2012, and (finally) taking my own advice.

I feel good about this past year. It was a great one, full of adventures and fun. I had some goals, I reached some goals, I made some plans, I followed through with those plans. And when I think through the entire year, when I sit back and go over the months and weeks and days in my mind, most all of it brings to mind the word "family," and to me that means the year was a total success.

I learned some lessons this year too, some easy and quick, some that took a bit longer. I think I grew more during 2012 than any other previous year, which is a bold statement, especially for someone who has a tendency to really pick apart themselves and look, look, look at growth and progress and everything in between. I think one of the biggest things I learned was something I thought I already knew. Something that I was even pretty vocal about knowing...but as always, sometimes we are the ones who should take our own advice most of all. And in my case, talking about how "you can't please 'em all," how you can't make everyone like you, those were my oft-repeated words in 2012 that finally (finally!) sunk in.

Growing up I've always been more of a pleaser than not. Mostly a "stand alone in my opinion" kind of girl, but even through my slight out-spokenness and confidence, there are times I would only really want to "stand alone" in my opinion if someone else was standing there with me. Or to the side, at least. And as a teenager my people-pleasing nature wasn't obvious but it existed, and I think it's what led me to make some of the decisions I did and later on in life stretch myself way too thin. "Please everyone, and you'll please no one" should have been something I learned as I navigated the world in my earlier years but alas, it took me awhile, and sometimes making a million plans had me come across more as flaky than anything as I tried to make everyone happy at once.

And then with blogging. Oh, blogging. It's really the curse of blogging, to care too much about what others think. But inherently I think bloggers must care about what people think, because without that I'm not sure if we'd continuously put our lives on display, no matter how curated. We'd keep it locked up, in private journals, because then it would truly be for us, not for anyone else. And when I moved from Livejournal to Blogger years back I immediately felt different here. It was bigger, not as private, and I felt like there were just more people to read my posts. And so that part of me, that little part that felt scared to really put everything out there, reared its head now and again and made me think and rethink the things I shared.

As my blog grew that all changed even more, and if you read through my archives you'll see me occasionally talk about blogging and how uncomfortable I could feel that so many people were reading what I shared. That went away though, and right at the time (I thought) I was really starting to not care about all of that, trying to just be authentic and me and stop putting up walls in my writing, I discovered a small forum about this blog on a larger website.

Oh, what a turning point for me. Embarassingly enough I became intrigued and began reading what a small handful of the forum's users wrote about me. I'd post something and couldn't help myself checking in on that site to see what was said. Honestly, how crazy of me to want to see what negative things were being said about me...I think back now and I am appalled I ever spent so much time looking! At first Hank and I would laugh about it, I'd try to shake off some of the more hurtful things I'd see being said, but eventually after going on that website too much (and later even posting to it numerous times, foolishly thinking being present would help the situation) I started to get upset. I'd let the negative things I read cloud my mood and as hard as it is to admit, it really affected me. I wasn't sure why I would continously check it- it didn't make sense to me why I'd want to do that, but for some reason I felt like it was important to know what was being said. And all of this from a girl who loved to talk about how she really didn't care what people thought.

This entire thing was a lesson in many parts. One, I realized I cared a lot more about what people thought than I'd let on. And two, if I wanted to continue to enjoy blogging I needed to quit caring immediately and get over myself and this weird interest in seeing shitty things written about me. So I did. I stopped going to that website months ago, and haven't been back since. I have no idea what is written about me, if they're still writing about me, and now (after lots of work) I can say I finally don't care.

But it's not just the site. The website was just a large piece of the entire puzzle, and the lesson extends into so many different aspects of my life. In the second part of the year a friend of a friend decided she "hated" me for no reason after meeting me once. Odd, and something I'd never experienced. My typical reaction would have been to try and make this girl like me...go out of my way to show her kindness until she realized I was indeed a nice person, and that her unreasonable hatred was way off (why oh why is that my instinct?). But thanks to the "website" (honestly so silly to keep referring to it as such but I don't want to send over pageviews) my immediate reaction was not to care. And to sincerely not care. It was her loss, all the way, and I didn't need some stranger to validate me. It was a huge turning point in my personal growth and an "a-ha!" moment when I took a step back and realized that I wasn't just telling myself I didn't care, but I actually didn't care. Yes!

Getting to this point has freed me in so, so many ways. I feel so much happier blogging now, more authentic and oddly enough, I feel a lot more comfortable sharing posts like this again. There will always be someone out there hating on something. Sometimes it's me, sometimes it's not. I'm okay with either. And when I think about this past year and all of the love and family and happiness I experienced, I'm so lucky to have had this lesson admidst all of it, because as trivial as it may be in the grand scheme of things, it's allowed me to really focus on all of that goodness. And now that I'm here, I can only imagine how wonderful this next year will be both online and off, now that I'm truly able to just be me without worrying about the rest. I'll be focusing on the positive in 2013, and accepting that not everyone chooses to do the same...and knowing that it's completely okay if they don't.


image above via

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Why God?

