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Friday, December 31, 2010

She's had 18 years.....To Get Ready For This Day

On the morning I turned 18 years old I woke up after having cried myself to sleep the night before. My bedroom was my own refuge. I was looking around at the things I loved in there, thinking how sad I was to be 18 now. It meant I wasn't a kid anymore and doing kid like things gave me such comfort. I was hanging onto my coloring books and my dress up clothes. In my bedroom that morning it was cold and gray, exactly how I felt inside. With my book shelf full of nick nacks and picture frames sprinkled rose pedals laying around them. also my old pearl necklace was on display and my writing journals piled out of a wooden crate. My dresses all hung in a row from the dark colors to the lighter, My kittens raced under my bed playing bringing about my first small smile as I took it all in from my white twin bed under the warm covers. I got up late and the cottage was quiet expect for the cats that lived there too. I looked in the mirror of our blue bathroom thinking I am so not ready to be 18 years old. It scared me to death to wonder what it all meant. What would be asked of me in this new year? I knew I didn't have the knowledge or the confidence to move on from my life on the farm. I could not bare the idea of leaving my brother Daren, who was 4 years old behind as I moved on into adulthood. I also had another baby brother named Dougie who was almost 2 years old so in all my high school years I took on the mothering role feeling like they were my very own children, I didn't distance myself like my sister Dana did. Dana would walk by me with a worrying look on her face "Debby, do you not realize they are NOT your children? They are just your brothers?" I would stick my chin up in the air as I did when anyone asked me this question. "They need me no matter what!" I would explain. It was true though I considered myself a mother. This is why now I won't have children of my own. For my baby brothers filled that desire to have children of my own. I couldn't replace them, I also know having children is a huge responsibility. Since I have been there, done that, (minus the actual labor) I feel so free and happy in not having my own children!

That morning of my 18th birthday was the worse birthday of my whole life.
I thought to myself as I put on my house coat to walk across the farm yard to my parents home.
"  I should just go back to bed and avoid this horrible day all together."   This thought stayed with me as I made some oatmeal in the kitchen. Dana had been waiting for me and she ran up behind me with smack on my butt. "IT'S your 18 Birthday Spankings!" She shouted happily and began hitting me with such force that I knew by the time 18 came around I would be bruised. (To THIS day I am against the harmless idea that birthday spankings are fun for they are still hitting someone else, where is the love in that setup?)
I turned away from the boiling pan on the stove and put my knee up into Dana's jaw with such force as I yelled out "STOP! That hurts! you hit way to hard!" Dana's arms were out swing hard at me but caught by surprise in the jaw she back away, "I said STOP NOW or I will hit you in the same way!" Dana blinked at me while rubbing her jaw and shrugged saying "Whatever." She left out the back door. I felt like screaming and throwing everything around me against the wall! But instead I began to cry and wiped my eyes just in time to see our mother standing there in horror at what she had just seen.

My Mom had me sit down with my oatmeal and she was so mad at me. She saw me hit Dana in the jaw with my knee. So she began "How could you! How could you Debby! You are an adult now! Your sister was just playing!" I swallowed one bite of my breakfast thinking once again "  I should just go back to bed and avoid this horrible day all together." Mom glanced up at the clock it said 10am, when I would look at it again it would say 1pm. So from 10 to 1 my Mom told me about all the horrible things I had ever done to my sister Dana since the day she was born. THAT was a surprisingly long list of things I did not remember! From when I was 2 years old pushing her down to being 16 years old and not sharing my friends with her! My mother remember it all........ She told me EVERYTHING I did as the  bad older sister I was! What a sad sad sad birthday that morning was for me. I never knew I could cry so much for so long, I kept listening to one selfish story after another until I was convinced I should never had been born! Mom sat there at the table as she told everything I did that caused Dana to be hurt by me. I was amazed that Dana being always such a tough person would be so "Emotional damaged" by me! My mom told me it all from the beginning to the end, "Debby, You have emotionally damaged your sister for never being her friend." That statement hurt me so much! (and it is still hard to forget) For the last thing I wanted was to damage my sister! But since I did do all things selfish things, I realized it was now my job to make it all right once again. Mom sat over her cup of tea saying "You know that surprised 16th birthday party Tiffany and you put together for Rebekah? Dana wanted to go, but your other friends said no and now she hardly has any friends because of your selfishness. YOU should have not gone to that party, and instead stand by your sister!" I sat sobbing with a soaked wet collar. I was truly the most horrid selfish person to ever live! I was so convinced by this fact after all my mom had said. I also never questioned her, I sat stunned that I had missed out on realizing all my wrong doings! Being made aware from my mother on my 18th birthday makes that day frozen in my memory. There was such guilt and such shame in me! I had never known my sister needed me so much, she always acted like I was stupid and I felt like I was in her way of what she wanted to do. Mom said to me "Also when you graduated from high school people gave YOU better gifts then her! Even family members treat you more special then HER!" I began asking myself  Why is it when Dana says her favorite color is blue I said mine is red? When she wore jeans I wore a skirt? When she did her hair in braids I took mine out? It was very important this morning for my mom to tell me that I was not as good nor as high and mighty as I acted. Mom had been thinking for a while of all these things she needed to tell me. Dana had no idea what was going on over in the kitchen that morning with my mom telling me a list of my last 18 years of wrong actions. I never cried that long and hard before so I was weak walking back to my bedroom and I threw myself at the feet of my sister sobbing, begging her forgiveness of all my selfish behavior. This was the moment Dana thought to herself that her overly emotional sister finally had snapped. "What is wrong with you?" Dana asked for she had just moved her whole bedroom around. She was busy hanging up her clothes. "Please Dana! I am so so very sorry for being a selfish horrible sister to you over these years!" I laid on the floor feeling dizzy and weak as I cried grabbing her leg and she rolled her eyes "You are a FREAK! Stop! Stop being so dramatic!" Dana shook her leg loose and bent down to look me in the eye "What the hell is wrong with you?" she asked as I was so weak from hours of crying so she picked me up and put me into the bathroom, Dana was really worried for me and demanded that I calmed down. Mom appeared in Dana's room as I was hanging over the bathroom sink. I remember being so dehydrated. Dana hated it when our mom pop into our cottage "What?" Dana asked her, Mom walked around snooping casually. Dana knew what she was up to as always, so maybe that is why her messy room was a message to "Keep Out".  I listened from behind the bathroom door as Mom asked Dana "Did Debby say she was sorry?" Dana snorted back at her "Yeah. I don't care! so she didn't want all of her birthday spankings...." Mom kept at it for awhile until Dana snapped "I am trying to clean my room you are in the way!" Mom left then Dana opened the bathroom door to find me sitting weakly and sadly on the floor, "Will you tell me what the fuck is going on around here?!" I began to giggle as I explained to Dana of all I ever did wrong to her, Dana slid to the floor with me rolling her eyes and snorting. She became my friend at that moment, We had never been this close before. Dana explained "I always thought you would end up in mental hospital BUT I was sure it happened earlier then I ever thought today! I am glad you are not crazy after all!" We both laughed as we moved to her bed and we sat talking about how our mother's ideas were not what actually happened. It was such a bad day overall, but finally in making that connection to my sister was well worth all the tears to me.
Later that night when Dana and I coined the phrase  "Emotionally damaged" then laugh hysterically, we sat up together sharing our thoughts about our mother. Dana handed me a bowl of popcorn as she said  "I never felt left out, I was just mad that YOU got to do things with your friends but I couldn't, because my choice of friends were way to "worldly" for Mom." I breathed a sigh of relief for I was carrying around a heavy amount of guilt now. Having Dana tell me her side of all those stories helped me let go of beating myself up over my passed wrongs. Dana chuckled as she said to me "Woman, you scared the shit out of me throwing yourself at my feet! I forgot all about this morning's fight. I was thinking "  Get over it for God's sake!"   I had no idea Mom told you all those things for 3 hours! Talk about emotionally damaging YOU on your 18th birthday, that really sucks!" We laughed for we were friends!
Dana and I sat together over popcorn and cokes laughing and sharing in the closure our mother started that morning. I remember my 18th birthday as the worse birthday of my life, but it also was the very first day my sister became my friend. I had 18 years to get ready for the rest of my beautiful life!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Sister's Secret

