Sunday, November 20, 2011


In anticipation of Thanksgiving, I begin to consider when to start thawing the turkey, dredging up my recipe for dinner rolls, and whether to stuff the turkey or bake a healthier stuffing in a casserole dish. I also find myself pondering what I might say when we go around the table expressing what we are thankful for.

This year, especially, I would like my voice to be clear and sincere. Not too wordy, or too emotional, or too confusing, or too much information. On the other hand, I don’t want to just skip over all that my heart contains, nor awkwardly rush through to keep conversation moving. Being flanked at the table between the person on my right and left, my grateful voice can often get squelched between bookends of just enough and too much. Perhaps I need also to plan for more elbow room at the table this year

I am recalling this past year looking for inspirations of gratitude…through the challenges and losses. I have been doing a lot of sorting through and dusting off my bookshelves, and prying loose some resistant bookends. Paraphernalia wedged between bookends since my mother left needed to be evaluated. One shelf at a time…that was just enough. Cleaning out the clutter has gradually freed up space. Success with one shelf inspired work on another shelf, and eventually another room. Remember the recent blogs about new kitchen counters (In the details) and painting (It's not about the color)?

When I thought I had had just enough—instead of looking up with gratitude—I mistakenly looked down.

Hmmm, wouldn’t wood floors add some warmth to the house?

Back in October, I had been looking forward to a November of personal ‘restoration’ with space for gratitude. However, I approach the Thanksgiving season with my home in too much upheaval. Apparently some restoration wires got tangled up. Home and personal restoration have become completely interwoven.

Yes, we have begun another home project. And yes, what were we thinking?

My husband and I began by relocating sofa, chairs, tables, rugs, lamps, file cabinets, television, and closet content into other rooms. Handling each piece confirmed that we had accumulated stuff over our 36 years of marriage. I even moved residuals from our respective childhoods. “I need to get rid of some of this stuff that no longer serves me,” I muttered as I set down armfuls of junk that had latched on in childhood. By mid-afternoon, we had successfully stacked and wedged our comforts and histories into mostly one room. But I soon discovered that when too much stuff is crammed into too little space—and time—Thanksgiving gratitude gets misplaced as well. I think it is buried in our dining room beneath the office desk that is under the kitchen stools that are behind the ironing board, all blanketed by dust.

When demolition of our white tile floors began, I felt like I was being pounded as well. I lost control over the enveloping dust, the invasion of the demolition crew and the aftermath of pervasive devastation. I sensed the bookends pulling toward each other like powerful magnets, with me in the middle. Any wiggle room between just enough and too much had constrictively narrowed.

I plopped down onto the dirty, exposed under flooring. (because the furniture was all piled into the other room) And it was from this low perspective that I could see another option. This is the position where I have found power to move heavy pieces of furniture. While sitting, I use my back to brace against the wall and push with my feet. So with my back against one bookend and my feet pushing against the opposite bookend, I expand the self-imposed parameters between just enough and too much.

And I was grateful. Those were the words I saw in a book—Invitation to Solitude and Silence—the next day! And I allowed the rest of Ruth Hayley Barton’s words dribble all over me in my new spaciousness: It wasn’t the first time I had ever felt gratitude; but it was the first time I had ever given it that much space. Instead of rushing on to the next thing, I let thanksgiving fill every corner of my soul. I felt it and relished it down to the tips of my toes.

This Thanksgiving, perhaps my words may not fully express the breadth of my thankfulness to God, nor the depths of loss, but hopefully my expanded heart will fill the space at the table—and into the world—amongst family and friends.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Inside Walls

Last spring I spotted a woven mesh of twigs affixed to a spot on the exterior of our dense juniper tree. I marveled at how a mother bird wedged the twigs across the opening to her interior nest as protection against invaders. I shared my discovery with my husband one morning over breakfast, “What a clever and good mother bird to weave that wall of twigs for protection.”

Hmm,” my husband said, “I thought that the twig in her beak must have been too wide for the opening. As she tried to enter the opening into the branches toward her new nest each twig jammed into the needles and created that pattern. That’s a lot of twigs. I wonder if she ever figured it out, that those twigs were just too long.”

What I viewed as a wonderfully wise barrier was actually the work of a birdbrain doing the same ineffective activity over and over again…inadvertently creating a wall. And her nest failed to expand and thrive.

