So we had a our second annual Christmas Swimfest 2012. Last year I wanted to give back to the swim community so I invented this idea of a Swimfest with relays and games. The purpose was to have fun, get a good work out and introduce people to our swim family in a non-threatening way. Since then we have done 2 others, one at Valentines and another in the Summer. The Christmas Swimfests have been the most popular and the easiest to plan. This year was no exception.
In truth, I almost didn’t do it because I felt overwhelmed with my move and everything but there was enough interest and I’d done it enough times I decided to go for it and I’m so glad I did. We met at Gene Fullmer Pool in West Jordan (the pools in Utah are THE BEST! Bar None!). and ended up with 10 people which was perfect for even teams of 5.
We had igloo caps this year, which I thought were quite cute. Thank you Swimoutlet for getting them to us just in the nick of time.
Some of the other events we did are: (Jim took more photos which I will add when I get them)
t-shirt relay with long sleeve t-shirts that made it a lot harder)
Santa vs Elves
treading water with jingle bells
Doing a lap and then eating a chocolate santa and then next person gets to go.
There is something else I’m forgetting. The time went by far too fast!
Other one’s I had planned:
Push a plastic toy with your nose.
Plastic candy cane as a baton.
Rudolph antlers breaststroke race
Anyway, I love races and competition and being with my friends. When I was a little girl I always wanted to make a game or race out of what we were doing, so I guess this all goes right up my ally. I had a great time and I’m grateful that Heavenly Father inspired me to go forward with a happy thing on a sad weekend. He really does know what we need.
I’d love to encourage other masters groups out there to do their own swimfests and come up with their own relay ideas and pass them on. Swimming (or life in general) doesn’t always need to be so serious. We can have fun, let lose, and be happy. It’s Christmas after all!
Previously on this blog I posted about Swimfests! This is an idea I cam up with last December to have a swim party with real swimming in it. It is a casual event, just a fun time to relay and race and be a little goofy. Today I helped put on our third Swimfest. We get matching caps and I usually prepare a little goodie bag (part of the fun of it for me).
For the summer goodie bag I found a tie-die cap on clearance and then went to zazzle.com for some cool swim stickers. I then added some blue candy and swedish fish to make it all tie in. I thought they were super cute and was inordinately proud of them. 🙂
Then my friend Kate put together a set (3 sets actually) and the 5 of us had a good work out for the first half hour. Thanks Kate!
Next, the fun began…
We did lots of relays including standard, t-shirt swap relay (harder than you’d think to take off a t-shirt and transfer in the water. I was wearing a tankini and practically took off my suit taking off my shirt! It was funny!).
Then we had the infamous cracker relay (you have to stop after a 50 and eat a salty cracker and then whistle and show your tongue. It really is harder than you’d think.
Next we did a rickshaw relay where you have one person on a pool noodle treading water and another pushing their feet. Then we did almost a track and field type relay but with dunk sticks instead of batons.
It was a super fun morning and a great time to swim and hang out with my friends. Now I just look forward to the next one. 🙂
After our hour + swimming we went to a local diner for a hearty lunch. My Dad was in the area and joined us and even better paid for lunch. Thanks Dad!
Now I’ve just got to start thinking about the next Swimfest. I love party planning and I love swimming!
In Utah we are so lucky to have a great group of US Masters Swimmers. I know it sounds corny but they really are a family, that has never been anything but supportive, kind and most importantly FUN!
I’ve got great friends including my swim friends. In December I wanted to do something to thank my swim friends for all their support, so I came up with the idea of a Christmas Swimfest. This was just a fun get-together where we could swim, play games, get to know one another and have fun. It was a great success. So much so that I decided to do it again:
A Valentines Swimfest!
It was without a doubt the best valentines I’ve ever had! We had a good turn out and all the trimmings of a great Swimfest (yes, I’ve invented a whole new term- one life goal checked off my list!) including matching swim caps (King and Queen of Hearts caps got for .99 each- thank you swimoutlet.com), workout planned by Josh and then fun relays!
I have always loved playing games and even more- orchestrating games. Naturally I love relays! We did 4 different relays. Each relay had 2 teams.
First, we did a t-shirt relay (red shirt for the holiday, of course!). In this relay you have 2 over-sized t-shirts and after 25m’s you must give the t-shirt to the next swimmer. It was harder than you’d think. You have to tread water and take the shirt off and put the shirt on. One group got out of the water. That was a smart!
Second, was a kickboard relay where each swimmer kicks 50 meters and passes his or her board to the next person and they must add it to their own, so with 4 on each team, the final swimmer has 4 kickboards.
Third, we did a saltine relay. For this relay each person swims a 50 meters, gets out of the pool, eats a saltine cracker and then whistles. Once they’ve done this the next swimmer can go. It was really hard! The chlorine makes your mouth dry and then the saltine cracker makes it worse. It was fun! I had to basically hoot my whistle.
