your table’s ready

by Rudi Hurzlmeier

Hello and Happy New Year!

We’re baaaaaaack! Hope you had a nice holiday. Other than a little adventure with our well pump on New Year’s Eve, we managed to survive all the busyness, insane consumption of cookies and undue pressure to be merry and jingly and ho ho ho all the time, and now we’re just happy to get back to our quiet routine here in the woods with bears, books, and warm cups of tea.

Like that wonderful bear in Mr. Hurzlmeier’s painting, I’m tipping my hat to you. I’m glad you’re here because we’ve saved a special seat for you at the table. If you please, says Mr. Bear, make yourself at home.

I hope you don’t mind, but we had to make today’s tea with bottled water. That’s because our tap water still smells like bleach. When the new pump was installed, the contractor sanitized our well. We were lucky to find someone on a holiday weekend who provides emergency service. One minute you’re washing and rinsing the dishes, the next minute you turn on the bathroom tap to brush your teeth and no water at all. 😦

It’s good to know you can actually call someone close to midnight and they’re actually cordial and patient and try to troubleshoot with you over the phone before agreeing to come over bright and early the next morning. So we welcomed 2017 without clean water and there was no dumpling soup or any other cooking going on but we were just relieved we didn’t have to check into a hotel and wait days and days to get someone to fix things.

Did I mention one reason the well pump failed was because we had a power outage on Christmas Eve? Chain of events, chain of events. Never a dull moment.

These things are, of course, nothing — a minor inconvenience that provided an almost welcome distraction from the impending CATASTROPHE coming our way January 20. Sorry, didn’t mean to bring the house down, but I wouldn’t be honest if I ignored the big orange elephant in the room.

It is terrifying to wade into uncharted territory like this, to feel such dread and despair, frustration, powerlessness, and complete bafflement. I will be very sad to see President Obama go — he is my favorite President of my lifetime, and not just because he was born in my home state of Hawai’i.

His inherent goodness, humanity, humility, his earnest desire to serve for the good of the people, not to mention his keen intellect and extraordinary oratorical skills, are unmatched in modern history. Yes, he’s been compared to JFK, whom I also admire, but JFK did not have to face vile racist disparagement and try to work with a self-serving obstructionist Congress.

He’s not perfect (who is?), but President Obama always took the high road, and he and Michelle truly welcomed everyone to the White House. I love that he could be dignified and stately one moment, then totally unassuming and candid the next. When he wept with Sandy Hook parents, sang a few bars of Al Green, and played with babies on the Oval Office carpet, we were reminded that he was only human, a loving man of heart and humor.

Nooooooooooooo! Don’t Go!! Please Please Please!

The stark contrast between him and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is immeasurable, and the new administration will be a huge shock to the system. Until I heard President Obama’s Farewell Address last week, I’d been trying to grapple with the strange feeling that because of the 2016 election, I no longer had a President. But his words gave me renewed hope as he spoke about his faith in us and our responsibility to preserve our democracy. He made a strong case for empathy, and reminded us to “be vigilant, but not afraid.”

So it turns out I do have a President after all. Everything President and Mrs. Obama stood for, everything they modeled the past 8 years will stay with me always and inform my future endeavors.

Looking forward to reading these new books!

I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions, and I don’t usually decide on a single word to define my aspirations for the coming year other than LOVE and KINDNESS. But this year, I like the word TRUTH.

Jessie Wilcox Smith

Truth has strangely become a rare commodity — to be bought and traded without conscience or thought of consequence. When the soon-to-be most powerful person on the planet lies and lies and lies and the people around him explain away, spin, and justify those lies, it shakes you to the core. It feels like a cosmic shift, the planets all misaligned, everything you counted on and believed in are called into question.

He who is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters. ~ Albert Einstein

So I will value truth more than ever, will look harder to uncover it, be more vocal about sharing it, and sharpen my fact-checking skills so that I can more readily recognize truth when I see it. And I will champion those in the media who refuse to normalize bluster, bullying, deflection, willful deception and manipulation — those who will courageously report and uphold the truth at all costs.

Old favorites are very comforting. They can’t stop petting the book.

Most of you are fellow creatives, and know that what drives our work is a passion for truth. With nonfiction comes the responsibility of thoroughly researching and artfully presenting verifiable facts; with fiction and poetry, the daunting challenge of creating an emotional truth. Children’s books have become more important than ever with their ability to foster empathy from a very young age, as they examine human nature with all its foibles and triumphs.

When President Obama quoted Atticus Finch, he identified the root cause of discrimination and divisiveness: fear and ignorance.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

Reading about other lives, places, social/cultural mores, and time periods affords us a safe opportunity, however briefly, to experience perspectives other than our own. It is the first step in dispelling fear of the “other” and promoting understanding.

To all you fellow truth seekers — writers, artists, readers, parents, librarians and educators, this is our time, we’ve been called to rise to the challenge. Let us start where we are, start small, if need be, in finding ways to resist this scourge of hate — a simple act of kindness, an encouraging word, and as Meryl Streep quoted Carrie Fisher: “Take your broken heart, make it into art.”

Whether we choose to sign yet another petition, donate $$, volunteer for a worthwhile charity, take a more active role in local government, or participate in peaceful resistance initiatives such as boycotting certain retailers, there is something each of us can do. If we keep our eyes and ears open, we’ll continue to learn of other ways to contribute as time goes on.

Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth. ~ Henry Thoreau

I believe in the good and the true, and will continue, to the best of my ability, to share that with you here at Alphabet Soup. It will be an ongoing celebration of creativity with stories, art, photos, poems, recipes, indie artists, authors, illustrators, poets, and lots of tea.

Now, one last time (*sob*), a bowl of Barack’s famous chili:

Thank you for visiting, and for all you do to uplift, inspire, educate, comfort, and energize. Never underestimate the power of art to heal. We’re all in this together.

Another cup of tea? 🙂

❤️ Love,

Jama, Mr. Cornelius, and all the furry kitchen helpers


P.S. No Poetry Friday post on January 20. Alphabet Soup will be in mourning, boycotting the inauguration, and saying a prayer for peace at precisely 12 noon EST. Please join us wherever you are.


by Rudi Hurzlmeier

“We learned about honesty and integrity – that the truth matters… that you don’t take shortcuts or play by your own set of rules… and success doesn’t count unless you earn it fair and square . . . I always tell young girls, surround yourself with goodness. I learned early on how to get the haters out of my life . . . Choose people who lift you up.” ~ Michelle Obama

Copyright © 2017 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.