Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Too Much Homework? Bahhhhhhhh!



Are you a parent that feels your child has too much homework to do?  Does your child feel they have too much homework?  Let's investigate this a little bit.  Help me out here by answering a few questions. 

Is your child in school? 
-----Well, they should have homework.  The teacher can't possibly help them learn every concept in the short time they are together at school.  Thus, HOME WORK. 

Do you want your child to succeed in life? 
-----You should pray that they have homework.  How can a child who doesn't gradually do more and more homework as they progress through school ever have a chance at earning a college degree?   We all know people that graduate from college have more success in their careers.  What about a graduate program?  More homework! 

Is it really that the child has more homework or is it that the child wants to waste their time on their phone or other device?
-----We all know that children don't play outside anymore, so what are you taking them away from by asking them to do homework? 

Do you have your child in every single activity that has ever been offered to mankind and that is why homework is a problem? 
-----Here is a solution.  One sport and one other thing.  Your kid is not going to be good at the 20 activities you have him or her enrolled in because there is no way one person can be excellent at so many things.  Pick one or two things, that they can be good at, and that they love.  That is plenty, believe me.

Are you really invested in being a good parent? 
-----Sorry, I had to say it.  But, step back and ask yourselves.  Is it YOU that doesn't want to read with your 6-year-old?  If so, aren't you setting a bad example?  Is it really YOU that doesn't want to go to the store so the poor kid can get poster paper for his country report?  When you signed up to have a baby, you signed up to help your child succeed. 

I don't believe kids have too much homework.  There is a study that showed that homework amounts have not changed in 30 years, in fact.  What I do believe is that some kids naturally work harder than others and there are some parents who push.  Personally, we have had to beg our kids to take a break from studying once in a while.  But there are also parents who are lazy and thus produce lazy kids.  I also know that some teachers are better than most and have meaningful homework, while there are others who do expect the child to learn some things on their own. 

There are a lot of things that need to change with education in America.  We are being outwitted by students in other countries because their education system is better.  BUT, my point is that, if your child is in school, then as a parent you have a responsibility to support YOUR CHILD.  If the project assigned is lame, it is lame.  Sorry.  Part of being a mom or dad.  I don't think we want to raise children who are disrespectful of authority and teachers because their parents complain about them.  This is about supporting our children and helping them succeed in the environment they are in.  If you can move in order to put your child in a better school, then do it.  If you can give up one hour of watching Downton Abbey to help quiz your child on chemistry, then, please do it.  

Our kids are in college.  Our son will graduate this spring and our daughter will graduate next spring.  They have a lot of homework.  My daughter has three math classes per semester, plus she takes upper division English classes for fun.  My son has so many Spanish and science classes with labs that he leaves at 6 a.m. and comes home at 10:30 p.m.  Then, they both study on the weekends and at night.  That is what a lot of homework looks like.  They both manage to have active social lives and work part-time jobs and serve in our community and church on top of it all.  But, I am convinced that the reason they seem to thrive in this environment, and can handle the really tough classes with all the demanding research is because of one thing:  We supported them in their homework when they were younger.  We didn't complain or gripe about the teachers.  True, there were favorite teachers, mostly in junior high and high school, that pushed them to the brink with meaningful, investigatory assignments, and there were others that were draining with the endless worksheets and such.  But we emphasized the good over the bad.  Tried to learn something along with them.  Encouraged them to talk about what they were learning at school during dinner.  And clapped and whistled when the good grades and scholarships came rolling in.  But, good grades and scholarships don't roll in.  They are earned by a lot of sacrifice, blood, sweat and tears. 

As I think about our kids graduating from college and going on to graduate school and professional careers, I often wonder what it is that made them be able to do it.  I think the answer is easy.  We were excited about learning at our house.  The kids wanted to tell us what they learned.  They still do.  It's funny now to have my son try to explain deep organic chemistry principles that are far over my head, or listen to my daughter explain in an 8-page paper "why zero is zero" for her Foundations of Algebra class.  But it makes me happy that they love learning.  They are smarter than we are and isn't that the point?  To make each generation better than the one before it?

A big payback at our house has been that because our kids have always loved school and learning, and also spent many, many hours learning and practicing music, they never have grown attached to the X-Box or Wii or Playstation.  They don't care about their smartphones.  They only use their laptops for homework.  When they are finished studying, they don't want to see another screen.  They are playing their music, out with friends, playing basketball, or skiing.  They have learned to work hard at their jobs and earn their own money. 

I do not profess to have all the answers about raising children and I would never pretend to understand all the ways we could improve the education system.  But I do know that raising children to be excited about the world around them is important and teaching them by example to respect teachers and other authorities is critical. 

Our daughter will be a junior high or high school math teacher in a year and a half.  She has studied and worked hard to achieve this dream of hers.  I hope she is prepared to encounter parents and students that are whining about too much homework so they can play video games or participate in 12 different sports.  My daughter's whole dream of becoming a math teacher is to help our world be a better place.  She believes that if more people could get over their math phobia during those critical years and learn to love and succeed at math, we would have more engineers, more scientists, more doctors, more inventors, and a stronger economy.  She remembers the hours we spent with her to overcome her fear of fractions and will tell you herself that this one thing, getting over her fear of fractions, helped her to love math.  We did that, not her teacher.  I know she is excited about being a teacher.  My biggest fear for her is that she throws in the towel after a few years and joins the private sector where she can earn a far greater salary, just because all her efforts and passion are not respected by lazy complainers.  Please don't do this to my daughter.

I know every child is not cut out to be an engineer or a doctor or a lawyer.  Please don't write me and tell me that.  I know it.  I know every child has challenges and weaknesses and strengths.  My own kids do.  Please don't misunderstand.  I just want us as parents to step up to the plate and give it all we've got.  The world is in trouble.  It needs our kids.  It needs them to be strong and smart and wise.  It needs them to be prepared to be engaged in solving its problems.  They can't do this without homework.  Even if gluing cotton balls on poster board seems meaningless, and maybe it is, it is teaching our kids to sacrifice for education, for the greater good of becoming smart.  So they can be leaders and explorers and writers and teachers, and maybe even President. 

Ghandi said, "Be the good you wish to see in the world."  When it comes to this topic, we as parents can be the good.  Be a good example.  Teach your kids that it's okay to do the homework, to read the books, to make a poster.  Teach them to want to make the world a better place.  They have the power to do it, but they need inspiration.  They need us to help them.  And, if it keeps them off smartphones and video games and out of bars and jails and off drugs, then why complain about homework?