By Maureen Dowd | NewYork Times

December 25, 2012

When my friend Robin was dying, she asked me if I knew a priest she could talk to who would not be, as she put it, “too judgmental.” I knew the perfect man, a friend of our family, a priest conjured up out of an old black-and-white movie, the type who seemed not to exist anymore in a Catholic Church roiled by scandal. Like Father Chuck O’Malley, the New York inner-city priest played by Bing Crosby, Father Kevin O’Neil sings like an angel and plays the piano; he’s handsome, kind and funny. Most important, he has a gift. He can lighten the darkness around the dying and those close to them. When he held my unconscious brother’s hand in the hospital, the doctors were amazed that Michael’s blood pressure would noticeably drop. The only problem was Father Kevin’s reluctance to minister to the dying. It tears at him too much. He did it, though, and he and Robin became quite close. Years later, he still keeps a picture of her in his office. As we’ve seen during this tear-soaked Christmas, death takes no holiday. I asked Father Kevin, who feels the subject so deeply, if he could offer a meditation. This is what he wrote:

How does one celebrate Christmas with the fresh memory of 20 children and 7 adults ruthlessly murdered in Newtown; with the searing image from Webster of firemen rushing to save lives ensnared in a burning house by a maniac who wrote that his favorite activity was “killing people”? How can we celebrate the love of a God become flesh when God doesn’t seem to do the loving thing? If we believe, as we do, that God is all-powerful and all-knowing, why doesn’t He use this knowledge and power for good in the face of the evils that touch our lives?
The killings on the cusp of Christmas in quiet, little East Coast towns stirred a 30-year-old memory from my first months as a priest in parish ministry in Boston. I was awakened during the night and called to Brigham and Women’s Hospital because a girl of 3 had died. The family was from Peru. My Spanish was passable at best. When I arrived, the little girl’s mother was holding her lifeless body and family members encircled her.
They looked to me as I entered. Truth be told, it was the last place I wanted to be. To parents who had just lost their child, I didn’t have any words, in English or Spanish, that wouldn’t seem cheap, empty. But I stayed. I prayed. I sat with them until after sunrise, sometimes in silence, sometimes speaking, to let them know that they were not alone in their suffering and grief. The question in their hearts then, as it is in so many hearts these days, is “Why?”
The truest answer is: I don’t know. I have theological training to help me to offer some way to account for the unexplainable. But the questions linger. I remember visiting a dear friend hours before her death and reminding her that death is not the end, that we believe in the Resurrection. I asked her, “Are you there yet?” She replied, “I go back and forth.” There was nothing I wanted more than to bring out a bag of proof and say, “See? You can be absolutely confident now.” But there is no absolute bag of proof. I just stayed with her. A life of faith is often lived “back and forth” by believers and those who minister to them.
Implicit here is the question of how we look to God to act and to enter our lives. For whatever reason, certainly foreign to most of us, God has chosen to enter the world today through others, through us. We have stories of miraculous interventions, lightning-bolt moments, but far more often the God of unconditional love comes to us in human form, just as God did over 2,000 years ago.
I believe differently now than 30 years ago. First, I do not expect to have all the answers, nor do I believe that people are really looking for them. Second, I don’t look for the hand of God to stop evil. I don’t expect comfort to come from afar. I really do believe that God enters the world through us. And even though I still have the “Why?” questions, they are not so much “Why, God?” questions. We are human and mortal. We will suffer and die. But how we are with one another in that suffering and dying makes all the difference as to whether God’s presence is felt or not and whether we are comforted or not.
One true thing is this: Faith is lived in family and community, and God is experienced in family and community. We need one another to be God’s presence. When my younger brother, Brian, died suddenly at 44 years old, I was asking “Why?” and I experienced family and friends as unconditional love in the flesh. They couldn’t explain why he died. Even if they could, it wouldn’t have brought him back. Yet the many ways that people reached out to me let me know that I was not alone. They really were the presence of God to me. They held me up to preach at Brian’s funeral. They consoled me as I tried to comfort others. Suffering isolates us. Loving presence brings us back, makes us belong.
A contemporary theologian has described mercy as “entering into the chaos of another.” Christmas is really a celebration of the mercy of God who entered the chaos of our world in the person of Jesus, mercy incarnate. I have never found it easy to be with people who suffer, to enter into the chaos of others. Yet, every time I have done so, it has been a gift to me, better than the wrapped and ribboned packages. I am pulled out of myself to be love’s presence to someone else, even as they are love’s presence to me.
I will never satisfactorily answer the question “Why?” because no matter what response I give, it will always fall short. What I do know is that an unconditionally loving presence soothes broken hearts, binds up wounds, and renews us in life. This is a gift that we can all give, particularly to the suffering. When this gift is given, God’s love is present and Christmas happens daily

Currently. (Henry's version)

Henry's wearing: H&M beanie // Mini Boden coat // Hi by Hello leggings // Hunter boots

Watching: Dumbo. Seriously, Henry would watch Dumbo ALL DAY LONG if I let him. He loves it more than he loves Thomas the Train, if that's even possible. His favorite part of the it is the part where the crows sing "When I See An Elephant Fly." He lets out the biggest belly laughs every time.

Loving: what we call "sampler" lunches. Right now his lunch of choice is a plate of apples, pickles, cheese and crackers. It's so fun now because I can say, "Henry, what do you want for lunch today?" and he answers..which still blows my mind. A lot of the time he'll say "A cookie, Mommy!" but then will laugh and say, "Nooo...okay, I want pickles. And cheese. And crackers. And an apple. On a plate! ...while watching DUMBO!" Smart kid.

Listening to: He has the same few songs he's always into, and every once and awhile I'll put a song on (we listen to Spotify while driving and at home) he'll say "ooh I like this one!" and I'll add it to his little playlist of Henny-approved music. Right now he's really into The Gaslight Anthem. I wonder where he got that from?

