Saturday, December 20, 2014

Cardboard Mountain

How are doing with your Christmas shopping? Almost done?

Last Saturday I was pretty close to hitting that PANIC Button as I really had not done much Christmas shopping. Mike calmed me down, though, and we went shopping. I generally hate shopping but we actually had a good time. We are both rather overcommitted this time of year, going in opposite directions, so I liked just spending time with him. 

Anyway, Mike had some good ideas for gifts and we managed to get a lot done. We celebrated by getting a drink at Sonic and driving around for a bit. We planned out gifts to be shipped to some of our out of town loved ones as well. To finish it off, I did a significant amount of online shopping as well. Sam works for UPS, you know. We do our part to ensure his job security!

Well, it has been a very busy week. As the packages started arriving, I just tucked them into my craft room. It got all those boxes out of sight, as well as the plastic bags.  As you see, it piles up into a pretty big mountain!

I can't even remember what all we have in that pile! 

The time has come for me to conquer that mountain so I am going to see what I can find on Netflix and have me a sweet little evening. As I open those boxes and wrap those gifts I am going to say thankful prayers for each of the recipients.  I am also going to remember that these gifts and  all good gifts come from God.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Has Christmas Become Generic?

Yesterday I was at a store looking for a little gift card holder type of Christmas card. They had lots and lots of them! I was pleased to see such a big selection, 3 or more separate racks. I set out to make my choice.

I looked and looked.... and looked for one that had something to do with Christmas. Yes, I see that Santa one right there, but I found NONE, ZERO, ZIPPO that had anything to do with Christmas. 

I'd better stop right now and warn you that you may not agree with my point of view on this issue. I say that because most people do not. That was very, very apparent as I shopped for cards. Also, I feel a bit of a rant coming on so feel free to click off my post right now if you'd like.  This could get ugly. It's been building up for a long time.

Are you saying to yourself, "What's her deal?"  Well, my deal is, I am wondering when Christmas went generic. 

Hear me out. Christmas is a Christian Holiday. It is about God sending his son to live a human existence, to teach us, and eventually to die in our place. The story is about a young woman who was pregnant with the Son of God. She likely suffered torment and taunting from those who did not believe she was telling the truth about her pregnancy. Good grief! She had to ride on a donkey only to end up going into labor when she didn't even have a place to lay down. It is about Joseph, who really had to step out in faith to support her and to accept the role of helping raise the Son of God. It is a gritty story. The shepherds were likely a bit rough around the edges but they were chosen to receive that first announcement. They knew to respond with adoration and an attitude of worship.

What happened to that sort of attitude?

Now, back to Christmas today. Recently I heard someone tell what Christmas was all about. They mentioned sharing and giving and caring and things like that. They were absolutely right! Yet, they didn't mention Jesus. 

You probably don't want me to get started on Santa.  

Sure, he is about fun and presents and all that, but he isn't real. SANTA IS NOT REAL. Who's idea was it to make him the center of Christmas? It was a very effective plan, wasn't it? That is, if the plan was to push Jesus aside.  

Tangling them all up together, Santa kneeling down at the manger scene for instance, kind of bothers me as well.  I realize that was someone's idea of showing that Jesus is more important than Santa. I appreciate that and maybe it was a good plan. I don't know. What bothers me is this... what happens when kids learn that Santa is not real? If he and Jesus are buddies, doesn't that mess with their faith in Jesus?

I don't hate Santa. I just wish he had his own, make-believe holiday.

I'm almost done with this rant.

I don't know of Ramadan or Hanukkah being taken over by secularism.  I think people are still allowed to say Happy Hannukah, not Season's Greeting or Happy Holiday. We Christians could learn a thing or two about protecting our holidays.

One last thought...

When medications go generic, they are cheaper. 

I don't want to cheapen Christmas.


I feel better.

I'm done...

                                                                       ...until Easter.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Decorating the Tree

Sunday night we got around to decorating for Christmas. Do you have any weird customs surrounding the decorating process?  Well, we sure do.

For years and years and years now Mike has played John Denver and the Muppets singing Christmas Carols as we decorate. Yes, it is weird. It suits us, though.

