In 2010 I learned that New Year's Eve snowstorms & the candy bar game was a great way to ring in the new year, celebrating Christmas on New Years helps extend the excitement of the holiday, that Boise State can win TWO Fiesta Bowls in a row, that life is better with walls down and hearts softened, that if one prays to over look another's weaknesses that it can happen which allows unconditional love to grow, that celebrating Valentines day in a snowstorm, a delicate piece of jewelry and a concert by the 5 browns is absolutely romantic, that Vegas isn't all that bad and the hotels are amazing, that the top of a handmaid quilt sewn by hand by my 3-great grandmother and finished by a talented seamstress will bring happy tears to my mothers eyes and the biggest surprise she has had in a while, that our first family Easter Egg hunt with grandbabies is almost more fun for the adults than the children, how a spring morning in the Sacred Grove can give you a tiny glimpse into that spring morning in 1820 when Heavenly Father and his Son Jesus Christ appeared to a 14 year old boy to usher in the restoration of the gospel, that front row seats and a meet and greet with the handsome, talented, very kind Canadian Tenors is something my mother will talk about the rest of her life, that speaking on mothers day to a bunch of mothers without being a mother can give me strength and courage, that hearts can be broken, that sometimes we need a summer to ourselves to ponder, study, and grow, that twins bring so much excitement and entertainment to our growing family, that a 3.9 pound little boy can remind us that miracles still exist, that bandaging the blistered feet of those who walked the trek can give you an idea of the love the Savior felt as he washed the feet of his disciples and a deeper sense of gratitude to the early saints who gave everything including their lives for the gospel, that cabin fun can be dangerous, that Boise State can win big to teams like VT on Labor Day, that Disneyland is best experienced in September when lines are short and the weather is perfect even as an adult, that I still love when mom and dad visit in the fall, that canning apple sauce and spaghetti sauce can give me a sense of accomplishment, that hearts can be mended, that there is a lot to be seen in Dallas and I need to return often, that when computers get viruses one can become very frustrated, that MAC's are better than PC's, how dangerous Thanksgiving blizzards are, but worth the 10 hour trip home to spend 23 hours with family, that hearts slow down, health declines and loved ones struggle, that the same prayers repeated for 5 years are answered with time, that hope and faith can bring peace and joy in knowing that Heavenly Father is still all knowing and all loving in giving gentle guidance along this path which ultimately leads back to him, why being together is priceless because the things that count most in life are the things that can't be counted!
For Christmas the past few years my family has given their favorite things from that year. So I decided I would give you a list of my favorite things from 2010: -Pandora on my iPad. I love to be able to listen to all sorts of music when I want without commercials. -In February I went to IKEA. I bought this awesome tierd thing that I put my jewelry in. I love it. -I never imagined that I would say that I love my vacuum cleaner. I finally broke down and bought my first one; a dyson. I have had hand me downs and it was time. I must admit I love to vacuum now. -Southern Living Magazine. This was actually the gift I gave as my favorite gift this year. A full subscription, which they will receive monthly throughout the year. -Wal-Marts Facial Cleansing Cloths. My cousin always used these when we lived together, but it wasn't until I was at her house this past summer that I used one. I love that it takes my eye make up off quickly and I don't have to ruin my washcloths with mascara. -My favorite books of the year: The Help, The Guernsey Island Potato Peal Pie Society, and Living, Loving, and Learning. I would venture to say the last changed my life. My mother has told me to read it my whole life, but don't tell stubborn me to do anything, I'll do the opposite. It was written by Leo Buscaglia in 1982, but his concepts still apply nearly 30 years later. -These fuzzy ugly, not so stylish PJ bottoms that keep me warm on freezing cold nights. -This sweet necklace from Charming Charlies jewelry store. -Goat Cheese and Rice Crackers. This is my main staple these days besides my English Muffins with PB and whipped honey. I eat this sometimes at 3am when I can't sleep because I'm hungry. I know it doesn't sound good, but it is delicious. -My Mac. Yes, I totally love it! -Scarves. I have been into these since I went to Las Vegas. One of the girls I work with had on a simple t-shirt but was able to dress it up by a simple scarf. -My nephews. Gosh they are so darn cute. I can't get enough of them! They have brought so much joy and happiness to our family. I'm sure there are many other things that I could add to this list. But this is plenty for now. Looking forward to more favorite things from 2011!
This morning this is what I woke up to. It was beautiful to say the least, especially with all of the snow covered trees. So I figured there wouldn't really be many people in the ER given the fact that it had snowed all night and it was a Sunday morning. However, my first patient was a 7 year old. When my nurse discharged him she asked him if he had a good Christmas. Tears welled up in his eyes as his mother explained through a Spanish Interpreter that she was working two jobs, however they still didn't have enough money to have a Christmas this year. Word of this spread fast, which caused some pretty tearful nurses. Within 10 minutes there was a collection of over $200 and a whole cart of food including 2 pies from the cafeteria. With money in hand, some nurses went to the only store open to buy Christmas for this little family. It was one of the most precious things I have ever seen. They called the family back to the ER and let them unwrap an assortment of presents. I would have to say this was probably one of the best Christmas presents ever. To see the joy and happiness from this little family as they opened presents one by one was a moment I will not soon forget. What humbled me even more was the giving hearts of the staff that I worked with today. I have great nurses, I have always said that, but today I saw pure Christ like love and the true meaning of Christmas even if it was 10 hours late.
