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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Miracles and More

Looking back over the past week I find that I had one of those years where I just never really "felt" Christmas.  I had the isolated moments - during the sing-along at the Missouri State University holiday concert (because outside of church where do you ever experience large audiences of people, strangers, join in song?) and the grand finale with the Pride Marching Band; placing the pieces, especially the last few as the day drew nigh, on the nativity calendar; having that private fireside supper with my husband; watching Ethan open presents (the first time I've ever had a little one around to buy for); hearing Welcome to Our World and Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel on the radio; listening to Dustin and Jim sing Strange Way to Save the World during our candlelight Christmas Eve service; and being surrounded by family and friends those couple of days.  I guess I just always wish that the feeling of Christmas would be strong and lasting.  Then, I suppose everyone wishes that, otherwise there wouldn't be so many songs and poems and stories that lament the passing of the goodwill of the season. 

Still, I had some great times and experienced a Christmas miracle, too:  Natalie, who you know will not have anything at all to do with anyone except Bruce and me, gave up her barking from the top of the stairs on Christmas Eve and ventured down into a house filled with a dozen plus people.  Granted, she sat in my lap and wouldn't let anyone come near her, but she did come down.  We have had Natalie in our home since mid-July and this was the first time she'd offered to be in the same room with anyone other than us.  Like I said, a Christmas miracle.

I also received an unexpected surprise earlier that day when FedEx knocked on my door and I opened a package from Robinson, Texas - a dvd of Mr. Kruegger's Christmas - sent especially to me from a dear, dear friend.  Shirley and I met when I lived in Abilene for six months during my seventh grade year.  She was a year ahead of me and we became friends at Abilene Christian.  The day my mother picked me up from school and told me we were moving back to Springfield it was time for Christmas Break.  Most of my classmates had already gone home, but Shirley was there with me.  She gave me her address and when I got back to Springfield I wrote her.  Shirley and I kept up a letter-writing friendship (pre-email, mind you) from that day on.  Our letters may have become more infrequent in our adult lives, but we do stay in touch (now through email).  Ours is the only friendship I know of that has survived thirty years of long-distance.  In that time I believe I have seen Shirley in person only twice.  Anyway, I was so surprised and so touched that she would do that!  Bruce and I watched it Christmas Eve after everyone went home and it was just as I remembered it.  Thanks, Shirley, for the gift, but mostly for the gift of your friendship.

The tree is down and the living room rearranged (because I usually have to do something like that over Christmas Break - also we have very tidy looking kitchen cupboards as of yesterday afternoon).  I've got a new Sting cd to listen to (the one with the letters and poems and lute - it's really beautiful).  I've got a new Bible to read from for personal devotions.  And, I've got a headful of ideas about what I'd like to emphasize and deemphasize in my life during the new year.  I would like to actually DO something about the new knowledge I've gained recently about human trafficking and the modern abolitionist movement.  I don't really know what that will be, but I think it has to start the same way my vegetarianism did - with a commitment to personally guard against being a financier of slavery.  Money talks.  If I can withhold my dollars from benefiting those who would abuse animals, then certainly I must withhold them from those who abuse human beings through physical bonds and through the emotional bonds of intimidation.  It's horrifying to read about, but being willfully ignorant is not an option.  Should I decline to feel sorrow and outrage for the sake of my own comfort when there are actual people - men, women and children of all ages in this world - being held in captivity?  No, I believe I should both feel and act.

That's what the New Year is all about, isn't it?  Reflection and resolve?  Not resolutions necessarily, though they have their place; rather a healthy acknowledgement that we are unwise in certain areas and a humble determination to be enlightened for the sake of love.  Christ gave Himself a ransom for me.  He compels me to do the same for others.  To live is Christ.  Let your light so shine before men.  Have a blessed 2010 and let Him will and work in you.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

"Wow! You Taste Great!"

On Dave Barry's The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog  - most definitely NOT something you want to read if you intend on going back to sleep anytime soon.  I laughed so hard I woke up Natalie.  Turn about's fair play, I guess.  Still, it's another hour later and I must be up for the duration now.  Seriously, though, the Dave Barry book - if you need a laugh, this is the one. 

It's a Wonderful Life

This week was a mix of fun and frustration.  The kids are so ready to be out of school that teaching was like tangling with a tiger.  Especially with the younger students.  I was ever so glad to see Friday come!  With just two more work days before Christmas Break I think I can make it.  That was the frustration.

The fun took several forms. . .

On Thursday I was the guest speaker at Parkview High School's Viking Readers Club.  I think that was probably the most fun I'd had with the book since I heard it was going to be published.  I was pretty nervous about it, but had a great time once I got there.  They were so polite and laughed and asked tons of questions.  It was great.  I was so honored to be asked and so pleased with how it went.  Thanks to Gail Eubanks and the Viking Readers! 

