Monday, December 29, 2008

My Fair Godmother, by Janette Rallison - A Review

As I read Janette Rallison’s My Fair Godmother, I was reminded of the one time I tried drawing a pattern with a Spirograph. As the wheels turned and the cog that had my pen in it spiraled away from the beginning of the design, I thought there was no way it would ever connect up, and I was going to be left with a picture that looked like a plate of spaghetti sliding off the page. Of course, the lines connected, and when I finished, I had a beautiful, symmetrical, intricate design.

That’s the way Janette’s plot is: it’s devious, serpentine, quirky, and way out there, but it always plays fair with the reader, and it all ties up neatly as you go along.

There’s a complete fairy tale framework that exists in our common body of knowledge, and Janette makes good use of that when the main character, Savannah, is sent to that alternate universe by her Fairy Godmother-Intern. The real fun begins when Savannah returns to fairy-tale land to rescue a nerdy boy from her high school who was sent there by the ditzy fairy godmother-in-training.

But, I get ahead of myself. My Fair Godmother is about Savannah, a sixteen-year old girl who is popular, style conscious, and an indifferent student. When her good-looking, athletic, studious boyfriend dumps her for her brainy older sister, Savannah falls into despair. You see, she’s already bought her dress for the prom, and now she doesn’t have a date. That’s where the Fairy Godmother comes in.

The fact that Chrissy, the Fairy Godmother, is Savannah’s almost-twin isn’t lost on either the reader or on Savannah. Chrissy is more interested in her wardrobe than in learning to be a competent godmother, and she’s very self-centered. Nothing that goes wrong is ever her fault. She also doesn’t appear to be the brightest twinkle in the magic dust pouch.

Savannah also sees herself as not terribly smart. As she says, when she finds herself with the seven dwarfs and they treat her like a simpleton: “…I still didn’t like being treated as though I was an idiot. Because I was smart. Even if I had nothing to show for it, like knowledge.”

One of the joys of this book, and there are many, is the reader’s realization, along with Savannah, that she IS smart. She may not have an incisive, scientific-type mind like her straight-A sister, but she has a lot of common sense and survival skills that come in mighty handy in middle-age fairy-tale land.

I am a complete Janette Rallison fan, and this book is one of her best. I dare you to read it without smiling. Can’t be done.

Click here to watch a short clip of Janette talking about two of her new books: Just One Wish and My Fair Godmother.

A Good Samaritan with a Front-End Loader

I live in the Pacific Northwest, about ten miles from the sea, nestled against the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. The Cascades get tons of snow each year, and Mt. Baker, right next door to us, is snow capped year round. But down here at sea level, we get maybe one or two inches twice a year, and it stays on the ground only a day or so before it warms up and the rain starts again.

Ever so often, though, we get a perfect storm where cold Arctic air pushes down from Canada and meets the moisture laden air from the Pacific and we have a snowfall of a foot or more that hangs around for weeks. When that happens, schools and church are cancelled and people mostly stay home.

Recent move-ins, especially those from northern climes where it snows lots, make fun of us and tell us how snow doesn’t faze them. That’s usually before their first trip out when they discover that the roads haven’t been plowed. Usually their comment is, “This is insane!”

It’s a matter of economics. Snow removal equipment is expensive, and we get so little snow that it’s hard to justify in the budget. The state has plows for the main highways, and the county has a few plows they put on the front of sanding trucks. They do the best they can, but you can count on it, if you venture out, you’re going to be driving on compact snow and ice.

We haven’t had any appreciable snow in the four years since we sold the farm and moved to town, but two weeks ago one of those perfect storm things dumped about a foot and a half of snow on us. We live on Red Headed Step-child Street—we live in town, but people across the street from us live outside the town limits. They’re in the county, so ours is always the last street to see a plow. We didn’t see one at all during this storm.

Last Saturday evening, the rain started pouring down, and by Sunday it had turned the snow to a slush that was challenging even to four-wheel drive. Our driveway and the street just in front of our house were pretty bad, though a block away, the main roads had all been plowed.
I stood at the window, eyeing the driveway, thinking about snow shovels and arthritis, and weighing the odds of making it to the open road the next day to get to work, when here came my neighbor on his little tractor with the front-end loader.

