Month: December 2012

Christmas Swimfest 2012

the whole crew
the whole crew

So we had a our second annual Christmas Swimfest 2012.  Last year I wanted to give back to the swim community so I invented this idea of a Swimfest with relays and games.  The purpose was to have fun, get a good work out and introduce people to our swim family in a non-threatening way.  Since then we have done 2 others, one at Valentines and another in the Summer.  The Christmas Swimfests have been the most popular and the easiest to plan.  This year was no exception.

In truth, I almost didn’t do it because I felt overwhelmed with my move and everything but there was enough interest and I’d done it enough times I decided to go for it and I’m so glad I did.  We met at Gene Fullmer Pool in West Jordan (the pools in Utah are THE BEST! Bar None!).  and ended up with 10 people which was perfect for even teams of 5.

The crew before our elves vs santa race
The gang before our elves vs Santa race

We had igloo caps this year, which I thought were quite cute.  Thank you Swimoutlet for getting them to us just in the nick of time.

My cousins Jaleah and Anne came which was fun and my friend Etsuko
My cousins Jaleah and Anne came which was fun and my friend Etsuko.  All sporting the igloo caps.
The treading water activity was a lot of fun. You had to hold your hands out of the water while jingle belling.  Josh, Sue and Sabrina lasted the longest
The treading water activity was a lot of fun. You had to hold your hands out of the water while jingle belling. Josh, Sue and Sabrina lasted the longest
Sabrina was an amazing treader especially considering she just had a baby! Wow!
Sabrina was an amazing treader especially considering she just had a baby! Wow!
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Everyone getting ready for the t-shirt relay.
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Swimming the candy relay
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Gordon swimming the t-shirt relay

Some of the other events we did are:  (Jim took more photos which I will add when I get them)

t-shirt relay with long sleeve t-shirts that made it a lot harder)

Santa vs Elves

treading water with jingle bells

Doing a lap and then eating a chocolate santa and then next person gets to go.

There is something else I’m forgetting.  The time went by far too fast!

Other one’s I had planned:

Push a plastic toy with your nose.

Plastic candy cane as a baton.

Rudolph antlers breaststroke race

Anyway, I love races and competition  and being with my friends.  When I was a little girl I always wanted to make a game or race out of what we were doing, so I guess this all goes right up my ally.  I had a great time and I’m grateful that Heavenly Father inspired me to go forward with a happy thing on a sad weekend.  He really does know what we need.

I’d love to encourage other masters groups out there to do their own swimfests and come up with their own relay ideas and pass them on.  Swimming (or life in general) doesn’t always need to be so serious.  We can have fun, let lose, and be happy.  It’s Christmas after all!

Merry Christmas!

To read about my other swimfests see:

https://smilingldsgirl.wordpress.com/?s=swimfest

Ho Ho Ho! Mrs Claus swimming!
Ho Ho Ho! Mrs Claus swimming!

Something Important, Something Stupid

So this will be short and sweet.

1. This tragedy in Connecticut is inconceivable, its unconscionable, and totally evil and disgusting.  We need to get real about our mental health in this country.  Just like we educate our youth about their veins, arteries and nerves, we need to teach them about their brain and how it can be ill/healthy.  We need to teach the most vulnerable (23-30) of signs and show treatment options.  Most importantly we need to be clear that mental health treatment is not a punishment or condemnation in any way.  It is a treatment!

If a child had the plague would we not turn that child over to proper treatment and authorities?  As a society would we not enforce that happened?  And yet if our child has a severe psychosis we do little to nothing!  It’s got to end.  Mental health is like any other kind of health, and sometimes we get sick.  I get sick, you get sick, but we get treatment.  Just something to think about.

Anyway, my thoughts and prayers are with the people affected.  I can not imagine what they are going through.  All I can do is pray and hope for a better future.  Jesus declared the little children to come unto Him.  I can only imagine Him comforting the little one’s who came to him today and sending special love to their families.  It is so overwhelming.

