Saturday, December 26, 2015

Our First Christmas in Oregon

            We weren't able to get back to Utah for a lack of funds.  Airfare is way overpriced (even at a senior discount) and Roland didn't have the same amount of time to take off work as Jenna currently has for school.

            It snowed in several parts of Salt Lake.  My sister and one of my sons both reported that there had been an endless snowfall and probably three feet of snow - though one had reported that the streets had been clear.  How awesome that there are those who give up pieces of their Christmas to make things safer for others.

            We woke up to find snow on the ground the morning of Christmas Eve.  The sun shone itself out.  It was really a beautiful day.  Not too hot.  Not too cold.  The air was an invite and in turn invited us to go be a part of it.

            Mostly wet yesterday.  The snow was gone.  All that was left was cold air and soggy earth.  Today is definitely foggier than I have ever seen in Oregon.  Unlike Salt Lake fog, the air is still breathable - and probably good for my sinuses actually.

            Several gifts placed under the tree - many of them were total surprises for Jenna.  They would have all been surprises if I had had Roland move the box from Jeanie and Biff into our room and just put the gifts out for Christmas morning.  Jenna also knew about the gifts that Rochelle and Tony had sent - but she didn't know about the packages from a former neighbor or my sister and her family. 

            I filmed Christmas in order to document everything that Jenna might have overlooked.  Fortunately nothing did.  She showed excitement for each gift that was opened.  I was quite pleased with her positive attitude.

            At 5:00 we started dinner.  We were expecting the missionaries to come at 6:00.  We weren't expecting them to stay and play games with us.  That was really awesome!  I have missed playing games with my family members.  Jenna and I do our best, and sometimes Roland joins us - but for the most part the majority of games we have require at least four people.  Some of the games I hadn't even brought with us because I didn't think we could play them. 

            It was a great Christmas gift to play games with the Elders.  Jenna thoroughly enjoyed herself.  We each made this the best Christmas possible.  I am quite happy with the results.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

message for holiday wishes

        It is important to remember that not everyone is looking forward to Christmas. Some people are not surrounded by large wonderful families. Some of us have problems during the holidays and are overcome with great sadness when we remember the loved ones who are not with us. For many it is their first Christmas without a particular loved one and many others lost loved ones at Christmas. And, many people have no one to spend these times with and are shadowed by loneliness.

         My uncle's family will have their first Christmas without him.  He was buried just before we moved to Oregon.  It is harder still for families who lose their loved ones during the holiday season - to always have that memory around the holidays. We have seen present neighbors and some that we left in Utah just recently pass away.  We have seen hardships and we have seen those who choose to move on and celebrate the holidays as they always have.

         I'd like to share the words which my brother posted to facebook and mirror his message to all of those who may be reading (and even those who don't) :  " I hope and pray whatever your belief system may be, wherever you are in life, whatever circumstances or challenges you may find yourself facing, that you may find peace, happiness, and fulfillment; that is my Christmas wish to all of you."

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Four Legged Angels

             I remember being in the congregation during a sacrament meeting in which a newly returned missionary was giving his homecoming talk. As he shared various experiences, he would explain why he felt the need to share.  I remember him saying that all missionaries have at least one dog story.

         “We do?” I had thought. 
         I must admit that I had missed his dog story as I had been thinking of my own.  One that actually brings a smile to my face each time I think about it.

         I was serving in an area where each door had been knocked on (weekly if not daily) by one religion or another.  It came to the point that people just didn’t want to open their doors as they felt they were being bullied by religious freaks.  We had actually been told to back off from going from door for at least a few months.  No sweat off my brow.  I hated that particular method of trying to find people, but I was with a companion who measured her missionary success by going from door-to-door.  

         Many members in that area referred to our companionship as “The Odd Couple” thus we named ourselves Oscar and Felix.  I was Oscar, and my high-maintenance, “by-the-book” companion was Felix.

         After two months of contacting members and searching for referrals in ways other than door-to-door, my companion counted down the days that we would go tracting door-to-door.  I did not share in her excitement.  I know there are people who have been found through knocking doors - but for me personally, it was not the greatest method and definitely did not measure my success (or failure) as a missionary.

         We had gone to only two houses before a German Shepherd started to follow us from one house to the next.  He would sit behind us and away from the door as we invited those who answered to listen to our message.  A few would look at the dog and ask if he was ours.  As we'd walk away from the skeptic who refused to believe the dog was ours, I'd make jokes just to get a rile out of my companion.

          "Yes, it is our dog and if you don't listen to our message, he'll eat you."

         My companion felt embarrassed and was a bit defensive as answered their concerns.

         “He’s not our dog.  He just started following us.  We don’t know why.”

         After four more houses or so, Sister Felix turned to me and said,  “Sister Cannon, we need to say a prayer so that the dog will stop following us.”

