Monday, November 17, 2008

The Start of Holiday Projects!

Two of our three nieces have birthdays the week of Thanksgiving. It's become tradition over the years for us to bring their birthday gifts (even the one with the September birthday) and celebrate when we're together over the Thanksgiving holiday.

As they've gotten older, it's become increasingly difficult to know what to get them. I don't have a clue what teenage girls are into now, at least those items that fall within the limits of birthday budgets!

The past few years, I've begun buying them Christmas pajamas as their birthday gifts. They have loved them (or at least pretended to!).

This year, I was feeling a little more creative. I decided to make Christmas pillowcases to go along with the lounge pants I found on sale at Old Navy. And it just so happens that the pants match the pillowcase fabric almost perfectly!

It's hard for me to remember what it was like to be 13, 16 or memory fades a bit more with each passing year. But I'm hoping that when they open the gift, they'll get just a glimpse of the love that went into putting them together.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Snowy Days

Mid-November marked the beginning of ski season growing up. My dad was a member of the volunteer Ski Patrol at Mt. Hood in Oregon. As such, he committed to 18 patrol days over the duration of the ski season. Since he worked a full-time job during the week, that meant that pretty much every weekend was a patrol day for him.

This had its benefits. We got free ski passes too. Since money was tight for several years after my dad finished dental school, ski passes were a luxury - not a necessity.

Early each Saturday morning, we'd load into the chilly blue van for the 2 hour drive to the mountain. It felt like the middle of the night, but it was probably more like 5:00am. I can still feel and smell the heater warming up in the van as we started the drive. My brothers and I were usually snuggled up in the back under blankets, trying to catch a few extra minutes of sleep.

Halfway up to the mountain, there is a little town called Sandy. Each week, we'd stop at Joe's Donuts in Sandy for a bathroom break and an apple fritter (I don't recall ever getting anything but an apple fritter...and it weighed about 4 pounds).

Getting to the mountain long before the lifts opened at 9, we would usually hang out in the lodge or ski patrol room, trying to stay warm.

I was never an expert skier. I probably could have been, if I had had more confidence and courage. I liked to go down the blue and green runs, just cruising along. My brothers were far more adventuresome, and surpassed my abilities very quickly. My mom would bribe my youngest brother Shepard with M&M's on the chairlift if he wouldn't give up when he fell. Before long, she couldn't keep up with him. Even now, when I eat an M&M, it reminds me of the chairlift. They were just a little warm and soft, from being in her pocket, and they melted almost immediately when we popped them in our mouth.

Lunchtime came early - we were ready for a break by 10:30 or 11:00. There was always a cafeteria in the lodge, but we rarely ate the food there. My mom almost always packed a lunch for us - all kinds of yummy foods. Typically it was some sort of cheese, salami & crackers, along with fruit, usually oranges. Even the smell of orange peel on my hands takes me back in time. I remember how badly I wanted to be able to buy a greasy hamburger or bowl of chili from the cafeteria. But with 5 people in our family, that just didn't fit the budget. I was a little embarrassed when friends came along and brought money to buy their lunch, because we would always eat our food from home.

My dad didn't get to pick the days to patrol based on there were some days that were just plain miserable. I can remember being stuck on a stalled chairlift for hours one Saturday during a sleet storm. The power went out and shut down the chairlift, while I was on it. It took about 2 hours for the ski patrol to get everyone safely off. My fingers were numb, and I cried the whole way down the mountain because I was so miserable. My dad was amazingly patient. I don't remember him telling me to toughen up or yelling at me to hurry. We just took it one turn at a time, and made it down to the lodge. And he bought me a hot chocolate from the cafeteria. I don't know if a cup of hot chocolate has ever tasted better.

My parents had a difficult marriage. There was a lot of tension in the house, and a lot of unhappiness at times. I didn't really realize what was going on until I was much older. But I can look back now and identify some of those tense moments, or months. It's funny now, looking back at these Saturday excursions. I appreciate the efforts that went into making it a family event. My dad was the one with the commitment to the ski patrol. But for most of his "on" days, it was a family adventure. And in spite of the early mornings, cold days, wet clothes and home-packed lunches, it was also a time for us to be together. And that made it all worthwhile.


