Need a “Little Christmas”

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My mom was all about Christmas.  She really did it up big.  She went way overboard every year.  Every year we waited for her traditional claim that she was “cutting back.” She tried hard not to say it and we conspired to make her slip up.  She always did.  And when the proclamation inevitably came, we would hoot, call each other on the phone, and herald the news that it would be another good year.  One time she asked my teenage son if he still believed in Santa.  His response was, “Yes.  She has red hair and drives a…” 

Scan 32 - Version 3When I became an adult, I tried to keep up for years.  I can’t.  I’m not even sure I want to keep up in many of the ways that she did it.  It’s a lot of pressure.  When I took over some of her shopping and wrapping and baking as her health deteriorated, I wondered aloud why she was so happy doing so much all those years.  It was her way, and she was good at it.

But, alas, times change.  We don’t have huge family gatherings they way we once did.  My entire family came together for the first 55 years of my life first at my grandparents’ home and later at my parents’ home to join in the full day of festivities. It started with presents, stopped for breakfast, and continued with presents. The rest of the day was spent cooking and eating, playing games, and laughing over well-worn stories of Christmas past. 

Once my parents made their permanent home in Florida and Mom couldn’t travel, things changed.  We’re now spread out across two countries and five states.  For a long time now my brother has spent Christmas with his wife’s family.  My sister goes to visit with her children wherever they are in the country or they come to her in Virginia.  Once Mom passed away Dad started coming to my home, but he lives in Florida, hates the winter weather, and has now chosen to stay there, golf, and celebrate with his girlfriend and friends. 

My Christmas celebration has become more and more pared down with the passage of time.  We don’t buy and buy and buy the way Mom did.  My son and daughter-in-law host Christmas every year because, after working in a grocery store during the holiday season, his biggest Christmas wish is not having to wear anything but sweats and not having to leave the house all day.  She has decided that Christmas dinner should be simple and involve no hours in the kitchen that day.  So our Christmas feast will look a lot like a deli buffet.

My friends don’t host holiday parties. Denise and Joe have our “chosen family” over for dinner on Christmas Eve, and I have the same group at my home for New Year’s Eve.  Last year I went all out.  I took out the mountain of Christmas decorations I have amassed and inherited over the years.  I made the house look festive and hosted a Christmas tea.  I enjoyed the time with good friends and the little ones in their lives.  I pretty much maxed out the number of people I could have here for a sit-down meal but everyone seemed to enjoy themselves even with tight spaces. 

This year I’m pruning back another couple of traditions.  I always search out Christmas cards that have a picture and message that says what I would like to say to people.  They have to be just perfect and involve a pursuit that takes time.  Many years, I created and printed my own cards.  All of this became a chore that added pressure and anxiety to my holiday.  This year the scaling back starts with not sending Christmas cards in the same way I have done in the past.  I will still find the just right cards but I’ll only be sending out a few to those I won’t get to see over the holidays – and I’ll write personal notes to those friends and family far away.  If I’ll see you tomorrow, I give you a hug and wish you a Merry Christmas.  If I’ll see you on Facebook, I’ll design a wish for one and all to send out. I will do no more than I can handle and will not put pressure on myself to meet some arbitrary Hallmark expectation in sending cards.

The other thing that I am scaling back on is the holiday decorating. I had one year that I wasn’t going to decorate at all.  Mom had died and with her my Christmas spirit.  In the end I forced myself to get out all of the decorations and go through the motions.  I did it in memory of her.  I did it because I have grandchildren.  And in the end it was good for me because I really love Christmas and the decorations.

I have more of Christmas stuff than someone with a house twice the size of mine should have!  Every year I swear I won’t buy another bauble, ornament, piece of tinsel…not even another Nativity for my collection.  That usually flies out the window before Thanksgiving hits.  (Confession time.  This year it happened before Halloween, but it was a really different creche.) When I’m putting the decorations up, I am listening to Christmas carols or watching a Christmas movie.  I am seeing my treasures that have been hidden away for the whole year.  I take out some and smile a moment reliving with old friends the memories they bring.  Some come out and bring a surprise because I had forgotten them.  Last year I took them all out and made the house look as Christmassy as possible.  You know what?  It was WORK!  And these days, I’m the only elf putting them up!  The adults have their own to do and the grandchildren don’t have time either.

And the only thing more work that getting them out and placing them around the house is packing them up putting them away!  By then I’m no longer feeling all sentimental about them.  I’m not listening to the Christmas music.  It’s over.  And I want it to be done with!  I’ve turned grinchy.  And as for those grandchildren?  Only one of them even saw the full blow-out last year!

