Sunday, December 18, 2005

PLEASE CLICK HERE for our family’s offbeat Christmas card:

DailySusan will resume on Sunday, Jan. 1. I’ll post Christmas stories from years past on the website over the holidays.

May all your Christmas dreams come true, and here’s wishing you a happy and healthy 2006.

With love,



Furby Anne

(H)e hath no form nor comeliness;
and when we shall see him,
there is no beauty that we should desire him.
-- Isaiah 53:2b

Maddy, 5, has latched on to the latest Kid’s Meal prize at “Burber King” like a Skid Row bum on a bottle of Ripple. They’re putting a mini Furby in every bag of hardened cholesterol now.

You know the Furby: part Yoda, part hamster, part owl -- completely annoying. It swept the toy world several Christmases ago. By now they’ve sold 40 million of the moody weirdos with the Andy Rooney eyebrows and PMS. They talk, sing, tell jokes, have moving plumage, and even have a website:

The little freebie Furbys only move their ears. But Maddy has forced me at watergun-point to the “Burber King” drive-through twice recently so she could “collect” two of them.

One is a boy. He is green. She named him “Furb.”

The other is gray with a pink topknot. I’m cringing, because I think her name is “Furby Anne.”

So here we are, minutes before Christmas, and Maddy’s mesmerized. She’s been skiing them down the slanted top of our baby-grand piano. She’s given them hours of rides in her little red wagon. They’ve been pulled around on a little toy sled commandeered from our Christmas decorations, with a Beanie Baby cat instead of a reindeer in the traces, an old shoestring. She says innocently that they sleep together; I bite my tongue.

My countless hours of Christmas shopping for her are going up in smoke and flames, like the oil wells of Kuwait. Who cares about lovingly-selected, educational toys when you can cuddle with an ugly piece of free plastic? How you gonna keep ‘em down on the farm, after they’ve seen Fur-beee?!?!

They’re homely! What’s the attraction? There’s no accounting for people’s tastes, I guess. It’s kind of like Bethlehem: not too fab, on the surface. But in the end . . . who knew?

Years ago, our daughter Eden had a softball coach who resembled a Furby. That’s what the girls called him behind his back. He thought it was funny.

One weekend they traveled to Clarinda, Iowa, to play the softball team. They were vaunted. They were cigar-chomping and steroid-crazed. Our little girls beat them.

On the way out of town, the coach waved the caravan over to the local McDonald’s (sorry, “Burber King”). We all went inside. He was so pumped up, he grabbed the microphone:

“Hello, Clarinda!” he exulted to the restaurant full of slack-jawed Clarindanians. “How does it feel to know that your softball team just got its tail whipped . . . BY A FURBY?!?”

The longest few seconds in the history of the universe passed, until people finally laughed, mostly out of pity.

The Christmas they came out, the Furby craze was worse than “Tickle Me Elmo.” It was bigger than “Cabbage Patch” or any Play Station upgrade. Parents were hysterical to get one of the scarce Furbys under the tree that Christmas, or else.

Cooler heads prevailed at our house. We thought they were weird, ugly and expensive. We couldn’t believe the mass hysteria.

Then someone we know picked up some last-minute intelligence that one more shipment was coming in to a store an hour’s drive away. He got there before dawn.

A crowd formed. They were unruly. There weren’t going to be enough Furbys to go around.

The store personnel put yellow crime-scene tape around the Furby display, hoping for crowd control, and flung open the doors. There was a stampede. The clerk was supposed to hand Furbys out to people, one by one. But he feared he would be trampled – so he started just THROWING them up for the crowd, literally catch as catch can.

Our friend has a vertical leap like an NBA star, so he got one. He hugged it, and waited for the crowd to disperse.

He saw an older woman sobbing, rocking back and forth, Furby-less.

Geeeeeeez. Our friend did the unthinkable: he gave her his.

A touching Christmas story of sacrifice and compassion?

Nah. He just didn’t want to get mugged by the angry mob on his way back to the car.


CHRISTMAS KINDNESS: The Christmas baby shower for a young single mom, Michaela, and her six-month-old baby, Dylan, whom she almost aborted, winds up on Tuesday. Reply to this email with the message, “Baby shower,” if you’d like to contribute to a WalMart debit card for groceries and other necessities, or could get a gift or card to me by Dec. 20. Many, many thanks to our Christmas angels!

