2010 Take-Aways

Posted by jael on Dec 31, 2010 in Education, Parenting, Spiritual Journey

Along with lists and count-downs, (See Banned Phrases…) New Year’s is infamous for inventories.   We have been socialized to reflect, resolve and redefine ourselves with each New Year.  The number one New Year’s Resolution is to lose weight/exercise more.  After the food-glut highway between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, many of us gain up to 15 pounds, and it makes sense that getting our diets under control will safeguard our health and finances in the long run.  (Who has money to keep buying clothes in bigger sizes?)  Smoking cessation is another common New Year’s resolution.

I appreciate resolutions.  I am all about calls for personal growth or improvement, and have made New Year’s resolutions in the past.  This year, however, I am most clear on what I take away from the previous year, rather than what I hope to do differently.  I feel like I have finally learned some personal and precious truths and that it is time for me to now apply them in the year ahead.

As dysfunctional as it sounds, let me own my behavior and admit that I was at Barnes & Noble three days ago in the Self-Help section doing some reading about a topic for a friend.  Before there was Doctor Internet, there was Psychology and its scared text, the DSM IV Revised with which the somatic could self-diagnose.   Believe me or not, I really was in that aisle on behalf of a friend, however, while there, I read one of the most liberating sentences I had encountered all year.  While scanning an overview on a particular illness, I read, “…in many cases by ones mid 30s to early 40s, people mature out of this disorder.”

It was as if I heard the tumblers of a safe unlock.  My toes clenched so hard that I rocked on the back of my heels to keep my balance.  I could smell the fresh-baked cookies from the café as my thoughts turned to Praise.

In one sentence, presumably researching on behalf of someone else, I read the tag-line of my biggest take away of the year:  You can heal without even realizing you’re better.  The hope of it still delivers enough visceral impact to make me shiver as I type and my breath has become more shallow.  The very antithesis of despair, this idea asserts that sought growth may be incremental and subtle enough that it occurs beyond recognition.  That which you once were fades like blue jeans into a new pair of pants through good care and use.

I am in love with this sentence and transfixed by the idea.

From 2010, I take away the realization that I have matured out of at least one of my disorders.  My hallelujah is clinically less broken.  Sure, I still have plenty of work to do on my issue model, but I am certain that Love wins.

Effort matters.

Prayer heals.

God reigns.

On New Year’s past, I have weighed more and less than I do now.  I’ve been actively working out and never near the gym.  I’ve lived inside and outside of abuse.  I’ve hoped and bargained.  What is different this year is subtle, but distinct.  I have chosen to rise up and lift my voice in Praise.  I dwell in possibilities more often than I rehearse anger.  My incomplete and insecure Surrender has been matched by infinite Grace.

I Believe.

I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah!


List of Phrases Banished from The Family’s English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness for 2011

Posted by jael on Dec 31, 2010 in Education, Parenting, Spiritual Journey, Technology

Today is a day of many lists.  We’ve heard the count down of the Top 100 songs on the radio on the way to the mall for the biggest sale of the season, and tonight they will drop the ball in NYC.

One of our family favs is the list of banished words.  This year’s list includes several technology terms like “viral,” and “Google,” as well as “Facebook,” as verbs.  A couple of nuggets from Sarah Palin made the list like, “refudiate,” and “Mamma Grizzlies.” I won’t miss, “I’m just sayin,” also listed, but will grieve, “epic.”  The list is compiled using public input on words that are regarded as “so over,” (BANNED) from mis-use, over-use or uselessness.

Our family comprised our own List of Phrases Banished from the Family’s English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness.

From The Children:

“It’s gonna be a big day.”

“Don’t forget to set your alarm.”

“You got this one wrong.”

“That was due today?”

“It’s due tomorrow.”

“Sectionals are today.”

“Get out your planner.”

“Quality work matters.”

“Time for bed.”

“Have you played your violin?”

“Whose turn is it to do the litter box?”

“No, no, not like that, like this…”

“Are you paying attention?”

“How long have you been on the computer?”


“Should you be eating that with those braces?”

“When is that due?”

“Be careful.”

“Do you hear me?”

“Do you understand me?”

“What did you say?”

“No means no.”

“What is the problem?”

