Category Archives: Columns

Helping our children ‘find the good life’

I recently took a week off from social media. One of my main goals with that extra free time was to get my nose back in a book again. Reading daily, not just tweets and articles, but back to my list of unread classics.

Sadly, my time spent reading has decreased dramatically with the increase in my use of social media. And I’d been feeling I needed to change that.

Before I got to my list, though, I wanted to read/listen to Ben Sasse’s new book, The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis, with our two teenage kids. The perfect opportunity to do that was while we were driving during a quick road trip to visit the Lincoln presidential museum and historical sites.

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Sasse says families should develop practices to prepare their kids to become “fully formed, vivacious, appealing, resilient, self-reliant, problem-solving souls who see themselves as called to love and serve their neighbors.”

And how do they do that? Learning the value of hard work, developing multi-generational relationships, traveling and – wait for it – reading.

Coincidence? Probably not. I knew I needed to do better. And Sasse’s book reinforced that.

It’s not enough for us to encourage our children to read, however. They need to see us setting the example of being readers ourselves.

When we returned from our road trip, we all headed to our home library to pick out some books we hadn’t read yet. And a trip to the public library followed.

One of the most important things I’ve discovered over the years, with two very different children, is that letting them choose what they want to read, not what we want them to read, is vital.

We struggled with our oldest and reading for years. Then one day, he checked out the first Percy Jackson book from the library and devoured it. And the next in the series and the next. It opened up a new world of him wanting to read instead of us feeling like we had to force him to read.

Katherine Paterson, who wrote two of my favorite books, Bridge to Terabithia and The Great Gilly Hopkins, said: “The wonderful thing about books is that they allow us to enter imaginatively into someone else’s life. And when we do that, we learn to sympathize with other people. But the real surprise is that we also learn truths about ourselves, about our own lives, that somehow we hadn’t been able to see before.”

I think that’s one of the things Sasse was talking about in his book.

“Our goal is for our kids to be intentional about everything they do — to reject passivity and mindless consumption and to embrace an ethos of action, of productivity, of meaningful work, of genuinely lifelong learning,” Sasse writes. “In other words, we want them to find the good life.”

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Discovering family history in the kitchen

By Jacki Wood, “That they might have joy” column

We start a new series in today’s paper, “Generations of Cooking: keeping cookbooks in the family.”

I wasn’t sure where the series would lead when Kay suggested it after Katrina brought in an old cookbook. But it has really turned into something fun.

It reminded me of my own family’s cookbooks and recipes. And the historical importance of them.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve started working more on my family history and genealogy. This series is helping me realize how important family recipes are in helping to preserve that history.

Many of my favorite memories and family stories surround food – at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, family reunions, birthday parties and other get-togethers.

New Mexico State University Extension’s Cydney Martin encourages others to collect family recipes and create an heirloom cookbook.

“It’s our history, our legacy to our children,” she said. “Nothing provokes memories better than the smell of something you ate in your childhood.”

Several years ago, a cousin of mine spearheaded the creation of an heirloom cookbook, “A Kitchen Keepsake – The Weese Family Cookbook.” We all shared recipes, family photos and some basic family history. She also included a few recipes from my great-grandmother, Zola Carey Weese.

It is now my go-to cookbook. And my kids use it, too. The food splatters and dog-eared pages are proof of how valuable it has become to us.

A family favorite shared in the cookbook are sugar cookies my mom made with my siblings and me when we were little, a tradition I carried on with my own kids.

There are also a couple of my great-grandma’s recipes, Dandelion Jelly and French Fried Dandelion Blossoms. They are ones I haven’t tried yet but this series has inspired me to discover why anyone would want to fry one of the most hated flowers and eat it.

It’s also inspired me to learn more, to record more stories and to try more family recipes.

Grandma Uthe’s Sugar Cookies
2 C. flour
1 tsp. soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 C. butter
1/4 C. sugar
1/2 C. sour cream
Sift together flour, soda, salt and nutmeg. Cream butter and sugar together well. Blend in sour cream and then add dry ingredients. Blend well and chill dough. Roll out on floured surface, half at a time, to 1/8 inch thick. Cut into desired shapes. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350˚ for 8-10 minutes. Makes 6-7 dozen small cookies.