Fourth, was a ‘race car’ relay. The idea is you have to dive under water and run a matchbox car along the line at the bottom of the pool. Once you are out of air you go to the top and the next member of your team (who has been following you) must take a turn until you complete a lap. First team done wins.
After the relays we cleaned up and went to a diner that was close, Left Fork Grill. It was a great find! A terrific bargain and good food. A place I would never have gone to without my friend Josh’s suggestion (he had never been there but saw that it was close). How fun to have a greasy spoon type place close by. Delicious! I broke a few rules and had buttermilk pancakes, eggs and sausage…yum!
I had such a good time! It was exactly what I needed- just fun with friends. Plus, we had 2 new swimmers come which is always great. Welcoming others into our little swimming family is my way of paying it forward because I felt so welcome back in August at my first clinic. I really feel the Swimfests is an inspired notion because it is an easy way to introduce people to swimming without the intensity of a meet or open water swim. Not everyone is as gutsy as me (Can I say that without sounding cocky?) and coming to a party is low pressure. One girl, Esther, came this time who has only had 3 lessons and she was awesome!
You know the saying ‘no man is an island’? Well, if he is I will swim out to him! I need friends. I need support. I don’t want you to think I have great success with all my parties. I have had get-togethers where no one, zero people, came. As discouraging as that can be (and I shed a tear or two!) you just have to push through it and keep trying.
Companionship is worth the price. Having a little fun is worth the price of a few failures. Believe me, this week, it was so worth the price. Don’t give up! If you don’t click with one group, try another, keep going. Like anything in life, it takes effort and sacrifice to make friends (and no, the ‘ah ha’, ‘meant to be’ friend has only happened to me once- thanks Emily!) but if you are open and honest and work at it, somewhere you will find kindred spirits- even if it just one great friend. I promise!
I am now looking forward to the next Swimfest- they have St. Patrick’s Day caps after all! (It makes sucky holidays so much more fun!). We had a great idea to do an Easter Egg hunt in April! You’d have to think of a way to weigh down the eggs but how fun! I love a project!
I had a great time making goodie bags for the swim. Something fun to focus on after a hard couple of weeks. I even made my own valentine, which was designed by my super talented friend Joan. Go to her website!
It was just a great time and I have a big smile on my face today! Thanks friends for the great swim!
So today might just be the perfect day! You know when you occasionally have those days that are pure fun and stress free? Aren’t those the best?
As any blog reader knows I have become an active participant in Open Water Swimming and Utah Masters Swimming. In a year full of trials this has been the greatest of blessings. It has given me goals, a sense of accomplishment, made exercising fun and provided me with a whole community of friends and support.
Its really hard to imagine that I swam in open water on August 5th at the Deer Creek Clinic for the first time. After that fateful swim I said:
“I did it! I did it! I did it! I swam in open water for a mile and held my own with people who had all done it before without a wetsuit. This is the best day of my life!”
And what a crazy, wonderful 5 months of swimming it has been since that first swim! What a crazy year it has been! With so many challenges, which this blog has dutifully chronicled, I am so grateful to have rediscovered swimming, and that wouldn’t have been possible without the encouragement and nudging of good friends (I swear Jim Hubbard got about 30 emails from me before Deer Creek I was so nervous but I made it through and then did Slam the Dam, then Masters Swimming. What great experiences!).
Swimming has really been an unmitigated good in my life, and how often can you say that?
Every year I do some kind of Christmas party (usually to show off my tree, which I love). This year I decided to do something different and give back to the swimming community that has so kindly nurtured me. So I came up with the idea of a Christmas Swimfest. (For me half the fun of a party is in the planning of it and this one was no exception). I found Christmas swim caps (they have tons to chose from on Swimoutlet.com. I had enough people, 12, that I was able to get the group rate.) This is the one I chose:
Then to finish the plans I rented 2 lanes at the Gene Fullmer pool in West Jordan (something I’m glad I did because it was super crowded and only $15 a lane, so no biggee). I figured this was a good central location for everyone and it was close to the Golden Corral where we went for a brunch afterwords. My friend Erin agreed to plan the workout, which was super nice given she had gotten like no sleep this week working on her papers for her PHD. Thanks Erin! (I was worried she might start sleep swimming but it was fine 🙂 ).
Aside from a mistake I made with the restaurant directions everything went great. We had a wonderful time and a good workout too! 10 swimmers came, we swam sets, did relays (my favorite. I love racing and I’m very competitive!) and we even went down the large slide at the center. It was really a lot of fun. Thanks to everyone who came and for all the support this year. Merry Christmas!
(ps. There are already talks of more Swimfests. It should be a great 2012!).