A little update.  Both of our children graduated Magna Cum Laude in Mathematics and Spanish/Chemistry.  Our daughter is now a junior high math teacher and our son is in his first year of medical school.   I'm glad they learned to love homework because they'll have it for the rest of their lives.  ☺



Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Why of Becoming Cream



My husband is behind me writing this blog.  "Write it!" he said.  I finally understood it was something I had to do.  I hope it is of some meaning to someone. 

In searching for a name for the blog, I wanted it to be symbolic of what I was trying to say--that we can be beautiful, smart, creative women that can stand up and go against the grain of society.  That we don't have to be like everyone else.  That we can find the light and the joy and rise to the top of wherever we are.  We can be our best.  It's okay to be our best.  We don't have to step on others to do it either.   And, it's okay to be beautiful and talented and smart and not apologize for it.  I wanted it to be a metaphor and yet be a real example from my real life. 

I searched for weeks and weeks for a word or a phrase that meant something deeply personal to me.  Then it hit me.  Cream.  Let me tell you about my experience with cream. 

When I was in sixth grade, my parents built a new home on an acre of property far across town from where I had always lived.  It was strange moving out there where people had horses and cows and there were tractors in the alfalfa fields.  Where people actually wore cowboy boots and overalls.  It was in the late seventies and the energy crisis was hitting us hard.  People were doing everything they could to save a dollar.  My parents bought a Jersey milk cow that we named Lady.  At the time I actually thought it was a terrible idea.  Lots of chores for a young girl that was just trying to fit in to a new school.  The last thing I needed was manure on my shoes.  My dad built a small barn with a milking stall and a nice fence around it.  Every morning and evening he would milk the cow and bring the warm milk into the house for us to take care of. 



At the time the milk and cream responsibilities fell completely to me and my younger sisters.  It wasn't that it was hard work, but it was a pain in the neck for kids who didn't want to be bothered.  It's funny that now when I think about it, I can remember it like it was yesterday.  I can see it, smell it, taste it, everything.  I guess it really did leave an impression.  My sisters and I would take turns since it had to be done morning and night, no exceptions.  Dad would knock on the back door and leave the large bucket waiting.  Our job was to carry it into the kitchen, remove the lid and pour the hot, steaming milk through a paper filter to remove any dirt or hair or other debris.  It was amazing how warm that milk was when it was so fresh.  I hated the way it smelled though, and often had to keep myself from gagging.  I'm not going to lie.  I hated that job and everything that went with it.  I hated fighting with my sisters about whose turn it was and who did it last and who did it better.  After straining the milk we poured it into a clean, stainless steel canister that was part of a pasteurization unit.  This unit then fit down inside another stainless steel canister that was larger, which was filled with hot water.  After the lid was secured and the machine was turned on, the milk was slowly heated to a certain temperature and then slowly cooled back down.  This was to kill any bacteria and thus pasteurize the milk. 

The miracle happened during the cooling process.  After the pasteurization was complete, the inside canister was placed in the fridge to chill completely.  After several hours of being chilled, the beautiful cream would rise to the top of the milk.  When we would remove the lid there would be a very thick, butter-consistency, plug of thick cream.  After pulling it off, we would skim the top surface for large pieces of cream left behind and save it for making butter, ice cream, and whipping cream.  The milk went back into the fridge to be further chilled.  In all my life I have never had milk so creamy, delicious, and silky smooth as that milk and, I don't even like milk.  Those years that we lived in that house and had our cow are the only years I remember in my life that I ever enjoyed milk.  It tasted so wonderful!  It was smooth and creamy, sweet and full.  Natural is really the only word for it.  I know now that it is because it was not homogenized.  It was pasteurized to make it safe, but it was truly the way nature intended it.  Sweet and pure, creamy and beautiful, with the best of it, the cream, allowed to rise naturally to the top, where it could be saved for better and more valuable things. 



You've heard things like, "the cream always rises to the top," and "the creme de la creme," and "let the cream rise."  It's a natural and scientific phenomenon.  The cream MUST rise to the top.  It has to because it consists of lighter, fattier material.  It must rise due to its lesser density.  There is nothing that can stop it from rising.  It absolutely has to rise to the top.  Even cream when poured into coffee or whipped cream put on top of hot chocolate will rise to the top or sit on top.  This happens when the milk is left undisturbed.  The cream, being lighter, will separate itself from the more dense milk, the heavier liquid, and work its way to the top.  In a sense, it is freeing itself from the weight of the heavy milk.  It's like it knows it is the most valuable substance, worthy of being lifted to a higher plane.  Cream is a more valuable and expensive commodity than milk.  It is no surprise that it is richer and used in creating delicious desserts and sauces.  For something to be made with real butter or cream gives it a stamp of authenticity.  The finishing touch on anything is what?  Cream on top?

Is this not a metaphor for our lives?  It certainly has been for mine.  The best cannot go unnoticed for long.  Love, right, and truth will always prevail, coming out on top.  A courageous heart, a brave soul, a loving example of service will always win over the evil in the world.  The sad part, for me, is that homogenization, or the world, is what keeps us down, trying to make us all the same.  How homogenization works is actually a really horrifying process.

Pasteurization is just a gentle and slow heating and then a slow and quiet cooling.  But, homogenization is high pressure and high heat.  Intense heat and horrific pressure.  Lots of it.  The milk is pushed through a fine filter at rates of 4000 pounds per square inch.  This actually tears the fat globules of the cream into tiny particles, which then disperse evenly into the low-fat milk.  The fat globules, or the beauties that make up the silky cream, are made smaller by 10 times or more.  By being made to be so small, they are thus evenly dispersed in the milk.  Permanently.  So they can no longer rise.  This prevents the separation of the fat, and prevents the rising of the cream.  It prevents the separation of the best from the good, the lightest and most valuable from the heavy and less precious. 



The interesting thing is that when homogenization was first introduced, back when milk was sold in glass bottles, people wouldn't buy it because they couldn't see the creamy plug at the top.  People loved to scoop that out very first and save it to put on fruit or dessert.  It was a treasure.  When it was gone, everyone thought something was wrong with the milk, probably because there was.  Hence, after World War II, the introduction of the opaque milk cartons so nobody could see what they were buying.  Homogenization ensured smoothness, even-ness, and equality.  Sameness.  Boring-ness.  But at what price?  The actual chemical make-up of the milk was forever altered.  It would never be the same.  It is a fact that milk that is homogenized is actually digested differently than milk that is not.  Interesting, right? 

So, you wonder, why a blog about faith, family, lifestyle, and maybe even a little beauty and fashion named after something to do with milk and cream?  Because we are supposed to be free to be the cream!  We are supposed to be able to rise to the top if we want to, to free ourselves of the heavy, binding, lower-quality milk and go on to better and higher-quality things.  We are the cream.  At least we are supposed to be.  Maybe we don't know it yet.  Maybe no one ever told us that.  Maybe we don't believe it or we can't see it.  Maybe we won't admit it to others out loud, but we know it's true within ourselves.



