Monthly Archives: December 2015

Looking Back, Looking Forward


My little family has a New Years Eve tradition wherein we get a large piece of colorful poster board and used one side to list accomplishments, experiences, memories from the past year. Each of us has a section of the poster, and we enjoy interacting as we remember things we want to add.

The other side of the poster board is for the upcoming year. We write things we would like to accomplish, places we want to go, anticipated milestones, things we want to try, goals we wish to set.

This year, 4/5 of the kids will be elsewhere, so that version of LB, LF will not happen, but I definitely believe in reflecting on the past year and looking at the upcoming year. To that end, I have compiled a list of 10 links here which provide you with a number of different lists of questions to work through if you would like to.

Let me know which ones you like!

20 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Every Sunday

30 Journaling Prompts for Self-Reflection and Self-Discovery

101 Important Questions to Ask Yourself

New Years Reflections and Resolutions: How to End the Year Mindfully

Reflections: A top Ten List of Year-End Questions

Your Year in Review: 21 Questions to Ask Yourself before the New Year Hits

Your Year in Review — Questions

30 Questions to Help You Reflect and Get Excited for 201[6]

Your Year in Review

20 Questions to Help You Reflect the Past Year

Happy New Year to you and yours!

Putting Christmas Away

How the heck did 2015 speed by so fast?

Kepler and I got most of it put away, after The Guy With The Muscles carried the stuff downstairs.

I am enjoying the fruits of lots of clearing space for joy in our home and my life.

Tomorrow concludes this year. I have some wonderful memories and have had some wonderful experiences this year. Here are 9 that come to mind:

  1. Seeing Ben Folds in concert twice — once with my honey and once with my sweet girl.
  2. Seeing U2 with my lovely daughter.
  3. Another year of love and growth with my dear man, celebrating 30 years of marriage.
  4. Seeing my eldest graduate from college. SO PROUD.
  5. Close to a full year of daily blogging.
  6. Starting Alexander Technique lessons.
  7. Discovered podcast “The One You Feed,” The Queen’s Code, and “All the Light We Cannot See.”
  8. My library adventure with Kepler this summer.
  9. And of course, last and most definitely not least, my life-changing trip to Alaska.

Happy New Years, kiddies.


Parents, learn to say no to your babies, your toddlers, your teens, and your young adults. The sooner, the better.

I thought I did, and I thought I said no to the right things. And maybe I did, but if so, then why is it so hard to say no now to things I wish I could say yes to?

Perhaps addiction just brings its own brand of extreme difficulties for loved ones. All I know is it hurts to say no even if it is the best possible answer.

Thing is, by saying no to some urgent things, I am saying yes to other important things. But doing so requires me to trust that the urgent needs will get met some other way. The tension of being presented with an urgent need I choose not to meet is strong and I know the thing that most quickly eases the tension is to give into the desire to grant immediate gratification. 

Yet, and yet, and yet. Granting the desire for immediate gratification strengthens the urge for immediate gratification and does nothing to strengthen the muscles of making the choice to do the next right thing. 

There would have been immediate gratification for me the giver, and he, the receiver. Saying no is HARD. Saying no is the BEST answer to this request. But, wow, it’s not easy.

Reframing it means focusing on the yes of the situation. Saying no means I am setting a boundary, saying no when needed, and allowing the asker the dignity and respect to make his own choices and conduct his life as he sees fit. I am saying yes to allowing him this dignity and respect. 

At Alanon this morning, they talked about worry. As usual, I still don’t feel like I “get” Alanon, but I do understand the reality of worry and how easy it is to let it take over my thinking processes. This process is a moment by moment choice to Be Here Now. 

Ahhh. May the Force be with you. 

Christmas with Siouxsie

Well, I *was* going to share a skit with you tonight but it refuses to upload. This means it’s not the thing I am to write about tonight. 

It’s been a lovely day. Four of our five kids were able to be here this morning. California is a long way away and our son was there this morning. We missed him!

Tonight, my children are on my mind. I got feedback tonight that sometimes they don’t like my approach of asking questions with the intention of allowing them to figure out their own answers. They said that sometimes they just want me to tell them what to do. 

Being as they are young and therefore not as interested in ruminating on things as much, I took what they said and thought about it. 

Where I think I can be more helpful is to be more generous with “I” statements, because maybe sometimes they have wanted to know what I think. 

But I am having a lot of trouble letting go of the idea that it is in the best interests of everyone to let my kids ask and answer their own questions. 

One of them was trying to make a decision related to a long drive today and I did my best to ask questions to help him get in touch with his own thoughts and desires. I can know what I think I would do, but I can’t know what to tell them they should do. 

