The Gentle Strength of Mr. Rogers


The word that is my guiding star in 2018 is GENTLENESS.

Early last week, I saw the video that’s going around Facebook of Fred Rogers testifying on behalf of public television to ask for federal funding. The senator in charge initially looked like all he wanted to do was brush off Mr. Rogers. Mr. Rogers kept going, gently saying what he had to say. When he was done, the hardened senator awarded him millions of dollars and turned the tide for public television funding.

The testimony brought back memories of the influence Mr. Rogers had on my self-esteem when I was 3-5yrs old. He truly was my best friend. As memories returned for a few days, I decided to show my sons (5 & 6yrs) an episode of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. I didn’t expect them to like it. There’s nothing high-tech about it, nothing slick. And yet, my boys were riveted. My 6yr old is especially absorbing his message of love and belonging. I didn’t expect this. I assumed I would have grown out of Mr. Rogers by 6 if my family hadn’t moved overseas when I was 5.

I changed our “no technology in the car for Lent” practice to “nothing but Mr. Rogers.” The boys are eager for new installments of the show.

Listening to his gentle way of talking to children is rubbing off on me. He’s not just speaking life and love into the hearts and minds of my sons. He is also helping me grow in my one word: GENTLENESS. I hope they keep their interest in the show far beyond Lent, because I need his influence too. He’s a true example to me.


Taking Every Thought Captive


“To take every thought captive means being the master of one’s thoughts and passions instead of being mastered by them. It made sense to me; that was what I needed to do. Ineeded spiritual help, because I was locked, however unwillingly, in aspiritual battle. The solution, Paul advised, is to “[put] on the armor of God” (Eph 6)” –Dawn Eden, The Thrill of the Chaste

 I am listening to JK Rowling’s The Order of the Phoenix while I’m in the car this week. While I’ve read the Harry Potter series and listened to it in audio form countless times, it must have been quite a while since I’ve listened to this 5th book in the series. While I still remember the major plot points and moments of character growth, so much of the journey is new and fresh lately.

I had forgotten that a Dearborn gave his life fighting Voldemort. While this story is fiction, I’m still proud to have my maiden name among those who gave their lives for good. I had forgotten that Mr. Weasely nearly died for the same cause.

Right now, where I am in the book, Harry is studying occlumency. This is the magical act of closing one’s mind against legilimency, or someone trying to access your thoughts and feelings for either information or the attempt to influence.

Voldemort in the Potter books represents true evil, a fantastical Hitler or Satan figure. Voldemort’s mind and Harry’s have an accidental link dating back to when Harry was a baby. Teenage Harry has used this link to inform those who fight for good as to what Voldemort is feeling or planning. Voldemort now has figured out that he can use this link as well. While using it to spy on Dumbledore once or twice, Voldemort realizes that he can mobilize Harry by feeding him misinformation. This is much like the junk handed to us by the Father of Lies in our real world.

While studying occlumancy, Harry needs to learn to recognize the source of his thoughts. Is it Voldemort feeding him lies and playing on his emotions? Or is the source his own negative self-talk? Either way, Harry must learn both discernment and self-control. We as children of God must learn this ourselves. Self-mastery is simply growing into adulthood. If our drives master us, then we are not fully mature. If we can master ourselves, then we achieve adulthood.

The Potter books teach good citizenship and Judeo-Christian values. The connection I am making here is the concept of “taking every thought captive.” Today, it has led me to Holy Scripture:

2 Corinthians 10: 3-7

3For, although we are in the flesh, we do not battle according to the flesh,*4for the weapons of our battle are not of flesh but are enormously powerful, capable of destroying fortresses. We destroy argumentsb5and every pretension raising itself against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive in obedience to Christ,6 and we are ready to punish every disobedience, once your obedience is complete. 7 Look at what confronts you. Whoever is confident of belonging to Christ should consider that as he belongs to Christ, so do we.