I was 18 years old when my sister Dana and I actually became real good friends. I was older then her by a year and a half. We grew up opposite of each other as the sun and the moon. Being older, I thought I knew what was best for her so when we were younger I was a natural boss, though she grew up stronger then me. I soon was the one who followed her authority. We had some big fights whenever I challenged her, My sister had a short temper identical to our father. She also had our mother's strong pride. In one quick strike by her fist I would go down fast cowering quickly not wanting to be punched again. But one Sunday evening just before the evening service at church, I swung back hitting her by surprised while her eye glasses flew across our shared bedroom, I think now looking back I was almost 16 years old so I just snapped. My sister was wearing my favorite long jean skirt and I had already planned on wearing it so when she said that she wasn't taking it off I lunged at her with all my anger. Our home was already stressful with that feeling of trying to survive in that chaos. She slugged me in the stomach and I kicked her to the ground. We swung at each other with such force that the pain was hidden by our struggle to win. "It's MY skirt! Take it off now!" I screamed at Dana and she threw me over the bed frame holding a pillow to my face. We were both screaming things at each other with tears in our eyes, my knee nailed Dana in the jaw and she kicked right back, this was an ugly fight that would never of exploded if I hadn't challenged her. THAT and our parents were not in the house to stop it before it got this bad. My Sister was always told by our parents to act more like a girl but deep down in the spunky soul of my sister she lived her whole childhood wishing to be a boy. No doubt for the simple fact boys were honored in my family above all other things.....When my sister and I made up over that skirt, she muttered as she threw my skirt back at me "I don't care! I just want to wear my jeans." I felt sorry for her at that moment, I realized I loved wearing dresses and skirts for church but to my sister they limited her own ability to run and play sports afterwords. When Dana's best friend Joanie came to church in jeans, she was the first teenaged girl to ever do so. I was proud of Joanie and glad for my sister Dana to have an actual girl be her friend. When Dana and I became friends in was when she was 17 and I was 18. I soon became clingy to my sister as my new friend.

It was on a dark late night in our shared cottage bedrooms that Dana found me reading on her couch. I remember that day as clearly as it was just yesterday.......
Dana came into the cottage as I laid on the couch with a half can of Pepsi, I let out a loud burp and laughed at it while turning my book's page glancing at Dana who throw her stuff on her already messy bed. I waited holding my breath wondering if she was going to be mad that I was in her room. I always liked when she got home that if she flipped the radio on the type of music would revealed to me if she was happy or mad. So when the Country music filled the quiet late night as she changed into comfy clothes, I breathed a sigh of relief. Country music said Dana was feeling loving at the moment, I was of course always happy when she chose that tune. If it was screaming loud rock music then I would run to my bedroom ducking hoping whatever flying pillows was coming for my head would miss..."Debby." She said to me in that late night with the glow of her bedroom, I looked up setting my book down, "Debby, can you keep a secret? You have to PROMISE me you can keep a secret." I sat amazed that Dana was confiding in me at this moment in time! Dana and I never trusted each other growing up and now at my new age of being 18 years old I thought happily that yes I could keep such a promise. Dana was always skinner then me and taller by a few inches too. Her brown eyes always needed her eye glasses to see even just a few feet in front of her, her long blond hair was becoming more and more irritating to her. My parents never let us girls cut our hair short, at least not without a huge fight and many arguments that lasted for weeks. Dana wanted a boy's hair cut growing up and now as she was almost 18 years old herself, her time was coming to get it all cut off. Then her new venture would be hair of many colors to follow.
"I promise!" I said quickly as Dana held out her hand with a small diamond ring sticking up at me. I froze, wide eyed and my mouth hanging opened "Is it REAL?" I asked for I already knew who gave it to her. Dana was bursting with happiness and waved her hand proudly explaining "It was his Grandmothers, we haven't set a date yet I think I might have to be 18 first." I felt terrified as I whispered "Does mom and dad know?" my heart was racing at the thought of our parents. Dana rolled her eyes and laugh out loud "Don't be stupid!" She held her hand out smiling back at her engagement ring. Tears began roll down my cheeks as my hands began to shake uncontrollably for our parents were going to kill us both! Dana became alarmed by all the doubt she saw in my face "Now Debby you promised you would keep this secret!" Dana had her hands on her hips looking at me with caution as she continued "They will know when it gets closer to my wedding date and is really no big deal, Debby you need to stop shaking like that! Remember its my secret and I will handle it."  I noticed my hands were moving on their own, as I exclaimed "You have to tell them soon! Before they find out from some one else!" Dana just nodded, Now I did not sleep at all that first night and over the next 3 months I thought I was losing to much weight.

After morning service on Sunday our parents took us to lunch at McDonalds so while my baby brothers played on the toys, while my parents sat on the booth watching them, Dana and I went to buy the food. It was just around the corner from Mom and Dad as I felt my tray begin to shake uncontrollably again. I was always watching Dana proudly telling everyone she knew that she was getting married, so when she bumped into an old friend they hugged and squealed I began to shake again. It was quite a scene of them jumping up and down while yelling out "Holy shit!", "I know! I can't believe it myself!", "How the hell...?", "I am not shitting you it's true!" they jump some more and my panicking eyes watch out for my parents. Dana quiets her loud friend with a promise of a phone call for the whole story and that our parents do not know about it. I walked steadily to my parents not looking back at my sister and her friend all the while thinking to myself that my sister will be the death of me yet! What a heart attack that moment was! Thank God for warm fries and a strawberry milkshake....only an hour later once back home that food didn't stay down, nothing for weeks was staying down!

"Is that a new ring?" Mom asked from her cozy place on the couch with my 2 little brothers Daren and Dougie sitting on her lap, I shot up from the floor where I had been coloring with my brothers to leave the room once again not looking back as I heard Dana say "Oh, it's an antique I got while shopping yesterday." I had to race off for my life was in such stress but my sister was as cool as a cucumber.

I was crying and praying for my sister one Wednesday night at church in my own corner of space when Joanie who was Dana's best friend sat down next to me saying "I know why you are crying. I know." I burst out sobbing at the relief that I had found my new best friend. Dana had asked Joanie to talk to me, Dana felt that I was having a nervous break down and she thought Joanie could help me through this secret. I was both alarmed that Dana could see I wasn't handling this very well and afraid that if Dana keeps telling everyone eventually our parents will find out and then they will be completely enraged. Joanie and I talked for hours over hot chocolate at the coffee shop that night and I felt so much better having someone to talk with. For my sister I told no one but for me, I had my friend Joanie.

When I turned the corner of the gift shop I thought I was all alone but my father's figure stood frozen in the dark doorway and I screamed. He moved forward to calm me down by holding out his hand "Shhhhhhh! Sorry! I thought you heard to the door bell when I came in." Dad looked old, he looked so sad, I swallowed hard holding onto the counter by the register I was about to close the shop so the keys rattled in my hands. "Did you know your sister Dana is engaged?" He asked now folding his arms, I looked down at my feet begging myself not to puke for I hated throwing up more then anything, but lately I was surprised how easily it overtook me. I looked up to see tears filling my father's eyes, I still said nothing. I was not sure what I could say to help him. His anger flew out of him when he realized I knew. "What are you thinking!? That THIS is okay for her to do behind our backs? You are on HER side!?!" He flew his arms up in the air as he shouted and I back away from him thinking I can't say anything now he is so angry. I cleared my throat as tears rolled down my cheeks silently "I made a promise to her not to tell, I am not on anyone's sides. I have been trying to get her to tell you." I waited for what felt like forever, I really wanted my father to leave he was scaring me. But as I watched him cool down pacing my store like a trapped animal. His frowning face stopped to look me in the eye and normally I couldn't do it, look him right back, but on this night I did. I stared him down as he did me, he didn't know what to do and it was the first time he ever admitted that to me. "Should I throw her out? should I just have all her stuff out in the yard tonight? What should I do, How can I teach her this lie was wrong?" I found my voice as I said "DON'T Throw her out! Listen to her side of the story first." Dad rolled his eyes and snorted "She told everyone else out there her story, I am sure I can find someone else to fill me in." I began to chuckle thinking Dana didn't keep this all very secret herself, but caught myself as Dad rubbed his head "YOU should have told us, you have an obligation to your parents first above any promise to let us know if one of our kids is lying." I snapped back at my dad now realizing I was going to be late in getting the shop closed. "I keep my promises first. If you were approachable she would have share it with you too!" I was relieved I spoke honest for a second at my father. He kept watching me with such sadness yet he didn't get mad again and as he left the shop he said wearily "I am afraid your mother will never stop crying, I am afraid she could die from crying to much." I locked the shop door after him, and watched as Dad walked to his truck with his head down. I was thinking as I watched him that as my father, he didn't have a clue.