Ultimately, their journeys are their own. I wonder if what is missing, if anything, is a willingness for me to continue to say the same things as many times as the conversation comes up.

But I think those same things are not welcomed by the ones who are in the situations they do not like. 

It’s just got me questioning my methods tonight! And I spent forever tonight trying to upload that video so it is VERY late. I will sleep on it and see if my subconscious speaks to me at all through my dreams as I sleep.

Merry Christmas all!

Bass Pro Shops Santa Story

Family outraged by Santa.

Santa responds:

Screen Shot 2015-12-24 at 10.31.49 PM.png

This story bothers me a lot. I am a parent of a special needs child, and I absolutely have the responsibility to communicate his special needs to the people we come into contact with. I start from the point of view that everyone does their best in how they deal with him.

I don’t expect everyone to understand what Kepler says, nor how they should or should not treat him. If my child were hooked up to serious medical equipment, I would even less expect someone else to know how to handle the situation without my direction.

More than anything, I am seriously triggered by this family’s decision to go to a local television station to air their grievances. From the way the story is reported, Santa held their kid, stood for a picture, did his best, and they apparently left happy.

It’s time for me to put my sweet child with special needs to bed on this Christmas Eve in anticipation of an exciting morning in a few hours. He is VERY excited.

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.



Reposting today from another blog

I received this blog post in my email today twice. First, from the blogger herself. Second, from a friend of mine who forwarded it to me.

I am certain that most bloggers are happy to have their material shared as long as proper attribution is given. The following is a blog post written by puredoxyk on her blog You can read it on her blog here.

If you happen to know the etiquette for this type of thing, do let me know if I need to make any adjustments on how I have done this. I just thought this was extremely interesting and wanted to share.

Practical modesty: the Xmas lesson hidden in physics

Posted on December 23, 2015 by puredoxyk

“In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.” – H.W. Longfellow

When you think of people who try to live “modestly”, or with humility — meaning that they do not boast, show off, or elevate themselves above others; and that they seek ways to serve others — you often think of spiritual devotees: monks, nuns and the like.

You may, like I do, admire those people with half-lidded eyes, generally in favor of the work they do and their lack of self-centeredness, but not quite sure *why* anybody should really pursue that path, instead of any of the more normal ones — the ones that aren’t harmfully boastful or self-aggrandizing, but also not devoted to emptying and lowering themselves.

I adore the philosophical Taoist answer to this “why” question, and I got a big fat freshly-baked pie of clarity to the face about it this week, and thought it made a great holiday post.

Here’s the thing: Religions will generally try to convince you that modesty is a) tied to being religious / part of their/your religious practice, and b) something you’ll be rewarded for because of supernatural reasons — i.e., God likes modesty, so act like a nun and He/It will reward you. Taoism (by which I always mean “philosophical Taoism”, just for ease of writing) has a wonderful habit of explaining why things are good, independently of “because I said so” answers like religious dogma or supernatural assumptions.

Taoism explains that modesty is a good idea because of the law of conservation of energy, plain and simple.

Energy seeks balance, like water — in fact, like all matter, and all energy (because they’re the same thing; remember your Einstein). In the whole Universe, motion happens in the direction of emptying what is full, and filling what is empty. Something can block this motion, but that only causes tension to build up, tension which will eventually be resolved, and the endless slosh restored. You can build a dam, and that will change what happens when; but it will not change that water seeking its balance.

If philosophical Taoism is a religion (and there are good arguments to be made that it’s not; for instance, the lack of theistic deities or supernatural explanations), its central tenet is that “the basic and obvious rules of how the Universe works also apply to human lives and decision-making”. This is an assumption, but a pretty damn good one, easily defensible by simply asking a doubter what evidence they could possibly have that the laws of nature don’t apply to how humans should live their lives and make decisions. They’re laws of nature. So is gravity. Gravity applies to us, because we are inside nature. Why the heck wouldn’t balance / energy-conservation apply to us too?

You can go from there to the normative, moral formulation: Being a good/smart person means generally trying to act in concert with the motions of the Universe, rather than fighting them. Instead of religious faith, we have faith that the laws of the Universe matter, and apply to us, and are good signposts for figuring out how to act. …But in actuality, you can skip right over the moralizing, and just go straight to “what makes practical sense”.

