Maybe it’s my hormones. Maybe it’s these goofy braces that cause me to make highly embarrassing, cow-stuck-in-the-mud sucking noises unwittingly in public. (Ever had a toot or a belch sneak out on you? Yeah, it’s like that.) Maybe it’s the fact that we’ve had less than a total of six hours of sunshine here in Kansas City since Christmas Eve. Maybe it’s because I’ve given up sweets and haven’t had a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup since December 21. (Yes, it’s pathetic. I actually remember the exact day–and time–I ate my last one. Consider yourself warned.) Maybe it’s cabin fever. Maybe. Or maybe I just have a pissy attitude.

In any case, it’s time to stop wallowing in the funk and get over it.

To that end, I’m going to start by focusing on the good stuff and share it with you here. Reinforce the high points, so to speak.

Let’s start with the snow…or lack thereof. With the exception of some humongous piles still heaped in the parking lots around town, the snow that started falling Christmas Eve has finally melted.

The biggest upside to the snow melting is I can drive my car again. That’s a good thing. I’m not very good behind the wheel of the pickup, my backup vehicle. Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful to have a backup vehicle, but the darn thing is just too big. Way too big. Stupid, damn curbs.

Plus, it’s wonderful to be able to see the deck and the backyard again.

We thought it would never melt!

Just in case you’ve forgotten, the pile in the picture above was easily two and a half feet tall at its zenith.

It was unbelievable!

But…before the snow melted, Teddy gave us a valentine in the snow, albeit a few weeks early. Still, what a sweetie! I love Teddy.

Teddy loves me!

Just ignore the poo piles.

Bless his heart, Teddy was a real trooper in the snow. We worried about his ability to navigate through the deep drifts with only three wheels, but with one exception–when he got high-centered on the drift just off the patio–he managed quite well.

Three-wheeling through the snow

Of course, all that three-wheeling required extra naps to recuperate. And snacks. Don’t forget the snacks.

Who turned off the sunshine?

I also got to babysit my grand-dog, Otis, a couple of days last week. He’s always good for a laugh or two.

Otis, a.k.a. Mr. Cool

I love Otis.

Then there’s the kids. They never fail to amuse me…or baffle me. Either way, they’re a diversion. How could I not love them?

I have no idea what this is all about

Oh, and Tom bought me a kick-ass Le Creuset casserole dish. Spicy red. One day I mention how nice it would be to have one; three days later, the UPS guy is bringing it to my door. It’s fabulous! It’s definitely making the other casserole dishes around here feel like wimps. Tom’s a good egg. I love him, too! Even when he doesn’t buy me fancy, French ceramic cookware.

Nice? Oui?

So, see. I’ve had lots of reasons to smile in the last few weeks. There’s no excuse for my foul mood. Still it’s undeniable. I’m currently the poster child of pissy attitudes. Time for drastic measures. Time for a…

ROAD TRIP!

Since I can now get my car out on the road again, I’m going to pack my bags, throw Teddy in the passenger seat, and head for the sunshine and warmer weather in Arizona before the snow comes back. Get the heck outta Dodge while the gettin’s good. So for the next few weeks, feel free to travel with us. We can’t promise to cure your winter blues, but we might be able to divert your attention from the lousy winter weather for a bit. That is unless you live where the weather is already and/or always nice, in which case, you have no earthly idea what I’m talking about and you get no sympathy from me. Still, join Teddy and me. We’d love the company.

