So The Girl and I attended Sunday church services with our favorite Baptist friends last week.
As you can see by this fun summer picture, I asked her to go with me because she is game like that.
I love the Baptists. Who doesn't want to go to a church that sometimes offers bacon, chocolate and Diet Pepsi during Sunday School? :)
My grandmother was HARD CORE baptist. No pants. No dancing. No drinking.
My mother was raised baptist. As she sometimes says, "We don't go there."
I guess it is in my blood, quietly simmering in there, deep down by my nerve endings.
So, when I see the window of opportunity to fellowship and worship with other faiths, I try to do it. Especially them.
My sad part of this tale is that that Saturday, some hoodlums broke into the church and stole everything.
Vandalized the whole building. They cut out and stole the security cameras. They even stole Christmas presents set out for the small party the next day.
Sprayed fire extinguishers everywhere. I mean everywhere. Through the sanctuary, the offices, the halls. If you happen to be from Alaska, you know what the soot/ash feeling of having volcanic dust everywhere feels and looks like. It looked like that.
So, it was with heavy hearts that they came together on Sunday morning, after the professionals had been in all day before to get it managable enough to use.
Dave's parents, Dan and Betty, attend there and are always our gracious hosts when we arrive.
He took us around and showed us the mess. It made your heart feel a little sad inside. Well, a lotta sad.
"We would have a printed program, but they stole the printer."
"We would usually have better Christmas music, but they stole the instruments."
While I have my opinions (I know... shocking) about how the pastor is not really connected to his congregation (I think the 30 year age difference is a good place to start), Pastor K. did a great job succoring their hearts that morning.
He began his sermon by saying "What happened to our church yesterday wasn't a materialistic issue. It is a heart issue."
Then he read "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" by Dr. Seuss.
This is a very elderly, very small congregation. I KNOW they were wondering "where is he going with this?" I sure was.
But then Pastor K hit it right on the head.
In the children's story, the narrator is explaining the Grinch's personal attitude problems and then he says it likely boils down to this....
"But I think that the most likely reason of all... may have been that his heart was two sizes too small.... "
After reading that line from the book, the Pastor looks up and says, "We are talking about a heart issue for these men that stole from us."
After he finished reading the story, he talked about how it was most ironic to him that that most precious thing the church possesses is the one thing they want to give away for free the most.
"The thing of most value we have in this church is the gospel of Jesus Christ."
In this time of year, I know that there is lots of folks....billions I imagine....that do not care to, struggle to know, or have never even heard of Jesus Christ.
I am one of the strugglers. Given my atheist background, some days it is hard for me to believe that Jesus Christ lived or that He lives now and loves me. There have been some days it seems easier to think He doesn't because some things have been so hard, that I might get really annoyed with His letting it go on and on.
That is "some" days.
But that is not "most" days.
Most days, I get up in the morning and think to myself, "What would Jesus do?" No. Really.
Most days, I go forward trying out how to make myself better.
Most days, I try to love my fellow men in the best way I can, which can be challenging given my some times frankly harsh intolerance and criticism of them.
I do not speak for any other members of the Mormon Church. Or Christianity. Or organized religion or unorganized religion. I am just speaking for me and me alone.
And what me and me alone thinks is that if I did not have something as grounding as the "good news" of Jesus and His life....His example... perhaps I would have some significant serious heart issues too.
No, I don't think vandalism and theft would be part of my make up. I just don't care enough about stuff to involve myself with that.
My heart issues would not be so obvious. Or elementary. They would not be something professional carpet clearners could come and simply clean up.
As the celebration of Christmas is here, I want to share a public personal testimony that I strive to believe that there was a man named Jesus Christ who really lived on this Earth.
I am striving to believe that He was kind to everyone.
That He is mindful of each of our lives and that sometimes we are living in a heart that is "two sizes too small." And He loves us and is cheering us on, anyway.
Everyone needs someone they can trust and look up to as a mentor. And I have chosen Jesus Christ as mine.
We have a saying in our house we have said for years: "It's a Christmas miracle."
It comes from an Andersonville favorite movie: Better Off Dead. If you are from the 1980's like us, you probably know it and have enjoyed it as well. If not, come over for movie night and enjoy it with us. I have 94% fat free popcorn I am willing to share.
I have seen lots of things in my 42 years, and miracles are among some of them.
I have not seen God in person.
Or Abraham Lincoln or Harriet Tubman. You know, other people and heavenly beings that I admire.
But I have seen miraclous things happen, some of which I have had happen directly to me.
And if Andersonville ever need some miraculous love, this is the year we could use it.
