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1. Peace With Wings

We made ornaments this week...for the birds.

Because they ate all our cherries this year?

Because they pecked holes in the eaves
and made attic nests?

But then we went birding.
A day's adventure into the wet, into the wind, 
from my technical world, 
no busy busy, no run arounds, no errand hopping, 
just listening.
Squinting into far off brambles.
Surprisingly, I connected. With the herons in the tree. 
With the brown-headed eagle, the sparrows, the finches.      
Like the time we stumbled on a barn owl and we lingered there, watching,
till the sky turned shadowy.
Or the day we pulled over the car to observe scores of starlings bathe in muddy puddles.

Maybe it's just the act of stopping 
in the midst of a life that whirls

-watching birds go about their day,
breathing in a piney forest, 
feeling rain pelt and pummel -

Maybe that's what slows me down. 
wakes me up. 
brings me peace.
And peace is what we all need this time of year.

So we made gifts for the birds.
I never thought I'd buy lard.  
 Or thistle seeds, for that matter.
Who needs more thistles? Birds, I guess.
So we squished together birdseed "cookies,"
threaded cheerios onto pipe cleaners  
and bent them into hearts.
Where did Birdy's cheerios go?
The big kids strung popcorn, nuts and apples into garlands.

I cut up felt and old jeans and t-shirts into bird-ish shapes
 for ornaments and pins.
 It was a good project for little sewists.
 And then we gathered our bounty
and strung it up
in the climbing tree.
"I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Peace to you, my friends...
peace that lifts, 
peace with wings.

And some beauteous books to warm your winter!
The Birds of Bethlehem - Tomie dePaola
Night Tree - Eve Bunting, Ted Rand
The Candle in the Forest - compiled by Joe L. Wheeler
Uncle Vova's Tree - Patricia Polacco
The Trees of the Dancing Goats - Patricia Polacco
The Birds' Christmas Carol - Kate Douglas Wiggin
The Mitten - Barbara McClintock
The Mitten - Jan Brett
The Money We'll Save - Brock Cole
Owl Babies - Martin Waddell, Patrick Benson
Owl Moon - Jane Yolen, John Schoenherr
No Two Alike - Keith Baker

4 Comments on Peace With Wings, last added: 12/13/2012
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2. Advent: Hope, Peace, Love, Joy

The fourth Sunday before Christmas marks the first Sunday of Advent.  This year it is December 2. Advent is from the Latin adventus meaning coming. It’s not just the shopping days until Santa’s arrival, but a time of preparation observed by Christians celebrating the birth of Jesus, the Messiah, and awaiting the return of Christ. In anticipation of the Nativity, children prepare Advent Wreaths, mark the days using an Advent Calendar, sing Christmas Carols, and decorate their homes.  The symbol of Light representing Jesus  is of particular significance and is found on our Christmas trees, in the lighted candles of the Advent Wreath, and on public display on houses, department stores, high rises, and tree lined streets.

The carols that tell the Christmas Story have special meaning and are well worth teaching our children.  Singing the songs gives children another way to learn the meaning of Advent and Christmas.  Singing also generates mirth and good cheer.

The first Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of the Catholic Liturgical Year. The Catholic Company has a list of Christmas children’s books,  Amazon also carries a huge selection of Christmas and Advent themed children’s books.

Not to be missed is the Third Annual Crèche Festival of the Diocese of Oakland’s Cathedral of Christ the Light will take place December 14-16, 2012.

Originally posted 11/28/2010,updated 11/30/2011 and 12/5/2012 on SSPP Reads. Graphic courtesy of AHarden, Flickr Creative Commons License.

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3. Get Ready for Sing We Now of Christmas

It has been a truly difficult time, and I've got to say, I was down and out for a while. Without going into too many details, I was laid off from a beloved job and have had a terrible time looking for work. I became very sick and for a couple weeks, I was barely able to do anything, much less get any writing done.

I'm still out of a job, but at least I'm back on my feet, and using the extra time to write and work on great projects.

I'm happy to announce that "Sing We Now of Christmas: An Advent Anthology" is coming very soon. I've ordered the proof copy of it and it just needs my final review. It will be coming out in paperback and Amazon Kindle formats.

