Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Monday Memories - The Christmas Lights

Last night for family home evening Calvin and I went Christmas and Reunion grocery shopping.  We stopped on our way to pay our neighbor for the hay he delivered last week, and talked to his wife who was putting the final touches on their yard decorations. It's the first time their little granddaughter has come to their home for Christmas, and due to deployments and life, the first time their family has been together for Christmas in 8 years.  She said, "I want my little granddaughter to remember Grandma's house at Christmas."  There is a lit nativity in one corner of the yard, a lit Santa riding a tractor in another, candles and carolers under the trees by the driveway, and a host of other lights and decorations as well.  No doubt, her little granddaugher will remember seeing the Christmas lights at Grandma's. 

"Remember seeing the Christmas lights" reminded me of the year Abe was 17 years old and Ty was 16.  They couldn't think of a gift to give to their 86-year-old friend Bernice.  The boys had known Bernice for a year or two and had helped trim her rose bushes, administered the Sacrament to her in her home, and given her rides to church.  Sometimes they just went to visit her.  Bernice's grandson, Kyle, played football for the Saints and she had stories . . . and Saints gear.

But it was Christmas time and the boys couldn't think of a gift to give her. Bernice was allergic to poinsettias, made very good candy of her own, didn't need more perfume, and her small, one-bedroom home had enough trinkets. They were at a loss as to what to give her. They finally decided to take her on a drive to see the Christmas lights around town and then to Burger King for a hamburger afterwards.  

The day came.  It had been hectic and they considered calling to see if they could reschedule.  They decided to just go.  They put on some nice clothes and went to pick her up.     

The boys weren't gone very long - probably just over an hour - and I was surprised, and worried, they were home so soon.  They came into the family room and quietly sat down on the couch.  Both boys just sat there, not saying anything.  

I asked them how it had gone.  One said, “Good,” and the other, “Really good.”  They didn't offer any more information.

Finally, after a few minutes and lots of questions, they shared a few details. 

When they got to Bernice's home to pick her up, she was dressed in her best.  Though she'd been ill and housebound for some time, she had her daughter put on her make-up and fix her hair.  Lynn, her daughter, told the boys that even though Bernice didn't feel very good that day, she had insisted on getting ready and had been sitting and waiting on the couch that afternoon for the hour and the boys to come.    

Abe said, "She was so excited to see us," and had let them know through her eyes and labored breathing. The boys helped her get into the car and Abe drove while Ty sat in the back.  Bernice visited a little with them as they drove and looked at the decorated homes.  She tired sooner than they expected and she thought she probably ought to go back home.  She declined the hamburger saying she just didn't feel well enough. They took her home, then came home themselves.    

That was all.  It wasn't dramatic.  They didn't go get a hamburger themselves, nor did they feel like they'd conquered Everest.  They didn't want to go do something else with friends that evening.  They just quietly sat there.  Then Ty's eyes filled with tears and he said, "She was just so excited to go with us.  She'd been waiting for us."

Bernice died less than a month later and both boys sat on the front row at her funeral.  That was eight years ago, but I'll bet neither boy - now men - will ever forget seeing the lights with Bernice and how important she made them feel.  

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Life in Our World - Sixteen for 12 of '13

Grace - Today I am 31 weeks and 7 months pregnant. 2 months to go!

Abe - Quick dinner before a long night of training.  It's a lame picture but they won't let us take
pictures of what we're doing.

Afton - Things to note in this picture: a crib stripped of bedding,
the laundry basket, the garbage can next to the bed, Sesame Street on the computer,
and the little girl who is actually holding still.

Eliza - This little gem chose a good time to fall asleep without help--
her sick sister was running around wet and naked and took a higher priority
at the moment.

 Michelle - Today I am grateful for cell phones (which I luckily had on me)
and that we have a maintenance office nearby with a spare key.

Ty - "I'm so glad when daddy comes home..."

Zeph - I'm in my crib ironically, I didn't actually take a nap today.
Good thing I'm cute and happy!

Ande - First night in our new house! Joe didn't want to be in the picture,
but his thumb did.

Joe - This is what a lot of mornings look like.

Calvin - cooking 14 pork shoulders and 14 gallons of beans for the Spanish Branch Christmas Party.
(Jane speaking here.  Ohhhh, it was good.  The meat was incredible, and Calvin was happy
because he could put as many jalapenos in the beans and as much cayenne pepper in the meat rub
as he wanted and I couldn't say once, "Now remember, Calvin, people might not like their food
as hot as you do and you're cooking for a group."
He made the "pulled pork" by attaching a little metal plate that he had welded onto his power drill.
Then he put the barbecued meat, one roast at a time, into a pan and drilled the fire out of it.
Wa-la: pulled pork.
A chicken plucker, one day, and a pork puller the next - he's handy folks.  He's handy.)

