Monday, December 11, 2017

Christmas Card-

Holly's Christmas show- Plus

Holly had her Christmas show and once again it was glorious. Such a wonderful way to get into the Holiday Spirit.  She is a such a performer. She practices in her room for an hour a day so she knows all of her actions and songs and it really shows.  She just does everything full out...and is always in the front row.    They had a part in the program where they showed all of the special needs kids as babies or children at Christmas time and the slide show ended with Holly giving Santa Claus a big squeeze.  That is a miracle picture.  Usually Holly stayed for away from Santa as a little girl.  I think in that picture her dad is the Santa. 

 We all wanted to support this beautiful performer....   This picture has all of the "usual suspects" in it with cousin Don Allen down front. 

 Addison's latest Christmas painting of Joseph with the Baby Jesus... It has a beautiful feeling about it.  It could also be Jesus holding a baby...which is still good.... or even Addison holding baby Poppy.   I see all of that.

Lights On- Pajama Party

Our Lights on - Pajama Party was a SUCCESS!    We gathered for Fondue which is Sophia and Alfie's favorite dinner EVER.  So much Cheese, Chocolate and meatballs to be had.  Sophia put the chocolate in a cup and drank it.    Then we turned off all the lights in our home and we start at the small Christmas tree , do the trees by the front door , the nativity on the piano and finally the big Christmas tree and each time we turn on the lights we sing a Christmas Carol.  It really brings a sweet spirit .  Then Wayne gave a devotional about the light of Christ and how we can be more like Christ and remember Christ through service and reaching out to others, just like he did.  We gave each house hold a little manger with straw that you place in it every time you do service for someone in your family...then the baby Jesus on top.    Our final part of the Lights On tradition is passing a candle around the circle and having everyone say something nice about the person next to's a beautiful thing.     Pajamas are next  with matchy matchy for everyone this year!!
 We sent pajamas to New York...for Van and Truman to join in too. 

For our activity we had everyone make a family video together.  This is Sophia and Andrew's favorite thing...they love making videos and they really love when the adults play along.   We used the song:  "It feels like Christmas" from the Muppet Christmas Carol.
It's in the singing of a street corner choir
It's going home and getting warm by the fire
It's true, wherever you find love
It feels like Christmas

 A cup of kindness that we share with another
A sweet reunion with a friend or a brother
In all the places you find love
It feels like Christmas

 It is the season of the heart
A special time of caring
The ways of love made clear
It is the season of the spirit
The message, if we hear it
Is make it last all year

 It's in the giving of a gift to another
A pair of mittens that were made by your mother
It's all the ways that we show love
That feel like Christmas

 A part of childhood we'll always remember
It is the summer of the soul in December
Yes, when you do your best for love
It feels like Christmas

 It is the season of the heart
A special time of caring
The ways of love made clear
It is the season of the spirit
The message, if we hear it
Is make it last all year

It's in the singing of a street corner choir
It's going home and getting warm by the fire
It's true, wherever you find love
It feels like Christmas
It's true, wherever you find love
It feels like Christmas
It feels like Christmas
It feels like Christmas