Can we finally talk about our violent angry culture too? Sigh…

2. Now for the stupid thing.  So there has been all of this hullabaloo about wearing pants to church. Boy does it seem inconsequential now.  As an LDS blogger who has blogged about Mormon Feminism I felt I should mention something.   Here goes:

1.  I will be wearing skirt/dress to church Sunday because it is what I feel comfortable in when worshiping.   I also feel it sets my apparel apart from the rest of the week.

2. I think staging a protest for equality as one blogger said is inappropriate in sacrament meeting.  It isn’t the time or place.

3. I’m not sure exactly what they want to accomplish.  They aren’t getting the priesthood or more positions.  You can already wear pants if you want to.

4. When I worked at the temple frequently Latino women came wearing pants and no mention was made, nobody was treated differently.  I think it is a silly distinction.

5. Whether they would admit it or not even the pants wearers have social customs that inhibit their activities.  For instance, they may want to wear pants to church but would they wear a swimsuit to church?  Probably not.  We all have our own agreed upon standards for what is appropriate for certain situations and to thrust new customs upon a group of people at a religious setting, especially when people could be really grieving this week is a little cold and insensitive.  Think about your own standards of dress and how you would feel if someone else dictated a change to you in a public setting.

6.  The blogs/facebook have gotten brutal on both sides.  Some have wondered why Mormon’s can say such terrible things.  First, I’m not convinced all the people on the Mormon sites are truly Mormons.  I think some are formers or anti’s trolling around trying to make us look bad.  No proof of that but there are trolls and I don’t know what would stop them.  Second, we live in a culture where being called a bigot is about the worst thing a person can be called, so when people talk about inequality at church or women wearing pants a certain degree of defensiveness can come in.  They don’t want to be labeled a bigot and their precious views contorted and changed into something bad.  I’m not excusing their behavior just trying to explain it.

7.  I have long been a fan of Mormon feminism and so while I am not wearing pants those who want to go for it but I have a feeling you’ll be disappointed by the non-story it all is.  I would bet you’ll leave church and think ‘oh that was just like any other day at church’.

It is just clothes after all.

So there you blogging world.  Something important.  Something stupid.

https://smilingldsgirl.wordpress.com/2012/07/20/mixture-of-thoughts/

A friend of mine is going through some depression. Thought I’d repost this to help he or she out.

Rachel's Musings

So, its the holidays- the season of Joy and Gladness.  Anyone else out there feel the occasional winter blues?

I was visiting with a few friends today and we all started talking about how stressful this time of year can be and not really for the shopping, decorating, budgeting requirements countless Christmas specials would have you believe.

The weather and propensity for illness are part of the yuletide stress but it also seems to be a stressful time for every job.  Whether it is end of the year responsibilities, finals or a million other things December brings loads more work than other months.

As my friends and I vented our stress we started talking about all of the things we ‘wish we could do’ or that ‘we should be doing’.  Do you ever play this mental game?  It made me think of my favorite book on cognitive therapy- the classic…

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The Giver

The Giver (The Giver, #1)The Giver by Lois Lowry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the 3rd dystopian novel I’ve read this year and I’ve realized I don’t really like them. They are too drab and pessimistic for my tastes. I always have a hard time believing that people would really let things get so bad. Anyone else struggle with relating to dystopian novels?

That said, there is a lot to like in Lowry’s story. My favorite element is the philosophical discussion about being and the same. In philosophy we learn that human beings have a natural tendency towards sameness. For example, instead of looking at someone as a unique creature with identity we turn them into a slave, a woman, a Mormon whatever. This allows us to treat people in the same way and usually that means with less respect or kindness.

In the Giver you have an entire society who not only follows the tendency of sameness but embraces it as a better way to live. What results is a bland culture that eventually can’t even see colors when they surround them.

Another interesting theme is the precision of language. How language is controlled and freedom of expression is imitated but not really granted. Someone can’t express inside them because they have nothing to express and because the language is constantly being corrected and modified. It made me think of our politically correct culture where precise language is required to speak your opinion on an issue.