          I'm certain that the look that she saw on my face was one of puzzlement.  
          “Sister Felix, the dog could have been sent as a guardian angel.  If a prayer is offered, it won’t be in harmony, as the dog is not bothering me.  You go ahead and say a prayer if it makes you feel better.”

         Sister Felix offered a prayer and pleaded that Heavenly Father return the dog to his home.  No sooner did we say “amen” and we were joined by a Basset Hound – thus we had two dogs following us.  They weren’t doing anything wrong.  They seemed well behaved.  But it bothered her – which only amused me further. 

         We knocked on two more doors I think, and then Sister Felix became disgusted and announced that we may as well just return to our car, as we obviously weren’t going to get anything accomplished.  What? No more knocking door-to-door? I was right.  They were four-legged angels.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

It's Snowing in Utah

Whenever my phone rings
Or signals that I have received a text message
Jenna jumps
Like Pavlov’s dog
Usually I don’t mind
I am not a slave to the phone
Though she seems to be

She’s always excited when she learns
That it is one of her brothers
Today she answered the phone with excitement
“Randy!” she yelled.
It isn’t any wonder that none of her brothers have gone deaf
First thing he asks her if it is snowing
He says that the Utah snow seems harsh today.
I remember waiting for the bus in killer snow

The snow seen in this part of Oregon is rare
Or so we’ve been told
We saw it fall for two days
But it was never like Utah
Buses were delayed for two hours
But Jenna did return to school
After the snow
We had our power back on
But some people did not.
Those who live in Tiller
Were without power for six days
To a week.

Mostly it rains.  The creeks and rivers rise
The grass turns green and
The earth is drenched with moisture
The Internet tells me
it is much cooler in Salt Lake
than it is in Myrtle Creek.
I do not miss the snow.
I don’t miss the biting cold.
I miss visiting with my family members
In person.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Lights in Rain to Snow to Power Outage

            We were told that a light parade is done each year.  It takes place on the second Saturday of December.  The vehicles start the drive in Riddle and move through Tri-City and through Highway 99 over to the street just behind the one we're on.  The parade then turns down the only street that connects Riverside to Division,  Division to one of the numbered avenues and then on to Main Street. 

            The parade is a big deal, and downtown offers free hot drinks and chili.  There are fireworks at the park stadium.  This has been a tradition for 22 years now from what I understand. I was surprised they were able to do the fireworks with all the rain.  We heard  that it's unusual to have that much rain to fall throughout the day and hasn't happened often. 

            Roland found a corner where two couples were standing beneath an awning.  They had a fire going and told us we could join them.  They said it was rare that it was the only corner with a fire going.  In the past there have been fires on at least three corners.  They bring out hot dogs, marshmallows and sodas.  They said we were welcome to whatever they had, but that it was on the inside of the house rather than outdoors where they usually cook it (I guess)

            We had waited for the parade for a longer time than the parade itself.  Our neighbor said she counted 32 vehicles and clocked at 7 minutes and 23 seconds.  I, for one, was rather impressed.  I wish I could have captured the beauty of it all - but my pictures don't do justice.  We did create a video off Roland's phone. I was able to load it to facebook (finally).

            My neighbor said the sky had been pounding the rain down all night.  It didn't stop until after 4:00 yesterday morning.   When it stopped being rain.  I really wasn't surprised to see snow on the ground yesterday morning.  We'd been told that it rarely ever snows in these parts.  A light snow really.  From what I'm used to.  Jenna was excited.  She built a snowman, made snow angels and begged for a snowball fight. 

            I don't know what time we lost power.  We used the backup generator we had to check the status against what we had heard on the wind-up radio we have.  It wasn't just Myrtle Creek or Douglas County that was without power.  Medford was mentioned and so was Grants Pass.  That's a lot of area. Our generator went out while we were still online.  It's pretty useless now.

            Roland went to Roseburg and back.  He purchased a new generator and several power chords.  He wanted to be prepared for the upcoming week.  He works from home and needs the Internet.  But by then, the Internet had gone out as well.  We didn't have church.

            We had invited our neighbor to come over and enjoy our heat and play some games.  She stayed with us until the power returned.  .  Pacific Power had reported almost 7,000 customers throughout Douglas, Josephine and Jackson counties were without power as of Monday morning. That number is down from the 25,000 that were without power on Sunday. We are quite  blessed that our power had returned when it did.  The schools in all three counties were either delayed a few hours or else cancelled altogether

            It reminded us of a Christmas when we had lost power all day - which actually provided perks for many families.  Jenna says she remembers and would like the power to go out on Christmas this year.  She wants only lights from the tree and a lantern at the table so that we can play games.  I'd like to listen to music.  Both of us seem dead set about the television being on.  Now that we have a new generator, Roland would still resort to a video, I think.

