Nice Look, Right?

I've had quite a few people ask how the surgery went -- and I thought I'd let you all know that it went well. I saw the dr. this morning and he told me that he did a lot of clean-up around the toe joint and removed quite a bit more bone than he did with the other foot. That explains the extra puffiness and bruising this time around.

I'm doing fine. I hate the crutches -- my upper body strength is just about zero and everything above my waist hurts because of it. ButI spend time with Mr. Vicodin who (along with Mark and Natalie) is taking care of everything. The down-side of the drugs is, of course, the ongoing grogginess. But even now I'm needing it less often than at first so it's all improving.

The real down-side is that I can't get the incision wet till the stitches come out -- so I am back to bathing with one leg out of the tub which isn't pretty (or efficient, really!). I keep reminding myself that it's all temporary.
I'm just grateful that I was able to get it done and that it went well. Crutches? Yuk. Big clunky shoe thingie? Yuk. But it won't last! (thank goodness!)

Welcome 2008

"We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day." ~Edith Lovejoy Pierce

Add these words by an anonymous writer and my feelings exactly have been expressed:

"Dear Lord, please give me a few friends who understand me and remain my friends; a work to do which has real value, without which the world would be the poorer; a mind unafraid to travel, even though the trail be not blazed; an understanding heart; a sense of humor; time for quiet, silent meditation; a feeling of the presence of God; the patience to wait for the coming of these things, with the wisdom to recognize them when they come. Amen."

These are my New Year's wishes for all of us. Happy New Year!


Family Ties

"It is in the love of one's family only that heartfelt happiness is known." (Thomas Jefferson)

Jefferson knew what he was talking about, didn't he? We are so blessed.


Today's the Day

Despite a few concerns (i.e. a pretty persistent case of laryngitis but no other real symptoms) that required a fast trip into a family doc yesterday, I have the OK to go ahead with Round #2 of foot surgery. This time it's the left one and I head for the surgery center in the next hour or so.

I'm hoping all will be well -- I'll let you know!


What a Haul!

We had a lovely Christmas and everyone was incredibly generous. I'm so thankful that we had the whole family together -- it was noisy, messy and chaotic but such fun and such good food! Add that to the company and you can't beat it.

Here's the list:
From Mark -- my beautiful ring, a pair of roller skates (he liked how much I enjoyed Natalie's BD party -- he even ordered 2 sizes to make sure he had the right size!) - and to go with that, knee, elbow and wrist pads so I don't break myself. He also got me some new fuzzy Crocs as Crocs are the only things that fit on swollen, sore feet (Surgery Round 2 is scheduled for tomorrow), a cute new sweater, a little tool set from IKEA so that I can find a hammer and/or a screwdriver when I want one, and probably other things that are escaping me right now.

From Chris and Tara -- a fabulous Life is Good shirt (one of my favorites, actually) a matching magnet for my fridge, and some cute, cuddly socks that match as well.

From Chris and Natalie - a beautiful coat from Old Navy. It's perfect.

From Math -- a picture frame full of pics of family, especially the kiddoes. He knows where my heart is!

From my sister Val -- a necklace, beautiful pair of diamond earrings, and some Moose socks. That's funny because we have called each other Moose and Ox for years. I know that I will never be able to find Ox socks for her!

And from friends - a multitide of wonderful things. Everyone was so generous and so loving. It really was the best Christmas ever.

The presents, though, are really just the frosting on a pretty incredible cake. When the celebration is about the birth of Jesus Christ, gifts, however wonderful, pale in comparison. But I know He loves seeing the gifts of love that have been shared this year.



I have been telling Mark for years that I wanted a beautiful diamond anniversary band. I had a wedding set when we got married but it was lost years ago. Over the years since, I have bought myself several really small bands but honestly, the only reason I picked them is because of the price -- cheap! So I never loved them and rarely wore them.

This year, I asked Mark to get me a nice-sized anniversary band that I could wear all the time but added that I wanted to help pick it out. So last week, we went to Jared (yes, "he went to Jared!" -- gasp!) and picked out exactly what I wanted. It's nothing flashy or even special except to me -- it's a yellow gold band with 1 ct. of diamonds around nearly the whole band.