I also liked the concept of memory and how we all sometimes wish we could remove a memory and give it to someone else to store, but would this only make us miserable? What do our memories mean collectively to a functioning society. Interesting…

Some online have criticized the logical flaws of the world. For example, 50 children are born each year, 25 girls and boys. This means 17 birth mothers are required each year yet its a looked down upon, sad career.

But I’m okay with those kind of lapses where I would fault Lowery is the amount of talking between the Giver and Jonas dragged on too long. Also, when he finally leaves it seemed to happen too easily and without as much action as I’d expect from this type of book. I think kids might be a little bored with all the therapy sessions and want a little more peril and excitement.

One word of caution the scene of Jonas’ father ‘releasing the twin is pretty disturbing. I’d say this book is best for older children.

So, how does it relate to Matched, Enders Game, Hunger Games, and other dystopian novels (Brave New World, 1984 for adults)? I don’t know since I don’t really love any of them it is hard to say but I would put it further down the list because I think it drags and could use a little more action and excitement.

What are your favorite in this genre?  Do you like The Giver?  I read it years ago and liked it.  Made me think.

Oh, I also met and heard Lowry lecture a few months ago and she said The Giver was not written as a religious allegory.  She said if it touches you in that way it is fine but that was not her intent.  I could really feel her love for the characters and she said that is how she always gets started on a story is an interesting character that she wants to explore.

Have any of you read any of the sequels?  I’m intrigued enough to read more.

So this will be my 45th book this year!  How many have you all read? That is almost double what I read last year.  Happy reading!

One more thing- they are evidently finally making a movie of The Giver, which I’d be curious to see.  I wonder if there is enough action to entertain kids nowdays? There is a lot of talking and going over memories for most kids. It’s not like the Hunger Games which is full of action and suspense.  Hmmm…

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Be Gone E-Reader!

Yesterday I sold my kindle.  Yes that bastion of convenient reading and downloadable novels is gone.   The truth is I’m glad to be rid of it!   Now don’t get me wrong- I’m not some kind of luddite but the fact is I just didn’t use it. I went into the purchase with high hopes (and amazon immediately lowered it’s value by putting out the fire 2 weeks after my purchase. Sigh…) but I still thought it was going to be great!

Then I read my first book on it and I didn’t enjoy the experience.  Here’s why:

1. I’m a note-writer when I read, partly because it’s the only way I remember from day to day the details of a story, and partly because I like to add my two cents to what the writer is saying.   While this is possible to do on the kindle I found it very laborious.

2. If I wanted to go back and re-read a section, something I am prone to do, I couldn’t just flip through until I found the spot (usually with my accompanying note which makes it easier).

3. I read in long stretches and I found it annoying to have to worry about whether I had battery power.  I don’t want limitations on my reading.  Last year at a lecture by a favorite author Haven Kimmel she claimed she’d never seen anyone read a kindle for more than 15 minute stretches.  While this may have been a bit of an exaggeration I do think there is something about using an electronic device like that which encourages distraction and a less-leisurely reading experience.

4. I thought it would be great for travel but since you can’t use handheld electronics on the plane for most of the time I ended up bringing a book anyways so it ended up being another thing to carry around.

5.  Once I finish a book I get a lot of satisfaction out of putting it in my library so I can re-read to my hearts content.  Literally 2 weeks after I got my kindle it was already out of date.  The only way I want my books to be out of date is content-wise not because I can’t read them a few years down the road.  Plus, I don’t want to invite myself into the expensive web of constant upgrading, downloading and transferring.  Reading is supposed to be simple and accessible.

6. I’m a book loaner.  Meaning I find a book I love and pass it on to friends and family.  For instance, Edenbrooke I loved this year and I’ve given my copy to half a dozen people.  My sister has it at the moment.  Can’t really pass around a kindle like that.  It also limits my friends from loaning me books they’ve liked, which is no fun.

7.  I worry about the e-reader’s future socio-economic impact.  Books and free libraries have always been an equalizing force in our society.  Most anyone could go to a library, get a book, and read no matter their income level.  With e-books some of those children are excluded from a type of reading and that concerns me.  Suddenly the most fundamental act of learning has become a status symbol instead of an equalizer.  Kid’s from poor families already feel they fall short in so many areas of their life, do we really have to add reading to the list.  It is not good!

