Wednesday, December 26, 2007

"I don't drink coffee"

Last Sunday morning was exquisite. Larry and I were staying at the Renaissance in downtown Chicago and I had the pleasure of waking up whenever I wanted to a quiet room with coffee brewing on the desk. I got to take a shower and get dressed at a leisurely pace with no children fighting in the other room. The TV was tuned to some coverage of the presidential candidates instead of Sponge Bob or Hannah Montana. There was snow spinning and twirling over the city view we had from our hotel window. All was right in my little world.

After lounging around our hotel room for the morning, we decided to head out onto the streets and find a casual place for a little brunch. We stepped outside into what we later found out was 16 degree weather, with a windchill factor of -5. We pulled our wool coats tight, turned up our collars and braced ourselves against the 35 mph winds and flurries of snow. As I adjusted my gloves, I prayed a silly, silent prayer of thanks for the impulse to pull my tights on under my jeans that morning. Walking through the city we were flanked and passed by a plethora of Bears fans and Cheeseheads, decked out in their winter gear, carry blankets and wearing their jerseys over their coats as they walked to Soldier Field. After just a block and 1/2 we were about ready to turn back and simply eat breakfast at the hotel when we spied a small shop on the corner, Corner Bakery Cafe. We could see customers huddled together as they exited with steaming hot coffee in hand and we knew we had found our destination.

We approached the ever-present-in-Chicago revolving door and we were forced to step aside as the side door opened and a manager briskly escorted a homeless man out onto the sidewalk. "Now, see what you've done. I don't have a choice now. I have to call the police. You can't come in here," she declared as she turned past us and went back to her post behind the counter. I could see the clientele at the tables absorbed in the drama as if it were part of their dining entertainment. Whether he had come in and started panhandling among the seated customers or whether he had simply been looking for a warm place to stand for a moment, we will never know.

We entered the cafe and as we walked to the counter I mumbled to Larry that if I had been living on the street in these temperatures I would probably risk arrest for a moment of warmth also. We started to place our order and I began to scan the room for a table. It was crowded and I asked Larry to order so I could grab a spot when it became available. Larry handed me my coffee cup so I could fill it and as he did, the thought occurred to me that I should buy this man outside a coffee. I asked for another cup and left to go fill them up. Not knowing what he would want in it I simply poured a little cream and grabbed a lid. The coffee was just brewed, smelled amazing and I could feel the heat through the cup as it warmed my fingers. I was starting to feel glad that I had acted on the impulse to get some for this man.

As a I pushed through the revolving door, he stood up and thrust his cup toward me. "I don't have cash," I said (which I didn't), "but I did buy you some coffee." I held out my gift. He looked at me incredulously. "I don't drink coffee," he stated blankly. I was momentarily thrown but quickly recovered remembering how the coffee's heat had radiated through the cardboard cup. "Well, even if you don't drink's very hot and just holding it will really help warm your hands up for a little while," I said optimistically. "I don't drink coffee," he repeated insistently. "If you go back in and get me some hot chocolate, I'll drink that but I don't drink coffee." I was flustered. "I...I...I was just trying to help, man..." I stammered.

I pushed back through the revolving door (what is it with Chicago and revolving doors?) and as I was thrust back into the cafe I felt my face flush with heat. I looked around and saw curious stares. I could see people trying to piece together the conversation I had just shared with the homeless man in their minds. I wanted to shout it to them verbatim to stop the gawking and perhaps to garnish some favor. Tears started to well up in my eyes and I couldn't figure out why I was reacting so violently to this rejection.

Part of me was angry. "What an ungrateful little bastard" was one of the phrases floating around in my subconscious. Another part was slightly humiliated. Were people thinking I was a gullible little bleeding heart or that I was foolish?

Then another thought overtook me. Was I being condescending toward this man by assuming he could use a cup of coffee and not even bothering to find out what his real need was? Or even his desire? Why did his preferences and tastes not matter to me? If he were one of my friends, a person a loved, I would have asked him not just what he needed but what he wanted. When did I decide that a homeless person shouldn't get a choice in what is given to them...that it simply didn't matter.

I am haunted by this and have been since my encounter with this man on the streets of Chicago. I see a need for a change. I thought I was socially conscious, caring for those in need and genuinely moved by those facing hardship. What I discovered was that while I was moved it was still as a stranger, not in the love that Christ has for them. If I loved them, my gifts would take into consideration not only their needs but their preferences, what they like and what they love. And while it would be easy now to beat myself over the head for my insensitivity, I am thankful for this new conviction and the opportunity to grow and see things in a new way. I also know myself well enough to see that simply making the commitment to act on this new perception would not work. This is a change that the Holy Spirit is making and will sustain in me. I am praying for a new redemption day and that it begins in me.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Wicked Night!

