Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Stockings

For our book club this month we were asked to bring our favorite Christmas story to share. Although I wouldn’t be able to attend the meeting that night, I still reflected on which Christmas story was my favorite.
After going through all the Christmas Children’s books and short stories in our Christmas binders it dawned on me that there was a story that hadn’t been written down yet. It was my own Christmas Story; a story of giving, compassion, brotherly (sisterly) love, sacrifice, and going the extra mile.

I was sixteen and the oldest at home. It was a difficult time for my family. My mother was absent. She had a terrible nervous break down and left our family and home two months before Christmas. Then my older brother left. So it was me, my dad, and two younger brothers.

As Christmas approached I grew more and more anxious about Christmas morning and how it would all play out without a mother. We grew up with a mother that always made Christmas magical. Not to say that we had tons of costly presents. In fact, we would get about five presents each. I still remember that one was a package of socks and another was always under wear. That was a little embarrassing for me to open as I was the only girl in a family of three boys. Then there was a game and the other one we got every year was a small book of life savers. But the most exciting part of our Christmas morning was our stockings. My mother, I mean, Santa, stuffed them full of treats, trinkets, and thoughtful small gifts individualized for each child. So fun.
I don’t know how my mother did it every year. She was really resourceful and could make anything. But this particular year I don’t think there was much money for Christmas or maybe my father was so depressed and just trying to survive the horrible life without his sweetheart that he wasn’t aware of children needing gifts for Christmas. Those were sad days.

I was able to save a little of my own babysitting money for some Christmas candy and something for each brother, but I think I was so worried about our situation that I must have confided in my best friend, Carrie. She listened and offered words of comfort. She told me that everything would work out. I remember feeling better.

Christmas Eve had finally arrived. I made sure that my young brothers had fallen asleep. With very little to give them my heart broke. I wanted so badly to stuff there stockings full of wonderful and magical things so that for a moment they wouldn’t feel the pain of a missing mother on Christmas day. I had a last minute thought of a little something I could do. So I sat at my father’s desk and using one of his red pens I wrote each brother a special letter from Santa Claus. I told them both how wonderful they were and that they deserved so much and that Christmas would be better next year. With a heavy heart I finished the letters and signed Santa Claus’s name.

As I was putting candy and the letters in their stockings I heard somebody at the front door trying to get in. Could it really be Santa? It was Carrie, with bags in each hand. I couldn’t believe it. She brought over cars, markers, toys, candy, anything that two young boys would love to find in their stockings. She insisted that I help her fill the stockings. She was so excited and happy to be there. I remember at first I felt embarrassed because of our humble situation but the embarrassment was quickly replaced with gratitude. I was grateful for my prayers being answered by a kind and giving best friend who was more than Santa Claus. She was an angel. She made our Christmas a magical one that year. I learned what Christmas was really all about. Christmas is the season of selfless giving and brotherly love one to another.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Thoughtful Surprises

I've seen Wordless Wednesdays. Flashback Fridays. Funny Fridays. I once tried to start Truly inspiring Tuesdays.
I need to start something new for the fun, little surprises I find in my camera. Sometimes it's Meagan and other times it's Addie, who take random pictures that I happen to find when I down load my pictures from my camera. They surprising uplift my glum day. Like today, I was washing the dishing when I took a break to put on my blog to listen to my Christmas play list. Aren't you just enjoying it too? And then I got side tracked, which happens to me when I sit at the computer. I remembered that I had pictures to download and what a pleasant surprise to come across these amazing pictures. Meagan's been reading the owner manual for the camera and she apparently figured out how to use the timer.
Oh, I love these girls.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Exchanging Ornaments

Cheryl started a little tradition three years ago. A Christmas ornament exchange. We love it. This year it was my turn to host. I think that I prefer Cheryl hosting it...

First, I had to find 12 willing friends to make ornaments. Believe me. Some try to get out of it. So we, Cheryl & I, bribe them with a delicious brunch.

Next, I make cute invitations. As cute as Cheryl would produce. That's a lot of pressure.

And then the fun part. We search all our Christmas books, recipes, favorite blogs, & websites for the perfect Christmas brunch menu. This year it was buttermilk pancakes with blueberry sauce topped with a caramelized pear, inspired by Cheryl's stay at a bed & breakfast this summer on Victoria Island. Some times we try some thing new like candied bacon. Sweat & savory.

