Friday, December 23, 2011

A Different Christmas

Two more days until Christmas, peeps. Can you believe it is here already?

To say that this Christmas is going to be different from all the others is a gross understatement. We have added a new family member (what up, Carr?) and my dad is now indefinitely detained. It is amazing how you can write such huge life changes in just one sentence. The profound impact and meanings are not lost, however, no matter what a few simple words are able to express.

I must admit that I struggle with change. Or maybe I should say that I struggle with change that I don't have control over, that comes out of the blue. For instance, when I am ready for a new hair cut, by all means, give me a new hair cut. I have control over that. But heaven help me if I am ever the victim of my hairdresser's bad day and end up looking like Dorothy Hamill. That's the kind of change that smacks you upside the face (literally).

It's the change that you can't control that is often the hardest. For the past 30 years, my Christmases have been pretty much the same: pajamas, presents, brunch, dancing in the kitchen, watching movies, hanging out with family if they are close by, and spending it with my siblings and parents. I love knowing what to expect and knowing my role in all of it (which means I am usually in charge of all baked-goods).

But this year, it can't help but be different. My mom and I will spend Christmas eve and Christmas morning with my dad and 100 other campers who may or may not have family coming to see them. Sam and Noah will be spending time with Noah's mom and family and Claire will be holding down the fort while Carr is on call at the hospital. Such is the life of a Navy chaplain. On the evening of Christmas day, we should all be back together, minus my dad, where we will open presents and eat steak and cheesecake. Not a bad way to end the day. But definitely not the way I would have planned it.

In an effort to replace the moping I have done these past two months, I have been praying that I will see Jesus working, and if I am open and willing, perhaps I can be a part of his work too. My dad told me a few weeks ago, "Sarah, it is not a mistake I am down here in Alamosa. God is using me here." If he can have that attitude, the one who is being locked-up and limited, the one who has been slandered and persecuted, then I for sure should be able to embrace this holy hiccup in our lives and open my eyes to the bigger picture. I pray that I see the bigger picture.

On Monday, I rediscovered Hebrews 13:3:

"Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering."

Shoot fire, I am pretty sure He was speaking directly to me.

So, instead of pj's and brunch, I am going to put on my big girl pants (I can't say "panties." I hate that word) and fully embrace the strict rules and regulations of Camp Alamosa and love on my dad as much as possible. And I will chat with the men who have now become my friends and hear about all the wonderful cards you have sent them. And I am going to line my pockets with wax paper in hopes that I can get at least a half a pan of fudge through the doors without being detected.

Whatever you are doing this Christmas, whether it is relishing in old traditions or hesitantly embracing new ones, I pray that you see Jesus working too.

Merry Christmas, my friends.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Therapy 101: Chips and Salsa

I don't know what it is, but chips and salsa have the ability to soothe the soul.

They also have the ability to make you extremely thirsty but that is totally besides the point.

They create a warm, inviting atmosphere...

...for humans and non-humans alike.

And they taste exceptionally good.

They provide a sense of normalcy when everything else in your world is not quite normal anymore.

They make grandpas seem like they are not so far away.


And they are the perfect nutritional supplement for stuffed seals made in China.

I bet you didn't know that.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Sixth Commandment

This past weekend, I spent almost every waking moment and all of my non-waking moments with Noah. There is nothing like a six year old to make you realize that you are not nearly as cool as you think you are. Reality bites the big one, my friends.

My mom, Noah and I took a weekend trip to Alamosa to hang out with my dad. We had a great time (more on that later) and it was nice to not have to make the entire trip in one day. On Sunday morning, as we were getting ready in our motel room, we decided to have an impromptu church service. Noah was jumping back and forth on both beds, having slept gloriously underneath my right hip while six of his most beloved stuffed animals slept under my left hip.

Restful it was not.

Anyway, we decided to start with the Bible verse that was meaning the most to us this week. My mom and I both chose something from Hebrews (thank you, BSF) and then it was Noah's turn.

Me: "Hey Noah, what is your favorite Bible verse this week?" He memorizes a new verse each week at his school.

Noah: While jumping on the bed, "You shall not murder. The sixth commandment."

Good gravy, kid.

Of all the verses in all the Bible, that was the one that popped out.Well, I'm glad that stuck with him. As we all know, the correctional system is not the coolest place to spend your time. I guess I am just glad he didn't say "Jesus wept."

