Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Gift

We waited impatiently in the hall, lined up smallest to tallest. We knew that through that doorway waited Christmas plenty, and splendor. I had awakened my parents at 2:30 in the morning too excited to sleep one more minute. I had no idea that my beloved parents had just barely fallen asleep. Mama pulled me into their warm bed and tried to calm seven year old me down. It worked in reverse. Instead of Mama calming me down I got her more excited.

Pretty soon we both were coercing my exhausted Papa to get up NOW and see the gifts, then we could go back to bed. Carla-Rae and Howard were NOT cooperative about getting up at 3:00 in the morning to see their gifts. Carla-Rae was 13 and Howard was 17 and they preferred to get more sleep before the unveiling. Teenagers, they actually preferred more sleep to instant present viewing!

My mind slid back to the night before. We always had a special family Christmas Program on Christmas Eve. On that night Mama shared with us the story that her Papa had always shared with her family on Christmas Eve. It was a story of the greatest gift ever given to the world. Heavenly Father sent his precious son Jesus Christ to the world. This loving Father did so knowing that his precious son would suffer persecution, betrayal, torture, and ultimately death.

He also knew that this gift would bless all of his spirit children, that's you and I. We could repent because of the gift of Christ, and return to the presence of our Heavenly Father.

It will be hard for me to send our daughter Sarah amongst total strangers on a mission not knowing how they will respond to the message she will carry. Yet that scariness is tiny compared to Heavenly Father's...He KNEW for a fact all the hard things Jesus would face.

Christmas Gift is THE gift...the greatest ever given by Heavenly Father to his spirit children. So each Christmas morning we greet each other with the salutation of Christmas Gift to recall that sacred blessed gift.

I wish you all Christmas Gift...may you remember the sacred reason for this season.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Magic

I remember my 3rd Christmas. I know you may not believe it, but I do. I had begged and pleaded for a dumptruck. I knew that was a rather strange request for a girl. I was astonished when I came out and found that huge dumptruck under the tree waiting for me. That truck carried many of my dolls as I drove it around through my magical sandpile. Growing up in Southern California I was able to play with my truck on Christmas day!

Last night I thought back through all the Christmases that I have known in my life. That's 55 Christmases. In my young years I was sick each and every Christmas. Something about the excitement, lack of sleep, candy, dusty Christmas tree, etc. etc. always kicked in my allergies which kicked in my asthma, which triggered bronchitis or pneumonia.

Now you might think that made Christmases just awful. No, not at all. I had two remarkable parents that lived the quote without knowing it, "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain." We danced in the rain a lot in my childhood.

My medical costs had us often teetering on the brink of financial ruin, no matter how hard both of my parents worked. Yet they convinced me and everyone else that I was a miracle in their lives.

Oh, trust me, I'm far from perfect, there were times I felt sorry for myself. One particular Christmas when I was thirty-four years old especially. The day before Christmas Eve. I was busily finishing up the last touches of Christmas for our one and one half year old daughter and our 4 1/2 year old daughter. My husband had run to the store for something.

I bounced happily to the phone when it rang. My bouncing quickly stopped when Dr. MacFarland said, "The good news is that if you have cancer this is the best form to have. The bad news is that you have cancer." The world slowed, and then just stopped. I seemed to be frozen, unable to move.

This was before cell phones. I had no way to reach my husband. I couldn't bear to be alone with this darkest of news, I called my friend from across the street. She was there with me in a heartbeat. We hugged and cried, hugged and cried some more. My girls knew something was wrong, but they kept playing.

When my husband came home happy with his arms filled with Christmas joys I HATED to wipe away his happy grin with my awful news.

Now....Christmas was ruined, RIGHT? NO...wrong. We were together as a family. The knowledge that I could lose all of it, my family, my hopes and dreams for the future, my very life made everything seem sweeter. Each moment seemed crystal clear and filled with joy.

Our friends and family gathered round with meals, love, and joy. Christmas was WONDERFUL! That's the most important thing to remember, Christmas is about serving, love, and remembering what is most important in life.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Giggles and Gags!

In honor of two of my favorite people in the entire world, my nephew Marcus, and my sister in law Louise I have developed an attraction to elephant jokes. Now mind you, unless Louise or Marcus are telling the jokes I don't usually find them all that funny. Marcus and Louise hit the aforementioned elephantine jokes out of the park, down the street, and then into the stratosphere. (That may be a slight exaggeration, but what fun would life be without exaggeration?)

So today I decided my post is dedicated to elephant jokes. If you find them boring, or cliche, or anything else that is negative I challenge you to look again, I mean, who has not at some point found the image of an enormous gray elephant painting their toenails red to hide in a strawberry patch at least slightly amusing?

