Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas Journal - December 30

Next to the last day of the month!  How quickly it has gone.

Lisa, the kids, and I went out to do a little shopping today and to have lunch.  It was a nice break.  Later, I stayed at home with Brooks while Lisa and Ashby had some time together.  They went to see Daddy for a little bit, since Ashby was missing him big time.  They also did some more shopping.  It was good for everyone.  Brooks was really good and he and I had a lot of fun.

I just about finished getting all the tree decorations down.  Hopefully the tree will be out the door by Saturday.  It will be really nice to get the house back in order.  With Lisa and the kids here, plus all the Christmas boxes stacked everywhere, it has been pretty chaotic.  I do not do well when it gets that way!

So the Christmas season is winding down and I am thinking about next year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas Journal - December 29

So why is it that almost every year, the final "Christmas" present of the year is a cold?  I haven't felt good all day - terrible headache - stuffy nose - you know the routine.  I am hoping it is just a little sinus congestion and will clear up quickly.

Lisa and the kids have been here all week while David does some work at their house - messy stuff, like sanding and painting.  Poor Brooks had to go to the doctor with an ear infection and also has a cold.

I could do without this!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas Journal - December 28

Well, started taking down Christmas decorations.  I haven't touched the tree yet, but most everything else is down and packed into storage boxes.  I will probably tackle the tree over the weekend - or whenever I can't stand it any longer!  It is amazing how decorations are so fun and festive when they are first put up, but once Christmas is over, they seem messy and irritating.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Journal - December 27

Well, actually Christmas is over - but I thought I would follow on through to the end of the month.  This has been an "ordinary" day - or at least it was until Lisa and kids came over.  David is doing sanding, painting, and other messy things at the house, so they came over to get out of the way and to spend the night.

How fun to have them here.  Ashby and Brooks are so entertaining that you don't need anything else!  Having little children around certainly helps keep the happy spirit of Christmas around.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Journal - December 26

Letdown day after.  But, didn't really turn out that way.  I straightened the house a little, worked on some genealogy for my friend who is in hospice and got it printed for her, worked on some Relief Society things, took a nap - turned out to be a relaxed day.

Got a phone call from friends from when we lived in Florida.  We had last seen them about 16 years ago or so when they made a trip through Atlanta.  They had gotten the Christmas letter and looked up our phone number and called.  It was fun talking to them and catching up on everything.

Lisa, David and kids came over and had pizza with us so they could leave their car.  It needs a repair and that is part of their Christmas present.  They took our car for the day.  Hopefully it will only take the one day.

I went to bed early, finished the book I have been reading, and fell asleep happy.  It was a good day. 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Journal - December - Christmas Day!

What a wonderful Christmas Day!  With no children to wake us up, we were able to sleep in.  I fixed a sausage, cream cheese, and crescent rolls dough breakfast thingy, which we love.  Church was delayed until 11:00, so we had a nice relaxed morning.

Church was great.  We combined with the other ward in the building, so it was like a stake conference!  Attendance was much larger than they had expected.  The program was music with two speakers and was wonderful.  What better way to celebrate the birth of the Savior than to be in church.

In the afternoon, Lisa, David, Ashby and Brooks came over.  We had a honey-baked ham, potato salad, green beans, jello salad dinner.  Lisa added sweet potatoes and fruit salad.  It was very yummy.  Then we opened presents.  Ashby was so excited.  She helped pass out the gifts and then helped everyone open them, too.  She loved everything!

Later, we fixed chocolate fondue for a late dessert.  As always, we loved it.

It has been a good Christmas Day and a good Christmas season.  Trying to simplify and make things more Christ centered has made it even more so.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Journal - December 24 - Christmas Eve!

We had our annual family dinner and gift exchange at my nephew David's house.  His wife Nancy did a beautiful job of planning everything.  There were about 24 people and four dogs in attendance!  The traditional dinner is homemade tacos.  My assignment was to bring my Tex-Mex dip.  Everything was really good - and there was more than we could possibly have eaten!