8. The last reason is probably debatable by some but it seems to me the e-reader  has had a negative effect on the quality of many recent modern books.  Haven Kimmel agreed.  She said when she wrote her first book there were 4 editors involved.  Her most recent had 1 part-time editor.  Her husband was her main editor.  Has anyone else noticed the sloppiness in books lately? Typos, grammatical errors, sections missing etc?  (I’m sorry but the Twilight books were terrible examples of this). I think the e-reader has perhaps made it too easy to publish books.  In the past it was such an investment they had to get it right on the first printing.

So there you go, my reasons for selling my kindle.  I should never have bought it in the first place but my friends all loved it so much I finally gave in.  I’m glad to be rid of it!

So, you’all enjoy your e-readers and I’ll continue to read the ‘old fashioned way’. (That statement is so sad…)

What do you think of e-readers?

My old kindle
My old kindle

I watch as many versions of Christmas Carol each year as I can. I love the story of redemption.

Rachel's Musings

As I mentioned in my last post one of my Christmas traditions is to go to a fabulous local production of A Christmas Carol at Hale Center Theater Orem.  In the small ‘theater in the round’, the audience-member becomes engulfed in the world of Victorian London and the classic Dickensian tale of redemption (btw, you know your an influential author if you have your own adjective- right!)

Everyone knows the story of the “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner” known as Ebeneezer Scrooge.   What you may not know is some of the history behind the story.   In his novels, Dickens had two purposes for writing: 1. to show a journey of redemption by the lead character (or characters) and 2. to profile the horrific state of the lower classes.  As can be seen in Little Dorrit, Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, and other novels the poor characters must…

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I love this talk. Something to think about at Christmas.

Rachel's Musings

No friends I have not gotten off of my sugar fast…what I am referring to is a talk by President Hinckley years ago that has always stuck with me.  It was given at the annual First Presidency Christmas Devotional in 1998 entitled The Testimony of Jesus. In the talk he spoke about the festive time of the year and how it commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ.  At the time Hurricane Mitch had just happened and President Hinckley had been to visit the ravished Honduras people and check on church humanitarian services being performed to help them. 

As he describes the devastation he mentioned a  little girl  he met who had been rescued from the rafters of a flooded home.  About meeting her President Hinckley said:

“They now have beans and rice, powdered milk and cooking oil. That will sustain life but it is not very tasty. I would…

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Some Christmas music for your listening pleasure

Rachel's Musings

One of my favorite things during the Christmas season is the music.  This year I even broke the cardinal rule and started listening early in November ( I know what a rebel!).   I have over 300 Christmas songs on my ipod, so I can put it on shuffle and listen to holiday tunes most of the day.  I like a variety of songs including everything from All I Want For Christmas by Mariah Carey and Santa Claus is coming to Town by Frank Sinatra to For Unto us a Child is Born from Handel’s Messiah and I Saw Three Ships by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Sometimes I wish I could listen to Christmas music year-round.  I love the happiness and memories the songs evoke.   (I also love Christmas movies- Christmas Carol in all its variations, It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, Polar Express, and even Charlie Brown Christmas-…

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5 Love Languages at Christmas

Think of the 5 languages next time you are watching your favorite Christmas movie!
Think of the 5 languages next time you’re watching your favorite Christmas movie!

Having a relationship free Christmas with no family/spouse to spend it with has made me think a lot about past holidays and why some were more effective and loving than others? What made one Christmas happier and lighter in feel than others?

I’ll be honest when I was in college we had a pretty mean streak of chaotic Christmas breaks.  For about 3 years some or all of us ended up getting sick, my parents had a new baby (always tough) and they had just moved to California and hadn’t really settled in.  Life was a challenge.

That said, we did always manage to leave the season with a sense of unity and purpose and particularly Christmas Day never failed to be magical. A lot of this credit goes to my Mother who does whatever she can to make our somewhat odd family united.

