Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

My best wishes to all of you for a happy and healthy 2014!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

Salt Lake's LDS Temple Square is an incredible place to visit during the Christmas Season
If you've never visited a Latter-day Saint temple's grounds during the Christmas season, you've missed out on a very special holiday experience.

Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah is, of course, the iconic image of the church throughout the world. There is simply nothing like it anywhere.

The Los Angeles temple is also a beautiful place at this time of year.  I know the Mesa, Arizona Temple also has some truly beautiful light displays.  Those are just the ones I've experienced first-hand at Christmastime. The lights are amazing, and the sweet, peaceful feeling that abides in these places is truly worth the visit, in spite of the crowds.

Whenever possible, visiting the temple at Christmas has become a family tradition.  It helps to remind us of the true meaning of Christmas.

Isaiah the prophet foretold the birth of the Savior of the world
See Isaiah 7:4 and 9:6-7
A wise man shared the following with me a couple of days ago:
"I’ve been thinking a lot lately about light in relation to Christmas and to the mission of the Savior. 

"One of the big symbolisms of Christmas is the light that Jesus brings into a dark and dreary world. That’s reinforced by the fact that Christmas comes when it does on the calendar, rather than in April when he really was born.

"But the symbolism is rich and powerful and true. Christ is the source of all light. He is the power by which the sun receives its light. He brings light and life to everything.
I’ve been pondering on this in relation to developing film. Back when I used to use the food storage room as a darkroom, I used to get frustrated by how hard it was to keep absolutely all light from coming into that room. I would tape over the cracks in the door and put a big black tarp along the bottom of the door. Then, as my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I would inevitably see a tiny sliver of light coming into the room from somewhere.

"But even a tiny sliver of light would make its mark on the film. The more light that came in, the more it would affect the film. Light, it seems, will try its hardest to find its way into darkness.

"I think the same is true with people. No matter how dark someone may live his life, in regards to sins or unbelief, if he will just allow a tiny sliver of the light of Christ into his soul it will begin to make its mark on him. The more light that comes in, the greater the effect."

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Caroling at the Hospital

Our Ward members: The Benatzes, Elias and The Littles
Elias has recently received his mission call to serve in Honduras
When I was asked to come caroling with other ward members to Whittier Presbyterian hospital on Sunday night, I was happy to go.  My good friends Gerald and his beautiful wife, Gwen Lee, were both in this facility; Gerald on the 3rd floor, Gwen Lee on the first.

Gerald with Tony singing
There was a good group that showed up.  Gerald turned 92 in November.  He's still as sharp as can be, although his body is wearing out.  He is very frail and has been bed-ridden for most of the past year.  He was so happy that we were there to sing to him.  

After the Christmas Carols from the hymnbook, we asked him if he had any requests?

"Sing Jingle Bells!" he replied brightly.

We did.  I noticed Gerald joined in.  It was a lot of fun.

Our Bishop and his wife
Gerald was thrilled when he heard we were going to sing to his wife as well.  He expressed his love and concern for her and her well-being.  She has recently suffered a fall, but is mending in a room a few floors below Gerald's.

We didn't sound too bad, if I do say so myself!
Gwen Lee was equally touched by our visit.  She expressed her concern for her husband and was happy to hear we had just been to see him.  I was touched to hear them each express their love for each other..

Gwen Lee is several years younger than Gerald, but she announced she wanted to pass first.  "So I won't have to live without him," she said sweetly.

As we sang, Gwen Lee began to cry.  I think we all sniffled along with her.  I'm a sympathetic crier, as, apparently, are most of the rest of our ward family.

Gerald and Gwen Lee are such kind, generous and loving people  They have done much good to the people of our ward, and others who have needed their help, through many years of service in church and the community.

It was a small thing to go caroling on Sunday night, but it will be a lasting, good memory of this Christmas.

This is a little blurry, but I wanted to include a photo of Morgan (far right).
She recently received her call to serve as a missionary to the country of Ecuador.
Take some time to visit the sick and the elderly this Christmas.  You will brighten the holidays for others and bring a light into your own life.

Merry Christmas to all!

Monday, December 23, 2013

White Christmas

South Jordan, Utah
Looks like it will be a white Christmas for many of you this year.  My brother's home is decked out like a winter wonderland (see above) right now.

My mother sometimes despaired living in the Arizona desert, especially at Christmastime.  She would look at the bare, desert mountains and complain it was like "living on the moon".  She had a funny saying from her homeland of Norway that went something like this, "So, it will be a white Christmas again, said the old man as he ate his fish pudding on Christmas Eve."  The joke being not that it was snowing outside, but that the only "white" stuff he was experiencing was his humble meal of white fish pudding.

