Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Bounty of our Lives

Does every family have a "junk drawer"? Randy and I have one in our armoire. It is mostly filled with old wrist watches, boxed cuff links, old wallets and coin purses, discarded cell phones, foreign coins, old buttons, safety pins, hotel sewing kits, peppermint candies picked up on the way out of restaurants, etc. But when I was a kid the "junk drawer" was a very important source (or resource) -- the first place you looked for things like scissors, string, a rubber band, scotch tape, a nail file, a pencil. Today we buy pens or pencils by the dozens or by the 100s, but if we couldn't find a pencil stub in the junk drawer (naturally the eraser had long since been used and we would bite on the metal band to try to get a tiny bit of eraser to poke out for one last erasure) we could spend an hour and never find a pencil. Today I keep a pair of scissors in almost every room of the house, including the bathrooms, TV room and garage, but if the one pair of scissors we owned didn't happen to be in the junk drawer you were pretty much out of luck.

Combs were another issue. We had two. One of them was always stuck in the sisal comb holder that hung next to the mirror in the bathroom. The other was on mother's dressing table. That's where we sat every morning while mother combed our hair and then either braided it or brushed it into wringlets. Removing either of those combs from their designated locations was a serious matter.

One of the things that Clarissa got for Christmas was a whole package of combs. Now I suppose that the combs were really for the benefit of her mother, as I don't know too many four-year-olds who write Santa for a package of combs. Lucky Tiffany. While my sister was raising her six children it seemed that "the comb" was always missing. Many a morning there was a minor crisis as the entire family searched high and low for the comb (which, of course, no one had seen or touched). A few weeks before Christmas on just such a morning my sister was fit to be tied by the time the children were out the door for school. When my brother-in-law said, "Sweetheart, what would you like for Christmas this year?" my sister replied, "Just a comb that I can find when I need it." That Christmas morning when she opened her gift she found a brand new comb. Harl had drilled a hole in it and attached a light-weight sixteen-foot chain which he then fastened around the leg of their king-sized bed. She got exactly what she wanted. Never had to look more than sixteen feet to find that comb!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


I think the funnest blogs to read are when people tell about the cute things their kids do or say, especially if it is one of my own grandchildren. I watch Randy like a hawk, but he seldom does anything really cute or funny. It makes blogging difficult. But, I was sitting next to Quinn and four-year-old Clarissa at Church on Sunday when this exchange took place during the sacrament.

Quinn: Clarissa, hold still!

Quinn: Clarissa, stop wiggling!

Quinn: Clarrisa, stop moving!

Clarissa (sitting very very still and statue-like): Dad!

Quinn: What?

Clarissa: Is it okay if I move my tongue inside my mouth?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Christmas Sweater

Didn’t Glenn Beck write a book called The Christmas Sweater? Well, this story won’t be nearly as dramatic, but it’s possible that it could have taken place the very same Christmas. I’m getting way ahead of myself.

When I was a Bluebird (in primary) one of our requirements was to learn how to knit and to complete a knitted project. Have you ever hear of baby soakers? Well, actually, neither had I, but that was one of the projects you could make, and it probably looked like the simplest project, so that’s the one I chose. This way WAY before disposable diapers, but we did use plastic pants over the baby’s cloth diaper, so baby soakers preceded the invention of plastic. They were intended to be worn over a cloth diaper to . . . .well, I’m not sure. But I did knit one and learned how to knit, purl, cast on, and cast off. Now I was certainly ready for sweaters. I started a pink one. I think I finished two sleeves and one side of the front. A few years later I started a brown pullover. I finished the front and half the back. Knitting is a long, slow process.

Randy and I married in August of 1967, and almost before we had the pots and pans arranged in the cupboard it was time to think about Christmas. What could I do for Randy? I would certainly not do something so “un-special” as buying him a shirt or a tie. I know, I could knit him a sweater. Perfect! Trip to the yarn shop – pattern book, knitting needles, skeins and skeins of yarn. I’m set! But wait, how am I going to make it without Randy knowing? Our apartment is as big as a postage stamp! Have you ever known anyone who knitted an entire sweater in the bathroom? Well now you do!