Anything that begins, “How many times have I told you…,” “Did you remember to…”  “Don’t tell me…” “Don’t forget…,” or “What did I say about…”

From the Parents:

“My bed is wet.”

“Can I go?”

“It wasn’t me.”

“No I didn’t.”

“My soccer game is at 9:00 a.m.”

“The cat puked again.”

“She won’t clean up.”

“I didn’t know.”

“There’s a dance Friday night.”

<At any meal> “I don’t like it.”

Anything that begins, “I forgot..,” “It’s due tomorrow…,” “I got assigned a long term project today…,” “Can I invite…”

Though the words vary, I think our family is in consensus on it’s more fun to play and eat ice cream than do homework or chores in 2010.

I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah!


Facebook Tag Sends Pic of 12 Year-Old Granddaughter French Kissing to Grandparents & Family

Posted by jael on Dec 28, 2010 in Education, Parenting, Spiritual Journey, Technology

There are many firsts that young mothers compare over playdates or in phone calls to their BFFs.  First through the night sleep, first time sitting up, first time crawling, first steps, first day of kindergarten.  It goes on and on across generations and time like the tide.

There are other unpublished firsts that rarely make the coffee date agenda or conference call.  Unpublished, that was, until Facebook.

So, you know how you don’t usually get the low down on the first time your brother’s daughter French kisses a boy?  Never fear!  Facebook is here.

Thanks to the lesser touted and more pernicious gifts of modern technology, if your niece French kisses a boy, at say, a school event, or even better, a party she is not even supposed to be at, and her BFF catches all of it on her smartphone, then a complete stranger can post it on her Facebook account, tag your niece, and you, your parents, all of your niece’s friends, and even the tech savvy grandparents, who only have accounts so they can keep in touch with the grandkids, will have those juicy pics waiting for view the next time they sign on to Facebook.



Both taboo firsts happened in my family today.

Call me conservative, but I think 12 is way too young for French Kissing.  And now, there it is, her premature choice available for family viewing and commentary.  Sadly, I think the family might be less kind an audience to the choice than her middle school brethren.

Not that I’ve talked to any of them about it… It’s not like I got a handbook on how to navigate sticky familial technology outings…

I am, however, smart enough not to call my brother to discuss it.

I also showed it to my kids.


Not in a snotty, ha-ha, look what happened to her way.

There-but-for-the-Grace-of-God-go-you-and-I was more the touch and feel of that discussion.  My children adore our niece.  They were shocked that she would kiss a boy, her friend would post it, and that such private pictures of her could show up in their father’s, uncle’s, grandfathers’ feed.

Moments that used to be secret diary scribbles, are now irretrievable public data.  Once it’s out there, it’s out there, Baby.

Great pic for potential internship review committee members to sweep during all too typical applicant social-networking audits.

And don’t miss the point that the girl in the pics is 12.  You have to be 13 to even have a Facebook account.  It is widely known that kids just lie about their birthdays to get accounts as early as 8 and 9.

Facebook bit my family back today.

Think about your kids’ access, so the next time you log on to your account, you don’t see something like this:

About Me                 Child Youknow Personally

Basic Info
Sex: Female
Birthday: April 1, 1998

Parents: Dead to me.
Siblings: none
Relationship Status: Hungry

Interested In: Men
Looking For: A Hook Up

Current City: Miami, FL
Hometown: Las Vegas. NV

Favorite Quotations “Be Who Yu Are,, And Not Who Others Want Yu Too Be”… “If I Could Choose between Breathing And Loveing Yu , I Would Choose My Last Breathe To Say I Love Yu”…. “What Hurts The Most Is Being So Close”

Texting, Hanging Out With Friends, Dancing, Singing, Color, Shopping, Traveling, Talking to Friends, Chillin’ with any of my friends, Xbox 360, Laptop, Eyelinger, Phone

Music Never Shout Never, Drake, Micheal Buble, B o N, Big Time Rush, Lil Wayne, Owl City, Michael Jackson, Travie McCoy, 3OH!3, Justin Bieber, Randomly singing lyrics that fit what someone has just said, Hearing part of a song and thinking, “That’s going to be my next status,” I Like All Genres of Music, Cash Money and 55 more