While the Potter books are fantasy, Harry and the allies of good are battling against evil that includes prejudice, harming others, and following self-serving leaders. We, in the real world, are also in a battle. We need to discern the origin of harmful thoughts. Is Satan feeding us lies about the worth of ourselves or others?

I am battling lies that tell me I can’t control my own tongue. In an attempt to rein myself in, I have given up cussing for Lent. While I mastered this in my 20’s, I have gotten bad in recent years. I am ashamed to say that my children know some awful words because they heard them from me. It’s time to stop this for good. First, I recognize the triggers: stress, hunger, and the kiddos’ misbehavior. Next, I need to recognize the lies I have been believing. Among those is the lie that I don’t have control over my tongue when pushed too far.

I have been fed lies from Sebastian’s former preschool teacher (that we are inconsistent parents, that his lack of impulse control is due to poor parenting) and from the Father of Lies himself. More than a year of negative feedback from this woman who knows nothing of ADHD, who misread my son because he’s intelligent and “knows better.” I trusted her “expertise” in preschool aged kids, and swallowed all of her negative feedback. It’s my natural bent to blame myself when things go wrong, so her feedback stuck. My mind and emotions became a stew of self-condemnation with her voice in my head. The Father of Lies enjoyed incapacitating a child of God.

Now that I know the source, I can practice occlumency by shutting out the negative sources. I can focus on Truth, on Scripture, on the love of God and the fact that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. It’s going to take breaking habits. I think this self-condemnation (that I’m not the talented parent I thought I would be) is at least three years old. That’s a long habit to break.

Step 1 was recognizing the source and the lies.

Step 2 is reprogramming the thoughts to be positive, affirming, and in line with God.

Step 3 is changing my actions, reining myself in.

I can do this.

God has given me tools. I have a strong mind. I have a supportive husband, and the support of a loving tribe of friends. And I have this nifty Lenten practice that I like to call Sweet Thankfulness:

Once a day, I find a spot to be alone. I put two pieces of chocolate (white chocolate for me) in my mouth. In the time it takes for the chocolate to melt, I turn my thoughts to things I’m thankful for, all the while letting Jesus love me.

If I can do this in my mind for the duration of chocolate melting, then I can infuse my day with it. Before I know it, I will have reprogrammed my mind with God’s help.

The fantasy genre of literature is a great tool for helping our minds understand the spiritual realm that intersects our concrete world. Today, I see that occlumency is the scriptural concept of “taking every thought captive.” I need to learn it as much as Harry does. I trust that I will.

My Sons Say and Do the Darndest Things

Everyone’s kids do. I tend to transcribe conversations to my Facebook page. I thought I’d share a few here.

Sebastian is 4 and Pieter is 3. Steve is my husband.


The boys woke up from their naps and I let them have 1 piece of candy each.
Sebastian chose one and handed it to me demanding, “OPEN IT!”
I gave him the “teacher eye” and he knew what I meant right away.
I gave him a big smile and opened his wrapper.
Sebastian got this look of annoyance and said, “Use your words, Mommy.”
Touche, kid.


Pieter was looking at the farm animal magnets on the fridge.
“Wow, Mommy, cows have a lot of penises.”
I pulled a Scooby for a moment before I realized what he was talking about. “Those are actually the cow’s boobies. I understand why you thought they were penises. It sort of looks like they’re in the spot where a penis goes. They’re called udders on a cow.”
And then we practiced saying the word udder for quite a while.


A moment after good – morning hugs:
SEBASTIAN: Last night I was thinking a lot about sausage. Can I eat some sausage today?
ME: Why, yes! We just happen to have sausage. Let’s make it for lunch.
SEBASTIAN: Mommy, what’s sausage?


STEVE: I missed you guys!
SEBASTIAN: [Asked something I didn’t hear]
STEVE: You had Mommy snuggles, brother snuggles, and Brianna (babysitter) snuggles.
SEBASTIAN: But you had snuggles from airport guys.
STEVE: NO. I don’t snuggle with airport guys.