It is snowing tonight! First snow on Christmas Day in Charlotte since 1947. It is coming down quite hard too. I have had plenty of White Christmas's in Idaho, but never dreamed of one in Charlotte. Today wasn't such a bad day. Actually it was quite slow, which I enjoyed. Nothing too exciting today. It was Christmas Day and well kind of like another day for me, while everyone else was celebrating. I still feel like I have one more week until Christmas because my family does it on New Years Day. I actually like it this way. I have many favorite Christmas's, but I would have to say this year helped me to better understand and enjoy the month as I have written nearly every day about what Christmas is to me. Even though I am an adult I still can't wait to see what snow we will have in the morning!
I really had planned on writing each day of the month, but unfortunately I got the dreaded stomach bug. It was really bad. I don't think I have been so sick for ever. In fact I haven't thrown up since Oct. 2005. Yep, this was my lucky week. In fact the day I had my head hanging over the toilet I had to close on my refinance and almost passed out at the bank before vomiting there. Yea, it was quite the experience. Needless to say, I am finally feeling better. My stomach is still a little uneasy about food, but at least my body isn't aching all over. I was so sick I actually went to the Dr. and had a blessing, something I never do. My Dr. actually has never seen me ill and commented on it.
Back to Christmas...I actually felt like I missed a few days of Christmas preparation because of my illness. Therefore my neighbors and friends will not all be getting the famous peanut clusters, because I had a few more batches to finish and distribute. Some years you get them done, others you don't. At least I got my cards out this year, well most of them. So I am on for Christmas, which means I work Dec. 23-26. I actually quite enjoy working the holiday. It really is what the holiday is about. Serving Others. Today wasn't that bad thank goodness. I spent the evening at the Beachums which is always enjoyable. I then came home and read the Christmas Story. I have actually read it several times this month. However even before I started reading it tonight I had this over whelming feeling of the spirit that testified to me of the Christmas story. It is really a humbling story and one that I really truly believe. How grateful I am for Mary and her righteousness. I can't imagine what she must have felt knowing that she was carrying the Savior of the World. We do know that she "treasured it all in her heart."
I sure miss the Young Christmas Eve Celebration. I haven't been for two years now. But it's okay. I will be home soon! I did however get a card from Grandma and Grandpa Young today with a $5 gift certificate from Mcdonalds. So sweet. They give all 50 grandchildren one, never fails. I do miss the acting out of the Christmas Story by the grandchildren. Well now it is the great grandchildren.
I got a bit side tracked yesterday, but have to write about another tradition. Our stake has an annual Christmas Music Fireside. I love going to this. Previous to this year each ward choir would do a musical number. This year however there were just different musical numbers by people in our stake. I don't know which I enjoyed most, but I do enjoy the singing of Christmas songs by the congregation. Our Stake President always gives a nice Christmas Message. This year he just read the Living Christ, which I felt was quite fitting for the season. When I lived in SLC, the stake that I lived in had a Christmas Sing-a-long. I loved that tradition.
So this evening I went to the church to play the hymns for tomorrows all music Sacrament meeting. Well, it turned out that the Spanish Branch was having their Christmas Party, which started in the chapel with speakers and music. It was quite the party. I have several friends that attend the Spanish Branch and they drug me into their festivities. Lets just say it wasn't the traditional ham and potatoes American Christmas tradition. It was so much more and better. I think I would enjoy being in their huge branch. I couldn't believe how many people were in attendance. You see, I actually went sometime after 8, well, they were just beginning their festivities. Apparently they never start on time and never leave until late. I may not have understood every word that was being said, but I felt the Christmas Spirit as I listened to the talks and listened to them sing the Christmas Hymns. Finally after 9 I was able to practice my hymns for tomorrow. I left sometime around 10pm and they were still partying it up. If it would have been a normal white person ward, they would have been out of there by 830 no later. Why can't our ward enjoy being together that much? The Spanish Branch totally has the Christmas meaning down. Serving and loving others.
I have great friends. 3 years ago when I missed my first Christmas, I had three roommates. That year we had our first Christmas Cookie/Candy exchange and Christmas Party. Tonight we recreated it. After Carly suggested we do it again, I took her advice and we did. However it was a totally different crowd from that first one that it was tonight, which was perfect. We had us a great time. For me it is a small way to celebrate Christmas Eve like my family does in taking home a plate of goodies from grandmas. We had delicious food and amazing treats. My favorite however were Vickie's oreo balls...Can I just say HEAVEN! I think everyone else would agree too. I use to have dinners and get togethers at my home quite frequently, but haven't for some time. It was fun to have everyone over and to relax and celebrate the season. I may not be home celebrating, but I have wonderful friends who are examples of Christ and bring the Christmas spirit to those they are around.
My mom still has the stockings we have had since I was a kid. Everyone has one that matches except Tanner, well he has one, it just doesn't look like all of the others. Christmas morning we always went to our stockings first. They were always plum full of things that we NEEDED. Socks, razors, makeup, hair stuff and of course they always had an orange in the bottom. Don't know where that tradition came from, but we always got them, no fail. However, the past few years my mother has been a little slack on our stockings. In fact, there have been a few years lately that she hasn't even gotten them out. She just lays what would have gone in the stockings on the table. The past few years that I haven't been home for Christmas I must admit, I do miss the stocking tradition. Mom never hung them up through December, they only came out Christmas Eve. I on the other hand put them out every year. There isn't anything in them, but they are out. How pathetic huh?