It's beautiful. And it's exactly what I wanted. I love it. And I love the fact that Mark, who is a self-confessed jewelery-hater (he thinks it's too expensive and he just doesn't appreciate it) was wiling to spend what it took to get me what I wanted.

So along with all the other great stuff I got for Christmas (I'll work on publishing more about that tomorrow!), I got the diamond anniversary band I've wanted for a long time.

He's a keeper!


Let Earth Receive Her King

My hands-down, all-time favorite Christmas movie is"Nora's Christmas Gift". It is the story of Nora, a busy, active, service-oriented widow in a small community. As she grows older, however, she deals with macular degeneration and eventual blindness, hearing loss and other age-related maladies. She loses her zest for living, her sense of humor and spends most of her time feeling sorry for herself.

Nora's oldest friend Madeline watches and tries to help. Eventually, after a period of bitterness and self-pity, Nora finally is able to understand what the gift of the Savior means when Madeline asks her when she is going to do what the song "Joy to the World" tells her -- to receive.

Nora finally sees that all the service she did in the past couldn't take away the hurt of the loss of a loved one, of the pain of loneliness, or her own blindness. But Jesus came for that very purpose -- to take upon Himself those pains and all others humans deal with.
The gift was freely given. The lesson Nora learns (and that all of us need as well) is that we have to let go, look up and open our hearts and lives to this most priceless gift. To receive.

And so, at Christmas time, I wish you joy, love, comfort, gratitude and the sure knowledge that we have a loving Father who gave His Son that we might live again.

And I wish for all of us, the ability to receive.


Mom, Don't Spit on Me!

I think that moms forever have seen the children with dirty faces, spit on their fingers and tried to clean their faces off. My kids absolutely hated that -- and when I really thought about it, I got it. Yuk. Don't spit on me!

But now there's MomSpit -- a great rinse-free cleansar that goes right into the purse or diaper bag to take care of messy little faces.

And no yuk involved. Gotta love it!


Happy Anniversary to Us!

Look what I found on my kitchen table today. It's our anniversary! Yay for us -- I look back many years and wonder how we managed to pull through and end up where we are today. This girl from a small town in Southern Alberta in Canada happened to meet a boy from the big city of Denver, Colorado (in the United States, for heaven's sake!) and look at us now.

Today we have been married for 33 years (gasp! -- how did that happen? I still feel the same way inside as I did when we first met!), we both managed to graduate from college (he did it way sooner than I did - he did it in 1978 and it took me till 2004!), we have 3 wonderful, bright, funny and loving children, 2 equally wonderful in-laws, and 4 grandchildren that are the lights of our lives. We have lived at 23 different addresses in 11 different cities and 7 different states. We started out poverty-level poor and we can look back in amazement at the progress we've made over the past 33 years. We have come a long way together!

There have been church callings that we can't begin to count, jobs with more companies than I can remember, there have been multiple highs and lows but there has always been love. That's the bottom line. And if I was given the choice to do it again, I wouldn't change a thing. As the song by the Forrester Sisters says:

"I'd choose you again, I'd choose you again.
If God gave me the chance to do it all again.
Oh, I'd carefully consider every choice and then
Out of all the boys in the world I'd choose you again."
And I would. Without a second thought.

Love you, sweetie! Happy Anniversary! Let's have another 33 years together.

Christmas Joy in Music

Once again, it's all about the music for me. I'm listening to Amy Grant sing "Breath of Heaven" as I sit at the computer, and the line "Must I walk this path alone?" really jumped out at me (and covered me with goosebumps as well).

One thing I love about the gospel is that we know we don't have to walk alone. How thankful I am for that knowledge -- that Heavenly Father's hand is in each of our lives and will continue to be, as long as we allow it. What a tremendous gift.