Anyway, I was thinking about what I could have done in some of those hard years to make things better?  It’s hard to say because I was exhausted from school and ill equipped to deal with a family under duress.  I was also immature and eager to get back to my independent life. A baby and young toddler were the last thing I wanted to deal with and my response was probably on the selfish side; although I do think I tried.

I sometimes think it would be easier if I had friends in California but since I only lived there for 9 months, even today, I end up working most of break which doesn’t make it much of a break for me.  Plus, I find I turn into this different person when I am home.  More of a nag and less of a carefree, happy person.  Do any of you see that with your own behavior at home? I’m not sure why I do that?

While I was pondering these past Christmases I thought about how Christmas is like a little microcosm of all the ways we experience love (and its opposite) jam-packed into one month. There are so many opportunities to think of others and to receive love in return that it is really like no other time of the year, but again how can we make those interactions more effective?

I’m sure most of you have heard about the 5 Love Languages.  They are by Dr. Gary Chapman and have been a part of a number of his bestselling books. While possibly a bit gimmicky, I have found them to be very helpful in my friendships and family relationships over the years and today I was thinking about how much they relate to Christmas.   In fact, I think the success of a Christmas depends on our ability to express love in each of the 5 ways, and in the way others need that love:

5 Love Languages of Christmas

1. Quality Time-  This is the type of person that will get very frustrated by a slew of activities that are rushed through (how many of us do that at Christmas!).  They want time for ‘meaningful conversation’ and ‘eye contact and shared activities are needed to feel loved’ (I  wonder how many people felt ostracized from me because I couldn’t make eye contact with them with my strabismus?).

Basically bonding time is what they need most of all.   For example, this person would probably not be well suited to seeing a movie Christmas Day but would rather sit and talk over cookies.

My parents aren’t really ‘event’ people, meaning they enjoy doing things with all of us, but I don’t think they see it as an important expression of love.  They would see all the time spent with me on the phone as more important than any activity we might do together (which for me is definitely the case; although I am also an activity person).  In the past I have gotten frustrated when my family doesn’t seem as energized as I am about something important to me but maybe that is just not the way they express love?  Hmmmm

2. Receiving Gifts- This is probably the clearest link to the holidays and most treacherous.  Following the example of the magi of old we give gifts during the holidays and most of us try to give something thoughtful that the other person will like.  With children it is often the quantity of the gifts that stand out where an adult may get one or two more carefully chosen gifts.

Here’s the rub- some people, as Dr. Gray points out, just don’t think gifts are an important expression of love; for others it is key.   I can think of people in my family who land on both ends of the spectrum.  My Dad, for instance, is not a huge gift person.  He likes them fine but it’s definitely not his language.

One year I got my brother in the Christmas drawing and he said ‘ughh, Rachel is a bad gift-giver’ and I was so offended.  (It may have been his strategy because I gave him a sweet gift to prove him wrong!).  Giving and receiving gifts is important to me and I’ve learned a lot over the years about how to give an effective gift- https://smilingldsgirl.wordpress.com/2012/04/10/good-gifts/

Dr. Gray says “When you are with a partner who love little gifts and surprises, this is precisely what you will get. You will constantly be showered with new clothes, flowers or even chocolates. This is how they want to be loved, so this is exactly what they do for their partners. Giving the gift of self is also an important symbol of love to these people.”

On the other hand when someone is not a gift love language person it can come across as cold and distant to those who are. I can think of several Christmases I would have been happier had my expectations of both receiving and giving of gifts been aligned with the person on the opposite end of the gift.  Something to think about!

3. Words of Affection- This is a person who needs positive reinforcement vocally to feel loved.  Dr.  Gray says “those who speak this language are sensitive people and don’t take criticism as well as others. They may illustrate their frustrations by using sharp words or even by harassing you.” (sound like a holiday you have experienced!).  I probably fall into this language most of all; although, I have also learned over the years to hold feelings inside causing me anxiety and even panic.  That’s how unnatural it is for me to not communicate my feelings.