I was going to wait and post about my party tomorrow but yesterday’s post was such a downer that I didn’t want to leave that as the heading on the blog for long. Friendship has always been a highly important part of my life. Next to faith there is nothing more valuable to me than a loyal friend. I was reminiscing with my roommate about groups of friends we’ve had, parties thrown etc, and I had a minor epiphany about friendships. Friendship is essential to at least my function but it manifests itself differently in different times of life. Hanging on to the old manifestation can lead you to miss out on the current phase.
Let me explain…
When you are a child and especially a teen your friendships are chosen by you but fellow-shipped by others. For example, I may have chosen Meredith as my best friend in high school but it was our parents, teachers and other activities that facilitated that friendship and made it happen. At the very least people were driving us places, teaching us lessons and coaching us in choir/sports. We became friends through participating in these activities and even when we tested out our leadership skills it was under a controlled, monitored environment.
It is this structure in friendships that causes some teens to party and rebel- trying to make their own choices when really still relying on others to make those poor choices. Fortunately I had good friends who were supportive of my beliefs and I never steered too off course (I was also incredibly strong willed).
Your teen years are also the time when your friends center your life, which is why we worry about teens having or cultivating good friends. No other time in life will who your friends are (for most of us at least) be more influential.
Then your 20’s start and a new degree of independence is given to most people. You are free to go your own way, make decisions and make friends dictated less by others and more by common interests and personalities. Aside from classes and maybe an errant roommate nobody is really forced to be friends with someone in the 20’s the way they may be in your teens. However, you still have a lot of the structure of your teens facilitating activities and the meeting of new people (even dating).
Whether it be through a church group or college setting most people I know met their college friends through some type of organization, fraternity or class. The interesting thing is in college the friendships are often made in such activities but forged in something much more casual. This is partly due to lack of time a college student has but also a lack of funds. Most people I knew in those years didn’t have a ton of money to spend on friend experiences so you spent time together watching movies, TV, sports events and cooking/eating food together.
I have such warm memories of that time in my life. It really helped me become the person I am and was a very happy, simple time. Because things were so casual you do end up wasting a lot of time seeing bad movies, eating junk, and for lack of a better word hanging out but there’s a certain freedom in that. How do you know what movies you like if you don’t see a couple of turkeys? All part of the learning experience.
After my college experience I had my mission which was so separated from normal life I will skip over it for this entry. Then you get into my later 20s (I got home from my mission when I was 24 1/2). This was actually one of the most social times in my life but interestingly enough it mixed the casualness of my college life with a little bit more structure. At this point my friends and roommates had jobs which gave us a little bit more money but less free time. We would still see the occasional bad movie but most activities were researched and thought out.
There was also a lot of routine socialization that happened at that time. For a long time I had a daily dinner group (which I still think was brilliant) where a bunch of us singles were assigned a day of the week to make dinner for the group, so you got a social experience and only had to cook once every 12 days. So great. I also had groups that met regularly to watch a lot of tv shows like American Idol and The Office. For a while in my apartment in American Fork we had 3 or 4 nights a week that had some kind of TV viewing together. I watched Lost every night for 2 years with friends and then I moved and never watched it again. That certainly tells you the influence of friends!
This was actually a hard time in my life personally and it’s amazing I fit so much socializing in when I was working 60 hours, serving at the temple, had 2 other callings and going to grad school. I wouldn’t have done much of it if it wasn’t presented at my door with little to no effort. The house in American Fork was especially good for socializing because we were the only one’s with our own apartment in the ward. Everyone else lived at home so our place became something of an escape for our friends. It’s funny that time in my life is probably where I maintained the fewest of my friends. People got married, moved, and the friendships are mostly through facebook or gone and that’s ok, just interesting.
During my later 20’s is also the only time in my life where I through big parties with lots of people. Or I should say my roommate and I did. We had great Halloween and New Years parties, planned outings and group dates together, concerts (went to more concerts then than ever again), and seemed to find excuses to wear costumes on a number of occasions. Despite it being a challenging age, I have many warm memories. I often drive by the house in American Fork and feel a wave of nostalgia for the good times had just watching TV together with my friends.
Then my 30’s came and things started to change (really more at 28 but close enough). Seemingly overnight the big group TV sessions and parties stopped and everything became more one-on-one, highly planned, intimate interactions with friends. This may not seem like a big deal but I remember feeling so sad that I had no one to watch American Idol with any more or celebrate Halloween (our last ‘big’ party was 2009).
While still loving to entertain it takes a lot more effort now than it used to. No just casual ‘let’s go to the apartment and watch The Office every week’ kind of thing. It takes work but that work can be a joy. It took me a long time to realize that I really enjoyed gathering my friends together and coming up with fun activities. I did swimfests, book clubs, baby showers and dinner parties and loved every one of them. Occasionally I could still pull off the big party like last year for my open house (or tomorrow to celebrate 40 book club books!) but it’s just different.
