Posted in Balance, Holidays

I Dread Christmas

I Dread Christmasimg_1589

Like the cliched tangle of several strands of colored lights, I am a mess of knotted stress and on-and-off joy. For me, the Christmas smiles and laughs of surprise get swept away by the demands and deadlines of consumerism. First of all, why do we put so much money, effort, and worry into a holiday season? We spend hours spending dollars we cannot easily spare on presents most folks do not truly need or want. We drag out dusty decorations and spend more hours making our homes “merry and bright” for a few weeks of over-hyped, commercialized holiness. Why?
Perhaps when I was a kid or when my 20-something sons were kids, I enjoyed the getting and the giving. Back then we had Santa’s magic and loads of brand new playthings. Now I mainly see just the aftermath of the Christmas explosion: cookie crumbs, dirty napkins, discarded toys, and dead pine needles. And after the overdone turkey, off-key caroling, and cranky kids, all the cleaning and organizing and putting away looms large. Why?
I know. I know. “Jesus is the reason for the season.” But how do days and days of shopping and decorating and shopping and planning and shopping and cleaning and shopping and cooking and shopping and traveling and shopping and visiting and shopping add up to celebrating the birth of a savior who praised love over possessions?
Call me Scrooge or the Grinch or just a grumpy old lady. This is my truth. Christmas comes too soon and demands too much from our bank accounts and our time sheets. I enjoy holiday time with my family . I savor our delicious holiday meal. I enjoy the thrill of opening presents (and watching others do the same). I still get misty-eyed when singing Christmas carols. But I need to turn the whole thing down several notches. Today is December 14 and I have not bought my sons a single present. May I stick with my “single gift for each person” plan. My home has not a single decoration. May we simply trim the tree on December 24 and call it Christmas.
A picture of a Finnish proverb is taped above my desk:
“Happiness is a place between too little and too much.”img_3375
May this thought rule my life and especially my Christmas this year. A shorter and simpler holiday leaves me more time for true joy and peace.

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Shift Happens.

img_3280Shift Happens.
When I studied poetry with 9th graders, I told them to look for the “shift” in a poem. “Shift happens,” I’d declare. The poem may begin with a young girl crying over a loss in her life, but then end with an epiphany about acceptance of life’s impermanence. “Notice where the poem changes course,” I’d advise. There they could discover the poem’s kernel of truth.
Making sense of this recent political shift is a challenge. I read one comment that stated, “The people have spoken. Deal with it.” However, the popular vote did not go with the guy who won. The majority of voters SPOKE for Hillary. How do we all deal with the discrepancy? I do not believe the election was rigged or flawed, but I feel utter disbelief and confusion that so many voters supported a person I consider a bully and an instigator.
I taught public school for 34 years, and I saw kids from ages 5 to 17 who acted like this person does. I dealt with fearful, ignorant bullies who mimicked and insulted other students who were different. I handled these public assaults by counseling both the bully and his/her target. Other times I dealt with trouble-makers who tried to start fights in classes and in courtyards by using prejudice and hate to spur others to violence. Often these ringleaders would stir up the more impressionable or discontented kids in an effort to create chaos. These were kids and teens. How do we deal with adult bullies and instigators?
Calm and rational words do not tame people full of unpredictable bluster and unnecessary tantrums. How did a person who blurts out immature insults and encourages others to chant asinine threats gain the most powerful position in our government? And how do the people who voted against him handle our new reality? There is no ISS (In School Suspension) or expulsion for this bully. We are charting new territory now. Teachers often guide students who have opposing views to listen to one another and to learn how to compromise and collaborate. Who will guide this self-obsessed bully?
Let me remember that “Shift happens” in life as well as in poetry. Our country has felt a monumental shift. I have given up on predictions and likelihoods. Anything can happen. Right this moment fear and worry rule my head, yet I do not know what this major shift will bring us. All of us need to be observant and vigilant. Instead of whining and crying, let us use intelligence, wisdom, and strength to outwit instigators and out-maneuver bullies. Bullies may sometimes be beaten with hate and violence. However, blustery bullies may also be subdued with clever elements of surprise. If we reach out and connect with those whose views are different from ours, if we seek to understand and to learn from our differences, we may navigate this frightening shift in productive ways. The shift HAS happened. Now let us seek to understand its message. I am still confused, but I do know we all need to learn from each other and work at finding new American epiphanies. More of us have to come together and cooperate to navigate this new SHIFT.img_3282

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Don’t Forget the Elderly

Add these thoughts to John Prine’s “hello in There” message.

