Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Cringe-Worthy Christmas

Stop me if I’ve told you this story before, but this is probably one of my most gut-wrenching Christmas stories that I’ve ever personally witnessed. I’m not sharing this story for sympathy, although, I have been known to tell stories for that end. I’m telling this story because it’s just plain, good storytelling.

After I graduated from high school in 1994 (to me, years are important), my family moved from our small home in Heyburn, Idaho to my dad’s car lot in Burley, approximately three miles away. Yes, I said car lot.

You see, my dad was a successful car salesman at a Chevrolet dealership in Burley in the early-to-mid 80s. But then the owner of that dealership wanted to move on, probably due to lagging sales brought on by fierce competition of the Japanese auto markets. So my dad partnered up with a fellow co-worker and friend, and they started another used-car business.

Yada, yada, yada, they built a big building, yada, yada, yada, the car business didn’t do so great, yada, yada, yada, the partner left leaving my dad with a huge mortgage payment on the building, yada, yada, yada. So after years of trying to sell the business, my parents had the brilliant idea of moving the family into the car dealership and selling our Heyburn home so that they only had one mortgage to pay.

It sounds worse than it was. I left for college the week they moved into the car dealership, but from a girl coming home to visit, living in the car dealership was pretty cool. There was a pop machine readily available at all hours of the night. That’s probably where my youngest sister Hetty developed her deep and abiding love for Dr. Pepper. And we were within walking distances to grocery stores and video-store rentals. Ah, the good ol’ days before Netflix.

My parents had divided the show room into half car office, half living room. There was also another living room behind the main showroom. There was a kitchen, three huge bedrooms, a laundry room in back by the shop, and two bathrooms. Really, it wasn’t so bad. It was probably nicer than our Heyburn home, which had red, shag carpet and popcorn ceilings. Seriously, don’t feel bad for us.

And it was good for my parents to move from Heyburn. Don’t get me wrong: I love Heyburn. My grandpa started the first Heyburn Garage and was one of the first school bus drivers for Heyburn Elementary. But there’s something great about getting a new start somewhere else, where hopefully people don’t know you as the irresponsible family whose dog escapes all the time and wreaks havoc on neighbors’ lawns; or whose children wander the streets looking for welcoming doors and refrigerators full of food.

We left our old baggage in Heyburn, but as everyone knows, there are bags waiting for you in new towns, too.

The first Christmas in the car lot was interesting. For a church youth group activity, my younger siblings were asked to bring gifts for a needy family for Christmas. I can already see you cringing. Just wait for it, please. Shall I continue?

So my sister brought a rubber ball. I don’t know what my brother brought.

I was at home from college for Christmas. One night as we sat around playing solitaire on the computer or watching old movies, we got a phone call. I think it was my sister Mary who answered it. The person on the other line said, “There’s something at your door.” The car lot had four different entrances, and it took us a while to figure out which door exactly they were talking about. At any rate, we found the goods, and yep, there on top was the rubber ball my sister had taken to the youth activity to give to the needy family. I remember there being a turkey, too.

I can still see my dad’s face. It wasn’t so much sadness as it was bewilderment mixed with anger. I’m still perplexed as to how to think about this act of service. On the one hand, good for them for helping a needy family. On the other hand, I really didn’t view us as the needy family who needed help. Trust me, I’ve seen MANY needier families.

It was interesting being on the receiving end of something like that. It’s actually not that great of a feeling. I’ve always thought about that incident when I pass Giving Trees or Sub for Santa. Will these gifts go to truly needy families, or will they go to families who are just struggling like the rest of humanity? Will the kids see the tag that says, “Boy, age 5?” I don’t want to sound ungrateful, nor do I want to encourage NOT giving at Christmas time. Please continue to give. However, I’ve learned that it is almost harder to receive than to give.

To wrap up this already long story, the next day we took that box of food and presents to another home not far from our home. The family lived in a home that was patched up with tin siding. We knocked on the door and introduced ourselves. We asked if they would like some things for Christmas. They were smiling and couldn’t speak English, but they took our gifts.