Like the mother bird, I also found myself in a new season…a frustrating season where twigs did not seem to just fall into place. And protective walls were engaged to hold onto the familiar: like rescue parenting, coaching and spousing. (That needs to be a verb.) But somehow doubt was always able to seep in through the cracks. And I retreated into my tree, into my nest.

Perhaps that was the moment, in my familiar robe and slippers, when I recalled my word for the year, willing. Have I been willing to face my defensive barriers? Have I really been willing to challenge doubt? Have I been willing to wholeheartedly receive and pass on God’s love?

On that note, my husband and I committed to a tour of Israel with a group of 150 other people at the last minute, before I could back out. That seemed to me everything unfamiliar: spontaneity, adventure just for adventure’s sake, a foreign country and language, and hanging out with strangers…touring by bus in the heat of June. I was, however, drawn to experiencing the history of my faith…something that is familiar and without doubt. Surely a visit to Israel could expand a mother bird’s brain and would reveal my willingness.

Wherever I went, I noticed walls…ancient walls in Israel and long-lasting walls that had, apparently, traveled to Israel with me. As I saw more of Israel, I saw more of me.

Walls that get buried, I learned in Israel, would eventually become a mountain. Tel is a term for a city mound; think of Tel Aviv. History told of conquering invaders leveling a city then building on top of the rubble of fallen walls. Over time the level on which the city was built rose. The buried walls undergirding the tels affected me the same way that the bird twigs punctured my perspective.

Conflict and resistance accompanied many of the walls I confronted. Four conflicting cultures divided historical Jerusalem into separate quadrants. While touring inside the walls of Jerusalem, a Palestinian passerby mumbled obscenities to our Israeli tour guide. A hawk-like vendor followed us to the steps of the tour bus, “The more you buy, the more we love you; the less you buy, the more we hate you.” Sometimes it was more comfortable to be inside the walls of the bus looking out.

The Western Wall of the Temple Mount—the Wailing Wall—being one of the most sacred sites for practicing Jews intimidated me. So divisive, as Jews—having access to the Western Wall again in 1967—oppose the Muslims, who have control of the upper Temple Mount. And more division as men separated from women into their respective prayer areas at the wall. So many unfamiliar practices to respect while advancing and retreating from the Wall itself. So many women bobbing and repeating Hebrew all around me. So much emotion through notes and prayers plugged into its crevices. Sights, sounds, smells, touch and emotions overwhelmed me at The Wailing Wall. I did not know if my small prayer for peace—facing this façade in Jerusalem, and other façades within me—could even make a difference.

One of the activities in our tour included a quarter-mile trek through Hezekiah’s tunnel, a narrow passage hand-chiseled through walls of hard rock. A quarter mile of inching forward along with the stream of people ahead and people behind. This was the first time I could actually touch walls that triggered panic in me. Having pressed through the passageway of panic, I emerged from the darkness into the light. And then I felt it…movement. It was by no means an earthquake but more like some walls had shifted ever so slightly. Warming in the sunlight, one of our tour mates confessed her own terror in the tunnel. “My feet turn red and ache when I get anxious,” she offered. I brushed some twigs from between us on the bench outside the tunnel as I scooted near her. Beyond the moment of hesitation, I reached down and lifted her red foot into my lap…and began massaging. Touching the feet of a stranger; how utterly unlike me. Could this possibly be God’s love at work…for her, for me?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Holey, Wholly, Holy

My brother was born more than 60 years ago with a hole in his heart. I do not ever recall my family being curious about the condition of my brother’s heart. “Maynard has a hole in his heart” was as common a remark as “It’s raining today”. This unexplained declaration was attached to Maynard like those annoying pillow tags that warn not to remove for fear of unknown punishment.

“The doctor said his traumatic delivery caused the hole,” my mother recently admitted. Mom remembered Maynard’s hole with guilt. My father viewed the hole as something to overcome and challenged Maynard’s small wiry frame throughout Little League. The rest of us thought our brother was fun and mischievous. But we quickly became wise to his Huck Finn charm that would often involve one of us four siblings.

Since Maynard was a self-appointed captain of baseball or tackle football in the neighbor’s yard, I would often be his first-draft choice…the youngest, and the only girl. Then he’d position me on first base or as wide receiver. How did a boy with a hole in his heart make others feel like their heart could burst?

