The most CHRISTmasy Christmas ever

Most people are pulling back this Christmas—one study I saw today said people expect to spend 50% less than last year!  Retailers are petrified that Black Friday will be red after all.  Our family is definitely being more conservative this Christmas in an attempt to save and in a realization that we (and our kids) just don’t need more stuff


While people are spending less on Christmas, people are also spending less on charitable giving.  And while charities’ budgets are shrinking, the need is growing, with more families out of work and money stretched tight.  Here in SLC, Sub For Santa and several other organizations that help needy families at Christmas have already stopped taking new families entirely, having reached capacity and the limits of their budgets.  They say this hasn’t happened before so early in the season. 


There is a growing movement to encourage people who are still above water to still cut back some and give instead to charity—and by replacing gifts to friends and family with a card or a letter that explains that a donation has been made in their name.   For our normal family gift exchange this year, I was going to suggest that instead we all put a $10 toward a donation to the local shelter to increase the spirit of the season not just for us, but for families—and especially children—who are really having a hard time. 


We’ve been reading in the Book of Mormon lately King Benjamin’s service about our responsibility to care for the poor, and these ten short verses really hit me hard and made me commit to a different plan for this Christmas, and I hope you’ll join me in encouraging others to sacrifice more stuff this Christmas to help our fellow brothers & sisters.  “Are we not all beggars?”

God’s plan is not that we should be forced to give our excess substance to the poor, but that we will CHOOSE to give it.   He says, “It is not given that one man should apossess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin.”  (D&C 49: 20).  In Morm. 8: 37  and  2 Ne. 28: 13 the prophets go so far as to say that when get excess or fancy stuff, we are actually robbing the poor.

Ben, Sophie and I just read in Little House on the Prairie about their Christmas, and how thrilled the girls were to find in their stockings their very own tin cup (so they wouldn’t have to share at the table anymore), a big stick of candy, a cake made out of (gasp!) both white flour AND white sugar and a shiny penny.  They were overflowing with tears and gratitude—and that was their whole Christmas.  My kids were simply horrified. 

It’s not that I haven’t thought about these things before, it’s just that as I was getting ready to put together our list, and I have felt that I need to show my kids how to enjoy Christmas beyond the presents.  Sure, they’ll still get presents, but I’ve seen in years past that too much in that arena doesn’t help anybody.  I want to work on this in a way that doesn’t make them resentful or feel deprived, and I think there is a way to be more modest this year and still do that.  At the same time, I want to show them that the needs out there are great, and we need to do what we can to help the uncomfortable become more comfortable, rather than just add to our own comforts.

That’s what’s on my mind today and I wanted to pass it a long in my own lame way of trying to help the sad cause of charities right now—pass along the thought if you feel so inclined.

Your “Fear Factor” Cred Just Went Up

Apparently you probably have been eating insects for quite some time now, among some other things, thanks to a food industry that values pretty colors over the healthy food. 


Thanks to Doris for passing on . . . she says:


Time for another “that’s not food Thursday”…


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TV study

Thought this was interesting:


What Happy People Don’t Do


Lucy is still not growing and we’re starting another round of testing—she was tested for cystic fibrosis yesterday—let’s just pray it’s not that.  I just put in my request for a schedule change last night, please pray they’ll do it for me.  Things are amazingly intense and busy, but not bad.


Let Beer Companies Pay for your Food!

I'm passing along a fun tip from my dear friend of 25 years (how far we've come since 8th grade earth science class!)–A word from Janet–

I hate mass email but I love good food – and a good deal and thought you might too. Beer companies are paying for groceries this holiday in an insane marketing ploy. They should have a disclaimer for Mormons who don't drink, but hey.

I saw this on the news last night (KSL Beer companies are giving rebates on food. For example, Budweiser is giving you $15 back on a deli tray of ham or turkey. It doesn't say what store (you could go to an grocery store or deli). It just has to be at least $25. This means you'll get about half the cost back. It expires at the end of Christmas.

You have to look at the grocery store to find the rebate forms. They are on displays by beer and on the ends of aisle displays. I found one at Smith's today at the end of the beer isle. You don't have to buy beer to use it. I'm going to look for more…

I couldn't pass up this deal!


Don’t panic–but it’s time to panic

I was reviewing my “That’s not food” articles over on  the other day and wishing I had time to be more careful with my kids’ diets.  They just are clearly not healthy kids—not really sickly, but I can see they are not vibrant and well.  With the flu season coming on, I’m trying to figure out what I can do to help them build their immunity and be more healthy (besides passing out the chemical-laden Flinstones, which I’ve resorted to in my chaotic life).


