What A Year It’s Been!

With 2014 coming to a close, I feel like I need to take the time to express my gratitude for such an amazing year.  It’s been a year of MANY firsts for me and my family.  Not all of them necessarily pleasant, but the majority of them were wonderful.

Our first first of the year was finding out we were going to finally be grandparents!  Such exciting and thrilling news.  We have waited for so long to be able to claim that title…. we were thrilled!  In fact, I was so excited, I had to blog about it.

The next exciting first came when we moved into our brand new home in February.  There were plenty of hoops we had to jump through to make it happen, but thanks to generous in-laws and their help, we were able to make that move before we closed on our condo.  Though moving is stressful…. it was a thrill to move into a brand new home.  As I said…. a first for us.  Though we had moved several times prior to that, it was always into an existing home.  It was so fun to be able to pick and design the interior of our home.  Though stressful in many ways…. it was worth the struggle.  I’m so grateful to be here and to be in such a great area with great neighbors.

I also celebrated a few 1 year anniversaries.  Some good and some sad.  In January, I was 1 year clean from cancer (I’m approaching that second anniversary very soon!), which was an exciting one to celebrate.   2014 was also the one year anniversary of losing my Mom.  That year of firsts after losing a loved one is hard.  Still miss her.

gram and gramp with benOn July 29, we were blessed with the best first we could ever ask for!  Our little grandson Benedict was born!  I can’t even describe the joy this little boy has brought into my life.  I cried tears of joy when I first met him.  It’s a feeling I can’t even explain.  I know I felt the same kind of joy when my own children were born…. but having posterity born is a joy that is unexplainable.  He is so adorable.  He’s five months old now and I could just eat him up!  What a darling sweet personality.  He certainly has his Grandma wrapped around his little finger.  I’m as SO grateful for this gift and grateful my son and his wife brought him into our lives.  Joy beyond measure.jon and ben

In August, I finally gave in and had knee replacement surgery.  Another first, and I’m hoping my last.  My recovery for that has been a little harder than I’d hoped for…. but my physical therapist insures me that it will get better!  Though I’m still struggling with rehab on the knee…. I’m still grateful I had the surgery.

At the end of September, we were thrilled when our youngest son Nate popped the question to his British sweetheart Savannah.  We are so excited to add her to our family.  She is a very talented young lady and her talent is what will have Nate moving to London when they get married in the Spring since she has a contract to continue as Glinda in “Wicked” on the West End.  I will miss him terribly, but I’m so excited for this part of his life to finally start.

Nathan and SavannahIn October, we went on an impromptu cruise to the Bahamas.  It was a lot of fun, and though I was only 2 months out from knee surgery, I survived fine!  We had a great time with friends and got to hear some great music from our past.  I wouldn’t mind cruising at least once a year.  🙂  Though it wasn’t our first cruise, it felt like it since we hadn’t cruised in years.

And finally….. we get to announce that we are going to be Grandparents once again!  This time with my daughter as Momma and now we know she is having a girl!  We are so excited to add a sweet little princess to our family!  Since we will become full time baby sitters for this one, our daughter will be moving in with us as soon as we can get our basement finished.  It will be fun to have a little one here all the time.  We’ve had the opportunity of tending our cute little Benny a couple of days a week…. so tending everyday will definitely be a new experience.

It’s interesting to look back and see where this year has led us.  The fact that we felt a need to sell our condo and get into a home again, as crazy as that seemed to many people….. to go from having no yard work, etc., to having 1/3 an acre to now care for is kind of nutty at our age…. but the condo just wasn’t a good fit for us in many ways.  Now that our daughter needs to move in with us, it’s a good thing we did move, because she wouldn’t have been able to live with us in our condo due to ‘rules’ about having grandchildren living with you.  It obvious to me now that we were being guided to where we needed to be for many reasons.

So, as this year ends, I look back with an immense amount of gratitude for where we are and what we have and what we get to look forward to.  Here’s to 2015 being an even better year!