Movies Toy Story, The Blind Side, I Shall Call Him Squishy, and he shall be mine,      and he shall be my Squishy…, The Hurt Locker, Easy A, Disney, Buddy the Elf, Finding Nemo, Disney Pixar, Paranormal Activity, Step Brothers, Official Vampire Suck Movie, Harry Potter, Are we Done Yet? and 4 more

Television MTV’s 16 and Pregnant, The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Ghost Whisperer, Make It or Break It, Teen Mom, Jersy Shore, My Life As Liz, “I HOPE YOU GO BALD!” “I HOPE THEY CANCEL OPRAH!”   “YOU TAKE THAT BACK!!!” Spongebob’s face when he figured out Squidward likes Krabby Patties, Miley, don’t you know your party in the USA can’t start until KeSha walks in?, So You Think You Can Dance, Rob Dyrdek’s Fantasy Factory, Rob & Big, Jershey Shore and 25 more

And even though
It all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah!


Reasons A Mamma May Be Forgetful

Posted by jael on Dec 26, 2010 in Education, Parenting, Spiritual Journey

It is common for mothers, even those under the age of 30, to be forgetful. While it may feel like you have Alzheimer’s at this young age, it is more likely that there are other reasons that affect your memory.  Before you fret that you  have actually lost your mind, consider these triggers associated with forgetfulness.


Need I say more?  We color-code family calendars.  We put post-its on the front door.  We jot notes in Sharpie on our wrists so that we see them when we drive (a great way NOT to forget to pick-up a kiddo at location other than the usual carpool time or place), our phones beep reminders at us, and we can’t make an appointment for a pap smear unless we have our kid’s soccer schedule posted by time and field.   These examples show two things… we are busier than we probably should be, and, nonetheless, we get even busier trying to implement strategies to get ‘ir done.  Such constraints lead to stress.  We all know that stress wrecks havoc on the body, but it can do a big number on the mind as well.  Memory is a prime target for stress.  The basic formula is the more stress we are under, the more we may be forgetful.

Reasons You May Be Forgetful at a Young Age – Holiday Problems

Holiday disorders, such as hyper-cookie-consumptionism and hypoensitivity to dietary cues that inhibit compulsive eating, have been known to affect one’s memory. If you have a family member with is known to have binged on Sweedish cookies, especially during the Thanksgiving to Christmas corridor, then there is a good chance that you may have or develop it yourself.  A logical question is to ask how excessive cookie ingestion can cause memory issues.  This becomes crystal clear when you stand in the middle of your own kitchen dressed only in a thong, at 1:27 a.m., with a tuperware full of sugar cookies in your hands, and you’re mindlessly eating them one after the other while shopping Ebay for black velvet paintings of crying clowns.   The brain is kind, people, there are things that are simply too traumatic to remember.  Furthermore, who wants to remember that as the cause for having to go up a pants size in January?  Life is hard enough getting the kids back into the routine of school and practices, let alone being held hostage to such unwelcome memories.  In order to experience the best memory that you can if you have a hyper-cookie-consumptionism or hypoensitivity to dietary cues problem, you may need see a doctor or nutritionist for necessary medications or treatment protocols.  Then again, you could just STEP AWAY FROM THE COOKIES.

Reasons You May Be Forgetful at a Young Age – A Lack of Sleep

A lack of sleep is known to cause forgetfulness. However, this cycles us back to stress, as many people often find they lose sleep when they are stressed. When we are tired, we often do not think clearly and make irrational decisions like eating cookies in the middle of the night in our underwear.  It’s not that we would not prefer to sleep, it’s simply that we have too much to do, not, however that we can remember what that is so we color-code family calendars.  We put post-its on the front door.  Wait a minute, did I already say that?

Reasons You Shouldn’t Worry If You Are Be Forgetful at a Young Age

1.  If we can’t do any more than we are doing, our best has to be good enough.

2.  Cookies are yummy.

3.  We can’t afford to lose anymore sleep.

The season of raising children is a dense time of saturated experience and emotional intensity.  There is only so much nuance and detail a brain can store without loss of our joy, pace, or humor.  I don’t have to remember how high The Boy’s fever was when he got the H1N1 last year, and we were worried The Oldest Girl might catch it too and impact her heart.  That was a lifetime of fears and tears ago. Some of you remember more along the way as you raise your kids up.  Some of you remember less.  However, what matters is if our children are well and that Love wins.