Today’s charity suggestion is to support Nebraska’s premier environmental organization, The National Arbor Day Foundation. Your love of trees can make a lasting difference. The foundation aims to Inspire people to plant, nurture, and celebrate trees. Your support can help forward this work and help create a healthier and greener world. "The best time to plant a tree was 50 years ago, the second best time is today." Go to to learn how you can get involved.

Saturday, December 17, 2005


The phone rang, just once. When it didn’t continue, I figured it was a wrong number.

Maddy, 5, had been playing on the other end of the house. A while later, she wafted into the kitchen and declared, “There was a guy on the phone.”

“A guy?” I reacted. “What guy? Since when do YOU answer the phone?”

“He said, ‘Susan?’ ‘Susan’? And I said, ‘No, it’s Maddy.’”

“And then you hung up?”

“And then I hung up.”

My mind raced between a telemarketer, an ambulance driver, a U.S. senator, or the local police. I hoped and prayed it was a telemarketer.

The phone rang again. This time, I snatched it. Whew! We’re replacing our worn-out stairway and railing, and it was the contractor, still laughing.

“Don’t worry about it; we have six kids. We know,” he said.

I’m hoping next time, it really is a telemarketer. I think they’ve met their match.


CHRISTMAS KINDNESS: There’s a neat nonprofit conference center in Colorado run by the Christian group, the Navigators, where people can go for a “pep talk” on all kinds of ways to make life better, or a guided marriage retreat, or a quiet time of contemplation and life examination. It’s called Glen Eyrie. The same organization brings inner-city youth out to nearby Eagle Lake Camp for a life-changing week of Christian fun, fellowship and, for many, their first experience totally immersed in nature. See for more information. Send donations to The Navigators, Glen Eyrie Group, P.O. Box 6000, Colorado Springs, CO 80934.

Friday, December 16, 2005


Today’s DailySusan is a video clip.


CHRISTMAS KINDNESS: There’s still time to reach out to help our service people in Iraq and elsewhere overseas, although your mailing most likely won’t arrive by Christmas at this point. But visit the grassroots website, for ideas of how to help. A great one: send gloves, shoes and socks, including children’s sizes. What the military people don’t use, they’ll share, and they’re finding plenty of native people who go barefoot even when temperatures hover around freezing.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


Wednesday’s “elfabet” joke is only the beginning. Adults are getting in to the corny Christmas joke act:

Three men died on Christmas Eve and were met by Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates. ”In honor of this holy season," Saint Peter said, “you must each possess something that symbolizes Christmas to get into heaven."

The first man fumbled through his pockets and pulled out a lighter. He flicked it on. It represents a candle, he said.

”You may pass through the Pearly Gates,” Saint Peter said.

The second man reached into his pocket and pulled out a set of keys. He shook them and said, "They're bells."

Saint Peter said, “You may pass through the Pearly Gates.”

The third man started searching desperately through his pockets. Finally, he pulled out a pair of women's panties.

St. Peter looked at the man with a raised eyebrow and asked, "And just what do those symbolize?"

The man replied, "They're Carols."


CHRISTMAS KINDNESS: Some very special elderly people are being invited to a Christmas party from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Christmas Day at St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church’s Suneg Center. It’s put on by the Omaha chapter of Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly, a nonprofit organization operating in nine cities. There’ll be entertainment and gifts. Volunteers are needed to escort elderly guests and host them at the party, as well as volunteering year-round to deliver meals and visit homebound senior citizens, advocate for them, and provide regular telephone calls. What a wonderful service, and not just at Christmastime! Please send donations to Little Brothers -- Friends of the Elderly, 5017 Leavenworth St., Suite 103, Omaha, NE 68106-1438.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


The kids are ready for Christmas. They sing Christmas songs, bake Christmas cookies and decorate their rooms. They strap a little stool to the rocking horse and put felt reindeer horns on it, fashioning reins out of ribbon and wearing a Santa hat with a sack of their own toys slung over their shoulder, sitting there in the kitchen pretending to be Santa . . . yup. It’s that time of year, and they’re letting us know.

Here’s indisputable proof that it’s Christmastime: the awful, corny Christmas joke.

Q. How did Santa’s helpers learn to read and write?

A. First, they learned the elfabet.


CHRISTMAS KINDNESS: Another important and effective inner-city social service agency that deserves financial support is the Boys and Girls Club of Omaha, They provide meals, homework help, life skills instruction, a swimming pool and other fun recreational opportunities. Most of all, they provide attention and firm guidance from adults who really know what these kids need: love. Send donations to the Boys and Girls Cub, 2610 Hamilton, Omaha, NE 68131.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Speaking of mispronounced words . . . I will never again think that pharmacy is a boring job. You have to be an English major, an FBI detective and a brilliant thespian in order to figure out and then not crack up over the things people say when they’re in the uncharted waters of health problems.

