Monday, December 21, 2009

The One Where She Gives You a Little Present

Yes, she has been pretty grumpy for awhile. Sorry about that. I thought maybe you would like a little present to get you through the week. I know you want me to make you food. I can’t. I honestly don’t even know where you all live. I’m not even sure who reads me at all! If I could cook for you I would, but this is the next best thing. It is all of my recipes. I am only going to leave the link active for a week, so download whatever you wish. I print these out in color and put them in sheet protectors. No, it is not all of my favorite recipes, but it is probably about 50 of them... and most of them include a photograph I have taken. Some are already on the blog, some are not... but these have the advantage of all being in one place. Enjoy! Also, if you would like a gift of a different sort (but no less heartfelt), wander on over to the Christmas blog. Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 18, 2009

The One Where She {Almost} Drowned in Eggnog

Alright, I am just going to come right out and admit it. I have committed myself to do too many things, for too many people, right before Christmas! There is probably a 12-step program for this, where I could get up and say, “Hello, my name is Victoria, and I am a… (I don’t even know what you call it) girl who can’t say no?” In my defense, it is difficult to pass up opportunities to earn extra money, especially this time of year. Some of these gigs pay.

But I would like to bake a few goodies, maybe put up a Christmas tree, buy a couple of presents, send out the Christmas cards and make the house look nice for my family. I haven’t had time for those things, and I really have no one to blame but myself, so I will not even begin to bore you by listing the things I have done this week or still have to do… in fact, if I get a full night’s sleep tonight, tomorrow I might feel entirely different about this. I can do without a meal now and then, but sleep deprivation makes me, well… full of self-pity. At the moment I feel like I am drowning. Maybe in a tub full of egg nog, with a strand of garland wrapped around my neck a few times, just to be festive about it.

So an hour ago, I started this post and wrote that all down, and then my visiting teachers came over. If you are not conversant with my Mormon talk, there are a couple of women who stop by once a month to check and make sure I haven’t drowned in eggnog or been strangled by tinsel or whatever, and while they are here they give me a short inspirational message. So Teri told me the message was about compassion. She started to cry, and told me that every time she has had a bad time, I seem to just know, and I see her and tell her exactly what she needs to hear, and I don’t try to fix her problems, which usually can’t be fixed anyway, but I just hug her and tell her that things will work out… and apparently other profound things. She told me that I was her personal example of compassion.

That stabbed me in the heart a little bit. I have been drowning in the aforementioned eggnog/pity, as well as ignoring thirty calls a day from someone who we will call Christine the Crazy Lady, a semi-homeless, entirely carless (that’s car-less, not careless) “born-again” Filipino woman who is unusually preoccupied with The Rapture, to whom I have given a few rides. I have not been as compassionate as I should, and that is probably why I feel like I am drowning. It was a message I really needed to hear. I am going to go take a nap, and then get back to work.

Happily ☺. I promise.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The One Where Casey Came Home

Casey is home. We waited at the escalator for the arriving passengers. Skippy and Dillon stood right at the bottom, gazing upward for the first glance of a dark suit and missionary nametag. I knew Skippy would start dancing with excitement when he spotted his brother, but it was not Skip, but 16-year-old Dillon, who turned to me with an almost giddy expression, and said, “He’s here!” Ten seconds later, down he came into our arms… too tall, too skinny, already needing a shave at noon, and carrying a handcrafted sombrero, the gift of a hispanic woman he baptized in Dallas.

Our first stop was Casey’s release. Because he was an ordained minister for our church, and had been called as such, and his service as a full-time missionary was over, he had to be formally released. We all sat in a conference room, where after a short private interview with Casey, the member of our stake presidency told Elder McDaniel that he was officially released from being a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. At which point, he began to cry like a baby. We all cried. He removed the nametag that had marked him as a missionary, and put it in his pocket. President Carter asked him what he had learned in two years, and he said through his tears that he couldn’t say, because he couldn’t remember what he knew before.