Another piece of music really spoke to me last night as the ward choir rehearsed. The Angel's Carol by John Rutter is one of my favorites, probably because of the melding of beautiful words and music. (often you only get one or the other, but with John Rutter, you always get both). One phrase says :
"He will bring new light to a world in darkness,
Like a bright star shining in the skies above.
He will bring new hope to the waiting nations,
When He comes to reign in purity and love. "

I feel gratitude for the fact that He did come and I know it, and that He will come again and I know that too. He will bring hope, He will reign in purity and love and He has always been a bright star that brings light to a darkened world.

Henry Giles said, "A song will outlive all sermons in the memory". And it does. I think it lives in the heart, where it can be pondered and cherished again and again.


Kudos to Whole Foods

Yesterday in our newspaper, there was an article about the fact that Whole Foods is discontinuing the use of disposable bags in their store. They have always been very forward-looking in many areas but I was even more impressed with what I read in this article. We have their flagship store here in Austin and it's an amazing place. I give them a lot of credit for doing their part in conserving our resources. Natalie has already gone that direction, carrying re-useable bags with her everywhere she goes.

I guess it's time for me to get on board too. Easier said than done, I think. But yay for Whole Foods!


The Magic of Christmas

"The joy of brightening other lives, bearing each others' burdens, easing other's loads and supplanting empty hearts and lives with generous gifts becomes for us the magic of Christmas." (W. C. Jones)

That says it all, doesn't it? As I prepare a meal to take to a family that just welcomed a new baby, as I choose and wrap gifts for people I love, as I do small acts of service that might be meaningful to others-- in all these things, I feel the magic of Christmas sparkling inside me.

I love this time of year. I love seeing the magic of Christmas on the faces of others. I love seeing people stretch themselves to extend kindness and love to others. It really is magic.

More than that, I'm so thankful for a moment to reflect on the joy I feel in doing what I can to help celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. In that miraculous birth of one tiny baby boy, we received the greatest gift ever given. As we share ourselves with others this year, that becomes the greatest gift we can give back to Him.


Merry Christmas, Little Natalie (or a trip down memory lane)

Years ago, when our family was very young, we had several favorite Christmas albums. One was the Carpenters' Christmas Portrait, and another was John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together. We loved them both, and we played them non-stop at Christmas, or at least it seemed that way.

One year, when Natalie was probably 3 or 4 years old, she came to me and said, "Mom, would you play the Natalie song?" I was stumped -- and try as I might, I couldn't come up with an answer to that one. I questioned her repeatedly and she finally exploded at me, exasperated at my density: "You know, Mom! Merry Christmas, little Natalie! My song!"

The light went on. It finally occurred to me that she was talking about "A Baby Just Like You", which is one of the prettiest and sweetest songs on that album. But her song? Aha! I knew immediately. In a line very near the end of the song, John Denver used his own son's name and said "Merry Christmas, little Zachary, merry Christmas, everyone". Natie knew he was saying "Merry Christmas, little Natalie, merry Christmas everyone." And that, of course, made it her song.

She loved the thought that her name was in the song -- and we loved it that it pleased her. So much so, as a matter of fact, that we didn't feel we could let her know that it really wasn't her name. So every time that part of the song approached, Mark and I would go on alert and sing with John, (as loudly as possible) "Merry Christmas, little Natalie . . ." - so that she would never hear that it really was Zachary's name she was hearing, not hers. Over time, it just got to be a family tradition that we would all join in on that part of the song.

I'm not sure when she realized that it really wasn't her name -- I do remember that by the time she did, she was fine with it. But what a lovely memory -- and it's one that comes every time I hear the song.

That's one reason we made sure each of our kids and their families had their own copy of John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together. Sweet memories.

Merry Christmas, little Natalie. Merry Christmas, everyone!
**Afterthought: Anyone see the family resemblance? I see both Mason and Maya very clearly in their Mama as a child.

Yumminess!! Thanks, Stacie!

