Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Winter Solstice

Now that I am a grandma and more than half of my grandkids live out of state and only gather during the holidays and summer vacation, I am always looking to make every minute I have with them memorable.  So this last December I figured that I had plenty of extra time- besides running a bed and breakfast/lunch/dinner for 13 assorted descendants, 52 church/work/neighborhood deliveries, 2 extended family Christmas Dinners, Christmas Eve Nativity Play, not to mention Christmas Day- of course I could fit in a Winter Solstice Celebration!

I enlisted my daughters (hereinafter referred to as “the mommies”) who would be in town into helping me make December 21st a big deal this year by turning it into a “pinable” event.  They were instantly and enthusiastically on board.  It would be my job to make it fun, and their job to stage and capture it.

December 21st and Winter Solstice dawned, late.  I gathered everyone around the breakfast table to introduce them to the theme and activities planned for the day.  The nice thing about trying to make an important point first thing in the morning is that most folks are still sleepy enough that they aren’t making a lot of noise, so there is a chance that you can get your point across.  BTW, also, too sleepy to really give a hoot.  

“My darlings, welcome to Winter Solstice, the day of the year with the fewest hours of sunshine. If you want to know more about the whole earth and its axis and it's trip around the sun, be sure and ask your science teacher”.  I moved on quickly before the 4 year old could ask what a science teacher was.  “Today we are going to do some super fun things to help us remember how much light we have in our lives.”

We started by making Bunny Buns (Recipe/Children's Friend).  I told them that bunnies do not hibernate, so on this day they have just a few hours to find food and scurry back to their dens.  “This is a great chance for us to be so thankful for our warm homes and how easy it is for us to find food” (ie, stumble to the breakfast table and see if Mimi made muffins or french toast). It took longer for the fog to clear for some than others.

So after everyone had washed their hands we handed out chunks of bread dough and showed them how to roll it until it was nice and long and then twist it just so.  
Some of the kids made little dough suns.   
They carefully placed their creations on the cookie sheets, and looked up at me with their beautiful little faces and said ,”But Mimi, we are starving NOW”.   

So while their creations raised, baked, cooled and were glazed, they got cold cereal.  Their creations made for a great afternoon snack.

Next up - try to make ice lanterns.

“Tonight the sun will go down earlier than on any other day of the year.  So we want to light the way for all who pass by our home.  I have gathered some evergreens and we will add some yummy red cranberries for color.  We will freeze them now so that we can put candles in them later.”

Though I had imagined how I would do this, I hadn’t actually practiced, so for a moment my confidence waned. My wonderful son-in-law is a very good and sport brainstormed with me for about 20 minutes on the specifics.   Some of the children gave up and went to play and others began to roll the cranberries off the edge of the table..  

We finally came upon a plan and went to work.  Christmas music blasted in the background, after all there was only 4 days left to listen to it.

Our creations looked amazing as we made room for them in the freezer.  The smell of fresh evergreen permeated the house for hours.  Perfect.  However, the lanterns had taken longer than planned, so we bumped the bird feeders to the afternoon and moved onto lunch.

At some point during lunch one of my grandaughters, who had turned 3  just two weeks earlier turned to her mother and asked her if today was the day she was going to have her Birthday Tea-party.  I looked sideways at her mother as she paled and asked her daughter  if she would like more marshmallows in her hot chocolate.   A quick conference was convened moments later in the kitchen.
“I thought she forgot!”
“So did I!”
“Apparently we were wrong.”
“So, can we figure something out?”

By ditching the bird feeder craft we could make way for the Tea Party.  In no time at all, we sent the boys to the basement, the bigs bribed to shepherd the littles, and set to work creating a Winter Wonderland Tea Party for the four girl cousins.  In less than ten minutes and 10 bags of fruit snacks for bribes to change into dresses and hold still  we had this…

It lasted 8 minutes-the fruit snacks ran out.  Then while the mommies cleaned up the tea party, Mimi entertained the party goers.  “What” I asked, “ is another way to have light when it is dark?”
I am like a star shining brightly
Shining for the whole world to see
I can do and say
Happy things each day
For I know Heavenly Father loves me
The big boys downstairs had done an excellent job with their shepherding, so well deserved bribes and thanks were generously distributed.