He got busy on our driveway, and another fellow from a farm down at the end came with his larger tractor and started on the street. In a couple of hours, even my little rear-wheel-drive car could make it out to the good roads.

What a great service our neighbor rendered to us! We have only a talk-in-the-front-yard acquaintance, but he was mindful of this older couple and reached out to us in a most significant way, adding his mite to answer the question, "Who is my neighbor?"

Friday, December 26, 2008

Following in the New Year

A couple months ago I blogged about raising the Virtuous, Lovely, of Good Report & Praisworthy (VLGRP) profile of the internet. In that posting, I encouraged readers to either blog or to encourage bloggers who are working to raise the afore-mentioned profile by commenting.

Today’s post is another effort to get blog readers to encourage bloggers, if not by commenting, at least by becoming a follower. My service to you today is to 1) Make you aware that this is something that is available to you and 2) Show you how to become a follower.

My stat counter tells me that I have quite a few people who are repeat visitors to this blog, but I only have three followers. (One of those doesn’t count, because it was me on my son’s account, going through the process so I could write about how to do it. I haven’t figured out how to disengage him, yet.)

Always the optimist, I figure that some of my repeat readers would become followers if they knew they could. I didn’t know about the option until I was posting my blog one day and I saw a little icon on my dashboard and became curious about what it was. What a charge to find out I have a following! And it’s plural! More than one!

Following are instructions about how to become a follower on a Blogger blog. A Wordpress blog friend said there was not an equivalent function on Wordpress. If someone has different information than that, email me at and let me know how to become a follower on Wordpress and I’ll amend this blog to include that information.

The easiest way to become a follower on a blog is if the blogger has a Follower Gadget on the sidebar. There’s now one on my blog on the left, just under the announcement of how to order my new book. Just click on FOLLOW THIS BLOG and it will take you through the process. You have to have a Google account to do so, but you can sign up right there. It’s free, and will enable you to follow all your favorite blogs in one place. It will also let you set up your own free blog later, if you should decide to do so.

You can either follow the blog publicly, in which case your picture will appear on the sidebar, or you can follow anonymously.

If you have other blogs you’d like to follow and they don’t have the gadget on the sidebar, here’s the process (after you’ve got your Google account):

1. Go to and sign in with your Google user name and password. This will take you to your Dashboard.

2. In the Reading List section, at the bottom of the Blogs I’m Following tab, there’s an ADD button. Click on it.

3. A pop-up window will come up and ask you for the URL of the blog you want to follow. Type it in (Example: the URL of this blog is --it's in the addressline at the top of your screen).

4. Click on NEXT

5. Now you have two choices: You can follow anonymously, or you can follow publicly. Click on your choice.

6. Click on FOLLOW. You are now a follower of that particular blog.

The little time you spend setting up as a follower will save you time later, because you can follow all your favorite blogs from your Blogger dashboard at , which you access by using your Google username and password.

So, what do you think? It’s a new process, but it’s a new year, too. Go ahead, give it a try.

Return to Neighborhood

Monday, December 22, 2008

An Old American Christmas Tradition

I’m writing today about a Christmas tradition that is exactly 108 years old. It’s not shrouded in mystery, like dragging a live tree into the house and putting lights on it—whose idea was that? We know exactly how the tradition I’m writing about got started.
The year was 1900, and it was the custom among sportsmen of the time to engage in what was called a ‘side hunt’. They would choose up sides and go out into the fields and whoever brought in the biggest pile of dead birds and critters won the friendly competition.

A man by the name of Frank Chapman, an ornithologist at the American Museum of Natural History, proposed an alternate activity to the side hunts: a competition among teams to count birds rather than shoot them. Because of his promotional activity, twenty-five Christmas Bird Counts were held in 1900.

That first year, the counting region was limited to northeastern North America, but in the intervening years, it has spread across the United States, Canada, and 19 countries in the Western Hemisphere.

The Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is a program of the National Audubon Society. It is held in specific 15-mile-diameter circles. Each circle has a particular day in which the count will be held and is led by a Count Compiler. The CBC is staffed by volunteers who go out and tramp along a specified route through the circle, counting every bird they see or hear all day. Neophytes and wannabes who trip over sticks and couldn’t tell a crow from a jaybird are paired with more experienced birdwatchers, and the Count Compilers ensure that proper methodology is followed.
If you happen to live in one of the counting circles and have a bird feeder, you can register and participate by counting the birds that visit your feeder. But, you have to register beforehand, live in the circle, and count on the proper counting day.