Going: to his 2 year appointment, a month late. I'm not sure why it was scheduled for last week, but it was, so we went! Henry did great with his one shot (we're on the Dr. Sears schedule if anyone's interested), and he didn't even cry which was really surprising. He HATES the ear thing though and screams bloody murder until it's put away, so that wasn't so fun. At his appointment he was 3 feet, 1 inch and 31 pounds. Big kid and growing like a weed. It's so fun to see his growth, and pretty crazy to think his next appointment isn't until he's 3 years old. It seems so far away but I know it will be here in the blink of an eye. "The days are long but the years are short."

Making him happy: Candy Cane Joe-Joe's from Trader Joe's, the song Jingle Bells over and over- all versions including the barking dog rendition, classic holiday movies like Frosty but not like Rudolph (the Abominable Snowman is scary), FaceTiming with Gigi and Poppy, bear hugging Madeline, waking up so slowly then finally yelling "Come onnnnn Mommy! I'm awaaaaaake!" once he actually gets up, fruit and more fruit, waffles with peanut butter, his beanies, kicking the soccer ball and dunking his basketball in the hoop, dumptrucks and garbage trucks, and all Daddy all the time!

So, how about you? What are you up to today? Feel free to do your own "currently" post on your blog (for you or your little one!) and link back in the comments for everyone to check out. And thanks again to my dear friend Megan for providing the original inspiration for these posts. See previous Currently posts here.

Video: We wish you a Merry Christmas!

We wanted to wish all of you the merriest of Christmases, and the happiest of holidays. Hank (always such a good sport), Henry and I made a silly little video to mark the occasion. I also wanted to take a moment and say thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart for making this past year so wonderful. Each of you who take time out of your day to stop by, comment, say hello, whatever, make my day every single day! So much love to you.

Christmas2012 from DH on Vimeo.

Happy Things

 my Dad and me on my wedding day- May 31, 2008

waking up yesterday morning at 9am (yes! 9am!) and realizing Hank got up with Henry hours ago, and they were both playing quietly in the living room.

Crossfit this morning and the insanely hard workout we did- the "12 days of Crossfit Christmas."

little reminders to stop and be thankful for all of this, every single last bit, from the shoes on my feet to the roof over our head, to the cheese on my sandwich to the wreath on our door.

that Henry thinks my singing is amazing (when it so clearly isn't!).

dreaming of futures with this little family of mine, getting excited for all that is to come.

rediscovering old music that takes you back to where you first hear it, right down memory lane to forgotten places and long-lost friends.

the many Christmas cards hanging in our kitchen, little reminders of all the love in our life.

this space, and being able to come here and have this outlet to share what's on my mind. This is one of my happy places, for sure.


friends being in town and waking up every morning to a full house. Henry is in heaven.

and most importantly that Dad's heart surgery this morning went SO well. He's had a couple heart attacks (and actually "died" twice and was in a coma for awhile in 2009 after a horrible heart attack and episode), but they've finally figured out the problem and this morning he had an outpatient procedure/surgery called "RF cardio ablation" to correct his abnormal heart rhythm. They opened up the surgery center just for him and were about to locate the errant circuit and fix it, and now his heart is as good as new! If you've been following my blog for awhile you know what we've been through with my Dad's health, so this is absolutely amazing and SUCH a wonderful Christmas present to hear that his heart is perfect now.

Wishing you and yours the happiest of Christmases tomorrow, and a beautiful Christmas Eve tonight



DIY Gift Idea and Tutorial: Santa's Helper & Letter

Erin is back to share another super fun tutorial with all of you. If you missed last month's Magic Suitcase DIY be sure to check it out- it's amazing! And today's project is just as wonderful.

Erin sent a little plush cutie to Henry as his Christmas present, and he is IN LOVE with it. I adore the whole idea behind it - similar to Elf on the Shelf (although E. had no idea what that was when I brought it up, hah!), but way cuter and not as creepy. Plus, what's better than handmade?  The entire project consists of the little plushie and a letter from Mrs. Claus that talks about how she collects Santa's worn out gloves every year and transforms them into magical toys that she sends to special little girls' and boys' home (enlarge letter above to see more). Adorable! Erin has also provided a blank template for the letter (download here) and graciously put together a tutorial for all of you to follow if you'd like to make your own "Santa's Helper." Be sure to bookmark/pin it for next year if you'd like to try your hand at it. 

And now, the tutorial! Thanks Erin for putting this together- you're amazing!

Happy crafting! xoxo

Pay attention or you'll never learn the story of Christmas

I don’t know how many of you read the comic strip, Family Circus, but I’m a fan. A few years ago, there was a great Christmas scene. In it, the young girl, Dolly, was sharing with her two young brothers the story of Christmas.  Here is how she recounted it, “Mary and Joseph were camping out under a star in the East…It was a Silent Night in Bethlehem until the angels began to sing…then Santa brought Baby Jesus in his sleight and laid Him in a manger… Chestnuts were roasting by an open fire and not a creature was stirring…so the Grinch stole some swaddling clothes from the Scrooge – who was one of the three wise men riding on eight tiny reindeer.”  And then Dolly says to her brother, “Pay attention, Jeffy, or you’ll never learn the story of Christmas!”

Although Dolly got the details a bit mixed up, she’s right – if we don’t pay attention we might just miss the real story of Christmas.   Certain media outlets at this time always like to talk about the War on Christmas.  Their coverage usually focuses on things like towns who no longer place a nativity on the public square or stores that won’t allow their employees to say “Merry Christmas” choosing something more generic like “Happy Holidays.”  And, although this perceived War on Christmas itself has become somewhat of a tradition, for me, ultimately it is a distraction. 