Dana was glaring at me when I walked into the cottage, her secret engagement was over. It was going to be a couple more years before she actually married that guy. But I saw her face and I threw my hands up quickly "I never said a word!" I exclaimed as she nodded then told me how our mom got a visit from her "concerned friends" and so the secret was out. Dana was still glaring as she explained it all to me and I gave her a half hug trying not to look so relieved. Dana then looked me up and down snapping "You are 18! What the hell are you doing STILL home!?" I looked at her bewildered withdrawing my hug and racing off to my own bedroom just as her music was screeching a warning sign, and as she threw a picture frame against the wall crashing down a row of books, I heard her yell out "When I am 18! I am gone!"   I knew she was right, I knew she would.  I also knew this had been a very important time for me to learn about all my own fears.
My Sister's secret was the first lesson in teaching me how not to be so afraid all the time.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

words of the song "Fireflies" by Owl City

You would not believe your eyes
If ten million fireflies
Lit up the world as I fell asleep

'Cause they'd fill the open air
And leave teardrops everywhere
You'd think me rude
But I would just stand and stare

I'd like to make myself believe
That planet Earth turns slowly
It's hard to say that I'd rather stay
Awake when I'm asleep
'Cause everything is never as it seems

'Cause I'd get a thousand hugs
From ten thousand lightning bugs
As they tried to teach me how to dance

A foxtrot above my head
A sock hop beneath my bed
A disco ball is just hanging by a thread

I'd like to make myself believe
That planet Earth turns slowly
It's hard to say that I'd rather stay
Awake when I'm asleep
'Cause everything is never as it seems
When I fall asleep

Leave my door open just a crack
(Please take me away from here)
'Cause I feel like such an insomniac
(Please take me away from here)
Why do I tire of counting sheep
(Please take me away from here)
When I'm far too tired to fall asleep

To ten million fireflies
I'm weird 'cause I hate goodbyes
I got misty eyes as they said farewell

But I'll know where several are
If my dreams get real bizarre
'Cause I saved a few and I keep them in a jar

I'd like to make myself believe
That planet Earth turns slowly
It's hard to say that I'd rather stay
Awake when I'm asleep
'Cause everything is never as it seems
When I fall asleep

I'd like to make myself believe
That planet earth turns slowly
It's hard to say that I'd rather stay
Awake when I'm asleep
Because my dreams are bursting at the seams

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Ships come Sailing In.....

I woke up with my dog at my feet in our big fluffy bed in Cannon Beach, Oregon. 

And I was truly thrilled to be there!!

On that Christmas eve morning at 6am my husband Tony 
and my dog Oscar jumped in our little gray car following after my father-in-law Kelly and his wife Teresa along with their 2 miniature schnauzers Newton and Edison. 
We caravan out of Idaho to the Oregon Coast for that Christmas weekend. It was wonderful to arrive in Cannon Beach with the smell of the salt water in the air. Oscar and I sprung from the car the very second we arrived in our excitement that by the time I found my husband again I had already covered the sandy hillside, saw the hay stack rock and ran for miles until my lungs burned. Oscar was clearly happy for he knew this vacation place very well and once off his leash he ran his frenzy of fun! I love it when Oscar runs in a figure 8 at such amazing speed and excitement. His tongue ends up hanging longer then usual and his spiky beard turns into a sandy mess but I don't care, for I love it all! and I still pick him up in my arms while still wearing my nice jacket and lacy scarf. To me a dog's love is by far more important then the quality of my clothes. Being at the ocean, laughing long and hard when my dog flies out after a group of seagulls looking very proud of himself makes me so happy, just getting to be a part of that moment with nature feels very perfect once again. Christmas eve found us all in the cabin with many goodies and wine, while dogs laid on laps and blankets. My Brother-in-law Dustin and his girl Stephanie had come up with such a great plan to spend that Christmas in Cannon Beach, so the 6 of us along with 3 dogs made that Christmas eve very magical! We also enjoyed Teresa's amazing cookies talking about all our new ideas for the new year in front of the warm glow of the fireplace. 
Waking up on Christmas day in such beautiful warm weather was really rare for being at the coast. As Dad poured us champagne while sitting on a sandy log, we took in the bright beautiful morning sun light talking about how wonderful of a holiday is really was! I loved that time just walking along the wet ground with the dogs and watching them play. It truly was the best Christmas day I could ever remember! There is such magic in watching the ocean waves move or just sitting in the sun light on that soft cold sand. My Husband Tony and I kept singing "The Ships come sailing on Christmas day in the morning!" from that famous movie  
"A Christmas Carol" while we sat together drinking champagne on that big log overlooking the bright open sky.   The soft ocean moved, with the warmth of the sun brighten the whole place, and most importantly there was no wind at all which made us all smile as our glasses clanged together with a big "Cheers!"   For that was a very merry merry Christmas day to never forget and to remember how you don't need very much to create a holiday full of love and meaning after all!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The magic of Christmas

I watched this cartoon late last night thinking that when I was a kid it was so magical and now at the age of 31, I STILL think it's just as magical if not more so for the simple understanding I have....Christmas doesn't last forever nor does our childhood so in capturing this moment again I feel like I can relate to these Chipmunks. For when I take a stroll downtown among the lights and fresh crisp winter's air I think Christmas brings out the kid in us all! May the happy bright Holiday Spirit take you into the New year with New memories and New Hope! HAPPY HOLIDAYS

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Lavender Gift For the holidays

 I Found this today online and thought it was a perfect gift idea for my blog! Have a Very Merry Christmas!

Lavender Sea Salt Scrub

  • 1/2 cup (4 oz) fine-grained sea salt
  • 2 tbsp (about 1 oz) coarse Kosher salt
  • 5 tbsp sunflower oil
  • about 15 drops lavender essential oil
  • 1/2 tsp dried lavender buds
  • Add ingredients to a small bowl.  Mix well with a rubber spatula, kneading several times to fully hydrate the salt. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes, so oil can fully saturate the grains; mix again and adjust amount of oil or salt if necessary (you want a thick slurry; the scrub should hold together if you pick up a dollop in your hand, but should not be so wet that oil is dripping off of a handful). Smell and adjust essential oils as necessary. Package in a clean jar. Top with bow. Make someone's Holiday gift!                      
  • Store At room temperature, indefinitely.

    Thursday, December 23, 2010

    Garden A Glow

    This year I was so happy to have gotten over to Boise's Winter Gardens A Glow, along with Tony's Dad and Teresa, also with Tony's brother Dustin and Stephanie, the botanical gardens were all lit up with Christmas lights. It is like walking through the game board "Candy land". It was on a very clear starry night with the lingering smell of wood burning in the crisp cold air. I loved warming myself up every so often by a fire pit as the 6 of us walked through the gardens on that beautiful chilly evening. My Husband Tony was able to sit and rest over looking the hillside, I was enjoying the many little lights wondering how long did it take to decorate this huge place! While people walked about or just stood around the fire, Christmas music played in the back ground. A tent was setup to serve cups of hot chocolate or hot cider, and another tent for roasting almonds. I love all of Tony's family, they are such close friends! I look forward to celebrating the holidays with them, walking around those gardens was just another one of our good times, They always make me feel so blessed and so loved. 
    Being with friends and family for the holidays is what makes such spirits BRIGHT!