Then we did a gift exchange.  Each person had brought a gift in the $10-$15 range and all the gifts were put in the middle of the room.  We then drew numbers to determine the order in which gifts would be drawn.  The next person could either take a gift that had already been opened or open a new one.  It is a common game.  We had a fun time.  My gift was a box of four beautiful Christmas ornaments.  I am delighted.

We then finished off with desserts.  Nancy had made a cheesecake.  Julie had made a chocolate bundt cake.  Plus, there were homemade candies and cookies.  It was all a very nice evening.

Brooks was definitely the hit.  At one year old, we never know what mood he will be in, but he had the best time ever.  He absolutely loved the dogs and followed them around everywhere.  He didn't show the least bit of fear or hesitation at all.  He kept laughing and signing "dog" and trying to say it, as well.  There is one step from the kitchen to the living room and he negotiated it dozens of times.  A few times, he tumbled, but he would just rub his head and then keep moving.  As David said, "Brooks was the best entertainment of the evening."

Ashby totally loved being with her cousins, especially Lizzie.  There were pretty tight!

It is nice to have family traditions and we enjoyed being with all the Atlanta family who were in town for Christmas Eve.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Journal - December 23

Well, the day of finishing everything......  I got the last of the grocery shopping done - just the fresh stuff since I had everything else done earlier.......   I got the rest of the gifts wrapped, except for the two little ones to take to the family party........ It is looking like Christmas will come with no problems!

We had the ward Christmas party this evening.  It was called a night in Bethlehem and it started by having to pay our "taxes" (canned food for the local food pantry).  Everyone got a bag with gold chocolate coins for buying things. It progressed through a couple of games, like fishing in the Sea of Galilee for goldfish crackers, tossing a ring to get a bottle of water, etc.  Then came potato soup and rolls for dinner.  There was also a cookie table and a toy store - not sure what else.

After everyone had eaten, we had the nativity play.  It went well and everyone seemed to have a really good time.  Turnout was much more than expected - probably 170 or so people.  It was a nice way to get into the Christmas weekend.

Lisa and kids came, too, until Brooks got just too tired.  Ashby was so excited to see the baby Jesus and Mary.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Journal - December 22

Practiced for the ward Christmas play this evening.  I am playing the piano.  Bill and the rest of the bishopric are the wise men.  The play is cute - just the Christmas story, but fun to see ward members play all the parts.  It should help add to the Christmas spirit.

I was pleased that everyone was there for the rehearsal and that most everyone had their lines pretty much memorized.  This was only the second practice, but they knew what they were supposed to do.  It has been a long time since the ward did a Christmas play and I think it is a great idea.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Journal - December 21

First day of winter - Christmas in a few days - and the weather is warm, in the 60's, with rain.  Growing up in Iowa, there was virtually always snow for Christmas.  Having lived so many years in Florida, we got used to no snow at all.  Here in Atlanta, it is a surprise every year.

Our first year back, temp was in the single digits, but no snow.  The next year, it was almost 80 and the kids were playing basketball in the driveway in short sleeve shirts.  One of the things I like about Atlanta is that it doesn't get too cold, we have a little snow most years, but it doesn't last more than a day or two, and it is all totally unpredictable.

Having said all that, I still love snow at Christmas.  At least, I love the snow in pictures.  It does feel more "Christmasy" somehow.  I am not sure I want it to snow here, though.  I think I will get my "snow fix" from Christmas cards and pictures.  That works for me.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Journal - December 20

Well, today I went out and tried to finish up most of the little shopping that was left.  I made stops at several stores, looking for stocking suffers, and a few other little odds and ends.  It was really the first day that I had actually done any shopping.  I did most of the big stuff online earlier.  It was just enough to get the spirit of Christmas without getting overwhelmed.

I have one more gift to pick up - already bought and paid for - and some grocery shopping to do.  Then wrapping everything and getting the gifts under the tree.  Knowing me, there will be something that I forgot and I will have to run out one more time.  That seems to be the way it always works!