So this year, I will decorate only to the point where I can see a few beautiful things that bring the season alive for me without an overwhelming amount of work.  I’ll put up the tree.  I’ll put out at least some of my Nativity collection.  And I’ll hang the stockings by the fireplace and the wreath on the door.  That might be it.  I’ll sort through the things that can go live somewhere else, and I’ll save the rest for next year and cherish them then.

Curbing the things that add work and anxiety will hopefully free me to find the “all is calm, all is bright” of the season. I will do the things that gladden and hearten, helping me to truly celebrate and enjoy.  Maybe I’ll bake…maybe not.  I’ll make a few gifts…if the mood strikes.  I’ll wrap gifts with beautiful bows because I like to do that.  And I will certainly hold on to

the sentimental and lovely things that have invariably filled me with the true Yuletide spirit.  I will listen to lots and lots of my favorite music.  I’ll watch Christmas specials and tune in for a few of those cheesy and wonderful Hallmark movies.  I’ll take Lily to see Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer at a local theater and the light display at a community park.  I’ll attend a special Christmas music event that a friend plans every year.  I’ll go to church.  And I’ll read Christmas stories – the ones written for adults and the ones for kids.  I’ll find an audience for some of them, and for other’s I’ll curl up and revel in the quiet warmth of a fire, a cup of tea, and a story. 

Along with my collection of Christmas decorations, I have a wonderful accumulation of music and books reserved just for this time of year.  In fact the depth and breadth of this assemblage forces me to start taking joy in them well before the arrival of Thanksgiving!  But that’s okay, because they are things I love, and they are not fattening, they’re not bad for my health, they uplift my spirit, and, perhaps best of all, they are shareable. 

So let me share with you, my friends, some of my favorites.  Today I’ll share the titles of some of my favorite Christmas music to get you started on the season.  You’ll notice I kind of like older stuff.  I love the traditional hymns and artists who sing these songs simply so that you can sing along.  You won’t find the sad ones.

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My favorite Christmas music:

    • Amy Grant – “Tennessee Christmas – I love all of her holiday albums but especially A Christmas Album, 1983 that introduced this song.
    • Kelly Clarkson – “Silent Night” featuring Reba McEntire and Trisha Yearwood – from the album Wrapped in Red, 2013
    • Bing Crosby & David Bowie – “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy,” 1977
    • Vince Gill – “Breath of Heaven” from the album of the same name, 1998
    • The Forester Sisters – “An Old Christmas Card” and “This Old White Doorway” from their album Christmas Card, 1987
    • Andrea Bocelli’s album My Christmas, 2009
    • Alan Jackson’s album Let It Be Christmas, 2002
    • Il Divo’s album The Christmas Collection, 2005
    • Martina McBride – “Do You Hear What I Hear” from White Christmas, 1999
    • And any Christmas music by Pentatonix, Michael Bublé, Michael W. Smith, Celtic Thunder, Straight No Chaser, and anything from the artists my mother and I sang along with over the years Bing Crosby, Andy Williams, Johnny Mathis and the rest.

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Later I’ll share some book titles that will get you in the spirit and make great gifts for the folks on your list!   And if you’d like to stop by to have a cup of tea and some music, for a story time, or to borrow any of these, my house will be the one with the wreath but not a lot of other things outside.

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How Far Away is Catastrophe?

 

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THE LATEST SCIENCE REPORTS

“Climate change is the canvas on which the history of the 21st century will be painted.”

 Mark Lynas, writing in “Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet.”

I’ve read stories about the most recent findings regarding climate change in many venues today.  (I am linking here to the BBC story because I found it contained a lot of good information, but it would be very easy to check multiple sites for the information.)  Scientists and researchers who study climate are warning of a climate catastrophe if nothing is done. There are those who still deny all of the scientific evidence. Our government has recently rolled back protections on our environment.  Many have denied scientific findings in the past and been proven wrong. Galileo was excommunicated from the church for his scientific findings, but he was found to be correct.  Me?  I believe the science.

