Friday, December 31, 2010

An Irish Blessing (from this Swede)

May the trek through life

be good to you.

May you treat each other kindly...

and the critters, too.

When the obstacle is looming,

may you fight despair

with resourcefulness

and courage

and a "can-do" air.

May you find yourself on top

instead of up a tree.

And may you always travel

in good company.

=)

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL OF MY BLOG BUDDIES OUT THERE.
MAKE IT A GREAT ONE!

photos by my DIL, Heather, at Tendershootz.com

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Closing Time


Times Square with all its cheer
cannot revive a year.
And no amount of pique
will slow a passing week.
No force on earth can stay
the closing of a day.
So give in...Count some sheep.
The dawn will keep.

photo ©2003 Anita Schiller, His Children
poem ©2003 Susan Noyes Anderson, His Children

click below for more end-of-year entries

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Few Bright Stars...


I can't lay claim to looking like this lovely ballerina, but I do imagine that I feel very much as she might. My sweet but fleeting Christmas dance is over for this year, and I find myself wrapped in a few bright stars of memory with a slightly somber but entirely peaceful mood of reflection.

It's a feeling I mostly like for its depth, a grounded stillness that is hard to come by in the busy bustle of life and the living of it. But it comes at a price.

The family is gone. Soon, the decorations will follow. Even the music, which I play until New Year's Day, loses a bit of its magic after the fact...becoming more a reminder of Christmas past than present.

Happily, my new resolve to keep Christmas all year is very much on my mind. But I still miss the joy of loved ones around me. And the cleaners are here today to wipe away the traces.

Isn't life interesting? So many shades and colors. But always enough bright lights to go round.

PS. Sometimes you do have to look for them.


Thanks to everyone for their prayers and good thoughts for Sully.
Surgery went well, but he's in a lot of pain and still needs prayers.
He will stay in the hospital for two to four days while he recovers.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Jousting at Windmills

And the world will be better for this

that one man, scorned and covered with scars

still strove, with his last ounce of courage

to reach the unreachable stars!

=)

(That's assuming that my husband ever DOES grow up, of course...)

Our niece's baby (Sully) is in surgery today, and we'd appreciate any prayers you might like to send his way. Thanks!

click below for more happiness-boosting photos

Monday, December 27, 2010

On Keeping Christmas

The family hasn't left yet, so I'm checking in with a quick hello to tell you that our gang had a GREAT Christmas together. Hope all of you who celebrate the holiday did it up right and made all your holiday wishes come true. (Or at least, the most important ones!)

Of course, the trick is to keep this warm, peaceful spirit all year long, right? It can't be easy, but maybe it could be done, if we really got serious about it. Here is the question I'm asking myself in the wake of all the good feeling. Do I really want to keep Christmas in my heart and hold onto it all year long?

Henry Von Dyke offered this litmus test of intent: “Are you willing to forget what you have done for other people and to remember what other people have done for you; to ignore what the world owes you and to think what you owe the world; to put your rights in the background and your duty in the foreground; to see that your fellowmen are just as real as you are and try to look behind their faces to their hearts, hungry for joy; to own that probably the only good reason for your existence is not what you are going to get out of life but what you are going to give to life; to close your book of complaints against the management of the universe and look around you for a place where you can sow a few seeds of happiness?...Are you willing to do these things, even for a day? Then you can keep Christmas.

"Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs and the desires of little children; to remember the weakness and loneliness of people who are growing old; to stop asking how much your friends love you and ask yourself whether you love them enough; to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear on their hearts; to try to understand what those who live in the same house with you really want without waiting for them to tell you; to trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front so that your shadow will fall behind you; to make a grave for your ugly thoughts and a garden for your kindly feelings, with the gate open?...Are you willing to do these things, even for a day? Then you can keep Christmas.

"Are you willing to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world?… stronger than hate?...stronger than evil?…stronger than death?...And that the blessed life which began in Bethlehem two thousand years ago is the image and brightness of the eternal love? Then you can keep Christmas. And if you keep it for a day, why not always?"

