Story Day 19 — The Gift of the Magi

Perhaps one of the most well known Christmas stories is the ‘Gift of the Magi’.  A lesson to be learned here is that of sacrificing something very precious all for the benefit of another that you love.  Who could ask for a more difficult thing of another?

If you’ve never read or heard the story, I hope you will enjoy it.  If you have…. perhaps it will be a reminder to you of a true display of love.

Merry Christmas!

THE GIFT OF THE MAGI

by O. Henry

giftofmagiOne dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one’s cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty- seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.

There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.

While the mistress of the home is gradually subsiding from the first stage to the second, take a look at the home. A furnished flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly beggar description, but it certainly had that word on the lookout for the mendicancy squad.

In the vestibule below was a letter-box into which no letter would go, and an electric button from which no mortal finger could coax a ring. Also appertaining thereunto was a card bearing the name “Mr. James Dillingham Young.”

The “Dillingham” had been flung to the breeze during a former period of prosperity when its possessor was being paid $30 per week. Now, when the income was shrunk to $20, though, they were thinking seriously of contracting to a modest and unassuming D. But whenever Mr. James Dillingham Young came home and reached his flat above he was called “Jim” and greatly hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young, already introduced to you as Della. Which is all very good.

Della finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with the powder rag. She stood by the window and looked out dully at a gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray backyard. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week doesn’t go far. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling–something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim.

There was a pier-glass between the windows of the room. Perhaps you have seen a pier-glass in an $8 flat. A very thin and very agile person may, by observing his reflection in a rapid sequence of longitudinal strips, obtain a fairly accurate conception of his looks. Della, being slender, had mastered the art.

Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before the glass. her eyes were shining brilliantly, but her face had lost its color within twenty seconds. Rapidly she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length.

Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim’s gold watch that had been his father’s and his grandfather’s. The other was Della’s hair. Had the queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the airshaft, Della would have let her hair hang out the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty’s jewels and gifts. Had King Solomon been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the basement, Jim would have pulled out his watch every time he passed, just to see him pluck at his beard from envy.

So now Della’s beautiful hair fell about her rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters. It reached below her knee and made itself almost a garment for her. And then she did it up again nervously and quickly. Once she faltered for a minute and stood still while a tear or two splashed on the worn red carpet.

On went her old brown jacket; on went her old brown hat. With a whirl of skirts and with the brilliant sparkle still in her eyes, she fluttered out the door and down the stairs to the street.

Where she stopped the sign read: “Mne. Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds.” One flight up Della ran, and collected herself, panting. Madame, large, too white, chilly, hardly looked the “Sofronie.”

“Will you buy my hair?” asked Della.

“I buy hair,” said Madame. “Take yer hat off and let’s have a sight at the looks of it.”

Down rippled the brown cascade.

“Twenty dollars,” said Madame, lifting the mass with a practised hand.

“Give it to me quick,” said Della.

Oh, and the next two hours tripped by on rosy wings. Forget the hashed metaphor. She was ransacking the stores for Jim’s present.

She found it at last. It surely had been made for Jim and no one else. There was no other like it in any of the stores, and she had turned all of them inside out. It was a platinum fob chain simple and chaste in design, properly proclaiming its value by substance alone and not by meretricious ornamentation–as all good things should do. It was even worthy of The Watch. As soon as she saw it she knew that it must be Jim’s. It was like him. Quietness and value–the description applied to both. Twenty-one dollars they took from her for it, and she hurried home with the 87 cents. With that chain on his watch Jim might be properly anxious about the time in any company. Grand as the watch was, he sometimes looked at it on the sly on account of the old leather strap that he used in place of a chain.

When Della reached home her intoxication gave way a little to prudence and reason. She got out her curling irons and lighted the gas and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love. Which is always a tremendous task, dear friends–a mammoth task.

Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny, close-lying curls that made her look wonderfully like a truant schoolboy. She looked at her reflection in the mirror long, carefully, and critically.

