Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Just like riding a bike.

That is what it is like to take care of a baby.  It all just comes back so naturally. 
Certainly one of the highlights of our Family Reunion Trip to Florida this Christmas season was spending time with our grandbaby, little Miss Evelyn.  Do you know how many years it has been since I have cared for a baby? Well, it has been a lot!  In fact, I will be taking "my baby" to BYU-Idaho this weekend to begin her freshman year. I hadn't changed a diaper in a VERY long time.

This sweet little thing charmed us all.  She was such a delightful, good-natured baby, so willing to put up with all that we asked of her, which included hours of stroller time in Walt Disney World.

Our little Evie even allowed us to shower her with gifts, showing proper appreciation by putting things promptly in her mouth.

While the rest of the family chose to walk on the wild side and venture onto Expedition Everest, Evelyn was quite content to stay with Grandma and wait.

Perhaps the most fun was in the evenings when Grandpa and I would volunteer to take Evelyn back to the hotel.  The others thought it sounded like fun to stay out late and ride the fast thrill rides, but Brian and I knew the real thrill was in getting Evelyn ready for bed, playing with her in the soft light of the Christmas tree. And watching her try to eat her toes...

As many of you know, I have been on a quest.  A quest for meaning.  A quest for fulfillment.  A quest for worthwhile use of my time.  I think as my nest is emptying of my adult children, I am ready to find plenty of space in my nest and time in my schedule for the next generation of Haws children with delightfully chubby cheeks just begging to be kissed.

And you know what?  It is so much fun to have someone who doesn't mind when Grandma pulls out her camera...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

In the gritty city...

Well, kind of!  At least as gritty as downtown Salem gets.  Tonight, sensing that I needed a reprieve from all of my trip preparations, my sweet husband took me out.  Without any real plan, we just drove hoping that some invisible divining rod would lead us to something magical.

We drove down Court Street, looking for something new and exciting.  Brian had heard there was a great new place to find Greek food.  After circling the block, we spotted it, found a parking spot and went out to explore.

Hmmmmm....maybe some other time.  It didn't look like quite what I was expecting and we both kind of vetoed it simultaneously.  But the weather wasn't bad and the "city" was calling.  So arm in arm, we set off to find something else.  I was struck by how our own little Salem actually seemed a little like New York City in some ways.  There were interesting people gathered in random little groups; we saw compelling little boutiques; glimpsing in to "Straight from New York Pizza" was just like seeing the pizza joints in the Big Apple.

Rather than adventurously trying some place new, we migrated to our comfort zone, McGrath's Fish House.  Delightfully surprised however, we found an updated menu with some new offerings.

Can I tell you about the most delicious  dinner that I had?  It was fabulous, actually.  It was a small sirloin steak (I get a little nervous ordering steak in a seafood restaurant) that was topped with crabmeat and a lobster cream sauce.  Oh my stars.  Heaven on a plate.  I stopped short of licking the plate, but I was tempted.

Thank you, my dear.  It was an unexpected, lovely evening filled with wonderful food, wonderful company, and the best part, the wonderful conversation.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

It's All in the Details

I have realized that I am a Detail Person, by choice and also by necessity.  I really love making sure all the details are attended to so that our plans go off without a hitch.  Perhaps another way of stating that would be that I am a control freak, but that doesn't sound as pleasant...

Right now, as many mothers are with Christmas around the corner, I am swimming in a sea of details begging to be addressed.  As usual, I am trying to find the balance between making everything "just so", finding proper time for worship, and not losing my sanity during the most wonderful time of the year. 

This year, however, BY MY OWN CHOICE, I have thrown myself a curve ball.  Not only must I get ready for Christmas, I am also trying to get ready for a huge family trip to Florida.  Ah, details, details, details...I should be in Nirvana, right?

This is when I find the most value in list-making, especially due to the fact that my memory has suffered lately (due to too many birthdays).

So this detail person will be spending the next five days making lists and checking and re-checking them, so that no child will be left behind, or any reservation number, or any Christmas present, or any shoes, or any...

And then Monday morning I will head to the Portland airport, fly to Salt Lake City where I will meet up with the rest of my family, then we will all board the plane to Orlando.  Once I get to that point, I should be able to relax and enjoy myself, reveling in the fact that all the details will be combining to make the Happiest Christmas Ever!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Simple pleasures

Bet you wish you were me right now.  I am sitting in front of the fireplace, in my pink flannel jammies, and eating a piping hot bowl of oatmeal.

