My Santa Hat

My Santa Hat is older than my children.

I got it the first year of college at Oberlin.

At that time, I realized three things

1. I missed my family and church (the churches were CRAZY as a result of 9/11 and I couldn’t find a good one)

2. I wouldn’t be able to do much preparing for Christmas

3. People hated to be wished “Merry Christmas” something about the White Christian hegemony in a very liberal arts school.

Plus I had my first round of finals coming up (yikes!)

so I went to CVS and bought this really nice $5 Santa hat, it is a dark red with a clothlike white trim

I have worn it since that Dec 2001, ….and (amazingly) I haven’t lost it…

I wear it to celebrate Christmas

I wear it to celebrate Advent, to bring Christmas into conversations is a “safe space”

Every Thanksgiving I get it out, and start to celebrate.

Sometimes I think that God works less like a thunderous mountain of justice…and way more like my Santa hat.

 

Robin McKinely is contemplating Christmas’ approach too

My talkative one….

My son talks as much as I do….my eldest one….

he talks, and talks and talks….

Some of his talking includes the following traits

1. Asking a question and then immediately repeating it, so there is no time to answer (sometimes including frustration that the parent is not answering quick enough)

2. Talking too much in class (of course)

3. Waking me up in the middle of the night to say something that is REALLY important to tell me…usually something we just remembered about school. (although his father does that too)

4. Asking for explanations…(this is beyond the why? stage) where everything needs to

 

Defensive tactics for Sir Talksalot include

1. Not even trying to answer…or pretending that we didn’t hear the question

2. Reminding him not to talk as much, trying to think of quiet activities to do instead of talking

3. ….ugh…finally I usually tell him that its sleeping time, not talking time….

4. Telling him we don’t know…at the go, it doesn’t work to say that partially in…

5. Take time out of the day and make sure to pay full attention and talk directly with him at some point during the day!

Ch 3: Shadows

I tried to leave quietly. And as I left, I lit a candle and left it in the hallway…out of sight, but giving shadows.

I don’t think she cried.

At least, not while I was nearby.

What does crying sound like anyway….

What would it feel like to cry? I think back on my howls, on my stompings, on my running, running, running through the yard. Even angry and lost, even when I was sad, I still was trying to break out, to bust out of this cage. To become free. I am not just my body…

But if I’m not my body? Who am I?

I left her in the shadows, alone.

So alone, like me.

At least I didn’t leave her in the dark.

Chapter 2: Big

I take a deep breath, then another, and another, and another.

I can’t remember when I started taking deep breaths.

Ok, concentrate on something else–how about dark, it could be a friendly dark. Maybe if I can imagine the dark as friendly, then I can imagine the…..big watchmacallit….in it as friendly too.

or maybe I should concentrate on breathing….

there’s a kind of snort. Its not really angry sounding, its more like a sigh.

A really breathy sigh.

OK breathing.

There’s a theme here.

one breath, two breath, three breath, four breath…..when did I start counting?

Ch 1: Eyes

I can see her eyes.

She is squinting and trying to look at me. I slowly turn my head from side to side. No light. I don’t think she gets much. She has to feel my breath though, she has to feel how close I am…I am in no way small…I make an effort not to hunch, it won’t help any. She might not see me, but she is going to sense where I am.

I’m just lucky that I have such good night vision.

It frustrates me though, I can’t tell what color her eyes are. They look….darkish? Perhaps. In all my years here I never imagined what she would look like. I don’t think I’ve seen a human in years…the man who was here looked so fragile.

I want to ask her what her name is, I can’t remember it.

I snort a little bit in my frustration…she jumps, but not violently. I thought this would be the beginning of the end. I thought that I would start to feel freedom, that I would be able to look towards the future.

I feel more trapped than ever.

I don’t remember humans, I don’t really know how they look or feel, I can’t even remember the woman’s name. And I don’t know how to ask.

I can’t ask her. her name.

I don’t even know the color of her eyes.

Christmas Books: Classics, Children’s, Adult’s, Books you didn’t know were about Christmas

Every year I look for a great Christmas book to read during Advent. Here are some that I enjoy over and over again!

 

 

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens: Ever actually read the book? Its a good read out loud Tale.

 

 

 

 

 

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis: There’s nothing quite reading about a land where its “Almost winter and never Christmas” when Christmas is on its way…

Miracle and Other Christmas Stories* by Connie Willis: A great collection of fiction stories that is about the true meaning of Christmas by the amazing author of “To Say Nothing of the Dog.” This is more fiction than sci-fi, but is SO amazing!

Skipping Christmas by John Grisham: Similar to the movie (Christmas with the Kranks), this very quick read talks about the ridiculousness and wonder of the Christmas hoopla

 

 

 

Mrs. Miracle by Debbie MacComber: Total popcorn, the first and best in this series. I do love a good Mary Poppins

type story is awesome, and the angels are awesome.