Jane - At the branch party.

Levin - Pretending he's a baby. He's asleep in the crib tonight too...
not sure why... just regressing I guess.

Atlas - a good one

Ray - Work is fun, right?

Cali - Atlas has a new bed-mate. They were having a great time until
I busted up the party... and separated them into different rooms

Ray - Our Christmas tree decorated just how I like it. Pre-lit and no ornaments.

Life in Our World - Instantly.

jcpayne62  5 hours of church today.  Just ended it at the Russian
church service and a potluck birthday party.  Sava ate of many plates.
He ate most of the frosting off mine before his grandma scolded him
and made him eat off hers instead

jcpayne62  The elf and I had 60 sausage mcmuffins ready by 6:00 am

jcpayne62  The lake is mostly frozen, but the geese are crammed into
the one spot that isn't.

jcpayne62   Feliz Navidad.

jcpayne62  114th Army-Navy Game

jcpayne62   I think even God got the memo that pink is the new
red for Christmas

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Monday Memories - Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet to Come

Sometimes we left the horses up in the hills on the summer range until after Christmas. One Christmas Eve afternoon, Dad said he was running up to the hills to feed the horses some hay and invited me along. We drove for an hour up the rutted, drifted roads to the pasture.  When the horses saw the pick-up loaded with hay, they came running. Shorty (our horse that was born on a day so cold that it froze his ears off), led the herd.  He often did.  He always snorted and held his nubbin-eared head high.  He did not lack for confidence.  The rest of the horses stamped and kicked and waited for us to throw the hay over the fence.  They were really glad to see us.

After we fed the horses, Dad said we ought to stop by Wally and Alvin’s to wish them a Merry Christmas. Mom had sent something to give them, probably a loaf of Christmas bread or a bowl of caramels -- her Christmas trademarks.

Wally and Alvin were two old ranchers that lived at the base of the hills far from anyone. Wally, the father, and Alvin, his son, had a three-legged, hairless dog named Happy. Their home was a squared-log home with white chinking.  A generator in the back yard provided their electricity.  Wally, Alvin and Happy were glad whenever our family dropped by and the routine was always the same. They greeted us at the backdoor. Wally would yell at Happy to shut-up and Alvin to get the door and let us in.  We'd follow them through a cleared path on the porch (walking around any sick, baby calves that might be there), past the old cook-stove in the kitchen with a cast-iron frying pan of cold bacon grease, and into the sitting room. The sitting room had a pull-string light with a foil pie pan underneath the bulb. Candy orange slices, orange circus peanuts, chocolate covered cherries, or toasted coconut marshmallows sat on the oilcloth covered table beside the newspapers, magazines, and a tin of Wally’s asthma medicine.  He wheezed really bad.

Wally always took his seat in the green leather rocking chair while Alvin sat in a straight-backed chair by the table. Dad would draw a chair next to Wally and visit with him about cows and cattle prices and the neighbors. We kids sat near Alvin, who never said a word. He had red rimmed eyes that always looked sad.  Occasionally Alvin would bashfully nod when Wally said something to him, and sometimes he even smiled, but most of the time he just sat there, painfully shy. We sat equally as quiet. At some point in the visit Wally would remind Alvin to give us candy so he would carefully pass around the candy of the day. Nothing out of the ordinary happened on this Christmas Eve visit, it was pretty much like the many other visits we made to them, but when I think of Christmas Past, I think of our visit to Wally and Alvin and the horses . . . and how glad they were to see us.

Christmas Present will bring everyone together this year.  We've rented a home half way between here and Seattle where we will celebrate.  The home has enough rooms so that sleeping babies can sleep and waking babies can play, with a sledding hill and an indoor pool nearby.  It sounds like a perfect place for five little people two years old and under, and ten big people 25 years plus . . . we can hardly wait to see each other.  
Christmas Yet to Come is only in my imagination, but judging from Christmas Past and Christmas Present  the biggest part of Christmas Yet to Come will be the gathering and . . . being real glad to see everyone.