Every year we draw names and we give the gifts Christmas Eve. This year someone decided to pick names among the sexes. Boys picked boys and girls picked girls. I picked moms name. My mom is both easy and hard to shop for. However, I had already bought something for whoever I picked when I was in Dallas. I'm glad it was mom, because she will love what I got. However I just can't buy one thing, plus she is my mom. She deserves so much more. Can't wait for our advanced Christmas when she gets to unwrap from Santa.
I know winter is suppose to be about cold, but really a high of 33 and a low of 12 is just too cold for me. And snow flakes in December in North Carolina really? My blood runs warm now that I live in NC. But I often wonder of the Christ child. Was it cold that night? We have wonderful homes to keep us warm, but He was born in a stable, where I'm sure there was some kind of cold breeze. The other day I was at my local Aldis. There were two coats size 3T. I bought them, not because I have anyone to give them too, but the thought came to me that two little 3 year olds need a coat. So I will take them to my local shelter or where ever I can find a place to donate the coats. It is such a great feeling to be able to help someone else. I am grateful that I have the means to be able to do this. When I was growing up my parents always willingly gave envelopes of cash to those in need, not just at Christmas but at other times of the year. What a great lesson it was to me. As I have been able to do this myself, I have developed the real reason for the season. I have no gifts under my tree. I really don't have many to buy for. And I have come to the conclusion as I have become very aware that it just doesn't look right to not have gifts under the tree that that is just fine, because it means that those gifts belong under someone else's tree. I don't need anything. The joy I receive from serving others is a gift in and of itself.
Today in RS sweet Sister Shinn gave the VT moment. She talked about when she was on a mission and had no baking to be done, no buying and wrapping of gifts, no hustle and bustle of the season. She said that year she came to realize the importance of Christmas. Giving gifts of Christ. Pure love, Charity, and I would add forgiving, not judging, and looking to find ways to give of yourself. I loved this concept. This past year it seems that I have learned all of these elements. I don't don't know why it has taken me so long to learn them, but thanks to a certain someone who came into my life over the past year, I have learned or at least felt a glimpse of the true meaning of unconditional love that our Savior has for us, His children. For so many years I didn't let myself feel this for fear of hurt, betrayal, and disappointment. Well, I got all three, but it wasn't without growth, knowledge, and the feelings of continued unconditional love. I often think of the quote "It is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all." There are many different interpretations of this quote and at different times in my life I have felt differently about it. I remember one day this past summer I was driving home from the temple thinking, I proved that quote wrong. I let myself feel love and look where it got me, everything that I didn't want. But as I think of it now, I realize that it is better to love because as one loves, ones heart softens. As the heart softens, you become more compassionate, less judgemental, more forgiving, more patient, and in turn feel love as the Savior does. And so this year, I hope that I can share that love with those around me, those that I work and serve with, those that may need what I can only give them, being in the right place at the right time. Gifts of Christmas really have nothing to do with money, but service to others, love and forgiveness.
For most of my childhood, my mother put up not just one, but TWO Christmas Trees. That meant putting TWO up and taking TWO down. This was not my most favorite thing do. However, I always enjoyed it when they were up and taken down. She now only has the energy or maybe it is just that all seven of us are out of the house and she doesn't have as much help, so she only puts one up. For many years we always had the family tree downstairs and therefore had our Christmas morning down stairs. Now days we have it upstairs in the family room. My mothers trees are always so beautiful. Someday mine will be just as beautiful. My tree is decorated with many homemade ornaments that we made and had on our Christmas tree growing up. It means a little more to me to have a little piece of home in NC. One year we made mittens both wood and cloth and another we made snowmen, these now hang on my tree and I love it. Sister Middlebrook saw it the other day and said, "It looks like a country Christmas." Yes indeed. When I was younger Mom use to put a flocked tree in the living room. She no longer does this as she has a grand piano that takes up the room now. I remember how beautiful that tree always was with the red wine colored carpet. There was just something about the red carpet and the white tree. It reminded me of the blood that Jesus Christ shed for us as He atoned for our sins, our disappointments, and our heartaches. I love the story of the three trees. If you haven't heard it, well let me share it with you. Once upon a mountain top, three little trees stood and dreamed of what they wanted to become when they grew up. The first little tree looked up at the stars and said: “I want to hold treasures. I want to be covered with gold and filled with precious stones. I’ll be the most beautiful treasure chest in the world!”
The second little tree looked out at the small stream trickling by on it’s way to the ocean. “I want to be traveling mighty waters and carrying powerful kings. I’ll be the strongest ship in the world!”
The third little tree looked down into the valley below where busy men and women worked in a busy town. “I don’t want to leave the mountain top at all. I want to grow so tall that when people stop to look at me, they’ll raise their eyes to heaven and think of God. I will be the tallest tree in the world.”
Years passed. The rain came, the sun shone, and the little trees grew tall. One day three woodcutters climbed the mountain.
The first woodcutter looked at the first tree and said, “This tree is beautiful. It is perfect for me.” With a swoop of his shining axe, the first tree fell.
“Now I shall be made into a beautiful chest, I shall hold wonderful treasures!” The first tree said.
The second woodcutter looked at the second tree and said, “This tree is strong. It is perfect for me.” With a swoop of his shining axe, the second tree fell.
“Now I shall sail mighty waters!” thought the second tree. “I shall be a strong ship for mighty kings!”
The third tree felt her heart sank when the last woodcutter looked her way. She stood straight and tall and pointed bravely to heaven.
