How to have a great weekend in three easy steps.

  • 6:30 a.m.: Run to Winco to buy Capri Suns you promisedpromisedpromised your daughter that, before you went to bed last night, you’d go get for her class party today.  (You forgot.  You went to bed.)  While at Winco, pick up a big, sugary bag of Tootie Frooties as a Happy Friday treat for the kids.  Return home at 7:00 am.  Kids are thrilled with big sugary bag.

  • 8:00 am:  Discover that your wallet is missing.  Try not to freak out.  Call Winco – nothing.  Search the house – nothing.  Call Hub at work–maybe he grabbed it this morning for some reason?–nothing.  Look in the car, outside, the kids’ rooms, the grocery bags, the kitchen cupboards, under the beds, couches, the car again–nothing nothing nothing.  At 8:30, you remember that you put an unusually large wad of cash in said wallet,  just last night, to pay for a few things this weekend.  Start to really freak out.  Call Winco again – surely someone has turned it in by now?  Winco checks all registers, parking lots, restrooms.  Sorry.  Nothing.

  •  9:30 am:  After another hour of hunting, have a sudden thought to drive to Winco anyway.  Pull into the lot and park by the line of carts you used earlier.  Look down the mile of carts and see, about a dozen carts down, a little flash of red.  Upon closer inspection find that you did, in fact, leave your wallet in the cart at Winco and, though multiple shoppers had obviously been there since you, it remained untouched.  Open wallet to find unusually large wad of cash intact.  Bursting, you giddily tell the old man nearby who’s smoking a cigarette by his car–and whom you’ve never seen before–the whole story.  Smile when he shakes his head and replies, “Now that’s a miracle, ma’am.  If you believe in God, you should thank Him now.”

And you do.

My best Valentine’s Day ever….

…was spent remembering my sweet grandmother, Ruth Lorraine Huffaker Christensen, at her memorial service in Caldwell, Idaho.  (That’s just outside Boise, for those of you not lucky enough to be on the Idaho-Utah beltway.)  My “Grandma C.” was truly a spectacular woman.  She was the original Supermom, when supermomming meant canning and gardening, not chauferring and shopping.  She spread her thin budget over her large family by sewing their clothes and making marvelous meals from scratch and yes, a hand-plucked chicken dinner was a joyous Sabbath feast to behold.  And though she raised ten children on very little, she ended up with quite a lot; every one of those children graced her bedside as she passed, and then banded together in the week that followed as they made final arrangements and helped each other to finally let Mom go.  At her service, the adult children spoke as much about the love they felt for one another as the love they felt for their mother.  Talk about a success story.


Have you ever been in a room where love pressed down so thick and heavy you could assign it a color and paint it on the walls?  I have.  (And I would choose red.  A dark, burnished red.)  Have you ever spent Valentine’s Day holding your husband’s hand in a church pew, surrounded by one hundred and ninety-six immediate family members and countless extended family and friends?  I have, and I would choose it over roses and chocolate.  Have you ever spent Valentine’s Day dabbing your eyes in happysad tears while  listening to truly great love stories?  I have, and I would choose it over a romantic movie.  I  heard tales of my grandmother’s love for her children, her childrens’ love for her, and–my favorite–my grandparents’ love for each other, which started seventy years ago and is, no doubt, carrying on even as I sit at the keyboard this fine winter’s morning.

This Valentine’s Day, I thought less about romantic love (eros) and more about selfless love (agape).   I thought about how the eros between my grandparents led to the agape surrounding me at the funeral; how their lifelong commitment actually created the sweet feeling in that chapel.  And it seemed wonderful that I, who had done nothing to deserve a place in this warm room with these warm people, was not only welcome but expected to partake of that feeling.  And it struck me how, before “love” can be felt and written and sung about, it must first be created.  And it struck me how, though the polished-up package of love is attractive, the methods of creating it are less so.  Creating love is hard, and slow, and often unappreciated until years later, when you look around at your one hundred and ninety-six family members and think that someone, somewhere, did something seriously right.