I Am Grateful!  How Are You?

I’M GOING TO BE A GRANDMA!!!!

I can finally announce to the world: I’M GOING TO BE A GRANDMA!   You have no idea how long I’ve waited for this day!  The hardest part has been the fact that I have actually known about it for about 6 weeks but wasn’t allowed to tell anyone.  (Well… anyone that I knew would blab about it….).  A Girl HAS to tell her BFF’s!  I’ve been ready to bust since then…. but now I can tell you… and I’m so proud!

Let’s start at the very beginning…. well, sort of.  Many of you may know that my husband is almost 10 years older than I am.  Which means he was in his 30’s when we got married.  Now I know by today’s standards that doesn’t seem that old…. but in the 70’s it was considered kind of old to be getting married for the first time.  Especially in Utah.

Consequently, I (we) were anxious to start a family because I didn’t want him to be too ‘old’ of a Dad for his kids as they grew up.  Well, that was never a problem.  He was always in great shape and was (is) a great father and did so much with and for our children.  The problem is…. when your kids follow in your husbands footsteps as far as being his age to get married and start a family….. that makes my hubby and I quite a bit older as Grandparents than the average Joe!   Well…. maybe not…. since the average age for getting married has gone up considerably since I was young!  Anyway….. regardless of our age….. we are thrilled to be able to say that we are going to be Grandparents this year!  I am so excited.   I just hope we can keep up with our grandkids as they get older!

Jon and Ali's clever way of announcing they're having a baby!
Jon and Ali’s clever way of announcing they’re having a baby!

I’m not going to lie…. it’s been hard the last several years as all my friends have been having multiple grandchildren and we’ve had none!   Watching their Grandkids grow…..  And then as friends much younger than us became Grandparents, I would be so envious!

Now, don’t get me wrong.  It’s not like my kids haven’t wanted to be married and start a family.  It’s just the way things have worked out.  And it’s OK.  And they know that.  I’m a little old fashioned in the fact that I prefer them to be married before they have children…. so I’m so grateful that Jon and Ali decided to finally tie the knot in August… which was also a wonderful pleasant surprise!

We have had some wonderful things happen in the last several months and year, as well as some sad things.  It was a mixed blessing year, but I’m grateful for it all.  I’m a believer that all things come when they are supposed to.  It’s just that at times, it’s SO hard to wait!

So, This year starts off with exciting anticipation of becoming Grandparents and also moving to a new home in a few weeks.  Wow.  It’s going to be a whirlwind…. but I’m excited for it all!  Thanks for working on making me a Grandma, Jon and Ali!  I look forward to meeting him/her in July!

I Am Grateful!  How Are You?

 

Christmas Without Mom

I’ve been extremely melancholy and tender hearted these last few days.  This will be my first Christmas without my Mom.  When she passed away last March, we were all greatly saddened and yet happy for her to be released from her body that was making her unhappy.  She was ready to go home and be reunited with Dad.

Our first Christmas without Dad was hard too, but for some reason, this year it’s super hard for me with Mom being gone.  She loved Christmas so much.  Perhaps it’s because it’s the first Christmas without at least one of my parents here.

I’ve probably talked about this before, but Christmas has always been a big deal for me…. as far as family goes.  While the hustle and bustle and anticipation have always been fun, the most important thing of all was having family together.  Our family traditions are what made me look forward to the Christmas season.  As I get older, I realize just how important those family times are.

I was raised in a close family.  At least those of us that lived around got together often.  While raising my kids, we spent almost every Sunday evening at my parents home.  We would gather for ‘cheeseies’ (a family tradition of an open faced broiled cheese sandwich) each week, spend time together and the cousins would play.  It meant the world to me and was a priority in my mind.

At Christmas time we would gather each Christmas Eve.  The evening would start with a big dinner; with tables and chairs strung everywhere as the family grew.  Then we would gather in the living room and portray the Nativity with each of the kids acting out the parts.  My daughter, Mandy, being the youngest girl (of only a handful of girls) in the family got the honor of playing Mary for many years.  Our costumes always consisted of sheets, towels, scarfs and tinsel with the manger being a doll cradle and who knows what doll for the baby Jesus, unless there was a newborn in the family…. then they got the honored roll of being the Baby Jesus.