Then I read this article in the NY Times and realized that it simply needs to happen whether I’m busy or not.  More than ever I need to know exactly where our food comes from, and wherever possible we need to grow and cook it ourselves.  I’ve always known that the essentially pre-digested processed foods we consider normal when we eat out (and in) are now more likely than ever to contain some very, very scary things.  As an example, this article discusses wheat gluten, which is almost ubiquitous in processed and restaurant foods, is almost ALWAYS made in China, and one of the top melamine contaminated concerns over there. 


Globalism, my @@$.


What’s more—meat, as the top of the food chain, is increasingly where the trace contaminants accumulate—through the feed, air, water and even grazing land if you buy the fancy meat.  Meat is becoming the catch-all for these things to bring them beyond “trace” levels.  And then, our small kids are taking in such a heavy load for their small bodies.  This stuff is just not imaginary or the realm of the paranoid anymore.  Let’s face it—being actively concerned about the growing levels of scary things our kids are consuming under the name of “nutrition” can no longer be written off as the rant of crazy hippie parents, or the luxury of having enough time–it needs to be the mantra of all concerned parents despite our finances and schedules. 


Yes, time is scarce.  Time (and money) to plant, grow, prepare, cook and serve food to our families is short.  I’m really, really feeling that.  But this is one very important way I can show them I love them.  And more than ever, I’m grateful for a living prophet and the gospel, which has been telling us to grow and preserve food, save money, eat very little meat, pay down our mortgages, follow the Word of Wisdom and the example of Daniel, and avoid debt—long before these things became an emergency.  This is why ongoing revelation from God for our times is such an expression of God’s love.  Let’s not be afraid, but let’s listen to what we’ve been told.


Op-Ed Contributor: Our Home-Grown Melamine Problem

reasons to email me

First, because I changed my cell phone number and finally went local.  (To quote Doris, “NOOOOOOOOOO!”).  If you want to have it, email me at hivalerie at g mail dot com.


Second, because I work for “the world’s largest discount network,” I can get 8 free one-year discount memberships for my friends.  There are some lame discounts, there are some amazing discounts—like 15% off at  (Can I just tell you right now I’ll be ordering Christmas from there this week?)  Other brands include Kohls, Disneyworld, tons of hotels, restaurants, etc.  They tend to be pretty fast turning around cards, so if you want to get one and see if can help you with Christmas, I’m happy to send one your way.  I simply want to give them to the bargain-hunter type people who are inclined to go online and find the places they can save.  Email me your name and address if you want one.  I can’t request them until I have a list of all 8 takers.


Email today—and put the power of 250,000 brands behind your family.  At Access, our experience is your advantage. 


Hm, I guess that would be my cue to switch over to REAL work now, while the Access “muse” is turned on.  J


United we stand, divided we fall

Welcome to my lunch break.  I thought I’d take a break from all that writing to write.


Some ugly and unsettling things have happened with me and my family personally since the election, and because of the election.  The election is over, and you all know too well I have been more than willing to share my political say.  However, I now see that there are more pressing problems that cannot be mended—but only exacerbated—by political discussion.  The time for sharing opinions that can divide may have had a place in the election season (maybe not, I honestly don’t know) but I feel it’s time to keep my political thoughts to myself and to try to foster a spirit of unity in myself, my family and among my friends.  It’s time to take down the signs and bumper stickers which now only serve to highlight differences, and to emphasize our common goals.


The emphasis on unity in the recent general conference (I just got my Ensign copy of it yesterday) seems more prophetic than ever after this week (and the past months).  I’m reminded of what we’ve been reading with the kids in the Book of Mormon, as it continually warns about the dangers of allowing contention to come in among us.  Today we read King Benjamin teaching that if people become contentious, they will cease to prosper in the land.  The destructive contentions among the people in the Book of Mormon are almost always over politics, economics and class.  The divisions and contentions are not just between church members and those outside of the church, but very often within the church.  It has never been clearer to me that the Book of Mormon was given to us in our day as a roadmap and a warning of what will happen if we continue down this path.


We value our country, which is why political issues are important, even though they can’t fix everything, and much of our nation’s problems are spiritual issues.  Policies and laws both effect and reflect citizen behavior, and is only one of many factors that influence the choices people make. Politics do not take precedence over the principles of the gospel—politics cannot excuse unChristlike behavior, even toward politicians, and even if we think “they deserve it,”—whether it’s Bush, Cheney, Obama or Palin. 


We have had to sit down and teach our kids this week that God expects us to respond with kindness and respect with everyone no matter what—whether they treat us with respect or not, whether we agree with them or not, whether we like them or not, even when we are speaking about politicians or other public figures we don’t personally know– others’ behavior never justifies abandoning our own principles of how the Lord asks us to act.  