Accomplishing ALL of these things would definitely be biting off more than I can chew, but I will try to focus on a few of these things with my New Year's goals later this week. I'd really like to be able to feel more of the Christmas spirit throughout the year.

After all, no one likes to be remembered only on his or her birthday!

=)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

In The Spirit of Christmas

I wrote this Christmas story 12 years ago for my family. Many Christmas stories later, it remains my husband's favorite; and since it's the shortest one I have, I decided to post it for Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday. Merry Christmas!

In The Spirit of Christmas is ©1998 Susan Noyes Anderson, All rights reserved

∞§∞
“I’m picked, Mom……I’m picked!” yelled Samantha as she flew in the back door.
"Don't you track mud on that linoleum, Samantha Stewart," warned her mother, "and leave those galoshes on the porch!" A minute later, regretting her sharpness, she inquired softly, "Picked for what?"
"For the play, Mom...For the school play...the nativity! I'm going to be an...angel!"

“An angel,” her mother repeated, “Think of that.” For a moment, a smile held the corners of her mouth, but the expression faded as grief overtook the suddenly desolate mother. Unbidden and unwelcome, memories of Christmas flooded Elizabeth Stewart’s heart. Nearly a year had passed since Bobby’s accident, but this would be their first Christmas without him. How could Christmas come without his chubby little fingers reaching for the brightest ornaments on the tree? How would she ever get through baking cookies or wrapping presents without his eager assistance? Elizabeth could almost hear him now, “I help you, Mommy....I help you, Mommy...”
The sound of Samantha’s excited voice broke in on her mother’s reverie. “I’ll help you, Mom...We have to make our own costumes, but I’ll help you. My teacher says all we need is a sheet and some thread. They’re going to give us the wings.”