 

 

 

 

 

The Worst/Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson: A story of transformation from the worst things of Christmas…to the best…in fact I might say Skipping Christmas is an adult version of this same story.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Suess: My advice: do the voices

The Gift of the Magi by O Henry: a tearjerker

The Little Matchgirl by Hans Christian Anderson: ditto

The Night Before Christmas preferably right after you hang stockings and right before bed. Get 8 different copies and let everyone choose one to looks at, that’s the Hedges-Goettl way 🙂

The Nutcracker: If you can’t go to the ballet, read it. Or buy the advent calendar and read a little of the story all the way til Christmas

Velveteen Rabbit by Margary Williams: Starts at Christmas, ends with resurrection, best translation of the Gospel ever!

Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburgh: Beautiful, poignant, perhaps not a kids story (that’s all I’m sayin)

 

 

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: Starts at Christmas, ends at Christmas, life happens in-between Christmas…

 

 

 

 

 

*top recommendation

Church Event Guide/What I’ve learned in the last 4 years: Don’t do anything for free

Recently there was an article concerning the …..lets say staidness of overly churched culture….

How do you get a church to event plan beyond the church culture? Here are some guidelines to consider

Rule number One: Don’t do anything for free….it creates a debt mentality that is unhealthy for the congregation and the attendee

Church: Let’s throw this free event, then people will love us and come to church….

Potential Attendee: Free? Really, I bet that church just wants my soul, no way I’m going to that…

Church: We had a free event…why didn’t anyone come (or) People came to our free event, why aren’t they coming to church

Rule Number Two: If you throw an event, have a reason behind it (other than attracting people to the church…ideally have at least TWO solid reasons

ex: Let’s have a farmer’s market 1. it will support our local community and help reaquaint with the neighborhood 2. It will help our local economy–these are our reasons, we are sharing them with the farmers and the customers

ex 2: Let’s put on a play of Charlie Brown Christmas as a food drive because 1) that’s what Christmas is all about 2) we don’t want it to be free 3) because its for children, and if someone cries they can be taken out without money lost

I have found if you have 2 solid reasons, more and more reasons to have the event start to build…..eventually we realized a. there is no farmer’s market in our corner of the city b.people are meeting each other at our farmer’s market and becoming more communal c. its easier to come to the parking lot than the sanctuary (see the ps for more info) d. Won’t you be our Neighbor? we found a motto that described that we wanted everyone in the neighborhood to come to the farmer’s market, and that this reason should drive everything we do

Charlie Brown Christmas 1) its accessible to children of all ages (yay for a mental center coming to see it) 2) one of our actor’s father with alzheimer’s could wander around and enjoy the show 3) people don’t feel bad when their kids make noise because we welcomed the children and they didn’t have to pay “good money” for it. 4) People love to donate food, we got wayyyyy more than the number of people who attended 5) It’s multigenerational, children are seeing what their parents and grandparents grew up with so everyone enjoys it 6) It tells the good news but is not too preachy–many people who are spiritual-but-not-religious felt comfortable with coming to see Charlie Brown

Rule Number Three: No ulterior motives….Try, try, try not to have ulterior motives for putting on Events, because when you do, You hamper God!

You box the event into being successful based on a bunch of random info that you think is important, instead of running the event and then discovering what was important afterwards.

Discuss What Worked Rule Number 4: This is the one piece of advice that I MUST stress, talk about the BEST part of the events, discuss what worked, look on the brightest side, ok not many people came, did you get ANYONE new (?) that’s progress, did you learn anything about advertising (?) that’s progress, did the group do a lot to work together and enjoy certain parts of the process (?) that’s progress. Progress is incremental, you do not build a success story out of one event, but many

Rule number 5 You do not build a success story out of one event but many (see above).
Rule number 6 Try to do repeatable events. I find it take 12 meetings (rule of thumb) to know if something has failed. I repeat, an even CANNOT have failed until you’ve tried it multiple times: whether that be a Bible study or a playgroup or a concert series. That means if you meet once a week it takes 3months, if you meet once a month it will be a year. If you have an event every season then its 3years before you can write it off as a failure. (recommendation: if you have monthly events that are not really connected but seem to be a “thing” that are happening, start measuring those as a grouping, because you are advertising regularly.
(Rule number I’ve lost track, because it doesn’t matter how many rules there are) If you must count (altho I try not to) include your workers as attendees! They are there, they are making time and effort because they think this event is important, and you value your current members/community as much as your potential community (well that is the theory you should be practicing right?), include them
Another Rule Reinvest from the event: For our farmer’s market all our farmer’s fees went into advertising the market, we didn’t make a penny. For our Charlie Brown Play we turned it into a food drive to further teach the message of the play. Don’t do it for the church, do the event for the MISSION of the church
Final Rule: advertise, advertise, advertise: Get people to hand our pamphlets, send out invites, be sure to do that internet thing pick ONE UNIFIED IMAGE for the event and post it everywhere. It takes 3 times of seeing something to register. Put up NEW SIGNS for every event, it makes you look active, it shows your paying attention, it shows your reaching out and you care.
PS try to have events outside the church building (I know, I know that monstrousity costs a lot of money to maintain), but its a lot easier for a stranger to go to neutral ground then to come to your turf where you make the rules ex: its easier to come to the parking lot than the sanctuary, the fellowship hall feels less forboding than the chapel area and the NURSERY is a very friendly place if you make it feel welcoming. Also TRY To make things clear (where to enter, where to park, etc) you don’t want to make your people feel stupid before they even arrive<—my church is still struggling with this, but it makes a clear in-crowd, out-crowd thing…you don’t want that!