Friday, December 8, 2017

Worth the Wrestle

I had a friend approach me who had left my church years ago..and was now feeling the pull to come back  to the fold but had so many questions still and wondered how I reconcile my faith and my family situation....
My response:  
I have been pondering what to write back to you in response to your letter on questions, struggling and reconciling.  I am deeply humbled that you would entrust me with this.  Your doubts don’t trouble me in the least, they only inspire me and have caused me to really think about my own faith journey.
I too love the direction the church is going with being more transparent and more welcoming to questions.  “ Bring every question…because questions are good. It means you are a seeker rather than a doubter.”
I know friends and family members who have left the LDS church because they focused on the one or two trees that bugged them or that they disagreed with  and couldn’t lift their eyes to see the beautiful gospel forest surrounding them.  I am determined not to let this happen to me.
“When we are willing to wrestle spiritually for knowledge and revelation, the Spirit will enlighten us, guide us to truth and bless us with peace of heart and mind. “   This quote by Sheri Dew is so true for me.
I learned over  a decade ago, when my world was turned seemingly upside down, that when I had questions, or issues that were beyond my understanding, that caused me hurt and frustration… too literally visualize putting all of this in a box and setting it at my loving Savior’s feet.  I turn it over to the Lord.  Every once in a while I take the box back and open and question, struggle and wrestle some more.  I get a little further down the path, then box it up again and repeat.  It really works for me.  I can live in paradox.  Sheri Dew says.. “When we have unresolved questions, our challenge does not lie in what we think we know.  It lies in what we don’t YET know.”  There is so much I don’t yet know ….but I’m willing to wait and learn.
When I’ve had people question my faith or why would I stay in a church that “hurts” my own family members… I look at them  cup my hand and say… “In my hand are all of the troubling issues on homosexuality and gay marriage etc..that I don't know the answers to.” And then I sweep with my other hand over everything else in front of me and say, “And here are all of the things I do know. …power of  God’s Priesthood ,  families are forever, pre mortal life,  life after death, the truth of the Book of Mormon, all the amazing service my church does, the healing power of love,  the sealing power of the temple, how the Spirit works, the atonement of Jesus Christ…… This far outweighs my small cupped hand. "       
 I realize my cup runneth over because I belong to this  glorious Church filled with imperfect, questioning people just like me.

I love you my friend, wherever your questioning takes you.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Cookie Party

 Mine and Si's annual COOKIE exchange party went differently this year.  It was a beautiful thing!   instead of us all bringing 36 cookies to the party  and coming home with 36 cookies...we packaged up the remaining cookies onto 120 plates and took them into the Road Home to share them with homeless families this Christmas season.

Some of the ladies had left when this pic was taken, but we have in the back Robyn Beck, Jan Larsen, Stacey, then from left to right in the front:  Laurie Cutler, Jo Cash, Lori O'Toole, Tibby, Stacey, Kathleen Newman, Cindy Brown, Misty Mayfield, Mel Evans, Si, Nancy, Kim Johnston, Peggy Rinehart.
                            Si is a treasured friend to have.  He heart and plate are always full.

Our Baby Kitty Dog is in Heaven

Our family Dog   - Baby Girl, went to heaven on Dec 6th. She got hit by a car and her back leg was crushed…to fix it would have cost thousands of dollars and no real hope of recovery…so we opted to put her to sleep. OUr friend - Vet Eric Belnap, helped us with this decision and Laila held Baby as Eric injected her.  It was very a peaceful and teary time.  My heart was breaking watching Laila with her Baby Girl.

I love this picture of 5 year old Laila laying on old Stephi dog , with Baby in the foreground.  Laila has always had a dog around her  her entire life…and it will be really hard for her to be with out .
Baby Girl came into our family 11 years ago for Christmas…Laila was almost 5..and this little ball of white fur was her puppy.  Laila wanted to name her Roseanne after her birth mom, but I convinced her to save that for one of her children and we knew this would be the last member of our family so we opted for Baby Girl. 

We had Baby in our family Christmas card Dec. 2008

 Baby was a quirky dog…she couldn’t stop licking even when we tried and tried to stop her.  She would even lick the air- over and over and over again.  She wouldn’t wear a collar…she would just rub her neck on the ground, spinning in a circle , trying to get it off until we finally would take it off her.  She used a litter box for her business just like a cat.  Because Baby was like a cat we could go out of town over night and leave her alone in our home. With food, water and a litter box she did greatShe didn’t bark like a dog, but made sounds that sounded like “meow”….like a cat …so after Lauren Nickl- a family friend noticed this she called Baby “Kitty”  and then  we  all started calling her Kitty.  Baby had a weird honking noise she would make when she got too excited.  Actually her wind pipe would collapse and she would wheeze until we helped her by tipping her nose down and opening up her wind pipe again.   Baby was a special needs dog…but we loved, or tolerated her just the same….depending on who you talk to.  The last two years Baby has been deaf…we noticed this when she stopped greeting us at the door when we came home… and she wouldn’t come when we called her. It’s been a challenge these last two years, especially when she got outside and we couldn’t call her back in. 