I know exactly what he means. I’m not sure what I knew before, either. Today is the first day in five years that I haven’t had a missionary. No missionaries out, no missionaries living in my home. It is a happy day, and it is so sad that I can’t stop crying right now. From each missionary, I have learned so much that I am not sure what I really knew before. Please forgive me as I am about to do each of my missionaries a disservice by telling one or two things I learned from them, when in reality I learned enough things from each that it would require a whole post to tell.

From Elder Josh McDaniel, I learned how to send a missionary out. What a great way to start, with a missionary that had spent his whole life preparing to go, and his whole life since holding onto the best of his mission, while adding new graces every single day. Josh is the most consistently cheerful and upbeat person I know, and I learned from him that every single day could be my “best day.”

Elder Breyman taught me hospitality. As I opened my home to missionaries not my own, I found that they were my own after all, and that I could truly love them that much. From Elder Breyman I also learned that everything is not just bigger, but also better in Texas, and that you can make almost anything from duct tape.

From Elder Krenkel, I learned that it was okay to fall down. Blood and bruises are a badge of honor, that show you haven’t been sitting around all day. Elder Krenkel also showed me how much a person can grow and change in a short period of time, and he never failed to amaze me with his humble love of the gospel and beautiful teaching style.

Elder Danielson showed me obedience and how to follow leadership. Coming from a tiny town in North Dakota, he was dropped into the middle of the Real Housewives of Orange County. For days, he simply followed Elder Breyman. By following a good example, the time came when he was a leader in his own right.

Elder Tyler McDaniel taught me that missionary work is about saving souls. Sometimes the soul you have to save is not a stranger’s, but your companion’s. His enemies were anger, frustration and discouragement, and he conquered them so that he could be free to do the work that Heavenly Father had laid out for him. He showed brotherly love to his companions, and kept a very little brother Skippy waiting by the mailbox for the amazing illustrated letters he sent so that Skippy would remember a brother over two long years. It worked.

Elder Gould taught me that life is not a popularity contest. His kind spirit and desire to do the right thing inspired other missionaries, members of the church and all the people that he met on his mission. He taught me the importance of confidence, and that when you are doing the right thing, you can and should be confident. Elder Hopkins taught me to express love for people that are not my immediate family. I had never really considered doing that, and he made me realize how important it really is, and that by extending that love, my family circle just becomes that much larger. From Elder Hopkins I also learned that stalkers aren’t just on TV.

From Elder Pfile I learned courage. He took his weaknesses, like a fear of street contacting, and turned them into strengths by conquering fear. He showed me how important it is to have passion for what you are doing, and never took a sick day in two years. He set the best example I have ever known of what it means to be truly repentant. From him I learned that the only true apology is a humble one. At the same time, he taught me about having fun even when things are difficult. He also taught me about loyalty, as he was fiercely loyal to me and my family.

From Elder Waller I learned that a tough and stern exterior may just be guarding a tender heart. He showed that when you know someone loves you, it makes all the difference. I learned from Elder Waller the power music has to unite people, and he also showed me the importance of gratitude for small acts of kindness, and the importance of doing small acts of kindness every day.

From Elder Hobley I learned compassion, as he showed that compassion to me in difficult times, and as he showed it to others. He helped me realize what a comfort a sense of humor can be, and that it is okay to be big, goofy and childlike because it makes everyone else happy when you are happy. What a great trait to have! He taught me to think before speaking or acting, but not to let people push you around. I also learned from Elder Hobley that one can hunt spiders with swords. Who knew?

Elder Crane taught me about discipline. All my missionaries were hardworking, but Elder Crane was one of the best examples of how to give your best effort at all times. He had the determination to reach goals that others would find too daunting to even attempt. He showed me triumph over adversity, and love for his companions. I learned from Elder Crane how a positive attitude and modesty (combined with the ability to blush) would attract people and make them want to learn from him.

From Elder Murray I learned about possibilities. Elder Murray was excited to try anything. His desire to excel was inspiring, and made me want to learn new things as well. Elder Murray was an example of patience and kindness under all circumstances, and in half a year I never even saw him give in to frustration, much less anger. That is remarkable. Another thing that Elder Murray showed me was how to build up the people around me by showing them their own best traits. I think his own best trait was childlike faith... another thing he taught me.

