Merry Christmas from Ferguson

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What does one write in a Christmas newsletter after your little town has suffered civil unrest and become the center of international attention?

I’m not really sure, but here goes.

The first seven months of the year were memorable.

In April, for example, Yoli and I dropped off the kids for their AWANA class at church and decided to get away for a quick date night. We got a mocha latte and a snack and decided to walk along a trail at Creve Coeur Lake. We rounded the corner of the lake and just kept going. After all, how long could it take to make it back? But as the sun went down and bikers and joggers disappeared, we realized belatedly just how long a route it was. Our romantic walk became a race against time to get back to church that we will never forget.

In May, Yoli’s parents came to visit us. It was Don Hector and Dona Lucila’s second visit to St. Louis. They got to see the kids’ final days of school, Jadzia’s violin concert and the kids’ dance recital. We visited new places like the Science Center, the World Chess Hall of Fame and the Magic House. And we had a grand time seeing classic cars in old St. Charles (except the part where Joseph threw up all over everywhere).

In July we headed south to visit friends in Houston and family in San Antonio. It was cool to get a tour of my dad’s new business, called “City Plating.” We played putt-putt golf with mom and dad, the kids found frogs near Nan’s pool, we swam in the Guadalupe River (and so did my iPhone), we spent a morning at Kiddie Park. It was a great few weeks.

And then came August. Michael Brown was shot on Saturday, Aug. 9. That weekend was intense and surreal: I designed the front page of the Post-Dispatch each night, while watching on TV as my town convulsed with anger.
In those early days our family felt so sad and uncertain. What was happening? Many times we had difficult conversations with our kids. We prayed for the Browns, we prayed for justice, we prayed for peace.

I attended city council meetings and residents-only town halls. I learned of the cycle of tickets, warrants, and arrests driven by poverty. My eyes were opened to injustices I had been ignorant of.

It has been a long four months. The struggle in Ferguson has gone global. “Ferguson” is now a hashtag, a symbol known worldwide. Many people think they know our town, but they don’t. There is a resolve here to turn this tragedy into something good. To reform — and to rebuild, as we did after the Good Friday tornado in 2011.

I once heard a resident cite Esther 4:14, saying she believed Ferguson had been chosen for just such a time as this.

It’s hard to imagine a bright future. Yet we agree with her. God can bring change.

Josh and Yoli celebrate their anniversary at the Corner Coffeehouse in Ferguson.

Josh and Yoli celebrate their anniversary at the Corner Coffeehouse in Ferguson.

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Ferguson Sunday Parkways

Just as I began my drive to work, I noticed they were having Ferguson Sunday Parkways just down Darst from our house. This is one of many fun events Ferguson holds in different neighborhoods throughout the year.

I had forgotten it was coming up, and that it was so close to home. So, I called Yoli and let her know.

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Ferguson’s children: Our voice

Jadzia and her Vogt classmates pose for a photo in the bandshell at January-Wabash Park after the concert.

Jadzia and her Vogt schoolmates pose for a photo in the bandshell at January-Wabash Park after the concert.

Drums. Singing. Shakespeare. MLK.

What a great afternoon we had enjoying the artistry of Jadzia and other Ferguson kids!

The event was designed as a response to recent events in Ferguson and throughout St. Louis. Students from across the Ferguson-Florissant school district and neighboring districts sang, acted, and spoke in order to bring peace, joy and love through the arts.

Jadzia and a number of her Vogt schoolmates participated. Here is a video I made of some of the highlights:

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Second Ferguson DOJ town hall meeting

Ferguson residents line up outside First Baptist Church waiting to attend the second DOJ town hall meeting.

Ferguson residents line up outside First Baptist Church waiting to attend the second DOJ town hall meeting.

Tuesday night, the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service held its second town hall meeting in Ferguson.

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First Ferguson DOJ town hall meeting

Ferguson residents line up outside Wellspring Church waiting to attend the first DOJ town hall meeting.

Ferguson residents line up outside Wellspring Church waiting to attend the first DOJ town hall meeting.

Monday night, the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service held its first town hall meeting in Ferguson.

The town hall meetings were closed to everyone but Ferguson residents. The media were not allowed. Though I am employed at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, I am also a Ferguson resident. I wanted to attend a town hall and I was allowed to.

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The space explorers meet the Borg

Borg and waffles

On nights when I am home from work, I tell the kids stories before bed. Because they are divided among two rooms, I usually tell two stories.

The first story is for Josie and Joseph, and usually involves me making up something about the two of them as “space explorers,” visiting new planets or meeting aliens or trying to escape from black holes.

The second story is for Jadzia and Ludi, who prefer to have an improv-style story in which they each pick a character for the story (like “a good dragon” and “a bad lamp”) and I have to make up the rest.

Occasionally, though, the older girls will overhear the younger kids’ story and ask me to repeat it for them. Tonight was one such night.

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Remembering Yolanda Salinas Hess

I was surprised this morning to see an obituary in the Post-Dispatch for Yolanda Salinas Hess. I wanted to share a little bit about her brief, but bright, impact on my life.
It started one morning late in Oct. 2002, when my dad told me to read an article in the Post-Dispatch about a new Hispanic bookstore that was opening in St. Ann. He said it had mentioned something about selling Bolivian music.

I read the story and headed over to “Librería Cultura Hispana” to see what sorts of Bolivian things they might have. I didn’t count on meeting a live, Bolivian person.

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Jadzia: Monarchs, part 2

Jadzia watches Muncher the butterfly hang on to a curtain.

Jadzia watches Muncher the butterfly hang on to a curtain.

Today I bring you the second part of the Muncher and Cruncher saga. There is sadness and there is hope. The following story was written by Jadzia. After the story is a video, which I filmed.

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Jadzia: Monarchs, part 1

A monarch butterfly sits on one of our milkweed plants. Photo by Jadzia.

A monarch butterfly sits on one of our milkweed plants. Photo by Jadzia.

(The following story and photos are by Jadzia)

What’s white, black and orange all over? A monarch! This is about Muncher … and another creature.

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Video: Meet Muncher, our baby Monarch caterpillar

A monarch butterfly sits on one of our milkweed plants. Photo by Jadzia.

A monarch butterfly sits on one of our milkweed plants. Photo by Jadzia.

(The following story and video are by Yoli)

Our milkweeds have attracted a lot of butterflies. It’s given a lot of joy to my kids, especially Jadzia. But a few days ago she found a dead Monarch butterfly. She was devastated. I had never performed a butterfly funeral or prayed for them, but it comforted my daughter’s tender heart.

Enter Muncher. Wednesday morning, Jadzia found a Monarch caterpillar. She had been looking forward to finding some. We looked for more caterpillars, or perhaps eggs, but found only this one. She named it Muncher.

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