Despite his hole or maybe because of his hole, Maynard was the first adventurous one to leave the family nest for strenuous work on a cargo ship. I was in seventh grade when he left home, not too long after our mom ran away. Maynard sent me postcards from foreign places…like Michigan and Wisconsin. One time he sent me a fancy yellow dress with a note included: “I think it’s time for you to start dressing like a girl.” With tender recollections of my eldest brother, I wore a bright yellow dress to his memorial service recently.

More than twenty years ago, Maynard and his third wife moved in with my own family for a season while my husband and I were managing a ski area restaurant. Maynard was hired as an experienced bartender…and then frantically studied in the evenings to learn how to mix drinks. Everyone in town knew Maynard the bartender. I was known as Maynard’s little sister.

Our two boys adored their uncle Maynard who teased them with his stinky feet and shoes. We would unabashedly toss his shoes outside our loft window onto the roof where they could breathe…and we could too. Amused, he snorted his nasally laugh like the cartoon dog, Muttley. A young friend once commented, “Maynard…makes me think of a mixture of mayonnaise and mustard.” Yet, Maynard’s Muttley snicker always disarmed any innocent mockery of his uncommon name. Very little would offend Maynard or his heart.

Earlier this year Maynard and I were sharing rides with one another during a visit to Florida. I was often shivering in the air-conditioned indoors and needed some kind of sweater. So we popped into Goodwill where each of us scouted for practical bargains. Maynard delighted in finding some slightly-worn dress shoes and a few name-brand shirts that golfers wear. I found a sensible green sweater and tried it on. “How does this look, Mayne?”

“It’s okay, but this time,” he said within earshot of two elderly shoppers, “I think you should pay for it instead of walking out of the store like you did the last time. Really, Kid, you need to quit doing that.” The two ladies raised their eyebrows at one another and then shot a disapproving glance toward me. Maynard strutted out of the store in his newly purchased shoes wearing a big grin. I followed carrying my sweater in a bag with my visible receipt in hand.

Through the years, Maynard and I have had many telephone conversations. It seems like we would take turns listening and coaching one another…about relationships and parenting and faith.  We communicated as equal adults, not necessarily as big brother and little sister. And it was during these conversations that I developed a curiosity about the condition of Maynard’s heart. I often wondered if the hole widened when our mother left years ago. And how does a damaged heart cope with — or even contribute to — Maynard’s multiple marriages, job-hopping, financial struggles and single-parenting challenges? But on the surface, Maynard was everyone’s friend, a caring brother, and an indulgent father. I will miss him, his humor, his thoughtfulness and our conversations.

Today I am confident that Maynard’s hole in his heart has been wholly restored…or more accurately, holy restored. However, recollections of my brother challenge me. I’ve noticed lately that I have avoided stepping into key positions—like first base or wide receiver—for several years. Like my brother’s heart, I bear scars from the past. I have been hesitant about exposing myself to the tackles and line-drives of engagement. Now, however, “I’m open! I’m open!” is directed towards God the Healer who revives what Maynard the Quarterback began. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

People of color

Others don’t often connect florescence and me in the same sentence. But I knew my little vice was outed when I received my own florescent, chisel-head, retractable tool assortment for my birthday. For me, how on earth did you know?

Hello, my name is Julie and I am a highlighter.

Adding color to my pages stirs up childhood memories of 64 sharpened crayons neatly wedged into a blue and gold box. I recall being more fascinated with the names of my Crayolas more than my artwork. Even then, color was associated with words. Colorful Crayola names contrasted the ordinariness of being a fifth child. Today my vibrant strokes across the page highlight an author’s thoughts, emotions and voice. Its as if highlighting their words embolden my own. Perhaps I would like to be more hot pink, vibrant orange, neon green, deep blue, or fluorescent yellow…every now and then.

My good friend, Pruda, is like a bright orange highlighter. She speaks rapidly, wears vibrant colors, and grabs hold of life moments as if they are her next gulp of air between swim strokes. Pruda and I met more than 30 years ago when our sons were taking their first steps. I was a first-time mother; Pruda was a seasoned mother of three. I think I saw orange streaming behind her car each time she drove her son over the mountain pass for special testing and services. She was focusing on the important stuff. I first dared to infuse with color after meeting Pruda in my twenties.