Getting ready one morning…
ME: Pieter, I need to promise you a bath today–no ands, ifs, or buts.
PIETER: Mommy, don’t say butt.
ME: Okay. No ands, ifs, or other prepositions. Is that okay?

Pieter nodded.

I guess I don’t know a preposition from a conjunction that early in the morning. Let’s hope my flubs are forgotten by the time he needs to label parts of speech!



Pieter got “new” hand me down boots. He didn’t them off until…
ME: Pieter, take your boots off the couch. A good cowboy always listens to his mom.
I turned my back for a sec and when I looked back, he’d put the boots on his hands.
PIETER: Mommy, they aren’t boots anymore. See?!


All of those conversations occurred in January 2016. Let’s see what February brings!


19 Short Stories to Entertain & Inspire

Birds of Passage

The anthology of 19 Edgy Christian Fiction stories is now available!

It’s called Birds of Passage and is available in paperback and Kindle. Here’s a description:

“An edgy Christian fiction anthology with wonderful stories from 19 diverse Christian fiction authors – stories that entertain and inspire. A rare and unique collection. 100% of the net proceeds from the sale of this book go to Passage Home (a 501c3 non-profit) to continue their mission of helping to lift people out from the grip of poverty. (A special thank you to all the talented authors who generously donated their stories for this anthology, for such a great cause.) A great read anytime! It’s a gift that keeps on giving.”

My own story in the collection is called, “He Knew” about a young woman who has a mystical experience that heals her of her sexual history.

Help launch this new fiction genre and get yourself a copy! All proceeds go to charity.

To learn more about the genre, visit the Edgy Christian Fiction website here.


Alfie is a Wake-up Call

Jude Law Alfie

Jude Law’s Alfie is a Wakeup Call.

[This is another blast from the past, a post from 2009.]

I watched Alfie for the second time.

The first time hurt. It hurt badly. It was 2004.

It hurt because I had dated and loved an Alfie. He was neither blond nor English, but he was Alfie on the inside through and through. And I was the Marissa Tomei character but without the kid. Alfies ‘love’ women and never stop picking them up, flirting, or devising ways to be with as many as possible. They’re voracious and they don’t consider it bad. They always have another woman in their back pocket, they juggle and they charm. Non-answers are their normal way of handling the ones that turn into relationships. Evasion is their skill.

Tonight, it made me want to write. To tell stories that give women clues like this movie gave me.

I’m happy now, safe from Alfies, loved and taken care of, cherished. Smarter, too.

But I still want to write to protect girls from men like that. Men who are promiscuous and leave carnage of lives and hearts and relationships in their wake. Men who damage others and themselves. And it doesn’t matter if they have remorse, they will still do it again and again. Promiscuity damages a person’s ability to bond, so these guys can’t even commit when they want to! Or they commit and cheat.

I can write a million novels, but they’d all be from the female vantage point.

Alfie is from the man’s view. It’s accurate. I knew my Alfie well enough to know he could say everything Jude Law said in the movie, and I dated enough semi-Alfies to recognize that there are a lot of them out there. During the movie, as the action is going on, Alfie stops and has “asides” to the camera…he tells you what he’s up to, what he’s thinking, etc. Play-by-play, you get into his head as the scenes unfold.

Every single girl out there should see this movie. It’s a wonderful warning and a lot of insight. See the movie, and you’ll recognize the next Alfie to come your way. Through Jude Law you can look into the heart of these guys. And if any of them have left you in their wake with no explanation, now you’ll know. Here is your explanation. Watch it and you’ll get your “why.” See the consequences their actions have, on them and their friendships and even on their women.

My parents warned me about guys like this. They really did! But they were cliches, trite two-minute conversations that didn’t seem to hold any water. When I have a daughter, I’m going to watch this movie with her and show her the mind of an Alfie, the methods of operation, and how to run in the opposite direction…no matter how tempting he is.

