Friday, December 24, 2010

My Christmas Wish

I spent this afternoon writing...something that makes me VERY happy! Merry Christmas!

My extended family has always been close (remember, we’re the bestest family EVER, as I told you in Web of Family). These days, we keep in touch via or Facebook, with streaming video and digital pictures…but in the ‘old days’, we sent newsletters to family members each month. It was a monumental task to gather the letters written by each family member, copy them many times, and then bind them together. We would stuff envelopes and send them from Washington to Florida and even overseas in some cases.

We also included a feature story each month. We spotlighted the experiences of returned missionaries throughout the years, told the birth stories of each family member, recanted the “how we met” stories of each couple, and talked about the multiple sets of twins that we have in the family. It was a labor of love for my mother and I to work on together.

My indulgence was to write a Christmas story each year. There’s something so magical about the season, when miracles can happen and anything is possible. One year, I wrote of forgiveness, another, belief. My favorites were the stories in which I tried to mention each family member by name.

My first attempt was about a small girl at her Grandma’s, admiring the Christmas ornaments. Each one represented a member of the family, and was tied to some trait or story that Grandma could share about them.

I wrote a story about the family performing a play about the birth of Christ. Each member had a part in the production, from costume and set design, to music, to acting, to hosting the event. This was particularly sweet to write, as I studied the stories of His birth in the Gospels to be sure that I was writing it correctly.

Another year, I wrote “I’ll be home for Christmas”, and talked of how we would be returning to the family homestead to celebrate with the entire extended family. The things that we would do, the places that we would go…and ended with “yes, I’ll be home for Christmas…if only in my dreams.” (My grandmother began reading the story and went into a panic, thinking that I was really coming and she hadn’t cleaned the house properly!)

It’s been many years since I had the time…TOOK the time…to write one of these stories. They rattle in my brain, but always get shoved aside by the bill paying, clothes washing, and other day to day concerns that really waste the creative time that we have!

The story most wanting to get out at this time is my ideal Christmas.

Much as my “I’ll be home for Christmas” story, it involves the ENTIRE family! (I’d throw in the friends and family members from the other side of the family, but for the sake of tradition to our newsletter, I include only Mom’s side of the family)

The family that began with just two people who fell in love has now blossomed into 109 individuals. 7 of these have left this earthly sphere, but live on in our hearts. It is no longer possible to cram the entourage into the family homestead. There would barely be room to move.

Instead, I picture us traveling to a reasonably remote lodge in Colorado, where snow abounds. I suppose that it would be nice to stay someplace in Utah, so that we can visit Temple Square and the Christmas lights, but there’s something about driving far out into the mountains that’s just so romantic! (None of the men in my house understand the concept of romance as it pertains to anything but kissing)

I’m talking a rustic lodge, with rough hewn timbers and your most basic décor. Boughs of greenery are lashed to the railings with raffia and red grosgrain ribbon. A massive wreath adorns the oversize fireplace, roaring with a crackling fire. Poinsettias are dotted throughout the lobby, festooned with shiny green paper wraps. Christmas music plays softly in the background, harps and piano.

The front desk clerk wears a bulky cableknit sweater in winter white with snow boots and comfortable jeans. Her smile lights up the room as she greets us, registrations completed and room keys ready. Larger families will be staying in cabins across the snow covered courtyard, while rooms inside the lodge will accommodate couples and small families.

The berber carpet along the hallway bears representations of pines and sisal twine, entertwined along the edges. Each door boasts it’s own wreath, wrapped around the name of the suite that serves as a room number. Eagle’s Nest, Winterhaven, and Snowy Peak are first along the hallway.
The rooms are spacious, with wide windows opening to the vista of snow covered mountains in the distance. A soft window seat allows occupants to simply gaze at winter’s elegance, enjoying a cup of hot chocolate made at the small bar. Beds are canopy, with logs burnished to glossy smoothness as headboard and poles. Natural woven fabrics drape from end to end, and a fluffy down comforter covers the thick mattresses.

In the bath, a claw footed tub with shower sits atop heated tiles of granite. Fluffy towels await on a stand nearby. Warming yourself after a bath is easy, with a fireplace both in the main room and a smaller version in the bathroom.

There is plenty to do at the lodge, whether you want to stay indoors or enjoy the cold outside. Sledding, skating, and skiing are all available nearby, while a wide yard affords the youngsters a place to recreate Frosty the snowman.

