Friday, November 30, 2012

Great Christmas Tree Tour: Debra Ullrick

This is my favorite Christmas decoration because it's so homey. It always reminds me of the time we set out to spend Christmas Eve with my mom. It would have been the first Christmas we would have been able to spend with her in a long, long time. At seven o'clock on Christmas Eve morning, we left Kremmling where we used to live for over 25 years, to head down the mountain.

The snowfall had started when we left, but nothing major or nothing we weren't used to seeing. Little did we know that this snowstorm would turn into a blizzard and would be much, much different from any storm we'd ever endured.

The further down the mountain we drove, the heavier the snowfall became. Warnings blasted across the radio and talked about driving north, the direction of my mother's house. They repeatedly stated even if you have a four-wheel drive do not head that way because the visibility was so poor.

Well, we had been through many a raging blizzard before, especially up on Rabbit Ears Pass. And those storms had been much worse than this one. In fact, some of those blizzards were so intense we couldn't even see the hood of our pickup or the semi-trucks coming from the opposite direction until they were right on top of us. Plus, there were no side rails to protect us from the steep drop offs. Still, by some miracle, we always made it to our destination. Oh, and those blizzards always snuck up on us. We would start out on a clear day and without notice would end up in a major blizzard. Same thing happened to us on this particular day.

Judging from years of experience, what they called a blizzard down in the flatlands was just a little bitty snowstorm to us native Colorado folk who lived on the mountains. They were no big deal at all. Until this one, anyway.

The blizzard of 1982, was the worst storm we'd ever combated and managed to survive. Motorists were stranded all along the highway, including a young man who waved us down and begged us to take his mother home because his vehicle had died and they had no heat in the car. Even though our four-speed pickup was a single cab truck and we were filled to capacity with stuff as well as my family, there was no way we were leaving those folks behind to freeze to death. We managed to squeeze together and the elderly lady came with us. We tried to get her son to come too, but he said he would be fine, and that he was more concerned about his mother. He said he would flag down a sand truck and hitch a ride from there. We hated leaving him, but he refused to come with us, and we needed to get going before the storm worsened.

The further north we went, the more horrific the visibility got, and the more frightened I became. I feared my family would be stranded on the side of the road and who knew what would become of us. My imagination had taken over by this point. Many long, grueling minutes later, we spotted a ginormous sand truck in front of us. We were able to get him to stop and told him about the woman's son. He assured us he would inform someone about him. He then had us follow his truck and he led us to the nearest ramp exit, which just happened to be the one close to where the lady lived.

When we dropped her off, she offered for us to stay with her until the storm passed, but my husband declined. I couldn't believe that he would turn down such an enticing and a most wanted invitation. I wondered what was wrong with him, because by then, I was tired, scared, and I desperately wanted my family and myself inside and somewhere safe. I wanted to get out of the grips of the raging storm, especially after seeing so many stranded motorists littering the edges of the road.

However, I really wanted to spend Christmas Eve with my mom, and truly believed we would make it. We had made it a lot further than most had so far, thanks to my husband's excellent winter driving skills. I bid the lady goodbye and thanked her for her generous offer. It was so hard to leave her house and head into the great unknown.

As we neared Commerce City, the poor visibility escalated. In fact, it became so bad, we finally realized we would not make it to my mom's place after all. I was heartbroken. Not only for myself, but I hated the idea of my mom spending Christmas Eve all alone. I wanted to cry and keep on going, hoping we would make it, but knowing better. I couldn't believe our misfortune. Here we had driven over a hundred and twenty miles and only had ten more to go. We were so close and yet so far away.

Disappointed, we made our way to the nearest motel we could find. When my husband went inside to inquire about a room, they said they had one left but the window had a gaping hole in it. He didn't care and he took it right away. As soon as he paid for the room, several people came in after us and were turned away. Once my husband settled my daughter and I into the room, he retrieved our luggage, and then headed to a store across the way to get us something to eat.

That night, my husband, my four-year-old daughter, and I spent Christmas Eve in a run-down motel with a broken window and snow blowing inside until my husband stuffed it with something to stop the chill from entering our room. We huddled together under the covers on a broken bed, watching Christmas movies, and ate Cup-O-Soups made with dirt-speckled water that came directly from the hot water tap. None of us cared. It was warm, cozy, safe, and we were together.

While our accommodations weren't very good, we were truly grateful for them. We thought about baby Jesus, lying in a manger, somewhere in a barn surrounded by smelly animals. Considering there was no room at the inn, I'm sure Mary was as grateful for that barn as we were for our grubby, orange and gold colored motel room. As we considered what kind of "housing" conditions Christ our Savior was born in, we gazed at our own.

