Monday, December 31, 2012

Thirteen Years Ago Today

          It was 13 years ago today when I first met Roland.  Oh, I had seen him before.  He was in my mom’s ward (church boundary) for a brief period of time.

          He always sat with his arms stretched out on the pew and around each of his boys that were seated next to him on either side.  He also had a big ol’ smile plastered on his face.  There was something about him that appealed to me.  His smile perhaps.  The genuine love that he had for his boys.

          On December 31, 2000, I saw him in the foyer of the church.  He was wearing a tie with a large picture of the Tasmanian devil printed on it.

          “Nice tie,” I said.  I don’t know if I actually used the word “nice” – I’m really not that big of a Looney-Tune fan, but I did want to get his attention.  “A gift from your boys?”

          There was a loud smile on Roland’s face – because something told him that I would be his next wife.  Fortunately he did not share that with me at the time.  I don’t think I would have gone out with him otherwise. 

          He didn’t actually answer my question about the tie.  Mr. Smooth wanted to know where I sat and kept his arm around me the entire time. (I suppose that should have been a clue)

          He asked me to “First Night” an event that takes place downtown – to welcome in the New Year.  He said it would just be him and me and that he’d leave the boys at home.

          I told him NOT to leave the boys at home.  My family has played games on New Years for as long as I remember.  I told him to leave the boys at my mom’s house and play games with my family.  None of us knew that the boys would be a part of the family before the end of 2001 – except for maybe Roland.

          So the boys sat with their “cousins” apparently in order of birth – they certainly hadn’t planned it that way, but mom looked over and said they were seated Biff (13) Tony (12) Ellen (11) Randy (10) and Kimball (9)

          Our engagement happened fast – too fast in my opinion.  I had come home sick and instructed Corey that I was not to be disturbed, but he made an exception for Roland whom I really didn’t know but was comfortable with – although I didn’t know why.  I had dismissed guys less forward than Roland for being TOO forward.  And yet here was Roland who surprisingly didn’t ask me to marry him at First Night.

          He wanted my opinion about two things.  He held out some job applications and told me the pros and cons for each one and asked what job I thought he should take.  Really?  What advice could I possibly give him? 

          The reason he valued my opinion is because there was a second matter.  Would I marry him?  That is why he wanted my input about the job.  “No, no, no, no,” is what I thought in my head.  “I don’t even know this guy”

          I had had a dream the night before.  “The Lord is testing me,” I thought.  He had tested so many others in the Bible – Abraham, Sarah, Ester, Ruth, the widow that Elijah meets up with in 1 Kings 17:10. 

          I did NOT KNOW Roland.  How could I possibly marry someone I did not know – not really?  It was an act of faith.  I had convinced myself that just because I had said “Yes” to his proposal did not mean I couldn’t change my mind later on.

          I didn’t change my mind.  We were married two days before the planes crashed into the world trade center.  I thought the world had come to an end.  I suppose for many it did.  Economically we have not climbed out of it.  We have struggled most of our married lives.  There have been a large number of us who have struggled.  The mountain has become rougher.  We really need to assist one another to the top.

          It’s been a hard climb.  But I have learned to love Roland tremendously.  He always tells me how blessed he is to have me in his life.  But you know what?  I am the one who has been blessed.

          I’m grateful to Roland.  Perhaps one day I will be grateful for the struggles.  I’d be lying if I were to post that right now.  I know struggles are for my own good, they help me to grow . . . blah, blah, blah.  Honestly, at this point in time, I think struggles suck big time – even more than a powerful vacuum cleaner.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Dragged Decorations or Did I Just Vacuum Up Pixie Dust?

         Each Saturday this month we've gone to clean the Church. The primary and youth were assigned to clean last week.  Not a lot of participation – especially from the youth (Jenna was the only one from primary and only one youth leader) and the floor was in need of major vacuuming.

          The mess I mention in this post was confined to just one room – while it appeared that either decorations had been dragged across each room and the halls in the Church or else a naughty elf went around pouring sparkling dust. 

          There are three wards which share the building.  One in particular seems to get blamed for any mess that may be left – though I did find evidence of their ward in March when I went in to vacuum all that popcorn.  They just seem to use more in the way of decorations, party more, and have the reputation of not cleaning up.