Seriously, girls, watch it. Tell your friends to watch it. And walk away from Alfies.

PS – I think it’s crazy that the movie is considered a COMEDY, especially if you see the end. I have it filed under drama in my house.

Have you ever seen the movie Alfie? Have you ever dated one?

Posted 6/18/2009 at 7:55 PM

Ponytail Happy Dance (repost)

Ponytail Happy Dance


This entry should be subtitled, “Sometimes My Life is a Romantic Comedy.”

[This is a happy memory post from 2009]

Last night, I went to wash up for bed as Steve started his nightly PT. He does this ab machine thing and then does toning exercises that I like to call “Man Pilates.” Sure looks a lot like pilates to me.

Anyway, as I approached the bathroom mirror, a thought struck me. “Hmmm. Do I finally have enough hair for a ponytail?!?”


You see, last summer, I got all my hair chopped off. I had two reasons: 1) I wanted to find out what my real hair color was under my blonde highlights and 2) Steve and I were about to go on an adventurous vacation where hair might get in the way. So I chose an adorable haircut. One that would work well with my hair type and my face/neck. It was Audrey Hepburn’s pixie cut. I took it in, my hair dresser studied the picture closely, and proceeded to give me an entirely different cut with even less hair than the cut I wanted. I thought the new cut was sort of cute for a couple of days, but then we out to dinner for our anniversary, and there at the restaurant were 3 or 4 women with my same haircut. Not a single one of them could have been under 70. Yes, I was pissed.

So back to last night. After that initial observation, I opened my hair drawer and pulled out a trusty scrunchy. I pulled my hair back and, “Voila!” All the hair fit into the scrunchy and it all stayed! Sure, the ponytail is a mere stub. Somewhere between these two shots:

ponytail cryponytail adult

But the point is that I can now pull my hair back if I want! A ponytail opens up a whole world of possibilities, like sleeping in an extra 15 minutes and just putting my hair in a ponytail instead of the whole wash/blow-dry routine.

Woo hoo! I was elated.

I started to do a happy dance and pranced into the bedroom where Steve was crunching away at the ab machine. I danced and I danced and I told him how happy I was.

That’s when I realized that Steve is a guy and, therefore, not “getting it.” He was enjoying my dance. But he had no clue that it was all in honor of the ponytail that was still intact on my head! I pointed. He didn’t get it. So I told him. “Look! Look at me! I have a ponytail! I have ENOUGH HAIR for a ponytail!”

His happiness for me was somewhat diminished. I guess he doesn’t realize the level of suffering sine July without enough hair for a ponytail. But he was still pleased for me.

So I got ready for bed and then got into bed to read my Scriptures while he went into the bathroom to brush his teeth and all that.

I was just wrapping up my prayer time when Steve came dancing into the bedroom. He gyrated in silly ways and I realized he was imitating me. He waved his hands in front of his face, did some dancy-head-nod moves, and then got in really close to me. “Look!” he said, “Look at me! I have a ponytail! I have enough hair for a ponytail!”

And there, on his forehead, was a teeny tuft of military-cut short hair gathered with a twist-tie. He had a 1 cm ponytail.

Of course, I laughed myself silly. I was laughing so hard that Steve had to leave the room from embarrassment.  God, I love silly men. Especially this one.


Posted 6/25/2009 at 4:19 PM

Hearing God (Repost from February 2009)

I am reviewing the archives of my former blog on Xanga for a variety of reasons. I just came across this post, and it’s like looking into a journal at a moment when God met me. I’m glad I came across it! Enjoy.

I Just Heard God!

In reading Michael Scanlan’s What Does God Want, I came to the chapter on making decisions for your whole life. It was on vocations. (Note: I wasn’t reading the book regarding my desire to be published. I was reading it for an entirely different topic.)

He says the object of every vocation is God.

