Monday, December 26, 2011

A Left Over Ham Sandwich And A Blog

          The halls have been decked, I was pretty darn jolly, I wore all my gayest apparel (even ask the kids ha). There's left over ham in the fridge (minus the piece on the sandwich I'm eating), and Christmas is over fa la la la la! If you're like me you have a lot of anticipation about Christmas early on. The day after Thanksgiving, I was decorating my tree and listening to Christmas music. I even downloaded some new songs…loved the new Michael Buble and Shania Twain’s version of White Christmas (oops a little ADD there). But I had a fun month of getting ready for Christmas.
           By the twenty first of December though, I start stressing full throttle. I have practiced this Christmas tradition for many years so I'm really good at it! Am I going to get all done? Do I have the same amount of gifts, value wise and number wise for the people coming to Christmas Eve? I start thinking of what I’m cooking, and whether I have all the ingredients for sure? Ice, oh ya, ice, for the drinks cooler, Cool Whip for the pie…darn I forgot that…and my car, do I have gas in it to go to church? I do, but I have to clean out all the junk out in the far back seat, so people can sit way back there. I can think of more stuff to stress about, than you have time to read!
          The blessed day arrives on the 24th  when everyone gets here, the food is all in the oven, and we are ready to go to church. This year we went an hour early to church because theres 5000 members at the new Mission we go to; that’s a lot of people already, besides all the extra family they would bring. I knew it would fill up fast and I didn’t want to sit in overflow, so we went that early. I justify to the kids, you stand in line for a concert so it's about time we stand in line for church. They were happy campers about it, everyone just visited and it went by fast. Shortly after I sat down, I started thinking about my scalloped potatoes bubbling over and starting a fire, or smoking up the house, (I am so much like my Mom sometimes, I can’t believe it myself).  I forgot we'd be standing there an we'd be gone two hours rather than an hour. Other years we've gone for one hour and the potatoes are just getting to the bubbling over stage when we get home. Sitting there, I reason with myself next…. I did put a cookie sheet under them... just in case they bubbled over...they should be fine...don't let that destract you.  

          The service was amazing as I expected, but I won’t lie, I thought about those potatoes twenty or twenty five times at least!  With my car full of talkative, spirit filled kids, we drove home. I was rather quiet consummed with potato thoughts. I crossed the railroad tracks. Secretly, I was glad to see no billowing smoke in the direction of my house…and pulling into the yard the tree was lit and the lights were clear and shining. Whew…doesn’t look smokey in there…and once inside it smelled good, like Christmas Eve should...thank you God! They had bubbled over onto the cookie sheet and looked perfectly brown and delicious!
          I enjoyed every single minute of the two days of Christmas with the kids…the gifts, the games, the prayers the laughter, and the joking.  When everyone went home and the door closed, the door closed on Christmas too in my mind, and you know what?  I’m ready for it. I feel good about how it went, I felt happiness about having the kids go home with new sheets for their beds, and some other things they each needed. I’m thankful God provides for our needs… and some wants as well.
          So now what? I shrink at the idea of New Year’s resolutions. I’m not very good at those; matter of fact admitting I have one to anyone, has proven to be a sure recipe for disaster! I do better if I think small and try and build on that. Last year I started this blog because of some books I got from Kathy, (my sister) and her kids. She sent me a book called and And She Sparkled, knowing I’d had a rough last few years.
         I did a lot of things last year to change some things that I was in control of that were bothering me…I finished my bathroom, I redid the laundry room and the pantry, took more classes, and  moved myself up on the page of people I take care of.  Best of all, I GOT A HORSE AGAIN…and Stetson has brought me back to my authentic, real self I was before marriage and kids. I got my Dad’s saddle oiled and redone at Brays Saddlery in Minot, ND., and what joy I get riding in it, and seeing it daily. Don't read into this that im going back to horse shows and barrell racing I'm not that delusional ... just riding for fun.  
         When I say start small with our goals, I mean start small. We don’t need to set ourselves up to be another Mother Teresa. We weren’t all meant to accomplish all that!  She didn’t have a family of her own. We are called to do what we can, where we can. Maybe we can start by simply redefining what richness is? Some of the richest people in the world are those that invest in family and love.  You can do the most good in the world starting with your own family, and circling out from there. I really believe that. There is a saying that is one of my favorites…I have it on a shirt that goes:
One hundred years from now
It won't matter
What kind of car I drove
What kind of house I lived in
How much money I had in the bank
Or what my clothes looked like
The world may be a little better
Because, I was important
In the life of a child.

