Saturday, December 29, 2018

Christmas 2018 ~ Part 1

My husband just sent me a text from work letting me know that he has lunch from 1:00 to 2:00 today if I’d like to join him.  I wrote the following back:  “Ok.  Thanks.  I think I will spend the day at home catching up on myself and life in general.  I may blog.  I may write.  I just need some down time to process the past month.  I love you.”  And so, that is what I am doing.  I am blogging, writing, and processing. I am deconstructing Christmas in my mind before I tackle the deconstruction of the trappings of Christmas in the house.

If I don’t take the time to process events and interactions I have had, I begin to lose the importance of the time I took to participate in such encounters.  Capturing snapshots in my mind of times I hope to carry in my mind’s memory bank are best done when I take the time to reflect.

Last night, I attended a party at a neighbor’s home.  Jim was working, so I went alone to the party.  I only knew the hostess and her husband and one other couple, but I had the opportunity to engage in wonderful conversation with new acquaintances.  It is good to meet new people and to have the opportunity to mingle with others and hear their stories about life.

As I left the party and stepped outside the door, I was struck by the beauty of the world around me.  Honestly, I felt as if I were either entering into a fantasy Christmas card photo, or life size snow globe.

Tiny glitter size snow flakes filled the air and covered the ground.  Colored lights wound over the stair railing lit my way as I made my way down the path towards my car.  I took a moment to take in the silent beauty of that corner of my neighborhood: tall ponderosa pines stood sentinel like along the perimeters of our little village where I live, soft flickering light from candles in windows of nearby houses spoke of warmth and comfort that could be found within the walls of those homes,  and icicles made of lights that hung from the eaves of the home across the road  seemed to have been perfectly placed to create a quintessential Christmas village scene.  Such beauty.  Such peace.  I drank it all in as I walked to my car to head home.

Those moments of quiet when one sees perfect Christmas card like scenes are best captured in the mind.  Perhaps, in our setting up of the trappings of Christmas, we hope to create those perfect settings for ourselves and our families and friends, but let’s face it, life, even at Christmas, is not perfect, nor are we, nor are our families, nor are our friends, yet, we do hope for peace and good will at Christmas, and we also hope for a bit jolly good fun too.


Here is a photo recap of some of the family time I enjoyed as we headed into Christmas.

My daughter Keicha and granddaughter Gillian made a special Christmastime visit to Colorado on December 20th.  I met the girls at the Molly Brown House in Denver.  This visit fulfilled a long-held desire we have had to visit this museum.

As a young girl, I lived in Leadville, Colorado, during the time that the movie The Unsinkable Molly Brown hit the box office.  My roots run deep in the same place where Molly and J.J. Brown made their fortune.  While I often have roamed the hills around the Little Johnny Mine in Leadville, and while I have read much about Molly Brown, somehow I had never visited her home in Denver.  This visit was a Christmas gift to my daughter, granddaughter and myself.

From there, the three of us made our way over The Brown Palace for lunch.  We had hoped to have tea there, but reservations for tea this time of year must be made nearly a year in advance.  Maybe next year we will make the tea.  The Brown is one of my favorite places in Colorado, so I was excited to have lunch there with my girls.  Daughter Amy worked across the street from the hotel and ran over for a quick visit while we had lunch.  We made a short self-guided tour of the hotel after lunch.

I’d never seen the chandelier in the lobby done up for Christmas before.  It truly took my breath away when I saw it.  All I could do was stare and say, “Wow.”

Gillian helped me with a few tips on using the iPhone to capture a photo of the chandelier so that I might attempt to give the grandeur of it all a bit of justice.  I love all the details found in the architecture throughout the building of this grand old hotel.

The next day, Keicha, Gillian, and I took a wreath to the cemetery to place on Julie’s grave.  There was a recently placed poinsettia on the gravesite.  It appeared to have been placed around Thanksgiving.  I am always so grateful when I see that others have not forgotten my dear daughter and placed flowers on her grave.  I always wonder who it was that visited.  My father’s resting place in the row above where Julie’s grave is located.

