Sunday, May 20, 2018

Gryffin's Birthday, the Big 10!

Wow, I can't believe Gryffy has hit the double digits! Tonight we're celebrating with Grammy and Bpop and Gryffy's choice, Bravo!, and last week he wanted a party at home, because that's his tradition. This boy loves traditions.

Here are a few pics from his party, followed by 10 things I love about Gryffy.

I'm David S. Pumpkins, maaaan. Any questions?
(He chose the SNL Halloween special as his driveway movie. Now it's all the 4th grade boys talk about. Ha!)

Ten things I love about Gryffy:

1. His joyful and infectious smile and laughter. This boy's always giggling loudly and loves to make others laugh! He's hilarious.

2. Confidence. Gryffy is totally unique and never tries to be like other people. He knows who he is, what he likes, and is completely comfortable in his own skin. And his charisma and confidence attracts a lot of friends.

3. He's ambitious and smart. This boy is already seriously studying to be a surgeon, and dreaming up a bright future.

4. He adores his big sister. These two are tied at the hip, are each other's best friends, and rarely fight.

5. Gryffy's amazing acrobatic skills and signature moves on the trampoline and his floppy curls tossing around with every flip.

6. He loves adventure and travel. He enjoys telling people about all the places he's been, or reminiscing on travels with us ("Remember when I picked up a jellyfish in Denmark?")

7. Gryffy's strategic mind and love of games, like cards and chess. He embraces that he's both a jock and a geek. :) And dang it, he's better than me at chess now, bringing home trophy after trophy at tournaments.

8. He adores our animals and especially our cats. Gryffy often embraces them and oozes love on them in a high-pitched squeaky voice. "AAAW, CLIIIIMBERRRR!"

9. He has a strong moral compass and solid character. I've watched him handle difficult situations with friends this year with incredible integrity, truth-telling, kindness and insight.

10. He is love. Gryffy always seeks out the new kids and welcomes them, like Pete on his first day. He makes a point of visiting the "buddy bench" at recess where lonely kids go when they need someone to play with. He always wants to give money to the homeless and spread kindness and light. And he deeply loves his family and is very proud of the things that make us unique.

Gryffin, I am so proud of you and love you so much! Happy Bday Buddy!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

A Prison Tour with my Miracle Friend

This Saturday, Lorelei and I drove to Jefferson City, Missouri, to tour the Missouri State Penitentiary, where my friend Darryl was falsely imprisoned. He spent 24 years behind bars as an innocent man. I met Darryl in seminary, and together we're forming a nonprofit ( with a dynamic team, working to free other innocent people.

This tour brought his story into the stark light and rank dim of reality. I could have never imagined such a horrible place as this prison, or the anguish of being enslaved in it for the crime of being a black man in the wrong place at the wrong time.
 Kyra, Darryl and Val's granddaughter, rode in the car with Lorelei and me, and caravanned out with my friend Mary (who took many of these photos--thanks Mary!), a group of teens who wrote a hero report about Darryl, and Darryl's family. Lorelei and Kyra had a blast picking songs to listen to on the drive. Both of the girls are 12 years old, and expressed so much anxiety, discomfort and fright at what they were seeing. During part of the tour, Lorelei was getting fidgety with anxiety, sensing the darkness all around. I leaned in, and reminded her that people like Darryl need us to witness their darkness, and open our eyes to it. And then we open the eyes of the world.

 Darryl spent several years in this building. Our expressions seem entirely inappropriate to the sombre place, but we were crossing a rickety bridge and Darryl must have cracked some joke that made me laugh.
 Lorelei faced a lot of fears this day.
 This photo below does a better job capturing how we felt. Darryl, the miracle man who has found forgiveness and freedom. Lorelei, filled with fear but standing solid. Me with a fire in my bones to fight injustice.
This was our view. Darryl was in cell four, on the first floor. 
 This was a neighboring building, where Darryl was also imprisoned in different cells. Mary captured such a beautiful picture--I think we'll use it for the website.
We ended the tour at the gas chamber, and it flooded me with memories of Dachau. The chamber was built by submarine engineers, the door of the strange white chamber inside a submarine door, with a mirror so that the prisoner could spend his last moments looking into the faces behind him in the viewing area. There was a cross on the ground just before you walked in.
 I'm always amazed by my friend, watching God work continued miracles through his life. He embodies the prophet's zeal to set the captives free. And together, by God, we'll free more innocent souls.
Miracle of Innocence Team & Board
Back row: David & Laurian Lytle, Leo Morton, Darryl & Val Burton, Diana Stuart, Connie Stella
Front: Me, Alison Summers, Mary Haines, Elizabeth Patterson

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Easter 2018

I love Easter, the season when earth springs back to life from the dead of winter, and Jesus stands resurrected from the tomb.
Easter's not as commercialized as Christmas, but every bit as significant. And to help remember the meaning of the season, we have a few special traditions sprinkled into Holy Week. Here's what we've been up to:

Lenten fish fries every Friday, sometimes on bikes and with neighbors, at the Catholic parish next to our neighborhood. (Excuse the blurry pic, but how cute are Lorelei and Mark?!)

We always host neighbors for our Holy Week Seder, remembering all the events that led up to the crucifixion and resurrection. This is my favorite Easter tradition!

We end it with Resurrection rolls.

(Speaking of neighbors, we made them some special gifts from our travels this week, which meant a stop at IKEA for my fave square Ribba frames.)

I attend a Maundy Thursday Vigil at a local monastery and recall the events of Jesus' agony in the garden. Mass begins at 10pm, and we end outside around a bonfire with torches at 2:30am, recounting the moment of Jesus' betrayal and arrest.

 This year some friends from seminary came with me.
 Who knew that a spontaneous lunch with two hitch-hiking monks would lead to an enduring friendship? These brothers and sisters are the real deal, serving the poor and imprisoned and sick, just as Jesus commanded. I always love to visit!
 On Good Friday, I got my nose pierced. (Not an Easter tradition, but wanted to document it.) :)
There was some mowing of the lawn. I love seeing green grass again!

... and the egging of the tree.

And of course, Easter egg hunts. We volunteered at one downtown with church, then the kids went to the one at the neighborhood park and we set up our own...

... a glowing egg hunt.

We took an Easter walk, searching for things in nature that represent some part of the Christ story, like thorns for the crown of thorns.

We dyed eggs.

And tie-dyed them too.

We ate our family's traditional foods this week: crepes, eggs benedict and an Easter ham dinner with green bean casserole, strawberry spinach salad, corn casserole and more resurrection rolls.

We watched our traditional Easter movies: Exodus, of Gods and Kings (Christian Bale, he's my fave), Rick Steves' Easter in Europe, and The Son of God. (This pic below was during Jumanji, which has nothing to do with Easter but captures the cul-de-crew vegging out at the movies.)

We planted jelly beans, which sprout into lollipops in the ground on Easter morning.

We snuggled on the couch to read the synoptic gospels' tellings of the Easter story.

And this year the kids helped the Easter bunny out, and set up the string to their Easter buckets.

Domino Geronimo helped us sort through the Easter buckets.

We went to church. The kids and I watched Mark tickle the ivories at Life.Church.
 Then I went to my church on Easter morning, Resurrection Downtown at the Kauffman Center. Both services were beautiful and stirring. Mark played my favorite song by Coldplay. And the Kauffman Center was just awesome, a place of deep spiritual significance for me personally.

The rest of Easter Day was spent in comfy PJ's playing Clue while it hailed and snowed outside, which made for an especially cozy day with my loves.

That Easter Bunny sure was good to us.

Happy Easter! He is risen indeed!