This year we had two new players participating. Laura, our friend-that-is-like-family came over. It turns out she is just as weird as the rest of us so she joined right in. We also had the pleasure of welcoming Alaysha, Sam's girlfriend, to the chaos. She, too, didn't flinch at all the weirdness.

Our living room is not large so picture three dogs there first of all. Bumblebee recently had surgery and was wearing one of those charming cones to keep her from licking her wound open. So, there were three largish dogs barking and wrestling and doing what dogs do. Add two adorable little chatty girls to the mix.  They were loving hanging things on the tree. We did not guide them and I have left it as they did it. We have some areas very, very well decorated and one big area with no ornaments at all. I think it looks good that way.

Sam and Ben were always famous for hanging one or two ornaments and then watching as big sister, Maria, did the rest of the work. That really hasn't changed much, I suppose. Sam did announce that he'd hung 5 ornaments before he gave out. Ben didn't hang any at all, but that was maybe because he is living out on the East Coast. We miss him. Instead of going all gloomy over the absence of Ben and Sara, I'm just looking forward to the next time we can be together.

I recruited Eric to help take photos so we could always remember our goofy decorating adventure. At the end of it all we sat around in the dark, enjoying the Christmas lights. I snuggled with little granddaughters and felt such gratitude for a life so full.

I used to dream of decorating our tree and house with a lot of fancy, matching decorations. I'm over that. In the end, our house doesn't really look much like the photos we see in the magazines. I just don't care about that. We have an angel on top of our tree that is made out of a plastic cup. Her head is now held on with tape. Sam made her in preschool and we think she is perfect! Many of the ornaments on our tree come with stories or memories from the people who gave us the ornaments. I love that! I'll tell you about some of those as the days go by. For now, I just want to share the photos from Sunday night.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Pajama Party

Our church has undergone some big changes over the last couple of years. Some of those changes came with a lot of sadness and left us feeling a bit discouraged. Recently, though, we've seen healing and growth that is heartwarming.

One if the changes was a loss of a full-time youth director. She had previously done so much work and organized many great events for the kids. With her resignation came a lot of reorganization, which is not always an easy thing. What I've noticed now, a year later, is a lot of people stepping up to the plate, so the speak. 

New events keep popping, organized by parents and other volunteers. This past Friday night they organized a Polar Express Party. As with many of these events, entire families were there having fun together. We all wore our Jammie's and went as groups from one station to another. 

We followed train track to lead the way to stations where we decorated and ate cookies...

... Played in piles of shaving cream "snow"...

... Made decorations and had coloring contests. 

 I am showing close-up photos of only our granddaughters and not the faces of other kids since I didn't ask for parental permission to show the others. There were over 60 kids there!

There was a white elephant gift exchange. I was worried Elise , at age 2, wouldn't quite understand the funky gifts but a small miracle occurred as she received a My Little Pony. She was so very excited! I was so relieved!

Cordy received stationery cards and wasn't thrilled at first but later was planning how she could leave secret letters to make people happy. I love that girl.

At each "station" the kids received a mark on their ticket. At the last station they realized their marks came together to spell JESUS.  

They all sat down while Mike told a story that brought home the message that Christmas is really all about Jesus.

Then, things got wild with an indoor snowball fight. Ok, the snowballs were made out of newspaper. The kids loved it!

The adult leaders then had a contest to see which team could clean up the fastest... A stroke of genius!

I love when a congregation serves as our larger family.  In January we will be having Saturday Talent Sharing Day. Different folks will be teaching others such things as Intro to Drumming, How to Play Cribbage, Crocheting, How to Improve Your Golf Swing, and more! Doesn't that sound wonderful?  The week after that we are going cross country skiing together. 

It is so wonderful to see so many people maybe stepping a bit out of their comfort zone to do more together. Do any of you have ideas you'd like to share of events your congregations sponsor?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Showtime on the Prairie

I spent the last two nights with my Mom, about two hours from our home. I didn't want to leave last night so I just left from there early this morning to drive to work. Mom was worried about me doing that but I love that drive and see something beautiful every time. 

As the sky started to lighten up I could tell I was in for a treat.

The thing about the prairie is, there simply isn't much to get in the way of your view.

I could see such a wide panorama of this beautiful light show!  