That evening, the family gathered at my son Jonathan’s and his wife Samantha’s home for a Yule log party.  It is the first Christmas in nearly a decade and a half that my son and family have lived in Colorado, so we have spent few Christmas Seasons together.

The host and hostess were most gracious in their hospitality even though we were nearly an hour late to the party as we were out shopping for last minute presents and groceries.

 Leon, my youngest grandchild, helped in the cutting and serving of the Yule log by watching his father make that first cut for the first slice of cake.

I still can barely believe I have this beautiful boy in my life.  What a joy he is.  Seeing Christmas through the eyes of a toddler is such a blessing.

After the Yule party, it was the plan that the family would go to the zoo and see the lights and then visit the Broadmoor Hotel to see the gingerbread house.  Communication wires were scrambled, the crowds were overwhelming, and parking was an issue, so some of us went to the zoo and others went to the Broadmoor.  I ended up at the Broadmoor where I met daughter Amy and her family.

Quite honestly, there were so many people at the hotel that I must admit that I never walked over the gingerbread house.  I had seen it a few weeks before when my friend and I visited the Broadmoor at a time when there were no crowd.

This spectacular gingerbread house is a replica of the Broadmoor Hotel that was created by the pastry staff to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the hotel.  It is a fascinating work of art that is made of gingerbread, candy, pastries, frosting, and other baked goods.

It just so happened that our visit to the hotel was on the night of the Winter Solstice.  I don’t know when I’ve ever been walking around the hotel lake on a more beautiful evening, and over the past seventy years of my life, I have walked around that lake many a time.  I wish I could have captured the beauty of the moonlit sky and the Christmas lights better, but I did manage to get one pretty good shot with my iPhone.


The Family Party at Mom’s

Since the days when my children were quite young, there have few Christmas celebrations where I have had all of my children in one place.  I am grateful for every time we manage to somehow celebrate the occasion as a family.  This year, three of my children and their children were able to gather at my home just before Christmas Day.

An extra table was set up for the kiddos whom have somehow suddenly become adults,

while the “ older adults” sat together at the dining room table.  My cousin and her husband joined us for dinner, but Jim had to work and missed the party.

The grandkids washed up the dishes.

Family shared stories and laughter.

A family photo of the kids was taken by mom (me).

Another photo was taken to include me.

I kept thinking I should have gotten out my real camera that has a tripod and a timer so we could take  a proper family portrait, but I never did.

The paperwhites were a hit - NOT.  While they were beautiful, the smell was overwhelming and the family begged me to get rid of them.  Sam had a cold and insisted she could not smell anything.  Jon brought the flowers up to her and said, “Now can you smell them?”

This one, my precious Leon, played happily on the floor with his toys before presents were opened.

Christmas traditions mean nothing to him yet.  Just give him a few years to get the hang of it all.

 He was assigned the task of passing out a few gifts but was more interested in the bows on the packages and began taking them all off and ended up putting them on his head.

Grandma Sally gave Leon a John Deere set.  He loved it!  And, I loved that he loved it.

As I reflect on this year’s Christmas at our house, I think we had a bit of all that goes into a family Christmas.  Family fellowship, laughter, food, and fun were in abundance while drama was hopefully kept to a minimum.

I know that what I will most remember is the unspoiled joy of a child opening up a gift meant just for him when he really had no idea that Christmas means that gifts are given and received.  He seemed surprised by the idea that such a wondrous thing as a set of new vehicles could be found inside that box covered with paper and bows.

His gift received all of his undivided attention.

He wanted nothing more than to discover the wonder of such a gift.

Oh that we all could see the wonders of Christmas through the eyes of a child.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Thoughts on The First Week of Advent ~ Thoughts on Hope


How does hope survive during days of
broken promises,
broken dreams,
broken lives?