          We usually get a lot of support on Saturday mornings.  We show up at 8:00 and have the entire building cleaned long before 9:00 am.  But not today.  We were there for the entire hour.  In that time I did only four rooms.  And the vacuume was actually working.  But, oh, my.  The entire building?

          Actually, I don’t know if there were any sparkles in the chapel.  The chapel is always done by the same person who takes charge with his vacumme and has never let himself get trapped into another assignment.  I understand.  That was my baby when we lived in our last house.

          I don’t just understand why glittery specks appeared in every room though.  But the trees in the foyer looked quite naked.  Perhaps they had been fully decorated last week but dragged around until bare all over the building.  That'll be my conclusion.  Dragged throughout the building by some naughty elf (or children)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

LaTiesha Cannon: Part Time Detective (LOL)

About four months ago I posted this about my hang-ups with facebook.  One commenter lovingly chastised me by sharing what she LIKES about facebook.

I must admit, since then, I have checked it more often.  One reason is because of mom’s health and trying to keep all of those involved with her health care on the same page, one member created a private site for us to each update and view.  I notice we’re still not always on the same page however.

Facebook also gives one the opportunity to find acquaintances from the past and possibly make a connection. Google can do that, too.  But not resources apply – or are personalized in the same way in which some face users allow.  And so the story unfolds:

Erin, Fran, mom and Sally were friends in San Francisco.  The first three all ended up in Utah after they were married. 

Recently I had lunch with Fran and my mom.  Fran asked mom if she still heard from Erin.  She used to send Christmas cards out each year. Turned out that neither one of them had remembered hearing from their long time friend since she remarried.  They wondered whatever became of their friend Erin.

I remembered seeing the announcement several years ago – though I don’t recall her new last name.  Nor do I recall the first name of the groom. The last time I had seen her was a long while prior to that – at her husband’s funeral. 

She had five daughters.  Of course there was the brief introduction to all five at the funeral.  Before that I had met only three of them – Addison, Diane and Heidi.  Heidi was only three at the time.

Out of the blue, I typed in each of their names on facebook.  Heidi’s name was the only one that came up under her maiden name.  It could be her (Like I would really remember what she looks like) but I do know the name of the high school she attended.  I noticed several of her “friends” had her mother’s maiden name.  Surely, it had to be her.  But would she be willing to read a message from a stranger?  I didn’t believe that my name would even mean anything to her.

I sent the same message to one of Heidi’s sisters (whom I discovered on Heidi’s profile) and one to someone I supposed to be Erin’s brother – but I don’t know.  I let a few weeks pass before I figured out that my messages had been typed in vain.  (Facebook now monitors all messages and it appears that unless you are in the friends’ circle or at least maybe friends with someone who is, the message won’t appear in the box of the receiver – so really, what is the point of giving us that option?)

After two weeks, I once again attempted to find more current info for Erin.  I found her late husband’s obituary.  Oh, that would be helpful.  I learned the married names of four of her daughters (though it appears that Heidi has been remarried since then) and realized that I’d been spelling Addison’s name incorrectly. 

I found her on facebook and requested a friendship (not that I’m really requesting a friendship but she may not get my typed message otherwise; fb actually used to give that option when one made a friend request) and also learned of her current city and where she works and looked them up in the phone directory and learned that there is an Erin who is staying in the same household. 

Erin K. Brimley.  That could be her most recent married name.  I can’t remember.  She may be in a situation similar to mom’s and Addison is taking care of her.  I don’t know.  I may never know.  I did send a Christmas card to the address I found.

I passed what information I did have onto Fran.  I don’t know what may result from it.  But at least it’s there.  And perhaps, down the road, we may have more.   Hopefully it’s been a bit helpful for Fran.  It’s gotten me excited.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Broken Traditions, Grafting Branches

We didn’t do our annual Christmas dinner last year (the one with mom and her children) – at least not with the same dishes we usually prepare.  We gathered at my one brother’s house and had soup and bread.  It was simple.  We played games and exchanged gifts.

This year we didn’t even do a dinner. Each sib went his separate way.  We weren’t together for Christmas Eve or Christmas – not all four of us. 

Corey had gone back to Las Vegas to be with his sweetheart and to register as a permanent residence of Las Vegas.

Sunny and her youngest had run by mom’s house to drop off some gifts.  They were just in and out.

