Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas...Past, Present, and Future

As a kid, I loved Christmas: the Christmas music (especially sung at church), the lights on the houses, the tree with all our school-made ornaments, and the traditions of our family. After moving to Cedar, we sometimes we went to Vernal to celebrate the holiday with extended family, but most of the time, we stayed home and celebrated it with just our family. Christmas Eve, after dinner of ham, potato casserole, rolls, veggies, and other goodnesses, we'd drive around looking at the lights on houses, singing Christmas carols. I'm sure us kids would fight at times, but I don't remember. *smile* When we got home, we read the Christmas story from the Bible and got to open one present before going to bed. When I was younger, I'd always hope for some really cool toy to open, but it was always pj's. After a few years, I caught on to the pattern and realized that present would always be pj's and finally understood the coolness of getting to wear brand-new pajamas to bed Christmas Eve. Of course, we would leave a plate full of homemade sugar cookies and a glass of milk for Santa. Then we'd put our individual stocking in our "place". This place signified where Santa was to put our gifts when he came.

Christmas morning, we weren't allowed to get out of bed until a certain time - preset the night before. I remember being awake in bed, willing the alarm clock to go faster so I could get out of bed. (I was an extremely obedient child, as you know.) Corey would come in and get me and sometimes we'd go look at our presents before waking up Jason and Kevin. We'd all play with our new toys an hour or so before waking up our parents (also a preset time from the night before). After showing them our loot, we'd open up the presents under the tree. We took turns (usually youngest, Kevin, to oldest, Dad), opening up one gift at a time, so we all got to be the center of attention for a moment and so that present would get its proper importance. It also stretched out the fun, something I really enjoyed. Oh, and we always had stuff in our stockings, too. Stocking stuffers wouldn't be anything extravagant, especially when compared to what I've heard about from other people, usually just an apple, orange, banana, some candy, nuts, and maybe a small toy. After presents were opened, we'd have Mom's breakfast casserole, then spend the morning playing with our toys and often playing the game(s) Santa had left for the family. For lunch, we'd have Mom's delicious clam chowder. I can eat clam chowder from restaurants, but none of them are as tasty as Mom's. I really need to learn how to make it someday. The rest of the day was really relaxed. Lots of spending time together. It was wonderful.

When my parents divorced, things changed. We developed new traditions, started having two Christmases - one at Mom's and one at Dad's, and I lost a little of my Christmas spirit. I hate to say it, but it's true. It took a few years, but eventually, I started to dislike Christmas. I still enjoyed the music/singing, the lights on houses, and all that stuff, but I started to dread Christmas Day. I hated leaving my mom all alone on Christmas Day when we went to Dad's. Then I felt bad leaving Dad's house because we usually didn't stay there very long. And, I felt bad bringing the gifts from him and Paula home to my mom's. I probably made it worse than I should have, but what can I say, I'm a sensitive gal. *smile* Then my brothers got married and started having kids. Kids make Christmas. That's all there is to it. Having in-laws to plan around, and then a nephew we only got to see on Christmas Eve complicated Christmas. It started to become a 2-day affair. Since Kevin only had Scott on Christmas Eve, we'd spend part of that day with Mom and part with Dad. Repeat that on Christmas Day. I always ended up being the one who coordinated when we'd go where, and frankly, I hated it. I always had fun once the festivities were upon us, of course. I just wish I had relaxed enough to enjoy it beforehand. Ah well. Live and learn, right?

Two years ago, I scheduled my lap band surgery for December 23rd for two reasons; one because it was the best time to take off work and the other to avoid some of the stress that I caused myself at this time of year. It helped. Then last year, I decided to go to Paris on Christmas Day. I was still around long enough to be able to enjoy the festivities, but I was determined to not let the normal frustrations interfere with my excitement. This was a break-through for me. I finally realized that I didn't need to make sure everyone was happy. This wasn't my responsibility. I didn't have kids, I was single. Why did I need to make the plans? So I didn't. And I had a really enjoyable Christmas. I realized how stupid I had been for so many years and was determined that I wouldn't be ever least about Christmas.

This year is the first year in a long time that I won't be spending Christmas with my family. Steve and I are going to Denver for Christmas. We fly out tomorrow afternoon and are coming back Tuesday afternoon. Since we're leaving on Christmas Eve, we're opening our presents tomorrow morning and doing "traditional" Christmas Eve night stuff tonight. After dinner, we're going to watch a Christmas movie (probably the cartoon version of the Grinch since he's opposed to Charlie Brown), then drive around looking at the lights on people's houses. I'm betting I won't get him to sing carols with me. *smile* When we get home, we'll have hot chocolate and open our stocking stuffers. In the morning, we'll open our presents and have breakfast. I'm thinking of making a quiche or maybe Mom's breakfast casserole! (I just thought of that while I typed.)

I don't know what the future holds, but I know I want to be with Steve for every Christmas yet to come. I want to have traditions that are ours, traditions that we establish together and can pass on to our children, if we have them. I know that some years we'll spend with my family and hopefully we'll spend some with his family. No matter where we are, I'm going to be with Steve and that makes me happy. The future certainly looks bright.

Wherever you are going to be this Christmas, whoever you're going to be with, whatever your traditions are, I hope you have a very wonderful day!