“If Jim doesn’t kill me,” she said to herself, “before he takes a second look at me, he’ll say I look like a Coney Island chorus girl. But what could I do–oh! what could I do with a dollar and eighty- seven cents?”

At 7 o’clock the coffee was made and the frying-pan was on the back of the stove hot and ready to cook the chops.

Jim was never late. Della doubled the fob chain in her hand and sat on the corner of the table near the door that he always entered. Then she heard his step on the stair away down on the first flight, and she turned white for just a moment. She had a habit for saying little silent prayer about the simplest everyday things, and now she whispered: “Please God, make him think I am still pretty.”

The door opened and Jim stepped in and closed it. He looked thin and very serious. Poor fellow, he was only twenty-two–and to be burdened with a family! He needed a new overcoat and he was without gloves.

Jim stopped inside the door, as immovable as a setter at the scent of quail. His eyes were fixed upon Della, and there was an expression in them that she could not read, and it terrified her. It was not anger, nor surprise, nor disapproval, nor horror, nor any of the sentiments that she had been prepared for. He simply stared at her fixedly with that peculiar expression on his face.

Della wriggled off the table and went for him.

“Jim, darling,” she cried, “don’t look at me that way. I had my hair cut off and sold because I couldn’t have lived through Christmas without giving you a present. It’ll grow out again–you won’t mind, will you? I just had to do it. My hair grows awfully fast. Say `Merry Christmas!’ Jim, and let’s be happy. You don’t know what a nice– what a beautiful, nice gift I’ve got for you.”

“You’ve cut off your hair?” asked Jim, laboriously, as if he had not arrived at that patent fact yet even after the hardest mental labor.

“Cut it off and sold it,” said Della. “Don’t you like me just as well, anyhow? I’m me without my hair, ain’t I?”

Jim looked about the room curiously.

“You say your hair is gone?” he said, with an air almost of idiocy.

“You needn’t look for it,” said Della. “It’s sold, I tell you–sold and gone, too. It’s Christmas Eve, boy. Be good to me, for it went for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered,” she went on with sudden serious sweetness, “but nobody could ever count my love for you. Shall I put the chops on, Jim?”

Out of his trance Jim seemed quickly to wake. He enfolded his Della. For ten seconds let us regard with discreet scrutiny some inconsequential object in the other direction. Eight dollars a week or a million a year–what is the difference? A mathematician or a wit would give you the wrong answer. The magi brought valuable gifts, but that was not among them. This dark assertion will be illuminated later on.

Jim drew a package from his overcoat pocket and threw it upon the table.

“Don’t make any mistake, Dell,” he said, “about me. I don’t think there’s anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less. But if you’ll unwrap that package you may see why you had me going a while at first.”

White fingers and nimble tore at the string and paper. And then an ecstatic scream of joy; and then, alas! a quick feminine change to hysterical tears and wails, necessitating the immediate employment of all the comforting powers of the lord of the flat.

For there lay The Combs–the set of combs, side and back, that Della had worshipped long in a Broadway window. Beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jewelled rims–just the shade to wear in the beautiful vanished hair. They were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had simply craved and yearned over them without the least hope of possession. And now, they were hers, but the tresses that should have adorned the coveted adornments were gone.

But she hugged them to her bosom, and at length she was able to look up with dim eyes and a smile and say: “My hair grows so fast, Jim!”

And them Della leaped up like a little singed cat and cried, “Oh, oh!”

Jim had not yet seen his beautiful present. She held it out to him eagerly upon her open palm. The dull precious metal seemed to flash with a reflection of her bright and ardent spirit.

“Isn’t it a dandy, Jim? I hunted all over town to find it. You’ll have to look at the time a hundred times a day now. Give me your watch. I want to see how it looks on it.”

Instead of obeying, Jim tumbled down on the couch and put his hands under the back of his head and smiled.

“Dell,” said he, “let’s put our Christmas presents away and keep ’em a while. They’re too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now suppose you put the chops on.”

The magi, as you know, were wise men–wonderfully wise men–who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.