This type of love language can be a powder keg when large gatherings combine lots of personality traits together, giving ample opportunity for snubs, slights and over-reactions.  Even just the anxiety of reinforcing others and then not getting it back like you might have hoped can be difficult.  For example, someone who is shy and private may have a hard time communicating with someone who needs words of affection.

On the other hand, this expression can be full to overflowing in the positive during Christmas as people share testimony of the Savior, and we feel Jesus’ love stronger than the rest of the year.  Plus, cards, carolers, party-goers and family members all get ample opportunity to shower each other with words of love.  It just helps to know that is what your loved one needs.  Watch out for his or her patterns this year.

I can think of so many people who are great at this.  My best friend Emily comes to mind.  She is loving and thoughtful and we have a very similar type of love expression which is good for a best friend! :).  My old roommate Camille is also excellent at absorbing large personalities.  She is such a great listener, a necessary companion to being a words of affection person.

4. Physical Touch- This is probably the least visible during the holidays but certainly present.  As we visit with loved one’s hugs and other physical touch are a part of feeling warmly welcomed and loved.  If you are someone like me who is not a cuddly person sometimes such affections can be difficult to initiate but still appreciated.

It’s interesting after I showed my new roommate the house we were chatting and at the end of the conversation she said ‘Can I give you a hug?’.  I don’t know her well enough to say she is a physical touch person but suffice it to say I would never have made a similar gesture and t was very friendly.  Made me feel all the more confident in her character and that she would be a good roommate.

5. Acts of Service- Dr Gray defines this as “Some people find pleasure in doing things for others.  This may mean that they will feel loved when their partners help out with chores or does things for them.  However acts of service should be done out of love, not obligation”.

I was not always so great at the doing it out of love part but I did it and that counts for something.  Again, I was immature and craving my independence.  This did not always make for the most willing servant for my family, but we did work hard.

I remember one of the most difficult Christmas times my mother was injured and my Dad was sick and when we came into the house my Mother said ‘I hope you have come with an attitude of service’.   I’m sure I wasn’t perfect but I remember trying to serve.  My Sister (who was always better at this than me. Perhaps it is her language of love?) and I planned and cooked for a church party my Dad had scheduled weeks before the injury or illness nearly cancelled it.  I know it meant a lot to my Mom to have our help and I look back on it with gratitude to my Heavenly Father for giving me the chance to serve.

I have always been involved with service for the community around Christmas.  For years I did sub-4-santa, even when I was in high school, and have one planned this year for a family friend.  I am also taking the lead on Swimfest which I see as service to my swim family.  Next Tuesday I am going with my activity days girls to sing at the senior center near my house- another great opportunity to serve during Christmas.  (The girls requested going to the center! Isn’t that cute?)

So those are the 5 love languages.  I hope that you can think about them as you try to express love this Christmas season.  The most important thing to remember is that Jesus Christ, the reason for the season, understands our language perfectly and can love us like nobody on earth. In fact, He already has shown the ultimate love by giving us His life so we could be forgiven and be happy.  Returning to His presence with our eternal families makes all of life’s struggles worth it (and the happy times extra sweet).  Merry Christmas!

NativityScene

Full House and a Single Christmas

room for rent

I have exciting news!  I’ve decided to get a roommate for the 3rd bedroom of my house.  This will probably come as a big surprise to some of my friends and family who have heard me defend the lifestyle of living alone.  I am as surprised by it as anyone else.    What can I say it just felt like the right thing to do.  It’s going to be an adjustment but I’m looking forward to something new and making new friends.

Financially its a no brainer.  I will be making more money on tenants than I am currently spending on rent and I will end up with more square footage and nicer space even with the  space allocated for tenants.  I will have an office and a huge master suite so there should be tons of privacy.  Sharing a kitchen might be challenging  at first, but I’m up for a challenge.