I think the real war on Christmas has less to do with public greetings and more to do with the ways in which we lose our focus and become more attentive to the worldly and materialistic details of this day – parties, presents, food and drink. I read a poll in the newspaper yesterday that said for 53% of people, there is no religious dimension to their celebration of Christmas.  They won’t go to church or services and Christ isn’t really a part of this day for them. But, just as Dolly warned, it can become to easy for us to miss the point of what we celebrate today.  Our Savior didn’t enter our world hidden under the form of a precious, innocent, helpless little child so that we could be a people of excess. 

Now, I don’t know about you, but this year feels like a different Christmas to me.  In the wake of what happened in Newtown just over a week ago, we’ve been reminded once again what Christmas is really about – it is about the preciousness of that little child; it is about a child who breaks into the darkness of our world and reminds us that we can be different; that we can be better; that we can be holy.  It’s about a God who wants to be near us in our sorrows and tragedies; who wants to lift us up to better possibilities. It’s about a God who loves us so much that He becomes one of us in the most tender and precious form possible – a little baby in that quiet manger on a silent night in that little town of Bethlehem.  This might be the first true Christmas we’ve celebrated in a long time – so completely focused on the preciousness of the Christ Child and what His entrance into our world means for each of us.

Children have such a wonderful power to shape the beauty of this holy day.  Perhaps most famously, in 1897, a young Virginia O’Hanlon wrote to the New York Sun: “Dear Editor, I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?”

We all know the heart of the response, “Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus,” but let me share the rest of what Editor Francis Church wrote:  “Virginia, he wrote, “your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see….Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

“Not believe in Santa Claus! You might get your papa to have men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see…Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding. No Santa Claus! Thank God he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

My brothers and sisters, we find ourselves tonight in a world desperately in need of belief in God, belief in Christ, belief in peace, belief in the power to heal, forgive, reconcile, and transform our world; desperately in need of the true story and meaning of Christmas.  We find ourselves in a world like that of 1897, “affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see.” Our world acts as though there is no Jesus. But, we, you and I, here tonight, can change that.  Just as Virginia asked the question at the heart of the matter, we too must ask in our hearts, “Tell me, is there a Jesus who can heal and save us, who can bring peace, love and joy to our world?”  And we must answer, like Mr. Church, “Yes, good people, there is a Jesus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Christ!” We live in a world that needs the true story of Christmas more now than ever before.

My brothers and sisters, O come, let us adore Him!  Let us be renewed by God’s love for us!  Let us open our hearts to this this precious, beautiful little Child who has come to be with us, to comfort us, to lead us, save us!  Let us be the truth of Christmas in our world.

Merry Christmas and may the Lord give you peace.

O come, O come, Santa Claus?!


Long ago, a wise and good king ruled in Persia. He loved his people and wanted to know how they lived – especially in their hardships. So he dressed himself in regular clothes and went to the homes of the poor. No one he visited suspected that he was, in reality, the king. One of them was a very poor man who lived in a cellar. The king spent time with him, talked with him, listened to him, ate his meager food with him and cheered him up before leaving. Later he visited the poor man again and disclosed his true identity. The king expected the man to ask for some gift or favor, but he didn’t. Instead he said in wonder, “You left your palace and your glory to visit me in this dark, dreary place. You ate the meager food I ate. You brought gladness to my heart! To others you may have given rich gifts. But to me you have given yourself!”

My brothers and sisters, beginning tomorrow night we will celebrate something very similar.  Christmas celebrates that the King of kings left His divine glory and came to our dreary world to share with us our poverty, our struggles and challenges. Like our story, Jesus didn’t just come to give us a gift or a favor, He came and gave us Himself.  

This has been the challenge of this entire Advent season, a challenge made ever more urgent as Advent comes to a close – who’s arrival are we preparing for?  When we think about it, there’s a choice, and most people are preparing for the arrival of one of two people. Are we preparing for the arrival of Jesus?  Or are we preparing for the arrival of Santa Claus?  We’ve all seen the bumper stickers and pins that say, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season,” or “Keep Christ in Christmas.”  We all know the challenge of the busyness of this time of year.  I’m sure that the malls and the roads will be crazy today.  I’m sure that people will be scurrying around picking up those last minute presents (I’ll be among them actually).  And as much fun as all of that is, Advent reminds us that we are preparing for something so much bigger, so awesome, so much more monumental than presents and Santa Claus.  So, who’s arrival are we preparing for?

We can learn something important by looking at some key differences between Jesus and Santa.  What does each of them do?  Tradition tells us that Santa Claus rides in an open sleigh giving gifts to children who have been good – so be good for goodness sake.  Santa leaves the gifts under the Christmas tree, perhaps enjoys some cookies and milk and then disappears until next year.

Jesus, however, does something very different.  Jesus does not leave a gift and disappear.  Instead, Jesus is the gift.  Jesus comes to live with us. He comes to share our human condition. His very presence is the gift. And, as the poor man in our story knows, being with the king is far more satisfying than merely receiving a gift from the king.  Most importantly, Jesus does not disappear not to be seen again for another year.  Jesus gives us all of Himself and gives us His real presence in our lives forever at each and every Eucharist.  Talk about the gift that keeps on giving!

So, who’s arrival are you ready for?  Preparing for Santa is a very hurried preparation, one that involves lots of activity, lots of rushing around, lots of hustle and bustle.  Preparing for Jesus is much more internal, much more prayerful, much more transformative.  The King of kings wants to visit our households, wants to visit our families, our friends, our lives.  Will we welcome Him?  Will we have the time or the quiet space to welcome Him into our homes and into our hearts? With the hours remaining, how will we prepare for His arrival?