And then he gave a rousing rendition of Joy to the World.

Impromptu church is the best.

He thinks so too.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Top Ten: Favorite Christmas Movies

Christmas is nine days away, people and I have yet to watch a single Christmas movie this year. That is a crying shame, I tell you, A CRYING SHAME. So in honor of this fast-approaching day of celebration, I have listed my favorite Christmas movies in no particular order:

10. White Christmas. Oh, there are so many things to love about this movie. The dancing, Bing's voice, the General, Danny Kaye, the costumes and again, the dancing. I could watch this all-year round.

9. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Clark Griswold has characteristics of my dad, uncle and brother all rolled into one...which can make family reunions slightly awkward but always entertaining!Everything from the squirrel in the tree to the moose-head egg nog cups to the cat wrapped up as a present to Julia Louis-Dreyfus falling down the stairs make this movie one of the funniest movies ever. And cousin Eddie is in rare form. Rare.

8. The Holiday. Two words: Jude Law.

7. The Nativity Story. This movie makes me cry like a baby. It is so beautifully filmed.

6. Elf. I have always been a Will Farrell fan and this is one of my favorite roles. His interaction with James Caan is fantastic. And who doesn't like the four major food groups of candy, candy canes, candy corn and syrup?

5. Charlie Brown Christmas. I have this soundtrack memorized and it immediately puts me in the Christmas mood. I love the storyline, Snoopy's dog house decorations, the scrawny Christmas tree and their dancing. It is sublime.

4. Love Actually. This is one of those times when an ensemble cast actually works. The story lines are interwoven perfectly and not one character upstages another. And the love-sick kid is fabulous. I only wish other ensemble cast movies (ahem Valentine's Day, New Year's Eve) could be so well done.

3. Meet Me in St. Louis. I love a good musical (well, naturally because of my musical theater days) and this is one of my faves. Judy Garland is stunning and her kid sister is such an amazing actress. She truly steals the show.

2. A Christmas Story. If there is one Christmas movie that represents Christmas to me it would be this movie. I have watched it every year since it came out and I have the entire thing memorized. The narration of this movie is spot on, the characters are flawless and the leg lamp is magnificent.

1. The Muppet Christmas Carol. I am going to be honest with you: I don't like A Christmas Carol. But when you throw some furry muppets with attitude problems into the mix, then count me in!

So, what are yours? Share away!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The BEST Christmas Story Ever.

I know I already posted a video this week but you guys have to watch this. It is perfect.  And I want to squeeze each one of them...especially the little ram.

And that third wise man, well he just kills me.

And don't get me started on the star.

Oh man. Enjoy.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Recipe Round-Up: Peppermint Bark

Just in time for Christmas...

(I do not know what happened, but my step-by-step pictures disappeared! Thankfully, this recipe is simple and always turns out delicious! I know you can do it.)

Peppermint Bark
1 bag of dark chocolate chips
1 bag of white chocolate chips
3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 tablespoon shortening
crushed peppermints

Line cookie sheet with wax paper. Pour dark chocolate chips into sauce pan and melt on low heat until smooth. Pour dark chocolate onto wax paper and spread. Put cookie sheet in refrigerator until set, about 20 minutes. Melt white chocolate in a sauce pan over low heat. Once melted, add peppermint extract and shortening and stir. Take the the cookie sheet out of the refrigerator and quickly spread melted white chocolate over dark chocolate (offset spatulas work great!). Sprinkle crushed peppermints over melted white chocolate. Put in refrigerator until set, about 30 minutes. Once set, break apart and freeze in air-tight container. Enjoy!!

Merry Christmas, peeps!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Lip Synching Sailors Are Highly Underrated

In honor of my new brother-in-law who is in the Navy...

And in honor of this being flat-out hilarious...

I am sharing this video with you.

I hope this perks up your Monday!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Your Words Matter

I was able to talk to my dad last night. I love when I get to do that. He sounds great, but then again, he always sounds great. He has never once been down or discouraged throughout this trial. Not once. I love his spirit and his faith.

Anyway, I was talking to him and he said "Hey Sarah, my friend Ramon got his card in the mail."

Me:  "Oh dad, that's awesome! Did he say anything?"