How does hope survive when all we see are
broken people?

How do we hope to survive when we are the 
broken ones?
When we are the 
broken people?

In our brokenness,
we promise ourselves that we will 
do better, 
be better, 
make things better.

We never do.
We never can.
We are broken.
How can we make things better?

We hear the promises of others when they say they will
do better,
be better,
make things better.


We hope for better
family dynamics,
places to live,
educational opportunities.

We hope for better outcomes
in encounters with others,
in sports events,
medical tests,
test scores in the classroom.

We long for things to be as they should be.

We hope that one whom
upsets us, 
disappoints us,
ignores us,
won’t speak to us,
lies to us,
steals from us,
uses us,
hurts us,
will see the error of his or her ways
do better,
be better,
make things better.


Oh, hope can seem like such an empty word when promises are broken.

We want to scream to the promise breaker,
“That promise you made to me was broken.
Do I even dare to trust you again?”
You broke my heart.
You broke my trust.
You have left me broken.

We ask ourselves, 
“How can I even begin to fix a broken dream?”

We ask others,
 the ones whom have shattered our hearts, 
broken our trust,
“How do you plan to fix my heart, the one you shattered?”
“How will you fix the trust you have broken?”

Dreams have a quality about them that deems them unbreakable.
Who would ever dream of broken dreams?
When one dreams, one dreams that the dream will never be broken.

Broken dreams.
Broken lives.
We pass them on the street.
We see broken lives with outstretched hands as we walk pass them on the street
where they stand on street corners,
with signs that say,
“Anything helps.”

Broken people.
They sit with me at the Thanksgiving table.
 They call me on the phone.
They are my people.
I am one of them.
I too am broken.

I am also a fixer.
I want to fix every broken thing.
I do not want to toss anything aside that I think can be fixed.
I want every relationship to be fixed.
I want every heart to be mended.
I want every heart repaired.

I can fix nothing because

Where does this leave me?
Where do I go from here?

Like David, I cry out,
Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.

I am filled with longing for all things to be made right.

I can’t make things right for myself or for others.
I need a redeemer,
A savior.
 I don’t want to lose hope.
Hope, it cannot be placed in me or in others.
I am hopeless.
I can’t be the one in whom you place your hope.
I too am broken.

None of us can
do better,
be better,
make things better,
because all of us are broken.

Where is that Rock whom is higher than I?

Where is the anchor for 
my life,
my soul?

To that Rock I want to cling.

Without that Rock,
I too would be like those of old,
those whom passed through the land distressed and hungry,
and when they were hungry, they were enraged and spoke contemptuously against their king and their God.
They looked to the earth, but all they saw was distress, darkness and gloom of anguish.
They were thrust into thick darkness.*

There was no hope.
There is no hope.

The longing for hope.
The longing for One higher than I.
The longing for a Rock to which I can cling is the longing of our hearts.
We groan inwardly with all creation waiting for redemption. **
We long for hope.

We long for Advent.
The coming.

Advent is now.
It is upon us.

On the first Sunday of Advent we are given hope.

“The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in deep darkness,
On them has light shone. ***

The child is born,
The son is given to us. ****

He, this child, is our hope.

In my brokenness,
my longing for all things to be made right,
in my longing 
for healing of 
I know of no other
Giver of Peace,
Except the One called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. *****

The Word made flesh dwelt among us. ******
He restores our hope and renews our hearts and minds.
He binds up our wounds.

I hope in Him.
He is my hope.
He is the Rock higher than I.
I will look to Him.  
I will hold fast to my confession of hope without wavering,
For he who promised is faithful.

In this season I don’t want to miss the greatest gift of all.
He is my hope.

I don’t have to hope in others, 
in dreams, 
in hopes that I have created in my own mind, 
that I hope to achieve in my own strength.

