Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Is there a time to take Christ OUT of Christmas?

I had a great time reading to 2nd graders today at one of our local elementary schools. A group of us from work volunteered to read to students after lunch. We chose our books from a pile in the library, pre-selected by the school. I grabbed a book that looked fun and was written by Mem Fox. I love Mem Fox and this was a new one to me. Any kids' book that has 'wombat' in the title is for me. 

I wished I had flipped through the book before I made my choice, however. 

Dear little wombat was now old enough to have a part in the nativity play. He was either too big, too tall, too small, or too sleepy to be the Archangel Gabriel, Mary, Joseph, a Wise Man, or the innkeeper. He was finally chosen to be the baby Jesus. All's well that ends well.

I felt very uneasy reading this story to a group of school children in their classroom. I know, I am overly sensitive to this. There were several different ways of seeing this story. All the Christian children who know the story of the birth of Jesus could relate. All the children who may not be Christian may have felt like no one ever comes to read books for their religious holidays.  And the one little boy in the front who asked, "Who is Joseph?" completely confirmed for me that in school, it's okay for it to be a completely secular holiday celebration. 

I know this seems very strange to say, but there are times when I'd like to take Christ OUT of Christmas.  The birth of Jesus has nothing to do with sales at the malls, buying someone a Lexus, or a fabulous chunk of jewelry - exhilarating as it may be. It has nothing to do with cookies, bows, cards, drinks parties, and the like. It really has nothing to do with Santa Claus, but you can kind of see how we learn to pray in our Dear God/Santa...please give me everything that I want sort of way..

Until August of this year, I spent 16 months in a paid staff role as a Christian Education coordinator for my local church. I love sharing the wonderful stories of the bible, telling of the amazing people who have shaped our faith, the lessons to be learned from all this great history and how God still speaks to us today. Let's just say I was out of my comfort zone in a public school with children, save two whom I have taught in Sunday School, whom I did not know if they a) celebrated the real story of Christmas, b) celebrated a completely secular Christmas, c) observed other faith traditions, or d) did not celebrate Christmas at all. 

Yes, I know that I was the only one in the room who was uncomfortable. I'm grateful for the nudge of the Spirit who let me know that making assumptions is never the best way forward. I'll read again, with my Santa hat on, at school next year. But I'll be certain to pre-screen my selection first... 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Middle School

What an awkward age middle school is... I'm showing my age to call it "junior high." But in 7th and 8th grade, that's what it is to me, "junior high." It's that weird place in between. 

Tonight we attended the 7th and 8th grade winter concert at the high school. It won't be long before we'll be attending high school programs at the high school. In 7th grade, a girl in tights and Mary Janes will stand in front of a young woman in an adult dress, hose, and pumps. In 7th grade, boys will stand at five feet tall next to a young man of 5'8". And they are all the same age. 

The shyness of some of these young people is painful to watch. Each one of them feels as though everyone is looking directly at them and as a member of the audience, I almost want to look away. It doesn't seem so bad with the band, they have music to look at, they aren't looking out at us. But the choirs, their focus is their director in front of the ENTIRE auditorium filled with parents, siblings, and grandparents. They sing so well, but their shyness keeps them from singing. They were barely audible and I know 90 percent of the grandparents did not hear a single note they sang. Bless their hearts. 

I loved junior high, but I also know what a stressful and difficult time it is for those who are about to be teenagers. Is that how young I really was in 7th grade? I thought I was becoming so grown up. I wanted to be an adult at that age, but I was still just a girl in hose and pumps.

As I looked at them, I had this urge to tell my 12 year old self that it really did get better and life was different in ways I could never have imagined then. I wanted to tell my 12 year old self that I really wasn't as big as I thought I was at that age and I'd LOVE to be that size now. I'd tell myself that as we age, we care less and less about how other people think of us. We begin to own our sense of style. Those are things I want those beautiful, awkward, young women to know, and to borrow a phrase, to tell them that it does get better.  

Sunday, November 21, 2010


What a weekend! 

On a total whim, my 12 year old son and I dressed like we were going to the grocery store in Fargo, ND, in the middle of January and went to the Iowa/Ohio State football game. 

Four layers of clothing, socks, and a men's parka. John and I both sported fur caps with ear flaps. We looked like we were from Nort DahKOtah, eh? 

This morning, my daughter asked how we got our tickets. I said that I bought them off a guy in the street. "You mean a hobo?"

"Uhm...no. Not a hobo. He made $20 off me."  Yes, I paid more than I should have because they can see me coming from a 100 yards away. But, it was worth every cent to make memories with my son.  

Oh yeah, and Iowa lost. So much for that.

Today, in the midst of all that grips my heart and mind and makes me so introspective, a dear friend came rolling back into my life. 

Just this spring, he had a massive stroke and we didn't even know if he was going to make it. He's now moved to Grinnell, and I haven't seen him since his stroke. The smiles, tears, and hugs from our little reunion were wonderful. 