The Citadel shopping center off the I-5 in the Los Angeles area all decked out for Christmas.
I snapped this from the car while on my way to a North Hills Christmas party.
Living in the Los Angeles area means sunshine and palm trees at Christmas - pretty much like all the rest of the year. Although we've had some cold temperatures at night (it's getting into the 40s at night, don't laugh, it's cold to us), it will be in the balmy mid-70s throughout Christmas Eve and Christmas Day here.  Quite frankly, I think I'd prefer the weather in the above photo for just a day or two!  Provided you could shut it off afterwards.

I know.  Weather doesn't work that way, which is probably a good thing.  Can you imagine getting a group consensus every day on what the weather should be?  It would be a crazy world!

However, there is something about having real seasons that you miss living in places like Southern California and Arizona.  White Christmases are just one of them.

Whatever the weather, it doesn't stop us from celebrating Christmas.

My dear brother looking  pensively out across the Salt Lake City skyline
I'm so grateful for the glad tidings of Christmas!

The world would be a dreary place without the joy of this holiday season reminding us of the miracle that took place over 2000 years ago.  I'm glad it doesn't take snow and ice to make a Christmas.

I love Kevin Beckstrom's recent comic strip.  It says it all.

Photos: J. Evensen, L. Farnsworth, and yours truly
There's a link to Beckstrom's LDS comic pages on the right.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Making a Gingerbread House

It's that time of year when everyone is frantically preparing for Christmas!  My "mad scientist" nephew Christian had fun making a gingerbread house this week.  He's a typical eleven-year-old, isn't he?

Have you ever made a gingerbread house?  It's a lot of fun!

And a bit of work... creative work...

My sister-in-law provided these photos of the gingerbread house decorating experience at their house this year.  She bakes the gingerbread every year and the kids get to decorate. This year the task fell on Christian's shoulders, but he was up for it!

All kinds of goodies go into a great gingerbread house!
 It looks like a lot of work went into this one.  I'd like to grab that Tootsie Roll, or maybe a roll of Smarties! Yum.

Getting things just right..
I love the very Norwegian Christmas tree in the background. My brother's family always does two trees. The other, in the formal living room, is done with Swedish colors.  (We're Norwegian; my sister-in-law's family is Swedish.  That's how they keep the peace!)  

How do you decorate your tree?   Do you put up more than one?

I have to admit I have a small fake tree I put up every year, but I live in a small place - with a playful cat. You have to know your limits, I say.  I know too many kitties who see trees as a mountain climbing challenge, and the Christmas decorations as their personal Disneyland of fun toys.  But I digress...

Here is Christian with his finished product - or is it?  I think he's still got some work to do!

Hope you're having fun with all your Christmas preparations, wherever you might be in the world. Remember it's the time you spend with those you love, not the money you spend on them, that's most important.  Long after the toys are broken and gone, the memories of loving associations remain.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Life Is Simpler When You Are 2 Years Old

This is a test.  Find the child in the display!

This photo was taken by a friend at Disneyland Paris.  Little Ainsley is two years old and was just exhausted from too much fun.  Her parents couldn't find her for a few moments, and then discovered her in this display.

I think it's great how children have the ability to fall asleep anywhere.

It's funny how Disneyland Paris looks a lot like Disneyland Anaheim.  But it's really Paris.  I didn't make that up.  Honest.  The child, too, is real and not stuffed.  Thought I'd clarify that.

I just had to share this with you.  What a sweet little pumpkin.

Happy Disneyland dreams, everyone!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Office Christmas Party

I saw Snoopy kissing Veronica at the company Christmas party!
Saturday marked our big company Christmas bash.  This year it was a luncheon at the Knott's Berry Farm Hotel in Anaheim, California.  Each employee got a lovely luncheon and a ticket to spend the day at the theme park. Everyone brought their families.  It was a lot of fun!

There were Victorian Christmas Carolers to entertain us throughout our yummy luncheon.  They strolled from table to table taking requests.  I really enjoyed their singing, too.  Nice voices and great arrangements of all kinds of Christmas music, secular and sacred.

Carmen and her family with the Carolers
My friend Sahrina occasionally leaves me drawings and notes on my desk.  I tried getting a good photo of her, but even with her daddy's help, she was being awfully wiggly!

First we tried it this way...
 And then we tried it that way....
 Well, you get the idea.  Sahrina is adorable.

Some of our engineers and their friends and family
 The big room was filled to capacity.  It was nice having the children there.  Everyone was dressed casually because they were also going to the park. I think it made everyone more relaxed.

Engineers and planners enjoying the day
We were on the ninth floor with a fabulous view.
This is Jimmy, the president of our company, and his lovely wife
The food was delicious and the service was great, considering what a huge group we were!
My friends Gerry, Ulysses, Bianca and Barbara
We did a lot of mingling...and eating...
Dodds was taking photos in the background
In the foreground, Barbara chats with Emma and her sweet daughter, Ava

Each table was beautifully set.