I'm such a dork, huh?  I love oatmeal, but not just any oatmeal.  It has to be the old-fashioned steel-cut variety that takes a LONG time to cook.  None of that mushy quick stuff.  And give me a spoonful of brown sugar and a little half-n-half.  I think this is what we will be eating in heaven...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Searching for...

meaning.  Really.  I have been intrigued lately with the word "meaning".  Why is it so coveted?  Why does it seem so elusive?  How is it possible to transcend the mundane, everyday drudgery simply by being able to attach "meaning" to it?

This word keeps popping up all over the place.  "Man's Search for Meaning"; "Does the song you sing have enough meaning..."; the TRUE meaning of Christmas;  see what I "mean"? ;-)

In Victor L. Frankl's book, he quotes the words of Nietzsche: "He who has a Why to live for can bear almost any How."  The root of his survival while in a Nazi concentration camp was his ability to attach meaning to his life and retain a hope for a happy life after that bleak experience was behind him. And as terrible as that experience was, it reinforced for him WHAT was truly meaningful to him.  Life is not primarily a quest for pleasure, or a quest for power or wealth; it is truly a quest for meaning.  Remarkably and perhaps as one of God's greatest gifts it is our responsibility to find the unique meaning of our own lives.

"Frankl saw three possible sources for meaning: in work (doing something significant), in love (caring for another person), and in courage during difficult times." (from the Foreword to Man's Search for Meaning)

You know, when I entitled my blog, Ardith's Quest, I think I was subconsciously defining my desire to search for meaning in my life.  The last 26 years have been spent primarily focused on my family and that has provided wonderful meaning for my life.  As my children have grown and are leaving home, now I can see that my quest is to find other sources of meaning.  What will be my reason for getting out of bed in the morning?  What will be my impetus for self-improvement?

Some of the greatest questions ever posed illustrate the universal quest for meaning: Where did I come from? Why am I here?  Where am I going?  Thankfully the Gospel of Jesus Christ in its restored fullness has provided me with those answers.  The challenge of enduring to the end is where my quest for meaning will be most "meaningful" and necessary.

I have made it this far, but in reality I am (hopefully) only at the halfway mark of my life on earth.  What will provide meaning for the next 46 years?  Will the song in my heart have enough meaning to be shared with others?  I hope so.  I feel like the Lord has blessed me with some gifts that He intends for me to use productively, and ultimately I will be held accountable to Him for their use.  Perhaps it is time to find a shovel, remember where I buried my talents, and see if I can uncover, dust off, and use those gifts to add some meaning to my life and to others.

May you and your family enjoy a meaningful Christmas.  May you find meaningful activities, and may your traditions bespeak the true meaning of this sacred holiday season.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

May I be the first...

to recommend the new Disney movie, The Princess and the Frog!  What a delight!  It truly was as advertised; ready to take its place among the other Disney classics.  A true test for me was that, as I was entranced by its charm, I also had the thought "I can't wait 'til this comes out on video".

I think among all my favorite parts, and there are many, there was a particularly magical scene with fireflies lighting the way through the bayou.  You must see this; amazing!

And the music was delightful.  As Miranda commented, "It's nice to have some new Disney music to fall in love with".

I think the most lasting influence of this movie will be that I think I will finally find a way to make it to New Orleans.  It is funny how some places continue to drop mental invitations until I succomb to their persistence.  It has been that way with New Orleans.  I have received several promptings lately, reminding me that this is one classic destination that has alluded me thus far.  That will have to change...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Have you ever wished...

for a soundtrack to play during the special times of your life?  I think it has become very apparent what must surely be my Christmas soundtrack. It is the Vince Guaraldi recording for "A Charlie Brown Christmas".

I can't remember a year that this music didn't accompany my Christmas.  Every year as my family decorates the tree, someone will disappear into the other room to find and turn on this family favorite.  Nothing speaks Christmas to my family like this familiar music.

A few days ago, I spotted a book on one of my book shelves.  It called for me to stop whatever I was doing and pull it from the shelf.

This is a fascinating book on many levels.  It includes the entire script of the show, it includes the piano music for a few of the classics, it includes storyboards and production sheets showing the genius and artistry behind the magic. 

It also contains several interviews from principle players in the making of this tradition, including something I had never noticed before:  it actually has pictures of the children that provided the voices for the Peanuts characters.  I especially loved seeing the special boys that portrayed Charlie Brown and Linus, as I have come to love their sweet, unassuming voices.

So last night, seemingly right on cue, A Charlie Brown Christmas was once again shown on prime time television, as it has been every year since 1965.  And even though we have seen it as many times as there have been years that pass, I tuned in again.

I was particularly looking forward to watching it this time because I had this newly-reviewed inside knowledge of how this classic was produced.  And just as it has become with A Christmas Carol and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, I know every line by heart, anticipating every inflection, every pause, every exclamation.