To find out more about the Christmas Bird Count, click here. If you think it’s something you’d like to do, click on Get Involved on the left hand side bar. At the bottom of the Get Involved page, you will see a button that says Count Date Search. Click on that button, and pick your state, and it will show you the circles in your state. Some will already have been counted, but others have yet to be done, because the counting dates continue until January 5.

If you click on a circle that has yet to be counted, it will give you the name of the Count Compiler and a way of contacting that person. You can find out from him/her about whether there's room for you to join them and what you have to do to register.
There is a $5 charge to be able to participate. This covers the cost of census materials and also helps pay for the web site.

Here’s a chance to be of service to your nation, to science, and to Mother Earth. Never mind that it involves long periods of time standing in the woods in December. You’ll be warmed by the thought that you’re keeping up a grand tradition and that you’re making a contribution.

You’ll notice I said ‘you’. My bird feeder isn’t in an official circle, so I won’t be counting from the comfort of my armchair. But I’d love to hear from any hardy soul who decides to join in the CBC.
I'll cheer you on and send warm thoughts your way.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Service Remembered, Finally

My books came yesterday. The boxes of Counting the Cost sat on my snowy doorstep, fairly steaming, they were so hot off the press. Holding one of the books in my hand was like holding a baby after an eighteen- year gestation period. I could hardly believe it was really here.

It’s been such a long time since I wrote the story that I forgot to mention one of my first readers in the acknowledgements. I’d like to rectify that right here.

First off, let me say that for someone to read a writer’s draft is a true service. NOBODY is interested in reading the manuscript of an unpublished writer. Well, maybe another unpublished writer will, but forget about spouse, children, or best friends .

It’s not that family doesn’t believe in you. My husband was very supportive. In fact, one long-ago Christmas he bought me a correction typewriter. This was years before the first PC, and I was writing on my old portable electric typewriter with the crooked e. I never will forget opening that package and discovering this machine that would correct a whole line. You can’t get much more supportive than that.

But the fact is, I write fiction, while my husband’s idea of a real good read is something like Will and Ariel Durant’s The Story of Civilization. If I ask him, he will read and critique, but it isn’t his thing.

However, to become a good writer, you have to have feedback from readers to see if you are telling a compelling tale. Do they understand the story line? Did they pick up on the crucial cues? Do they like the main character? If not, why not?

Nowadays, I have lots of people willing, since I belong to a very supportive writing group, ANWA . But years ago, when I first began writing Counting the Cost, I had no network and no credibility as an author. Combine that with a seven pound manuscript, and people’s eyes would get very big when I would give them a plastic bag full of paper and ask them if they’d be willing to read the book I was writing. Bless their hearts, every one of them came through, and they’re listed on page 4 in Acknowledgements.
All except Victor. He came through. He just isn’t listed with the others.

How could I have forgotten to list my good friend and then-neighbor, Victor Manwaring? At the time, he had just had knee surgery, and the recovery was taking longer than expected. Thinking that I had him in a vulnerable position, I headed up the hill with my plastic bag full of manuscript. I thunked it down on the table beside him and began my persuasive patter. “You’ve got a horse,” I said. “This is a story about a cowboy.” He finally said he would-- I can’t remember if that was before or after I said I’d make him a pie. Or maybe it was when I mentioned my cousin Guido who would come and break his good kneecap. It doesn’t matter. He read it. And liked it. And told me so.

Victor probably remembers it differently, but that’s fine. What I remember (unfortunately too late to get it in print), is that, long before I was published, he treated me like a writer.

Thanks, Victor. Your copy is in the mail.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

My Vacuum Cleaner Testimony

I have always said that my true testimony of the Church is reflected in the fact that I’m there at my meetings every Sunday. I hate meetings. Not just Sunday meetings-- I hate meetings of any kind. I think it has to do with having to be at a particular place and a particular time with lots of other people, because I actually love singing and praying with my fellow saints and partaking of the sacrament and listening to one another teach, and I’m ALWAYS glad I came. It’s just getting there in the first place that is a true test of my commitment.

A couple weeks ago I found a truer test than attending meetings. It’s vacuuming.