But the woodcutter never even looked up. “Any kind of tree will do for me.” He muttered. With a swoop of his shining axe, the third tree fell.
The first tree rejoiced when the woodcutter brought her to a carpenter’s shop. But the carpenter fashioned the tree into a feedbox for animals.
The once beautiful tree was not covered with gold, with treasures. She was coated with saw dust and filled with hay for hungry farm animals.
The second tree smiled when the woodcutter took her to a shipyard, but no mighty sailing ship was made that day. Instead the once strong tree was hammered and sawed into a simple fishing boat. She was too small and too weak to sail to an ocean, or even a river; instead she was taken to a little lake.
The third tree was confused when the woodcutter cut her into strong beams and left her in a lumberyard.
“What happened?” the once tall tree wondered. “All I ever wanted was to stay on the mountain top and point to God…”
Many, many days and nights passed. The three trees nearly forgot their dreams. But one night, golden starlight poured over the first tree as a young woman placed her newborn baby in the feedbox.
“I wish I could make a cradle for him.” her husband whispered.
The mother squeezed his hand and smiled as the starlight shone on the sturdy wood. “This manger is beautiful.” she said.
And suddenly the first tree knew he was holding the greatest treasure in the world.
One evening a tired traveler and his friends crowded into the old fishing boat. The traveler fell asleep as the second tree quietly sailed out into the lake.
Soon a thundering and thrashing storm arose. The little tree shuddered. She knew she did not have the strength to carry so many passengers safely through with the wind and the rain.
The tired man awakened. He stood up, stretched out his hand, and said, “Peace.” The storm stopped as quickly as it had begun.
And suddenly the second tree knew he was carrying the king of heaven and earth.
One Friday morning, the third tree was startled when her beams were yanked from the forgotten woodpile. She flinched as she was carried through an angry jeering crowd. She shuddered when soldiers nailed a man’s hands to her.
She felt ugly and harsh and cruel.
But on Sunday morning, when the sun rose and the earth trembled with joy beneath her, the third tree knew that God’s love had changed everything. It had made the third tree strong.
And every time people thought of the third tree, they would think of God. That was better than being the tallest tree in the world.
I love a homemade Christmas. I can remember several years when that is mostly what we got. I especially remember when I was in the eighth grade. Mom was pregnant with Tanner. I was not a very easy teenager to deal with, I know it is hard to believe because of the amazing way I turned out, but just imagine it for a bit. Anyway there was a particular day that I was not being heavenly. I don't remember anything about that day except that I was punished by having to stay home from school. Like I said I don't remember the details, but my mom knew that I loved going to school, so she kept me home that day. Whatever it was happened before school and that is why I had to stay home. Anyway, I remember it had to do with something with my dad, which dad usually stayed out of it. But I remember mom saying to me after I had been disrespectful to my dad and probably hurt his feelings, "He is working on something very special for you for Christmas, so you better be nice." Yes indeed. That year Tenielle and I received our homemade cedar chests. I will never forget that Christmas. How grateful I was for the skills that my dad had and the heart he has that he would spend so much time in his cold shop making something so special for me. That chest is still in my bedroom where it was placed so many years ago. Someday it will be in my own home for me to cherish. I have come to the conclusion that homemade Christmas gifts are always more cherished than the store bought ones. And so this year I continue to work on my homemade Christmas!
Several years ago I started collecting children's christmas books. Tenielle had actually started it by buying a new book each December to read on Christmas Eve. I like to read one book each day of the month of December. I especially love the artwork that accompanies each book. I set aside all other reading for the month of December and only read things associated with Christmas. It helps me turn my focus to the importance of this month. I read of a great tradition that one family has, that I will hopefully start one day. They wrap the books in wrapping paper and unwrap one book each night and then read it. What a great idea. This year I have really enjoyed reading a book that mom gave each of us at Thanksgiving. It is called A Christ-Centered Christmas I have only read a little at a time, because it is a short book and I have wanted to read a little from it each night. It has helped me change my focus to the true meaning of Christmas.
Who doesn't enjoy the holiday goodies made by mothers, grandmothers, neighbors, etc.? I sure do. Sister Jones to this day still makes my most favorite holiday goodie. They are these most delicious truffles that melt in your mouth. She knows how much I love them that she brings me my own plate and waits until I am home to deliver them. The sad thing is I usually hide them and forget that I hid them until I get back home. This year however I will not do that. I attempted these once, but they weren't nearly as beautiful as hers. They still tasted yummy, but not quite like hers. Maybe I will attempt this again in the coming week. I did however make my famous Peanut Clusters today. I still can't figure out how to not make a mess of my kitchen when I bake though. I am in a major baking mood this year. When I was a kid my mom would spend several days in December baking Christmas goodies, that we usually gave away, but mom always hid them under her bed and so when I needed a little treat I would sneak under her bed. She always made divinity, fudge, haystacks, and carmels. However she also made my favorite cinnamon twists which she would make into in the shape of a wreath. Sister Pool always brought us a pecan roll, which I loved. I came across a recipe for them this week. I may just attempt my hand at such a thing. Grandma Young use to make these fruit filled cookies. My favorite were the cherry filled ones. She always made them and froze them. I liked them cold as they were in thawing mode. Christmas Eve we always were sent home a platter of Grandmas treats. These days everyone makes a treat and the aunts put them together and we still go home with a plate of goodies Christmas Eve. So what are you going to make this year?
