Monday, December 05, 2016

The Reason for The Season -- Perspective

In my effort to be a good mom, I try to teach my kids to have compassion, to be grateful for their blessings, to appreciate all they have. But how do you teach that? We can talk about it, but ultimately we pretty much have everything we could possibly want. You can't really teach empathy. You can do service and hopefully it makes them feel good and want to serve again. But in the end what have they given up? An hour or two? They've done something important, but it's not too much of a sacrifice really. 

So when I do ask my children to sacrifice something on behalf of someone else and they act put out, I feel like I have no one to blame but myself. For them being spoiled. And then I really hate myself for it. Because it was never my intention and I don't know how to fix it.

After that happened, I was feeling really discouraged. So I prayed for inspiration and this is what we did:

Today we had planned to get our Christmas tree and go out to dinner at our favorite sushi restaurant, Itto's. But I was inspired with a different plan. During the day I bought sandwich meat & cheese (and pepperonis!) and lettuce. Bags of chips, string cheese, apples and cookies. 

At 6:00 when Chris and Nick got home ready to go to dinner, Dan and I told them we'd changed the plan. Tonight we were going to make 10 sack lunches, drive around the city and look for people to give them to. And instead of going out to dinner, we'd make sack lunches for ourselves and use the money we saved to give to the people we met. Ten $10 bills -- One or two $10 to each person.

I had prayed really, really hard that this would go over well. Primarily for my children to have open, willing hearts. But also for me that we'd actually find people and this wouldn't end up being a dumb idea. Because usually that's what stops me from doing some things. Fear of failure. I don't want to not succeed. Especially taking the whole family along. But someone recently told me how you get over your fear of failure is simply jumping in and taking risks. Because it usually works out. 

And I did have faith that if we were really sincere, Heavenly Father would lead us to people who would love a sandwich and through our love feel His love. At least I hoped we could be led.  Before we started we said a family prayer letting God know our plan and asking him to guide us to those who needed food and needed to feel His love. And also asking that we would know where to go.

Making sandwiches all together and packing lunches was fun. It didn't take us too long and soon we headed out. We had some ideas of where people usually stand with signs near freeway exits and entrances. But it was cold and dark and they weren't there. We headed down to Walmart and then over to State Street. So far we didn't see anyone. Nick asked, "What if we don't find anyone?" Dan assured him we would. Chris asked "What if they used the money for drugs?" I assured him that if we were trying to find people Heavenly Father led us to, that we would give them the money and not worry about what they used it for.

Suddenly as we pulled up to a stoplight, Dan spotted a man standing on the corner with a sign. Chris jumped out of the car with a sack lunch, a water bottle and $10 and ran up to him. We saw them talk a minute and Chris gave him the food and money. Chris came running back to the car and said, "Give me another lunch, he has a baby with him." Dan and I could see the guy kneeling on the ground in front of the baby stroller pulling out a string cheese and the sandwich to start feeding the baby on the spot. The light turned green and as we drove past, we handed him another lunch through the window. His one-year-old was bundled up in the stroller in the freezing cold in the dark. The dad was so grateful. "Thank you so much -- you made my night. God Bless You." He said. My eyes filled with tears.

Next we drove past the Night School but didn't see anyone to give to. We passed Granite High and then over to Sugarhouse. As we drove into Sugarhouse, a woman in a wheelchair with several packages on her chair and blankets on her lap was zooming up the street. "I'll ask her," I said. Dan turned into a parking lot, but she had already zoomed by. We pulled out and passed her but I still wanted to ask, so we pulled into another parking lot. This time she was stopped near us. "Could you use a sandwich tonight?" I asked. She smiled big, "I would love one!" I gave her the lunch. Her name was Linda and she was very friendly and talkative. She had no teeth. "I'm stuck," she said. On the ground, a 1' x 3' patch of sidewalk was broken and rocky. "I'm afraid if I try to go over that, I'll tip, but if I go around into the street I might get hit." 

"I have a lot of strong boys in the car, can they help?" I asked. 
"Would you just walk with me into the street and help watch for cars?" 
"Of course." So I walked with her a short ways and then back onto the sidewalk. She said her home wasn't too far from there. She was headed to Barnes and Noble to get warm before she finished "driving" home. She mentioned that one time she had a bag with a logo on it and she was mugged in Sugarhouse park. So she didn't want that to happen again. "You made my day," she said as I leaned down to give her a hug and say goodbye.

We drove past Fairmont park and then up through the shopping center where generally people hold signs at the exit. Sure enough, someone was there tonight. We pulled into the parking lot and Chris and Nick jumped out. They ran over with a lunch. "Do you want some food?" they asked. 

"Heck yeah! This is so awesome -- you're the best." Soon Chris and Nick ran back to get another. "He has a wife sitting there too." They ran back and gave a lunch to her. "You're so kind," she said. "You're so sweet."