My friend the pharmacist tells this one from a couple of years ago:

Neither the store cashier nor the pharmacy tech could perceive what an elderly gentleman customer wanted to buy. Both stumped, they came to the pharmacist.

She asked him, “What is it that you are looking for?"

"A noose!" He bellered, obviously hard of hearing and getting frustrated.

"A . . . NOOSE?" she repeated, equally loudly. Gee, she’d heard depression was on the increase among the elderly, but. . . .

"Yeah! A noose! My doctor sent me to get it!"

“Your . . . doctor?” She thought about sending him to the “Executioner's Supply” section in Aisle 5 . . . but tried one more time.

"What is it used for, sir?"

"A NOOSE! For rectal injection!"

She paused. "Rectal . . . injection?" He nodded, now obviously exasperated with her total stupidity.

She finally asked for his doctor’s name, called the office, told the nurse, and the nurse was stymied, too. So she put the pharmacist on hold and sought out the doctor.

She came back to the phone, and said, "He told him to get Anusol Suppositories."

Well . . . hang it! I . . . suppose so!


CHRISTMAS KINDNESS: The Hope Center for Kids in inner-city Omaha has served 23,100 meals so far in 2005, providing social skills training for 326 young people and tutoring 30. Please consider a year-end gift to this crucial social service agency that does so much for kids. Send it to the Hope Center, P.O. Box 20143, 2200 N. 20th St., Omaha, NE 68120.

Monday, December 12, 2005


A certain teenage relative has a favorite Asian take-out place. She always goes there in person with her close friend. They go, not only for the great food, but for the pronunciations. They always order the same things just so they can hear the way the staff says them. Hey! At least they’re not amusing themselves with drugs, booze and raves. This brand of fun is cheaper, too.

Their two favorites:

Why Chair Pessy


Mao Doo

(Translation: Wild Cherry Pepsi and Mountain Dew)


CHRISTMAS KINDNESS: According to the Center for Education Reform (CER), there are 1.25 million children around the country on waiting lists for private scholarships. The tax-deductible scholarships provide tuition assistance for low-income children to attend private schools instead of the public schools which their families feel are not serving them well. In our nation’s Catholic schools, for example, the graduation rate is 99.2%, according to the CER, vs. 74% in our public schools. There is ample evidence that minority kids do much better in private schools, where even though the tuition is much lower (average=$2,178) than what the public schools spend per pupil (average=over $7,000), the quality is better. I know a single mom whose two daughters got to go to a Christian grade school because of partial private scholarships they were lucky enough to win in the Omaha area lottery. But the waiting list is always long here. To help more kids gain this advantage, contribute to the Children’s Scholarship Fund Omaha, 3212 N. 60th St., P.O. Box 4130, Omaha, NE 68104-0130.

Sunday, December 11, 2005


The thief cometh not,
but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy:
I am come that they might have life,
and that they might have it more abundantly.
-- John 10:10

My good friend was an overworked, underpaid, fulltime mother with “TILT!” in her eyes over all she had to do that Christmas season.

She left work late one night, got into her vehicle in the icy parking lot, and thought, “That’s funny. It’s so cold and breezy in here.”

Yeah. Well, the passenger-side window had been bashed out. All of the Christmas gifts for her son’s first Christmas had been ripped off.

She had so carefully budgeted $200 for them. She had worked so hard to find each special bargain.

Not only that, but she had recently gone back to college to help make a better life for her son. Her expensive textbooks had also been stolen, as well as her leather briefcase containing homework and extensive research notes for her final paper.
So, too, was her daily planner. It was her command center, with all kinds of important information. With a chill up her spine, she realized that her family’s Social Security cards were also in there – ripe pickin’s for identity theft.

Their insurance wouldn’t cover the window nor the stolen gifts . . . this, on top of worrying about the quality of her son’s babysitter . . . and working overtime at a job with nasty people . . . and the stress of starting a new job for less money to get away from them . . . and she was nursing her seven-month-old and thoroughly exhausted. . . .

So she fritzed out. By the time she got home, her stress was planetary-sized.

She collapsed into the rocking chair with the baby playing on a blanket at her feet. Her eyes locked onto his toothless grin as he gazed up at her adoringly.