We are women.  God created us.  We are meant for great and beautiful things.  We need to come to know that we are the cream and if we don't feel like we are the cream now, then say that we are working on becoming that cream, working on rising up to the top of that sparkling crystal pitcher where we can reach our true and real potential.  We need to be examples of all that is right and good and smart and virtuous and show the world that we want it to be better than it is for our children and our grandchildren.  It might seem silly, but we can become the cream every day in our actions, in our thoughts, in our prayers, in our choices, in our associations, in our service to others, in our endeavors to seek learning and education, in our desire to make our homes beautiful and safe, in the pursuit of developing our talents, in presenting to the world our best selves in the way we dress and act and speak, and in the way we contribute to the world around us at work, in raising our families, and in serving in the community.  Wherever we go, whatever we do, let us be the cream. 

I invite you on this journey with me as we explore the hows of Becoming Cream.  Becoming our best selves and help each other along the way. 

Follow me:
Pinterest:  Becoming Cream by Gina Holt
Instagram:  @becoming_cream

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Even Painful Days Are Good



To the person who hurt me yesterday.
I will forgive you.
It might take me a little while.  
I'm only human.  I'm not magic.
I can't just snap my fingers and feel all better.  But I will get there.
It's a commandment to forgive.  
It's also a commandment not to go around hurting people--
telling stories that aren't true.
I will forgive you for not having enough integrity to come to me and talk to me yourself.  
I will get over you doing this to me--again.  
I want you to know it hurts,
and if you wanted to be my friend,
you wouldn't have done it.
I will forgive you,
but we can't be friends.
Friends don't do what you did.


To my friend, Joan.
The world lost you to cancer a year and a half ago.
It's not fair.  You're gone.  
You were too young. You understood me.
We laughed a lot.  You were smart and got my jokes.
We liked to talk about words in the dictionary and Shakespeare.
Who does that?  Nerds?  
Well, we did and I miss that.  No one else could ever be you.
You taught me so much, I will always be in your debt.
I'm glad you're not in pain anymore and that you're strong and healthy again. 
But it's not the same without you. 
Tell the angels "hi" for me.
Love you.


To my friend, Angie.
Thank heaven for you.  We've had so much fun!  
You inspire me to work hard, to reach high and work hard to reach any goal, 
How to be happy.
I always feel better after spending time with you.  
Thank you for your testimony, for your love of God and your good example.  
You are a gem and a joy.
Love you.


To my friend, Bonnie.
You're heaven sent. 
Twenty years ago we became friends and it's been a blessing to me every single day.  
Thank you for getting me.  For knowing how to teach me.  
For helping me be a good mother and wife.
For being the example I was missing in my life.
For being the most loyal friend a girl could ever have.  
For taking care of me when I've been sick.
All the Diet Coke runs and lunches of tostadas and chips and salsa.  
But mostly for being the older sister I always wished I had.  
Love to you.

I love you all.  



To my children, Al and Ains.
You are miracles.  
Truly, gifts from God Himself.  
Thank you for your examples of love and courage,
creativity and spunk, intellect and humility,
grace and strength, wisdom and testimony.
It's a privilege to be your mother.  
I have loved every minute of watching you grow.
Every stage has been a pure delight.  
And now you're grown, you are my friends.
It's the best feeling in the world, to enjoy my children so much.  
Love and blessings for you, forever.
You have my heart.
Forever, I will wub you mahups.  




To my love, John.
My champion and my hero.
My best friend.
My favorite person in the whole world.
The man who took a risk by loving a girl who didn't know who she was 
and turned her into a woman with a future and a smile.  
A bright and happy future with a beautiful family.  
There will never be words for what you've done for me 
or to say or show how much I love you.
You are the sand and I am the sea.
You are the earth between my toes and the rock that keeps me standing.  
You make me smile and you make me happy.
You have given me two beautiful children and a life
that I could have never have imagined when I was younger.
I always want to be with you, forever and always.  
I love you.  Always.




To my Savior and Redeemer.
You really did all that for me?  And you have never given up on me?  And never will?  
You suffered for my sins and felt all my pain and sorrow and then you died for me,
just so I could be with you again someday and with my family? 
You paid the price for my mistakes so I could be redeemed? 
Because you love me.
Because you said you would.
Because you kept your promise.
Because you are always true.
I love you.  I need you.  I don't deserve you.
But I lean on you, all the time, and you're probably tired.
I know you're always there for me.
Thank you.  It seems dumb to say thank you, but I'm so grateful.
I hope I know you when I see you.
I want so much to be true to you.  


To my Heavenly Father.
I can't wait for the day I get to see your face and remember who you are.
I want to be good so I know you.
You love me.
Please help me be strong.
Sometimes life is hard, but then again, you already know that.
Thank you for all my blessings.
For all the people in my life who have helped me and even those who have hurt me.
They have all helped me to know you better in one way or another.
I love you.  



Tomorrow will be better.
I just know it will.
My bed will hide me tonight until the sun comes up.
My dog will lick my face, saying "good morning!"
My kids will send me funny Snapchats and my husband will kiss and hold me.
I'll work hard and I'll smile.
It will be a good day.  Even a great day.
Because I'm so blessed and I have everything I need.
What a miracle my life really is.
Even painful days are good,
because I remember what's most important:
My God, my marriage, my family, and my friends.
And it's always a good day
when you see a little more clearly,
and you come to know who is really your friend
and who would never, ever hurt you.
Yes, even the painful days are good.



Monday, August 15, 2016

Wear What Looks Good on You---Not What Everyone Else is Wearing



I think I am one of the few people where I live not wearing the "maxi" skirt.  What does that say about me?  Maybe that I need to move to Italy?  Or at least to New York?  At least I'll take that as a license to exercise use of my passport. What happened to a nice tweed or wool skirt?   With stockings and heels?  It is February.   

Let's talk a little bit about individuality and style and even fashion for that matter.  Have you heard the saying, "Fashion is what you buy, but style is what you do with it?"  It's true.   Anyone can copy anyone else's Pinterest board or go to the mall and buy what is on the mannequin, but what do you do with it when you get home?  Can you only wear that item that one way that you saw illustrated for you?  I hope you don't think that.  It's about knowing who you are, first.  You have to know YOU. 