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I’ve sat down to blog several times since confessing my little episode on the treadmill last week, but I couldn’t think of anything to write about that didn’t sound like whining. For crying out loud, I’d already come clean about nearly sanding the bottoms of my feet off after walking barefoot on the treadmill for an hour. Surely I could come up with something to share with you to prove I have at least half a brain in my head. But no, it wasn’t that kind of week, so here goes…

With more than a foot of snow still on the ground, we got hit with another snowstorm on Wednesday. Accounts differ on the amount because the wind was blowing so dang hard the snow never really piled up in a fashion suitable for getting a fixed measurement. In one spot, you might find only a few inches whereas three feet to the left you could easily find…well, three feet. Thursday morning, Tom woke up to find a huge drift blocking all three garage doors, so, for what seems like the hundredth time this winter, out came the snow blower. After clearing the driveway all the way out to the street, Tom took off for work in the truck, preferring its higher clearance and weight (700 lbs of sand in the bed) to his car. Brian got up an hour later and, without incident, backed out of the driveway and headed to work in his four-wheel drive Subaru, both exacting a promise from me that I was canceling my appointments for the day and wasn’t going to need either vehicle.

Here I should probably explain that I drive a car that has to be parked when it rains. It’s a fabulous little car–I love, love, love my little car–but the low-profile performance tires that make it so much fun to drive on a sunny, warm spring afternoon are completely useless when the pavement is even thinking about getting wet. Forget ice and snow. So when the weather gets crappy, I typically drive the truck. As I’ve said, since I insisted I wasn’t going anywhere, Tom took the truck, leaving me the option of driving his car if I changed my mind. At 7 a.m. I had no intention of changing my mind. By 11 a.m, I wasn’t so sure.

You see, Thursday I was scheduled to get my braces. Not that I was excited about getting my braces, mind you. At one point, I’d actually told my dentist, who also happens to be my brother-in-law (thank god), that I was as excited about getting my braces as I was about getting my colonoscopy last summer. In my defense, it was his fault for asking, but, needless to say, I hurt his feelings. Truth be told, I’ve been balking at getting braces and being a real pain in the butt about the whole thing for more than 10 years already, so I hated to make another stink by asking his nurse to reschedule me and prolong the whole ordeal for us all, especially when other people were out braving the elements. First mistake.

Second mistake: I opened the garage door behind Tom’s car and checked to be sure the wind hadn’t created another drift in front of the door since he had cleared the one earlier that morning. Nope. No drift. I got in the car and backed out…right into a big-ass drift at the end of the driveway. Buried the car up to the axle. Stuck halfway out into the street. Hell’s bells.

So, with no one else in sight to push or offer any other advise, I began rocking the car back and forth with the transmission. Drive…vroooom…spin. Reverse…vroom…spin. Shit. Drive…vroooom…spin. Reverse…vroom…spin. Crap. Drive…vroooom…spin. Reverse…vroom…spin. Sigh. Not an inch. Periodically, I’d glance up and down the street to be sure I wasn’t going to hit anyone else who’d been dumb enough to get out and drive around in the mess. Fortunately–or maybe unfortunately in this situation–our street is really quiet, so it was a pretty safe bet that no one had been up or down the street in some time. For sure, the snowplow hadn’t been. Imagine my shock when–after just having thrown the car in reverse and gunning it–I looked up to see the neighbor kid behind the car pushing with all his might. I never saw him until it could have been too late. I nearly threw up. I think he felt much the same when he realized those were my backup lights shining, not my brake lights. Poor kid. Covered with the snow thrown from my frantically spinning tires and with the wind chill well below zero, he was shaking for more than one reason.

I implored him to save himself (he’s a nice kid–and was very kind to offer his help–but he’s not big enough, even on his best day, to push a fully loaded grocery cart much less my car) and went back to rocking the car while he stood shaking behind the mailbox in bemused silence, watching my efforts. I’m pretty sure he was rolling his eyes, but I tried not to think about that.

Finally, after much rocking (the car), cursing (me), and eye-rolling (the neighbor kid), the car was free and sitting in the middle of the street with me aboard, contemplating my next move. Third mistake. Euphoric from conquering the snow drift, I decided to go ahead and go to the dentist.