I have the hope the world long awaited,
The longing of every broken heart,


He alone is my hope.

*Isaiah 8:21-22
**Romans 8:22
***Isaiah 9:2
****Isaiah 9:6
*****Isaiah 9:6
******John 1:14

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Seasonal Thoughts and Thanksgivings

The seasons collide in the fall.
Halloween gives way to Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving bumps up against Christmas.
I’m not done with you yet.
I need to hang on the last vestiges of 
fall and the Thanksgiving season
 before I am hurled into the rush and bustle 
of December and Christmas.
My son called early in October and asked us to come out and spend Thanksgiving with them in Utah. I took him up on the offer.  They have a new home we had not yet seen, so we were excited to spend the inaugural Thanksgiving with them making new memories in their new home.  
On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Jim and I flew out to Salt Lake City, Utah, and my son Ryan picked us up at the airport.  We ran around town with him while he did Thanksgiving preparation errands, and he gave us a grand tour of his new neighborhood.  I so seldom get to spend alone time with my son, that I couldn’t help but comment how wonderful it was just to be driving around town with him while we chatted.  He always makes the best of times even better.

Fall is the perfect season to capture the beauty of my son and daughter-in-law’s new home.  A branch adorned with golden leaves formed a perfect frame for this classic craftsman style home. 

I love the neighborhood where my son and his wife now live.  On a small porch at the corner house down the street from them, two college age guys dressed in wool coats and wool caps were sitting in lawn chairs listening to classical music and smoking cigars as they played chess.  I said to my son, “I love where you live.  It seems so civilized.”

Jim and Ryan led the way as we walked past houses still adorned with fall decor and headed to our home away from home to spend a quiet evening together.  

Our airbnb, which was just a block and a half from my son’s home, was so nice.  We really enjoyed the experience of staying in this home and in this neighborhood.  I kept telling my husband I was ready to move.  I loved the area around Sugarhouse in Salt Lake City.  

This was just one of the cool houses between our house (home away from home) and son Ryan’s.  

The next morning Jim and I walked back to Ryan and Sheridan's house and the four of us and Sheridan’s two boys headed out for the mile and a half walk to get breakfast at the best bakery ever.  I had their steel cut oats with fruit.  Seldom does one rave about steel cut oats, but I raved about theirs.  Oh, and I had part of an orange cinnamon roll too.  I wasn’t going to pass that up.  I fear we would visit this place on  daily walks if we lived nearby.

There are shops all around the bakery.  Across the street is a wonderful bookstore called The King’s English.  We visited it on the day after Thanksgiving.  All of this makes the neighborhood a desired location for living a life where shopping, and restaurants, and grocery stores are just a short walk or bike ride away.
The door to our apartment...

leaves on the ground, they all became subjects for me to photograph.  On this beautiful fall day, I so loved the experience of walking around taking in the sights found in a neighborhood filled with architectural delights.  It was just what my soul needed.  
At home, fall had left us during a blistery and wet storm weeks before Thanksgiving.  I had not been able to revel in the glory of fall and give her a proper farewell at home, so these last days of November in Utah were a special blessing to me.

Thanksgiving Eve, Jim and I walked over to my son’s house to participate in food preparation (ok, I watched while they worked) and to await the arrival of Amy and Jewett whom were driving from Colorado, and the arrival of grandson Bridger whom was coming down from Logan, Utah, where he attends Utah State.  

The beauty of the day continued.  I wish I could have captured the full effect of the moon at dusk, but this photo does give you an idea of how beautiful the evening was as we headed into my favorite holiday of the year: Thanksgiving.
We were worried about the travelers as a huge wreck had closed down the highway, but daughter and her love arrived safe and sound at a much later time than anticipated.  Thank heavens for cell phones and Google maps.  Bridger also arrived safe and sound from his drive down from Logan.  I was struck by how thrilled we were when Bridger arrived.  Does everyone always shout with joy when he enters a room?  I think so.  He is such a special kid.
The bounty for the planned feast was plentiful. I was struck by the beauty of the preparation of the meal itself.  Part of Thanksgiving is the anticipation of what is about to transpire as family comes together.  There is so much work in preparing the feast for a family the size of ours.  I so appreciate all that Ryan and Sheridan did to make the occasion perfect.  Thank you, Ryan and Sheridan!