Fasten your seat belts. Here we go:

What's red and white on the outside but gray and white on the inside?
Campbell's Cream of Elephant Soup!
How do you make instant elephant?
Open the package, add water, and run!
If you took away an elephants trunk how would it smell?
Trunk or no trunk it would still smell pretty bad!
What time is it when ten elephants are chasing you?
Ten after one!
What cheers you up when you are sick?
A Get Wellephant card.
What weighs 5,000 lbs and wears glass slippers?
What do elephants do for laughs?
They tell people jokes.
What game do elephants like to play most?
Why do elephants wear red toenail polish?
Hmmm....see the above for this answer.
Why do elephants paint their toenails red?
Again, see the above.
Why do elephants hide in strawberry patches?
So they can jump out and stomp on people.
Why do elephants stomp on people?
That is how they play squash.
Why did the elephant cross the road?
To squash the chicken on the other side!
What is large and gray and goes around and around in circles?
An elephant stuck in a revolving door.
What has 6 legs, 3 ears, 4 tusks, and 2 trunks?
An elephant with spare parts.
What did the cat say to the elephant?
What did the grape say to the elephant?
Nothing, grapes can't talk.
What's the difference between eating an elephant or peanut butter?
Elephant doesn't stick to the roof of your mouth.
How do you stop a charging elephant?
Take away its credit cards.
How can you tell when an elephant has been in your refrigerator?
Look for elephant tracks in the butter.
How can you tell when an elephant is under your bed?
Your nose is squashed against the ceiling.
If you see an elephant in your car, what time is it?
Time to get a new car.
Why do elephants have grey skin?
To keep their insides together.
What should you do to a blue elephant?
Cheer it up.
What should you do to a green elephant?
Wait until it gets ripe.
What should you do to a red elephant?
Quit telling it dirty jokes.
What should you do to a yellow elephant?
Try to teach it to be brave.

OK ADMIT least one of those made you smile! Now if you could just hear them in Louise or Marcus' voice I'm certain that you would be LAUGHING OUT LOUD!!! Or better yet, LAUGHING YOUR BOTTOM OFF! (that would seem to be an extremely effective means to remove extraneous fat from one's gluteal muscles!)'s a new day...none of us have EVER lived this one before (OK, unless you're stuck in some time and dimensional warp, and then you probably are 1-800-HELP, not really I just made that number up.) Lift your head up high, tuck your gluteal muscles up, your tummy muscles in, and hold it for about 2 seconds....then forget about that exercise in futility and do something fun!!!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Dedicated to my beloved own personal Jedi Knight!

The following story is a tribute to my beloved friend Joniwan. I call her that because she has been my own personal Jedi Knight, teaching me how to learn from and listen to "The Force." (We would actually call that the Holy Spirit,) and she has blessed me in so many ways it's impossible to fit it all in one blog post. The story begins below:

Awake in the night she couldn't remember why her heart was racing, why she was aware of the shadows pitching back and forth through her room. "Oh, right, bathroom." She chuckled to herself. In her late 40's it was NOT unusual to need to use the restroom multiple times at night.

Without thought she sat on the bed and then stood up. Her left leg crumpled under her like the leg of a paper doll with a human weight to support. The pain...the pain was gripping. It felt as though a lightning volt was running from her lower back down her left leg, into her foot, and then it made it's relentless cycle in reverse. Groaning she managed to crawl into the bathroom.

What to do with a health emergency in the middle of the night when the only other humans around are small children that need protecting? She waited until the light of day arrived before seeking medical attention. A caregiver for disabled patients and the daughter of a registered nurse she knew how expensive an ambulance ride would be to the hospital. In addition, who would tend her children while she was in the hospital?

Diagnostic testing detected a herniated disc in her lower back. It was so badly pinching the nerves that surrounded the disc she couldn't stand. Not just because of the fiery pain but also because the leg would simply not hold her weight.

(At this point you may wonder, what does this story have to do with happiness and inspiration?) Please read on.

Divorced she lived with her two young children in a modest three bedroom home in the suburbs of Portland. She had a station wagon. Of course, both the station wagon and the home required monthly payments to keep them. Work was out of the question. Before she had been the caregiver, now she required a caregiver herself.

Somehow she managed to find ways to provide care and food for herself and her two children. Desperately she tried to sell her home. She couldn't afford to lose the equity that she had built up. It was discovered that her home had been built on a fault line and the foundation was seriously cracked. Selling the home with this flaw was impossible. The equity was lost and she had to leave the home.

Next the car was repossessed. Unable to earn any money it was not long before her situation became quite dire. I won't go into all the sad details, but eventually she found out that to get public housing she and her two small children would have to become homeless. YUP, they had to live on the streets for months to meet the qualification to get assisted housing.

So Joni (she'd had surgery by now, but still couldn't use her leg for any length of time before it would give out), moved into a homeless shelter with her disability, and two small children. Can you imagine being that physically vulnerable and yet trying to care for two children, and protect all of you? The thought is horrifying to me, but Joniwan did it with her typical resilience.