By David Ettinger

I recently came across this gut-wrenching poem, written by an elderly women living in a nursing home, and obviously someone who tragically does not know Christ. The author’s name is not known. Here it is.

A Crabby Old Woman
What do you see, nurses, what do you see?
Is this what you think, when looking at me?
A crabby old woman, not very wise,
Uncertain of habit, with far-away eyes.

Who dribbles her food and makes no reply
When you say in a loud voice, “I do wish you’d try!”
Who seems not to notice the things that you do,
And forever is losing a stocking or shoe!

Who resisting and not lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding, the long day to fill.
Is that what you’re thinking, is that what you see?
Then open your eyes; you’re looking at me!

I’ll tell…

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October 12, 2016

Strong, timely thoughts!! by Shane Gannaway

Here Are Things You Can Read


 taking a crack
at fall,

future leaders

smile smartly.

oh! how cute & rich.
later they’ll learn to bomb

people in a pinch
& look less-than-demonic

next to a devil
in orange dust with a golden
handle, dick, ego.

what does this november
hold for us? we all smile

wondering what will wave
up on our proverbial shores.
you haven’t heard, dear. it’s
death, far & near. tsk, tsk

your vote matters. don’t be
defeatist. a brown body burning

only scars those who see it. our news
knows how to let us sleep at night.
we’re america anyway, we’re right.
we can bury dead ethically. we fight
for freedom, and god, we look good doing it.

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(I read this at my mom’s memorial last year).


My momma’s nickname is Poulette, Cajun for lil chicken, because she was always pecking around, picking up, cleaning, cooking, just always moving. Growing up I remember Momma always with a dishrag in her hand, ready to clean any surface she passed.
I have many Momma memories, and one of my favorites involves my sweet Poulette and a hibou, Cajun for owl. I was about 17 years old and I awoke in the middle of the night to sounds in the front of our house. I hesitantly walked towards the sound until I reached the kitchen. Perched in our kitchen sink was a large barn owl! It was white, brown, and gray and about two and a half feet tall. We stared at each other in quiet surprise, and then I rushed to my parents’ bedroom.
“Momma, Dad, wake up! There’s an owl in the kitchen!”
“Wha? Huh?” my dad said.
“I swear there’s a big owl in the sink!”
Dad just rolled over started snoring.
Momma was already putting her robe on and coming my way. “A hibou? Let’s go,” she said. We cautiously approached the kitchen and stopped about four yards from the sink and had a staring contest with the owl. After a minute of silence, Momma went to the utility room for her broom. Silently, I motioned to her that I would open the back door as she shooed the owl outside. This seemed like a sensible plan until our blind cat Cupid dashed inside as soon as I opened the door and Momma was waving the broom at the owl. I started screaming, worried the owl would attack Cupid. Momma turned her broom to Cupid and yelled “Chat! Chat!” as she swept the cat toward the back door. Cupid quickly ran outside.
The owl did not budge.
The cat commotion shook both of us up, and Momma held the broom shakily.
Suddenly the owl flew out of the sink and toward our small den. At the same time, Momma and I were yelling and running out of its path. Then the hibou settled on a foot stool in the den. Next, Momma and I ended up in a short hall near the living room. Standing close to the front door we suddenly had the same idea: Open both front and back doors to create a draft so the owl knew where to escape! As I propped open the front door, Poulette Momma bravely raised her broom and advanced toward the hibou. My 5’ 2”, 100 pound mom, who shrieked and hid when she saw a small lizard, now had warrior bravery. Cowardly, I held the back door way open so it totally covered me as I peeped at the mighty Poulette’s face-off with that hibou. The owl had been looking longingly out the huge picture window in the den, and then he did that slow creepy head turn as Poulette neared.
With her broom above her head, Poulette yelled,”Shoo! Shoo!” and she lowered the broom and swept the air around his feet. The bird blinked twice, opened his wings, and smoothly flew out the back door as I cheered from my hiding place. Momma’s courage expanded as she whooped and continued sweeping the intruder out of her home.
“We did it!” I bragged as Poulette and I hugged and danced by the door. “What a big hibou!,” my momma declared. “But not too big for a poulette with a broom,” I said. She hugged me again, laughed, and said, “I gotta sit down.” So we sat in the kitchen and drank coffee and laughed.
We never did find out how the owl made its way into our house. Maybe it was stunned or slightly hurt and a strong wind blew the back door open, so it wandered in. Maybe some prankster put it in our house.
The Hibou Mystery has become part of our family folklore. However, one part of that story holds no mystery whatsoever. Poulette has heroic bravery when it comes to protecting her “chicks.” My Momma may have ended up in a wheelchair and she no longer rushed about the house cleaning and organizing her family’s lives. But when she looked at me with her crystal-blue eyes and gave me her pure-love smile, I still saw the spark from her brave spirit that chased the owl from our kitchen many years ago.


