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Little Things Make Her A Bright, Shining Birthday Beacon

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“It’s a girl!”madeleine infant

Sixteen candles will be on our daughter Madeleine’s dessert – blueberry pie — tonight.

The big moments – her birth, first word, first smile, first day of school, losing that first tooth, first time riding her bike, saying “I Love You,” stand out in time. These rights of passage play over and over in my memory as the playbook of her life.

But it’s the little moments that make her Madeleine.

madeleine painter

  • The time she thought the leprechaun potion had shrunk her
  • The way she sings in the shower with true abandon
  • Her child-like giggle
  • The way she lives out the stories she reads and sees. Go to a movie with her and bring some tissues!
  • Her incredibly kind spirit, especially with children
  • The time she lost her ring and we looked everywhere for such a long time. It was the end of the world until she found it was in her pocket all the time
  • Her new habit of translating everything she thinks, hears and sees from English into Frenchmadeleine snowman
  • The music that explodes from her in song form via guitar, drum, piano and rickety chop sticks
  • Her sudden tempers that melt into tears and really all-too-many “I’m sorries.”
  • Oh so polite and yet suddenly unrefined in just the way teens tend to be
  • The creative touches she has with everything she does – with notes, homework assignments – she’s a cartoonist, poet, doodler, song-writer
  • Imagine this: a flat tire     the very first time she drove with her learner’s permit
  • Nerd to her core, she embraces her Dr. Who, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings.
  • She loves color – she doesn’t even realize she must own 7 orange shirts and her day-glo orange shoes and backpack help me pick her out in any crowd
  • Dauntingly positive – “We can do it, Mom! Who cares what other people think?”
  • Despite their sibling jabs, she really loves being a big sister and would take on any bully to protect The Mo
  • The way her hugs go on and on
  • How she worries about her friends and is willing to carry their problems for them
  • Her 1000-watt smile that lights up the room

Madeleine’s smarter than most, (I know, I’m her mom, but it’s simply true) she’s got big dreams and though I wish time would slow down because I want to savor every quirk and ancillary anecdote I also am excited to see what she’ll be, do and think as she finishes adolescence and explodes into young adult.montage of photos Madeleine

  Love you my Laney-Loo. Love you all the time!

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Beware: Political Quicksand Ahead

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Slip sliding away....

Slip sliding away….

Quicksand is a colloid hydrogel consisting of fine granular material, clay, and water. Quicksand forms in saturated loose sand when the sand is suddenly agitated.

In other words, wow, did I walk into it this time.

I’m not particularly vocal about my political beliefs, though if I find a kindred, like-minded human I can wax on with the best of them. But I do go by the maxim that most individuals have their own take on politics and policies and I’m not likely to move them one way or the other.

With sorrow I report that not everyone adheres to that discipline.

I normally teach 4th to 6th grade students at our Lutheran church on Sundays between services, but Sunday the kids were at a weekend church retreat out-of-state, so I had an early out, so to speak, and was able to socialize with adults in the building next door during a ministry fair. I thought it a nice change after weeks in the classroom. I said hello to several friends and after a while drifted to the side of the room while waiting for my husband who was catching up with some of the guys. A gentleman struck up a conversation with me, beginning his discourse with his passion for fixing things and how he volunteers frequently at church for building maintenance.

As he spoke, I was congratulating myself for meeting someone new, taking an interest in his interests, and practicing my listening skills.

“He seems lonely,” thought I.

He continued to tell me how he has tinkered with the doors to make them safer, rescued stuck keys from unlikely places, changed lightbulbs in precarious positions.

“Really knows his stuff and glad he’s stepped up to take charge of these issues,” I mused.

Now retired, he ran through the path of his career and enlightened me about the intricate internal machinations of mounted cameras in his field of work.

“Well,” I reckoned, “no wonder he has this attention to detail. He’s a lifelong tinkerer.”

While I pandered to myself, I suddenly realized he’d jumped the shark. Now he was talking politics. My incessant nodding became less robust.

I became the civics teacher: “The President doesn’t hold the purse strings on that, Congress has the fiscal responsibility Our Congressman and Senator …”

Oh, he was familiar, by Jove. No, but he’d have none of that. In fact he began lecturing me. Giving me a treatise on how this country was spiraling down.