Realizing that  I get it right more often than I get it wrong isn’t vanity, it’s sanity!

Maybe I’ve been here before
I know this room, I’ve walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you
I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah!


Walmart, December 23, 6:12 p.m.

Posted by jael on Dec 24, 2010 in Parenting, Spiritual Journey

Walmart on any day, at any hour promises a contrast exercise.  From the Lexus sedans to the Ford Fiestas in its melting-pot parking lot, to the Nine West to slipper clad patrons, it’s a panacea of diversity.  On the eve of Christmas Eve, it’s a circus of dysfunction.  There I was, amid the a sea of people intent on getting their tables and trees ready for the holidays, more than a bit tipsy with anxiety.  I confess that I don’t really like crowds.  Like a sentinel, I patrol my personal space.  I walk on the balls of my feet to protect it, and have perfected the dodge and weave of a good wide receiver.  It’s hard, however, to maintain a space bubble in Walmart in December.

I was there by choice.  Our beloved children have gotten more savvy to the Christmas train in recent years, and we had chosen to defer some stocking-stuffer shopping until the 11th hour to help insulate their surprise and our planning.  Naturally, I regretted the wisdom of this decision before I entered the store.  Though I went in with a mission specific list, alone, and stealth like reconnaissance infantry, I had sweat on my upper lip before the greeter greeted me.

Anyone with heart carves a special place for Walmart greeters this year.  The news story that a centurion greeter was pushed to the ground upon her 100+ year-old keister by an angry shopper who thought she was not moving quickly enough on Black Friday was all over the internet and fresh in my mind.  I took a moment to wish him a Merry Christmas.  This greeter was a senior too, and I confess I lingered to wonder about his safety before I followed his directions to the Entertainment department.

On the walk there, staccato snipets of family dialogue peppered my walk.  I think there is something sinister in the ventilation systems of Walmart stores, some airborne contaminant that makes Mommies especially ill tempered and sweet children sour into vats of tantrums and tears.  Last night was like this on steroids.  There were no jingle bells in the air.  Clenched-jawed parent units scolded child after child, “BE QUIET!”





I rehearsed exit strategies as I made a detour around the candy aisle.  That was too much to even consider.  I promised myself that the last thing that the children needed was more candy.  A more than cynical veneer had begun to shellack my attitude when a woman approached me from behind.

My first response to unexpected physical contact is generally a flinch and recoil, but I registered in my periphery that it was an older woman just before her arm reached around my shoulder.

“Do you remember me?”  she inquired, brows up and eyes open wide with kindness.  Her smile was an question mark of hope.

She was with a young woman, 12-13 by the looks of her, and I rapidly flipped through my mental Rola-dex the grandmothers that I knew who had adolescent granddaughters.

“No,” I smiled down at her admitting my inability to remember. “Help me, I want to remember,” I promised.

The reconnection that followed read like Jodi Piccoult.  Long story short, she was not a grandmother.  In fact, she is at least 12 years my junior.  She had been my student during my first years of teaching high school just out of college.  In fact, I had been quite fond of her.  She had been a bright, creative, free spirit who had much more talent than self-discipline.  The girl with her was her daughter, 12, the same age as our oldest.  She broke off to ask her daughter if she remembered that crazy teacher that she used to hide from in high school, who used to chase her all over the building to see if she had done her homework, and told her that I was her.  She told her daughter that I did that because I would never give up on her, and that I knew that she could do the work.

I hardly noticed.  I admit I was busy doing the math, trying to figure out how old she was when her daughter was born.

And then, my former student, in front of her child the same age as our oldest, told me that she was terminally ill.

She told me how happy she was to be able to Christmas shop with her daughter as it was likely she would be, “Gone or unable to next year.”

The noise of Walmart ceased.

There was only silent perspective and her voice.

“Thank you,” she said to me, “I’ll never forget how you never gave up on me.”

Sweet Jesus.

I was so rattled that I had to call The Husband, “I don’t even know what’s in the cart,”  I said to him, “but I have to come home.”

“Come home,” was his reply.  “Now.”