What was she so upset about? She hadn’t been mugged, the baby was OK, and at his age, playing with a few bows and boxes would be plenty of fun for Christmas, anyway.

Suddenly, he reached up for her, his smile widening even further.

It was like a neon sign meant for her, straight from heaven, straight from God: “Here I am . . . reach for Me!”

So she reached, both up and down. She leaned back, cuddling him and rocking, closed her eyes, and did what she wished she’d done right off the bat. She prayed. "Dear Lord, if you can do anything to ease my mind, just save my planner and Social Security cards. Everything else is replaceable. I give it to You, Lord.”

She felt a wave of peace. She said, “I had a handful, but He was saying, ‘I’ll carry you. Pay attention to what’s important.’”

Two minutes later the phone rang. It was the police. Someone in an apartment complex near her office had happened to look out their balcony and saw someone tossing a black briefcase into a ravine, then laying scratch out of the parking lot.

The cops raced over. One went into the icy water to retrieve the papers floating around. They got her research, the planner, the Social Security cards, the briefcase . . . everything except the gifts.

In another two minutes, brrrrring! Her mom called. She insisted on giving her another $200 to go right back to the stores and replace everything – just come straight home this time.

She brought the police a great, big box of chocolates, and prayed over and over for blessings for that Good Samaritan who spotted her stuff going into the drink, and didn’t just blow it off. What amazing luck. But she knew it wasn’t just luck.

What she found that night was worth so much more than what she’d lost. She said, “God was saying, ‘Just give it to ME . . . have faith in ME . . . let ME into your heart and life, and I will bring you comfort and peace.”

Those are this season’s glad tidings . . . that money can’t buy . . . and no one can ever take away.


CHRISTMAS KINDNESS: Thank you to those who are participating in the Christmas gift shower announced last week for a young single mom and her six-month-old baby, Dylan, whom she almost aborted. Gifts and donations will be received through next Sunday. Just reply to this email if you’d like to contribute.

Today’s charity suggestion is to support Safe Homes, a project designed to help women and children escaping domestic violence. It’s operated by the Notre Dame Sisters and Associates in Omaha. The Catholic Charities shelter serves 175 women and 250 children each year, but has to turn away 2,000. Current transitional housing through the Family Passages program is 14 units, where women can stay for up to 18 months, paying about one-third of their earnings for rent. These units meet only a fraction of the need. It costs $835 per month for rent and utilities, plus day care, to help start a woman on the road to self-sufficiency. For more information, call Sister Rita Ostry, (402) 455-2994. Send donations to Safe Homes, Notre Dame Sisters, 3501 State St., Omaha, NE 68112-1799.

Saturday, December 10, 2005


The newest movie remake of the classic novel, “Pride and Prejudice,” is doing great at the box office. It makes it fun for our senior daughter’s honors English teacher, who doggedly teaches the classics while many of her colleagues have given in to today’s lesser literary tastes.

She still makes one nod to modernity, though: after her students have read a famous novel, she shows it on video so they can compare and contrast. The brand new “Pride and Prejudice” isn’t out on DVD, so she had to use an older version from some years ago. Apparently, the acting was bad, the dialogue was stilted, and the dance scenes were painfully sedate, at least to today’s teens.

Leave it to the class cut-ups. “RAVE!!!” someone shouted, jumping up and wiggling around crazily. Someone else noted that the heroine who was supposed to be pretty looked like a man in a wig with a five o’clock shadow. Another girl was said to have a unibrow. “Nobody had teeth that white back then!” a student remarked. When a romantic pair commenced their first dance and actually touched hands, someone shouted, “DIRTY DANCING!!!” even though the 1800s style was anything but. Other contrasts between then and now drew hoots and squawks.

Luckily, they have the kind of teacher who puts cognitive growth, even when it’s unconventional, ahead of strict classroom manners . . . or at least these kids can hope she does.


CHRISTMAS KINDNESS: It’s a privilege to be able to retrace the steps of your life and help someone make his or her dreams come true. Today’s suggestion is to donate money to a scholarship fund to encourage some student’s college or graduate school aspirations. My alma mater, the University of Missouri, has seen its tuition rise by 354% since I was in school. My sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma, started a scholarship fund 20 years ago to help a few deserving and financially-strapped young women with their studies. They’ve distributed $150,000, which is inspiring. Only a few are KKG’s, and all are outstanding. I’m also proud of friends of mine who serve on the scholarship board and want to honor them. Join me in this endeavor, or contribute to a fund at your own alma mater: Golden Key Scholarship Fund, KKG, P.O. Box 30163, Columbia, MO 65205-3163.