Recently Pruda recounted her father’s 90th birthday celebration. Hundreds gathered in Indiana to recognize this influential elder who had daubed indelible color into the lives of so many. Maybe orange-ness runs in the family.
No one in the room was more excited for Grandpa’s party than Pruda’s 32-year-old son. All the while Luciano fretted over what to say about his best friend, Grandpa. Finally, after a host of others took their turn extolling Grandpa’s wisdom and heart, Luciano and his older sister walked side-by-side to the front of the large birthday audience. Big sister spoke first: “My brother is part of Special Olympics and knows well their oath which is  Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt. Today Luciano wants to be brave. He wants to sing a song for our Grandpa.”

I was not present when Luciano remembered all the words to The Star Spangled Banner. Yet I imagined bold, sweeping orange strokes as I heard of Luciano’s courage of voice. I’m convinced orange-ness runs in that family! Choking back emotion, I packed two yellow highlighters into my carry-on for our spontaneous adventure to Israel. I challenged myself to highlight our experience with the florescent kind of bravery and impact as my young friend Luciano.

Friday, May 20, 2011

It's not about the color

A crisp, new box rests on the padded bench at the foot of our bed. This light, thin box usually remains out of sight under yesterday’s clothes or a strategically placed decorative pillow. In the quiet of my room, I have occasionally peaked inside at the sleek, shiny object within. And, at least once in the darkness of night, I dared run my fingers across the back lit keyboard. In that box resides all the juxtapositions of beginnings. Familiarity...change. Entice…dread. Advance...challenge. Play…struggle. Victory…failure.

As with the box, the walls of my home presented a similar barrier. The once vibrant red kitchen walls had dulled over time. The lackluster red was stealing the sparkle from our new granite counter tops…and me. The kitchen walls open to the breakfast nook that connects to the family room which leads to the entry with stairs that ascend to the open loft that overlooks all the rooms. Change in one space could not help but influence change in others.

A project like painting my kitchen appeared less like an indulgence and more like the box at the foot of my bed…something that intimidates, something to avoid. The curious thing is that I like to paint. I get to exact personal color preferences, stay within the lines, and isolate myself within my tiny ear buds. I felt the expanse of walls enclose me. I sucked in a big breath And I finally pushed back.

My trek to the local paint store included a kitchen cabinet door, a floor tile, a piece of counter top, and my own color flip deck with sticky dots on prospective colors. I left the store with several samples of different grays…which seemed more about my attitude than aesthetics. After painting and labeling swatches on multiple walls, I eliminated all but one. So I purchased 5 gallons of Nearly Greige.

Energized and thinking myself resourcefully clever, I mixed all the samples together and primed over the red. I did not even noticed how dark my kitchen grew as I painted on to the next wall. The mixture of sample paints oddly resembled the Nearly Greige. Once finished, I did not have to open the new 5-gallon container because I knew it would be as lifeless as the blend of samples already covering my walls.

So, it was back to the paint store where—by now—everybody knows my name. This time, I opted for the cream family and lugged home several more sample quarts. More paint patches on the wall and more scrutiny. With stubborn determination, I purchased my next 5-gallon container, Ligonier Tan. This time, volunteer painters hand-brushed and rolled over my mistake in the kitchen and the breakfast nook before noon. They would have painted the kitchen island and the entry had I not intercepted them. By afternoon sunlight, I was convinced that the peachy tan was yet another bad decision.

That night, childhood snapshots wafted through my restless sleep. I recalled finding stray coins underneath our flowered davenport cushions. Davenports—even the sound of this forgotten word—dredged up coins, childhood and hidden ways of thinking. Spare change from my father’s pockets was a rare and exciting discovery. Finding a quarter usually meant a visit to the bakery where I would stand alone in front of the display case for many minutes pondering which treat to buy. One quarter; one choice. One Christmas; one present. One birthday; one friend. One adolescence; one parent. The anxiety to choose the right one colors my nighttime dreams and my walls.

She gathered our color chips and kitchen cabinet door and moved into natural light at the front of the store. There she patiently sorted through each selection. Too pink, too green, too orange. I felt the weight of my twice-painted walls lighten as I began to trust this other person. I could tell that she could see something that I wasn’t able to. She then went to her big book and unclipped two color samples for us. I made a motion toward her private book hoping to find at least three more color sheets to supplement her two selections. With confident and gentle authority she interjected, “Just try these two; two is good for now.” 