Inside, there are video games for the teens and large screens that play the classics and recent favorites for all. On the playlist are my favorites: Christmas Vacation, Scrooged, the Home Alone series, and for my mom…A Miracle on 34th Street. Snacks are available at any time, and the lodge encourages guests to utilize their large sized kitchen for baking holiday treats. Everyone has prepared their specialties, and the lobby is filled with candies, cakes, cookies, and the like.

On Christmas Eve, we would gather around the fireplace to read the Christmas story and sing carols, everyone dressed in their brand new pajamas, opened just before the gathering. Sleepy children would be carried to bed, dreaming of sugar plums and toys.

Christmas morning would be chaos, with wrapping paper and bows scattered everywhere. Squeals of delight and laughter ring across the tall ceilings. Breakfast awaits in the dining room, where tables as long as the room are laden with steaming plates of food.

Ah, such a lovely dream. But as an adult, I know the logistics would be nearly impossible. To gather 105 people (to include fiancé’s) from 10 states in one location? Getting vacation time from 43 jobs, and traveling a collective 27,965 miles? We would need 28 vehicles, including 9 rental cars. We would have purchased 36 airline tickets. We would be carrying approximately 150 pieces of luggage, not including the 35 laptop computers that would come along.

The oversized tree in the lobby would be dwarfed by the 652 gifts placed under it, and stockings would need to be hung from the mantle in each individual room. It would take nearly 18 dozen eggs to make breakfast, and another 12 dozen to create 210 pieces of French toast. It would take 89 lbs of turkey to feed us dinner. That’s 8 turkeys of a decent size!

But adult worries aside, wouldn’t it be wonderful? Someday. But for today, I’ll dream!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Hoppity!

With the holiday only hours away, I'm finding myself waxing nostalgic for days gone by...stories told, adventures experienced, dreams unrealized. I'm wishing that I had been more prepared for the holidays, and able to relax and enjoy them. Document them.

But alas. I'm not even done shopping, and the handmade gifts that I had hoped for may end up being valentines.

For now, I'll settle for sharing a holiday memory with you.

A few years back, my mom, two friends and I decided to go to a grand bazaar in our area. It is Victorian themed, with carolers, folks dressed in Victorian attire, shows, and buildings full of booths, offering wares of every type imaginable. Many were handmade, and not only provided excellent gifts, but inspiration. It was always a day to bask in the glow of the holiday.

We began the day by hitting some major retailers along the way. Two of us had tween aged children, and rarely had time to shop. We would rush into Wal-Mart or Target, list in hand, and fill a cart in no time. We would fill the trunk, then rush off to indulge in a day of perusing the aisles of trinkets at the fairgrounds.

The two ladies were already at the car as Mom and I left Target. I could barely push my laden cart. I had filled my childrens' wish lists and found a few goodies for myself, too. I was quite pleased and jubilant to be so organized.

And then I spied the bell ringer.

"Oh, no," I lamented. "My purse is buried under all of my stuff. How will I dig out change to add to the bucket?"

"It won't matter. I have given all month to every bucket that I've passed. I've given to local food banks, and bought gifts for the angel tree. I don't need to give this time."

"But HE doesn't know that. He's going to see my cart loaded with Christmas and think that I'm a selfish snob!"

"No, I can't dig out my purse. I'll just push past him in a hurry and he won't notice."

"But he's a man 'of color'. He'll think that I'm discriminating against him! He'll think that I'm being racist!"

"It's okay. I'll flash him my warmest smile and wish him a hearty Merry Christmas, and he'll know that I'm a good person and that I've given elsewhere, that I respect him as a person and am not just ignoring him."

I put on my best smile and gazed into his deep brown eyes.

"Oh, no! What if he is offended by Merry Christmas! Maybe I should say Happy Holidays like they tell us to at work! Be politically correct!"

By this time, I'm staring at him and need to speak soon before he thinks that I'm a stalker or something.

"But he's wearing a Santa hat. He MUST be Christian, and I can say Merry Christmas. SPEAK, Jaycie, speak! Just say something!"

What came out was: "Merry Hoppity!", a rather awkward and mangled version of Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays thrown together.

But I said it with conviction, and it was too late to try to recover at this point. I held my head high and pushed my cart swiftly past him as if this was my standard greeting. I was barely holding it together when Mom caught up with me about 15 feet later.

"What did you just say to him???" She asked incredulously.

I began giggling so hard that I could hardly push my cart. Tears streamed out of my eyes as I tried to explain without attracting more undue attention. I was afraid to look back.

By the time that we reached the car, neither of us could speak, and we barely caught our breath between attempts to explain our condition to our friends.

