Thoughts and Holidays

Hunting for more than a Christmas Tree

Headed into the mountains today. I carried the saw and he found a stick. The girls threw snowballs that left tiny diamonds on their dollar thirty-seven cent gloves from Walmart, and we carried home a tree. 

Photo by @storyanthology

Photo by @storyanthology

Before leaving, we had a short talk. “Why are we doing this?” I asked.  

“To get a Christmas tree!!!” 

”Nope. That’s what we’re doing, but why are we doing it?” 

“To celebrate the birth of Jesus!” Eden yelled.  

Nope not that either. 

photo by @storyanthology

photo by @storyanthology

I have a few family and friends who don't celebrate Christmas. No Christmas trees, no Christmas lights, Christmas music, no nothin.

Because Christmas isn't about consumerism.

Because Christmas isn't about stockings or presents or all the other things they don’t want life  and family to be about.

And I get it. 


Which is why we hang garland from the windows, bake Christmas shaped cookies, hang stockings above a fire, and why we drive forty-five minutes on a Saturday morning to hike in the frozen snow in search of the imperfect Christmas tree that we’ll decorate our tree with popcorn, lights, and ornaments.

Because, Christmas trees and Christmas lights and all the other Christmas things we do are simply the things we do, not why we do them.

So we head to the mountains so we can be together, as a family, because “what is today not about?” 

“Ourselfes,” Zion says the loudest. And I don’t have the desire to say, "ourselves" because it’s glorious.  

And because we’re on our way to the mountains, in all of our imperfections, as a family. 

To celebrate Christmas.  


For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Christmas Thoughts :  On Parenting



Mother's Day : A History of Dian(n)e

In elementary school, my best friend was Ronnie. He lived a few blocks down, was always game for building a fort or playing football or basketball, and was either, at all times, my best friend or my worst enemy.

Some of the greatest memories of my childhood come and go with the smile and laugh of Ronnie because for a few years we were inseparable. I remember he had a scar on his arm, a nasty, cool lookin thing that ran like a thick vain up his forearm. He got it from trying to catch a football and, instead, ran through a glass door.

When Judah was five, he fell through a glass floor and cut his arm pretty bad. He received seven stitches but should have had about twice as much, but because we didn't take him to a doctor and a local friend stitched him up, without Novocain, he only got seven. Now, he has a nasty, cool lookin scar that runs up his arm like a thick vain, and every time I see it, I think of Ronnie.

In my first year living in China, after years of being out of touch, I found out, via Facebook, that he had died a few years prior. Ever since, Ron, more than ever, has been constantly on my mind. Every time I think of him, when I get lost in memories of flashlight tag, peeing the bushes beneath the front window of his house, or wasting hours on Nintendo 64 with my good friend, I can't help but think of his mom, because she was always there.

I was recently chatting with a friend about the importance of parents and how each parent seems to have a specific role in the development of a child. They mentioned that they often hear me talking about and telling stories of my dad, about how he taught me to take care of another's property, how to work hard and be diligent in our given tasks, and how to be a man of character. Then they expressed how they often feel lost, how they don't know how to parent and work through various struggles, because they're mother never taught them because she was consistently absent.

Dads seem to bring the affirmation and approval side of life. When he slaps you on the back after cleaning the garage and says, "Nice job - this looks great," that means a whole lot. More than any allowance. 

But moms bring the, no matter what happens, you're accepted, side of life. Their love is unconditional, and it builds a wall of safety around the heart and mind of a child. They might fight for Dad's approval, but beneath it all, they know they're safe, because Mom is always there.

As my friend continued to share her heart, I thought of my childhood and the many mistakes I made, and that lead me once more to Dianne Larson. 

She was great mom, to Ronnie, and to me. And I've never forgotten her.

One memory that often clings to the front of my thoughts is of a time I was at Ronnie's house, killing time in his room, a few days after his birthday. Ronnie stepped out for something, leaving behind a twenty-dollar bill on his dresser, and I had to have it.

I remember working through, rather quickly, the rights and wrongs of the situation, and how I would explain it. I didn't really know, but I had to have it. So I took it, just in time, then told Ronnie I had to go home for something. About an hour later, Ronnie's mom called, "Hey Brian, did you see a twenty-dollar bill on Ronnie's dresser?"


"Really? Because it was there this morning."

"Uhh, nope, I don't think so."

"Okay. He must have lost it somewhere. Thanks Brian."

"You're welcome," and I hung up the phone, feeling terrible and wishing I wouldn't have taken it. I remember talking on the phone, in my parent's kitchen, wishing I could just tell her the truth, but I couldn't, because then she wouldn't let me come over anymore. So goes the mind of a ten year old.

I knew, deep down, that she knew I took that money - of course she knew - but what has stuck with me after all these years is how she knew, and what she did about it. 

She let Ron invite me over the next day. And the day after that. She didn't stop letting me into her house, feeding me Ravioli dinners (which I loved!) and letting me go camping with the family, or ride around looking at Christmas lights. Her love for me was unconditional. And she was, and is, a great mom.

Judah has his own Momma Diane, and the way Judah and her son play and fight and laugh remind me so much of Ronnie and me. And his Diane reminds me so much of mine. When Judah shares random stories about what Mrs. Diane did or said or where she brought them to eat or to what crazy activity she found for them, I smile with endless gratitude because I know how much Momma Diane's can mean, and how much they are loved in return. Even if we don't say it.

Dianne Daum Larson, happy Mother's Day! I love my memories with your son, and I truly thank you for loving me like one. 

Diane Sonam, happy Mother's Day! The memories you have built with my son, the love you have shown him and the care you have given him is a blessing I cannot express. I just know how much it means to him, and how much it's shaping him.

To both Dian(n)es, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. 

To all mothers, happy Mother's Day! Your role is more crucial than any of us know. 


For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Parenting  :  Other Holiday Thoughts



(Non)Traditional Christmas Post 2/6 : Jarrett and Joseph

Jazz piano player Keith Jarrett probably knew the story of Joseph, as all westerners tend to, but more than likely, as he walked on stage in January of 1975, he didn't care too much about Joseph, Mary, or baby Jesus.  Because he was playing for a nineteen-year-old German girl.  And his piano was crap.