After acting out the Nativity, we would sing songs (sometimes my kids would be the entertainment since they participated in a kids performing group back then) and we would wait in anticipation for Santa’s arrival.  We always tried to keep the kids distracted and occupied while we waited for his arrival.

Once Santa arrived through the front door, it was mayhem and excitement!  He would sing a couple of songs with us and then reach in his big bag and call out the name of each of the kids one at a time.  They would come sit on his lap and get their small gift from him.  It was an opportunity for each child to have their photo taken with Santa by their parents.  It was a joy to watch from year to year, the young kids go from being petrified of him to jumping on his lap.  (And what a hoot to look back at the photos and see the styles we wore!)  He would have us sing a few more songs and end with Jingle Bells as he left to ‘go to the next house’.  What a fun tradition that was.

Then we would exchange gifts amongst cousins and adults (drawing names as the family got bigger).  Then off to our own homes to get the children all snuggled in their beds with visions of sugar plums dancing through their heads.  Christmas Eve.  The best part of Christmas for me growing up.

As my parents aged, they were getting tired of all the clean up…. plus the family growing with many great grand kids made it a tight fit for their home.  We spent several years trying to do it in their church cultural hall.  Then grand kids grew, started marrying people who had their own Christmas Eve traditions and it turned into a party at some local ‘event’ place (like a Roller Skating facility) one a night other than Christmas Eve for the last few years before my Dad passed.

Once Dad passed and Mom had had her stroke, she ended up needing 24 hour care and spent the last 6 years of her life in an Assisted Living facility.  We were always able to reserve one of the rooms there to hold a family party, but it was never on Christmas Eve again.  Too many family members with their own Christmas Eve traditions…. but none the less…. we gathered.

Mom with Daisy on her lap last Christmas Eve at her place.  You can se the joy in her face of having us there.
Mom with Daisy on her lap last Christmas Eve at her place. You can se the joy in her face of having us there.

The last few Christmas Eve’s, my little family has spent the evening with my Mom at her Assisted Living place.  Sometimes we sang for all the patients there…. but last year, we just spent time with her in her room and sang to her.  She loved it.  It meant so much to her.  We always took the time to look through the Christmas album the family and made for my parents several years back with photos of all those great Christmas Eve’s.  I’m feeling sad I don’t have that at my house this year.

I just don’t know what I’m going to do with myself this year without her here to spend Christmas Eve with!  My heart has been so tender these last few days.  I’ve shed many tears missing her and Dad and those sacred traditions.  I want so desperately to carry on some of those traditions in our family.  It’s been hard because my children haven’t been married with kids of their own up to this point, so we haven’t had the little ones around to treasure those moments.  I know it will come.  Jon and Ali got married this year and I have BIG hopes of it all beginning soon.  I just pray that it will become as important to them as it is to me.

Family is everything to me.  I want to spend more time together than we do.  I love them all so much.  We are trying to carry on the larger gathering of the family for a Christmas party.  I promised Mom we would.  Though it won’t be till the first of the year…. we will still gather and enjoy each others company…. laugh at the White Elephant exchange and just be grateful for one another.   As with anything in life, it gets harder and harder to make the schedule work for everyone to be there….. but we will do our best and miss those that can’t make it.  And Mom will be happy we did.

I am SO grateful for parents who started and kept such special traditions in our family.  The thing that amazes me the most is that none of the spouses of us siblings had a spouse with Christmas Eve family traditions.  The party at the Bangerter home was the priority!  And you darn well better be there!  It wasn’t until the grandkids started getting married that we ran into conflicts with other family gatherings.  We were blessed to go so many years without those conflicts.

I’m grateful for my family and want them to treasure this time of year as much as I do.  I know Mom and Dad will be with us all in spirit, but I miss them so terribly much this time of year!