From there we headed downtown. We passed the library where I thought a lot of people were probably hanging out to stay warm. But we couldn't pass out lunches there. We passed an apartment and there was a guy on the corner and Chris said, "Him!" Dan had already driven past so he said he'd go around the corner. When we got back around, that guy was gone, but up ahead was a lady walking with a cane. 

We pulled up near her and I got out of the car. "Would you like a sandwich, tonight?" She was bundled up and turned her black face to me with the biggest smile. "Oh, yes I would, honey! Thank you! You are doing the work of Jesus!" I gave her a sack lunch, a water bottle and $10. She was delighted. "I'm Linda," what's your name (yes, two Lindas!)?" I told her. Then she exclaimed as thrilled as could be, "I just moved into a home today!" 

"Wonderful! I'm so happy for you!" I said, as we gave each other hugs. She clinged to me a moment and I think I clinged to her. "Are you headed there now?" I asked.
"No, honey. I'm walking to Big Lots to get some supplies." 
I could see that holding a sack lunch and a water bottle in one hand and a cane in the other was a bit difficult for her. "Would you like a bag to help?"
"Oh yes, I would!" and we dumped out the waters from one bag and helped her put the things in it.
As we drove away she loudly exclaimed to the world, "God bless you! Thank you, Jesus!"

We turned the corner and there was someone with a cart of belongings. Dan jumped out with two bags. "Hello, I have a sandwich if you're interested." Immediately a man sat up. He was white and whiskery with a thin face and very friendly. His name was Gusto and he was originally from Illinois. "I'm the last one left of my family," he said. Not sadly. Just friendly.  Dan asked him if he was warm enough. "Oh, yes! At the center they gave me blankets and another person came by and gave me hand warmers. I'm plenty warm."

We left and drove down another street nearby where we could see someone else with a pile of belongings in a park. Dan and Nick ran over with two more lunches. This man was quieter. He was originally from France but most recently from California. Dan offered him both lunches and he was happy to have them.

We talked about how we felt now that all the lunches were gone. Chris said, "At first I was happy to do it but wanted to hurry and finish so I could get back to my friends. But as soon as I saw that first guy on the corner with his baby, my whole perspective changed."

We still got our Christmas Tree on our way home. But all of our perspectives had changed. Maybe not permanently. We'll get selfish and spoiled again. Maybe even soon. But this experience allowed us the opportunity to actually give up something we wanted and to help someone else instead. To talk to someone directly and give a gift--not anonymously, but face-to-face. To have a glimpse into someone else's life and realize it doesn't take much to ease another's burden and show love.

"If ye have done it unto the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Christmas Season Legos

What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon in December than building a Lego Christmas set!
Nick worked hard for hours. My favorite was when he said, "Mom, should we turn on some Christmas music? I think it will help me build better!" (My kids never ask for Christmas music because they get a little sick of how much I listen during the Christmas season. So this made my day!) He didn't even complain when I sang along to Amy Grant and we listened to all three of her Christmas albums!

I also got Aunt Marge, "Christmas Stories by Chicken Soup for the Soul." I knew she'd love it and it would be fun for her to read over the Christmas season. She sat over at the table sniffling and eyes watering while reading the sweet Christmas stories! 

In the evening we delivered more neighbor gifts -- Amaryllis. I love watching them grow because they grow so fast! One year Nick and I marked each day and it would grow about an inch a day!

We also fasted for Rachel that day because she is pregnant (It's a girl!) but had some bleeding last week and possibly has placenta previa. She has great doctors and feels like she's in great hands. We are so grateful! I'm always amazed at how much easier it is to fast when you have a purpose -- especially someone you love to focus your thoughts and prayers on. It's pretty neat that Chris and Nick gladly participated too. They love their Aunt Rach. They love ALL their aunts! (Other exciting news is Rebekah is also having a girl -- in just a few weeks! How fun for these cousins to grow up together!)

Friday night we went to Jim Gaffigan and laughed our heads off. Half of the fun was looking over at Nick and Chris and seeing them laughing hysterically. Oh wow. We listened to Jim Gaffigan on the way to Pagosa last summer and it made the 8 hour drive fly by! Look him up and listen to any of his sketches. You're welcome. Specifically try one about home birth. Or 4 kids. Hilarious.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

December 1st Tradition

Apparently no one in my family knows this, but December 1st I always make Potato Corn Chowder and we eat in the dining room with the nice white dishes. We have salad with pomegranate and pears. We listen to Christmas music. We drink Martinelli's.

In past years we've had a candlelight dinner. But last year after getting pneumonia the day after lighting candles -- even though I know it's not related. Probably. -- I skipped that part.

This year Christopher suggested we all go around the table and say something we can do of service for someone else this Christmas season. 

