Friday, November 28, 2008

Surviving Black Friday

Black Friday. Interesting concept. When I first heard the phrase, I associated it with things like black heartedness, for example. Black eye. The night was black. The black knight. Stuff like that. You can understand my confusion. And if you don’t, it’s not nice to make fun of people. ;)

Not long ago, my offspring pointed out that this is actually a day when the stores hope to boost their sales records into the black, instead of the red. Or in other words, they’re hoping to make a haul from bounteous shoppers in one fell swoop. This clarified things for me greatly.

Shopping big time the day after Thanksgiving is a unique tradition and part of our culture. I know of several women who plan for this day months in advance. They join with friends, neighbors, and family members to hit every major store they possibly can and partake of bargains galore. They study the ads faithfully, underlining or circling the desired sales items. Coupons are clipped and hoarded. Lists are composed and battle strategies planned.

This is a time of great contemplation with the Christmas season on the horizon.
Since a lot of these special deals are only available at the crack of dawn, it behooves one to go to bed early the night before. There are several women that I know who get as little as two hours sleep before this great event. I’m sure it must be the excitement of out-shopping their fellow kind that keeps them going. That and lots of chocolate.

Last year at this time my husband, oldest son and I found ourselves in Utah hanging out with my side of the family tree for Thanksgiving. Since our son had to work the next day, he headed home Thanksgiving night. My husband detests shopping (is it my imagination or do most men feel that way?) so he bowed out of the Black Friday shopping adventure that my mother, sister, and I were planning for the day after Thanksgiving. Instead, he planned to spend the day hanging out in car lots, motorcycle shops, etc.

The day dawned bright and cheery, as I recall. Perhaps it was the excitement of finding treasures galore. Regardless, we ate a quick bite of breakfast and we sallied forth to hit a few stores. A new elegant department store beckoned. We had looked over the ads and noted that it offered wonderful sales items. So we started with it. True, we didn’t hasten over at the crack of dawn like some people I could mention. We arrived somewhere between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. like civilized people.

To our astonishment, the store was filled to the brim with shoppers intent on finding bargains. And tremendous deals abounded. We found our share of them as well. There were a plethora of nifty sweaters that were half their normal price. Fun seasonal jewelry enticed. And since my mother was looking for a new microwave, we managed to find one of those on sale, too.
After we had filled our cart with the desired bounty, we tried to find where the line started that led to the checkout counters.

Imagine our dismay when we learned that the line of people that snaked around at the back of the store, and threaded through every possible aisle, was the line we were seeking. The way we had it figured, we were going to be standing in that line until supper time, and then it was doubtful that we would arrive at the front of the store before it closed.

We pondered our dilemma. Since my mother and I are both diabetics, and my mother’s health isn’t the greatest, we figured this was a bad plan. So we dutifully unpacked our cart, replacing the items in the correct locations. Then we exited the store, still marveling over the line of people that filled every nook and cranny.

Disappointed, we decided to try another store. This store wasn’t as fancy, but we discovered some interesting things. It offered riding carts, which is about the only way my mother can enjoy shopping. She has lupus and a form of rheumatoid arthritis, and her little body doesn’t like walking around in stores. So when we found her a riding cart in this second store, she was elated. It meant that we could take our time cruising the aisles, savoring the holiday atmosphere.

It is fun, watching people, looking at the Christmas displays, and finding cool gifts for a bargain price. We had a delightful time enjoying all of these things. And we found similar items in this second store that had caught our eye(s) in the first store. Most were for less money than what we had discovered in the fancy store. The best part was, when we were ready to leave, we didn’t have to wait long at all to be checked out. It was our suspicion that most of the Black Friday shoppers were frolicking in all of the high-priced, fancy stores . . . standing in line . . . forever. ;)

We left this store in high spirits and journeyed to a nearby restaurant for lunch. We beat the lunch crowd there, since they were all still standing in line somewhere. It was great. And the lesson learned was this: you can still find holiday bargains galore even if you don’t follow the usual trends with regard to Black Friday. Make up your own rules, be flexible, and enjoy yourself. That’s what makes this season fun. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a good time. We didn’t, and with the economy tanking like it did this year, our family plans to keep things pretty simple this holiday season.