I will not begin some laundry list of why, but suffice it to say that we are ready for a whole new year. New memories, new adventure.
Back to the miracle.
When Tom, who passed away six months ago this week, began his new life chapter in 2004 with the separation of him and his spouse, he needed Christmas decorations.
The tree we got from the Boy Scout Garage sale we had that fall. $5.00.
The ornaments were mainly ones that we gave him....shiney, glittery tools, a camaro I had painted pink, and some ones we shared from Alaska.
He really wanted something special for the topper.
We looked throughout the stores, and he never did find one he liked. So I made him one. Out of a printed red star (red for the camaro), the side of a cereal box (we Andersons and Allisons have some serious cereal eaters in our homes) and a end slice of a toliet paper roll. Just like you would in elementary school.
I used to tell him he didn't have to keep it as the years rolled by. But he did.
When Christmas passed last year, he gave away all of his Christmas belongings. He gave us back the ornaments we had given him. And the star.
I put the star away and didn't think of it again.
Given I am tired, I didn't want to put the tree up this year. However, it had not been up for three years, so Mr. Fun decided he wanted to do it.
We pulled out the bag of Tom ornaments and added them to the collection of our others. That was tender and sweet to see them and think of him.
That isn't the miracle.
When we were about done decorating it, I went to put on the Tom Homemade Star, in honor of him. Seemed like a nice thing to do.
Imagine my surprise when I was putting it on the tree, and there on the back, in Tom's handwriting was a message for us. And this is what it said:
"This has been my favorite topping since 2004. Now it is passed down to the Andersons to enjoy and always remember how simples things in life are always the best!! May this star always remind you of how our simple friendship has become an experience of life."
It honestly felt like the Heavens opened themselves right up there in the front room and Tom leaned down to us and handed us a love note. His words. His handwriting. On his 6th month passing away day. It felt like a note that really said "I am here, safe and sound. No worries. I miss you guys too."
Whether it is defined as a "miracle" to others or not, it is for me.
I don't have their picture because I don't have their last name.
But I do know he is 27 years old. They have a baby. And they live in Monongahley, PA. They don't seem to have a lot of money. He is a Bible student.
He also one of those "extreme couponers." But not the kind you think. (of course not, or he wouldn't be awarded the highly coveted "Bob the Builder Award"). :)
We saw him on tv last night. If you have not seen the show, the bottom line is that people spend what is the equivalent of hours to a full time job clipping and cutting coupons so that they can use them with supermarket sales to walk out of the store with as much free product as they can.
The Girl and I have watched this show for a few months, and almost every time we talk about how we could do extreme couponing and give some to the food banks, homeless shelter etc...
We have thought about it. Often.
Apparently Chris and his wife Ashli have too because they are doing it. The cool part of this little tale is that unlike us, who would have a serious problem letting go of cereal and razors, Chris and Ahsli keep ZERO for themselves. Nada. Zip.
They have a room that stands empty, unless it is shopping trip time. They have bought thousands of items, stored them in their empty room and then at the end of the shopping week, they load it all up in their trailer they bought for such an occasion and take it to the local food bank. ALL of it. Even the cereal.
Last night they donated like $3,000 worth of food to the shelter. In one day. One shopping trip. Their cost: zero. That looks like this $0.00
Ashli said something cool. She said the most people who extreme coupon can be also known as extreme hoarders. She and Chris said they want to be known as "extreme givers."
Nov. 21, 2011, 1:01 AM EST
"Rihanna has sparked a backlash in France after her "We Found Love" video was deemed too raunchy for daytime viewers. Officials at the Supreme Audiovisual Council of France have banned the video from airing on TV before 10 p.m. due to its explicit content.
Authorities criticized Rihanna's "self-destructive" behavior in the video, which features the singer smoking cigarettes, shoplifting and being spanked. She is also cited for appearing in scenes of "pronounced suggestive" content with British boxer/model Dudley O'Shaughnessy."
When was the last time you heard that FRANCE thought anything was "too raunchy?"
It is unlike me to go so long without a new blog post, but the busy season has hit.
Good things have come to pass (a new mini cooper in the driveway for example two weeks ago) and some not so good (deciding whether to admit The Boy for another week of hospitalization or not). See what I mean. Weightier matters.
Another thing I have thought about the blog lately is that with the links and connections from the Facebook, more folks read it. I want to be careful what I write, and no longer think of it just as my personal rambling sort of journal.
Through all this thinking and pondering about life and those around me, I have something that will not leave my mind.
Stay with me here. It will make sense.
Meet Barry Bridger... a man you have never heard of.