Dandelion Jelly
4 1/2 C. sugar
1 tsp. lemon or orange extract
1 pkg. pectin
1 qt. dandelions
In the morning, pick 1 quart dandelion blossoms without any of the stem attached. Boil blossoms in 1 quart of water for 3 minutes. Drain off 3 cups liquid. Add pectin, extract and sugar. Boil about 3 minutes and seal.

French Fried Dandelion Blossoms
dandelion blossoms
1 egg, beaten
cornmeal
salt water
flour
grease or lard
Clean and soak dandelion blossoms in salt water for 30 minutes. Dip in beaten egg and then in a mixture of flour and cornmeal. Brown in hot grease or lard.


‘when sensible children turn scatter-brained or start having wild mood swings’

By Jacki Wood, “That they they might have joy” column for the Nodaway News Leader

So I have a “friend” …

Her oldest child recently turned 18 and is getting ready to graduate high school in less than two months. And she’s starting to freak out feeling like she hasn’t prepared him enough yet for adulthood.

Hunter Wood senior    Okay, yes, it’s me, not some friend.

Somewhere around January 3rd, it hit me that my oldest is graduating soon and I’ve been frantically trying to teach him all the things that I think I should have by now.

I’m no expert but I’ve been thinking a lot about what we’ve done right over the last 18 years and where we could’ve done better. Parenting teenagers has proven especially hard, like everyone said it would.

Sue Shellenbarger, writing for the Wall Street Journal in 2016, said the teen years can be “mystifying” for parents “when sensible children turn scatter-brained or start having wild mood swings.”

Not exactly earth-shattering news. But she said new research offers some explanations and scientists are changing their views on the role parents should play.

“Once seen as a time for parents to step back, adolescence is increasingly viewed as an opportunity to stay tuned in and emotionally connected.

“As adolescents navigate the stormiest years in their development, they need coaching, support, good examples, and most of all, understanding.”

Being understanding can be tricky, especially as you watch them make mistakes. It’s so easy to want to just correct them.

I recently read about Bert Fulks who works with a youth addiction recovery group. He asked how many found themselves in situations where they were uncomfortable but stuck around because they felt like they didn’t have a way out. They all raised their hands.

So he came up with the X-plan for his family, a simple but powerful tool for his kids to use at any time. It gives them a way out of a situation by simply texting the letter X to a family member who then calls the teen and arranges to pick them up with no questions asked.

“This is one of the most loving things we’ve ever given (our son),” he said. “It offers him a sense of security and confidence in a world that tends to beat our young people into submission.”

Adolescence is such a critical time, when we still want to protect them, but also need to help them continue learning how to become independent.

In “Helping without Hovering,” Dr. Mark Ogletree, LPC, offers these tips:
1. Look for opportunities to allow your children to do things for themselves, even if it means more work for you.
2. Teach your children to work.
3. Teach your children that choices have consequences.
4. Allow your children to have heartaches and setbacks.
5. Stand up and be courageous.

Courageous parenting. This, too, might be difficult at times. We might be afraid of offending them or having them be upset with us.

My husband and I talk with our kids. A lot. And we keep it real. They sometimes point out what other parents allow that we don’t. And that can take courage to remain committed to what we feel is best for them, although we are willing to discuss why they might disagree.

They might take offense at what we’re saying or trying to teach, but we talk through it, and hopefully, come to an understanding, even if we might not agree. And I think that’s okay.

Some of our kids’ friends have recently called us overprotective. And I’m okay with that, too, although I just call it parenting.

I’m sure it’s partially because I watch too many cop shows that have tragic stories about teens. But when they leave the house, I want to know who they’re with, where they’re going and what they’re doing. While I want to foster independence, I also want to make sure I’m doing all I can to still protect them.

We could talk for days about parenting teenagers and we’d probably disagree on different aspects.

But I guess the most important thing for me, at least right now when the countdown is on to graduation, is to simply spend time with him and create just a few more memories together.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf said: “We build deep and loving family relationships by doing simple things together, like family dinner (and) by just having fun. In family relationships love is really spelled t-i-m-e.”

So show up. Be there. Love them. Have fun. Listen. And be understanding.

Barbara Bush, wife of President George HW Bush, said: “Whatever the era, whatever the times, one thing will never change…Your success as a family, our success as a society, depends not on what happens in the White House but on what happens inside your house.”