Modesty, humility, and service to others are not, to the Taoists, something to be done because someone else says to, be they Pope or mystical spirit; or even, primarily, because the Universe kinda wants us to. No, they’re simply a good idea because they are how you buy good luck. Do you want the Universe on your side, the pressures of balance and the innate movements of energy to be pushing for you, rather than against you? Well, then remember: What is empty is made full. If you are “full” — full of yourself, of arrogance (agh, the million kinds of arrogance), of mountains of treasure, of surety that you know everything — then the natural order of things will be pushing in the direction of taking you down a notch. But if you take actual actions to make yourself emptier — if you sacrifice ego, let others take the praise, give away everything you can, and look for opportunities to give help whenever possible — then you will be making yourself empty, and Universal law will be acting, in all the billion small ways it does, to bring things to you.

It’s not a guarantee; the world doesn’t work in simple equations. Comets fly around and hit things; making actual predictions is subtle and tricky, and probably in a lot of ways not worth the effort. But everything does generally work according to some basic principles, and it’s undeniable — and requires nothing supernatural to explain — that if you act in concert with those, if you follow the dance-steps the planets and everything on them are leading with, then you will have better luck overall, and a much better shot at peace and happiness regardless of what happens, than if you fight against it.

I had occasion recently to be re-studying some of what the I Ching has to say on modesty and humility, on empty and full (which is incredible to study in nonphysical terms while simultaneously studying it physically in martial arts) and awareness of this Universal law as a guide for living; and then a day later, I re-watched the old Bill Murry Xmas movie Scrooged with my family. And there at the end was Mr. Murray’s wonderful modern take on the Ebenezer character, teary-eyed with revelation, urging people to realize every day the truth that reveals itself to us sometimes during the holidays: That if we give, we receive, not things but miracles -universal good luck. He talks about the broader miracle of realizing that the more you give, the better you feel, and the better the things that will come back to you, all on their own. “It’ll happen to you,” he urges, “You just have to want it. And once it happens to you, you’ll see that it works, and you’ll get greedy for it, and you’ll realize that you can have it every day…” (I’m paraphrasing, but the speech is, while goofy, quite excellent. If you haven’t seen it in a while, check it out here.)

Bill Murray is literally talking about how the winter holiday, the spirit of Xmas, is a chance to glimpse the truth of modesty, of giving to receive, of emptying yourself in order to entice the Universe to fill you.

To be downright cheeky about it, we could say that for every dollar you give away, the laws of physics give you, on average, $1.618 back.

(OK, I’d better stop. :P)

Wow, that has given me some wonderful food for thought. I hope you enjoyed reading it, too.


Star Wars, Oh My Heart

You don’t have to be a fan of Star Wars to read this post. But if you do happen to intend to see the movie and haven’t, there WILL BE spoilers in here. One can’t really write about this movie without giving some things away.

I think I remember seeing the very first Star Wars in the theater. I definitely remember watching the first three at different times at movie nights at Wheaton. We would all gather in the chapel and watch a movie on a really big screen. Reminder: this was pre-I-can-watch-whatever-whenever-wherever days. Our options to watch a movie included going to the theater, and . . . oh, that was it. So, Wheaton offered regular movie nights for the student body, which were quite fun.

The hype surrounding movies these days is something to behold. Even I knew months ago that December 18 was the opening day for this latest installment in the Star Wars franchise. I figured I would see it, but I wasn’t on the edge of my seat in anticipation.

Here’s the thing I wasn’t expecting. I related to a character who was the mother of someone who had chosen the Dark Side. Although not intended, I’m sure, the son who had chosen the Dark Side was a perfect picture of an addict, culminating in this line of dialogue: “I’m being torn apart. I want to be free of this pain. I know what I have to do but I don’t know if I have the strength to do it. Will you help me?”

I had already started boohooing earlier in the film. When Han and Leia saw each other for the first time in the movie, I had such a deep sense of awareness of time having passed, of having been my young naive self when the first movie came out in 1977, and seeing these same characters, who had grown older just like I have grown older, brought the tears.

I will definitely see this movie again in the theater, maybe even more than once. I haven’t seen a movie over 2 hours in I don’t know how long that kept my attention like this one did. So, yes, I recommend it highly, to anyone who has an appreciation for the first three Star Wars movies. Do you remember Luke, Leia, and Han from a time when you “wore a younger [wo]man’s clothes” (to quote Billy Joel)? I do and I loved it.

Why I Care About the Situation at Wheaton College

You may or may not know that a Wheaton College professor was suspended this week for posting a picture of herself wearing a hijab with the comment (*full text below): 

I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.

Wheaton administration have issued statements of their own (**posted in full below). 

The comments on the Facebook page for Wheaton contain some extremely inflammatory comments from people not associated with the College. 

Here is what I want to say about this situation. 

