It has been a lovely Christmas day. A recap from Christmas Eve first...
Yesterday, C helped me a lot (thank you sweetie) and we finished decorating the tree (never done that on Christmas Eve before!),
got the table all set for dinner,
and the family (including Curtis - Craig's brother from California) arrived about 5:30.
Lisa learned how to light the menorrah for the first time (it was the 4th night of Hannukah).
Auntie helped me (I'm looking pretty darn fat and ugly here and her eyes are closed as usual) finish dicing the potatoes for the chowder.
We had our traditional Bratten's Clam Chowder with cold cuts (turkey, pastrami, Pocino Dry Italian Salami, pepperoni) and cheeses (colby jack and havarti) with sourdough and Chompie's Rye bread. Lisa brought a salad that was yumola, but I was the only one who ate any (sorry Lisa!). Everyone enjoyed dinner and it was our first big "meal" at the new table that we bought back in the summer. It was wonderful not to be squished around the table! In fact, we were able to remove the extra chair. Only bad thing...I don't have any tablecloths long enough to truly cover the table...they're all too short! Bed, Bath, and Beyond...you better be having a sale soon!
After dinner, we had our traditional Christmas Eve program. We started with Lisa and "The Wright Family." It's a fun little game where she reads a story and each person has a little gift that they pass as she says (W)right or left. At the end, whichever gift you're left holding, is the one you get to keep. They're just little dollar store type gifts, but it's fun nonetheless.
After Lisa, we went around the room and had every person tell about their favorite Christmas. It was very nice hearing Craig and Auntie Sigie and Uncle Ward's favorites. Curtis shared that he's loved all of the Christmases that he's been out in Arizona and C shared that his favorite was last year when we surprised my family and went to Utah and the entire family was together. That Christmas, too, was one of my favorites as well. I will never forget the love we had that night and how much fun it was to all be together.
Next, Uncle Ward led us in the traditional singing of "The 12 Days of Christmas" with his flipchart poster that's been in the family for like 426 years. It's worn and water-damaged, but it's tradition so we continue to use it. I once offered to make him a new one and he and Auntie refused!
Next, I shared how I'd really struggled this year to feel the Christmas spirit. It wasn't until I had my "star" experience that I realized I was looking for the wrong Christmas spirit. After that, I still struggled throughout the season due to some things I won't post here, but for the most part, I did better because I chose to look for and feel the TRUE Christmas spirit - that of the birth of Christ and the gifts of love and service.
I then read the following story by Richard M. Siddoway:
We married in August and settled into a small apartment near the university where both of us went to school. We each had a year until graduation and scrimped and struggled through the autumn quarter. Now Christmas was approaching and we had little money between us to squander on Christmas gifts.
We walked through the department stores of Salt Lake arm in arm with the confidence of better days ahead. My bride paused before a winter coat, caressing it with her eyes and fingers. Together we looked at the price tag—seventy-five dollars. Tuition for a quarter was eighty-five dollars. We both knew the coat was out of the question. Her old coat, seam-split and stained, would have to do for another year.
We agreed to spend no more than five dollars apiece in shopping for each other. While my wife drove the car to do her shopping, I walked the half dozen blocks to the Grand Central drugstore to see how far I could stretch five dollars. After considerable searching, I selected a paperback novel my wife had commented about and a small box of candy. Together they came to $4.75. As I approached the checkout stand, I was met with a long line of shoppers, each trying to pay as quickly as possible and get on with the bustle of the season. No one was smiling.
I waited perhaps a half an hour, and only three people were ahead of me in the line when I became aware that the line had grounded to a halt. The clerk was having an animated discussion with an elderly customer.
“Sir,” barked the clerk, “the price of insulin has gone up. I’m sorry, but we have no control over that. You need four more dollars.”
“But it has been the same price ever since my wife started taking it. I have no more money. She needs the medication.” The man’s neck was turning red and he was obviously uncomfortable with the situation. “I must have the insulin. I must.”
The man standing behind him put a hand on his shoulder and said, “Come on, pop, you’re holding up the line.”
The lady in front of me grew more agitated. The dozen or so people behind me began craning their necks to see what was holding up the line. Suddenly I stepped out of line, reached into my pocket, withdrew my wallet, and handed five dollars to the old man. “Merry Christmas,” I said.
He hesitated a moment, then his blue eyes grew moist as he took the money. “God bless you, my son.”
I turned and walked back into the store aisles. I counted the money I had remaining in my wallet—four dollars. I replaced the box of candy and got back in line to pay for the novel.
Snow was falling in soft white feathery flakes as I walked up the hill toward our apartment. I turned in our driveway and saw an envelope stuck in our screen door. I removed it and found written on the front of the envelope simply, “Matthew 25:40.”
I opened the door, stepped inside, and turned on the light. I ripped open the end of the envelope and withdrew a hundred-dollar bill. There was no other message.
It was only after I had purchased the winter coat for my wife that I took time to get out my Bible and read the scripture written on the envelope: “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
After that, I handed a white envelope to each person or couple. On the outside was Matthew 25:40 and a silhouette of the nativity (this is our envelope already on our tree along with our Christmas nail from a couple of years back).