My little sister called a week ago, saying, "I want to 'become cream', but how do I know what my style is?"  I told her to go on Pinterest and start pinning what she liked, without thinking about it, just to pin what she instinctively was drawn to.  I promised her that she would see a pattern.  I told her that I had been quite entertained after recently setting up my own Pinterest account and going back to see that there was definitely a pattern to what I was pinning.  I am obviously a Seventies child, drawn to the long, flowing fabrics and layers of that era, along with the chunky boots, clogs, hats, bow-tie blouses, and collars.  Interestingly, it has transferred over into everything I buy today.  Even though the things I buy are new and fresh, there are definitely themes from the Seventies that I am attracted to, and I think they work well with my thin, 5-foot-11-inch frame.  Time after time, I buy flare-legged jeans, or at least boot-cut pants, with long and flowing blouses and sweaters.  I love layers--lots and lots of them.  Fall and winter are my favorite seasons where I can wear coats and sweaters and lots of clothes.  I loathe summer where other people strip down to tank tops and shorts.  I like to be covered up.  I love clothes and so I want to wear them. 

The point is, to be your own little self.  We are individuals for a reason.  God didn't make us all look the same.  He is the Creator, the Chief Artist, and He was not using a mold when He made you and me.  And, thankfully, the clothing designers do not make just one kind of clothing.  We are blessed to have an abundance of choices.  So, with all of the creative talent effervescing in design and fashion, why is everyone wearing the same things?  Just because someone starts wearing one trend, why does everyone else have to follow?   It's so un-creative. 

Are we afraid to be different?  I think that's what it really boils down to.  Do you want to get real about this?  Are you afraid that you might be the "weird one" at church or school?  You envy--yes envy--the woman who knows how to do it, and secretly wish to be her, but you talk about her as if she is odd to others, and complain to your friends that she must be loaded with money to afford her closet full of nice clothes.  It's not fair.  You could learn something from that girl.  You could ask her where she shops, or ask her to come over and help you.  She might love to help you.  She might even end up being your friend.  You might even find out she's a lot of fun, and not the selfish spender you think she is.  She just happens to have an artistic flair others don't and she might be able to help you find it in yourself.    The whole key is to get excited about being YOU, and stop looking to copy other people.

My sister started pinning outfits and said, "I guess I'm a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl.  How can you be stylish in jeans and a t-shirt?"  Guess what?  You can!  It's in the details.  In the shoes, in the jacket, in the bag and the cardigan and the accessories that go with the jeans.  I wear jeans every single day.  I just wear mine differently than my sister and she wears hers differently than me, because she's Jane and I'm Gina.  It's supposed to be that way.  Be yourself and wear what looks good on you, not what everybody else is wearing.

Do you have a special necklace your grandmother gave you that you are "saving" for something special?  Wear it now!  Do you have a collection of beautiful scarves?  Wear them!  What do you already own that shows the world that you are special?  You can tie those things into your daily wardrobe.  Maybe you have a few key pieces that you wear every single day.  Maybe a special necklace or watch and maybe you are known for wearing those pieces.  If so, make them your signature pieces.   Maybe you are known for carrying a unique green handbag.  If that's your unique signature, keep it--it's special.  Resist the urge to be like everyone else.  And, when you see everyone else kicking up their heels to follow a new trend, resist and hold out, and instead, start your own.  And if you can't get others to follow you, that's even better. 

Remember the story of the Ugly Duckling?  The poor little duckling was harrassed and belittled because he didn't look like all the other ducks.  He felt badly about himself, wishing that he could look like all his friends so he could fit in with them and better receive their affections.  Even the adult ducks scorned him and shamed him.  When it was discovered that he was not a duck after all and was in fact really a swan, a much more magnificent bird, the reasons for him looking differently were manifest.  Why would he ever have wanted to be an ordinary duck?  He was a glorious swan, the envy of all the lake, but he did not know it because he was too busy trying to fit in with all the ordinary ducks. 

So it is with us also.  We will not ever know we are swans if we are too busy trying to follow all the ducks.  Please have the courage to look in the mirror and in your closet.  Get to know yourself and what you like and what looks good on your body.  Try on all your clothing first and then throw out everything that doesn't flatter you and make you feel beautiful.  Have the strength to resist what the ducks are wearing and be the swan that God intended you to be.  Have grace and withdraw from the fashions that are unattractive and immodest.  Don't participate in any trend that you would not want your daughter or granddaughter to wear in your presence. 

There is beauty and strength that come from within when we have the courage to be the women God designed us to be.  The world would like us to all be the same.  When we are all the same, we keep each other down.  When we keep each other down, no one can succeed.  Where no one can succeed, we all fail.  This is not God's way.  God is the Master Creator.  It is His intention that we be like Him.  We are created in His image and so we are destined to also be creative.  One way we can do this is to be creative in the ways we present ourselves to the world.  Let us show God that we appreciate that He made us all differently when we were in Heaven and thus not try to all look the same now that we are here on the Earth. 


Monday, July 18, 2016

Yellow Bike Ride



The bike was shiny and yellow.  The helmet black and sleek.  An old backpack that had been a lot of faraway places was strapped to the boy’s back and off he went down the gravel path on the first day of school.  He gave a big smile and a backward call saying, “love you, mom!" and "bye, Ains!"  But he did not look back.  At all.  He was ready and excited and off he went.  I watched as he rounded the corner, past the tall trees to where I couldn’t see him anymore, except the movement and a hint of yellow passing along the main street beyond the trees.  He was on his way.  This is when the tears started to come, but I fought them, even forcing them back.

I didn’t want to cry. I had a long drive and a lot of ground to cover to get back home.  I would cry at home, and I knew I would, when I got there and faced his empty bedroom.  He wouldn’t be home for dinner that night, and not for a long time.  It felt like the first day I took him to kindergarten, but this was his first day of medical school, 1300 miles away from home.  My daughter and I started the long drive that would take us back the way we had first come when we met my husband and son in North Eastern Missouri.  They had driven out together with Al’s little Honda Civic laden down with all it could manage: books, laptop, iPad, clothes, and even his prized guitar.


I was glad to be leaving the humid heat where my hair can’t be tamed and my skin decides to form pigment where it doesn’t belong.  I longed for my air-conditioned home and my husband who had gone home a week prior.  I had now been in Missouri for more than two weeks.  I was at the same time sad to leave this pretty place with green rolling hills and clouds that went all the way to the Atlantic.  My son would stay—where he belonged, at medical school with his childhood dream finally being realized.  Ains and I had stayed for the white-coat ceremony, a very big deal for new medical students where they take an oath of humility, earnestness, honesty, and diligence as they begin their journey to become a healer.  John was able to watch it via live stream so we were technically all there.  Now it was time to go home to my responsibilities, Ains to her new job as a junior high math teacher, and me to my darling husband who had to go home early for his new job and his calling as bishop in our congregation. But my heart hurt.  And it rejoiced.  Can it really do both at the same time?!