It's a story that we love to tell for many reasons, the first being that the mind is a scary place to venture into alone. One should not overanalyze the Salvation Army buckets out front. One should not contemplate the thoughts that occur as we bicker with ourselves in our own minds. And we should never speak until we are sure that we are going to do so in our native tongue. Or at least a reasonable facsimile of. It is also a festive memory of friends, laughter, and the spirit of the season, and nearly always ends with a good belly laugh. No matter how many times I tell it.

Merry Hoppity to all!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

How I found myself Back to the Future

I finally got a couple of well deserved days off this week…and I was so incredibly tired! I didn’t even care that it was Saturday, which has always been chore day. I didn’t even care that the kitchen floor was a mess –and filthy floors are something that I hate.

So we ended up at Mom and Dad’s, being lazy on the couch. Sick of watching endless hours of Spongebob and icarly, we finally wrested the remote from Toddy. It’s comical trying to find a TV show that everyone in the room could agree on! We finally landed on a “Back to the Future” marathon.

Tux immediately launched in to seventeen reasons why time travel is impossible or screwed up, and specifically why “Back to the Future” doesn’t work. At first, we laughingly disputed his reasoning (most of which came from a article on time travel), but eventually gave up. Time travel is highly unlikely simply based on the fact that no one can define the rules. That’s my take on it.

It got us discussing how Michael J. Fox was concerned about BTFII because they would be overlaying footage of him at nearly 30 with footage of him at merely 25. Poor guy! Tux mentioned that the 47 year old Marty McFly bore NO resemblance to the now 49 year old Fox, and thankfully so! McFly was a loser, and of course bore the wear and tear of such a life. Fox has not had such a life (he has led an amazingly good life, thanks to his attitude and choices), and looks pretty darn good, I’d say.

It was during the scene in which Marty’s 40-something mother is stumbling around the suite in her sequined gown and humongous chest that it dawned on me. I am her age.

When the BTF movies came out, I was at THAT age. I thought that Marty McFly was hot. I was young and wild and loved the movies because they made you look to the future and where you might be and what you might be doing, how your current choices and activities may determine that future.

Somehow, I suddenly find myself on the other end of the time-space continuum! I was sitting there with my late-teenager son. I was no longer Marty’s potential girlfriend, but his mother. It cast a decidedly different light on the movies!

I’ve had the hardest time with this last birthday. I’m not sure what it is…but I’m realizing that I’m on the downhill slide. I am finally feeling like an adult – but it’s only been a couple of years since I’ve felt that way. And now I’m running headlong into old age!

It didn’t help that I ran into an old boyfriend at the grocery store recently. He was quite a bit younger than I was, and my parents where aghast that I would chase such a young one. He was always charmingly good looking, and had a boyish charm that I found attractive.

Flash forward some 25 years, and here we are, talking about our grandchildren and the late in life babies that we had each had. All that I could think of was that he was lined and distinguished looking with his sandy grey hair. OH MY GOSH. What happened???

How is it that one day, you feel young and vital, and the next, you have one foot in the grave?? My dad just turned 64 – and it seems that every year, I get closer and closer to his age. One day, I might catch up. How does that happen?

When I was hired for my current job, they conducted panel interviews for the applicants. One lady looked at my resume and asked if I had attended the local high school. “Oh,” I said excitedly, “Did you have kids that went there?” Silly me. She said slowly, “No…but I did.” I then had to backpedal quickly and honestly tell her that I forget that I’m as old as I am! I see someone my age and think that they are so much older…

My boss seemed to have so much more experience and I assumed that he was years older than me. We acted on this premise for nearly a month before I got into a discussion with him and discovered that he was less than a month older than me. One of the girls that I work with reminds me frequently that I am old enough to be her mother.

And you know what really rankles me? I thought that at this age, I’d be a lot smarter. I imagined that I’d be wise and graceful and…distinguished. But no, I’m still hanging on by a thread, figuring it all out.

If I could go back, what would I tell myself at 18? What would I warn me about, and what would I leave myself blissfully unaware of?

I know. I’d sell myself a line of bull and say that at 40-something, I know the meaning of life. I know how to do anything. I know the answers to everything. And I’d remind me that I’m old enough to be her mother. When she asked how to get from there to here, I’d smirk as I got back into the DeLorean.

Let her figure it out for herself!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Save Your Freaks

This is a skill that I learned when I was rushed to the hospital at 32 weeks pregnant, unsure of whether or not my baby would be born prematurely, scared to death that he would be in the hospital forever and have complications. I knew that things could go from bad to worse in a matter of hours…or minutes…and I also knew that once the tears started, it was not likely that I’d get them to stop.