I imagine the shepherds, angels, Mary, and Joseph were all really glad to finally see the Savior on that first Christmas.  There had been a lot of anticipation building, people had waited 4,000 years for Him to come. It's been 2,000 years since that incredible night and now we anxiously wait for His return.  I wonder how we'll celebrate when He comes again?  What songs will we sing*?  What foods will we bake?  What colors will we decorate with?  I'm not sure, but one thing I do know . . . we'll be real glad to see Him.

[*By the way.  Did you know that Joy to the World was originally a Second Coming song?  One day someone said, "Hey.  All we have to do is change 'the Lord will come' to 'the Lord is come' and then we can have one more carol in the hymnal to sing before Christmas.  Next time you sing it, think of it as a Second Coming song and see if it doesn't make more sense.]


Sunday, December 8, 2013

52 Blessings - Mother Earth

In the scriptures, Enoch recorded that he heard the earth mourn:

"And it came to pass that Enoch looked upon the earth; and he heard a voice from the bowels thereof, saying:  Wo, wo is me, the mother of men; I am pained, I am weary, because of the wickedness of my children.  When shall I rest and be cleansed from the filthiness which is gone forth out of me?  When will my Creator sanctify me, that I may rest, and righteousness for a season abide upon my face?"

"And when Enoch heard the earth mourn, he wept . . ."  (Moses 7:48-49)

That is one of the things I thought of as I watched this video that a friend shared on Facebook.  The other thing I thought of is what an amazing thing the Earth is and I don't want to make her cry.  And the last thing I thought of is why would anybody ever boast about who they are, the home they built, or on which side of the tracks they live?  Our accomplishments and brick and mortars are nothing comparatively and squatters rights anyplace on Earth is a blessing and a privilege.

Life in Our World - Six for Saturday


I almost didn't put up a Christmas tree, our little collection of nativities, or any other Christmas decorations again.  I'm definitely not anti-Christmas just practical, and putting up all the decorations didn't seem practical if we weren't going to be here for Christmas.

Calvin and I put up a little, free sagebrush for our first Christmas because it was our first house and we wanted it to feel like a home.  For the next 28 years it was easy to put up and decorate a tree for the kids' sakes.  But the last few years my enthusiasm has waned and finally last year it seemed like too much work to do just for me -- no kids or grandkids would be here in the month of December and we were going to Seattle for Christmas anyway -- so I didn't bother decorating.  It felt a bit empty all month, but it was certainly more convenient and cleaner.

Last Sunday, Calvin said, "Let's put up a tree this year or we're going to get in a bad habit and never put one up again."  While "let's" is supposed to mean "let us", we both knew he really meant let'u.  And so I did. When I put the Christmas decorations up for Calvin, it made all the difference.  It put all the fun right back into Advent and every evening when I turn the lights on before he comes home for supper, the magic returns. Duh. Christmas is about serving others.  


I sat in the dentist chair this week for two hours and couldn't help but think about Jesus.  Somewhere, sometime when I was a teenager I heard a man say that the nerves leading to our teeth are about the diameter of a pin while the nerves leading to and in our hands are about as thick as pencils.  (I have no idea if this is true, all I know is that he said it and I remember it.)  He reminded us of how it feels when a nerve to the tooth is hit and then said, "When they nailed the Savior to the cross and they put the nails through his hands and wrists, can you imagine what it felt like when they hit those nerves?"  This week as I sat staring up at the ceiling and wincing in the dentist's chair, I asked myself over and over, "How did He do it?"  Christmas carols played the entire time and it was really very comforting.  Much more so than if songs about cheaters, broken-hearts, and hatin' your mamma had been playing.  From now on, I'm making my dentist appointments for December so when the nerves the size of a pin get hit, there is perspective and solid songs to get me through it.  


In seminary the kids and I made Christmas countdown chains with acts of service written on the links.  Each day it's been fun to hear what the kids are doing, especially those who have taken it to heart. It's also been fun to specifically plan and look for opportunities to serve.  I have hesitated to share my list for it could easily be interpreted to appear as the pharisees gloating to the public as they dropped their alms into the treasury.  I really don't want to be a pharisee, not even for Halloween, but I'll risk appearing that because of a blogger named Jenny.  A few years ago Jenny set the goal to do an act of service every day for the whole year. She wrote in the smallest letters possible, and even without complete sentences, at the end of each post the thing that she had done for the day. That was often my favorite part of Jenny's posts and I learned much reading what she did.  Day after day, she wrote and it soon became apparent that it was many things that lifted others, not just big, significant acts. I admired Jenny's courage to post the service she gave even if it could be wrongly interpreted and was grateful she shared her ideas.  Here I am, not-so-bravely sharing mine [and, in parenthesis, some of the things I'm learning] in hopes that they might help someone like Jenny's helped me.