Elizabeth willed herself to look up. Sammy’s eyes danced with anticipation. Swallowing hard, her mother made another attempt at a smile. This one caught––and held. “It’s wonderful news, dear, just wonderful. I’ll see what I can do about the costume.”
Sensitive all at once to Elizabeth’s preoccupation, Samantha looked up worriedly. “Are you sad again, Mommy? Are you missing Bobby?”
“Yes, Samantha, I am.”
“Me too,” said the little girl with a face suddenly eclipsed by sorrow. “I miss him too.”
A determined look lit Elizabeth’s face. With a brisk hug, she told her daughter, “You’re going to be the best angel they’ve ever seen at Mountain Crest Elementary...or anywhere else, for that matter! And Dad and I are going to be so proud of you.”
“I know you will,” said Sammy, brightening again, “and I’m going to be proud of me too, because....I get to talk! Only one angel gets to say words, and I’m the one! I get to say, “For unto you is born this day, in the City of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”
The next couple of weeks had a renewed sense of purpose as the family prepared for Samantha’s play. In doing so, they were also preparing for a Christmas that seemed unimaginable, a Christmas the counselor had said would be part of their grieving process. It wasn’t easy, but the family was trying to go on, to be grateful for the things they had left in their lives, rather than dwelling on what (or who) was missing. It helped in some way to see Samantha so excited again, and it was clearly going to be a white Christmas. Their little girl was counting the days till Christmas Eve and her debut as an angel.
December 24 dawned cold and blustery. Elizabeth looked over at her husband, Jacob, and knew that he was remembering...reminding himself how life had changed for them. He was so quiet lately, but last night even he had been laughing as Samantha had “flown” over their living room and landed in a heap at his feet, angel wings askew. Elizabeth had to grin at the memory.
“You’d better get out and plow the driveway, dear. Looks like a storm might be coming in, and we can’t take a chance on getting stuck here. Our famous daughter would never forgive us if we made her late.”
“Did you hear that, Sam?” Jacob yelled down the hallway. “Your mom has you signing autographs already.” Sam giggled delightedly as her dad walked out the door. It was good to hear him joking again.
An hour later, as her father quit shoveling the walk, Samantha looked out and saw new snow swirling around him. “Come in and get warm,” her mother called out. “There’s a full scale alert!”
“Can we still get to the school?” Sam asked worriedly.
“I don’t see why not,” was the answer. “We’ve got chains, don’t we?” Jacob smiled.
To his wife, in a voice barely loud enough to hear, he added, “This is one time I wish we didn’t live out quite so far. We could have a rough trip.” Elizabeth nodded, her lips tightening imperceptibly. They HAD to make it.
The family dined early so they could get a good start. Sam’s moment had finally arrived. Down the stairs she glided, a vision in white. Her parents exchanged a misty glance. Sammy was always a beautiful child, but there was a special glow tonight. Something new...different.
“Why, you’re the most beautiful angel I’ve ever seen,” whispered Jacob. Elizabeth just gave her a kiss and a quick hug. How blessed they had been to feel the joy of Christmas in their home this year. She had not expected it, and was reminded of the faith she thought she had lost.
The whole family piled into the car and began singing Christmas carols. The sky was dark and threatening, but their hearts were light. Neither parent had ever seen Sam so excited. She was beside herself with enthusiasm for the part she would play and had practiced her lines until she knew every word backwards and forwards. Samantha was ready.
The singing continued right up until the moment disaster struck. Suddenly the car skidded and swerved off the road, into a large drift of newly fallen snow. At first they were frightened, but once the initial commotion was over, the mood shifted. No one was hurt, thank heavens, but Samantha’s dream was definitely in jeopardy. If they couldn’t get out, she was going to be heartbroken...and so were her parents.
“Are we still going to get there, Daddy?” she wailed.
“We’re sure going to try,” he answered, and jumped out to see what he could do. A couple of times it almost seemed as if the wheels were going to catch and lift them out of there, but 45 minutes later, they were still stuck.
“Old Ben’ll probably be by before long,” Elizabeth said hopefully.
“Yea,” said Jacob, “unless he’s at the school play.” That made everyone quiet.
As minutes passed, and as realization and finality set in, Samantha’s eyes filled with tears. “I’m not going to be the angel,” she cried. “I’m not going to be the angel at all. And no one knows my part except Sarah Johnson, so she’ll get to be it - And she got to do it last year.” Choking on a sob, Samantha put down her head and wept. By now, her parents were ready to join her. How could it all have turned out so wrong?
Praying for immediate help, Elizabeth looked up at the stars. The night was cold, but the snow had finally stopped, and the sky was as clear as she could remember seeing it. In that moment, looking up in the heavens for strength, her mind and spirit cleared too. It was as if they were somehow suspended in time, caught between the joy that could have been and the sorrow that was, the life that had been lost and the life that remained. Sad thoughts, and yet, there was a stillness too...a deep, comforting peace she’d been longing for... praying for. What were those words in John she’d been reading the other day? “I will not leave you comfortless,” the Savior had promised. I will come to you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.” Old words took on new meaning as the message pierced her heart. With a slow spin, Elizabeth’s world righted itself. Things were going to be okay. In fact, they already were.
“You know what, Sam?” Elizabeth spoke reverently. “We’re out in the fields, just like the shepherds were when angels came to tell them about Christ’s birth. I’ve been imagining how they must have felt that night, way out in the middle of nowhere, just like we are. Maybe it was dark and quiet and cold, like it is here. Maybe they were even afraid, or sad, or really disappointed. But then, something happened...That one bright star...A miracle, it must have seemed. Do you think they noticed it right away? Were they marveling at its brilliance....wondering what made it stand out from all the rest? Could they tell that night was special...different from any other? Did they fall on their knees when they saw angels on high and heard them singing? I have to believe they did--And you know what, Sammy? When I close my eyes, I can almost hear them myself: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward men.”
For a few moments, no one said anything. It was as if the entire Stewart family were holding its breath, waiting (like the shepherds had so long ago) for something to happen. Then, the silence was broken, as one very small angel stood up on the seat of the car and said, in a voice deepened by new understanding, “For unto you is born this day in the City of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”
Elizabeth caught her breath as Jacob reached over and took her hand. She had never felt Christmas so deeply, and a rush of joy filled her very soul. “We’re going to be all right,” she thought. Samantha, Jacob, and (yes...she knew it now ...) Bobby, too. Bobby was safe...and warm...and waiting.
Lovingly, Elizabeth pulled Samantha into her arms and looked deeply into her eyes. “Thank you, Sam,” she whispered. “We HAVE seen an angel tonight. You couldn’t have done it more beautifully.” Jacob nodded his agreement.
It wasn’t long before old Ben came by and pulled their station wagon out of the snow. “You missed a first-rate nativity,” he said. “Too bad.” And it should have been too bad, but the Stewarts just couldn’t help smiling at one another. It was almost like having a secret, because something had changed for them that night...something they hadn’t counted on. I guess you could say those Stewarts found out something pretty important....or maybe they just remembered. You see, it wasn’t being in the Christmas play that brought peace and happiness back to their home. It was being in the Christmas spirit.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Singing the Song of the Angels Today!