Today I imagine we’ll still mingle with holiday shoppers on Black Friday, but it will be done on our terms.
So if you’re out there this Friday, here are a few suggestions to enhance your holiday shopping experience: Be nice, be cheerful, be considerate, be aware of where the restrooms are located, and beware of long lines. ;) {My version of the Beatitudes.} Have fun out there and strive to remember what this upcoming holiday is all about.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Why I Love Christmas Music

I was so excited yesterday. As I was driving around attending things like ward choir practice, youth council, bishop's devotional, etc. the Sounds of Sunday music that I usually listen to on Sundays transformed into Christmas music. It was wonderful!!!

Listening to Christmas music is a huge tradition in my family. Some of my earliest memories of Christmas are centered around music. Since my father (Tom Jackson) was blessed with a beautiful bass singing voice, and my mother played the piano by ear, music was a huge part of my childhood. My father sang on musical programs most of his life.

(My dad is the taller dude, with the glass case sticking out of his shirt pocket.)

During his college days at good old Ricks, he took part in musical productions like Handel's "The Messiah," rendering solo performances that I understand were quite impressive.

(My dad is in the top row of soloists, the one in the middle, wearing glasses.)

As for my mother's talents, she comes from a family that tends to play multiple musical instruments by ear. We loved attending the reunions on her side of the family. Everyone brought along their guitars, accordions, etc. and rendered fantastic musical performances in the woodsies. It was great.

(This is a shot of my siblings and me singing with our dad at the Sibbett reunion.)

So you might say that music is my lifeblood. Not only did my parents ensure that their offspring had a healthy appreciation for most kinds of music, (we called it culture hour during these educational moments) but it was an important tradition to learn to sing early on. And when December rolled around each year, we sang beloved Christmas carols at the drop of a hat. Or whenever Mom sat down the piano to plunk out her favorites.

Here is a picture of my siblings and me singing Christmas songs at my paternal grandmother's house years ago. (I'm the tall one in the stripes) Our mother was accompanying us as we entertained our grandmother and uncle. My father was no doubt the one who shot the picture. I inherited my photobug tendencies from him. ;)

I can still hear my father singing Adeste Fideles as he practiced for a special Christmas program in our stake years ago. Click here for a little background on this beautiful song, more commonly known as "Oh Come All Ye Faithful." How cool is it that a little nine-year-old girl came to memorize this song in Latin just from hearing her father practice it for a couple of weeks one December?!

We sang Christmas songs all month long. And my parents made sure that we listened to classical Christmas performances repeatedly, like Bing Crosby's "White Christmas," Nat King Cole's, "The Christmas Song," ("Chestnuts roasting on the open fire . . ." etc.); or numerous Christmas ditties by the duo, Sandler and Young. I think I loved their music the best. Their rich harmony appealed to me in a way I couldn't explain. Then we eventually caught on that, like my brother, I had inherited an ear for picking out harmony parts. This gift has served me well through the years, even if I tend to make up my own harmony periodically during choir practice. ;)

By the time Christmas Eve rolled around each year, we had polished several Christmas ditties to perform for family and friends. As you can imagine, a big tradition in our family was a short Christmas program where we sang all of our favorite carols.

If I was asked to select my favorite Christmas carol, it would be a toss up between Silent Night and Silver Bells. In keeping with family tradition, I taught myself to play the guitar when I was twelve-years-old. Those were the first two Christmas songs that I figured out how to play on my guitar. They've been favorites ever since.

Through the years I have tried to share my love for music and Christmas carols with my offspring. All three of my sons can play musical instruments by ear. All three of them play the guitar. Son # 1 also plays the mandolin, and an electic guitar. Son # 2 can also play the bass guitar. Son # 3 plays the drums by ear, and shortly before he left on his mission, we learned that he can play the piano by ear. Way cool. These three talented youngsters formed their own "garage" band when they were in high school. There were many fun-filled hours listening to them practice and perform for their friends. It is my hope that they in turn will teach their own families to love music.

So this week, when you start hearing Christmas ditties on the radio or in stores, don't cringe. Consider for a moment how wonderful Christmas music really is. Most of these songs touch on the true meaning of Christmas. They invite the wonderful spirit of Christmas into our lives. I think it's sad that we only have one month to appreciate them. As such, make the most of this next month. Saturate yourself in the wonderment of carols, and sing along every chance you get.

What are some of your favorite Christmas carols? (Yes, this is a hint.)