Dad:  "He came up to me, with tears in his eyes, and asked if I knew anything about it, if I knew why he had received a card. I didn't say anything but I told him I was glad he got something in the mail. It really meant a lot to him, Sarah."

Me: "I know who sent that card, she is a good friend of mine. This will encourage her because she has been feeling a little sad lately because she lost her mom."

Dad:  Long pause... "Ramon just lost his mom, Sarah. And he is having a hard time. These cards make a difference."

Your words matter, dear friends. They matter more than you know.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Yesterday in Detail

Y'all. I am in the middle of those all-day meetings that happen twice a year at my office. We discuss everything from visas in Egypt to crashing servers and somehow manage to still like each other at the end of the day. It is a minor miracle, my friends. A minor miracle. And because I know you are dying to see what goes on in one of these meetings, I have typed it out for you in excruciating detail.

You're welcome.

6:30:  My alarm goes off and I resist the urge to throw it against the wall.

7:24:  Leave my apartment and try not to freeze to death in the frigid temperatures. Also, my soup leaks in my lunch bag. Major bummer.

7:44:  Arrive at work and take off several layers of clothes. Breathe. Sip some coffee and decide that I shouldn't even check email before the meetings begin because that would just make me cry.

8:00:  The meetings begin with devotions. We discuss 1 Thessalonians. Who knew that was such a great book?

9:15:  Coffee refill.

9:30:  I kick off the presentations of what went well and what didn't go well in my department for 2011. This quickly leads into a discussion of raising funds in a bad economy, in which I curl up in the fetal position and pray for fruitful year-end giving. Immediately following, my colleagues give their updates until lunch time.

12:00:  Eat my least the part that didn't spill into my lunch bag.

1:00:  Continue hearing updates from the regional directors who oversee a total of 13 countries. Some very important information was discussed here. I am almost certain we will have world peace by the end of this week.

2:30: Break. Eat a piece of chocolate cake made by my boss's wife. It was unbelievably delectable and I would like to request one every Tuesday.

2:45: The meeting resumes and this time we talk about our budget. There's nothing like a bunch of charts and numbers to make this liberal arts major want to take a nap. However, it was a very productive discussion.

5:30:  End meeting for the day and pile into a car to drive to dinner.

5:37:  Stuck in rush hour traffic on the highway.

5:42:  Stuck in rush hour traffic on the highway.

6:01:  Pull up to Maggiano's for dinner and gladly accept the free valet parking.

6:02:  Inhale all the wonderful smells of carbohydrates.

8:02:  Waddle out of Maggiano's.

8:43:  Drop by Claire and Carr's apartment to deliver a wedding gift from a friend and to sit on their new couch. It is a great couch. You should go sit on it too.

9:18:  Leave their apartment and try not to biff it in the parking lot.  Mission accomplished.

9:25:  Stop by my parent's house to pick up the list of campers my dad had given me on Sunday in which I left in my mom's car Sunday night. She and I have a cup of tea and we discuss the aforementioned meetings in which I realize that I am so tired I have become light headed. I sit there until it subsides and I realize that my alarm will go off in less than 8 hours.

10:27:  Leave the house and drive to my apartment.

10:37:  Arrive at my apartment and load the dishwasher, make coffee for the morning, pack my lunch, take a shower, check my email, do a crossword puzzle, turn on my heating pad and go to bed.

11:26. Fall asleep and pray that we have a snow day tomorrow.

And there you have it. Please take a nap for me.

Monday, December 5, 2011

FAQ's: The Last Six Weeks

My mom and I made the long trek to Alamosa yesterday. It took us 14 hours because of the snow. But thankfully no minor or major mishaps occurred on the trip. But just in case, I did pack my snow boots, a toothbrush and some double chocolate cookies. It is all about the essentials in a time of crisis, am I right?

It has been six weeks today since that rotten day in the courthouse. And over the last six weeks I have been asked a lot of questions about my dad, Camp Alamosa and other miscellaneous questions that pertain to this rather large bump in our road.

For your reading pleasure and intellectual delight, I have compiled these questions for you. Prepare to be enlightened.

How is your dad doing?
I love this question! Please ask me about my dad every time you see me because I love talking about him. My dad is doing great (as great as you can be with limited freedom). He has seven roommates, gets a new chore to accomplish every week, holds a Bible study every Wednesday evening and has received the moniker "Old School" by most of the other "campers." He also remains positive about the future and knows that God is at work.

