Wednesday, December 21, 2011
May you all have a very Merry Christmas and a Joyous and Happy New Year!! May your 2012 be the best ever, full of love, laughter, blessings, and gratitude.
Here are 2 of my all-time favorite Christmas songs. They aren't traditional ones, but I think both of them are just gorgeous. Enjoy, everyone!
WHEN A CHILD IS BORN
Friday, December 16, 2011
This week has been a series of delays in all of the things I've wanted to accomplishment. My Relief Society lesson isn't done yet, the house isn't as clean as I would like it to be, the presents were only bought today for the kids in the family and still aren't wrapped, and all of the upcoming obligations are a little overwhelming to think about.
Last night, though, while working on my lesson, I took a few breaks to watch parts of the Christmas Devotional. I was especially moved by a part of Pres. Uchtdorf's talk. His words helped to bring me back to what is important and why we celebrate this season. If you haven't noticed, I tend to focus on the unimportant things more than I'd like and often need reminding.
I'm going to post the section of his talk here, with links to the entire devotional. It was so beautiful--both the words and music--and relaxing to listen to:
CHRISTMAS IS ABOUT THE CHRIST
by Pres. Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Christmas Is about the Christ
In these precious moments we realize what we feel and know in our heart—that Christmas is really about the Christ.
Christmas and some of the cherished traditions of the season remind us that we, like the Wise Men of old, should seek the Christ and lay before Him the most precious of gifts: a broken heart and a contrite spirit. We should offer Him our love. We should give Him our willingness to take upon ourselves His name and walk in the path of discipleship. We should promise to remember Him always, to emulate His example, and to go about doing good. 1
We cannot offer Him the gift of perfection in all things because this is a gift beyond our capacity to give—at least for now. The Lord does not expect that we commit to move mountains. But He does require that we bring as gifts our best efforts to move ourselves, one foot in front of the other, walking in the ways He has prepared and taught.
And what are the Savior’s gifts to those who are willing to bring these gifts to Him?
This may be the most one-sided gift exchange in the history of the universe. The Savior’s gifts to us are breathtaking.
Let us begin with immortality. Because the Savior overcame death, all men and women—both the just and the unjust—will live forever. 2
Then, forgiveness—even though our sins and imperfections be as scarlet, they can become white as snow because of Him. 3
And finally, eternal life—the greatest gift of all. 4 Because of the Atonement of Christ, not only are we guaranteed an infinite quantity of life, but He offers the possibility of an unimaginable quality of life as well. 5
Some of His divine gifts are reserved for that glorious future day when we return to His presence.
But He extends many gifts and His grace to us every day. He promises to be with us, to come to us when we need comfort, 6 to lift us when we stumble, to carry us if needed, to mourn and rejoice with us. Every day He offers to take us by the hand and help transform ordinary life into extraordinary spiritual experiences.
This is the best Christmas flash mob I've seen, partly because of the way the shoppers react and get involved. I love how these fun musical moments make everyone stop for just a few minutes during the Christmas craziness and remember what it is that we are really celebrating:
Thursday, December 15, 2011
I took it to the local computer store where they tried to work their magic--last time they were successful. This time...nothing. So, instead of spending the day working on my lesson for church, I spent the day transferring things to my external hard drive.
When Eric came home I got to give him the good news--not! The sad truth is that these days, a computer is essential for so many things. My sweet man told me to get whatever I wanted, although we had already discussed the transition to an Apple. I assured him that I would get the most basic, inexpensive one. And that is what I did.
Setting it up has been a little time-consuming, but not bad. A lot of my installation CDs for things will not work anymore, which I was prepared for. Not only because of transferring to an Apple, but because they are just too old. Thank goodness for online drivers! Installing my printer was my biggest concern, but only after a couple of minor hiccups, I did it. Whew!