When I was a kid I swear my mom started playing Christmas music the day after the Fourth of July. I LOVE Christmas music. I admit, I have been listening to it since October. There is something about seeing fabulous fall colors and listening to Christmas music as I travel down the street. My favorite Christmas music has to be the classics sung by Frank Sinatra, The Carpenters, Bing Crosby, etc. My all time favorite group however are the Statler Brothers. I remember all of the times mom would sing along with them as the tape deck ran. I do love listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. For many years as a family we have attended their Christmas Choir concert and throughout the month of December I replay these concerts on DVD and also watch them on PBS. My favorite Christmas songs include Silver Bells, When Joseph Went to Bethlehem, Jingle Bells, Frosty the Snowman, Joy to the World, Angles We Have Heard on High, I'll Be Home For Christmas, and Far Far Away on Judea's Plane. I love singing these along with my sisters as we harmonize together. Christmas music reminds me of when the Angels visited the Shepherds announcing the birth of our Savior. What beautiful music it must have been. I read the following quote the other day and really enjoyed it. I think that it wraps up the importance of Christmas music. "This Christmas season remember the importance of the angels on that first Christmas night and the sweet message they brought to the earth. They came to spread great joy, to give good tidings, to create anticipation. Let the music of this season surround you, and as you listen to the familiar voices testify of the Savior's birth, may you find your heart filling with those same emotions, not just until it is full-but until it is overflowing." Emily Freeman
Tonight on my way home from work I saw something bright in the sky or rather up ahead of where I was driving. I'm not quite sure what it was, but it got me thinking about the star that the wise men saw the night our Savior was born. How did they know that it was a different star? Was it brighter, bigger, positioned differently? How long was it in the sky after the Saviors birth? Did Mary and Joseph notice it too? Did others notice it? I love Helaman 14:5-6 "And behold, there shall a new star arise, such an one as ye never have behold...and behold this is not all, there shall be many signs and wonders in heaven." What were the signs and wonders? Did the shepherds also see the star, even though angels came to them? So tonight in 28 degree's and a windchill of who knows what, I had this discussion with my neighbor as we barely walked because our legs weren't moving very fast. The sky was so clear and the stars radiated from the sky. I shared with her the quote that I posted on Oct. 24 about the star. It really is something to think about that Heavenly Father knew that star had to be positioned in orbit a certain amount of years before the Saviors birth. He is all knowing and that is why he has the answers to the questions that I wonder about...
The first Sunday of December is a day that I always look forward to, because it is the day that we get to hear the testimonies of our Saviors birth from the First Presidency and music from the Tabernacle Choir. I love seeing the lights on temple square and more than anything love singing the Christmas hymns with the choir and congregation. They use to have a whole lot of singing, which I have noticed they have cut out the last several years. I have missed this part over the past several years as we have watched this in our homes rather than attended at our Stake Centers with the rest of our stake members. Last year however, I was able to take part in this at a ward house after a Christmas Nativity. It was a great day! As a kid I remember this was always a very cold day, but as a family we would bundle up and head to the Stake Center to attend the annual Christmas Devotional. I loved listening to my mothers lovely alto voice as she would sing the Christmas hymns. When I was in graduate school I had a few opportunities to attend in person this great devotional. It was even a more amazing opportunity to be there in person to be there in the presence of the Prophet of the Lord. Afterwards we were able to walk through temple square to see the beautiful lights. This year I actually got 6 tickets for it, but since I was unable to attend Tenielle gave them to friends who had never attended. "Any act of kindness, is an act to Him." President Eyring. "Let it be a time of prayers for peace, let it be a time for forgetting self and remembering others, let it be a time for forgiving, let it be a time to remember the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ." President Monson
For the past 5 years I have worked every evening that my ward had their Christmas Party, except THIS YEAR! I was so excited to attend the big event that was so beautifully decorated by my friends Sharon and Shelly and put on by my friend Vickie and her committee. They did an amazing job. The theme this year was Christmas Traditions. It made me think of the years we would attend the Nampa 10th ward Christmas party. I remember it usually snowed most years, but everyone attended, because it was just what we did as a ward. There was always a nice dinner, program, and then of course we would have a visit from Santa. The primary children always got a brown paper bag with peanuts, an orange, and old fashion Christmas candy. It was one of the things that I always looked forward to. I half expected him to come with his brown paper bags again this year, and I left a little disappointed that he wasn't there. After all this isn't why we celebrate the season, but it is part of the enjoyment of it.
I love Christmas Tree lights. There is something relaxing about sitting in a room with a fire and Christmas tree lights on. I spend more time in my living room during the month of December than I do all year long and only because I have Christmas tree lights a twinkling. I also have colored lights on my fireplace mantle intertwined in greenery. It is so, so , so relaxing with a fire, a twinkling lights and a cup of something warm! When I was a kid and even still I loved laying in front of the fireplace warming up my toesies as the lights from my moms beautifully decorated tree were twinkling. I still need to put some wrapped gifts under my tree, but I don't really have anyone to buy for this year. Maybe I will just wrap up some empty boxes and place them under the tree to make it look complete. We will see what I get accomplished this weekend!