I also got to have some fun Christmas shopping for Natalie!  What a blast to pick out toys and little Christmas-shaped treats for her stocking.  I told her that she has two presents under the tree, but I won't tell her which ones because I'm sure she'd peek while we're at work. 

Tonight Bruce and I had our annual weekend before Christmas fireside supper.  I made Polenta Lasagna (individual portions in some of my milk glass Fire King dishes) and we had pretty Italian cut green beans and some very yummy 3-cheese Artisan bread (they sell something called a "petite loaf" at Dillons and it was just right for a special occasion).  I hadn't decided what kind of dessert to make and that was fine because my mother turned up with some oh, so good peanut butter cake for us and we saved it for tonight.  Had some Peppermint Patty coffee and watched It's a Wonderful Life.  The only thing different this year was having Natalie there, but I just put a little sprinkling of cheese on her food for a festive touch and put a matching placemat down by us so she could have her Christmas supper, too.

Speaking of Natalie, she's the reason I'm blogging at 3:30 in the morning.  One of those rare, but insistent need-to-go-out-in-the-middle-of-the-night nights.  That was an hour and a half ago, but I just couldn't get back to sleep.  Emailed a couple of friends, payed a couple of bills and am heading back in to sit by the fire and read a Dave Barry book.

If this week proves to be anything like last, you might not hear from me again until the new year, so have a blessed Christmas.  Remember Jesus!


Sunday, December 13, 2009


I had my second book signing yesterday.  This time at Mediacom Ice Park during a MSU Ice Bears v. KU Jayhawks game.  We won - oh, yeah!  What a gratifying experience, though, to be able to talk about No Penalty for Love with team members and staff and fans.  I hope everyone who bought a copy enjoys reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.  It was a challenge for me to get the technical aspects of the game on the page and let the thrill of it come through in the writing.  I never would have been able to pull off some of the scenes if not for the Ice Bears.  So, thanks again, Guys!

I'm feeling partied out this weekend - festivities abound.  Though, I did manage a Saturday morning at home yesterday to make some Christmas candies and cookies.  I found a recipe (another good one) in Grandma's recipe box - 4 Chips Good Fudge, it was called.  Rich!  Oh, my!  Made that and also some Maple Nut Brittle which didn't "brittle" so became a new and oh, so wonderful Christmas delight - Maple Nut Clusters.  Also some plain, but simply wonderful sugar cookies - not the frosted kind - icky - but just a touch of colored sugars to give them a little sparkle.  I wore my Snoopy Christmas apron and played Christmas music on the radio in the kitchen, sang to Natalie (she's the only one I sing to besides God because neither of them are critical of my tunes), and had a jolly good time.

Speaking of festivities, here are some romantic suggestions for December in case you  need a little Christmas right this very minute:

1.  Find a movie house showing one of the classics and go - It's a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, or Miracle on 34th Street (which Bruce took me to see at the Gillioz last night).  Barring that, dvr one and make a point of watching it.
2.  Gotta watch A Charlie Brown Christmas.  Other specials to revive your childlike enthusiasm for the season are Rudolph the Red Nosed Reineer, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Frosty the Snowman, and, if you can find it (which I haven't) Mr. Kreuger's Christmas - apparently I remember a 1/2 hour long made-for-TV special from the '70's with amazing clarity.  It stared James Stewart.
3.  Burn a pine scented candle, light the fire and watch the tree blink lazily.
4.  Make a fireside supper - that's what I plan to do next Saturday night before the actual holiday week is upon us.  One of the great things about vegetarian cooking at Christmas is that there is an abundance of red and green food to choose from.  Makes for festive and lively plating!
5.  Sing - even if it's just to your dog.
6.  Get quiet and remember Jesus - if that doesn't make you happy and grateful, you're a lost cause.
7.  DON'T make any resolutions or bemoan the year past - just make sure you remind yourself that every moment of every day is a new beginning and nothing stays the same - good or bad - and plan to make the changes you want to see sooner rather than later.
8.  Make a Christmas treat for the birds - airpopped popcorn tossed out by the handfuls, or something more adventurous like backyard tree decorations made with peanut butter and bedecked with seeds.
9.  Read a great Christmas book:  The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson; A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens; anything Christmassy by Debbie Macomber.
10.  Count your blessings - as Bing sings - it's better than counting sheep by far.

Blessings to you and yours this holiday season -

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Sarah, Can You Read Me?

Sarah Palin:  I left a copy of my book, No Penalty for Love, for you when you had your signing at Borders in Springfield, Missouri on December 2.  The organizers told me you'd receive your gifts.  Since you're a hockey fan I thought you might enjoy it for a bit of a lighthearted read on a long Going Rogue bus ride.  Thanks for the autograph and the handshake - come again!