Creating love looks very different than falling in love.  Creating love looks like forfeiting the carefree days of youth for the careful responsibilities of adulthood.  Creating love looks like worries about money and teething and tantrums and two jobs and a worn-down house and sewing patches (again) on your four boys’ jeans because darnit if those kids don’t go through clothes faster than you can keep them on their backs.  Creating love looks like long days and long nights–many good, some bad, but all of them coming at you full force, one after the other, each demanding as much of your scrupulous energy and attention as the last.  Creating love looks heavy, and it looks tired.  But it always looks forward.  And it always looks beyond itself.

And that got me thinking, this Valentine’s Day, how just two generations after my grandmother’s, our society–so eager to celebrate the raptures of “love”–seems confused about how to create it.  We seem slow to understand that the best kind of love is started by choice, not found by chance, and–like the hand-plucked chicken dinner–it is started from scratch.  Falling in love is reactionary; creating love is courageous.  Your friends fall by the wayside, your parents fade into the background, and it’s you and him and you and him, every morning and every evening and on Friday nights too–those same Friday nights that were once spent dating and dancing and laughing loudly with girlfriends. Eros is worshipped by a media who wants to watch love unfold against a Hollywood soundtrack.  Agape is patted on the head then forgotten in a corner, because its soundtrack is a baby wailing in the playpen and the click of a young husband’s lunchbox, closed and handed to him as he leaves in the early dark for his morning shift at the plant.

I think our human nature wants the bouncy soundtrack before the softer sounds; we want the Finish before the Start.  And when the eros exhausts itself, we forget to wait…wait…shh, just wait for the agape.  And then we miss out on both.  Because I’m guessing that the warm embrace of agape I felt in that chapel is simply one side of a coin which, when flipped, bears the heat and intensity of eros on the other.

And so this most romantic of holidays had me thinking about how romance–that thrill surrounding the giddy half-truths and fuzzy edges of a person we kindasorta know–is such a beautiful way to start love and such a lousy way to finish it.  And how eros is about Us, Now, but agape is about Everyone, Forever.  And so this Valentine’s season, I pay tribute to my grandparents for being romantic enough to fall in their own little love and brave enough to build a love big enough for us all. I thank eros for starting it and I thank agape for finishing it.

But mostly, I thank my grandmother.  For all of it.


Missing “Downton?” Here ya go.

Another bare and dreary Abbeyless Sunday night, so I think a little tribute is in order.

Awhile back, I came across this article on the ever popular Huffington Post, and I’ve been meaning to share it with you ever since.  In it, the journalist explains how today’s working women can learn valuable lessons from the women of Downton Abbey.  The writer is, if you can believe it, not being facetious.  She was completely serious.  (I am laughing as I’m writing this.  She was serious!  A Serious Article for a Very Serious blog.  It’s just too good.)

So, though I hate to beat a dead horse here, I’m left with no choice but to sit back, take a breath, and ask the same question I asked in my last Dowton Abbey post, which is:  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

Funny, I thought Downton Abbey was a silly pseudodrama about a life of unfathomable luxury, but apparently the oh-so-believable travails of the oh-so-believeable Crawley women provide guidance for us all.  One of the first things the writer points out is how we can learn to manage money in marriage from Lord and Lady Grantham–Lord and Lady Grantham!  The Lord and the Lady are going to show us how to deal with our money woes.  Do you think they use the Dave Ramsey cash system?

Okay, alright.  In fairness, I should point out that two exceptionally sound points are made in this article:[sociallocker id=”9134″]

1)  “Choose your marriage partner well.”  I would have never, ever thought of this if weren’t for Downton Abbey (and the Huff Post for so kindly pointing it out to me.)  I’m gonna print this out and paste it to the inside of my girls’ backpacks.

2)  “Have breakfast in bed.”  Except the writer didn’t tell me who would make the breakfast and bring it to me while I sat in bed.  I think Anna might be busy with Lady Mary.

Pearls of wisdom, to be sure.  Tell me, friends:  how are things like this getting published?  I don’t know.  But I do know that this brilliant article recommends “bringing in outside help for housecleaning and garden maintenance” to ease marital stress.  Certainly a cue we can all take from the Dowager.  Why hadn’t this occurred to me before?  If it had, I’m quite certain, dahling, that Derrick and I would be getting along with each other swimmingly.  Just swimmingly.