Wheaton College is an institution of higher education that encourages students to look at both sides of every issue. As a student there years ago, I actually wished many times that they would just tell me which answer was right. 

But in keeping with the commitment to faith AND learning which is the hallmark of Wheaton, professors who cared deeply about the education of their students presented both sides and allowed each student to grapple with the questions. 

It was at Wheaton that many of the black and white beliefs I had grown up with were brought into the light for me to consider.

I have seen words like ignorance, bigotry, hatred, and much worse bandied about and directed at anyone who either made the Wheaton College decisions or statements regarding the situation with Dr. Hawkins, or who supports them. 

The tone of many of the comments is incredibly bitter and hateful. Ironically, those who accuse Wheaton of being hateful don’t seem to understand that there is such a thing as integrity or what it is. 

The administration of Wheaton College is acting in integrity. They are honestly willing to look at what was said and deal with any conflict between her statements and the Wheaton Statement of Faith. 

When I attended and later worked for Wheaton, I understood that my signature on the Statement of Faith was voluntarily offered as part of my desire to be part of that particular community. 

Although I now could no longer qualify to work at Wheaton because I am no longer a Christian believer, my reasons have nothing to do with any hypocrisy or bigotry or hatred expressed by people who purport to be followers of Christ. Although I no longer share the belief system of Wheaton, I deeply respect the work they do and the focus on providing an education that teaches young people to think critically about all that is around them and all that they are learning. 

One cannot equate the statements and actions of Wheaton College with any political candidate or mayor or celebrity. Candidates and mayors and celebrities are in thrall to popular opinion. I know without a shadow of a doubt that the people who administrate and teach at Wheaton are bound to something much more profound than public opinion and much more ancient than the latest thing that is trending on Twitter. 

It appears to me that there is a strong theme in the comments of the internet in general about anything which takes a stand. And the theme is “You CANNOT take a stand. We refuse to acknowledge that anyone can legitimately believe  something without allowing for every other contradictory belief to be seen as equally and absolutely legitimate.” 

For anyone who happens to believe strongly in something, there is tremendous pressure from the world, at least in the world of the internet and social media, to give up that belief. No one should ever believe that abortion should be limited, that there should be any restrictions about what marriage is, or how anyone should ever act on their convictions. That’s the message i see over and over and over. 

Whatever our beliefs, surely there is room in this huge world for some of us to think differently than others of us. The panic and fevered intense shrieking that occur when someone takes a stand is way over the top. 

To my way of thinking, there is room for dissension and value in agreeing to disagree agreeably. We have enough oxygen and words and space to allow others to believe differently. And I definitely was given all the space I could want to hold differing beliefs while at Wheaton. 

Integrity. I think that’s the thing that doesn’t even register with people anymore. 

Integrity is acting in accordance with your beliefs, but it also has an element of honesty and moral uprightness. There is nothing to suggest that integrity has as an inherent feature hatred of others, or superiority, or rejection of those who do not share your beliefs. 

And if your beliefs happen to be based on centuries or tradition as put forth through church history and sacred writings, you don’t just throw them out when they become unpopular. 

No one has a corner on the truth. Everyone is always in a process of figuring out their truth. But some people believe in capital T Truth. A Wheaton College professor, Dr. Arthur Holmes, wrote a book called All Truth is God’s Truth. 

Wherever truth may be found, it is all truth. Therefore, yes, there is truth in the statement that all who worship God worship the same God, and yet, there is also truth in the statement that people have completely diverging views about the surrounding truths, like who was a son of god, and who was a separate god, and what that god wants from and for humans. 

But you can’t legitimately tell a fish that every fish in the ocean is the same. You don’t get to say that the fish who live in the deep darkness of the ocean floor are wrong or that those who live near the surface are right. They are all fish. They each have a limited perspective, albeit not sentient. But they all abide in the same water; they all breathe in similar ways by extracting oxygen from the water, and they all move around in the water. 

We are fish in the same way. My understanding is informed by my environment and my experience and my education, as is yours. Some viewpoints seem limited to those who hold other viewpoints. But from what I know of Wheaton College leadership, they acknowledge their fallibility as humans all the while trusting that their God will illuminate the truth to them. 

In the time of demand for instantly resolving every question and making judgments in a split second, I value a place like Wheaton that acts in integrity, seeking to be faithful while protecting the integrity of the institution while treating those within their community with respect and love. This is what they are doing in respect to the situation with Dr. Hawkins. 

This is what I believe. 

**December 16, 2015
Wheaton College is an academic community within a shared framework of faith that values a robust exchange of ideas among faculty and students on the critical issues of the day.