We've had this tradition for many years. I have a December Planning calendar from 2012 and it's on that. So at least 4 years, but I think more. Because I created the December Planning calendar idea many years prior when life was chaotic and I wanted to be able to enjoy December. So I think that was more like 8 years ago.

But even though they didn't remember it's what we do on December 1st, I still loved kicking off the holiday season making dinner a little more special.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

First Day of the Christmas Season

Monday is officially the first day of the Christmas season. Because Thanksgiving is past and we were back home (and our decorations were already out because I decorated before we left for Thanksgiving. Because I love coming home to a Christmas house).

And on Monday it was snowy all day. Perfect.
Merry Christmas!

Nick built his snowman in an unusual spot. Looks like he's headed out for a walk!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

A Picture Says 1000 Words -- Thanksgiving

A wonderful week being with family! So glad to have had this time to all be together! I loved being with everyone, talking and listening, sharing thoughts and hopes and plans, working together and playing together. Away from obligations and cares of everyday life (except for the college kids that all had to do some homework!). This is my version of the Celestial Kingdom. 

Movies: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Arrival.
Videos: Oscar.
Puzzles: 4 500 pc puzzles that the KIDS worked on! Yay! Love that my kids love doing puzzles.
Food: Lots.
New This Year: Bicycle built for two (...sing with me...) 
(We gave Gram and Papa their Christmas present early.)
Football For Days: UW beat WashState, Michigan lost to Ohio, and many many many more.
On-going Favorites: Hot tub, football in the backyard, walks, talks, jogs, exercise on the lawn, 
shopping for Christmas dishes and books.

Daisy, Daisy give me your answer true...

...I'm half crazy all for the love of you!

It won't be a fancy marriage...

...I can't afford a carriage...

...but you'll look neat...

...upon the seat...
...of my bicycle built for two!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Albuquerque Temple

Marty wanted to go through the temple for his first time in Albuquerque so that Gram could come with us. She loved that he wanted her there.

We flew in the night before and Gram and Papa drove down to meet us for dinner. Early the next morning Dan left with Marty. Gram and I went a bit later. Papa took Chris and Nick to breakfast.

It was really fun to be at this smaller temple where everyone was expecting Marty, knew his name and made his first trip to the temple extra special.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving

My mom and Dimitrios hosted a Pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving to celebrate with family and friends  since many were with other family members on Thursday's Thanksgiving. I'm so grateful we have frequent flyer miles so we can just jet to Santa Cruz for overnight and we were able to spend the first part of the holiday at this fun party.

How I love these people!
Dimitrios and my mom's home in Santa Cruz is in the hills and surrounded by beautiful horse properties, hills and trees. They are so welcoming and their home is warm and inviting and you feel loved the minute you walk in the door!

Dimitrios, his daughter Shannon, Me, Bekah, Uncle Rick (my mom's brother), Emily (Bekah's Nanny!)
When I first met Dimitrios' daughter Shannon and his son Max and his wife Dana, a few years ago, it was like meeting family! Dimitrios is so warm, friendly and easy to talk to and be with, of course his kids are too! They love our mom and we love their dad so it's a wonderful "place" to be.

Dimitrios built a long table to seat everyone. Just like that. Built it. With the intention of taking it apart after the festivities were over. Because for him it's no big deal to build a table. (But they're actually liking having a big gathering table, they might be keeping it!)

Dimitrios and my Mom have a gift for making things beautiful!

We had a true Thanksgiving feast, with the addition of some Greek elements, Dolmatas & Spanakopita, which are delicious.

It was pouring rain all day so we all just cozied into the family room/kitchen and got to visit, talk and meet new people. Shannon and her daughter, Chloe. Max & Dana and Dana's parents and younger sister. Eric (my mom & Dimitrios' roommate) and his parents. Dimitrios' godmother and god brother. And of course Rebekah, Jax, Lucy, Livy (and Emily, her awesome Nanny) and Rachel, Jeremy and Dylan and Aunt Marge, Uncle Rick and Uncle Ron.

Lucy and Livy, Chloe, Eric
The next morning, Marty had to head back early, but the rest of our family met Bekah, Emily and kids at an outdoor cafe. The kids were able to run around (cartwheel!) and then we all walked (and rode scooters) over to a park to run, play on the swings, and look at the ocean.

Evidence of beach fun!


Fortunately the rain had stopped so the kids were able to get some much needed outdoor time. We headed back to Mom and Dimitrios' for brunch, games (taught Jax and Lucy and VERY modified version of Rummikub -- basically just put down your numbers in order) and even got to ride the horses. (Yay! Nick was so disappointed when we went over his spring break and Lena was pregnant so he couldn't ride. So glad they all got a chance today!)

By 2:00 we had to head back to the airport. But it was a wonderful trip and a wonderful way to begin the holidays. With family -- new friends who feel like family -- and lots and lots of love.