In 2009 I wrote a post on this very blog about a book club I threw where nobody came and how discouraged I was. https://smilingldsgirl.com/2009/06/10/thoroughly-uncool/ I remember feeling so sad that nobody had come to my party: “I am merely puzzled by my recent inability to attract new friends. It isn’t just with Enrichment but the few times I have had parties the turnout is low. I used to be able to always attract a crowd. Weird, hah?”
The problem I was truly dealing with was looking at a new era of friend-shipping through old eyes. Like I said, sometimes I still feel nostalgic and a little sad for those times. It can feel like I make so much effort and in a selfish mood it can seem underappreciated when it really isn’t. People love it and it means a lot to them but it just takes a lot of work to make friendships in this era of my life function.
Truth is those friendships are better because I’ve had to work hard for them. Unlike the fun time in my late 20s where most of the people have come in and out of my life I have a feeling the friends I have made in the last 5 years will always be a part of my life. That’s what work tends to do. Plus, in a way it is kind of a circle of friendship. When I was a teen others allowed me to make friends, now I am facilitating that experience for others. That is a great gift not a burden.
Anyway, I don’t know if this will mean much to any of you out there but even my friends online (twitter, facebook, this blog) take work but I’ve learned so much from that process. I’ve learned to cook, decorate and entertain. Plus, I’ve learned to actually appreciate and discuss the arts, movies, theater, etc. It’s not casual like those days in my 20s but it’s very rewarding and great.
In the end, enjoy the season you have now. Look fondly on the past, remember the smiles and moments and then try to learn and serve as much as you can in the present.
It’s a good life and I’m grateful for my friends! To a fun day tomorrow!
“It is easier to live through someone else than to complete yourself. The freedom to lead and plan your own life is frightening if you have never faced it before. It is frightening when a woman finally realizes that there is no answer to the question ‘who am I’ except the voice inside herself.” Betty Friedan.
“What person is for himself, what abides with him in his loneliness and isolation, and what no one can give or take away from him, this is obviously more essential to him than everything that he possesses or what he may be in the eyes of others” Schopenhauer
This is going to be one of my long rambling posts where I think about life that nobody reads and I’m okay with that. I decided a couple of weeks ago that I’m happy with what I write and that is most important. It is my blog after all.
…but it may be helpful to someone out there so read and ponder along with me. 🙂
Sometimes I feel confused about myself. I am a creature full of contradictions, and at times it feels like God wants it that way. Today is a perfect example. I went visiting teaching and felt so connected to my girls. I really felt like I made 2 new friends, cultivated an existing friendship, and shared a message all 4 of us needed to hear. Days like today I feel like I have a way of creating friends and interacting with others that not everyone can. I’m not saying this to boast but ever since my days of being bullied I have never had a hard time making friends.
I actually enjoy public speaking and teaching and it seems like I can usually find a way to reach my audience. Someone told me today ‘I really enjoyed your talk you gave a while back’. Thiswas a talk given in March and he remembered it. I found that to be amazing. 9 months and he remembered it. I’ve also had great experiences putting together parties, swimfests, bookclubs, a writing group and any number of other group activities. I’m a natural leader and gatherer.
Even on twitter I have made wonderful dear friends and felt a comfort level around strangers which most people do not share. This blog is certainly abundant proof of that!
I’m also a very loyal person and most of my friends stay friends for years. In fact, loyalty and honesty are essential to me in any friendship. I have friends from high school, college, people I’ve traveled with, been in wards with (pretty much all of them girls…don’t know why that is the case), swim friends (some of them are guys!), and just so many treasured relationships. I feel so grateful and have certainly not done anything that warrants such a blessing from God.
Here’s where the contradiction comes in…
After visiting teaching I put up Christmas decor myself, cooked a meal for one, and went to meet with the bishop alone. We talked about my individual scripture study and how I can do better. We talked about my life and how independent I have to be. How I have to stay motivated and be persistent or it will not happen. There is nobody to push me along and challenge me to read scriptures everyday, go to the temple, exercise, or whatever worthy goal I am trying to accomplish in my life. It’s all on me…
I am probably the most independent person I know. Ever since I was little, and I mean little, I wanted to do things in my way, under my control. I hated being a kid. I hated being told what to do and how to do it.
It was my dream to have my own place, my own space, my own life. I never remember dreaming about what kind of husband or kids I would have. In fact, for years while being open to love I was antagonistic about the idea of having a family. To me it was a giant life and freedom suck. I’d seen how hard it was to have little kids and I wanted none of it. (Sorry but I grew out of it. I promise!)