Other things will not be possible to transfer over, mainly my music from my Zune player, which uses an Mp3 format, while Apple uses an Mp4. Tricky! My Zune player is nearly full anyway, so I can live with not adding/subtracting anything from it.
I do love having a big 21" screen to look at. The resolution is amazing and bright. It makes everything look beautiful!
Everything that needed to be done to make the iMac feel like "mine" is essentially done. This and all of those changes on Facebook on the same day!
I just feel blessed that when something happens, like my laptop becoming unusable, that we can just say, "go get a new one." That in itself is something to be very grateful for.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
These videos are courtesy of R. Holdman of Pleasant Grove, UT. You can visit his website at: www.holdman.com/christmas/video
Turn up those speakers and enjoy!
Carol of the Bells
Miracle on 34th Street
P.S If you are one of those people that just has to know how this is done, you can get your answers at HERE. It takes a lot of patience!
Monday, December 12, 2011
What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments section....
I was sent these images in an email today. For many, Christmas is the time to remember those who are no longer with us, especially those whose lives were cut short while defending the rights of others.
"Readers may be interested to know that these wreaths -- some 5,000 -- are donated by the Worcester Wreath Co. of Harrington, Maine . The owner, Merrill Worcester, not only provides the wreaths, but covers the trucking expense as well. He's done this since 1992. A wonderful guy. Also, most years, groups of Maine school kids combine an educational trip to DC with this event to help out. Making this even more remarkable is the fact that Harrington is in one of the poorest parts of the state."
Saturday, December 10, 2011
All you need to do is click on the picture, then right-click and hit "save as desktop background." The images are big enough to transfer clearly to your screen. Enjoy!
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
After years and years as a PC user, mainly because a good family friend and computer guru got us started on them, I think the time has come to change to a Mac.
Like any big decision, I've thought about it a lot. And the thought came to the forefront even more yesterday when my nearly 4 year old Toshiba laptop went all "stretchy graphics" on me when I started it up. And then I did some calculating...I've had this laptop since February of 2008 and it has had 7 repairs. Most of them I didn't have to pay for, luckily, courtesy of our computer-savvy friend, but still...7! That's a lot.
It didn't help that the lady I spoke with on the Toshiba tech support line yesterday knew very little. OK, almost nothing. I almost laughed when she asked me to rate the quality of help I received after the call resulted in, well, nothing.
So I went to the local computer store and took my laptop with its messed up screen and, while the store manager was tinkering with it, I started looking at the Macs. Yes, they are expensive and yes, it will be an adjustment, but I think the time has come. I'm tired of dealing with viruses and updates and quirky operating systems (my laptop came with Vista...yuck.)
I did the math and by the time you add up the cost of my current computer, plus Word, plus the Microsoft 7 upgrade, plus what I've spent on repairs, it comes out to almost as much as the iMac, which is the one I'm seriously considering.
So get ready, world, because in the next few months this will probably be my next computer. Pretty, huh?
P.S. My Toshiba is working OK right now, but for how long? After 3 repairs in the last 4 months, my hopes are not very high.
I just landed accidentally on a post I wrote from November 2008. In the post I described how I was having problems with my Toshiba and had just taken it to the Geek Squad at Best Buy for repair. Everything had frozen on the screen and it wasn't even allowing me to do a "force quit." At the time, the computer was only 6 months old. Yikes.
Monday, December 5, 2011
No matter what your faith or situation, this are words we all need to hear:
Sunday, December 4, 2011
I have had the opportunity to read a lot of books this year. A lot. But in any group there is always the one that rises to the top and stands out singularly because of its power, resonance, and quality.
Of all the books I've read this year--some for my book club and some for pure enjoyment--the best of the bunch is Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand. As I told my mom while describing this book, "Whatever you're reading right now, this is better."
Laura Hillenbrand, who is also the author of Seabiscuit, suffers from a debilitating form of CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome,) which forces her to stay at home most of the time. She's devoted the last 7 years to researching Unbroken, including conducting about 50 interviews with its subject, Louis Zamperini.