“The vocation call is more like the biblical naming, as in Adam’s naming the animals in the garden,” he wrote. It sort of defines you. “When God calls you to a vocation, he defines you for life.”

He goes on to say it’s a call to freedom and does not remove your free will nor will it restrict you.

So I got to thinking.

Being a wife was written on my soul, my DNA and my very being from the beginning. All my knuckleheaded dating decisions were a search for Steve, a foundational longing to fulfill this call to married life. Like St. Francis mistakenly was rebuilding physical churches rather than reforming the Church, I was seeking in wrong places. But it was a consistent response to my calling, my vocation.

I think being a mother is likely similarly written on my soul. We won’t find out for sure until I get to be one, but I see a similar pattern on the path to motherhood. I’ve actually been doubting this a little lately, asking God if he even wants me to be a mom at all. Today he reminded me that when He came to me at 21 and told me not to go to law school, a career search followed. My most critical decisions for or against a career boiled down to whether I could be the best mom possible while having that career. I was solid in that being a major criteria in the same way I was solid in knowing I had to teach overseas through DoDDS and not through any other school system. So God let me feel comfortable in our journey towards parenthood.

Still turned to God in my thoughts, I told him with all my heart that I wished I could just write novels and not spend so much time finding a publisher. I told him I wished someone else could find publishers for my books, and let me be free to pour out all that needs to come out in novels.

So he said, “Then find an agent.”

I heard him clear as day (not audibly). As clearly as when he told me to go join DoDDS, the military’s overseas school system. I just knew that I knew that I needed to set out to do that. It took two years, but I did get to go overseas with them and that’s where I had the best job of my life, got to lead women’s retreats, and where I met Steve.

And now I have a direction in search for publication.

I believe that agents probably make up less than half of the contacts listed in my phone-book-sized Writers Market 2009 book. So God just cut my search process in half, or less! Woo hoo!

Our God is the God of Anthropology

I think the most significant part of our 3-day weekend in Mexico city was learning that God is so far-reaching, so wise and intelligent, so loving, that he is in charge of it all…even seemingly unrelated Anthropological details.

You see, Mary came to visit Mexico in the 1500’s (much like Moses and Elijah came to the Holy Land during New Testament times at the Transfiguration). God sent Mary with a message to build a Christian church in a particular location. That church replaced a place of child sacrifices and saved thousands and thousands of lives.

Mary talked to a native guy, not one of the Spanish Conquistadors who conquered the various native groups in Mexico. This guy, who had an Aztec name, but I can only remember his Spanish name, Juan Diego, took Mary’s message to the Spanish bishop of Mexico City.

Now imagine an African slave in the Southern United States going to the local white minister and telling him that Mary asked him to tell the minister to build a church. Imagine the reception that slave would get. It was similar for Juan Diego. The native people got no respect. They were not treated with worth.

Native people in Spanish-conquered Mexico were encouraged to convert to Christianity. The Spanish Conquest, after all, was commissioned with the purpose of evangelizing the Americas. (Though they did so, it looks like they did it more for material gain.) The conquerors did not allow the native people to hold office, to study for the priesthood, or hold any such position of leadership. They were second class citizens.

The bishop, as you’d expect, did not believe Juan Diego. He said he’d need a sign if he was to believe.

So Mary visited Juan Diego on the mountain again. It was December and she gave him Castilian roses (the bishop’s home region of Spain). Juan Diego carried the roses in his tilma, a poncho-like cloak made from cactus fibers. When he let the roses fall from his tilma in front of the bishop, there was an image of Mary on the cloak, just as she’d appeared to Juan Diego.

Scientists say it’s a miracle, that there are no brush strokes, but that the pigments appear to have landed on the tilma much as color is placed in modern photographs.

But that’s not the biggest miracle to me.

