Thursday, December 20, 2012

GOD GIRL -The History Theatre

Opens February 7, 015
God Girl
by Kristine Holmgren
directed by Ron Peluso

Princeton Theological Seminary, 1975. The war in Vietnam is over, the women’s liberation movement is in full swing, and idealistic Kris Holmgren joins the first large population of women seeking ordination into the Presbyterian ministry. Will she survive the cynical, sinister secrets of her new career?

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Following tragedy - What NOT to say to your children

The phone rang at 3 A.M.

I jumped because I know the truth.

Only tragedy phones after midnight.

"Pastor Kristine," the anxious mother cried, "Henry won't come out of the closet.  And he has a knife."

Four days prior, six-year-old Henry attended his grandfather's funeral.

I remembered - the little boy seem odd -  he smiled too much - giggled too much - and although he held fast to his mother's hand, Henry seemed disconnected from the tragedy of the death experience.

Something, I thought at the time, was not right with little Henry.

"He wants to die." 

"He wants to die," his mother said through the phone.  "He says he wants to be with his grandfather."

Moments later, when I knocked on the closet door, Henry told me the same thing.  If gramps was living now with Jesus, he said - and heaven was a wonderful place - a better place than this place -  why couldn't he be there?

Why did he have to live far away from Jesus and without his grandfather?

Adjusting reality 

The night ended well.

Henry's mother and I coached him out of the closet, took away his knife - and tucked him into his large, comfortable bed with assurances that heaven can wait.

In the weeks and months to follow, I sat with Henry's family as together we sorted through his odd and innocent view of death and dying.

Following the shooting spree at the elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, I remembered Henry and his family.

This week, across the nation, millions of American parents will face their children's awful, innocent questions about death, dying, violence and evil.

Here are a few things not to say as we construct our answers. 

Don't say - "God needed that little child in heaven."


Portraying God as someone who arbitrarily kills children to meet a heavenly quota is a  terrifying idea to a child.

Your little child wants to know why things like this happen.  To lay the cause of it on God's random desire to snatch a life is frightening to anyone.  And you don't believe that - do you?

Consider instead, a more truthful, honest way to support their tiny worlds with comfort.

Say - "Your daddy and I do everything we can to keep you and all of us safe." 

Don't tell lies and believe them to be words of comfort.

Don't say - "You're too young to understand."


Children get it.

They know about evil.  They believe in boogie men, dragons, monsters under the bed.

They know there are forces out there, bigger than they, meaner than they, with the strict intention to do them harm.

And you're the grown up.

Tell them you know about those forces as well.  Remind your child that you are big, strong, capable and able to protect your family. 

Remind your child that your job is to take good care of your children.

And you're good at your job. 

Don't say - "Go to sleep.  Everything will be all right tomorrow." 


This is the biggest lie.

If everything will be all right tomorrow, grief has no meaning.  If grief has no meaning, the loss of a child is insignificant. And if a loss of a child is insignificant, what value is the life of your own child?

Of course - our children are precious to each of us - and so this is a teaching moment for an important lesson; death is a natural part of our experience as creatures.

When a person dies,  our sadness is deep and sometimes hard to bear.  The reason for that is this - when someone dies, there is nothing more that can be done to help, save or recover the relationship.

Tell your child that one of the most important things we learn in life is the necessary lesson of saying goodbye and letting go.

Remind your child that you are there to help in the learning.

Don't say -  "God doesn't give anyone more than they can handle."


This phrase demonizes those of us who are dealt a terrible hand in life.

The truth is - many, many people face circumstances we cannot handle.

Many of us fall to pieces under the challenge we face.  Life is not easy for many of us.  We stagger under the burdens of our difficult lives, we fall into irretrievable pain, suffer and fail.

Don't teach your child to trivialize grief with the old "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" mentality.

Instead, teach your child compassion.  Teach your child that bad things happen to all of us - and when they do, good people must step forward and be of use.

Teach your child to comfort others.

The best way to do this is to be of real, serious, honest comfort to your family - especially your children.

And please, don't say - "All of this is God's will."


Last time I checked, no one but God knows the truth about divine will.

Don't teach your child that God, or anyone, "wills" the killing of innocent children.

True, there are holy scriptures to support that kind of craziness, but that's a discussion for another time.

Now, in the midst of immediate tragedy, find words of hope, power, and comfort for your child.

Remember - you're the parent in this situation; with obligation and responsibility to protect the heart, soul, and spirit of your little one.

Show your confidence, compassion and concern in the way you respond to death and violence.

What ever happened to Henry? 


Today, Henry is a grown man, with two children of his own.

But I can't sugar-coat his story; as a child he was sensitive and imaginative.

Although the death of our grandparents and our parents are natural life-events, Henry was changed by the loss of his grandfather. 

As a consequence, even as a grown man, he faces challenges that many of us don't always understand.

I expect the elementary school population of Newtown, CT will carry the same burden.

Our children however, will look at the tragedies of the world through the windows we provide them. The leadership of parenting is a deep source of comfort to our little ones.

And a clear, truthful understanding of the deep meaning of tragedy and death is the greatest resource we can provide.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Heartbreak at the holidays - Five ways to cope

Trust me - I know.