I just mention this last part in passing, mostly because I love my parents like nobody’s business. On a few occasions, my mother has spearheaded us to give Christmas to another family. I remember in my youth, my mom taught us the first verse of “Silent Night” in Spanish. Then when we went to the people’s house to give them our Christmas gifts, we went in smiling and singing. My parents tried to communicate to the family who we were and to leave them a warm welcome. I remember another time, I think I was a junior in high school, when we did the same thing. And my mom in her very broken Spanish tried desperately to communicate love.

I’m not sure I have the guts that my parents had to actually go into a family’s home and bring a feeling of love, as well as physical relief. I’m fonder of the anonymous Christmas giving, purely because it’s easier.

That night when we received those gifts was a true defining moment in my life. That’s when it really hit home that we don’t need presents for Christmas. What we need is a communication of love. You are loved. You may not believe in Him or even have a desire to know Him, but I know that He loves you. In those moments in my life when I have felt the lowest emotionally, that is the one truth that has brought me back to my proverbial feet. I am loved.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

How Divorce Affects Friends and What it Means to Me, Me, Me!

Recently, Kulani visited an old friend who is going through a rough patch in his life. His wife has decided she doesn't want to be married anymore. They have three young children.

Because we never know what to do in situations like this, we brought them some dinner. It's the Mormon way: "You feel like you're at the worst emotional low in your life? How about some spaghetti to bring you out of the abyss." I personally think it works.

I waited in the car while Kulani delivered the dinner, so he could talk with him privately. After visiting for a short while, Kulani came back to the car.

"The guy's not doing well. He's lost a lot of weight," Kulani said.

"Well, it's good we brought him some food," I said.

And then it was kind-of silent. There was small talk about the kids and how the guy is going to handle it from here. But inside, Kulani and I were both thinking: "Could this happen to us?"

This couple was married only five days after us. We left our honeymoon to make it to their wedding at the Salt Lake Temple.

We don't know what goes on behind closed doors, and we aren't judging or blaming. (Well, we could and we do, but that goes on inside our heads, and I wouldn't speak it openly. Just like you wouldn't mention how snug my clothes have been fitting lately.) But when an announcement of divorce is made, especially from close friends or family, it does make me pause and look at my own marriage.

After we came in the house, Kulani says to me, "We're implementing date night around here." I was all on board for that.

So for that, my divorced friends who probably already have so much guilt, sadness, frustration, unpeace, embarrassment, and  consternation, perhaps it has helped me have a better marriage in a small, little way. I don't want to end up divorced, so I'll work harder to not succomb to that end.

(Sorry for the selfishness of this post. In times of divorce, the least people to worry about are how friends are affected. But this is the Fisher blog, and what you will likely read about on here is how world events affect the Fishers, not the Brownstones down the street with their dog that yaps all night and how on earth they think that's acceptable?!)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

My Sister Amy turns 40

Writer's note: Sunday is a special day it's the day I catch up on my blog posts. This is long overdue, as my sister turned 40 in October.

My oldest sister is a mixed bag of everything wonderful in life. Already I've rubbed people the wrong way just for writing that, because if you've met my sister Amy, you either hate her or love her. I am in the latter camp: I love her like I love my right arm.

Amy is opinionated, bossy, no-nonsense, a Democrat in Utah, compassionate, a justice fighter, strong, strong-willed, and tough. But she's also incredibly thoughtful, sweet, and when I say she'll do anything for anyone, I mean it. She has the HUGEST heart of anyone I know.

Amy is a lawyer and has always wanted to be a lawyer. Her patriarchal blessing even mentions her being a lawyer. Currently, she works for Hunstman Corp., but I fully expect she'll be a judge before she's dead. She used to say she would be a Supreme Court Justice. Who knows, that could still happen, maybe eventually.

For Amy's 40th birthday, my brother-in-law Nathan and husband to Amy, threw Amy a big family party. He was able to video record each of her siblings sharing a few stories about Amy and wishing her a happy birthday. It was fun to hear what all my siblings had to say. He even managed to get a recording from my parents serving their mission in Texas.

But I didn't get to share some more personal stories I have of Amy that I likely wouldn't ever get to actually speak, because had I shared these, I would have been a complete bawling mess of a person. So I'll share them on this blog.