    Wednesday, December 22, 2010

    The Truth Be Told

    I sat in the old diner at a booth with my father as the sun was coming up through the east side of the window where we sat facing each other. I was 15 years old that cold November morning as Dad had woke me up when it was still dark saying he was taking just me to breakfast. I was truly thrilled since eating out for breakfast was my favorite time of the day...maybe not THAT early. I was thinking to myself that I would tell my father all about my life and my thoughts. I was always working so hard at trying to have a friendship with him, but at that very moment in my life, in my mind everything froze. I sat there with a lump in my throat for my bite of bacon and eggs were stuck. I blinked back my sudden tears and my racing heart rang in my ears as I drank my water glass down. Dad sat holding a brown old fashioned mug of coffee in Caldwell's Sunrise Cafe that winter's morning.
    "Did you hear me, Debby?" He asked as I quickly nodded. I played back what had just happened like a scene in a movie. "So I brought you here this morning because I feel you are now old enough to know." Dad said as I happily cut at my eggs with my fork and neatly set a piece a bacon in the same bite. "That this Christmas Eve we will no longer be going up the hill to Grandma and Grandpa Graber's house." I had just swallowed in mid second and froze. My eyes were wide and alarmed for I never knew a Christmas eve any where else BUT at my Grandparents! While I had spent hours and hours helping Grandma Norma decorate her home, I watched Grandpa stock pile the fire wood around the stoves. I thought of my Uncle Dan, my Aunt Sonja their kids, BreAnne, Brandt and Kendra. My Aunt Kathy, my uncle Robert and their son Ryan. My Aunt Karen had a new husband named Fernando. A year prior as they were dating, she unexpectedly became pregnant with my cousin. This was a huge scandal for our conservative Christian family. My parents did not approve of this marriage due to its sinful beginnings. Fernando was an odd guy who talked only of money. He couldn't help himself. If you stood by him he would say, "These shoes I am wearing were a hundred dollars." I would reply surprised "Oh wow! just for shoes?!" He would grin proudly at me, and I would roll my eyes as I walked away. In fact when visiting his apartment when my Aunt was still pregnant with my cousin Joshua, he only ever spoke about money, mainly the cost of everything in his new home. I noticed it as being very odd, but at the time I just thought he didn't know us very well to talk about anything else maybe. "Grandma will be so sad!" I finally exclaimed once the frozen moment passed. Dad shrugged "Well she should have thought about that BEFORE she took in Fernando. He isn't welcomed in THIS family, when the bible verse says those who sin will cause yourself to sin you must disown them. Only by doing this, can God's will be known by them that have sinned. Debby did you know that in this whole year since Joshua was born your Aunt Karen, who you say you love so much..." He rolled his eyes at this making me want to cry out but instead I bit my tongue looking down at my now cold bacon and eggs, he kept on explaining to me as I sat there frozen. "SHE never asked for forgiveness for sinning like she did, for breaking all of our hearts with her own selfishness. They are no longer family, we will NOT even be in the same room with them!" Dad slammed his mug down on to the counter. He was rattled by the situation and his temper flared. I sank into the booth holding my breath. "I want to be there for Christmas eve!"  I stated forcefully as tears flooded over my eyes. I quickly held my breath, surprised at my bold response to my father.  I whispered back at him as he looked at me really long and hard. "You should make THEM not come! We were here first! We should get our Grandparents on Christmas Eve, they can come visit on Christmas day instead!" I cried and cried until my father said his most famous line of my whole childhood "DRY IT UP! Stop crying RIGHT NOW!" I was hiccuping with emotion and tears. I tried to regain my composure by focusing on the beautiful sun light now surrounding us as we sat in the old cafe. I could tell that Dad was uncomfortable that I didn't just go along with what he had said as he expected me to. My crying, that he always had a hard time handling, now made him even more mad. I had to force myself to be brave to "Dry it up". Now that breakfast time was ruined and not at all what I was hoping it would be, Dad tried to comfort me by saying, "You shouldn't be crying, you know that this is what God wants. Remember when you get sad that you are doing this for God and He will be glorified by our sacrifices." He stared at me hard waiting for my agreement, but I just cowered down in my seat nodding silently and not hungry anymore.

    That afternoon, Grandma Norma called down to ask me to help her with more cleaning. That morning's conversation with my dad still burned in my memory. My parents had already made it clear to her that we would not be attending, and I was nervous to face her, being put in the middle of a family dispute. I begrudgingly asked my mother if I could go to be polite to my grandma, but I really didn't want to go. My mom hesitated, but then said it was OK.  
    Grandma was in her kitchen when I arrived, and I smiled trying to make the best of the situation.  Her eyes were swollen and red. It was obvious she had been crying. I could see her hands were shaking as she held a wet cloth over her forehead and took it off only  to nod at me. She seemed to be lost in thought as she just stared down the hill towards my house thinking about her eldest daughter, my mother and the heartbreak my parents were causing on this holiday season. Seeing my Grandma's face that day STILL haunts me. Though I said as cheerfully as I could, "I will start vacuuming right away!" I was dusting the stair railing at the top of the stairs when my Grandpa appeared below. He looked at me with a sad expression. My grandpa was a  tall gray haired man with long arms and he walked by shuffling feet due to his old age. I could tell that even with his usual difficulties, something else was weighing on him as well. Indeed the whole house seemed under a black cloud even in this usually festive time of year. I noticed his familiar light blue v-neck sweater that I loved as a child for its soft wool. "What is it Grandpa?" I said concerned. His defeated look was a stark contrast to his usual strong silent type demeanor. I loved this man as my hero, his calm attitude always made me feel safe around him. If I saw him laughing or smiling I felt like all my fears went away and everything in the world was going to be okay. But at this very moment I thought he was going to cry standing there looking at me, "What is wrong?" I asked again, standing up quickly going down the stairs to him. Sometimes he looked so old, so disabled and faint. I put one hand against his long back he handed me in silence, a coin. It was heavy as it touched my palm, I looked down at it.  It was a 1898 silver dollar. "It was the year my mother was born and I want you to have it.  It's not a million dollars, just one silver dollar. A Lady Liberty," he explained and I nodded while wiping my tears. He began to walk away but stopped to look at me thoughtfully for another moment then said words I never forgot "That's your Christmas gift, Debby don't ever forget .....and always be good." He smiled as I announced "I am putting this somewhere safe!" Grandma appeared from the kitchen and looked at us both. She came to me and hugged me. Through her tears from crying hard and long, she said "Your parents can't keep all you kids from Christmas eve! That is just NOT right! It's NOT Christian!" I was alarmed by this out burst from her because this was the first time she had confided in me regarding a fight with my mom.I just held her and as we embraced, I saw Grandpa as he was leaving quickly out the front door and he was crying too.  Now holding that same silver dollar tonight while I type this, I am saying to the spirit of my Grandpa "I don't forget."

    Tuesday, December 21, 2010

    Let HER be light!

     (I wrote this poem in my mind while walking this early morning in the park just as the light arrived)

    God shines down through the naked trees
    Feeling crisp and clean
    The snow crunches and slides
    While I walk by her side

    The morning is early
    The park is still sleeping

    God shines on with the warmth of the sun
    I find all of this moment quite fun

    Such love, such joy, such friendship from above
     Stopping to take in the beautiful doves  Seeing the world come alive makes everything alright
    Knowing that nature is always near, as I smile happily at the passing deer 
     God can hear my thoughts and know my mind
     but I still look up from behind to see what I can in the bright sky 
    I am so glad to live my life

     I can not ask for such a perfect moment in time
    For a more peaceful chime
     I sit for a second to look out over the pond
     my day has only just begun
    I feel so blessed in that cold fine air 
    Taking in God's artful flair

    With her love and her light the earth is truly bright
    With her compassion and her care the world is always there
    For God doesn't think she will ever let go of this link
    to show us how to give, how to protect and how to live

    God shines down through the naked hearts of us all
     Feeling free and without any strings
     She takes my hand
      For I understand 
    We human beings need hope for this land
    We need love by our sides, helping us take a stand

    Everything beautiful moves with her
    Everything magical grooves around her
     Everything lives by the light of her gift