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Holiday Traveling

As some of you may know from reading blogs I've posted lately, I love Thanksgiving. I enjoy planning menus, savoring visits from loved ones, and remembering what this holiday is all about. I even enjoy the hustle and bustle of traveling around to spend time with family and friends. Through the years I've learned what makes for successful holiday traveling. I will share this wisdom in today's post. ;)

1) Put fuel in the car before the lines form at the local gas stations. =) Sadly, I have spent precious time waiting to gas my car on the day we try to head somewhere. And since I usually manage to get gas fumes on my personage whenever I put gas into my car, doing so on the day we travel is not pleasant. This makes for bad moods all the way around. So I take measures to remind myself to take care of this chore ahead of time. My children tend to mock me when I post notes to myself on the fridge like "Get gas!" but lately, if I don't write notes to myself, I tend to space important things.

2) Since we live in an area that can go from record heat to surprise blizzards in no time flat, this is the time of year to take precautions. I try to make sure that my trunk contains the following items: A small shovel (in case I manage to wedge the car into a snow bank along the way); kitty litter (it might seem embarrassing to keep a container of this in one's trunk, but it does provide great traction under your tires if you're stuck in icy snow); First Aid Kit (my sister gave this to me as a "gag gift" one year, since she seems to think I have my share of boo-boos, but we've used it a lot and I rarely travel anywhere without it); blanket(s) (in case we get stranded and it's cold); snow boots, gloves, & winter hats (these items come in handy if one has to get one's car unstuck during a blizzard. Don't make fun . . . it has happened); snacks (these come in handy even if we don't get stranded. I have found that if you feed people as you travel, they remain friendly. Plus, as a Type 1 diabetic, it's a good idea to have a few carbs on hand if the blood sugar level drops along the way.)

3) Bring along great tunes to get everyone in the holiday spirit. Since I love Christmas music and that wonderful holiday is right around the corner, you can be sure I will be bringing along my favorite Christmas CD's for everyone's enjoyment. (Yes, posterity, you heard me right. All of your favorites, including the Carpenter's Christmas Album. You'll thank me later, I know.)

4) Since my trunk will already be stuffed to the gills with emergency preparedness items for this trip, (see item # 2 above) bringing along food for the Thanksgiving feast will be a challenge. I have found that there is less complaining when we put everyone's name into a hat and draw for things like holding pies, cheesecake, coolers, etc. It's a little like game show: "Son # 1, you get the distinct honor of holding this year's huckleberry pie(s) on the way to Grandma's house. Come on down!"

5) Avoid being negative while driving among people who don't seem as inclined to be courteous drivers. Nothing ruins a holiday mood more than road rage tendencies. Try to focus on the positive things like, "Hey, so what if we're stuck behind someone who doesn't realize what the speed limit is---it's giving us a chance to appreciate the scenery along the way." Or: "I don't mind if our fellow traveler is practically hanging off the back of our trunk. Maybe he\she is tailgating because they want to hear the Carpenter's Christmas Album, too."

6) Do not attempt to use a cellphone while driving. Not only is this not safe, but it's just bad karma. Trust me.

7) Watch out for the wildlife who tend to frolic on the highways this time of year. Now that hunting season is over, all of our woodland friends like to come down and wish everyone a happy holiday season. Unfortunately, some of them get carried away . . . literally . . . on the grills of our vehicles, under tires, etc. Just be careful out there.

8) For entertainment purposes as you travel this next week, and to remind everyone of why we put ourselves through this, take turns listing what you're grateful for this year. I know high on my childrens' lists will be items like: Mom's copy of the Carpenter's Christmas Album. ;) My children will be delighted to know that I found where they stashed it last year. =D

9) Enjoy the journey. No matter where you're heading for Thanksgiving this year, ponder the great blessings we enjoy on a daily basis. Not only will help enhance your mood, but it will remind you of why we celebrate this holiday.

10) Take a nice nap after you enjoy a bounteous feast. As you can see, my offspring enjoy this tradition.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone! =)

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Monday, November 17, 2008

And Take Along a Sense of Humor

Have you ever noticed that the best laid traveling plans rarely reach fruition? You may spend hours contemplating the best route, days pouring over maps and researching historical sites only to see your carefully constructed itinerary go down in a blaze of glory. This is why one of the most important items to pack is a healthy sense of humor. ;)

Recently, we've endured a few adventures while traveling around. Two weekends ago, we jaunted up north for the blessing of our cute new granddaughter. All went pretty much according to plan until the grand day arrived. Our oldest son was traveling from Logan, Utah for this event. He made it as far as Pocatello, Idaho. Then his car decided it needed more attention and it blew oil all over the engine. We didn't know it at the time, but an important seal had erupted. (I can't remember its name. We'll call it Ralph for now.) If my son had continued driving, Ralph would have locked up that engine tighter than Great-Grandma's mattress safe.
Luckily, this son had a cell phone with him and he called for backup support. Since we weren't certain we could hurry down, pick him up, and return in time for the blessing of said baby, my sister and I bravely volunteered for rescue duty. That way the manly types were not in danger of missing this important ordination.