Heartbreak over the holidays is worse than a Lake Superior swim in October.

One big difference - a cold dunk in Gitchie Goomie numbs the senses.

Being dumped in December is a "feeling" frenzy. Hallmark commercials break your heart.  The question - "What are your plans for New Year's eve?" makes you tear-up.

And "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" is enough to make you reach for the cyanide.

Even so, you can do this thing.

Here are the top five tactics for making it through the holiday with a broken heart.

1. Face up.  Grow up.  Man up.
Pain can make us misbehave.  Drink too much, drive too fast, fall asleep at work.

You might be tempted to inhale four dozen krum kakke in one sitting.  You might find yourself attracted to that awful woman in the cubicle next to you - the one who keeps asking you to go to a Scientology lecture.

Or, you might develop an addiction to Drambuie over vanilla ice cream.

None of those things will crack the case.  Truth be told, it takes a lot of courage to be sad.  But sadness helps us find out who we are; whom we love; who loves us.

 Listen to your misery.  Let it lead you to your truth.

2. Don't mess with your mind.
 This is not the time to "take stock" of your life - your past - your future.  Instead, this is a time to turn off all "evaluation" of your sweet, lovely life.  Don't let this awful moment be the focus of your holiday.  Remember - there are worse things than losing your honey.

 When you feel the blues coming at you with a sledge hammer, take a walk or call someone in trouble too - think of others rather than yourself.

Don't fall into the trap of believing you'll never love again, never be happy again, never find your mate.  Instead, accept your feelings of hopelessness, despair, fear - and take away the power they might otherwise have.  Draw no conclusions. Wait.  Everything looks better after January first.

3. Boogie on down to Broadway.
I don't know about you - but music lightens my life.  Crank up the tunes, and dance in the kitchen.  Sing at the top of your lungs. Rock on with your bad self, and let the endorphins have sway over this grim moment in time.  Music, dance and song lift your spirits - and fight back the nasty stress of loneliness.

4. Remember how normal all of this is. 
 True - sometimes a severe heartbreak can lead a person into full-blown depression.  That's not going to happen to you this holiday.

When a person is depressed, nothing matters - no one can help, nothing can save him or her.   But you?  Everything matters to you.  Your pain is your body's way of telling you you're a healthy, loving person.

Don't worry.  You're okay, and you'll get over all this.

5. Let yourself "love" the one you still love.
You might think it impossible - but the process of extending your heart to someone whom you have no intention of loving ever again builds your own stability.

Because the relationship is over does not mean life has ended.  Your loved one is still alive - you're still here.  You can love that person and let him (or her) go.

 You don't need to forgive or forget - - you don't need to stay in touch.

But there's nothing wrong with spending a few holiday minutes alone - remembering the one you lost - and wishing the two of you a happy New Year.  No matter how badly he or she treated you, you both deserve compassion.

And no matter how hard it is to move forward - take time to live in the "now," and to honor all these experiences.

Finally - breathe!

And remember the words of the old holiday tune; "Next year, all our troubles will be miles away."

Or - as my mother always used to say - "This too, shall pass."

Happy holidays! 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Beyond frostbite - or, how to survive a Minnesota winter

Come a little closer Bunky, and I'll tell you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

There are secrets to living well on the tundra.

Secrets known only the wise, the withered and the wistful.

And global warming has sheltered you, my darling twenty-something, from the truth about Minnesota winter.

Because, my little Bunkster, your childhood was snowless.  As a consequence, you've grown up expecting that a flannel shirt alone will provide - that long underwear is only for the sick, old, crazy or stupid.

It's not your fault, snoogie.

Even so, I cannot allow you to wallow in stupidity.

And so, my little punkin' - it's time you faced the truth about Minnesota.

Lean in, Bunky - as your mommy shares the top five skills necessary for surviving an Old Fashioned Minnesota Winter.

# 5 -  Accept.


 The first step is acknowledging you are powerless over snow.

Snow like this - snow that blocks the door to the deck and freezes shut the garage - snow that damages the roof and frightens the house pets -  honey; this kind of snow has an axe to grind. This kind of snow needs someone to put it in its place.

I don't want you to grow up to be the kind of man who chooses to smoke dope in the hot tub rather than shovel the drive way or rake the roof. 

I want more for you, Bunky. And so does your father.

So - get out there.  Shovel.  Shovel until you don't think you can shovel another shovel full.

And accept it, sugar.

It's  winter.  It's bigger than both of us.

#4  - Respect. 


Remember last Christmas?  There was no snow - and Grandma tried to sun bathe in the nude.  You thought it was funny - but the police had another opinion.

Promise me, Bunky.  Promise me you'll be smarter than your father's people.

Respect winter.  No matter how whimpy it may be.  

#3 - Enjoy! 


When you were a little bink, you loved to make snow forts, snow men, snow bunnies.

I promise - no one will call the Carleton College dean and report what you do here, at home,  on your Christmas vacation.

So, have at it, Bunkster!!  Build your Mommy a snowman.  Deck him out with your Daddy's fedora, madras scarf and hookah.

Don't let the snow get you down, sugar.