This is the view from our hotel room window. I love hotels. I love walking into a clean room (that I didn't have to clean), seeing a huge comfy bed, having blackout curtains, looking through everything to find the little, robes, mints... I know Larry's probably sick of them because of all the traveling he has to do but I get a thrill every time we stay in one... I'm like a little kid.

Here we are! Leaving our hotel room to go to dinner and see WICKED!

We had dinner at the hotel.

The show was absolutely amazing. I can't say enough about it. I was mesmerized from the first note of the orchestra's score to the last bow of the curtain call. The cast was strong (with the exception of Boq) and while the girl playing Galinda was quite young (21!!!) she was exceptionally talented and came off as a seasoned performer. Brilliantly done!

One last thing... we passed this sign in an asian restaurant on the way to the theatre and couldn't stop laughing!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The New Nativity Scene... played out by an almost-4-year-old obsessed with Disney Princesses. This is what greeted me when I went in to the computer room to clean up. I mean...who knew that Jasmine, Belle and Cinderella were at the birth of Christ???? Apparently Maddie! Notice the extra special touch of scattered fish food underfoot. I think there's an extra horse in there also...he snuck in behind the donkey.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Did I mention?

That my incredible husband (the one last seen on this blog as Santa), is surprising me (ok...obviously it's not a surprise anymore but it was until a few days ago...) with a night away in Chicago this weekend for my birthday AND (most importantly!) tickets to "Wicked". The kids are green with envy and I am aglow with anticipation!

Picture Worthy Happenings

Yesterday morning Uncle Joe drove through town and stopped for coffee before heading off to Kansas City on his cross-country drive with his old roommate. We were so happy to see him!

Then...this was great!!! This week Larry did a favor for a friend and was Santa. Our kids LOVED it! I always wondered what it would be like to kiss Santa!

Monday, December 17, 2007


O Emmanuel, Jesus Christ,
Desire of every nation,
Savior of all peoples,
come and dwell among us.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Emma's 9th Birthday

Emma had her party last night. So even though her birthday is not until the 18th's some pictures of the main celebration!

Winter Storm Update... they're saying over 12" by tomorrow night!!!!! YIPE!

Winter Storm Warning...

Yep...they are forecasting a potential of 8-11 " of snow by tomorrow night! I'm pretty sure we haven't had that big of a snow while we've lived here. Of course, our forecasts are famous for being purely speculative so...we'll see.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Just a quick... while I wait for Landen to get out of the shower so I can drive him to Jazz Band before school...

Higglytown Heroes:

  • What's with rhyming "heroes" with "fear-o"? It sends a spine-chilling shiver (akin to the one that accompanies fingernails on the blackboard...which....I don't even think they use anymore...anywho...) through my entire body everytime I have to hear that lame attempt at creativity.

  • What responsible parent in their right mind would allow their children to play with a squirrel? They are rabies infested, nut chucking, vile little creatures! I don't care how cute they are or if they happen to be able to speak with an authentic Minnesota accent!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

And The Winner Is...

Dana Berroth!!!! (results were chosen from an online random number generator with numbers assigned based on the order of the posts)

Keep checking back...I may yet have another one!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Baldwin Cookie Baking Extravaganza

After 9 hours of cooking baking I think I'm done!!! I've heard of people setting aside one whole day for baking during the holidays but have never done it. I mean, get real...I just started really cooking this year! :-)

Emma and I sat down the other day and picked which cookies we would be baking and I made a grocery list. Due to our pre-planning we only had one call to Larry to pick up something at the store and one run over to the neighbor's for 1/2 cup of cocoa (Thanks, Lori!).

The kids didn't help as much as I thought they would (do they ever?)....but we made it. I still have a few sugar cookies to frost but that can wait. I never knew that baking could make your body ache. This is our list of cookies for 2007:

  • Mocha Crinkles

  • No Bake Cookies

  • Sugar Cookies

  • Russian Tea Cakes

  • Oatmeal Butterscotch

  • Chocolate Chip Snowmen

  • Yuletide Linzer Bars

Friday, December 07, 2007

A Mixed Up Christmas

I thought I'd share my Christmas Music Mix and here's the bonus! I invite you all to comment, share your mix, or link back to your mix by midnight tomorrow (PST for all my west coast friends) and on Dec. 9th I will choose at random a winner to receive a CD copy of my Mixed Up Christmas! Yay...let the posting begin!

  1. Blue Christmas- Elvis: How can you NOT have a Christmas mix with this song???? It's nostalgic...well, if you're over 50, I guess. It is by an artist whose name alone calls up images of little people with pointy ears and little green shoes with bells on the toes. Need I say more?