I don’t know many other Mormon girls that grew up wanting to be independent and free but that’s the way it was for me and that’s the way it has turned out. I’ve always been a bit mystified by love and the dependence couples seem to have on each other. I’ve grown to a point where I want it but still don’t really understand the innate human need for it and yet…
I am lost without friendships and human bonding. So maybe it is just love that confuses me? Romantic love? I don’t know.
I remember one time on my mission my trainer and I were talking about marriage and life. I told her I didn’t know if I wanted to take my husband’s last name. I like my name. She said “This from the woman who wears a pink sweater every day” (and I really did wear a pink sweater a lot on mission. Look at the photos!). And yet both statements were equally true. A contradiction….I feel like I have lot of those in my life.
Today I realized that in many ways the last 2 years have made me even more independent. I didn’t think it was possible but it’s true. I am now a homeowner, I lived alone for 3 years happily before that, spent holidays alone, traveled alone and my spiritual sustenance is now maintained alone. Any leaning I was doing on another’s faith has had to be replaced with my own knowledge and strong conviction. I don’t know anyone else that has been forced to be independent in more ways than I have.
Sometimes it seems like God wants me to be more independent and self reliant but in other ways he puts more people in my path to help and nurture. People who need me and I desperately need them. This is a good thing but it can leave me vulnerable to the lonely moments, which you would think someone who is so independent wouldn’t have. Yep, still have them…
How can one human being need people so badly yet fundamentally resist them as part of my nature? I truly have both yearnings and always have.
So, the giant Rachel tug of war will probably always continue. One side needing and thriving on community and love, and the other needing isolation and freedom from what other people have planned for my life.
A contradiction…Does this make sense to any of you? Do you see these 2 sides in your own life? Can any of you relate?
Readers of this blog probably remember that I loved the movie and book Perks of Being a Wallflower last year. It was the first movie I felt nostalgic for, that I felt captured high school when I was a teen. Of course, the movie is much darker and tragic than anything I experienced but the look and feel reminded me of those years.
That said, one thing it did not remind me of is the experience of being a wallflower. What is that like? I really do wonder.
Sometimes it feels like I never get the chance to follow instead of lead. I am not trying to brag. Believe me sometimes I wish I could take a break and follow but it never seems to work out that way.
When I was in grad school we were required to do a group project in every class which could be such a pain (with UofPhoenix they try to make it so you have basically the same classmates during your entire program). This definitely helps you weed out the good team partners. By the last class one person I never got to work with said ‘I never got to be a part of the dream team’.
Anyway, I always ended up leading the groups but one time I was taking my first trip to Hawaii and decided to take a lesser role, let someone else lead. I still checked in every day (as was required for the curriculum) and tried to follow a project which was due the week after I came home (the courses were only 6 weeks).
It was a statistics class and my toughest subject during my MBA (great time to take a trip right!), but I did my best and hoped for a decent grade. When I got home I called my various team members and they hadn’t done much on the paper. Quickly I glanced through the assignment and realized that my teammates had read the assignment incorrectly. They thought we had to get research already collected from scientific journals and the like. Turns out we had to collect the data ourselves.
Panicked I called my Dad who is the greatest in moments like this. We put together a survey of JWA employees rating their benefits package and asked them to return it the next day (my Dad and uncle being president and chairman of the board probably helped with that!). So I got the surveys back, tabulated the data, wrote the paper and had it in on time. Phew!
It was actually kind of funny I was visiting teaching coordinator, along with 2 other callings, at that time and I was terrible at that calling. I never seemed to be able to get my calls in on time. As it so happened just as I was tabulating data and super stressed out (I was working super long hours at this time as well) my Relief Society pres called me to ask for the numbers and I started to cry (sometimes leading can cause my anxiety, which isn’t good). She asked me if she could help and bless her heart she came over and helped read off the survey scores as I entered them into the spreadsheet. So I guess I was the recipient of leadership in that case.
Maybe it was the wrong lesson to learn but I never took a smaller role in a group again and that statistics class was my only B in grad school. It wasn’t worth the risk of failure to let someone else lead and nobody challenged me for the spot so I took it and created the dream team!
The reason this was on my mind is I was discussing a dating idea on the Midsingles facebook forum called 8 at 8. The concept is you network instead of one-on-one date. Ideally 8 people, 4 men and 4 women, meet and have dinner together. This way instead of meeting 1 person you have met 7 people who know so many more people, who know more people who might be right for you. Anyway, I brought up the idea and it got a huge response.
People seemed really interested so I set up a meetup for August 14th. Now there are 40 people signed up for the group. 21 are signed for the event. My thought is we will figure out what we want to do for the future, organize smaller groups, but I’m sure the turnout will be smaller than rsvpd. I’m expecting 8-10. We are meeting at a local pizzeria just to guard against any weirdos. It should be pretty fun.