Today we are just like the poor man in our story. Like him, our hearts should be full of joy, not in the extra gift the king will give us but in the fact that the king has come to be with us, to become one of us. Let us prepare well so that we can exclaim with the poor man, “To others you may have given rich gifts. But to me you have given yourself!”  Come, Lord Jesus.

May the Lord give you peace.

Weekend Links

An Afternoon at the Park

Happy Friday! It's the weekend- and a holiday weekend at that- so there's a lot to be excited about. I didn't do a links post last week, so this installment has a lot of goodness from last week and this one too. Enjoy!


Have you checked out my "favorites" page? I just got it going and will be changing it up with fresh links and picks every month.

And speaking of favorites, here is my new favorite blog.

This is a must read, especially around the holidays.

My pal Casey featured us over on the Disney Baby blog last week. So sweet!

To be a kid again.

Thinking a lot about the idea of "slow blogging." There are posts all over about it right now- here are a couple: one and two.

I couldn't pick a favorite post to share if I wanted to- I just love Mara's blog.

One second everyday from the last year- fascinating!

Anxiously awaiting our new stamp from Laurie Breaker! How cute are they?!

Apple pear butter. What a wonderful gift too!

Please read this, and help if you can. 

Hello, one million things I want!

Great coat rack DIY on Carly's blog. And while you're there, look around...I love her space.

Bringing home a newborn.

Great little peek into Sara's world. And maybe I'm just nosy but I love reading these lists of random things about people!

Fabulous playlist.

One of my readers Bettina makes the cutest clothes for little boys- check out her shop's Facebook. And take a look at Outfit Additions as well- great accessories at a great price!

An eco-vegan gift guide from The Kind Life.

Is it possible to be in love with paper cups?

Enjoyed reading about Jen's home birth choice.

Collecting things- one of Henry's favorite things to do!

A simple Christmas.

Some sponsor discount codes: 20% off at Feathers and Sinew with code "Dream20" and 20% at Zaia with code "Xmas20."

Some blogs to visit- say hi to Laura, Cathy, and Denene!


I remember sneaking out of bed at four in the morning...

Christmas 2011

I remember sneaking out of bed at four in the morning, still so dark it seemed green in our living room, as I would stand for a moment taking it all in. Bites in the cookies, half of the milk gone. Presents (so many presents!) under the tree, our stockings down from the mantle filled to the brim with tiny wrapped goodies that were always my favorite part of the next day.  I padded around our wood floor in pajamas, looking at everything, while the almost-inaudible whirr of the Christmas village, the tiny ice skaters going around and around, filled the silence between my footsteps. It was magic then, in the green night-almost-morning air, as I sprinted silently back to my bedroom, burying myself in my comforter, and waited out the night until that first  sliver of sun popped up over the trees, letting me know it was finally time for our Christmas to begin.

And now Henry gets to enjoy all of this magic too. This is the first year we'll be putting out cookies and milk for Santa, and carrots for his reindeer. We rode the Polar Express, and he understood that yes, this is Santa. He'll know what's going on when he goes to bed on the 24th, and when he wakes up the next morning he will know Christmas has arrived! He's not quite at the age where he fully understands the holidays, but he knows enough to get excited and to grasp the idea that all of our family will be in one place, celebrating a wonderful day.

So I ask you, what special traditions do you and your family do? I love to hear about the ways other families celebrate, be it Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or if you don't celebrate any holidays, perhaps you observe the Winter Solstice in a special way, or just mark the season somehow. I'd be so honored to hear about it, so feel free to share below. I think it will be great to read through the comments, and maybe even get some fun ideas to incorporate into our own celebrations.

As for us, we always decorate as soon as December 1st rolls around (although next year I am aiming for Thanksgiving weekend) while listening to Christmas music. We bake cookies, visit Santa, and like I mentioned above, this year we rode the Polar Express which will definitely become a yearly tradition as long as Henry enjoys it.

Now it's your turn...

Happy everything!

