Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Day 11 - Time and Reckoning

In just a couple of hours it will be December 1, 2011.  Although I have 11 months to prepare for its coming, December always catches me off guard.  A year that I still consider almost new marches inexorably towards its end.  In a few short days 2011 will be nothing more than a memory and, without skipping a beat, a new year will begin to run its course.

This intersection of old and new naturally invites reflection.  We look back on the changes we experienced during the year and look forward to new changes with anticipation.  December usually finds me in a poignant state of mind as I think back on what the year has brought and ahead to what the future might hold.

At the beginning of 2011 I knew there were two milestones my family would experience:  Little Miss getting baptized and Teeny Bopper's getting her driving permit.  Of course my wife and I would celebrate another year of married life together, and each of us would get a year older during this time.  Other than that, I didn't know what 2011 would hold.  The possibility of losing a close family member each year is always there, but 2011 took two members of the family I was not expecting.  One in an instant and another in a short but intense span of 35 days.  Both losses were keenly felt, and both taught me about forgiveness, personal growth, faithfulness, enduring to the end, and priorities.  I am grateful that a kind Heavenly Father provides comfort, growth and understanding in all of life's experiences - including the most difficult ones.

Although there is still a month to go before 2011 is "in the can" and, obviously, there are still experiences to be had this year, I am already looking forward to 2012.  My oldest daughter will be turning 16, become a Laurel at Church and a Junior in High School and begin dating (oh the horror!).  My second daughter will start High School and become a Mia Maid at Church.  My third daughter will turn 12, become a Beehive in the Young Women's program, go to the Temple for the first time to do baptisms and start Junior High.  Daughter number 4 doesn't have any major milestones this year, but she will be starting a new year in school and will be attending a new school.  Dr. Destructo will start Kindergarten and Tailgunner will be an only child for each day of the week.  I will hit a couple of anniversaries that are significant over the course of the year - 20 years since I went on my mission, 18 since I returned and 18 years of marriage.  Where did that time go?

That is what I know about 2012 - what I don't know is what will make it an adventure.  Just like all of the years before it.

Day 10 - My Bride

My sweet Dulcinea and I were married 17 years ago this month.  We had a reception here in Mesa the day of our wedding and then went down home to Mexico for a second reception right after Thanksgiving.  My Uncle Bob graciously allowed us to hold our reception in his Hacienda (pictured below courtesy of my Prima Camille).  About halfway through the night my wife realized that her wedding dress was not well suited for the energetic dancing typical of Mexican receptions and quietly slipped away for a few minutes.  When she reappeared she was wearing a pair of jeans, one of my button down shirts and her wedding veil.  We danced until 1am and had a blast!
Dulcinea absolutely loves Christmas!  If she hears a Christmas song in the middle of the year she lights up and gets excited. During the season itself, her enthusiasm will not be contained or dampened.  (Believe me - I've tried!)

She loves to sing with her beautiful voice and is anxious to decorate the house.  In fact - I'm pretty sure we are hanging Christmas lights today if she hasn't already done it by the time I get home from work.  As I mentioned on Day 3, she loves to find/bargain for/make presents for the Children.  She has a gift for loving our children, and it shows in her enthusiasm for Christmas.  Some of the many attributes I love about my sweet bride are:

  • Her eyes - I can't get over how beautiful they are
  • Her smile - lights up an entire room
  • Her modesty - both physically and personally.  A very attractive feature in such a beautiful woman
  • Her voice - absolutely beautiful
  • Her love for our children - I knew she would be the kind of mom she is, which is why I married her
  • Her love for me - I am still in awe
Christmas would not be nearly as much fun without my wife.  Love ya Dulcinea!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Day 9 - Music

Where Christmas music is concerned I find that I am somewhat of a traditionalist.  Although I enjoy the "modern" Christmas songs, it is the old Christmas Carols that move me the most.  They are the essence of Christmas to me.

Some of my favorite songs are:

  • Angels We Have Heard on High
  • I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
  • Silent Night
  • Mary's Lullaby
  • Joy to the World (I know - this is an Advent song - I still like it for Christmas)
Christmas would not be Christmas without music.  I'm grateful to have music in my holiday celebrations.

Day 8 - What I Love About the Temple

One of the many blessings I enjoy is the opportunity to serve as a Temple Ordinance Worker in the Mesa AZ Temple every Saturday morning.  Before the start of our shift all of the workers gather in a preparation meeting where we receive instruction and counsel from our coordinators and a member of the Temple Presidency.  The meeting helps set the tone for our shift.