Two decades ago exactly, I was backpack shopping for a little 5-year-old boy and 2-year-old girl, because she wanted to be like her brother.  Alex started kindergarten and Ainsley cried because he was gone and she had no one to play with for those long 3 hours each day.  I struggled to get all I needed to get done in such a short time on those kindergarten days.  I was barely able to exercise, shower, dress, clean the house, get a good idea for dinner, all before the little boy came home from school, back to play with Sissy.  On that first day of kindergarten, Al exclaimed, “school is so boring!”  Why?—I asked.  He retorted, “we learned about ORANGE!  I already know my colors!  I’m five!”  And thus began his years in elementary where he was completely bored out of his skull, quite literally, B-O-R-E-D. There are home videos of Al “singing” in the kindergarten program, looking around at all his classmates, who happened to actually be singing, with a look on his face as if to say, “we’re doing this, why?”

Once, in 9th grade Honors English, Alex begged me to talk to Mr. Webb and “let him out of Honors, back into regular English.”  I was so fatigued of the boy’s constant complaint of reading Charles Dickens that I humored him and brought it up at parent-teacher conference.  Mr. Webb would have nothing to do with it.  “No,” he said; “he can do it and so he should—Alex is too smart for ‘regular English.”  That was a fun car ride home, with a mad adolescent.  It was the beginning of where we are now, with him starting medical school.




There were the weekly violin lessons started at age five and ending at ages 17 and 18.  Twelve years with Alex and 13 with Ainsley.  That’s how long I sat at a violin lesson every single week for two hours.  Every single week unless someone had a fever, cough, or we were out of town.  I cried during the last lessons for both Alex and Ainsley.  So much of our time as a family had been wrapped up in music.  Traveling to fiddle contests around the country, staying in sketchy motels sometimes because everything else was already booked.  I went to every single event, performance, practice for music, baseball, basketball, tennis, 4-H, swimming, and science fair..  And now, I was there for the white coat ceremony and Ains was there, the loving little Sissy, cheering her brother on, and John at home, bringing up the rear and watching on TV.  High school graduations, college graduations, and now white coat ceremonies.  Next, we’ll have a wedding, when Alex marries his soul mate, Katlynn in the fall.  Ains will start her first full year teaching math at a junior high.


This morning, before Alex rode his shiny bike down the gravel road to school, we posed for some silly selfies to send to John.  I sat there with them as we tried to make each other laugh for the pictures and like a wave, it all fell on me at once.  Where had the time gone?  I mean, really?  It had escaped, I thought.   How could this really be happening?  We had prayed with and for our kids when their academic loads seemed too heavy to bear, when they faced stress and uncertainty about their dreams ever becoming realities.  We always told them to just keep going, one day at a time and it would all work out.  We encouraged them to seek to learn, to desire to share their learning with others, to lift and support their friends, to take care of themselves and have balance, to treat their musical talents as a gift that would make them happy and others joyful.  We’d taught them to make God and family their priority.  We taught them to work hard.  In fact, one of our family sayings is “we work before we play.” Now it’s harvest time and the fruit is sweet and beautiful. 

I remember the first time Alex went to Scout Camp.  He took off down the street to his leader’s house, his backpack strapped on, and he didn’t turn back.  He was confident as he nearly ran, he was so excited and ready.  On the day we took him to the Missionary Training Center (MTC) to begin his mission for our church in the Dominican Republic, his eyes were full of tears and his voice choked up, but he did not look back as he spun his suitcases forward into his new adventure. We would not see him for two years, but he was ready.  I kept looking, watching him all the way until I could no longer see him, but it would only be in pictures and four phone calls in those two years that we could talk to him or see him. 

Right now I’m on a plane, flying back home.  I hate how quickly it can take me away from my child. I can’t see Alex and he can’t see me, but that’s okay.  I know he will be safe, successful, and happy where he is in Missouri.  For reasons I don’t understand yet, I know he is supposed to be there.  I think it’s because of the people he has already met and will continue to meet, and for the first-rate education he will receive, for the history about our country and our church he will learn while living there, and for the people he will come to love and serve alongside his new bride.  This new home for Alex is as much about what he can do for others as it is for what he will gain by going to school there.  He is there to learn and to lift, to study and to share, to practice and to pray, to sacrifice and to serve, to love and make a family—a new family of his very own.  And the sweet relief is I know Al will be back, a lot, to visit, maybe even to practice medicine; and we have texting and emails and face time.  And there are planes and trains and cars that take mothers and fathers and sisters to Missouri to visit.

I have a lot to do at home.  My artwork has been sitting too long, needing to be photographed and cataloged, sold and shared.  My writing needs to come out of hiding and the images in my camera need to be uploaded and married with Photoshop.  My husband needs to be held and my daughter needs a back rub and help getting her new classroom ready. My dog needs some snuggling and my laundry needs doing. I have a job I love that I've missed and I'm excited to get back to work.  I do have a life to get back to, a wonderful life, actually.  It’s the life that produced two smart and capable, brave and kind children.  I’m proud of my life.  I’m thrilled that our family will soon grow and we will be blessed with a new daughter in our son’s soon-to-be wife.  Hopefully, one day we’ll be grandparents and we can begin the joyful journey with children all over again, just this time taking direction from our children.  It will be glorious when that happens.

Until then though, I’m going to promise to remember how I felt as we drove out of that town in beautiful Missouri this morning.  I felt completely at peace with a warm feeling up and down my whole body and all the way inside to my very soul, a beautiful and safe feeling that made me smile and shed a few tears.  Do you know what that feels like?  It’s the feeling God sends to us through the Holy Ghost to comfort us when He knows our hearts are about to be really sad or scared—to tell us everything will be okay.  I felt a distinct impression in my mind that told me, “I’ve got him, Gina—he’s going to be perfectly fine and you don’t need to worry.”   I trust that feeling completely, for I’ve learned that I can. 

Sometime this afternoon, while I’m having a layover in Los Angeles, Alex will ride his bike home to his new apartment and turn on the air conditioner as he makes himself a delicious stir-fry for dinner and begins his studying.  He’ll think it’s awfully quiet and he might be a little sad, maybe a lot overwhelmed with being asked to drink from the Mississippi all at once, but then the same warm feeling I had this morning will come to him and it will caress him and bury deep inside his heart where it will tell him how much his family loves him, how Katlynn misses and loves him, but most importantly, how much God loves him.  It will tell him that God keeps His promises—always—when we keep ours.  The special feeling will help him feel stronger, happier, safer, and like the Brother of Jared, if Alex will do the work and ask God to bless it, God will.  And that is why I can go home and pick up the things I’ve been neglecting as we’ve prepared to make this journey out here.  Because I know I’m not in charge and I’m grateful that I’m not.  I don’t have to worry because I have the best Emergency Hotline in the world.  So can you.  All you need to do is get on your knees, or even sit in a quiet place.  Close your eyes and either speak or think your pleadings to God--He is your Father.  I promise you that He will hear you and He will answer you, but it might have to be in His own time.  Don’t give up too quickly on Him---because God is never, ever late.