I signed up for an online class called "Stories In Hand" through Jessica Sprague's website.  It started on Monday.  The first few days were spent creating an adorable binder, full of memory "sparks", intended to jog my memory and help me capture and recount the stories of my life.  More than just the remarkable ones, many of the prompts are for the everyday events that helped shape me into the person I am today.  

Just in reading the prompts, I have recalled things I had nearly forgotten. Many good memories. Some not so good. This is an emotional journey - there are parts of my life that I would prefer to leave alone.  And yet those experiences also molded me and prepared me for the life I now lead.

Since I don't keep a handwritten journal, my blog is sort of my every day record of what's happening in my life.  And at some point, I intend to have it printed into a book (I'm sure it will be a bestseller...)

So now begins a new chapter of my blog: the storytelling one.  

Friday, November 14, 2008

Battery Charging

My mom's husband David believes there are two types of people in this world:  Battery Chargers and Battery Drainers.  

Battery Chargers are those people who leave you feeling full, content, uplifted and joyful.  They are the ones you call when you're feeling down because even though they can't fix it all, they will help you see that things really aren't that bad.

Battery Chargers are the opposite - they drain your emotional tank and leave you feeling empty.

I've been thinking a lot about this lately.  In my everyday life, I come across both types on an almost daily basis.

I attended a "focus group" on Tuesday night, where I participated in a discussion about our utility service.  How can that be an emotional situation, you're asking yourself, right?  Of the 7 of us in the room, plus the moderator, there were two people there who were obvious battery drainers.  Every topic that was brought to the table was met with resistance and negativity.  The most interesting part of the 90 minutes (aside from the $85 they paid me) was watching the group dynamics.  And not letting it get to me.

I try and surround myself with battery chargers.  As I do so, I feel my emotional tank swell to overflowing capacity.  And when a friend calls and wants to talk, or needs advice, or needs help, or just needs to "be", I do my best to respond in such a way that I can fill their battery in return.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Operation "Get-My-Life-Under-Control"

I grew up in a chaotic household.  My mom was always going in 100 different directions, with 100 different projects and responsibilities all in various stages of completion.  In her defense, much of it was her coping she dealt with the emotional chaos that existed at that time in our lives.

When I moved out and was on my own, I did well at keeping things relatively organized.  When Steve and I got married, and it was just the two of us, it wasn't too tough to pick up after ourselves. It was apparent early on that he did not do well in a chaotic environment, so I have done my best over the years to try and keep our house organized, at least the visible parts.

With three growing kids, my life is becoming increasingly chaotic.  I'm torn between wanting to give my kids experiences and opportunities for growth, and needing down time at home.  I volunteer at their school - something I feel is important for me to do right now.  I have responsibilities at church.  I have all the responsibilities that come with maintaining and nurturing a household of 5 people.  And I have dreams of my own, waiting to be pursued.

I have various places that are my "stuffing" grounds. Places that I stick things that I don't know what to do with, or don't have time to deal with right at the moment. I always tell myself that I'll go back and put it away, or find a "home" for it, and won't let it pile up. That doesn't always happen.

In order for me to feel okay about spending time on myself, on my own interests, I feel like I first need to make it a priority to establish a little more order in the house.  Today, I tackled a "stuffing ground" that has been piling up for months.

We have a little closet in our downstairs bathroom, which houses our file cabinets, along with towels, the vacuum, mop, and various other household items (including 50 pounds of food storage wheat that doesn't fit anywhere else!).  For the past several months, every time I pay bills, review bank statements, etc., I have been piling it on to the filing cabinet, or shoving it in the closet.  

This afternoon, I turned on a movie for the boys and dug in.  It didn't really take that long to get it all filed and straightened up.  I finished before the movie was over.  And yet it has felt like such a burden for so long...

Now my task is to keep it looking this way.  If I file the papers as they come, they don't pile up.  A few minutes on a daily basis to maintain order is far better than hours of creating it.  Sounds easy, doesn't it?  Now let's see if I can stick to it!

What Does The Cow Say?

Grant is a charmer, and knows how to make people laugh.  He's recently discovered how funny it is to mix up the animal sounds.  His rooster impression is my favorite!

Small Successes

Friday marked the end of my 10-week online weight loss challenge.  I went into it thinking I could win.   Enough hours spent at the gym and running, coupled with watching my diet would do the trick.  3500 calories burned = 1 pound lost, right? 