Bishops Call For Action In Response To Newtown Tragedy

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WASHINGTON—In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, the chairmen of three committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a joint statement to decry violence in society. The bishops repeated the call from Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of USCCB, who expressed on the day of the horrible tragedy, deepest sorrow for all the victims and a call to work for peace in our homes, streets and world. They called on all Americans, especially legislators, to address national policies that will strengthen regulations of firearms and improve access to health care for those with mental health needs.
"As Catholic Bishops, we join together with the President of our Conference, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who on the day of the horrible tragedy expressed his profound solidarity with and prayers for the families, friends, neighbors, and communities whose hearts have been rent by the loss of a child or loved one," said Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, and Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
The bishops are chairmen of the USCCB's Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Committee on Communications; and the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, respectively. "Sacred Scripture reminds us time and again to 'be not afraid.' Indeed, we must find within ourselves the faith-filled courage to address the challenges our nation faces, both in our homes and in our national policies," they said.
They also addressed the need for healthcare policies that provide support to people with mental health needs, and called on the entertainment industry to address the proliferation of violence and evaluate its impact in society.
Full text of the statement follows:
Call for Action in Response to Newtown Tragedy
Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, and Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend
December 21, 2012
The Lord Jesus Christ, in his Sermon on the Mount, teaches us, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted," and "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God" (Mt 5:4, 9).
In the face of the horrific evil that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012, as people of faith we first and foremost turn to God and pray. We pray for those whose lives were robbed from them. As Catholic Bishops, we join together with the President of our Conference, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who on the day of the horrible tragedy expressed his profound solidarity with and prayers for the families, friends, neighbors, and communities whose hearts have been rent by the loss of a child or loved one. No words can capture your suffering. We look to Christ, his words and deeds, and ultimately to his Cross and Resurrection. It is in Jesus that we place our hope.
The Sandy Hook tragedy has caused great anguish for parents and others who attempt to safeguard our children. In addition to the outpouring of prayers and support from around the nation, understandably this tragedy has given rise to discussions about national policies and steps that can be taken to foster a culture that protects the innocent and those most vulnerable among us. It is time for our nation to renew a culture of life in our society.
Sacred Scripture reminds us time and again to "be not afraid." Indeed, we must find within ourselves the faith-filled courage to address the challenges our nation faces, both in our homes and in our national policies. These challenges encompass many areas with various complexities. Here, we offer particular words regarding the issue of the regulation of fire arms, the standards for the entertainment industry, and our service to those with mental health needs.As religious leaders, we are compelled to call on all Americans, especially elected leaders, to address these issues.
With regard to the regulation of fire arms, first, the intent to protect one's loved ones is an honorable one, but simply put, guns are too easily accessible. The Vatican's Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, in their document, "The International Arms Trade (2006)," emphasized the importance of enacting concrete controls on handguns, for example, noting that "limiting the purchase of such arms would certainly not infringe on the rights of anyone."
Secondly, our entertainers, especially film producers and video game creators, need to realize how their profit motives have allowed the proliferation of movies, television programs, video games and other entertainment that glorify violence and prey on the insecurities and immaturity of our young people. Such portrayals of violence have desensitized all of us. The massacre of twenty little children and seven adults causes each of us to reflect on our own understanding of the value of human life. We must improve our resources for parents, guardians and young people, so that they can evaluate entertainment products intelligently. We need to admit that the viewing and use of these products has negative emotional, psychological and spiritual effects on people.
We must also reflect on our own fears as we grapple with our prejudices toward those with mental health needs. Our society must provide health services and support to those who have mental illnesses and to their families and caregivers. As a community we need to support one another so no one feels unable to get help for a mentally ill family member or neighbor in need. Burdensome healthcare policies must be adjusted so people can get help for themselves or others in need. Just as we properly reach out to those with physical challenges we need to approach mental health concerns with equal sensitivity. There is no shame in seeking help for oneself or others; the only shame is in refusing to provide care and support.
The events in Newtown call us to turn to our Lord in prayer and to witness more profoundly Christ's perfect love, mercy and compassion. We must confront violence with love.
There are glimmers of hope in this tragedy. Many people, including some of the victims, made extraordinary efforts to protect life. In particular, the teachers, the principal, the children, the first responders and other leaders showed tremendous courage during the tragedy. Some sacrificed their own lives protecting others.
In their memory and for the sake of our nation, we reiterate our call made in 2000, in our statement, Responsibility, Rehabilitation and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice, for all Americans, especially legislators, to:
1.Support measures that control the sale and use of firearms
2.Support measures that make guns safer (especially efforts that prevent their unsupervised use by children and anyone other than the owner)
3.Call for sensible regulations of handguns
4.Support legislative efforts that seek to protect society from the violence associated with easy access to deadly weapons including assault weapons
5.Make a serious commitment to confront the pervasive role of addiction and mental illness in crime.
As we long for the arrival of the Prince of Peace in this Advent and Christmas season, we call on all people of goodwill to help bring about a culture of life and peace.

The end is near - AGAIN!


Two priests were fishing on the side of the road one day. They thoughtfully made a sign saying, “The End is Near! Turn around now before it’s too late!” and showed it to each passing car.  One driver who drove by didn’t appreciate the sign and shouted at them, “Leave us alone, you religious nuts!”  The car sped by and then all of a sudden they heard a big splash.  They looked at each other and the one holding the sign said, “Maybe we should just write ‘Bridge Out’?”

Given that the world is ending tomorrow – at least according to the Mayans – I figured that was a good joke to start with.

The end is near.  This is a strange thing in our culture.  I think in my own lifetime how many times the end has been near.  My first recollection is when I was in high school in the 1980s and Haley’s Comet passed by which it only does every 75 years, there were those who thought the world was ending; of course at the turn of the millennium we had our Y2K scare with the same predictions; then just last year there was that guy out in California who predicted the world was ending Oct. 21, 2011 – maybe you saw the billboards and here we are again with impending doom.  Now it is already December 21st in other parts of the world and I haven’t seen any news items of destruction yet.  I suspect we’ll all still be here tomorrow and the next day.

But, the end is near.  The end of Advent.  Just a few days now until we celebrate Christmas.  And believe it or not, there is an apocalyptic dimension to what we celebrate.  We are all very good at the part of this season that asks us to look backwards – we look back to Christ’s birth 2,000 years ago and what that meant for the world – and rightly so.

But, this is a dual-natured season, one that looks backwards and one that looks forwards.  As we recall Christ’s first coming, we’re also called to look forward to His second coming; to His return.  We even pray it in the First Advent Preface, “When He comes again in glory and majesty and all is at last made manifest, we who watch for that day may inherit the great promise in which we now dare to hope.”

Notice that word at the end – hope.  The end is coming.  When?  Who knows.  And as a follower of Jesus we can also say, who cares?!  The end for us doesn’t bring destruction and death and calamity. The end for the believer brings the great promise in which we dare to hope.  The promise of a world made new; glorified in the perfection that only Christ can bring it.  The end is not a sad conclusion; it is a Grand Finale that leads to something greater, something better.