If you’ve ever made a gift you may have experienced what I did. During the hours and hours I sat on that toilet knitting that sweater I was envisioning how much Randy was going to love it. I pre-lived the opening of that gift so many times, and it was always an amazing event full of joy and surprise. I think I was so excited about it I may have even cried when he opened it. Randy? Well, he didn't cry. I think he may have been a little bit unsure what he would do with this gigantis sweater that was bigger than any drawer in our apartment. I’m glad I have this picture. I think it may have been the only time he wore it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Program1974

Today I was adding a little memory to my personal history. It is a section in which I talk about things that were kind of unique to my childhood -- things that don't exist today like xray machines in shoe stores so mothers could see how their kids shoes fit, and grocery wagons (miniature grocery stores on flatbed trucks that drove around town to accommodate mothers who didn't have cars), and two-piece nylons with garter belts. The one I was remembering today happened to include a Christmas story, so thought it might be fun. Here it is:

"Another thing that you never see today was that our chapels had “cry” rooms. They were small rooms separated from the chapel by glass and were usually at the back of the chapel or sometimes on the second floor looking down into the chapel. It was a place where mothers could take crying babies or noisy children and still see and hear what was going on. When Randy was a Sunbeam in Junior Sunday School our chapel in Provo had an upstairs cry room. Heidi was a baby, and the week of the Christmas program must have been the one time in her entire life that she was fussy. I was sitting up in the cry room with her when the Junior Sunday School children marched in to sing their songs for the Christmas program. They all walked in reverently with their arms folded – all but Randy, that is. He followed directly behind his teacher who was one of the elderly (and more rotund) sisters in the ward. He was wearing his little red sweater shorts with the matching red and white striped cardigan and entered with a high-stepping march, keeping perfect time to the music being played by beating the rhythm on his teacher’s rear end. Oh dear, I was too far away to do anything about it. All the children lined up on the stand, and the Sunbeams were lifted up to stand on the small wooden pews that had been carried in from the Junior Sunday School room. Randy was front and center. Having already caught the attention of most of the congregation upon entering the chapel, most of them were still looking at him when he happened to look up and saw me sitting in the cry room. Not realizing that there were speakers in the cry room he belted out a greeting to me that was loud enough to penetrate the glass, accompanied by exuberant waving. Everyone laughed out loud which startled Randy. He tried to step back, but the back of the little pew caught him just at the knees, flipping him right over the back of the bench. The only thing that could be seen of him was two little legs sticking straight up in the air. It caused quite a commotion. That may have been the very week that the church decided to do away with cry rooms."

And before you say anything about my hair, just remember that "The bigger the hair, the closer to Heaven."

Monday, December 20, 2010


It seems silly to use up a day right before Christmas to talk about something that isn't a wonderful Christmas memory or thought, but something is bugging me, and I think it is my insecurity. I just came down to my computer to check my blog and noticed that 23 people read my blog today, but there was not a single comment. What does that mean? Was my post (or my behavior) lame? inappropriate? embarrassing? boring? I've tried to imagine that I just stumbled across this blog and what kind of a comment I might make. About all I could come up with was "Oh." So I'll just assume that's what all of you were thinking, but if it is actually one of the possibilities listed above, would someone please let me know.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


This weekend we went out and bought Randy a Christmas tie. I think it's the first one he's ever had. I'm not sure where a stake president wears a Christmas tie, but he didn't wear it to church today. Perhaps if we'd started a little earlier we could have found something a little more "stake presidentish" than penguins dancing with candy canes. Anyway, it made me think about the Christmas I was 19 years old -- one of the last I would spend at home with my parents. I had a part-time job wrapping Christmas gifts at Marsden's, the nicest men's store in town. I got so I could wrap a mean package. Jon Isom also worked at Marsden's. He was about four years older than I was and was a sales clerk. He was a really cool guy, and although I was going out with lots of other guys I did enjoy flirting with Jon. I'm sure he thought I was just a punk kid, the little sister of one of his cool friends, and he teased me pretty unmercifully. I had an idea. On Christmas Eve Day I went through my dad's ties and picked out a really old one that was about six inches wide. That was in the days of the really skinny ties that were only about an inch and a half wide. I put it in a nice tie box and did my super-duper wrap job on it, then delivered it to Jon at home. As soon as he came to the door and saw me there with a gift I could tell that he felt really awkward and embarrassed. He didn't have anything for me, and he stammered and stuttered about my gift not being quite ready yet and how he would have to get it over to me later, blah, blah, blah. Wish I could have been a fly on his wall when he opened it. "Hey, Jon, watch out for that "punk kid" in the gift-wrap department. She got you good, and she enjoyed every minute she spent watching you squirm."