So here was my theory…if I freaked out right from the beginning, something really bad might happen, and I wouldn’t have any ‘freak tokens’ left. I would already be over the edge, and have nowhere to escalate to. I told myself that if I stayed calm, then I would have plenty of ‘reserve’ freaking that I could do later if necessary.

What happened is that I was calm, cool, and collected. Okay, reasonably so. I felt the Spirit with me each day, and I was able to handle things fairly well. I liked knowing that I had reserved the right to freak … later.

I tried to teach this to my nieces, CJ and Allie last summer. Having a house full of boys, the drama is somewhat limited. Not so with two tweenish girls!  Everything is a big deal, and I know that for Bro and Sis, it’s bound to get worse. I was a teenage girl once. I know how it works.

One of them was upset about something, and started to stomp off and pout. I laughed and called her back, explaining the ‘save your freaks’ option of life. They thought that I was a funny, but I hope that in some way, I caught their attention.

Teens would do well to follow my advice, since everything is a tragedy. Problem is, after your parents (or friends, or boyfriends, or teachers…) have dealt with so many freaks, they lose interest. It’s like the boy who cried wolf. They no longer see your crisis as a crisis. It’s just another dramatic episode. Saving those really big freaks for a later date gives you that leverage to get their attention.

For me, it means keeping my emotions in check. I’m not bottling anything. I deal with the emotions in a much less stressful way. I force myself to think things out and decide if it’s really worth a nervous breakdown, or if I can save that for another day.

So far, no straight jacket, so I’m thinking that it must be working!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

That I’m not a quivering mass of jelly is a real testament to my therapist….

Things change.
Stuff happens.
And it used to really throw me for a loop.
I worried.
I wondered.
I obsessed.
I panicked.
“What will happen to me? I like things the way that they are! Things could get so much worse! I don’t know what I’m doing! I’m not in control!”

Ah, there’s the rub. I’m not in control.

She taught me that sometimes, we hold on to something so tightly that our arms are not open to receive the next good thing. She taught me that SAME is not equal to PERFECT. She taught me that I’m better than the things that life throws at me.

Work is crazy right now. Things are changing. More responsibility is falling on me. That means, potentially, more criticism. More mistakes.

BUT! It could also be more praise. More success.

I’m taking things in stride. Things may change, but I don’t have to worry about it. It will either get worse or get better, with no intervention on my part. I’ll figure it out when I get there. We are just getting through today, and then we’ll worry about tomorrow.

I’m good at what I do. I have confidence in that, now. I have skills and talents that have been given to me by my Heavenly Father to do good in this life. Some of those skills also earn me a good living. They contribute to the success of a great number of people, who also earn a good living.

When I began this job, there were doubts. It’s a high-turnover property in a fast paced industry. I knew that my days may be numbered. I was warned that it might be too much stress; that my boss was known for cycling through employees faster than you could get your desk organized. He was demanding and difficult sometimes. Even my therapist talked about the inherent lack of longevity.

I walked in with both eyes open. I decided that if it didn’t work out, at least I tried. I’d been unemployed before, and I could do it again. I decided that I would just do the best that I could, and leave the car running, so to speak.

I also made the decision that I would not live to please men. (speaking figuratively, as in MANKIND, not the male gender!) At the end of the day, if I had pleased my God, then I had succeeded. It didn’t matter if I had failed to please my boss, or the big bosses, or even the board. As long as I had done a good, honest day’s work in all fairness to my employer, and I had been good to people along the way, then it was a good day.

I loved it right from the start. It’s stressful, it’s hectic, it is sometimes downright frustrating. There have been moments when I wondered if I wanted to go back. But I always do, and I look forward to it! It’s challenging and fulfilling in a way that I have not experienced in a long, long time.

Yes, my boss was difficult and demanding sometimes. There were days when I just let him rant, while I sat quietly. He expressed gratitude for those days that I let him “be himself” and vent a little. I didn’t take it personally, and I didn’t let it get to me. I know that he is not my final judge; my salvation does not depend on whether or not he is pleased with my work. I could let him blow up, because it didn’t concern me.

By the time he left to work in another state, we had a system. We worked well together, and others commented that I had lasted a lot longer than they expected. He and I had an understanding, and I came to love and respect him. I think that he kinda liked me, too.

Now, we are waiting for another Director to be hired. He/she might be easier to work with. They might not. It’s all the same to me.

I’m dealing with things as they come, and juggling all of the balls that I can in the interim. I no longer feel the need to control everything to make sure that it happens the way that I want, because I know that my Heavenly Father knows better than I do what I need – or even want – and I can trust Him.

