For those reading this that are not Mormon or are Mormon and outside of Utah, here's a little information that will make this rest of this blog make more sense. A Mormon congregation is divided along geographical boundaries according to members living in that area and is then called a ward. The clergy and auxiliary leaders for each ward live in those boundaries. Since Utah was settled by Mormons and that we reproduce at higher rates than most of the country (no, we don't do the polygamy thing but the average Mormon family has 4 kids and twenty years ago the average Morman family had 7)--we have a lot of Mormons here. A ward can be as small an area of two blocks depending on how many Mormons live in that area, which means that you go to church with your neighbors, you serve on PTA, carpool with, coach and cheer for your neighbors kids who, many of them, also go to your same church. Mormons worship weekly, and the youth have weekly activities so we're together A LOT just for church things. For Mormons outside of Utah, they might be the only Mormon in five miles, so it's different, but here we get tangled up in one another's lives. It's great, except when it's not, and it's not so great when you have to figure out who to give neighbor gifts to and who not to give neighbor gifts too--hence, the following insanity:
Most non-Utahns or non-Mormons probably give some cookies to your immediate neighbors based on the 2 house rule--two house to the left, right, and across the street. Yeah, that's how it starts for us too, but then . . .
Your visiting teacher who lives one door away to one of those ‘immediate’ neighbors brings you something and you realize you should bring her something too, she is your visiting teacher and directly related to your salvation after all. So you take her some and Sister Wilson, who is in her seventies and lives in between the VT and the immediate neighbor, sees you doing it when she comes out to get her newspaper. You go home all kinds of worried about hurting sister Wilson’s feelings since you realize that you just gave cookies to the neighbor on each side of her, and she SAW you. So you whip up another batch and take some to Sister Wilson, only then realizing that her real sister, Sister Larsen, who is a dour old bat and lives a street over, probably didn’t get many cookies this year since she made that comment about women who wear make-up were practically prostitutes. Yet, Sister Wilson will surely brag (they are your ginger cream cookies after all and when you made them for the ward social last year everyone raved about them so you know she'll brag too) so you make another batch and take some to sister Larsen, who gives you a dirty look before she takes the plate and slams the door while mumbling something about Maybelline and a curse of immorality.
Amid your grumbling about her rudeness, you realize it’s just wrong that you give and ungrateful witch like Sister Larsen cookies, and don’t give any to Sister Nebeker, who’s husband died last month. And right before Christmas too! So you take her some cookies, then feel even more guilty about not giving some to the Petersons who were a big part of George getting his Eagle this year. And if you’re going to give to the Petersons, well the Pinkstons teach Fred's Cub scouts, and by not giving them a plate of cookies are you basically saying that cub scouts is a wannabe organization? Isn’t a wolf as important as an Eagle in the developing of a boys self esteem? So the Pinkstons get some, and then you have to give something to the activity days leader so that you’re not saying your boys are more important than your girls—even if they do only meet twice a month and don’t give badges. The Young Womens president is next, and don’t the councilors work hard too? By now you’re out of butter and ginger, so you’re tying up microwave popcorn with ribbon and taking it over.
Then you realize that the kid’s primary teachers deserve some thoughtfulness (though you’re down using Kool-aid packets and a cute poem—mountain berry burst is really hard to rhyme to). And what about the Primary president? And your husband is in Elder’s quorum. By now you’re putting bologna sandwiches together, but you’re almost out of bread. The Bishop is way more important than the EQ president even if all callings are equal in the sight of the Lord, so you give him one too . . . And his councilors. And then that one sister—you know who she is—makes a comment about those nice ginger creams she saw at Sister Wilson’s house and you feel bad since she did bring you dinner when you had the baby two years ago, so you rob your local veterinarian clinic to buy more butter and ginger, then you feel bad about the burglary, even though it was for a really good reason, and so you take them some cookies too while they clean up the glass and tranquilize the kenneled dogs that haven't been the same since the break in.
On your way home from that you realize that the only people on the block that didn’t get something from you are the non-members. What kind of statement does that make? So you start pulling ornaments off the tree—they look new enough. Then you worry that those non-members will say something to the other non-members in the ward boundaries, so you throw the candy set aside for sockings into ziploc sandwich bags. After dropping them off you wonder if you remembered the women you visit teach? Did you get your husbands home teaching families? What about Sunday School teachers, high-councilor and recently returned RM who’s having a hard time adjusting and still wears his name tag? You give away the chocolate Santas, baking chocolate and the last bag of cat food, but it’s the thought that counts after all.
As you finish up the last few things Christmas eve, you realize you forgot to get anything to replace the stocking stuff you used, so you run down to the 7-11 and find a nice assortment of auto decals, Dr. Pepper and allergy medication. You also determine that next year you’re not going to do this, you’re going back to the two house rule since you've used up all your food storage and haven't yet wrapped a single present. And then you get home to find a sweet card from Sister Nebeker thanking you for the delicious ginger creams and you realize that this is what Christmas is all about, stressing yourself to the max and putting all your energy into something so stupid.