While my family is large, the gathering itself was a bit smaller this year.  Ryan’s two older children, Regan and Parker, are living and working in Montana where they will be attending college, so they did not come home for Thanksgiving.  Amy and Jewett came from Colorado, but Amy’s two children stayed home with their father and had Thanksgiving with their other grandmother, and Samantha and Jonathan and their two children had been in Paris, France, the week before Thanksgiving and they were flying home to Colorado on Thanksgiving Day.  As with most large families, we are scattered all over.  That is why being together whenever possible is so special.
Thanksgiving morning, the house had been transformed in order to accommodate the expected guests.  (Don’t you love Ryan and Sheridan’s home???)

The guests arrived, photos were taken,and soon we were ready to eat the scrumptious meal provided by our hosts.  Really, they out did themselves.  Everything was perfect!
Photos were taken,

Daughter Keicha with her daughter Gillian

Amy & Jewett

My girls on either side of me
Keicha, Sally, Amy

the turkey was taken from the oven and carved,

the lentil loaf prepared for and by Sheridan for the vegetarians in the group was also taken from the oven,

the food was placed on the beautiful tables, 

Holidays bring with them memories both happy and sad.  Often, we are reminded of those no longer with us.  Sheridan was my daughter Julie's dear friend, and it was at Julie's memorial service where my son Ryan met our lovely Sheridan.  Blessings come from loss.  I'm so grateful for the family that was created because of a lasting and long friendship between Julie and Sheridan.  Julie's ashes are on the mantle and the empty chair reminds us of the one we miss and wish were with us to share in this joyous day.  

The empty chair reminds me that Julie would not be in it even if she were with us.  She had way too much energy for that.  She would be cooking and cleaning and arranging, and laughing, and joking, and loving on her nieces and nephews.  I miss her arm on my shoulder as she would have stood beside me in a photo of me and my daughters, but her spirit is with us.  I rejoice that we as a family remain strong and together and so appreciative of fall days at the end of November when we gather together to give thanks for all of our many blessings.  
There was more!  
In the evening we followed the tradition started long ago by Sheridan's wonderful dad by playing a spirited and competitive game of bingo.  The prizes were both great and not so great.  That is part of the fun.  Bingo and Thanksgiving pie now go together in my mind. 

 I love this tradition of more guests arriving in the evening with pies and gifts.  Sheridan's sister and her family and her mom and dad and another couple whom are good friends came to the house to play bingo after their own Thanksgiving dinners.  There was barely room to move around.  Jim was schooled on how to be the Bingo game caller, and we ended the day by playing Bingo which led to much fun and a lot of laughter.  

The memories of Thanksgiving 2018 are stored away in that place were all that is wonderful about this holiday live.  I am so very blessed with such a dear and wonderful family.  My children are so supportive of me and of each other.  I do not take that gift of family unity lightly.  Our bonds are strong and our devotion to each other is firm.  That is one hope I have always had for myself and and my children:  that we would celebrate and embrace the uniqueness that each of us bring to our family bond and they would seek to always build and affirm that bond and devotion to each other.  I'm so very grateful that again I witnessed and partook in the fellowship of a family devoted to each other.    My heart is full.
Perhaps, Thanksgiving comes at the perfect time of year because just as fall leaves us, we are given the chance to embrace her beauty one last time as we gather to spend a day giving thanks while eating delicious food with those we love best.  

Thanksgiving 2018, I needed you to be just as you were.  Now, I can let November days give way to the hustle and bustle that comes in December.