Here we see Bruce with his family, and Charlie with his family

All the kids were given a gift bag as they came in.  The gift bags contained a few simple things in them (pencil boxes and small toys), but they were a huge hit!

My friend Aaron
I know these events are boring for kids, but it was still fun to see them.

My friend Ava
I really do love these kids.  I've watched them grow up.

Bianca just hanging out with D.J.
Bianca is only a year and a half old.  She was everywhere!  All you'd see was a streak of pink and two bobbing pigtails!  What a character.  She and D.J. found they had a lot in common.

Bianca hanging with Carmen and her girls, Adriana and Angelica

Edward and his family

The Corporate Marketing ladies, Emma and Sabrina with Ava and John
There was a very brief program.

Jimmy, our President
Jimmy handed out the 5 year awards (I got one! I will have been with the company 6 years in January) and he also led us in a toast (with sparkling cider) to our continued success as a company.

There were also door prizes!  (And no, I didn't win one!)

CFO Juan and his lovely wife

Snoopy was just a lot of fun to have in attendance.  The kids just loved him.  Snoopy also helped hand out the door prizes and pretty much got hugged by all the kids.  Bianca loved him!

Bianca and her mommy with Snoopy
Snoopy was so patient with all the little ones.  Good doggy!
Ava and Snoopy

Snoopy and Hilary

Jonathan getting a Snoopy-sized hug.

Juan's little kiddles enjoying some Snoopy time

Emmy, Ulysses, Bianca and Noah with a very sweet and patient Snoopy

This was such a fun event!  I truly enjoyed it.

Photos courtesy D. Rivera and me!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Elder Anders in Texas

President and Sister Ames with our Elder Anders
"Sister Ames and I want you to know that your missionary has arrived safely in Texas."

So begins an email sent to Anders' parents from his Mission President and his wife dated Friday the 13th.  It's a relief to know that he is finally safely in the mission field.

Elder Anders is currently serving in the tiny town of Mexia (pronounced Me-HAY-a), Texas in the Ft. Worth mission boundaries.  He writes, "The mission goes well.  Mexia is a really cool place."

He adds, "One thing I've found is that we do a lot of service here in the mission."  That sounds like a recipe for success anywhere.

Look out, Mexia!  Our Elder Anders is coming soon to a home near you!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Saint Lucia Day

My beautiful niece Linnea as Lucia

Friday the 13th was St. Lucia's day, a day celebrated all throughout Scandinavia as a festival of lights.  It makes sense that these northerly countries celebrate a triumph of light over the darkness of winter.

In the old days, December 13th was thought to be the longest night of the year.  This has something to do with the Julian calendar and the winter solstice falling on December 13th in the 14th century and doesn't really have anything to do with the winter solstice any more.  But the date stuck.

Saint Lucia, or Lucy, was a Sicilian maiden who suffered a sad, and rather gruesome death way back in the third century for not renouncing her Christian faith.  There's also something in the tale about not wanting to marry a man who was not of her faith... but the crux of the story is that she was a good girl and a great role model.

Lucia is very popular in certain areas of Italy where she is said to bring gifts to good children and coal to bad ones on the night between December 12th and 13th.  (Hmmmm.  Kinda sounds like Santa Claus, doesn't she?)

In the Scandinavian countries - Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland - the Lucia festival is celebrated widely.  On December 13th a girl is elected to portray Lucia and she leads a procession of other young women, each holding candles.  The main girl wears a crown with candles - all symbolizing Saint Lucia's horrible death by fire.

They all sing a song about Saint Lucy and light overcoming winter darkness, to the traditional Italian tune of Santa Lucia, followed by lots of Christmas carols.

At the Swedish Embassy in Washington - a whole lot of beautiful Nordic beauties

In Swedish households, it is the tradition that the oldest daughter arises early and prepares breakfast for everyone.  She serves it wearing her white gown with a red sash and the crown of candles on her head.  My sister-in-law grew up playing Lucia on this special day, and so did my niece Linnea!

Thankfully there now are battery-operated Lucia wreaths so modern girls don't have to accidently meet Lucia's fiery end too!  However, Linnea explains that she's still pulling wax out of her hair from Thursday night's Lucia Fest at the Swedish Embassy in Washington, D.C., so her candles in the photos above are real!

Yes.  I blatantly borrowed her photos from the program.  They were just too pretty not to share.  For a couple of delightful blogs on Linnea's Santa Lucia experiences old and new, please check out the following links:




Happy Saint Lucia's Day, everyone!  Even if it is wished you a little late.  I, personally, am glad the light always triumphs over the darkness.