On the inside was a copy of the story I'd read, along with a $10 bill for each person to which the envelope was given. Each person was instructed that next year, when the Christmas season begins, they are to put the envelope on their own tree, put their $10 bill in their wallet, and look for someone to help with it during the time between then and Christmas. Then, next Christmas Eve we will all report back with how we helped someone in need.
Then, instead of reading the Christmas story from Luke 2 as we have always done, we watched a DVD that Jennifer had sent us with "The Nativity" and Celine Dion's version of "O Holy Night." We closed with singing "Silent Night" and as I played, I could hear the deep rich tones of my honey's voice. It was very comforting to me to know that although he can sometimes be an Ebeneezer Scrooge (this year!) when it comes to Christmas, that he truly does know the real meaning of Christmas and shares the same love of the Savior that I do.
Our company left shortly after that and headed home. It had finally started to rain. C and I opened our few simple gifts to each other and then watched the rest of The Santa Clause 2 and headed for bed. I don't know why I didn't get any pics of us with our gifts....but C FINALLY got a cell phone! He also received a 100th Anniversary edition of the Etch-a-Sketch and I made him his own wubie. It's made of two layers of fleece with an Air Force design on it. He really liked it. He cuddled up in it all evening. C gave me a big red purse - big enough to carry my laptop in if I wanted to and nice so I am not carrying my ugly Phoenix Suns backpack all the time! The dogs gave me what they wanted for Christmas...Koda wanted a Pedigree bone and Inky and Stinky gave me little bling charms for their collars. It was a very simple and inexpensive Christmas this year...which I loved. I still have to finish and ship the adult gifts for our families. I should probably work on those this weekend before I go back to work.
Now, on to Christmas Day!
It rained the ENTIRE day - which was awesome! It would have been perfect if it had gotten cold enough to snow, but the rain sure made it "homey" and "Christmasy" for us.
Since we were going to be unable to have Christmas dinner with everyone at Craig's cousin's house, we had all planned on going to Chompie's for breakfast and then to the movies to see Valkyrie. When the movie opened at 10:05, it kinda threw a monkey wrench into the plans for breakfast because we would have had to be there at 7:30 in the morning which would have meant C and I would have had to get up at 5:30 on Christmas morning. NOT! So, we nixed the breakfast plans and just met up at the movies at about 9:15. I actually packed a traditional Christmas morning breakfast for me (a sandwich made from the goods from dinner the night before!) and stuck it in my new purse, along with some scotcheroos that Auntie had made. I knew C would eat a tub of popcorn, so I didn't bring him one. The movie was interesting, but because of my ancestry, I had a difficult time with the whole Nazi thing. It was a good one-time movie though.
I'm not sure I loved going to the movies on Christmas day though. I love staying home, eating leftovers from the night before, then mozying over to Lisa's for our traditional Christmas Day dinner and being with family the whole day in our own quiet places. I understood the reasons why we couldn't do that this year and I just have to understand that I have to share my dear cousin and her parents now with her husband's family. This was our way of still being able to be with each other. If C hadn't had to work so early the next morning, we could have gone to Craig's cousin's house for dinner too, but it didn't work out that way.
On our way home from the movie, we drove to 51st Ave and Pinnacle Peak so C could show me the area where a lot of people are saying the new Phoenix temple is going to be. Seriously, there is not enough room in the empty lot next to the church, and the land across the street seems to still be mountain preserve. The access is extremely poor and if the point is for the temple to be seen from all around, that definitely is not the place for it - unless they are building it up on the side of the mountain, but since that's mountain preserve, I don't know how that will happen, plus, only the people in that neighborhood right by it would be able to see it. The rest of the city is on the other side of the mountain. I still pray that it will be out here by us.
When we got home, we found that the baby Jesus piece of my new nativity had been left on our doorstep. There was a sweet note with it this time explaining the gift, but still, no name who it was from. I truly appreciate the sweet gesture this special person has made to help me feel the true spirit of Christmas this year. I only wish I could thank them in person! Hopefully they read my blog and will know how much I truly appreciate them, their love, the fact that they thought of me at this special time of year, and how GRATEFUL I am for them sharing such a precious gift from their own family with me and C.
The rest of the day, we just relaxed. We both started to doze off into la-la land so I hurried and put the prime rib in the oven. We were going to have potato & leek au gratin, but by the time I found the "hopefully" right recipe, it was too late to actually make it so we just had microwaved "baked" potatoes, salad, crescent rolls (from the tube because I forgot to take the Rhodes rolls out of the freezer to let them rise too!), and corn. Nothing fancy as it should have been. All of our china dishes were still sitting on the counter by the sink, so we ate on everyday plates on the chargers. We only lit half of the candles on the table - the ones where we were sitting. But, it was still nice eating a lovely dinner with each other. It was peaceful and quiet and you could still feel the Christmas spirit in our home. After dinner, we watched "The Nativity Story." I love that movie! It's so very touching. C even liked it. He headed off to bed since he had to be up at 4:30 to go to work and I stayed up "watching some tv." I eventually woke up around 1:15 and went to bed.
I hope all of your Christmases were filled with the true spirit of Christmas this year and as we head into 2009, that the Savior will be in your hearts and homes. May you and your families be truly blessed. Here's another picture of our tree for you to enjoy...Merry Christmas!