I can tell you that the things that I am wrestling with in my life look very different this evening. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Not-Quite Thanksgiving Thanksgiving Dinner

Something inspired me on Friday afternoon at the grocery store and made me buy a bone-in turkey breast. One thing led to another and this afternoon, the kids and I had a mini-Thanksgiving dinner. I've never made Thanksgiving dinner by myself. I've brought side dishes and watched from the living room most of the time, but never solo. It went really well. The turkey was accompanied by roasted butternut squash and turnips with rosemary and thyme and sage dressing. Not bad. The boy got into the act when I told him he could make a pumpkin pie. Which he did and it was really, really good. Especially with real whipped cream we beat up with the mixer. 

Thanksgiving is getting so crowded out between Halloween and Christmas. It is becoming just a day of rest during the Christmas shopping season. I've already seen decorated Christmas trees in my neighborhood. It's November 14. I still have pumpkins on my front step. 

Think gratitude. Not just one day out of the year, but everyday. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

And When October Goes...

I am unabashedly in love. With the month of October. I love the colors, the crisp air, the coziness of being at home in the evenings as dusk comes early. 

Johnny Mercer wrote the song, "When October Goes," a lovely melancholy song of the change of seasons and a lost love. I adore the song for many reasons. It has started to take on a new meaning, however, when my children and I are enjoying the Halloween department at Target, to turn down the next aisle and greeted by Christmas cards... "100 Days of Holidays" is what Better Homes and Gardens calls the stretch from October to January 1. 

At first, I recoil against all the commercialism of it all. On second thought, the idea of something to celebrate when life seems to be more challenging than not, could be a good thing. I'm not advocating buying more stuff to be sure, but what if we could embrace an attitude of celebration in the face of challenge. Finding something everyday to celebrate, even if it does nothing else but put us in a better mood. We might find that 100 days of holidays could become 365 days of holidays, with some of those days just a little more special than the others. 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Getting to No

A number of years ago, a book on sales and marketing entitled, "Getting to Yes," was a popular seller. The premise was all based on how the seller could get the customer to say "yes" to the product or proposal and hand over the check. 

Just lately, I've been finding all the wonderful ways of saying, "No, thank you...."

As a mother, I've probably said, "NO" a million times. But I've made sure I said "yes" more often...

I am a "yes man." I've always thought if one was asked to do something, "yes" was almost always the answer and don't forget to throw in a cheerful heart. 

I enjoy reading the blog, Zen Habits, and today's post  on cultivating passion is wonderful. Difficult to do because it requires us to get to NO and to say yes to that which furthers our passion. As a full time working parent, there's a lot in my daily schedule that has zero to do with anything that gets me to my passion. Laundry, lunchboxes, carpool, work, and commitments to various organizations I am involved in are all tasks and details to keep track of and can clutter up my time. 

But, some of those tasks, frankly the more mundane ones, are worth keeping.

Two of my passions are my kids. Instead of considering the multitude of tasks that keep my family and household going as a daily drudge, I can see it as something that furthers my passion. Before you get to thinking that my house is BHG photo ready at all times (Better Homes and Gardens), you also need to know that I say NO plenty often to tasks that can wait. What can't wait is when I'm asked to throw the football after dinner or for homework help or to play a game. Or simply to just "be" with my kids.

See? When we identify our passion, it is easier to get to the no that helps us get to the right yes. 

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

It's August

I think we're ready... school supplies are purchased, registration forms completed, fees paid, a little money in the hot lunch fund...

The cicadas are now buzzing most of the day, a definite sign that the high point of summer has passed. For me, the day that the long stretch of summer turns into numbered days is July 30, my birthday. As a child, I often received a big box of school supplies from my grandmother for my birthday. But I couldn't do anything with them.  Arrgghh... That was hard for a kid who enjoyed school. 

In fact, on my birthday this year, I went shopping for my own children's school supplies. And I cannot resist buying myself some new pens and a notebook. 

Saturday, July 24, 2010


I am a published author! Check it out here!  I am the corresponding author with our HeartMath team at GRMC for The Heart of Grinnell for Alternatives in Health and Medicine. What a cool experience! I am grateful for all the help provided by Rollin McCraty, Institute of HeartMath. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Gray flannel and crisp white bonnets

Tonight I was at our local Wal-Mart... I know, it's all we have though... and in the next aisle I hear the sounds of children speaking in a language other than English. Hmm?? Sounds German to me? (You'd think after two years of college German I ought to recognize it.) Around the corner a little tot in a gray flannel dress and bonnet comes, with another girl, and a boy, and another girl, and mother with a littler tot yet in the cart, and father with one in his arms. We do not live far from Amish communities but it is not usual to see a young family like this one in our town.

In our WalMart, kid-boring things like toothpaste and shampoo aisles go directly into the pet section and a wall of aquariums. The sounds of joy these children let out made me smile no end. I had forgotten how a simple joy of a big tank of colorful fish can be. Their giggles were delightful.