This past Saturday Brother Palmer, one of the coordinators, shared a few of the things he loves about serving in the Temple.  President Hatch then stood up and invited each of us to go home and write a similar list down in our journal so that our children would have it for future reference.  Here are some of the items from my list:

  • I love seeing small children in the Temple who are being sealed to their parents.  It never fails to bring a smile to my face.
  • I love walking up to the Temple in the early hours of the morning when it is still dark outside and the Temple's lights are brightly lit.  
  • I thoroughly enjoy associating with the other workers on my shift.
  • I enjoy our preparation meetings at 5:45am each Saturday
  • I love putting on the white suit that I wear in the Temple.  It reminds me who's house I am in.
  • I enjoy eating breakfast in the Temple cafeteria with the Camerons.
  • I am grateful for the opportunity to learn more about Heavenly Father's Plan for his children
  • I love the Spirit that I feel every Saturday
  • I am thankful for the "softening" effect that Temple work is having on my character.
  • I love working with the four members of my ward who work on the same shift.
  • I love seeing people who I know inside the Temple
  • I love sharing my experiences in the Temple with my wife when I get home.
  • I am grateful for the clarity I experience in the Temple.  This was especially comforting during the past couple of months as our family has dealt with the sudden illness and death of a beloved uncle.
  • I am profoundly grateful for the sacred covenants I have made there with my sweet bride.
  • I appreciate the other members of my ward who serve in the Temple.
  • My testimony of Jesus Christ and His love for each of us is increased when I serve in the Temple.  
  • It is a privilege to officiate in the ordinances of the Temple.
Mesa Arizona Temple - Photo taken by Seth Seaman

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Day 7 - Family Visits

Yesterday I didn't get a post in, and I have been up since 4am, so this post is going to be short and sweet.
My parents came up from Mexico and brought my baby sister and her husband with them from El Paso.
My two sisters that live on opposite sides of the valley came to visit us twice in the last couple of days.
My brother-in-law came down from Utah for not even 24 hours so he could see us and say "hi".
My wife's dad and his siblings got together for a visit with Grandma Goodman.
I had a very good father-daughter visit with one of my girls last night
Each sentence in this post is smaller than the preceding one.
Visits from family are pretty awesome.
I am really grateful they happen.
This time of year is wonderful.
I really love my family.
This post is done.

Day 6 - Shooting

OK - shooting has nothing to do with Christmas or Thanksgiving, but it is a DeWitt family tradition.  After Thanksgiving we all go out and shoot clay pigeons till the cows come home.  Lots of fun.
This year we didn't go to Snowflake, but I was determined to keep up the tradition here.

Guess what?

It didn't happen.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Day 5 - Memories of Thanksgiving

One of the things most associated with the holidays are memories of holidays past.  Today we had the blessing of hosting my parents, my sisters and their families as well as an aunt and a cousin and her family.  As Dad offered the prayer before we began eating I thought back to my first Thanksgiving in Col. Juarez - 30 years ago this month.

My uncle John and his family along with our family, the Duncans, the Toscanos and Myrna Salgado all went over to Grandpa and Grandma Whetten's house.  Long tables were set up end-to-end in Grandma's front room with seats all around it.  I don't remember the conversations we had, but I do remember Grandpa Whetten's prayer.  It was a long one for an 8 year old boy to sit through, and I remember thinking "Grandpa sure is thankful for a LOT of stuff!"  I loved hearing Grandpa pray.  I know that he had tremendous faith, and when he prayed I knew that he was actually talking with God.

I felt that way while my Dad was praying in our home today.  He is thankful for a lot of stuff, and I know that he talks to our Heavenly Father when he prays.  I hope my children picked up on that so that it will be a memory they can have of their own Grandpa Whetten when they are adults.

After the dinner was over at Grandpa and Grandma's house all of the neighborhood kids would go out to Grandma's yard and play endless games of hide and seek, werewolf, kick the can and who knows what else.  Grandma's yard was the best place for these games and we could stay there for hours on end playing.

Today after our meal we went out to the greenbelt in front of the house and played Frisbee, threw footballs and had a good time.  When it got dark we came inside and played a card game and then gathered around the piano to sing songs.  It was wonderful!

I am most thankful for my family.  I am grateful they were able to come today and love being around them.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!
Grandpa and Grandma Whetten with me on my 1st B-Day

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Day 4 - Employment

Employment is probably not one of the first things you think about when you are contemplating Christmas, but tomorrow is Thanksgiving and this is something I am definitely thankful for.

Until I had been there myself I had no concept of the despair that comes from being unemployed.  I had frequently imagined what it might be like, but until you live it you can't fully grasp it.  Now that I have "been there, done that, got the t-shirt" I have a new found appreciation for employment.

Almost two years ago a wonderful neighbor that I have looked up to for years called and offered me a job working for one of his companies.  At the time I was catatonic with worry and didn't have a clue where I could go to find a job.  The pay wasn't spectacular but it met all of our basic needs and, more importantly, helped me feel like I was contributing once again.  I know that this kind man did not need to fill the position I took, but he knew that I needed a job - both to provide for my family and to get me back in the game of life.  During the course of my employment with him I had the opportunity to work with a very knowledgeable accountant who taught me several principles of accounting that I now use in my current job.  There were so many tender mercies extended to me during my 7 months with that company.  I will be forever grateful for my neighbor's unselfish concern for the welfare of my family and me.