Kayla and Bill had planned to visit with both families on Christmas Eve – but as we weren’t getting together as siblings, they chose to stop by mom’s on the way to spending Christmas Eve with his family.  And Roland, Jenna, Biff and I stayed with mom for four hours after everyone else had left.  Well, almost everyone.

As it turned out, Nate and Ellen never left my mom’s house as Ellen had been sick all morning.  Both Kayla and I guessed pregnancy.  Neither Nate nor my mom would believe it was even a possibility.

We didn’t draw names this year.  It was a gift to ourselves to not have to worry about spending money we don’t have or creating gifts that might not work . . .  

Randy and Carrie stopped by yesterday morning to exchange gifts.  We watched a movie.  Randy and Carrie then took Biff with them to Christmas brunch with her family.

Roland and I returned to mom’s on Christmas day.  She had had breakfast with Patrick’s family, but Ellen had brought her back.  We met Bill and Kayla there and exchanged gifts among the kids.  Mom also opened her present from Corey and Joh – and the unwrapping of gifts came to a halt until the frame and pictures they had given her were hung.

We all played games for about six hours and went home.  Had to explain to mom what needed to be done each round – but she played all of the games we did.  Jenna played most of them – and we talked her into watching “A Christmas Story” for the first time.

I understand that Tony had a less than perfect Christmas.  He spent it at the park dog-sitting while his wife and daughter stayed in their apartment.  Haven’t received all the details.

It wasn’t a terrible Christmas.  It was different.  Feeling kind of empty. Though I KNOW I am not alone in thinking that.  Many missing family members for many this Christmas.

 We’ve never spent the holidays with Roland’s family.  We had planned to one year, but plans changed.  I think that would be more different than missing traditions with my family this year.

Mom thanked me several times for coming.  That alone was worth it.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

                     I heard this song for the first time two weeks ago.  I thought it quite beautiful.
                                         And I think this video is very fitting for today and tomorrow
                                                                (I may not post tomorrow)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Jesus is the Light

Twas' 11 days before Christmas, around 9:38
when 20 beautiful children stormed through heaven's gate.
Their smiles were contagious, their laughter filled the air.
They could hardly believe all the beauty they saw there.
They were filled with such joy, they didn't know what to say.
They remembered nothing of what had happened earlier that day.
"Where are we?" asked a little girl, as quiet as a mouse.
"This is Heaven." declared a small boy. "We're spending Christmas at God's house."
When what to their wondering eyes did appear,
But Jesus, their Savior, the children gathered near.
He looked at them and smiled, and they smiled just the same.
Then He opened His arms and He called them by name.
And in that moment was joy, that only heaven can bring
Those children all flew into the arms of their King
And as they lingered in the warmth of His embrace,
One small girl turned and looked at Jesus' face.
And as if He could read all the questions she had
He gently whispered to her, "I'll take care of mom and dad."
Then He looked down on earth, the world far below
He saw all of the hurt, the sorrow, and woe
Then He closed His eyes and He outstretched His hand,
"Let My power and presence re-enter this land!"
"May this country be delivered from the hands of fools"
"I'm taking back my nation. I'm taking back my schools!"
Then He and the children stood up without a sound.
"Come now my children, let me show you around."
Excitement filled the space, some skipped and some ran.
All displaying enthusiasm that only a small child can.
And I heard Him proclaim as He walked out of sight,
"In the midst of this darkness, I AM STILL THE LIGHT."

Written by Cameo Smith, Mt. Wolf, PA

Saturday, December 22, 2012

“Just What I’ve Always Wanted”

          Jenna rarely ever produces a long list of desired gifts for Christmas.  Usually she has her heart set on just one thing – and nothing else seems to matter.

          When Jenna was three the one and only thing she wanted was a Caillou doll.  Caillou is a cartoon character she really seemed into at the time.  I didn’t even know if any toy company made Caillou dolls.  I was guessing probably not.

          I researched but came up empty-handed, but didn’t want to disappoint her.  It was the ONLY thing she had asked for. As a last resort I made two paper dolls and included three sets of clothes for each doll hoping that it would satisfy her.