 #2- Exploit! 


When I was your age, the young men who wanted to take advantage of me used this weather to the hilt.

Tobogganing the Town and Country golf course after dark - tubing Buck Hill on a bright Sunday morning - snow-shoeing around Lake Josephine in the bright, awful December moonlight - - -

Oh, Bunkster, Bunkster - my darling boy.

Take one of your girls out for one of those activities - and I guarantee you won't be sorry!

Go!  Have fun in the snow!  Make this a winter to remember.

#1 Defend. 


When you grow up and leave this frozen wasteland behind, you will encounter those who - because of their limited exposure to frostbite - fail to appreciate the magic of God's country.

Bunky - wherever you go  - don't let anyone trash-talk Minnesota.

A long time ago, before you were a twinkle in your chemically dependent daddy's eye - his ancestors moved here - on purpose.

Those undereducated, desperate Swedes  chose Minnesota because the land is so like Sweden; frozen, flat, desolate and cold.

I know, I know.

But Bunky, that's who we are.

So, shoulders back - stand tall!  Wear water-wick socks under your Sorrels and keep your goose-down dry.

Be proud, my boy!

You're Swede, you're Minnesotan, you're stubborn and you're a little stupid.

But you know how to survive and thrive in a part of the country everyone else is happy to fly over.

And that's something.

Isn't it?


Sunday, December 2, 2012

The amnesia of Christmas

When I was a little girl, no one suffered in our house during Christmas.

My mom was a member of the Grand Avenue State Bank's  "Christmas Club."

If you were lucky enough to belong, the bank took your Christmas Club account money every week and refused to give it back to you -  until December 1st. 

Housewives in my neighborhood loved this - because it ensured they had enough to buy their families a wonderful holiday.

My mom loved it best.  Without the club, she knew she would forget to save.

"It's amnesia," she said.  "I forget Christmas is coming!"

My mom managed to deposit a dollar each week into her Christmas Club account - and let me tell you - when I was a little girl, $52 bought a lot of Christmas for our little family. 

My own personal, private "elf" 


And Christmas in our house needed every penny.

My dad was a Linotype operator for the Pioneer Press. It was  good job, a decent job, a well-paid job.  But Christmas was a magical time, and required more from each of us.

And so it came to pass that each year, my father joined-up as one of Santa's elves.

I knew it.  My brother knew it.  My mom told us so.

"Santa needs people like your dad," she said, "to get all his work done.  Look at the beautiful things Santa makes in his shop.  Without your father, how could he do it?"

That's how, throughout my childhood, I knew that the meticulously carved, hand-crafted wood-worked gifts I received every year on Christmas morning were made in my own house.  By my own dad.

Unique, collectable, wonderful toys - like,  a doll-sized bed with real, turned bed posts, painted blue and white; a stool with my name painted in Scandinavian rosemaling; a wagon for my baby doll, with real, rubber wheels painted baby-doll white.

Made for me - by own personal, private "elf."

The disappearing Tiny Tears

My mother too, was in cahoots with Kris Kringle.

Before Thanksgiving, my Tiny Tears doll would disappear.  Her name was Grace - she was always with me - and when she went missing, I was lost.

Every year I'd hunt for her, worry for her, cry for her - beg my mother to help me find her.  To no avail.

"Maybe Grace went home to visit Santa," she said.
"Maybe Grace went home to visit Santa," she would say. "Maybe she got homesick for the North Pole."
My Christmas amnesia; I never remembered that the identical problem occurred at the identical time the prior year.
And of course - every year - on Christmas morning, there she was; my little Grace - under the tree, decked in a brand new, hand sewn dress, surrounded by mounds of freshly sewn play clothes, home-made sweaters and caps, blankets and shoes.

All of this, because of my mother's Christmas Club - and her holiday budget of $52.

Trying to recreate the impossible


When I started my own family,   I wanted to give my girls the same magic my parents provided.

And so, every year,  I set aside my own "Christmas Club" fund.

To this day, I stash a dollar here, a fifty there - and hope that the end of the year I'll have enough to lavish a grand and unforgettable holiday upon my own children.

But something always gets in the way.

One year, the car broke down.  I had to use the holiday cash to repair the transmission and rebuild the carburator.

Another year, the downstairs bathroom pipes burst, and all my "Christmas Club" cash went out the door with the clean-up crew.

This year, I have to use the Christmas Club money to replace damaged, dangerous carpet in my basement.

And so it happens  - every year, about this time - I apologize again to my children.  I'm sorry the holiday won't be grand.  I'm sorry I don't have the money to make it lavish.  I want it to be magical- I want it to be remembered.

And every year they say the same thing.

Christmas all ready is magical.  Every Christmas day memorable.
My gifts are special, and every moment precious.

Their words shake away my amnesia.  I remember what two simple people did with $52 and a lot of imagination. 

If my parents could be Santa's elves, so can I.

And so - this year - no apologies.  I'm going to remember what my amnesia seduces me to forget.

The blessings of the holiday are bigger than the limits of our wallets. It doesn't take a grand bank account to make a grand Christmas memory!

From my little house to yours - Merry Christmas, and happy, happy New Year!