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“World’s Best Cup of Coffee” – the case against superlatives

By Jacki Wood, That they might have joy

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Disclaimer: this is not the best column I’ve ever written. But it’s probably also not the worst.

“You did it! Congratulations! ‘World’s Best Cup of Coffee.’ Great job, everybody.”

This line is from the movie, “Elf,” when Buddy is walking down the street and excitedly enters a diner when he sees a neon sign that says “World’s Best Cup of Coffee.”

It makes me laugh every time I watch it. You know, because, how is that even quantifiable?

Whether a cup of coffee is amazing or terrible depends on one’s personal taste preferences, right?!

Best, worst, most. These are all examples of superlatives, an exaggerated or hyperbolical expression of praise.

And with Valentine’s Day approaching, we’ll be hearing a lot of these expressions, which generally makes me want to vomit.

Not that I don’t love the day of love or people sharing their affection for one another. The issue is the “best ever” phrase. “I have the best wife ever” or “I have the best boyfriend ever.”

We’ve been hearing other superlatives a lot recently, especially from Donald Trump’s campaign and into his presidency.

“I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created.”

“I’m the most militaristic person ever.”

“I get the biggest crowds. I get the biggest standing ovations.”

“I would use the greatest minds. I know the best negotiators.”

But this is nothing new.

In 1900, literary critic and author Arthur Waugh wrote, “we are living in an age where everything is ‘most impressive,’ ‘most heroic,’ and ‘most immortal.’”

“The great arguments against the indiscriminate superlative are its insincerity and vulgarity. No man can use the perpetual superlative sincerely, since he cannot frankly believe that everything he has to describe is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.”

He continued by saying this may seem trivial, however, “whenever the literature of a country lacks dignity, there is something amiss with the national life and character.”

Superlatives can also be harmful in relationships.

It’s like posting on Facebook that I have the best husband ever on Valentine’s Day and then two days later posting how annoying he is because he leaves his dirty laundry all over the bedroom floor.

How can this be? He’s supposed to be the best husband ever.

“They are really hard to live up to,” relationship mentor Jana Kellam said. “And no one wants to be compared and have to try to live up to these superlatives.”

For example, she said, your partner cooks dinner, which was delicious, and you say, “this is the best meal ever!”

“Your partner may have felt great in that moment, but underlying your compliment is the implication that nothing will ever be able to compare favorably.”

“The next time you’re about to compliment something or someone,” Kellam said, “find a way of doing it that is empowering, engaging and motivating instead.

“‘I love this meal. Thank you so much for doing this for me. It’s beautiful and delicious.’”

In our “superlative-saturated world,” Amy Bailey, writer for MyScoop, said our society is not just addicted to but has overdosed on superlatives.

“When everything is super epic and the best ever, there’s no way to differentiate between really cool and just ok… What happened to just being good?

“In the Bible, we read that when the universe was created, God saw the light that it was good. There’s no epic, there’s no amazing, there’s no best ever – it was simply good.”

Now, I’m not advocating for mediocrity but I’m also very much a realist. Life is hard. I do believe, however, that we have the capacity to change, to learn and grow and become something greater than we ever imagined.

Instead of setting unrealistic expectations, though, how about we simply look for the good and say so sincerely.

I might not go to that diner because of the neon sign advertising “World’s Best Cup of Coffee” (I wouldn’t go there for the coffee anyway, since I don’t drink it).

But I might go there for a “Decent Cup of Hot Cocoa,” to hang out with a friend or my husband or my children, and have a conversation that’s honest, sincere and real. And good.

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‘It’s not how you start out that counts’

By Jacki Wood, That they might have joy column for the Nodaway News Leader

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I find myself feeling a bit cynical right after Thanksgiving each year.

I’m not sure why since it doesn’t make much sense logically. We spend time with family and give thanks as we kick off the holiday season and prepare for Christmas, a time of year that I love.

It might have something to do with Black Friday. I tried to go once with my mom and sister about 10 years ago. It was a disaster. I hated it so much and was so grumpy that we went back home before they were even done shopping.

Not judging here. It’s just not for me.

It might also have something to do with the expectations we perceive as the holidays approach. Having the perfect decorations, getting the best gifts, doing amazing activities with our children. Blah. Blah. Blah.

