Do You Need a Warm Puppy?

When I was a child I loved a little book by Charles Schultz called Happiness is a Warm Puppy.

Do you remember it?

happiness is

Each page featured a drawing of Linus, Snoopy or some other Peanuts character enjoying something that made them happy: a pile of leaves, a fuzzy sweater, a chain of paper clips, or even the hiccups, … after they’ve gone away.

Charles Schultz understood that happiness comes from simple things. A profound thought that we adults seem to forget, especially at this over-busy and over-hyped time of year. So I thought I would emulate

When I was a child, Christmastime was a magical season, full of small moments of happiness. Perhaps those small moments are still there today, if only I stopped to notice.

Today I am attempting to do just that. Here is my Christmas version of the Happiness book. However, since I am not Charles Schultz, I will not attempt drawings. We’ll all be happier that way.

Happiness is …

Happiness is a warm cat.  (Sorry, Snoopy)

Happiness is setting the table for four instead of two.

boys with Christmas tree

Couldn’t resist this cute pic of the boys dragging a just-cut tree. Such fun.

Happiness is cutting your own tree.

Happiness is a fire in the fireplace.

Happiness is listening to two hours of Christmas music without a single rendition of O Holy Night.

Happiness is baking cookies.

Happiness is a quiet night at home.

-and-

Happiness is the annual pinochle-white-elephant-too-much-food party with good friends—especially when the dancing Santa makes another appearance. (The one we’ve all “improved” over the years.)

Happiness is a Christmas note from an old friend.

Happiness is an indulgent cup of Amaretto-spiked cocoa and a good book.

cat watching out window

Happiness is the Squirrel Show on Cat TV

Happiness is wasting too much time on a jigsaw puzzle. (But I’m wasting it with my son, so it’s all good.)

Happiness is the same pecan-cinnamon Christmas bread I’ve eaten on Christmas morning since I was a kid.

Happiness is learning that I did, in fact, pick a perfect gift.

Happiness is pondering the absurdity of the Christmas story: Why would the infinite and all-powerful God want to become a helpless baby and live with us in this crazy, messed-up world?

But he did.

And it was good news of great joy.

It still is.

Have you thought about that lately?

What are the little things that bring you happiness this Christmas?

Find a warm puppy (or cat) to hug and think of a few.

 

Junked Jars

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 J is for junked jars

Every now and then I stumble on a fascinating bit of historical trivia, like an ancient Roman landfill called Monte Testaccio. In English, we might call it Mount Potsherd.

Monte Testaccio

The grass-covered hill rises about 115 ft, but may have been higher in earlier centuries.

Monte Testaccio is an artificial hill in Rome made almost exclusively from smashed Roman amphoras Continue reading

The Mysterious Icicle

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I is for Icicle

icicles

I remember, as a child, discovering that the best place to find huge icicles—the kind that were three or more feet in length and several inches in diameter—was a section of roof in the back of our church. I don’t know if those icicles grew so big because the conditions were just right, or because it was an out-of-the-way place and nobody bothered them. Whatever the reason, I always wished we could grow such impressive icicles at our house. Alas, we never did. Continue reading

I Mustache You Some Questions (Just for fun)

mustache

Some weeks finding time to write blog posts is challenging. This is one of those weeks. (My boys were home. Priorities.)

So, instead of coming up with something brilliant and original, I’m succumbing to a fun questionnaire compliments of the witty and talented Anna Urquhart at The Silent Isle.

Four names that people call me other than my real name: Continue reading

Happy Thanksgiving

Wild Turkey

This ain’t no Butterball. But it’s a lot prettier.

For some of us, this Thanksgiving will be a joyous day. For others it will be filled with sad memories, or tough situations.

But whether we face good times or hard times, it is always the right time to be thankful. Here are a few things I am thankful for today:

family on couch

Three of the people I am most thankful for.