A year ago this week another friend invited me to work for him.  The pay was a significant step up for me and it put into practice the training I had received over the previous 7 months at my other job.  It has also given me the opportunity to collaborate with other individuals as we have worked to build a business.  Being able to provide for my family while working in a stimulating environment has been a huge boost to my confidence.  I love my job and am grateful for my employer.

I am so grateful for my job.  I acknowledge God's hand in inspiring good men to give me a chance and allowing me to stand once again on my own two feet.  During this season of Thanksgiving I express my gratitude for God's tender mercies.  He is ever mindful of me, even when I don't always recognize it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Day 3 - Children

Christmas would not have nearly the magic it does without children.  They take delight in so many things about the season and see things from a perspective we once had but, in some instances, have long forgotten.  My own children are a constant reminder of the importance of keeping the big picture in mind when dealing with Christmas.

If you know me personally or have read previous posts on this blog you know that my family, like so many others, has had some frightful financial struggles recently.  During this time I frequently allowed my expectations of Christmas to needlessly stress me out.  Several Christmas miracles (one of which I recorded here) helped me regain my perspective, but far and away the greatest miracle to me was my wife and my children.

My wife would somehow come up with presents - trading things with friends, doing pedicures or taking on other projects to earn a little money - and she relished doing it.  She still does.  Although I would frequently retreat into my grinch alter-ego, it is impossible not to feel the excitement my wife has about doing something for her children.  And that is always the focus - the children.  She doesn't spoil them with fancy presents, but she has a talent for making our kids feel loved on Christmas morning.  And it is so fun watching her feel sneaky about the presents she gets for them.  She calls me up the minute she has put a plan into action.

On Christmas morning the children don't disappoint either.  They squeal with delight at every little thing and, oddly enough, it is the little things that seem to make them smile the most.  Last year Tail Gunner would not leave his stocking to open his other presents.  I watched my kids get excited about toothbrushes and their own personal tubes of toothpaste two years ago - and it wasn't a put on, they were genuinely thrilled.  Somehow my children know that it really is the thought that counts, or maybe it is the sheer joy they see in their mom's face as they open their presents, but they just bask in the love on Christmas morning and their smiling happy faces make even an old grinch like me smile.

Children fill a home with the Christmas spirit, because children have a natural ability to detect love.  During this sacred season they instinctively react with joy as we celebrate the greatest love ever manifest to mankind.

I am grateful for my children, and the love they bring into my life.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Day 2 - Arizona Winter Weather

While the rest of the country dreams (or digs out) of a white Christmas, here in AZ we wear shorts.  In fact December weather is one of the great blessings of living in Arizona.  (We won't mention May thru September)
The days are absolutely beautiful!
I love being outside, going for walks, enjoying the winter rye grass lawns and just plain enjoying the freedom of lower temperatures. 
While I do miss the dramatic changes of the seasons I enjoyed growing up in Mexico, the change in temperature is dramatic enough to keep me smilin'.
Yep - Arizona is mighty fine in wintertime.  Just ask half of Canada, 3/4's of Minnesota and all of the Dakota's. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Season of Distraction or of Inspiration?

From the first day of our marriage, my sweet Dulcinea and I have gotten along famously and have had very few serious disagreements.  That being said, we do have pet peeves, and of all the little pet peeves my wife has about me, there is one that really gets her.  Fortunately it only comes out once a year:

My alter ego - November 1 through December 24th

My list of things I don't like about Christmas is very cliche, and boils down to how much the commercialization of Christmas bugs me.  I know - very original (I said it was cliche).

What a self-righteous rant!

The scriptures and God's prophets are constantly counseling us to "be in the world but not of the world."  Certainly this counsel should apply to our attitude towards one of the holiest days in the Christian calendar.  If I allow my own self-righteous indignation to crowd out the Spirit of Christmas, don't I trivialize it far more than the retailers whose advertisements drive me nuts?

To help me overcome this fault and fill my heart with the Spirit of Christmas this season I am embarking on a project of personal improvement.  From now until December 25th I will spend time each day writing about Christmas.  It will include memories of Christmases past, Christmas stories, family traditions or simply an expression of gratitude for my Savior and His great gift to me.

Day 1 - Longing for Home
I love how the hearts of so many people grow more tender towards their family during the Christmas Season.  Something about the Christmas Spirit draws us closer together as a family.  We long to be with those we love, and often we long to be with them in our old homes or home towns.  Gifts given or received may briefly cross our minds, but mostly we remember being around our family.

I am thankful for my family, and I have been blessed with a large one.  My wife and children, my parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles, aunts and cousins are all a joy to be around.  I love each one of them and the promise we have of being a family on into the eternities.

I am thankful for the central role that families play in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.