The commercialization of the holiday season in general contributes to my bah humbug attitude. Which is probably why I return each year to one of my favorite Christmas stories, “How The Grinch Stole Christmas,” by Dr. Seuss.

A bitter, nasty creature with a heart “two sizes too small,” the Grinch despises the people in Whoville as they merrily celebrate the season.

Annoyed, he decides to steal all of their presents, and even the tree, hoping to stop Christmas from coming.

But when the people awoke, they were not sad. Instead, the Grinch heard them singing.

“He HADN’T stopped Christmas from coming! IT CAME!

“Somehow or other, it came just the same!

“And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,

“Stood puzzling and puzzling: ‘How could it be so?

“‘It came with out ribbons! It came without tags!’

“‘It came without packages, boxes or bags!’

“And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore.

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!

“‘Maybe Christmas,’ he thought, ‘doesn’t come from a store.’

“‘Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!’”

In the end, the Grinch has a change of heart, which grows three sizes, and he enjoys the Christmas feast with the people in Whoville.

The story of the Grinch came about when Theodor Geisel, who wrote as Dr. Seuss, was looking in the mirror the day after Christmas and noticed a “very Grinch-ish countenance” in the mirror.

“So I wrote about my sour friend, the Grinch, to see if I could rediscover something about Christmas that obviously I’d lost,” he said.

Maybe it’s how the Grinch looks, or even his name, but many people just think of him as the villain and not the hero he turns out to be.

Geisel once received a letter from two brothers with the last name “Grinch.” They were being teased because of their name and asked him to change the character’s name.

His reply was that the Grinch was actually the hero of Christmas.

“He starts out as the villain,” he wrote to them. “But it’s not how you start out that counts.”

I love that. We all need that reminder. No matter what we’ve done, we can change our actions and our attitudes. It’s not too late to see what it is about Christmas that we’ve lost.

So if you’re like me, feeling a little Grinchy already this holiday season, it’s okay. We still have time to “rediscover Christmas.”

“It’s not how you start out that counts.” It’s where you go from here.


‘Add color to otherwise black and white memories’

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Peninah

“Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.”

It’s a quote from Squire Bill Widener, although widely misattributed to Theodore Roosevelt who shared it in his autobiography.

Over the past year, it has kept me moving forward.

Because of my health issues, and the fact that I spend most of my life in bed now, I’ve been trying to focus on what I can do, with what I have, and with where I’m at.

One thing I’ve recently discovered I can do is family history. I mean, I can’t go out and wander around cemeteries. But I’ve got a laptop and the internet.

Growing up, my grandma was very into genealogy. My mom, too, and then my younger sister as well. I had no interest in it whatsoever.

One day last fall, however, trying to figure out what I can do, with what I have, where I’m at, family history popped into my head. And I decided to give it a go.

I’m still learning. And I don’t spend as much time with it as I’d like. But finding my ancestors and learning their stories and making connections that hadn’t yet been discovered by our family has been quite life-changing.

One connection is from my Eckerson family line. America Pulliam jumped out at me because of her patriotic name. She died in 1905 in Sullivan County, MO. The work that had previously been done by my grandma had ended with her. We didn’t know who her parents were so I started digging.

After several weeks of searching and working, I found them. And that opened up several lines, one going back 27 generations to Guillaume DeBray who was born in 1054 in England.

The line from America to Guillaume included other ancestors such as Captain Thomas Warren, born in Kent, England, who came to Virginia in 1640 and purchased land from Thomas Rolfe, the son of John Rolfe and Pocahontas. And 1st Baron Edmund Braye, born in 1484, who was in attendance when King Henry VIII and King Francois I met following the Anglo-French Treaty of 1514.

Another fascinating story for me has been from my husband’s side.

The granddaughter of a Cherokee Indian and a descendant of those who came on the Mayflower, Peninah Cotton was born in 1827 in Illinois. She married Daniel Wood, and because of their Mormon faith, they were driven out of their home by a mob, leaving behind everything they couldn’t carry and journeyed westward to escape persecution. They arrived in Salt Lake in 1848 and Daniel later founded the community of Woods Cross, Utah.