You can get a better idea about what you'll find at the anthology's website:


We will be having a promotion soon to get everything kicked off that has to do with "The 12 Days of Christmas".  We're also hoping to do another book next year that will benefit autism. Please send any stories you'd like to have considered for that my way.

This week, another anothology came out of which I am a part. I have two stories that are modern parables that I think you'll like. Check out "Parables for Today":


Parables for Today

I'll going to try to be online more in the upcoming days. Thank you all for your friendship and support.

3 Comments on Get Ready for Sing We Now of Christmas, last added: 9/19/2012
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4. Naming the Anthology: Fa, la, la, la...in May.

Hello everyone!

I know you’re all probably not thinking of Christmas yet (and if you are, you’re pretty good at not procrastinating), but here’s a little Christmas in May for you. We need a name for our Christmas anthology so that we can keep the ball rolling on getting it done in time for the season.

I have received many wonderful suggestions from a variety of sources, and I’m very thankful for every one of them. The following is a list that I have narrowed down to ten, and now I want to hear from you. My feeling is that there should be a main title and then a subtitle to help people know what kind of anthology it is. I had someone suggest “An Advent Anthology” as a subtitle, because there are 25 parts to it, which can be read from December 1st-December 25th.

Without further ado, and a few fa la la la las:
1.    Angelsong
2.    Sing We Now of Christmas
3.    Nightly Noels
4.    Literary Caroling
8 Comments on Naming the Anthology: Fa, la, la, la...in May., last added: 6/1/2012
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5. Good News, Bad News, Good News

And the good news is...the cast list was posted, and our kids all got leading parts!  Chicklet8 and Bantam12 are both double-cast as Von Trapp children--Marta and Friedrich.  This means they will play these parts in half the performances; in the other half, C8 is a Townsperson and B12 is a Party Guest.  So he will have to learn to waltz.  With a girl.  And wear an elegant suit.  He will be dashing, indeed.

And B16 is Captain Von Trapp!  He is so pleased, and eager for the challenge of a straight role.  He found his last role, as the comedic Little John in Robin Hood, to be almost too easy.  (Let's just say he and Little John have a lot in common.)  He has much in common with the Captain too; he's already used to ordering around his younger siblings off-stage, and now he will get to do it on-stage as well!  He is very good with kids, and he'll enjoy working with them in this show.

(The performances are March 1-4, local friends, but we don't know yet which performances will feature the Red Cast.  So don't rush to buy your tickets yet!  We'll let you know.)

The bad news is...I was in a car accident on Saturday, on my way to pick up Chicklet after her callback was finished.  I was heading north when the light turned yellow....and since I was going about 40 mph (under the 45 mph speed limit), and since there was still snow and ice on the roads in places, I kept going.  A southbound pickup truck waiting to turn left apparently had his eyes on the light but not on the traffic, and he began his left turn just as I entered the intersection.  I slammed on my brakes but had no time to stop.

My air bag cushioned me both from the sound and much of the impact of the crash.  I am sooo grateful for that air bag! Both of us drivers were okay, it seemed, and his passenger, a child in a car seat, was too.  What a mercy.

Almost 48 hours later now, I am sore all over. But my head and neck are better than my shoulders and ribcage, and I have pretty normal range of motion in my neck, able even to look over both shoulders, so I am better than I was after my other accident nearly three years ago.  It was a lower-speed accident and the air bag didn't deploy, so my body took the full shock that time.  (I really am grateful for that airbag!)

But I am heartsick about my beloved purple Prius.  I am so afraid that it's totaled.  Both airbags deployed, and it's turning 10 years old in 2012, with nearly 100,000 miles on it.  But it was still running after the accident, and surprisingly, it didn't appear too badly damaged.  I expected the whole front end to be completely crumpled, but it wasn't.  I think my brakes must have really slowed me down before impact.  So I still cling to some hope that the adjuster will find it worth repairing. It's a Toyota, and a hybrid, after all.  And it's my baby!