Getting braces sucks. I have a new-found respect for those–including my own two kids–who wear or have worn braces, especially the kind with brackets and wires. I’m wearing Invisalign braces that are, for all practical purposes, invisible and that require little more than some tooth-colored wart-like attachments to a few teeth, so I shouldn’t complain. Still, it sucks. I have jaw issues, so holding my mouth wide open for long periods of time is really uncomfortable. Plus, according to my brother-in-law, my mouth is really small. I have trouble believing that–as will those of you who know me–but I can confirm that every instrument they pull out to use on me comes out of a package labeled SMALL. I know. I know. The irony is almost too much to bare. Anyway, the process of putting the little wart-like attachments on my teeth required that the teeth stay really dry, so the hygienist had this contraption they were going to put in my mouth to hold my lips back. It looked like a diaphram with the back punched out. You’ve seem a big-mouth bass, haven’t you? That’s what I would have looked like if they’d ever managed to get it in. My poor brother-in-law fumbled around with the goofy gizmo for several minutes, trying desperately to get it squeezed small enough to put in my mouth. To my tremendous relief and the hygienist horror, the thing snapped. While she ran off in a dither to find another, my brother-in-law chuckled, crammed my mouth full of cotton, and got on with things.

A little more than an hour later, I was back in my car, braces in place, drooling out of the corners of my mouth, on my way home. Now, considering what I went through getting out of my driveway, it’s reasonable to assume that I would take a different tack getting back in. Nope. I wish. But nope. As I neared the house, I noted that the drift across the driveway was much deeper on one side than the other, so I aimed for the other and gunned it. Made it halfway in.

I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say freeing the car the second time around was a bit more involved. I finally freed it on my own–with the help of a shovel, lots of snow-melt pellets, and a sailor’s dose of blue language–but not before making a desperate call to Tom and lisping and slobbering into the phone, “Pwease, come home and hewp me!”

The following day, Tom, Brian, and I repeated the whole what-car-will-you-need-today conversation. After assuring both of them repeatedly that I intended to cancel my piano lesson and stay home–and confident I wasn’t stupid enough to repeat the previous day’s antics–they left in the truck and Subaru respectively.

They don’t know me very well, do they?

Later that morning when I called my new piano teacher, whom I’m never met face-to-face, and told her I thought I’d better cancel my lesson because of road conditions, she offered me an alternate time for a lesson early this week. Before hanging up, however, she informed me that her other students were making it to her house and into her driveway without problems and encouraged me to give it a try. Not wanting to look like a total wimp, I got in the car and drove over there.

I’m happy to report, I got out of my driveway and into hers without incident. It was the lesson that posed the challenge. Not playing the pieces I’d prepared so much as playing them without drooling on myself or all over the poor woman’s piano. A few bars into the first piece, I realized that it was going to be nearly impossible to think about what I was doing while at the same time concentrating on sucking in the spit that threatened to roll down my chin. At the end of the first piece, I turned toward her, head lowered, and mumbled, “Sowwy,” as I wiped the corners of my mouth and tried not to spit on her. She was very kind and…to my total amazement…smiling. Since most of her students are kids, I’m guessing she’s seen it all before.

It’s nearly a week later, and I’m still slobbering and lisping. Worse, my teeth are loose, so eating has become more of a chore than a pleasure. The one upside is I’m having one hell of a good time playing the piano. You’ll just have to ignore the dish towel I have tied around my neck. Oh, and the spit. I apologize up front for the spit.

I’ll admit that I’m quick to point out the missteps of others, including those of family and friends, so in the interest of fairness, I must reveal I’ve recently been victimized by my own lack of judgment. More specifically, the soles of my feet have been victimized…or brutalized. I share this with you as a warning.

Sunday’s paper contained an article about the growing number of runners who have discovered the joys–and benefits–of running barefoot. Although I typically don’t take the time to read articles about any form of strenuous exercise in which I have no intention of ever participating, I read this one just to satisfy myself that the folks involved were, in fact, the nut jobs I imagined them to be. To my shock, they weren’t. They were runners of all shapes, sizes, ages, and experience levels–not just 83-year-old ultra-marathoners who ingest nothing but vegetable smoothies and vitamins every day–so I pointed the article out to Tom, a runner, and asked what he thought. He didn’t have much to say, but instead tossed his January issue of Runner’s World my direction with the comment that it also had an article about running barefoot. I didn’t read the Runner’s World article because…well, because I was already way over my quota of exercise articles for the month. Instead, I made the assumption that RW was also promoting barefoot running and went on reading the rest of the Sunday paper.