To you, dear Alex, my Independence Day kid:  You’ve got this.  You know who stands on your side.  You've got beautiful Katlynn--enough said!  You’ve got your family, both living and gone ahead, to cheer for and pray for your every success.  You’ve got amazing friends who will be praying for you.  You’ve got Jesus Christ, your Redeemer, who has called you to this mission to be a healer and so He will help you.  He will comfort you when it’s hard, and pick you up when you’re too tired.  You’ve got God your Heavenly Father, who knows all things and what exactly you need and when you need it.  You know as well as I do that He is never late.  Look at all that’s happened to prove it.  I love you and you know that too.  Four years from now when you’re ready to do your residency, you’ll say, “already—where did the time go?”  So, just take it one day at a time.  Love Katlynn.  Work  before you play.  Work hard.  Give it your all.  Get good sleep and eat well.  Play basketball.  Play your guitar.  And, pray.  And don’t look back, because you’re ready and we’ll always be here.  Forever.  Wub you mahups, Mom.

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Devil's Radio



George Harrison, my favorite Beatle, has a song called Devil's Radio.  It's what George calls G-O-S-S-I-P.  (The YouTube link is at the bottom of this post, along with the lyrics.)  George got it right.  The Devil's Radio. 

Why do people do it?  Why, especially, do women do it----to one another?  And how is it that a woman can always tell when she has been the subject of talk at lunch?  Answer:  Women who gossip give off weird vibes.  They hold back after they've gossiped about you.  Maybe they even ignore you altogether.  One can usually tell.  A sure sign is when someone has been cordial before, but then they suddenly shut down.  Friendly one week, silent the next and the next and the next and the next.  It makes a person wonder.

If a woman is wise, if she has the power to discern, it isn't hard to put the pieces together.  Another slam-dunk clue is when people in the same circles all start shutting her out.  Do they think she won't be able to tell?  There is also the clue of who is in charge.  Who is calling the shots.  It's usually the one who's been around the longest.  Maybe she's lived in the neighborhood the longest, or been in the office the longest.  That is almost always your queen bee.  But then again, sometimes Meanie-Queenie gets tired and starts passing along some of her queenly responsibilities to another---one she deems as close to herself as possible---one who is her kindred spirit.  They collaborate and conspire.  New people come into the circle of influence and if they can be bought, they will be.  Meanie-Queenie will babysit, bring dinner, clean the flooded rug---if one will tune into her radio station.  If a person will be on her team, shun whoever Meanie-Queenie has decided deserves to be shunned. 

The new people in the office or neighborhood aren't necessarily to blame.  Meanie-Queenie is very charismatic.  She could make a cobra go to sleep with her songs of loving charity woven with huge chunks of untruths and misrepresentation.  Everyone seems to fall under her spell.  She even teaches others how to charm so her legacy goes forward.  Years can pass even, and the tales still are told.  People who never even worked in the office when something happened will take sides with Meanie-Queenie, never even having met her 'adversary.'  The songs continue.  Like the bad station the bus driver loved and you were forced to listen to every single day on the 30-minute trip to and from school.  Smart women put in their own earphones, turn up their own music, and tune out the gossip of others. 

It's one of the 10 commandments, not to gossip:  "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor."  But people, especially women, keep it up like it's an Olympic sport and there are thousands of gold medals to be won.  Why do they do it--the ones who love it so much?  Is it because they've never been hurt by it?  Is it because they have been hurt by the Devil's Radio and now it's their turn? 

What can a woman do if she finds stories about herself playing on Top 40 of the Devil's Radio? 
1.  Stay away from the offenders.  Consider them a bomb in a mine field.  Now it's marked.  Keep your distance. 
2.  Be civil and respectful when forced to mingle, but be guarded. 
3.  Don't gossip about them---do not become like them. 
4.  Realize that a person who gossips is really a miserable human being and so give them your pity and your empathy.
5.  Pray for them. 
6.  Ask God to give you strength to make a blessing come from it. 
7.  Try to see the blessing that being the victim sometimes can be.  Now you know who are not your friends, so you can look for new, genuine, honest, and kind friends.  They are out there.
9.  Put your energy into positive things.  Get back to your hobbies.  Read a really good book.  Serve other people.  Set a good and happy example that gossiping is not the sport of a good woman. 
10.  Be a good woman yourself. 

The Devil's Radio is blaring more loudly than ever, it seems.  The only thing we can really do is turn it off, one radio at a time.  We turn it off by refusing to play the music of gossip.  It's everywhere.  It has become a plague.  Let it be your guide to the good friends that are out there.  Look for the women who don't share things about others to you, which is a pretty good sign they will never share things about you to others.  Look for the good.  It is there.  Be gentle in the world.  Be happy.  Play your own music that you make yourself.  Make your own playlist.  Don't do what everyone else is doing.  The Devil's Radio is for the lazy, mean, weak, and unhappy people.  They can have it.  The Devil's Radio was made for them.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Motherhood has Blessed My Faith in God




I was almost 27 years old when I had our first child. I quit my job 2 weeks prior to my due date, hoping to finish preparations for our new little baby, but he was born the next day, quite in a little hurry to get here. He was tiny and skinny at barely 6 pounds, 22 inches. We were thrilled, scared, excited and happy.

The day we all went home, he was scrawny as he swam in the new car seat. We padded it with blankets to protect his little head, but he was still so small. With the awkward seat facing the rear of the car, I could not stand the thought of riding anywhere but next to my baby and so I did. My husband drove us home and all I could think about was how completely dependent this tiny little soul was on us.

That first night in our apartment, I did not know what to do. The baby was crying and obviously hungry. I wanted to nurse him, but my milk had not come in. He did not like the pacifier. He would not take a bottle. My husband got him to sleep and we fell into bed, exhausted. Only an hour had passed when we woke to a wailing little baby. I was scared. I could not get him to stop crying. I was so exhausted and too weak to walk the floor with him all night, frightened I would drop my precious baby. So I prayed. Like I've never prayed before.

I remembered the little infant seat we purchased to use for feedings and went to find it. I put my itsy-bitsy boy inside and covered him up. Then I collapsed on the floor next to him, gently rocking the seat back and forth with my hand, trying to help us both to sleep.

It was a long night. Baby would wake up, I'd feed him as best I knew how, put him back in the little seat, and stay by him again, and gently rocking him until my arm went to sleep. We did this several times through the night, all the time while I was praying to God. Please, I pleaded. Please, help me. My little boy needs me. You know what he needs, but I don't. Help me to help him.

