our day started very early as we prepared to take Ian to the Mount Timpanogos temple to receive his endowments. It was a surreal experience. I just don't feel old enough to have a child ready to go on with this step in life. I was thrilled to have the bishop and his wife, my friend, Michelle, come so I had someone to sit with. I couldn't believe how hard my heart was pounding at certain times. An overwhelming morning.

From there, we went to our "Joseph" practice. The performance is two weeks from today and there's still lots of work to be done. This Wednesday we will be doing the play straight through for the first time. John has been asked to be the stage manager, so with the little ones in the primary choir now, it's a full-on family affair. Mags was able to come and learn the song her group is performing in (One More Angel in Heaven) and I even get to participate in that one!

I got back from the practice around 2:30, in time to help decorate our doorstep for Halloween, find costume pieces here and there, and get ready for our Halloween dinner. Ellie went trick-or-treating with a friend, meeting at 3 to get ready for the big event. This year she dressed up in such a way as to be able to use the mask she got in Venice. Quite a stunner, that girl is.

Griffin and John and I went out around 5:30. This year, Griffin wanted to be a "Pumpkin Man." After digging deeper to find out what that entailed, I convinced him to maybe find a different option. While we were out, he saw a Jango Fett costume and decided THAT was what he wanted to be. I used my mask this year, too, and John went as a father forced to go trick-or-treating with his wife and son who would rather be home watching the Phillies game.

The moon rising over the mountains Halloween eve.

It's now after 10 pm, my feet and legs are tired, my blog is caught up, and I have early morning meetings tomorrow. It was dark when the day began and it's dark when it's over. Good night!