Intellectually, I’m thankful for the vacuum cleaner. My grandmother didn’t have a vacuum cleaner. Actually, she didn’t have any carpets, so you might say she didn’t have need for one, but I remember cleaning her house with a broom and a dust mop. I would wrap a towel around the broom to get the spider webs out of the corners up next to the ceiling. I’m looking back through about fifty years of memory to the last time I helped clean her house, and I can still see the dust stirred up by the broom. Yes, a vacuum would have made cleaning grandma’s house lots easier.

As I said, intellectually, I understand how great vacuums are and how they help keep our modern world clean. I just hate using one. The only crisis I had when I was facing an empty nest was that I was losing my free vacuumer.

So, a couple weeks ago, when it was our turn to clean the ward building, I found myself with a vacuum cleaner in my hand. I hope I showed the Lord that I loved him by having a glad heart about the whole thing.

I did a lot of pondering about service as I was going back and forth over about a half acre of carpet. Not only did I gain a fuller appreciation for ‘enduring to the end’, but I also posed a few other questions:

· What if I loved to vacuum? Would it still count as service?
· Why do I not mind vacuuming the church nearly as much as I do vacuuming my living room?
· Is there vacuuming beyond the veil? Or, is it like repentance: if you take care of it here, you won’t have to take care of it there?

Not profound stuff, but I was very much struck by the fact that I would do for the Lord what I begrudged doing for myself. I haven’t yet decided if that’s okay or not.

As I was putting the vacuum away, I smiled at the thought that, come January first, the other ward is in charge of cleaning the building, and I wouldn’t have to vacuum that half acre for another whole year. That happy thought was short lived, though, as they announced last Sunday that the other ward has outgrown this smaller building and will be meeting in the stake center from now on. We’re on our own, and my turn to vacuum will be rolling around again shortly.

Return to the Neighborhood

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Forever Gift to Our Children

Years ago, I spent several years teaching elementary school. It was a busy, but rewarding, time in my life, and I made some good friends among the faculty. One of these friends was going through a difficult time in her life, as her husband had left her for another woman. She had gone back to work and was trying to earn a living while gathering together the shards of her self- esteem.

I remember sitting in the staff room one day, eating lunch with this lady as she was speaking of how hard it was to deal with being the rejected ex-wife of a man who had joint custody of their two grade-school girls. “If my parents hadn’t given me a good religious foundation,” she said, “I would never have been able to get through this.”

I was much struck by that thought, and I asked her, “Are you giving your children the same foundation?” She paused a moment, then dropped her gaze and shook her head.

I taught one more year at that school and then we moved. Shortly thereafter, our stake president sent out letters to each of the households in the stake and asked the parents to come to a very important meeting. This was during the Arab oil embargo, and we who lived in the city had to go early on our allotted day and sit in a line that stretched clear around the block in order to get gasoline. Because the times were so unsettled, and picturing a momentous announcement from the stake president—possibly they were going to hand out trowels and assignments for building the temple in Jackson County?--I made arrangements for a sitter, determined to attend. When I got there, the program was about the importance of family home evening. Family home evening? I’m going prepared to be given the task of building Zion, I thought, and they’re talking about family home evening?

I chewed on that a while, and suddenly it hit me: the meeting WAS about building Zion, one child at a time. Whenever I was tempted to let FHE slip, I remembered my teacher friend, and I knew that family home evening was my opportunity to give my children the foundation to get through the tough times.

So, we tried to persevere. Our family home evenings were certainly nothing spectacular, and they often turned out completely different from what we had planned.

One time, when we just had only the last two children at home, probably ages six and eight, we had a lesson on King Benjamin. We were going to act out his great speech, and Dad was going to be the king. We made him a crown out of aluminum foil and stacked two milk boxes one atop another to make a tower for him to stand on. Ruth, Clay and I ‘camped’ round about, with the doors of our tents facing the tower. Ruth’s tent and mine were made with two chairs and a blanket, but Clay’s was a little tepee affair made out of a mike stand and a sheet. He sat in it cross legged, with his lower lip stuck out, and when I asked him why, he said he wanted a tent like Ruth’s, made with chairs and a blanket.

I quickly switched with him, and then we finished FHE, sitting at the doors of our tents and listening to King Benjamin speak from his milk-box tower.

