Sometimes we get stuck seeing things our way. Would you like to see some things through another set of eyes? Maybe it will make you think and stretch or maybe just chuckle or shed a tear. Here is my world through my eyes...

Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 a year of excitement, wonder and fear.

Well here it is the last few hours of 2010 and I was thinking what would be the things that I would remember from this year.  Or maybe the things that have shaped me this year and propelled me into the future year. 

Well first off it was the year of the wedding.  The big news is that we attended two weddings on opposite coasts of the country.  First was Anny's in Portland and second was Jaime's in Washington DC.  The first one we flew out there with Mom and attended and met Anny's family from Russia and her husbands large family and had a very enjoyable time.  Jaime's was here and was great withLesli & Kim and our family going there and having a great family home evening the night before that will be memorable due to blessings, lindt truffles and squirt guns.  We met Mike's family and went to the reception in MN. 

It was also the year of Megan's return from her mission.  We missed her terribly but were pleased to have her home in time for Jaime's wedding and then also to have her home for a couple months before she goes back to BYU. 

It was also the year of the release.  I was released as the Bishop in our ward and in a moments time things changed drastically for us.  I was pleased to serve and pleased to be released.  Now I am doing a variety of things like writing this blog to keep me busy and productive. 

It was the year of Dad's fall.  A very scary fall that has left him in a coma for weeks and been punctuated to date with improvement and reversals but most recently improvement.  We look forward to seeing additional progress next year. 

It was the year of the family reunion being the first of three times that at least part of our family went to Minnesota this year.  We love Minnesota and it was cool in the summertime after having a very hot summer here in VA.  We enjoyed the family while at the same time missing Megan who was still on her mission at that time. 

This was the second year in a row that Lisa and I went to Nag's head in October, this time to celebrate our 27th anniversary, which we enjoyed a lot.  It was a real rest and relaxation to go there with few demands and lots of time to think and enjoy the salt air and quiet fall beaches. 

This was also the year of friends visiting.  We met Peter, Gloria and Mat; friends of Megan's who came to visit.  Jeremy visited for the first time since his return from India. 

While we struggled through some parts and were filled with pleasure and joy through other parts of the year the most joy came from being with our family as usual.  Great friends and associates (including those in the church setting as well as those at work and others) have also made it a good year. 

I am thankful to the Lord for the opportunites that came both as ease and pleasure as well as those that came as work and stress to help stretch me and remind me of my maker.  I hope we can all appreciate our opportunities even if they came as challenges and catastrophies.  It is hard some times to be grateful for those things that are not resolved and carry us along in a stream or river with an unknown end.  I hope I can hang on and be thrilled with the ride as I battle the fear of the unknown. 

New pop song singes music industry

If you are interested in seeing a singer who has moved away from selling their music with sex to singing and being an upstanding citizen then you need to see this Finnish Singer and read about how she has changed.  She has had some success with her music but has changed and now wants to stand for what is right but still hopes to find success in her field.

Click on her picture to go to her web site. 
Here is her latest video of her new English song:

Her song tells the story of what she thinks of being controlled by the music industry.

To read about her story and what made the change click on these websites:

Finnish Pop Star Speaks Out on Modesty

Finnish pop star optimistic about her future 

ESC Daily speaks to Jonna

Maybe this is an example of how we should plan for our new year by standing a little taller and not bending to the pressures of the world around us but instead choosing to be more aligned with what we believe is right.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Alert: New year approaching, new beginnings recommended

Alas 2010 is coming to an end and we are about to begin a new never used fresh year.  A chance for all of us to become a little or a lot more like the person we really want to be.  Do you have things about yourself you are tired of or are embarrassed about?  Do you have new ways you want to act, think and be?  If so this is a good time to work towards those things.  Life has many beginnings and endings and this is another big chance.  However; a little warning, you shouldn't count on many more opportunities because we never know when our chances end.  [Yeah, you are right, I am thinking of Dad and although his chances haven't ended he is not consciously able to make the changes in this realm that we currently are.]

This time of year all kinds of lists come out "The best of 2010"  and of course "The worst of 2010".  Many folks like to make goals and resolutions to make changes in the new upcoming year.  Religion encourages us to make changes through repentance which is available daily/hourly and by the second.  But the New Year is a big chance to look at our strengths and foibles of the past and resolve to work harder or maybe continue our hard effort to make the changes and be the person we want to be in the future.

 For Christmas I gave Megan a necklace that represents 'New Beginnings'.  It seemed appropriate as she just recently returned from a mission so needs to return to 'normal life' a new beginning.  Of course she will incorporate many things from her great mission opportunities but in many ways she gets to change her template (oh, excuse me I am learning some blog talk), and re-establish what will get the emphasis and highest value in her life.  Her name will stay the same just like all of us but who will she be.  Just like all of us our changes will likely be minor but this new beginning for her is bigger, due to having a larger change.  Consequently even her minor changes can have larger results for now and the future.  That is why I purchased this necklace for her gift this year.  Not just to commemorate her 'new beginnings' now but to also remind her that one can always improve and strive to become that person we see ourselves as in our minds eye.

I hope we can all contemplate who we are and consider who we want to be and make plans to move a little closer to our ideal and farther away from mistakes and errors of the past.

I thought to end this with the encouraging "Good Luck!" but really that isn't it at all because I'm talking about evaluation and effort so maybe I should say "Plan well!" or "Do It" or some such thing.  Maybe Jean Luc Picard said it best "Make it so!"  I'd like to hear your suggestions.  What would be a good encouraging short statement of hope for us this year.  Let me hear it in the comments.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The death of texting.

Today I spent a little time on the Internet and came across a YouTube video that was put out by
AT&T entitled Don't text while driving documentary.  You can see it by clicking here. 

I am in the generation which finds the lure of texting barely comprehensible.  But texting while driving is clearly not good.  Take a look and see what you think. 

Christmas Tradition part 10+: Christmas Day

Christmas morning after everyone is up we line up all those here for Christmas from shortest to tallest.  Haleigh now has been at both ends of the line and she has made it known in recent years that the front of the line is better than the back!

Each of our stockings are laid out stuffed with fun and yummy things and we spend time opening our stockings at the same time and enjoying them and then seeing what everyone else received.  Over the years stuffing a stocking has become a fun specialty.  In some ways more fun because of the limited space in the stocking.  This year we pulled a trick on Jeremy which I forewarned him we would have a little fun at his expense Christmas morning.  While everyone had a large stocking overflowing with gifts and goodies he had a 2X4 stocking with two little less fun things in it.  Chap stick and hand sanitizer!  He was a good sport and we quickly brought out his real stocking but that started things off with a tease setting a fun tone to the proceedings. 

I always enjoy watching everyone open up their stocking and seeing how much they are enjoying them and have to catch up with my own opening at the end.

Then we move to the presents under the tree.  Now our girls are grown but when they were younger we made it a point to attribute stocking presents to Santa Claus and those under the tree came from whoever the giver might be.  It seemed reasonable that the kids should know who the presents were from so they could feel and hopefully express appreciation directly to those grandparents, aunts and uncles and so forth.

We developed a way that suited us better to open the presents under the tree by starting with the youngest and giving them an opportunity to give one present to a person and then we all enjoy watching them open the present and enjoy discussing things, teasing, joking and having more fun while watching their reactions to the gift.  This resulted from our desire to increase the emphases to giving and decreasing emphasis from getting.  It had been great with the side-effect of taking longer to open presents.

We take a break at some point and go and eat breakfast.  Lisa has usually put together a tasty breakfast casserole together which we enjoy and then return to presents.  Eventually we are done and nowadays as the girls have grown it is filled with memories from the past and lots of bonding as a family.

Later in the day we typically go to a movie on Christmas.  This year we went to the latest Narnia movie: Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  Then we have dinner at some point that doesn't take a lot of preparation so that we can still enjoy the peacefulness of the day.  In the past Lisa found herself stressed as she prepared a large Thanksgiving type meal.  We got away from that realizing it was decreasing her enjoyment of the day.  This year Lisa had a spiral sliced ham warming in one crock pot with Grandma's potatoes warming in another one.  Much easier and smoother and all nice and warm when we were ready to eat it. 

