Wax Museum, Malala Y., and Cookies

The teachers at our local elementary school do this very cool thing. (Well, MOST teachers at elementary schools do very cool things. It’s part of their job requirement). BUT.

Our third graders do a wax museum. They choose a person to research, read a biography, and sort through the most interesting personal facts. Then the children dress up as their person and stay frozen. Parents get to come through and press a button to make the wax figure start his or her brief speech. It is beyond adorable. These kids have worked so hard, you can see it in the posters, the costumes, and especially when they give their speeches.

Evie decided to be Madame Curie and we looked through the book together. Did you know that she won two Nobel prizes? One in chemistry and one in physics. Did you know that the second year (1911) she won the Nobel prize she was also turned down for membership to the French Academy of Sciences because she was a woman? Did you know that she and her daughter Irene took their x-ray machines, attached them to vehicles’ batteries,  and drove these mobile x-ray units to the front lines of World War I and saved countless lives?


My other daughter, Sylvia, decided to be Malala Yousafzai, the young woman from Pakistan who wrote a blog for BBC Urdu about what was happening in the Swat Valley. The young woman who was shot by the Taliban because she wanted to go to school. The young woman who cannot return home because of more death threats.


Click to hear her own words: Malala’s speech

Sylvia was so inspired by this wax museum project that she asked me if we could do a bake sale to raise money to send a girl to school. I wasn’t sure. I mean, I’ve baked cookies before, but how would this work? Who would buy the cookies? How would we package them for sale?

The girls and I decided to do it. We offered chocolate chip cookies, peppermint cookies, hash mark peanut butter cookies, and peanut butter cookies with Hershey kisses in them. Our goal was to to raise $65, the approximate cost to sponsor a girl through http://www.malala.org.

We took pre-orders, enlisted my husband, baked all day Saturday, and Voila!

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We’ve just about reached $100. I know it won’t change the world, but it’s the flapping of a butterfly’s wings moving from person to person. Both Madame Curie and Malala, women who fought so hard for what they believed in. The 3rd grade teachers in our elementary school. My daughters, willing to act on their feelings. And, hopefully, a young woman out there who will be able to attend school — knowing that strangers believed in her and her right to an education.

We wish you the best this holiday season! Take care of each other and let others take care of you!





Keeping it Simple

I’m trying to keep it simple during this holiday season, but it sure is hard.

Last month I worked really hard at writing 50,000 words in one month.  I did it, if you let me cheat and add the 20K I wrote before November with the 30K I wrote during NaNoWriMo.  The good part of the experience is that I pushed past the place in my new novel where I was stuck…the bad news is that there are several significant plot changes that I need to make.  In an effort to get down words, I flailed about.  That’s okay.  Sometimes, that’s what it takes.  I also, for the first time in ten years, turned in a library book late.  The shame of paying that fine…I also paid my credit card bill late.  Ooops.  My kids bought school lunch a whole lot more than I’d budgeted.   I was grouchy in the afternoons when they got home from school because I’d been writing or banging my head on the desk or pacing the study during school hours.  Then, when they were home I tried to unload the dishwasher, fold clothes, check homework, suddenly plan dinner (we ate a LOT of chicken nuggets), etc.

I also didn’t do anything to prepare for Christmas.  Or the twins’ birthday (Dec. 31st) or my wedding anniversary (Jan. 2nd).  So, I was a little frantic after Thanksgiving.  Being frantic is NOT a good way to Keep Things Simple.  In fact, it leads to buying many things and running extra errands and worrying and not being thankful and forgetting that IT’S BETTER TO GIVE THAN RECEIVE.  Being human is so hard and our advertisers make it worse by manufacturing a need that only their produce can supposedly fill.

Last year we kept it more simple.  It was BIGGER.  It was BEAUTIFUL.  We were BLESSED.  You probably know our story.  If you don’t, my daughter Evelyn finished almost three years of chemotherapy for leukemia last December.  She had surgery to get her port out on December 14th.  Within a week she was very ill with a gram positive bacterial infection in her blood stream.  We went in to the E.R. and were immediately admitted.  We stayed in isolation.  Then, on a snowy Christmas Eve, we were finally released.  We drove home through the light snow.  Our neighbors had wrapped all the presents.

We woke up to Christmas.

It was easy to be thankful last year in the silence of the hospital room.  It was easy to tear up with humility when I thought of my neighbors helping our family to celebrate.  It was easy to admire compassion when I saw the pediatric oncology nurses and doctors working through the holidays.

I am seeking that same cheerfulness, that same sense of wonder, that same openness to miracles, this Christmas season.  It is harder with all the television advertisements.  All the last-minute deals at the mall.  All the activities at schools and the office and even at church.

It all begins, I think, with consciously slowing down.  With intentional gratitude.  With serving others.  I’m trying.  I want to savor the holidays, not fear the January credit card hangover.

How do you keep it simple?