That night we experienced the true meaning of Christmas. It's not where you are, or how much money you have or don't have, or how many presents you did or didn't get, or how much you spent on those presents that makes Christmas. It's about love, and who you're with, about the birth of our Savior Christ, and about family and being together. That's what Christmas is really all about.

Who would have ever thought spending Christmas Eve in a run-down dive that we later learned used to be an ex-hooker motel would be one of the homiest, best, and most meaningful Christmas my family and I would ever share?

Sunny Weston's parents are gone. In order to save her family's ranch and restore it to its former glory, she heads down the mountain to work on her uncle's ranch. Even though her uncle offers to lend her the money she needs to get her place working again, she refuses. 

She is out to prove to her fellow ranchers and co-workers that she is more than capable of running and operating her own spread. When her uncle's hired hands continually tease her about her small stature and doubt her abilities to handle herself working on the ranch even though she has proved herself over and over again, she sets up a riding, roping, bucking bronc, skijoring competition to prove them wrong. Her biggest competition and the only one who doesn't ridicule her is her uncle's foreman, Jedidiah Cooper. A man she could easily fall for.

Jedidiah Cooper is instantly smitten with his bosses' niece. Having been warned by her uncle that anyone trying to woo his niece would be instantly fired, Jed has to keep his emotions tightly reined in where the beautiful Sunny Weston is concerned.

Saving up to buy his own spread so that he can prove to his well-to-do father that he is just as capable as his successful brothers of making a profitable business, he can't afford to lose his job and its generous wages. But even more importantly, he doesn't want to lose the love and respect of a man who means more to him than anyone else--Sunny Weston's uncle. When his heart is irrevocably lost to Sunny, Jed has to make some extremely important decisions that might very well cause him to lose everything.

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  1. We have a Christmas village that my MIL painted and it has been divided up between our two children and us. It is a treasure.

    You made me think of the time we stayed home, wanting to have a Christmas at home for once, just the four of us. We all ended up waking up with the flu. The elaborate table was set. Santa had come. But no one was interested. But it was still Christmas and we were together. AND our pediatrician was Jewish and on call!

    Sounds like you had angels all along your journey!

    Peace and Advent blessings, Julie

  2. This is a great story, Debra and a wonderful Christmas memory. Thanks for joining me today. xoxo

  3. Your story brought tears, but the good warm your heart kind. Thanks for sharing! We have a Christmas Village that's been built upon each year my husband and I have been together. 11 pieces so far and counting. He asked me this year as he was setting it up on the shelves if he can bump over across the room next year or the year after to starting building more of our "town" on my bookcases. He's a kid at heart.

  4. Wow, what a great story and wonderful memories. I have a village that's an interesting combination of different sized houses and shops. My brother, sister and I had painted the buildings over the years for our mom. She added places she liked and all the extras like trees and people. Very eclectic. I don't have a place to set it up now, so the memory will have to serve.

    thanks for sharing your harrowing journey!

  5. Hi Cheryl!! ~Waving profusely~
    Thank you for having me as a guest on your blog. It's an honor and a privilege. By the way, your blog is so festive that sometimes I stop by just to see its bright colors and Christmas cheer and to read the delightful memories others have shared.

    A ginormous THANK YOU to all of you have taken time out of your busy lives to stop by and read not only my story, but others as well. May all of your Christmases be filled with peace and joy and with the true meaning of Christmas!

    Liz, I'm so glad you enjoyed my little village. I have a large one too. They are SO beautiful and homey.

    Julie, I would love to see a picture of your hand painted village. Nothing compares to a gift given in love and made by the hands that extended that love. Oh my, what a Christmas. Everyone getting the flu at once. Yuk. But it sounded like God turned it into a blessing. That's just like Him, ya know? And yes, I truly believe that God had sent His angels to watch over us that day. Peace to you as well.

    Taryn, what a pretty name. I'm glad that my story brought you good tears and not sad ones. I keep building my village up too. Not the small one you see, but I have a larger one. Only problem is...if I keep building it up, I may have to move into one of them as there isn’t room in my house to put them anymore. *smiling* Or, wait, perhaps there is...more shelves. *wink wink* Thanks for the idea. hehe

    Lizzie, I have another village that's a combination of different size houses too. I just can't help myself when I see a really kewl or festive building. Even if it isn't the size of any of my others, I talk myself into it, saying that I'll just have to collect more of that size someday. *smiling* Hubby doesn't agree, but I know he secretly enjoys them too. Like Taryn's husband, he's a kid at heart also.

