Daily Affirmation

The best things in life are free.
The second best are very expensive.
- Coco Chanel

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Me in 2010: Spiritual, Healthy/Thin, Unselfish - No One Will Recognize Me*

I'm not one for New Year's resolutions.  Too easy to forget and/or ignore.  Somehow, though, I want 2010 to be different.  I want to improve, be better.  I know this is something everyone feels, and its hard to describe, but this year I just feel differently about it.  More determined, maybe a little more scared.  There are just too many things I have no answers for.  I need help. So - starting with matters of most concern, or the things that will help me the most:

  • Attend the temple regularly.  In my case, this means simply to attend.  I don't know why this is so hard for me, but it is.  The clothes are a hassle, I'm tired after work, I don't want to go on a Saturday, the repetition drives me insane, the small dressing rooms combined with an inflexible body - all of the above.  But - there are certain things going on in my life that I have finally (being hard headed I guess) realized that I can't fix on my own.  I need help.  I need peace.  I need comfort.  I need to feel that unique peace and quiet with L.  And to get those things I need to go where they are.  And I'm always glad when I do.  And that will lead to help with:
  • Be more selective with what I choose to bring into my body.  For example, I know that sugar makes my joints more inflamed.  And yet I eat it.  Sometimes I eat it a lot.  And then I pay the price.  Every time.  I'm a smart girl - why do I keep doing this to myself?I mean, there's something very satisfying about peanut M&Ms or a lemon bar, but really -  it's time to stop.  I was given a blessing years ago to use caution with the things I allowed my body to come in contact with.  Time to listen to that warning before I damage myself any further.  Ditto for yummy carbs.  I love them but they most certainly DON'T love me back.  I want 2010 to be the year that I get a grip on better health.  And that will lead to...
  • Be more giving of my time to children, grandchildren, family.  Part of the selfishness I feel about my time is that I have so precious little of it after work.  There are many days when all I want to do is fall on my bed.  I have a sneaking suspicion, however, that the more time I spend with others, and, more importantly, FOR others, will give me more energy than anything else I could do.  It will condition me, make me stronger.  And hurray for that.  Will it make me less afraid to babysit grandchildren?  More bold about inviting them on outings and overnighters?  Hopefully so, because now I'm *in training* - starting next week in Puerto Rico.  I may need some naps, though.
There's more.  Oh, there's lots more, sadly enough.  But give a girl a break.  I think this is quite enough to concentrate on for one year.  No sense in discouraging myself before I even start.  
So here's to 2010.  The improvements and self discipline I'm planning to gift myself with in the coming year will help me to better cope with all that is going on in my life, in the lives of my family, and in the world around me.  We all need every ounce of strength we can muster for that.  So here's to you, and here's to me and mine: a toast to all of us in our quest for self mastery and those rare moments of perfection.  May our lives be blessed with mostly good things in the coming year, and the strength of character coupled with love of family and friends to help us through the times that try our souls.  Happy New Year!


*but first, I need to get out of my jammies...

Monday, December 28, 2009

Coming Soon: Puerto Rican Beach Bums

You know how cold it's been lately?  Well, in a little over a week I will be here:


I'll be playing with Mia in the sand, and soaking my old bones with sunshine and salt water.  You can't do much better than a week in Puerto Rico in January!  Having girl time with my daughter by night, and playing with Mia and Hayden (little girl time!) by day.
This is what I think about when I'm sitting in my cold, overly air conditioned office while everyone else took the week off.  Next week I'll be the one smiling.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Two Gifts for Mema and Grandpa


Did you all have the Christmas you were hoping for? Ours was nice - so good to see my oldest son and his family. They live in Denver, and its hard to have them at such a distance. I always imagine what fun we'd have if we lived closer to them. I love those little kids so much, and when I see them after so many months I want to snatch them up, and just hold them. But they don't really know me very well, so I have to go a little slowly at first.