So, back to the title… my brief time in therapy not only brought me back to myself, but taught me some valuable tools to use every day. These tools allow me to step back, for a moment, and allow myself to see things as they are, and not as the depression would paint them.

I make mistakes without wallowing in them. I can leave work nearly in tears, but that by the time I reach my car, I have talked myself down. I’ve reasoned with myself and realized that in the grand scheme of things…it is not such a big deal. I can listen to songs with emotional intensity and be entertained and moved by them…and not feel them to the point of falling into the abyss. And thankfully, I can remember that not so long ago, I couldn’t do those things by myself.

My therapist probably has no idea that she saved my life. I had no idea, prior to my time with her, that depression was something that could be conquered. Until then, I thought that it was manageable. She needs to know that she succeeded on so many levels with me.

I think of her often, as I go about my day. As I confidently approach tasks that are new to me. As I direct others in their tasks. As I deal with confrontation. But especially, as I walk with my head held high and without looking back.

Next chapter: Tux is planning to move out. Hyperventilation ahead!!!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Indeterminate Bereftivity

You know what I mean…when you feel like you’ve lost something, but can’t remember what it is? Like it was wiped from your memory, but you still miss it.

That feeling that something is not right, but you are not sure what it is that is wrong? Or maybe it’s not wrong, but it’s definitely not right? Either way, it’s unsettling, but you have no idea where to go to fix it or fill the hole that it left behind, because you can’t even find the hole.

That’s today.

One of those days that you have to just fill the space with something good, something that edges out that empty feeling.

First step: giving it a name. Check.

Now, on to the good stuff!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

What do you know for sure?

I posted this as a question on a family website, mostly as a conversation starter, but one of my amazing cousins took it and really ran with the idea! She wrote a fantastic list that inspired me to do the same. I gave myself about 15 minutes, and just let the ideas come as they would. Give it a try! I'd love to hear what YOU know for sure!

What I know for sure…(in no particular order, not all inclusive, subject to change)

…that my Heavenly Father knows ME, loves ME, and guides ME.
…that my Heavenly Father has a sense of humor, because he often answers my prayers with a bit of a chuckle.
…that hard work is a beautiful thing.
…that no one is successful without the love and support of others.
…that the most important job that I will ever have is that of being a mother.
…that the skills and gifts that I have are given to me to use in the service of my fellow man.
…that I don’t deserve the wonderful family that I have.
…that my children are more important to me than anything.
…that I depend on my parents – both Earthly and Heavenly – and would be lost without them.
…that licorice snaps are the greatest candy ever. Not only are they yummy, but they bring back wonderful memories of Utah.
…that I would give up much to spend one more day with my Grandpa Powell.
…that I have been given the disease of depression as a trial in this life, and that it is not a failure on my part. I have only failed if I refuse to use the tools that have been given to me to defeat it.
…that I have been blessed beyond measure, and don’t even recognize many of the blessings that I receive.
…that I like being a redhead.
…that creativity heals us in ways that nothing else can.
…that being good to others feels better than any worldly success.
…that letting go is difficult, but often necessary.
…that Sundays are a day of rest for many very good reasons.
…that no matter how far I roam, Utah Valley will always be home.
…that a good writer can paint pictures with their words, and move mountains with their pen.
…that I could not live without the internet!
…that I cannot take away the pain that my children experience, no matter how much I want to.
…that I resent anyone who assumes that I will do things wrong.
…that there are lessons to be learned every day.
…that you cannot drag anyone into the Celestial Kingdom against their will.
…that the more difficult the weather, the longer it will take to open the rear entrance at work.
…that no matter how awful my day has been, my dog will be happy to see me.
…that I do not see myself in quite the same way that mirrors and cameras do. Thank heavens for that.
…that I will cry every time I watch the movie Armegeddon. I have the first 28 times, anyway.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

What would you like on your headstone?

What an odd conversation to have with business associates, but just the other day, we were doing just that.

My supervisor, who is a character and a half, said that he believes that credit should be given where credit is due – especially if that credit is due himself. He wants his headstone to read, “I WANT CREDIT!”

A beautiful, stately woman that we work with chimed in. Now, mind you, she is absolutely lovely, inside and out. She is poised and gracious and would give you the shirt off her back and be grateful to do it. She said that she would want hers to read, “She thought she was funny.”

Her husband agreed, laughing. Apparently, it’s a bit of an inside joke, as she tries to be the comedian, but often falls short of the laughter that she is hoping for.