~Warmed up two paper plates of leftover mashed potatoes and hamburger gravy and took it to a friend who was working.  We ate lunch together.

~Said every kind thought that popped into my head for a whole afternoon

~Did family history and found three children in the 1920 census that hadn't been accounted for in my great-aunt's family.  

~Made a big crockpot of ham and beans for a family with four children who live in a house trailer and no running water. With the windchill, it's been below 0 much of the week.  Our friend had never seen a crockpot so I told her to keep it.  She was so happy that she would now be able to make hot soup for her kids to wake up to for breakfast.

~Sent a note and a candy bar to a girl at the high school who is scared and lonely.  Sent it with another girl so that the lonely girl would have contact from two people.

~Put up the Christmas tree for Calvin

(I learned this week that a well-timed gift is often more important than a new one.  Had I waited to make a fresh meal or buy a new crock-pot I would have missed opportunities.)


He did it!  He finally did it!  Calvin and Abe made bacon last weekend and it came out of its brine-smoking-sitting this week.  It's perfect.  Calvin has finally created a recipe that can be duplicated and every. batch. taste. good.  


I made a batch of cinnamon suckers for seminary this week.  Cough.  Sputter.  Spit.  Though they were cute (bright red with cake decorations in the shapes of wreaths, Santas, and trees on the front of them), they were hot.  Too hot.  One student took a lick and said, "Ohhhhh, spicy!"  Another said, "Hey, I'm Mexican. I do hot."  Then he took another lick and said, "But this is hot.  Even for me."  None of them could keep them in their mouths. I had them dip them in cups of water as they ate them just like I used to when I was a kid and our kids did when they were kids and a batch was too hot.  While it's fun to eat suckers dipped in water, I need to make more so as to remember exactly how much cinnamon oil is too much.


The week ended on a perfect note.  These two couples went to the temple for the first time last night and had their marriages solemnized. Several of us from the Spanish Branch went to celebrate and be with them.  It was an incredible event.  Really incredible.

And then, per Spanish Branch tradition, we went to a Chinese buffet afterwards.  Which reminds me of a story:  Cali was five years old and we had moved to a new school district in the middle of the year.  Her new best friend was a little boy named Transito.  One day Cali was telling Abe, who was three, about Transito. Abe asked, "What do Mexicans eat?"  Cali said, "I don't know."  She thought for a minute and then said, "Chinese food I think."

Monday, December 2, 2013

Monday Memories - An Invitation

Each year Don and Sandy Tucker make a different nativity to give to
friends, and lucky for us, we have received several of them.
Each is unique, loved, and anticipated.
Tonight they brought us Nativity 2013.  

When the invitations were sent to join in the Savior’s birth, angels personally delivered the message to the shepherds, and the wise men were summoned by a star. That both ends of the social spectrum were invited has deep symbolism: no one is excluded from the invitation to come to the Savior. He taught that the way to be near Him is to serve. Whether wealthy or impoverished, as demonstrated by the shepherds and wise men, we have all been invited to bring a gift to the Savior.

Charlie’s farm was just across the gravel road from us in Idaho. Charlie wasn’t very tall and he had a big barrel chest. He liked to wear wool, plaid shirts. One fall day his forty-something-year-old son knocked on our door and asked me if I knew of anyone who would be willing to help Charlie. As an eighty-year-old widower with increasing health problems, Charlie needed someone to do light housework, his laundry, and cook a daily meal for him. His son promised it wouldn’t be much work and Charlie was willing to pay a fair wage.

With all of our kids in school it was the perfect job for me, so every day after getting my own housework done I’d walk over to Charlie’s. One man in a wheelchair doesn’t make much of a mess, so Charlie and I had lots of time to visit. In fact, I think that was the main reason I was hired. I had known Charlie as an acquaintance all my life. He was a friend of my father’s. I knew he was a successful farmer and cattleman and that he had a long list of accomplishments. I also knew he had several hobbies, one of which was collecting Winchester rifles. He had every Winchester rifle ever made along with the ammunition for it. I think every Boy Scout in Southern Idaho had seen Charlie’s collection at least once, and that is why it made perfect sense for Charlie to keep a loaded pistol on the dinner table covered with a paper napkin. While it scared me to death to wash under it every day, afraid it would discharge and shoot him or me, with a famed basement full of guns and Charlie’s declining mobility, he was literally a sitting duck. The loaded gun on the table and the other one under his bed pillow were for self-defense.

