Gotta Love These Two Little GIrls

Two days after Christmas...

the doorbell rings in the late afternoon...

there stand Riley and Brynn...


"We Wish You a Merry Christmas!"

Riley explained,
"We just wanted to bring some Christmas spirit to the neighborhood."

Ahhhhhhhh, they did just that!


Merry Christmas 2011

A traditional Christmas dinner of turkey/ham, mashed potatoes, beans, dressing, rolls. 

Joining us this year for the celebration were Dr. Allen Sun and his 15 year old daughter, Cindy, from Guangzhou, China.

It's been fun to share Christmas traditions with people who know very little about the origins and traditions of this most significant holiday.


A Visitor Better Than Santa!


Oh, I love my family and I love it when family gets together...nothing like it in the world....

so it was a fun surprise when my youngest brother from Texas/Michigan said he was dropping in for a short visit.

 He was in Las Vegas meeting up with some of his children, and he and his awesome wife drove up to say hello.  Oh, I love that guy; he's Mr. Personality - Mr. Nice Guy....and he genuinely is.

Three of his children, one daughter-in-law, a nephew and family from Boulder City, and Jenni, joined in the fun.  Oh, I LOVE my family!

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for the gift of family; I'm grateful.

we sang, laughed, ate, told stories, sang some more, and then POOF, it was time for everyone to depart...


NOT Made in America

In just a few hours, our Chinese visitors will arrive:

Dr. Allen Sun and his 14 year-old daughter, Cindy.

Unfortunately,  dear wonderful Lily (wife/mother) is staying in China while Allen and Cindy study here in America for one year.

Since they will be here for Christmas, we wanted to get them some Christmas gifts.

Our Goal:


End result; very dismal indeed.

It seems EVERyThiNG is made in CHINA...and how ridiculous is that to give gifts to our Chinese visitors that were made in THEIR country!

Anyway, it makes me sad. 

I want to support America.  I want to buy American-made products. 

Maybe, sometime in the future, we will be back to labels which read:

I hope so.

You've Got Mail!

I love to hear from our Chinese students; here's a letter I just received from Elaine...it made me totally smile.  She referred to last year when I taught them about Christmas caroling.  We went outside to sing to the students as they were heading home from classes.  Fun times indeed!

Also, she refers to Allen as handsome, which he is, but my students always commented on how handsome he was.  That makes me smile even more. 

Oh, Elaine, and all you other 400 students that we taught over the course of the year, you have left a lasting impact on my life!

Dear Mrs. Hackworth:
Merry Christmas!
Sorry for writing to you so late. But the truth is that each of us misses you very much. I think you must feel the same.
Christmas is coming; I still remember the last year you spend your day in china. How time flies, right? We think of the day you let us sing jingle bells on the pathway of our school. We still remember you taught us how to use the elf. (Laughing…) All of these memories are so sweet. Thank you for bringing us such an unforgettable year. We would treasure what you have taught us forever.
Now we all are preparing for the final exam now. We really miss your classes, your funny talks as well as your final test. We have so much that we want to talk to you. But maybe next time we can talk more.
Wish you and handsome Allen merry Christmas again! And please give my best regards for your family.
Best wishes!

note: this picture below is not the caroling from Elaine's class...this picture - from a student - was from another class (a very big class) when we went Christmas caroling down the hall to the technicians.  It's just an example of how I taught them about Christmas caroling.....


From My Inbox...

Hello, dear Lingling! It has been one year that you had return to US. We all miss you and Christmas is coming noon, I think you have planned a funny holiday! Merry Christmas!
I feel very sad resently becauce I failed my IELTS test again and again, I feel disappointed and lose heart. In this New Year, I have to prepare the test the third time, I don't know whether I can pass, but I really want to make my parents happy. Last mounth, I spent all the mounth to prepare the test, I was confident but I still failed. I want to get 6 marks, but I always get 5 marks, I don't know how I should do. I want to listen to you.
This letter made my heart ache.
Oh, how our dear students want to pass this challenging test which means they can apply to come to America.
But, do you see WHY she wants it so badly......
I really want to make my parents happy.
So many of our students wanted things in life...not for THEM, but for their parents. 
What a contrast between those students and many American students whose main concern is THEMSELVES!
I want to scoop Iris up, hug her, and tell her what an incredible person she is.  Her worth does NOT depend on her passing a test! 
She is such an amazing person.  She gave an oral presentation once about her mother having a second child.  I was amazed, stunned, inspired, and awed by her mother's bravery in the face of government disapproval for having a second child.  I was amazed and inspired by Iris' concern for her little sister, as Iris realized that she must be in charge and help her little sister learn and grow.
Oh, dear Iris, if I could, I would so want to help you pass your test. 
But, please know this, even if you don't pass; even if you never have that opportunity to come to America - you are an incredible person.  You have worth and value far beyond a score on a test.  And no score can take that away from you.


I Refuse....