How funny that this accomplished man wishes only to receive credit for his ideas – when his entire career is one big testament to his creativity and foresight! I have some theories on why this is, but we’ll save that for my next discussion of LOST. (intrigued?) And how ironic that this successful, socially gifted woman would wish to be funny.

I thought for a moment, then commented that I would want mine to read, “What I lack in real talent, I make up for in enthusiasm!” I vacillate between this and “You are not a winner, please try again.”

I guess both of mine speak to the idea that I’ll never be the smartest, the cutest, the most beautiful, the first in line. I won’t get credit, and I’m not as funny as I think that I am. But darn it, I’m trying. That’s gotta count for something.

And it’s a lot less pressure than hoping for your headstone to read, “Beloved wife and mother”, of which I am neither tonight. I have teenagers; I’m not sure that they even approve of me breathing, to be honest.

Quick, one line – what would yours be?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Happy Mother's Day, Gram!

I dreamt of my Grandma for Mother’s Day. It’s not really unusual, I often dream about being “home” at my grandparents’ house, mixing with my cousins and wanting to stay longer. I’m always just about to leave, and sad that I have to go. I never get to stay there long enough.

But this wasn’t your happy, flowery kind of dream, but one in which I was wandering in her home, watching my aunts move things around and pack things up. They were all distracted and talking amongst themselves, but not really to me. I was becoming frustrated that no one seemed to notice that Gram was not there.

“Where is my grandma?” I asked repeatedly, finally becoming tearful and angry. “Where is my grandmother?”

A reply was absently tossed at me.

“But that’s not far from here!” I cried. “I want to see my grandmother before I leave!” I was indignant, and yet, they went right back to what they were doing. I awoke with that choked up, something is not right in my world feeling. I was weepy through most of the morning.

I was a little worried. You see, some years ago when I was young, I dreamed of my Uncle Bruce. In the dream, I walked up the stairs and found his twin sister sitting in his wheelchair in his room. She was crying. “This is all that is left of him,” she said. Two weeks later, he passed away after battling Muscular Dystrophy for 19 years. I thought that I had caused his death.

So at first, I worried that this might be the same for my Gram. I tried to remind myself that it was Mother’s Day, and I was likely thinking of the women in my life. I know that my mother and her siblings are meeting soon to discuss the future. I recently taught a lesson in church on Joseph and his interpretation of dreams. It all added up.

I was also feeling guilty because I haven’t called my Gram in ages. She’s in an assisted living home, and even though her body checked in, her mind did not. It’s a stranger living in my Gram’s body. She doesn’t know who I am when I call, and doesn’t remember afterwards that I have called. My sweet cousin V visits faithfully every week, and Gram doesn’t even remember her.

Another beautiful cousin lost her grandfather a few years ago, and I expressed my condolences. “Oh, it’s okay,” she said sweetly. “He’s been gone for years.” I understand that now.

Is there any part of her that knows that we are there? Will she remember when the veil is lifted? Be upset that we didn’t spend more time calling or visiting? Or will she understand that it was hard to communicate with her from so far away?

Is it abandonment if she abandoned us first?

I wished that I could call her, could tell her all that I needed to say. I wanted her to be my Gram – ornery and all – so that I could talk to her.

My dearest Gram,

Happy Mother’s Day! I hope that your day is filled with joy and laughter!

I love you, Gram. I miss you.

I want to laugh with you about our memories – how you told me when I was a teenager, “Don’t be yourself! Just be nice!” How I winked at you to tease you. How worried you were when I allowed a man – GASP – my grandfather – into my bedroom at Heritage Halls. About the time that you lost track of me at age two and I tried to go to school with the big kids.

I want you to remember them, too.

I want to share my successes with you. I want you to know how proud of Tux I am, for making the President’s Honor Roll in college. Even taking Japanese! I want you to know that he’s becoming himself again. That Addy has lost so much weight and is finding himself to be a handsome young man. That Toddy is finally pottie trained. That one of my graphic designs is being displayed prominently in the resort that I work for.

I want to tell you how exciting it was to see Tux graduate from Seminary. How proud of Todd I am because he says prayers in Primary. I want to talk about the things that I read in the scriptures, and how it applies to my life. I want to share these things because you devoted your life to teaching your family about the Gospel. I know that you would want to know that we got it.

I want to show you that despite all of your worries and concerns about our morality and poor decision making, we turned out okay. I want you to know that we understand why you were so adamant and sometimes…okay, often…critical. We know now because we are mothers. Grandmothers.

We are a family of strong women. We fight for the things that matter. We raise our children with equal amounts of discipline and love. We are good wives. We are a good family. We love each other. We support each other. We are there for each other. You’d be proud of us, if you knew who we were.