Which brings me to yesterday. I’ve been wearing the same ol’ pair of nappy walking shoes for my daily walks on the treadmill now for more than two years. Weeeell, truthfully, I suppose it’s a bald-faced lie to call them “daily” walks, but still I have been walking on a fairly regular basis for about an hour most days of the week. If I’m lucky, I get on the treadmill when the Barefoot Contessa’s show starts at 4 p.m. on the Food Network and walk right through Jeopardy at 4:30. I’m so absorbed in what I’m watching, I’m done before I know it. Encumbered with insipid facts, inspired to cook something yummy for dinner, and feeling pretty cocky for having exercised at all.

Right after Christmas, Tom and I went shopping to find replacements for my beat-up old walking shoes. I couldn’t find any I liked, so yesterday as I got ready to walk…you see where this is going, don’t you…I decided to do my walk barefoot, figuring walking barefoot couldn’t be any worse that walking in those broken-down shoes. Besides, I figured if “research” has shown running barefoot is “safe,” barefoot walking should be too, especially indoors where there aren’t any rocks, glass, or well-hidden tree roots. (Gives you butt squench just to think about it, doesn’t it?) Anyway, I figured wrong. It probably didn’t help that I managed to get on the treadmill in time to catch the Contessa’s opening spiel and walked right through final Jeopardy. By the way, how could anyone not know F.Scott Fitzgerald had flappers in his novels? But I digress.

Just to clarify, my knees, ankles, legs, and hips all felt fine after my hour-long barefoot walk. They still feel fine today. The parts of my body screaming in agony are the soles of my feet. I might as well have walked on a belt sander for an hour. What a dumbass. Seriously. Consider yourself warned.

When I was a kid in the 1960s, going to downtown Kansas City was a big deal. We always knew a week or so in advance that we were going and, on the big day, had to dress in our Sunday school clothes and nice shoes. We rarely went unless it was for a special occasion like back-to-school shopping or to take out-of-town company to do a bit of sightseeing, but at no time was downtown more fun to visit than during the holidays. Back then, suburban malls were starting to catch on, but downtown was still where the real magic happened.

At Christmas time, giant crowns hung over all the major intersections and twinkly Christmas lights lined both sides of the streets. Retailers battled one another to see who could create the most enchanting window displays. Although they were all worth stopping to ogle, my favorites were always the moving mechanical displays of Santa’s elves making toys in the windows at Harzfeld’s. Or was it Adler’s? Shoot, I was a little kid. I can’t remember. All I remember was being jostled by all the other people–big and small–who wanted to press their noses to the glass just like I was doing.

The other mechanical must-see was the giant laughing Santa at Emery Bird Thayer. The enormous Santa still laughs today, only now he’s at Crown Center for a whole new generation to enjoy.

Of course, no visit to downtown at Christmas was complete without a visit to see the big guy himself at the Jones Store. Looking back, I’m awed by the amount of work the folks at Jones did to create pure Christmas delight for the children of Kansas City every year. What seemed like one whole floor of the store (although I’m sure now that was just a child’s perspective) was turned into Santa’s Village complete with a train that took us, mouths open and eyes bugged, through the North Pole and Santa’s Workshop before dropping us off to stand in line to share our wish lists with the jolly old elf.

If my sister and I were extra good (or lucky), we’d also get to visit the Christmas Fairy Princess at Kline’s. The beautiful Fairy Princess would ask us to make a wish, and then she’d wave her sparkly magic wand over our heads and give us a present. Really. It couldn’t get much better.