For us Christmas is a real loving and family bonding time that we enjoy immensely.  Feeling close together and being able to enjoy each other with remembering our foibles and good times from the past.  Families are forever...starting now! 

This year we had three daughters plus Jeremy and Gloria to share Christmas with us.  We had lots of fun sharing our traditions with Jeremy and Gloria and I think they found several things different than their normal celebration of the day. It was a big day of celebration and appreciation and remembrance.

TIME after TIME after TIME marches leming like into the past or future?

I have heard of 'fast' time and 'slow' time.  It was explained to me by comparing when you are doing something you love like reading or contentedly listening to music (speaking for myself) which time goes by fast.  For others it might be watching movies or playing video games, watching sporting events or building and creating.  Slow time connected the best with me when I thought of organized wrestling.  There are three periods, each three minutes each.  In the midst of that wrestling with muscles straining against another wrestler time goes very slow it seems, especially in that third period.  

So here it is already four days after Christmas all fast time because it has been so enjoyable.  Between the fun and business of Christmas and the days following also filled with plenty to do it seems that time has passed by quickly.  This time of year I take off from work as much as possible to be home with my family (kids and wife off from school and girls home from college) to talk, play games (which this year was cribbage), after Christmas shopping and this year we replaced our traditional Christmas party with a Christmas open house.  It fit our schedule best to do it after Christmas rather than before.  We used the last half hour of the open house to sing Christmas songs and hymns maybe for the last time this season.

It is always lots of fun to have family and friends to visit.  The Hintons came for the open house which we enjoyed and spent a long time talking even after the singing.  Lori and Brendon came as well and brought some really yummy chicken salad mini sandwiches which I enjoyed many of.

It is a great time of year to put more thought and effort into our family and friends and to me that is what Christmas is all about.  We celebrate the coming of our Savior who taught us the importance of our friends and families.  I'm grateful for all those who are a part of our extended associates.  I recognize how much they mean in my life and am appreciative for them. 

As time goes by it of course becomes our past but doesn't it also greatly influence our future.  How we use our time now helps develop us and shape our future choices so that it not only gives us strength and comfort, or their opposites, from the past but begins the process of laying out and preparing our future.  So time does seem to march both to the past and the future at once.  A paradox?  An oddity?  A reality.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Tradition part 9: down real late and up early

Christmas has always been an exciting time for me.  Sleeping when I was a child was difficult but eventually I would be overcome and fall asleep but would wake early Christmas morning wondering what Santa Claus, then my parents might give me for Christmas.  Later I enjoyed being Santa Claus to our children and even though they all know that my wife and I have been Santa for a long time I still find it lots of fun to plan and then put out presents and stockings on Christmas Eve. 

This is always very late at night because I want to be sure that they are asleep and that when I put out the stockings that they will be seen for the first time when they wake up and come into the family room.  Well as the kids have gotten older that has gotten harder because they are constantly staying up nowadays and doing their own Christmas surprises and that means I get to bed pretty late and the consequences are that I am tired Christmas Evening.  You'll probably hear more about that in another blog. 

So here I am Christmas Eve.  Lisa has long gone to bed because she knows I'll be up late and she prefers to be rested the next day (imagine that).  Megan has built a barricade fort like structure in the living room to wrap and finish her Christmas surprises behind.  So on the other side of her barricade I am putting together the only present that needs assembling this year.

When the kids were young I sometimes had to assemble some Christmas presents after they went to bed and that would keep me up a little late.  And this time it wasn't anything that was real complicated or had a lot of parts but was something that just took time.  I was putting together the new piano bench that I was giving to Lisa for Christmas.  It is extra long and padded and has adjustable height.  I had noticed in recent months that the current or as I write this the 'old piano bench' was getting pretty rickety and it seemed likely at some point it might collapse entirely.  So a new upgraded bench seemed like a good gift idea.  So there I was attaching the legs to it.  It had come in the mail in a largish box and to my chagrin had printed in five inch letters on each side of the box "piano bench".  I lucked out though because it had arrived while we were in Washington DC and was sitting on the front porch when we got back with the porch light off at night.  So I was able to get it in the house and covered by my coat before anyone else saw what it was.  Success!  Surprise is still possible although after years of trying to do surprises I knew it was not assured. 

So there we are in our living room with Megan on one side wrapping presents and me on the other side of this barricade of furniture putting together the bench.  We are carrying on a good conversation and I am finding it enjoyable having this conversation while doing this assembly work rather than by myself as usual. 

I decide this year that I'll put Lisa's stocking on the new bench so she can get her big present right from the start rather than save it to the end.  My decision to do this is influenced largely by a Christmas a couple years ago when my brother Jim was visiting.  In my effort for the big surprise that year I had come across what I figured would be the perfect gift for my wife and one that surely she could not anticipate that I would give her.  It was large and when I brought it out from it's hiding place at the end of the gift opening with everyone sworn to keep their eyes closed as I am triumphantly bringing it in the room my brother (who was visiting that year) blurts out "that looks like a..." and of course names the gift.  At the time I found it less than pleasurable but nowadays it has become such a great joke and fun memory for us all I am sure that it will live on in family lore much longer than if my surprise had been successful.   

So after completing the bench and getting everything set up with help from a couple of elves all is ready for tomorrow and I can go to sleep. So all is set for Christmas morning! 

I know I won't get much sleep because a certain daughter who has a tradition of her own--that of being the first to get up and come in to our bed room suggesting it is time to get up and go down stairs to open presents.  That daughter used to beg, whine and cajole us in that early Christmas hour to get up and let them go open the presents.  In those days the kids were little and so we would tell them it was too early but they could pile in our bed and sleep until it was time to get up.  Her goal and tradition was to always be the first one in our room.  It is a point of pride for her now to continue that.  There have been a couple of attempts by other daughters to wake up first but as all attempts have fallen short and they now sleep until the appointed time sometimes needing to be awakened by us!  Things do change.     

Christmas Tradition Part 8: Birthday Party

I was born on Christmas morning early.  My Mom tells the story that I was over due and what she had hoped was that I would be born on her birthday in mid December but it turned out that I was born a couple weeks later on Christmas morning.  Naturally she says I was her best Christmas present ever.  She said they wrapped me in a blanket and put a ribbon around me when they brought me to her for the first time. 

Lots of times throughout my life I get condolences that my birthday is on Christmas as many folks think that my birthday is shuffled into the background and ignored or forgotten.  My family however has always managed not to do that and has usually kept it separate.  I have noticed over the years that friends do often forget my birthday.  The exceptions have been when the Rivera family would come by Christmas morning to tell me happy birthday and give me a fresh pineapple which was very much appreciated.  This year I received a text from my friend John who remembered my birthday which made me feel good.  But I have never received many birthday cards.  It hasn't bothered me much.  I remember my birthday and that is good enough for me. 

In recent years we have started celebrating my birthday late on Christmas Eve at my Mom's house after the Christmas Eve party.  The down side is that no one is hungry for birthday cake after eating such a great variety at the party.  The thinking has been that this was a good time to celebrate it since no one wanted to go to bed anyway and that we typically have such a lot to do on Christmas Day that it is hard to find the time and it feels like I am squeezing it in.   

So after the party is over and most of the folks have left we have a little birthday party which includes singing and opening present and then having birthday cake which is often just me having a piece. 

This year things went great.  The presents I received were great and enjoyable and it served the purpose of a bridge from the party to Christmas morning.  As usually Lisa tries to surprise me with a present that I didn't expect.  She did so this year with purchasing a present for me that indeed I didn't expect.  It was a Kindle book reader!  I had not even considered that possibility.  So I am excited to see what I can do with it.  I'll put scriptures and other things on there and see if they are all cracked up to be as good as they say. 

By the way, when people speculate that having a Christmas birthday must be bad I always point out to them that it is great to have the day off every year in my line of work.  At my current agency where I work they give you a day off for your birthday and with my situation I am able to use it another day in December which always gives me plenty of time off around the holidays and with family and friends that are visiting. 