Warnings of catastrophic consequences due to global warming and environmental changes are not new, but the date they have given for a dire impact is. And it hit me hard. 2030.   How old will your, your children, and your grandchildren be that year? I did the math for my family…

In 2030:
I will be 77
Dani will be 61
Laura will be 53
Travis will be 49
Ashley will be 44
Brittni will be 42
Chelsea will be 40
Kate will be 31
Megan will be 28
Chapin will be 27
Lydan will be 25
Samantha will be 25
Alyanna will be 23
Caydence will be 21
Lily will be 19
Cassidy will be 15

Who knows, I may not see it. But my loved ones will. I pray that we take this seriously and live up to our responsibility to do something so that they can all live long, healthy lives. Doing something now says that we believe these young people are worth caring about and saving. If the climate change science is right, we can save lives. If it is wrong, we will have a cleaner environment and we will not have harmed the future by doing better for our planet. Are you willing to risk your children’s lives?

THE FIRST STEP (as always) EDUCATE YOURSELF

HERE ARE SOME SHORT READS:

1 SHORT STORY FROM RAY BRADBURY – “All Summer in a Day” – A story that had an impact on me years ago that I first read in a literature anthology when I began teaching.

http://staff.esuhsd.org/danielle/English%20Department%20LVillage/RT/Short%20Stories/All%20Summer%20in%20a%20Day.pdf

2 MAGAZINE ARTICLES THAT SHOULD HIT HOME TO MANY LIVING NEAR ME.  THEY ARE ABOUT THE IMPACT BEING FELT RIGHT NOW ON ISLANDS IN THE CHESAPEAKE BAY.

https://www.newyorker.com/news/dispatch/tangier-the-sinking-island-in-the-chesapeake

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2018/09/climate-change-rising-seas-tangier-island-chesapeake-book-talk/

10ish BOOKS ABOUT CLIMATE SCIENCE including one novel that illustrates the impact. 

  • Chesapeake Requiem:  A Year with the Watermen of Vanishing Tangier Island by Earl Swift
  • Six Degrees by Mark Lynas
  • This Changes Everything:  Capitalism vs The Climate by Naomi Klien
  • Hot, Flat, and Crowded by Thomas L. Friedman
  • Flight a novel by Barbara Kingsolver
  • The Age of Sustainable Development by Jeffrey D. Sachs
  • Comfortably Unaware by Richard Oppenlander
  • The Sixth Extinction  and  Field Notes from a Catastrophe by Elizabeth Kolbert
  • Rising:  Dispatches from the New American Shore by Elizabeth Rush
  • Climate Justice by Mary Robinson

