Friday, December 31, 2010

some lessons from 2010



~locks and barriers don't always deter intruders and invaders.

~time, talk, and touch equals love to my children.

~judging others can be very harmful and hurtful.

~not homeschooling my children doesn't mean I don't love them any less or that I'm not a diligent mother. Others can teach, love, bless, and inspire my children.

~true learning and education is often self-driven.

~children can be taught, trained, and loved by devoted parents, but are still able to make their own decisions and choices, which allow them to use their God-given gift of agency. Children are born individuals.

~life is fragile. Death can come at any time to any person.

~things can change in the blink of an eye. They can also profoundly change without one even being fully aware that change is taking place.

~friendship is a gift to be cherished and nourished to flourish and be sustained. Things like age, proximity, nationality, and religion aren't determining factors for me.

~nature is very healing.

~things don't always go as planned. Life is never perfect. Let go of this idea.

~people suffer behind their smiles and outer images.

~God's love for me is not based on what I do or accomplish. He loves me unconditionally, purely, perfectly. He doesn't allow bad things to happen in my life to punish me. He always wants what is best for me and for my growth. Even, and especially, when I have to learn His lessons through sorrow or trial.

~breathing deeply is calming, cleansing, and centering.

~laughter is good for my soul. For everyone's soul.

~tears can be purifying.

~there are alternative, natural methods of healing that really do help, without harmful side effects.

~"slow" is often better than "fast".

~expectations of and praise from others can lead to feelings of disappointment. Let it go.

~expressing gratitude is necessary for peace and happiness.

~that it's really a "small world after all".

~I can do hard things. Impossible things I thought I could never do.

~kindness heals. Criticism kills.
~health is a blessing.

~my body is a temple. It is a gift. It can do miraculous things. It can and has served me well. There are some things I can't, even with all the best care and attention I can give, change about it. I can accept and love the way it is right now.

~God will always provide. He will carry me. He will never fail me. His loving care is a constant that will never change or alter. To know this, I need eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart that feels. He will, in His own time and in His own way, send those special "angels" and messages I need that can help in my times of need.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

this special time together, just you and me

Keith and I feel that getting away, just him and me alone, is very important to our relationship. We like to do this a few times throughout the year. The week between Christmas and New Year's has been the perfect time for us to do this. So nice to relax after all the hub-bub and excitement, and also a nice time to talk about our marriage, each of our children, and our plans and hopes for the upcoming year.

Anytime we go away, we've always chosen to stay in bed and breakfasts. We love their charm and unique character, with so much of the focus on little details that make each visit memorable and special. The other factor we appreciate is that they are so much more personalized, quiet, and smaller than your typical hotel experience. And for about the same price, too. (Especially when you consider the wonderful breakfast part of it that's always included.)

We headed up to the "big city"; about 45 minutes away from our home. Built in 1909 for a wealthy and prestigious family in the state, it was converted into a bed and breakfast in the '90's. As you can imagine, this place oozes cozy, traditional class, and romance.

See for yourself.


Front Room and Entry Hall

Parlor

I love all the little architectural details, don't you?


Billiards, anyone?

The dinner. What a treat.
The best creme brulee you'll ever eat.

A blizzard hit while we headed down the hill to our restaurant. It was impossible to get back to the inn with our truck which doesn't have 4-wheel drive (which was a huge mistake, thinking back on that purchase). We ended up parking it overnight in a parking garage and then hiked back in the snowstorm.
Very cold and windy, but still fun to be able to see the beautiful lights downtown and laugh about it together.
I love this picture of us.

View from our balcony this morning
The room. So dreamy.
~
Thank you, Keith, for this special gift. For the time. For the commitment to making this happen year after year. For the sharing. For the joy. For the smiles. For the laughter. For the talk. For the warmth. For the togetherness.
For these happy, cherished memories of just you and me.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

new year, blank slate, fresh start

I went to the office supply store the other day. I needed to get some new monthly calenders for my planner. With January fast approaching and seeing that I already have events to plan for and remember, I was excited to "get organized" by doing this task. It really is a fun ritual for me.