Two weeks ago, The Girl and I went to Rotary and met and listened to his POW story of survival in the Vietnamese "Hanoi Hotel." He was there for 6 years.
Six years. Six years of torture. Six years of deprivation. Six years of survival.
(look how good he looks)
I have met some pretty amazing people on this planet. I have met almost every president of Rotary International since I joined 8 years ago. An organization of 1.3 million members.
I have spoke at big LDS Church meeting with the current president of the Mormon Church, Thomas Monson. An organization of 14 million members.
I have shook the hand of a Nepalese Sherpa named Pem who has climbed Everest twice without oxygen and holds the world record of the being the only couple to be married at the top of Everest.
I have touched the numbered tattoo of Holocaust Survivor.
I have met and was complimented by one Mitt Romney, the current Presidential candidate.
I must say, shaking the hand of Barry at our meeting at the Northtowne Bowling Alley was perhaps the most humbling person I have been in presence of.
He travels around the country speaking to anyone who cares to listen to how we can use our trials to deepen and empower us. He believes in the power of example. That his adverse experience can lead people to live better lives.
He spoke to us about his prison life and how survival boiled down to a few simple things.
He is not bitter. He does not speak ill of the Vietnamese. He is optimistic and saw his time there as a time to deepen his convictions regarding his God, his country, and an opportunity to refine the guiding principles of his life.
Barry has done something remarkable with those six years.
"You are what you value. Whatever (attributes) you bring in (to your challenges), your bring out. Only deeper."
A young Barbadian woman who has allowed herself to be shaped and marketed into a rock star goddess.
She released her first album in 2005....yep, six years ago. Six years. The same amount of time as Barry's six years.
In her six years, she has sold 20 million records, received several important awards, and has become rich and famous. She has everything many people dream of.
She has also survived a domestically violent relationship with her equally rich and famous then boyfriend.
For all intensive purposes, you would think that it is Rihanna that would be the role model, especially to young women. Like my daughter.
The power that she wields surpasses anything Barry will know as far as notoriety in this life. Compared to Barry, Rihanna as all the power to get it right.
Three weeks ago I read an article in the newspaper that I cannot surprisingly release from my terrible short-term epileptic memory. It was in the Kansas City Star, written by a bright and socially conscious young black woman named Jenee Osterheldt.
It talks exactly about what Rihanna has done with her domestic violence experience. What she "brought out" of that trial.
She has made some videos. One of them is the 4th most viewed video in the history of YouTube:
397,664,841 million views
Two of which are mine I am sad to report.
It is called "I Love The Way You Lie." It is a duet song with Eminen, a well-known humaritarian and advocate for women's rights and respect (not). The song includes the line "Maybe our relationship isn't as crazy as it seems..." as the house is burning to the ground and the "happy" couple violently go at each other.
No dude. It is way crazier than that.
Her new video is "We Found Love." It spends four minutes and 36 seonds showing "true love" which includes serious drug use, alcohol, and physical violence. However, the video ends with the chick walking out of the relationship that last split-second scene of the story. A split-second isn't very long to influence lives.
I loved this paragraph in the newspaper:
"Rihanna's sexuality overpowers her message and pop culture as a whole paints a poor picture of what love really looks like....Almost every popular teen show features some sort of unhealthy relationship and even the blockbuster "Twilight" glorifies that. Many young women want a relationship like Edward and Bella's. They think that love means you can't function without the other person, that you will do anything for them, even if it hurts. The "Twilight" relationship twists love into possessive and overly dependant," according to Allison Basinger, a leader of the local domestic violence agency. "We have stop dismissing these things are entertainment."
Allison went on to report that 1 in 5 high school students REPORT (what about the unreported?) being abused or sexually assulted by their partner....that is 1.5 million girls annually.
Young people are being "educated" by pop culture. No doubt. With media showing the majority of relationships that are related to their age, they are receiving the message that "love" involves physicality, possession, verbal abuse, and intense sexual interaction.
Remember the School House Rock videos? How they could teach skills though a short visual and song? I can still sing them all that I saw those Saturday mornings. Burned in my memory.
How burned in their memories are these kinds of videos that young people see today?
Barry said that when he was in the Hanoi Hotel, not a single man surrendered and turned to the Vietnamese.
The men who did not survive were those who died from one of two reasons: they were tortured to death orthey literally lost their minds.
So, how DID they survive? He said there were three main contributors:
communication between each other
Pretty much the opposite of a Rihanna video.
I was feeling bad about Barry and his trials. But as I have pondered it, it is actually Rihanna I feel sorrier for. If the videos that are coming out of her are representive pieces of her soul, there is no doubt that she feels some sort of torture and maybe in some ways, has lost parts of her mind...stripped away by the abuse she suffered. Just like those POWs.
