Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Charity Never Faileth...My Holiday Post

Well, another year is coming to an end and I have to say it has been a pretty traumatic year for my family and me.  To be honest, I wasn't really looking forward to Christmas.  I didn't even bother to go out to the garage to dig my tree out until December 16th, because it just didn't seem like we could celebrate the season with any kind of joy.  Then I realized that my kids needed to feel something from their parents besides intense stress.  So I forced myself to set up the tree and to decorate the house a little.

It took a few days of looking at an empty tree for me to find my Christmas spirit.  Once the Holiday Fever finally made its way through the doom and gloom and depression I have been feeling lately, I was able to embrace it and use it to help shoo away the fog of unemployment and financial struggles that has plagued us for a while now.  It was nice to have something to look forward to.  More importantly, it was nice for my boys to have something to look forward to. 

Honestly, this has been the most difficult Christmas I have ever faced in my life.  The move we made to our new state was supposed to be a fresh start.  Instead, it has turned into something akin to a modern day Grapes of Wrath story.  The joy and excitement we felt when we landed here was quickly replaced by fear as our best laid plans fell apart in front of our eyes.  Despite the rough start, we have held out hope that we could make it in this unique, homey town if fate would just give us a break and a fair shot at building a life here. Five months later, we are still struggling.  And wondering if we are complete idiots for daring to make such a big life change.  I'm sure there are a few of our family and friends who have already made that assessment and are wondering what has taken us so long to come to the same conclusion. 

The thing is...I still believe with all of my heart that moving here was the right thing for my family.  For six months before we came here, there was not a day that went by that my heart and mind didn't tell me that my family would thrive in this new environment.  My spirit spoke to me in dreams and in prayers and everytime I tried to look at a different spot on the map as a relocation possibility, my inner being would all but scream that I needed to quit trying to avoid what I already knew.  How do you ignore those kinds of thoughts and feelings and persisitent naggings?!  I don't know about you, but I can't.  Every good decision I have ever made in my life has come at the end of a long struggle with me trying to ignore and push away a force I could not explain, then ultimately giving in and accepting the message the universe was trying to send.   So it made sense to me to finally quit fighting this path too.  And when I quit fighting and accepted the possibility that the change might be good, things kind fo fell in place for us to make the move.  I truly thought we were on the right track.

My husband felt okay about the move too, but he was much more reserved in his enthusiasm.  He is no longer behind me on this one.  He is struggling.  He doesn't hate here, but so far he isn't finding a lot to love.  In his defense, he is not good with change.  I knew that about him, but hoped his desire to leave our old home state would be strong enough to help him overcome his fears.  Of course, it didn't help that he was lied to about the job he was supposed to start upon our arrival.  Having that rug yanked out from under him while he was trying to settle in a new place with his family left him unsettled and angry.  Who tells a guy he has a job, knowing he's relocating his family and then changes his mind without calling to tell anyone?  It doesn't matter anymore.  We are here and we have decided to try to make it work.  We just thought we would have things working before Christmas. Which is where I started this post a few thousand words ago.

Making it work here has truly been the fight of our lives.  So we were not spiritually or mentally prepared for Christmas.  Nor were we financially prepared.  Gainful employment is hard to find here...not for lack of trying though.  Big Man is working, but at a minimum wage job that is far beneath his capabilities and with earnings that are far below what we need to survive.  We had no money for gifts for the kids.  But we had a long talk with them about making sacrifices and we really tried hard, once we finally got our minds and hearts where they needed to be, to focus on the reason we celebrate Christmas and the birth of Christ.  The kids were doing okay with the fact that Christmas was going to be very low-key this year.  Then the miracles started happening. 

Our church family quickly rallied around us, offering rides to Scouts, sending job leads, doing what they can to help us feel like we are part of the community.  As Christmas approached, we were surprised by a Secret Santa this year who did the 12 Days of Christmas.  The boys tried hard to catch them each night as they left a fun treat at the door and it inspired them to look for a way to give to someone else instead of focusing on their own desires.  We were able to share an unopened toy from one of my product reviews with someone whose boys will love the gift and my kids were overjoyed that they were able to brighten someone else's holiday.  Then...we had another Secret Santa!  I know!!  They came bearing bikes, coats and much needed shoes, with the request that we not tell our boys the gifts came from them, but from us.   I don't know how they even knew about our situation.  Their generosity left me in tears.  THEN...another Not So Secret Santa showed up at our door on Christmas Eve with boxes of food and gifts that left me beyond speechless!  More tears (actually it was the out and out sobbing, blubbering, ugly kind of crying), more amazement and more wondering why we were found worthy to be on the recieving end of such kindness from people we barely know.  THEN...little surprises in the mail came as relatives sent cards filled with checks and gift cards to help us with our other needs.  I have never been so grateful and felt so humbled in my entire life.  