Yes, I’m a coward. And I’m ashamed of that. I’m afraid that if I call to talk to you, it will break my heart.

I'm sorry that I'm so weak. I'm sorry that you can't be with Grandpa like you desire. I'm sorry that your time here on earth is dragging on without you really being in it. I'm sorry that I didn't talk to you more often when I could.

Happy Mother’s Day, Gram. I love you. I miss you. And I’m hoping that in the world that you live in, you are happy. That when it’s all over, you won’t remember the time that you spent trapped in a stranger’s mind. And more importantly, you won’t remember that I was such a wimp.

Someday, we’ll look back on this and laugh. That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.



Monday, January 4, 2010

Undecorating the Tree

Taking down the tree for me this year has been a strange experience.

I’m the type of Christmas decorator that loves to break out the boxes of ornaments and doodads on Thanksgiving weekend, filling my house with more than enough festivity. I love everything Christmas, everything sparkly…and it can be dollar store or from Macy’s, it makes no difference to me. I leave it all up, including a clock that plays carols every hour, until New Year’s. Then I begrudgingly take it down, glad to have the house clean and uncluttered, but sad to see it all go.

Not so this year.

It was a crazy year for the holidays. Not only had I started a new job, but it was one that required a great deal of time and energy through the holidays to prepare for big events on the job. Two weeks before wrestling season began, Addy the Musician decided to wrestle after all. (Mothers of wrestlers – and daughters of coaches – know that you MUST be prepared for the holidays before Thanksgiving in order to survive, as you spend most of December, January, and February at Tournaments and matches!)

It was more than that, though, as this year was so much harder than even last year in terms of the economy. Even though I am back to work, I have added expenses that have rendered my income LESS than what I was making last year on unemployment. More importantly, I see the signs everywhere that folks are struggling. Business has been sparse and sporadic, and no one knows what will happen next. It is impossible to predict business in any industry, as this is uncharted territory. As such, hours have been cut, budgets slashed in an effort to stay alive through the recession. Many businesses have failed in our area, and others are barely holding on.

It is changing life as we know it. This may seem simple, but I can illustrate my point with scrapbooking magazines. I’ve always subscribed to all of the different magazines, from Creating Keepsakes to Memory Makers and Simple Scrapbooks, Scrapbooks, etc. and anything else that hit the shelves. I love the ideas and inspiration, as well as the creative process. In the last year, most of these magazines have folded. Only the major ones remain, and who knows how long that will last? I have never seen so many cars for sale alongside the road. Even if you had money to spend on Christmas, the stores had bare shelves and limited stock on what they did have. The list goes on and on.

My own family is changing, too. With Tux turning 19 and attending community college, Addy in High School, and Todd in private preschool at his daycare, we are all going different directions. They are all growing up so fast, it’s hard to believe, and I’m not ready for my babies to be all growed up. Tux is straining at the apron strings. I’m not ready to untie him yet. Addy is thinking that he, too, can exert his independence in many ways…some of which are not age appropriate. Todd is the usual toddler, and having been raised with teenage brothers, he can hold his own in an argument – and usually does.

This changing landscape at home was more difficult during the holidays, as they no longer delight in all that is Christmas. Oh, sure, they want the gifts, and everyone sucked up to Santa throughout the month to ensure said gifts. But they didn’t enjoy the décor, or the joy of the holiday. I heard them complain constantly about my clock…which usually brings me joy. This year, I’m not sure if I left it up just hoping that it would spark that spirit in my heart, or if I just wanted to prove that I was still in control by leaving it up.  They refused to watch Christmas movies or specials, and I didn’t even try to fill the house with the usual carols.

We have had a longstanding tradition of driving to see the Christmas lights, and bellowing, “HO HO HO!” at the most beautifully decorated houses. Ones that are trying, but not quite there get a “HO HO”, and those that are pitiful receive something along the lines of “Ha ha ho” or simply an unenthusiastic “Ho”. Tux has endured it since he was six, but this year, he simply refused. Addy was too busy. It was nice that Todd got into it, however, so we did get a couple of good nights.

The tree, the lights, the ornaments, the Santa figures, the nativities…all wasted on the boys. They could have cared less.

Perhaps this is normal, particularly in an all male household. I tried to tell myself that as I decorated, but three weeks later when it was time to take it down, I wondered why I had bothered. It wasn’t as if I had a great deal of time to devote to it, but I had because I felt that I needed to be ‘that kind of mother’.