  • My sons home are both from college, after uneventful travel on busy roads.
  • Being able to look forward to spending a day in a house overflowing with family, because the day will be filled with love, laughter, good food and multi-generational games. Bananagrams anyone?  Or Quiddler?
  • A wonderful, supportive and caring husband who lets me pursue writing even when there’s no guarantee I’ll ever be published, much less make a profit. Oh, and he calls me every night to let me know when he’s coming home.
  • Being part of a great church–where I find friendship, encouragement, purpose, and support when things are rough. I don’t ever want to underestimate how significant it is to live as part of a community.
  • An excuse to bake three desserts, plus that loaf of pumpkin bread to use up the rest of the pumpkin. Yum.

OK enough for now.  Go enjoy your turkey. But do take the time to tell someone what you are thankful for.

8 Ways to Make a Difference

so many books, so little time

You’ve seen the saying. You know it’s true.

Something like 300,000 new books are published each year in the United States. Amazon.com lists millions of titles. (One online source said 32 million.)

However, only a small percentage of those millions of titles will sell more than a few thousand copies. Only a small percentage of the authors those titles represent will become famous. Sure we’ve heard of J K Rowling, James Patterson or John Grisham. But what about the millions of authors who aren’t famous and may never reach the New York Times Bestseller list? Continue reading

Who were the Galileans?

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G is for Galilee

Have you ever wondered why Galilee and Judea were separated by Samaria? How did the Jewish homeland come to be separated like that?

If you’re hoping for a quick answer, you’re going to be disappointed. The evidence is too vague and the opinions to varied to provide a simple or conclusive answer. And yet I wonder.

Here is what my search had uncovered, a simplified explanation of how the regions of Galilee, Samaria and Judea evolved: Continue reading

4 Things I Learned from Saying Yes Instead of No

open door

Sometimes we seek opportunity
Sometimes it seeks us.

The other day I received a call from my youth pastor, asking me to chaperone an upcoming high school youth retreat.

It was not a request I had been expecting.

When I mentioned it to my friends—who like me are in the empty nest stage of life—some of them chuckled and others gave me a you-aren’t-seriously-considering-it look.

But I was considering it; in fact I’d already decided to go. Continue reading

A Flood of Red Flowers

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F is for a flood of red poppies

By now you have no doubt seen the dramatic installation of red poppies at the Tower of London which marks the one-hundredth anniversary of World War One. The  poppies represent a British serviceman who died in the war, almost 900,000 of them.

But why red poppies? The red poppy became a symbol to remember those lost in battle shortly after the close of WWI, inspired by a poem written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae that begins:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow,
between the crosses, row on row, …

The poem inspired an American college professor and humanitarian. She saw in the poppy a single image that could act as a reminder of those lost in war. Thus the Remembrance Poppy was born. For more about how the red poppy became an international symbol of remembrance, read this article.

The thousands of blood-red poppies pouring from the Tower and filling the grounds touches the hearts of veterans and civilians alike. What a powerful story those poppies tell. A story of bravery, grief, victory and death. A gripping illustration of the power of art.

A different kind of war story

Another group that uses stories to remember the fallen, and bring healing to veterans and their families, uses a different art form. Greek tragedy.

greek drama mask

Photo Credit: J_Aquila via Compfight cc

Specifically two plays by Sophocles, who was himself a commander of troops and who lived in a time of almost constant war and bloodshed. A project called Theater of War has been performing readings of Sophocles’ plays to soldiers and their families–to great effect.

How can plays written over 2,400 years ago be relevant to modern servicemen? Because the realities of war transcend time and culture. In fact, the project has found that modern soldiers identify with the struggles of the characters, and appreciate the open discussions that follow the performances. Among other things, the Theater of War project uses the dramas to help de-stigmatize psychological injury, increase awareness of post-deployment psychological health issues, and promote healing of individuals and families. It accomplishes impressive results–without costumes, or sets or fancy Broadway gimmicks. Just actors reading the words of an ancient playwright.

That is the power of a timeless story!

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