Years later, when Clay was on his mission, we were working with a less-active family, and I planned a FHE using the same format as that long-ago lesson. In writing to Clay, I asked him if he remembered the lesson, and he said yes, he did. He said when he saw me sitting under that cheesy little tent, he was so sorry that he had made me trade, and he made the decision right then to be less selfish. It was an interesting little insight to me about how the Spirit can teach if we just grant the opportunity.

So, in this season of giving, in this season of new years and new beginnings, let’s consider the gift of family home evening for our families. It’s a forever kind of gift.

Return to The Neighborhood

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Awesome Service from a Telephone Operator

There was an article in our small-town daily newspaper today about a group of former telephone operators who still ‘stay connected’. Fifty years ago, they worked in the telephone exchange, a small brick building downtown.

Anyone who has seen an old movie has seen the setup: they sat in front of a board with a lot of holes in it with their legs under a desk affair with plug-in jacks attached to cables. Each cable was a phone line. When a call came in on Line 1, the operator would answer it, and she would then plug the Line 1 jack into the receptacle of the party the caller requested and a light would come on to signal a connection had been made. When the caller hung up, the light would go out, and the operator would unplug the cable. If it was a busy switchboard you had to be careful because your lines crossed one another, and it sometimes was hard to determine exactly which incoming line was plugged into which receiver.

When I was seventeen, I worked for a while as a PBX operator at a small hospital. There were probably only about fifteen incoming lines and maybe fifty phones in the hospital, but I’ll admit I disconnected a doctor or two. I realized then that being a telephone operator was probably not a career path I should follow.

However, as a telephone user, it was great to be able to dial “O” and know that there would be someone on the other end to answer a question or help with a solution. Long after telephone exchanges had become automated, companies still had operators answering phones, and I appreciated having a warm body that I could put my query to instead of hearing, “If you know the extension of the person you are calling….”

About fifteen years ago I got unexpected help from an operator at the Church office building. I was in the middle of writing Counting the Cost, which is, on one level, the story of how my family came to join the LDS church. It was my Uncle Curtis, a cowboy, who first met and listened to the missionaries, and I wanted to know how that had come about. I had found and talked to one of the missionaries who taught Curtis, but he had transferred in and picked up where the other missionaries left off. He couldn’t tell me how the missionaries had first met Curtis, but he kept a journal and told me the name of the elder he replaced and the small Idaho town he was from.

I did some sleuthing and found that elder, now a doctor in California, but he wasn’t the one who first met my Uncle Curtis. He did give me the name of a previous missionary and where he was from, but it was a large city, and I knew I couldn’t just start calling people with that same surname as I had before.

I decided to try calling the missionary department of the LDS church, thinking they would have records that would help me find this missionary. He would be seventy-one or –two by this time, but I was sure that he would remember how he happened to come to teach my uncle.

I dialed the number for the Church office building, and an operator answered. “Could you direct me to the missionary department,” I said. “I want to find out about a missionary who served in New Mexico in 1940.”

“What is his name?” she asked.

“No, you don’t understand,” I said. “I don’t want to talk to him. I don’t think he’s in the missionary department. I want to talk to someone who can help me find him.”

“What’s his name?” she asked again.

I told her his name.

“He’s dead,” she said.

“No, you don’t understand,” I said again. My voice may have been getting an edge to it. “I’d like to talk to someone in the missionary department who can help me find this former missionary.”

“He’s dead,” she repeated. Then she explained that she had served in that same mission at the same time, and that missionary had married her former companion, so they had kept in touch over the years. He had died just a few years before.

I was disappointed that I would never, in this life, know how the gospel had found its way to our family. But I was really in awe of the way I got to that dead end. What are the odds that I would get an operator who could answer that question about a missionary who served fifty years before in an obscure corner of New Mexico?

To read a blog I wrote about one of the missionaries I did find, click here.

Return to The Neighborhood

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Greatest Charity Box of All

Last time I blogged about being the recipient of a charity box during the Christmas season. Today I’d like to blog about being on the other side of that equation.

Several years before the ‘cannons and charity boxes’ affair, our family knew of a family that was struggling financially, so we and another family decided to buy presents for all and augment their simple Christmas dinner. We spent a lot of time and dipped into our own Christmas budget, but we felt this would be a better Christmas experience for the children than finding a whiz-bang toy under the tree.