I am sorry she wasn't at the Northetown Bowling Alley a couple weeks ago to shake Barry's hand as well.
It isn't very often I blog about the work going on at the new Kansas City Temple or post the photographs I take there. Cheryl, my co-blogging partner, is doing such a great job of recording all that so I will just buy a copy of the blog book when it is printed. :)
I have not found the need to go to the temple as much anymore now that the exterior is finished and their construction efforts have been focused internally. However, when the sun and clouds seem to be clicking into place in just the right way, I try to listen to the still small voice inside of my heart and go there when I think something pretty will happen.
A close friend observed to me recently that it was like I am on a "mission" to be the temple photographer. Perhaps that is truer than I know.
With the changes in the weather and air to fall, there is more moisture in the sky which in turn is creating some really delicious cloud and light action. I was there two mornings ago, and the sky was REALLY this red. This photograph is unedited in anyway.
The landscaping is going forward, and trees are being planted. As SOON as I saw these three trees, I instantly thought of one of my most favorite children's stories.
May you enjoy it as well. Even if you are not a religious person, I think it speaks volumes about how life works and doesn't work out for us. Enjoy.
The Parable of the Three Trees
Once upon a mountain top, three little trees stood and
dreamed of what they wanted to become when they
The first little tree looked up at the stars and said: "I
want to hold treasure. I want to be covered with gold
and filled with precious stones. I'll be the most
beautiful treasure chest in the world!"
The second little tree looked out at the small stream
trickling by on it's way to the ocean. "I want to be
traveling mighty waters and carrying powerful kings.
I'll be the strongest ship in the world!"
The third little tree looked down into the valley below
where busy men and women worked in a busy town.
"I don't want to leave the mountain top at all. I want to
grow so tall that when people stop to look at me,
they'll raise their eyes to heaven and think of God. I
will be the tallest tree in the world."
Years passed. The rain came, the sun shone, and the
little trees grew tall. One day three woodcutters
climbed the mountain.
The first woodcutter looked at the first tree and said,
"This tree is beautiful. It is perfect for me." With a
swoop of his shining axe, the first tree fell. "Now I
shall be made into a beautiful chest, I shall hold
wonderful treasure!" The first tree said.
The second woodcutter looked at the second tree
and said, "This tree is strong. It is perfect for me."
With a swoop of his shining axe, the second tree fell.
"Now I shall sail mighty waters!" thought the second
tree. "I shall be a strong ship for mighty kings!"
The third tree felt her heart sink when the last
woodcutter looked her way. She stood straight and
tall and pointed bravely to heaven.
But the woodcutter never even looked up. "Any kind
of tree will do for me." He muttered. With a swoop
of his shining axe, the third tree fell.
The first tree rejoiced when the woodcutter brought
her to a carpenter's shop. But the carpenter fashioned
the tree into a feedbox for animals.
The once beautiful tree was not covered with gold,
nor with treasure. She was coated with saw dust and
filled with hay for hungry farm animals.
The second tree smiled when the woodcutter took
her to a shipyard, but no mighty sailing ship was made
that day. Instead the once strong tree was hammered and
sawed into a simple fishing boat. She was too small and
too weak to sail to an ocean, or even a river; instead
she was taken to a little lake.
The third tree was confused when the woodcutter cut
her into strong beams and left her in a lumberyard.
"What happened?" The once tall tree wondered. "All
I ever wanted was to stay on the mountain top and point
Many many days and nights passed. The three trees
nearly forgot their dreams.
But one night, golden starlight poured over the first tree
as a young woman placed her newborn baby in the
"I wish I could make a cradle for him." her husband
whispered. The mother squeezed his hand and smiled
as the starlight shone on the smooth and the sturdy
wood. "This manger is beautiful" she said.
And suddenly the first tree knew he was holding the
greatest treasure in the world.
One evening a tired traveler and his friends crowded
into the old fishing boat. The traveler fell asleep as
the second tree quietly sailed out into the lake. Soon
a thundering and thrashing storm arose. The little tree
shuddered. She knew she did not have the strength to
carry so many passengers safely through with the wind
and the rain.
The tired man awakened. He stood up, stretched out
his hand, and said, "Peace." The storm stopped as
quickly as it had begun.
And suddenly the second tree knew he was carrying the
king of heaven and earth.
One Friday morning, the third tree was startled when her
beam were yanked from the forgotten woodpile. She
flinched as she was carried through an angry jeering
crowd. She shuddered when soldiers nailed a man's hands
She felt ugly and harsh and cruel.