They went their way and I went mine. I met up with them again in another part of the store. As I looked down the aisle, here were three girls in their dark gray dresses all looking at swimming suits. Have you ever seen girls swimming suits at WalMart? Can you imagine? The color is screaming neon and flower prints in pinks and purples. It was an amazing image to see these girls sneaking a peek and a touch of the fabric. Priceless.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

January 31, 2010

Basically on a dare five weeks ago, I had my first go at acupuncture. I was traveling and at the home of friends of one of my traveling companions. We were invited for coffee and acupuncture on Sunday morning. Michael is a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine and he set up the massage table in the eat-in kitchen.

"Now, who has not had acupuncture before?" he asked the group.

I was the only one who smiled sheepishly.

"I guess its me..." I replied.

We went into the kitchen and I got on the table wondering what in the world was about to happen. Michael has many years of experience and quickly put me at ease. He cradled my neck in his hands and began to tell me that my neck was "junky" - too much tension in my muscles. He said that the neck is the connection between heaven and earth and it needs to be open, less "junky." He really worked on my neck like I've kneaded a bowl of bread dough.

"You will want to take a Tylenol later because you are going to be sore." No kidding.

He then went to the microwave where he pulled out a tubesock filled with buckwheat hulls. He had warmed it in the microwave and then placed it under my neck...it was glorious. And smelled good and nutty, too.

"I want you to make one of these when you get home. Fill a tube sock with rice or buckwheat hulls and then heat it in the microwave at the end of the day. Lay on the floor with your shins and feet on the sofa, a pillow under your head, and your warm rice sock under your neck. Do this everyday and you will feel much better."

Then he took out the needles and explained how they are single-use needles, only for me... and began to insert them in various places....the tops of my feet, my hands, elbows, and ears. (The ears were the only ones I actually felt and even then it felt like a mosquito bite.) He had already put on some soothing music and told me to just stay put and relax for a while.

At the end of the time, he removed the needles quickly and helped me sit up. I got up feeling physically relaxed as if I had just had a massage, which I had. I was admonished to drink lots of water through the day, again just like a massage, to flush my system.

It's been five weeks since that Sunday morning in Michael's kitchen. The most interesting thing is that I have not wanted coffee since. I don't look forward to having that first cup in the morning. It is important to note that I could drink a 12-cup pot of coffee in a morning and really not think much of it. I am a coffee snob, but will drink whatever's around, but not anymore. The funny thing is, we never talked about coffee. It wasn't something I mentioned to him, it was an unintended side effect.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to call a friend who is an acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine practitioner here in Grinnell. (Yeah, Grinnell, Iowa...isn't that cool?) I explained this whole coffee thing and that I am really intrigued by this. I mean, if I had that kind of result with something I hadn't even tried to achieve, what could this do for something I want to achieve?

I've had my first session with Anne. She asked me questions I've never even thought of before. I'm intrigued. I have noticed a change in myself in the past few days. It will be interesting to see where this all takes me, but I am eating differently as suggested and it is fascinating. I'll keep you posted on how this goes...

By the way, I am not enjoying coffee, maybe a cup or two of decaf on a Friday morning, but that's it. I am enjoying tea...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Wellness, College Style

A college wellness fair is an entirely different affair than I've been involved with in my ten years in healthcare marketing. I love being on campus, but it affects me in weird ways. I am now keenly aware that I am most certainly old enough to be any student's mother so my maternal feelings or at least "aunt" feelings are hard to conceal.

Big dogs for cuddling, children to color with, sharing tea and its healing properties, HeartMath, free hugs, and walking a labyrinth... sounds like my kind of wellness. And, by the time I left, I felt a little better about wanting to tell everyone to put on a sweater and go to bed early...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

It's Complicated

My good friend Anne issues an open invitation to the movies when something good comes along...She sends an email to all her women friends with the title of the movie, the day and time of the show, and a review from Rotten Tomatoes. The last movie was "Julie and Julia." I'm not a big movie person, but I enjoy going to the movies on Anne's movie-a-long. I think it is because we have a good time as a group of women, just meeting at the movies.

Today's movie was "It's Complicated." And the theater was filled with women of all ages... Only about four men in the place. I saw an 80 year old PEO sister, women from my church, all generations delighting in watching a gorgeous middle-aged Meryl Streep as the object of desire of two men... There just aren't a lot of movies like this one. And rated R to boot!

The best part was enjoying it, giggling, laughing, crying, and resonating with the emotions on the screen with a room full of women...reveling in a wonderfully funny movie, that celebrated middle-age love and S.E.X. (wink, wink)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Colder than a....

Today's view from the porch is COLD.

It is ridiculously cold here. I laughed at the sports commentators covering bowl games in Florida talking about how cold it was there...

"Wow! It's only 56 degrees out here, JB! "

"I know! I wanted to take my family to the beach yesterday, and jeez, it was freezing!"

So, it was anywhere from -12 to -20 degrees (yes, Fahrenheit) this morning.

I suspect someone in International Falls, MN is making fun of me right now.