I am Grateful!  How are You?

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Story Day 9 — The Heart of Christmas

Here’s another one I found on the internet.  It’s hard to post anything cheerful on a day like today after what happened in Connecticut.  So many families suffering.  Heart breaking.  Though Christmas won’t ever be the same for those families and the community, I know that they all love their children a little more today.

Today’s story is proof of a Mother’s love and hope for a special Christmas for her children.  Sacrifices made, yet given hope through charity and kindness.   Hug your children a little tighter today!

The Heart of Christmas

Woman-Holding-Child-5466158

By Christine Duncan

 

It was ten days before Christmas and Jenny Lindley had already settled back at her desk after lunch at Worldwide Bank when her cube mate, Rita Howard came in laden with Christmas packages.

“Look, at all the neat bargains I got,” Rita bubbled, her bobbed dark hair tousled, and her eyes crinkled from her wide smile. “I’m going to be the Santa with the mostest.”

Jenny smiled at her friend’s enthusiasm, although the smile didn’t quite reach her blue eyes. She leaned her blonde head on her hand. “You do look like you bought out the stores.”

Rita set the packages down and shrugged off her coat. “You should have come with me, Jenny. I found the best sales.”

That went without saying. Rita, was a veteran sales prowler, her generous heart kept her searching for presents not only for her own grown children and family, but for all her friends.

“And guess what? I saw that Baby Bubbles doll that Emma wants.”

Jenny’s smile faltered. Her daughter Emma, who was only three, had been happily chattering about the doll since the ads started on all the cartoon shows months ago. But first Jenny couldn’t find the doll anywhere. And now, when it looked like the doll might be going to be available, Jenny had spent all her Christmas money on emergenc repairs for her aging Honda, and medicine for baby Justin’s croup.

Christmas this year was going to be tight for the single mother. She’d bought a few stocking stuffers months ago, just after Michael left, as a way of trying to concentrate on a better future. Now she had just enough left to think about a small present for each child. But there was nowhere near enough money for “Baby Bubbles.” As a matter of fact, she wasn’t sure there would be enough money left over to even think about Holiday baking.

“That’s nice,” Jenny mumbled.

Rita dark eyes watched Jenny more carefully than Jenny wanted right now. “Are you going to your parents?” Rita asked.

Jenny shook her head. Her parents were five hundred miles away from Jenny’s home in Wyoming. Her car was better, but there was no point in straining it. Besides her dad was recovering from surgery after an auto accident and her mother was stressed from the bills and the worry about her dad. “We’re just staying here, this year.” Jenny tried to maintain her smile.

“Why don’t you come over to my house then? We’re going to early service and then having lots of people over for brunch. It will be fun.”

Jenny was tempted. But she couldn’t even offer to contribute anything toward the brunch. And if she were there for Christmas, wouldn’t she need to bring presents for her hosts? No. She couldn’t, though Rita was a dear to ask. Jenny turned toward her desk, hoping her friend would take the hint and get on with work, dropping the subject. “That’s sweet, Rita. But I can’t.”

Out of the corner of her eye, Jenny saw the older woman turn away, her brow furrowed in confusion. But Jenny’s eyes were silently dripping tears and she couldn’t–wouldn’t explain why.

 

The evening before Christmas Eve, Jenny walked from the apartment’s car port to the house, Justin in her arms, Emma tugging on Jenny’s worn black wool coat. It was already getting dark, and the wind whipped cruelly at her face. She’d been late to pick the kids up from daycare again and the center had had to wait for her to come before they closed, causing a scolding from the center’s director. She’d been working frantically, hoping that by putting in some overtime she could get more money for Christmas. But this week one of the tires on the car had gone flat, and the doctor told Jenny that Justin’s frequent respiratory infectons were caused by asthma and asked her to buy a nebulizer. That was over two hundred dollars, and it didn’t look like her insurance would cover it. She was farther behind than ever.

“Sarah is getting a Baby Bubbles, too.” Emma informed her mother, with a smile on her small pink cheeked face.