He had heard it in my voice.

I was not home long before I shared the story with him.  The Oldest Girl was there, but I had not considered the impact it would have on her.

Silly me.

The Middle Girl came down this morning to report that The Oldest Girl was up writing in her journal and praying late into the night.

She reported this in tones of irritation, not respect.  The Middle Girl’s precious sleep had been interrupted.

Used with permission, this is the letter The Oldest Girl wrote.  She had hoped I would deliver it to my former student, but alas, I lacked the wherewithal to request her contact information.

Dear Former Student, these then are my 10 year-old daughter’s words to you:

“Dear __________,

Hello, I’m <The Oldest Daughter>, <The Mamma>’s daughter.   I’m so sorry, and I have something to share about myself.  When I was really young, I was diagnosed with the coarctation of the aorta, because the doctors didn’t find it until several weeks, there were other complications.  However, the doctors diverted an artery [from my arm to repair my heart], and everything worked out.  I was a healthy, happy baby until another issue arose.  I was three, and my appendix burst in a very severe way, chance of survival were slim.  The doctors did a surgery, however, and it was successful!!  I am ten-years old and still alive.  Lucky?

No.  God helped me through it, He is the reason I am alive to write this letter.  He saved me  and He will save you too.  When I was baptized, I felt the Holy Spirit touch me, it was so awesome.  I may still have scars, but they are tiny compared to what God can do.  If you ask Jesus into your heart, if you truly accept Him as your Savior, then whenever you walk across a sandy beach, if you look back, there will be two sets of footprints.  When you look back and see only one, God has not deserted you, He has pick you up and carried you.

I pray that you can accept Jesus into your heart and continue or begin your walk with Christ.

Have Faith,

<The Oldest Girl>”

Sweet Jesus.

I did my best,
it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel,
so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth,
I didn’t come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah!


Nirvana in NYC

Posted by jael on Dec 22, 2010 in Spiritual Journey

In this season of Light and Life, several of the women I most love hurdle relational transitions and fight for their voices.

The backdrop of the Holidays are an especially deep time to reflect on who we are, where we are, and what we believe.

I lift these women up to Love, and honor their choices to rise and sing, Hallelujah!

Nirvana in NYC

I call freedom.
she anoints me,
a baptism of tears.
Day after day,
I see things many people never will.
Behind Merlin’s dragon,
I ponder,
and prowl,
and prance,
and plan,
pushing holes through its curtained wings.
In other places,
I was not there because you wore a blindfold
which deafened the screams of my tangerine tights.
I strain against your shackles like a run away.
The pinch of society’s pursed lips chaffs
my lips as I intone your rules for me:
“Talk like a lady,”
“Cross your legs,”
“Brush your hair,”
“Never order dessert on a first date,”
and “Always wear clean underwear.”
Me, I invent myself,
“Ain’t I a woman too?”
Mama, we don’t wear hats in church no more
or carry your hand-me-down purses.

I collide with impropriety with abandon-
free to choose from the chaos,
strangled by the strands of choice.
I safety pin
and feel no sympathy.
I exercise my demons;
Paradise regained.
I weep Niobe tears,
raining my own lake of relief.
I swim there still on hot days lost.
Energy pounds beneath my skin.
Purple lanterns shine through the mist
and lead me through the labyrinth of  my hidden forest.
I open my eyes to see beyond this nostalgic place
a new world of wonder and truth.
I toss my chains of restriction and grief.
I stand certain that life’s path will lead me.
The sun shines bright in all directions,
to guide my way,
for now my eyes can truly see.
The aura of corruption no longer glistens.
I become one of the majority
and begin my travels beyond known security.



Hypocracy on a Stick

Posted by jael on Dec 19, 2010 in Food, Parenting, Spiritual Journey

Hypocrisy is a funny thing.  I am as big a hypocrite as anybody else, but I had fooled myself into the proud notion that at least I know when I am being a hypocrite.


Not so much.

The family has had a tough reentry into our routine since our Thanksgiving road trip, and The husband was out of town on business again last week. The combination of these factors and the holiday chores seeded in me an unanticipated regression.

That is also where the unbidden hypocrisy comes in.