I can't believe how fast 2010 came and went. It seems like time is going at such a quicker and quicker pace with each passing year of my life. Thinking back, I can truthfully and honestly say that it was a very hard year. The most difficult year, I think, but one filled with needed lessons I needed to learn and which I hope to continue to learn. A year of "tender mercies" and unexpected blessings. A year of soul searching. In the next few days, I'll devote a post to some of what this year taught me and gave me.

Now we have a brand new slate ahead of us. With it, comes lots of questions.

What will this new year bring? What will I learn? What will I do? How will I change? What do I really want in this phase of my life?

It's exciting to think of all the possibilities. I like these times of renewal. To start fresh. It seems that every new season of the year, especially at the beginning of summer and "back to school" time, and now in January, are all the times for me to think of goals and planning.

I've never liked the idea of resolutions. I often start out gung-ho with my grandiose goals and then get discouraged by the end of the January when there are set-backs and when I realize my expectations and plans were just too high. I like the idea of possibilities for growth, instead. Rejuvenation, not guilt. Things to shoot for, think about, and then make a plan to realistically achieve. To use this time to formulate dreams, hopes, and ways for a more happy, fulfilling life. To find a way for a more abundant life. To think about my interests. To use this time and ritual as an opportunity to change things that need to change. To lead myself along, gently.

Here are some of my thoughts. I think it's important to not only think of things, but I really believe that the act of writing them down somehow helps them become more concrete, instead of vague "notions". Some of these ideas are carry-overs from other seasons of goal setting. Some things never change.


~make my relationship with God the highest joy and priority. To deepen my relationship and friendship with Him. To truly know Him. To trust and believe Him. To love and serve Him. To find out what He wants for me and then learn how I can become His instrument.

~study the concept and practice being and having calm and peace in my life. I'm seeing that this is a huge weakness of mine. To act instead of react. To be calm, centered, peaceful, and exhibit more self control in the way I react when in a stressful situation or in family relationships. I'm going to do this by being more conscious of my tone of voice, my facial expressions, my body language, my responses.


~look for the good. Smile more.

~listen. Be present. With my heart. Things said and unsaid. Without trying to offer suggestions, help, or having my say. Just listen.


~live more in the "now". Try not to always be thinking of the next thing I need to get done. To not rush. To not be so preoccupied or busy. To be happy just in that moment . To live more consciously.

~to learn to say no to things that aren't that important in the long run. To distinguish between good, better, and best. To cut out activities that infringe on our time together as a family or add to the feeling of stress in our home.

~to stop "running" so much. To allow for "slow". To know that it's what I need now. That's it's okay.

~to take care of myself. To do those foundational things that make me whole and healthy spiritually, physically, emotionally. Things like daily, meaningful prayer and quiet meditation, scripture and inspirational reading, daily movement, feeding my body with nourishing, whole foods, allowing for rest, quiet, alone time, to know that I must have intellectual stimulation.

~to spend individual time with Keith and each of our children. To be a true friend to each of them. This can be done by reading with them, going out on special, planned, meaningful "dates", heart-to-heart talks, back rubs, playing with them, taking walks together.

~to reach out, serve, bless, and help others. Friends, extended family, neighbors, and strangers.

~to get more control over our money. To watch and record my spending. To budget.

~to become a better writer.

~to see and capture my world with my camera.

~to see a new, fresh place in the world. Maybe travel, but more in seeing with new eyes.

~to learn something new every day.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Anglophile