Friday, December 09, 2005


Footnote to yesterday’s parody on how today’s often anti-American media would have covered D-Day on the shores of France:

I hosted our high school’s International Club for a special dinner last night after they went caroling to a local nursing home and Alzheimer’s facility. We joked that it didn’t matter if they sang the same song several times in a row at the latter place; all that mattered, anyway, was to see those shining teenage faces and feel those caring hearts.

Then they and their teacher sponsors came here for international cuisine to match their studies. I can’t pronounce the Japanese dish, but it didn’t look too deadly. A teacher brought an outstanding Mexican spiced hot drink, and a local Mexican restaurant catered “La Ensalada de Salud, Felizidad y Prosperidad.” The kids loved being introduced to weirdo foods such as jicama.

But since I took French in school, and our daughter is now in her senior year on that language track, I made the main course and I wanted it to be French.

Remember yesterday’s email message? Get a load of what I made: coq au vin. FRENCH CHICKEN!!!


CHRISTMAS KINDNESS: I really admire the kids at Omaha’s Grace University. Many of them are planning to be missionaries. I heard about one senior, Anna, who was born on a fishing boat on the South China Sea, where she lived with her parents and four siblings, hiding from China’s one-child-per-family rule. Somehow or another, she made it to Grace, where she is getting trained as a teacher with hopes of returning to China to teach. Support this awesome university with money for scholarships, and make dreams like this possible for more young people: or Development Office, Grace University, P.O. Box 3725, Omaha, NE 68103-0725.

Thursday, December 08, 2005


There’s been a lot of talk that today’s mainstream media is so, so, so biased. Here’s an email with a take on how they’d report D-Day:

NORMANDY, FRANCE (June 6, 1944) -- Three hundred French civilians were killed and thousands more were wounded today in the first hours of America's invasion of continental Europe.
Casualties were heaviest among women and children. Most of the French casualties were the result of artillery fire from American ships attempting to knock out German fortifications prior to the landing of hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops.

Reports from a makeshift hospital in the French town of St. Mere Eglise said the carnage was far worse than the French had anticipated, and that reaction against the American invasion was running high. "We are dying for no reason, "said a Frenchman speaking on condition of anonymity. "Americans can't even shoot straight. I never thought I'd say this, but life was better under Adolf Hitler."

The invasion also caused severe environmental damage. American troops, tanks, trucks and machinery destroyed miles of pristine shoreline and thousands of acres of ecologically sensitive wetlands. It was believed that the habitat of the spineless French crab was completely wiped out, thus threatening the species with extinction. A representative of Greenpeace said his organization, which had tried to stall the invasion for over a year, was appalled at the destruction, but not surprised. "This is just another example of how the military destroys the environment without a second thought," said Christine Moanmore. "And it's all about corporate greed."

Contacted at his Manhattan condo, a member of the French government-in-exile who abandoned Paris when Hitler invaded, said the invasion was based solely on American financial interests. "Everyone knows that President Roosevelt has ties to 'big beer'," said Pierre LeWimp. "Once the German beer industry is conquered, Roosevelt's beer cronies will control the world market and make a fortune."

Administration supporters said America's aggressive actions were based in part on the assertions ofcontroversial scientist Albert Einstein, who sent a letter to Roosevelt speculating that the Germans weredeveloping a secret weapon -- a so-called "atomic bomb.” Such a weapon could produce casualties on ascale never seen before, and cause environmental damage that could last for thousands of years. Hitler has denied having such a weapon and international inspectors were unable to locate such weapons even after spending two long weekends in Germany.

Shortly after the invasion began, reports surfaced that German prisoners had been abused by American soldiers. Mistreatment of Jews by Germans at their so-called "concentration camps" has been rumored, but so far this remains unproven.

Several thousand Americans died during the first hours of the invasion, and French officials are concerned that the uncollected corpses will pose a public-health risk. "The Americans should haveplanned for this in advance," they said. "It's their mess, and we don't intend to help clean it up."