When we had our RS service auction in November, I offered 6 plates of Christmas goodies. The point was for the person who won them to have home made goodies to give to their neighbors, on a cute Christmas plate and not have to do the work themselves. I spent several days working on the goodies last week (they included fudge, peanut butter cookie bars, shortbread cookies with those yummy candy cane kisses on top, Rice Krispie Treats decorated with marshmallow cutouts of trees and poinsettias, and my old standby, magic cookie bars.) I had picked up a variety of plates (all Christmassy and cute), loaded them up with goodies, tied Saran Wrap around them with a ribbon, attached a candy cane and a decorative tag and delivered them to the person who 'bought' them at the auction. They looked so nice and I am wishing I had taken a picture of them.

So -- (to the point, now!) I was lucky enough to end up with our friend Stacie's cinnamon rolls, which she delivered to me today. Oh, my!! My, oh my!! Not only do they look delicious, they taste delicious. And I have not one but two dozen of them (OK, minus one) sitting on my counter right now.

Anyone care to join me? I'll warm up some hot chocolate too!

Thanks, Stacie! These are wonderful!


I Wonder when He Comes Again

Today in Primary, we talked about the fact that we believe that Jesus was born in Bethlehem -- and that we know He will come again. The classes did Sharing Time today and both were wonderful. In Sr. Primary, the teacher had requested that the children sing "I Wonder When He Comes Again".

It's a beautiful song anyhow, but when a group of children that I love dearly started singing it today, I just lost it. I made it through the first line, and then literally could not sing more. All I could do was sit there, listen to these wonderful children sing, feel the spirit and wipe away the tears.

What a gift, especially at the end of a really busy, stressful week. I felt I was hearing the voices of angels today and was so thankful that I was there. And if I was touched, imagine how grateful their Heavenly Father was to hear them singing about His son.


Christmas Prayer

A Christmas Prayer

Loving Father,
Help us remember the birth of Jesus,
that we may share in the song of the angels,
the gladness of the shepherds, and worship of the wise men.
Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world.
Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting.
Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings,
and teach us to be merry with clear hearts.
May the Christmas morning make us happy to be thy children,
and Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts,
forgiving and forgiven,
for Jesus' sake.
(Robert Louis Stevenson)

I pull this out every year at Christmas when I am feeling most pressure -- to buy, to bake, to wrap, to organize, to clean and to plan. There is so much going on and it's so easy to forget what Christmas really means.

Reading this calms my soul, reminds me of what is important, and brings back the gratitude which really is there (it's just buried!).
Read it. I think you'll find peace too.


An Explanation

Several times now (I hesitate to say 'repeatedly'), Holly has requested an explanation of what is wrong with "The Little Drummer Boy". (Again, I do like Josh Groban's version but will get to that later.) I figured it was time to enlighten her and anyone else who doesn't get it. Here's my reasons:

1. It's almost always done very slowly and in a long, boring fashion. It just takes too dang long to drag through it and it sounds the same same same all the time. Boring.

2. It has really dumb lame words (i.e. "pa-rum-pa-pum-pum". These are not great words. I get that they are supposed to sound like drums, but they don't.)

3. Usually when you even get some drumming action in the accompaniment (which - there should be a lot of drumming -- it's a song about drums!!) it's a big, booming bass drum that doesn't go with the music. Which itself is pretty repetitive and boring. (see above)

4. It's been performed by everyone and their dog. I've heard it performed by some very interesting performers (i.e. Johnny Cash, the Chipmunks, and some cowboy who sang it off-key and really slow) which doesn't add a thing to a song that doesn't have much going for it in the first place.

5. Need I say more?

But I do like Josh Groban's interpretation. Why?

1. Because his tempo is good. He moves it along at a nice, snappy pace.

2. Even when he has to sing 'pa-rum-pa-pum-pum' repeatedly, it's moving along quickly enough that it isn't as annoying as it usually is. And his articulation is good so at least ithe words don't sound more mushy than they really are. (And by mushy, I just mean unintelligible.)

3. He has some really stellar snare drumming going on and that makes it fun to listen to. After all, it is about a drummer!! Yay for Josh for hiring a good one.

4. Josh sings it much better than I've ever heard it sung. His voice really suits the music. (that is not to say that I find his voice boring). He uses some great orchestrations -- I especially like the Celtic flute/slide whistle that comes in about the middle of the song. He also does a really nice musical transition from a lower key up to one a bit higher which also provides some interesting stuff to listen to.