definition: a person who greatly admires or favors England and things English
~
This is so me. To a t.
~
This post has been brewing in my mind for a couple of years, but I think it was spurred on with the excitement I feel knowing that there are quite a few of you U.K 'ers out there who read my blog every day. I was amazed to see, just recently, that there were 17 page views from you folks in one day! One reader from Scotland has even exchanged a few emails with me. I can't tell you how happy this is makes me!
~
For as long as I can remember, I've always had a fascination and interest in English culture.
I think it started with Princess Diana. I remember staying up all night long at my grandmother's house, watching the Royal wedding.
~
Around the same time (I must have been about 10 or 12 years old), my sister Natalie, who I would say started all the craze in our family, dragged me with her to a department store that had a hat department. (Yes, those were the days.) I wondered what she was up to, as I knew there was no way she would be buying a hat. We quietly looked around, and then all the sudden she starts talking with an English accent. My mouth dropped. The saleslady perked up and approached, asking if she could be of assistance. Natalie then proceeded to tell her that she was "on holiday here in the states, visiting friends, and what a fine assortment of hats these were, just like the kinds back home in England!" I stood, as you can imagine, stock-still and wide-eyed, taking this all in. She kept up the act flawlessly for what seemed an eternity and I breathed a sigh of relief when we finally walked out of the store.
~
In 1984, our family moved to Portugal for three years. My father knew how much it would mean to us all, especially Natalie, to stop for a few days in London before we got to our new home. I'll never forget how fun it was to ride to our hotel in that old- fashioned black taxicab (all 9 of us, plus all the luggage made for more than one taxi), take a tour of the city on that double-decker bus, see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, and explore, on foot, Hyde Park and the maze of city streets and quaint shops. Of course, Natalie knew exactly where we were at all times, as she had memorized maps of the names of the streets and their relationship with each other. This was an experience that I'll always treasure.
~
My love affair continued as I grew up. When I was a senior in high school, I read the classic novel Jane Eyre, then watched the BBC Timothy Dalton production, fell even more in love, and vowed to name my first daughter Jane.
~
And I did exactly that.
~
That first piece of English literature was only the beginning. Since then, I've devoured everything by the Bronte sisters, as well as anything by Jane Austin. Almost any book, I can't count them all, that is set in England is a sure-fire attraction. The Miss Read series, James Harriot's books, Mrs. Miniver, Thomas Hardy, Dickens (of course), countless children's literature favorites, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society... the list could go on for miles.
~
I love the concept of tea-time. The ceremony. To be able to slow down. To gather one's thoughts. To gather with loved ones. To quietly sip something warm; to indulge, sometimes, with a little dainty or "sweet". Sometimes, when we're in the big city, we'll swing by a certain British food import market and sit down for a pastry and cup of peppermint tea.
~
Sigh...
~
Keith and I dream of touring England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland someday. Especially the countryside and villages. To stay in a few charming bed and breakfast inns. That's huge on our bucket list.
~
To see this
or this

I'm not the only Anglophile in the family. I often hear my nineteen year old son Gary, blaring "Rule, Britannia!", playing it over and over, while he's doing the dishes. (You should hear him singing along with gusto, too!) I've found him watching with genuine interest, old YouTube videos of past Parliamentary proceedings with Margaret Thatcher firmly holding her ground against the "Libs". We both laugh and get a big kick out of this.
~
British costume/period dramas make me swoon. I like them more than any American film. I'll lose sleep to watch re-runs of Hyacinth Bouquet in BBC television's Keeping Up Appearances. I laugh until I cry.

The kids are excited to watch the Mr. Bean DVD's Sam got for Christmas. Not my "cup of tea", really. I just don't get this humor (humour). The rest of the Christmas videos, Miss Marple, North and South, Silas Marner, and more Cranford (we stayed up late last night, enjoying this one.) will all be treats to look forward to.

~

I love you, Britannia, I truly do. My heart moves whenever I hear "God Save the Queen". I love the pride and tradition of your people. I'm an American through and through, and I know that my admiration to your land and culture might be a little romanticized, but still...
~
My heart belongs to you. It always will.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Daybook for December 26, 2010

Outside my window: It's 6:30 pm on this Sunday evening and it's dark out. Our neighbor's lights across the street are so cheery and festive. This older gentleman puts them up every year, totally decking out his house with cut- out wooden decorations and an array of colored, flashing lights. I don't think he knows what a happy, cheerful feeling that gives to our normally dark, quiet street.

I am thinking/I am thankful for: being able to act as the "middleman" for two families in our neighborhood who provided another family's total Christmas. Getting the wonderful chance to see the joy of those who anonymously gave and see the heart felt gratitude from those who gratefully received. I got to call the mother and tell her that her children would have a Christmas. She had no idea that anything like this would happen. No request for help. A total surprise. The mother and father picked everything up at our house on the afternoon of Christmas Eve.