Our oldest is twelve, so we’ve had at least 10 Halloweens where we’ve watched the kids dump out and choose candies over the years. Time after time, year after year, The Husband and I have marveled that their consensus preference is lollipops. Four kids consistently choose lollipops over such bon-bons as Snickers, M&Ms, 100 Grand bars and Milky Ways. In our day, lollipops were the leftover candy. Houses that gave the lollipops were the rip-off stops, doors behind which children must not dwell or dentists lived. The good houses, the generous people,  gave chocolate treats, and preferably more than one. How we could have raised four kids whose go-to candy is lollies always confused me.

Until now.

What began as an innocent strategy to sooth a sore throat, and give the kids a treat on I-95, has turned into a 2-3 lollipop a day habit.  I thought at first it was simply stress, or because I had given up gluten, but The Mamma’s got a Tootsie Pop on her back, and it carries a big stick.

All of a sudden I am like an orally fixated ex-smoker who has to have something in her mouth so that she doesn’t fall off the wagon. It is ridiculous how much I am liking these things, a Pavlovian dog who begins to salivate the moment I unwrap the pop. I appreciate the weight of the candy on the stick as I lift it to my mouth. I sigh as I taste the first sweet tang of cherry on my tongue.  I like sour apple, grape and watermelon too , but cherry is my favorite. It’s even gotten to the point that I  won’t share the red ones with the kids anymore.

What’s wrong with me?

I’ve begun to identify the phases of lollipop consumption like a connoisseur of fine wine.  One of the best stages in the eating of a lollipop process is when it has molded to the shape of your pallets and just kind of hangs there in your mouth like a delicious retainer. That’s the hands-free-yummy-time when you can email or do laundry without ever taking it out of your mouth. Tootsie Pops pack a sweet chocolate kiss in their center better than a prize ring from a box of Cracker Jacks.

Lollipops please even after they are gone.  The stick offers chewing pleasures beyond any flavored toothpick in the country.  First there is the candy coated tip that is more fun to chew than the most delectable of San Francisco buffalo wings.  Once each crunchy, tasty remnant is gone, the dry tip of the stick still remains.  There is something indefinably satisfying about nibbling that to a pulpy mess.

A good lollipop can offer 40 minutes of genuine oral pleasure for 60 calories.

My kids were right all along!

Lollipops are the best!

And The Mamma is one big hypocrite with a stick hanging out of her mouth!

I’ll stand before the Lord of Song,
with nothing on my
(cherry red) tongue but Hallelujah!


Operation Poinsettia

Posted by jael on Dec 17, 2010 in Education, Parenting, Spiritual Journey

Four years ago, in partnership with a beloved, family friend, our families launched Operation Poinsettia.

We began with one simple mission:   Gift people who bless us in relationship, love and/or service with a holiday poinsettia.

The joy of giving these plants over the years has transformed our hearts, families, relationships, holiday traditions and pictures of what is possible during this season of Love.  I’ve come to consider poinsettias symbols of fellowship.  In a field of red, they stand as ready ambassadors of cheer.  White petals connect us to the innocence of possibilities as pink ones splash a blush of whimsy.  Year after year, as we have placed these plants in the hands of beloved family, cherished friends, respected care providers, and strangers, we have seeded memories, shed tears and harvested treasured stories we celebrate.

Such tales have come to be known to us as Poinsettias Stories.  We call each other to swap vignettes.  Each eager conversation begins the same, “I got a story for you,” without a hello or how do you do, as one decants the precious report of an exchange to another.  This year, we established the guideline that these tales should not be swapped while driving, as more than once, our tears have made it difficult to see the road. We each have our own favorite accounts, of course, and retell them to each other year after year.  As Poinsettia Stories have grown, I’ve been encouraged to record some of them to share with others.  In fact, this was the first year that it occurred to us that Operation Poinsettia has become such a key part of how we prepare our hearts and homes for the holidays that it might be a tradition that extends to the next generation.  As such, we thought it might make sense to archive some of this team’s Poinsettia Stories, so that, maybe, one day our own children can share with their own Poinsettia Stories from their childhoods as they create new ones playing it forward together.