Aaaaaaaaggghhhhhh! (delivered in my best Charlie Brown)  It was  ruined!  I spoiled it!  Can it ever be the same?!

Instead of hearing those classic lines delivered by Charlie Brown and Linus, in my head all I could see were the pictures of those two "real" boys.

So I won't ruin it for you.  I won't post pictures of the real boys who provided the real voices.

May it always remain as the makers of this masterpiece intended; the Peanuts characters stepped out of their comic strip world to remind us that even though Christmas seems like it is a big commerical racket, run by a big eastern syndicate, it really is about a miracle in Bethlehem.

"And that's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

(humming quietly to the tune of Hark the Herald Angels...)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Like hearing it...

for the first time!  Last night during the First Presidency Christmas Devotional, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performed part of Handel's Messiah, For Unto Us a Child is Born.  I cannot begin to describe the power that piece of music had on me.  I have heard it many times before, and always thought it was beautiful.

This time, I don't know if I was hearing it with new ears, but something was different.  I was enraptured, if you will excuse the use of such a melodramatic word.  It was so thrilling to me to hear not only the powerful words of Isaiah but to hear them set to inarguably some of the most triumphant music ever composed.

I have been singing it to myself ever since, quietly of course if anyone is nearby.  I find that it is the perfect way to express my joy and thanks for the birth of my Savior at this Christmastime.  Just fills my heart with joy.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Must introduce...

my daughter Erica's newly born BLOG.  I think she has seen how much I have enjoyed having a blog and decided to get in on the fun.

I love the thought she put into why she would begin one, which she reviews in her first post.  I think the best way to let people know you is through the process of getting to know yourself.  There is so much to discover as one searches to uncover. Good luck on your new endeavor, my dear.  It will be a journey on which I will be anxiously coming along to enjoy the ride with you.

Here is the link to her blog, which she so aptly named "...And She Lived Happily".  Because she really does live happily and with joy, and she spreads that happiness around to all who know her.

I am so proud of my beautiful daughter.  She makes me proud every day of her well-lived life.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

We finally made it...

to the Oregon Zoolights! And we have only lived in Oregon for 24 years... 

It was a charming experience.  No sign of rain, which meant miraculously no sign of clouds, which meant that it was actually quite a cold evening.  It was the first time we had to dig out the winter coats, gloves, scarves, etc.  Kind of fun, for a change.

There was a train that takes people all over the zoo, and instead of seeing live animals, we saw lots of "lighted" animals. 

Our friend, the giraffe, put this heart on top of the Christmas tree.

Watch out for things in the trees!

Easily my favorite thing to see was the mother and baby elephants giving each other loves with their trunks.  Adorable, and so precious.

Easily my favorite part of the evening was spending time with my wonderful family, plus Derek of course.

Will I ever go back to the Oregon Zoolights?  Sure!  But next time I am taking Evelyn.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Comfort and Joy

These two words seem to be continuously circling round in my head.  I know their companionship is derived from that classic old Christmas carol that no one seems to herald as a favorite, but everyone is familiar with and could probably sing every word.  You know the one...

I seem to keep coming back to these two words as the theme of my Christmas season, and maybe I like them so much because they do seem to encompass all of my favorite things about the holidays.  So I thought I might inventory some of these things that bring me comfort and joy at this time of year.  Maybe it will prompt you to also categorize the comforting, joyful things in your life.

Doughnuts dunked in Hot Cocoa ( a rare, but ultra-satisfying treat)
My children singing Christmas songs
A Charlie Brown Christmas, the TV show and also the soundtrack
Our collection of Christmas picture books
Snuggly warm sweaters and thick socks
Making a list, and checking it twice ( and again, and again)
Dreaming of a Christmas all together with my children and my grandbaby (Can't wait!)
Driving up the hill to my home, anticipating its peace and warmth
Avoiding the Malls by shopping online
Spotting the UPS truck driving into my cul-de-sac
Memories of past Christmases and real winters with snow instead of rain

Well, that's a start.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Ah, the Romance of...

the Rails!  Everyday, as I take Miranda to work, I drive past the beautiful refurbished train depot down on 12th Street.  I see travelers coming and going and wonder where they have been and what played a part in their decision to travel by railway. 

Today there was an Amtrak train that was stopped at the station as I drove past.  I was delighted to see that many of the windows were filled with travelers, on their way to who knows where.