Mary had a message from God in that image, and it’s very complex in how it shows the integration of Aztec and Biblical symbols. The list of images and symbols found on the Mary picture on the tilma is very long. Here’s a photograph my husband took of the tilma last week:


It’s hard to tell from our photo, but there are stars all over the picture. What’s neat is that the stars match the constellations that would have been seen from Mexico City that December in the 1500’s. The stars date the tilma’s image and Mary’s appearance, accurately pinpointing the time her message came. The message was that God knows his people and loves them, exactly where (and when) they are, and for who they are.

The message was also one to the native people. You see, there are many Aztec symbols to be found in this picture. See those damask-looking designs in Mary’s dress? They contain symbols from Aztec religions. One example is this flower design, a symbol of the Aztec sun god. (Below is the interior of a building in Teotihuaca, with the original designs and original paint from when Aztecs occupied the city.)


What the message conveys is that Mary’s Son is the God of the Sun. In fact, if you look closely, you’ll see that symbol on Mary’s womb.

The image also has Mary with a black ribbon below her chest but above her womb. That’s what pregnant women in the Aztec culture wore to let the community know they were expecting. Mary is dressed as Juan Diego’s people dressed, identifying with the native people. That alone sends a wonderful message to both conquerors and conquered!

Upon very close study, you can also see symbols of both the New and Old Testaments. And the symbols of the three ships in Christopher Columbus’ crossing: the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria (guess who those were named after!? The christ child and Mary).

I love how this miraculous image of Mary tells the native people that they count. It tells them that God honors their search for him. They created false gods, but they were searching for the one True God…he is affirming their search and completing it by introducing his son, through the Mother of his son.

The Aztec sun god had a mother who the Aztecs worshipped. She heralded his coming. So it is utterly appropriate that Mary showed the Aztecs the way to her son. Just as she tells us in the New Testament, “Do as he tells you.”

And here’s my favorite aspect of the whole miraculous thing…

The bishop repented of his disdain of Juan Diego and all the Native people.

Yes. He repented, and started to treat them as people of worth. And he was the spiritual head of the city, and thereby modeled how the conquerors should treat the conquered.

Our God is the God of reconciliation, and both sets of people gained common ground through this.

Knowing the pain of my mom’s native country and how people have had to heal from Nazi occupation, I understand just how valuable it is that God sent Mary as a messenger to heal ALL the inhabitants of the land of Mexico.

To the Natives, Mary says, “Thank you for searching. Let me show you who you were searching for.”

And to the conquerors, she says, “These are your brothers and sisters. I love them too. God loves them. They are your equals.”

My husband and I were talking on the flight home from Mexico City. We know that Christianity has been criticized for taking pagan holiday dates and replacing them with Christian celebrations. But we think this makes so much sense, Anthropologically. Who cares the date or what the weather is like during celebrations? What counts is that God wants us to celebrate. And what counts is celebrating Jesus’ birth and resurrection. Christianity was smart…rather than leaving a hole in people’s original calendar, they filled that hole with the goodness of Jesus. God meets people where they are, he completes them and fills their needs.

Much the same say, Mary showed how Jesus completed the Aztec search for powerful deities.

God is the God of Anthropology! He loves people for who they are, where they are. Amen.

(This is a re-post from February 2009)


As I embark on this new blogging adventure as an author, I am poking around the archives of the blog I let die with the close of the blogging site, Xanga. At the old site, I made some amazing, life-long friends. One of those friends had a blog called My Hat Is Older Than You Are. We all called him Old Hat. This man is an amazing source of wisdom and prayer. My site started out as Big Toes in Heaven and later changed to Big Toe People after my first novel.

Here, I am re-posting something I wrote in 2009. Old Hat chimed in with the excellent advice of a cowboy-gentleman:

(May this post be an act of prayer for the health and safety of Mrs. Hat. Amen.)

On Wednesday night, my husband and I went to the Officer’s Club for dinner. It was the going-away event for our Wing Commander, a man who led our base with integrity, intelligence, innovation, compassion, and humor. Because of his sense of humor, those giving various presentations felt free to be funny. I laughed all evening long.