It all turned out just fine. My husband's sister and her spouse who live in nearby Chubbuck, hastened to help while my sister and I were driving down. They were able to move my son's car to their abode until we could make arrangements for repair work to happen. Then my sister and I picked up my son and headed back to the blessing adventure. We made it in record time---we arrived ten minutes before the meeting started. The only thing we missed was the dinner beforehand, but we had survived on the snacks my sister's car contained, so all was well.

This past weekend, the adventure continued. It took the nice repairman nearly a week to fix our son's car. My husband and I drove to Pocatello to pick it up on Friday. Then we made arrangements to deliver this car to our son. We decided to bring it down last night, since I have a doctor's appointment today here in sunny Ogden, Utah.

Our son had borrowed his paternal grandmother's car while his car was being repaired. A plan had fallen into place, since this same grandmother had to be in Logan, Utah yesterday to attend the missionary farewell of yet another grandson. (Her new husband's descendant.)

Things seemed to be working out quite well. This grandmother would pick up her car about an hour before we arrived with our son's newly fixed car. Our son would only be stranded for a brief time. Then life happened. As my mother-in-law was walking back out to the road where her car awaited, she tripped and face-planted it big time onto the fresh asphalt. Not only did she bruise her face in a horrible fashion, but she encountered a rock that sliced a jagged gash in her forehead. Our son called us in a panic. "We're taking Grandma to ER. She needs stitches!"

All plans changed. My husband and I continued driving down from Bear Lake to Logan. I was in the lead car obediently going the speed limit. True, there were a couple of trucks in front of me who prompted this behavior, but I normally go the speed limit, so I wasn't overly concerned.

My husband was bringing up the rear with our son's car, and he had managed to get stuck behind what my family lovingly calls, "A Sunday driver." When he finally got around this individual who was traveling at the breakneck speed of about 40 miles an hour in a 55 mile per hour speed zone, my husband decided to make up for lost time. After all, it was his mother bleeding in the nice ER of Logan Regional Hospital.

As you may have guessed, an Idaho State Trooper decided to pass by about then. He had passed my entourage earlier, but since we were all going the speed limit, there was no need to stop any of us. Instead, this officer turned his pretty flashing lights on for my husband's benefit. ;) I would have called Kennon to warn him to behave with regard to speed related items, but we were almost to the canyon and there is no cell phone service available in that area. It is a dreaded, "dead zone."
In way of good news, my husband didn't get a ticket. First Kennon had to explain why he was driving our son's car. Then he had to find the registration and proof of insurance, which I gather took some doing since he had no idea where our son had stashed these important documents. Finally, my husband found both items, and explained that we were hurrying to Utah since his mother had been injured and was being treated at a hospital in Logan.

The kind-hearted officer must have realized that we had already endured quite a bit compliments of this car adventure, and after advising my husband to slow down, he let him continue on his way with nothing more than a warning. Whew!

When we had cell phone service again, my husband called to tell me what he had endured. I stifled a laugh, since I figured that wouldn't help things, and I tried to be sympathetic. Then I called to alert him to potential road hazards during the remainder of our trip to Logan.

"Kennon, there are wayward cattle on the road outside of Franklin. Don't have a holey the cow moment."

"Thanks, dear."

"Kennon, I just spotted another police car on the side of the road by mile-marker 83."

"Ha, ha, ha."

"Kennon, there's another Sunday driver on the right hand side of this four lane highway."

"You're so funny."

And so on. ;) We finally arrived at the Logan hospital about the time his mother was ready to head home. It had taken 15 stitches to seal the gash. By then, that side of her face was an interesting purple color. We all felt terrible about her injury. However, earlier when I called our son to find out how things were going, I shared what had happened to Kennon. My husband's moment of humiliation had turned into comic relief, providing the healing sound of laughter for all involved.