It was so beautiful I had to pull over to enjoy it. I knew I could not take it for granted. I am aware that many never get to see such a wide open view of those magnificent colors. 

The blue sky soon took over the sky and it was over... For today.

What a wonderful way to start a new day. I thanked God for the experience.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

for KING & COUNTRY - Hope Is What We Crave [Live]

Happy Advent!      

Do you attend a church that observes the Season of Advent?  It is one of the most difficult times of the church year. Why? Because the world around us does it's best to keep us from taking time for it.

Here is what Wikipedia says about Advent...

  1. Advent is a season observed in many Western Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. The term is an anglicized version of the Latin word adventus, meaning "coming".
That is a pretty simplified explanation but you get the idea.  It is hard to focus on this, though. During this past week some of the thoughts that have flitted through my head (and likely your's as well) include:

  • I wonder if I will really ever get our Christmas cards sent.
  • Good grief! I have no great ideas for gifts for my family.
  • Ooops, I ate more chocolate.
  • We have events nearly every night of the week! 
  • I need to slow down.
  • I need to get more done.

You get the idea, right? 

Still, I am trying to spend more time this year on thinking more of the anticipation of that first Christmas. The people were needing a relief from despair.  They were expecting that relief would come in a big, flashy new king.  At the same time, Mary was big and pregnant and I doubt that many believed what she knew, that she was carrying the savior of the world.  Joseph was likely enduring ridicule from some of his buddies.  What about Mary's parents? I wonder what they were thinking. Did they believe? 

See, there is so much more to this time of preparation than worrying about all the commotion going on around us.

When I heard this song, it made me think that although centuries divide us, we are really not any different than those living during the time of Jesus' birth. Despair is still a part of the fabric of the days we live in. We still need hope.  

We still need Jesus.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Paint Night

I am enjoying an evening with the little girls. Their parents are out celebrating their anniversary. It isn't their wedding anniversary but the anniversary of when they realized they were to be more than just close friends. Want to hear my version of that time?

Well, They had been friends for quite some time. Like many of Maria's friends, Eric was in and out of our home a lot. Since most of the others were girls, I had even asked Maria if she was dating Eric. She had let me know they were just friends.

Time passed and they were together more and more. One day Maria was talking to me and said, "I really like Eric." I replied, "I really like Eric, too." I just wasn't picking up what she was laying down for me. Finally she said, "No, Mom, I REALLY like Eric!" I said something profound like, "Oooh!"  The rest is history!

Anyway, while they have been out, I have been having fun with their little artists!  I love watching their little faces as they created their masterpieces.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Lunch at the Car Dealership/Bus Mystery/Nitrogen in the Wind/Follow Me

Mike and I know how to have fun dates. We spent hours together Friday at a car dealership. See Mike smiling? That is rather a misleading photo of him as he HATES that negotiating spent buying a car. Why does it have to be such a hassle? Do you know what I mean? From the time you decide to buy until you actually finish up is ridiculous. Neither of us appreciate the fine art of negotiating.

It wasn't really unpleasant this time. We both liked our salesperson.  He was more knowledgeable about the cars than many we've encountered. He offered us pizza for lunch. I realize that was so we wouldn't go out to lunch and possibly not return but still, I had skipped breakfast so was quite grateful.

I entertained myself taking photos on the sly.  See Mike in the background? See my nonchalant expression? Sneaky, huh?

This photo was taken AFTER all was said and done and we thought we were just going to drive off. Our sales guy, Dwight, went above and beyond at that point. He asked for a few minutes to show us a couple of things. I actually think he spent about an hour showing us the fun features in our new vehicle.

I have always said that I don't care much about the looks of a vehicle, just want one to get me safely and dependably from point A to point B.  I do, however, really enjoy modern technology. The newer cars are so much fun! This one becomes an extension of our cell phones when we are in it. There are voice controls and everything.  Do you all have cars like that?  I had believed those features were just in the real pricey vehicles but they were even in a lot of the smaller ones. We really enjoyed the lesson from Dwight to teach us all the gadgetry. I'm sure we have more to learn but he really helped us get started.

As I said, Mike and I know how to have fun dates. That evening we were in Fort Collins, CO. We'd planned on doing something fun but after going out to dinner we just pretty much stayed out in the vehicle playing with the buttons, listening to Sirius Music and making car/phone calls. That new car smell really added a nice ambiance!