I like my birthday when it is.  I remember once when I was young and I guess my Dad wondered if I felt like I got jipped with my birthday on Christmas.  He offered to let me celebrate it any day I wanted even in the middle of the summer if I wanted.  Christmas Eve or Christmas Day is my preference.  Thanks Dad for giving me the option. 

Christmas Tradition Part 7: Christmas Eve Party

Christmas traditions are coming fast and furious and it is hard to keep up by blogging about them. 

This year as usual we had our Christmas Eve party over at my Mom's house.  She has always enjoyed having parties and now that she is 81 she is finding it harder to get things ready for the party.  This year we had a good friend visiting for the holidays who is staying at her house and he has been helping her around the house to get things ready for the party and Christmas. 

We invited some folks over to the party this year.  One new person we invited was a man I call Ed from Mali Africa.  He is a very friendly and personable guy and as he was recently divorced from his wife and his family isn't available to him for Christmas.  We decided he needed to at least have a good time on Christmas Eve.  He came and he did have a good time. 

We started out the party with a buffet of good foods and snacks.  This year the smorgasbord included everything from my Mom's corn chowder to our special citrus punch that we like to make, little smokies and meat balls in barbecue sauce, greens provided by a friend who knows how to make southern greens with the best of them, enchilada dip for tortilla chips, bagel bites, chex mix, monster cookies and spinach dip for chips.  There were others but these stick out in my mind.  Needless to say more than enough good eats. 

After everyone has had a good chance to eat we typically have a program that includes my Mom reading her 'Willie and Annie" story that she has enjoyed and read many times over the years.  And typically ends with my reading Luke 2.  This year I read it from my Mom's large old Bible that is starting to get decrepit but is the closest thing we have to the family Bible.  Megan told a Christmas story from her mission and Ed told a story from his life experience.  Elder Jones a missionary currently serving in our area spoke about some traditions his family does for Christmas.  He enjoyed the punch we had because he said it is the same punch that his family has which was a surprise to me since I don't recall anyone saying they have that same punch in their home.  Ed thought highly of the punch as well and he asked for the recipe.   

This year it felt especially enjoyable as we celebrated the evening before the day our Savior was born.  Telling stories of family and happiness and caring topped of by the story of the Savior's birth once again served to bring peace and calm with a spirit of love into my Mom's home and our lives individually.  Just what I would hope our family traditions would always do. 

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Tradition part 6: Dube's Christmas Eve Breakfast

This morning we went to Christmas Eve Breakfast at the Dube's home.  They have been doing this for a few years and inviting a house full of folks for breakfast and wii games as long as they want to stay.  We've been one of the lucky ones invited year after year.  Today I got to bless the food as the "oldest man present" -- oh boy!  We have enjoyed going and despite the chaos of lots of kids it is really a highlight of the season.

They always have about the same menu with the main dish being pancakes with ice cream and warm fruit sauces on top.  As usual they had lots of people there, maybe 25 folks or so.  The sausages, potato casserole, bacon and eggs lead to a nice warm filling breakfast that lasts until the Christmas Eve party starts in the evening.

One of the fun things was watching one of the little children helping themselves to spoonfuls of the grape jam.  When I mentioned it to the mother later with a hearty laugh she wondered why I didn't tell them to stop.  I guess because it was so darn cute to watch them getting away with it.  That led to a discussion of parenting and grand parenting topics that were very enjoyable laced with lots of stories of the past from the adults present. 

Getting people together for the holidays is a good way to celebrate the season.  Lots of stories and fun times ensue while children do the craziest things.  Good times. 

Purposefully wiggled toes give a fresh frenzy of faith

Once again Dad has done something to give our faith a fresh shot of adrenaline.  Lisa's sister was visiting and he wiggled his toes.  Wondering if it was purposeful she commented on it and his toes wiggled again.  Finally she ask him to wiggle the toes for a third time to determine if he really was responding to her.  He did! 

Even those skeptics among us must have had their faith pricked into action.  Go Dad!  keep up the toe wiggling, thumbs upping and all other forms of communication you can muster!  Remember we love you! 

By the way the best use for Skype I've heard of yet is coming up when we will talk with Dad in his hospital room for Christmas Eve. 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Tradition part 5: Caroling

Tonight we carried on with another of our Christmas Traditions, that of going caroling.  We made a few minor changes to our tradition tonight.  For one we cut down on the number of homes we went caroling to.  We had noticed over the years that it begins to get a little stressful when you are running across town to 15 or 20 homes to sing to people and give them some goodies.  We weren't doing this for stress so thought that reducing the number would help.  It did. 

Secondly with the added time it allowed us to be a little more flexible.  That is when it crossed our mind to sing to someone else nearby one of the families we had planned to sing to we had the time and were able to do so. 

We also invited more folks to sing with us and we enjoyed having the added numbers and got to do something fun with our friends as well.  We sang to a number of folks that we hadn't seen in a while and they seemed to appreciate the singing.  We have enjoyed singing over the years to friends and letting them know that we still remember them and care despite the fact that our busy lives might have made it so we don't see them as often as we once did. 

Tonight one family had told us in advance that they wanted to have us in for some warm apple cider and some goodies so we went to their home last and they had some great cookies, cider and crackers and dip.  There were eleven of us and we even sounded pretty good.  One of our company enjoyed the time away from her family with one of her children since over the last few months with her husband deployed she has spent her days with her four young children and enjoyed being with adults that didn't require her to change their diapers. 

Our family has always loved singing together thanks to my wife's great music skills and we have had this tradition for many years where we would share our modest abilities with other's to help them feel the meaning of Christmas and the fun of the music.  Now we are including more of our friends to sing with us which makes it even more fun all around for more of us. 

Surprise indoor frozen snow face

My wife had been telling me for a while that she had a surprise planned for me the Monday of the week before Christmas.  You have to understand that in our family surprises rein supreme.  We try hard to surprise members of the family.  This desire for surprises has led to a number of memorable things over the years  Since it is Christmas time I will share one family policy that this parent lives by.  If you tell me what you want for Christmas without my asking (which is hardly ever) then you won't get it for sure.  That policy has really helped over the years to minimize any 'Christmas lists' or asking for certain gifts.  Rather the art of surprise is at work and must be used to determine what someone wants or needs.  In it's perfect form this happens without them knowing that they wanted it themselves until they moment they unwrap it on Christmas morning or afternoon. 
This year my wife was working on a surprise to give me for a special celebration.  She had done well.  I don't try to figure out surprises because it is no fun to figure out a surprise in advance so when my natural curiosity wants to gear up I simply..."look the other way" or in this case think about something else.  ["Look the other way" is a famous quote in our family that comes from the book Henry's Terrible Mistake by Robert Quakenbush--it teaches some good lessons I recommend it to parents.] 

She took me to a place that I had never been before it is called the The Gaylord National hotel and convention center in Maryland.  It was probably the largest hotel I had ever seen and was really a neat place.  She took our family to the ICE! exhibit which is an exhibit of carved ice sculptures--this year celebrating the Grinch that stole Christmas.  The ice sculptures were nice--especially the bigger than life size nativity one at the end of the exhibit--but the real attraction for me was the COLD.  In order for the sculptures to keep from melting they keep the large room they are in cooled down to 9 degrees.  People come dressed in their winter attire and then before you enter the sealed room you are given a very large blue parka and that keeps you warm.  However since your face is out in the cold as you walk through the exhibit your face freezes!  It was great! 

After that we went into the Gaylord National hotel which was huge.  Hotel rooms go up several stories on each side and in between are streets from a small town village.  But the last part of the surprise was that at 6:15 it started snowing indoors!  Lisa knows I love the cold and love the snow.  I was thinking I new what the last part of the surprise was going to be, I thought there were going to be Christmas carolers coming down the streets but when it started snowing it was awesome!  So I enjoyed the surprise and we had a great time.  All the family seemed to enjoy it.  Wish you could have been there. 