Elder Felkner was the example of gentleness and kindness. His McDaniel-like sense of humor was tempered by an awareness of others’ feelings at all times. While all of our missionaries have been unfailingly polite and considerate, Elder Felkner was the best example I have seen of being gentleman-like and moderate in his speech and actions. I learned by watching his loving behavior, particularly toward a certain pesky five-year-old boy, that there is no need to call attention to yourself… when you have a kind and gentle, yet confident attitude, people are naturally drawn to you.

And from Elder Casey McDaniel, I have learned that life is short, so you had better be about Heavenly Father’s business. He is an example of seeing to the heart of what is the most important, and pursuing that, without being distracted by unimportant things. I have seen how people are drawn to him and want to be around him and be like him, because of his clean spirit, positive attitude and his refusal to judge others. He has also shown me the joy that comes from being independent. I didn’t always appreciate that independence, but now it is priceless.

My missionary board is covered with probably 80 cards from missionaries we have known and loved (okay, probably 30 of those cards are Elder Hobley’s... but still) and welcomed into our home. Even if they didn’t live here, each and every one still set an amazing example.

Five years, and what have I learned? I remember I didn’t even like to have the missionaries to dinner five years ago… it seemed so awkward. What could we even talk about? I guess I didn’t know much at all back then.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The One About the Friends

This has been one of those days where I don’t know quite what to think, or quite what to do. What do you do the day before your son comes home from a two-year mission? Clean and go crazy? Well… first I worked to mail out a bunch more CDs. Then I tried to organize some new guest blog posts and managed to have a misunderstanding with a friend. Good times. Then I went to a Christmas dinner and instead of sitting with the ladies, I sat with the young people who were the entertainment. And they were very entertaining. They counted how many times people came up to me and asked when Casey is coming home (Wednesday at noon, in case you wanted to ask) and how many then followed up with the million dollar question: Are you excited? Haha! I think they stopped counting after about 30. Then my daughter-in-law showed up with Jif, which is always the best. We went home, with Jessi riding in the back seat next to Jif atop a layer of wheat (no, seriously… don’t even ask…) and made pizzookies. More friends came over and we ate the pizzookies and played a humiliating couple rounds of a dice game called Chicken until after midnight. All in all, the day was about friends. A little sour, a little sweet. Maybe every day is really about friends.

Over the past while, friends have done a lot of things for me. One friend brought flowers and planted my front yard so that it would be beautiful when Casey comes home. One brings Skippy home from school for me several days a week. A couple of my friends bring me frozen yogurt on their way home from work, and sit to talk for awhile. One friend encouraged me all year long on my CD project, even when I told her to shut up because I wasn’t doing it anymore (several times). One listened to the master CD about five times straight the last week of the project (when friends seemed in short supply and no one else seemed to have time for me!) to try to help me find things to fix. One friend talks me down when I get too stressed, and reminds me not to listen to people when they are making me crazy (which happens more often than I care to admit). My sons and daughter-in-law, who are the best friends anyone could ask for, all pitched in to get me ready for my CD party, and it was like having a housekeeper, a decorator and a chef all show up at my door just at the right time. One amazing friend even catered that party for me!

I am definitely not worth so much trouble. What are the best things that friends do for you?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The One Where Santa Doesn’t Even Have to Consult the Map

Well, the last few years I have had to send Christmas packages to my boys. Not this year. They are all going to be home. No one in Argentina. No one in Texas. No one in Virginia. No one in Utah. All home.

Yesterday I was sitting in my office at about 5:45 a.m., having just dropped Dillon off at his early morning scripture class. Skippy stumbled in, half asleep. He complained that he was thirsty, and so I opened a small water bottle that was on my desk and handed it to him. He took a swig, and then reached into his mouth, and placed a small white object on my desk. “What is that?” I asked him, thinking it was a little paper, maybe from the water bottle label. “It’s my tooth,” he replied, and then he quietly went back up to bed.

I asked him today what he hopes Santa will bring him for Christmas. “I don’t know,” he said. “But maybe the Tooth Fairy could put my tooth back.” Since it is the first tooth he has lost, he doesn’t quite have the hang of the Tooth Fairy gig yet. He will learn.