How life can change in an instant!  The remaining bit of "good news" that I am trying to soak up today is how every minute of life and health is a gift from God.  I am trying not to let my grief over my sweetheart car, that I may never drive again, overshadow the fact that my kids are not motherless and my husband is not a widower.  I am not crippled, hospitalized or in a wheelchair. I am trying not to let the financial concerns crowd out my gratitude for God's mercy on all three of us in the accident, and for the blessings of life and health.

I am reminded too, of the Advent truth that no one knows the day or the hour that Christ will return, and we should live as those prepared.  My heart echoes that Advent prayer from the first Sunday in Advent, that "when he shall appear, he may not find us sleeping in sin but active in his service and joyful in his praise."  And from the second Sunday in Advent, "when he comes again, we may be rea

1 Comments on Good News, Bad News, Good News, last added: 12/19/2011
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6. Peace talks


I talked with the kids about peace this week.

"Peace is when your heart isn't troubled. It's also -"

Their dad chimed in,
"-tiny! I have peace.
A tiny piece
of rice."

The evening erupted into wild fits of hilarity.
"I have piece! of pizza! ...piece of paper, piece of pie.... "

Peace talks all done. Try again next year.

A little more sacred dirt to remind me that both life and children do not fit into boxes.

Would you like to know what my children squabble over the most?

The singing manger scene.
"Give me the baby Jesus, stink-head!"

That's right. Maybe next week we can talk about love. We'll see how that goes...

The sketches are part of my homemade Advent calendar,
done old-school style in
India ink and Prisma colors on Canson paper,
cut out like paper dolls, glued onto envelopes and attached to mat board.

7. Wondering

I've been wondering how to do Advent and the Christmas season this year.  Every year, I want it to be meaningful.  It's a teaching opportunity for the kids, and it's a reason to open myself up to God in an intentional way.

But I also want simplicity.  It seems like a time to pare down, not a time to add more obligations in a month full of additional services, concerts, cooking, shopping, parties and events.  These activities are often meaningful and memorable...not sure I necessarily want to cut them out...but how to simplify?  (How to simplify life in general, not just the holidays--I am always wondering!)

I wonder what it means for me to look for Christ's coming, and to prepare myself, like the virgins trimming their lamps.  I want to be watchful and wakeful, full of expectation, not sleepy and lulled by the distractions of this world and especially of the season.

I wonder if a key may be found in this verse:

So if you're serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don't shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed in the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ--that's where the action is. See things from HIS perspective.  (Col. 3:1-2, The Message)

I wonder how, in the holiday rush, when it's so easy to be absorbed in the things right in front of me, do I see what is going on around Christ, see HIS perspective?  Christmas is so much more than just "the reason for the season" or a remembrance of His birth.  Christ came in the manger 2,000 years ago; He is coming again in the future; but He is coming now, continually, always, into the hearts and minds of those who are open and expectant.

Do I expect him to show up in the holiday baking?  At the Christmas pageant, at the Christmas concert, around the dinner table?  At the mall?  In the tree decorating?

How about when the kids bicker over the ornaments, fight over who gets to lick the spoon, or when flu takes us all on Christmas Eve?

I wonder if another key is found in this collect from the Book of Common Prayer:

Oh Lord our God, make us wakeful and keep us faithful as we await the coming of your Son our Lord; that, when he shall appear, he may not find us sleeping in sin but active in his service and joyful in his praise; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

"Active in his service and joyful in his praise."  I wonder if the key is not in what I do to make Advent and Christmas meaningful, but in how I do it?  Whatever it is?

Eyes up, on Christ, where the action is...while hands bake, trim, wrap, purchase, light...with a heart to joyfully serve and praise?

I wonder.

What are you wondering about Advent and Christmas?

(This post is linked to Kerry's Nativity Carnival--check it out!)

2 Comments on Wondering, last added: 12/1/2011
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8. When we need a little hope...

Who says angels smile all the time?

Jelly jars,
colored beach glass
and beeswax candles
on my grandmother's silver tea tray...

I lit a candle with the kids last night.
We talked about hope.
about promises
and longed-for things.

Eight years ago, I was told I couldn't have children.
I was lost at sea,
grasping for a new direction,
for something to hold on to.

That Christmas, my sister-in-law gave me a present,
a simple linen square, sewn with one word:    

I stared over and over and over at that sewn word, 
trying to own it.