And then, by the time I’d graduated from high school, most if not all the big department stores in downtown Kansas City had fled to the suburban malls, and the area was well on its way to becoming the ghost town it was for nearly 30 years.

Not anymore. I am thrilled to tell you that while no large department stores have returned to the area yet, many smaller retailers have along with a host of restaurants, lofts and condos in every price range, a grand public library, a 18,000-seat multi-use arena, a state-of-the-art movie theater, and a food-lovers’ grocery store. Most of the existing performance venues have been refurbished in the last ten years, and the new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts is scheduled to open in the fall of 2011.

Downtown Kansas City is well on it’s way to being fabulous. Maybe not the vibrant downtown of my childhood yet, but it’s getting there. A real downtown again! There are even Christmas lights!

Tom and I were down there on Monday afternoon and evening, and the place was bustling. On a Monday! In frigid temperatures! I’m telling you, people, if you live here in Kansas City and haven’t been downtown yet, escape from the ‘burbs and go. If  you don’t live here in Kansas City, please come visit us soon. Enjoy the amenities of our new downtown. Yes, you may have to pay a little bit for parking, but it’s worth it. I promise. Here are a few pictures to tempt you:

Looking south on Main Street

Ingredient - a yummy local restaurant with a terrific menu

Cosentino's Market - they have everything...we checked!

The streets are lined once again with Christmas lights and people

A great theater for date night

What are you waiting for? GO!

We don’t get big snows that often around here, but this snowstorm is one I’m sure most of us will remember for a long time. For those whose Christmas plans and /or travels were grievously disrupted by the weather, the memories probably aren’t going to be all that pleasant, but for those of us lucky enough to be able to stay tucked inside, it’s been quite a show. Tom and I–who fall into the latter category–haven’t had to get out into the cold and onto the snow-packed streets unless we really wanted to, so we’ve enjoyed nearly every frosty, wind-blown moment of it. Tom’s even gotten to use his snow blower, and  I just can’t seem to stop taking pictures. Here are just a few of my pictures:

Christmas snow aftermath

Christmas Snow 2009

All the white has provided quite a backdrop for the “wildlife” around here. For instance, as I was working in the kitchen yesterday afternoon, I looked out and saw what I thought was a coyote chasing a rabbit through the snow in our neighbors backyard. I ran for my camera and shot a dozen or so pictures of him frolicking in the snow. We watched him for nearly 10 minutes and then were sorely disappointed when the neighbors let him into their garage. Either they’re bigger nature lovers than they’ve let on, or they’ve gotten a new dog. Check the animal out in the picture below. Help me out, here. That looks like a coyote, doesn’t it? If you think so, tell Tom. He’s still laughing at me.

Wile E. Coyote, a.k.a. Damn Dog

A closer view for your consideration

It's going to be a long time before we can go out our back door again

Yes, it's as cold as it looks, but at least the wind stopped blowing for a while

Any one want to hazard a guess as to how long it's going to take for these busters to melt?

The weather wonks were right! I give them so much grief, I thought it only fair to acknowledge when they are, in fact, correct. We woke up to snow this morning. It’s hard to tell exactly how much because it’s blowing and drifting like crazy, but we have a pile on the deck that’s probably at least 18 inches deep. It really is a white Christmas!

Snow pile on the deck

Snowy Christmas decorations

Merry White Christmas!

For the moment, our plans to go to Tom’s folks are on hold. The highway patrol in both Kansas and Missouri are asking people not to get out and drive unless they have to, so we’re not…at least this morning.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

The UPS man delivered the last box of gifts an hour or so ago. Whew! All the presents are now wrapped and under the tree. Dinner is in the oven. Dessert is cooling on the counter top, and–as the weather wonks predicted–the sleet and ice have begun to fall.

A white Christmas?