The day that she and her kids moved into an apartment together, Joni rejoiced. She wasn't overly concerned that they had no beds to sleep in. She knew that she'd find a way to overcome that obstacle. Somewhere along this agonizing journey she had learned a phrase that she taught all who were blessed enough to know her, "To think is to create." Joniwan "Created" often, and well.

I met Joniwan when she joined my church group. I felt drawn to her with a powerful magnetic pull. I knew only a few of the challenges that she had faced. I felt connected to her by my own share of struggles, juggles, drama, and trauma.

In fact the first time I met Joni it was because I had testified in church that day about the challenges of living with not only my disability but my husband's as well. She actually told me later, "When I was listening I couldn't believe that there was someone with my problems and also a husband with even more problems!"

Of course, lest anyone feel sorry for me at this point, my husband is worth his weight in gold. (He's a rather large man and that would be lots of gold) In the hardest of times he provides the silliness, and laughter that I need to cope. He is a constant source of joy in our family, and we treasure his presence.

Back to Joni. In a very short space of time we were homies....bff's, sisters in the gospel. I felt as though I had known her forever, and we had just been parted for awhile.

She began to lovingly teach me what she called "creative financing." Lest anyone think that I'm referring to some illegal type of monetary art....I'm NOT! "Creative financing," was finding ways outside the box to get the needed things. For example, my husband and I were dedicated to making certain that our two daughters get the best possible education that they could receive. This involved driving somewhere between 1/2 hour and one hour twice a day to get them to their specialized courses of study.

On those days when we had "Too much month at the end of the money," Joni taught me to gather cans, and then take them in to the store. This would get me just enough cash to pick the girls up for that day. Along with doing all that we could do, we'd pray as though the Lord was doing it all. Between Joniwan, the Lord, and myself we always figured out a way.

I give her direct credit for helping our girls value their education. Our oldest daughter graduated with a Master's Degree from Cambridge University this last summer.

Joniwan was a giver supremo....IS a giver supremo. When you would pick her up to go somewhere (I LOVED having Joni as company), she would approach with her hands behind her back. When she would bring out those hands there was always a precious gift, a delicious cookie (she's the best cook EVER), a fridge magnet (she makes them herself,) some lovely little piece of joy.

One Christmas soon after they were able to move into their assisted living apartment they had ABSOLUTELY no funds for Christmas. So Joni had her son and daughter help her create a Christmas tree out of butcher paper. They colored on decorations, and then taped the creation to the wall. They were justifiably proud of that tree. The day AFTER Christmas Joni bought the kids some goodies at the store. Her comment to me was, "Why would I buy the treats before Christmas when they are more than 1/2 price off the day after?"

I'm writing this portrait of Joniwan as a tribute to her and her loving selfLESSNESS. She has spent hours with me in Emergency rooms, fed my family when I've had to be hospitalized, or just when I was sick of cooking. She's cleaned my home, watched over my kids, and brought unlimited sunshine into my life.

I've also witnessed hours and hours of service she gives to friends, family, and total strangers. She LOVES to serve others. She would say it's to pay back the service given to her, but I think she's WAY past that now. When she needed to clean out her small apartment she listed the things that she had to clean out as free on Craig's list. She REALLY needed the money, but knowing Joni she needed the giving more.

It was almost impossible to move from Portland to Utah and leave my beloved Joniwan behind. We still email, phone, and kept in touch.

This last year, my husband had two heart attacks. We feared for his life. Imagine my surprise when we went to the airport to pick up my daughter's "roommate," (that's what they told me), and coming towards me was Joniwan, her daughter Jessica, and Jess's son Kameron. Joniwan cried, I cried, we hugged, and hugged. It was one of the bestest surprises EVER!

I'm ending this post the way that I started, as a tribute to a beloved friend. Anyone lucky enough to be a part of her life, is blessed indeed. I LOVE YOU my Jedi Knight friend.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


I am learning new techniques as I move along through life. One difference is the way that
my extremely visual brain processes words. In my brain usually I see a word, or several
pop out. Now one word comes from one side of my mind and another word from the other side. This results in some extremely entertaining new words. For example, pretty, beautiful came out of my mouth "Prettiful." I actually like it, although a friend said it sounds too much like

The other day I was trying to think of a word to describe a very special friend. If you have
a friend of this type you are RICH! I am rich beyond compare because I have many of these
types of friends. I was thinking to myself, this is a friend that you call when you're struggling,
and juggling, and you're crying. This type of friend listens, and loves you, but by the time you
finish the conversation you're laughing, or even laughing through your tears.

This created the word CRAUGHING...(after all we can't say laughing with crying combined lying? or Lyring?) nope, CRAUGHING it is.

One of my girlfriends, Joni, is so good at this skill that I seriously think she should be hired somewhere as a "general consultant." People should pay good money for this remarkable woman who has learned through many years of experience how to turn tears into smiles and laughter.

So....I have a challenge for any and all of my beloved blog readers today...learn how to participate in CRAUGHING! I have no doubt that you have someone in your life who
will be blessed by this skillset!