Louis Zamperini, who is now a spry 94 year old, has lived a life few of us can imagine--partly of his own doing, like competing in the 1936 Olympics-- and partly as a victim of circumstance. The circumstances that were not of his choosing happened while he was a bombadier during WWII. The plane he was in was shot down, and the 3 survivors drifted for 47 days until being picked up by the Japanese.
What followed then was 2 years in 2 different POW camps in conditions beyond our imagination. What made the conditions even worse was a particularly sadistic guard, nicknamed "The Bird," who singled Louis out and attempted to victimize him in every way possible. The army's pursuit of this guard after the war ended is another element that makes this book so captivating.
I say "attempted," because one of the interesting things that the book focuses on is the issue of dignity vs humiliation. The authoress describes the importance of dignity in ways I've never read before, making it a thing as tangible and necessary to existence as food or air. In other words, no matter how bad the conditions are, you are only a victim of you allow yourself to be.
Even if you know the basics of the story, there is something else that makes it worth reading, and that is the series of odd coincidences that seemed to pop up here and there throughout Louis's life, and usually during his darkest moments. I don't want to give too much away, but these oddities certainly make the story even more compelling.
For those with weak stomachs who may be worried about the way the war violence is portrayed in the book, I would say this: It is "realistic," but not "gratuitous." In other words, the authoress tells things as they happened, but doesn't overdo it.
The important thing to remember about this book is that not only is this a story of "Survival," but also of "Resilience and Redemption," just as the tagline reads. Louis's POW experience is definitely the grittiest part of the book, but there is so much more than that....there's his adventurous childhood as the town rascal and thief, his foray into becoming a world-class runner, his family, his post-war trauma, and the experiences that finally brought him peace.
This is a book about a man who has experienced the full circle of life and has lived to tell about it. Laura Hillenbrand writes with such amazing quality, you feel like you're seeing everything as it is happening.
I won't say anymore about it, except to implore you, again, to read it. I found a video from the Today show to include that will, hopefully, whet your appetite. Some of the other videos about it give away too much.
I recommend this book HIGHLY...for everyone. I also recommend that, if you are planning on reading it, to avoid the videos that tell a lot about it. The less you know, the more powerful the book will be when you read it.
(Be sure to pause the music below before viewing the video...)
Saturday, December 3, 2011
After that we headed over to a nearby stake center to view the local display called Festival of the Nativities. The flyer we had said there were 600 nativities to see there and we knew we were in for a treat.
The inside of the gym was set up like a Christmas boutique with low lighting and lots of twinkle lights and mini fountains. Whoever was in charge of this did a beautiful job. And there, on several tables were tons and tons of nativity sets, just as the flyer said. They were all shapes, sizes, colors, and textures.
Here are a few of my favorites:
I think you'll agree that the one made of abstract rock designs is the most unique!
Here are a few photos of the tables. Click on any to see a larger version.
It was a fun day, capped off by seeing this beautiful display that, obviously, took a lot of work to do, all for the pure enjoyment of the public.
And what is so special about these last 3 nativities? If you guessed that they are special because they are the ones at our house, you're right!
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
It is funny how you plan your day and it turns out differently than you expected...
Yesterday, after spending hours working on the living room Christmas tree, I bought some groceries and was ready to relax a little before Eric came home. I had just sat down at the computer, when Ashley, next to me on the little 3-foot kitty pedestal, started kicking around and acting weird. I thought she had snagged her claw and was panicking. Then she fell off the pedestal and was still kicking around. Then I realized...she was having a huge seizure. It seemed endless, but probably lasted a minute. I felt very helpless and she just kept looking at me. When it was over, she was dazed and breathing heavily. Poor kitty!