"to let anyone or anything get me upset this Christmas season," SHE explained on a sunny afternoon.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Well, here's an example.  I was driving behind an elderly gentleman in a 40 MPH zone, and he was going - maybe 10 at top speed.  Normally, this would have irritated the heck out of me, but I had decided NOTHING WOULD UPSET me.  So, I smiled and thought to myself about him.  'Good for him...he's not in a big hurry like the rest of us.  How great is that?'

"Then I was in a store and these tweens were acting all silly and obnoxious.  Again, this usually would have made me so annoyed at their behaviour.  But, I smiled at them.  I thought of me at that age...it's such an exciting time.  And, I thought, 'Youth is so fleeting...you just go ahead and act youthful....'

"Eating lunch at a restaurant one day, I had a waitress who was the most rude I have ever had.  She was obnoxious, curt, and ornery.  Ordinarily, I would have treated her the same way.  But I held my tongue and smiled at her realizing she has a very challenging job...you simply cannot please everyone!"

"Wow, totally revolutionary," I said in sort of mock humour. 

SHE told me about another incident where an old lady was trying to fill out paper work....the line became longer behind the elderly lady, but SHE smiled to herself and thought it was so great the lady could be out and about doing things at her point in life.

"People are always talking about PEACE and JOY at Christmas, then they behave as though they don't really have those feelings in their hearts.  I decided that I WOULD have those feelings, no matter what happened; red lights, slow-moving shopping lines, rude waitresses, obnoxious shoppers.  I WILL NOT let others dampen my feelings of PEACE and JOY this year!"

As I drove away, I thought,

"Perhaps there really COULD/WOULD be peace on earth, if we all behaved as SHE has decided to."


The High Cost of Healthy Eating

Jr Bacon Burger at Karl's Jr. - $1.29
Small Bag of Clementine Oranges - $6.99

Litre of Soda - $1.29
Gallon of Milk - $3.95

Taco at Taco Time - $1.29
Salmon per pound at Costco - $11.99

Bag of potato chips - $2.59
Five Pound bag of potatoes - $4.99

It's no wonder we are all morbidly obese...the price of healthy food is out of sight.

And, sadly, it's not the growers/workers who get that money. 

It's a challenge to eat healthy.

It's even more of a challenge to pay for healthy eating.


The Honesty nonDILEMMA

Everyone loved the music SHE had so carefully put together.

So, when BJ asked for a copy of the CD, I willingly gave it to her and told BJ to make herself a copy.

Later, when telling HER about it, SHE asked me if I felt okay about sharing the music that SHE had paid for, and that artists earn their income from. 

I was embarrassed, ashamed, awkward, and realized I had done a dumb thing.

Of course, I should not share the music.  So, I called BJ to tell her my feelings and to tell her that I did not feel comfortable in giving her the CD.  No answer at her end.

Ten minutes later, BJ showed up at my door.  She had not heard my phone message.  And, she was holding the orignal CD and 6 copies she had made for me to share with others.

AWKWARD,  because she was so thoughtful to make the CD's.

AWKWARD, because I had to tell her I had been careless about sharing it in the first place.

AWKWARD, because I know better. 

I just spent one year in a land where they STEAL music, CDs, movies, ideas, even store fronts.  And, I thought it was awful for the people in that country to so blantantly steal.  Now, I had just done the same thing.

I explained to BJ my feelings; told her I thought she was thoughtful, I would pay for the cost of making the CDs, but I didn't feel comfortable accepting or using them.

Oh, BJ was so gracious and she undertsood.

Truthfully, it's not always to be honest. but it should be.

The Sing Along

Her name was Aleene.  Oh, she was a fun one!

She told me how she had insisted that all seven of her children (6 boys, 1 girl) learn to play the organ and piano.

Every Christmas in her home in the midwest, she hosted all the neighbors for a singalong.  They would sing for one hour, then she sent them out the door with a popcorn ball.

I loved the idea.  So, I told Jenni about it.  She has been doing it for five years or so.

We have only done it twice.

It's great fun - even for the heistant neighbors; they had a great time.  Why, Bobbie Jo and Terry even got up and danced in the interlude of one fun song!

I don't make popcorn balls, I ask everyone to bring a goodie to share, and then they can take a plate of goodies home with them.

Jenni compiled the songs on a CD and she typed all the words so every person could have a copy. I borrowed those from her. 

So, we sang; some better than others. This year's songs were great; a nice variety of funky, fun, religious, old, new...thanks, Jenni for the great CD.  Everyone LOVED the music!

So, here's how it played out this year:

Thanks, Aleene Dickerson, for that great idea you gave me those many many years ago.  I think of you every Christmas. 

And, it's always a great memory!


Remembering A Christmas Past

There were three little children in our family at the time.

We had hired a babysitter, something we could rarely afford to do.

We drove 30 miles to the big city - Idaho Falls - to go Christmas shopping, something we could rarely afford to do.

And, we ate out - just the two of us, something we rarely did.

I don't remember what the boys wanted, but Jenni wanted a Mrs. Beasley talking doll from a television show called Family Affair. 

