Darling Dimple Doll–And Christmas In Bethlehem!

Like any child, I loved Christmas!  A favorite memory was pouring over the Christmas binder my mom set out during the holiday.  It was an eclectic assortment of articles and stories that she had collected over the years about Christmas celebrations and traditions that have been enjoyed through the ages and passed down from one generation to another.  I never tired of reading the newspaper article entitled “Dear Virgina” based on a letter written by an 8 year year old girl to the editor of the New York Sun, asking if Santa really did exist!  “The Gift of the Magi” was another favorite!  I always wondered if I could have been as selfless as the couple portrayed in this timeless story.  There is a certain awe and wonder to Christmas that I treasure to this day!    I think it has evolved from the fact that my parents embraced a variety of ways to enjoy the Christmas season; they seemed to readily know how to strike a good balance between all the wonderful aspects of the Savior and Santa that each child loves most about Christmas!

mckena and nativity

My dad and mom were great story tellers, and the special details described in some of their Christmas celebrations in years past always captured my attention, and now make for my most cherished memories!

Darling Dimple Doll

“Merry Christmas to all! I heard Mama singing, and I hastened excitedly to explore the enchanted region round the shining tree that filled the room with the pungent odor of pine.”

“My heart pounded expectantly; then it seemed to halt when I saw smiling up at me from an adorable buggy, the darling Dimple Doll with arms reacing for me.  How could I resist?  I clasped her to me and with inexpressible delight and awe, I displayed my treasures to Mama and Daddy.  Many other Christmas surprises awaited me, but Dolly Dimples became my constant care.  Each morning, as soon as I was dressed, I brought her out to be bathed and dressed.  I took her for daily rides, undressed her for bed each evening, wheeled her buggy to the foot of my bed and kissed her for the night!”

–as told by Merle M. Jorgensen in her autobiography

My mom often described Christmas time with such phrases as happy children, toys, treats, relatives and proud parents.  I love that!

Christmas in Bethlehem-1937

My dad was privileged to travel abroad in 1937 for several months with his father.  They traveled with large trunks aboard big steamer ships.  They met interesting people of varied nationalities and from all walks of life.  His stories read like adventure novels!  Along the way he and his father, Nicholi Jorgensen, spent two weeks in Palestine at Christmas time.  This is how he shared his memories of that special Christmas in Bethlehem.

“On Christmas Eve, my father and I made our way with hundreds of others to Bethlehem.  It fit so well our expectations…the shepherd’s fields, the narrow streets, people in the New Testament clothing.  The full moon hung so low in the sky that it gave enough light so all was very visible.  We stood with the others in the Nativity Church courtyard and sang carols which were broadcast by radio to the world.  The mood of the occasion was inspiring.  It seemed as though our group was joined by the heavenly hosts, for the singing was beautiful.  Yes, then as now, the Arabs and the Jews were in discord with each other.  Many in our group were British soldiers with rifles at the ready to keep the peace.  After singing, we entered the Church of the Nativity and descended into the grotto which tradition marks as the birth place of the Savior.  A young Catholic friend, a Rhodes scholar from England, was traveling with us.  As he entered the birth room, he fell flat on the floor and then inched his way to the great star which he kissed–tears streamng down his cheeks.  Dad and I didn’t follow his example, for we were not raised in his traditions.  But we were very quiet for we knew we stood on holy ground.”

Beautiful Bethlehem: The Birth City of Christ

My father continues his account by saying,  “…for a few minutes I invite you to catch a glimpse of this city of Bethlehem…”

“Bethlehem is located in the top of the Judean mountains, and is one of the most rocky districts I have ever seen.  With the exception of a few meager sprinklings of olive, cypress, palm and a few other trees, Palestine is almost without forest or trees over it’s hills and valleys.  Probably this is the reason why Bethlehem and nearby cities are constructed almost entirely of rock.  The narrow streets, as well as the buildings of the city, are made with the same limestone rock.  The ancient habits and style of dress so common among Palestine Arabs and Jews impressed us greatly and we realized this country hadn’t changed as much as it might have since the birth of Jesus.”