CHRISTMAS KINDNESS: Health starts with food, especially for children and the elderly, and so today’s charity nod is for the Omaha Food Bank, I didn’t realize that 46,500 people live below the poverty line in the Omaha metro area, and 40% of them are children. The Food Bank gets food to pantries, meal providers and soup kitchens to fight hunger. They are efficient: a $1 donation distributes $18 worth of food. Besides giving money, you can organize your own food drive and they’ll help you, or you can have their adorable, giant piggy bank brought to your company or church. Address: Food Bank, 6824 J St., Omaha, NE 68117.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


Our friends have two beautiful little girls. Last weekend, their dad sat down with them to take dictation on their letters to Santa Claus. Cissa “got it” immediately, as the old veteran, nearly 5, and rattled off a number of wishes. Sofia, 2, was charmingly confused.

Her dad asked, “What do you want to say to Santa?”

Sofia replied, “Happy Halloween?”

She really, really liked Halloween this year, especially the candy.

Her dad continued, “Well, what do you want to ask for from Santa?”


“OK. Anything else?”

“A big yellow cat!”

“A big yellow cat?”

“With candy inside!”

Short, sweet and simple: that’s the best Christmas wish of all.


CHRISTMAS KINDNESS: Early in my Christian experience, I learned a lot about the faith through Christian radio in general, and the Texas-based radio ministry of the late Brother Lester Roloff in particular. Radio teachers can be the only way to learn about God for the unchurched, truck drivers, and weird housewives who spend a lot of time gardening, like me, with Christian radio on the headphones. I’d recommend an encouraging donation to the Roloff organization or any other Christian radio ministry or station. Roloff Evangelistic Enterprises, P.O. Box 1177, Corpus Christi, TX 78403.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


I really liked the Mel Gibson movie, “Braveheart.” I do love to see men in skirts, and . . . what can I say? Mel! Oh, Mel! He wants me, you know, but I’m trying to be strong and resist his advances. What advances? Are you blind? Haven’t you seen the way he smiles at me, from the big screen?

Anyway . . . the movie is about Scottish patriots who fought off corrupt British oppressors. In my favorite scene, a whole line of Scots, dressed for battle in their fanciest skirts, suddenly whip around and moon the other side before they rush down there and club them into submission. That’s spiritual warfare at its best.

There’s another scene where Mel leads them all in raising their clubs, fists, and bows and arrows skyward, yelling proudly, “FREEDOM!!!!!”

Well, a meek office clerk in Omaha who’s an old friend of mine had a moment like that last Friday. She works for a huge corporation which at times can be oppressive, kind of like the old Brits. But she stood up to the office politics like a real Braveheart, and in a skirt, too. It might have been a bit of a career risk, but it was worth it. Here’s how she tells it:

“Rebel that I am . . . I am in charge of our company's phone messages. When doing the phone recording for the whole office last Friday, since we were closing early for our party, I specifically said:

"Our office will close at 1 today for our CHRISTMAS party and regular hours resume on Monday."

None of these Politically Correct, prechewed, sanitized “Happy Holidays” apple-butter euphemisms for HER. No, Sir!

Let’s moon the bad apples who are trying to censor Christmas. FREEDOM!!!!!


CHRISTMAS KINDNESS: A local school has developed a neat project over the last few years. They raise money to buy Christmas gifts in the form of $5 gift certificates to Burger King for children who are Sudanese refugees living in Omaha. Apparently, last year, Sudanese families filled the Burger Kings of Omaha on Christmas Day for their Christmas dinners, and it was a rare and exciting treat for them. This is extremely humbling to see how little it takes to please these very special, Godly people. But it’s exciting to be part of making something special happen for people who have faced great dangers and deprivations for their faith and families. To participate, send a note labeled “Sudanese Christmas Gift” and your check made out to Trinity Christian School, 15555 W. Dodge Rd., Omaha, NE 68154.

Monday, December 05, 2005


We got one of those 10-foot Christmas trees that leans a little north and then a little south and then a little north again, or maybe it’s a tad west. It’s a balsam, my beloved’s favorite, and so fragrant I even enjoyed vacuuming around it last night. Yes, it leans, but that’s the bad news. The good news is, it leans in so many directions that it looks like it’s perfectly straight.

Our other big project this weekend was putting up the enormous light-up, blow-up snowman in the front yard. It’s not so big that it would hurt anybody if it got away, a la the Macy’s parade, but it’s sizeable. It leans, too. It looks like it has had a few too many spiked eggnogs, or is trying to pick up an extra handful of snow to enlarge his pecs or something.

As if that isn’t embarrassing enough, our blonde dog Sunny Bone-O was napping inside while my beloved put up the Leaning Snowman, and didn’t see it for a couple of hours.