I’ve been taught to be kind to others; I’ve also been taught to be assertive. I was polite, but not to the point of agreeing.

Then came the quicksand. The discourse devolved as the saturated loose sand was suddenly agitated. “John” gave me all the talking points about why all guns should be legal and how We all should be packing and if We would all just do that We’d all be safe. He was including me in his we.

What I said was, “You and I don’t agree.”

He continued with his best persuasive speeches and I said, “Listen, my mother’s classmate died in that parking lot that Gabby Gifford was shot in last year.”

“Well, that will happen,” he said, “Nothing we could have done could have prevented it.”

“Really? If he — the shooter — had had a lesser caliber gun and had to reload, she would have lived, I think.”

He disagreed and told me about all the public officials who pack guns, basically implying “Then, why shouldn’t I?”

All I could think was, “Just why is he patting his hip right now? Didn’t anyone notice that I was a shade of light green right now with nausea?”

I said there was an armed guard at Columbine, and that didn’t prevent those horrors.

“Well,” he said, “It’s not a perfect system.”

I said, “I have taught for years” — Sunday School, not that he knew it — “And I would lay down my life for the kids, but is that really what we want from our teachers?”

Oh yes, he thinks that’s just how it should be.

He had made up his mind.

So have I.

It's harder than killing.

It’s better and hurts less..

Why didn’t I just say it?  Jesus just doesn’t want us to kill each other. He just doesn’t.

Now it’s back to the classroom and the students for me where I can teach love and not fear.

Hunger in the Heart

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I get all manner of calls as a marketing coordinator for the Food Bank. Primarily I field calls from businesses and organizations who are interested in staging a food drive in the region to help those in need. It’s a positive role I have — helping people to help other people. After three-plus years of working with various groups, the call a couple of weeks ago was quite different.

Michael began, “I have quite of bit of food to donate. Cans of food. Health foods. Some long-term meals ready to eat.”

Now, we do get these calls: someone is moving and they don’t want to take their food. They are cleaning out their cupboards to start fresh. They know their food will soon expire and want it to go to use. For these people, for various reasons, we ask them to pack up the food and drop it to one of the many places that partner with us for us to pick up on our scheduled routes. We are delighted they think of us and we certainly distribute all the food we get.

Still, this seemed different. Michael continued, “My son was a bit of a survivalist.”  We talked some more about this and that and I said I would get back to him.

I talked to my co-worker and then to my husband and I called back, made an arrangement to pick up the food in two days’ time using our SUV and my husband’s brawn. I felt we needed to reach out to this gentleman, not for his food, not to shore up our own resources, but because we are ultimately a part of the fabric of our region as a caring place.

Michael stood in the midst of chaos in the rented condo that son Chris had lived in for about five years. The small space was filled with boxes of clothes, food, cleaning supplies, cast-off golf clubs and art leaning against walls to be carted off, and soon. In fact, the realtor waited outside to show the place to a client wanting to move in ASAP.

Chris was a health nut. Exercise fiend. Employed, but working from home as a Computer Tech. He loved the mountains and the desert. Chris had political beliefs that caused him to collect food that would help him survive for long periods of time. No one knows yet why Chris died at 42. People saw him the day before and he seemed well and in good spirits. The coroner has the case, but that will take some time.

Now Chris’ Dad was trying to make sense of it all. “People will tell you that losing your child is the worst pain you can ever feel. I think they’re right. And for me, I don’t even know why he died and what I could have done to make it different.”

He talked. I listened We gathered the food. Discussed it all. We made decisions about what the food bank could use and what we had to leave. Then he opened the freezer and we found a large coffee can-like container. The outside indicated it was filled with seeds. Non-hybrid vegetable seeds. Chris never got to plant those. He never got to see them bloom.

canned seeds

It’s a small thing, I know, with all that this gentle man is going through — but perhaps it will help — I’ll send him a photo of the vegetables in the garden this summer so that he will know that Chris is feeding others and helping people who need food assistance right here in the place he loved so much.

The State of the Higher Union

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My Guest Blogger today is ProgressivePapa

It’s a heartfelt message of love on Valentine’s Day and on our Journey of Lent.

The State of the Higher Union.

I encourage you to follow this gifted writer at http://www.progressivepapa.wordpress.com