After much laughter and a little teasing when we met up in the parking lot of the hospital, we regrouped, and formulated a new plan. We were all in agreement that Kennon's mother was in no kind of shape to be driving. So we left her car at our son's residence. She rode home with her husband, followed by his son and his son's spouse. (This all gets very complicated when large families are united through marriage. Kind of like the Brady Bunch scenario, but I digress.)

We left our son's car with our son, then we continued on in our own car to the Ogden area where some of my family resides. (We were planning on spending the night with them.) Later today, after I survive meeting with my diabetic specialist (joy, rapture, bliss) we will head back through Logan and pick up my husband's mother's car. Kennon will carefully drive it to Bear Lake, while I drive our own car home. I plan to dutifully alert my husband to any roadside hazards along the way. I'm sure he'll appreciate this effort. =D The important thing is we're all still laughing. I'm convinced that is the key to surviving when the best-laid plans go awry.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Though Deepening Trials

It is part of our culture to mourn with those who mourn, to lift up the hands that hang down. It seems in today's troubled world, we are being given numerous opportunities to participate in this noble tradition.

In our own little valley, we have been inundated with heartbreaking loss and challenging trials. The number of those who have been taken from this mortal world during the past couple of years is at times overwhelming.

The other day as I visited with a close friend, a sister of the heart, we were discussing the recent events that were taking place all around us. Since this is a small area, there are no strangers. When tragedy strikes, it affects everyone. My friend asked questions we've all pondered, "Why? When is this all going to end?"

These questions are valid, and there are no easy answers. To my way of thinking, to understand why these things happen, we have to understand why we're here, which is pretty well summed up in something we call the Plan of Salvation. It boils down to the following:

1) We lived before we came to this mortal world as spirit children of our Father in heaven. Because we desired to learn and grow and become more like Him, we were given a chance to gain a physical body.

2) We came to earth to gain this body. Part of our challenge is learning how to control said body. [Sometimes this takes a looooonnnnggg time. ;) ] It's important to remember to do as much good as we possibly can while we're here.

3) Another reason we're here is to be tested. This will take place in a variety of ways as our willingness to be obedient to our Father in heaven is assessed. I call this being in rubber-band mode. We will be stretched to the breaking point. This is not my idea of a fun time, but it is a crucial part of the education process during our mortal lives.

4) When our allotted time is through, we are called home to our heavenly parents. This is always a heartbreaking time for our loved ones, but the good news is that we can be sealed together as eternal families, and those bonds will last forever. We will see our beloved friends and family members again, if we so desire.

5) Since this life is a testing ground, it is important to make good choices, knowing we will be judged according to the kind of lives we lead while on this earth. How grateful we are that our Elder Brother, Jesus Christ, paved the way for us to live again, if we will but accept the sacrifice He made on our behalf, and keep His commandments.

During the past few years, I've had numerous opportunities to attend funerals for loved ones. It is always a difficult challenge. But I've noticed something. When I've attended a funeral for someone who has lived a good life, a feeling of loving joy pervades. The funeral seems more like a graduation ceremony.

The happiest funerals are for those who learned an important secret. They learned to live life to the fullest, to make the most of every opportunity, to laugh and be positive minded, and to love with all of their hearts.
I come away from these kind of funerals with a renewed perspective of what is really important. A resolve to follow their example burns deep within.

Yesterday, I attended the funeral of a valiant woman from our valley. She was the same age as my husband and they grew up together in this small town of Bennington. For my husband, it was like losing a sister; they had shared so much during their youth.

Her funeral was similar to those I've described. The feeling of peace was comforting. She had touched numerous lives during her time on this earth. As such, that church building was filled to the brim with those who had come to pay their last respects. Her memory will live on in our hearts, as will her example, and the knowledge that she successfully completed her mortal mission. We will grieve for a time for her loss, and we will mourn with her family who will face difficult days ahead.

How blessed we are to know that we will never face trials of this nature alone. Not only will prayers be offered on behalf of her family and friends, but those on the other side of the veil will be offering succor as well. And always our wise and loving Father in heaven, and His beloved Son, Jesus Christ, will render comforting relief when the need is great.

During the past couple of days, the lyrics from Hymn # 122, have been going through my mind. I'd like to close this blog by sharing some of them. Written by one of my heroes, Eliza R. Snow, it expresses what is in my heart today:

Though deepening trials throng your way,
Press on, press on, ye Saints of God!
Ere long the resurrection day
Will spread its life and truth abroad.

Though outward ills await us here,
The time, at longest, is not long,
Ere Jesus Christ will reappear
Surrounded by a glorious throng.