By morning, my baby and I were bound to each other. We had made it together. He had been patient with me, his brand-new mommy, and I had protected him, my new little baby. And I knew that God had stayed with us all night.

Three years later, we added a darling daughter to our family. I was not afraid to bring her home that first night. I had learned how to listen to God about how to take care of new babies. I was more relaxed. I knew what to do. That night home, the four of us---my husband, our little boy, and our baby girl and me, we all celebrated and bonded as we shared the wonder of our little family together.

Our son is now 24 and is on his way to medical school this summer. Our daughter is 21 and will start teaching junior high this coming fall. How speedily the time has commenced. There have been terrifying moments when our children have been hurt and very sick. Our son served a church mission where he thrived and I survived. We have seen them hurt by romances and friends. We have seen them fall and pick themselves back up. We have celebrated their successes and watched them grow. It has been beautiful.

I thought I knew what faith in God was before I became a mother, but if I did, it was insufficient, or a different kind of faith. Perhaps merely the kind of faith that everything would all work out, as people often say. It changed suddenly for me when I held those babies in my arms, knowing I was their only earthly mother and my husband their only earthly father. We had a huge responsibility and needed heavenly help. I could no longer afford to believe, because now I had to know. I needed to know that God would bless and protect my children. I needed to know He was really there. I needed to get closer to God so I could know what He wished me to do. It forced me to pray actively, even begging a lot of the time, for help in knowing how to be a good mother. I am grateful that God answered my prayers, not always immediately, but He always did and still does.

What motherhood has done for my faith in God is given me more compassion for Him as my Father. If I love my children as much as I do, and I know that God loves them still even more, then why would He not want to bless them and look out for them? He is their Heavenly Father and He is also mine. I can and do trust Him. I feel confident that He knows all, and I only know a shred.

What I think might be best, God knows is not. He has the whole view and I can only see a few hundred yards. Having babies has helped me to know God, to rely on Him, count on Him, and ask Him. Motherhood didn't change my faith in God as much as it gave me faith in God.


Thursday, March 17, 2016

Happy St. Patrick's Day, Grandpa Joe!



Wow!  That fast and now it's Spring and today is St. Patrick's Day!  Now we're almost a quarter way through 2016.  When I was a kid, the thought of the year 2016 conjured up ideas of space men, metallic clothing, electric cars, and robots.  Well, here it is, and we're well into 2016 now.  Most people have smartphones, a few have electric cars, and maybe somebody has a robot.  I don't wear metallic clothing, but I like jewelry; does that count? 

 
I used to laugh when my grandparents would say, "when I was youir age we had to milk the cow if we wanted milk," and things like that.  Now, I find myself saying to my children, "when I was in college, we didn't have smartphones or Google or even a home computer--we had to go to the library and use the card catalog to look up something."  That makes me feel old.  It also makes me feel very lucky and very blessed.  Why?  Because I got to experience things at a slower pace.  Not as slow as my parents and grandparents, but slow compared to now.  And I'm grateful for it.  
 
 

I am missing these grandparents of mine today, the ones on my father's side.  My grandfather was of Irish descent.  I remember him as a kind a loving man, with huge hands from hard and honest work both on a farm and as a blacksmith.  He could make anything with those hands when he was a younger man.  He played the fiddle and loved music.  He especially loved The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and when I would visit on the weekends, we always went to church and watched The Spoken Word with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  He was old even when I was young, but I knew he loved me and I knew he loved Jesus Christ.  Church books and scriptures were always by his chair; that's how he spent his days---studying.  His face would light up whenever I came to stay and he never wanted me to go home.  He always asked me to play the piano and thought I was brilliant.  My grandmother was a princess to me.  She never said an unkind word to me.  She always told me I was smart and had a beautiful smile and that I should share it with those who didn't have a smile at all.  She was a schoolteacher and instilled in me a love of reading by always giving me books as gifts.  Suppers were simple there, consisting of bread and milk, fruit preserves, cheese, and onions.  On Sundays it was always a roasted chicken and sometimes pineapple pie.  What I wouldn't give to go back there for just one weekend by myself, to stay and be loved by them, basking in their elderly wisdom.  I love them and always will. 
 

Maybe it's because of Grandma and Grandpa that I still like to read real books.  I like to turn the pages and make notes in the margins.  I like how they smell when they are new and when they are old.  They can be expensive and take up shelf space.  Just ask my husband.  My biggest fantasy is bookcases covering entire walls in every room of the house, filled to the rafters with books.  As it is, we have bookcases in every room and they pretty close to filled.  There are books on tables and desks and everywhere you look.  We do read them, too.  We don't just look at them.  And I love the library.  I ran into the former head librarian of our local library a few months ago.  She has long since retired, but she remembered me and asked about my children.  I know they hated seeing us coming every week, each with our own bag filled with 15 books, there to get another 15, so 45 total.  Every week, for years.  Yes, I'm sure that's why she still knows our names.   

 
I like to talk to people on the phone and not text.  Texting is fine for, "I'm on my way home," or "can you pick up the drycleaning."  It's not good for conversations.  At least not if you want to have a healthy relationship with a person.  But there are also those who won't have a conversation on the phone and so texting can get tricky and people can be easily misunderstood, including me. 
 
I like to cook real food, from scratch. I love to go out for Indian or Thai food, true, but I really like to cook.  When I'm feeling up to it, I love to get in the kitchen and make mean Italian meatballs, or a killer lasagne.  Maybe Russian meat dumplings, or Irish Shepherd's Pie with real potatoes, peeled and mashed with lots of butter and cream.  I love to make cherry pie with the real sour cherries and crust from scratch.  My kids have never had maple syrup from the store.  We've always had homemade.  I like to sit out on our deck on summer evenings and eat with a plate in my lap, my husband and kids around me, and visit for hours, long after the plates are empty.  I like to draw and paint and make things with my hands.  I love to sew when I have time and don't mind the mess for a few days.  I love to write real letters on pretty paper and send them with a stamp.
 
I love the technology we have today.  It makes writing this blog possible and doing my work from home a reality.  It makes it easy to buy clothes, since I never have to go the mall.  The good stores deliver and I know what size works, so it's all just a click away.  Technology actually allows me more time to do the slow, old-fashioned things I prefer.  Because I don't have to commute to my job, I have more time to play the piano.  Because I can write this blog in my jammies and in bed, it's more fun to do.  And because of the internet, I have resources right at my fingertips.  No more Dewey Decimal System, even though I do miss those drawers full of musty cards. 
 