          Oh, I am so grateful to have captured as many memories on my camcorder (the old kind that took cassette tapes that probably isn’t even made anymore) of her as she opened each gift and would exclaim as she opened each gift,
“Candyland! (or whatever the gift happened to be) Just what I’ve always wanted!” 

It was so joyous for me to see her pleasant gratitude and happiness for each gift.  And she loved every one of them just as much as the two paper dolls.
This year it was an alarm clock. I can’t imagine why an eight year old believes she needs an alarm clock.  Santa will deliver it to her via Las Vegas.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Jenna's Gumdrop Tree

          Jenna had made a gumdrop ornament in preschool one year.  We’ve had it for four or five Christmases now.  The neighbor asked if he could eat it.
          “The candy is really old.  It probably doesn’t taste good.  And it may make you sick either way.”

          He had invited himself to decorate or tree.  I thought that was presumptuous of him.  But it was dark.  I couldn’t see well.  Roland had gone into the other room.  And so I left Jenna and Trume to decorate (they actually were better at spreading out the ornaments than Ooki had been with his first tree).

          Before he returned home, I gave him a small tree that we had put in Jenna’s room last year.            I had confiscated the gumdrop ball and put it on the tree the next day when I could actually see what I was doing.

          After a week I noticed that the small tree had been returned.  I also noticed the gumdrop ball had been ripped apart as there were gumdrops and toothpicks all over the table.  I was upset not because of the ornament itself, but the possibility that someone had eaten these stale gumdrops.  Jenna claims she doesn’t even like spice gumdrops.  Why would she do that?

          I didn’t realize that the gumdrops had been used to decorate the smaller tree.  And actually they do look nice – but they don’t seem to stay.   It was a cute idea.  She said they looked like Christmas lights.  Her creativity made me smile.
We no longer have the gumdrop ball ornament.  After Christmas, the pulled off gumdrops will also be trashed.   

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thank you AsianCookingmadeEasy

I have to post this because I am so major proud of my most recent accomplishment.  I just cooked my first turkey ever.  Almost 20 pounds!  And I wasn’t even chopped.  Roland gave me his seal of approval. 

Roland is the one who normally cooks.  He was planning on doing it when he returned home.  But I figured he’d be hungry when he got home and wanted to surprise him – though it wasn’t actually done until about an hour and a half after his return.  But it is two and a half to three hours earlier than it would have been if he had cooked.

Wow.  I cooked a turkey.  And it was good.  Thank you AsianCookingmadeEasy.  

Having our Christmas Dinner in July

          Family has grown.  We used to do a dinner on Christmas Eve. We would gather at the house where Aunt Gertrude and Uncle Ted live.  That was a tradition for years.  My grandma Helen and her three kids and their children - we started out with just three of us -  I was the eldest, then my cousin, Michelle, my brother Patrick and then Michelle’s brother came along.  It was another seven years before Edmund and Corey were born and then Rosa and then Kayla. 

          Daddy’s only sister, Chrissy got married to Kim.  Eventually they had four boys and the family continued to grow.  Both Patrick and Michelle found partners and married. And the family continued to grow.  It seemed like there were more people than room. 

It got hard for Trudy to host not one, but two dinners each year.  Not that she was supplying all the food.  All of the families chipped in. Trudy and Ted had hosted at their house on Christmas Eve for the families of one of their brothers and Christmas day for another.  After a while she no longer felt the need to do Christmas day as (I would guess) other family members took over – and I suppose it wasn’t as meaningful to Don’s family as it had been to ours.

          Each year Aunt Trudy would tell the family that it would be the last year that she would have it. And then she would call us the following year to make arrangements until one year mom said we could do it at her house.  But still, the families all continues to grow.  In-law obligations.  Too much running around.  So one year Michelle had suggested that we start a new tradition.  Instead of having a family gathering in December, why not have a pool party in July?

          So that’s what we do now.  The weather is a lot more inviting for driving.  Everyone is more relaxed.  There is a Christmas tree next to the gate to the pool and Christmas music plays in the background. We no longer have the ham and turkey, the funeral potatoes and glazed carrots.  Hamburgers, hot dogs and salads fill our plates. Instead of bulky sweaters, we have on swimsuits and trunks and enjoy our Christmas much differently than we have in the past.