A lump gathered in Jenny’s throat and she reached down to smooth her daughter’s tangled golden curls. “Maybe Santa won’t be able to bring you Baby Bubbles, Emma,” she cautioned.

“My daddy will then,” said Emma, confidently.

But Michael hadn’t even sent child support since the divorce, and the last time Jenny had tried to call him the number had been disconnected. She shifted Justin on her hip and looked down at Emma, making her eyes big so her daughter would know she was serious. “Emma, honey, sometimes we can’t get all that we want for Christmas.”

“But all I want is a tea set for my babies and Baby Bubbles,” Emma pointed out reasonably.

Jenny swallowed, and inserted her key in the lock of the small apartment. She had gotten Emma a small plastic tea set. The tiny tea pot had roses on it and the cups were sized just right for small hands. Jenny had been thrilled to find it and had done without lunch the last few days to help afford it. She’d gotten Justin a small plastic police car with lights and a loud siren. It came with two small police figures. Both presents were already wrapped.

That was it. All she could do. Jenny stared blankly into the darkened apartment, her eyes not focusing on the blue plaid sofa or the silent hum of the heater.

They would do all right, she reassured herself. She’d finally accepted Rita’s coaxing to come to brunch on Christmas, so she wouldn’t feel so alone that day. If she could only bring just a small gift. Something she’d baked or something. She’d feel better.

“I’m hungry, Mommy. And it’s cold. I want to go in,”Emma whined.

Jenny swallowed again and smiled. “What was I thinking of? Of course, let’s make dinner.”

But that night, after she’d made dinner, read the kids a story, bathed them and settled them in bed, Jenny couldn’t sleep. There had to be some way. Something she could sell. Some way to get more money for Christmas.

Her eyes searched the apartment desperately. But the TV was a hand me down, as were most of the furnishings. Really, there wasn’t anything.

She looked down at her own threadbare slipper socks. She should have taken on a second job. She’d thought about it, but didn’t want to take the time from the children. And then there was always the problem of after hours day care. Any job that she got would have to pay pretty well to cover that. As it was, day care was her second largest expense. Really it was almost as bad as rent. So what was she supposed to do?

There was nothing she could do now, she realized. And she cried herself to sleep.

Christmas Eve was a Saturday, and Jenny slept in, only to be awakened by Emma chattering. “Mama, Santa’s at the door. He left us a package. Come see.”

Jenny stumbled out of bed, gathering her old robe around her. “What on earth?”

She peeked out the front door’s small window, sure that her daughter was just caught up in the excitement of its being Christmas eve.

Snow was falling in fitful starts, driven by the wind. But sure enough, out on the front step stood a box, with Jenny’s name on it in large print letters.

She opened the door and looked both ways down the walk, but no one was in sight. Not enough snow had fallen for there to be footprints. If it hadn’t been for Emma seeing “Santa,” the package might as well have fallen from the sky.

She stooped over to pick it up. The box was heavy. What could it be? She examined the label once more. To Jenny.

Pushing aside thoughts of bombs and pranks, she heaved the box up and took it in, depositing it carefully on her coffee table. It was sealed firmly, with tape. She nodded at it thoughtfully.

Not sure what she would find, she set the kids to drawing at the kitchen table. Justin was hardly able to grasp the thick crayons yet, his little tongue touching the corner of his mouth. Emma was busy coloring a tree she’d made when Jenny tiptoed out of the kitchen.

Quickly she attacked to the box with scissors opening it carefully. Inside was a bag of baking supplies: nuts and chocolate, flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, powdered sugar and cream. Jenny’s heart lifted.

She poked around the box some more. Next to the grocery bag were green and red gaily wrapped packages, which she was careful to conceal from the children in the next room. The packages were marked in the same lettering as the box was. To Emma, read two big boxes. To Justin. To Jenny?

They know us, she thought. Whoever did this knows us.

Open me first, said an envelope which she found slipped toward the bottom of the box. So she did.