I turned 51 last year so now I'm officially in my 50s. That means I'm more than halfway done with my life.  I'm sure I won't make it to 100, so that means I'm on the downward slope to the end, but then again, these grandparents pictured above lived well into their 90s, so maybe I have a shot.    Sounds depressing, right?  It can be if I think about it in that way, but I'm choosing not to.  I'm choosing to look at this next phase as a right of passage, a reward for all that I have lived through and dealt with.  I think I've earned the right to speak my mind.  Not that I ever haven't, but maybe I hadn't earned it yet.  I think I have the right to expect certain things from certain people and situations.  I think I've learned how to listen to my heart and gut and know when something is true and when it's not.  I think I've learned a few things.  I know I have a lot more to learn and am always anxious to try new things.  
 
Here are some things I've learned so far:
 
1.  There are always two sides to every story.
2.  Karma is real.  What goes around really does come around, so be careful what you send around.
3.  People just want to be understood.
4.  If you keep getting burned, stop touching the stove.
5.  Forgiveness is between me and Christ; it doesn't mean I'm okay with what someone did to me. 
6.  Difficult things happen to good people.
7.  We all will die, it's just a matter of when, and we will meet Christ face to face. 
8.  People are inherently good.  We were all created in God's image.
9.  Getting married and having a family is the best decision I ever made.
10. Jesus Christ is real and loves you and me. 
 

It's March now and I love how spring is almost here.  Shortly it will be Easter.  A time for a fresh start, a new beginning, with thoughts turned toward Jesus Christ, I'm feeling happy and grateful.  Instead of stressing out about making a hundred thousand goals for this year, I chose to just have one.  It's kind of all encompassing, but it's easy for me to think about:  LEARN MORE ABOUT JESUS CHRIST AND THINK OF HIM, ALWAYS.  If I am more centered on Christ maybe I can be more patient, kind, loving, charitable, forgiving, meek, with more faith.  Maybe I can be happier and more trusting in my afflictions.  Maybe I will be able to focus more on things of an eternal nature and not on a worldly one.  Maybe the meatballs will taste better and the sleep will be sounder.  Maybe I can think more about what I can do for Him.  Maybe I can work harder at building the kingdom of God.  Maybe my eyes will be brighter and I can bear my burdens more easily.
 
I just want things to be simpler.  I want the world to stay away from me--I don't care about it.  I just want to read good books and sleep well, eat homemade pie and smell grape juice steaming in October.  I want to remain ignorant about what's on television and who is famous.   I want to listen to my "oldies" music and smile because it's actually real music.  I don't want to be younger than I am and I don't want to be older, either.  I just want to be 51 this year, and enjoy it.  I want to smell the flowers and take the hikes and be in the sun. The cold winter weather and its friends, ice and snow, can take a rest now.  My daffodils are up and the tulips are shortly behind.  It's going to be a glorious spring!    So Happy St. Patrick's Day and luck of the Irish to you!  Tonight I'm going to make a mean Shepherd's Pie and Irish soda bread.  I'll be making a toast to my Grandpa Joe.  I wish he was here, but because of Jesus Christ, I know I'll get to see and be with him again.  What a wonderful blessing!  Resin up your bow, Grandpa!  We're going to do an Irish jig tonight! 


If you're not familiar with The Corrs, you need to be!  One of my very, very favorite bands---an Irish family band.  Enjoy! 


Thursday, January 7, 2016

January


Christmas has come and gone, again.  We took our tree down last Saturday.  The dismal melancholy began to set in as I wondered where we would all be next year.  Would we be together?  How far would some or one of us have to travel to make that possible?  What should we do with our ornament tradition?  Should I box up my son's ornaments and favorite decorations, ready to be packed when he moves out this coming summer?  Where did all the time go?   Weren't our children just wee ones only yesterday when they picked out all these funny things for our tree?  I was plunging meteorically into woe and sadness when I decided to choose how to feel differently about it all. 
 
We had a lovely Christmas.  Our comforting traditions, even though small and simple, were meaningful to us in ways no one wanted to talk about.  I noticed my family lingering by the tree to just look at its lights more this year.  Christmas Eve was special with our nephew's beautiful family, but in watching his children, I really noticed how fast time has flown for mine to now be adults and his so very small.  On Christmas morning, I woke up at 9:00 to find everyone else fast asleep.  I had to wake them all up so we could enjoy our own traditions before going to visit Grandma and then to see Star Wars. 
 
 
I've thought all season long about all my many blessings, first and most importantly of all, my Savior, Jesus Christ.  And Christ is the reason I cannot be sad about one more Christmas being wrapped up and packed away until next December.  When I pack up my Christmas decorations and put away the gifts and sort through the cards, I never pack away Jesus.  He stays with me every day, in my heart, in my mind, and in my life.  He is my best friend.  Christ is the reason my family is forever and the reason we have meaning in our lives.  Jesus is the anchor of my soul and the cornerstone of our home.  Jesus is the reason my children have worked as hard as they have, in order to try to make the world a better place, because of His example and His trust in them.  My Savior is at the center of every day, not just Christmas. 
 
My husband and I did not raise our children to live in our basement.  I love the old saying, "a ship is safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for."  This is true of our children.  We have encouraged them to dream big, to work hard, to set goals and achieve them, and to fly away from the nest when it's time.  I know they will want to fly home whenever possible because they feel safe here and there is strong loyalty and love here.  I know they are looking forward to flying free on their own and are confident they can succeed, but I also sense heart strings tugging at the reality soon to be.
 
 
So, January, I'm ready.  This will be an exciting year for our family.  I want to stand side by side with my husband and best friend as we face the changes that come, with a grateful and happy heart and the thrill that comes from seeing our children bring to pass the very things they've talked about since they were 5 years old.  I love this month without much on the schedule.  It's very cold outside and there is a lot of snow on the ground, which makes it easier to use the crockpot, read lots of books, get back to my art, get some extra sleep, and do more thinking, prioritizing, and praying.  I'm resting to recover from a personally rough year in 2015 and to get strong for all the new adventures 2016 will bring.  And whenever I feel like I might cry, and I know I will do a lot of that this year, I will remember why we celebrate Christmas every year.  Jesus Christ.  He is the author of our salvation, the key to our redemption, the ticket to God's kingdom, and the Savior of our souls.  He loves us more than we will ever comprehend and He expects a lot from us in return.  Jesus knows we can succeed if we will humble ourselves, take His hand, and let Him help us.  On the day when we help our son move out to attend medical school far, far away, and I start to weep, Christ will understand me and He will comfort me, our son, and my whole family, as we embark on life's next chapters.
 
January is a gorgeous time.  Where I live, the snow is covering the trees and our majestic mountains are blanketed in white.  There are 366 days on the calendar this year--366 days to start again, to repent of mistakes, to make wrongs right, to love more deeply and more sincerely, and to choose where we want to be standing and whose side we will be on.  What will you choose?  What will you resolve?  I only have one goal this year.  To choose more deeply than ever, Jesus Christ.