One of the first examples I witnessed of Amy's toughness was when I was in first grade, Amy was in sixth grade. We were walking home from school, and these scary looking fifth-grade boys waited for us to pass, and then they started throwing rocks at us. Amy turned around and berated them with her voice. She picked up some rocks and started flinging them back at them.

"How do you like how it feels." The boys started running. "Yeah, run, you chickens. I better not see you throw rocks at my sister ever again."

It was a small thrill for me when elementary school teachers would call me "Amy" instead of "Cindy." I loved it when people would stop me and ask, "Do you have an older sister named Amy? You look just like her." Of course, it also made me try to work harder and live up to her reputation. But I've always had a slight case of the lazies and the dumbies.

When she was in high school, Amy worked at Kmart part-time, kept straight-A's in school, and played on the varsity volleyball and basketball teams. I remember seeing her study after she came home from work at 9:30 p.m. I remember thinking, "It's too late to study. She should go to bed." And then when I got up in the morning, she would be the first one up and studying.

Needless to say, she graduated as the valedictorian of her 260+ class, and in her graduation speech, she berated some of the male teachers for being sexist. (One of her high school history teachers had made the remark that if the guys in the class wanted a good show, they should go check out how short the girls' volleyball players' shorts were.) And she told her rural Idaho classmates that they were as good as any other students graduating from any other high school in America.

She went to BYU based almost solely on her love for BYU football. She later served a mission to Sweden, where she met her now husband. She is fiercely loyal to the LDS faith, and will serve in any calling she is asked. She reminds me of Marlin K. Jensen, the LDS general authority, historian, and loyal Democrat.

Amy wasn't able to have children, but in typical Amy fashion, she didn't let it get her down for too long. She and Nate have adopted four children, and she loves being a mom.

I have personally witnessed a few incidents that Amy likely wouldn't want me to share, but I will anyhow.

Amy and Nathan lived in a small condo in Taylorsville for many years. I lived with them for one summer. Late one night, Amy heard a knock on her door. She went to the door, and a lady was there who said she'd just been beaten by her husband.

Amy had her come into her home, and not long after the husband banged on Amy's door. Amy told him to go away or she would call the police. He kept pounding on the door. So Amy started to lecture him about how he thought it was cool to beat up women.

I don't remember what ended up happening. I just remember Amy not being afraid of the guy, or maybe she was, but she didn't let on that she was.

On another occasion, Amy asked Kulani if he would do her a favor. She had a big black sack full of stuff and an envelope. It was Christmas time. She asked Kulani to take the sack and the envelope to a house in her neighborhood. She never told us what was in it, but we knew it was a lot of money and gifts for kids.

Amy is like the second mom in our family. Whenever I was low on money, I would ask Amy first with explicit instructions not to tell mom. Ten minutes later I would get a call from mom asking, "Do you need some money?" Amy could never keep a secret from mom. Plus, she confessed to me, that she didn't have any money either.

I have many more stories of Amy I'd love to share, but time is getting away from me. The following is a picture of Amy holding the gift I gave her for her birthday: Michael Jackson's Thriller CD. I remember when she got the original album in 1985 for Christmas. She screamed like a little girl.

She is an amazing sister and rare human being. I'm not sure the world could take more like her, but one is plenty awesome for me.

Lilia's Baptism

Writer's note: This is more of a journal entry, and I know Facebook will pick up this feed, because I haven't figured out how to turn off the automatic Facebook feed. If you don't like reading people's journal accounts, then please stop reading now. But all that disclaimer did was probably peak your interest more and now you are determined to read this, aren't you? Just know that you've been warned.

We had a wonderful day yesterday participating in Lilia's baptism. She has been preparing for this day for a long time, and she was very excited for it. Everyone seemed to be in an unusually great mood, and for once, we weren't late.

Aunty Sisty came over before the baptism and braided Lilia's hair. She looked so pretty.

Lilia was baptized with two other children from our ward: Austin and Claire. When I'd see Austin and Claire around at school, they seemed just as excited as Lilia. "I'm getting baptized on Saturday," they'd tell me. They all seemed very prepared for their baptism day, and they all looked so sweet.