I’ve also found I’m related to several famous people through a fun family history website, RelativeFinder.org. I’m cousins with Walt Disney, Mark Twain, Henry David Thoreau and Orville and Wilbur Wright as well as several US Presidents including FDR, John Adams, William Howard Taft and a few more.

In just the few short months since I began this new adventure, it’s also been fun to share these stories with my kids.

A study conducted at Emory University and published in 2010 found the more children knew about their family history, the higher their self-esteem and the better able they were to deal with the effects of stress.

“Family stories provide a sense of identity through time and help children understand who they are in the world,” the researchers said.

During RootsTech 2016, a global family history event, blogger Miryelle Resek wrote: “For many of us, the thrill of researching our ancestors comes from learning about their stories. Glimpses of what their everyday life looked like, the challenges they overcame and the hopes and dreams they worked toward add color to otherwise black and white memories.”

Reading from Daniel Wood’s journal and how difficult the journey to Utah was for them helps our family have strength to get through rough times.

Maya Angelou said: “We are braver and wiser because they existed, those strong women and strong men. We are who we are because they were who they were.”

So if I’ve piqued your interest at all in family history, you can get started at familysearch.org and/or ancestry.com.

If your history includes Nodaway County, the historical society is a valuable resource and is open from 1 to 4 pm, Tuesday to Friday, or by appointment. Call 660.582.8176 for more information.

There’s also a Family History Center at the LDS Church in Maryville. Call 660.541.0124 and leave a message.

Several local genealogists are also willing to help including Mandi Brown who can be contacted at brownmandi0911@yahoo.com.

So get out there and start digging. Explore where you came from, link your past to your present and build a bridge to your future. You won’t regret it.

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‘I am still worth the full 20 dollars’

By Jacki Wood, “That they might have joy” column for the Nodaway News Leader

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Our family recently returned from a two-week summer road trip to California to see family, visit the beach, Disneyland, our favorite restaurants and some new things, too.

We love to road trip and I could write for days about the adventures we had. But for this column, I’d like to share something we’ve started doing recently – packing comfort kits to pass out if we come across someone in need along our way.

It didn’t take long to hand out the first one on this trip. We were approached by a man at a gas station in New Mexico. He was asking for money but we offered him the Ziploc of food, water and essentials. He quickly opened the bag, grabbed the crackers and thanked us as he began devouring the food.

The exchange was a bit bizarre but he was obviously hungry and we were happy to help.

This topic – helping the homeless who stand outside of a business or along a highway off ramp – seems to be somewhat of a controversial subject.

Some people say they’re just trying to take advantage of us, that they beg all day long and then go home to a comfortable life.

In my very limited experience, I do not believe that to be true in most cases. I’m not naive enough to think that it doesn’t happen. But I feel there are many people who could use a little help.

I shared a story last Thanksgiving on my Facebook page that reaffirmed my stance for helping those in need. Here’s a portion of what I wrote then:

***

His hands were rough and cold, surprisingly cold, on an unusually warm November day.

I had stopped in Cameron to fill up with gas on the way to my mom’s for Thanksgiving and he was standing on the corner shivering.

“I’m Jacki,” I said, as I stuck my hand out to shake his.

“Dennis,” he said.

He seemed shy, hesitant, ashamed.

“Where are you headed?” I asked, reading his cardboard sign.

“South.”

Dennis was a veteran. He had served during the 1970s and had been in Omaha for a medical procedure. Now he was trying to “get someplace warm,” he said.

Family? No. He had no family.

We spoke a little more and I learned he had a dry sense of humor, kind of like my dad’s. He seemed to warm up to me the longer we talked.

We had made some comfort kits as a family to keep in the car for instances just like this. The bag had ripped recently so I had taken it out to replace it but kept forgetting to put it back in the car.

When I saw Dennis, I thought it was a missed opportunity and felt I needed to talk with him.

I only spent a few moments with him. I don’t know his whole story. I don’t know what specific circumstances and choices led to him being there in that situation. But I do know that he is my brother and I wanted to help him.

I gave him a little money (something I normally do not do), which he humbly thanked me for with tears in his eyes, and I wished him good luck.

***

We don’t know the circumstances that lead people to stand on a corner asking for help. We haven’t walked in their shoes. But if we could just really see them for who they are, how would we act?