The birth of Christ 2,000 years ago told us something important – our God loves us and wants to be near to us.  Our God dwells with us and holds us close in our joys and in our sorrows; in our tragedies and in our triumphs and He came to show us the way. It is a way that if we dare to follow it will lead us all to the most glorious reality anyone could ever imagine.

And that’s where we find ourselves right in between the Christ who came and the Christ who is to come and we are being asked once again: Will you let that little child be born once again in you?  Will you welcome Him as did Mary and Joseph in the manger?  Will you follow Him so that He might lead you to Paradise?
My friends, the end is near…or not.  But we stand here together, united, in the presence of a God who loves and nurtures us and always wants to lead us closer to Him.

Merry Christmas and may the Lord give you peace.

Don't tell me it's not about guns

I know some people are saying this is a time for grieving and mourning and not the time to be discussing gun controls.  I respectfully disagree.  This is most definitely a time for grieving and mourning, but if this moment can be the catalyst for change to increase the safety in our world; especially of our children; then we would be fools for missing this chance. This tragedy is not about guns alone. I'm sure in the days, weeks and months ahead we'll see it for what most things are - very complex issues and situations.  But, to say this is not about guns is just naive.  This is most definitely about guns and a gun culture that is out of control.

Also understand that this isn't an attack on the Second Amendment.  This isn't a call to get rid of all guns or to take away someone's right to self-defense. This is simply a call to be reasonable. Certainly there can be such a thing as too much.  Let's make some reasonable change for the good of all.

A few facts to think about:

  • In the United States, 31,224 people die from gun violence each year and 66,768 other people are injured by guns yet survive. [Compare that to England (39); Canada (200); Finland (17); Australia (35); Spain (60); Germany (194)] 
  • A gun in the home increases the chance of being killed by a firearm 72%
  • A gun in the home is responsible for a vast majority of children killed by firearms
  • A gun in the home is 22 times more likely to be used in a suicide, homicide or accident than to be used in self-defense
  • A gun in the home triples the risk of homicide
  • A gun in the home increases the likelihood of suicide five fold
  • An abused woman is 6 times more likely to be murdered if there is a gun in the home
A final thought for those who think that the solution is more guns:
  • Columbine had two armed guards
  • Virginia Tech had its own police department
  • In 2009, at Fort Hood, the shooter walked into a heavily armed and weaponized military base with armed and trained soldiers everywhere.  They did not stop him from killing 13 and wounding another 24.  More guns are not the answer.
This is a simple post to say that now is the time and simply let's be reasonable in finding solutions.  Let's not let this moment pass without effecting real change for our future.

3 songs I'm obsessing over right now...

All of these songs have been on repeat, over and over and over again. What are you listening to right now?

*those viewing via an rss feed be sure to pop out to watch the videos.

Do We Have the Courage to Stop This?

NOTE: This is what I think is a very balanced look at the gun problem.  The debate isn't all or nothing when it comes to guns. The debate is this: can we be reasonable?  - FT

Published: December 15, 2012
Children ages 5 to 14 in America are 13 times as likely to be murdered with guns as children in other industrialized countries, according to David Hemenway, a public health specialist at Harvard who has written an excellent book on gun violence.
So let’s treat firearms rationally as the center of a public health crisis that claims one life every 20 minutes. The United States realistically isn’t going to ban guns, but we can take steps to reduce the carnage.
American schoolchildren are protected by building codes that govern stairways and windows. School buses must meet safety standards, and the bus drivers have to pass tests. Cafeteria food is regulated for safety. The only things we seem lax about are the things most likely to kill.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has five pages of regulations about ladders, while federal authorities shrug at serious curbs on firearms. Ladders kill around 300 Americans a year, and guns 30,000.
We even regulate toy guns, by requiring orange tips — but lawmakers don’t have the gumption to stand up to National Rifle Association extremists and regulate real guns as carefully as we do toys. What do we make of the contrast between heroic teachers who stand up to a gunman and craven, feckless politicians who won’t stand up to the N.R.A.?
As one of my Facebook followers wrote after I posted about the shooting, “It is more difficult to adopt a pet than it is to buy a gun.”
Look, I grew up on an Oregon farm where guns were a part of life; and my dad gave me a .22 rifle for my 12th birthday. I understand: shooting is fun! But so is driving, and we accept that we must wear seat belts, use headlights at night, and fill out forms to buy a car. Why can’t we be equally adult about regulating guns?
And don’t say that it won’t make a difference because crazies will always be able to get a gun. We’re not going to eliminate gun deaths, any more than we have eliminated auto accidents. But if we could reduce gun deaths by one-third, that would be 10,000 lives saved annually.
Likewise, don’t bother with the argument that if more people carried guns, they would deter shooters or interrupt them. Mass shooters typically kill themselves or are promptly caught, so it’s hard to see what deterrence would be added by having more people pack heat. There have been few if any cases in the United States in which an ordinary citizen with a gun stopped a mass shooting.
The tragedy isn’t one school shooting, it’s the unceasing toll across our country. More Americans die in gun homicides and suicides in six months than have died in the last 25 years in every terrorist attack and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq combined.
So what can we do? A starting point would be to limit gun purchases to one a month, to curb gun traffickers. Likewise, we should restrict the sale of high-capacity magazines so that a shooter can’t kill as many people without reloading.
We should impose a universal background check for gun buyers, even with private sales. Let’s make serial numbers more difficult to erase, and back California in its effort to require that new handguns imprint a microstamp on each shell so that it can be traced back to a particular gun.
“We’ve endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years,” President Obama noted in a tearful statement on television. He’s right, but the solution isn’t just to mourn the victims — it’s to change our policies. Let’s see leadership on this issue, not just moving speeches.
Other countries offer a road map. In Australia in 1996, a mass killing of 35 people galvanized the nation’s conservative prime minister to ban certain rapid-fire long guns. The “national firearms agreement,” as it was known, led to the buyback of 650,000 guns and to tighter rules for licensing and safe storage of those remaining in public hands.
The law did not end gun ownership in Australia. It reduced the number of firearms in private hands by one-fifth, and they were the kinds most likely to be used in mass shootings.
In the 18 years before the law, Australia suffered 13 mass shootings — but not one in the 14 years after the law took full effect. The murder rate with firearms has dropped by more than 40 percent, according to data compiled by the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, and the suicide rate with firearms has dropped by more than half.
Or we can look north to Canada. It now requires a 28-day waiting period to buy a handgun, and it imposes a clever safeguard: gun buyers should have the support of two people vouching for them.
For that matter, we can look for inspiration at our own history on auto safety. As with guns, some auto deaths are caused by people who break laws or behave irresponsibly. But we don’t shrug and say, “Cars don’t kill people, drunks do.”
Instead, we have required seat belts, air bags, child seats and crash safety standards. We have introduced limited licenses for young drivers and tried to curb the use of mobile phones while driving. All this has reduced America’s traffic fatality rate per mile driven by nearly 90 percent since the 1950s.
Some of you are alive today because of those auto safety regulations. And if we don’t treat guns in the same serious way, some of you and some of your children will die because of our failure.
I invite you to comment on this column on my blog, On the Ground. Please also join me on Facebook and Google+, watch my YouTube videos and follow me on Twitter