Kulani and I both don't think we were as prepared as Lilia when we were baptized. In preparation for the baptism in the LDS faith, you have an interview with the bishop to make sure you know what it means to be baptized and to be sure you are ready for that commitment.

The days leading up to the interview, Lilia was nervous about meeting with the bishop. Sister Crosier, who is the primary president, tried to help calm their nerves.

"Think of the bishop as the ward grandpa," she said.

Lilia went in for her interview with the bishop and came out smiling.

"That was fun. I'd like to meet with him again. It was just like Sister Crosier said."

Lilia had a lot of family come to support her on her big day. We cooked for 50 people, which is small compared to the luaus. I'm glad it is over, and now I can concentrate on getting ready for Christmas.

Kamika took some great pictures of Kulani and Lilia standing by the baptismal font, but he hasn't given me the pictures yet. So these are pictures my sister took with my little camera.

Lilia wanted pumpkin pie for dessert, and she wanted me to spell out "Lilia's Baptism" on the pies in whip cream. I did my best.

Lilia has a big desire to choose the right. It's like she was sent to us with her switch set on angel mode. She's kind hearted and sweet to her younger sisters. She is also a great helper. I'm so thankful to have her in our family!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My Brother's Account of his First Black Friday Shopping Adventure

My oldest sibling Doug is possibly the funniest, most postive person I know. He wrote my parents, who are serving a mission in Texas, an e-mail recently describing his first Black Friday shopping adventure with his wife Sherri. I'm copying it to this blog without his permission, so I hope he isn't angry. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

"Mom, I do have to report on the Black Friday shopping adventure. I had never partaken in this long-standing tradition, so I thought I had better check it out just to see what the hubbub was about. Let me see if I can put into words this transformative experience.

It all started with the Wednesday before the Friday sales. We received all the ads from the stores in Logan. We also learned that this year Walmart and some of the other stores were splitting their sales. Many of the Black Friday sales would begin at 12:01 AM and the electronic stuff would begin at the traditional 5:00 AM. As you can imagine, this bit of information changed the whole shopping plan. Now we would not have to get up before the roosters--we were not going to go to bed at all. It was going to be an all-nighter.

All day Wednesday and Thursday we worked over the ads formulating the game plan that would give us the greatest bang for our buck. We knew which stores we would visit first and who was in charge of getting what bounty. Finally at 10:00 PM, Thursday, we put the kids to bed instructing them that if there was an emergency, give our phones a call. At 11:10 PM we left the house, game plan rehearsed and in hand, ready to do battle for the ultimate prize of the best deals in the world.

We arrived in Logan at 11:45 PM and to our astonishment had to park about a half a mile away from the front door of Walmart. Apparently others had found out our secret that Walmart would be open early. There was not a parking spot in the substantial Walmart parking lot. We finally found a place to park the car, then walked our 1/2 mile to the store and received our map as to where all of the great deals were located. What Walmart had done was put all the crates of the door-buster deals in the aisles. They then covered them with black plastic with a note that said 12:01 or 5:00, indicating the time in which the treasures would be unveiled to be purchased by eager shoppers.

I was told to get DVDs and games, so I found where I should go and headed over to that spot. To my chagrin there were about 200 people who had the same plan. The poor clerks at the center next to the black plastic-covered crates of deals must have felt like Daniel as he was sent to the lion’s den. Actually they probably would have preferred the lion’s den to this mob of people. I was now faced with a problem. My prize was within sight but there was a multitude of people between me and pay dirt. I decided that I would just wait until the items were uncovered, and then I would make my move. As the clock ticked down, the crowd began to quiet with anticipation.

Finally the 12:01 time struck and the workers removed the black plastic. It was simply jaw dropping what happened next. You know in the movies when everything goes into super slow motion, and you can see the stream of the bullets that had been shot from a gun? Well that was what it was like. All of the air in the whole store rushed toward the aisles as thousands of people inhaled at once. I think I could see Oxygen atoms being sucked out of the air and into people’s lungs as they began to reach for the magnificent deals. The air began to buzz with the sound of people pulling at the sale items. I had never been in a mosh pit before, but all of the sudden there I was: hundreds of people pressing against each other trying to get to the DVDs.