On December 15, 2015, Wheaton College placed Associate Professor of Political Science Dr. Larycia Hawkins on paid administrative leave in order to give more time to explore theological implications of her recent public statements concerning Christianity and Islam. In the interim, College leadership has listened to the concerns of its students expressed through social media, a peaceful demonstration and one-on-one meetings with the administration.

As a Christian liberal arts institution, Wheaton College embodies a distinctive Protestant evangelical identity, represented in our Statement of Faith, which guides the leadership, faculty and students of Wheaton at the core of our institution’s identity. Upon entering into a contractual employment agreement, each of our faculty and staff members voluntarily commits to accept and model the Statement of Faith with integrity, compassion and theological clarity.
Contrary to some media reports, social media activity and subsequent public perception, Dr. Hawkins’ administrative leave resulted from theological statements that seemed inconsistent with Wheaton College’s doctrinal convictions, and is in no way related to her race, gender or commitment to wear a hijab during Advent.
Wheaton College believes the freedom to express one’s religion and live out one’s faith is vital to maintaining a pluralistic society and is central to the very reason our nation was founded, enabling us to live together despite our deepest differences. Equally important is the freedom of religious organizations to embody their deeply held -convictions.
Wheaton College rejects religious prejudice and unequivocally condemns acts of aggression and intimidation against anyone. Our Community Covenant upholds our obligations as Christ-followers to treat and speak about our neighbors with love and respect, as Jesus commanded us to do. But our compassion must be infused with theological clarity.
The freedom to wear a head scarf as a gesture of care and compassion for individuals in Muslim or other religious communities that may face discrimination or persecution is afforded to Dr. Hawkins as a faculty member of Wheaton College. Yet her recently expressed views, including that Muslims and Christians worship the same God, appear to be in conflict with the College’s Statement of Faith.

In all matters of faculty and staff conflict with the Statement of Faith, Wheaton College undergoes dialogue to determine if agreement can be found. Statements have been made in recent days raising similar questions by other faculty members from whom the College requested clarification. In those instances, the individuals rapidly and emphatically explained their opinions and affirmed their full consistency with the theological identity of Wheaton College.

However, the views expressed by Dr. Hawkins were more complex. Discussions between her and the administration were at an initial stage, and she was placed on administrative leave by Provost Dr. Stanton L. Jones in order to allow adequate time for reflection and review by Dr. Hawkins and the administration.
In her most recent statement, Dr. Hawkins seems committed to her personal theological stance, as stated in social media posts and subsequent media interviews; she has not yet reconciled her beliefs with the College’s theological position.

Dr. Hawkins will remain on paid administrative leave while the College continues the review process to which she is entitled as an employee and faculty member. This will include an assessment of her views related to our Statement of Faith through respectful and fair dialogue on these matters of strategic importance to our institutional identity and mission.

*Dr. Hawkins’ Facebook post:

I don’t love my Muslim neighbor because s/he is American.

I love my Muslim neighbor because s/he deserves love by virtue of her/his human dignity. 

I stand in human solidarity with my Muslim neighbor because we are formed of the same primordial clay, descendants of the same cradle of humankind–a cave in Sterkfontein, South Africa that I had the privilege to descend into to plumb the depths of our common humanity in 2014.
I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.

But as I tell my students, theoretical solidarity is not solidarity at all. Thus, beginning tonight, my solidarity has become embodied solidarity. 

As part of my Advent Worship, I will wear the hijab to work at Wheaton College, to play in Chi-town, in the airport and on the airplane to my home state that initiated one of the first anti-Sharia laws (read: unconstitutional and Islamophobic), and at church.

I invite all women into the narrative that is embodied, hijab-wearing solidarity with our Muslim sisters–for whatever reason. A large scale movement of Women in Solidarity with Hijabs is my Christmas #wish this year.

Perhaps you are a Muslim who does not wear the veil normally. Perhaps you are an atheist or agnostic who finds religion silly or inexplicable. Perhaps you are a Catholic or Protestant Christian like me. Perhaps you already cover your head as part of your religious worship, but not a hijab. 

I would like to add that I have sought the advice and blessing of one of the preeminent Muslim organizations in the United States, the Council on American Islamic Relations, #CAIR, where I have a friend and Board colleague on staff. I asked whether a non-Muslim wearing the hijab was haram (forbidden), patronizing, or otherwise offensive to Muslims. I was assured by my friends at CAIR-Chicago that they welcomed the gesture. So please do not fear joining this embodied narrative of actual as opposed to theoretical unity; human solidarity as opposed to mere nationalistic, sentimentality. 

Document your own experiences of Women in Solidarity with Hijabs #wish.
Shalom friends.