All 3 of my tenants I found via craigslist (something I swore I’d never do again) and I checked references (the girl who is rooming with me goes to my old ward and knows a lot of the same people I know.  Small world).  You never know with things like this but taking risk is part of life.   I feel as confident as is possible that they will be awesome tenants and it will be a great thing for me.  Regardless I know its what Heavenly Father wants me to do and that is what is most important.  I am sure it

is His will.  I can’t wait to see why He wants me to do this and the blessings that unfold.

Life is certainly full of twists and turns. So, they also announced that my house will be done 12-31-12.  What a fun New Years present! I’m going to give my notice on Monday at my current place just to give a little more leeway if something goes wrong (like a blizzard comes in or the appraisal gets delayed.  Whatever).   This means my move in date will probably be around the 5th.  Get ready friends to help me move!  (Thanks in advance!)

Other news…I’m not going home for Christmas this year.  This is the first time in my adult life except for my mission and I really went back and forth over the decision but talking with my Dad today confirmed it will be best for me to stay here and get ready for the move.  I just know the anxiety of travel combined with moving will be too much.  (I hope my family knows how truly agonizing the decision was for me. I felt really sad and even a little guilty not coming.  Hard to explain but true).  Plus, saving money before closing never hurts and my parents are coming out the next week anyway so it would really only be for the day.

It does make me a little sad to know I am 31 and spending Christmas alone…I don’t think that is anyone’s ideal but it is what it is.  I’m certainly going to be less lonely come the beginning of the year so no complaining there!  God has His own timing for my life and I just have to keep faith. He knows me and He has certainly been guiding me as I’ve gone through this housing and subsequent tenant search, I have to believe he will guide me in ALL parts of my life.

The Christmas season isn’t going to be that different.  I just have a little bitty tree (the tree I got from my mission) instead of my large memory tree (still doing 2012 memory ornaments).

My little Christmas tree and twinkle lights. Keeping things simple this year!
My little Christmas tree and twinkle lights. Keeping things simple this year!

I am also making this the season of the Messiah Sing-In.  Always a tradition for me since I was a little girl but this year I am going to three! Nothing like it.  Makes me emotional every time I hear it.  I think of my mission when I had some deep lonely times and the music always made me feel at home.  I listened to it year-round.

Next week I am having the 2nd Annual Christmas Swimfest, which I am excited about.   This is something I invented last year to give back to my swimming family.  We do a solid workout set and than a bunch of goofy relays like exchanging t-shirts after a lap or eating a saltine cracker in-between laps (its really hard!).

I’m going to try and think of some holiday themed relays and already have some (nutcracker relay, back stroke with foot out of water like a ballerina).  If you have any ideas let me know.  I debated about doing the Swimfest this year because of the move and everything but I’m glad I decided to do it.  It’s really the least I can do and after doing 3 of them already it’s not much work.  Getting the word out is probably the hardest part, so if you are in the area come out- Gene Fullmer pool 10 am.

I am also going to Christmas Carol on the 18th with my best friend Emily and her husband. Hurray!  This is always a highlight of the holidays for me.   I love the message of redemption in the story of Scrooge and that nobody is a lost cause to Jesus.

So, as you can see I will have plenty to keep me busy (and there’s more I could listen, let alone packing up my apartment!).   Still, I’m a little concerned with Christmas Day itself.  What can I do on that day to make it not seem lonely but happy and full of a spirit of giving to others?  (I am doing a sub-4-santa type project but that will be done this Saturday, not Christmas Day). I’ve thought about going to a midnight mass at Cathedral of the Madeline.  I’ve always wanted to do that but never been able to step away from family.  It could be a neat community experience.

What would you do if you had Christmas alone? How would you make it special? I’d be especially curious for those who have spent Christmas alone and what they have done to ensure it wasn’t a big pity party. (Oh and I just want to clarify that I am not staying at home as some kind of revenge to my family.  So many of the posts I read online were of that vein.  As chaotic as they can sometimes be, I’m actually sad to be away from my family at Christmas).

Please forgive for this somewhat rambling post.  Lots of news to catch you up on.  (Oh also next week I am going to a speed dating activity in Salt Lake.  Wish me luck!)

Oh and I also want to see Les Miserables on Christmas Day if anyone wants to come with!