Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Post Holiday Hangover

                            Happy 2014!
Me and friend (and amazing Artist) Diana Dominguez
 The holidays have just ended and I am looking at a normal school/workday in the morning and I just feel almost like I have been hit with a truck. Really? Do I really  have to go back to the norm? Ok, let me backtrack. I am super happy to have a friendly norm to go back to. I really am not complaining.  I love the holidays---love the lights, the creative gift ideas, the wrapping, the baking, the music, the general loving vibe...and this year for some reason it felt like all of that seasonal great stuff---on drugs! The break is almost over and I feel like I need a break to recover from the break---and really to reflect on all the gift I have been given. What a wonderful season! We are not a wealthy family, but this year felt so rich. First I have to back track to December 1st---where the best gift began to unfold.

Russell Family Fundraiser Photo
It was Sunday--a fast Sunday and near the beginning of sacrament I watched as one of the men in our congregation stood up (from his wheelchair) made his way to the front with his 17 year old son helping him up to the pulpit and he shared a testimony of gratitude, hope and love that touched me more than words can express. This man has bone cancer...a very aggressive form of it and I had watched in the past year as his weight dropped, his strength weakened and eventually he needed to use a wheelchair as he was too weak to make his way around. His wife has passed away four years earlier of MS and they still had their two youngest kids in high school. I have to admit something first. I had been avoiding this family a little since the cancer diagnosis. I am not proud of it, but every time I saw Brother Russell, I could see my own dad---with an identical weakening body and I wanted to cry every time I saw him. It was out of weakness and selfishness that I stayed away. I didn't want to be reminded so clearly of my dad's lost battle with cancer--it was still too close to home and the guilt of not being the kind of daughter I wish I had been for my dad, was there. As I listened to this man speak about his gratitude for his family, his love of the Savior and the atonement and his gratitude for his life, I felt spiritually nudged. It was as if a voice (probably my own dad) saying, "Olivia, you need to do something for this family, you need to move quickly." My heart was repentant and after sacrament meeting I went over to the family. I told Brother Russell how much I loved his testimony and was frustrated internally that the emotion I felt was all over my face and forming into tears. My voice was probably bizarrely emotional as asked if I could do a fundraiser for them. I didn't know if he would be receptive to the I babbled on, explaining that I have done fundraisers for people before and would really love to organize one for them. He warmly accepted with gratitude and I thanked him, and left before the tears could really fall. I didn't know then just how rough Brother Russell was going to have it in the following days. He managed to send me a picture of himself with his two youngest kids for my flyer and I got to work. It was the holiday season and I was concerned that I might not get a turnout if I did one big event on a weekend (as most people use those last few weekends preparing for the holidays) so I decided to donate two weeks worth of drop-ins and have a donation drop-off in all my fitness classes. It was late notice so I mainly advertised this fundraiser online with my students, facebook and through church. The first week left me anxious. By Friday we had only raised a little less than $200. I was disappointed and worried that we would not be able to raise a significant amount. The most I had ever raised in a fundraiser was a little over $800....and that was with much more notice and advertising! My goal for this family was to be able to raise at least $1000 before the left La Grande at the end of December (they were moving for his treatment and to be closer to family). As that first week was closing I felt like maybe I was being unrealistic with my goal of $1000. That first Friday night I felt prompted to post the amount and say that I felt we could more than double it in the next few days. I hesitated thinking, "Why would I write that? It's the weekend, how will I get donations during a weekend?" But nope---the prompting was persistent so I trusted it and posted that optimistic projection. Sunday, I announced in Relief Society about this fundraiser. I felt unsure if I should be pushing a fundraiser during church, but it felt right. I was tearful as I explained the situation and the fundraiser. By the end of the hour I had over $300 dollars to add to the total. I was stunned and elated. We had more than doubled the original figure.The next week I pushed hard again...creating a new approach with a $5 drive--asking people to donate at least $5. Something doable for most anyone. Then the donations started to come in. Most people wouldn't donate just $5 though. I collected from families with young kids that probably could barely afford the $50 donation they made. I collected from broke college students who loved to be able to give something. I also collected donations from a couple who decided they wanted to give a sizable donation rather than buy eachother Christmas presents. Most of the people did not know Jim Russell, but the love and compassion they felt for him and his family was amazing.
           Something I hadn't considered when I started this fundraiser was that it would go over the birthday and the anniversary of my dad's passing. I felt a wave of not sadness so much, but solemnity, reflection and a weariness that day. I felt close to tears so many times as I felt the significance of being able to raise money for a dad fighting cancer during the 5 year anniversary of when my dad lost the battle with his. It was bitter-sweet---and much more sweet than bitter. That night of my birthday thought a lot about my dad---the many things I loved, admired and missed about him and suddenly I felt purged of any criticism and judgement of my dad that I had ever struggled with. I felt like I had finally made use of the atonement in this context of mourning and forgiving, and being forgiven. I felt so close to my dad that day. I knew his spirit was present and  I knew this all was a birthday present from my wonderful earthly dad and a loving Heavenly Father to heal as I served someone else' dad. BEST BIRTHDAY PRESENT EVER. I looked back and realize that every year since my dad has passed there has been something spiritually special that takes place on or around my birthday and I know we share that day in a special way. By the way the end total to the fundraiser was over $ was amazing.