Lift up your hearts in praise to God,
Let your rejoicings never cease.
Though tribulations rage abroad
Christ says, "In me, ye shall have peace."

This work is moving on apace,
And great events are rolling forth;
The kingdom of the latter days
The "little stone" must fill the earth.

Though satan rage, 'tis all in vain;
The words the ancient prophet spoke

Sure as the throne of God remain;

Nor men nor devils can revoke.

All glory to his holy name

Who sends his faithful servants forth,

To prove the nations, to proclaim
Salvation's tidings through the earth.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

One of my favorite things to do during the holidays is to drive around, enjoying the Christmas lights on display. A few years ago, I used my children as an excuse to participate. "Dear," I would say to Kennon, "our boys really want to look at the Christmas lights." So we would bundle everyone up, climb inside our car, and drive around for a look see. And after we had seen everything there was to see, we would splurge for hot chocolate to sip on the way home.

Since our youngest son has been plagued with motion sickness his entire life, we always made sure that we gave him something like Dramamine to make this an enjoyable ride for all concerned. One year, however, someone (okay, me) forgot to pick up the Dramamine from a local store. There we were, ready for our traditional run to enjoy the Christmas lights, and we were lacking the one item necessary to make this a good experience.

Out of desperation, I resorted to taking the advice of a local doctor. He had told me once that Antivert possesses the same ingredient as Dramamine to control dizziness. Since I had some Antivert on hand compliments of a recent bout with an inner ear infection, I figured it would work for Devin. Long story short, I cut one of those pills in half and gave it to my youngest son. Big mistake. It did keep him from getting car sick, but he was about as hyper as we've ever seen him. He sat between Kennon and I up front (mostly to keep his brothers from harming him) and nearly bounced off the car ceiling during the entire trip. He sang Christmas carols at light speed and kept us entertained all night long. Good times. ;) And you can bet I never did that again. We laugh about that night now---it's a treasured memory. One of several with regard to seeing the Christmas lights.

I'm thinking our sons enjoyed this tradition as much as I did. We usually went through a local canyon and enjoyed the Christmas display in nearby Preston, Idaho. Preston always goes all out for this fine tradition. Their festival of lights is a beautiful thing to behold. ;) You can click here
for more information. True, you'll have to scroll to the bottom of the web page, but it is there I promise. First you'll have to read through a bit of information about Preston's own: "Napoleon Dynamite", Preston's other claim to fame, but I digress. In fact, here's a nifty picture of the van they used for this movie. I took a picture of it on one of my jaunts through Preston a couple of years ago. =)

Back to the tradition of the Christmas Lights. Seeing those lights always fills me with the Christmas Spirit. You can imagine my excitement last week when I drove through Preston and observed that they're already putting up the lights and decorations in anticipation of this great event. This traditional festival of lights begins the weekend immediately after Thanksgiving, so it's coming right up.

There's an awesome place on the outskirts of Preston (it's north, just up past the Burger King) that was one of our favorite stops. The people who live here display fun wood cutouts of several Disney and other cartoon characters. Each year there seems to be a new display for our enjoyment. The lights covering these works of art are incredible. Christmas music plays in the background, so we always roll down our windows to savor the experience as we drive around, admiring the work this family has done to welcome the holiday spirit. Up by their house is a tiny metal bucket for donations if you're feeling generous. I'm sure it costs an arm and a leg to keep this running, so we usually put a bit of green stuff in the bucket to show our appreciation.

Down Preston's Main Street at a local park, are the lighted floats from their annual parade of lights. So if you miss the parade, you can still see the beautiful floats that are lighted each night for everyone's enjoyment.

There are plenty of fun places to eat (I recommend Big J's---wonderful food and good service) in Preston, so if you want to make a night of it, grab a bite to eat and then drive around and appreciate the gorgeous lights.

This year when we're all trying to be as conservative as possible with regard to matters financial, seeing the Festival of Lights in Preston, Idaho is a great way to initiate the Christmas season. Not only is it free to the public, but it invites the holiday spirit into our hearts. So if you need to get rid of the humbugs, take a little drive around after Thanksgiving and enjoy the Christmas lights. It always works for me. =)

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Thursday, November 6, 2008

A New Twist on an Old Tradition

Not too long ago, my age was called into question. I'll admit, it was a busy time and I had probably allowed a few gray hairs to pop into existence before taking measures to cover them. Still, when I pushed a shopping cart up to the checkout counter of a local store and a clerk we'll call, "Skippy," asked me if I qualified for the senior discount, I was not amused. In fact, I'm sure I looked rather insulted. A part of me wanted to take the discount just to show the young whipper snapper a thing or two. Instead, I glared at him and said, "No, I don't qualify for the senior discount."