Lexi was a delight. She is 3 1/2 going on 8. She has a vocabulary that is amazing for one so young, and she is very VERY smart. Her new word this visit is "marvelous." We have a tradition of letting the little ones open one gift on Christmas Eve. It eases the pain and suffering of the long, long wait for Santa's visit. This year, that gift for Lexi was a mermaid doll with long blue
hair. She had been wanting some bath toys that weren't baby toys, so this was perfect. Grandpa helped her untie the ribbon, and when she saw the doll she gasped, got big eyes, and whispered "It's a mahvelous muhmaid!" ((She can't say her "R's") That just tickled me, as the gift was almost an afterthought.
Lexi isn't much for cuddling or sitting quietly, so if you want to get to know her, you must engage her in a game or activity. While it was still light out, I chased her around the front lawn. I was the monster, and she squealed every time I'd grab her. She loves to be chased. Then she spent about 30 minutes splashing water from the fountain onto our duck statue on the porch "washing it." Another 15 minutes with a paper towel "drying it." We came inside and played two rounds of a memory game that I'd bought to play with her. Great fun! Finally it was time for dinner, which she wanted no part of. We were going to see a neighborhood close by that has phenominal Christmas lights, so I encouraged her to eat so she'd have energy to run and jump when we got to the lights. Miraculously, it made sense to her, so she ate.
I was flattered to hear her say that she wanted to ride to the lights with Mema. (Wow - she likes me!) She chattered about anything and everything on the way over, but once there she wanted nothing to do with holding my hand. Lexi loves to run free.


Matthew, on the other hand, didn't want much to do with me at all. He is 1 1/2, and he loves Mommy and Daddy. And he liked Grandpa carrying him around. He is cute and happy, with an infectious laugh. And the bluest eyes I've ever seen. My family doesn't have a lot of blue eyes, so his are a treat to look at.
We had a fun evening, but when it was over, Grandpa and I looked at each other, limped upstairs and popped Excedrin and Advil. Our dogs were barking, and our sticks were aching. I think I've mentioned before that we need to practice being on our feet more - *train* for these events, as it were. You forget how much energy you need to keep up with these little ones.
Christmas Day is kind of a blur. I know my parents came over, and it was calm for awhile. Once the grandkiddies and everyone arrived (late in the day - around 5pm) everything started to move quickly. All of that shopping and wrapping: GONE in a wild frenzy of paper and ribbon torn to bits. I keep thinking that one of these years I'll figure out that perfect balance between the boredom of watching people open gifts one... by one... by one... and the craziness of having everyone have at it all at once. It's pandemonium, and so much is missed.
And then every year, like clockwork, comes that melancholy that inevitably accompanies a visit by one of the grown kids. (Am I the only one who tortures myself this way??) I always doubt myself: I'm not "fun" like moms/grandmas in other families, we're a bit "boring," as a couple (we do like our private time, and our quiet lifestyle), I'm not a grandma who lives to babysit (although I'm losing my fear slowly as the kids get a bit older) - our house is very small, no yard to play in, and its hard for me to be on my feet running around and picking kids up. Quite honestly, it makes me very achey after not too long. It's a limitation that makes me sad, and also makes me feel very guilty and inferior. I feel that I should want to have the kids come stay for a few days, but I know that I can't handle it - at least not while they're this little. But I'm afraid that if I don't do it now, they won't want to come later when they're older. Is this bad reasoning? I don't know.
My husband is very wifey-savvy - he is the perfect partner for me. He knows just what I need at all times. He is not kid-savvy. I have to encourage him to engage with the grandkiddies. It doesn't come completely naturally, but he tries, and I say practice makes perfect. We are a blended family, and so sometimes I think he feels awkward, and like an outsider. He is very good news for me, but my children kind of struggle with this quiet man who is so reserved. (In contrast, their dad is always the life of the party. ) And he, in turn, kind of struggles with them and their gregarious personalities (as I've struggled with his boys' quiet, extremely reserved personalities, in the past interpreting it as dislike. I have learned it is not, however.) One day, I keep thinking. One day we will all feel like a family. But for now it's a bit of a struggle, where I am the one frantically going between the two sides trying to make everyone happy. It's exhausting. I wonder if other blended families feel the same way, or is this some neurosis peculiar to only me?
I think sometimes that the adults will always be this way, but my hope is for the little ones. They have never known grandparents to be anyone other than who they are. They accept, and they reach for Grandpa and Mema, trusting that we will love them. And we do. Oh yes... we do. And they were the best Christmas gift of all.


PS: This was all written on my wonderful Christmas gift from L - a new i-Mac! I'm having such fun learning how to navigate on it! So many tricks and fancy things it can do!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

BLEAH


Bleah. I woke up with a pounding headache this morning. After rubbing Bio-Freeze into my stiff neck and shoulder muscles, and taking my usual Excedrin/Advil cocktail, my headache is at bay, but my stomach is queasy, my face very pale. Toast helped, but not enough. I am no fun today. However, there is fun to be had. Go here to my friend Sue's blog. She is having a giveaway in honor of her 400th post. Lots of nice goodies, and there will be several winners (haha - I almost typed "sinners" - well, maybe there will be BOTH!) Anyway, go there and post a comment, become a follower, and post a link to the giveaway. Even if you don't win, you'll enjoy the read. I will take my pale face and queasy tummy somewhere else until I feel better.

