Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Christmas Oranges

My father passed away in October 2001. And with his passing my mother began to think about her own mortality and the people she would meet again. At the same time she felt compelled to write my fathers and her personal histories. I became her scribe and story after story unfolded. One of the things she was most concerned about was her relationship with her father. He had been dead for 40 years or so and she was still angry with him. This was one meeting she dreaded. However, as she began to recall her past and through questioning her perceptions, she began to see the choices her father made in a different light.

Her family owned a ranch near Cody, Wyoming. During the winter months my grandfather worked at Yellowstone Lodge in Yellowstone National Park as a cook for the tourists. This created great hardship in maintaining the ranch but at the same time the money earned from this side job provided much needed necessities. He saved every penny he made except for one Christmas treat. Every year he brought home Christmas oranges. Often those oranges were the only thing in the children's stockings.

I asked my mother if this was why she bought a box of Christmas oranges every year. And one always found its way into our stockings. She carried on the tradition from her fathers gift of Christmas oranges and she had not realized it until that moment. And in fact I carry on the tradition too because that's what mother did. She thought of her father as a hard man, lacking in compassion or even love. Surely, I said, bringing home oranges as a Christmas treat showed his love. This she could not accept.

Later that evening I was back at home preparing our family dinner all the while thinking of my grandfather. And it just so happened that I decided to make a fruit salad which of course included an orange. As I peeled the orange the aroma of it was so strong and sweet, it literally enveloped me. And just then I felt an overwhelming love so grand, so sweet, so tender, so kind reach through the heavens and I knew his offering of Christmas oranges was more than just a fun treat. It said what he could not verbalize, " I care about you. I love you."

No matter the season I cannot see an orange without being reminded about that heavenly hug. Every year during the Christmas season I continue the tradition. I buy oranges. Not only will they end up in our Christmas stockings but I like to share them as well. Because oranges, well, you know what they mean.

Monday, March 18, 2013

8 Things

  Several years ago I was asked to serve on a panel, answering questions about keeping our families unspotted from the world. How could I possibly help others when I was no expert and felt every one of my short-comings as a mother? As I thought about what I might be asked I felt confident that a few safeguards had served our family well.
  We ate together. Dinner was 5:30-6:00p.m. Most activities had ended by then or had not started. Even with summer jobs  most the time we managed to eat together. Meeting together around the dinner table became an opportunity to talk about the days events, gospel topics, recounting mission experiences, testing out our foreign language skills, and other pressing concerns we might have had. Everyone had a chance to talk and be heard.
  We worked together. Saturday clean-up included everyone and chores were rotated. The radio was usually blaring. Music seemed to help the work go faster, was not as tedious, and singing along helped the chore seem less like work. We provided working opportunities out of the home as well so that each child could earn their own money and with guidance learn to manage it.
  We knew how to play. Mom and Dad are pretty dull people if everything is work, work, work. It is good to take a break to play dolls or catch a ball, go on picnics, hike, play board games and cards, take trips, camp, go fishing and once in a while do something big like Disneyland. Yep. It takes planning and sometimes it is totally spontaneous! That's what play is and it should not be neglected.
  We went to church together. Church developed purpose and unity plus strenghtened testimony, taught service, and built our family. This was a no-brainer. Church was never neglected.
  We created our own traditions. One of the most famous and still in practice is going to the mountains to cut our Christmas tree. Our children need to see continuity, to expect something and look forward  to something that belongs just to your family. It's special.
  Make home a safe place where each child can be themselves, talk about anything they want, ask any question without us going into shock or express any concern they may have.  That is how the talking corner in our bedroom came to be. It was the place to talk privately with mom and dad. No interruptions, no intruding. It was a safe place and it became a happy place as well. Blessings have been given there as well as announcing of engagements. Sorrows have been shared there as well. Whatever was said in this safe place never was shared with anyone else. You could count on that. Having that safe corner to express ones self has been a true blessing.
  Support each other. That meant going to concerts and games and performances. It got harder as more children became involved in extracurricular activities. Supporting each other includes talking them up, complimenting each other and offering encouragement and bragging about your children's accomplishments is good too. They need to know you notice.
  Your kids need to see you be a loving couple. Kiss each other in front of your kids. Although this embarrassed Dennis sometimes he danced me around the kitchen (which I loved) or he'd hug me with the intention of nibbling on my ear (which drives me crazy). I like sitting on Dennis's lap and snuggling. We always hold hands. Still do. We hug and kiss in greeting and saying goodbye. And saying "I love you" cannot be said enough. (Even when you don't feel like it.) And that includes saying it to your kids as well. Affection is glue and every family needs to slather it on!
  I am sure there are other things that help to make a happy family that I have missed or not included. There is a disclaimer here though. We were not perfect in any of it but there are some pretty fun and wonderful memories associated with all of them. I like to think that practicing some of these habits, exercises, or what have you, have contributed to making six pretty terrific kids.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Yep!  The new year arrived. Got to face it, embrace it, got to go on. In our drive to go on we get caught  in the tradition of the season. You know those pesky resolutions we all make with good intention but never accomplish. I may think about what I want to improve in or on. But past experience reminds me that making lists is futile. I'm still just as round. I'm not any smarter. I definitely have not increased my wardrobe by any significant amount (this was a big one for me!) Eating better only lasts for a day or two and January is a terrible time of year to begin that 2 hour a day exercise program! So I'm passing on a secret. The best and lasting change comes about through the influence of the Holy Ghost who facilitates communication from our Father in Heaven and His son, Jesus Christ. Those times do not necessarily come on January 1. Sometimes they come on its heels though.
 A couple years ago I had memorized The Living Christ as part of a Stake Young Women's Camp challenge. As the Sacrament was being passed last week I realized I had forgotten parts of it so I pulled out my flip cards of The Living Christ from my bag and began to read. Through the influence of the Holy Ghost I realized that becoming familiar with The Living Christ again  would help me to know our Savior better. By learning about Him I could then incorporate and acquire some of his characteristics more fully in my life. And best of all it needed to be a year long pursuit. I can tell you this was not a thought that my wandering mind came up with on its own. But they were thoughts that compel obedience.
In my zeal to be obedient I thought I would challenge each of you to memorize The Living Christ as a family and make your FHE focus to be on learning about the Savior. But guess what? I can't. Nope. It is not up to me to be the facilitator of change, the lasting kind, in each of your families. That comes through the influence of the Holy Ghost from our Father in Heaven who knows better what you need, when you need it and how you need it.
It is my desire when an opportunity presents itself through that Sacred and Holy influence for best and lasting change you will embrace it-whatever it is.