5. With this arrangement, I actually can get past the other stuff and hear the message about giving the baby Jesus what gifts we have. Which is, really, what it's all about.

Just so you all know.
(picture via paula becker)


Dancing With the Starved 2: Girls Night OUCH Marie Osmond

This made me laugh out loud. (if you didn't watch the show, you probably won't do the same but I found it to be pretty funny!)


"I wish you could live with me forever!"

Maya is a loving little girl who makes it clear that she enjoys Grandma time. This (of course!) fills up her Grandma's heart and makes everything in life sweeter. Today, she told me again that she wished I could live with her forever.

In the past, when she has said things like this, I've gently led her into a discussion about how great it is that our family can be together forever if we do the things we should. I always tell her how much I love her and that I wouldn't miss out on any part of her life (or any of the kiddoes) for anything.

But today it felt different when her comment came out. I could almost hear our Heavenly Father saying to me -- "I want you to live with me forever." And then His gentle reminder, "I love you and I don't want to miss out on any part of your life for anything."

I want that too. So I have to work hard to do everything I can so that I don't miss out on anything and we can spend our forevers together, both with each other and with our Heavenly Father.


There's So Much to be Thankful For

As I get to know my new Josh Groban Christmas album, I have surprised myself by developing favorites that aren't at all usual for me. I love traditional Christmas music and I kind of hate it when there are new songs touted as Christmas classics that I have never heard (and I've heard a lot, over the years -- so it takes something new to surprise me).

It came as a surprise to discover that my favorite songs on this album are the formerly despised "Little Drummer Boy" (I still loathe it in general but clearly not this version) and a 'new' song called 'Thankful.' I could listen to both of them over and over (and I do!). The music is lovely, the voice is lovely and the spirit is strong in both songs.

My favorite part of 'Thankful' though, is the message.

Some days, we forget to look around us,
Some days, we can't see the joy that surrounds us,
So caught up inside ourselves, we take when we should give.
So for tonight we pray for what we know can be,
And on this day we hope for what we still can't see.
It's up to us to be the change,
And even though we all can still do more,
There's so much to be thankful for.

There is so much to be thankful for. I'm thankful for this lovely message that speaks so strongly to me through the music.
I can always use a reminder to look outside myself, to pray for goodness in my life and in the world, and to continue in faith and gratitude.


The Hockety-Bom-Bomb

Maya has so many ways of showing her exuberance and general joy of living and a lot of the time she does that with her amazing vocabulary. She likes words and she likes to know what they mean and she likes to mess around with them. She also like to move. She's got ants in her pants most of the time. One of her favorite things to do is to combine this love of words and movement -- and when she does, she calls it the hockety-bom-bomb. (how do I know how to spell it? I'm guessing!) Instructions? Your hands go in the air, your rear end is stuck out as far as you can get it, and you shake that behind till you can't shake it any more.

Last night Natalie, the kiddoes and I had a fast dinner at Donn's BBQ in our neighborhood. Donn's is not fancy but it's close and the food is wonderful. (you do come away smelling like a smokehouse, but I don't find that to be such a bad thing!) We had our dinner, managed to get the kiddoes to have a few veggies, (despite Maya's protests that the green beans 'had prickles, just like cactus!' -- they didn't!) meats and mac and cheese and then were on our way out the door. I told Maya that she had done a great job on her dinner. Her response? "Well, Grandma, then you should do the hockety-bom-bomb!" (it has been used often as a sort of celebration dance which explains that response).

I was up for the challenge. I stuck out my rear end, threw my hands in the air and did a great version of the hockety-bom-bomb (if I do say so myself!) -- right at the front door where (un-noticed by me - I was busy gettin' down!) several ladies were on their way in. They were very taken with the hockety-bom-bomb and I'm sure would have hung around for a lesson if I hadn't been in a hurry to get the heck out.

Bottom line? Apparently I will do the hockety-bomb-bom anytime I am commanded to. Anything for any one of our kiddoes! Any time. No matter what. (even with a red face!)