Naptime at last...oops, spoke too soon, the mommies decided on a whim to bundle up their kids and take them for a quick photo shoot in a nearby canyon.  

My granddaughters are well documented popsicles.  I took a nap.

Now, to prepare to light the night.

“OK, everyone, let’s make lanterns!”   Everyone who was old enough to use scissors came and pitched in.  The 3 and 4 year olds tried to pass off themselves as old enough, but I had my glasses on and called for Papa.  Off he whisked them into the kitchen to make a cake!  
I took this opp to string up even more Christmas lights.  Oh my poor electric bill.
As we gathered for dinner it took me a minute to get everyone to quiet down so I could make another one of my speeches.  This was accomplished by grabbing all of the serving spoons and holding them hostage.  To their credit, I didn’t catch a single offspring rolling their eyes.  

I said, “We had so much fun together today!  Thank you all for helping me to think about all the ways we have light in our life and find ways to celebrate that light.  We have worked all month to support the challenge to “light the world 25 ways in 25 days” (video/lds.org).  We have learned that we can light up other people’s lives by being kind, even in small ways.  We did this to share that we believe that the Savior would want us to serve each other the way He served us. I just wanted to let you know that the most important light in my life is the Savior.  He can light our lives, even on the darkest days.”
At last the food was blessed, utensils returned to their dishes, and the darkest day of the year had been celebrated with creativity, gratitude, family, and the thing that was most important to me, a chance to tell future generations that it is all because of Him.
Special thanks to Xan Craven for the photos. See more at http://www.xanseye.com

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Woman at the Well

On Sunday I was leading the singing in church with the children 3-11 years old, my favorite thing in the world!  I had a bunch of pictures of paintings of Jesus' life that would each lead us to sing a song about him.  One of the paintings I held up is the picture "Christ and the Samaritan Woman" by Carl Bloch  (Paintings of Bloch, Jan 1991). I had a basic idea of her story, but a lot of the details were vague.  My mind was suddenly filled with questions about this story.

So the basics of the story are (John 4:5-42) that Jesus and his disciples were traveling through Samaria and stopped at a well while his disciples went into the city to get some food.  Jesus asked a woman who was there at the well to get him a drink of water, and a discussion ensued about the gift of living water.  In the process, Jesus les her know that he knows she has had 5 husbands and the one she is now with is not her husband.  How old is this woman?  Its going to take some time to go through that many men! And what are we to make of the sentence "and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband"?  Kinda makes me wonder if she was living with some guy, but didn't mean that she could be stoned?  Was she keeping that a secret from her neighbors or did they know?

Then Jesus tells her that he is the promised Christ, and...

 28 The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men,
 29 Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?

And here come more questions:  How long did it take her to get there?  Did she go door to door, or maybe to the market or to a synagogue?  Did she go to strangers or to men she knew?  Did everyone she told come, or most, or just a few?  As she hurried to the city, did she doubt if she could convince anyone to come back with her?  Did she consider not doing anything?  Did she worry that maybe Jesus would be gone by the time she got back, then she would be considered a fool?

And the biggy, for me anyway:   If she told anyone who knew her, would they discount her message because of her lifestyle, because she wasn't perfect?

More questions:  How long was it before she and the men who did listen to her make it back to the well? Now in this age of technology, we can get the word out in seconds, and folks can jump in the cars and be anywhere in minutes.  Not two thousand years ago.  How long did Jesus wait?  It was long enough that his disciples were concerned about whether he had eaten anything.  And speaking of those disciples, how come they didn't bring a crowd to hear Jesus?

So I have lots of questions and few answers.  I tried to put myself there, that day. Honestly, the more I thought about it the more question I came up with (aren't you glad I did write ALL of them?).

 In the end, I come away with two understandings:  
1-No matter who you are, when you have truth to share, leave everything and share it, and no matter how imperfect you are, there will be those who listen.
2-No matter how long it takes,  Jesus will be waiting for you.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Why, Thank You

So yesterday I dragged my kid who is just home from college to the doctor.  She has been oozing snot and germs for two weeks and I knew it was time to get help once she told me her ear was clogged.

After asking all the usual questions the doctor went to look in her ears but couldn't see anything until she had done a bit of house cleaning.  I commented that was a family trait.  The doctor then quipped, "That means you will look younger."


