Light for the World

Today I share a poem in the spirit of Christmas. Now more relevant than ever.


Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem by Maya Angelou.

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes
And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.
Flood waters await us in our avenues.

Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche
Over unprotected villages.
The sky slips low and grey and threatening.

We question ourselves.
What have we done to so affront nature?
We worry God.
Are you there? Are you there really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?

Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.

It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.

Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now. It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.

We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.
Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
Implore you, to stay a while with us.
So we may learn by your shimmering light
How to look beyond complexion and see community.

It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.

On this platform of peace, we can create a language
To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.

At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ
Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope.
All the earth’s tribes loosen their voices
To celebrate the promise of Peace.

We, Angels and Mortal’s, Believers and Non-Believers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.

Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.”

― Maya Angelou

Merry Christmas All!

Light for the World

It’s that time of year when I wake up in the morning not sure if it’s actually morning or still the middle of the night. I’m a person who thrives on light; starting my day in darkness is particularly difficult. So it hits me hard to know that there are people – during those long hours when the sun goes down or before it comes up – who have limited access to light at all. Lots of people. 1.7 billion people. More than a fifth of the world’s population. Have no electricity or modern lighting.

This is not just a matter of convenience. Without light, adults are limited in their ability to work evenings or early morning hours. Of course, that limits the amount of money they can earn to feed their families. Without light, children are limited in their ability to read or do homework. Of course, this limits their education that in turn limits their earning power when they grow up.


Repurpose is a South Africa organization that is doing something about it. They make backpacks. For poor children who have no light to study by. Each backpack is retrofitted with a solar panel that charges during the lighted part of the day and lights the child’s study space in dark hours – the charge lasts for 12 hours. There are other cool things about these bags – they are made of 100% recycled material, they are retro-reflective to help keep the wearer safe in the dark, they are waterproof. And they are really cute (what child does not want cute?!)

Here’s a little of what Repurpose has to say about their work:
“Rethaka: it’s the radical idea of uncovering opportunities.”
“It’s having the audacity to uplift communities with uplifting ideas.”
“It thrives on thinking differently about inherited struggles and daring to realize we already have in these, the solutions we seek. It makes problems work for us, not control us.”

And that, to me, is creating light in darkness.

Learn more and get involved at Share your favorite resources for lighting the world.

Bake Sales: The Tried and Still Awesome!

Today’s shout out is to all of you thousands (maybe millions) who will spend some time this holiday season in your kitchen concocting a fabulous mouth-watering baked good for your favorite charity bake sale. The bake sale has been around for centuries (true fact!)

This warms my heart – a tradition that binds us together – men and women and children of all races, religions, and political persuasions. And all-around giving to a good cause.

Fun Baking Facts!

A few fun facts about various delectables that you might consider as you choose what to bake up:

  • Pie is the baked good of choice. Preferences stated in a 2008 survey are 19% pie; 17% cake; 15% cookies. (Disclosure: The survey was sponsored by the American Pie Council – wouldn’t you know)
  • Pie personalities
    • Apple……Independent
    • Pecan……Analytical
    • Chocolate…Loving
    • Pumpkin…..Funny
  • January 27 is National Chocolate Cake Day (oh Yeah…right around the corner!)
  • The National Cookie Cutter Historical Museum is in Joplin, Missouri (road trip in your future?)

Share your favorite bake sale goodies. Or your favorite baking fun facts. Keep those ovens blazing!

Baking with Kids: Food for Mind, Body, and Soul

I am starting to catch the holiday spirit this weekend. Yesterday, my youngest daughter – now all of 22 years old – joined me and my boyfriend in picking out and decorating a perfectly shaped Christmas tree. After getting the tree in the stand, my daughter took up residence in the kitchen and whipped up some gorgeous, delicious holiday cookies. She is good enough to be a pastry chef. And I am blessed to be the beneficiary of her out-of-this-world desserts. In her honor, I share with you the family legend of the “blue” cookies.

You Ask: What are Blue Cookies?!!!