             It’s so true. The real lasting difference is one we can make in childrens lives. How we parent, teach or befriend a child, will affect what kind of parents, teachers and caretakers they will be to the next generation. Of course, I know this is simplified, but I really like it. I also urge you to include yourself on the list, and wish kind things for yourself when you’re working on that radiating circle of love for everyone else.
                I have no big new plans for 2012 other than to keep doing what I am doing.  Living an examined life, not taking  my life or the life of those around me for granted, enjoying new experiences with my family and friends, get more involved at the mission and take time to relax my mind and body (relaxing my mind is almost next to impossible… big task).
             I did not accomplish my weight loss goal again last year, and if I have any regrets in my life it’s that I can’t get that obstacle in my rear view mirror and keep it there!  I’m mad at myself for that, that I let one more year go by being a fat person. I have given so much of my life to that. It’s not about vanity for me, it’s about health.  I have no idea how I’m going to accomplish it again this year,  but when I think of riding my horse and balancing 100 pounds of dog food or something up there I think, oh my gosh, how much better and how much less effort it would take for me to ride if I dumped the dang dog food!  Will that thought be enough to make me do it, I don’t know, I wish I could assure you it would. But, if I  am going to really treat myself like I would other people, I’d say don’t let your past define your future and keep trying, so that’s my plan for me too. I’m going to keep working on Stetson too, he has made so much progress in the last few months and I hope next year I can victoriously claim that he’s  a well broke horse now and take pride in all my work with him, and that I dumped the dog food along the way ha.
                I think it’s time we get ready for a great start to a New Year! I’m planning to pack up the Christmas cds and break out Auld Lang Syne, buy some sparkling cider and wish you all a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

It's All In The Details

   What was your Christmas like as a child? Does it bring up good memories or bad memories? I don't know, aside from a visit to the North Pole, how mine could be topped. My parents went through such elaborate Santa antics, that both of my sisters were devastated when they found out the truth about Santa. I don't know why I wasn't, but I don't even remember how I heard or was told!  
     We always got about eight packages from Mom and Dad, so our real tree was always overflowing with packages and Mom decorated everything and anything. The Saturday before Christmas, the Regis theater in Stanley, would have a free movie and when you came out of the movie Santa would be there, fake beard and all! With a ho, ho, ho he handed all of us kids a brown paper lunch sack with peanuts, chocolate drops and hard candy. I always looked forward to that! Kerry, my husband, was probably at those same Santa days as me but I didn't recognize him for good reason. Kerry had a jacket when he was about six that was reversible. He wore the checked side and got a bag of candy, then went back with the solid blue side and got another bag. He called it his "recognize jacket", because he didn't think Santa would know he was the same boy. Must have worked because I didn't recognize him either(Kerry trying to beat the system at six!).

      My Dad's birthday was the twenty third of December so he would always put Kathy and I up to asking "mummy" if we can all open one package from under the tree. She would always act a little exasperated, but give in to it. He was like a kid himself, very fun loving and she had to be the adult when it came to Christmas! She always did alot of baking cookies and lefse( a Norwegian potato tortilla of sorts, that I still make with my children every year). 
        A day or so before Christmas Eve we exchanged gifts with Thelma and George Olson and Trygve and LaVina Stave. My Dads sister and brother that lived close by. It was so fun taking out the packages they'd packed in a brown paper bag or two, finding our name on a package, and placing it under the tree! We spent holidays when Dad was living with George and Thelma and their family.  
        On Christmas Eve we never went to Church when my Dad was alive. He wasn't a big church goer in the first place, and the roads to Coulee where we were members of Hope Lutheran Church were always full of snow drifts. Short drifts across the road you can make it through with some speed. However long drifts without any tracks where someone else had blazed through, were scary and iffy as to whether you'd make it through.