Christmas Tradition Part 4: Temple Lights

One of our big traditions that typically takes about a day is going to Washington DC to see the lights on the Washington DC temple.  This year they said there were a half a million lights.  It is always beautiful and something that helps to bring the true meaning of Christmas (remembering the birth of our Savior) into our thoughts as we view the temple with all the various colored Christmas lights.  They said that the lights start getting wrapped around the trees in August in preparation for Christmas and takes hundreds of volunteers.  Wow!

Most years we go up as a family and spend the evening and day in DC with seeing the temple lights as the focal point.  This year however we went up the day before and spent the night at a hotel and added a few other things and then went to the Temple lights in the evening on Tuesday.  The ward was having a "temple lights" day too, so we got to see several folks from the ward that were there as well. 

Seeing so many Christmas lights has always been fun and it seems reasonable that there would be such great beauty and excitement over the birth of Christ at the temple where the whole point is about Christ.

At the temple visitors center they always have a number of exhibits which includes creche sets from around the world.  We always enjoy looking at those as well.  This year they had one from Thailand!  This is the first nativity made in Thailand that I had ever seen.  Being a Buddhist country I wondered if there was someone who made them there.  This set had some great cultural indicators that really made it enjoyable and distinctly Thai..   

They also have Christmas concerts in the visitors center and we listened to Sandra Turley sing a few Christmas songs.   


She sang a great song in a broadway tradition called Christmas Lullaby from Songs for a New World which was a song about women being like Mary which was very enjoyable.  Here are the lyrics of the song:

I'll never have the power to control the land
Or conquer half the world
Or claim the sun
I'll never be the kind who simply waves her hand
And has a million people do
The things I wish I'd done

But in the eyes of Heaven
My place is assured
I carry with me heaven's grand design
Gloria, glory, I will sing the name of the Lord
And He will make me shine

And I will be like Mother Mary
With a blessing in my soul
And I will give the world my eyes
So they can see
And I will be like Mother Mary
With a blessing in my soul
And the future of the world inside of me

In the eyes of Heaven
My place is assured
I carry with me heaven's grand design
Gloria, glory I will sing the name of the Lord
And He will make me shine

And I will be like Mother Mary
With a blessing in my soul
And I will give the world my eyes
So they can see
And I will be like Mother Mary
With a blessing in my soul
And the future of the world inside of me

And I will be like Mother Mary
With the power in my veins
To believe in all the things
I've yet to be
And I will be like Mother Mary
And I'll suffer any pains
For the future of the world
For the future of the world
Inside of me...

If you are like me and have never heard of this before and would like to listen to a version of it on youtube go here:

It was a great night and we had an enjoyable time.  Naturally we missed having our oldest daughter Jaime and Mike with us but we did have Megan, Hilary, Haleigh, Jeremy and Matt with Lisa and I (a full van I might add).  It was fun to share this tradition with our friends this time as well. 

I love our traditions that have helped us build a family with many great memories. 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The gift I wish I could give

I am here sitting on the couch in front of the white Christmas tree.  The one with the hand made Christmas balls and photo frames from the girls years of growing up.  Everyone is in bed and I have nearly all the lights off in the house and am just looking at the tree with it's white lights and splashes of color coming from the ornaments.  I'm seeing what thoughts enter my head as I contemplate Christmas now only five days away. 

It occurs to me as I think of the girls that I wish I could give the gift of happiness to each one of them this year.  It seems funny to me that I would think of this because I think they all are happy.  I'm not sure that it is the gift that they need right at the moment.  At least they seem happy much of the time.   

Each one of them certainly has their stresses and concerns and has to work individually to fulfill their various needs: physical mental and spiritual.  Just like all of us.  I don't even want to take that away.  I want them to have to work and struggle, realizing that will build strength for them and help them in life.

Then why do I wish that I could give them happiness?  Am I unhappy, am I projecting my own unhappiness on each of them wishing that they could be happier than I am or some such thing?  I don't think so.  I feel happy, at least adequately so.  I am pleased with what is happening in my life and feeling like plenty of good is coming out of my life and it seems like plenty of good is coming from their lives as well.  Sure they have things to learn and plenty to do to grow in life.  Experiences to have, people to love and maturity to be gained.  Sure they each have quirks that may need conquering and things they could be doing to better themselves, but I am pleased with them and with each one of their efforts to grow and to recognize and approach and achieve their potential. 

I really enjoy giving them gifts in hopes of surprising them and finding something that is helpful and meaningful to them.  My ideal gift would be one that both said "I love you so much that I have paid attention and realized this was something that you would like" and says to them "I observe you and understand you and this gift will help you see yourself more clearly".  I would like my gifts to give insight, comfort, strength or happiness to them.  Something to open their eyes to see themselves more clearly.  Maybe what I really want is to help those I love see themselves as I do that they are good and loved and to have happiness and confidence result for a time.

As I look back I think of things I have given as presents in the past and there are two things I have given repeatedly and realize I will be giving again this Christmas as well.  Two things that I believe are symbolic to the receivers if they will open their eyes and minds to get the symbolism.   

What are those things you ask?  I give hearts which of course symbolize love and acceptance and I give blankets which symbolize warmth and comfort.  Maybe those are the things I have found that most closely match my desire to tell others what I think and how I feel for them.  I don't necessarily feel that is all I want to give but those two things I find giving over and over.  Ask my wife how many hearts she has in her collection, or maybe my daughters how many blankets they have received over the years.  Do they know my feelings about these things?  Do they see beyond the thing to the symbol and know it's meaning as I give it to them and my hopes for them?  Do they realize that I believe that as they are warm and loved that they are free to be happy and to embrace life more fully, even it's challenges and hurts? 

Well, realistically they will read this and know, but the real question is will they feel?  Over time they will, I believe.  It may not be now, but as they grow and especially if they have their own children then they will begin to see and feel what I see and feel about them and they will better understand my desire to give them happiness through giving them love and warmth. 

Needless to say the best way I can give this to them as a gift isn't with the blankets or the heart shaped things, but rather those are only symbols and reminders.  I really have to give it to them by example, by showing them how to love and be loved, by showing them how to be warm toward others and to allow themselves to be warmed and comforted.  I hope I am doing that adequately, I think I am. 

I hope they can be...not so much what I want them to be...not even so much what they want to be...but I hope they can find their way to be what God has for them to be and I hope they will not settle for anything less.  And though I anticipate my example will have failures and at other times will do great good for them and that my symbols as gifts will at times be misunderstood and/or lost, I hope they will nonetheless find their way to seeing their true value and strengths and weaknesses as God sees them so they can fully realize their identity as not just my children but as His children--Children of God.

Christmas tradition part 3: Coming Home from School

I realized that we had another Christmas tradition that doesn't fit the typical pattern.  And it happened last night.  It is something that gets planned months in advance and the cost is relatively high.  It is the day when the college students in the family come home from school to celebrate the Christmas season with us.

Yesterday early evening Haleigh and I were driving up the freeway to the airport to pick up Hilary.  She had come through Chicago which has had its share of bad memories for her in recent trips but today it seems that things went fairly well despite a delay.  It wasn't easy to figure out when she was arriving based on info on the computer because the arrival board at the airport simply said "delayed" which was a bit disconcerting so we went by what the airline site said and she arrived a few minutes early from that and got her bag and met us on the curb which was nice and smooth and easy.

I guess we had given her cause for concern as she was unable to reach us via my cell phone.  That is because Haleigh and I were listening to loud Mannheim Steamroller Christmas music and couldn't hear the cell phone.  But we made it and gave her big hugs and we are glad she is home!

Hilary is a great lover of Christmas as is most of the family but she has some unique-isms that add a lot.  For instance very soon, probably today she will have to check out every package under the tree and she will have some statistics in her head about how many presents for each person and so forth.  If you can't find a present you wanted to give Christmas morning ask her and she can probably tell you where it is under the tree.

You may wonder where was everyone else, why not pull out the whole brigade to meet her at the airport?  Well Megan was sick and at home resting and Lisa was making one of Hilary's favorite dishes to be ready when she arrived home for her immediate consumption.  Home made chicken pot pie which was appreciated by all quickly after we arrived home.