  6. P.S. Lizzie, it's too bad you don't have a place to set up the village your brothers and sisters painted over the years. But, one consolation is, you have your memories and sometimes those memories are just as good as the real thing because they stay with us all year long and not just at Christmas. I love all the trees and people too. Don't know if you can see them all in my picture, but they are there. Love it!!

  7. Interesting, during that blizzard, hubby and I along with a baby were trying to get out of Commerce City and get back to Junction on the Western slope. Long trip. Lots of heavy snow. But we didn't want to get stuck on the east side of them hills.

    Thanks for the post and the memories.

    Tina P.

  8. I truly enjoyed reading your lovely story. It really emphasizes the true meaning of Christmas.

  9. Skijoring
    I'd never heard of that before.

    Deb, what a great story, just beautiful.

  10. Deb, like you, I live in cold country (Nebraska) and I'm at the time in my life where if the roads don't suit me, I just don't go. The challenge of facing a blizzard in a car is, believe me, GONE. :)
    The worst drive I was ever on, my husband was in his truck and I was driving separately, something about repairing and returning my daugher's car to her and retrieving the one we'd loaned her. so, an hour drive home in two vehicles.
    We left Omaha in cold but decent weather. By the time we hit the edge of town it was a sheet of ice.
    We drove (this was before cell phones so I could only watch behind me for my husband in his mighty 4 x Drive pick-up...well, I was doing better in my smaller front wheel drive car, but we kept going.
    1/2 hour into the drive a layer of snow starts piling up over the ice while made it much worse. I was so tense my hands were practically permanently in claw shapes, clinging to that steering wheel.
    Then another about twenty minutes in, the snow was so deep and I was breaking the trail, because of course I was the only one STUPID enough to be on the roads. Each phase of that drive was like a new world's record nightmare, the worst I've ever been in...add to that, about half way, I lost sight of my husband. I even pulled over for quite a while for him to catch up to me and NOTHING.I got to thinking that, in the storm maybe somehow he'd gotten past me, as we went through Blair, NE, which has a four lane highway. It was dark, I might have not recognized him.
    So, throw in my vivid imagination, which comes in handy writing books but is pretty demoralizing when imagining real life disaster, and I had to go on WITH OUT HIM.
    Terrible, terrible experience. Now, if it happened again, I'd phone him and tell him I was pulling over and sleeping in a motel overnight, but back then we had kids at home, though not LITTLE kids, but we felt we needed to get home to them.

  11. Anonymous, ah, so you remember that blizzard well too. Be glad you didn't go north. It was in Commerce City that we stopped at the motel. I won't mention the name of it. *smiling* If you traveled the Eisenhower Tunnel that day like we did, it was super snowy too. But the visibility was good, so we kept truckin' along. I'm glad my post brought back memories. Isn't it fun?

    Cheryl c., I'm so glad you enjoyed my story. It sure taught my family the true meaning of Christmas.

    MARY!!! *~Doin' the Beverly Hillbillies granny wave at ya~* Thanks for stopping by! Skiijoring is something that goes on a lot up there in Grand County and had ever since way back. It is so awesome to watch.
    And, boy howdy, do I hear ya about being at the time in your life where if the roads don't suit, you don't go. Hubby still does, but wifey here stays at home. It's better than enduring a panic attack, a case of "a demon possessed woman on his hands" and sheer terror. hehe.
    I've lived in Nebraska and endured some of their winters. I remember wearing my Comfy down coat, long handles, jeans, sheepskin lined leather mittens, hats etc and still froze my fanny off. The air seemed to penetrate right through my clothes. While it was beautiful there, it was cold!
    Reading your story, it all came back to me. I sure felt for you even though it was in the past. I could SO relate! There have been times I've had to drive 58 miles for my groceries, and when I lived in Kremmling it was a good 48 miles to Walmart. They have a grocery store in town, but things were way to expensive and they didn't have everything we needed, so every two weeks we went to Summit County, and all winter long we had to endure treacherous roads, bad weather, and tons of elk and deer on the roads. As bad as those were, they weren’t nearly as bad as the crazies on the road. Now THEY were the real hazard. Skiers in a hurry to get to the slopes and not taking into account the poor, icy road conditions. We just waved as we passed by them all snuggled in the ditch. Not really. Hubby usually stopped and helped them.
    Boy that was probably way more than you wanted to hear. hehe Thanks again for stopping, Mary. See you on Seekerville in January!! ((MEGA HUGS))

  12. Deb, I was so touched by your story. Your correlation to the night Jesus was born gave me chills. Great blog!

  13. Hi Pam. I hope they were good chills. *smiling* Thank you for stopping by.

    God bless you and yours.