“The center of the Christmas festivities in Bethlehem is in the Church of the Nativity, which according to tradition, shelters the spot where the old inn and stable stood.  A holy room marks, as nearly as possible, the location of the place where Christ was born and laid in the manger.  It is richly adorned with velvet hangings, oil paintings and lamps made from precious metals which throw a soft light to all parts of the room.  Needless to say, entering the small, sacred room was one of the most thrilling and impressive experiences of our lives.  It would be difficult to attempt a description of the feelings my father and I had when we realized we were really in Bethlehem and actually at the place where the old stable stood.  The reality of it sort of numbed our senses and we stood gazing in wonder, partaking of the Lord’s spirit which is so abundantly present there.”

NovemberThanksgiving 2012 216_v1

Singing Carols in the Nativity Church Courtyard

These were my dad’s final thoughts about his experience in Bethlehem at Christmas time… “After staying as long as we liked in this holy room, we ascended the steps to the main floor of the church.  We attended some of the services that commemorated the Savior’s birth, to which we were welcome visitors.  But of all these services, undoubtedly, the carol singing in the Natvity Church courtyard impressed us the most.  The words were in English and at least some of the music was familiar to us.  As we stood singing those Christmas carols in th clear, crisp air, with the quiet little town of Bethlehem all around us, we could almost imagine a star brightening in the sky.  A deep sense of appreciation crept into our hearts and we caught the spirit of unity in that great congregation.  Somehow we seem to have placed the same hope, faith and gratitude in Christ for the  gift of the resurrection and the chance of eternal salvation which He has given to us all.”

–quoted from LeRoy I Jorgensen’s autobiography

A most wonderful addition to this beautiful recollection of my father’s visit to the Holy Land, is that in December of 1979, shortly after I was married, my husband and I visited these same sacred places in Bethlehem during Christmas time with my parents.  At dusk, we sat in the hills that overlooked the little town of the Savior’s birth on Christmas eve, and just like my father had many years earlier, I was able to envision the beautiful events that took place in the little town of Bethlehem many hundreds of years before!

What I’m learning now is…

Christmas is always a magical time of year.  Christmas celebrations can be enjoyed in a variety of wonderful ways.  What I’m learning now is that children quickly sense the attitude and affection that their parent’s may have for making fun family traditions.  I feel it’s integral if we want to keep our families close, especially as children grow and go their separate ways, that we try and keep some form of the traditions established when they were young; then all hearts will indeed come home for Christmas!

I’d love to hear about the Christmas traditions in your families.



My husband says that love for Santa Claus is most assuredly an “aquired affection”!  Ha!

However, once established–the bond is deep and strong!

Merry Christmas!


Fun Journal Ideas…And A Christmas Giveaway!

No Doubt About It, Life Can Get Busy!

dpan3466hIt’s a fact, no way around it, life just gets hectic at times…especially at this time of year!  However, it seems that fond memories add up the quickest at Christmas time.  Most certainly, we don’t feel like we have the time to sit down and record some of the neat, everyday occurences in our lives, and the camera is jam pack full of great pictures that we will get around to printing at some point!  These special times are also the ones that we might look back on and wish that we had taken the time to document them in some way, then they could be better shared with those we love!

A line from the preface of my dad’s journal is perhaps a subtle reminder for us to make a better effort at writing down some of the highlights in our lives: “As I have tried to look back into the past, I’ve been saddened to find that few records exist to help me know, appreciate or understand the lives of my forbearers.  The ups and downs, the activities, learning and rich experiences of their lives are gone, never to be recalled.” 

If you are at all like me, the process of regular, daily journaling seems a bit daunting–and sometimes simply impossible!  To help calm the anxiety I sometimes feel in trying to do better at keeping some of my memories alive for my children, and now my sweet grandchildren, I’ve adapted a habit that my mother was good at doing throughout her life.  Most often, my mom jotted little notes on a calendar she kept each year; along with daily appointments, which in and of itself can reveal some interesting things about a person.  My mom would write a little note on her calendar each day on how she felt going to various social events she attended with my dad, or fun ideas shared at get-togethers with her friends.  She would also describe in a work or two, her feelings after she participated in various functions with each of us as children.  I can recall one funny entry during dance recital time for me and my younger sister, where she notes that the costumes were due to be done for the rehearsal.  Mom wrote how glad she was that she’d hired someone to make the elaborate dance outfits. I had to chuckle when I read, “I am so glad I hired a SEAMSTRESS to make the costumes, less STRESS for me!”   As you can imagine, the culmination of these calendars have turned into a lifelong record of memories!   Her calendars weren’t fancy or expensive; they were usually ones my dad brought home from the local bank or hardware store.  The calendars were ones designed with big boxes for each day of the month, giving my mom plenty of room to jot down her obligations and make a few notes.