Then she came around to the front, saw the Leaning Snowman, went on the alert, crouched down into her Snarling Nazi Guard Dog stance, which isn’t real believable in a yellow Lab but oh, well, and commenced barking at the poor guy. She had him cornered, but good.

I went out there and praised her and told her she was so intimidating, he was frozen with fear. Literally stiff! Look at him leaning – he was just about to attack us when you courageously jumped in there to protect us. Good blonde dog. Let’s have a cookie: one for you and one for me.


CHRISTMAS KINDNESS: You can be a stand-in for Santa for the children of someone in prison with a contribution to the Angel Tree project of Prison Fellowship Ministries. For $11.20, you can provide presents for two children, and the number multiplies the more you give. See for more information. The mailing address is Angel Tree, PFM, P.O. Box 1550, Merrifield, VA 22116-1550.

Sunday, December 04, 2005


(I)nasmuch as ye have done it unto
one of the least of these my brethren,
ye have done it unto me.
-- Matthew 25:40

My husband’s company just had their office Christmas party. It’s so much fun to put names with faces, share office lore with unsuspecting newcomers, and watch the two oldest employees unexpectedly leaving the whippersnappers in their partying dust, impersonating Elvis on karaoke and Patrick Swayze on the dance floor while everybody roared their approval and raised their lighted cellphones on high.

You see people in a whole new light at office parties like that. And that’s a good thing.

When I was fresh out of college, I attended my first office party in the summertime, around an Olympic-size swimming pool. I had done some competitive swimming and was in pretty good shape. A co-worker at least 40 years my senior – the Pillsbury Dough Boy’s grandpa in swim trunks -- challenged me to a race. I didn’t think he could make one length without having a heart attack. If I held ‘way back, I could at least grant him a gentleman’s tie.

As if. He shocked me with an incredibly strong racing dive and was two body lengths ahead of me within the first few strokes. I ‘bout bust a gut and he still beat me by a lot. Everybody laughed and clapped, including me. Who knew? As I watched him high-five the other office fogies over beating the flat-bellied young cub reporter, I realized I had a lot to learn about the adult world.

I saw him in a whole new light. It was nice.

A few years later, at another job, I worked with an older woman whose personal life was somewhat of a mystery. She was short and lean, with big, expressive eyes and a beautiful, deep voice. She had a lot of wrinkles on her face. I wondered if she used to be a drinker, or if she had had a lot of problems that showed up, not in her conversation, but on her face.

Her only indulgence seemed to be the nuclear-strength coffee at the downtown cafeteria where we had lunch. We had a nice friendship, even though she wouldn’t let me in very far to know the real her.

Years later, I learned she had a habit of picking up bums off the street downtown, one at a time. She would take them to a fleabag hotel, pay for a few months’ rent, set them up with sacks of groceries, and arrange for cab fare to and from the employment office.

Then she would check on them every so often. No lectures, no sermons: just friendly visits that proved she believed in their worth. When the time was up, she would find another poor soul, and do it again. She must have helped dozens of people in this personal, compassionate and private way.

She never went to church and didn’t talk about religious matters. She wasn’t high and mighty. She never said a word about this quiet charity, in all the years I worked with her. She never got her picture in the paper or a plaque, nor did she want that kind of attention.

I sensed it was a “there but for the grace of God go I” type of deal. Truly beautiful.

You know, our society casts the spotlight on celebrities, millionaires and big-shot philanthropists, but never on everyday people who quietly, steadfastly do things like that, just because it’s the right thing to do. Lots of times, they’re the people at the next desk or in the next car . . . everyday heroes . . . low-key saints.

We all need to see each other in a whole new light, the way she did, and treat each other accordingly, as if there are special things about each person that we don’t know yet.

Because there are.

This Christmas season, let’s all do it: walk around in a whole new light, and share that light with others.

You won’t get applause and accolades here on Earth – but they’ll be singing your praises up at the heavenly karaoke bar, and that’s the one that counts.


CHRISTMAS KINDNESS: has been suggesting ways to help others each day during Advent. Today’s suggestion is to bless a young single mother named Michaela, who very nearly aborted her son Dylan but was guided away from that by a wiser, older woman in her church. What a beautiful testament to life, and the courage it sometimes takes to sustain it. She now is struggling to make ends meet on her small salary, but is doing a beautiful job with her adorable baby son. readers gave them a baby shower earlier this year. Let’s do it again! Contact Susan at if you would like to send Michaela some Christmas cheer and will join the prayer chain for her and Dylan to live happily ever after.