I simply can't believe that tomorrow is the day all of my company will be arriving for Christmas! How has the time passed so quickly? It's crazy!!!

Having said that, I am completely excited to welcome every single one of them home...and I'm almost ready, too. "Almost" meaning that I have several hundred small to medium-sized things to do before bedtime, all of which I need to get started with immediately.

So I leave you with probably my shortest post ever...!

And bundles of love and good wishes for a Merry Christmas.

Robert Louis Stevenson said it well. “Help us rightly to remember the birth of Jesus, that we may share in the song of the angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and the worship of the wise men. Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world. Let kindness come with every gift, and good desire with every greeting. Deliver us from evil by the blessings that Christ brings, and teach us to be merry with clean hearts. May the Christmas morning make us happy to be thy children, and the Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Tomorrow night I will have 3 little grandchildren
nestled all snug in grandma's beds...
=)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tis the Season to be Jolly...

photo by Heather Anderson @ tendershootz.com

This darling photo arrived over the weekend in a Christmas card from my niece. As those of you who've been hanging around here awhile may remember, her little Sully was born nearly a year ago with some pretty serious health issues. While these are not entirely resolved (he will have some corrective surgery later this month), it's plain to see that little Sullivan is thriving under the love and care of his two terrific parents. What a great kid! He was with us for Thanksgiving, and we just couldn't get enough of his cute personality and winning ways. Merry Christmas to this adorable little guy...his very first one!

For more happy posts, click below.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Little Bits of Heaven

Little Bits of Heaven
©2010 Susan Noyes Anderson

Little bits of heaven swirl around the manger bright,
falling softly as the mem'ry of that Christmas night

when all the world stood still in wonder at the Savior's birth,
and choirs of angels sang out joy and peace to men on earth.

Through all the corridors of time, their message seems to ring...
and pictures fill my head as if I were remembering

the silence of that lonely night, the brilliant star above...
a mother's gentle touch, her eyes aglow with hope and love.

I kneel with kings and wise men, and I hold a shepherd's crook;
the Light of all the World is shining in this sacred nook.

My spirit knows that life on earth will be forever new
because of One whose love for me is infinite and true.

I bow my head in reverence, ere I leave the stable bare,
and passing o'er the darkened streets, I feel His presence there.

In waking dreams of Bethlehem or in my humbled heart,
I carry with me every blessing heaven can impart.

I'll always find the Baby there and hear the angels' song
whenever I look deep within, where sacred truths belong.

And when I gaze upon a snow globe, I will ever see
these precious bits of heaven swirling in my memory.

∞§∞

One of the most special memories of my childhood was a Christmas snow globe that made the nativity seem so magical that I have never quite forgotten it. That wonder I felt as a child has always remained with me, and it is this feeling that I always try to recapture for my children and grandchildren on Christmas Eve. Thanks for letting me share a little piece of it with you.