In a speech given at BYU in 2015, Sondra D. Heaston said: “What if we could really see into each other’s hearts? Would we understand each other better? By feeling what others feel, seeing what others see and hearing what others hear…would we treat them with more patience, more kindness and more tolerance?”

I recently read a story of a woman who had endured years of trial and sorrow. She said: “I have come to realize that I am like an old $20 bill — crumpled, torn, dirty, abused and scarred. But I am still a $20 bill. I am worth something. Even though I may not look like much and even though I have been battered and used, I am still worth the full 20 dollars.”

***

Comfort kits are easy and relatively inexpensive to make. You can find many ideas online. Ours include a pair of socks, toothbrush and paste, comb, wet wipes, water, gum and a few snack items like granola bars, crackers and cheese, tuna salad and fun fruits. There are many other essentials you could pack as well as a list of local resources and gift cards.

One site I like is the Portland Rescue Mission (portlandrescuemission.org/get-involved/learn). It shares several ways to provide practical help to the homeless.

***

The second comfort kit we handed out on our road trip was in Kansas on our way home. As I rolled down the window and asked the man if he’d like the bag, his eyes lit up with joy and gratitude.

I will never forget those eyes. I saw a glimpse into his heart.

Not that I knew his circumstances. That didn’t matter.

By serving him in that very small capacity, even though he may have been crumpled, torn, dirty and scarred, we saw that he was indeed still worth the full 20 dollars.


‘No one is born hating another person’

That they might have joy column, by Jacki Wood, written for the Nodaway News Leader

The movie “42” tells the story of Jackie Robinson who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball in 1947.

One of the most heartbreaking scenes is when a young, white boy and his father attend a Brooklyn Dodgers game, and as Robinson takes the field, the father starts screaming, “hey nigger, we don’t want you here,” along with many others in the crowd.

Reluctantly and visibly uncomfortable about the taunts and racial slurs, the boy joins his father in yelling at Robinson.

It reminds me of Nelson Mandela in “Long Walk to Freedom” when he said: “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

Have you noticed how much hate their is in our country right now?

It’s everywhere.

People are angry about everything.

A CNN/ORC poll from December suggests 69 percent of Americans are either “very angry” or “somewhat angry” about the way things are going in the US.

Sixty-nine percent.

Ferguson. San Bernardino. Charleston. Black Lives Matter. White Lives Matter. Blue Lives Matter. All Lives Matter. Anti-gay, anti-Jew, anti-Muslim, anti-refugees, anti-government. Gun rights vs gun control. The very rich vs the very poor and the middle class. And the Presidential race.

Hate can be seen everywhere.

Last month, Mark Potok, editor of the SPLC’s Intelligence Report, wrote: “the number of hate and antigovernment ‘Patriot’ groups grew last year and terrorist attacks and radical plots proliferated.”

He continued: “Antigovernment militiamen, white supremacists, abortion foes, domestic Islamist radicals, neo-Nazis and lovers of the Confederate battle flag targeted police, government officials, black churchgoers, Muslims, Jews, schoolchildren, Marines, abortion providers, members of the Black Lives Matter protest movement and even drug dealers.

“They laid plans to attack courthouses, banks, festivals, funerals, schools, mosques, churches, synagogues, clinics, water treatment plants and power grids.

“The situation appears likely to get worse, not better, as the country continues to come to terms with its increasing diversity … Americans are arguably as angry as they have been in decades.”

The problem will not get better if we continue to let it grow.

In Galatians 6:7, the Apostle Paul wrote, “whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

Jeffrey R. Holland said: “if we sow thistles, we don’t really plan to get strawberries … we sow a little thistle and we get a lot of thistle — years and years of it, big bushes and branches of it. We never get rid of it unless we cut it out.

“If we sow a little bit of hate, before we know it we’ve reaped a lot of hate — smoldering and festering and belligerent and finally warring, malicious hate.”

So… what is so wrong with hate?

Well, first of all, we don’t have time for it. There are many great things waiting to be discovered, learned and shared that we don’t have time to waste on hate.

President Abraham Lincoln said: “No man resolved to make the most of himself can spare time for personal contention … Better give your path to a dog than be bitten by him.”

It’s also bad for our health.