Reverse Black Friday Experience

Thursday morning at 6am I went to help with Equinox, which is a Thanksgiving meal program that serves about 10,000 in the Albany area….

I was really pleased to do this for the following reasons

1. My family is not the greatest financially, so I’m more able to give time

2. I have a 5& 1/2, 3 & 1/2, and a just 2 year old at home, so the theory of giving time is good, but not always possible, however my mother in law was in town, so I was able to feel like my husband had back up (he does the kid thing all the time, but he’s also our chef so……)

3. We are in the area….I usually don’t work over Thanksgiving, which means this is when we usually go to family (family comes to us for Christmas)…but this year we did a LOT of traveling…so my eldest asked his grandparents to come up and they obliged…

4. I got around to actually volunteering! They gave me the early shift, which I appreciated because it meant I really had the whole day to spend Thanksgiving with my family.

Immediately this made me feel better about the entire holiday…you know feeling worthwhile and all that…

I worked for two hrs…after which they practically kicked you out, so the next volunteers can get in…

I sorted bread, putting 2 bread products in a bag (trying to pair English muffins with the gigantic loaves so its more even) to be ready to pick up by the drivers who start their runs at 8am….

But my favorite part was the line….I had flashback to Black Friday…there they were over a hundred people sitting in their camp out spots (some since 3am I heard) waiting to be “drivers” to deliver the food…families and friends all sitting with boxes awaiting their food….

If we all did this…lined up one day a year to help people (instead of shopping) what a difference it would be….

Maybe it isn’t all year long…but I like to think how small starts…like volunteering for 2hrs…can make a huge difference

(The food is gathered in city hall since its the only place big enough to hold it all….a formal dinner is served to 500 people and 9,500 people get it delivered)

 

Also! Check out this for more Survival Strategies

Hunger Games: Female leads, Love Triangles and a tiny movie review

Katniss Everdeen is not a typical girl! (this article was written after my blog)

1. When I first read the first chapter I wasn’t sure if Katniss was a girl or Gale was a girl…..

2. She can’t lie: Notice how she’s always the last to know about the real plot (wait Peeta is actually in love with me, I thought we were just pretending is the first book, and a whole host of things in the second one I can’t name). Stereotypically

3. Katniss is not in a typical Love Triangle…I feel like the girl is usually caught in a direct competition where the ENTIRE plot rides the triangulation….Katniss says she’s too busy to worry about being in love…and I think she’s right.

4. Love Triangles don’t exist for boys in books, usual for Men there are two equally viable possibilities and sorting it out is more about what kind of life the hero wants to live (i.e. quiet and nerdy or fast and exciting). For girls its about who is the “RIGHT” boy…I think Hunger Games is more about the possibilities of living with Peeta vs. Gale as opposed to one being “right”

5. Katniss is a dunce about others but she is very self-aware…I like it

6. She grows (always important to me)

7. Every time you think you get how deep the plot is, it gets thicker

8. Its a study on PTSD

Tiny Review of Catching Fire (spoilers ahead)

Catching Fire is intense, people who are not familiar with the book tend to be surprised.

There is a lot more kissing than in the book (as I remember Katniss kisses Gale and Peeta once (for real) each…)….still I found myself taking it into stride

The “feel” is right: This is important because the pacing and details have to change some (the books are mostly introspection, which doesn’t translate to the screen”) however, I think the changes they did were (mostly) sensible for onscreen, and I have no doubt this is because Suzanne Collins has experience writing for TV as well as books

Finally! ending was interesting: I won’t give it away, but they uncover something that is a major mystery in the third book…wondering how they will handle this in the next movie….

Missing Link: I wish they did more with the minor characters, part of what is engaging for Katniss (for her audience and for us) is how she connects with the other characters, they missed that some with nuts & volts as well as the morphlings (who were barely onscreen)….also Peeta connects more to them and is particularly good with the morphlings which we completely miss…a regretable loss….

PS Cinna is my favorite character, I wish they gave him a couple more minutes of screen time about him “putting all his emotion in his work”

Overall: A great adaptation of the book…however ALWAYS read the book