An eclectic fabulous group of friends!
So speaking of birthdays! My 30th birthday has come and gone. One of the women I met through my business, Melinda, shares the same birthday. She is a fabulous person. She, without being paid, subbed my Zumba classes for me out of the goodness of her heart while I took 6 weeks off to have Dallin. She is a saint. She REALLY wanted to have a joint birthday party. I cautiously agreed thinking how busy the month is already and how it might be hard to plan a party, but we eventually figured we would do a December 14th (it was a Saturday) afternoon  potluck style gathering. It was short notice but we got an awesome group of women together (mostly from our fitness classes) and had the most awesome birthday every! Our ages at the party ranged from 25 to 72 and my friend Heather from church (no one else was from my church) exclaimed, "You could write a book about the women who were there!" because we were such an eclectic group. We laughed so much that day (hilarious white elephant gifts all around)--and everyone seemed to have a great time. It was a great way to begin my time in my 30's. Love wonderful friends and the sister-hood that comes with that.

Oh at our party we did a craft---I realize probably all the other crafty people in the world  has probably made this craft, but this was the first year I tried it and I am in love with it--such a cool way to create home-art.Simply put, what it is is modge-podging a picture onto a canvas. The effect looks great and it's much cheaper even than framing a picture and I think looks pretty darn good. Here is one I made at home for our family. I had bought this print of Christ (we didn't have one in our house yet and we really wanted one). It was 11x14 and I knew a nice frame like it deserved would be spendy. The print alone was $40 (a big chunk to us) so I stupidly/bravely decided to put it on canvas. First I painted the canvas to look like wood (dark brown and black) then I modge podged the print in the center. It began to buckle and curve (the print) and I was so stressed that I had just ruined it! Luckily I was able to coax it flat with a hairdryer and constant stroking, but it was scary. Probably won't try it with a print again, but it turned out pretty good.  Liv and learn... ;) I did make several for Christmas presents for friends with their own family pictures or cool pictures and quotes. Awesome (inexpensive) gift.

This years' picture before shrunk down and made into magnets!
Finished Magnets--bad pic, they look clear in real life.
Speaking of making gifts---here is my other obsession. They are magnets made from those glass flat marble things you can get at the dollar store. I turn pictures into thumbnail prints and put them on a big collage on picasa and then I print out a big sheet of lots of tiny pictures (or funny quotes) then using E6000 glue I glue the picture to the glass and a magnet to the back. Quick, great gift. I gave a bunch of these out to my friends. They loved them. I don't think you can have too many refrigerator magnets...well I can't anyway.

The coolest home-made gift I made this year though I think is the one I made my mom for her birthday. I got the idea online (of course--just like all these others) and made it on that program! My mom loves it!  I am going to re-print it after my sister Lucia has her baby so it doesn't just say 'baby girl'. Not having an excess in money is good....we have to get creative.

Now Sugar, now corn syrup, now chocolate--dash away all!
My boys were supposed to bring a 'gift' for each of their classmates for Christmas (they each only have 10 kids in their classes). They really wanted to give their friends something 'cool' so we looked online and we found this cute candy-cane sled. I got the stuff at the dollar store and we spent a great evening taping together some VERY cool little Christmas sleds for all their classmates and even their teachers and principal. I'm sure the parents were just thrilled to see this little sugar laden vehicle. Haha!

Dear Santa....
Christmas itself was sweet. This was the year I introduced the boys to Christmas shopping. I asked them to take $15 of their own hard earned money to go buy Christmas presents. They were not too eager to take spend their money (they work really hard for it), but I insisted they would have fun once we got to the store. Once there we had so much fun. They would try ask the other to go away while they stowed each other's gifts under coats (Preston got Eli a coin organizer and Eli got Preston a Transformer he didn't yet own). They were so excited about the goldfish crackers (and container!) they bought Dallin and the little lunchbox and baby lunchables. The bought their dad some of what we call 'man-wash' which is any manly scented bodywash like by Old Spice or Axe. They each bought me a piece of jewelry...a necklace with an M on is (for Mom) from Preston and a charm bracelet with gardening tools on it from Eli. So adorable. They made me hide my face while the snatched them quickly from the $5 jewelry display and were grinning ear to ear hinting that I was going to love the beautiful gifts they had found for me. They were so excited to go home and wrap the gifts---teasing each other with hints about the present they had bought for the other. It was great! Christmas Eve we made a bizarre amount of sugar cookies. We delivered them to friends and Preston saved out four he decorated especially for Santa. He decorated three gingerbread men shaped cookies to look like Santa and one to look like a Santa Smurf (it was blue, but with a red hat). Here is the note he wrote to case it's not clear enough this is what it says: " engoy three santa's and a santa smerf. I'm saree thers no chalkelit from Preston Eli. David convinced him maybe they could drizzle some chocolate syrup on a couple of the cookies and maybe Santa would like that. The boys were very pleased with this improvisation.

Apparently Santa was happy with his cookies cause the boys got to wake up to some lovely gifts under the tree. The best was the Radio Flyer wagon for Dallin. All the boys enjoyed playing with that. I spent the day gobbling up a book in between nursing a migraine (too many late nights during the 'break'!) and playing board games with the boys. Preston was enamored with his first piece of the electronic world (an Mp3 player) and Eli persuading all to play pick-up sticks and checkers with him. Dallin saw the unattended stocking and illustrated his quickness at grasping at great opportunities when they arrive---much to the chagrin of his older bother Preston:

Seizing the moment (and the chocolate!)

 Oh wow---that was a huge post. I am exhausted and dreading my alarm waking me up to teach my 6Am class. However, this was worth it. I am not going to edit it now, but I am going to post it anyway. I do notice the MANY typos and errors in my other posts, but you know what? I am not a perfectionist. I want to remember things and not have things look perfect. So I am sorry about the many annoying typos that I have yet to correct. I'm sorry. Please graciously overlook them. It reminds me of a cool post I just read:

 “I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something.

So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you're scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”
Neil Gaiman

 To mistakes in 2014---both new and the same old typos over and over!


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