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Wish List

Dear Santa,
First of all, thank you sooooo much for the wonderful presents you gave me from my list last year! The trip to Paris was a dream come true, better than I could have ever hoped for. It was exciting, romantic, inspiring, and I got to spend half of the trip with my dearest friend, Cardine. Kissed four guys, saw pages and pages of historical sites (Notre Dame, Montmartre, and the Louvre being some of my favs), and visited TWO amazing cemeteries! Plus I ate an acre worth of pastries but walked so much I ended up losing 7 lbs. Yay!

Thank you for the new job too. The salary was quite a bit less than what I had been making, but it had potential to increase and it had health insurance, retirement benefits, and free tuition. Oh, and I loved the people with whom I worked. I liked it so much that I planned on working there for years to come, if not for the rest of my professional life. That said...

A million merci's for the boyfriend. Actually, you were really generous with this one; two boyfriends (not at the same time) and multiple interactions with several different guys. It was a romantically educational year for me, culminating in Steve, the man I love with all my heart and who I hope to be with the rest of my life. He is perfect for me in so many ways. Definitely the best present you could ever leave for me under the Christmas tree. I must have been a really good girl.

I probably wasn't as good a girl this year, but I'm hoping the scales will be tipped in my favor. On the chance that they are, here is my Christmas Wish List for this year.

1. A job.
It's really hard being unemployed. I'm fortunate to have a place to live, renters who pay my mortgage, and someone who cares for me. I'm learning to depend on someone else (which is remarkably difficult though something I need to learn), but my self image is suffering. It doesn't have to be the bestest job ever; just something that pays my bills and gives me money to spend on myself and others. I'd prefer an office job, M-F, evenings and weekends off.

2. A ring. I'm pretty sure I'm going to get one this next year, but why not wish for it anyway. I've never wanted to get married more than I do now. I want to spend the rest of my life with Steve. I want to be his wife.

3. Mario Kart. For the Wii, with 2-4 steering wheel attachments. I love this game. I haven't played it since Kyle borrowed it from his brother and I miss it. I've probably lost all my skills. *sigh* I'm a little disappointed I didn't get it last year, but you gave me so many other wonderful gifts, so I'm not too upset. *smile*

4. A dog. I want a dog. I've wanted a dog for years but just haven't been in the right situation til now. I have a wonderful house and it's surrounded by a great neighborhood and close to an amazing walking path. I'd love a greyhound or a boxer. Nothing small and yappy, please.

5. A local friend. I already have some of the bestest friends a gal could ever wish for. However, they all live far away. I could really use a good friend that lives close...less than 15 minutes away would be awesome. Someone I can just hang out with without having to get on the freeway to see them. Someone to go to chick flicks with. Someone who doesn't want to hang out too often, because, quite frankly, I like to spend most of my free time with Steve.

6. Love and joy for all my friends and family. I am so blessed with the people I have in my life. Please bless them with the things that will make them happiest this year.

Well, that's it. My life is already pretty wonderful, so these items would be the cherry on top (except a job - that would be several scoops of ice cream). Thank you in advance for the presents you'll be giving this year!

Merry Christmas!

Julie :)

Monday, December 06, 2010

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

I love walking. It calms my soul, energizes my body, and puts me in a good mood, regardless of how I feel when I start out.

One of the things I missed about my home in Cedar was its proximity to a wonderful walking path. It gave me several route and distance options, and I didn't have to worry about traffic. When I moved to Layton, I enjoyed discovering the neighborhoods near my home, but only one route really satisfied my walking requirements and I knew I would soon get bored with it. Then I moved to Riverdale and, happiness of all happinesses, there's a river walking path just a block or so away from my home! Yay!

Steve and I started exploring the area even before we moved in and I knew it would be perfect for my walking style. There are several different "routes" for me to choose from, all of which are just variations of the same path but which will keep me from getting bored. It's been fun to see the path change with the season, too. We started exploring in October, with the leaves changing into beautiful oranges, reds, and yellows. Last week, after being dumped on, the walking path became a beautiful winter wonderland. One day, I happened to have my cell phone along for the walk and decided to take pictures, as I was kind of mourning the fact that no one was around to share the beauty of the morning with me. Please keep in mind that A) I used a cell phone to take the pictures and 2) I'm not an accomplished photographer...or even a semi-respectable one. That said, here they are.

Most of the walk had been plowed but I thought it was really pretty during this long stretch of walkway that hadn't been. And, it gave my legs an extra work-out. Woohoo!

The Weber river is really close to the path and there are stretches of the walkway that give a perfect view of it. Steve can't wait to fish along the river this Spring.

There are actually 3 wooden bridges along the least just 3 that I've found so far. The path is super duper long and I've only scratched its surface. I LOVE wooden bridges, so it makes the walking path just that much more enjoyable for me.

This is a view from one of the bridges, facing away from the river. It's hard to believe that Riverdale Road, a busy commercial road, is just a few blocks away. Instead, I feel like I'm in the middle of the country. I love it.

My pictures fail to capture the wonderful peace and beauty of the moment. The only thing that would have made walking this path in all its loveliness any better would have been to share it with someone I love. Where were you all? *smile*