I was talking to a friend about this, and she said I was brave. I didn’t feel brave. Of course, I went on a cruise alone to Mexico so my comfort level with strangers is pretty high. 🙂 When I was on the institute committee I remember people saying similar things when we were planning a barn dance and people were surprised I’d call someone who I knew had a barn. Seemed obvious to me but the fact that I didn’t know the barn owner made it bold I guess…
Anyway, I was sitting wondering how I ended up as a leader in another group? Whether its swimfest, book club, my writing group or some church function I always seem to be asked to lead. I’m not really complaining just puzzling because sometimes it just seems to happen without really meaning too?
One thing I like about swimming is I got to be fellowshipped instead of lead. I am pretty much always the slowest swimmer in the bunch and yet I’ve never felt excluded or anything but encouraged. Its kind of a nice change. (yet I still have led with swimfest and helping with the newsletter but that has been fun.)
The other strange thing is I’ve never been a leader in my work, unless you count my days as a teaching assistant back in college (still my favorite job). Funny hah? You think that would be the place I’d be most likely to lead? I have led in my own way at work but a clerical job doesn’t exactly scream leadership. Very strange… (I’ve also never been relief society president, thank goodness! However, I was gospel doctrine teacher for 6 years which is a type of leadership and excelled in front of the classroom)
Anyway, sorry for this long rambling post. Does anyone out there know what I’m talking about? Do you feel that way about leadership or are you a natural follower?
So I really debated about doing this post because I didn’t know if I could talk about 2012 in a genuine way (I hate glossy highlight reels but I suppose it is better than nothing). It was a tough year for me and one if I could erase I would do it in a heartbeat. However, all I can do is try to learn from the experiences and be grateful for the good times. I am certainly deeply grateful for all the support I have received from friends and family.
As you can see from the gallery some of the highlights of the year included 3 swimfests, Great Salt Lake Marathon Swim, Swim Camp, Deer Creek 5k, building a house, moving to family ward (although challenging in many ways), eye surgery and vision therapy, family reunion in Cali, my weekend retreat in October, BYU 10 Year Reunion, Camille’s wedding, my first solo Christmas/Thanksgiving. (And that’s not even the bad stuff! What a jammed packed year!).
I’m so excited for 2013 and a new house, new tenants, new ward, new experiences. It should be exciting! To learning, growing, exploring.
Having a relationship free Christmas with no family/spouse to spend it with has made me think a lot about past holidays and why some were more effective and loving than others? What made one Christmas happier and lighter in feel than others?
I’ll be honest when I was in college we had a pretty mean streak of chaotic Christmas breaks. For about 3 years some or all of us ended up getting sick, my parents had a new baby (always tough) and they had just moved to California and hadn’t really settled in. Life was a challenge.
That said, we did always manage to leave the season with a sense of unity and purpose and particularly Christmas Day never failed to be magical. A lot of this credit goes to my Mother who does whatever she can to make our somewhat odd family united.
Anyway, I was thinking about what I could have done in some of those hard years to make things better? It’s hard to say because I was exhausted from school and ill equipped to deal with a family under duress. I was also immature and eager to get back to my independent life. A baby and young toddler were the last thing I wanted to deal with and my response was probably on the selfish side; although I do think I tried.
I sometimes think it would be easier if I had friends in California but since I only lived there for 9 months, even today, I end up working most of break which doesn’t make it much of a break for me. Plus, I find I turn into this different person when I am home. More of a nag and less of a carefree, happy person. Do any of you see that with your own behavior at home? I’m not sure why I do that?
While I was pondering these past Christmases I thought about how Christmas is like a little microcosm of all the ways we experience love (and its opposite) jam-packed into one month. There are so many opportunities to think of others and to receive love in return that it is really like no other time of the year, but again how can we make those interactions more effective?
I’m sure most of you have heard about the 5 Love Languages. They are by Dr. Gary Chapman and have been a part of a number of his bestselling books. While possibly a bit gimmicky, I have found them to be very helpful in my friendships and family relationships over the years and today I was thinking about how much they relate to Christmas. In fact, I think the success of a Christmas depends on our ability to express love in each of the 5 ways, and in the way others need that love:
5 Love Languages of Christmas
1. Quality Time- This is the type of person that will get very frustrated by a slew of activities that are rushed through (how many of us do that at Christmas!). They want time for ‘meaningful conversation’ and ‘eye contact and shared activities are needed to feel loved’ (I wonder how many people felt ostracized from me because I couldn’t make eye contact with them with my strabismus?).
Basically bonding time is what they need most of all. For example, this person would probably not be well suited to seeing a movie Christmas Day but would rather sit and talk over cookies.