I love holiday traditions, but I also love making new traditions. Last year as a new RS presidency, we decided that we would make our RS Activity for the month of December focused around service. So we started a new tradition. Today was our second annual Soup and Serving Sisters RS Activity. We started off the evening trying several different soups and homemade breads. There were so many to choose from and all were delicious. We then had a thought on service before making our way into the gym for our service project. All year long we have been collecting items for hygiene kits. Last year we put together around 60 kits. This year we put together over 100! It is amazing that we can put together that many kits in less than 20 minutes. When women get together to serve, it doesn't take long to accomplish things. We also tied 2 baby quilts in less than 30 minutes. Next week they will all be delivered to the humanitarian center in Salt Lake. It is a wonderful feeling knowing that we will have helped someone in need. It was a pretty great evening had by all. Dessert was made by yours truly. It is also the second year tradition of homemade brownies with peppermint candy sprinkles. They are such a hit. I only make them once a year too. This year however, I put a bit too much baking soda (even though I put what the recipe called for) and when I opened the oven smoke came pouring out and brownie batter was dripping from the pan. So for the first time in over 3 years my oven is currently on clean mode and my house has that not so lovely sent of burnt oven food. Yep, 3 years without cleaning the oven. I either need to use my oven more or clean it more often, probably the first...
Of all 12 months, I would have to say December is one of my favorites. I loves the smells, sights, and sounds of the holiday season. I love it even more in Charlotte where the temperature is mild, no snow, and a few leaves still on the trees; there would probably be more today had we not have had torrential rain and wind last night. Last night and today in Nampa they got a total of 10 inches of snow, which gave them a SNOW DAY. That nearly never happens, I can count on one hand the number of times that happened when I was a kid, ok maybe two hands. They are fully equipped to handle the weather, but only when it is really bad do they get snow days. I remember as a kid hoping for snow days and being so disappointed when we didn't get them, but oh what a joy they were when we did get them. Tomorrow I will begin my holiday baking! I bought all the ingredients a month ago, because it seems if I'm not prepared ahead of time, I run around town trying to find what I need. This year, however I learned from last year. I visited a few stores today and could feel the excitement from others of the season of giving. I love this time of year when I focus more on others and on our Savior Jesus Christ, His birth, His life, and His atonement. Not that I don't throughout the year, but it just seems even more important to me during the month of December. I'm still trying to decide what my favorite thing from 2010 will be for my family gift. It is such a hard decision, because there are so many things that are my favorite this year. Time will tell... I love December 1 when we get to break out the advent calendar and books to count down for Christmas. When we were kids Grandma Betty would always get us our annual Advent Calendar. Oh, the memories. Today I attended my first Christmas celebration; lunch with friends! It was had at a house of a friends. Her house was all decked out in holiday fashion and lunch was fabulous. What a great idea it was to do it on the first day of December and what a wonderful way to kick off the season! This month I hope to treasure each day. Last month I was either working or out of town every day. This month I am going to relax and just enjoy it! And so we begin the countdown of the greatest 31 days of the year!
This has been yet another adventurous and wonderful Thanksgiving vacation. After sleeping or rather attempting to sleep for a few hours after I got to SLC on Wednesday and taking a well deserved soak in the tub, we headed off to of course one of my favorite restaurants in the West, the one and only Cafe Rio. Oh, how I love, love, love their sweet pork salads! We also shared a sweet pork nachos, which was to die for too. We met my moms cousin and her husband for my birthday dinner. It was freezing because the doors kept opening by all those who didn't want to cook the day before thanksgiving. We then went back to Tenielles for birthday cake, my favorite coconut cake! This is my new favorite since living in the south. I don't think that I warmed up until Saturday evening while the broncos were playing. And that is all we will say about that. It was heartbreaking. But it's just a game. They still have the longest wining streak at home in the country. Thursdays thanksgiving was the quietest I have ever remembered with family, because it was only Tenielle, Tony, mom, dad, and Me. Of course it was delicious with moms sweet potatoes and rolls, dads turkey, stuffing, and of course the all famous Pams pomegranate salad, my all time favorite! After dinner and clean up we had to have a short nap. Then we headed to Provo where we had dessert with my moms cousin's. There is always plenty of laughter when we get together. I hadn't seen Elaine since August 2003 when mom and I drove out of our way to northern Indiana on our way to Kentucky. It was such a fun gathering! Friday morning we got up around 930 so that we could hit the sock sale before 11 at what use to be Fred Myers, I think it is called Smiths now. No getting up crazy early for me. I don't need anything that bad and if I do, I don't mind paying a few dollars more to avoid lines and getting up early. Then we headed to gateway where I went straight to the Apple store to purchase my long awaited Mac. I have been out of a computer for a month longer than I could handle. The iPad is great, but doesn't take the place of a laptop. I only opened it last night, and boy is it a great new toy!!!!!! Of course there was plenty of football to be watched throughout the weekend, but after watching the heartbreaking loss, I think I will put my time to other uses until next season. Friday night allowed me to check off something on my list of things to do before I die, as we were able to see the Radio City Rockettes perform in SLC. I know it wasn't in New York, but it was close enough and cold enough. It was pretty amazing, a little short, but great otherwise. Saturday morning I decided since Tenielle had to work and Tanner had driven with a friend home for thanksgiving, that I would drive home to see the kids. It was totally worth the 5 hours there and 10 hours back in a freaking snow storm. Those babies are just too adorable. I really never understood how you could love someone so much until I became an aunt. In 23 hours, we had dinner at Tristens, mom and I did a few crafts, we went to sacrament meeting, and the kids came over after church for dad's famous waffles. They were so yummy with peanut butter and homemade syrup made by yours truly. Tanner and I then headed back to SLC. It took us 10 hours, twice as long as it should have. The girl driving us was driving 40 MPH then entire time. Of course there were snow and ice covered roads, but still 40 MPH. I kept watching the speedometer, hoping that I would make my redeye flight, which gratefully I did. The snow was crazy. We had to take a detour through Pokey, which took us way out of our way. I must say that I love having an iPad and internet on the plane. It is so crazy that I can do this on an airplane in the middle of the country! I should be sleeping, but I think I am the only one who can't sleep on a plane. The man next to me was snoring even before the door was closed. Seriously, I have my earphones in and I can still hear him. So annoying! I must say a little about my birthday, since it is an important day. I worked a crazy shift since it was Monday. As I was driving home I was thinking how pathetic it was that nothing exciting happened that day. I came home to balloons and streamers decorating my kitchen, gifts and cards on the counter, and a fruit tart in the fridge. I have some pretty great friends. The next day I had lunch with friends. It's good to have great friends like I do!