We bought only two test samples of paint…the same two that the trustworthy designer suggested. She smiled as I left the store with my two lone samples. “It’ll be okay,” she added. Now I was convinced she saw more than just color variations. And, I detected an ever-so-slight shift with my walls, as if one of her neutral color choices could possibly make my walls recede.

We picked the warm, buttery-toast one. However, either one would have worked well, just like the designer assured us. The painting crew managed the kitchen and nook before they were called away. Our family room, hallway, entry and stairway are yet unfinished. The numerous paint patches on the unfinished walls remind me of art projects in my son’s preschool where I served as helper more than 25 years ago. The preschool teacher long ago coached me before I helped the children with finger painting: “Remember, this is not about the finished project, it is about the process.”

Perhaps my current walls have been more about the process than a perfectly painted project. I literally get to see the lingering attempts at trial and error. The process has revealed that others can be trusted, walls can be surrendered, and trial and error is not failure but integral for growth. I think that this process has also included surrendering the box at the end of my bed and trusting a son to jumpstart my trial and error on a new laptop; my fingertips are dancing over the keys as I write. And should I tackle the painting job myself, I will accept help for those hard-to-reach places.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

In the details

Twenty years of use have taken its toll on our kitchen. Replacement hinges gave spring back to tired cabinet doors. A coat of Varathane protected exposed patches where cabinet finishes had deteriorated. I even scrubbed the artfully arranged vignettes of kitsch sitting atop our high cabinets. And I have contemplated which color to paint our red walls that appear to have faded into dusty rose. Anything…but a remodel. I have resisted a kitchen remodel, much like I have resisted the discomfort of change in other areas of my life. Remodeling does not come without upheaval.

I stopped by a tile store more than a year ago…just to look. Thankfully, more important life details preempted a change in tile. The last child graduated high school and launched off to Canada. Another one and his family moved 3,000 miles away. The other, also with family, has been off-and-on employed. And my father, also 3,000 miles away, has been struggling with his health. Loving diversions stretch from Orlando to Canada to Burbank.

I had tolerated and eventually adapted to problem areas in our kitchen over the years. I knew which two burners worked on our five-burner stovetop. I stopped using the island sink because the faucet sprayed everywhere and the disposal leaked. The countertop surrounding the main sink had dulled over time. The drinking water faucet dribbled more from the handle than the spout. The malfunctions and loss of sparkle stared back at me in the kitchen…and in the bathroom mirror.

And then one day in the quiet of our empty household, I allowed a glint of possibility to peek through my resistance. Somehow, this little invitation to change offered more than a fully functioning and bright kitchen. New sinks, faucets and stovetop snowballed into new countertops, a never-before backsplash and a replacement fireplace that actually radiated warmth. The options were mind-boggling. Yet I labored over each choice, one at a time.

The original ovens, microwave and dishwasher are white; they still work and I cannot rationalize changing them out. The new stovetop is stainless. And the residual radical from last year’s word shows up in the choice of muted black sinks. Something white, something black, and something stainless…kind of like the details of everyday life.

Our new countertop unites everything together visually. A geologist might call it gneiss or metamorphosed granite. The stone vendor calls it Saturnia. I call it swirls of sparkles and galaxies in the nighttime sky. I wipe up spills glancing down into the swirls of universes and see beyond the walls of my kitchen. Having reluctantly allowed this change and painstakingly selected the countertop, this was the perfect choice. What I thought my impervious universe of countertop was recently assaulted by a little spice jar slipping from my hands. A divot the size of a split pea appeared. But from my perspective, it was a celestial black hole.

I took Saturnia for granite and thought it would perform like indestructible granite. I took my mother for granted and thought that she would never leave. I took birth control for granted and thought my abortion as the freedom-of-choice solution to an unplanned pregnancy. Why did I not recognize that no material is without flaws? Why did I not recognize that my mother felt less than and many of her choices reflected her desperation for self-respect. Why did I not recognize that my decision to choose abortion more than 25 years ago had much to do with determining not to be like my own vulnerable mother? The tragedy of assumptions, flawlessness and desperation can be much deeper than a superficial divot.

Our kitchen is yet unfinished, like me. The installation of remaining counters and backsplash is imminent. Choosing the new paint color will not be without scrutinizing variations of taupe painted here and there. And the divot…it can be repaired by the Rock Doc. “You don’t need to be protective of your Saturnia,” the stone vendor assured me. “It can handle it.”