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a simmer is coming

A poem by my oldest son, a groovy poet (and of course I am totally unbiased).

Here Are Things You Can Read

There is a heat that rises up off the road
this time of Texas. It is supernatural.

You don’t even have to be adjacent. Stand 100
yards from a hot blacktop and still get smacked

in the face by it while you were expecting a cool breeze.
Only shelter is underwater it seems

sometimes. You got your swim holes and pools all over,
but if they’re good, they’re crowded. Even in the parking
lot of some chlorinated oasis you can see that summer-ghost shimmer
spread out over the cars and soon-to-be swimmers. It ain’t even past spring yet.

Get pool noodles fast, buy water guns before the demand goes high,
and pack up on popsicles and push-pops; a simmer is coming.

Just you wait till. We’re gonna feel the boil this time, baby.
The wind will drop, clouds will cease to speckle the sky, and hell is gonna hit hard.

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Rodents of Worry

Rodents of Worryscary attic 1

Rodents rule our attic.
Hopefully raccoons,
Maybe rats,
Or both!

XYZ Pest Control finds holes in the water heater’s door.
They spray wolf urine scent and set big traps
To frighten our Intruders.

We listen at night;
We wait and we pray,
Hoping the rodents retreat.

Rodents also rule my mind.
Raccoons of worry,
Rats of fear,
Both run rampant!

Friends and family sense my sources of anxiety.
They offer advice and tell me they care
To free me from my stress.

I listen and learn;
I read and I pray,
Hoping my rodents retreat.raccoonfamilyatnight




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What I Learned this Semester

henry james quote

  1. My keys to contentment are connections and balance.brass-key
  2. Not everyone’s keys or locks are the same.
  3. Social media is not always a devil.
  4. Technology is a fickle friend.
  5. Vlogs and “vines” create a kind of reflective “writing.”
  6. Four hours makes for a lonnnng class.
  7. Math, like riding a bike, will come back to you if you give it a try.
  8. Poetry does not appeal to everyone.
  9. Poetry does speak and will be heard in surprising places.
  10. Students, even studious ones, will SLACK.
  11. millieHaters gonna hate, BUT you don’t gotta hold on to their hate!
  12. Noticing is necessary.
  13. Only your dog and a baby 7 months old or younger give you unconditional love.
  14. I truly do “get by with a little help from my friends.”
  15. Learners learn more with time for reflection.
  16. Directions for cfriendslass assignments can never be too specific.
  17. Revision rules!
  18. Inspiration sneaks up on me and tests me and opens doors both dangerous and wonderful.
  19. People are NEVER too old to learn from the young.
  20. People are OFTEN too young to remember to learn from the old.
  21. Not even gumbo can lure everyone to a “final” gathering.chicken-gumbo