Our tradition every year is to cook up some Mexican food (?!), then circle 'round to read whatever new story I've written for Christmas Eve. Afterward, every family member expresses his or her feelings about the message of that story. Of course, we sing carols, read 'Twas the Night Before Christmas', and run outside to see if we can hear Santa's bells, too. The kids leave cookies and carrots for that jolly old soul and his reindeer, just before we crowd into the family room to watch "A Muppet Christmas Carol" and shout all the songs at the top of our lungs. Even writing about it right now makes my heart happy, because I know that we will all be together in a few short days to experience what is absolutely our favorite time of year.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

=)

Click here for more Christmas Traditions at Jen Denton's Sanatorium
And here for more Christmas Joy at Dana's Bungalow 56.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Santa Sees RED


It's Saturday Centus time again, and Jenny has definitely given our new prompt a Christmas twist. I'm adding a little twist of my own by adding my 100 words in verse this time. As always, the prompt is in red.

∞§∞

Santa Sees Red

What was he thinking? OMG!
Elves are so 2009.
I ordered Christmas detailing,
not funny valentine.

"Deck the sleigh with boughs of HOLLY,"
is distinctly what I said.
Now it's like a float!––with roses...
hearts and flowers 'round my head.

"Live a little! Change is good," he chirped.
"Let romance take the reins!"
(Next he'll have me trading
conversation hearts for candy canes.)

"He's in love," coos Mrs. Santa.
So what? We're in love ourselves.
Christmas should be Christmas,
not a platform for besotted elves!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Rules for the Road

Someone I care a lot about is having a really hard day today. I am wishing I could somehow lift this person's burden or turn back time or make everything happen differently. I wish I could be there in person to lend assistance, provide physical comfort, or do something to erase the problem entirely. I even wish with all my heart that I could take the discomfort, disappointment, and frustration upon myself, using my numerous years of sometimes difficult life experience to absorb and move through it.

Of course, I can't make any of these things happen. My wishes will not come true...nor should they. We are, all of us, entitled to the full adventure that is life, every glorious and excruciating part of it. To deprive a fellow traveller of even one step of his or her journey––whether summit, sinkhole, or detour––would be to deprive that individual of the growth and grief, laughter and learning that make the trip so exquisitely awful, wonderful, and valuable. In life's journey, the rules for the road are all about respect, not rescue. Dignity, not deliverance. Supporting, not supplanting.

In those times when we feel that the Lord is taking a hands-off approach in His dealings with us, those times when we feel hurt or resentful or abandoned and find ourselves asking if He even notices we are down here doing our best to survive, maybe we should remind ourselves of these "rules for the road" that are ringing so true for me today. We might take a deep, cleansing breath and consider the explanation that God is, in His wisdom, stepping back with love and respect––trusting us and trusting in us and our ability to make the most of the full life experience He offers.

As Michelangelo once said, "I am still learning," and today I am learning to respect another's journey by letting go of my providentially unfulfilled wish/overwhelming desire to make the way easier than it needs to be. We all know that when a baby chick is assisted in breaking out of the shell, it emerges too weak to thrive.

Apparently, the Lord knows that, too. Me? I'm still working on it.

=)

PS. Note to self: This is a heavy pecking day for this person you love so much. Keep your big beak out of it!

∞§∞

GOOD NEWS AFTER THE FACT: My loved one who had such a struggle today has resolved everything in the best way possible. And because I managed to stay out of it, he gets to savor the rather empowering knowledge that the only person he has to thank is himself. And the guy upstairs, of course. =)

Don't you love a happy ending? I sure do!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

L Is for 38 Years of Love!


Let me tell you the tale of a boy and a girl
who did not fall in love at first sight.
She did not want his children the moment they met.
He did not even get her name right.

She did not wait by phones, hoping somehow he’d call.
He did not search the campus for her.
It was only one night; they were not meant to be.
Of this fact, they were perfectly sure.