One day as Charlie and I visited, he said there was one thing he wished he had done in his life and he felt badly that he wouldn’t get it done before he died. He wanted to write his personal history. Having taken a class on personal histories in college I told him I could help him cross that item off his list. We made a makeshift desk in the living room from a card table and a folding chair, found an old typewriter, and pulled out his stash of pictures. Using questions I’d received in class to guide our discussion, I began to interview him and record his answers. To the question: “Describe your mother,” he thought for a few moments, stroked his chin, and said, “Well, she could cultivate a fine crop of whiskers which was always a nuisance to her.”

Charlie told of his baptism in a horse trough but how the whole family quit going to church when the little branch closed. He retold the scrapes he and his brother got in, and stories of other early settlers in the area. He loved reminiscing and I enjoyed hearing and recording his memories.

One day a few weeks before Christmas I told Charlie we wouldn’t be able to work on his history that afternoon because I needed to go Christmas shopping. After his noon meal – he ate promptly at 12:00 noon - I put on my coat and he handed me a card. I opened it when I got outside and it had a $100 bill in it. It was signed, “Merry Christmas. Charlie” and then on the other side it said, “I’ve never known a woman that couldn’t use an extra $100 when she went shopping.” He probably knew how needed and appreciated it was, but it still makes me want to cry thinking about it. Charlie needed me and I needed Charlie.

Nearly every day for six weeks we worked on Charlie’s history, and each day it became harder for him to get around. He scooted in his wheelchair and it took him a long time to move from room to room. His neck was calcifying and putting pressure on his spine. Doctors explained he would become paralyzed if he didn’t have surgery to remove the pressure. They agreed the surgery was risky, but it beat being paralyzed. The doctors scheduled the operation a week before Christmas.

Charlie and I worked faster and longer to get his history done; in fact we finished it the day he went to the hospital. Charlie had two sons who farmed nearby and one or the other would often join us for lunch, but on the day Charlie entered the hospital they both came. Charlie requested I cook the rest of the salmon and snow peas in the freezer for everyone. Because his mobility lessened a little more each day, I could see it was a surprise to his sons that he was now no longer feeding himself an entire meal. As Charlie struggled on the last few bites, I carefully took his hand and helped him chase the peas onto his fork. After the dishes were cleared away, I reminded Charlie we had one little piece of his history left to write and then it would be finished, complete with photographs. The son who was taking him to the hospital sat at the table while we finished. The final thing was to write Charlie’s last wishes and funeral plans. If I thought his son was uncomfortable seeing Charlie spoon fed, it was definitely painful for him to hear funeral plans being made, and he squirmed in the chair. However Charlie insisted we continue and he outlined his funeral, complete with speakers and songs. After we finished we bundled Charlie up and put a little wool blanket over his legs and wheeled him to the car. I finished the chores, locked the door, and quietly walked home.

I went to see Charlie in the hospital the next day and he informed me the surgery had been postponed because “the part didn’t come in.” He made it sound like the implement store was out of tractor parts. After we visited a bit I told him I’d return the following day after the surgery.

The next day was our daughter’s birthday. She had turned eight and was being baptized. We drove the many miles to town and after her sweet baptismal service I told the family I needed to stop and see Charlie on the way home. By now, all of the family felt a connection to Charlie – the kids had taken left-overs to him at suppertime, gone to take his trash out, finish a chore for him on my days off, or seen his gun collection. They patiently waited in the car while I went in to the hospital. Charlie was recovering in the intensive care unit and alone. None of his family happened to be there at the moment so I went to his bedside and began talking to him. He was mostly incoherent, but in great distress and discomfort. He was groaning and mildly thrashing about. I stroked his hair and talked to him as if he could understand me and he calmed down. Knowing my family would be anxious to finish celebrating our daughter’s birthday, I stayed with him for several minutes then carefully kissed his head when I left.

Not long after we returned home the phone rang. It was Charlie’s son saying that Charlie had passed away a few minutes after I’d left him. I was humbled to have spent those final minutes with him.

Like the shepherds and wise men, Charlie and I were from both ends of the social spectrum. Charlie had lived long, gathered sound advice, and built financial reserves. He was a wise man with much to give. I was a young wife and mother herding a little family with a few homemaking and typing skills to share. I was the shepherd with little to give. Yet we were both issued and accepted an invitation to follow the Savior by serving our fellowman. Whether we had a lot or a little didn't matter, it was enough when we shared it.