The Emperor Has No Clothes

I am a Christian.  I say that unapologetically yet knowing that there are people who will make assumptions about me that may or may not be true.  I watch the things that some who call themselves Christians do in the name of Jesus, and I cringe.   A “church” shows up to protest at the funerals of soldiers.  “People of God” practice and espouse white supremacist values and violence against those of other races.  I witness the lack of caring and the degradation of our fellow human beings because they aren’t from the same social class, because of the way they dress or their tattoos, because the are gay or transgender, because they abuse drugs or alcohol, because their skin color is different, Screenshot 2018-09-16 15.58.17.pngbecause they are from another country and speak a different language, or because they practice a different religion.  These are decidedly not scriptural attitudes or behaviors.  I am often horrified and want to distance myself from the name of the church embarrassed by what these people do and the reputation they have given Christ.  To many people who are not involved in the church, these are the characteristics of all Christians because it is what they see in public venues and in the media – including from programming that presents itself as speaking for Christ. (Example, an evangelist on television stating that the events of 9/11/2001 happened as punishment from God for our acceptance of gays.)  These actions of hate are driving the public opinion against Christians.
I do many things wrong.  But I sincerely pray that I don’t do things that embarrass the Lord.  I hope that I don’t practice “situational Christianity” as some people do “situational ethics,” but I’m sure that there have been times when I have done so.  I have overlooked a situation or a person’s statement that challenges everything I believe for the sake of keeping the peace with friends, family, and co-workers.  I fall short – usually on the side of what I don’t do – because of a lack of courage.  But I know that I don’t condemn, look down on, hate, degrade, or do things to harm those who are different than me.  I have things that I don’t understand in the way others choose to live their lives and things that I fully disagree with, but I try to acknowledge that the person is still a child of God who is as fully lovable as any other child of God.  I try hard to speak in terms of actions or ideas in my dissent…but I know that I often fall short, very short, especially in my comments about one person.
Our leaders are no different than the rest of us. Our parents, teachers, pastors, stars, and leaders are human.  We’d like them to be perfect, or at least better than average, but they are mere humans.  Some seem too good to be true, and the public promptly sets out to bring them down a peg.  We can still look to leaders and mentors as examples without their being perfect.  The disciples, the apostle Paul, and other heroes of history were not perfect, but we still look to their example as they were trying to do their best and were people of character.
We don’t have to agree with our leaders on every issue.  If I held out for that as the measure of a teacher, a pastor, or a candidate, well, I would learn nothing, attend no church, and never vote.  However, I must agree on most of the things a leader espouses in order to follow and listen.  In the case of a political leader, I cannot support someone on one issue alone.  I certainly could vote for dog catcher based on a candidate’s stance on animal cruelty alone.  But there are very few positions that only have influence in only one area.  A candidate who has ideas I can support on just education, just taxes, just human rights, just immigration, just the abortion issue, or just…whatever one hot button issue there is would not be a candidate I could vote for.  Similar stances on issues are not enough either.  No matter where they stand on the issues, we should to be able to see character, honesty, and a true concern for others in our leaders.  We should know that what they say today will be the same as what they say tomorrow.  Obviously politicians are known for promising lots of things that they never accomplish.  We should, at least, have the comfort of knowing that they honestly would like to accomplish those things and that their promises are not based on convenient lies meant to gain our votes and nothing more.  We should know what their core values are not only through their words but through their actions both on and off camera, both in and out of the arena.
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This is why many people have a great deal of difficulty understanding how Christians and their leadership can back certain candidates or leaders.  The argument that most give of “well look at the other candidate” – whoever he or she might be – rings hollow.  We should never have to make a choice between two lousy choices.  We should be involved early enough that it doesn’t come down to that.  We can also jump ship on both political parties and vote for a different candidate or write in candidates.
In this blog I usually stick to my own thoughts and my words (albeit with lots of quotes).  I don’t often share articles here, but I am doing it for the second post in a row.  The article I am sharing presents some ideas and questions I have been very challenged to understand.
More often than not my blog shares my love of books by recommending titles.  I told someone this week that my next post would recommend books and so it does.   Here are some books (both for children and adults) on character and leadership and people who demonstrated it:
  • Believe It  by Nick Foles
  • Character Counts by Os Guinness
  • The Emperor’s New Clothes by Hans Christian Andersen
  • The Generosity Factor by Ken Blanchard and S. Truett Cathy
  • I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
  • I Will Not Fear:  My Story of a Lifetime of Building Faith Under Fire by Melba Beals
  • The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines
  • Principle-Centered Leadership, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and First Things First by Stephen Covey
  • Profiles in Courage by John Fitzgerald Kennedy
  • Profiles in Courage for Our Time by Caroline Kennedy
  • Seeds of Change: Planting a Path to Peace by Jen Cullerton Johnson (picture book)
  • She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World and She Persisted Around the World by Chelsea Clinton (children’s book)
  • This is Our Time:  Everyday Myths in Light of the Gospel by Trevin Wax
  • Uncommon Life by Tony Dungy
  • Unified:  How Our Unlikely Friendship Gives Us Hope for a Divided Country by Tim Scott and Trey Gowdy
BACKGROUND ON SHARED ARTICLE:  The article I am sharing is written by Dr. Benjamin L. Corey who “is a public theologian and cultural anthropologist who is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and who received his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. He is also the author of the new book, Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, which is available wherever good books are sold. http://www.Unafraid-book.com”  It appeared on the website patheos.com which says of itself:
Patheos.com is the premier online destination to engage in the global dialogue about religion and spirituality, and to explore and experience the world’s beliefs. Patheos is the website of choice for the millions of people looking for credible and balanced information about religion. Patheos brings together faith communities, academics, and the broader public into a single environment, and is the place where many people turn on a regular basis for insight, inspiration, and stimulating discussion.
I do not know enough about the website to comment on the site overall.  I do know that, while there are some elements here I would debate with the author, I found the article very thought provoking and illustrative of a dilemma I have in understanding things today.
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Ten Little Monkeys Jumping on the…

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I first heard of the idea of “Monkey Mind” through a book that was recommended to me by a counselor.  I had never heard a more accurate description of what so often goes on in my mind!  My thoughts not only jump around like monkeys in the trees, they keep returning to the same branch over and over.  It is a combination of not being able to calm the mind, jumping from thought to thought, and dwelling on all of the hurts, injustices, mistakes, angers, and slights that ever happened on what another book called “the playback loop from hell.”