But life is surprising. The next time they met,
they were struck by love’s lightning; it’s clear.
The arrow of Cupid went straight to their hearts,
and the magic has grown every year.

42 years have passed since the day that they met,
though they’ve only been wed 38.
And while love at first sight never did come their way,
love at second sight turned out just great!

=)

Yes, indeedy. L is for 38 years of married LOVE! I specify "married," because we've actually been joined at the hip for 42 years, including our time at the University of Utah, when we were very much a pair but not yet wed. We met when I was only sixteen. He was two years older. Recently, one of us just hit 60 (he knows who he is), and the other is following close behind. Amazing how quickly the time flies when you're having fun.

One of the great things about being married to Dave is that I AM having fun...much of the time. It's hard to do anything else when you're married to someone who has the energy of a teenager and is about as young at heart as they come. He still loves to play crazy, make-believe games with his grandchildren (just like he did with our kids), and basketball continues to be one of his favorite activities. I'm talking about the down-and-dirty kind of basketball, by the way. No ambling amiably down the court with the other geezers for him. My hunky guy plays all out...cutthroat...with the young-uns.

I admit to being proud of him, and I've never once been sorry that I married him. Even at his most annoying (and don't get me wrong, he can be extremely annoying!), there's always been way more upside than downside with Dave. The truth is that he has filled all of my expectations and more over the years. Best of all, I know he would say the same. (He would also say the same about my ability to annoy him...an art I have perfected to a rather impressive degree.) You see, I like to annoy him. It's my love language. heehee

So HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, Dave! I like you almost as much as the prime rib I'll be eating tonight. And I LOVE you even a little more than the restaurant where we'll be dining. (Which is quite a lot, because I will indeed be indulging in the creamy, whipped cream horseradish AND the flourless chocolate cake.)

xox,
your rapidly aging longstanding ever-lovin' wife.

>


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Create!


Don't you love this little angel? The message she carries, in case you find it difficult to read, is "Create," and she is giving some very good advice. She occupies a place of prominence in my home, just like her message occupies a place of prominence in my heart.

As a wise man (President Uchtdorf of my church) once said in a talk entitled Happiness, Your Heritage: "The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. No matter our talents, education, backgrounds, or abilities, we each have an inherent wish to create something that did not exist before." I would add that we also have an inherent capacity to fulfill that wish.

Surprisingly, however, many women of my acquaintance are convinced that they have no ability to create at all. "I'm not the creative type," they insist. "I can't draw, paint, write, sing, craft, or decorate. In fact, when it comes to creativity, I am hopeless. I am completely without talent of any kind."

I beg to differ! First of all, no one is without talent of any kind, and anyone who thinks she is needs to look within and do a little excavating. I'm quite sure she will uncover something of interest and value. (Maybe even a few gold nuggets!)

For the skeptics, this little story backs me up: There is a myth in Hinduism that tells of the upset experienced by the gods after they created humans. They were afraid that this cocky species would discover divine truth and that people would then become gods themselves. To avoid being overtaken by upstarts, the gods tried to figure out where they might hide the truth out of humans’ reach. If they hid it in the treetops, a person could climb there. If they hid it at the bottom of the sea, someone would dive down to discover it. The cleverest finally suggested, "Let us hide the truth deep inside every individual. That is one place they’ll never look.”

The moral of this story? We need to look. Just look inside ourselves, and do it with the expectation of finding something...a spark of that divine inheritance that is creativity. It's there. (I've even seen it!) And so can you.

Only a few of us are going to be concert musicians, literary geniuses, or gifted artists...but every single one of us is creating something every day, hour, and minute of our lives. Whether we create a meal, a home, a new way to do something, a friendship, a mood, a company, a garden, or a blog, we are exercising the art of bringing into being an entity that didn't exist before. Why? Because it feels good. Because we can't help ourselves. Because it's who we are.

And this little angel helps me remember that.

=)

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