When my daughter was three, she had already spent two years watching me bake. Now she decided to step up to the plate (well…the kitchen counter) herself. She had/has a “slight” stubborn streak. Translated: She would suffer absolutely NO advice on ingredients.

She dragged out a big bowl, a big tin of flour, a cup of water, and a stirring spoon. Without any measuring tools, she concocted a flour-water mixture that resembled paste. She cocked her head, looked at her creation for a minute or so, then retrieved a box of food coloring from the cabinet and dyed her dough blue.

We spooned the sticky mess into circles on a tray, deposited the tray into the oven (heated by me) and eyeballed the blue dough until it resembled something like blue cookies. We scraped them off the tray, piled them onto a pretty dessert plate and let them cool.

After dinner – you guessed it – she sashayed into the dining room with “dessert.” And she was a taskmaster. She gave me, her dad, and her sisters the death stare that commanded us to actually eat. Which we accomplished with healthy gulps of water after each bite. The icing on the cookie? She took one nibble of hers, then stone-faced, surreptitiously (she thought) pocketed the rest until she could deposit it in the garbage.

Undaunted, for months thereafter, she made blue cookies. She experimented a little by adding sugar, then cinnamon. Still…blahhh. Finally, she was ready to listen to my tips on the role of baking powder; and on the importance of correct ingredient proportions. She learned to use measuring cups and we studied actual recipes. And after a few attempts, she made something edible.

Which we all rejoiced over.

The Joy of Baking

After that, the blue cookies disappeared form the repertoire. Replaced by chocolate chip and oatmeal; then cookies with sprinkles and frosting; then ginger molasses and Mexican wedding cookies. Then her own creations – yes, she came full circle – which are, I am grateful to report, heavenly!

Aside from an ever more delicious eating experience, what did she gain? What can your child gain from baking?

Food for the Mind

So here’s the great thing for all you right brain types (like me). Math can be fun. So can chemistry. What more creative way to teach measurement, fractions, the metric system? What about the chemical properties of baking powder? (Yes… I am now obsessed with this.) The beauty of baking is it’s a very concrete way to teach. And that means it is very likely to stick.

Food for the Body

Kids are curious. So as you are measuring out that flour, that ginger, those chocolate chips, you have the opportunity to talk about….where these ingredients come from; and the concept of vitamins that our bodies get from food. You can talk about eating in moderation and about balance among the food groups. And it’s all fun! Plus, when you say “one cookie is enough” it will actually make sense and not seem like a heartless random punishment.

Food for the Soul

I think this requires little explanation. Heart-warming times with your children you and they will remember forever (blue cookies are case in point). I heartily endorse the aphorisms “Food is the way to the heart” and “Sweets for my sweet.”

Happy baking!

Share your baking stories.

Universal Tales from Pantsuit Nation

A few weeks ago, one of my Facebook friends invited me to join a group called Pantsuit Nation. You may be familiar with this group. Maybe you are even a member. As you may have guessed, the group name was chosen in reference to Hillary Clinton. My understanding is that the group was formed as a communal place for people who want to uphold the values Hillary has championed her whole life.

As the weeks have gone by, Pantsuit Nation has become something more. There are, of course, stories of protesting and facing up to bullies, organizing voters for the next election and teaching children about racism. But the stories reach beyond this.

Stories of Compassion

Pantsuit Nation has become a place where you can simply share stories of human caring for the people who walk this planet with you. A story about someone who lost a job, digging deep and finding the compassion to give to another who has even less. A story about someone seeing a stranger in trouble and stopping to help, even at personal risk to self.

Seeing Ourselves in the Stories of Others

These types of stories don’t belong solely to any particular political party. They don’t belong exclusively to rich or poor, working class or middle class. They aren’t the stories of one race or ethnic group, one gender or the other. They belong to all types of people, rural and small town and big city. They are the stories that allow us to see ourselves in each other. Across all the lines that divide us. That is inspiring stuff.

Share your stories of compassion.

Books for a Snowy Day

Chances are, the children will want to be outside in the first snow of the year. But eventually they will wear themselves out. And that’s the perfect time to snuggle up with hot cocoa and a good book!