Much love to you all and may you have a blessed and wonderful Christmas with cherished loved ones by your side.  And if they aren’t able to be with you…. may you be able to communicate with them all your love.  MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL…. but especially to you MOM!!  May your first Christmas in Heaven with Daddy be one of your best!  You can SEE and MOVE and SING!  I love that….. it makes me so happy to think about that.  Miss you tons!

I Am Grateful!  How Are You?

Serving in the Temple

I love serving in the temple!  I’ve always known that, but yesterday was really a reminder of just how much.

John and I have found a home we want to buy.  It’s being built so we won’t be able to move into it till the first of the year.  While we are very excited to make the move back into a house, we are saddened that we will be moving out of the Jordan River Temple district and therefore will need to be released as Ordinance Workers there.

John is having his knee replaced today, so yesterday was his last day.  With the Temple closing in a couple of weeks for cleaning and the Holidays coming up, it worked out to be his last day.  Depending on how things go with him, it may have been my last day too.  Knowing that, I was very melancholy as I performed my duties serving the Patrons.

It hit me the most as I was sitting in the front of the room for the Endowment session.  We had several older Sisters in wheel chairs on that session.  When that happens, it’s usually an opportunity for us to serve them even more than we would a healthier Patron because we are often needed to help them put on their Priesthood robes during the session.  I was lucky enough yesterday to have a Sister to help.  I love doing that.  It endears me to them so much.

As I observed those Sisters during the session, I was touched by what many of them are enduring in their old age.  One of the Sisters had Arthritis so bad in her hands its hard for her to hold her hands straight, which makes part of the ceremony a little more difficult.  Another of the Sisters feet are so twisted that taking off her shoes and putting them back on was a little difficult.  She is stuck in a wheel chair for the remainder of her life.  You could see that the muscles in her legs are disappearing as she is unable to use them.  It broke my heart for her, yet it made me so grateful that I had the chance to help her.

Jordan River Temple (photo by Kendall Davenport)
Jordan River Temple
(photo by Kendall Davenport)

I was choking back tears yesterday knowing that it might be my last chance to do that for sometime.  I was also choking back tears regarding everything that has happened to us in the last two weeks (both good and kind of scary)  that makes me very aware that my Heaven Father knows and loves me.  I know that he sent those Sisters to the temple yesterday to be on the session I was helping with, so I could have a reminder of just how much joy I receive doing His work there.  Not going to lie,  I’m not always in tune with the spirit when I work there.  Often I let my mind spin on worldly things and not focus on what I can feel there if I allow myself to do so.  That’s why yesterday was so special to me.  It completely made me focus and realize that it might be the last time for sometime that I will get to help perform those ordinances.  We hope to maybe work in the new Temple district once we get moved and settled, but it may be a while.

Because we work on the early shift on Wednesdays and have to get up so early, often I am tired while I’m there.  And often, I have been known to close my eyes during part of the session and doze off.  I’m not happy to admit that, but it happens more often than not.  Yesterday I was surprised at how I wasn’t tired.  Even though I had forgotten what night it was when I went to bed the night before and didn’t get to bed till 11 pm.  I was surprised at how much energy I had.  Again…. I think it was The Lords way of reminding me what joy I have had serving Him.

I’m so grateful for the blessing of working the The Lord’s House.  I have many sweet memories and have gained some wonderful friendships both with fellow workers and with Patrons who come so often.  What a blessing it is to do His work!  I guess I will have to settle for just being a Patron myself for a while.  I can always attend during the hours that we worked and hopefully be able to say “Hi” to some of those friends while we are there.  Being a Patron is a blessing too.  One I haven’t taken as much advantage of as I should.  Now I will have a chance to finish up those Family File cards a distant relative gave me to do.  And that….. will be a blessing too!

I Am Grateful!  How Are You?