My parents aren’t really ‘event’ people, meaning they enjoy doing things with all of us, but I don’t think they see it as an important expression of love. They would see all the time spent with me on the phone as more important than any activity we might do together (which for me is definitely the case; although I am also an activity person). In the past I have gotten frustrated when my family doesn’t seem as energized as I am about something important to me but maybe that is just not the way they express love? Hmmmm
2. Receiving Gifts- This is probably the clearest link to the holidays and most treacherous. Following the example of the magi of old we give gifts during the holidays and most of us try to give something thoughtful that the other person will like. With children it is often the quantity of the gifts that stand out where an adult may get one or two more carefully chosen gifts.
Here’s the rub- some people, as Dr. Gray points out, just don’t think gifts are an important expression of love; for others it is key. I can think of people in my family who land on both ends of the spectrum. My Dad, for instance, is not a huge gift person. He likes them fine but it’s definitely not his language.
One year I got my brother in the Christmas drawing and he said ‘ughh, Rachel is a bad gift-giver’ and I was so offended. (It may have been his strategy because I gave him a sweet gift to prove him wrong!). Giving and receiving gifts is important to me and I’ve learned a lot over the years about how to give an effective gift- https://smilingldsgirl.wordpress.com/2012/04/10/good-gifts/
Dr. Gray says “When you are with a partner who love little gifts and surprises, this is precisely what you will get. You will constantly be showered with new clothes, flowers or even chocolates. This is how they want to be loved, so this is exactly what they do for their partners. Giving the gift of self is also an important symbol of love to these people.”
On the other hand when someone is not a gift love language person it can come across as cold and distant to those who are. I can think of several Christmases I would have been happier had my expectations of both receiving and giving of gifts been aligned with the person on the opposite end of the gift. Something to think about!
3. Words of Affection- This is a person who needs positive reinforcement vocally to feel loved. Dr. Gray says “those who speak this language are sensitive people and don’t take criticism as well as others. They may illustrate their frustrations by using sharp words or even by harassing you.” (sound like a holiday you have experienced!). I probably fall into this language most of all; although, I have also learned over the years to hold feelings inside causing me anxiety and even panic. That’s how unnatural it is for me to not communicate my feelings.
This type of love language can be a powder keg when large gatherings combine lots of personality traits together, giving ample opportunity for snubs, slights and over-reactions. Even just the anxiety of reinforcing others and then not getting it back like you might have hoped can be difficult. For example, someone who is shy and private may have a hard time communicating with someone who needs words of affection.
On the other hand, this expression can be full to overflowing in the positive during Christmas as people share testimony of the Savior, and we feel Jesus’ love stronger than the rest of the year. Plus, cards, carolers, party-goers and family members all get ample opportunity to shower each other with words of love. It just helps to know that is what your loved one needs. Watch out for his or her patterns this year.
I can think of so many people who are great at this. My best friend Emily comes to mind. She is loving and thoughtful and we have a very similar type of love expression which is good for a best friend! :). My old roommate Camille is also excellent at absorbing large personalities. She is such a great listener, a necessary companion to being a words of affection person.
4. Physical Touch- This is probably the least visible during the holidays but certainly present. As we visit with loved one’s hugs and other physical touch are a part of feeling warmly welcomed and loved. If you are someone like me who is not a cuddly person sometimes such affections can be difficult to initiate but still appreciated.
It’s interesting after I showed my new roommate the house we were chatting and at the end of the conversation she said ‘Can I give you a hug?’. I don’t know her well enough to say she is a physical touch person but suffice it to say I would never have made a similar gesture and t was very friendly. Made me feel all the more confident in her character and that she would be a good roommate.
5. Acts of Service- Dr Gray defines this as “Some people find pleasure in doing things for others. This may mean that they will feel loved when their partners help out with chores or does things for them. However acts of service should be done out of love, not obligation”.
I was not always so great at the doing it out of love part but I did it and that counts for something. Again, I was immature and craving my independence. This did not always make for the most willing servant for my family, but we did work hard.
I remember one of the most difficult Christmas times my mother was injured and my Dad was sick and when we came into the house my Mother said ‘I hope you have come with an attitude of service’. I’m sure I wasn’t perfect but I remember trying to serve. My Sister (who was always better at this than me. Perhaps it is her language of love?) and I planned and cooked for a church party my Dad had scheduled weeks before the injury or illness nearly cancelled it. I know it meant a lot to my Mom to have our help and I look back on it with gratitude to my Heavenly Father for giving me the chance to serve.
I have always been involved with service for the community around Christmas. For years I did sub-4-santa, even when I was in high school, and have one planned this year for a family friend. I am also taking the lead on Swimfest which I see as service to my swim family. Next Tuesday I am going with my activity days girls to sing at the senior center near my house- another great opportunity to serve during Christmas. (The girls requested going to the center! Isn’t that cute?)
So those are the 5 love languages. I hope that you can think about them as you try to express love this Christmas season. The most important thing to remember is that Jesus Christ, the reason for the season, understands our language perfectly and can love us like nobody on earth. In fact, He already has shown the ultimate love by giving us His life so we could be forgiven and be happy. Returning to His presence with our eternal families makes all of life’s struggles worth it (and the happy times extra sweet). Merry Christmas!