These types of things make this the sweetest part of my church calling as Relief Society president. A joy I'll absolutely never forget. This needy family was provided with bikes, a wagon, presents and more presents, and bags of groceries. I cried. The family cried.

From the kitchen: Lots of leftovers. Ham. "Funeral" potatoes (a regional food specialty). Fudge. Cookies. Dips. Chips. Seven boxes of sweet cereal. All the crap I never have around. I'm not handling all this temptation very well. Rationalizing while stuffing my face, "I'll just get rid of it by eating it away!" Where has all my will power gone? Why am I too lazy and sugar obsessed to make one of those green smoothies I'm always raving about? I'm tempted to give the kids the rest of the box of Dots and my half eaten bar of Swiss chocolate I got in my stocking. Or just be brave and throw it all away.


I am creating: I'm not in a creative mode anymore. I've had my fill, but Eliza is sure going strong in the art department. She's been engrossed in her new Beatrix Potter~ A Journal book we got her and is having fun playing around with this artist's "style" and technique.


I am going: to go downstairs in a bit to watch It's a Wonderful Life with the family.

I am hoping: I can feel motivation to go on a walk tomorrow morning. Haven't done anything besides one day of yoga last week. My hips and leg are hurting more than ever. Even with no running or walking at all for the last few weeks. They hurt even while sitting down or lying in bed. I'm worried and not sure what I can do about it.

I am reading: Am liking this book I got from Keith called The Minister's Wooing by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Wasn't aware of her other books besides Uncle Tom's Cabin. Found out that she didn't start writing until she was in her 40's and already was the mother of seven children. She was a part of a writing club called the "Semi-Colons". Now, that's inspirational.

Also looking forward to reading the C.S. Lewis books The Problem of Pain and The Screwtape Letters I got for Keith. I'm seeing now that it was very convenient for me to buy gifts for my family that I find "interesting" :)

I am hearing: a rousing game of Monopoly going on in the kitchen. I also hear Sam asking Gary some random question like, "What do you think we eat more of in sausage--sheep's liver or pig's small intestine?" (They're all engrossed in a new trivia book Isaac got for Christmas.)


Around the house: Jane has got the idea of what we're all going for this week.


One of my favorite things: Keith gave me this print of Brian Kershesnik's Nativity. The first time I saw the huge, stunning, mural- sized original at a local art museum, it absolutely took my breath away, my eyes filling with tears. Such power and emotion. I'm so excited to go get it framed. I'm debating whether to hang it in our bedroom or in the living room. It'll surely be up all year round.


I am wearing: new gray turtleneck sweater from Keith, navy cords, and white slippers.

A few plans for the rest of the week: lots of R&R. I need it. We all need it. Should add another R to it: Rest, Relaxation, and Recuperation. Keith has the week off, and it will be so nice for us all to spend time together. We'll go out to lunch with the kids tomorrow at a favorite local Peruvian restaurant and then go see the new Narnia movie. Helping in the kitchen for a church member's daughter's wedding reception on Tuesday night. Overnight, romantic, bed and breakfast interlude with Keith. Watching all the British mini-series movies I bought for Christmas, excited to share Cranford with Keith. (Can you believe he actually said that we need to bring it with us to watch on our getaway? What a cool husband.) New Year's Day brunch here with our dear friends and my mom.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Our Christmas

How was your Christmas? Was it all you hoped it would be? I thought of you. I really did. I imagined each of you, scattered across the globe, celebrating with your families.

Can I give you a little glimpse of ours?

Here we go.

We headed over to my mom and dad's house on Christmas Eve. A hop, skip, and a jump away.

Their fireplace is so cozy. I'm glad Eliza took this picture.

This is my mom. Don't you think she's beautiful? Of course, Mama outdid herself, as usual. What a spread. The house was decorated so lovely, too, like it always is.