This article is a short but good one on the subject.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/mindfulchristianitytoday/2018/06/mindful-christianity-and-calming-our-monkey-minds/

Yeah So, Anyway…

Have you ever read anything and thought, “Yeah, that’s true”?  Have you ever read something and thought, “Yeah, that’s true, but…”?  I just had that experience reading a little book called Anyway: The Paradoxical Commandments – Finding Personal Meaning in a Crazy World by Kent M. Keith.  I read the book at the recommendation of a friend who was reading it at the recommendation of someone in her church.

Keith starts off talking about how he wrote the commandments and how they grew in popularity over the years being passed around the internet.  Sometimes they were attributed to that very prolific author “Anonymous.”  Sometimes others were given credit – even Mother Teresa!  I had seen them several times, thought they were kind of cool, and moved on.  Reading this book in which the author gives some examples and reasoning, made me stop to contemplate each one. 

I have to say that, because of my nature, I already do some of them.  They are commandments that would make for a better world if more people followed them all.  However, I have one problem following in them in my life.  I have trouble ignoring the downsides often.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t try to do things the way he describes.  It means that, when I follow his to “do it anyway” and get kicked in the teeth, I am naive or stupid enough to be bit surprised and really disappointed.  I wish I could have really contemplated these ideas a few years ago.  I wish I could have adopted the attitude of doing it anyway regardless of the warnings he gives being true.  I wish I could have accepted the truth of the negatives.  It might have made my last few years more peaceful.

I came to the end of a career where I thought I had made friends, did good things, worked on big ideas, built something, and did my best to help people.  But Kent Keith is right.  What I discovered were “positional” and some false friends, the good things I had worked on with my colleagues being thrown to the side, the big ideas were crushed for the convenient, and the very people I tried to help turning their backs on me.  I felt like my entire professional life had come to nothing.  I don’t think that is true.  I have had people tell me otherwise.  I am not sorry that I tried to do good things, help people, improve education, and help people.  I am sorry that I wasn’t able to detach from other people’s reactions and feel good, feel pride at what I did accomplish.

Late in the book Kent Keith says,

“If you try to do what is right and good and true, and feel that you have failed, you may be tempted to shift to the cynical option of exploiting others or the indifferent option of doing nothing.  But there is no justification for falling into the two immoral options just because things are not going the way you had hoped or because people don’t appreciate what you have done….

“The issue of appreciation is a big one.  Many of us feel that we are being taken for granted.  The people we serve (or work with – additional words from me) don’t appreciate us, so why should we give them our best?  The answer is that we have our own integrity and standards, and we derive meaning and satisfaction from doing a great job.  It doesn’t matter whether or not anybody knows or appreciates what we do – we still have to do what’s right.  We still have to be the best we can be.  This is about us, not them.  This is about how much we care, not about how much they care.”

I know in my mind that he is right.  I know in the core of my being that doing what is right and good and true is what I want to do. The part I can’t master is the letting go of my expectations.  I hit the “why did I bother” drum over and over in my mind.  I don’t know that I crave appreciation.  It is nice to have someone notice what you did, but I don’t do things looking for a reward or a quid pro quo.  What gets to me is when you go out of your way to help only to get thrown under the bus. I get beaten down and defeated by rejection and by false friends.  When you stand up for your ideals, the work you and your team took on, the programs you built together, and in support of others – well, you just kind of hope that someone will still be standing with you in the end and that some of the good will go on.

I keep working on not caring at all what others think or at least caring a lot less.  So far, it doesn’t work.  I was brought up to care too much about what others think.  I need to take the advice a friend keeps reminding me about.  “You wouldn’t care so much about what others think if you realized how seldom they do.”  It’s a work in progress.  And I have some books to reread and to suggest to you too worry too much about what others think.

  • Anyway: The Paradoxical Commandments – Finding Personal Meaning in a Crazy World by Kent M. Keith
  • Braving the Wilderness:  The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brené Brown
  • The Generosity Factor by Kenneth H. Blanchard
  • The Gifts of Imperfection:  Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown
  • The Ragamuffin Gospel:  Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out by Brennan Manning
  • A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen
  • Traveling Light: Releasing the Burdens You Were Never Intended to Bear by Max Lucado
  • Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom

Words Aptly Spoken

A Word Aptly SScreenshot 2018-09-04 22.02.50poken.  It’s the title of my blog.  It has been brought to mind quite a number of times in the last week as I listened to many give words aptly spoken.  I only wish that their words could have the impact our country needs.  I’m not going to write a long post today.  I am merely going to encourage you to go and listen to or read the words that were spoken by the people who eulogized Senator John McCain.  Leaders of our country from both parties came together to agree that here was a man who had courage, grit, determination, and character. They honored him as a man with a vision for America that was a result of his character and values rather than being in lock-step with party, fads, or public opinion. 