But on Sunday morning, when the sun rose and the
earth tremble with joy beneath her, the third tree knew
that God's love had changed everything.
It had made the third tree strong. And every time people
thought of the third tree, they would think of God.
That was better than being the tallest tree in the world.
So next time you feel down because you didn't get what
you want, just sit tight and be happy because God is
thinking of something better to give you ........... Author Unkown
If you are on the Facebook and "friends" with either of my children, you are no doubt wondering how they have been infected to the millionth degree with "Star Wars-itis."
I think I will blame one Tom Allison. He is living somewhere beyond so he is not here to object.
Several years ago BC (before cancer), he had a list he spoke about of things he wanted to do in his life. Before they were called "bucket lists"...cool and trendy.
On Tom's list: Attend a Star Wars Convention.
My favorite shot of the whole time
(the boy as Darth)
Mr. Fun said he would go (of course, he is fun as the name implies). The Boy wanted to go. I decided "why not?" so I got on board. Ironically, The Girl, was NOT a fan of the idea but with all of us going, she lost her vote.
We drove to Indianopolis in 2005 and spent four days there. It was surreal. And super rainy...as evidenced by the bottom of our pants.
who doesn't want to be their own action figure?
The Boy got on Japanese TV with this little outfit.
I think he was one of the youngest people there of the 40,000
who knew the Girl would be trooping in this same costume 6 years later?
That red suit is the Red Royal Guard...
guardian of the emperor...who is an evil sith lord
Don't I look good as a star wars figure? :)
For me, it wasn't good or bad. Just strange.
Notice the pose of the Boy?
See it again down below
But for Tom and the kids, it spoke to them. The Girl went back again to Florida last year with Tom's family to do it again. The Boy ached with jealousy.
Both the Boy and Girl have pulled together authentic costumes and are now what I call "Star Wars Re-enactors."
When the people go out in the their costumes and show up at events, it is called "trooping."
So, I was invited to an event to go trooping with the kids and take pictures the other night down in the art district.
It was so fun. No....really.
The Boy as a Jedi (good guy)
The Girl getting her good smell on so
she doesn't stink in her handmade, custom
costume. She has padding around her neck
to bulk her up and look more "guardianly"
The Boy and Girl
So, what happens is the group is contacted by some kind of organization. Boy Scouts, Down Syndrome Guild, the Zoo...etc...any non-profit group.
Local chapter volunteers who have approved costumes then show up to the event. They need a room to change in (they are all dressed modestly when changing so they can change in the same room). They bring everything they need and use. They then what I would call "work" the event. For free.
They seemingly stay in the same area as a group. They travel together from site to site on the location (like the art district, they walked from street to street together). And it is NOTHING for them to have their photographs taken HUNDREDS of times in a single event.
It was fun for me in two ways:
1: To see my shy children come out of their shells in such a big way
2. And to watch the faces of unexpecting people as they wonder by.
People FREAK FREAK FREAK out!
It was strange...most little girls seem to put
their hands up by their face....
these little girls were making
origami cranes with their grandmothers at the
Buddist temple we wandered into....yep,
they tried to convert me with their
free potato chips and soda
The cops pulled over in their car
and took tons of pictures of each other
we wandered by a art space that had a rave
with a DJ going on...
this guy was in HEAVEN...you can see it.
How many guys can say they busted a move
with Princess Leia and an Imperial officer?
I didn't know they had kilts in space
see the Boy? Just like when he was 6
I cannot put into words HOW many
pictures people take of the characters!
I am having a hard time thinking of a time
when I have seen so many people cheer, smile and
just plain be happy by seeing something
randomly on the street...
I love the look on my boy's face
This is Darrel. He is an official Lucas Film artist.
He travels with the troopers and draws people for the events.
Sometimes he does these large pieces for the non-profit to
auction off or raffle away to raise money.
This is a drawing of Boba Fett, Tom Allison's most favorite guy of all.
After trooping on the street, when we returned to the art space,
and Darrel almost was finished painting it.
When the Boy saw it, he cried.
For an hour.
He said he could feel Tom near, and he could not stop
looking at the piece.
Like any good mother, I bought it,
right then and there.
Darrel let both The Girl and Boy paint on the helmet
so they had part of their soul in the piece.
It now hangs in the hallway outside of their bedrooms,
directly outside of the Boy's bedroom.
It is the first thing he sees when he leaves his room.
He LOVES it.
He said he feels powerful, like he can do anything.
And he feels close to his best friend to the 11th power,
Star Wars mentor, Tom. :)
I love this one...
like his official trooping picture
This is like her official picture
Bless his heart, the imperial officer who took this didn't have