If I don't see you in the meantime, have a very Merry Christmas with your family and friends. Enjoy every minute and take lots of pictures for good memories later! Then we'll all come back and blog about it.

Monday, December 21, 2009

What I Did On My Before-Christmas Weekend

Over the weekend I pretty much did one thing, and one thing only: I baked cookies. You see, I suddenly realized over the course of last week that this was the last weekend before Christmas, and I hadn't baked even one cookie. If there were going to be Christmas treats this year, I had one weekend to make them, and this was it. Friday night, L and I trudged out to the store after work (one of his favorite things to do, one of my most dreaded things to do). We loaded our cart with sugar, flour, jam, butter, peanut butter, more butter, eggs, vanilla and candy canes. Lots of candy canes. Oh - and chocolate chips and cocoa. The sugar fumes were deadly.


One thing I'd wanted to do was to put together some jars of hot chocolate mix, both classic (with little marshmallows) and peppermint (with crushed peppermint candy). L didn't want to - thought it would take way too long. He fussed around about it for a minute or two, and then 30 minutes later we had 7 jars of cocoa mix to give away as little gifts. And THEN he was so excited about it you'd have thought the whole thing was his idea. Boys... *shaking head*

Saturday was D-Day, or rather B-Day (for Baking). I got up, and mixed up a batch of jam thumbprint cookies (our family's favorite!) and put them in to chill. I mixed up the dough for Snowball cookies, and put them in to chill. Then I made peanut butter cookies. These are so easy to make, but then I make them special by dipping an edge in melted chocolate and then crushed peanuts. It makes them look like they're wearing jewelry. Delicious jewelry. L came in at this point and stirred chocolate for me while I dipped the cookies. Peanut butter cookies are his favorite, and I think he was hoping for a nice warm cookie, fresh from the oven. I gave him the one that broke - chef's reward.


About this time I had to run out and get some shampoo at the beauty supply. The aesthetician in back was having a special: $5 to get your brows, lip and chin waxed. DEAL - I went for it, and now I am smooth instead of like an old goat. What a nice treat that was! I plan to go back real soon for a facial. But back to baking.


When I returned we started in on the thumbprint cookies. These are so good - all buttery with a nice little indent of raspberry or apricot jam in the middle. I can't even start eating these or I'll never stop. L came in again and helped on the assembly line. The dough must be rolled into balls, then dipped in an egg wash, then rolled in coconut. Once on the baking sheet you press your thumb gently into the ball to make an indent (but GENTLY or it will smash all over the place). Then you fill the indent with jam, bake them, and then try not to eat the whole pan.

*Messy Kitchen*

The last to bake were the Snowball cookies - little balls of almond and vanilla yumminess that are coated with powdered sugar after they're baked. These are hard to resist too, but the recipe doesn't make that many so I had to exercise great will power.

Right about this time my feet began to ache very badly, so it was time to clean up and relax. L said I snored gently as soon as I put my head down. (Is there a delicate way to snore gently??)I was pretty tired. Even L said his legs were sore the next day from standing so much! We're used to sitting at desks all day so we're kind of delicate when it comes to standing on our sticks for any length of time. We should work on that, I guess.

On Sunday I got up extra early and made 2 more batches of cookie dough: more jam thumbprint dough, and a chocolate peppermint dough that you dip in white chocolate once they're baked. Then I went to church. I noticed that I smelled like cookie dough. It kind of made me sick. Too much sugar, if there is such a thing.

We made the extra batch of jam thumbprints, but the chocolate dough remains in the fridge for another day. The recipe is intimidating, so I'm kind of circling it for now, hoping the dough doesn't go bad while I work up my courage. It's the kind of thing where you have to roll it out, freeze it, cut the shapes, freeze it again, then bake, then dip in chocolate. It's a lot to think about all in one day.
Christmas Tree Closeup of Kiddie Tree &Tabletop View



But even with the cookies we've already made, we have enough to eat and enough to give. The perfect amount. And my house is decorated, presents are bought and wrapped. I think I'm ready. And just in the nick of time!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sunday Ramblings