We weren't trading in a car this time so we had two vehicles to drive home. Unfortunately, it was a day with high wind warnings and we had to traverse an area where the wind has frequently blown over semis and such. The gusts were over 50 mph. I was following in the old car (lightweight) and my arms were sore from the experience of trying to keep from being blown off the road. For the record, Mike offered to have me drive the newer one but I chose to let him break it in.

While driving along, we passed a bus. Not just any bus, but a city bus. That is not something you often see out in the boonies. The side of the bus said "Duluth Transit Authority." After I passed it I looked in the rearview mirror and saw that the signage on the front of the bus was lit up and said, "TO DOWNTOWN".  What? We were a long, long way from downtown Duluth, or any downtown for that matter! I looked it up and we are about 1000 miles from Duluth, MN. Does anyone have an hypothesis why that bus was blowing around in the wind in Wyoming,... driving on a highway with flashing signs telling discouraging high profile vehicles from proceeding? For the record, the wind was not blowing from the direction of Minnesota to Wyoming, but rather the opposite.  I thought about that Sandra Bullock movie, SPEED, and wondered if they needed rescued. Do you remember that movie? Maybe we should have tried to rescue them!

Later down the road, with Mike and me both driving about the speed limit, we were passed by some trucks pulling trailers with nitrogen tanks secured on them.  The speed limit was 80mph and they were going faster than that... in the middle of a high wind warning... with NITROGEN. Does that sound like a smart idea to you?

This following photo was my view most of the way. That is Mike up there.  Taking a photo while driving in the wind would be stupid as well. I confess nothing. For all you know, I stopped in the middle of the road when I pushed that camera button.

Anyway, I had the following song running through my head much of the way.

I have been following that man for many years now!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thanksgiving Report 2014

Did you have a nice Thanksgiving? Mike and I got out of town. We weren't with any of our own offspring for this holiday, but we were with relatives. We were invited (or maybe we invited ourselves) to my Mom's.  Mom is a great cook and makes the whole thing seem so easy! I feel a bit guilty because she did all the work, but I can live with that, I guess. 

Upon arrival we got to meet the new addition to Mom's household. His name is Gus and he has a quirky personality, which is to say he fits right in with us all. He is a Pomeranian and Chihuahua mix. Sounds weird, huh? I guess it kind of is but I liked his look, right down to the little spirally white hairs coming out of his ears. He is still a puppy so he had a lot more energy than the rest of us!

Next to arrive was my niece, Steff. She, too, has a fun and quirky personality. This photo is her serious look. Don't buy into it.

This is Steff's you-aren't-really-taking-yet-another-picture look.

My nephew, Steven, is always the best dressed among us. Always. Every family needs at least one member with some class.

I managed a quick photo of Mom, although she was busy, busy, busy.  I know what you are thinking, "That's your Mom? She looks as though she could be your sister! And wasn't she just recently in the hospital and very, very ill?"  I told her a few days earlier that people looked at me funny when I said she was cooking for us all.  My friends all knew of her scary medical struggle just over a month ago. Mom's response to that was, "Well, people recover." 

My younger sister, Tina, was there as well. She thinks she isn't photogenic but I liked this photo!

As Mike and I were driving home we were enjoying the Wyoming beauty. I had heard earlier in the week all the warnings about Thanksgiving traffic and to expect slow going in many places around the country.  As you can see, that wasn't a big issue here. I am glad we live out West where crowding is not a big concern

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Mother and Daughter

There is something so beautiful to me in these photos. It was just a few simple moments between mother and daughter, a few silly laughs. It speaks volumes, though, doesn't it? Our first relationship is with our mothers.  These photos captured all that can be good and beautiful about that sweet bond. I enjoyed the moment.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Project ABC

Last night Cordelia and Elise were over and they had a project to do. I brought out an ABC floor puzzle and they got right down to business.

As you can see, Bode wanted to be helpful.

He really wasn't.

The girls persevered.

Bode continued supervising.

Elise brought the letters and Cordy put them together. With teamwork, even under questionable canine supervision, they did get the job done.  Bode was thankful as he thought they'd made him a new bed.