The Christmas Spirit Hit!

I think it was the raw and biting winds that pushed us over the edge on Saturday.  Before I knew what was happening James was bringing the boxes up from downstairs.  He had been planning and waiting for the day after Thanksgiving, our traditional Christmas decorating day, to create his ideas.  But the excitement was too much.  In fact, all through the year I heard him planning and thinking about the decorations for this Holiday.  So within a few hours on Saturday night things were already looking festive in every room.   On Sunday after “Face The Nation” and “Meet The Press” (some time frames MUST be observed) the tree started to go up.  We trimmed the tree with the lights (600 light bulbs) and then over 600 ornaments, 570 of them are not duplicates. 

Every year our tree reflects Christmas and the memories that made past years so special.

In 2002 James’ family flew in from Maine and stayed at our old home. One evening we took the plain glass ornaments I had from over the years and painted memories of our favorites things about Christmas on each of them.  Needless to say much of the tree is very traditional and old-fashioned here, and I love that feel. 

The photo below shows an ornament from the 1930’s that came from the family of our friend Henry.  Henry’s uncles worked at an aluminum foil company in Pennsylvania, and these were stamped out at work, and then their wives sewed them into garlands.  The family gave us these for the tree last year.  The red bird to the right is from my Aunt Theresa when I was a teenager.


My nephew Trevor made the the red cross shaped ornament and gave it to me one year when he was probably 4 or 5 years old, about 30 years ago.


There are countless such memories that make the tree unique, and needless to say, priceless.


Update: Ted Haggard, Disgraced Pastor Now Insurance Salesman!

This was a story that caught my attention.

Ted Haggard once ran a ultra-conservative mega-church, but was caught with a male escort.   I might add that he was also the President of the National Association Of Evangelicals.  WHOOPS!  That can’t be right to the good ole boys.  He was removed faster than a weegie board at a Baptist Camp Meeting.   But then after all these months what has happened to Ted Haggard?  I found out today.

Earlier this month, a guest took the pulpit at Open Bible Fellowship in Morrison, Ill., a 350-member church surrounded by cornfields. The speaker was an insurance salesman from Colorado named Ted Haggard.

The former superstar pastor, disgraced two years ago in a sex-and-drugs scandal, had returned — this time as a Christian businessman preaching a message that was equal parts contrition and defiance. Haggard linked his fall to being molested in second grade and apologized again.

His two sermons were posted, fleetingly, on Haggard’s Web site under one word: “Alive!”

While his exact plans remain unclear, Haggard is unmistakably making himself a public figure again, nine months after his former church said he walked away from an oversight process meant to restore him.

The man who confessed to being a “a deceiver and a liar” is asking for another hearing, finding encouragement from a loyal circle of supporters, skepticism from those evangelical leaders who think it’s premature and complex emotions at the Colorado Springs church he betrayed.

Haggard, 52, resigned as president of the 30 million-member National Association of Evangelicals and was fired from New Life Church amid allegations that he paid a male prostitute for sex and used methamphetamine.

As part of a severance package with his former church, Haggard agreed to leave Colorado Springs for a period and not speak publicly about the scandal, church officials said at the time. But he never really disappeared, making news when he relocated his family to Arizona and solicited financial support in an e-mail.

Haggard’s plea for funds was rebuked by a three-pastor team overseeing his “restoration” — a healing process that doesn’t necessarily mean a public return. In February, New Life Church announced that Haggard had prematurely ended that relationship.

One restoration team member, H.B. London, said a return to vocational ministry in less than four or five years would be dangerous for Haggard, his family, former church and Colorado Springs.

“To sit on the sidelines for a person with that kind of personality and gifting is probably like being paralyzed,” said London, who counsels pastors through a division of Focus on the Family, the Colorado Springs-based conservative Christian group. “If Mr. Haggard and others like him feel like they have a call from God, they rationalize that their behavior does not change that call.”




Newsweek Cover: Michelle Obama


Newsweek has a nice cover photo of Michelle Obama (minus the water mark above) and a rather good read on a lady that I think is truly classy.  She is also very intelligent.  I think at times the campaign tried to down play her keen mind, but I hope that since the election is over Michelle Obama will shine a new light on what a First Lady in the White House can accomplish.  There is more to do than organizing the President’s sock drawer.

The editor of Newsweek, Daniel Klaidman, wrote a succinct reason for the cover and story.

That is why we chose to explore the meaning of Michelle Obama this week. All First Ladies face intense scrutiny. We hold them out as arbiters of our values and styles. Michelle is about to become the most visible African-American woman in the world. With this exposure, as Allison Samuels observes in her cover essay, Michelle has a real opportunity to alter the world’s image of black women—and to knock down some ugly stereotypes. To succeed, Allison argues, Michelle will have to “engage in a delicate tap dance,” to maintain the trust of the broad American public while staying true to her authentic self. It won’t be easy. But with the combination of grace, strength and political skill she demonstrated during a grueling election campaign, she’s off to a good start

Part of the story reads as follows.