This year we had another student coming as well who arrived three hours later.  Jeremy flew in and again my limousine service was there to pick him up on the curb as it appears my timing skills work well with curb side service and not so well with greetings in the concourse.  Jeremy arrived being sick and tired from three flights on the day and having ear pain due to a probably sinus infection.  When Jeremy made his reservations with two layovers he thought he was being cheap, but with his sinus infection he turned out to be a cheap sadist.  So he was fed some fresh pot pie and pumpkin cookies (Pumpkin, I might add--oh did I say pumpkin?) upon his arrival and quickly taken to Mom's house where he will be sleeping during his stay.  He was glad to get an early night at least by college standards after several nights of studying late and taking exams.

So now the college students have arrived and the fun begins!

Friday, December 17, 2010

A walk to remember

The snow did come!  By standards of those in the north and west it wasn't a lot but it covered everything right from the start.  Interestingly for our area it covered the roads, turning them white before the cars or grass.  Typically the roads are the last thing to be covered if that happens at all when it snows, indicating of course that the roads had been cooled down a lot over the last couple days before the snow came.  Only a couple inches but it allowed those driving to skid and run into each other as usual for VA.  Consequently schools closed and my work closed for the day as well.  It is enjoyable to have an unexpected day off and to be able to do things you didn't or wouldn't have time or make time for otherwise.

So Lisa and I decided to walk to the post-office to mail Jaime & Mike's Christmas package as we want it to arrive by Christmas and we didn't want the snow here to get in the way.  So there we were walking through the snow holding hands with the moderate sized package in a duffel bag slung over my shoulder. 

Naturally on the way back we had to stop at a store on the way home and of course we all know that leads to finding several things that we could not do without.  It may well have been back in college the last time we walked through the snow and did some shopping. 

It was an unexpected pleasure  or maybe serendipity my mother-in-law would say.  Nevertheless it was a good way to enjoy the snow and be together.  It is fun to have a respite from the normal day to day cares.  And hey, we didn't have to go on vacation any where to find it, but here it was right at home! 

If snow brings fun like this, well then, bring on some more!  I understand this weekend is a possibility.  We'll see.   

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Snow in VA!

So Monday, I get up and it is snowing.  This is remarkable, exciting, what I hope for every year and many years never see.  This year getting snow in December is unusual but great.  It is not predicted to be much but it is sticking on the grass and cars.  Yeah! 

So I get ready and go to work driving through the snow.  It is great!  The snow isn't sticking on the road so the roads are just wet.  Smooth driving, no slipping or sliding.  I get to work and work all morning and get to lunch time and enjoy a nice peaceful lunch. 

The next thing I know there is a lot of activity and excitement in the clinic.  People talking excitedly and moving quickly.  We are closed down for the afternoon because of the snow.  I look outside. Iit has stopped snowing.  I look on the streets, they are wet just like when I came to work.  Odd.  But it doesn't keep me from enjoying the afternoon off! 

Only in Virginia! 

Now here it is Wednesday evening.  The local schools are closed tomorrow and work is two hours late and expected to close down.  Why you might ask?  Because more snow is predicted.  100% sure they say.  Several inches they say and it will start in the morning about the time people would be going to school and work.  There is still snow on the grass from earlier in the week (also an oddity in VA since the last snow is nearly always melted by the time another snow comes). 

I'm still a little skeptical because I've been in VA enough to have seen days like this.  Snow predicted, 100% sure.  Schools close.  Next day it rains all day.  I guess we'll see what happens tomorrow but I'll believe it and enjoy it when I see it. 

I do love the snow in VA. 

How can hate be so close to love?

So there I was sitting on the couch with my youngest daughter.  She was a little teary eyed and seemed a bit nervous.  "Dad, there is something I need to tell you."  So I paid attention.  She said that earlier in the evening she had been angry and hurting and had said to those around her, "I hate my Dad".  "But", she said now, "I really love you." 

I laughed and told her that I had certainly felt that way about my parents at times when I was young.  As I look back I think what I may have hated was that they knew what to do when I didn't and I needed their help.  Many times that was a comfort, but there were times in my life that I wanted to be grown and totally responsible for myself long before I was ready to do so.  Consequently I hated not being able to be what I wanted and in a funny way glad that I had them to help or set me straight as the circumstances required. 

I'm guessing that is what she was feeling.  You see earlier in the evening she had missed the last step at a friend's house and we found out later had broken her foot.  Even later we found out she had chipped her bone and strained and maybe torn some tendons.  So she was on her backside at the bottom of the stairs with friends to help and we weren't there.  The friends called and said she wouldn't budge that she was hurt too much and so forth.  So I ask to talk to her.

"Do you want to come home or do you want the emergency crew to pick you up and take you to the ER where they will keep you much of the night as they determine what needs to be done?"  "Home" she said.  "Then you need to accept the help and get into the car and get home where I can look at your leg/foot/ankle and we can determine what to do".  I made it simple for her, not pleasant but simple and maybe I did it in a way that lacked compassion.  But it got her moving and she was soon home. 

So now you have the story.  Child hurts self.  Dad tells it like it is to get things moving.  Child gets home and realizes that although she doesn't like the method she likes the results and realizes that she loves her Dad and she's glad to be safe at home.

It is nice to be loved even if you were hated just a few minutes earlier. 

It still strikes me as odd how those feelings seem to be so close together.  Almost like the only people we can hate are those we love because the others...well we just don't have that strong of feelings for them.  I am glad my daughter can love so quickly after going through something unpleasant. And glad that I can laugh and remember my youth enough to understand.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Why don't they leave out the side-effects?

I was talking with a young man in my office.  He is in his twenties and on medication.  He was complaining about the side-effects of the medication.  He wanted to know why didn't they leave the side-effects out of the medication.  "Why did they put those in?"  He wondered if they were putting the side-effects in the medicine so they could control him or maybe so that they could make him die sooner.  In this case "they" was the government who was giving him money on a monthly basis due to disability.  He figured if he died sooner then the government wouldn't have to pay him so long.  "Why don't they help me find a job I can do instead of put side-effects in my medicine so that I won't draw social security so long?  Then I could work and not have to draw money from the government." 

I tried to explain that medications were made in this case to compensate for a deficiency in certain chemical levels that he had.  The symptoms of the low chemical levels were what brought him to us and the medicine was trying to compensate for that.  If the medicine is successful then the symptoms will lesson or possibly dissipate. 

He was unimpressed and wanted to know why they put in the side-effects.

I explained they made the medication to combat the symptoms and the side-effects were unintentional results that they didn't know would happen or they didn't know yet how to make the medicine so it would work without having those unintentional results. 

Still he was unimpressed.  He seemed not to understand what side-effects meant or maybe he was purposely being a pain in the goiter. 

I was starting to get irritated and that is very rare for me in this setting.  Then it dawned on me what he was really saying.  Sure he doesn't like the side-effects but even more he doesn't like to have to take the medication.  He knows, however; that if he stops taking the medication he will have consequences he likes even less. 

So I started talking about the disappointment he felt in having to take medications.  How it made him feel different than others his age and why it was worth it for him to take the medicine anyway.  Now we were talking about the same thing and we had a good meaningful conversation that may have been helpful to him.

It occurs to me that in life we have a variety of side-effects to things.  Mostly we use the term side-effects to refer to something we didn't expect.  Sometimes we use the phrase to refer to consequences that were going to happen but we didn't know it.  Either way we are often surprised in life by what happens.  Even when our intentions are the best we can be deeply surprised at what results.   

Once I went to the doctor with some ailment.  He prescribed medication.  I had side-effects that I didn't like and would find it very hard to function with.  So he gave me another medicine to cure the side-effect.  Ultimately when all was said and done I decided that I could manage the original ailment better than the risk of side-effects. 

And that is the thing we must weigh in life.  If I do this for the purpose of having this result will I be happy with the consequences or the side-effects?  I may well get the desired result but I may not be too pleased with other side-effects.  We like to know what is going to happen so we can make an informed choice but most often we only know in part and sometimes even that "knowledge" is based on faulty reasoning and we find all kinds of things happening that we didn't expect.