This weekend it rained. And rained. And rained. It was raining Friday night, and still raining on Saturday morning when I went out. On my way home it was raining harder still. I worked most of the afternoon on a project I'm painting for a gift. I painted for four hours straight while I listened to the rain pound down. That is probably the longest time I've spent just painting in quite awhile. I loved it. When I first started this project I was scared. I am so out of practice painting anything. What made me think that this would turn out at all? But it had to. I had promised it to someone. There were some shakey beginnings, and some do-overs. But gradually I've gained some confidence back. I'm starting to remember which brushes are my favorites, and I'm getting less shakey at lettering. Awesome. I'm almost finished, and I can honestly say I'm proud of the effort. If I were to do the same project again, there are a few things I would do differently, or in a different order to make it easier. But I'm satisfied. I'm happy with this effort. And I've had such a good time remembering how to paint. Thanks to my husband, I now have a beautiful room where I can spread out, make a mess, and be creative. Instead of watching TV every night, I can come in here and do something that makes my soul feel peaceful and satisfied. I can learn and grow. I don't know how to put into words how much I love this room, and how much I love being able to get my creative juices flowing again.
One thing I've noticed, however, is how easy it is to feel inferior - to doubt my abilities, and to be afraid to try. Once I start a project, I seem to be able to gain the momentum I need, but oh, how hard it is to start sometimes! I circled this particular project for weeks before I was able to start it. I could see it all in my head, but I was so afraid that I wouldn't be able to do it after all my brave talk.

I think we, as women, do this to ourselves a lot. We're afraid we won't measure up, that our result will be inferior, or even ridiculous. One thing I do a lot is picture people I haven't met, or things I haven't yet seen on a much grander scale than they really are. I'm completely intimidated before I'm even out of the gate. And because I do this a lot, I'm slowly learning that most people are people pretty much like myself, and not intimidating at all. Friendly, likeable. And usually, they even like me.

New situations are likewise usually very friendly and easily handled. Why is it that we so often talk ourselves into thinking that other people are so much more talented than we are? That they have so much more to offer, that they are better cooks, or that the color they pick out for their walls is so much more creative than what we would have picked out, that the cookies they bake will be softer and tastier than those we'll bake? And, (to carry it a step further) even if that were the case, why do we think it even matters? A plate of cookies from someone is a welcome joy, whether they look like they're professionally decorated, or whether they look like a 5 year old decorated them. What matters is that someone thought to give them. To YOU. That is what we need to remember. No matter what our gift or offering or talent, sharing it with others is important. Not only does it bring happiness to those we share it with, it lets our hearts grow as well. Case in point: I play the piano in Primary, in singing time for kids ages 4 through 11. I was not thankful to get this calling. I have not been particularly thankful that I can play the piano, period. Mostly, this is all I am ever asked to do. So when I was asked to do it this latest time, I wasn't happy. When I was younger, the pianist in Primary was always an older woman who was slightly less active at church. And now, here I am, that older woman with a complex that I am someone like that less active sister - someone they don't know what else to do with.

I pouted through the first few months, but lately I've taken to remembering my patriarchal blessing in which I was told that I should share my talents willingly. And I certainly wasn't doing that. So lately I've tried to be better. I'm trying to be an outstanding pianist. Give those four year olds their money's worth, so to speak. Learn their names, be more involved. In the process, I've been more happy to be there. And hopefully I've been less cranky and more likeable. When I started, I felt like the only "older" person in the room, and I was letting that make me feel inferior and intimidated. Out of place.

I was talking to someone a couple of days ago, and she expressed the same kind of feelings of inferiority. Hers may have been related to different things, but in the end it affects us the same: it cripples us, and inhibits our ability to give our best selves. It prevents us from reaching our goals, and keeps us from learning and growing. Pride and insecurity go hand in hand, and neither one have any place in our lives for longer than the second it takes to banish them from our thoughts.

And while we're banishing them from our own lives, why not take every opportunity to banish them from someone elses? Give compliments freely. Give them away with reckless abandon. There have been many times when I've been afraid to compliment a total stranger on their cute haircut, or their great service, or their pretty smile - afraid they'd think I was wierd or goofy. But one thing I've found is that there's virtually no one who doesn't need and/or enjoy compliments. We all have bad days, we all need our egos stroked, and our confidence bolstered. It's a simple little pleasure that costs us nothing to give, and the benefits are HUGE. We are here on earth to help each other through our time here. To pick each other up, to show love and encouragement for efforts made, to applaud successes. We won't make it alone. We do need each other. Give others your gift. Be it humble or grand, a gift is wonderful just in the giving.

I hope you're each one having a wonderful Christmas season so far. Be happy with the things you do, and with the unique person that is you. Because there is no one quite like you anywhere else. A precious gift, indeed.