I, too, have traveled by train a couple of times but it was many years ago, so long that it is difficult to really connect with that young girl that used to be me.  The first experience was when I was leaving home for the first time, going away to college.  I boarded the train at the station in downtown Portland, Oregon, and after what seemed like time must have stood still, I finally arrived at my destination, a little blip in the middle of nowhere, called Cache Junction, a few miles outside of Logan, Utah.  It was the middle of the night and my heart was filled with every emotion from anxiety to relief, from exhaustion to exhilaration.

The trip had been filled with hours of loneliness.  No ipod, nor even a walkman for company.  I would read for awhile, write my thoughts in a notebook at times, make the precarious journey to the dining car and back again.  I should see if I can find that notebook.  I'll bet my musings would be good for a chuckle or two.  I used to be quite melodramatic,  you know...

My next adventure by train was much different.  This time I traveled with my new husband to go back home to Oregon for Christmas.  I wasn't lonely that time, and we chose to travel by train to avoid the snowy roads of winter.  We were poor college students and had to travel in the coach class.  We imagined how luxurious it must be to be able to afford passage in a sleeper car.

I think someday I am going to travel again by the romantic railways.  It will of necessity be when I am no longer in any hurry to get where I want to go.  It will be somewhere carefully chosen for the beauty of the scenery along the way.  I would love to have a companion along for the journey, but in this day and age of laptop computers and every kind of portable media, the isolation would be much easier to endure.

AND, the most important change would be that I would definitely book a sleeper car.  How does that sound?  Pretty great, huh?

photo credit: Ron Goodson

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Violated my own rule!

Let me explain.  I live in the Willamette Valley, the most beautiful place on earth in my opinion.  We are surrounded on every side by green, particularly beautifully green fir trees.  This is such the perfect climate for fir trees that our valley is one of the leading producers of Christmas trees which are then shipped all over the country.

Because of this, my family delights every year in going to any possible number of nearby tree farms to select the perfect Christmas tree, cut it down fresh, and then enjoy its freshness the entire month of December.  I know that most people have resorted to artificial Christmas trees for several reasons.  I understand that over the years it becomes cost-effective not to re-purchase every year.  I understand that it simplifies the process to a large degree, not only on the set-up but also on the taking down.  I understand that it diminishes the fire danger.  I understand that they don't shed their needles.  Okay, that's about all I can come up with.

Now, for the downsides.  Where is the fragrance?  Where is the magic of a real tree in your living room?  Where is the beauty that simply can't be replicated by an artificial tree?  Where is the diversity of having a different variety each year? 

I love fresh trees.  I will always love fresh trees, and as long as I am able I will continue to enjoy fresh trees.

So what's up with this?!!  As we speak, there is a delightful little artificial tree set up and decorated in my living room!

Because we are having Christmas in Florida, Brian and I decided that we didn't need the hassle of putting up a tree at home this year.  I had purchased a small fake tree to be shipped to our resort so that we can enjoy it for Christmas down in the sunshine state.  Well, it was actually Miranda in her wisdom that suggested that we give it a trial-run and set it up in our home before we go.  Oh, what fun!  I am thrilled with it.  It is adorable.  It was sooooo easy to put up.  We didn't have to move any furniture.  We didn't have to get out the vacuum when we were finished.  Well, you get the picture.

Does this mean I have changed my tune?  Does this mean I have been converted and joined the "dark side"?  Heavens no!  Next year you can be sure that I will have things back to normal around here.

But for now, I will grudgingly admit that artificial trees can also be kind of charming...;-)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Had a wonderful...

Thanksgiving!  I enjoyed it so much.  We spent our holiday at Lincoln City, so cozy inside the beach house, while the rains never abated the entire day.  Good thing there were plenty of things to do inside.

Erica was our activities director for the day, and based her plans on the movie, Dan in Real Life.  The setting for the movie is a family reunion gathering where everyone is staying together in the same house.  We had lots of fun doing similar things, like a ping pong tournament, boys against the girls crossword puzzle, playing board games, and a surprising and entertaining talent show.  The outdoor activities like football, aerobics, and yoga will have to wait for another time.

Jackie came home too which made it so nice.  She also contributed to the fun by sharing some of her skills with the family.  She gave facials and foot massages, procedures at which she has become very adept.  But my favorite skill she shared was baking her beautiful, yummy pies.  Thanks, Jacks!

We were so blessed to have the company of the full-time missionaries with us that day.  Elder Petersen and Elder Christensen are such fun young men.  I hope that we were able to make them feel a little like being home with their families that day.

I am so overwhelemed by the blessings of the Lord on my family.  My thanksgiving prayer is that we can use these blessings to be instruments in the Lord's hands to help build His Kingdom.  He truly has opened the windows of heaven and poured out an abundance on the Haws family.  Very humbling, indeed.