  2. Joy (to the World)- Avalon: NOT the traditional version...this is a fun, rousing, sure to get you moving faster as you decorate, shop, address cards, wrap, bake, clean...anything you need extra energy the vocal arrangement is amazing...I love harmonies and small group vocals (as you will see as you continue down this list)...especially ones that sound difficult to pull off!
  3. After December Slips Away- First Call: One of my favorite groups of all time.
  4. What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?- Ella Fitzgerald with the Frank DeVol Orchestra: Ok...hand's down this is one of my favorite Christmas songs ever...I had never even heard it before 1999 but my extremely gifted friends, musical arranger extraordinaire, Vanda Eggington and playwright Kerry Meads, used it in a Christmas show I did that year and the moment was so moving that I used to sneak to the curtain every night just to watch the scene (I obviously wasn't in that scene!). Since then I can't help but listen and fall back in time to the beautiful moment created on stage by Robbi Starnegg and Tom was unforgettable.
  5. Snowfall- Manhattan Transfer: Once again...amazing vocal arrangement (and difficult...). It really is gorgeous. One of those "in-front-of-the-fire-sipping-an-adult-beverage-with-Christmas-tree-lights-on" kind of song.
  6. Mystery- Selah: It is the lyrics to this song that draw me in and hold ...riveted:
    "God predestined that His son would die, yet He still created man".
    This song brings my heart back to the gospel and the true significance of Christmas. As our worship pastor, Ryan Flanigan, recently posted in his blog:
    Our Advent worship is, in the words of Bob Webber, "joyful sorrow."
  7. Drummer Boy- Jars of Clay: What post-modern Christmas list would be complete without this version of this song?
  8. Here It Is- Over The Rhine: OVER THE RHINE...what else is there to say? maybe not everyone has had the fortunate experience to be introduced to this brilliant band...let me give you a taste of their lyrics (from "Here It Is"):
    "I cried when I wrote this, I'll always remember the worst kind of lonely is alone in December, The act of forgiveness is always a mystery, the meltingof ice and the future of history..."
    If it made sense (which it doesn't because, after all, this is a mix cd) I would put everyone of their Christmas songs on this list!
  9. I Sing The Birth- Lamb's Players Theatre (An American Christmas) I cried the first time I really heard this song with all it's parts and the rich imagery in the lyrics. We performed this each year I was in this show and each time it never failed to move me.
    I sing the birth was born tonight; The author both of life and light
  10. Hold Onto Christmas-4Him: I have this thing about Marty Magehee's voice...basically I could listen to it forever...I have a feeling that all the tenor angels in heaven possess the same resonanace and timbre that Marty's voice carries. Just a note: if you happen to look up this album on the far as I know, Marty no longer sports that totally rad mullet (the world breathes a sigh of thankfulness).
  11. Wisemen and Angels-Staci Frenes: Heard this simple, lovely Christmas song last year. Staci was kind enough to let us use it.
  12. Carol- First Call: Love the "olde" sound of this one!
  13. All I Really Want-Steven Curtis Chapman: Given my heart for adoption, how could I leave this one out?
    All I really want for Christmas is someone to tuck me in, a shoulder to cry on if I lose, shoulders to ride on if I win. There's so much I could ask for, but there's just one thing I need,. All I really want for Christmas is a family
  14. Twist of the Magi-SheDaisy: This song is hysterical! Check it:
    HE: I put your mother on a greyhound (you did what?)You always hoped she'd have the chance to see the world-now she can SHE: I torched your Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues (No, no, no,no)So I could be your only girl-and now I am BOTH: And I did it all for you, I did it all for . This Christmas all your dreams will come true
  15. Hallelujah Chorus- Handel's Messiah: A Soulful Celebration (Quincy Jones)

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Two Years Ago Today...

...a scared little girl walked away from the only life she had ever known and into the arms of two people who looked like nothing she had ever seen and said nothing she could understand but who loved her more than she could ever imagine. I've said it before, but my picture of courage changed that day. She was so very brave for such a little girl. She was sick and little....fiesty and weepy...clingy and scarred...and she was my daughter. Today she is still full of spit and vinegar. She is affectionate and dramatic. She believes she is a princess and we agree. Her becoming a part of our family was and is a miracle.

Happy Gotcha Day, Madeline Yan...mommy loves you...even on exhausting, trying days like today! :-)

The kids...elfed...

Random things to do when you're procrastinating...

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

This is me...


Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

-Leonard Cohn

Sunday, December 02, 2007


Dear Baby, I hope someday somebody wants to hold you for 20 minutes straight. All they do is wrap you up in their arms without an ounce of selfishness to it.

From "Waitress"