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Twelve Days of Christmas

I made cinnamon buns for my gospel doctrine class this morning. I had a few left over and decided to take a plate to a family in the ward whose mother has been in the hospital. As I walked up the front porch a flood of memories came over me and I realized it began exactly eleven years ago today!

When our children were young we adopted the tradition of taking the “Twelve Days of Christmas” to a family. Our children loved it and looked forward to every time it was “their turn” to make the drop, ring and run. In all the years we did it, we only got caught once. By 1999 our children were all out of the home and it had been a few years since we had done it. That year everyone was coming home, including two grandchildren ages 5 and 4, and we thought Bennet and Emily would really enjoy participating in the activity. Unfortunately, we didn’t think about the fact that none of them would arrive until just a few days before Christmas and Randy and I would have to be “Christmas Pixies” all by ourselves for the first week. We chose a darling little family with six children – yes, the very family I was visiting today. Although Randy and I felt a little bit old to be ding-dong ditching and driving “getaway” cars, on the 12th evening before Christmas we drove quietly down their street. Randy drew the short straw, so I pulled into a neighbor’s driveway about five houses up the street and turned off the car. Randy headed quickly up the street with the hood of his parka pulled up. This was a tough house to surprise because there is a large picture window within inches of the front door. Through the window we could see the family sitting around right there in the living room. Randy put two little wooden lambs on the porch, rang the bell and ran around the house and behind a bush in the neighbor’s yard. “Oh, I’m too old for this!” But he didn’t get caught.

The next night we left a shepherd. The third night we left a camel, and then came the three wise men. By this time I’m sure they realized that it would become a nativity set. We delivered the stable, the cow, the donkey, Joseph and Mary. On Christmas Eve, only the baby Jesus was missing. To heighten the anticipation for the arrival of the Christ Child, we did not deliver it on Christmas Eve. We had actually wrapped it and mailed it earlier in the week with instructions not to open it until December 25th. As each family member arrived for the holidays they joined in the activity, and soon we were parking two cars somewhere on the street so everyone could watch and enjoy the excitement.

At testimony meeting in January, the father of the family bore his testimony about how much fun that had been for their family. He said he wished that whoever had done it could have been flies on the walls of their home to observe how excited their children were as they waited each evening for the mysterious visitors. We would have turned the tables. We wish they could have been flies on the walls of our home to see how exciting it was for us each evening – lots of planning about where the getaway cars would park, who would take the nativity piece to the door, how to keep from being seen by the family inside, and how to decide whether to ring the bell or not. On nights when it seemed too risky to ring the bell we would simply leave it, then call on the phone and notify them that they should check their porch. Making that phone call was almost as scary and exciting as making the drop. Brent liked to call. He always tried to talk like a Chinaman. That, of course, would send the rest of us to the floor with hysterical laughing. Fun! Fun! Fun! That was the last time we ever did the “Twelve Days of Christmas”. I do have one more nativity set on hand, but we’ll definitely need some helpers!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Behind Every Good Man is a Good Woman

Today I hosted our annual Christmas luncheon for the bishops' wives. I really look forward to this each year. I was rather surprised when the doorbell rang and I opened it to find two women on the porch and directly behind them stood the guy who had installed our kitchen cabinets. We've been waiting for him to show up for weeks. Wouldn't you know it? We're all about timing around here. So he and Randy were poking about, opening and shutting cabinets and holding my kitchen hostage. Fortunately, by the time we had finished our wassail and were ready to get serious about food they were finished and out the door.

In years past we have moved to the living room after lunch and shared our ideas about a particular topic. This year I thought it would be fun if each sister had a different topic, so I had them each draw a slip of paper with their discussion topic on it. These were the questions:

1. Tell about a miracle that has occurred in your ward.
2. How do you respond when you hear someone criticize your husband or your ward?
3. Tell us about your best ward activity.
4. Tell us about someone from your ward who could benefit from our faith and prayers.
5. Tell us a cute story about your bishop.
6. Tell us one way your life has been blessed because your husband is the bishop.
7. Tell us about a recent convert in your ward.
8. Tell us about a youth (or youths) in your ward who has done something good or notable.
9. Tell us what is really unique about your ward.