    God shines on with the warmth of the sun

    Monday, December 20, 2010

    A Christmas Gift

    I was walking along side my father in a store called King's at age 12 in Caldwell Idaho about an half hour drive to our home on the orchard farm. Dad was really excited as turned to me "SEE this is really GREAT!" Now my father was usually a very cynical man. He didn't get very excited about just anything only once a year around Christmas time would he let his kid-self pop out for the Christmas events. When I was younger he would take me out for ice cream while we bought Mom a gift. I always liked getting my mom a cute pj set or a house coat. My Dad loved Christmas in a special way that really stood out to me growing up. As we would walked through K-mart late at night when I was like 8 or 9 years old, Dad would declare that Mom should have everything on her list. It was always very important to him if we didn't get what we wanted on our list each holiday year. By the time I was 12 years old I felt like I should start buying my own gifts without that one outing with my father. It was becoming more and more awkward around my father the older I grew and the less I felt safe in his judgmental ways or his short temper. Soon my sister Dana and I just stopped going out with him for that one Christmas gift to our mom. Now I always thought it was very odd as I was growing up that my mom wrote out her own list of the things she wanted for Christmas and my dad never deviated from that list. Standing next to my father inside that old Kings shop looking up at the gift he had in his hands, the one he kept going on and on about "SEE this is really GREAT!" He said again and I slowly nodded. "Tell me now what do you really think about it?" He asked me as we walked together so I stammered "Wow! That is really cool! Dana will love it!" While thinking to myself "I would love it too!" Dad grinned big and bought it without any hesitation. The triangle shape radio box had an alarm clock and a cassette tape player all in one. Over our morning breakfast at a greasy spoon cafe Dad went on and on about it, how we could listen to our tapes and he thought Dana needed an alarm clock in getting up to work on the farm. Then he described the radio part of it and I thought I was going to die for it sounded just like all 3 things from my own Christmas list all in one. but I never said anything about myself just carried Dana's gift off to wrap. Dad hated knowing what we all were getting each other for Christmas, he would make us stop talking when he was around. Then he would get big funny shape boxes to wrap a gift so it would be hard to know what it was at first glance. When it came time to open gifts I was happy for my sister Dana for what Dad was getting her was really awesome, something I knew we could all share. But I opened my gift from Dad first only to find the very same triangle radio! I was stunned and Dad laughed for a long time at the look on my face. Dana said "Oh isn't that just perfect for you Deb!" as she opened her gift to realize why I sat there so stunned. We both hugged our father at the same time and even though we shared a bedroom on each of our dressers sat a red lit digital clock, tape player and radio all in one from our father who loved to play Santa Claus. 10 years later when it finally stopped working all together I couldn't help but chuckle at how proud my father was to have fooled both of his girls into thinking that the gift was for the other sibling. After Dana and I had opened our gifts Dad shook his head saying "I am so amazed that neither of you said that YOU wanted it for yourself, even though this is the second year you both wrote down an alarm clock, a radio and a tape player. I was really amazed at how thoughtful you both were to each other." I remembered wondering why he was so amazed. It was such a funny moment when I opened my gift thinking for a split second "Uh-oh I got Dana's gift by mistake." Only to soon be battling over who gets to play the radio first and then the volume lever was key to winning the battle of wills. When I remember my childhood the good memories always come from Christmas time when both my mom and dad sprung to life in wrapping up gifts even things like tooth paste and gum, or baking 4 different flavors of fudge. My Dad would setup the tree and us kids would sing songs while hanging the orderments. Mom would crack the peanut brittle and the whole world felt so happy! 

    When I was very very little I slipped under my Dad's Parents Christmas tree to help grab a gift stuck in the back of the tree, my Papa Rudy had been handing out gifts to everyone as he sent me under the branches to give him this gift but it was at that same moment when my cousin Trina was under there with me saying "Debby! Look up!" She smiled so big and crawled back out with another gift. I laid there on my back enchanted,looking up inside the Christmas tree, it was one of those rare moments when my life stood still and my eyes took it all in, every twinkle, every sparkle and all the magic of Christmas! I could hear my name being called but I wasn't coming out if I could help it, I just kept starring up inside that tree wanting to remember it forever. Trina's hand reach out for mine as she had come back to join me "Isn't it a beautiful world?" She asked looking straight up with me as I just nodded while still holding her hand.

    Sunday, December 19, 2010

    Little Drummer Boy

    I sat humming along to my favorite holiday song for that year, "Little Drummer Boy".  I was 16 years old when my dad walked by. "You do realize there was never a drummer boy at the birth of Christ?" He rolled his eyes as I replied back at him "It's a beautiful song anyway." Dad stopped with a stern look "It's a lie, I hate that song." I frowned up at him and said "It's my favorite song this year!"  He shook his head "You don't care that this drummer boy says he saw baby Jesus when really the bible doesn't have him in there? It's a fake ridiculous song!" I watched my father very closely realizing I had shared to much of myself with him for now he thought I was stupid again. "Yeah I guess you are right." I say calmly looking back down at my book as I sat on the floor. 

    This was the year that at 16 years old I had decided to wrap 32 small gifts for every friend at church. This was a big project, usually I just got my 3 beloved girl friends a gift. But I decided to include also their siblings and all my additional friends. I had been saving my money for boxes of candies and wallet size picture frames. Along with little porcelain figurines, and small jewelry boxes. I wrapped everything in white paper with a painted green tree pattern on it. My big heavy bag felt just like I was Santa Claus as I trucked it off to church that cold winter Sunday morning. As my mom saw my bag, she was surprised for I had kept this a secret over in the blue cottage where my desk was setup among storage boxes. I had used all my own money for everything even down to the scotch tape, I was very proud of this giving idea...... Now I didn't realize I would be teased and made fun of for this action, but at the time of getting ready I was thrilled! I did pull it off having spent every last penny I had. The look my mom gave me said "That is Silly." Yet I trucked off happily at church walking up to my 3 beloved girl friends, they each got the big gifts first. I had spent time thinking about how to show my love for them in this way. Then the rest of the gifts would be an all afternoon job handing them out in more or less a private way. Since it was on an afternoon of staying at church all day for the  Christmas party and then the long awaited evening service with our big Christmas play. The acting practice started in the first weeks of October so this play was everything us kids talked about. Since my only social outlet was at church getting there an hour and half earlier before the evening service for at least 8 weeks, was so much fun to me! I often stole away to sit outside of the room that my beloved friend Jen was practicing her violin. Her music played while I would let myself cry, or spent time deep in prayer over whatever I was struggling with at home. She some times found me there with a surprised smile and we would walk back to the group of people in a half hug or I would move to a dark corner in a class room where I could listen to the play practice behind the stage while chuckling to myself at my friends acting or joking around. When I was 16 I decided everyone played a big part in my life just by being my friend, so my gifts grew with my love and gratefulness. The girls that made fun of me for being "Santa" that year where not my best closest friends, yet I bravely gave them a small gift also. Their words stayed with me a long time when they said "If you were just a bit more chubby you would look just like Santa!" then they laughed and I stopped to glance at myself in the restroom mirror "Am I really so fat?" I wondered. I kept smiling while they continued "You must not have a life, if you have time to wrap this many gifts." I stood there awkwardly trying to chuckle, I always knew there was a reason these girls were not my true friends, but it still hurt having things said to me like this. I thought about what those girls said to me late into that night, I remembered the last thing they said as they were looking me up and down while rolling their eyes at the same time. "You should know buying gifts at the dollar store is so tacky. For they are poorly made and so white trash." They laughed again, I stood there surprised nodding back. I thought about it more later, for I didn't give them a gift to have them like me nor did I do it to show off. But maybe tonight when my mom made those commonly served oreo milkshakes I should say no.
    Christmas time was always a happy time with my parents, even my father got into the excitement of opening gifts and listening to holiday music. Dad always had one gift wrapped from Santa Claus for someone, it was a gift that no one knew what it was. No one but Dad and whoever he had wrap the gift knew. I liked looking every year for that one Santa gift. One year  it was addressed to Dad from Santa and it was a Hickory Farms set of yummy goodies. Dad was the only one who got away with using Santa's name for gifts, Mom was not only against Santa but any and all Santa decor was thrown out of the house. As little kids we were told that Santa takes away from the birth of Jesus and Santa was really meant to be Satan. For Satan was trying to keep us from worshiping Jesus by posing as a soft chubby happy old man named Santa. Since they shared the same letters in their name it was obvious to our mother what it all REALLY meant. Yet Dad never gave up on Santa the giving one of Christmas named ol' Saint Nick. That Christmas of my 16th year Dad gave me the most amazing gift of my whole life, tears filled my eyes as it sat opened on my lap with my 2 year old messy blond hair brother Daren pulling the rest of the wrapping paper. "It's AMAZING." I whispered as Dad smiled back and nodded, if I really let myself cry he would have freaked out while moving away from me. But instead I nodded smiling and wiping my eyes quickly. The 2000 automatic type writer sat heavily on my lap as my hands were shaking as I held it. I keep telling everyone I wanted to be a writer, but almost every time I was told there wasn't any money or future in that.  Now since my father actually bought me a type writer, I felt it meant I could really write in a professional form. Dad gave good gifts that year, for  each of his older kids had a really special thing, He explained to us "These are a Thank you for working so hard this year at harvest time." He stood with his arms folded and his back against the hallway wall. The holiday music played the whole time from the radio when again the "Little Drummer Boy" came on Dad quickly changed the station as I picked up my gifts heading to the storage room for my desk in that private corner across the yard to the little blue cottage. I smiled singing to myself  "Come they told me pa romp apom pom....Me and my type writer."

