My house doesn’t have Christmas lights this year

The other day the husband and I were commenting about the weather and I mentioned it might be the time to put up the Christmas lights. He replied “Yeah, I’m not going to do that.”

And… I didn’t care.

I think I just might have the skills to pull out the ol’ ladder and climb on the roof myself. I think if I attempted this my husband would indeed come to the rescue of myself and the lights.

But when he said he wouldn’t be hanging up lights, I didn’t miss it.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the look of a home with well-done Christmas light. It’s classic, it’s cozy, it’s the spirit of Christmas. I daresay lights at this time of year are one of my favorite things about the holidays. But I’ve also driven down the street and in the sadness state of judgement, recoiled in disgust at some really bad Christmas lights display. It’s not that they’re overtly tacky, but that maybe they should have shelled out a few bucks to have a professional hang the lights. Which isn’t a bad idea, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.

We have one of those projector thingies somewhere in the garage. It’s cool, but the projectors can also run a bit tacky and due to the nature of our front yard I’ll have extension cord all over the place for the milk guy to trip on.

While I do love Christmas lights and maybe I’ll hire someone to make them look super good next year, I don’t care this year.

I like to imagine myself aiming for more minimalist. Do I really  need a showy bunch of lights? If I were to take the minimalist thing quite literally, what about the crappy bunch of cords I have no idea what to discreetly do with?

What did people do before the advent of Christmas lights? How many people actually put candles out there? Yet Christmas heartwarming memories often drift back to romance of yesteryear without electricity.

I thought to my Halloween/fall decorations. I love fall. My decorations were some ears of jewel-colored Indian corn I had grown myself, pumpkins, and the cornstalks that grew the Indian corn. I thought it looked great. Simple, but clearly fall.

Why can’t I do the same for Christmas without blinding the neighbors with Christmas lights?

Wreaths always look great. I have already asked around for local live wreaths that I can toss in the compost on the 26th. I have tied festive bows to the lamp post.

And I like it. It’s cheery. I hope the wreath will make it cheerier. Not busy by any means, but something sweet, simple, and a tribute to the holidays.

“Five Feet Apart”…. How am I supposed to feel?

I first heard about the upcoming film Five Feet Apart when an advanced reader’s copy of the novelization popped up in my Amazon Vine que (the program I am that essentially gives/taxes me free crap I get to review). Ever since Jade’s diagnosis of cystic fibrosis I have been trying to orient myself as a parent of a toddler in the CF world. I ordered the book, read it, raced to be the first reviewer (not that it matters), and then delved into other opinions. I belong to a couple of CF Facebook reviews, and I tentatively posted their thoughts about the upcoming film where two young CF patients receiving inpatient treatment fall victim to teenage twitterpation despite the general recommendation CF patients remain at least six feet apart.

Turns out, unsurprisingly, there is some controversy on the film and I think I only understand the surface of why. I’ve barely been in this game half a year. But cystic fibrosis is a horrible disease. It broke my heart to hear Jade’s diagnosis. While my husband’s cousin seems to be going just fine in his mid-30s and my mom’s old coworker also seems to be going just fine and a bunch of other people online seem to be going through life just fine, the disease sucks. Despite a relative optimistic prediction for Jade’s future, I still can’t get rid of all worry.

The movie’s story features its young lovers as people in worse situations than others. I’m happy to have found stories of many, many people with CF living rather boring lives that don’t involve practically being raised in a hospital. Will and Stella of star-crossed lover situation don’t have that. Stella requires a lung transplant, Will has contracted a very troublesome bacteria. I think it’s fair to say that of all CF patients, these two definitely not should be in a close quarters.

Hence the controversy. A serious disease like cystic fibrosis is receiving the romance-in-tragedy treatment, a drama milking on cystic fibrosis with people who have never lived it. And what is it telling youngsters? It’s okay to play fast and loose with medical advice because of a teen romance film? What is this encouraging?

I’m glad Amazon Vine sent me a copy of the book. I’m glad I know how the book ends. I won’t spoil it at this time, but my ultimate opinion of the book was that it was but a teen romance, one that does not end with particular tragedy, might have the dubious honor of throwing CF out into the public mind, and perhaps might even be a springboard for a discussion. I think I gave it 4 out of 5 stars.

Even as I read about the interweb for opinions and saw many practically protesting the film, I saw plenty of CF patients and loved ones thrilled for it. I even saw reports of CF couples living, again, those boring hospital-free lives. I saw CF patients talking about how they don’t always understand the rule, even saying they’re pretty sure their lives have probably put them in unknowing close contact with other CF patients.