We found the doll, and along with our other purchases, left them in the trunk of the car, so little prying eyes wouldn't see the surprises awaiting them before Christmas morning.

Christmas Eve - I was as excited as those three adorable little children.

After they had finally been tucked in bed, we went out to the car - no garage in those early days of living in frozen wonderland - and hauled the packages in.

We placed the Mrs. Beasley doll front and center under the tree.  Just for fun, I pulled the little string to hear Mrs. Beasley talk. 

To my horror, Mrs. Beasley sounded like a 99-year-old-bass singer in an old folks choir.  The voice eminating from the adorable doll was anything BUT adorable.  It was s-l-o-w and extremely l-o-w!  Because you see, it was frozen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I was sick, I was in a panic, I was sad for my dear little daughter. 

Mrs. Beasley with a man's voice - how could that be?

RAH thought her voice would warm up in time for the early morning festivities, but I wasn't so sure.

Christmas morning arrived and those three little tykes were up early, eager to run to the living room and see what "Santa brought."  "Well," I thought to myself, "he brought a MRS. Beasley doll that sounds like a MR. GRINCH!"

As it turns out, RAH was absolutely right.  Mrs. Beasley was now sounding just like she should....Jenni was ecstatic.  It was a picture-perfect Christmas morning.

Santa had indeed, pulled through once again!


Pardon Me If I Brag....

but I just beat SANTA:

He has a very good excuse, however. 

After all, it is Christmas, he is busy making toys for girls and boys.

But, I do feel a sort of victory that I was able to achieve victory over a person of his reknown!


Forgive Me When I Whine....

"Oh, it's dark, cold....

the bed is cozy, warm.

I don't WANT to get up and exercise (even if it is in the comfort of my own home!)

I HATE to exercise."

Then, a little voice whispered:

"but, at least you CAN get up!

Sylvia would love that privilege/blessing.  Sylvia would love to freely move her arms, legs, hands, feet."

Suddenly, getting up to exercise didn't seem nearly so bad after all.

Once again, I was humbled.

Forgive me when I whine...I have two feet...the world is mine!

Breakfast Anyone....ewwwww Gross!

Many mornings, we have a delicious healthy smoothie for breakfast...

Today's included:
Flax seed
Whey Protein
Low-fat yogurt
Almond Milk


except that the blender broke! 

Thus, the normally delicious drink looked like this after I tried mixing it with the hand mixer:
meaning it was just not as tasty as usual. 

Okay, it was actually pretty awful trying to chew up the spinach and kiwi seeds and
globs of banana or apple while drinking. 

New blender parts are on their way! 



I almost missed my plane because of it!

Alec Baldwin got kicked off a plane because of it!
Article here:

Oh, it's an addicting addiction:


Something to Think About

It was an editorial in the newspaper, and it grabbed my attention that day. 

And, it has changed the way I react to red lights.

The author was telling about the frenzied, harried lives we lead.  But she was recalling a lesson from her high school art teacher.  He told them to look at red lights as a time to stop, look around and see what was going on right around them at that moment. 

Since reading that op ed piece, I have tried that.  I have tried to not be impatient at red lights.  I have tried to see the beauty in the streets; the trees, the people, the mountains in the distance.  I have tried - really tried to have red lights not be a sign of impatience, anger, let's get moving here, but rather a moment to just say, "Wow, I'm alive; it's a lovely day.  I'm glad I can drive."

I have loved that little piece of insight she gave me that day. 

And, I realized - again - what wisdom so many people have....I feel grateful I get to be the recipient of bits of wisdom sprinkled here and there, and to see things in a way I hadn't thought of before.


You've Got Mail!

From Jayring:
How is it going? It has been a long long time since our farewell in 4th July. Eileen and I, and all of my classmates are missing you so much. We also went for a trip to Fenghuang, a beautiful old town in Hunan Province. We came across a foreign couple in the trip. I remembered your word clearly in mind, which is always be brave to talk to foreigners. So we volunteered to be the translator for the guide. It was a wonderful memory. :)

From Valdis:

dear Lingling
how are u in usa? best sincere to u ~~~
when do you come back to china? i hope u will have a happy life with your sons ,daughters and grandsons , granddaughters.hahaha... any way , keep happy everyday.
I do love hearing from my former students...oh, they are so wonderful. 
I love and miss them!


Refrigerator Art....

featuring artwork by Sayre, Lucy, Anna, Miles, and Eli....
There's still lots of room on the fridge, kids!


My Own Personal Jeweler

Not many people can boast about having their own jeweler, but I do.

Here are a couple of pieces RAH has made.

The rings are new.

The necklace is a few years old, but still as unique and lovely as ever!
I have many pieces, I don't wear them often enough, but they are treasures indeed.

Cousins Coincidence

Dixie texted; she wanted to meet us for lunch. Dixie is Allen's 2 or 3 COUSIN; who knows, but anyway, they are related.  She is won...