I was depressed the rest of the afternoon. I'm 47, which is old enough, but hardly close to senior citizen material. Devastated, I told a close friend of mine what happened. We were walking for exercise and as I vented, she laughed at my pain. She seemed to think it was hilarious . . . until it happened to her the next week. Same store . . . same clerk. Then it was my turn to laugh. ;)

Let's just say "Skippy" as we lovingly call him, doesn't get much in the way of fan mail from people our age---which is hardly in the 60 range but I digress.
I'm not sure why I shared that story, other than I've noticed lately how much times have changed. This is something I remember my grandparents talking about when I was knee-high to a grasshopper. Those kind of conversations always began with a sentence like: "I remember the time . . ." or "In my day . . ." Now it's my turn. =)

We recently celebrated Halloween. As some of you may recall, I even blogged about Halloween traditions. This year proved to be extremely different in our neck of the woods. We held a Halloween party at the local church house. It was explained ahead of time that some of us would be asked to decorate a classroom with Halloween garnishing, and then the little trick-or-treaters could come around and knock on our doors, just like the real thing.

Hmmmm . . . interesting concept. Pretend trick-or-treating. =) It actually worked out rather well. Here in Bear Lake, we usually have snow on the ground around Halloween. So most of the time when trick-or-treaters come to call, they're wearing heavy coats over their costumes. This new version of Halloween provided a nice warm, safe environment where the kids could run around without coats and everyone could see their cute costumes.

Because of the high cost of gas, this was also a popular idea among parents. They only had to drive to one place, instead of 30+. And we had a huge turnout; I handed out over 86 treats that night.

I was one of those who had been asked to decorate a classroom. I may look old on occasion, but most people know I'm extremely young at heart. And since I love all holidays, I decorate my house accordingly. So when I was asked to decorate a classroom, I did so with gusto. As I was putting on the finishing touches, a younger couple walked by, glanced in, and sighed. "Great, we have to compete with you." They were in the classroom just down from mine. I almost called after them, "When you get to be my age, you know how to decorate," but I let it go. ;)

I serve in the YW organization of our ward. I'm the fearless leader. When my first counselor arrived looking like a character out of Disneyland on Halloween night, I invited her to share my classroom. Neither of our husbands could attend this year's Halloween bash, so we decided to discuss upcoming YW activities while we handed out treats to the young tikes who passed through. We had a wonderful time and I found myself wishing I had brought my camera along to record this landmark event.

"Gasp!" you say, "Cheri went somewhere without her camera?!"
Don't make fun. I simply forgot. It happens when you get on in years. ;)

Luckily, a friend of mine had brought her camera and she took a picture of my first counselor and I in the gym, before we retreated to our assigned classroom. (That's the picture at the beginning of this blog. I'm the youthful looking old person dressed in orange, in case you were wondering.)

The night was a huge success. There is already talk of doing something similar next year. I think the powers that be are onto something. This is a marvelous twist on an old tradition. The best part was that we were through by 8:30 p.m., just in time to arrive home to hand out treats to the teenagers. (They were too cool to be seen parading around the church house with the younger set.)

So, yep, the times, they are a changing. And I'm learning that it's not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes change is good. Even if people like "Skippy" make us wish that some things, like respect for one's elders, would remain the same. In my day, one never asked women how old they were. Not only was this considered rude, but women used to carry heavy purses that were often used to smack impertinent idiots over the head. I think I like that tradition. ;)

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Monday, November 3, 2008

Count Your Many Blessings

I love this time of year. My flowerbeds are all cleaned up and ready for spring. Tulip and daffodil bulbs are snug in those beds, ready for snow to pile on top. I've planted garlic bulbs in a special place in my garden for next year. The harvest is over, at least for our clan, and I survived canning season. ;)

Our freezers and pantry shelves are well-stocked for the winter months ahead. And I have a plethora of fun projects to tackle during those loooong cold months. Since winter in this area lasts about 7 months, (From about November through May) it behooves one to have a variety of indoor interests. For me that will include working on manuscripts, organizing pictures I've taken this past year, Christmas gifts (I'm making a lot of those this year), keeping up with my responsibilities in the YW, and sorting through each room in our house (I've been striving to de-clutter closets, etc.). I'm also diving in on a new interest---learning to paint landscapes. This should prove interesting since I struggle to draw stick figures. ;)