I asked the kids to share some baby stories…
Laila loved cuddling with Baby watching a movie or whenever she felt sad.  Laila took a picture of  Baby almost every day and  her phone is filled with these.
Baby was very soft and fun to pet.
When Monson and Lexi stay over in the basement…Baby always left a special poop present at the bottom of the stairs just for them.
Every time Laura Belnap would come over Baby would honor her as the Alpha Dog by peeing in front of her.
Baby loved having grand kids.. because they were little and sticky. She would lick their faces and hands and the kids would be crying and we would just tell them to stand up because then Baby couldn’t get them. 
Baby loved running a figure eight every night from our bedroom into Laila’s bedroom and back.  Wayne would egg her on by saying, “Crazy dog is in the house”  over and over again.   It would really tucker her out and make it so  she slept soundly
Baby slept in our room every night…right by the side of my bed on a pillow.  She had the most annoying habit of licking everything, including herself in an obsessive manner and Wayne and I would  go nuts listening to this..and finally have to distract her or throw a pillow at her to get her to stop… but she wouldn’t sleep any place else….just cry and whine all night, so we let her sleep in our room and lick all night.
Tayla  and Alfie loved to give Baby a treat… it was so cute to watch.  Tayla would come to our home and  the first thing she would do is give the dog a treat.   Lexi had to explain where the dog is and said, "the doggy is going to live with Jesus now"…and her eyes got big and Tayla said, “Yay Jesus!”  That's what I say too.  I know all dogs go to heaven. 

This death ends the Dog chapters in our family’s life.   We have had an Old English Sheep dog named Lucky who after a neighborhood Chicken incident ended up going to “the Farm.”  A brown and white “mutt” named Sonny who Puppy guarded Truman and Monson for a full Christmas morning. They never left the back of the couch..  Sonny didn’t last long…and ended up at “the Farm.” as well..  A golden Cocker Spaniel named Blondie..that didn’t last long once she got out of the back yard and ran into the road and a car killed her right in front of Addison’s  terrorized eyes.  We had a black and white maltese mix- Milli dog that was around for a few years, then  my brother Adam rescued her from us and she finished her dog life with him.  A golden Lab named Stephi that Addison trained to be a Guide dog…that we eventually got back after the blind person couldn’t afford the expensive food Stephi needed because she was allergic to regular dog food…and for the 2 years we didn’t have Stephi we had a German Shepherd that my Cousin Jenny took, when we got Stephi back.    Really the two dogs that we consider our family dogs are Stephi and Baby…they stayed with us the longest- through the kids childhoods and in to adulthoods and both of them lived long lives and had to be put down.

So now we are dog-less
No more having to pick my dog up every time someone comes to the door and hold her the entire time we have visitors to protect the visitors from her lick. I actually appeared to be “ one of those dog people” as a result.

No more excuses from Laila about going into the laundry room because she hated stepping in the kitty liter granuals scattered on the tile and the smell of that bathroom.

No more buying kitty litter for a dog or treats to give every time Baby used the litter box

No more having to hold her on my lap keeping her legs together while I drove with one hand to the vets or groomers to keep her from pooping in my car.