      We always did a little extra chores Christmas eve night. Dad would have us bundle up and come outside. He always helped us carry a small bucket of whole oats and dump it in a pile by the house. It was of course feed for the reindeer when Santa made his stop. It was always really cold and the snow crunched under your feet like it does up there, in the North. Mom made ham and lutefisk or meatballs and lutefisk( cod fish soaked in lye a Norwegian tradition)and scalloped potatoes. 
       After supper, she cleaned up and we went to bed early, like seven thirty. It was always freezing cold up stairs where we slept.Jack frost was on the all windows, and frosty nail heads all around your room. A "nippy" place to wait for Santa to come to say the least. But bundled up under about six big thick wool quilts and blankets, it wasn't so bad after the initial shock wore off!  We HAD TO SLEEP too, or Santa wouldn't come,(he knows when you are sleeping he knows if you're awake, darn that song)! Being an insomniac by nature was bad enough, but I shared a room with Marcy and she was determined I WAS going to sleep. One Christmas eve, I remember she pinched my arm... hard too, and I wanted to tattle and cry to Mom but she wouldn't let me out of bed. In her defense, I'm sure I tossed,turned and whined for an hour or so before I got pinched! I'm persistant by nature! I don't remember a lot of Christmas's with the big kids but I do remember that one!  
      The tradition on Christmas eve after we finally fell asleep was about midnight, we would awaken to sleigh bells ringing outside(same ones Dad used to take us on sleigh rides over the holidays... we know that now). Mom's yelling up the stairs, "kkkiiiidddds, Santa's been here"! Hearing that, our feet would hit the cold floor and we'd thunder down the same steps that I creep around on these days, because they are narrow, no... beyond narrow, those steps are more like splinters of wood and steep too! 
       Mom sewed all my Dads pajamas. He was short, a little stocky guy, not fat, just stocky and only 5'2.05". The tops of the pajamas always came down to just above his knees. He never wore the bottoms except at Christmas. So he'd usually come out of the bedroom in his nice new bottoms with a washed out top of the same flannel print! Of course we couldn't wait to go out and see if the reindeer ate the oats we left! Dad put his boots(careful not to wear overshoes because those would look like Santas), coat and cap on over his pajamas. We'd go out to check. Sure enough, there were reindeer hoof prints all around the mostly eaten pile of oats! ( took us years to learn that deer hunting season is in Nov. in ND and he'd always save a leg or two for this Christmas ritual). 
       After Santa had been there the tree looked the same, but we each had one package standing against the door in the living room and a stocking bulging with nuts, peanuts and the biggest delicious apple you'd ever seen! The package and the sock had been stored outside because it had to be cold like it just came off Santa's sleigh(details Syd). Our freezing fingers, opening our cold stiff dolls( I almost always got a doll, or a sled) just added to the excitement.        
       Once the thrill of Santa died down a little, Mom would make Cocoa and we'd eat Christmas cookies and calmly take turns opening our packages showing each other everything we got! After having a chance to play a little we'd go to bed at two or three in the morning and wake up to a house filled with the smell of turkey roasting. That was the day relatives were coming! Usually George and Thelmas family, my Dad's sister. After a huge meal, the adults always played Whist and the kids played feather dust or rummy.
      Later after my Dad passed away, Christmas was spent with Grandpa and Grandma Bruhn and Juluis Bruhn and Sonny and Phyllis and the kids, Kathy and I and eventually our husbands and kids. Sometimes Florence and Chester came too, depending on their kids and how they all got together that year. Marcy lived a long ways away so there was only a couple times they came back for a frigid Christmas!
      When my kids were small and the big kids teens even, we had our Christmas at our own house on what ever night Kerry was going to be around for sure. Working on the railroad is a 24 hr seven day a week, on call job. So we had a special supper and opened our gifts on the twenty second or twenty third. Christmas Eve was always celebrated at Mom/ Grandmas then and if Kerry was home he went along, or if he was on the road he didn't go. 
       Our tradition then was to go to church with Kathy and her family in Berthold. Klinton Hanson always sang Oh Holy Night, and we loved it. It was only fourteen miles to Moms farm. Wasn't so far but sometimes the weather was downright perilous, but come hell or high water we were getting there! One time Brendon drove and I had my head out the window the whole way just trying to guide us along the yellow line in a complete whiteout blizzard. I think prayed the whole way. I still get teased about it from the kids. One year we got stuck in a snow drift and Mike had to pull us out!

         Whenever we arrived Mom was cheerful,dressed up in a dress, nylons and a Christmas apron. Table was set beautifully,with her white china with the silver rims on a lace tablecloth.  All the holiday candles lit and the tree dwarfed by all the packages. Leslie and Shannon would be waiting at Grandma's door to grab the younger kids and unbundle them to reveal their new Christmas dress of the year or Brendon's new sweater and pants.
        Mom got an artificial tree soon after Dad wasn't there to put up a real one. She had the same tree with the same multicolored lights the rest of her life. The stuffed Rudolph(we got him when Kathy and I were small) held his stance amongst the packages, waiting for his photo op with the kids. 
         Mom still made that icky Lutefisk for pretty much Sonny and herself, maybe Mike and Kerry ate a little I'm not sure. The rest of us let our German side( we were half Norwegian and half German) take over and turned our noses up at it! I tried it again this year at the Hostfest, a huge Norwegian celebration in Minot, ND and didn't like it any better. Marcy liked hers and all I can say to that is... oofda! 
         We had many, many wonderful Christmas's at the farm with our families together and Mom at her best. When I think of my Mom that's the way I want to remember her. I miss my parents, but its something you just push back most of the time, but Christmas time I always thank God for such good parents. Christmas was made so special due to their effort. All of our families are really close still today, bound by the memories of those wonderful days. I try to make Christmas a wonderful time for my kids too. When I'm messing with some time consuming thing and Syd says why are you doing that just for the day? I say it's all in the details Syd, it's all in the details.   

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Merry Christmas not Happy Holidays!

           Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, is that just a technicality or worth fighting for? Is it making a big deal out of nothing, just looking for an axe to grind or something to complain about? Should I be fired up and doing everything I can to protest this idea?  America was founded on Christian principles, by Bible believing people, by the Pilgrims and the Puritans that followed. They created little Bible-based divisions of how they interpreted the Bible. There were Congregationalists, Quakers and Catholics and Protestants but they were all based on Christian principles. But then...what about the Native Americans, what was their belief before the Europeans took over?  
           The religious Pilgrims were followed to New England by the Puritans, who created Bible-based commonwealths. Those commonwealths practiced the same sort of representative government as their church covenants. Those governmental covenants were the foundation for our Constitution. Aside from the Native Americans that were here before us who weren’t Christian, I don’t know what everyone else is complaining about. Everyone who has come here from another country since then knows they are coming into a Christian, English speaking country. It was on every document they signed and was even on our money. 
          Over time people from the Muslim, Hindu and other religions have come here. So many that some feel we need to change our country to fit with them instead of them do the adjusting. We now have to press one for Spanish, two for French, three for English and so on when you call any institution. When you buy a coffee pot, the instruction book looks like a Bible itself, because it’s the same instructions in four languages. I am happy for the diversity, happy for the people who found a better life here, but I don’t know why we have to cater to them. It's like inviting someone into your home, and then they take it over and now I am operating by their rules. Is it me just sounding like an old person not willing to change or do I have a point? Nothing gets me mad faster than calling a call center and no one speaks English enough so you can make your point and you have to repeat everything you say several times!
           I admit however, that I am somewhat apathetic about doing much about it because I don’t know how I really feel when it comes right down to the core of it. Here’s what stops me. Right after the call center non English speaking people, Christians who are constantly self- promoting are next on my list of what bugs me. I don’t want to be that. This Christmas I don’t know how many Facebook posts I have seen about people who packed for the poor, bought things for this organization, worked at this downtown shelter etc! I thought the things you did in Christ’s name were to be kept quiet. You talk about it at church or in your home, and plan for it, but then you do the work it takes and while you’re there, minister to people you can help(they help us as much as we help them) and both people are rewarded. Instead the Christians go home and post on Facebook world what they did for the poor or bought for charity? Seems contradicting to me, I’m sorry.  So, I kind of shrink back about speaking up about the Christmas tree becoming a Holiday tree. I don’t feel good being a shrinking violet either, because even using Xmas is something I would never do even making my own Christmas list for my own use,  because it takes Christ out.
           There’s something I like about changing with the tide too. We have people here of all denominations. Times have changed, diversity is educating and fun, so let them worship who they want and what gives them comfort and I’ll worship my way. Will that work though? Can we be one big loving family of Americans that value each others diversity without trying to change each other? I doubt it. That’s what scares me about this. One group always tries to take over another.
          I’m going down memory lane here, bear with me. When I was a child, life was home, school and Church, and it was all going the same direction. We heard the same values at school that we heard at church. Held Sunday School on Fridays after school in the school,  so as not to have to heat the church building in the frigid winter time. And by the way(my ADD is kicking in) If children don’t get to Sunday school and many don’t these days, where are they learning morals and right and wrong? Parents before you say from us, are you really taking time to do it? Regularly taking time to do it? Some call it guilt what Christian principles teach, but I call it a conscience. You learn that from scripture. If we got in trouble in school it came down to basically what would Jesus do, way before WWJD was popular? What’s the right thing to do? The right thing to do was based on the Bibles teachings.  A lot of kids don’t know anymore it’s become a world of entitlement and material things.  
          I’m reading all the posts and enjoying the pictures about Christ in Christmas on Facebook. I wholeheartedly agree, yet I do nothing. I don’t repost it because I don’t want people judging Christian behavior by me, because I’m lost a lot on my journey. I don’t want to hold myself up as an example because unless you are a really good example, you do more damage to people’s faith than you do good. People think“ they say they are a Christian but then they”….swear like a trooper, listen to Lil Wayne, or cut people out of their lives which I don’t but for example I’m using it... or brag about their Godly life until it’s a turn off rather than something people aspire to be.  If I read about the Pharisees and the description of them in the Bible, I think well I sure don’t want to be a modern day Pharisee! All the Christians I hold up as examples in my mind are, or were, humble people. That’s why I like the Mission I attend so far. It’s founded on Micah 6:8 and I naturally try to act justly, love mercy and  walk humbly, so I’m open to it.  
         Maybe I don’t outwardly stand up for my faith enough. Maybe I should be outraged about the Holiday tree change because I don’t really like it. However, I know that God is in control EVERYTHING and I just want to be left alone to worship my way, and I guess I will let other people do the same, even if it pains me a little and I wonder if it's not a step in the wrong direction. I don’t like the change because I’m old school in alot of ways. As far as inviting all the religions of the world into my home and seeing how that plays my Mom used to say, “We’ll just take it like it comes”. Ditto.