In the end, I lost 7.5 pounds, and 3.63% of my body weight.   Not quite the 15-20 pounds I had hoped for, but I'm happy.  I was far from being the winner - she lost 14% of her body weight. Good for her!  

Along the way, I realized that this is a lifestyle thing - not just a 10 week contest.  I think I'm ready to commit to a more healthy all-the-time way of living.  

I have a tendency to sabotage myself, losing a couple of pounds, then eating something just for the sake of eating it, like an entire bag of peanut butter M&M's.  And telling myself I can work out extra tomorrow to make up for it.  Not the healthiest habit, I'm aware.  I know that I have to have splurges - treats to look forward to - in order to make life livable.  So from here on out, I'm going to TRY to make the splurges my rewards for a week of eating healthy.  And I'm NOT going to gain back that 7.5 pounds.  They're gone for good.  

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Winds of Change

Last night as I sat glued to my seat watching the election results unfold, I was grateful to be alive at this time, and grateful for the opportunity to live in a democracy.

This was my 5th time voting in a Presidential Election.  The first time was when Clinton ran and won.  I remember being excited at that time to be able to participate in electing a president.  I don't remember who I voted for (shows you what an impact that vote had on me!), but I remember waiting in the poll line in Provo with a bunch of my friends, thinking it was the coolest thing to be able to vote.

The following three presidential elections were rather insignificant to me.  I didn't have strong views, or even really know and understand the candidates different perspectives.  I also didn't feel that my vote necessarily mattered that much.

This time around however, I felt deeply inclined to learn about the candidates, and try and make a truly informed decision.  Not just one that might personally benefit me, but that had the potential to improve our nation...our nation that has sunk deeper and deeper into peril the past 8 years.

I'm a registered Republican.  I have almost always voted along my party lines.  My parents were Republicans when I was growing up (I think my mom has now changed to Democrat).  My grandparents were Republicans.  The conservative views in the past have more closely aligned with my morals and values.  In some elections, I checked the box next to "Republican" just because I was Republican, not because I understood the platform the candidate was representing.

This time around however, I switched sides.  I voted for Barack Obama.  And I'm proud of it.  I'm optimistic that he has what it takes to inspire, motivate and challenge us to become better individuals, and as such, become a better nation.  I am proud that we as a country have pushed past the Black-White barriers that have prevailed for so many years, and have elected a man based on what he stands for rather than the color of his skin.  

As I listened to his acceptance speech last night, I was touched.  I actually teared up a couple of times (I know, no surprise).  I have faith that he will make good on his promises.  It is not an easy road that lies ahead.  And I do not expect him to be perfect, nor to wave a magic wand and make everything magically better.  But I have hope that we,  the democracy that has elected him (by a landslide, I might add) will step up to the plate and support him, and accept him, as the 44th President of the United States of America.  And together, I think we can accomplish greatness.

P.S.  I'm thrilled about Prop 8 passing, even if by a slim margin.  Once again proof that the Lord does indeed have a hand in what happens here.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Halloween Re-Cap

It's the Monday after Halloween.  

Here's what I accomplished over the weekend:
  1. Took the kids Trick-or-Treating and didn't eat all their candy!
  2. Attended friends Halloween party, and managed to convince my hubby to come too.
  3. Halloween decorations boxed up and put away until next year.
  4. 5 loads of laundry, all folded and put away.
  5. Picked up the entire house and put things where they belong (I don't know why I bothered, because you already can't even tell).
  6. Spent 2 glorious hours alone with Olivia at the mall.  Shared pretzel & hot chocolate.  She helped me pick out lipstick.  I helped her pick out some new brown shoes and a darling sweater.
  7. Attended church and left feeling better than when I arrived.  My Primary lesson even came off without a hitch.
  8. Joined Facebook and re-discovered friends from all over the place.  Who knew?
  9. Sewed 5 "Poppy" capes for Olivia's play.
  10. Cooked dinner for my family, and made enough so I don't have to cook tonight.
  11. Got almost enough sleep.
There's a big list of things I didn't get done.  But I'm remaining optimistic that they'll get done before the end of the millenium.  That's all I can hope for.