I called our vet, who is wonderful, and she took us as soon as we got to the animal clinic. There were no obvious reasons why this happened, except Ashley's age. She wants to do a whole panel of blood tests, which are pri--cey! Upon hearing other people's experiences with their cats and seizures, I think the best thing to do is wait and monitor her for a few days. I don't want to make a rash decision and don't want her to suffer either. I'll just keep an eye on her for a while. Today she's her old self.
Well, MY old 40-year old self was walking up the steps to a friend's house this morning for a nice get-together, when my legs went flying out from under me as they hit the slippery wooden deck. You know how things go in slow motion at the same time as they're going fast? That is what this fall was like. Then I landed nice and hard on my right bum cheek, my purse and keys flying in different directions, and my white sweater and grey sweats getting coated with a line of muddy yuckiosity. My friend apologized profusely and put down a rug for future guests, all of whom made it inside unscathed. The hot chocolate, homemade cinnamon rolls, and lovely company were great buffers for what happened.
The stains have almost all come out, but I did have a headache for most of the day and have been generally achy all over. Mostly it was my pride that got bruised.
No matter how much I convince myself that youth is a state of mind, my body reminded me differently today. And I have a sudden urge to sing a verse of "The ol' grey mare just ain't what she used to be..."
Sunday, November 27, 2011
His family arrived around 4 and we ate at 4:30. This year we wanted to try making a ham, and what a success it was! There was also turkey, stuffing, mashed taters and gravy, cranberry sauce, salad, and green bean casserole. Nummy! And, of course, pie!
Everyone stayed until about 8:30 and it was nice and relaxing.
The next day, we invited Eric's nephew over for a few hours. He adores Eric and never gets enough time with him. We played UNO, made spaghetti, did karaoke, and watched Finding Nemo.
THING 2: Unbroken
I have to take a moment and give a plug for the book I'm reading--Unbroken--by Laura Hillenbrand (author of Seabiscuit.) Can I just say WOW, WOW, WOW.
It is the true story of Olympic runner Louie Zamperini and his POW experience after being captured by the Japanese during WWII.
The book is amazing. I can certainly see why it was #1 on so many lists for so many weeks.
It is readable and just detailed enough to make you feel like you're living the experiences right along with him.
I've been wanting to read this book for months, but didn't want to buy it. Then when Kindle library loans became available I quickly put this in my queue. It took a month to become available (I think I was 36th in line) and completely worth the wait.
I don't know if it is because I'm not working and have the time and energy to devote to a book, or if it is just written better than Seabiscuit, or if it is the subject (WWII has always fascinated me,) but I'm having a hard time putting this book down.
Everyone.....EVERYONE...should put this on their list of books to read. Everything about it is so powerful.
THING 3: Black Friday
Am I the only one completely appalled at the behavior on this day? I'm all for grabbing a good bargain, but more often than not this day seems to bring out the worst in people.
I'd rather pay a little more and be able to look at myself in the mirror knowing that I didn't deck some poor old lady in the attempt to snag that last $200 laptop.
I won't say any more about Black Friday except to say that I'm a proud BF boycotter. In my mind, it just isn't worth it.
Because I want to end on a positive note, not focusing on bargain-crazy shoppers, I'll finish by adding a link to the Unbroken site (which, apparently, just had the movie rights sold.) You can visit it HERE, although I don't feel like the excerpt does the book justice. But once you start the book, you will be hooked. It is a POW account like none I've ever read, and it makes the horrors of war very real (without being overly graphic, just realistic...) If the link doesn't take you directly there, click on "About Unbroken" from the top menu. I just want to tell everyone about this book, because when you come across a story that's this amazing, you want to spread the word!
Saturday, November 26, 2011
....you CAN put up your tree now.
....you CAN start your Christmas shopping (if you haven't already!)
....you CAN play Christmas music (directed at those eager radio stations.)
....you CAN hunt for those great deals (as long as no one gets hurt in the process...)