          This Christmas Eve it will just be Roland, Jenna, mom and I.  Possibly Biff.  It will be the smallest Christmas dinner that I remember.  But that can be nice.  It’s a matter of attitude more than it is people.  Later on today I will call Aunt Trudy and Uncle Ted and see if they would like to attend also.  They come to the pool parties – but never come into the pool.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Oh, No! Mom Fell Off the Tree

          I always think it’s kind of odd that so many ornaments are made from porcelain or glass as they break so easily and not all of us are blessed with a quiet environment in which the tree will rest looking perfect and undisturbed.  (Jenna’s eight.  I think she still rearranges the ornaments on a daily basis)

Several years ago my mom came home with a whole slew of ceramic ornaments that she had painted at a Relief Society activity.  I don’t know how many ornaments there were, but I believe I had at least four of them in my possession when Roland and I were married.  The fondest memories are of the Raggedy Anne and the gingerbread man Ornaments.

Mom had wanted me to have Raggedy Anne and Patrick was to have Andy.  But we also got to choose among the remaining how many ever there were. The gingerbread man is the first one I chose.  It had been left on the tree one year when the tree was on the curb.  One of our neighbors mentioned that there were still a few ornaments that were on the tree. 

I was devastated that my gingerbread man had broken in half.  I think it might have actually been the first year he was on the tree.  I glued him back together – and though he’d been somewhat of a sorry sight, I’d kept him around until recently.  I must have finally gotten rid of him as I can’t find him.  I was also willing to throw Anne away on December 9th of this year after Jenna dropped her on the floor and she broke into three pieces.

Who knows whatever happened to Ann’s partner?  Or if Patrick still has him?  I don’t know.  But we have many ornaments. And true, I did have a sentimental attachment.  But ornaments break.  Life goes on.  I put it in the garbage can and told Jenna I was not/am not mad at her.  It was an accident.  It is okay.

With tears in her eyes, Jenna retrieved the broken pieces from the garbage can.  I explained again that I was not mad.  But she looked up at me and said, “But mama.  This ornament looks just like you and I want to keep it.  Can’t we please glue it back together?”

She’d been talking about the red hair (which is as natural to me as Lucy’s was to her) but I looked down at the broken pieces which symbolically represented the mood I had had all day. 

Roland’s check had gone into the bank and we are strapped – every pay check.  It’s not even going to make it for one week – let alone two. We can never get on top of it – let alone ahead.  And ORS doesn’t take into consideration that our family was on welfare for two years – nor do they care.  We need to hire an attorney – but with what?

We had tried doing without the internet – dropped it three times in fact.  But it’s needed for education.  It’s needed for checking locations and budgeting and looking up needed information.  Access to the Internet is required for filing bankruptcy – seriously.  And it it’s not something that can be done in the allotted time given at the public libraries.

On top of a 14 year old boy  had killedhimself possibly due to being bullied – there is no call for that.  It’s just wrong and senseless and hurtful and mean. I did not know the boy but there is an obvious pain. Not just on his part but that of his family, classmates, the media and so that has also stirred me emotionally as well.

 I am still checking out assisted living and the weather had been gloomy and I was 99% positive that it was that time of the month.  (I was wrong) I haven’t been a Scrooge really – but I have been an emotional wreck.  I’ve been broken. 

I set the ornament aside so that if we ever found the glue (the glue from the glue gun just made it globby and less desirable to look at than the broken pieces) I still don’t think it’s worth saving – but if it makes her feel better, maybe it’ll be worth it.  We can throw it away after the holiday season and perhaps she’ll forget about it by next year. 

Or perhaps I should keep it around as a reminder.  A reminder to pick up the pieces and help lift and repair soles of others who stand in need of comfort.  I need to focus on others’ needs and not just my own.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

more on Giving Gifts (and crushed enthusiasm)

          When I asked Jenna what she wanted to get her dad for Christmas last year, she did not even hesitate with an answer.

          “A Bow Tie,” she announced proudly.

          I visualized an elastic and paper doily all bunched up.  

          “What kind of a bow tie?” I asked.

  “A Black one.”  And so it was.  We purchased a black bow tie for Roland – the only black bow tie that we found.

          I was reminded about gifts – precious to the child’s mind, but very impractical.  For instance my wanting to buy my dad a pink Batman shirt for a gift.  I don’t remember it, but my mom said that it happened.