 

Dear Jenny,

 

Rest easy, my dear, it said. Emma will get her Baby Bubbles. And there are a few things here for you and Justin to make Christmas Merry.

In love,

From

The Christ Child

 

Jenny’s tears rose from a lump in her throat so that she choked, crying.

Emma ran in at the sound, small face twisted in concern. “What’s wrong, Mama?”

“Oh honey,” she said, putting her arm around Emma and drawing her close. “I’m just so happy that Santa came early. Look at these gifts! Let’s put them under the tree.”

“Justin, too, Mom.” Emma said.

Jenny moved out to the kitchen to get Justin from his high chair. “Of course, Justin too. And when we get the presents under the tree, we’ll make some fudge and some cookies to take to Aunt Rita’s tomorrow.”

 

I am Grateful!  How are You?

Traditions

This is a time of year for family, food, fun, love and traditions!

Over the years my family has had many traditions.  Some evolved into different traditions over time, some served their purpose for a time and others are waiting to be reborn again.

For as long as I can remember….. the Holidays revolved around family.  My family was never one to travel out of town for Christmas.  With the exception of my one brother, Val, who didn’t really live in Utah once he got married…. everyone else was within a 40 minute drive of my parents house.  Even Val and his family would occasionally make it to our family Christmas gatherings.

I don’t know about you…… but I have great memories of my whole family celebrating Christmas morning together at my parents house.  I’m the youngest of 5 children…. so I got to be a part of this for a long time.  My oldest brothers oldest daughter is only 6 years younger than me, so I was still pretty young when we started having the nieces and nephews sleep over for Christmas.  I couldn’t even begin to tell you where everyone slept…. I just remember we were all there!  They probably shared my bed and my room… but I only remember Christmas morning!

My parents had a very large family room in the basement of our home.  Our home was fairly large for the time it was built….. bigger than many of the other homes in our neighborhood.  We had a room large enough to hold all the presents under the tree as the family grew and still have room for all the bodies too.  It was great fun for me.  I can still see in my head that family room being stacked with Christmas presents!  It was total chaos…. but we loved every minute of it.

As the families got older…. parents decided it was too much work for Santa to bring all the toys to my parents house….. besides….then you had to get them all home!  After that, Christmas morning was spent with me and my parents running to my brother and sisters houses to watch them open Christmas morning.  Now that was crazy!  Each family was in anticipation of our arrival so they could get to their presents!  We rotated the order every year so the same family didn’t have to wait as long each year.  I remember that tradition only lasting a few years.  After that….. we would pick one family to be there with to open gifts…. then we would make the rounds to the other homes to see what everyone else had received.

The finny thing about that was it always meant that mine and my parents Christmas gifts were the last thing opened that day…. and I never seemed to mind.  I always had so much fun seeing what the other family members had received, I was quite content in waiting for my own.  My parents still did that rotating Christmas thing with my family for years!  It was part of their fun!

The best tradition my family every started was our Christmas Eve gathering.  That’s been the one tradition that has been so hard to give up.  Unfortunately…. because I am the youngest…. that tradition died while my kids were still fairly young.  Well…. not really young, but young enough that we had no grand kids of our own to keep the tradition alive.

Let me tell you about out Christmas Eve tradition.  It’s probably similar to many of yours, but it holds so much intense love and memory for me…. it’s what Christmas is about.

We would start with a big dinner for the family.  Even as large as the kitchen and dining room area was a in my parents home….. getting everyone in was a tight squeeze.  We had extra tables set up everywhere…. just as you would expect.  Of course we all brought something to contribute to the meal.  Once the meal was done, the younger kids would head to the basement to play while the adults cleaned up the kitchen mess and put the folding tables away.