I imagine myself as the defender of our traditions. The keeper of our memories and joys. Each ornament has a story, a special place in our history. The “windows on the World” ornaments that began with “Feliz Navidad”, because I was taking Spanish in high school that year. The god’s eye that I made in first grade. The scratched up bulbs that were on my parent’s first Christmas tree some 45 years ago.

Each ornament has it’s own storage box, labeled with a description so that each is returned to it’s own place. I provide years and givers if they were gifts. I look forward to the night that we decorate each year…a Christmas movie playing on the TV (Usually “Christmas Vacation”), drinking egg nog, and talking about each ornament and favorite memories associated with it. I decorated alone this year.

I took it down tonight by myself. The family did come out to watch “National Treasure”, which I put in. That was a nice surprise, as they are usually so busy with their own activities. But I was the only one to admire the stunning ornaments like the Christopher Radko Mickey Mouse, the hand painted baby Jesus on a golden ball. The only one to reminisce about the candy cane that Tux made at his very first cub scout activity, or the gingerbread man that is dressed like Elvis that Addy made at school. To recall the time that Hubby whisked me off for a surprise visit to Las Vegas the beginning of December, and the Excalibur ornament that I bought to commemorate it. To ponder the true meaning of the season looking at the kneeling Santa before the manger.

And yet, some of those memories were painful, too. I found ornaments that were made during times of my life when I thought that I had good friends - nearly family - only to find out that I meant nothing to them when the bumps came along. I found myself trying to decide if I should keep them, or if they were just too much to hold on to. I've moved on, and I have a new life, one that does not include these toxic people in it, and I'm happy now. Did I want to keep those reminders of those that had hurt me so deeply? I eventually decided to keep them - one more year. To allow myself to really heal and evaluate them a bit more objectively. They didn't make the cut to the tree this year, but I wasn't quite ready to throw out so many years of my life forever, either.

I’d always thought that these things would be cherished as I cherish them. Not just the ornaments, but the memories. I thought that it would be something that I lovingly passed down to my sons and their families as they grew up. That they would look forward to sharing this each year. That even when I was old and grey, I would still decorate the tree with my grandchildren, and share these special times.

My mom didn’t even put one ornament on her tree this year. We usually do Christmas morning at my house, and dinner at hers. This year, we would be eating dinner at the Fire Station, where my dad was on duty. She just didn’t see the point. She put up half of the ten foot tree – which left it a bit misshapen and short – with simple strings of lights and called it good. No Christmas village. Just the sad tree.

She may not have missed putting up her decorations, but I did. Her ornaments are as special to me as my own, as I see my past hanging on the branches. I see my history, my memories, my childhood. Will I give up, too, when I get to that stage of my life?

It was especially poignant to me, as the older boys are balking at some of the other things that I have tried to teach them throughout the years. Not only our faith, but matters of family and personal growth. I am seeing that I am not going to accomplish all that I had planned as a mother. Yes, yes, I realize that they have their own free agency, and NO child is going to live up to the ideal that we set for our goal. (heaven knows, I have disappointed my parents plenty!) Faced with raising another child, I am torn between providing the same level of parenting that I did the first time around for Todd…or should I simply relax and not try so hard to be the perfect mother? Will it hurt less if he doesn’t become the man that I was hoping to raise, if I don’t put that much into it? Will my children even look back once they have left the nest? I know that every mother worries about these things…at least, I believe that they do.

I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be normal. I’ve had a depressed mind for most of my life, as near as I can tell, and I wonder if I am the only one that pines for such sentimental things as I do. Am I the only one that mourns the end of an era? That notices when the details are being lost in the shuffle, and the effort is no longer there?

Right now, I’m chalking it up to fatigue (work has really been draining this last two weeks), and the usual blues that come after the holidays. I’m blaming it on the weather. I’m throwing it out with the last year, ready to go into 2010 with a brighter outlook. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t bid a more heavy hearted farewell to each ornament, wondering if I would want to bring them all out again next year.

I think that I’ll finish cleaning up and allow myself those moments of melancholy…just for tonight. Tomorrow is a new day, and I’ll rejoice in the fact that the clock is silent and so are the complaints, the family room is now 9 sq feet bigger, and my shelves and tables have all been cleaned and shined before returning their regular décor.

I will no longer have to check the nativities to make sure that the animals are not wandering off (thanks to the teenage boys) or that the Santas are standing up and not dead after Todd shooting them with a Nerf gun. And if nothing else, it gave me a good excuse to write for a minute… something that I’ve missed terribly and enjoy very much.

It’s all in perspective.

Here’s to 2010!