What you will find nestled in the words spoken to honor him are the characteristics that we would like to see in all of our leaders. 

  • A willingness to work with everyone regardless of political party. 
  • A commitment to ideals, values, and morals. 
  • The backbone to stand up for a belief in the face of arguments from your friends as well as from your foes. 
  • The ability to see the value in every human being whether you agree with them or not. 
  • The decency to give respect to an opponent by squelching rumors and slurs that are not true. 
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If you know me, you know quoting Hemingway is not something I usually do, but this one – from John McCain’s favorite book – is appropriate.

Take the time to look up the words spoken by Joe Lieberman (I, Connecticut), George W. Bush (R, Texas), Barack Obama (D, Illinois), Joe Biden (D, Delaware), Mike Pence (R, Indiana).  It will be time spent well especially if the words can initiate a change in the discourse of our country.

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New Hope for a New School Year

Back to school time has always been exhilarating to me.  It brings the anticipation of change and renewal coming.  Others may make resolutions and plans on January 1, but this girl always felt like the year begins with September stretching out in front of me.  The cooler air and crisp nights that are right around the corner are energizing to me.  And those schools opening their doors bring a possibility of learning, new adventures, and excitement.  

As a child, I loved the new school supplies and the back-to-school, fall outfit that I wore the first day even if it was too hot for it.  I approached each new year with new teachers and new classmates with eagerness and drive.  This was the year I would do it all right.

I cherished this time of year so much that it became a permanent fixture in my adult life as a teacher.  Each year as I anticipated my new students I had the same excitement that I felt as a child.  I still bought those new school supplies.  But they were a little different.  Instead of purchasing the fun notebooks and fine pens that I loved, I purchased supplies in bulk – notebooks, pens, paper, an abundant supply of Halls cough drops, and tissues – that my students might not be able to get.  I cleaned out my home book shelves of all the books I had read and loaded up my school shelves with books I thought my students would like.  I stalked the Staples’ back-to-school ads awaiting their special sale on spiral notebooks.  When that week came, my friend Mary Sue and I did our best to secure every spiral notebook that we could for a nickel or dime (They allowed teachers 30 each, but you can make multiple trips when you have over 100 students!)  My own back to school supplies included a few green pens and lots of Advil for me as well as an ample stock of wine.

I retired from teaching a few years ago.  I miss the anticipation of the new school year.  I miss the possibilities and the potential each year held.  Mostly I miss the kids and sharing ideas and books with them.

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Today I had a great time living that excitement and anticipation with a bunch of students I won’t accompany into the year or meet as they come home each evening.  New Hope Ministries held their annual “Back to School Daze Craze” today with a carnival atmosphere.  The children from kindergarteners starting out on this adventure up through seniors entering their final year were supplied with a new backpack filled with paper, notebooks, three-ring binders, pens, pencils, crayons, glue, and other things that they would need for the start of school.  Kids were given an extra treat that they picked, a scientific calculator if they needed one, a book of their choice, and a “first aid kid for the soul” (kits that had a Bible, notepad, and pen).  There were Disney princesses and Alice from Wonderland fame walking around and taking pictures with the kids.  They got things from other organizations in town from school supplies to mini-footballs, frisbees, and toothbrushes.  There were hot dogs, chips, and drinks.  They had haircuts, eye exams, and bike repairs.  There were face painters, fire trucks, popcorn, and cotton candy.  New Hope made this day a real CELEBRATION OF GOING BACK TO SCHOOL!!!

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I loved the excitement of all the staff and volunteers and how they spoke to the kids with the enthusiasm I always felt about this time of year.  Today I was working with the senior high students who came for supplies.  Even those who tried to be cool had that sense of ennui taken away when you looked at the twinkle in their eyes.  They studied the choices to get just the right backpack.  So many of them got really excited about picking out books!  I found my tribe there in the young book lovers.  The boy who devours science fiction, the girl who found the John Green book to complete her collection, the ones who picked up titles to show me their favorites already read.  Each came to those shelves eager for a new find. 

We often hear people say that when they give of their time and talents to help someone else, they are blessed far more than the recipients.  Today I was given a lovely gift along with all those kids.  I got to share my love of education and reading with some really great kids who truly appreciated what they received.  I got to share the day with others devoted to giving and sharing with these families.  What a joy it was.  Thank you New Hope Ministries for the blessing you are to the community and to me.

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