We woke up to temperatures in the 50s this morning, but it’s well below freezing now. If the local meteorologists are right, we’ll wake up to a white Christmas tomorrow morning. I’ll believe it when I see it, but they get Brownie points for being right about the sleet. Hey, it’s Christmas. I’m feeling generous. Brownie points for everyone!

The halls--and the tree--are decked...finally

All that’s left to do is fix a nice glass of egg nog with a splash (or a big glug) of rum, take a long, hot shower, and get ready for dinner, but I just had to stop long enough to wish you all a Merry Christmas. I really hope you’re tucked in someplace warm and toasty, surrounded by the people you love–or at least like a lot. May your entire holiday season be filled with family, friends, laughter, good music, and lots of yummy food. And maybe a little rum.

Ho! Ho! Ho!

I had the pleasure of hearing Greg Mortenson, the author of the number one bestseller Three Cups of Tea, speak last night. He’s currently on a book tour promoting and signing his newest book, Stones Into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan which came out two weeks ago. He’s also giving away copies of the book, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

I just got my copy of his new book yesterday afternoon, so I haven’t read it yet. I did, however, read Three Cups of Tea a couple years ago and was awed by both Mortenson’s story and by the wisdom of what he’s doing in Afghanistan and Pakistan. If you’re not familiar with Mortenson, you might want to check out a short profile ABC News did on him back in March 2009 when he was selected as their Person of the Week.

In a nutshell, after a failed attempt to climb K-2 in 1993, Mortenson found himself being nursed back to health by the residents of Korphe, a poor mountain village in remote northeastern Pakistan. During the weeks he spent recovering, Mortenson established a rapport with his hosts and was introduced to their custom of serving tea to guests. Specifically, if they serve you one cup of tea, you are considered a guest. If you are offered a second cup of tea, you are considered a friend. By the third cup, you are family. Three Cups of Tea focuses on the importance of establishing the kind of relationship with the people of that region in which you are offered the third cup of tea.

For Mortenson, his third-cup-of-tea relationships were crucial to his quest to fulfill a promise–a promise he made to the villagers before he left–to build a school for their children. As a new member of the village family, Mortenson was saddened to discover that even though the children of Korphe were anxious to learn and their parents were anxious for them to be educated, the village had no school and only a part-time teacher. Classes were conducted in the open air. Assignments were completed in the dirt with sticks. Moreover, Mortenson learned, the arrangement was typical in rural Pakistan.

After he got back to the States, Mortsenson spent three back-breaking, spirit-crushing years raising the funds for the school. He was met by obstacles and his own inexperience at every turn, but he never gave up. Finally, in 1996, he was able to return to Korphe and build the school. What he learned from the experience fills the pages of Three Cups of Tea and created the foundation of the Central Asia Institute (CAI), a nonprofit group he formed in 1996.

The CAI has since built 78 schools in the remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan, schools that educate more than 33,000 students and make a real difference in the lives of the of the children and the adults in those villages. The success stories of the students fuel Mortenson’s passion. He is convinced that building relationships and providing education is the best way to purge the ignorance that fuels radical thought and behavior. He is especially keen to educate girls since, he says, some studies have shown that educating girls “to at least the fifth grade level does three important things: one, it reduces infant mortality; number two, reduces population explosion; and number three it improves the quality of health and life itself.” And in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where so many young men are trained to be terrorists, he says, educating girls is important because “In the holy Koran when a young man goes on a jihad he first has to get permission and blessing from his mother. If a woman has an education she is much less likely to condone her son to get into violence or to terrorism.”

Mortenson’s efforts are getting a lot of attention, including from the U.S. military. In a recent interview with goodreads.com, Mortenson explains:

In Three Cups of Tea, although I’m a military veteran, I was a little critical of the military. After 9/11 I went to the Pentagon a couple of times, and I called them all laptop warriors. I can say now that the military has gone through a huge learning curve in the last three to four years—even more than the State Department or our political leaders—and the military really gets it. [They understand that being successful in Afghanistan and Pakistan is] about listening more, building relationships, and empowering the elders. Three Cups of Tea is now mandatory reading for all senior commanders and Special Forces deploying to Afghanistan. I tried to highlight some personal examples of the military’s inspiring work in Stones Into Schools.