          First off you need to understand that my dad was very conservative.  At that time he would never wear a t-shirt out in public nor would he ever wear the color pink. There are several family photos in which dad wears a crew cut and a blue-green-gold patterned sports jacket – the same sports coat in every photo.  Well, not every photo.  But anyone who saw him in a family photo could tell right away that he was not the pink Batman shirt type.

          My mom steered my brother and I in a different direction to pick out a gift that was much more practical – and then wondered why he didn’t do the same whenever we would go shopping to buy a gift for her.

          Plastic flowers.  I saw the most gorgeous plastic flowers – the entire arrangement was just so pretty and unique – I thought.  Imagine flowers cascading in a long arrangement.  Why it could fit nicely on a door! 

          Actually I didn’t know what it was for. Obviously I had no sense of what the display was really used for.  I remember my maternal grandma letting out a laugh and then covering her mouth as mom unwrapped her beautiful funeral spray. 

Had I known what it was for I don’t think I would have picked it out.  But then again, maybe daddy did tell me and it just hadn’t sunk in – even though I had been to many funerals before.  Even though I had probably seen them on caskets, I obviously hadn’t really paid much attention.  I saw it as something to be displayed – and appreciated.

          I remember mom had arranged the flowers in a bowl – but in order to make them fit properly, she had to cut off the ends.  I was crushed.  She wanted to show appreciation for our thoughtfulness without offending me.  But she did.  I mean, the bowl she had chosen looked nice and everything – but the beauty just wasn’t complete anymore.  But now I do understand why she did it. 

          Jenna beamed as Roland opened his gift.  He gave her an enthusiastic “Thank you” and put his bow tie on before we finished unwrapping gifts.  He wore it to Church which pleased Jenna quite a bit. 

          We were unable to find it so that he could wear it to the Christmas dinner this year.  But Jenna hasn’t said anything since 2011.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Tears in Heaven

          We hadn’t put up our outside lights for Christmas this year.  I meant to bring them out with all the other Christmas decorations.  I remember seeing them.  But they must have gotten lost in the shuffle.  Just as well.  There were a couple of days when the wind blew hard.  So hard that some actually lost their decorations – which is NOTHING compared to what was lost in Newtown Connecticut on December 14th.

          Sandy, for me, was a lot easier to deal with, as the disaster was a result of the elements – not some psycho on the loose with a gun.  If a gunman is going to just turn the gun on himself – why not just start there?  And it’s not like the world will ever KNOW what became of this individual who’d gone on a shooting spree to wipe out innocent children. 

Whatever reasons are given will be speculation – and even if we are given reasons that are sure knowledge, they can NEVER justify the tragedy.  It will never make it better.  It won’t bring peace or comfort that thousands will need.  It’s not something that can be overcome.

27 souls were lost that day – from earth.  But so many more were destroyed – many permanently.  It will take some decades to forgive, to heal, and to move on.  And some will remain bitter and do themselves more harm than the shooter did.  And that also is very tragic.

After I dropped Jenna off at school today, I bawled.  I’m still producing tears as I attempt to create this post that will never express the emotions that all too many of us have right now.

Twenty little angels never to be driven anywhere again.  Never to be dropped off or to wave good-bye to.  They have left their earthly bodies – but they still exist.  I have every ounce of faith that they have made it to the highest kingdom within heaven.  They are pure.  It will be they who will have to look out for their families – to help them move on.

I was saddened by this post and feel for the author who wishes it was the positive events that would put Newtown on the map.

It is my prayer that the residence of Newtown may find some kind of closure and return to the picturesque Norman Rockwell town that they were less than a week ago.  Don’t guess it will ever be that way.  May your angels protect you always.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Finding Christmas at the Zion’s Mall

          Okay, to my knowledge, there really is no such thing as Zion’s Mall.  It had been the name for a Relief Society activity that was held during the holiday season in 2008.  A wonderful presentation and activity that I have never experienced before or since.

I had signed up to take a relish tray – and as I was arranging the pickles and olives in an ordinary way, Roland (who is all about presentation) rearranged them so that the arrangement itself appeared 
to be a huge sunflower

The cultural hall had been set up with tables all around for booth display. There were ten “shops” surrounding the seven round tables located in the center of the room which represented the food court.