A Spiritual Feast Day

I am so grateful that I can go to church on Sunday a be Spiritually fed.  Some Sunday’s I must be hungrier than others (or should I say more in tune….?).  Today was such a day.

In all three meetings today I was touched by the Spirit and felt that the Lord was speaking to me through his servants.  Right to me in some cases.  This has been an interesting week of things happening in a way that I didn’t expect…. but as our Bishop talked about today in Sacrament meeting… “Timing is everything”.  That is…. the Lord’s timing.

mormon-church2This has been a week of trying to feel good about the way things have gone in respect to us purchasing a home.  Even amidst the disappointment we had at the first of the week… the week has ended with an affirmation that what he has in store for us is even better than I imagined.  Though it’s not in an area that I at first thought I wanted to be, we have decided that it’s not so bad after all.  In fact, we quite like it.

Then there was more spiritual feasting with the lesson in Sunday school. It was such a beautiful testament of what Joseph Smith did to help bring forth the fullness of the gospel and the benefits and blessings we now have because of that.  Great lesson.

Then Relief Society.  Again, another great important message about loving and strengthening others, no matter who they are.  It’s been a very fulfilling day.  I’m so grateful that my ‘cup runneth over’ with spiritual fulfillment.  I truly don’t know how people make it from week to week without feeding their spirit .  No matter what your religion…. our spirits starve to be fed good up lifting things.  Things that bring us joy!

Today I am joyful and full.

I Am Grateful!  How Are You?

Romantic Surprises

We’ve been busy lately doing many things, one of which is trying to prepare my husbands little brothers old 1935 home for my daughter to rent.  Last Monday, August 19th we were doing just that.

My husband was in the garage working on something and I had just returned back out to my car to move it back into the driveway when I got a text on my phone.  Now…. I had left my phone in the car so I may have never realized I had received that text till much later in the day if I hadn’t been there at the right time.  Luckily…. I was there.

It was a text from my oldest son Jon’s girlfriend, Ali.  Now Jon and Ali have been together for the last 7 years.  Being the old fashioned kind of person I am…. I have always wished they would get married since they were living like they were anyway.  Call me a prude if you like, but I just don’t get today’s society.   I believe that if you love someone enough that you want to live with them, that you probably ought to make a commitment and get married.  But, that’s just me.

Anyway…. Jon and Ali have been together for the last 7 years or more and every once and a while over the last few years I would ask my son when they were going to get married.  He would just kind of smile and shrug it off.  For the last year or so, they have been planning this big trip to Europe.  Ali has always wanted to go to Europe, so they decided to plan the trip.  Perhaps Jon’s close call with health issues last summer had something to do with them working toward making that happen sooner rather than later.

3 weeks.  That’s a long trip and takes some maneuvering to work out when you work full time jobs.  Jon has been working for Apple the last several years and was able to work it out.   Ali works as a teacher at a private Montessori school, so this was a good time of year to do it since she wouldn’t miss too much of work.

Ali’s father and I have been kidding them the last month or two saying what a great Honeymoon Europe would be!  Again…. all we got was smiles and shrugs and ‘Yeah, it would’.

So when I got the text from Ali on the 19th telling me it was an important video from Hemsley, England, Please watch ASAP…. I of course immediately opened the video.  We had spoken to them on the phone through FaceTime a couple of times prior to the text so I figured they were just sending us a fun message via text.

Well…. ‘fun’ is an understatement!  As I watched the video unfold I started to scream…. and cry…..  Now remember, as I told you, my husband was working on something in the garage behind me while I was in the car in the LONG driveway of his brothers home.

This is the video I opened that caused all that excitement to spue forth from my mouth:

Of course I ran screaming to the garage with phone in hand saying to my husband….. “Jon and Ali are married!” about 10 times.   (I still cry every time I watch it!)  Now mind you…. the screaming and crying was all in happiness!  Though I feel bad that we weren’t there to be a part of it…. I think it’s terribly romantic and wonderfully clever of them to whisk off to Europe and get married!  As my husband calls it…. eloping.