It’s an amazing opportunity—and a huge responsibility. “I think she’s always going to be classy, because she knows she’s not just representing herself,” said my friend Gertrude Justin, 40, a nurse from Houston. “She knows she’s fighting stereotypes of black people that have been around for decades and that her every move will be watched. I’m sure she’s been just as insulted by the lack of true depictions of African-American women as any other black woman.” Michelle will be a daily reminder that we’re not all hotheaded, foaming-at-the-mouth drug addicts, always ready with a quick one-liner and a roll of the eyes.

Like many African-American women I know, Michelle has had a lot of practice at the delicate tap dance of getting along in the mainstream white world. During all those years in boardrooms and a topnotch law firm—not to mention the exclusive clubs of Princeton and Harvard Law School—she’s had to learn to blend in. Now she’ll have to go even further in convincing two very different constituencies—African-Americans and everyone else—that they can trust her as their First Lady. And she’ll have to do it all while remaining true to her authentic self.

Michelle has already shown she understands how universal her appeal must be. Early on in the primaries, after she was labeled too forward and too loud, Michelle demonstrated self-restraint and discipline by dialing back. She stopped making harmless jokes about Obama’s morning breath and other breaches of hygiene. Her remark about being “proud of my country” for the first time was another rare misstep. But she quickly learned to play the adoring and uncontroversial wife, talking up her husband on shows like “The View.”

She showed she could calibrate her remarks for predominantly black audiences too, opening up a bit more about what Obama’s election would mean for them—and what it would also mean for her, referring to herself as “the little black girl from the South Side of Chicago.” Yet when The New Yorker caricatured the Obamas in July doing a “terrorist fist bump” in the Oval Office, the image stung. It was Michelle who came across as the domineering one—the angry black woman. She toned it down and took to wearing pearls and reassuring J.Crew cardigans.

Will that softer side win out now that she’s headed to the East Wing? When I met Michelle earlier this year for an interview in Atlanta, I was taken by her warmth and eagerness to chat about everything—fashion designers she’d like to wear, her girls’ taste in clothes, even dogs. (On a follow-up phone call, she greeted me with “Hey, girlfriend,” like she was a long-lost sorority sister.) There was no pretense—no second-guessing her next word or move the way she seemed to do after the campaign became a mudfest.

I personally hope that she will let more of that true, colorful personality seep through. There are some good hints she might. Her daring election-night red-speckled dress, designed by Narciso Rodriguez, was hardly a cautious choice. It wasn’t altogether flattering, but it showed that Michelle is searching for her own style. Other clues come from her winning, if still demure, performance during the recent “60 Minutes” interview. Looking chic and relaxed—and genuinely affectionate with her husband—she poked fun at the president-elect’s professed affinity for doing the dishes and told him she wouldn’t accompany him on a walk on a cold Chicago day.

Best Paragraphs in Sunday Newspaper

In my estimation the selection of Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State is a major victory for many reasons.  Hillary Clinton is smart, capable, world-savvy, and will no longer be a political player in the U.S. Senate at this time, the latter being very important to an Obama White House.  From her perspective  being a junior Senator, especially when one has real potential, can’t be fun.  Today the issue of ‘the merger’ (my choice of term) is looked at one page one of my Sunday newpaper.

Few are predicting that this new relationship born of mutual respect and self-interest will grow into a tight bond between the new president and the woman who will be the public face of his foreign policy, though some say it is not impossible. They argue that a close friendship between the two powerful officials is useful but not essential, and is not a predictor of the success of the nation’s chief diplomat.

While James A. Baker III was extraordinarily close to the first President George Bush and is widely considered one of the most successful recent secretaries of state, Dean Acheson was not a friend of Harry S. Truman and Henry A. Kissinger did not particularly like Richard M. Nixon.

“Two of the nation’s greatest secretaries of state in the modern period, Dean Acheson and Henry Kissinger, were not personally close but were intellectually bonded to their presidents,” said Walter Isaacson, the author of a biography of Mr. Kissinger and the co-author, with Evan Thomas, of “The Wise Men,” a book about America’s postwar foreign policy establishment. “I think that Obama and Clinton could form a perfect partnership based on respect for each other’s view of the world.”

Colin L. Powell, who was President Bush’s first-term celebrity secretary of state, would appear to be a cautionary tale for Mrs. Clinton since his relationship with the president was strained, and he left office an unhappy man. But Mr. Bush’s second-term secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, is generally not viewed as having the success her unusually tight bond with the president might have engendered.

In the Obama-Clinton relationship, advisers say, the relatively smooth nature of their talks about the secretary of state job indicate that both, for now, have a working chemistry. The advisers say that Mr. Obama was clearly interested in bringing a rival under his wing, and that he also recognized that Mrs. Clinton had far more discipline and focus than her husband.

At the same time, Mr. Obama’s advisers said, he had the self-confidence to name a global brand as his emissary to the world. He recognizes, they said, that after Jan. 20, he will have to build the kind of relationship that ensures that foreign leaders know that when Mrs. Clinton speaks, she is speaking directly for him.