I brought along some English Christmas crackers. No, not the kind you eat. (Although I did bring a basket of those kinds of crackers, too.) Isaac got a kick out of the "pop" and the prize. We all did.

After dinner, we headed to the living room to open presents. I love the look of anticipation on Isaac's face.

Oh, Joy!! Mama knitted all the grand kids a new pair of slippers. All 15 of them. That's a lot of knitting, folks.

Ice cream cake roll for dessert. Our version of a Buche de Noel. So pretty and oh, so good.

Back home to open packages. Just a few. The kids all drew each other's names and then they got to open one from Mom and Dad.

New p. j.'s! Not homemade, but still fun and appreciated. Seeing the kids lined up like this, all smiling and happy... it makes my heart melt.

Eliza made this darling elephant for Isaac. He's in love. Who wouldn't be with such a cuddly, cute little companion. The sweetest gift, ever.

The kids all headed down to the basement to sleep together. That's tradition around here. Everyone but Isaac stayed up 'til 2:00 to watch movies. I slept like a log. I couldn't believe how late we all got up Christmas morning. I felt like I had to call downstairs to get everyone up and going. 8:30 a.m. has got to be the record.

Me in all my glory.
My parents, my two brothers Reuben and Andrew, and my sister Natalie and her two children headed over to our house later for brunch.

It was nice having them join us. Very poignant and tender with Natalie and the kids moving on Tuesday across the country to Wisconsin. It will be so hard and we'll miss them terribly. My sister Sara and her family will live just around the corner from her, and I know that will be wonderful for both of them to be together.

We all had fun playing Mad Gab. Very fun game.
The rest of the day was spent lounging around mostly. Yes, I trudged back to the kitchen for more cooking duties. (Will it ever end?) Gary headed over to help my mom set up her new iPod. Isaac took a few spins on his new bike, (Darn. I didn't get a picture. ) and a few of us got in much needed naps. We headed up to Grandpa's and enjoyed dinner with Keith's family.
Coming back to our house was unsettling and a little unnerving. Last Christmas we came home and found our house burglarized and ransacked. A call to 911, the police, four+ carloadsful, almost Swat- team style, searching our house and property. A very terrifying Christmas we'll never forget. Needless to say, when we pulled up, headed in to the house, and found all well and like we left it, we all literally took a big sigh of relief. Later when Eliza came up to my bed to tell me goodnight, she said, "Mom, it's just nice to feel so safe." A blessing and a gift we so often take for granted.
All in all, a very happy Christmas Day.
~
****A few "bloopers" worth noting. Mostly on my part and proof that I'm losing my mind.(That, or just plain exhaustion.)
~Twinky, our elf I told you about who visited our house leaving a little treat every day this month, well he must have been in La-La Land for forgetting he had already brought The Forgotten Carols DVD for two years in a row now. He must be getting senile.
~While trying desperately to find Gary's requested Lawrence of Arabia DVD gift hiding somewhere in Keith's or my closet, (which never showed up, by the way.) I found another forgotten copy of Toy Story 3. The other one was wrapped up under the tree.
~I was so thrilled to purchase, at 50% off, too, the BBC production of Cranford. It would be a gift to the family (he, he... wink, wink) Come to find out, Gary ordered it from Amazon for me and it's on it's way. Ugh...
~Jane bought Gary a shirt he already had.
Just a few funnies from the day...

Friday, December 24, 2010

My Christmas Wish For You

It's Christmas Eve. For today's post, I wanted to make a little "Christmas card" to wish each of you a Merry Christmas. I wanted to include a picture of my family all together. I think this one, taken this spring at Nana's gravesite, is the only one I have.

At first glance, it doesn't seem very Christmasy. But as I've pondered this photograph, when I see the looks and feelings of peace and happiness on each of our faces, I'm realizing that this choice of a picture for my card does express my feelings about the meaning, essence, and reason why we celebrate Christmas.

This is what I've learned this year: I've learned that Jesus is our Rescuer. The little Babe, born in a manger, the Gift to the world, broke the bands of sin and death for each of us. That, and so much more. That gives me hope. I can smile, even through the pain, heart ache, sorrow, fear, and disappointment.

