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!