Oh what a beautiful sight.

I really enjoy this tradition. For two hours I get to hang out with incredible women, laugh, eat, and relax. Finally we decide to exchange.

Rachelle P. showing us her soda pop bottle cap ornament. So cute.

Rachelle L. showing off her darling vinyl ornament. Loved it! And Cheryl presenting her cheerful signs. Very sweet and festive. I hung mine on the Merry Christmas Wreath on my front door. Really love it!

And here's the rest.
Can you guess which one is mine? Next year I'm doing something with vinyl.
Every ornament has a story. Lisa's owl is made out of all recycled materials. She's so clever. Amy's ornament is inspired by something her mother does every year. Amy's whole tree is decorated with ornaments that are Christ centered. Perfect. I could go on and on. Each ornament I will cherish.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

My Early Christmas Gift

Back in August, (wow, it's been 6 months already?) A kind friend offered me her china hutch for free. She needed to make room for her grandmothers farm table that has nine, count it...nine leaves. Don't you just love getting furniture for free? I do. And I couldn't say no. Even though I had a sinking feeling that it wouldn't work in my dinning room. It was big, really fancy, and stained dark walnutish. I'm more of a plain, Shaker, or cottage lover going for the charming and warm feeling of the English country.

My husband hates it when I bring home fix it up projects. Usually he's the one that gets stuck fixing them up. He's getting so good at it.

The hutch sat in the dinning room empty, collecting dust. I studied that piece every day trying to picture how I wanted it to look. First, I saw it painted a pleasant light blue and distressed on it's edges. But I'm not a blue person. Finally a couple weeks ago I decided on red. I love red, thanks to Ma Kempton, my long time best friend's grandmother. She inspired me.

So red it is going to be. And we committed to it by purchasing one gallon of red delicious.

John and Meagan worked on it for two hours or more with the hand power sander to rid it of it's dark glossy shine. It was hard work and John figured that it would be impossible to do the upper part of the hutch. With all it's glass and mirrors it would take forever to paint. And the wood quality was different than the bottom piece. It wasn't as good. We didn't think that it could handle the intense sanding.

I couldn't believe it when I took a peek. Down to its naked true self. I liked it. I was ready for John to get started on the painting. But then it was my turn he informed me. My assignment was to get into all the little decorative grooves and crown molding with the heavy weight sand paper by hand. I put that off for a few days.

But I couldn't stand it any longer. I wanted the thing redand back in my house. Time for it to reach it's full potential as a T.V. stand. We've been using an old IKEA coffee table. It's gotten us through this long but it's always bugged us because it was too low. What is it that when I'm working on something with my hands that I start pondering on the work or task , and life, and how what I'm working on is like life? Like when I'm weeding. I always reflect on those weeds and how they symbolize sin or unwanted behavior in my life and if I pull it out when it just pops out of the ground, when it's small and the roots are not developed its easier to get rid of it. So as I sanded. I put some major elbow grease into the work to rid the hutch of it's less desirable dark shine I found myself having thougths of how Heavenly Father is the sander. He allows me to be sanded. First with the hand power sander. Like when I had cancer and then Peter had cancer. Now I'm getting worked on in those little decorative grooves. I'm facing some more heath issues. After a few weeks of hearing the news I'm getting ready to write about it. It's good therapy but kind of a sad read. I'm so glad that I wrote about our journey with Peter's cancer. So many life lessons were taught to us and when I read back on them it reminds me of those lessons and helps me be happier, grateful, and a better person.

It's interesting the things we inherit from our parents. I've inherited a nasty precancerous family colon issue that's linked to my thyroid cancer an Peter's liver cancer. What's a colon any way? The doctor told me that I would be better off without it. So here we go again...

So in six months or so this fix it up project will have some changes. After some heavy duty sanding I won't be keeping that "top piece". It just didn't fit and it wasn't quality. But I sure do love my new red T.V. stand!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Let the Season Begin!

And she's off...Finally. I'm talking about myself. I've been a little slow getting into the festive season. But it finally feels like Christmas time, thanks to decorations placed throughout the home and their empty boxes back out in the garage, hot chocolate with whipping cream sprinkled with nutmeg, Christmas potpourri simmering on the stove, It's a Wonderful Life playing in the background, and me, crafting some homemade Christmas tree ornaments.