Even still, I sit here crying.  I had been praying for miracles, expecting a job to come through, I guess.  What I received instead was an amazing lesson about humility and gratitude that I will never, ever forget.  My fear and sense of hopelessness was replaced with a renewed belief, that despite all our differences, mankind is generally, inherently good.  And that when given the opportunity, people will look for ways to be charitable and care for their friends and neighbors.  Seeing this side of our new community has shown me that I chose the right place to raise my family.  How could we NOT want to be part of a place that values and actually practices these kinds of charitable acts? 

Thank you, friends, family and people of Boise for giving my family one of the most unforgettable Christmas' we will ever have.  Charity is the true love of Christ...we truly felt the sprit of love and service at work in our lives this season.  Merry Christmas. 


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Oh Brussel Tree, Oh Brussel Tree

When I was shopping a few weeks ago, I came across this in the produce section:

I swear I laughed out loud, because seriously!?  When was the last time you saw a Brussel Sprout tree?!?  Me?  Never.  I've never seen a little tree full of brussel sprouts.  Okay, technically it's not a tree.  The correct verbiage would be a brussel sprout stalk. Whatever you call it, I think it rocks.  The lady next to me thought it was hilarious that I was so infatuated by a vegetable.  I was trying to explain that it wasn't the vegetable per se, but the packaging that was so intriguing.  She just shook her head and walked away.  Whatever.  I know she was secretly just as amazed as I was by the funky sprout tree, she just didn't want to walk through the store with the thing sticking out of her cart.  

There were stacks of these stalks piled on top of each other and being the fun mom that I can sometimes be, I thought I had to buy one of the Brussel Sprout Trees for my kids. It did stick out of the cart.  But I think it made me the most interesting person in the store that day.  I definitely got lots of looks and the cashier was at a loss for how to bag it. Apparently I was the only person at that point of the midmorning to purchase the item ( Really?  Am I really the only person in Boise who found these things cool enough to purchase?) and no one had discussed the bagging options with the cashiers prior to placing the stalk out for sale.  I opted to skip the bag and carry it out in my hand, kind of like a marching band majorette.  It was a great day at the grocery store.

I know...I totally geeked out over brussel sprouts.  Obviously I need a more exciting life.  But back to the story.

I've eaten brussel sprouts before.  I like them.  But I've always purchased them already cut off the stalk,  so I never once wondered, as I was picking out my "baby cabbages", how the things grew.  How old am I now?  47?  And I just now found out how brussel sprouts grow.  It also never occurred to me that someone had to do the work to get them to the little basket in the produce section as individual brussel sprouts for people like me to buy and enjoy.

After the hubby and kids also geeked out over the small tree, we decided to have them for dinner.  Which brings me to my next discovery about Brussel Sprout Trees.  They are damn hard to cut through!!  Now I know why the produce clerk decided to just throw the whole stalks out onto the display instead of cutting off the brussel sprouts.  I swear I was ready to have Big Man whip out the circular saw or his camping machete!  Cutting through the stalk with my knife was seriouly, ridiculously labor intensive!  Yeah...don't let the cuteness of the baby cabbages attached to the tree thing suck you in.  Because it becomes way less cute after twenty minutes of cutting, sawing and pounding on the knife handle to remove the little buggers. Of course, it didn't help that my knife hasn't been sharpened since my grandma gave it to me in 1996.  I never remember to get it sharpened until after I have to struggle through something like this. 

ANYWAY...I was almost finished cutting when my very smart 10 year old suggested that I just hit them at a downward angle ("just karate chop them, Mom!") to knock them loose from the stalk.  I tried that.  It worked really well.  On the last eight brussel sprouts.  Who knew?  And where was he 18 minutes ago? 

Whe I was done, I was left with an almost naked brussel sprout stalk.  That looked like this: 

Am I weird or does this look like a beautiful piece of greenery that could somehow be incorporated into a floral arrangement?  Don't ask me how to do it, I'm not good at flower arrangements.  I'm just the idea person here.  I was just really struck by the lovely patterns that the left behind leaves made on the stalk.  It seems like one could throw some flowers and ribbon and other cool florist type stuff in there and make something really unique and beautiful to gaze upon.  Just sayin'. You know how people put out pine bough wreaths and centerpeices for Christmas?  Maybe a shucked brussel sprout stalk could be the centerpiece for Festivus.  It's the centerpiece for the rest of us.  

I can't believe I just wrote a whole post about brussel sprout stalks.