So now, Mortenson is back out on the bookstore circuit, tirelessly educating the rest of us about what he believes to be the best resolution to the mess we find ourselves in, a resolution that potentially resolves the problem once and for all. I’m in no position to judge one way or the other, but what he’s saying makes a great deal of sense.

In any case, Mortenson is thoughtful, inspiring and gracious. During the book signing portion of the evening, he not only took the time to shake hands and speak to each of the hundreds of us waiting our turn. He also randomly gave out free signed copies of Stones Into Schools, asking that those who accepted the book donate it to a school or library. I’ve gone to more book signings than I can count, and I’ve never been given a free book for any reason. I’ll be heading to the library tomorrow.

I suspect that, like me, most moms spend half their time worrying that their children will never grow up and the other half wringing their hands that their babies are, in fact, doing just that. Well, at this point in life, I find myself with two grown-up, responsible adult children along with an equally grown-up, responsible son-in-law. Happily, I can also report that even though they’re perfectly able to take care of themselves, they haven’t grown up…completely. Amazing how many different ways you can use a napkin ring.

At the risk of being pelted by a barrage of “ah, moms,” I’m providing the proof right here. As I told you in my About Me page, they’re pips!

My gorgeous daughter, Carey

My adorable son-in-law, Austin

The one and only...my son, Brian

As for Teddy, he was just hovering nearby in case a piece of steak happened to hit the floor.

Teddy waiting patiently for his serving of steak

I grew up during the Vietnam War. As a child, I had no understanding of the politics behind our involvement in a conflict half a world away; but, I was acutely aware that whatever was going on over there was often creating a great deal of conflict here at home. The evidence was everywhere, including at some of our family gatherings. My mom came from a family of highly intelligent, opinionated, and politically passionate debaters who loved to argue every aspect of most any topic, including the war. When I was little, I found their “discussions” fascinating and their anger un-nerving.

Even in the quiet serenity of our own home, getting completely away from the turmoil was difficult. Most afternoons, while Mom fixed dinner, my sister and I watched the kids’ shows which preceded the evening news. Many times, if we didn’t get the TV turned off quickly enough, we were subjected to clips of the fighting in the jungles of Vietnam or footage of anti-war protests here in the States. Why were people so angry and violent?

Not surprisingly, it was with relief that I heard Walter Cronkite declare one evening during his newscast just before the holidays that both sides would be observing a ceasefire for Christmas that year. My relief quickly turned to amazement. Even as a 8- or 9-year old, I wondered why–if they could stop shooting at each other for Christmas–they couldn’t stop the war all together. Couldn’t we pretend that every day was Christmas? It didn’t make sense.

This memory came flooding back on Sunday morning as I scanned the bulletin of the church where we’d gone to hear a good friend sing and play the bells in her church’s Christmas Cantata. As we sat waiting for the service to begin, I read their Christmas Creed:

I believe that Christmas is a spirit…not a season of the year, but a way to live. It comes whenever wise men and shepherds bow down at the same shrine; whenever charity displaces intolerance; whenever old enemies forgive one another; whenever kindliness takes the place of ill will. I believe in the Christmas hope as the way to live for all persons and nations. I believe that peace on earth and good will among all can become living realities in this generation.

Indeed. What if we did spread the true spirit of Christmas over 365 days instead of trying to cram all into a few short weeks at the end of the year? What if we all were on our best, most generous behavior all year long? What if we based our decisions not on the almighty dollar, but on the dignity and humanity of others. If you ask me, that would give real meaning to Christmas.

As for the quote itself, I have no idea who wrote it or where it was published originally (if it wasn’t written by someone at the church), and I apologize for being unable to give proper credit, but I sincerely thank the writer for putting the musing of a young child into such eloquent and thoughtful form.

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