How Can We Start Our Own Unique Way of Journaling?

Rather than looking at “journaling” as a task or obligation, it can perhaps become a fun way to make good use of those extra few seconds we try to glean from each day.  Writing a line or two in some sort of journal or book may not only help us decompress a little from the “busy-ness” of our lives, it might very well prove to be a good reminder for us to really appreciate the day’s events, no matter how ordinary they might seem.  Everyday occurrences will soon accumulate into treasured reading in the future!

A Christmas Giveaway!

With these thoughts in mind, and in the spirit of giving with Christmas right around the corner, I am giving away two of my favorite booklets to help inspire you to start a new type of easy journaling in your life…or it may be that the giveaway will be the perfect thing to help inspire someone else that may be on your Christmas list!

Mom’s Five Second Memory Journal  (by Potter Style, Published by Rndom House)

Amazon.com_ Mom_s Five-Second Memory Journal (9780307719799)_ Potter Style_ Books

This journal is just FUN!  I came across this little booklet a few years ago, and since it approaches memories in a unique, random question format, it will be an ongoing process for years to come.  It has been hilarious for me, and indeed very insightful, to ponder the various questions asked and look back and recall some of the crazy times I’ve had while raising a family.  This journal also focuses on how you feel and encourages a “real” view of life in the trenches, so to speak!

The Extraordinary Women’s 2013 Monthly Desk Planner  (Published by Lang)

Extraordinary Women 2013 Monthly Planner from Lang.com, 1012066

My daughter gave me one of these Lang monthly desk planners one year for Christmas.  It is still a favorite go-to for planning out my month.  In this day and age of abundant electronic planning links, I still love the art of writing things down and having it handy on my desk to glance at as I walk by to take the garbage out or stand nearby to fold a pile of laundry.  It’s a much fancier version of the type of calendar my mom used, but it still has large boxes for each day of the week and other unique places to write down reminders or jot a quick note.

Bottom line, these planners just make me smile with their quirky pictures and tribute quotes to womanhood; one example is for the month of August a few years back, there was a drawing of a pair of high heels with the quote, “Knowing summer would soon end…she danced until dawn!”  Reading that has got to make any month go better!

There are multiple ways to win!

  1. Leave a comment in this post and answer the question.  “What are some ways that you have found to help motivate you to keep a journal?”  Do you use a blog to keep your memories or do you jot down thoughts in a notebook that you keep in your purse?  Share your ideas with me!
  2. “Like” my Facebook page
  3. “Share” a link to my Facebook page on your timeline.

Entry Requirements:

  • Please leave a comment for each entry you make and let me know what you did.
  • Two random winners will be announced next Saturday evening, December 22, 2012 and contacted via email.

Can’t wait to see your responses.  This will be fun!!



Be Bright-Eyed And Bushy-Tailed–A Light Hearted Carpe Diem!

Be Bright-Eyed and Bushy-Tailed–A Lighthearted Carpe Diem!

Like most children, when I was younger, I hit the floor running early each morning with a boundless reservoir of energy.  What I didn’t fully appreciate at the time, was that my parents were usually up and dressed as well, preparing breakfast and making plans for the day.  I’d skip down the hallway after waking up, and as I rounded the doorway to the kitchen. my dad would spy me as he glanced over the rim of his glasses.  He would then clap his hands and shuffle his feet back and forth in a little two-step dance while saying, “You’re looking especially bright-eyed and bushy-tailed this morning!”  Sometimes he’d even take my mom by the waist and have her join in his jig.  As a child I never seemed to tire of that greeting and the silly giggles and hugs that followed!  It was also very influential in helping the creative juices of my youthful imagination flow more freely throughout the rest of my day!

As you can guess, this type of greeting wasn’t as endearing during my teenage years.  In fact, during that time I was a bit hesitant to ever let on that my parents could inspire any great productive ambition.  Still, my dad prevailed with his glad tidings most mornings!  Both my dad and mom were usually quite generous with other forms of support and encouragement during a typical day too.  My father’s antics weren’t necessarily ones that paid homage to the proverbial message of “Seize the Day”!  However, they did nurture the attitude that at the very least, I should embrace each day, accomplish a few meaningful things and even have some measure of fun while doing it!  