"Weird as it sounds, " she said, "Studies have shown that the more ear wax a person produces seems to coincide with having fewer wrinkles."

Get out.

So the next time some one says, "Oh, no, you look WAY to young to have 6 grandkids..."

I will say,

"Why, Thank You, its the ear wax".

Why, Thank You

So yesterday I dragged my kid who is just home from college to the doctor.  She has been oozing snot and germs for two weeks and I knew it was time to get help once she told me her ear was clogged.

After asking all the usual questions the doctor went to look in her ears but couldn't see anything until she had done a bit of house cleaning.  I commented that was a family trait.  The doctor then quipped, "That means you will look younger."


"Weird as it sounds, " she said, "Studies have shown that the more ear wax a person produces seems to coincide with having fewer wrinkles."

Get out.

So the next time some one says, "Oh, no, you look WAY to young to have 6 grandkids..."

I will say,

"Why, Thank You, its the ear wax".

Monday, July 8, 2013

Lessons from Rattlesnakes

I think I read the story in one of those Chicken Soup for the Soul books.  A man described the home he grew up in as surrounded by tall weeds and that rattlesnakes were a constant concern.  I seem to remember that he said his mother was fairly short, but maybe that is just the way my imagination sees her.  Anyway, I guess the kids would play outside in the summer and she would watch from the kitchen window.  From time to time she would go flying out of the house, grab the hoe left at the ready on the porch, and tear out into the field.  He said sometimes the weeds were so tall and she was so short that all you could see was the hoe waving in the air.  She would return triumphant and warn the kids again to be watchful.  Be Ever Watchful.

My fourth great grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Johnson, and his young family traveled from Nauvoo, Illinois in 1844 when the Latter-Day Saints fled the United States to seek religious freedom in the west.  Brigham Young, the president of the LDS church at the time and leader of the exodus, asked Benny and several other families to stay behind a year and plant crops for those who would be coming along later. Among other instructions President Young left specific direction NOT to harm the rattlesnakes, and a promise that if they would leave the snakes alone, the setters would not be harmed.  He never promised that the snakes would leave the setters alone, however.

 Benny described several encounters with rattlesnakes.  One day he was pulling long weeds around his home and ended up with a handful of rattlesnake.  Remembering the direction from the prophet, he carefully carried the snake far from the cabin.  Another day the family was returning from a walk and found the 2 year old clapping her hands and pointing to something behind a chest, exclaiming, "Pitty, pitty".  It was a rattlesnake, coiled to strike.  Again, Benny carried the snake far from the cabin.  Benny describes how the family would walk to gather wild berries not far from their home, and as they traveled the path, they could hear the rattle of the snakes along either side of them.  They stayed on the path, gathered their berries and returned home, unharmed.  Benny's family never harmed the snakes, and the snakes never harmed them.  He followed an inspired leader, removed danger whenever it crossed the line, and stayed on the path.

I read this last night as I studied scriptures with my husband, "...there are two courses of action to follow when one is bitten by a rattlesnake.  One may, in anger, fear or vengefulness pursue the creature and kill it.  Or he may make full haste to get the venom out of his system. If we pursue the latter course we will likely survive, but if we attempt to follow the former, we many not be around long enough to finish it." (Ensign, Jan 1974)  Should the worst happen, and a rattlesnake enter and strike, with swiftness focus your efforts on healing.

So to my children who are all beginning to have children of their own I share these lessons from rattlesnakes:
Be Ever Watchful
Follow Inspired Leaders
Remove Dangers Far from the Family
Stay on the Path
Be Swift to Seek Healing.

Friday, July 5, 2013

There is hope

It's the day after Independence Day and I find myself thinking about hope. I have been doing a lot of family history lately and I like to imagine that my ancestors traveled to America because they were driven by a hope that some aspect of life would be better.

For example there is Lizzie and James. Living in England they found each other through their new faith, the restored truth preached by missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and fell in love. They wanted to be together forever, not just until they died, and they wanted their children forever, not just until the grave claimed them. They knew the best hope for that was to be sealed, not just for time, but for eternity, and they knew that opportunity was only available in the temple. So they bid farewell to their families and made the ocean voyage, and then the long journey across America to Utah, a dessert in the middle of no where that wouldn't even become a part of the United Sates for another 15 years. She was 17, he was 20. The year was 1881. They had an eventful trip but arrived in Salt Lake City and were married in the Salt Lake Endowment House June 9, 1881.  Their hope was well rewarded as they had a good long life together and had 15 kids!