    Thursday, December 16, 2010

    The Christmas Queen

    Every year now when Christmas Eve comes along I take a moment to remember my little sweet 5 foot Grandma Norma. For she was my Christmas Queen! I have never met anyone who can come close to the kind of decorating my Grandma did at Christmas. Thinking back on those Christmas eves when Grandma had her four children come home for the holiday, they brought their spouses and kids to a mountain side of gifts. My Grandma would come alive with such happiness, with such glory and warmth that as even a very small child I remember it so well. Now my mom with her 2 sisters, and 1 sister-in-law would bring trays of food, cookies and homemade candies. My Grandpa would add fire wood to the stoves, the conversations would be moving around the house as us kids jumped around the big Christmas tree. With 9 adults and 6 kids all getting their own gift from each family the hours of just unwrapping alone took us sometimes into midnight.  Since my sister and I are little over a year apart whatever she got I knew mine was the same thing in a different color. We went around the circle from youngest to oldest in opening one gift for everyone to watch. I can remember my baby cousin Kendra trying to figure out why was everyone starring at her as her mom helped to get her gift unwrapped. Then by the time Grandpa Ansil was unwrapping his gift slowly and shakily,  I would find myself sneaking out of the living room to eat another plate of snacks. I was 12 years old when I realized this system of Christmas Eve wasn't anything like the Baby Jesus story, I think that my Grandma loved the opening gifts part of Christmas Eve because everyone stayed longer at the house so she would give 4 or 6 gifts per each family member. Once the gifts were open the families soon left, maybe because it was so late. Then gift opening started earlier and earlier each year due to the complaining of how long a process it all was. When Uncle Robert joined the family he said it was amazing to open these gifts having everything match, like the tie from Aunt Sonja matched the shirt from Aunt Karen and my Mom's gift to him was a matching pair of pants. My Father burst out laughing at this family newbie explaining "It's all planned, they may act surprise but they all went shopping together so they just split up the outfit among themselves. It took me a couple of years to realize what are the odds that everything is the same setup?" I looked around the room thinking that was really clever of the ladies. My Grandma Norma would start right after Christmas buying gifts for the next year. This would be problematic come 12 months later and she can't find that first group of gifts, "You can't go down into the deep basement Kids, I am storing Christmas gifts there." I would stop on the cement steps replying "But it's just July?" She shakes her head smiling "I shop all year long." When I got older she asked me one afternoon while I was cleaning to help her find 3 gifts she was missing, she remembered buying them back in February now that it's November she can't find them. I loved my Grandma Norma for all the colorful things she did, now she didn't like kids at all and she admitted it to me once after Aunt Karen's first son had been screaming his head off, I chuckled when she walked by me saying "He needs to grow up and stop screaming." When kids did reach a certain age of communicating better then my Grandma would visually relax. When I was a kid she gave me a hard piece of black licorice that my father said I didn't have to eat, I realized she was trying but it didn't click with her what an actual kid likes. She also didn't have any patience when I came along as her first grandchild, she would swat me on the butt if I didn't do exactly what I was told. She even came into the living room once while I was playing as a small child, she just started picking up all my toy wooden blocks as she said "Clean this mess up." but I kept sitting there on that dark brown shaggy carpet watching her put everything away, I was still playing so I just got out the blocks I needed after that. When I turned 13 years old it was as if my Grandma thought to herself "Finally I can spend some time with her now." Now Grandpa always liked me when I was even still in diapers or just running around in his yard as a squealing kid. He gave me piggy back rides that felt like hundreds of feet from the ground. He had that traditional hair style of the 1950s, he actually looked similar to Donald Draper from the hit TV show "Madmen".  Grandma Norma was the first family member of mine who was actually nice to my future husband Tony. I think of how important she was to my own life all the time, She told me once that I had a good attitude for how I was handling the arrivals of new baby brothers. I had started cleaning her home once a month or whenever she was about to have company when I was fourteen, this was a time where our friendship grew and our conversations weren't interrupted. Getting ready for Christmas was a 2 month every week project, one year my Grandma offered her house up for display as part of the touring Christmas homes for a Charity through her church. Grandma went to church every Sunday by herself and decorated all the flower arrangements for the place. That is why one huge basement bedroom was dedicated to silk flowers, I will always dislike silk/fake flowers for the simple reason cleaning them is such a pain in the neck! Grandpa didn't like church or maybe he was so painfully shy. He did his own bible devotions in the bay window of his home overlooking his orchard farms. Grandma said it had been such hard work showing her home off to the people touring it, yet it was the cleanest it had ever been!  She did not just let people in to her home at random. In fact when I was 15 years old walking on the farm I took one my girlfriends over to pop in on Grandma, but she met us at the door saying her home was way to cluttered to have any company. I realized I should have called her first, but if it had been just me she wouldn't have blinked an eye. Grandma Norma never, never ever threw anything out! Oh Lordy! if she could help it and it wasn't rotten she kept it. (THIS is where my phobia started about trash and stuff crowding me out of my own place.) I would try and clean Grandma's house only to battle with her over if she should keep a half packet of that little blue bag of equal or not. Her trash was always packed tightly and very heavy to carry "I need to get this out of the house it's sinks!" I would exclaim but Grandma would run around "Oh wait here's a used Kleenex, well...I don't see any more trash I guess...but there is still room in that bag!" I grumbled back "Not if you want me to throw out my back, this is so heavy!" There was also a gross plastic bag she kept in the sink to catch peach pits and apple cores. That was always full of nats in the summer heat and smelled like tuna. In fact Tuna was Grandma number one choice of lunch, but it made her kitchen always smell like tuna long after the can was even washed out. I didn't like cleaning her bathrooms either because she came from the thought "If it's yellow let it mellow, if it's brown flush it down." So if I flushed the toilet and she heard it she would come asking why. I always lied saying I had just went #2 then she would shrug and go back to decorating her Christmas tree. When I got through just the dusting alone in that big house full of nick nacks (those are another thing I stay away from in my own adult life) it would take me a hour and half, sometimes 2. I was paid $1.50 an hour usually making $6 in a whole afternoon and my father would laugh at how the child labor laws would catch up to Grandma one day. I loved all of the Christmas decorating in Grandma's house, but the upstairs bathroom had removable carpets through out the seasons, pink for spring and gray for fall but red for Christmas and that horrid red carpet was my job to vacuum it by hand with the hose down on my hands and knees, it was such fine fabric the little pieces of lint showing up visually every time. Since that time in my life I have vowed ( So help me God) never to have carpet in my bathroom. Now I mean it when I say Grandma decorated every inch of her home for Christmas! Up on the second floor was 3 bedrooms and a bathroom (The bathroom with that red evil carpet in it) then down the stairs to the kitchen with one living room to the left  and one family room to the right. In the family room was also the dinning table, setup like a model in a magazine picture with napkin rings laid out in such Christmas style, (Now I personally think napkin rings are the most useless thing ever invented) From the dinning room table you could go outside to the patio over looking the hill side or in the opposite direction into the laundry room with side bathroom that was decorated in peach colors. This house had a basement and a deep basement, usually the deep basement was so full of stuff and so dark I never wanted to go down there because of the mice. In her basement was a second kitchen full of food, can goods and boxes of snacks, It always smelled like apple sauce in there! They also had a TV room with a soft pink striped rug on the cold cement floor next to that kitchen. The blue bathroom down there was the only one with a stand up shower that was later used as the cat litter box place. Grandma's book shelves and office was in the other half of the basement over looking the huge TV and fireplace. Grandpa always made a fire down there for the dogs on snowy Christmas eve nights. The coolest thing about the whole house was the intercom from floor to floor. I use to be down in silk flower room of the deep basement over hearing my Mom and Grandma argue through that intercom..... Grandpa would use the intercom by putting his radio up to one and letting the music fill the whole house.
    Grandma's storage boxes for Christmas were endless, as we carried them up all those stairs. In the teddy bear room every stuffed animal of every shape and size had it's own Christmas outfit, so that project alone took hours! "Here, this is for the fisherman teddy, this is a basket of peppermints he holds instead of the fishing pole." Grandma would explain to me and every year she would also say "Maybe you could do this yourself while I put up the snow village." I would nodded completely confused by the whole Christmas wardrobe for this teddy bear room. She soon just took over telling me what bear wears what to save time, but it was such a job! This was just one example of the crazy shop-a-holic my Grandma was. Grandpa built wide white shelving to go all around that bedroom to displayed all the teddy bears up high, Grandma had a pincher rod to grab them down and dust them. On the guest bed laid teddy bear pillows and more bigger sized teddies, in the corner of the room Grandma setup a Christmas tree with only teddy bear orderments. When every teddy bear big and small was wearing Christmas clothes for the display of the whole teddy bear room, you could clearly see that Christmas had swallowed the room up. The next room was her own bedroom that had a lighted small Christmas tree in there as well as a small white tree with pink lights and pink orderments setup in Grandpa's changing room, that room was much smaller but it was where he shaved and stored his sweaters (those Mr. Rodgers sweaters I called them) On the wall by the stairs was hanging a half tree with gold lights just before you entered the red carpeted bedroom with another small tree of red light and all the poinsettia decorations were setup in there. The main tuna smelling kitchen had musical bells playing and blinking. The snow village was an amazing sight to behold above the family room fireplace with cotton laid out for snow and in every corner of my Grandma Norma's home was something Christmas, making it a magical place once all the hard work of cleaning it was done. I loved her gum drop tree and the big tall Christmas tree in the living room flooding out with gifts! In the basement was a small tree of only toy orderment along with rainbow lights. Even the dishes in her kitchen got traded out for holiday ware. Red pillows for the "davenport" as she would call it and I would wonder why not just say "couch"? Every year over all her years my Grandma had added to her Christmas decor and display finally ending at my last count on the Christmas eve when I was 14, of 7 small Christmas trees and one big tall full tree in the room where we opened gifts. That tree stayed traditional with white or blue lights along with breakable orderments in the matching colors. One year my Aunt Karen got to decorate the big family tree with all things mickey mouse and that was a BIG to do for my Grandma to let go of the control of that tree. It only happened once, but it was really fun! The last Christmas eve my Grandma Norma was alive, she said she worried that my boyfriend Tony wouldn't get any gifts to open while we all would be spending hours unwrapping. "He doesn't want to come if anyone gets him a gift, he would like to just visit and not stress over everyone watching him. So don't worry about it...honestly he will be fine." I had explained this over and over again. But for some reason when the group all got together on that last Christmas eve, Tony was left with seven extra gifts then everyone took both of us by surprise and I still love that story for it shows the crazy gift giving mentality of the holiday traditions I came from. I wish I could go back and tell everyone that saying "I love you" is actually better then giving a gift. Though I have now come to realize some people just can't say it, so maybe the gift could help out after all? I am glad it was such a magical place being around my Grandma Norma, the Christmas Queen! I loved seeing her home display like a candy land place! Even that traditional "gift orgy" was there to teach me at such a young age how to wake up from this materialistic world, Tony remembers that time as something he wouldn't of believed unless he saw it for himself, when I said we would be opening gifts for 6 hours straight he laughed kindheartedly but by the end he said "You have GOT to be Kidding me! Imagine if one of every gift was donated to the poor? you could shorten this time frame down by a couple of hours!" I remember laughing with tears thinking that in my new life Christmas was going to change. Yet Grandma with her Christmas house coat and matching slippers wearing her Santa hat while serving out peppermint ice cream still lingers in my mind as clear as it was just yesterday, I see her smile back at me saying "I think I will leave the tree up until its closer to Valentines day, Can you still come help in taking it down?" 
    I nod back at her just laughing, for there was no one in my life as full of the Christmas spirit quite like my Grandma Norma!