I may not amble out of bed nearly so spryly as in my youth, and the routine of my days can feel a little boggy at times.  However, the example my dad and mom set, combined with the unconditional love they extended to me through the years, continues to remind me that I truly do have some say as to how my day unfolds!  Looking back now, I realize more than ever before, that my parents seemed to make everyday life look really, really good!

As a young adult in college, I can remember coming home late some evenings after long days at school or work feeling somewhat forlorn.  My dad would often be sitting in his favorite wingback chair.  When I came through the door, he’d look up from reading the newspaper or a lesson manual he was reviewing in preparation for the university classes he taught.  He always offered a warm smile accompanied by a little wink and would ask why I wasn’t looking so “chipper”.  That kind of response could have sent me over the edge into full blown woefulness, but my dad always drew me in to share with him a highlight from my day, as well as any concerns.  If time allowed, we’d discuss the most pressing tasks at hand and the best ways to set about accomplishing them.  My dad was good to never downplay my worries, rather he’d try and help shed a different light on them, which in turn helped me put them in better perspective.  Sometimes at the end of our visits, he’d share with me what other family members were doing as well.

As much as my parents seemed to have an uncanny knack of knowing how to help their children navigate the concerns and worries of various aspects of their lives, they also seemed equally intuitive in knowing how to help all of us as family members be informed about each other’s responsibilities.  By so doing, we were made aware of their pressing concerns and could offer our help and support.  It’s a good rule of thumb, and indeed wise counsel, to learn to be more aware of others, then we can shift our focus from being fully centered on ourselves; that in and of itself, seems to make any day go better!

The inspiring words from my father’s history are again a kind reminder for me to appreciate all the “typical” and “everyday” things life has to offer!

“I have noticed that some people seem always to be looking for some spectacular job or opportunity–lucky number or whatnot–which will bring them great wealth or an exciting adventure; then they can relax on easy street for the rest of their lives–only concerned each day with what they can do that will be exciting and fun!  This attitude has had little appeal for me.  It seems so much of life’s pleasure comes from caring for the small and even mundane tasks.  Unless a person can learn to enjoy these, much of what life has to offer is lost.”

This same sentiment is uniquely echoed in the book, I Knew Their Hearts, another wonderful book I just read by Jeff Olsen.  In his book, the author shares the grueling process of recovering from a horrific car accident that took the lives of his wife and youngest son.  He describes how enduring multiple medical procedures and surgeries often proved to be almost too overwhelming at times.  He tells how he was once encouraged by one of his insightful caretakers, to go to a “peaceful place” during tests and blood draws.  This is how he describes one such scenerio:

“I immediately went home…it was a Saturday evening several years earlier when Spencer was only three or four years old.  He and I were sitting out on the deck enjoying lemonade and licorice whips.  I remember watching the sprinklers water the grass and listening to Tamara inside the house…I breathed deeply and forgot about the woman poking at my hands to find a good vein.  My thoughts remained on my deck at home.  Time stood still for me in that instant.  My heart was filled with the clear certainty that being on the deck there with my son was as good as life gets.  Tears welled up in my eyes.  I could not hold back the warm feelings of joy and gratitude.  This perfect, happy place was nothing special.  It was found in the simple, everyday pleasure of being a husband and dad.”   If you are interested in learning more about Jeff Olsen and his new book, check out this interview of him online:

In the final chapter of my father’s history entitled, “Life Goes On  dad states:

“As I look into the faces of my grandchildren, each one healthy in body and mind, and note their enthusiasm for life, my sincere hope for each of them is that their lives can turn out for them as well as mine has for me.”

I’m so grateful that my children had the neat example of their grandparents, who seemed to make the choice so readily to really enjoy and learn from all of life’s experiences!

What I’m learning now is… 

I was fortunate to be blessed with parents who took a keen interest in my life, and yet they thoroughly enjoyed their own lives as well.  As parents it’s easy to feign disinterest in our children’s lives when they do not respond in the ways we think they should when we are so willing to expound on our “vast” knowledge of how to handle all of life’s experiences.  What I’m learning now is that regardless of the response, consistency in showing interest and concern for our children is the key to strong relationships and good bonds with them, hopefully making both our everyday lives all the more richer!

What “everyday” things make you excited to greet a new day?  










Here’s to hoping we can be happier with the usual routine of our lives!