I have exciting news! I’ve decided to get a roommate for the 3rd bedroom of my house. This will probably come as a big surprise to some of my friends and family who have heard me defend the lifestyle of living alone. I am as surprised by it as anyone else. What can I say it just felt like the right thing to do. It’s going to be an adjustment but I’m looking forward to something new and making new friends.
Financially its a no brainer. I will be making more money on tenants than I am currently spending on rent and I will end up with more square footage and nicer space even with the space allocated for tenants. I will have an office and a huge master suite so there should be tons of privacy. Sharing a kitchen might be challenging at first, but I’m up for a challenge.
All 3 of my tenants I found via craigslist (something I swore I’d never do again) and I checked references (the girl who is rooming with me goes to my old ward and knows a lot of the same people I know. Small world). You never know with things like this but taking risk is part of life. I feel as confident as is possible that they will be awesome tenants and it will be a great thing for me. Regardless I know its what Heavenly Father wants me to do and that is what is most important. I am sure it
is His will. I can’t wait to see why He wants me to do this and the blessings that unfold.
Life is certainly full of twists and turns. So, they also announced that my house will be done 12-31-12. What a fun New Years present! I’m going to give my notice on Monday at my current place just to give a little more leeway if something goes wrong (like a blizzard comes in or the appraisal gets delayed. Whatever). This means my move in date will probably be around the 5th. Get ready friends to help me move! (Thanks in advance!)
Other news…I’m not going home for Christmas this year. This is the first time in my adult life except for my mission and I really went back and forth over the decision but talking with my Dad today confirmed it will be best for me to stay here and get ready for the move. I just know the anxiety of travel combined with moving will be too much. (I hope my family knows how truly agonizing the decision was for me. I felt really sad and even a little guilty not coming. Hard to explain but true). Plus, saving money before closing never hurts and my parents are coming out the next week anyway so it would really only be for the day.
It does make me a little sad to know I am 31 and spending Christmas alone…I don’t think that is anyone’s ideal but it is what it is. I’m certainly going to be less lonely come the beginning of the year so no complaining there! God has His own timing for my life and I just have to keep faith. He knows me and He has certainly been guiding me as I’ve gone through this housing and subsequent tenant search, I have to believe he will guide me in ALL parts of my life.
The Christmas season isn’t going to be that different. I just have a little bitty tree (the tree I got from my mission) instead of my large memory tree (still doing 2012 memory ornaments).
I am also making this the season of the Messiah Sing-In. Always a tradition for me since I was a little girl but this year I am going to three! Nothing like it. Makes me emotional every time I hear it. I think of my mission when I had some deep lonely times and the music always made me feel at home. I listened to it year-round.
Next week I am having the 2nd Annual Christmas Swimfest, which I am excited about. This is something I invented last year to give back to my swimming family. We do a solid workout set and than a bunch of goofy relays like exchanging t-shirts after a lap or eating a saltine cracker in-between laps (its really hard!).
I’m going to try and think of some holiday themed relays and already have some (nutcracker relay, back stroke with foot out of water like a ballerina). If you have any ideas let me know. I debated about doing the Swimfest this year because of the move and everything but I’m glad I decided to do it. It’s really the least I can do and after doing 3 of them already it’s not much work. Getting the word out is probably the hardest part, so if you are in the area come out- Gene Fullmer pool 10 am.
I am also going to Christmas Carol on the 18th with my best friend Emily and her husband. Hurray! This is always a highlight of the holidays for me. I love the message of redemption in the story of Scrooge and that nobody is a lost cause to Jesus.
So, as you can see I will have plenty to keep me busy (and there’s more I could listen, let alone packing up my apartment!). Still, I’m a little concerned with Christmas Day itself. What can I do on that day to make it not seem lonely but happy and full of a spirit of giving to others? (I am doing a sub-4-santa type project but that will be done this Saturday, not Christmas Day). I’ve thought about going to a midnight mass at Cathedral of the Madeline. I’ve always wanted to do that but never been able to step away from family. It could be a neat community experience.
What would you do if you had Christmas alone? How would you make it special? I’d be especially curious for those who have spent Christmas alone and what they have done to ensure it wasn’t a big pity party. (Oh and I just want to clarify that I am not staying at home as some kind of revenge to my family. So many of the posts I read online were of that vein. As chaotic as they can sometimes be, I’m actually sad to be away from my family at Christmas).
Please forgive for this somewhat rambling post. Lots of news to catch you up on. (Oh also next week I am going to a speed dating activity in Salt Lake. Wish me luck!)
Oh and I also want to see Les Miserables on Christmas Day if anyone wants to come with!