Yes, in some ways the book made me fearful. What if the doctors who assured me Jade will most likely live a full long life are wrong? What if random bad things happen in the future? But I also took it for what it’s worth: a romance telling a story.

I reiterate my point about using it for a discussion if the idea of a CF couple worries you. I also want to assure it wasn’t what I worried it might be. I want to assure that it really doesn’t celebrate and encourage CF couples. And that it was a pretty nice story.

So, among the controversy I see, from a woman who probably doesn’t yet know what she is talking about but who also got to read the book early: it’s just a movie.

My results of my 10-day social media fast

At this year’s autumn General Conference, women (and men) were given several challenges including abstaining from social media for ten days. I decided to do so. After all, the idea of a break from social media or screens or what have you is not unheard of, oft recommended to clear one’s head.

And here’s what happened.

Nothing.

Nothing happened to me. I did not have any great spiritual awakenings. My testimony did not increase ten-fold (speaking of which I need to hop on that finish-the-Book-of-Mormon thing). Blessings did not rain down upon me.

Nor did I feel any sort of regret from doing this challenge. It was, surprisingly or maybe not so much, easy. I signed off Facebook, ignored my oft-ignored Instagram, and removed a couple of apps from my phone.

It has been fourteen days, four past the suggested ten, and I’m doing fine. I did not feel a loss of support or community. I didn’t even go through a withdrawal of any sort. I confess, my continued abstinence feels sort of nice. I opened my Instagram again just in case I want to post something. I made a commitment to organize ideas for my home on Pinterest. But I’m also rather interested in seeing how long I can ignore Facebook.

I understand, however, that some felt oppressed by this suggestion. Would my ignorance of social media keep me duly hidden from nefarious doings by my church? Would I be going only all sheeple by not equating my Facebook time with fully woken independence? Heck, should I be doing more to promote my TPT shop? (My sales totally went up last week).

I get social media. I really don’t see it as the end-all sin some others do. I understand its importance for businesses, for families, for relationships. I believe there are some awesome things to be had, which is why I’ll likely still keep hanging around my favorite forums.

But my social media fast showed me I can be just fine with les interaction.

The Homey Side of 2-Hour Church

So I was one of those people who dismissed the rumors of the Church of Latter-Day Saints’ weekly church session moving to a two-hour block. I had heard of people say they’ve heard the rumor for decades and my brother who works in the church office denied any substance to the lore. Then again, he is known for messing with people.

In the time previous to the announcement people discussed the time change. Some supported it, others thought it would be terrible. I thought about it and figured whatever, just let me know when my meetings are. The announcement was a fun bit of modern history, but even then I wasn’t particularly emotional over the change. Again, just let me know when I’m supposed to be at church.

Yet when I woke up this morning and thought over the matter, I felt the tiniest bit of sadness, given greater dimension as I read on social media those who shared the good and the bad for them regarding the change. I think I am doing no more than saying farewell to the scheduling side of a little church era. For others, they may feel more.

I see much good in this. I also admit I see where the challenges may arise for many.

 

What strikes me the most is the focus upon the family. I am a believer in the community of a church. To meet with our brothers and sisters in the gospel can strengthen our faith and bolster us in times of need. I think of the old story of the minister who sought out a man who had been missed in attendance: when the man explained his faith would be just fine on his own, the minister drew a coal from the fire, where it sizzled for a short time before burning out. I believe that church community can be viewed in a way as an extension of the gospel family and that we truly do need each other. But it is our immediate family that matters even more, that is the foundation of the greater community of families, and our prophet is wise to direct us back toward them.

In my years of rambling over the internet, I’ve seen people from deeply Christian families who never attend church. They even have a term for themselves, I think. They worship at home, deliver instruction on the gospel at home, pray together at home. I am happy for them and I even have a little dash of spiritual envy of what they have. If my Amish romance novels are anything to be believed, even some of the Amish do not attend church services even weekly. The weekly church is good, wonderful, arguably even necessary, but we’ve always more or less known the foundation of our gospel growth best come from the home.

Many have given thanks for the two-hour block as the three-hour block is so hard. A close friend shared this might be what it takes for her family to become more active as the three-hour block was so difficult for them for a number of reasons. I’ve never struggled too much with it, but as a teacher mom, I can’t help but be grateful for an extra hour with my family. Perhaps the day will feel more restful with the absence of an hour, or rather, the gain of that spiritual time with just my family, wherever we stick it in the week.