The weight of responsibility lifted from my chest and my heart relaxed into spaciousness. The lessons kept giving and my heart kept receiving. Change takes effort. Divots happen. Repairs are to be handled by someone who knows the true nature of the materials involved and is in the business of restoring what’s damaged. Thanks for the trials of change, God. You are my Rock Doc. And I don’t mind catching sight of your handprints all over my new countertop.

Monday, January 31, 2011


I choose a word for the year because one word is a simple way to keep focus throughout an entire year. I don’t know about you but my head gets full fast and it seems like I can go in all different directions as urgency presents itself. So having a word for the year helps settle me as I recall the general direction provided by my God-given word. Just having one focus word keeps me from adopting “should” goals.

I do not like to set goals. I am amongst about 80 percent of the population who cringe when the word goal is mentioned, according to author Bobb Biehl. In his book, Stop Setting Goals…If You Would Rather Solve Problems, Biehl estimates that only 15 percent of people are energized by setting goals and reaching them. The majority of us prefer to identify problems and seek solutions. Since the writing of this book, Biehl has discovered yet another small percentage of people—five percent—who are neither motivated by problems or goals but by seizing opportunities.

Since I already have my own “non-goal” word for 2011, I like to look back over my shoulder and ponder how last year’s word unfolded in my life. It’s an enlightening exercise that I recommend to all who choose a word for the year.

I could trace my 2010 word—radical—throughout the whole of last year. Radical shock waves from alcoholism, panic attacks, sexual impurity, lay-offs, joblessness, relocation, recovery, and seclusion impacted many in proximity. Radical snuck up on me while I watched digital numbers of the clock slowly click through the night. Radical taunted me while I plotted how to handle the next new crisis. Radical loaded my shoulders pulling them down. Who picked such a dreadful word anyway?

Radical knocked me down several notches so that I was on the same level with our youngest grandson. One day while talking to my daughter-in-law on the phone, 22-month-old Jackson stomped into their kitchen perfectly pleading, “Crak-kerrr, mommy, Crak-kerrr.”

“Mommy is making your lunch, Jack, no crackers.”

Distance by telephone gave me a unique vantage point. Jackson cried and whimpered in frustration, “Crak-kerrr!”  From this same vantage point, I heard an echo of my own voice whining for want I wanted, and then petulantly protesting when I did not get what was expected. But my voice was not as cute as Jack’s.

Early last year, I attended a New Life Weekend in the San Francisco Bay Area… so that I could learn how to fix a relative who was threatening my expectations. I was energized to solve her problem. I arrived with luggage stuffed full of judgment and resentment. After two days, I emptied that suitcase and returned with radically different pieces of apparel…like humility, compassion and forgiveness. Those have been well-worn outfits during my year of radical.

When Christmas rolled around, the outfits were threadbare as I suited up for our first Christmas without family. Radical threatened me again as I dredged up expectations of Christmases past. Radical accused me as we went tree-cutting by ourselves. Our past adventures into the woods had meant family, friends, picnics, hot chocolate and the thrill of finding the best tree.

The search for the perfect Christmas tree, I believe, began many Decembers ago…maybe even in my childhood where there were no forests to be found. Whatever it takes, the Voorhees get their tree…and expectations are achieved. Even despite a few permitless years—shhh—we cut our tree during the night, having our young children stand on lookout. What were we teaching them anyway?

This past December, my husband and I quietly trekked through the snow, sometimes sinking up to our thighs. It started snowing; we were cold and hungry. We settled on a tree. Radical again…one side of the tree was pretty sparse. I lugged all the sorrows of a solitary Christmas all the way uphill to the car along with this imperfect tree. The uphill trudge with tree and resentment culminated in a welcome release upon reaching the car. As I dropped it next to the car, it felt like I had let go of something else as well. We looked forward to decorating the tree together.

This time, only a wisp of radical brushed past as we hung our absent daughter’s ornaments from previous years. Our imperfect tree sparkled…and a new kind of radical glistened. Tree cutting by ourselves wasn’t terrible afterall. Christmas morning could be different. 2011 could be different. I could be different. Radical.

I recalled my daughter-in-law prompting little Jack during his cracker disappointment, “Jack, is no cracker a bummer?”

He stopped whining to give voice to a different, matter-of-fact perspective, “Bumm-merr….bumm-merr.”  And then he ate his lunch. Problem solved.

As is fitting for a problem-solver, my word for 2011 is willing. Bumm-merr was already taken.