I also sent out the Christmas letter today.  I decided to keep that simple, too.  I had already written up the letter and attached some pictures.  I went through and emailed it to everyone that I could.  That left about 18 or 20 that I actually mailed out.  I had already received some responses back before bedtime. 

This has been a good Christmas shopping season, as we have tried to keep things much simpler.  It has meant that I have enjoyed it much more.  I have also concentrated more on the other things, besides gifts, that make this season special.  Doing this daily Christmas journal has really helped with that.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Journal - December 19

Flash mobs at malls have become fairly common - although I still think it is neat.  Today, a friend sent a video of a flash mob done by Journey of Faith.  It is the best one I have seen yet.  The music is beautiful and well-done.  They did several songs for a nice variety.  The ending had Mary, Joseph, and the baby walk in.  Very powerful - brought tears, for sure.

I love these kinds of special reminders of the birth of Christ.  It helps to push the hustle,bustle stuff to the back, even if for just a few minutes.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Journal - December 18

We spent most of the day traveling back home from Las Vegas.  Glad it was a wonderful trip and that everyone arrived home safely.  Now I am looking to this last week before Christmas and wondering how I am going to get everything done.

It is so easy to get caught up in all the hustle and bustle of Christmas and forget the pleasures.  I think I have done pretty well, so far.  So now my challenge is to find a way to complete the rest of the things I want to do without becoming overwhelmed.  That will start with making a list of what I want to do, whittling it down to what I really need to do, and then scheduling it out so it gets done without becoming a burden. 

I have a calendar from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir by my computer.  This month's picture is the Christmas concert in 2008.  Every time I look at it, I am reminded of the reason for Christmas.  I will need to look it at often as I plan out my week.  I am determined not to get caught up in any frenzy!!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Journal - December 17

The wedding at the temple was this morning.  I can't begin to express how wonderful that was.  Margaret Ann is such a wonderful person, and to have finally found someone worthy of her, and to get to see them married in the temple, was beyond description!

For the reception that evening, she wore a red suit and the hall was decorated beautifully with Christmas trees and candles and other seasonal decorations.  Everything was so well done.

My Christmas thoughts today go to the Savior and the blessings of the restoration, especially the blessings of the temple.

Christmas Journal - December 16

I am playing a little catchup here, since we were out of town.

On Friday, we flew to Las Vegas for a wedding.  We spent the evening with a couple of my college roommates and their husbands.  We went down to the strip, to the Bellagio, and toured the conservatory.  It was gorgeous - tons of flowers and Christmas decorations. It really made me feel "Christmasy."

Then we went out front to watch the fountains.  The first performance was to The Hallelujah Chorus and it was magnificent!  Wow!  That's all there is to say.  Any of the music from The Messiah is stirring, but the Chorus and the fountains was a whole new - and wonderful - experience!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Journal - December 15

We will be out of town attending a wedding this weekend, so my day has mostly revolved around laundry, packing, and other last minute things.  When that happens, it is easy to completely forget that it is Christmas season.

I did have an experience that made me grateful for blessings, though.  I discovered at the last minute that my temple recommend had expired at the end of November - I thought it was good until February!  A few hasty phone calls and it was all taken care of - thanks to the priesthood brethren who are so kind and loving!

Anyway, it made me remember how much I appreciate the blessings of the temple.  It is why the Savior came to earth in the first place - so that we would have a way to return to Him.  I am so grateful for the Atonement and all the blessings that brings.  When all is said and done, it wasn't the birth that mattered so much as what He did while He was here.  I needed to remember that during this Christmas season.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Journal - December 14

This was a busy, but not particularly "Christmasy" day.  However, one thing that happened turned my thoughts to service at Christmas.  In our Relief Society presidency meeting, we were discussing which families were struggling to provide a nice Christmas, especially for their children.  One of the families we discussed touched me with a particular impact.

Some people live with such dignity and work so hard to take care of themselves.  They often are the first on the line when someone needs something, yet they can barely make ends meet themselves.  Such is the family that touched me.  This is a family that I have always loved and respected, but I gained a new insight into just how much they are carrying.  My thoughts are going in circles as I am trying to figure out a way to offer some extra Christmas cheer to them.