With that intention, I share with you one of my favorite Poinsettia Stories:

Operation Poinsettia, Year 1:  Food Lion, December 8, 2006, 10:38 p.m.:

The giddiness of the evenings adventures had waned in the truck.  Having spent the entire evening delivering plants, our four children, 5 months, 4 years, 6 years, and 8 years-old were well past tired. Though it had been a magical night of giving, even Harry Potter himself could not have enchanted a spell to enthuse the over-tired children nestled safely amid blankets with cookie-crumb mustaches in the SUV.

Our procedure had been the same throughout the evening.  In pairs, or all together, the children would take a plant and card up to a recipient’s door with a parent standing by at the end of the driveway or walk.  It was the first Christmas our children were old enough in heart or feet to fully participate in the joy of giving back to others.  They took to it like elves, eager to jump out of the truck, laughing and leaping up to the doors, monitoring who’s turn it was to ring a bell or carry a poinsettia.  The reception of their unexpected visits was universal.  Doors were swung wide, hugs swooped up our children into warm arms, cookies were passed, and, in many cases, prayers shared and tears shed to carve Thanksgiving anew.  Often those poinsettias were the first vestiges of holiday color to blaze hearths or bless homes.  It was a merry night.

The kids were well spent and past ready to get home as we passed Food Lion.  Over the course of the evening, we had given plants both to people we had known and loved for years, and to those we did not know.  We had one poinsettia left for that night’s service, a big, beautiful, white plant.  As we were were about to drive past the store, I remembered a bagging clerk who I had chatted with often over the year.  He was a big, giant of a man himself.  His consistent personality was a constant source of warmth to me.  Usually when in a grocery store, I was with no less than four children, and often as many as eleven.  This man greeted us time after time with big, kind eyes and a genuine smile.  His eyes always shone with Light, and I sensed his that he was grounded in a Truth larger than his formidable 6’3″, 325 pound frame.  I very much wanted to give this man the last poinsettia.

I called, “Just one last stop,” and the kids who were awake, and even The Husband, my most benevolent driver, answered in a chorus of, “Awwww!”  The Husband pointed out that we could not be certain that the man was even working that night which, of course, was true.  However, as The Husband so often does, he read my eyes with love and said, “One last stop!”

We agreed that given the hour, and the neighborhood, the store closest to our home is known by locals as, “The Sketchy Food Lion,” because it serves a diverse intersection of communities, we agreed that The Husband would drive up next to the storefront windows.  This way, the children could see as I walked in and gave the plant, and I could get in and out quickly if the clerk was not working.

I was happy to see him as I crossed the entrance poinsettia in hand.  The registers are close to the doors, and he looked up as I entered.  He looked and beamed his signature smile at me as crossed the store’s threshold.  There were several clerks at other registers and lines of people waiting to purchase their groceries.  True to his indomitable work ethic, he went back to task, bagging items and sharing a word of cheer with the guest he served.

“Excuse me,” I said as I approached his aisle.  The gentle giant looked down at me.

He lifted his head from the boxes of cereal he was about to bag and gazed at me with huge, brown, teacup eyes and said, “May I help you, Ma’am?”  After a beat, recognition amplified the welcome of his warm regard, “No kids tonight?” he added with concern.

“Sir,” I began unexpectedly choked with tears.  I cleared my throat and began again, “Sir, this is for you.”  I handed him the white poinsettia with the innocent hope of a child.

He arced his brow in surprise as a smile painted his face bright like Christmas tree lights.  When he reached down to accept the plant his huge and tender hands dwarfed, I said, “This is for you, Sir, because of the consistency of your heart and service.  Every time I have been in this store and you have been working, you have greeted me with a smile.  You have been kind to my children, and time after time, shared a good word or encouraging nod.  That is a rare and precious thing.  I appreciate your kindness and want you to know how much I recognize your service.”

He looked at me as tears slid down his sweet face and began to open his mouth in response.

Before he could utter a word, the entire store errutped in an ovation of applause and cheers.  Fellow workers called out, “That’s right!”  and “That’s John.”  The manager on duty came over to shake his hand, but clasped his shoulder instead.

This kind, giant of a man had begun to sob.  He choked out through a tear flooded face, “No one’s ever given me a flower before.”

“Merry Christmas, John,” I said.

His eyes shone as he looked down at me, cradling his plant like a newborn.

“Thank you,” he said.