Harvard-trained and board-certified cardiologist Dr. Cynthia Thaik said: “Prolonged bouts of anger can take a toll on the body in the form of high blood pressure, stress, anxiety, headaches and poor circulation. Research also shows that even one five-minute episode of anger is so stressful that it can impair your immune system for more than six hours. These can lead to more serious problems such as heart attacks and stroke.”

To overcome this, she suggests the following: acknowledge the anger, realize why, step back, deal with it, talk to someone and let it go.

In the end, however, we simply need to stop it.

“When it comes to our own prejudices and grievances, we too often justify our anger as righteous,” Dieter F. Uchtdorf said. “When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following:

“Stop it!”

In November 2014, following the grand jury investigation in Ferguson, Benjamin Watson of the New Orleans Saints penned a Facebook post that went viral.

“Ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against and … abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie.

“But I’m encouraged because God has provided a solution for sin through the his son Jesus. I’m encouraged because the Gospel gives mankind hope.”

Uchtdorf continued: “We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love for God and His children.”

I believe this is the way.

If they can learn to hate, as Mandela said, they can be taught to love.


Are we missing the whole point?

That they might have joy column by Jacki Wood for the Nodaway News Leader

We sat down at a corner table in Pizza Planet and began eating a late lunch. It was Christmas Eve, our first day at Disney World, and the restaurant was buzzing not unlike the scene from Toy Story.

This trip was our Christmas present, but I had struggled with knowing that so many employees were away from their families while we were enjoying ours.

In an effort to not get too caught up in the magic of Disney, we decided to be more diligent in showing our gratitude and sharing the spirit of Christmas. We sincerely thanked the shuttle drivers, cast members, cashiers and custodians and wished them all a Merry Christmas. We tried to be especially cheery, gracious and giving. And we did the same to our fellow guests in the very crowded but happiest place on earth.

So as we began eating our pizza that afternoon, a teenage girl sat down at the table next to us. We smiled and Larry said “Merry Christmas!”

She started talking with us while waiting for the rest of her family.

As the conversation progressed, we learned she was from New York, going to school, working a few part-time jobs including one as a Hebrew language tutor and that she was Jewish. To which Larry’s “Merry Christmas” greeting was brought up.

Was she offended when people say that to her?

No, not at all, she replied. In fact, she said, when someone says Merry Christmas, she’s happy they enjoy their holiday. And she wants to be happy about celebrating hers as well.

When we were done, Larry wished her a Happy Chanukah and she replied with Merry Christmas to us.

I was so impressed by this young but wise teenager.

In recent years, there are many who have been offended over the phrase “Happy Holidays.”

I think most people’s response to this issue is because they believe we need to keep Christ in Christmas.

And I whole-heartedly agree.

I say Merry Christmas because that is what I celebrate.

But when we choose to be offended because someone is saying Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas, I believe we have missed the whole point of the season.

Before I get to that point, however, let’s remember that we do live in the United States of America, which was, in part, founded upon religious freedom. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Also, while the US is a mostly Christian nation – 70 percent based on the 2014 US Religious Landscape Study by the Pew Research Center – we have no national religion; 30 percent of us come from non-Christian faiths (Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and others) as well as those who are unaffiliated like atheists and agnostics.

Again, we are free to choose.

The Interfaith Calendar, from the Mall Area Religious Council in Minnesota, lists 40 religious observances from major world religions which are observed from November through January, many of which are not Christian.

More importantly than all of that, though, and back to my main point: what is the purpose of Christmas?

This answer could differ, even among Christians.

But I think most of us agree that it is a time to rejoice in the birth of our Savior. A season to not only remember him but also renew our commitment to be more like Him.

Earlier this month, Pastor Scott Moon, FUMC Maryville, wrote an Advent column in our paper, “Don’t just observe Christmas…Experience Christmas!” He said: “This year, do whatever it takes to step away from the mere observance of a holiday and enter into the experience of God’s love and grace which is at the heart of Christmas.”

His words reminded me of something I love from Dieter F. Uchtdorf: “If we’re honest with ourselves, most of us get caught up in the chaos of Christmas – the shopping, the decorating, the baking. Those can all lend to the spirit of Christmas and the spirit of giving but many times they become a distraction and we end up acting more like Scrooge than Tiny Tim.”