PRAYER REQUESTS LINK: It’s finally fixed on Click on the rainbow over at the right. Be sure to send your prayer requests and praise reports to me at, and check in regularly to pray for others.

Saturday, December 03, 2005


My dad had his own language, which we struggled to translate. He had three compliments for people: they could be a “good looker” if handsome or beautiful; “good feeler” if they were fun to be with, or, the ultimate praise, a “keeper.” That last was from his many decades of fishing in the waters of northern Minnesota, where they throw back fish as too small that would be lauded as monster-size in lesser fishing holes.

Well, I’m glad to report that his youngest grandchild, Maddy, is carrying on his ways. We just had the seats on our six heavy iron kitchen barstools recovered. They had been redecorated by Kool-Aid spills, cat scratches and various other assaults over the years, so it was time.

As I was hosting a Black and White formal dinner for Eden’s friends last night, I made my beloved leave work early to pick up the new seats and rush home to screw them back in place by the 6 p.m. arrival time of the teenage guests.

In his haste, he must have installed one of them backwards. The only way you can tell is that there’s a crossbar about eight inches from the floor that’s a footrest, and on one of the six chairs, it was on the back.

Maddy spotted it right away.

I complimented her. “My goodness, but you’re observant.”

She beamed. “Yeah. I’m a GOOD LOOKER.”

She’s a keeper, too.


CHRISTMAS KINDNESS: We got our first dog Budge from the Humane Society. She was a German shepherd / collie mix. Since she was more or less free, we called her “Budget Dog.” We loved her a lot, and what made it more special was that she had been a homeless puppy with discolored teeth, a sign of poor nutrition for her mother while she was pregnant. We were happy to give her the very best of doggie health care throughout her life. Budge needed us! And many, many animals are needy this Christmas season. Today’s charity suggestion is to help the Nebraska Humane Society, a 130-year-old organization that saves thousands of pets every year. Average new contribution: $21. Learn more on Address is 8929 Fort St., Omaha, NE 68134-2842

Friday, December 02, 2005


Here’s a funny cartoon: (it showed four pairs of underwear up on a clothesline, from a 1920's BVDs to a 1950's boxer shorts, a 1980's pair of briefs, and a 2005 thong)

TODAY’S CHRISTMAS KINDNESS SUGGESTION: Sacred Heart School is doing a tremendous job in inner-city Omaha with strong academics, a sensible life skills program, and an emphasis on Christian values and discipline. Its fund-raising unit, CUES (the Christian Urban Education Service) is seeking donations that could make a real difference in children’s lives. According to a CUES Christmas appeal, two sisters who are students at Sacred Heart had been late to school a few times, and the principal asked why. It turns out the girls’ mother had had to move three times since the beginning of the semester , which has been very unsettling, and now is working three jobs to make ends meet. Between her exhaustion and a car that keeps breaking down, she is having trouble getting them to school. But she told the principal that having her daughters at Sacred Heart was a top priority for her because she knows that going to college, as many Sacred Heart graduates do, is the way out of poverty. Find out more on

Thursday, December 01, 2005


I have a beautiful Concord watch with a dead battery. Tired of being late and never knowing what time it is, I took it to one of those mall fix-it kiosks. Handing the clerk the watch, I tried out one of my corniest lines:

“Time stood still. Can you help?”

He stared at me, popping his gum.

Finally, he asked in a monotone, “Dead battery?” I nodded.

He said if I would come back in 30 minutes, they would have it cleaned up and a new battery in it for $24.95.

I tried again, even cornier. “But without a watch, how am I to know when 30 minutes is up?”

Again, dead stare and gum-chewing. At least this time he shrugged.

I tried one last time: “So if I count to 60 thirty times, and come back, and you haven’t cleaned my clock yet, does that mean I get to clean YOURS?”

I don’t think he understood me. He looked like he was in pain.

Then his older co-worker helped me out. He was ringing up another customer. She handed him exact change. He exulted, “Good. Now I don’t have to take off my shoes and socks to make change.”

We three old fogies laughed – he meant he didn’t have to count on his fingers and toes.

The kid, on the other hand, just kept chewing his gum and went to work on a watch. I guess life must be boring when you watch the clock all day. . . .


CHRISTMAS KINDNESS: Today’s suggestion for a good cause to support this Christmas is the Nebraska Special Olympics. This year it served close to 1,500 people with intellectual disabilities, mostly children, in a series of fun sporting events. Tax-deductible donations go for year-round training, uniforms, food and communications costs. Learn more on