I love this description of the Savior I found a couple of years ago by a man named Warren Wiersbe:

His name is Wonderful:

This takes care of the dullness of life. We no longer need to live on the cheap substitutes of the world in order to have excitement and enjoyment. Jesus Christ makes everything wonderful.

His name is Counselor:

This takes care of the decisions of life. We no longer will be baffled by the problems of life, wondering what step to take next. With Jesus Christ as Counselor, we will have the wisdom that we need to make the right decisions.

His name is The Mighty God:

This takes care of the demands of life. And life is demanding! Sometimes we feel like giving up; but through Jesus Christ we can have the strength that we need to continue-and to conquer.

His name is The Everlasting Father:

This takes care of the dimensions of life. We can become part of eternity! A whole new dimension of living can be ours through Jesus Christ, when the government of our life is on His shoulders.

His name is The Prince of Peace:

This takes care of the disturbances of life. How we long for lasting peace within! What we would not to give for the secret of poise and confidence in a threatening world! The answer is- Jesus Christ. He is our prince of Peace and when he controls the government of your life, he gives you peace.


It's my sincere desire that you can feel the peace you are searching for. That you can feel hope in this troubled world. That you will know that there is a Way provided by a loving God. That this Christmas season can be a time of reflection and a time of joy as you celebrate with those you love.

This is my wish to you.

Love and Blessings,

Emily

Thursday, December 23, 2010

...the Christmas rush is through

It's been a whirlwind of activity around here. Busy, but all good.

I've been working hard to make Christmas special. I know you all have been, too. Been wondering if all I'm doing is worth it. If it's not only blessing others, but myself as well. I'm concluding, like I do every year, that it does makes me happy, even when I do get tired, using my talents in this manner. When I can show my love to my dearest friends, my kind neighbors and fellow church members, good people who make an impact on my kids lives, those people who might be overlooked and who might be glad to be remembered by me. It gives me a deeply satisfying feeling visiting, sharing, and loving this way.


Things are winding down now. Baking is DONE. (Well, maybe. I might still make some cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning and some Divine Buns for dinner later at Grandpa's. There's always somthing.)

Can you imagine baking 16 loaves of bread in one afternoon? Well, it can be done.

And then... still have energy to go to two high school basketball games, in between delivering more goodies.

Needless to say, we came home and crashed with some Chinese take-out.

Gifts are all wrapped and sitting under the tree. I love this year's wrapping paper, don't you? So pretty.

Packages were sent yesterday. Better late than never. I was glad Keith took that job over this year. I loved how he had little pictures of Nana (his mother died last spring) in little silver frames for all the grandchildren, along with a crisp $10 bill to go toward pajamas. (That was the gift she gave to us every year.)

Isaac and I had a fun time together yesterday, baking half of the sugar cookie dough.

We'll finish up the rest with the other kids today.

I also put together these little jars of raspberry butter. This stuff is the yummiest. Every one who tries it says the same. Definitely a power punch to homemade bread and rolls.
Would you like the recipe? It's way easy.
1/2 c. honey
1/2 c. raspberry jam
1 t. vanilla
1/2 lb. butter, softened
With an electric mixer, beat ingredients until very smooth. Store in the fridge.

Today's plan: off to play with my kids, maybe take a nap, maybe read, maybe go for a walk.
Ahhh.



Wednesday, December 22, 2010

gifts from my kitchen

jars of "Christmas Simmering Scents"~
water-filled quart jars with sliced oranges, lemons, and limes along with cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, bay leaves, and a few drops of Holiday Joy essential oil blend. Placed to simmer in a saucepan on the stove, this will bring the smells of Christmas in the home!
cheese balls with assorted crackers

English Toffee

Rasperry-Oatmeal Bars

Favorite Fudge

Peanut Butter Fudge

"Healthy" Almond Joy Fudge~
dairy-free, with agave, coconut oil, and of course, coconut and chopped almonds

little bundles of joy ready to be packaged up in baskets

***Today's work plan: braided Challah bread to give with little jars of raspberry butter, and later, the kids and I will bake and decorate sugar cookies.