Choosing to be offended by someone saying Happy Holidays, or by a plain red Starbucks cup, or anything else, makes us act more like Scrooge and takes away from the experience of Christmas, the love, the joy, the giving.

The way we can truly keep Christ in Christmas is through our actions.

I’m grateful for that young 19-year-old Jewish girl from New York who reminded me of that, not just this time of year, but always.

“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34).

Even those who say Happy Holidays.


‘Even the darkest night will end’

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By Jacki Wood, “That they might have joy” column for the Nodaway News Leader

My mental health has taken a beating over the last year or so.

I have a physical illness that has really been taking it to me, and as a result, affecting my mental health.

I’ve been battling this physical ailment for half of my life. The beginning years were difficult. The middle years were much more tolerable. And the last couple have been the worst.

What makes it even harder for me is I feel I’ve lived two completely opposite lives. The first very active, athletic, outgoing and involved. Now mostly inactive, reclusive and disinterested. There are times when I really miss that first life.

A couple of summers ago, I wrote about my illness, obesity and weight loss. I said at the time, it was the most important thing I’d ever written.

But this might be even more important than that. Now, just a couple of short years since then, I spend most of my time in bed, I’m overweight again and have slipped back into old habits as I struggle to function each day.

That’s when the mental health beating really reared its head. It’s hard to be productive or stay positive or even feel like a human being when you can’t get out of bed.

(Side note: I’ve tried a lot of different treatments. Some have worked for awhile. Some not at all. I frequently get suggestions from people. In fact, I just started something new. And while I appreciate everyone’s concern, that’s not what I’m seeking with this column).

I’ve wondered why this is the load I am burdened to carry and if I will be carrying it my entire life. I mean, why do some people get cancer and some don’t? And even further, why do some people beat cancer and some receive the same treatment and die?

After spending much of the last year contemplating these types of things and feeling sorry for myself, lonely, sad and even angry, I decided I needed to try something different.

For the month leading up to my 40th birthday this summer, I decided to do a #30DaysOfJoy challenge, looking for simple joys in my life and posting them on Facebook.

It was a mostly positive experience. I made some really great memories this summer despite the illness. And I was reminded how much my family cares about me. They’ve really stepped up and took on more responsibilities. They also listen when I need that and are just there when I don’t want to talk. They love me through my nonsense, negativity and annoyance of everything and everyone.

Some days, though, were a real challenge to find any joy at all. I mean, just getting on Facebook and seeing everyone else’s happy, perfect posts made me want to throw up or throw something at the wall. Even worse, I had some really dark days that I’m frankly embarrassed by. Which is really unfortunate, because when I’m at my best, I realize how blessed I am.

But… I’m not always at my best. I’m not always thinking clearly or logically with this illness.

This is not something most of us feel comfortable talking about. Our mental health, I mean. And yet if we would just have the courage to do so, I think we would be far better off.

After someone dies by suicide, people ask why. I think I understand it more now. They’re worn out, tired, exhausted. They want an end to the pain, the hurting, to whatever the problem is. I don’t think most people want to kill themselves. Or hurt those who care about them by doing so.

They just want it to end.

I’ve been there. Even as I write this, I’m in the throes of it all. I don’t want to die. But there are times when I want an end. I want the pain to end. I want my old life back.

And then I realize my old life didn’t include my husband. Or my children. Or the memories we’ve shared together. Or the experiences I’ve gained over the last 20 years that make me who I am and how I am able to write this.

If you’re there with me, if you are just so very tired of it all, don’t give in, don’t give up, don’t quit. No matter how bad it is, just keep trying, for one more day or for just one more moment even.

Get help. Seek professional help if you need to. Or find an outlet like I have through writing.

Talk to someone. A friend, a family member, someone who will listen or just be there. Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1.800.273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org where you can chat online.

If that doesn’t work for you and if you have no one else you can to talk to, contact me.

I will listen.

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I’m not so good at the phone thing, but I text, email and message really well. My email is jackijwood@gmail.com and you can find me on Facebook at facebook.com/jacki.wood.

In Les Misérables, Victor Hugo wrote: “Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.”

That’s been true for me. After every single dark night I’ve ever had, the sun has always risen.

    National Suicide Prevention Week is September 7 to 13. To learn how you can help, visit sprc.org.suicide+prevention+lifeline+with+ribbon