I realized that I needed to move into action...well, it wasn’t really action; I kind-of pointed my body in the direction I wanted to go and swayed back and forth. The crowd then just kind-of moved me along. I got over to the crates and started pulling DVDs. Sherri had given me good direction. She said it doesn’t matter what the DVD is. Just grab them, then we will meet and decide which ones we would keep. Initially I thought that was not a good idea because I would waste time trying to grab something we did not want. Now that I was in the battle, I realized that Sherri’s strategy was the best. I began grabbing every DVD I could put my hands on. I noticed that there were some DVDs still on lower shelves, but I dared not put my head down as I was afraid that I would be shoved to the ground and trampled by the herd of value shoppers.

I soon had quite a pile, and so headed out to meet Sherri and decide which were keepers. I got out the same way I got in by pointing my body in a direction, rocking to and fro, and letting the crowd push me along. I called Sherri on the cell phone (great invention these cell phones), and we met in the women’s clothing.

Another of Sherri’s great strategies was to not get a shopping cart at the start. We had the Walmart bags. That way you could knife through the crowds and not have to try to move the bulky cart. That was a genius move. Once we got together we found a cart and started filling it with our wonderful trophies we had won in our hard-fought shopping battle.

We still had stuff to get so Sherri started shopping for some of the other gifts that were not part of the Black Friday sales. I was instructed to go meander through the store and see if I could find other Black Friday things that people had decided not to get. I thought that was crazy as all the great deals had been taken from the aisles. But to my surprise, almost everyone uses the same strategy of taking everything and then figuring out what they want later. They then just discard the things they do not want in whatever section they are standing in. I walked around the store finding DVDs in automotive, bakery, toys, cosmetics, and other crazy places. It was like an Easter Egg hunt.

I would find something then run over to Sherri with prize in hand.

“Do we need this?” I would ask. Many time she would say, "Oh yes. That’s a great find." I felt like a dog that had finally learned not to defecate on the carpet. I got my pat on the head, and I was off to find another item. This continued on until we had about everything we wanted.

The next instruction was to get in line for the electronics. Again I consulted the map to see where they were and headed to that part of the store. For these items, they had us stand in line until a little before 3 AM, then they handed out tickets so that we could leave the line and shop, and then return at 5 to claim the prize. It was great fun standing in line with all the people. We laughed and talked about all the great shopping we had done. Told stories about our kids and just got to know some neat people.

Once I had my ticket I again found Sherri by use of the cell phone. When I got to her she had the cart filled. It looked like the Grinch’s sled after he had taken everything from all the people in Whoville. I asked her if there was anything left for the other people to buy. We then checked out and loaded our booty into the van and headed to our next destination which was Kohls.

We arrived a Kohl’s to a more traditional Black Friday opening. There was a line of people who as soon as the doors opened rushed in like a great ant horde devouring everything in its path. I went in to the store worked my way to the back, went to the restroom, took care of business there, and then left. Kohl’s is not my kind of store, to many clothes and not enough toys. We then notice that it was getting close to 4 AM and JC Penny was going to be opening up soon. So back in the van and over to Penny’s we went.

We got there before the doors opened, but because the line was not real long, we waited in the car until one minute before it opened. We then jumped out and rushed in. Here I was commanded to go get the pillows. I went quickly there and picked them up. Now I was stuck walking around the store with four giant pillows in my hands. I had to be careful, because if I turned too sharp I would knock something or someone over. I am glad that I did not try to pick up one of those free snow globes, because I had nowhere to put it. I guess I could have stuffed it in my mouth, but that would have looked dumb.

Once the Penny’s shopping was done it was back to Walmart to get the electronic stuff. This was nice. I just stood in line with my ticket, and then when the 5:00 hour chimed I got my stuff and checked out. We then went to IHOP for breakfast and finally home. I must say that it was an amazing adventure. I am sad that I had not had this experience before now. I cannot wait to do it again next year. We really did enjoy it. Mom I think you and Grandma would have been proud to see the way we fought for the good deal.


Your son Doug"

Editorial note: My mom, aunt, and grandma are LEGENDARY bargain shoppers.