The event was casual, which meant that slacks and open collars were acceptable for the men (military etiquette’s wording).  There was a tall man who strode in with a cowboy hat on. He kept it on all night. We were inside. Eating dinner. Honoring a man who outranked everyone there except the retired generals.

That man and his hat stuck in my craw.

Here’s where my brain went:

First, I recalled being at an Officer’s Club in Okinawa with an old boyfriend back in 2002. M was a Black Marine Corps officer who grew up in a Memphis ghetto. Raised without any etiquette to speak of, he ascribes everything he knows about manners to his military training. He wore baseball hats all the time. I mean ALL the time, though I doubt he slept in them. Then again, maybe he did. He had a baseball hat on for a dinner date to the O-club, and I asked him about it. He said that we lived in modern times and that no one pays attention to old-fashioned hat rules anymore. Then an older officer came to our table and kindly asked him to remove his hat. I’ll never forget that.

Second, I remembered that every single high school I’ve ever taught in had a dress code that included this rule: NO HATS ARE TO BE WORN IN THE SCHOOL BUILDING. Though I felt that students only needed to loosely follow the dress code rather than being a stickler for the letter of the law (let’s be practical…if a girl doesn’t look like a hoochie, her outfit is probably okay), I also felt that the dress code was a great way to teach students how to dress for success and present themselves in a better light. Many kids don’t receive such training at home, so a school’s dress code can help in that aspect of their formation as adults.

So, at Wednesday’s O-Club event, I whispered to my husband that the hat bothered me. He responded that he thought that cowboy etiquette was probably different than ours. “Besides,” he said, “This is Texas. We should expect to see cowboy hats everywhere all the time.”

I didn’t agree with my husband. I thought, perhaps, that cowboys would be more conservative and honorable in their conduct and manners. I mean, when you say “cowboy”, I picture two things: a cowboy on his horse, and him tipping his hat to a lady.

It made me wish my friend Old Hat was there at the table with us. First, so that I could consult the wise cowboy about cowboys. Then, just because it would be so awesome to share this fun evening with someone who loves a good laugh. Someday, we’ll have to go out to dinner and make our own laughs, the four of us: two Hats and two Toes-in-Heavens.

I’m not saying this is something to get your knickers in a twist over, but I do think it is common courtesy to conduct yourself according to a code of good manners. It honors those around you.

I decided to ask Old Hat about it yesterday, and he gave me the most awesome response. I really like the term he coined: Hatiquette.

Here are some excerpts:


“I am sorry to tell you that you will never be able to recognize me at a dinner table by looking for my hat. It will more than likely be on the floor beneath my chair. Yes, I will sit a $200 felt hat on the floor rather eat with it on. I don’t even eat french fries in my pickup while driving down the road with my hat on. I set it on the dash if I am eating. Period. If I am eating a sandwich outside, my hat will still come off. You get the idea.

I am pretty old fashioned. The store I go to to have my felt hats cleaned and reshaped has a lot of different hat benders. I always get the oldest one. It keeps me from lecturing the young ones. You see, my hats always get worn and dirty in the same places and the young hat benders try to tell me how to prevent that from happening. The oldest hat bender knows better than to try to teach me not to tip my hat to ladies.

As for wearing a hat indoors, I think of it as the military does (or used to) regarding headgear. You don’t wear it indoors unless under arms. To an old cowboy, under arms in this case means carrying something that does not leave a hand free for hat removal or having a lady on your arm. Otherwise, my hat will be off when I come in.

When I first met K8tthelate, she came out from the back room of the library to meet me. She asked where my hat was and I held it up to show her. I never thought of wearing it in so that she might recognize me better. I just don;t wear my hat inside. If my hands are full, I’ll be the one in the cowboy hat apologizing for still having his hat on and will be explaining that I really was raised right. =)

I have learned that hatiquette is not taught much anymore anywhere. People seem to want there to be no rules. I don;t think of this as rules though. I just think of it as courtesy. I respect you too much to wear my hat when sharing a table with you or when coming into your home or office. Even your office on a construction site. It is not the place I revere. It is you, friend.”