Straight No Chaser "Christmas Can Can"
But, you SHOULD remember the real reason for the holiday season. As long as we don't lose sight of that, the accompanying stress will be put into perspective.
Tis the season! Let the merriment begin!
P.S. Be sure to pause the music in the player at the bottom of the page before listening to the video.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
So, in an attempt to maintain the spirit of gratitude this Thanksgiving, I am trying to not over- stress, over-freak, and over-clean. We are hosting Eric's family tomorrow afternoon--thank goodness we are sharing the food responsibilities--and I have to remind myself that no one is going to be checking the dust level on the dresser in the guest room or wonder why the dining room chairs aren't polished. I have a tendency to focus on details that no one cares about when we are having company when the really important thing is to just Calm...Down. Oh, and also to just enjoy the day.
If I don't spend hours cleaning and preparing, I actually enjoy myself better once the company arrives. It isn't that I'm over-the-top OCD, but I do put more pressure on myself than anyone else puts on me. (I won't go into great detail about how I went in circles for over half an hour at Fred Meyer last night trying to put together a suitable centerpiece. But after multiple combinations with candles, real flowers, fake flowers, wreaths, and other objects, I ended up buying only one decorative candle with a glass hurricane covering and some little pebbles to scatter around it.)
Today being the day before the holiday, I have to prioritize and decide where to best put my energy in preparation for tomorrow. I was raised that you use your best china, utensils and linens for holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, so that is something I do not skimp on. The Waterford wedding china and stemware will come out (only 8 place settings will be necessary, which I know Eric will give me a hard time about because I insisted on getting 10,) the gold chargers, my grandma's silver, and the extensions for the dining room table. And yes, I will set the table 1 day before. My grandma was a great example of this...although she didn't have 3 very curious cats who like to sniff, investigate, and possibly walk on the newly set table.
We are also getting our chimney inspected today--yay! We have 2 fireplaces, one upstairs and one downstairs, which share a chimney, and Eric thought we shouldn't burn any fires until we know the shape they are in. Probably a sound decision, and I do love a fire in the fireplace when there is company. It makes the house feel more homey.
Then there are the other tediums, like cleaning the bathrooms, getting the wrinkles out of the tablecloth, and general house upkeep. Not easy tasks when Eric is sleeping off graveyard shifts until tomorrow and sleeps until about 2pm.
OK, now that I read this I see that even at the minimum, there is still a lot to do today. Better get busy!
It is now 7:35pm, Thanksgiving Eve. The table is set and I think I've done pretty good at pacing myself and not overdoing it. Although tomorrow's group has already shrunk to 6, possibly 5 of us! That's OK. The important thing for those of us who will be here is to enjoy each other's company and count our blessings. Oh, and to eat!
Saturday, November 19, 2011
On this rainy Saturday afternoon, with Eric in bed fighting a cold, I'm in a quiet house with my laptop moved to the kitchen table thinking about my blessings. There are a lot. I'm sure if I thought hard I could think of much more than 30, but these are the ones that stand out the most, in no particular order:
1. My Husband: Meeting my husband, Eric, in January 2009, kicked off an incredible chain of events I never would've predicted. Who would've thought that a simple "hello" message on MySpace would lead to a wonderful friendship, then a short courtship, then a wedding, then an interstate move, and life with the man I know I was meant to be married to? He is a gem and a blessing. He is my best friend, he accepts and loves me fully with all of my flaws, he tells me he loves me many times a day, and he makes me laugh all the time. I feel loved, valued, respected, and protected. I cannot imagine my life without him.
2. My Mom: My mom, a single mother, provided my brother and me with a very stable childhood, despite the numerous challenges she faced--divorce, financial difficulties, getting her degree, and being a working mom. We never felt like something was missing, she supported us in all we did and does still. She raised us to have high standards in all we do and has shown us a level of trust that I really appreciate. I also appreciate the emphasis she put on education and going to college. When talking about college, it was never "if you go," but "WHEN you go!"