Sometimes in Science Fiction or fantasy stories they approach the question what would happen if we could go back in time and we purposely or inadvertently changed something.  What would happen.  There are lots of good stories about that idea, one of my favorites is Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus by Orson Scott Card.  You might want to try it if you like thought provoking Science Fiction.

Each day we are creating history in our daily lives.  We are determining some of the future now.  And that future will eventually become history.  We need to carefully choose now so that we can stand by what we do regardless of the results or the side-effects and then once again we must take responsibility when things go awry. 

As in the case of medications the side-effects can sometimes be good.  I am aware of a medication that is prescribed at least as often due to the side-effect as it is due to it's initially created intended effect.

Will we live our life and do the best we can and then recognize the good that will come and then correctly evaluate the side-effects or do we think that life should be totally predictable--no side effects added?  I enjoy the opportunities and challenges that come by the unexpected (uh... much of the time).  I hope I can be as positive when things don't turn out in a way that appears desirable. 

What about you?  Do you need to have things work your way to find the joy in life or are you able to find the joy and challenge of the unexpected "side-effects"?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Good Day--two bunnies or five deer

Early each weekday morning around 5:30 I take my youngest daughter to a class that she has at a friend's house.  In our ever encompassing search to find ways to elevate our morning at that time of the day when we generally would prefer to be asleep in bed we have come up with the one and two bunny day.  There are two groups of rabbits that live in our path from our house to that early morning class.  They are not often out and about but when they are we find it fun to see them hopping around in serpentine fashion.  We slow down to be sure that we don't come into contact with them as we want them to be there for another day.  So if we see one rabbit that of course is a one bunny day.  That is a good day right from the start.  A two bunny day, however; is even better!  Last week we had a two bunny day.  We like to imagine that having seen two bunnies that day will mean that the rest of the day will be a great day as well.

On my way back from dropping her off one day this week I saw something even more unusual. I saw a group of five deer going through the yards of one of the neighborhoods.  I slowed down to watch for a couple minutes which of course had them looking at me like, "what are you looking at buddy?"  Five deer going from house to house checking out people's Christmas schlock.  I guess that is the safest time of day for deer to make their rounds to check out Christmas lights or maybe they were going around doing Christmas caroling?  Alas no one was up to invite them in for hot chocolate and goodies.

So naturally my mind turned to the question how does a five deer day compare to a two bunny day.  Both were quite good thank you.  I hope that you have as nice a week as I managed last week.  Bunnies and deer can both bring smiles, that is when the deer are not in the road, like the one that crossed my way last night and caused some quick braking practice. 

To be honest I'm all for finding reasons to be happy when we are doing something good, so I'd rather focus on bunnies and deer rather than the time of the morning or the cold weather and the car heater taking it's time to get going.  I encourage you to find your bunnies and deer to improve your days. 

As it happened good news came about Dad on the five deer day and the two bunny day!  Dad is progressing in his awareness of what is around him and has even given the thumbs up sign a number of times to family and staff at appropriate time to indicate he is aware of what is going on.  Keep it up Dad we are praying for you! 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Waking up

This morning as we do most mornings we knelt together as a family to start our day with a prayer.  We had a good friend visiting this morning so he joined us and we ask him to be voice for our family.  He said a phrase that I have heard him use before in prayer, but today it struck me different.  He said, "Thank Thee for waking us up this morning".  In the past I would inwardly smile at that and didn't give it much credence.  Today however it struck me a little different.  I thought of Dad and how he hasn't woken up for 2 weeks as he lies in a coma. 

Maybe I should be more appreciative of waking up in the morning and recognizing that as a blessing and a privilege and not take it for granted.  It is sobering to contemplate not waking up.  Usually I would think of death but what of being unresponsive for a period of time? 

Maybe I am the recipient of more blessings than I had realized.  I am indeed thankful for waking up even if that might entail some aches and pains, or doing some of the same things over and over, or might have some responsibilities that I don't like, or possibly be earlier than I would like.  Maybe in overcoming my ingratitude I can open my eyes to other blessings that I had formerly taken for granted and show and express more appreciation and gratitude to God as well as others around me.  Thanks DeJuan and Dad for that lesson.  Maybe I'm waking up to see what has always been there before me. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Eyebrows raise and hopes rise

Here’s the latest update about Dad who continues to lie in the hospital, still he hasn’t regained consciousness.  Lesli was visiting last night and was talking to him telling him stuff.  He had a couple of movements and such then as she was talking his eyebrows raise like they would if he were surprised at what he was hearing.  Or perhaps, like a person would do to say ‘hi’ or acknowledge you were there if they couldn’t talk or something.  His movements appeared to be in response to what was going on around him. 
It was fun for me to hear the response of Lisa as she was being told.  She was making one of those women noises kind of like someone was doing something tremendous and unexpected.  Maybe one of the few good things of being in a coma is to have all expectations brought down to ground level so the next thing you do is like the greatest thing ever.  That’s pretty much how it is for Dad right at the moment.  No expectations and a lot of hope as everyone waits and prays for his healing.    
He is being missed mightily by Mom and all of us.  Unfortunately maybe many of us didn't realize what we had until it (or rather he) was gone for a time.  Come back Dad whenever you are ready, we’ll be very excitedly appreciative whenever that occurs. 
Maybe what we should be asking is what was Lesli telling him that got such a positive response?  Next time you find yourself in a rut and need something to raise your eyebrows give my sister-in-law a call!

That's what friends are for

So I’m on my way to work and an old utility truck pulls up next to me.  You know the kind that the city or state buy with metal boxes down both sides of the bed so the workers can get to their tools easily and they can remain secure in the truck. It looks to be 20 years old or so.  I glance over and see my good friend who will remain nameless.  He looks a little rough this morning.  He has his leather jacket on and apparently closed tight.  His breath is coming out in great clouds of smoke.  Breathing hard and apparently a good air conditioner with the outside temperature in the 20s.  He doesn’t appear to have shaved but it might have been the condensation on his windows from his breath.  And the piece de resistance is that when I honk and he glances my way he has a tissue hanging out of one nostril. 
This is not his typical presentation.  Usually he has a nice looking professional car with the appropriate matching attire.  His car is comfortable and warm not requiring breath billows as he drives.  Needless to say he doesn’t usually have extra accoutrements of a tissue hanging out of his nostril either.  Who knows maybe it was “dress like a red-neck day at work” or maybe it is the time of year when the boss decides the raises at work and he wanted them to know he really needed it. 
I wave, he waves and we smile at each other and go on our way.  And, yes we are still friends. 
After all isn’t that what friends are for?  We may see each other when things don’t look right or maybe downright wrong, silly or strange!  But I know who he really is and not what he looked like today; so I can smile, he can smile and no explanation needed. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

New version of an old standard Christmas song 1

This year I ran across a very nice Christmas album by Angels of Venice.  Angels of Venice is a group playing classically influenced harp strong music, sometimes with vocals sometimes without.  I have enjoyed their music for a couple years but was excited to find a Christmas album.  So my first award for a "New Version of an Old Standard Christmas Song" is for Carol of the Bells Vocal version on their Sanctus Album.  Here is the Youtube link so you can listen to it:

I really enjoy the album as a whole but this one is my favorite.  Enjoy!

Christmas Tradition part 2: The Christmas Calendar

Okay, I know right from the start that this will be a surprise to some of you.  Not what I write next, but rather that I consider it a Christmas tradition.  So, a little explanation first might be helpful...maybe. 

Over the years we have had a certain spouse who is very structured and planned.  This particular spouse has married a spontaneous fly by the seat of your pants spouse making an interesting marriage at times.  Sometimes boring but mostly interesting.  As the years have passed, compromises made, learning gained, trust accumulated a certain "tradition" has developed.  I will call it the tradition of "the Christmas calendar". 

Nowadays this turns out to be a very important part of celebrating Christmas in our family.  With folks flying in for the holidays and lots of preparation needed for various activities and many activities crammed into a short time frame it has become important that a planning session be held--a family counsel if you will--to decide what activities will occur at all, when they will occur and who will be responsible for what.  For example it is understood after many years that Lisa will be the administrator for the goodies that are made for the holidays.  I will be the administrator for picking up and returning folks to the airport.  Those duties aren't delineated much anymore because it is understood.   