Watching: Okay is it just me not paying attention or is this the first year that shows are getting a little crazy with these winter finales? What is the point? And don't these television networks know that the dead of winter is precisely when I want to snuggle up on the couch with a mug of something hot, and watch my favorite shows?

Thinking about: This quote: "Your personality is not set in stone. You may think a morning coffee is the most enjoyable thing in the world, but it’s really just a habit. Thirty days without it, and you would be fine. You think you have a soul mate, but in fact you could have had any number of spouses. You would have evolved differently, but been just as happy. You can change what you want about yourself at any time. You see yourself as someone who can’t write or play an instrument, who gives in to temptation or makes bad decisions, but that’s really not you. It’s not ingrained. It’s not your personality. Your personality is something else, something deeper than just preferences, and these details on the surface, you can change anytime you like. If it is useful to do so, you must abandon your identity and start again. Sometimes, it’s the only way. Set fire to your old self. It’s not needed here. It’s too busy shopping, gossiping about others, and watching days go by and asking why you haven’t gotten as far as you’d like. This old self will die and be forgotten by all but family, and replaced by someone who makes a difference." Wow, right? Pretty amazing. So often I feel like it's easy to get caught up in this idea of "well, this is who I am- it is what it is," and become complacent. But if you really, really take a step back and look at your life it actually is possible to be or do whatever you'd like. I think about Julia Child, who started cooking when she was 32. THIRTY TWO! Amazing, and such a reminder it's never too late to switch gears or focus in on what we already we know we love. I've been thinking about this idea a lot lately- thinking about my identity and what I've told myself I am, or what I can do.

Listening to: Christmas music, of course! I actually wanted to ask all of you if you had any favorite Christmas albums, I'm kind of stuck in a rut with my old favorites and would love some new music to enjoy for the next couple of weeks. Right now (and every year) I listen to the classics: Elvis, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, etc. But do you have any more contemporary favorites?
Excited about: BABIES! Last week our good friends Janay and Danny had their baby, little Harper! She's beautiful and I'm so excited to meet her. Then of course my sister is due so soon, and Andy too. And I feel like a million blog friends are all expecting or just having their little ones. I swear, there's just something in the air...

Reading:  I just started a new book called Driving the Saudis, which is subtitled "A Chauffeur's Tales of the World's Richest Princesses." Interesting right? It's a different kind of read for me but I stumbled upon it randomly and had to give it a go. I'll keep you posted!

Also thinking about: I came back to this space tonight hoping I could somehow figure out what to blog about. I type and type, and erase and erase. Everything I write sounds so trivial- it's all so meaningless and I feel ridiculous trying to add my two cents to something that cannot be put into words. I feel like I have no right to even comment on it- I can't even begin to imagine the magnitude of that sadness those families are feeling over the loss of their beautiful children and teachers, and I feel foolish even trying to attempt to do so. I don't know, I just feel like everything up there I wrote last week when I started this post doesn't matter. My heart physically aches for these families, for their loss, for everything they'll never get to experience, and I know that nothing I or anyone else is feeling even compares. But I wish I could help, do something, somehow send love to these grieving people. I wish, I wish. And I don't know how to even put this in words but it's times like this I feel even more strongly about my own non-religious beliefs. I don't want a debate about it, I know some of you believe and some of you don't...but I don't understand how this could happen if there is a god. I just don't. And I'm sorry if that offends anyone, but I try and wrap my brain around it- how if there was a god, how he could "allow" this to happen, and then we are supposed to pray to him about it? I don't understand. I really, really don't. And to be honest, I wish I did.


So, how about you? What are you up to today? Feel free to do your own "currently" post on your blog and link back in the comments for everyone to check out. And thanks again to my dear friend Megan for providing the original inspiration for these posts.