Then we would gather in the living room upstairs…. which was another large room.  We decided to start acting out the Nativity as part of our tradition.  It was always fun switching parts and using whoever had the most recent child as Baby Jesus.  I remember we would raid my Mom’s scarf collection and jewelry to dress up the Wise Men and shepherds.  We’d very often take an old towel and cut a hole in the middle of it big enough to put a child’s head through and then wrap a belt or piece of fabric around the waist.  Another towel or piece of  fabric would become the covering for the shepherds head.  The angel would be draped in a sheet with a piece of silver tinsel wrapped around their head.  Over the years, we started actually ‘making’  a few costume pieces. Nothing fancy…. no patterns…. just pieces of fabric cut to work instead of old towels.

The kids would look forward to putting on the Nativity every year.  We finally got to the point one year that instead of reading the story out of the Bible, we used an LDS Primary song called ‘The Nativity Song’.   We would sing all the verses.  As the characters were mentioned in the verses, they would take their place in the nativity scene.  It seemed to work pretty good and would at least keep the kids singing as we proceeded.

Then…. we would sing Christmas carols until the time of the big arrival!  My parents always arranged for Santa Claus to pay a visit and bring one small gift for everyone.  He’d pull a gift out of his big black bag, read the persons name and then they would sit on his lap for a minute and have their picture taken and get to talk to him for a minute.  Our kids absolutely looked forward to that part every year.  The challenge was to keep them occupied till he arrived so they weren’t looking out the window in anticipation.  Early on in this tradition, my parents were able to get Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus to come.  They were adorable and fun…. but time takes their toll on everyone and we soon had to find another Santa helper to do the job.

After Santa left, the kids would exchange gifts with their cousins.  We all drew names so we only gave one gift and received one gift.  It was all part of making the season seem right…. giving a gift to someone else.  As the years went on… the gift exchange evolved into a VERY fun White Elephant exchange which we still love to do.

Christmas Eve was the tradition that was hard to let go of.  As my parents aged and the family got bigger…. they didn’t want to have it at their home anymore, so we compromised and went to the church to do it and the adult children were in charge.

Once the grandkids grew up and started getting married, then we ran into scheduling problems of not everyone being able to make it on Christmas Eve anymore because the other side of the family they had married into had their traditions too.  It became more of a hassle than it was worth…so we started finding another night besides Christmas Eve to have a family party.  The same charm just wasn’t there anymore once we did that….. but it was still special and fun to get together with the family.   Honestly…. I’m amazed that we went as many years as we did without having our own spouses families expecting to share Christmas Eve time.  It’s pretty amazing when you think about it.  Maybe it was just luck, or it was just something that our spouses knew they were getting into when they married into the family!

I’m hoping that this tradition can be reborn again with my own family.  I know it won’t be as easy to pull off because already we have families of my kids significant others wanting to share the night.  If my daughter wasn’t out of town this year…. I think we’d all be here for the evening this year.  However, it’s just not quite the same without little kids involved…. but that will come.   I have big hopes for the coming year…. all of my children have significant others in their life right now and I’m dreaming of them all settling down and starting families of their own.  I’m hoping they’ve all reached the point where they are ready for that!

However, we have started a new tradition in my family.  A few years ago we (or should I say ‘I’) decided we needed to have a family Christmas crafting/baking night.  It has been a lot of fun to get us all together and tackle a new project.  Right now we don’t have a definite purpose or use for the particular project we make…. but we’ve managed to get them ‘eaten’.   We  still try to have a Christmas party for my side of the family so we take them there to be consumed.  The party has been after Christmas for many years because it was easier for people to fit it into their schedules.  Since my Dad passed away and Mom is in an Assisted Living center…. we’ve just scheduled the dining room area at her place to get together, so it’s easier on her.  This will be the first year we haven’t had a family get together for Christmas.  We are celebrating her 90th birthday a few weeks later, so we decided to hold off for the celebration till then.  So…. this year…. our baking project became neighbor and co-worker gifts!

Wow…. I could go on with other traditions we have that mean a lot to me….. but this post is already VERY long!  But I guess that’s why traditions are so important to us….. they hold so much emotion and fond memories it’s hard not to rattle on about them.