They did an amazing job of keeping it from all of us!  None of us were the least bit suspicious.  While they had a couple of very close friends go with them on the first leg of the trip to be their witnesses (and from the looks of the video, marry them?) and capture it all on camera, no one else knew except a couple of people I understand had to know in order to make it happen smoothly.  But no one spilled the beans.

What an amazing surprise!  So, they really are spending their Honeymoon in Europe!  How clever of them!

Jon and Ali -- August 19, 2013
Jon and Ali — August 19, 2013

They will be back the end of this week and I’m looking forward to hearing all about it and seeing pictures and perhaps video of the whole thing.  I know we will be planning a celebration too.

It’s been an exciting week and I’m so grateful I can finally call Ali my daughter in law!  I guess I could have reacted differently and been very upset that we weren’t a part of it all….. but you know what?  It wouldn’t have done me any good and in all honesty….. I was so thrilled to have them married that it didn’t cross my mind to be upset!

As I’ve told my friends about the exciting news, I’ve ended by saying,  “One down, two to go.”

I am Grateful!  How are You?

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?

Story Day 6 — The Santa Within Me

Once again…. I was able to find an online version of a story I’ve had in my files for a long time.  I figured since it had once been featured in Reader’s Digest in 1979 there might be a good chance I’d find it!  Yeah for the internet!

It’s another kind of long one, but not bad….  but a great story!  I know there a lot of people out there that have Santa within them!  How I wish more people could do things like this!

Here it is….. Enjoy!

-vintage-christmas-card-of-santa-claus-delivering-gifts-to-two-girlsThe Santa Within Me
by Jay Frankston

There’s nothing so beautiful as a child’s dream of Santa Claus. I know; I often had that dream. But, I am Jewish and my parents didn’t celebrate Christmas. It was everyone else’s holiday – a big party I wasn’t invited to – and I felt left out. It wasn’t toys I yearned for; it was Santa Claus and a Christmas tree. So when I got married and had kids, I decided to make up for what I’d missed.

I started with a seven-foot tree, all decked out with lights and tinsel. The year was 1956, and we were living in New York City. My daughter Claire was only two, but her eyes sparkled as she smiled at the tree. It gave off warmth that filled every corner of our home. I Put a Star of David on top to soothe those whose Jewish feelings were disturbed by the display. And, it warmed my heart to see the glitter, because now the party was at my house EVERYONE was invited.

But, something was missing, something big and round and jolly, with jingle bells, and Ho! Ho! Ho! So I bought a bright, red cloth and my wife made me a costume. Inflatable pillows filled out my skinny frame. A Santa mask, complete with whiskers and flowing white hair, made me look genuine enough to live up to a child’s dream of old St. Nick.

When I tried on the costume and looked in the mirror, there he was, big as life, the Santa of my childhood. I felt myself becoming Santa. I leaned back and pushed out my pillow stomach. My voice got deeper and richer. “Merry Christmas, everyone.”

Claire was almost four and Danny not yet one when Santa first came to our house. They stood in awe and I saw in their eyes the fantasy and magic of what I had become. Santa was special. He was the personification of kindness and gentleness. He was a little scary, too.

For two years I played Santa for my children, to their fright and delight, and to my total enjoyment. And, when the third year rolled around, the Santa in me had grown into a personality of his own and he needed more room So, I sought to accommodate him by letting him do his thing for other children.

One day, late in November, I saw this pretty little girl trying to reach a mailbox slot, and saying, “Mommy, are you sure Santa will get my letter?” My mind began to whirl. All those children who wrote to Santa Claus, whatever becomes of their letters? A phone call to the postal service answered my question. The dead-letter office stored the thousands of letter in huge sacks.

The Santa in me went Ho! Ho! Ho! and we headed to the post office. As I began rummaging through the letters, I became a little flustered at the demands and greed of so many spoiled children. Most of the letters were gimme, gimme, gimme letters. But, the Santa in me heard a voice from inside the mail sack, and I continued searching until I came upon one letter that jarred me.