And we’ve had to explain that good people, even good grownups, can forget this and choose to act poorly toward us, but we cannot write off those people for their poor behavior or just say they are bad.  We talk about how Christ tells the Pharisees: Sure, everybody loves their friends, that doesn’t make them righteous—it is the ability to love those whom you disagree with or who treat you badly.  It’s hard for kids to understand that because we adults don’t understand it, and the kids are seeing adults around them take an “eye for an eye” approach. 


As I’ve had to sit down and discuss these ideals to my kids, I’ve committed myself to stick to common ground and avoid any cause of contention, and that I will try to recognize that divisiveness for what it is—a strategy of the adversary that starts on both sides with righteous indignation, then ends in division, anger and bitterness.  This week when we were faced with this response from some individuals, I noticed that although I didn’t react openly, I internally felt the same progression of negative feelings.  While defending a cause is good and needed, too often it turns into an attack on others  (mentally or literally) and getting absorbed in fear and anger, which causes us to lose the Spirit and undermines our attempts to bring about positive things.  It is so important that our children learn how to support what they believe without resorting to tearing down others. 


Also, as part of that, I’m committing to get my information from sources that do not work to stir up contention and anger, be it for political, religious or entertainment purposes.  Unfortunately, this angle is far too common in the standard exchange of information.


I don’t think we need to stop being who we are or thinking our own thoughts to unified, to be “as one,” but if my self-control and restraint are required, I think it’s worth it, because I for one think the only true temporal remedy for the state of the nation and the world is the establishment of Zion.  And Zion by definition is a unified people “of one heart and one mind.” Christ says, “If ye are not one, ye are not mine.”   Divisiveness leads us away from Christ.


So I need to make some changes not just in what I say, but in how I think.  I want to apologize to those who have felt offended by what I have said and for any time in my political frustration I have gone against the things I’ve committed to strive for here.  While we pray for our leaders and that our government will make good decisions for our country, and while we hope that as a nation we will turn away from divisiveness and ugliness, and we hope against hope that people can civilly disagree and still respect and love one another—all I personally can do from day to day is try to increase the love and the Spirit in my home and in my interactions with people.  Since this blog counts as one of those interactions, the same rules should apply.


I can’t edit my blog from here, but you can look forward to it being depoliticized shortly.


I hope if you were saddened by the election results that you didn’t run off to bed before the victory speech. Both men’s speeches were definitely essential listens. They can be viewed at their campaign websites and on most newspaper sites—NYT has them.

Those frustrated by the kid gloves they feel the media has used with Obama can take comfort in the coming days and months, as scrutiny and skepticism will soon take it’s place. As he actually takes office and is forced to make difficult decisions, it is very likely his supporters will feel disappointed. Our American Idol-style politics lend themselves both to infatuation and to backlash—whether the man is a rock star or a worthy leader or both.

Can you imagine a more difficult situation to take on? Not only one of the most challenging periods in our nation’s history, with even global chaos looming—but the weight of all that hope he asked for (and got), being the first black president, the MLK parallels, the JFK parallels, the enormous antipathy, mistrust and downright bigotry of many of those he will govern. And how will he sell his own party on his flavor of bipartisanship? I just can’t imagine the pressure—choosing to step into that looks more like masochism than powerlust.

As I watched his acceptance speech, I did have that sense of historic significance and felt again that appreciation of his direct style so foreign to the political mannerisms of the past several decades. I felt that his seriousness, his practicality, his tendency to surround himself with smart people would help him face everything as best as can be done under the circumstances.

But at the end, when he was slowly walking the front of the stage, smiling but somehow still serious, waving to people in the audience—every so often the camera would catch a glint of the enormous wall of glass that surrounded him on every side of that seemingly open and public stage. Something about this image of the serious man waving from inside the giant glass cage, and the enormous personal, national and global threats he just was handed—I was overwhelmed with sadness.

My Feelings Today

I swore I’d be on “radio silence” this week since I’m swamped at work, but I took a minute to read this short editorial, and I decided it, especially the last paragraph, really encapsulates how I feel today.


Regardless of who wins, and especially if at the end of the day you see this as a bad day for America, I hope that you will pray for our new president, that he will be wise and try to do the right things for our nation.  If Obama wins, and you do feel that he will despitefully use and persecute you—all the more reason to pray for him.  In our family we have been praying hard for our country, that who ever is selected to lead it will be wise and humbled by the responsibility rather than corrupted by the power.  If we are all praying for the same man, that would surely be a healing measure to unify us as a country after this nasty election.