So… I guess you could say I’m free at last.  Having a dog is really a mom’s job anyway…feeding, cleaning up after.  Oh you can say the kids will do it, but we all know how that eventually turns out.
So.............We are in mourning over here and  my  quiet days filled with a dog on my lap or at my feet keeping me company are over.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Piano Man

Sing us a song you're the piano man
Sing us a song tonight
Well we're all in the mood for a melody
And you got us feeling alright
It's a pretty good crowd for a Saturday
And the manager gives me a smile
'Cause he knows that it's me they've been comin' to see
To forget about life for a while
And the piano, it sounds like a carnival
And the microphone smells like a beer
And they sit at the bar and put bread in my jar
And say, "Man, what are you doin' here?"
Oh, la la la, di da da
La la, di da da da dum
Sing us a song you're the piano man
Sing us a song tonight
Well we're all in the mood for a melody
And you got us feeling alright
The Piano man song has underscored a large portion of my life.  It came out when I was 11 years old and I finally got to see THE PIANO MAN- Billy Joel in concert last night and I just can't stop thinking about it. My ears are still ringing from the volume of the music  ( I had to put tissue in my ears to try and save my hearing last night)...but  that's not what has caught my attention...... last night 20,000 fans filled the Vivant arena to hear songs that brought back memories of good times from years past.   Last night when Billy Joel "harmonica'ed " up  and the first strains of the Piano Man melody ripped through the air it was thrilling.  He sang and played and the "regular crowd" sang loud and proud with him.  It was beautiful to hear all of those voices singing "la, la, di di da.... dum" together.  We were mostly strangers who came together for the love of this man's music and for a short time, we were all there in the moment, swaying, singing The Piano Man and forgetting our problems and differences.  We were all connected and all was right in the world.  I couldn't keep the tears from falling. It was a profound moment of collective Joy.
I recall another moment of collective Joy that had to do with this Piano Man song 6 years ago.  
I wrote about it in my journal:
Monson’s Canada Choir trip 2011.  We have walked around Victoria, BC and sung at historical places all day.  Now it’s free time Superintendant Bryan Bowles took all of the chaperones on the choir trip to dinner at Pagliacci’ Victoria, British Columbia, and we all ordered Italian food. The restaurant was really noisy.   Billy Joel’s Piano Man came on the speaker over head. Larry Smith, Laura Belnap and I all  started singing it softly at the table to each other, and pretty soon all of the people at our table were singing and laughing and conducting the song with their forks.  Now  the other restaurant eaters were looking at us and the waitresses were smiling  because we were singing quite loudly and  when we got to the chorus of the song, I shouted out to the entire smiling restaurant.... ”Everybody”....and everyone in the restaurant joined in with us and sang the chorus to Piano Man, at the top of their lungs......"La di da di dee da da la da di dee da da dum.."  swaying back and forth to the in a movie.  We all clapped for and high fived each other as we got to the end.  Strangers singing, laughing and smiling together.  So many smiles.  It was a moment of collective JOY
At this point in my life The Piano Man equals collective joy and human connection. Must be why I love it so much.
One of my favorite Authors --Social Scientist Brene Brown write about human connection and collective moments .  She says:

We need to come together in Joy and in Pain.  We need these constant reminders.  They fortify our belief in each other.We know that  people are wonderful and they can be hard.  Every day life can be incredibly hard and the people around us can push us to the end of our nerves and our civility.
So how do we cultivate and grow this belief of inextricable human connection internally?  The answer  is…Show up for moments of collective joy and pain  so we can actually bear witness to inextricable human connection. 
We need to engage in moments of joy and pain with strangers.  We have to catch enough glimpses of  people connecting to one another and having fun together that we believe it’s true and possible for all of us.
Psychologist Susan Pinker tells us:  There is no substitute for in person interactions.
Staying away from people is equal to dying from or experiencing poor health from a pack a day cigarette habit, hyper tension or obesity.
On the other hand, SOCIAL INTERACTION can bolster our immune system,  send positive hormones surging through our blood stream and brain and help us live longer.
No wonder I have cherished my Canadian restaurant Piano Man experience and now I have another collective joy moment from last night to go along with it.