          When we entered the “mall” each sister was presented with a “master-in-charge” card and a shopping bag to fill.  The object was to visit all ten stores and collect bookmarks. Each bookmark contained a key.  The keywords given on the back would be unscrambled after all ten were collected.

          In no particular order there were a toy store, music store, Christmas store, book store, candle shop, art shop, one with fashion and accessories, a sweet shop, farmers market, and a bakery. At each table were thoughts to take along with little gifts and trinkets to remind us of certain things.

Call me a scrounge but I save Everything . . . used to anyway.  I’m trying to weed out the clutter.  But I did find this to be a fascinating workshop and glued all the thoughts into a book and have handwritten descriptions to go with each.  I suppose it might make a nice treasure for Jenna to see something in my actual handwriting

The music shop and toy shop happened to be next to each other. From the music shop we received both little plastic flutes and whistles and a kazoo with this thought: 

For my soul delighteth in the song of the hear; yea, the song of the heart: yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.” – D&C 25:12

.  From the toy shop we received three gifts – one of which was a paddle and ball.  Attached to one of the gifts was this note attached:  
Now and then it’s good to pasuse in the pursuit of happiness and just be happy.”

From the candle shop were two candles – one marked with 24 lines – an advent candle to be burned each day.  The other was peppermint scented and came with this note:  
You don’t have to blow out someone else’s candle to make yours burn brighter

The Christmas shop offered several gifts including sliding puzzles with either reindeer, Santa or snowman.  The snowman seemed to be the most popular.  
Life can sometimes be a puzzle.  Reading the scriptures can help you keep all the pieces in place.

Another ball and paddle (this one had the nativity scene printed on the paddle side and this thought: 
Keep your eye on the “ball” Do not let your testimony be bounced around

We also received ornaments – one inflatable and one in the shape of a snowflake with this attachment:  
Each snowflake is unique – Just like You!”

At the art table was a picture of Jesus and an article of faith card.  And God’s Greatest Gift presented a magnet of the nativity.  I don’t even remember it.  I don’t believe it came with us when we moved.

Many books had been donated or purchased by several RS sisters who donated to the bookstore. There was one on Bible Trivia and one on faith that were given to each sister.  Plus we could choose others to keep.  I picked out a set of books called portable 7 Habits

The “habits” included: Vision, renewal, trust, synergy, purpose, abundance, choice – each book had pages of thoughts.  I still look at them and keep them.

          From the farmer’s market we were given three pieces of fruit.

 “orange” you glad we have the prophets to tell us the words of God and give us the whole truth

An apple a day keeps the doctor away – a scripture a day keeps discourage away.

There’d also been a thought on the banana – but it had disappeared from my “treasures” and I had not committed it to memory.

The Sweetshop featured a candy cane – one with the legend of the candy cane as explained here and the other that described the colors of faith  and we were given a loaf of bread from the bakery.

There was also a 
fashion show illustrating 
the importance of 

There were also the periodic “drawings” – if your name was mentioned over the “loudspeaker” you were given the opportunity to choose from the gift table.  I took home a cabbage patch doll – a preemie.

I took home my shopping bag filled with treasures which I had planned to share with Jenna as I figured she would enjoy the majority gifts more than I. 

There had benn a HUGE turn-out.  Probably the most well attended of any RS activity I had even gone to in that ward.  Those who had planned the activity had not been expecting quite that many people and unfortunately not everybody who attended was able to get everything.  (I personally had collected only 9 out of 10 bookmarks)

Each bookmark contained a Keyword: are, Scriptures, Happiness, and, Living, to, Reading, keys and two with the word “the

Translation: “Reading and Living the Scriptures are the keys for Happiness"

Each of us were given a 100 Grand (candy bars) to pay off our Master in charges cards.

          Jenna had fallen asleep before I could show her all the “treasures” I had come home with.  I remember hanging the snowflake up near her ceiling – I’dforgotten to give it to her, and I didn’t want it to get lost in the shuffle. (Our tree wouldn’t be up for another few weeks at least)

On Nov 16, 2008 Jenna came to me with such joy at her new discovery, 
“It’s a miracle,”  she announced proudly as she took me by the hand to lead me to her room.  
She pointed toward her ceiling where I had placed the star.  “Look!” she said, “It’s a Christmas miracle!”

How simple the pleasures of a child.  How great the reminders!