This morning after working a very quick night shift, my friends picked me up from the ER to take me to the airport. You know your true friends when they don't mind waking at 430 am on their day off to take you to the airport. The traffic was quite heavy, but I made it there in plenty of time. In fact I left work at 5 and had gotten through security and to my gate by 530. It was smooth as silk. Don't know what all the hype has been about security at the airport, but I had no problems at all, except for the fact that I am totally tired and realized as I was walking to my gate that I left my suitcase at security. I had to chuckle at myself. What was even more funny was the fact that I had just gotten onto the moving walkway when I realized this and walked backwards against the crowd of people rushing to their gates. I am laughing as I type this because I was imagining if my sisters would have been there they would have totally been laughing with me. I have found in life the need to laugh more especially at myself. I love to people watch. It can be so funny and even funnier when you are lacking sleep. I wish I would have taken my camera out and taken some pictures of these people. You can totally tell the people who never travel because they have the suit cases without the wheels and are sweating from heaving the old school suitcase. Or what about the people who go up to the airline attendant asking a million questions. Or what was totally funny today was the guy who was all smiles when he saw the gate that read Atlanta rushing up to the flight attendant saying, "yes, I barely made it." Because of course there were 5 flights an hour apart to Atlanta. But the flight attendant looks at his ticket and says, "Nope you didn't, your flight was the one I just shut the door on, down there." You should have seen the look on this guys face, it was priceless. But the flight attendant changed it when he told him he would be able to get him on our flight. What about the people who line up 30 minutes before they need to because they are afraid they aren't going to get a seat, but they already have an assigned seat. Or when they say people can board if they need extra time or have small children and they look totally healthy or they have a 10 year old. What is up with that? Well,I must say the highlight of people watching in airports are the ones who think they are going to miss their flight and they run through the airport like they are in a race for gold. It is so funny, especially when there are hordes of people like in the Atlanta airport. The best thing however about airports and people watching is seeing what people are wearing. I remember one time when there was this guy wearing pointy, white cowboy boots with some kind of gems. To this day I wish I would have taken a picture. It was definitely one for the books. Today I've noticed more than I'd like women wearing black stretch pants. Hello, did I not get the memo that the styles I once wore in middle school are back 20 years later. They never looked then and they really don't look good now. I wonder if they have the scoop around the foot like they use to...I have unfortunately come to the realization in the five hours that I have been people watching today that skinny jeans tucked in moon boots don't look good on any one, even if you are skinny, the worst part is that most people wearing them aren't skinny' their fat is just exposed more. So why don't you do both of us a favor and save your cash for something more stylish like a pair of DKNY jeans, which have become one of my favorite jeans of all time, because they make your legs look longer or at least I like to think they do; I'll wear anything that will give me some height. Even if you find a pair of skinny jeans for a bargain on black Friday don't give into the pressure, just remember they don't make you look skinny, if that is what you are looking for. I did have a patient the other day who was at least 300 pounds wearing a pair who was complaining of knee pain. I told my nurse to get those skinny jeans off that fat chick so I can look at her fat knee. It was pretty funny. I wonder what it all takes to get those Jeans on...ps I have typed this entire blog post as I have been flying across the country. Do you know how cool this is? Purchase an iPad and you will realize the coolness of it too. Do it, just go out and splurge on yourself, you deserve it!
I love this time of year when opening the mailbox at the end of the day brings me lots of happiness from cards, letters, and pictures of family and friends. You see it starts with the week or so around Thanksgiving when birthday cards arrive addressed to me. This was always so exciting to me when I was growing up and continues even today. That excitement came today as I got my second birthday card for the year. It was from my mom and dad. Mom always writes such sweet messages. I wasn't going to open it today. But I did, I just couldn't wait. She did leave me a message saying that my present was hidden in my house, that she must have left when she was here in October. Talk about being prepared. I am quite impressed mom. I will wait to go to the hidden place until Monday, because of course I want to open something on my birthday. I must say that last year I failed to send out any Christmas cards even to my grandparents, as I was a bit preoccupied. I will make up for it this year, I promise. With a little help from http://www.shutterfly.com/cards-stationery/christmas-cards, my Christmas cards are sure to be a success. I am ever so slowly working on our family book for 2010 as well, through shuttefly also. It was quite the hit last year and will bring just as many smiles and tears from the parents and grandparents as it did last year. It will not be done by December 10 as it was last year, but by golly it better be done by January 1 when we celebrate Christmas. I am a huge fan of shutterfly because it enables not only me to work on the book but also my sisters and sister-in-laws regardless where we are in the country. It is fun to see what creations each one comes up with. So to all of you working on your Christmas cards, just know when I see that stamp and hand written envelope in my mailbox, you have totally made my day!