I’m grateful for all the years that I had keeping those amazing traditions and the meaning they hold in my heart.  I was very blessed to be a part of it.  I look forward to starting more traditions with my own family as it grows.  My family means the world to me.  I’m so grateful for them!

Here’s wishing you a wonderful Christmas and hoping that your traditions will add to your memories this week!

Please share what some of those traditions are!    Merry Christmas!

I am Grateful!  How are You?

 

We haven’t done a very good job of digitizing our old photos yet…. someday I hope to post some pictures of Christmases past!

 

Here’s a little Christmas card from my family to yours!

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What a Feeling!

There’s something about knowing you are helping someone else that just feels really good.  Like nothing else does.

I’m proud of my little family.  We decided last year to try to make a bigger deal out of each other’s birthday’s and then make Christmas more of what it should be….. celebrating the birth of our Savior by helping others who need it more that we do.

We were a little late getting started on exactly what we wanted to do this year….. but perhaps that was fate.  Because we were late, we ended up being able to contribute to a Sub for Santa that my niece was organizing…. and it happened to be for someone that we know, so it made it even more special. Our family was able to make a fairly significant  (for us anyway)  cash contribution today that will be able to help with other needs this family may have.

It felt so good to hand over that money for something like that!  It felt so much better than going out and spending it on gifts that I’m not even sure they will like, but feeling like you need to get something…. ya know?  So often I just feel like it’s mindless shopping for someone who doesn’t really need anything.  But giving it to someone in need? ….. Now that feels good.  Really good.

In the process of our contribution, a story was shared with me of a Sub for Santa that was done years ago.  I was so impressed and touched by the story that I would like to share it with others.  But not here…. not now.  I feel like it’s something that needs to be written out in a beautiful way…. not just a hap-hazard blog post.  Someday I hope to share it with you.

I’m so grateful to have been able to hear this story.  I’m grateful to the people who shared it with me.  I’m grateful for the opportunity our family took to share with someone who needs it more that we do.

I am now recalling another time that my kids got to participate in a Sub for Santa as young children.  Our ward Primary (the children’s organization within our church) did a Sub for Santa years ago when I was the Primary President.  Since I was President….. my little family got the pleasure of being able to deliver that Sub for Santa.  It was an honor and very humbling.  It really makes you realize how lucky you are.  I think it was a real eye opener for our kids.  Even though they were small…. I think it had an impact on them.

I look forward to giving to others becoming a new family tradition for us….. one that hopefully we can expand on as the years go by.  I’m grateful to 3 wonderful kids who felt perfectly fine with drawing names this year and then setting a limit on the gift price…. then in turn giving the money they would have spent on other gifts to someone else.  I’m incredibly proud of them and hope that they feel as good about it as I do!

I am Grateful!  How are You?

Festival of Trees

Mom with a few board members for the Festival of Trees 2011

I hope you’ll indulge me today.  This could be a long post…. I hope you’ll bear with me.  This is a topic that’s dear to my heart.

Let me start off by saying that taking my Mom to the Festival of Trees today takes me back to many years ago when it all began.

My Mom was one of the original board members for the Festival of Trees back in 1970 when they first started.  I remember it well.  I was in high school when this new venture started as a fund raiser for Primary Children’s Hospital.  For those of you that don’t know what it is….  this is an event where people donate time and money to decorate a Christmas tree (and now many other things as well….) and then other people are invited to an evening of auctioning where they bid on the trees.  The highest bidder, of course, wins the tree (or other item).  All of the proceeds are donated to Primary Children’s Hospital.  The trees then go on display to the public for 4 days before the winning bidder is allowed to take his prize home.  A small fee is charged to the public to come look at the trees, which is an additional source of fund raising money for the cause.

The Festival has grown huge over the last 40 years.  It literally takes thousands of man hours and volunteers to pull it all off.  The current committee is run by several women, (I honestly don’t know how many anymore!) who then head other committees all over the valley that they are in charge of.  It pretty much takes the whole year to plan to make sure it all runs smoothly.