This post is made in grateful thanks to Sister Glenna G., who is always generous when gifting others with her wonderful compliments. She inspires me through her actions, as well as her lovely words. I always feel amazing and capable after a conversation with Glenna, as well as very lucky to know her.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Tree Lighting


This was the Christmas decorating weekend. We spent it dragging dusty old boxes in from the garage, setting up the tree, stringing lights (our tree predates the pre-lit ones unfortunately...), hanging ornaments, and swagging garland. The living room tree is a glorious combination of gold and purple and twinkling lights. This year Scott came over and helped me with the high parts. I really enjoyed that, and the tree is so pretty.
We have one tabletop tree in the kitchen sitting on top of a sideboard. I hang every little kiddie and old ornament I have on that one. Lots of handmade ornaments and decorations, all with special stories attached. By the time I'm finished it's packed solid with old memories, shiny glittery stars, and egg carton and pipe cleaner bells made through the years by my kids in school. I love that tree. It's pure nostalgia every year as I decorate it. One of my favorite old ornaments is an "eye of God" - you know those diamond shaped stick things that are wound round and round with yarn. My oldest son made it in kindergarten, only about 1/3 of the way through it, it looks like he lost his focus, and threw caution (and yarn) to the winds. It's more like an "eye of the hurricane", and I love it - it's so Rex Does An Art Project.
It always surprises me how long it takes to get everything out and place it around. Some things always go the same way, but others seem to be repurposed every year, but that's what keeps it fresh. This year, we wanted a wreath on the front door. The premade ones we saw that we liked were all in the $80 range and up, so I decided to make one (see picture above). I think it turned out just right, and it cheers me up every time I see the front door. After poking myself with wire several times, I started to get the vision of why someone would charge $80 for a wreath, but my fingers are healing, we have a gorgeous wreath, and I made it myself! I'm a satisfied customer.
The house is festive, (is there anything more magical than a dark room lit only by the glowing lights on the Christmas tree? Heaven...) my shopping is almost done (key word being "almost"), and so now starts the wrapping frenzy. I like to wrap gifts, I really do. But after I've wrapped five or six, its gets a little tiring, (and boring) so I need to pace myself. I have one gift I'm painting, and so I paint a little on that, and then I wrap a little. Plus I need to make sure I get some physical activity worked in somewhere - I can't sit all day at work, and then come home and sit some more. I mean, I could, but I can't. My joints will freeze up like the Tin Man.
Its raining really hard today. I wish I was at home so I could hear it. But more than that, I wish I was home so I didn't have to drive in it. PJ's sound so good right about now, and I'm wondering if I can discipline myself to do yoga instead of going out in the rain to the gym. Hmmm - do you think baking cookies qualifies as aerobic activity? No, probably not. I mean, there's bending and stretching to get them in and out of the oven, but there'll be eating too. I'm pretty sure that trumps any aerobic benefit.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Bring On The Christmas Traditions

Wow - it's Christmas time already. This year was so jam-packed it just flew by! I just barely got out the Thanksgiving decorations in time for that holiday, and it's already time to start dragging out the Christmas things. I brought in a couple of items and then I got paralyzed. I have so many ideas floating around in my head (because I never seem to decorate exactly the same way twice) that I'm not sure where to start. And the gift wrapping - that's taken on a life of it's own! I have a mountain of gifts waiting to be wrapped -some need to go far away so I really do need to get cracking.
Baking. Every year I feel so ambitious in the baking department, and every year I seem to end up making the same things. And not enough of them. This year it would be nice to expand the repertoire and/or make more of the others. What are your favorite holiday treats?

On Christmas Eve we'll have Rex, Ronna, and the grandkiddies. Actually they'll be here for a couple of weeks. I'm trying to think of fun things to do - either generally speaking, or on Christmas Eve. Last year was our first year of doing Christmas Eve solo - with just our kids and grandkids and no aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. The kids are still small, and there will be only two of them, so a Nativity enactment is out. What else do you all do on Christmas Eve (or throughout the season) that is fun and makes memories?

I love to hear about other people's traditions, and am always looking for something we can adapt to our family here. Up until now, ours have pretty much centered around a sugarfest of Christmas treats, and some wassail or hot chocolate. Treats are good, but I was hoping to come up with something a little more memory-making - or maybe ya'll are no more creative than I am? (No - I'm sure you are. Don't disappoint me, now!)

As the Christmas season gets in full swing, and I'm wrapping and painting and shopping and baking and trying to spread Christmas cheer, I hope you'll give me a little peek into your holiday traditions. What is fun, and works for you and your family?

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