It became my tangible reminder
that help is never far,
even when we can't see or feel or think through our hard times.

And that season, eight years ago, is when I started writing, actually sitting at a desk, plotting and birthing stories. Which I'm still doing today.

My four sweet endings, you've seen.

6 Comments on When we need a little hope..., last added: 12/3/2011
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9. Advent: A time of anticipation

The fourth Sunday before Christmas marks the first Sunday of Advent.  This year it is November 27. Advent is from the Latin adventus meaning coming. It’s not just the shopping days until Santa’s arrival, but a time of preparation observed by Christians celebrating the birth of Jesus, the Messiah, and awaiting the return of Christ. In anticipation of the Nativity, children prepare Advent Wreaths, mark the days using an Advent Calendar, sing Christmas Carols, and decorate their homes.  The symbol of Light representing Jesus  is of particular significance and is found on our Christmas trees, in the lighted candles of the Advent Wreath, and on public display on houses, department stores, high rises, and tree lined streets.

The carols that tell the Christmas Story have special meaning and are well worth teaching our children.  Singing the songs gives children another way to learn the meaning of Advent and Christmas.  Singing also generates mirth and good cheer.

The first Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of the Catholic Liturgical Year, and we find the long awaited New Roman Missal in place with the new year. Catholicmom.com has a list of Advent books and activities for kids; Amazon also carries a huge selection of Christmas and Advent themed children’s books. More Advent books can be found on line at The Catholic Company.

Originally posted 11/28/2010 and updated 11/30/2011 on SSPP Reads. Graphic courtesy of AHarden, Flickr Creative Commons License.

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10. Children, Books and Advent

Advent is celebrated by Christians in the four weeks leading up to Christmas Day.  At our house, we have taken to setting out an Advent wreath with candles and lighting the candles in succession during the weeks before Christmas while we have dinner.  We also have Advent calendars — one with chocolates, and the other stuffed with candy canes that our children eat day-by-day.    This year, my daughter and I have the added pleasure of enjoying an on-line Advent calendar that celebrates each day with a magical scene from a wintry village.

One of my reading pleasures this Advent is librarian  Sue Fisher’s blog, Mouse-traps and the Moon.  For Advent, Sue is featuring a blog post each day on the best child-focused book sites she’s found on the Web.  I know it’s getting close to mid-December with my post today, but you can always scroll back to Sue’s earlier posts to see what gems she’s found from Dec. 1.  In fact, that’s just what my daughter and I did together this past Sunday afternoon when it simply was too cold to do anything outside.  We watched videos on the Peter Rabbit site, heard Spike Milligan recite “On the Ning Nang Nong,” played games on the Jan Brett author site — these are some of the delightful interactive sites Sue links to in her posts.  Do check out Mousetraps and the Moon.  You can have a fun time with your child exploring these sites and learning about some great books for kids.

0 Comments on Children, Books and Advent as of 12/13/2010 2:08:00 AM
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11. Advent: Light in the Darkness

It's the season of Advent. ”Arise, shine; for your light has come, And the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth, And deep darkness the peoples; But the LORD will rise upon you, And His glory will appear upon you. And nations will come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising."  (Isaiah 60:1-3) Some call it a mini-Lent, as Christ's light

3 Comments on Advent: Light in the Darkness, last added: 12/7/2010
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12. A Miscellany

Many thanks to Claire for saving my files and restoring my computer after a virus got into the system. Going through my rescued files I am happily finding everything still there, including all the images. I love hand lettering and inventing fonts whenever the opportunity arises, and have this week compiled the resulting alphabet of interchangeable letters. My website is being added to and will include these in a page of lettering samples.

I've had a spate of inconveniences and multiple dentist appointments, the latter the inevitable result of radiation treatment back in January. Not to grumble (or perhaps to grumble just a little), it can all be fixed. And on the bright side, my kind computer friend has loaned me a Wacom computer tablet to play with, my first efforts in direct drawing are below. The stylus responds almost but not quite like a pencil or brush, and after the initial loop-and-scrolls scribbling (reminiscent of playing with my first rapidograph pen) I began to get the feel of it.