So yesterday was the big day that we had the family counsel/planning session.  Most of our activities occur after students from the university fly into town and so we had several days with a lot going on.  Various family traditions are planned, dated, ideas of who will be invited and so forth, any adjustments to past traditions discussed, decided on and what needs to be done in the next couple days to keep things on track--all done.  That might sound a little bit dry to some but in reality it was tremendously fun because interspersed through all this was a variety of high hilarity.  A couple of pouting sessions by one child that turned into laughing sessions thanks to another and various takes on "I thought you said..." as our hearing apparently continues to deteriorate.  I find frankly that what I hear is usually much funnier than what was actually said, which for us leads to good times...usually. 

So now everything is calendared and we have our initial marching orders and will move forward working together knowing what we are doing or at least trying to do.  This saves us a lot of hassle later on when time is of the essence and it is important that we are all on the same page.  That is unless we have one of the "I thought what we decided was..." Ha! 

Now, a happier family, because we are planned and we know when we can be spontaneous and when we can't because we are already scheduled and don't have time! 

Monday, December 6, 2010

She returned Home!

When one is married happily for many years and one's spouse leaves due to emergency for a week it is a joyous occasion when she returns home!  Since I am that one and my spouse returned home last night I am feeling pretty good knowing that when I go home she will be there today.  That is of course unless she needs to go shopping to refill various food stuffs that I may have emptied, or to take care of bills that need paying or some other things that didn't get done while she was gone. 

Actually things went pretty smooth while she was gone thanks to the two children that are home.  She did inquire regarding 2% milk.  You see we drink skim milk.  I thought I would splurge while she was gone.  It felt like I was drinking cream which was enjoyable.  However I couldn't manage getting both gallons down before she got back and so I was caught.  She focused on the fact that the remaining 2% was dated later than the left over skim.  I admitted I had splurged and unsuccessfully drank the evidence in time.  She smiled and that was that.  That is how I know she loves me! 

I did finish it off this morning so the evidence is gone and maybe if I'm lucky she will think that she dreamed it since she returned home late and was tired.  I doubt it but it was worth a try.  Besides now that she's home, things feel better and I don't need the extra comfort of the creamy 2% milk.  Things are good!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

New Christmas Music favorites 1

I am a lover of Christmas music!  Every year I am checking out the new music and finding music I didn't know existed from years past and finding things that I particularly like.  I have two categories: new renditions of Christmas classics and new Christmas songs that I haven't heard before.

To start things off my favorite new Christmas song I haven't heard before is "Love Story" by Naturally 7 an acappella group.  You can listen to it here:

Be sure to pick the one titled "Love Story" and listen close it has a good message.  Enjoy!

Don't give up

I'm always impressed by those who don't give up when it would be so much easier to do so.  This short little video is an example of a young woman who didn't give up:

I hope that we can be that way when we are down.

Friday, December 3, 2010

How will I explain this to my future children?

The time to start being a parent starts long before the baby is born or even conceived. 
I've heard people say "...long before you were a gleam in your father's eye" dating the mentioned activity as long before the listener was born.  The same timeline describes the best time to start preparing for parenting

Maybe you recognize the beginnings of this thought for me as coming from last Sunday at church.  As I mentioned in a blog from 11-28 a young man mentioned some things that concerned him about his pre-parenting choices.  That has been in the back of my mind this week and then a couple days ago I went into the group room at work and ran across a dry erase board that had been used during an education/support group for those stopping substance abuse.  It outlined the story of one woman who had done drugs and alcohol for a portion of her life, even through the conception and carrying of her child to term.  Then shortly after the birth of her child she realized the damage of what she was doing to herself and her children.  This helped her have the motivation she needed to stop using drugs.  In essence she suddenly recognized her worth and that of her children.  Now she is struggling to learn the skills and practice the behaviors of not using drugs and dealing with life through positive instead of destructive means.

I was reminded in that moment that being a parent really starts long before the child is born.  For many our preparation started even before we thought about being a parent.  When we can look at ourselves and answer the question, "how would I explain this to my future children" we will begin to see the importance of starting now to be the parent we want to be.

It occurs to me that many of us spend the first months or years of parenthood parenting ourselves and fixing areas we failed in to be better parents of our children.  Sometimes these efforts to fix ourselves are at the expense of our children in at least the distraction they cause from our children's needs.  It is much like on the job training.  Truth be told that we will all have some of these issues to work through, but if we start asking ‘the question’ now then we can prepare ourselves in advance and do a great service to future generations. 

Sometimes we as parents avoid talking about certain things with our children because we remember our behaviors of the age and feel embarrassed of ourselves and/or hypocritical of any current efforts to guide our children in a better path.  When we allow those feelings to negatively influence our parenting then we pass on our family and personal weaknesses to the next generation.  Maybe our resolve and presentation are weak because we ourselves fell into a trap we see coming for our children.  Maybe we are overzealous about a topic of instruction because we are trying to make up for our own failure; and in our extensive efforts now we succeed only in interesting our children in a behavior rather than strengthening against it.  I’ve seen some parents who think of their “glory” days as a time in their lives when they made poor choices.  Even though they hope their children will avoid those pitfalls in life, they inadvertently encourage them to repeat the error because of the enjoyment that is evident when they think back and describe their actions of yesteryear.  All of these ways of responding to our own past can have an impact on our children and therefore on their life and our grandchildren's lives.

"How would I explain this to my children" can help us at whatever stage of parenting we are in and no matter what our personal past has included.  It can help us choose a more appropriate path than the one we may naturally choose with only knowing and feeling our past and not adequately considering their future.  Our response can be the one that is right for the occasion even if we didn't live the ideal when we were at that time of life. 

So those who are not parents yet, start preparing now.  Your children will see the results of your efforts immediately upon arrival.  If you are later in your parenting life then now is the time to stop letting your past dictate your children’s future.  Follow your best self and parent your children as your current morals and knowledge direct you. 

As I write this blog two of my daughters bring me a sugar cookie and flute of milk.  The sugar cookie has on it, “We love you Dad” and the cookie is in the shape of a…cloud.  Maybe with our best efforts we can have the success we desire in guiding our children to reach their potential and be proud to be a part of our family. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Surprise reminder of Christ

This is an awesome video. It brought tears to my eyes as I imagined what it would be like to have been there. What a surprise and a reminder of what is important this time of year. And to watch the people enjoy it and then participate in the singing. Awesome. Take a look.

Grieving Dad

I’ve found myself thinking about Dad a lot more than usual the last couple days.  I’ll be at work doing paperwork and then be reminded that he is lying in the hospital and not aware for the most part what is going on around him and fighting for his life.  I’m not sure that he is fighting to keep his injuries from killing him but in this case he is fighting to have a conscious life.  To overcome his injuries so that he can participate in life and not just survive this accident. 

I think about some of the things we’ve done together in the past.  I realized that much of what he and I enjoyed together had to do with eating and playing cribbage or both at the same time.  There are lots of places we have been to eat.  As a matter of fact the last time we were out there in November we went to the Keys restaurant in downtown White Bear Lake and enjoyed breakfast together.  That might have been the first time that Lisa and I took him out to eat instead of the other way around.  Most recently in his weekly email he mentioned that he had found a German Restaurant that he enjoyed and a dish that was one he had last had in Munich.  I thought to ask him when and what he was doing in Munich but didn’t and so I don’t know, and maybe never will.  I did write him a quick email and say I would really like to go to that German Restaurant with him on our next trip out as there haven’t German Restaurants in our area for several years and I love German food.  He agreed we would have to do that.  That likely won’t happen now, at least not for a long time.  He may well not remember that restaurant after his fall. 

Grieving is such an interesting thing.  A person doesn’t have to die for us to grieve them.  We can already miss aspects of our relationship with them as life and age or accident or just change takes those parts away.  I miss these things and fear that we will never enjoy them like we have done for the past many years. 