    Monday, December 13, 2010

    For a picture of Food

    For the Love of Food

    It was a snowy morning as I drove at 3am down the empty road freshly dusted with new soft white snowfall. At 3am no one is really out driving, or challenging you to suddenly stop so I drove relaxed and calm. There was a time almost 10 years ago actually when driving in snow locked me up inside and I couldn't breath. Now as I had the open snowy road to myself I drank my freshly brewed coffee in one hand listening to NPR on the radio. At home my husband still stayed sleeping soundly, cozily deep in our bedding, our condo smelled only of coffee as my machine had a self timer set for a quarter to three so I really did wake up to a fresh cup. I would dress in the dark with my cloths already laid out for I found this to be helpful when my eyes were still half shut. Once I showed up to work with my shirt on backwards, everyone laughed and share what they notice about their own cloths too. No one thought being at work by 3:30 in the AM was normal. "It's so wrong to get up for the day in the moon light...So wrong!" said my supervisor. My job in the call center for Direct TV was one of the craziest hours I had ever worked before. When making it through the snow or the rain or the pure cold I knew it was going to be a BAD day if by the time my headset dinged in my ears and coffee still remained in my tumbler. Now if every drop was gone I felt more awake as the caffeine warmed my cold pouting protesting body then I knew by chance or pure luck the calls I got were going to be good. Funny, how we noticed things like that in our own little worlds. When I was in training the classroom was full of fun people. I soon had friends I would high five when walking by or catch up on their crazy weekend stories. My nickname was "Hippie"  though at the time I had protested saying loudly 
    "I am not a true hippie, for I shave everyday!" then the whole classroom burst out laughing, so naturally my nickname stuck. Then our classroom graduated and moved on, as so did my new friends along with such crazy schedules, so I lost that connection in my new job as I was working the phones at 4am till Noon for the first 6 months. This call center job ended up being the loneliest job of my 26 years, so naturally I found my new passion for food. My new skill was adding to the list of things I needed to eat, to cook and to try. If I needed a happy thought after a bad call or rude customer then I would describe the very layers of the dessert called "Melissa" sold downtown Boise at the Le Cafe de Parie. Or I would think of all the ways to create a breakfast burrito. When my 10 minuet brake happened my team that joined me on the phones at the same time every morning, would still be on a call or have a different time for their brake, This was the sad part of my job not having a co-worker to chat with over lunch or walk laps outside around the building. Food became that comforting replacement for the lack of socializing I missed. In my previous coffee shop jobs I always had stories and laughter filling up my work load making the time not feel so much like a dreaded job. I found that visiting with people through my headset was the only way to feel connected, I was giving away all the free stuff I could find to keep the person happy on the other line. My supervisor was a newly divorced mother who warned me that I was now the number one person in the whole company that gave away the most credit. I smiled back at her "Wow! out of the hundreds of people who work here?" I was amazed, but she shook her head while chuckling at me like she always did. "It's a BAD thing to give away so much free programing and credit! Debby Girl, you have been Red flagged and now you need to change how you deal with conflict." I realized at that very moment I hated my job. For I was just one in a ant hill climbing the stairs of the TV world while I kept trying to tell my customers to go outside and enjoy their life away from the TV. Who needs to scream into a phone over TV problems? As I often sat facing the morning sunrise with my window blinds pulled way up the glare of the sun light would make me feel like there was something more to life then pushing HBO on to callers for an extra $10 a month, ($15 by the time I just walked away from that job)