There is nothing like thinking of the needs of others to turn your thoughts away from yourself.  I am still looking forward to what I am going to figure out!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Journal - December 13

I met up with Lisa and kids for lunch at Atlanta Bread Company.  Then they came over to the house and I kept the kids so Lisa could get a haircut and run some errands - all by herself!  We had a lot of fun - they are both so good!

While Brooks was taking a nap, Ashby and I made an ornament out of popsicle sticks.  She colored four popsicle sticks with a red marker.  Then she put fake red and green jewels on the end of each stick.  Then we glued them together in the centers, fanning them out into the shape of a star.  When the glue had dried, she added more Jewels across the top stick.  It turned out really cute and she loved it.

So, making our first Christmas ornament together - now that is what Christmas is all about!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Journal - December 12

We hosted the monthly Empty Nesters Family Home Evening this evening.  I spent the day getting the rest of the decorating done.  Lisa, Ashby, and Brooks came over and got the tree decorated (the lights were on, but that was all!)  So the place looked pretty good, if I do say so myself!  Even a humble home is beautiful when it is all decorated for Christmas.

We had a smaller turnout than usual, since we had several who have health problems and were unable to come.  Our activity was to put together a care package for the missionary from our ward who is serving in Argentine.  (He won't get it until January, but missionaries love a package anytime!)  Some of the group forgot to bring their items, so we will finalize the package on Sunday.  It was still good to focus on someone else for a little while.

We also shared stories of Christmas memories - some poignant, many funny, all bringing forth more memories.  We finally had to call a stop since it was getting late.  Such evenings are fun.  We enjoy socializing.  We all bring something for refreshment (and we had some really good stuff this time!)  We laugh and we share.  This time, we also felt the Christmas spirit as we focused on someone else.  I love Christmas!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Journal - December 11

Sundays are always good days with attending church meetings and being touched by spiritual talks and lessons and interacting with wonderful people.  It was also my father's 84th birthday and I talked to him briefly.  He was in the middle of a big birthday party, so it was a short conversation.

What brought the special Christmas spirit for the day was the social at the bishop's home.  He and his wife always invite the members of the ward council and their families to enjoy an evening together during the Christmas season.  There was food and socializing.  Their home was decorated beautifully, which added to the special spirit.  It was a nice evening and I left feeling the wonderful spirit of Christmas.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas Journal - December 10

We went to the Sugar Hill Stake Choir concert this evening.  Our daughter Lisa is in the choir.  They always do an excellent job and the Christmas concert is particularly nice.  It was all sacred music, some familiar songs, some new, at least to me.

We went with David and Ashby.  Brooks stayed home with a babysitter.  Ashby was so enthralled as we walked in and she saw the decorations.  She is totally into the baby Jesus story and Christmas lights.  She found her mommy in the choir and then cuddled up with her daddy to listen.  Partway through, she moved over to Grandpa and then to Grandma, so everyone got a little cuddle time.

There is nothing better than being surrounded by incredibly beautiful Christmas music and cuddling with a cute granddaughter!  Yes, I do believe I caught some of the real spirit of Christmas!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Christmas Journal - December 9

We went to dinner at the home of some friends and then helped her get set up on doing some family history.  It was a nice evening.  We drove different routes over to their house and then back home.  The number of homes that are decorated with lots of lights and other decorations seems to be more than it has been in recent years.  I hope that is a sign that people are feeling better about everything.

At one point, we missed the turn so had to turn around.  The neighborhood we drove into to turn around had the house with the best decorations we saw all evening.  Just goes to show that all mistakes are not bad ones!

Seeing all the homes so brightly decorated is really a great way to feel the Christmas spirit!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Christmas Journal - December 8

Well, this morning we finally got the Christmas decorations out of the attic.  I know, most people decorate right after Thanksgiving.  I am just a little slow - I don't like to rush things.  Anyway, I got about half of the house stuff out and it is looking good.  I plan to finish the rest on Friday and then we will get the tree on Saturday.  Bill plans to put up some outside lights, too.