How long as been going to church been the easy thing to do? Putting the crutch of teaching the gospel on the local ward building as families head over there? I’m sure many families do their best and many of them do that best very well, but this thought leaves me in awe, that we are to do more in teaching our own families the gospel. What will this mean in the future? What little things have we been ignoring?

Of course I realize this will have its troubles for some. Part-member or part-active families. Families where the subject of the Church is troublesome. These families had the blessing of attending church, of having that extra help in guiding themselves or their children.

Maybe this is a hurtle that is good and necessary. I’ve been reading the book Boundaries after hearing everyone speak so much about it. I didn’t go looking for anything particular, but the thoughts in it were worthy ones and a common theme was, well, creating boundaries. Sometimes that meant hard things and sad feelings. In families that struggle with differing views of the gospel, perhaps this is the time, however awkward, to reestablish a commitment and a pattern of how the gospel is viewed in the home. Perhaps nothing in practice will change, but a heartfelt conversation can be had. Feelings and views shoved to the side for a previous pattern will be put forth. There’s a good chance that for many families this may be a perfect time to reconnect, to share things precious to each.

Which comes back down to the home. We are being reminded of a big responsibility we all have. We are changing a pattern, waking many of us up to what we need. And, yes, we are being handed the program we need, so we’re not being abandoned to the wolves. We have been reminded to be active in our communities and families, and we best take that seriously.

We must strengthen our homes. We must make room for the gospel in those homes. We must grow closer to our families and recall our responsibility to them. We must take this time to build the love we have for each other.

Yes, I think I do find the two-hour block a good thing.

Banana-Zucchini Bread with Pediasure

I suppose I’m pretty much desperate to use up the Pediasure Jade is so weird about drinking. However, I have had recent success with mixing a little into her Ensure Clear. She will get those calories. Oh, she will.

I also stuck some in some banana-zucchini bread. It wound up awesome. The flavor from the Pediasure works here to flavor the bread to make it a nice sweet treat.

1 cup of sugar

Half a stick of butter, softened

1 cup of grated zucchinni

1 cup of mashed bananas

1 bottle of vanilla Pediasure

2 eggs

2 cups of flour

1 teaspoon of baking soda

1 cup of chocolate chips

1/4 cup of chopped nuts.

I combine the wet ingredients. I fold it gently into the combined dry ingredients. Bake this at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

The Pediasure adds some of the job of milk and fat, so if you don’t have a kid needing calories you could skip the butter.

The result was a tasty, slightly sweet and very moist banana bread I could get my kid to eat.

When People are Just Awesome

I had a bit of a wild weekend. Friday, I was desperate to go see “The House with a Clock in its Walls” because the book terrified me as a small child. For some heaven-opposed reason, I chose to use my free movie passes and take the girls. Ruby, the elder, was wonderful. Jade, after about 40 minutes started jabbering. As I prepared to take her out, someone swore at us. My gosh, it was a chatty toddler, not something truly offensive. Yes, I was ashamed of myself and certain to do right by movie theatre manners (having been subject to chatty kids before) but why must you swear at my kids, man?

However, in my hurry to remove the chatty Jade, I forgot Ruby. She had not followed the instruction to follow me out, and I was a little unsure of how to reenter the theatre with the still-jabbering Jade.

Fortunately, after a few minutes, another kind mom walked her out. I was still grumping about the other guy, and it took me some time to recognize the awesome help of that kind woman.

The next day… yikes. I found myself unnerved for other reasons. We’re still new to the whole cystic fibrosis thing, and because of my new job we had switched insurances and were still waiting for those wrinkles to be ironed out. In short, we were waiting on a medication delivery, particularly the enzyme Creon, that couldn’t be delivered. The pharmacy techs said they’d send it to a local pharmacy on Saturday, who would call us. Well, after waiting and waiting for a call, I called them… to find out they were closed.

And we were virtually out of Creon. Which is what helps Jade digest food. I was not up for trying a fat and protein- free set of days when she is supposed to work on gaining weight!

So I complained on a Facebook group. My intent was to ask for suggestions of what to do next, but it wind up as a complaint.

Next thing I know, I have several offers in the area to supply with some emergency doses and I’m driving to my husband’s office (a handy mid-way meeting spot) for a “drug deal”. Even more awesome, my mom found Creon at her house.

People are generally awesome.

Relief Society Lesson: The Worth of Souls is Great in the Sight of God

Here I share my thoughts and questions I had for my own class.