Dear Santa, I am an 11-year-old girl, and I have two little brothers and a baby sister. My father died last year, and my mother is sick. I know there are many who are poorer than we are and I want nothing for myself, but could you send us a blanket ’cause Mommy’s cold at night. It was signed Suzy.

A chill went up my spine and the Santa in me cried, “I hear you Suzy.

I dug deeper into those sacks and came up with another eight such letters, all calling out from the depths of poverty. I took them with me and went straight to the Western Union office and sent each child a telegram: Got your letter. Will be at your house. Wait for me. Santa.

I knew I could not possibly fill all the needs of these children, but if I could bring them hope, if I could make them feel that their cries did not go unheard… I budgeted $150 and went out and bought presents. On Christmas day, my wife drove me around. It had snowed graciously the night before, and the streets were thick with fresh powder.

My first call took me to the outskirts of the city. The letter from Peter Barski had read:
Dear Santa, I am ten years old and I am an only child. I’m not sad because I’m poor, but because I’m lonely. I know you have many people to see and you probably have no time for me. So, I don’t ask you to come to my house or bring anything. But, could you send me a letter so I know know you exist?

Dear Peter, my telegram began, not only do I exist, but I’ll be there on Christmas Day. Wait for me.

Peter’s house was wedged between two tall buildings. Its roof was of corrugated metal and it was more of a shack than a house. With a bag of toys slung over my shoulder, I walked up the steps and knocked. A heavyset man opened the door.

He said a word in Polish and his hand went to his face. “Please,” he stuttered. “The boy… at Mass. I go get him. Please wait.” He threw on a coat and, assured that I would wait, ran down the street.

I stood there in front of the house, feeling good. Then, across the street, I noticed another shack; through the window I could see little back faces peering at me, and tiny hands waving. The door opened shyly and some voices called out, “Hi ya, Santa.”

I Ho! Ho! Hoed! my way over there, and a woman asked if I’d come in, and I did. Inside were five kids from one to seven years old. I spoke to them of Santa and the spirit of love, which is the spirit of Christmas. The, seeing the torn Christmas wrappings, I asked if they liked what Santa had brought them. Each thanked me – for the woolen socks, the sweater, and the warm underwear.

“Didn’t I bring you any toys?” They shook their heads sadly. “Ho! Ho! Ho! I slipped up.” said I, “We’ll have to fix that.”

Knowing that we had extra toys in the car, I gave each child a toy. There was joy and laughter, but when Santa got ready to leave, I noticed one girl crying. I bent down and asked her, “What’s the matter?”

“Oh, Santa,” she sobbed, “I’m so happy.” And the tears rolled from my eyes under the rubber mask.

As I stepped out on the street, “Panie, Panie, Prosze…? Sir, sir, please,” I heard Mr. Barski say across the way.

Peter just stood there and looked as Santa walked into the house. “You came,” he said. “I wrote and… and you came.”

When he recovered, I spoke with him about loneliness and friendship, and gave him a chemistry set and a basketball. He thanked me profusely, and his mother asked something of her husband in Polish. My parents were Polish, so I speak a little and understand a lot. “From the North Pole,” I said in Polish.

She looked at me with astonishment. “You speak Polish?”

“Of course,” I said. “Santa speaks all languages.” And I left them in joy and wonder.

The following year, when the momentum of Christmas began to build, I felt a stirring and I knew that the Santa within me was back. So I returned to the post office and to those heartbreaking letters. I enjoyed playing Santa so much that I did it the next year and the next. Then, at age ten, Claire handed me a poem that began:

I know that Santa’s make-believe
But I still love him so
‘Cause he’m my daddy
Ho! Ho! Ho!

So, now she knew. I took her to the basement where the toys were and let her rummage through Santa’s shop, ogling at the the imposing array. She read the letters and cried with me and became a true Santa’s helper, sorting and wrapping the toys in preparation for my rounds.

I made them for 12 years, listening for the cries of children muffled in unopened envelopes, answering the call of as many as I could – frustrated at not being able to answer them all.