I got the mantle done - that's Christmas stockings and Santa Clauses.  I also got most of the nativity sets out.  Those are my favorite decorations.  I think I have six out right now and there are still a couple of small ones somewhere.  Today, I will get the flower pot soldiers, the nutcrackers, the village, and a few other odds and ends.

Putting out the decorations does bring a spirit of Christmas into the home.  I love that feeling.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas Journal - December 7

Anniversary of Pearl Harbor - had me thinking a lot about all the lives lost that day and in the days and years that followed.  Led me to thinking about all those soldiers serving today and their families who are missing them, especially during the Christmas season. 

One of the community service projects I found to share with our Relief Society sisters was that of a young 12 year old girl who is collecting socks to send to soldiers.  One of the families is doing a service project every day for this month.  She told me the other night that they had gotten socks and donated to that project.  I thought that was wonderful.

I can't bring the soldiers home for Christmas, but I am happy that some soldier will get some new socks and will know that people care.  That is the true Christmas spirit!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas Journal - December 6

We had our Relief Society Christmas social this evening.  It was deliberately designed to be low-key, relaxing, and inspiring.  It was held in a home, instead of at the church, so that helped create that kind of atmosphere.

One of the young adults, who is about to head out to BYU-Idaho, played a solo on her violin.  It was the Janice Kapp Perry song about "The Least of These."  The words were read prior to her playing, so everyone's thoughts were focused on the message, as well as the beauty of the music.  I remember Lisa singing that song several times, so I enjoyed it very much.

The Compassionate Service leader then spoke about service, loving and supporting one another, and choosing good, better, best.  She did a marvelous job of bringing such a wonderful spirit into the room.  Her closing remarks about her grandmother who recently passed away were especially poignant.  Her grandmother was blind from the age of four and lived such a full life, serving others.  It was a wonderful message for the Christmas season.

The rest of the evening was just socializing.  There was a hot chocolate bar with lots of goodies to add to the hot chocolate and snickerdoodle cookies, my favorite kind!  It was really nice to see sisters getting better acquainted.  There were several sisters who are new and I know they felt more a part of the group.  No one was in a hurry to leave, so I know they were enjoying that special sister-hood feeling.

As everyone left, they were invited to take an ornament from the Relief Society.  These were purchased last year from Israel and are made of olive wood and are intricately carved holiday scenes.  They were also given out last year, but everyone loved finding just the right one to take home this time.

It was a wonderful evening that accomplished its purpose - another great reminder of what the Christmas season is about.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christmas Journal - December 5

Ashby didn't want to go home Sunday evening, so she spent the night with us.  I don't have most of the Christmas decorations out yet, but there was a Melissa and Doug wooden nativity for children, plus a couple of other special nativity displays that I had out.  She spent most of her time Sunday playing with them.  That continued the next morning, so most of her play time at Grandma's was all about "baby Jesus."  She is totally captivated with the story.

Later in the morning, we drug out the dress up stuff and had to act out the story.  The cutest was when she dressed up as Mary.  She had her baby doll wrapped in "swaddling clothes" and used a little basket for the manger.  When I took a picture, she would not look up or smile.  All the nativity figures show Mary kneeling by the baby Jesus, and looking down at him with a face full of love.  She stayed in character.  Here is the picture:

This totally made my day!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Christmas Journal - December 4

The highlight of the first Sunday of December is always the First Presidency Christmas Devotional.  And that was true again this evening.  The Tabernacle Choir and the Orchestra at Temple Square were fabulous - they can do a standard Christmas hymn and make it so incredibly beautiful.

I enjoyed Elder Uchtdorf's sharing of the story when he started a fire at Christmas as a child.  And, to his surprise, it did not ruin Christmas.  He then talked about the real meaning of Christmas.

Elder Eyring shared the Christmas story and then introduced the new video vignettes about the birth of Christ.  They were beautiful and very touching.

President Monson closed with his expression of love for all and reminding us to keep Christ in our hearts as that is the way we keep Christmas.