New and Fabulous

First Snow by Bomi Park

From South Korea, here’s a quietly beautiful picture book about the first snow of the season. All in a palette of soft black and white punctuated with the red of winter scarves, this book captures the wonder of winter. Pegged for ages 2-5.

Oldie but Goodie

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

“One winter morning Peter woke up and looked out the window. Snow had fallen during the night. It covered everything as far as he could see.” This is one of my all-time favorites. With simple language and pictures that reflect the brightness of newly fallen snow, Keats follows Peter’s adventures in the winter wonderland.

This book won the Caldecott Medal in 1963 for best picture book. It also broke barriers as the first picture book featuring an African-American as the central character. Pegged for Preschool-Kindergarten.

Share your favorite books about snow

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

It’s snowing! First snow in Chicago 2016-17! I know in a couple of months I will be grinding my teeth as hardened clumps covered with dirt sit in the streets. But today it feels like living inside a snow globe.

First Snow Magic

The first snow always feels like something breathtakingly unexpected. And that’s funny, because of course know it’s coming and you’ve seen it many times before. But when that first snow gets here, its always so much better than you thought it was going to be.

Every year I take pictures of the trees outside my window. I pop outside, feel the cool wetness on my face and nab a few passing drops on my tongue. As the flakes cover my eyelids, my cheeks, my hair, I feel my troubles being washed away.

When I was a kid, I would look out the window at the first falling snowdrops. As soon as there was a light coating in the yard, I would bound out of doors, throw myself into the snow, and whip my arms and legs vigorously up and down to form a snow angel.

When I was a teenager, I would gather with a group of friends on a large open field. We would scoop up snow and shape it loosely into snowballs, then hurl it at one another. I remember lots of slipping and sliding and dodging to get away from snowball-armed assailants.

Sometimes, our snowball brigade included a special boy I hoped would catch me. There is a Korean saying that if you are out in the first snow of the year with someone you like, then true love will blossom between you. I remember the giddy feeling of chaos as bodies bounded and rebounded off one another. Sometimes that special someone would charge, wrap his arms around my waist and we would fall into the soft snow.

First Snow Freedom

There is something freeing about that first snow. Whether it is washing away troubles or breaking through restrictions society places on us or we place on ourselves, it is a moment of opportunity to let go and let the miracle of nature work its magic.

Share your stories of snow.

Inclusive Preparation

Tis the season of waiting. It is also a time of preparation. Whether it’s looking forward to Christmas or Chanukah or New Year’s Eve, December is a month of anticipation. Shopping for gifts, baking holiday goodies, hauling out the festive decorations to deck the halls.

Perpetual Motion

Living in a big city, as I do, my whole world seems like a crush of people moving this way and that, bells clanging on street corners, lights shimmering in tree branches arching over the streets. Perpetual motion.

Those Who Can’t Move So Fast

But what about those who can’t get around very well? The disabled, the sick, the elderly. Sometimes those of us who are mobile can be moving so fast, we forget about those who can’t get around but very much want to participate in this season of preparation.

Small Acts of Inclusion

Small acts of inclusion can make a big difference. Here are some ideas that might inspire you to add a relative, friend, or neighbor into your own busy preparations.

  • Shovel a sidewalk. Make it easier for the mobile but frail to get to and from the house without fear of falling on the ice.
  • Share a holiday meal. Grocery shop, then cook and share a festive spread.
  • Share a holiday movie. Either at home or in the theater.
  • Serenade shut-ins with Christmas carols. Tra-la-la!
  • Offer a ride to and from the mall.
  • Help navigate internet online shopping.
  • Holiday gathering. Send an invite that includes an arrangement for transportation to and from the party.
  • Volunteer. Check out your community’s events for the elderly and help with preparations.

If each of us includes one small act of assistance as part of our holiday preparation, we will widen the circle of people enjoying those ringing bells and shining lights and the joy of preparing for the holidays.

Happy Preparations!

Share your stories of inclusive preparation