Back in 1970, when it first began, it started off rather small.  My Mom was one of the original board members of what she thinks was 13 women.  The first year it was held in one of the buildings of the Salt Lake Armory.  The next year it had gained in popularity and added more trees in the second Armory building.  Within the next few years, it had become so popular that it had to move to the Salt Palace Convention Center in downtown Salt Lake.  It was there for many years and just kept expanding into more of the convention center.  Each year there were more people wanting to donate something for the cause.  Several years ago, it moved to the South Towne Center in Sandy, Utah.  I think the committee felt that was a more central location for the people all over the state that want to come see it.  Also…. parking was free and little more convenient.

One of many trees today. See the elves stacking presents for one elf to stand on to put the a decoration on the top?

The gift shop and the sweet shop came early on and they continued to add other features over the years.  Now, besides trees, (of all sizes,) there are many more things donated for auction including,  table decorations, crafts, art, quilts, door wreaths, and ginger bread houses and more.  The creativity that goes into the auctioned items never ceases to amaze me.

My Mom was always in charge of the entertainment when she was on the committee.  It took a lot of hours to fill up those spots.  Especially in the early years when people were still just learning about it.  Even now…. the entertainment committee spends hours lining things up for the multiple stages to perform on.

It meant a lot to my Mom to be able to attend today and see what it has turned into over the years.  There is still one board member currently involved that started getting involved as a teenager years ago when my Mom was on the committee.  Sharon Goodrich has been instrumental in making sure that my Mom still receives her invitation to the opening Lights On ceremony.

Last year when I decided to have my Mom’s care center bring her in so that I could meet her there and take her around to see the trees, we made a point of finding Sharon to say Hi.  Sharon was so thrilled to have my Mom there that she had me bring her back into the area of the building where the board members have an area set up for them to continue on with all the work that needs to be done during the Festival.  Sharon gathered the board members around and introduced my Mom as one of the original board members and they made such a fuss over her!  They were so excited to meet her and thanked her profusely for being a part of getting such a wonderful cause started.  They gathered around her and we took pictures of her with them.

It meant so much to my Mom to feel appreciated and loved.  So much so that she wanted more of it this year……  she wouldn’t let us leave the Festival today until we found Sharon and the board members to say “Hi” again.  Once again, they made a fuss over her and took pictures with her.  It really made her day.  My husband mentioned how nice it was to see her face light up as she was talking with those wonderful women.

Next month my Mom turns 90 years old.  I told Sharon today that if she’s still around, that we would make an effort to try and get her into the Lights On ceremony next year.  Mom wants her kids and their spouses to all attend if we can.  My sisters and I all worked at the Festival of Trees as Hostesses for many years.  It would thrill Mom to death if we could all be there with her.

I’m so grateful to those wonderful women for fussing over Mom again like they did.  I’m so grateful that Mom was a part of the beginning of something so wonderful that has become a community favorite at Christmas time and raises a lot of money for Primary Children’s Hospital.

I’m glad Mom felt good enough to attend again this year and that it got her Christmas season off to a great start!  Thanks to all of you wonderful people who have kept the Festival of Trees going for over 40 years now!

I am Grateful!  How are You?

Below are some pictures from the Festival of Trees that I took today.  You name it….. they put it on a tree!  If you want ideas for how to decorate a Christmas tree….. you can’t find a better place!

 

Probably one of the most popular trees there today..... The "UP" tree

 

UP must be a popular theme this year! Here's a gingerbread house replica!

 

Here's one you might consider more traditional

 

 

Anything goes for color! Now this one is bright!

 

A huge fireplace wreath with a Penguin theme.... plenty of penguins to fill the room too!

 

An elegantly decorated tree with a music theme in tribute to an accomplished student who was tragically killed. And yes.... the Electric baby grand is part of the package!

 

More ginger bread houses.... so many to choose from!

 

Some even come with multiple trees per display!

 

This barely touches the iceberg of what was there today!  Try and get there if you can!!  It ends tomorrow, Dec 3rd.  If you can’t make ti this year……. there’s always next year!