3. My Family: It seems like in the last 5-6 years, my family has gone through a lot of changes. The grandkids are grown up, 4 out of 7 now live out of CA, 4 out of 7 are now married, and we don't all see each other as much as we used to. When both of my mom's parents died in 2008, it was really the end of an era, because so many family gatherings used to be at their house. For most of us, that was the only place we had ever had Christmas Eve. But, even though we have had a lot of changes, those wonderful memories have helped us to adjust and find new ways to carry on and create new traditions. We 7 cousins are still very close, thanks to email and Facebook, even though we are spread across the country from California and Washington to New Jersey and Mississippi. I credit that closeness to the many family gatherings and traditions we built during our younger years.
4. Our House: As a self-professed homebody, the house I live in and the atmosphere in it is very important to me. When it became apparent that Eric and I were going to live in Washington state, not California, we didn't have a lot of chances to look at houses together. In fact, we only saw the inside of 4....a townhouse and a house in Vancouver, a house in a nearby neighborhood, and the house here in Longview where we now live. There just wasn't a lot of time, and the fact that I would be bringing a dog and 3 kitties into the mix didn't make things easier. All of that changed when he showed me the Old West Side neighborhood, which is full of trees and right near Lake Sacajewea and its surrounding park. I had a list of things I required in a house...not a tract home, lots of natural light, good neighborhood, a formal dining room and family room, and all of those things we found in the house we are living in. Sure, it has it's quirks, like the "ski jump" roof, and the very orange kitchen, but I love this house. We have made it our own and look forward to many happy years here.
5. My Ward: When I look back a year ago at this time, I had not started back to church yet, the weather was very dreary, and I had a lot more time on my hands because I was not working and the house was officially furnished and the moving boxes all unpacked. The winter blues and a little bit of loneliness were beginning to settle in, which probably added to the misery I felt during our first Christmas here and my first away from my family. Shortly after Christmas, I began attending church and became more familiar with the members of the Longview 1st Ward, so many of whom confided that I was so lucky to be in that ward because it was the best in the stake. Lack of humility aside, they were right! The people have embraced me and Eric in ways I only could've hoped and I've made lots of wonderful friends these last few months. The leaders are wonderful and the women in Relief Society are some of the more loving and talented ladies I've ever known. My ward family has definitely become my social lifeline since moving up here.
6. Eric's Job: After working full-time for 15 years, it seemed unfathomable to me to be a homemaker. I expected it to be boring and unfulfilling. Now that I'm in my 2nd year in my "new job," I admit I really enjoy it. I'm not into crafts, sewing, scrapbooking and other things like that, but I do enjoy taking care of the house. I don't mind cleaning and doing laundry (which, even with 2 people feels neverending,) and even cooking nightly dinners is something I like doing. I like knowing that Eric comes home to a good meal that I prepared, and it is one way that I feel like I'm taking care of my husband. So in that way, I'm very grateful for Eric's job, which makes it possible for us to be a 1 income family.
7. A Sound Mind: A weird thing to put, I know, but I am very grateful for a healthy and sound mind. I'm grateful for good common sense that has led me to some sound life decisions. I'm grateful to be a person who does not rush into things, for creativity, for the ability to read and absorb information. And I'm grateful that I'm not someone who gets bored and depressed easily. As some wise person said, "Nobody likes a whiner."
8. The Menagerie: And, last but not least....even though they drive me nuts sometimes, I must admit that I'm grateful for my pets, my big black dog, Bailey, and kitties Darcy, Ashley, and Ramius. They give unconditional love, Bailey makes me feel protected when Eric is working at night, and the kitties love to snuggle. They were especially great company for all those years as a single person living alone. And, although we probably won't keep so many pets once the older ones pass away, we'll still have Ramius and (most likely) a dog (the bigger, the better, in my opinion!)
Yes, I'm feeling very, very blessed.