  We were standing near this fire pit.  The awning provided protection as we watched the parade.  Unfortunately it was not able to protect itself.

same corner as  parade route the night before

continuing down this street

Friday, December 11, 2015

It Really is the Simple Things

          Christmas does not have to be about spending money or exchanging gifts - though I love the gift giving thing.  There are some years that we have really had to stretch. We have been recipients of "Sub for Santa" many times. Overall, I think those are the most memorable.  And I have really been touched by all of those who have made an effort to our cause.

          We moved to West Valley at the end of 2009.  It was hard to leave our Kearns ward family - but at the same time, we felt that the move was the right thing for us. Less than a week before Christmas, I received a call from the Relief Society President of the ward we had left.  She said that she had gifts for us from the ward.  She came in the second snowstorm of that season.  She brought two other sisters with her.  Their gifts more than doubled the amount of gifts that we already had.

          The next year was Tony's first year in the WV house.  Our gifts were even more sparse than the year prior (before adding gifts from the Kearns ward). Roland's mom and sister had sent us gifts every year, but we hadn't received a package from them that year. I think we had three gifts for Jenna and one for each of the boys.  Roland and I had only one present for one another.  Both simple (like a twinkie sized furuit cake from me;  Roland actually likes fruitcake - but that's beside the point)

          It was just after 10:00 p.m. when I placed the eight gifts beneath the tree and went to bed.  I was really tired and wanted to sleep.  I was in awe the next morning to find an explosion of gifts beneath our tree.  I couldn't even imagine where they had all come from.

          As it turns out, both Tony and Biff had decided to play Santa as well.  Tony had purchased several gifts for each family member, and Biff had kept a huge secret from us as Richard's mom and sister had taken him shopping earlier in August.  They had loaded up his car with gifts  Neither Tony nor Biff was aware that the other had also played Santa.

          I love Christmas.  I love the suspense.  I love the Spirit of giving and doing.  Recently I read a post on facebook which touched my heart.  My friends were driving the Salt Lake roads when traffic had come to a halt.  In the intersection was a woman behind the wheel of a stalled truck.  A man had seen her and tried to help.  When the truck wouldn't start, he offered to push. 

          Seeing that assistance was still needed for moving the truck, my friend got out of his car to assist with pushing also.  The next thing my friends saw others had left their cars and were helping to push the truck out of the intersection.  No honking of cars or verbal abuse from other drivers.  The lights had changed, but every driver seemed to be patiently waiting - on the roads of Salt Lake.  That, my friends, is truly a Christmas miracle.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Anticipating Christmas

     I have two brothers and one sister.  We would buy or make gifts for each other to exchange at Christmas.  For a while we had gifts for each aunt, uncle, cousin . . . I don’t think we started drawing names among dad’s sibs and their families until the first Christmas I was out on my mission.

     Patrick married Sunny who had four sibs and grew up having exchanged gifts with just one sibling, as they would draw names each year.  I think we still purchased gifts for each of our sibs and all of Sunny and Patrick’s families until after Kayla got married.  And then we decided to draw names – family to family.  That worked out for a few years.

     One time it seemed all of us were struggling financially and decided not to exchange gifts that year.  It was one of the best Christmas gifts we had ever given ourselves.

     Last year we tried the name-drawing thing among our own children.  They seemed to like it and I think it worked out better for each of us to do it that way.  This year will be different.

     This morning I received a text from my daughter-in-law, Jeanie.  She wanted to know if we’d be exchanging gifts this year.  I told her that our family would have to forgo it this year based on income.  I’m hoping that our three sons will still exchange, but it will not surprise me if that doesn’t happen.

     There’s been tension between Randy and Tony.  Both have been riding the “financially-challenged” boat – both have asked for favors from us.  But we are on the same boat ride.  I feel so helpless and forlorn about our situations.

     We have put up the Christmas tree.  That always gets Jenna excited, and she makes gifts so that there are presents beneath the tree.  I’m afraid our gifts for her will be quite sparse this year.  Fortunately she has not asked for much nor do her wishes come with a heavy price tag.

     Colored pencils, cool melt gun, newton’s cradle, drawing paper, wash tape, mostly small things to keep her hands busy.  I’d like to be able to have something for her – something she’s not going to get bored with the day after Christmas.

     Christmas should be a time of giving service, a season to be grateful for blessings, a season to share – even just a simple meal.  So many people miss out on the joy by stressing over having gifts or going shopping or wearing themselves ragged.  I know Christmas will be more awesome for us if we just focus on why we have Christmas in the first place.  I hope we can instill that into Jenna and it may be her best Christmas yet.  I know this year will be hard for her.  I hope Roland and I can change that and this year will stand out as a great memory for her.