Acquiring any new skill takes a while. The tremendous crop from my pear tree led me into some serious jam-making. The first batch didn't set but the next did and was delicious as well. It can can become addictive once you taste successful jam in the making and view with satisfaction the row of full and warmly gleaming jars. There was more than enough to give away, which naturally led to the fun of designing and hand-painting the labels. I cut out rondels of textured watercolour paper, set atop circles of fabric cut from a favorite faded denim.

I was invited to a local Brownie troup recently to introduce them to watercolour painting. This was a highly enjoyable evening - I have only been to Scout meets over the last decade! Our subject matter was fairies, of course. I took along some of my samples and demonstrated my method for painting simple figures. After some initial experimentation the results were charming, a host of Christmas card fairies.

With Advent beginning this weekend the outdoor Christmas decorations went up and I brought my big Santa's List painting out of its storage place.

3 Comments on A Miscellany, last added: 12/5/2010

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13. In a Heartbeat, Advent, and Good Fairies

The gallery is looking lovely. The creatures and characters from Woodland Christmas and Woodland Nutcracker are beautifully displayed and despite dreary weather we had a busy weekend at the opening. It is a real pleasure to see these pieces together again, and in a setting reminiscent of the summer cottage that inspired the Woodland books.

Fairy art and books are on display too,

And between the fairies, keeping them company, is the last of our Gund Woodland Nutcracker bears that were produced for Eatons reopening in 2000.

It was a brief reopening for Eatons, a chapter of Canadian retail history in which our Woodland Nutcracker played a decorative role. While the Titans of retail wrestled for supremacy, our lovely bears and woodland friends were recreated as life-size figures for in-store Christmas displays. A phalanx of Woodland Nutcrackers was commissioned and the 9-foot bears were positioned at store entries, and more bears and Woodland friends twirled inside in animated displays.

10 Comments on In a Heartbeat, Advent, and Good Fairies, last added: 12/4/2009

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14. What's Hot + What's Not: Happy Chaxgven

I love Wednesdays. Time to play along again with all the hotter-notters at Loobylu's. Head over there to check out the cute artwork Claire's featuring this week and to see what's hot and not around the globe!


Chaxgven Also known as Thanksgiving. We renamed the holiday after receiving this charming invitation a few years ago from my nephew who was then in kindergarten. (In case you don't read invented spelling, it says, "Dear Baicker-McKees Could you come over for Thanksgiving."
Naturally, we couldn't refuse.) Hope you have lots to gve chax for this year; I know we do. And it's not just the food.

The Kitchen That's because of the food. Specifically at the moment because of the Chocolate Amaretto Cheesecake that's about to come out of the oven. (I'll have to add a picture shortly.) Not traditional - but good on any occasion. We're having pumpkin pie too, and lots of other typical Thanksgiving dishes, but I'm planning to give special chax for this dessert. Here's the recipe, which came to me by way of a work colleague of my husband's. Here's the amazing part: it's low fat, but you'd never guess that from the taste. It is, quite frankly, incredible.

Chocolate Amaretto Cheesecake
2 small tubs soft light cream cheese (I've tried fat free, but the texture was weird.)
1 cup sugar
1 cup 1% fat small curd cottage cheese
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa
1/4 cup amaretto (you can sub almost any liqueur, like c

4 Comments on What's Hot + What's Not: Happy Chaxgven, last added: 12/25/2009
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15. Adventskalender

Passend zur Vorweihnachtszeit habe ich für den Coppenrath Verlag einen nostalgischen Adventskalender gemalt. Es ist eine großformatige Aquarellarbeit mit der ich ca. 80 Stunden beschäftigt war.

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16. Bring Out the Vote

Boy oh boy. Mitali Perkins enjoys the voting process. First she had us all weigh in on how often we read a book before declaring some sort of opinion about it. And now her fictional character Sameera Righton is giving us a chance to vote on the name for the second book in the First Daughter series. Your choices? First Daughter: White House Rules versus First Daughter: White House Rant. I am, as you might have suspected, firmly in the rant camp. Now go and do that thing you do; that thing you do so well.

1 Comments on Bring Out the Vote, last added: 3/29/2007
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