We all rode together to deliver it, and we sat in the car with the lights out on the dark, rural road, as the oldest child deposited the box on the doorstep, rang the doorbell and ran. As soon as he was in the car, we sped off, laughing and joyful as we pictured the family’s Christmas day.

Several weeks later, quite by accident, I learned that the simple Christmas dinner I imagined for this family was actually a feast with an exceptionally expensive cut of meat as the main course. It was an ethnic tradition that I’m sure they sacrificed to maintain, but at the time all I could think of was the time and money I spent on a family that ate a whole lot better on Christmas day than we did, and the sweet feelings I had about the experience turned sour.

That was a lot of years ago, and I hadn’t even thought about it until last week when a friend told about a similar experience. I realized as I remembered it, that time, my charity box experience, and King Benjamin have all worked together to restore the sweetness to the memory.

For I know now, first of all, that this offering really wasn’t to the needy family. Rather, this offering was to the Savior. It was our Christmas gift to him. I should have realized that, then.

Secondly, a gift, by definition, is no longer yours once it’s given away. And certainly, if it’s a free-will offering and hasn’t been asked for, it’s out of order for the giver to set conditions after the fact.

This family hadn’t asked for help. They probably felt they had Christmas in hand, and maybe they reacted to our charity box just as I had a few years later when I found one on my doorstep.
But, even if they had asked for help, King Benjamin has some great advice:

…ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain…
Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—
But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent…

That’s from the Book of Mormon. Mosiah 4:14-24. King Benjamin goes on to ask if we are not all beggars and dependent upon the goodness of God.

Indeed we are, and we celebrate each December 25th the greatest charity box of all. Whether we are deserving or not, whether we are thankful or not, it sits at our doorstep, ready to be opened.

Return to the Neighborhood

Monday, December 1, 2008

Cannons and Charity Boxes

Today is December first, and there’s a big article in our small local daily about the newspaper’s annual Christmas fund needing volunteers and donations. Last year they helped about 1500 families. This year, they expect about a 13% increase, and they’re gearing up for it by calling for 200 volunteers. They hope to raise $60,000 in donations. Since the average donation is about $50, that would mean that there are lots of people in this rural county helping out.

Families who receive help from this Christmas fund make application for it, and on December 20, they gather at a Christmas Party where grocery gift certificates and presents for kids are given out to families.

There are two ways to look at the structure this non-profit organization has set up for giving to needy families. On one hand, it’s too bad a family has to register to receive anything. I imagine it’s hard for some families to admit they need help, and thus some may have a pretty scanty and sad Christmas because of that. On the other hand, extending charity to someone who doesn’t want it can be a sticky wicket, too.

We were in that situation a long time ago—actually it was in the midst of a pretty nasty economic downturn. We had the farm, so we were eating well, but our construction equipment sales business had dried up and fallen off the vine. There just wasn’t any money for Christmas presents. I told the seven kids that Christmas from Mom and Dad would be out of my fabric cupboard, so they were prepared. We put up a tree and decorated every window ledge and countertop with evergreen boughs and everyone worked industriously on gifts for each other. It was a wonderful Christmas season, full of anticipation and joy.

Then the charity boxes started coming.

The first one felt like someone had doused me with a bucket of cold water. I managed to keep my composure until the skinny Santa who delivered it left my front porch, but then I burst into tears. We weren’t poor, I kept saying. We might be broke, but Christmas was well in hand.

The second box came two days later. It was left on the doorstep. I set it in the corner and ignored it.

When the third one came, it began to be funny. That’s when we started making jokes about setting up a cannon in the front yard and taking pot shots at bearers of charity boxes. I think the kids were relieved that Mom wasn’t in danger of slashing her wrists any more.

There were actually some pretty cool presents in the boxes, and it made for a jolly Christmas morning. But, I’ll tell you, when my kids talk about that long-ago Christmas, not a one mentions what came in the charity boxes. They all remember a simple or a home-made gift they got from someone in the family.

I still remember that my oldest boy gave me a sack of clothespins. Our dryer had died about six months before, and I was nursing my hoard of clothespins, trying to make them cover all four lines; but with two small children, it was hard. This teenage boy had seen my need, and from his slender means, he came up with the perfect gift. I don’t think I’ve ever been more delighted on Christmas morning.

Yes, Christmas was well in hand.

Return to The Neighborhood