I felt a little piece of heaven as we sat around the fireplace, bound together in love by an experience we are all sharing. I was so impressed by the insights these women shared about their lives, their husbands, their wards, their experiences. It is plainly true that behind every good man there's a good woman! I count myself blessed to have them as friends.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Day to Reflect

In the midst of all the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations it is appropriate to pause for a few minutes today to reflect on the events of this day sixty-nine years ago -- December 7, 1941 -- the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Five years ago I spent a day at Pearl Harbor learning about the events of that Sunday morning. I spent quite a bit of time on board the great battleship Missouri where the Japanese finally surrendered. There was no guided tour and I was free to just roam around reading things, looking at things, and thinking about things. In one of the rooms I found an old ledger and started leafing through it. On one of the pages a name jumped out at me -- Robert Bruening. Robert Bruening was a former member of our ward! I began to read. I had not known this before, but Brother Bruening served in the mail room of the USS Missouri, and if my memory serves me correctly, he would have been there at the time of the signing of the peace treaty. As I then later stood on the very spot where the treaty was signed and thought about our dear friend Bob, it was a very poignant experience. Take a few minutes and watch this historical event. Today I am thinking how grateful I am (at this season of "Peace, goodwill to men") for all of the brave men and women who serve and have served our country to gain or preserve Peace and Goodwill during my lifetime.

Monday, December 6, 2010

300 Words or More

How many times in life were you asked to write an essay in "300 words or less"? (More about this later).
This is our oldest grandson, Bennet. He's an amazing young man -- loves life, adventure, his friends, music, drama. Last summer Bennet decided he wanted to be in the marching band, but he didn't play any instrument. So he decided that he would learn an instrument. He picked the great big sousaphone. He brought that thing home from school at year's end and practiced all summer long. At Thanksgiving we got to watch the Belmont/Watertown football game, and there was Bennet, marching in the half-time show. Did a great job.

During our Thanksgiving visit, Bennet also received his Eagle Scout Award. We're really proud of Bennet and the wonderful example he is for our ten grandsons. About a year ago while I was taking care of their family for a week Bennet said, "Grandma, I've got to go home teaching this afternoon." I asked who his companion was and he said it was his dad. But his dad was out of town?! He said, "Oh that's okay. We visit the Boston Temple President, and we have a standing monthly appointment, which is today. I can just take care of it myself this month." And he did.

At his Eagle Court of Honor they told a story about how Bennet invited a group of friends to come to his house to set off fireworks one July. They were having a wonderful time shooting off firecrackers at the intersection by their home when a policeman happened by. When the boys saw the police car they scattered and hid -- all but Bennet. He walked right over to the police car and talked to the officer. Everything worked out fine.
Last summer while we were in Boston Bennet had his 16th birthday. With the experience and maturity of being 16 come lots of changes and opportunities -- dating, driving, more freedom, later curfew. For his birthday, Bennet received a beautiful chair. This chair is positioned in his parents' bedroom, and whenever Bennet returns home after being out he is expected sit in his chair and report his adventures "In 300 words or More". Oh the tales this chair could tell!

We love you, Bennet. You're a fine young man making lots of good choices in life. So happy we could be with you for your court of honor. Keep soaring!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Welcome December

Last night was our annual Stake Presidency Christmas dinner. It's a great way to get myself into the Christmas spirit early. German cuisine has always been a Christmas tradition for us, so that's what they get, and they claim they like it. This is such a special group to us. These men serve so faithfully in the stake presidency and take a huge load off of Randy's shoulders. It's a very small way of saying Thank You, but nevertheless, it is an evening that we look forward to each year.

After getting everything cleaned up and put away last evening, we set our alarm for 5:00 a.m. and fell into bed. We awoke to a white world, quickly dressed and headed South where we hoped to join Clarissa, Clayton, and Santa for a ride on the Polar Express. I was amazed at how many others were out at that hour on a snowy Saturday morning, creeping along snow-covered roads in total darkness. We slowly made our way down 355, east on I-80, finally making it to 57. It had taken us an hour to go as far as we normally drive in less that 30 minutes. As we tried to calculate our driving time we realized that we could drive four hours and possibly not make it in time, and besides that, our "white knuckles" were getting tired of the strain and so we reluctantly turned back -- a really disappointing (and very early) start to our day!