The thing is, Lizzie and James didn't just sit around and hope, they got up and put their hope into action.  I think America is inhabited by people who not only had hope, but got up did something about it. I believe that I am genetically encoded, thanks to generations of good sturdy people from all over the world, to not only be hopeful, but to get off my well padded bottom and get going. I like that!

"For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope." 1 Corinthians 9:10

or as Audrey Hepburn said:

My granddaughter, Liberty Dale, was named after her Uncle Dale who was killed in Afghanistan. He was an American soldier who believed everyone should be able to live according to their hopes and dreams.

"For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. Job 14:7

From Lizzie to Liberty, the seed of hope is handed down. Plant it, nurture it, water it, put it in the sun. Let hope grow.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Here A Piece, There A Piece

I have loved fabric since I was young.  I remember nagging my mother to help me make Barbie clothes until she couldn't take it anymore and gave in. I think I was all of 7.  I remember huddling with her in the basement of the cricket house (aptly named for the black cricket invasion one summer when we were living in Kansas. Ugh) while we worked on a little project.  As if the fact that she HATED sewing wasn't enough, she was still recovering from a horrendous car accident, leaving her with scars and burns and a dislocated shoulder.  Bless her!  I don't remember exactly how it worked out, but I do remember that I continued to beg her over the coming years to take me to buy fabric and teach me to sew.  Bless her again, she did NOT teach me to sew, but paid a ridiculous amount of money for sewing lessons each summer for years.

Each new project gave me the chance to BUY FABRIC.  Oh my, I still remember a tiny little fabric store in Paradise, California that I would ride my bike to.  I would wander up and down the 2 whole aisles of fabric and had to touch every single bolt.  Frantically I tried to figure out how to get as much fabric as possible on my limited allowance.  Then I would take my fresh, crisp bits and put them carefully in my box that I roped to the back of my bike and fly home as fast as my chubby little legs could peddle.  I would lie in bed at night and wish I could figure out how to get all the scraps to join together so I could have one really big piece of fabric!

And now at the ripe old age of 53 I still thrill over every piece of fabric...

and carefully save them in stacks, and stacks...and stacks.   Best of all, I have figured out how to sew them into really big pieces of fabric...called QUILTS. And along with my ever growing stash of fabrics, I have also collected fellow fabric addicts, just like me!  We love the way the pieces of fabric interact, bringing out patterns and color and shape and movement.

I found this yummy piece of warm thought from one of my quilting buddies, a darling and generous friend I met while living in Tokyo, Japan.  She organized a huge group to meet at a local church with donated fabrics and make as many quilts as possible in a day to be sent to help in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.  She wrote,

"To all my dear quilting friends:

" I was told a very touching story this week through a translator. More than a year ago as the tsunami devastated Japan the person telling me this story was making a presentation for her job to a group in Sendai. There was one woman in the group that lost everything (her home, her belongings, etc). Her job was essential wiped out also. Shortly after the tsunami she was sitting in a temporary housing site and feeling completely hopeless, alone, and forgotten. A car drove up with an employee from Monavie carrying all our quilts for Japan. As this woman was given one of these quilts she said she knew she wasn't alone. That there were others so far away that loved her and cared what was happening to her. It gave her great hope and much needed comfort. Even one year later she was still so touched by the gift of the quilt. I thought it would be appropriate to share this with you all. Thanks for your contributions! I think our efforts were worth it."

Truth be told, somewhere along the way the imaginations of a little girl and her pieces of fabric moved on to a big girl who likes to imagine that those pieces of fabric, sewn piece by piece into a quilt, bring a little comfort here and there.  I am no longer driven just by the thrill of a bit more fabric. I am driven to piece quilts because I cherish winter nights when everyone in the family wraps in a quilt as we gather.  I am driven to piece quilts by an image of a woman in a third world country dashing into a rain storm with an infant wrapped only in newspaper.  I am comforted by a small card in which a friend told me that when she needed comfort, she wrapped up in the quilt I made her and felt loved.

I believe by little pieces great pieces can be brought to pass.