Thursday morning came bright and early, however I did hit the road a little late, but really turned out to be perfect timing. I made my way to Parris Island where the Marine base is located. My reason for this little trip was that my cousin Beth was graduating from boot camp. My aunt Becky and uncle Doug and their two other children came out from Idaho for the big day. I have always had a great connection with my Aunt Becky. When we were kids and she was a newlywed she would let us stay with them for a weekend every so often. We always had a great time laughing at her stories. So I figured if they were coming clear across the country I could drive a measly 4 hours to see them. The great thing was that I just happened to have those 2 days off, which worked out perfect. When I got to the military base we actually only had about 3 hours with Beth. Most of the time was spent sitting around talking. We toured where Beth slept, showered, and lived for the past three months; not a way I would ever live. I can't imagine sleeping in a bunk bed with 40 other people every night. While on base we stopped at their supermarket. Lets just say they have prices so much cheaper than we do. I loaded up on flour and sugar because they had 5 pounds of unbleached flour for $1.25. Talk about a steal and I have never been able to find unbleached flour in North Carolina. When it was time for Beth to report back to her station or whatever they call it, we headed to Hilton Head. Aunt Becky road with me, which gave us some one on one time to just chat. It was so great! We had dinner and then I headed to my hotel room. I did however stop by my favorite diner on the way to the hotel to get my favorite dessert of all time an eclair, but they didn't have any. I was a little disappointed until I tasted their strawberry cheesecake. Pretty much the best cheesecake I have ever tasted and I have tasted my fair share. I stayed at the Hampton Inn again. I must say I have always been a Marriot fan, but I was quite impressed with the Hampton Inn. Dad would have been even more impressed with them because they had a hot breakfast and dad loves breakfast. This morning we went back to Parris Island for graduation. Pretty much they all marched out on this big parking lot like place, a few words were said and lots of commands and that was it. It was over in less than an hour. It was pretty amazing how they all moved at one command so quickly and efficiently. They must practice for hours and days over three months that they are there. After graduation Beth was in a hurry to meet up with her husband, they are actually newlyweds. And Becky and Doug were anxious to start their drive to Jacksonville, NC where my cousin Davey just moved to a few weeks ago. Actually he is in the marines too and that is where he just got stationed. So now I have a relative that is within a 4 hour drive. I told his wife that I would have to come visit her when and if he gets sent oversees, which will likely be in January. They have two kids under two, quite the handful. They live right close to the beach, so I'm sure I will make my way there more frequently during the summer months. The day was still young and I wasn't ready to drive back to the city, so I ventured into Beaufort. I have always heard it was a darling town and boy was it ever. Just what you think of when you think of the south; water, big, beautiful homes, sunshine and relaxation. I had two hours to myself which was such a joy. Not like I don't typically have time to myself, but this was free time, not planned and no one to bother me. I set out looking into shops, but I really didn't need anything and they were all over priced. So I found myself discovering the sights of the town, specifically the homes. They were huge, alot were actually for sale and vacant. I have this passion for fall leaves. I don't know why but I do. When I saw these red leaves against the white banister, I couldn't take enough pictures. And the light post with it just added even more. After my little tour of homes I decided it was time for lunch, I know by myself. Mom can't believe that I do things like this by myself, but a girl has to do what a girl has to do and actually I'm quite use to it. I had asked around town where the best place for lunch was and my hidden carolina's book also gave me the same suggestion; Plums. So of course that is where I went. I sat outside on a porch, which was actually the size of any porch on the back of a house. I was quite close to others enjoying their lunch and I found it quite interesting as I was so close that I was able to listen in on their conversations. I know too close for comfort. But it lead me to think about the people around me and just what their stories were. Since I was in the south and this place was known for their seafood, I had to indulge in a cup of Alligator gumbo and a crab cake po boy with a side salad and the most amazing fresh raspberry vinaigrette. It was so yummy, all of it! Too bad I had eaten cheesecake for breakfast and I was full or I would have had their ice cream which was suppose to be delicious. I chose to sit outside not just because the weather was great, but the view was breath taking. The bridge separates to let the boats pass. Totally cool! After lunch I decided to walk down the water way and even found myself swinging on a bench that faced the water, as the very warm sun glazed down on me. It was so fabulous. At one point I almost felt guilty that everyone else was home with children or working. I even told that to a lady who offered to take my picture. She told me to just enjoy it, which is exactly what I did. Seriously, it was just about as relaxing as getting a massage. I couldn't have asked for a better day! I slowly made my way out of town taking a few pictures here and there of a few more southern sights Jack took me down some tree covered country road for about 10 miles. I had to get a picture of it. . It was absolutely beautiful with the fall colors. On my way home I stopped by a birthday party for my friend Emma. It was at a vietnamese restaurant. I had the curry which was to die for. There is something about the taste of coconut that I just love. To top off this amazing day I have been able to enjoy watching Boise State pound on Fresno State 51-0! Yes, I would have to say this day was exactly what I needed! Now for a few days of work...
I'm a daughter, sister, favorite auntie, friend, physician assistant, lover of candy, tulips, fruit, a good salad, traveling adventures, a good book, style, flip flops, spinach shakes, Boise State Football and cooking, who happened to be diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer in June 2013 and will fight like no other to live a positive, happy, vibracious, exciting life as a survivor and overcomer!