“Thank you, John.” I replied as he walked away, bear arms encircling his white flowers, to take a quick breath.

People continued to clap as I left the store.

When I returned to the truck, tears were on The Husband’s face also.  All the kids were up, faces bright, eyes alight with the joy of what they had seen.

“Wow!” the boy exclaimed as his eyes met my own.


The six of us knew with certainty in that moment, from the source of Love itself that has grown deeper over the years, that Operation Poinsettia is a call over our hearts and lives.

Quite simply, we rejoice and dwell in its possibilities.

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah


Jammies Inside Out, Flush an Icecube, & Dance!

Posted by jael on Dec 15, 2010 in Parenting

The weather outside might get frightful.

As such, in hopeful anticipation of the first snow day of the year, my girls have pulled out all their lucky snow dance rituals.

They all have their jammies inside out.

They just reported to the powder room to simultaneously flush ice cubes.  As they plop them into the bowl, each enchants a snow day wish.


“Hot chocolate.”

“Movies and popcorn.”

“One, two, three, FLUSH!” they scream as they flush their emissaries of snow forward in hopes of a day off school.

The snow dances come next.  Each girl shimmies and shakes it to call the snow come.

The Boy, too old now for such foolery, is in his room saying nay and studying for a geometry quiz.

The weather report suggests there’s a chance…

I know what you’re wondering.

I absoultuely have my jammies on inside out, and am about to sign off to go flush an ice cube!

Do you have any idea how many gifts I can complete and wrap if there is no school tomorrow!

“Sleeping late.”

“Packing up the last box.”

“Staying home.”

Gotta go, I owe the potential snow a dance with The Mamma!

Come snow, come!

And even though
It all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah!


Top 10 Things Not Mentioned in This Year’s Christmas Letter

Posted by jael on Dec 14, 2010 in Parenting, Spiritual Journey

So my mom was here last night, and she’s a big fan of the Christmas letter.  We can always tell when she is about to pen hers, because she calls for a family photo with the urgency of a trauma surgeon, “I need a digital image of your entire family stat!”  It’s often a three call, two email process.  As I am the world’s most horrible daughter, she usually has to remind me at least once to get on task.  Once I finally send the shot, she will follow with an email to ask some obscure context question I have yet been trained to include in the photo’s caption.  “Where did “The Middle Girl,” get that pink sweater she is wearing?  Why is the boy squinting, did he have a headache?”  My honest answer, “I haven’t got a clue,” doesn’t please her, so I have learned to take creative license.  “He just got sneezed on by a wasp,” or “He heard a squirrel cry.”

My mom writes a perky letter each year; she puts a lot of effort into it and is proud of her results.  She includes pictures of each family and crows about the grandbabies.  She publishes highlights from her year’s travels and extends her holiday wishes.  All the pictures frame smiling faces.  Some even sport a sunburned nose or two.  All the stories are positive quips about laudable outcomes.

It’s not just my mom that writes such letters.  It’s become something of a social icon.  The Christmas letter markets families like an end cap cereal display in Super Walmarts.  A bit like a commercial for feminine products, Christmas letters never show the stain on white pants.  All this got me thinking about what people don’t include in Christmas letters…

Top 10 Things Not Mentioned in This Year’s Christmas Letter

10.  My daughter brought Ex-lax laden brownies to cheerleading try-outs to eliminate the competition.

9.  I pretended to have food poisoning to get out of the school’s annual Silent Auction.

8.  My husband paid a teacher to take and tank the SAT under a rival student’s name to get our precious baby a better class ranking.

7.  I regularly search the homes of my pet sitting clients for hidden unmentionables.

6.  My son got arrested for spray painting a yak at the city zoo.

5.  Our baby got expelled from school for repeated incidents of public lewdness and intoxication.

4.  I stalk clowns.

3.  I accidentally hit Reply All and inadvertently told my son’s entire middle school class how grateful I was to my husband for a hot date the night before.

2.  The Homeowners Association sent us a letter stating that there were numerous neighborhood complaints about my shrill screaming.

1.  We don’t want to write this stupid Christmas letter anymore than you want to read it!

Heck, were any of the above topics the content matter, maybe such holiday epistles would be worth reading, cheesy grin pictures and all!

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah!

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