    "Ma'am?" a caller from the New York area said to me as I typed into her account all we had done that day for her TV. "Yes?" I replied back waiting she said again "Ma'am?" again I replied "Yes?" Now when 2 people are asking of each other to continue speaking at the same time there is this awkward pause. I suddenly realized she was asking me what was next to be said. I was thinking she wanted to speak by saying "Ma'am" in that way on the phone. How funny just the little ways in how we talk mean different or the same things. Instead of a remote control, I would hear older people call it the Clicker, the Wand and the Device. One morning I almost lost it at one very bitchy woman who was so late on her payments had her system shut off. She spat through my headset so loud I had to pull it back from my ears. "Turn my TV back on! Ya have no right cutting me off! I pay and pay for this programing !" I reply turning down my volume on my phone "Your last payment was 3 months ago." She shouts back  "You are ruining my life! I have missed my reruns of 90210! and to top it all off my kids are miserable without their own shows! How can you treat children like this?" I sighed thinking for the 5th time that day how I really hated my job. "If you want to make a payment right now I can turn it back on." I suggested then She sighed explaining "You don't know how hard yesterday was for me with my crazy kids and NO god damn TV! I had to stay at the park ALL day for those kids to calm down enough to go home!" I flipped my chair forwards choking back my response in shock. My mind raced on as to why am I working in a place that thinks playing all day at a park with no TV working at home is a hardship?! For all those people I talked to day in and day out I realized I had less and less in common with their complaints. Perhaps my escape was reading food magazines and such articles. I couldn't get enough radio time of  "The splendid Table" for I knew it would never be said of me that I wasted my time at the park, or that walking across a huge lobby was way to far! With the choice in the quality of food and the joy it brings in sharing it with others, my life was not going to be able to keep this crazy call center job after all.
    "The snow sure is beautiful this morning!" I exclaimed as I sat down at my usual desk, having to adjust the chair once again for my short legs. My co-worker Eric was a new father and the best Bullshitter I had ever met, he and I were always on time every morning to chat a few minuets before the calls came in. "Morning Shively." Eric only ever called me by my last name, "Snow sucks ass." He replied with a grin ready to hear me go off on the magic of snow, the new beautiful world it creates."Snow just screams comfort foods!" I laughed back at him and began to list what kinds foods you should eat in the snowy weather. "....So with that steaming warm tomato sauce that has a smokey flavor laying over soft creamy noodles with a hint of fresh basil, you can dip the olive oil baguette in to eat up the last few smudges of the plate. OR you can marinate chicken breast with lemon juice and paprika...I once accidentally put way to much garlic in it but just saute up fresh spinach and cabbage over buttery rice, and yummmy." When I talked food most everyone would say I was making them hungry. Eric loved all my food topics,  My supervisor challenged me "I dare you not to talk about food for the whole day!" Eric was shaking his head at me, "There is no way Shively, you couldn't do it! By 9am when that bacon smell rolls on up here you will have listed at least five ways to eat bacon!" I stopped for moment thinking about what he just said "Oh that reminds me I have just tried bacon rolled dates and they were amazing!" Then my work team all burst out laughing. My reputation of sharing food ideas was inspired by the breakfast menu...The pictures in my mind were endless,  morning really was the most exciting part of the day to eat! As those days of headsets and adjustable chairs brought with it all the TV issues and drama, I found my love for food keeping me happy, keeping me healthy and keeping me balanced while I discovered a better world out there full of so many things to eat!

    Sunday, December 12, 2010

    Our Christmas Kiss

    It was the Sunday before Christmas in the year 1999, when I skipped the evening service at church to stay snuggled up next to Tony on the couch of the small town's coffee shop. It was snowing outside as we had our 3rd cup of peppermint mocha. We had been there all afternoon just laughing together, talking over our lives, over our faith and now it was early in the evening when I straddle him and boldly kissed him for the very first time ever. I always knew my first kiss was going to be just like the Walt Disney movie "Beauty and the Beast" When Belle kisses the Prince as a spark flies up into the sky for a fire work show so amazing that only true love can create! Tony was surprised and yet amazed that I had never kissed before. I would think 20 years is a good amount of time to think of how one would actually kiss someone like I did. Since the coffee shop was empty, since the fireplace was crackling and the Christmas song "I'll be home for Christmas." played above us as everything seemed so romantic, so perfect for that one first kiss to happened. All the time leading up to our first kiss was about 6 months of dating, family dinners and big family discussions. I had been under pressure to make sure if I was going to claim Tony as my boyfriend that he could pass all the rules, all the Christian standards from my parents. In these days sitting at the coffee shop was were I regain myself confidence and felt the risks of standing up for myself possible. Kissing Tony was once again a bold move for my part, it came from a sense of confidence inside me that I had always kept guarded. So as the fireworks sprung out all around us as time seemed to stand still. I felt so happy as I whispered "Merry Christmas my Love." He began to chuckle as I slid to his side as we cuddled sipping the last of our coffee drinks. Perhaps that is why Christmas seems like such a romantic time of the year to me, I had been lectured on how wrong Tony was for me from my parents, how as the fall season sprung up I invited him every where I went. Then church families and friends kept pointing out his faults, his lack of faith and his different life style from my own. I was thrilled to learn about how he was raised, how he was such good friends with his parents. I wanted everyone to see him like I did, this sweet thoughtful young man whose humor and calm attitude made me stop for a breath of fresh air.

    It was the end of August when I asked Tony if I could meet his mom, He threw his head back with a laugh. "Maybe someday if you are ready, she is by far more confident then most women you know." I wasn't sure what he meant, I was worrying his mom didn't like me for all the time I was taking him away from his own family dinners. At his parents big BBQ end of summer party I quickly found my friend Benny to come along with me so my parents wouldn't be alarmed I was out late. Now Tony and Benny had gone to the same high school, knowing the same people, sharing the same friends. I ate up all their high school talk and took in the excitement of this kind of life I never knew. Tony's dad, Kelly was just as friendly and outgoing as he was on the phone. He kept serving drinks, laughing and telling me he has been really happy to finally meet me in person. I saw Tony's mom, JoAnne looking me up and down with a glass of wine to her lips, I smiled big right back at her as she leaned into her son whispering through the crowd. Tony waved me over to his side with one arm around me, his mom shook my hand. I could see I was going to have to work a bit harder at getting her to like me. The whole church thing was against me for starters, but by the end of the night I really liked her. I was in awe at her self confidence, her bold expressions and her great story telling. She danced her way around the kitchen with her friends while the karaoke machine was going. I loved the singing, the cheering and all the new friends I had just made. Tony's Aunt Janet would tell me funny stories of Tony as a kid, then wave me up to sing with all the other women the song "What a woman wants." Every time I stood singing in front of everyone Tony was the one whose eyes never left mine, he cheered me on and we spent the whole night laughing. I knew every song that played, Tony was amazed "For being so sheltered, how do you know all these songs?" He asked me and I giggled "I DO have a RADIO!" When Tony sang a solo of Ricky Martins "Live in the Vida Loca" I stood cheering and clapping for him and he hugged me when he returned to sit down. I enjoyed getting to see Tony's parents and his life at home which soon became my own second home. When I surprised Tony by attending his church with my bible resting against my chest, I found the Catholic church to be so beautiful and so confusing the up and down reciting ceremony. It was an important moment for me to realize how awkward Tony must have felt in my church, how confusing also being with my crazy family. When Tony took me to the Hindu temple, and the Jewish Synagogue I felt the world of religion open up before me as a rainbow of possibilities. God isn't in a box, nor in a book but this all came to me when I opened Tony's bible one late night. "Wait a minuet....What is the Apocrypha? Why does your bible have extra books in it?!" I was bewildered and demanded why I didn't know this, Tony just smiled and said "There are many more books out there that use to be in the first bible, my bible has the Catholic standard before Martin Luther took the apocrypha out. Hence the bible you have hahaha." He chuckled as I flew off the couch explaining "That is not fair! The bible should not be manipulated or altered!" My own personal journey had began in finding the truth about the creation of the bible, especially the King James Version.  If this one single book called the BIBLE made up all the rules for my life, all the standards for everything I do and say then By God it should be spotless, true and able to stand alone. YET here before me my boyfriends bible showed another story a sudden awaking that I had been made a fool flooded me. I took those rose colored glasses off to ask who is God really to take us away from true love and peace of mind? Why divide a family in stress and screaming situations over what God says when really anyone could write a book in the bible putting forth a political agenda or guilt managed crowds? How could I had assumed for my 20 years that all I ever prayed, ever preached at or ever thought came from just one book? One simple book, a man made mistakenly put together like a lego set not only missing pieces but not honest to begin with....The Bible isn't God,  when did it replace that personal relationship with God? Could the bible itself be the anti-Christ? I had to ask these questions now for my life, my heart was awaken to the spiritual world that can't be captured in the bible. All of this had lead up to the moment I realized I should kiss Tony for the very first time. So with my very first kiss I walk out into the new world of Love, and  it was the most beautiful place I had ever seen!