 

How did Nephi see the Lamanites? How did the sons of Mosiah see the Lamanites? (This might be written on the board)

To answer, we read Mosiah 28:1-3 and Alma 26:23-26 and Doctrine & Covenants 18:10-16.

  • What can we learn about how God views all His children?

Sister Kristin L. Matthews gave a devotional where she spoke about value. She even gave the dictionary definitions of the word. She says

a thing’s value is contingent on ideas of estimation, desirability, likeability, and worthiness. It is at the center of the word evaluate—to analyze—yet often we do not ask the questions, Who determines the system of value by which we are considering, classifying, and ranking people or things? Who determines the mechanism of evaluation and the indices of what is evaluated? Who sets the “standard of equivalence” that says some things have greater worth than others?

Please take a moment to consider these questions for yourself. How does society place value on others? How does your community? How do various circles of family, friends, or associates?

Sister Matthews then reminds us “Conversely, God’s system of valuing us promotes connection, compassion, and love. We are His children. He loves us unconditionally, eternally, and unchangingly. Our worth is infinite because we are His daughters and sons. No one spirit is more valuable than the other.”

 

Now, please consider this truth in the light of how you might interact with others. In the spirit of our recent topic of lessons, how might this apply to ministering?

As we know, we minister for many reasons. I personally believe ministering is doing what Christ would have us do, reaching out in love and service to those around us with the fervent desire of helping them as they grow in their testimonies and become closer to Christ and the gospel. But if am to believe that, to truly believe that, who am I to set values on others?

We can help others and help ourselves grow in the gospel, to change our hearts, because of the very real power of the Atonement. I seem to recall in a prior lesson I taught we had a discussion how some of us struggle with accepting the Atonement for ourselves: Sure, the Atonement of course helps you or that person over there, but I’m not so sure about myself. This might be the opposite: I believe the Atonement helps me and you and that person over there and I might say with standard knowledge it helps everyone, but do I truly believe that? Do I believe the Atonement is for all strongly enough that I am willing to do what I can to reach and love others?

I am now going to bring up one of the basic principles of economics: The cost of something is what you give up to get it. Think of what the Atonement means for this.

Elder M. Russell Ballard said the following “I believe that if we could truly understand the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, we would realize how precious is one son or daughter of God. I believe our Heavenly Father’s everlasting purpose for His children is generally achieved by the small and simple things we do for one another. At the heart of the English word atonement is the word one. If all mankind understood this, there would never be anyone with whom we would not be concerned, regardless of age, race, gender, religion, or social or economic standing. We would strive to emulate the Savior and would never be unkind, indifferent, disrespectful, or insensitive to others.”

The scriptures are full of reminders of the importance of one soul. We have the parable of the lost sheep, the parable of the lost money, where people are bound with stubborn determine to find a lost sheep, to find a lost coin. A few weeks back in Gospel Doctrine we read about Jonah and the people of Ninevah who Jonah was all but ready to write off, failing to fully understand how God saw these people.

Now, I don’t mean to suggest certain things. Every person we might minister to or even every person we run into is not necessarily in danger of falling away from the gospel. I don’t think we shoulder the entire burden of bringing others to Christ. I do not want this lesson to be a cautionary tale about how we better do our ministering or else.

Sure, there are many wonderful stories of people who were so seemingly far gone from the gospel that were brought back by a kind work or an act of service. We may even have more tragic stories of those who have yet to be brought back. I don’t even want to fully place the recognition of the worth of others as a sort of prevention. What I would now like to discuss is why it’s so important to we do recognize each other as children of our Father in Heaven.

What are some general thoughts you have on this?

Other questions for discussion:

As we minister or even just interact with others, how do you think a view of their real worth changes how we interact with them?

How would we want others to view us?

What are some of your best qualities? What are the good qualities you see in those you minister to?

How does understanding your individual worth help you want to minister to others?

How can recognizing the worth of others affect our ministering and love?

How can we better the way we view others?

Is it only those who are struggling who deserve our attention?

How can we change by recognizing the value of others and the value of ourselves?

How does ministering and serving others help us in our views of them?

In conclusion, I don’t think ministering is about pitying others, or trying to find that one great conference-talk worthy moment of change. We ought to be making our view of others as close to God’s as we possibly can in this mortal world, and we ought to be working to make that a habit. We do not view others as a project but as brothers and sisters completely worthy of our love no matter where they are in their spirituality and testimony. To me, this idea culminates and wraps up the entire purpose of ministering: viewing others as Christ and our Heavenly Father do.