For all you crafty types

I never have been and never will be a crafter - -but I am a real craft appreciator. (is there such a thing? I think so!) I have no creativity in me and no patience to work on things like these but I do find them cute and fun. Check them out here. Good old Woman's Day!


Change of Heart (or, Eating my Words)

I've heard many, many people raving about Josh Groban and waxing eloquent about how much they love his voice. So a while back, I took a listen to him and I have to admit that I was a little under-whelmed. I mean, I liked him fine. What's not to like? He has a nice voice. But I didn't love him. (and in our family, that phrase 'liked him fine' is sort of the kiss of death. To us it means we don't like something well enough to even give it much thought.) I thought his voice was fine but that his vibrato was a little too fast for my taste. So I really haven't given him much consideration since then. I liked him fine.

But now it's Christmas time and Christmas music is very important to me. I'm looking for a new Christmas CD (I do it every year) and I have been told(repeatedly, I might add) that Josh Groban's Christmas album is the one to get. I've heard it everywhere and from people whose taste I totally trust. Natalie received a copy as an early Christmas gift and after listening, told me that she thought I'd like it a lot. Her taste is a lot like my own, and she is someone who really knows what I like. So I decided to borrow it and give it a try.

(Now comes the words-eating part). I loved it. I flat-out loved it. I'm like Natie -- I don't much like people messing around with my traditional Christmas music but his versions are just enough different to really be fun to listen to. And his voice? The one that I thought was nice? Well, at least when he sings Christmas music, it's glorious. It really is.

Buy it. You'll love it. Really.

Sidenote: I have always loathed "The Little Drummer Boy", but this rendition has changed my mind. It's amazingly beautiful. Who knew?


Christmas is a Feeling

"Christmas! The very word brings joy to our hearts. No matter how we may dread the rush, the long Christmas lists for gifts and cards to be bought and given-when Christmas Day comes there is still the same warm feeling we had as children, the same warmth that enfolds our hearts and our homes." (Joan Winmill Brown)

This morning I pulled out a new (to me, anyhow) piece of Christmas music and played through it on the piano and found myself completely in tears and overwhelmed with the spirit and love of the gift that is Christmas. I love the music of Christmas, but I think it's because of the spirit that always comes with it. Those feelings of love, gratitude, joy, peace -- for me, they all come through the music.

So today, I'm thankful for the feelings of Christmas. And I'm so, so grateful for the music. I'm grateful for the talents that the musicians of the world share, I'm grateful for the inspirations they have received and acted upon, and I'm grateful for the way it makes me feel.

Warm. I love it.



"Yet true happiness comes from a sense of peace and contentment, which in turn must be achieved through the cultivation of altruism, of love and compassion, and elimination of ignorance, selfishness, and greed" (Dalai Lama)

What’s better than being happy? Being content. Today I feel very content and as I analyze those feelings, I understand that gratitude is an integral part of the equation.

So, I am grateful for. . .
*A roof over my head. (a very nice roof, I might add). There are a lot of families who do not have a place to call home.
*Mark's job, because it gives us the opportunity to be independent and live comfortably.
*Being able to eat what I want when I want, while others starve.
*Good health. I have learned to be grateful for health during the times when I didn't have it.
*Enjoying my childhood. I had a lovely, protected, sweet childhood.
*My wonderful dad. He took care of us all and gave us comfortable lives.
*My loving and dedicated mom . She has taught me many lessons, and I wish I had learned to listen to her sooner.
*My sister. I love her with all my heart and I wouldn’t trade her for anything.
*My children, in-laws and grandkiddoes. Each one of them is a blessing that I will forever cherish and never be worthy of -- but for which I will always be grateful.
*Having someone to love who loves me back. Mark and I have made it through thick or thin, come rain or shine. It's nearly our 33rd wedding anniversary and for this, too, I am grateful!
*A Heavenly Father who knows me and loves me though I know that oftentimes I disappoint Him. He and His son are my strength and my peace.

I have so much and I am trying to learn to value what I have, to love without needing anything in return.

This to me is contentment.