How many guys live at Camp Alamosa?
My dad thinks around 100, at least in his section of the camp. He says it's like going to a small high school with cliques and cafeteria food. So, if you ever want to re-live your high school glory days again, be sure to commit a non-violent crime and it can be yours!

Did your dad get my card?
You guys, you should see the stack of cards my dad has received! He brought them out yesterday to show us and we laughed and cried alongside with him. You all are the best! These cards bring him so much encouragement so keep 'em coming!

Is your dad working?
Camp Alamosa is a transitional facility that requires each person to work (remember: they have to pay $450 in rent each month and have a savings account for funds they can use when they are released). After several weeks and countless bureaucratic hoops, my dad is hoping to begin working with his employer this week. This would be a huge answer to prayer.

Can I send your dad food?
Ah man, he would so love it but unfortunately he cannot receive food. It's the whole "nail file in the birthday cake" mentality. Although now it is probably more like a "miniature explosive in the Oreo ball" mentality. My dad can only eat non-cafeteria food when he has a pass to leave the facility. However, it has been rumored that a certain someone smuggled a hamburger in her pocket and gave it to my dad in bites while visiting with him but I am not going to mention any names.

Are the other campers nice to you?
So far, they have been very nice to me. Some of them might glance my way, and a few say hello, but for the most part, they just walk on by. My dad does introduce me to some of his new friends and all of them have been so friendly and polite. And most of them really respect my dad and that makes me like them even more.

Are you ever afraid to visit him?
Afraid? No. Nervous and somewhat awkward? Yes. Like I have mentioned before, the unknown is often scary but every time I visit him I learn more about the system and the facility and that makes me less nervous. The awkwardness part is a different story. I think that is just part of my charm.

How are you doing?
I get this question a lot. And honestly, it changes everyday. Most of the time I am doing okay. My future seems a bit blurry, like I don't know how to plan. There is also a small, nagging fear that the judicial system will do something else to my dad, punishing him more for something he didn't do. But I find that the Lord is quick to reassure me that He has this entire situation under control. I find that I cry daily, which is new for me, and I wish I could sleep a lot more. I am learning to say "no" to things and take delight in quiet time (which is a strange twist for this extrovert!) But I also realize that I have a life to live and that this life can experience joy. So even though this trial has been going on for five years, and could go on for much more, I am learning to find joy in the midst of it day at a time.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Recipes Rounded Up

Hi All.

It's Friday.

And because it's Friday, I have something to share with you.

Look up.

You see that tab that says "Recipes?"  Well, I made that for you. Just in case you are in the mood to spend some time in the kitchen this weekend.

I hope to add to the recipe list very soon. 'Tis the season, you know.

You are the coolest readers ever.

For reals.

The FC

P.S. Here's a preview:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A List of Things and Other Things

I am making a list today. Apparently I need some organization in my life.

1. I am thrilled to announce that my Aunt Marge commented on my blog (or "blob" as she likes to call it). Everyone should meet my Aunt Marge. Your world and your dating life would never be the same. She is the best.

2.  Thank you to all who signed up for the Camper Card-A-Thon. You guys rock! I am waiting for the list of names from my dad and then I'll email you all the details. If you would still like to sign up, please email anytime.

3. I think it would be a really great idea to put a couch in my office. It would boost office morale and I am sure productivity would sky rocket.

4. You guys, I am almost 32. I don't even know what to think about that.

5. I read all three books in the Hunger Games trilogy recently and I LOVED them. Have you read them? Did you love them as well? Did you find them disturbing yet heart warming at the same time? Are you excited for the movie? Do you wish you could shoot a bow and arrow? These are things that are plaguing my mind right now.

6. I miss my dad a whole heck of a lot.

7. I recently bought my favorite pair of jeans on Ebay for $50.00 less than what I would have paid in the store. I love a good bargain! They are being shipped all the way from Canada. I am really hoping a Mountie shows up at my door. That would be so awesome.

8. Many of you have asked about my blind date last week. I did not go to his birthday party but I did get an email from him yesterday. I have to say that the prospects of him and I being great friends are really good! Or, in other words, no, we will not be dating.

9. It is snowing and very cold outside. All I want to do is lay down and read a book. Yet another reason why I should have a couch in my office.

10. I am not sure what to say here. Any thougths?