Grief is not a terrible or harmful thing but rather is the human way of adjusting to changing circumstances that require that we modify ourselves to a new reality or at least prepare for a possible new reality.  It requires changing our expectations and maybe finding pleasure in new or simpler things.  I can do it; I can grieve for Dad and the loss of old times…but not with a smile.  L

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Move forward, proceed with caution

This morning after dropping Haleigh off at the high school I came to the light and saw something I had never seen before.  A solid green light (go) with a blinking yellow light, both going at the same time on each stop light facing me.  Unusual, I thought, what does this mean.  The light in the other directions I noticed was blinking red.

Well early this morning we had some wild weather apparently.  I know this because as I left the house to take Haleigh to Seminary I saw the porch chairs thrown to one side of the porch and noted that the entire porch had been drenched.  Since it is a covered porch that indicates some rain blowing side ways.  Well the weather hadn't awakened me but I have since learned that some people were awakened by it and that we had a tornado warning on the first day of December.  I would rather have some snow on the ground but that's not what we got.  Apparently that led to the light giving a different message today. 

Because I had never seen that combination of lights going at the same time on a stop light I initially was trying to figure out what my course of action was and quickly decided it was to move forward but to do so with caution, which I did through the intersection. 

That has been on my mind this morning as I compare it to life.  Isn't that the signal that we frequently get in life "move forward but proceed with caution".  I don't recall ever getting the message to move forward with wild abandon!  Of course the messages typically come from people who care about us like our parents, siblings, friends and God.  I guess the key is not to get so bogged down with caution that we stop our foreward motion, but to nevertheless be cautious to be prepared for the unexpected so we do not speed into danger. 

'Proceed with caution' might mean to look around us and notice what is going on then evaluate the effects of it on our life and make choices based on your best judgment.  Choices that you can both be pleased with and take responsibility for.  As I think about it 'wild abandon' which often leads to trouble is typically following someone else without engaging our own thinking process.  I suppose if we chose good leaders that might work out, but shouldn't we be making our decisions so that we can fully take responsibility for them?  I choose to follow this leader so if things go amiss I can take responsibility rather than blame him.  I need to be responsible so that I can do something when necessary to change things.  If I'm not responsible then there is nothing I can do, I'm stuck...forever.  That's discouraging and depressing. 

Sitting still in traffic or life is not often enjoyable but can be under certain circumstances I suppose.  Waiting or being unable to move or prohibited to move forword would likely create patience ... or insanity whichever came first!  "Moving forward with caution" seems to be just a resonable way to progress. (Which by the way does not imply to me that we don't have rapid spurts of progress or movement.)

In Psalms 46:10 (and D&C 101:16) it says "Be still and know that I am God".  So being still can have beneficial results and may be restoritive as well. 

Mosiah 4:27 says "And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order."  That kind of sounds like 'move forward proceed with caution' doesn't it? 

I guess our challenge in life is to move foreward with caution but to be sure to value the stillness when it is out of our control and to value it for the introspection and guidance as it directs us to God.  Hmmm, maybe we do turn to God more when we must be still then when moving forward.  Something to think about. 

So use caution when in drive and be patient and grow when we stall or get stuck in traffic, but what about reverse?  Just do U-turns?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Years of dreaming of a pumpkin donut led to reality

For a few years now I have been hearing about Pumpkin Spice Cake Donuts by Krispy Kreme.  Jaime is the one that would rave on these when she would buy them fresh from the local Krispy Kreme near BYU.  I think she may have brought some miniature ones home once when she flew in, if I remember correctly but finally I found them here in the state of Virginia and purchased them and ate one!  Yeehaa!  I enjoyed it as much as I figured I would.  It was tasty.  Fortunately there is another one I can have.

I wasn't going to tell this story but I guess I will.  :)  I did see a single package of these delectable donuts once in a Food Lion and thought to get it until a certain person who I will not name, someone with great influence, forbade me from buying them.  So of course I bypassed them and dreamed of them for 32 nights.

But today I found myself in the Food Lion, alone, to purchase milk and potato chips (for a recipe-honest!) and saw them.  So without anyone to forbade me I used my best judgment and put them in my cart and bought them.  If you knew where the donuts are in this store you might wonder what I was doing in that part of the store when I came to buy chips and milk (two important staples I might add).  Well I would say I was just looking at certain other high calorie unmentionables but lost interest entirely when I saw the pumpkin donuts.  So even though there will be those who might say that I succumbed to buying the donuts I prefer to note that I did not succumb to purchasing the other unspecified high calorie items.  Since I have declined mention of the other viewed item there are those who will scoff and say, surely he would have been better off buying the unmentioned instead of a Donut!  To them I say simply "get thou behind me naysayers and let me eat my donuts".

Christmas Tradition part 1: Decorating the Tree

Last night we did some of our Christmas traditions.  We decorated the green tree.  You see in recent years we have begun to have two tress to decorate. 

The white tree has the homemade beaded balls that my mother made about 45 years ago when I was a little child.  I have memories of her making them with her friend but to be honest I can't tell if they are real memories or ones that have been put in because she has told me about it so many times.  In addition we put the family photo ornaments on the white tree.  Each year since the girls were born we have put a picture of them from that year in an ornament and hung them on the tree.  Even at the beginning of having children I realized that the day would come when there pictures would be needed to remind me of so many special years as a father.  Since our girls are 16 and older that means we have a lot of photo ornaments.  This year I put that tree up and decorated it mostly by myself a week ago.  I enjoyed looking at all those ornaments and sorting through memories as the girls were growing up.  This year for Jaime's ornament it now has her with her husband.  As I told the girls as they have grown up, we had the daughters and they got to choose the sons.  So I encouraged them to choose wisely.  Jaime did.  The white tree has a nativity scene under it that Lisa gave me for a present a few years ago, to help us remember the real thing we are celebrating at Christmas.  This white tree is primarily for Lisa and I to enjoy fond memories of the girls.  Oh the girls often try to put some of their less desired pictures in the back of the tree but overall it works out well. 

The green tree is connected with another tradition.  Lisa brought a tradition from her family that the parents gave the kids a new ornament each year and then when they got married and left home they took their ornaments with them.  We try to have the ornament for that year have some connection with something they did during the year.  This year for the first time there are lots of ornaments missing because Jaime got married and we boxed those up and sent them to her so she could have the beginnings of ornaments for her first tree with Mike.  I wonder how that is going?  (by the way we found a couple ornaments we missed and will have to send them later). Still we managed to have tons of ornaments and had to become picky at the end as to which ones we put on the tree.  Then after we were done I gave them their new ornaments for the year.  This year Megan received a glass nativity ornament since she has served the last year and a half as a missionary for Christ.  Hilary's ornament I can't mention since she isn't home to receive it yet.  Haleigh's ornament was an angel holding a child symbolizing her class in high school on child care that she enjoys.  Jaime and Mike's ornament was two frogs dangling their feet over a fence and of course in love.  If they would just kiss then they wouldn't remain frogs?  I had forgotten that part of the tradition was playing the Mannheim Steemroller DVD as we do this.  Haleigh brought that to my attention and it was quickly rectified with rousing Christmas music. 

But this year things were a little different because Lisa wasn't with us as we decorated the tree.  She is in MN caring for her mother and concerned about her Dad.  Fortunately she called as we were finishing up and it was a little bit like she was there with us. 

The piece de resistance was mostly overlooked except by Megan who had the honor this year of putting our tree topper on.  We have two small stuffed bear ornaments that we have always put on our tree.  One of those bears was to be Dallas Jr.'s first ornament about 25 years ago but he didn't survive birth so now you could say that he is the angel we like to remember at the top of our tree. 

So you see that our family has traditions intertwined through our family, especially at Christmas.  Sometimes as I grow older I forget some of the traditions but am glad they have meant enough to our children that they remind me and we keep them going.  Christmas has always been a spiritual and magical time in our family and I hope that it will continue to be that way maybe especially now that our first daughter won't be home for Christmas this year as she forges her new family and starts their own traditions.  I wonder how many will come from our family to get mixed with Mike's family traditions?
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