This is a wonderful way to start the Christmas season with the right attitude.  I certainly felt the spirit.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Christmas Journal - December 3

I wasn't feeling well all day - woke up with a terrific sore throat and a terrible headache.  I didn't accomplish much and even took a long nap.  I think it is probably just a sinus thing and should be gone in the next day or two.  Needless to say, I wasn't in the mood to do any decorating for Christmas.  I did turn on the Holiday music on Sirius and that was nice.

One of the blogs I follow is called keepacpitchinin and is mostly about things from church history.  For December, she is posting a short story each day.  The stories all come from old church magazines, especially the old Relief Society magazine.  I did have enough energy to read yesterday's story and thought it was really cute.  The message was that everyone just needs love.  Even grouchy old men have smiles and respond to children who befriend them.  In the end, he joined the family for Christmas Eve and everyone was happy.  A little trite, perhaps, and sappy, too, but a good message to remember as we get into the Christmas season.  We need to learn to accept people where they are and as they are and just love them.  Sometimes, it will make all the difference in their lives.  So, it is time to put on the smile and speak loving words to everyone I meet.  I hope I do that all the time, but I will make a bigger effort to make sure that a little Christmas spirit comes into the life of everyone I meet this season.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Christmas Journal - December 2

I saw in the paper that thieves had stolen one of the kettles from a Salvation Army collection stand.  I couldn't believe it - how could anyone do that?

It reminded me of when my children were all small.  In those days, the bell ringer was always dressed as Santa.  We had a tradition to put coins in every kettle we saw.  I kept plenty in my purse and whenever the children saw the Santa, they would take some coins and each would drop them in the kettle.  They were always so excited and would grin from ear to ear.  It was one of the things that made each of them so willing to give to help others.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Christmas Journal - December 1

At church last Sunday, one of the speakers was talking about having the real Christmas spirit.  One of the things she mentioned was to keep a Christmas Journal.  Since I enjoyed doing my Gratitude Journal last month, I thought I would try it.  I hope to post something each day about Christmas.  I am not putting any restrictions on what I notice, but it will be something about Christmas each day.

So, the first day of December is Brooks' birthday.  We had dinner with Lisa and family and some birthday cake.  He had had his birthday party a few days ago.  It was the first time we had been to their house since they put up the trees and other decorations.

Ashby was so excited to show us everything they had done.  In the living room, there is a small artificial tree that had lights, but just a few ornaments.  That will be the preschool tree and as they make ornaments, the children will hang them on the tree and will then take theirs home on the day of the Christmas party.  What ornaments are on the tree are figures of the nativity.  They are very small and precious.  Ashby was quick to find the one with "the baby Jesus."  As we toured the rest of the house, she made a point to always point out every baby Jesus.

Their family home evening lesson on Monday had been the story of the birth of baby Jesus and she seems to have really caught that spirit.  What a wonderful way to start the season - by remembering about baby Jesus.  After all, that is the only reason there is a Christmas season.  She certainly seems to have the vision.  I hope we all keep it through the whole month!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Gratitude Journal - November 30

Wow!  The end of the month already!  I thought I would get tired of posting a daily thought about gratitude, but I have enjoyed it.  Each evening, I have thought carefully about what special event that day would be the source of giving thanks.  I had many days when I had several choices and just had to pick one.  (Rules I set for myself when I started.)

So for my last post, I am feeling gratitude for all the things I didn't mention.  I am grateful that my life is so full of blessings that picking 30 was so easy.  Or hard, if you consider that I had to skip so many.  In spite of struggles, heartaches, problems, and the general burden of life, I find that I have been blessed beyond measure.  I have family that I love and that love me.  I have material blessings that allow me to live comfortably.  I have the Gospel in my life which lets me know where I came from, why I am here, and where I am going.  Most of all, I have a Savior, who loved me and the rest of the world so much that He came to earth to teach us, set the example for living, suffer for our sins and pains, die for us, and then overcome death through resurrection.

I have a heart full of gratitude!!