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Monday, November 27, 2017

Friday, November 24, 2017

Thanksgiving at the Calls

 I made 3 pies-- for the Pie Parties at Landon and Alex's and the Calls. ... all 3 pies failed... The Cranberry Apple- which is my new favorite...I only put in1/2 the sugar so it wasn't juicy and was dry and tart...threw it away.  The Banana cream and Coconut cream, never set up... tragedy really... I ate a few spoonfuls  of each and then threw away... I couldn't serve them.  The flavor was good, but it was like pudding or soup.  So big Pie fail this year... I will try, try again.  My pies were not missed at  either party since Megan and Landon both made a lot of pies, and then people bring a lot of pies to share.... so much SUGAR!
 The Sunsets lately have been incredible...every night amazingly beautiful sky colors.  I know Sunsets are the Lords way of saying... "I'm here, watching out for you...remember me."
 OH Happy Day..Thanksgiving is here.  I love Thanksgiving time.. I love that it's about gratitude, family and Food...all of my favorite things.
 Gary was gracious enough to have us all over to traditional Cole Thanksgiving with all of our favorites including creamed onions and glazed cabbage and carrots.  I look forward to these two foods on my plate.    We had an adult table and a  young adult table.... our two kids Alfie and Tayla basically played during dinner and maybe ate 1/2 a roll.  No stress.  We gathered, ate our feast, watched football, put a puzzle together, made a thankful movie...found out the basement was having a plumbing/pipe disaster, called the rooter man and  said what we were thankful for some more.  Then my family all took off, after clean up of course, and headed to the was really sweet about remembering our ancestors and how important it is to keep their stories alive.  I cried me a river!

 I really miss Marcie and Mom on this Holiday because they were the Kitchen- Cooking- Queens...bringing so much flavor and all of the deliciousness to the table.  This picture is from 2011. I love my crew though...this is who I shared my Thanksgiving with... Monson and Addison's families.  Laila was actually with the Morley's at their cabin playing with the teen agers.  Landon was figuring out a new set of meds and had Buzelli Thanksgiving that evening.  Truman was in Brooklyn having a Vegan Thanksgiving with Van.
I've been working on a small act of Kindness text project that I started in August..and finally finished today.  I have gone through the contacts on my phone and texted each one an uplifting- glad you are in my life kind of text.  I did about 3 a day and it was good for me to send these out and to get the happy, surprised greetings back.   A little kindness goes a long way.

Blessed November...

 We are loving our Poppy time.  Laila held her for the first time and just couldn't stop the tears.  She said the love just flowed into her .  Poppy is heaven sent that's for sure.   We are happy she came three weeks early so we could have that much more time with her.
 Wanee and Holly got to meet Poppy and have some Poppy time too.
 Laila got cast in a music video for "The Killers.  It comes out in January for their song, "the Rut."  Laila got to be in a "mean " girl gang from the 80's/90's   It's a flashback scene .... she had a great time and made some good $ too.
 Poppy is getting more and more alert.  I wish babies could talk and tell us all about heaven.
 We went to Time out for Women and heard Brad Wilcox speak.  It was such a fun and special time to share with Paula Carlson, Madison Wangsgaard, Linda Wangsgaard and Lexi.   It was soooo good. My faves included Sheri Dew telling about 3 Amish families who have been baptized in Ohio and what an amazing and unusual thing this is. They have all been in the church about 5 years now and had to begin all over again with their lives and lively hoods. They were completely shunned from the Amish community.

Elaine Dalton talking about Holy habits and righteous routines. Emily Watts on bit by bit we can accomplish good things....And Brad Wilcox on Grace and what being saved by Grace really means. He talked about going home from debate tournaments on a bus and playing “Matthew Mark Luke and John” or “Big booty” or “Zoomy-zoomy “ all the way Home. And whether you were number one in the game or last place the point is we still were on the bus together and made it home. He related this to our life. We could be winning or failing in life but we are all on the bus heading home the point is to stay on the bus.
The most important label we carry is Child of God. 
 Laila is on to Basketball cheering..the season begins soon and she is top of the trick pyramid...