This month I will also ponder all of the wonderful blessings in my life. I love all of the holidays, but Thanksgiving holds a special place in my heart. In recent years we learned that some of our ancestors were in attendance at that first Thanksgiving celebration. My 10th great grand-father (John Howland) and 10th great-grandmother (Elizabeth Tilley) survived that first harsh winter. Unfortunately, both of Elizabeth's parents passed away during that challenging time. So I'm sure that first harvest celebration was a bittersweet moment for her.

I'm a descendant of their daughter, Hope. What a beautiful name. I'm sure it was aptly applied to this daughter. Can you imagine traveling across a large ocean on a cold, dark ship---arriving in a new country you weren't adequately prepared to endure? You brought along basic supplies, but there isn't a handy Wal-Mart to refurbish those items you've run short on. You have to make do with what you have, and what you can find.

Since there aren't any houses to buy, you have to build your shelter from scratch. If you get hurt or become ill, there isn't a medical facility to hasten your recovery. You are pretty much on your own. With one exception. You came seeking religious freedom and you are now able to worship God according to the desire of your heart. Daily you pray for guidance, for the courage to survive all that lies ahead as you help shape what will become the greatest nation in the world.

Currently our country is facing a lot of problems. The economy seems perched on the brink of disaster. Tomorrow's election will finally bring to a close one of the most controversial presidential races on record. Heated debates on political issues have filled the news for weeks.

I wonder what our forefathers think about all of this commotion. When they see our warm homes, convenient cars, the stores that exist, do you suppose they scratch their heads, wondering why so many people are unhappy? As they gaze at the modern devices we've come to accept as our "due," and all of the technology we've been blessed with, are they dismayed by how we've taken it all for granted?

I was once accused of being a "Mary Poppins" type of person. I've decided that's not an insult. I do strive to look on the bright side of things. This doesn't mean I haven't faced challenging trials. Au contraire. Twenty-six years ago, I was diagnosed as a Type 1 diabetic. Twenty-five years ago, my father took his own life. I've endured 3 difficult pregnancies and several surgeries that were less than my idea of a fun time. Eleven years ago, I was told that I have lupus. And so on. There have always been challenges. But even during the worst possible circumstances, there has always been hope. That is what keeps me going. Plus the knowledge that this life is but a brief interlude when we consider the eternities that lie ahead. This is a testing ground, a chance for us to prove ourselves. It is up to us what we do with our time in mortal mode.

I love to laugh more than I like crying, so I gravitate toward things that I enjoy, downplaying items that aren't enjoyable. Like last night. I use an insulin pump---it has been a great way for me to enjoy life more fully as a diabetic. But there are little snags that occur. Last night the cannula (plastic tube injected under my skin---the insulin passes through it) from my pump pierced a small vein. Let's just say it was not a good time. But I hung in there, cleaned things up, and started over. I suspect this is how my ancestors survived all that they faced during their challenging time in mortal mode.

My challenge today is this: look at the good things that are going on in your lives. Focus on the blessings, and express gratitude daily for those items. Let's see if we can turn the tide of negativity that is currently thriving. There are a lot of problems in today's world, but there are a lot of neat things, too. Make a list of those things and keep it where you can see it every day. Realize what a great time this is to be alive, and savor each day as it comes.

One of my greatest blessings is featured in the picture at the beginning of this blog. This is my first grandchild, Aari, giving her Grandpa Crane a love. She is a doll and next Sunday, we'll be gathering as a family to witness her blessing in sacrament meeting. I can hardly wait. She is the first of a new generation in our family. She is part of the hope for our future. Her safe arrival into this world heralded a new adventure in our lives. Before she was born, the doctors raised concern over a problem with her kidneys. Combined prayers, faith, and the power of the priesthood paved the way for a miracle. Aari's kidneys returned to normal size before her birth and they have worked fine ever since. You can bet this miracle is on my list of things to be grateful for this year. There are others. Despite what appears to be a darkened time, there are great blessings taking place all around us. I think it's part of our responsibility to take stock of these good things, and to patiently endure what isn't so good, trusting in a wise Father in heaven who knows what is in our best interest.

What items will appear on your blessing lists? Feel free to share. ;)

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