As time went on, word got out about Santa Claus and me, and manufacturers sent me cartons of toys. Having started with 20 children, I had wound up with 120, door to door, from one end of New York City to the other, from Christmas Eve through Christmas Day.

On my last call a few years ago, I knew there were four children in the family and I came prepared. The house was small and sparsely furnished. The kids had been waiting all day, staring at the telegram and repeating to their skeptical mother, “He’ll come, Mommy, he’ll come.”

As I rang the bell, the door swung open and they all reach for my hands and hold on. “Hi ya, Santa. We just knew you’s come.” And these poor kids were beaming with happiness and laughter.

I took each of them on my lap and told stories of joy, hope and waiting, and gave them each a toy. All the while there’s this fifth child standing the the corner, a cute girl with blond hair and blue eyes.

I turned to her and said, “You’re not part of this family, are you?’

She shook her head sadly and whispered, “No.”

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“Lisa.”

“How old are you?”

“Seven.”

“Come, sit on my lap.” She hesitated, but them came over. “Did you get any toys for Christmas? I asked.

“No.” she said.

I took out a big, beautiful doll. “Do you want this doll?”

“No,” she said, and leaned over and whispered in my ear, “I’m Jewish.”

I nudged her and whispered back, “I’m Jewish, too.” Lisa grinned from ear to ear. She took the doll I had handed her, hugged it, and ran out of the room.

I don’t know which of us was happier – Lisa or the Santa in me.

Merry Christmas, my friends…

I am Grateful!  How are You?

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?

Joy In The Journey

What a shame it would be to look back and find out what we missed along the way because we were just too ‘busy’.   How many times have you heard of a Father in a family who missed out on the most important things in his children’s’ lives because he was so busy making a living he forgot to live!  ‘Cat’s in the Cradle’ comes to mind!

We need to ‘Stop and Smell the Roses” along the way…… those sharp curves in the road are much safer taken at a slower speed!  The scenery is as important as the destination!  We were meant to enjoy life….. as well as succeed at it.  But if our focus is always on the top of the ladder….. what are we missing on the way up?  Who’s window is open with an invitation to stop in and visit, yet we miss it because we are too focused on that top rung?  People are put in our pathway for a reason, but often we are so busy trying to figure out what’s next, that we don’t notice the gift that God sent!

Slowing down and enjoying the journey is important.  Not at the expense of losing motivation to continue to improve ourselves….. but, be  OPEN ….. to the possibilities that are in front of you!  You may be being guided to where you are needed.  Besides….if you don’t slow down and notice the ‘now’…. live in the moment…. you will delay your happiness!

We can’t focus on what life will be like “when” or we truly miss the journey.  We are meant to enjoy the journey!

“Why delay your happiness?”

It’s not unusual for us to postpone our pleasures and happiness, hoping for a better tomorrow.

Do you place demands on your happiness like, “I’ll be happy when I lose 10 pounds,” “I’ll be happy when I get a new job or new car,” “I’ll be happy when I find the love of my life?”

Why put off your happiness until Friday night or Sunday morning or this summer or next winter? The real fun in life is the journey – and enjoying the present moment.

If you find yourself placing demands on your happiness, stop! You have a right to enjoy life, right here, right now! As you do, you’ll be amazed by the joy of daily life.   from Meditations for Women

It’s not always easy to slow down and pay attention to the now.  We are often overwhelmed with so many things we need to do that we forget to watch the dandelions grow.  You can only live this day once, so try and live it fully!

I’m grateful for my quest to find joy in the journey!  This blog is helping me to do that, by noticing what I’m grateful for.  Gratitude brings you joy!  Look for joy in your journey with gratitude in your heart!

I am Grateful!  How are you?

I tried to find the lyrics to the song ‘Joy In the Journey’ ….but I couldn’t find them (I could transcribe them…)…but I thought you might enjoy “listening”.  The video isn’t much to see…. but the words are great.