Old Hat

Like I said above, I don’t think it’s worth getting your knickers in a twist over people’s manners or lack thereof. But I do want to teach my own future children how to honor others through good manners.

Do you have any etiquette peeves like my hat one?

How do you feel about the importance of good manners (or lack thereof)?

Note: Hatiquette is different for men than it is for women, except in baseball caps.

Originally Posted 4/27/2009 at 2:19 PM

A Walk in Christ’s Passion

I recently heard Christ’s Passion read at church. As it began, I felt distant from the story. Shouldn’t I feel remorse at Jesus suffering? Shouldn’t I feel like part of the crowd who condemned him? Instead, the words barely reached me. It was like listening to Charlie Brown’s teacher, “Mwah mwah mwah.”

I turned to the Lord in my heart and told him I was sorry for not being “into it.” Jesus responded! He transported my imagination to the walk I took on the beach with our dogs the day before. It started as fun. The dogs played in the water and with each other. But the walk was extra long because I wanted more exercise.

There in my imagination, superimposed on the face of Jesus’ suffering, was my older dog, her Labrador face as gray as it is black. Her head hung and her gait was slow. I realized then that the walk we took was far too long for her arthritic toes and her elbow with the bony growth.

I looked into her eyes in my imagination, just as I had on the beach the day before, but now the veil was off my mind. I saw her love and her determination to finish the long walk…for me.

Now I was ready to cry. Until then, I felt distant from Jesus’ suffering. To bring it home, he showed me the suffering of one I love. I realized I was the cause of my old girl’s suffering, and now I understood something about how I caused Jesus’ suffering. He didn’t just suffer for the world. He suffered for me.

When the reading in church came to the crowd mocking Jesus, I saw our younger dog, an energetic male red heeler/retriever mix, biting our older dog’s legs. She’d been in too much pain to join his romp yesterday. I usually step in to tell our rambunctious boy to leave her alone when I know she’s had enough, but he disobeyed me and tormented her for fun. I felt impotent as our boy dog hurt our old Lab in the moment the New Testament book of Luke arrived at the crowd crying, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” I relived my dog’s pain over and over until the congregation cried, “Crucify him!” I felt spent, knowing that Jesus’ suffering was now nearer to me than before.

At the carrying of the cross, I saw our old girl walking. Her back legs were stiff from arthritis, her front left leg askew because of the spur in her elbow.

The last half hour of our walk, I was far ahead of her in hopes that she’d catch up. My in-laws were coming for a visit and I needed to get home in time to greet them! Some kindly, Veronica-like dog lovers stopped to pat her. She gave them weak wags, not her usual full-body tail-generated gyrations, but she was gracious and loving to each person. And now I saw that she was grateful for the pause.

How selfish could I be? I caused the suffering of my beloved dog, Midori. She was the companion of my single days, the girl who checked on me when I was sick and lived thousands of miles from my mother, who got me up for work when I slept through the alarm, and who now cares for my husband as she does me. There, at Mass, I saw her face and Jesus’ face together.

As Jesus’ died in The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ According to Luke, I was no longer distant from his anguish.

My usual response to this moment is to wish that I could alleviate his pain, even a little. This time, he showed me how. Jesus suffered for each of us. In his death, he took onto himself all our sin and suffering. If we can ease another’s suffering even a little, we can ease Jesus’s pain.

Lent is long past, but we are meant to carry its lessons into the rest of the year. When we think of Jesus, let us picture the face of someone we know who suffers. That is also the face of Christ. Whether it is loneliness, physical pain, or spiritual emptiness, let’s live Easter’s joy by alleviating others’ pain.

***I wrote this in May 2010 when we lived on Topsail Island in North Carolina. Midori passed away on 11 July 2015. I miss my soul dog.