Monday, December 29, 2008

God on speed-dial

Last night, I drifted off to sleep thinking about my new year's resolutions. I dreamt that I was talking on my cell phone to one of my spiritual advisers. I have often called upon him when I am in a spiritual quandary, but I haven't spoken to him in months. Further, I've never been on the phone in a dream before! In my dreams, I am always speaking to people in person. Why I was on the phone?

Perhaps, in my dream, this adviser symbolizes God; After all, one of my youngsters called him "God" for a year when she learned to talk. The phone's role was to speak to God and then to tell me what to do. I pondered my need for an intermediary to speak to God.

I suddenly remembered several events in my life in which I'd used an intermediary. It was usually because I thought the other person wouldn't like what I had to say, or -- more truthfully and more often -- because I wouldn't like what they had to say. I wondered what it was that God had to say to me that I was not wanting to hear. I remembered, in a flash, Father Joel saying recently, "Be assured; God is speaking to you in the events of your life."

So I asked-- in a solitary, soapy moment at the car wash -- "What are my new year's resolutions?"
And then I looked at the events of my life and discerned what is being said. The answer was plain. No static.

  • Stop resisting.
  • Live masterfully.
  • Embrace your life (and all within it).
  • Be a peacemaker.
  • Lean in.

It's pretty simple stuff, isn't it?
t rings.

Stay tuned!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Practical New Year's Party Tips

One of my friends used to call me "Heloise." If you aren't familiar with Heloise, she was a columnist who provided tips. Practical stuff, like uses for Leggs Eggs and how to make a scrubby out of nylon net.

I'm a practical and thrifty person by nature. Here are my "between the holidays" tips that are both economically and socially responsible and will help you get ready for celebrating the New Year:

  • If the garbage hasn't been collected yet, it's not too late to re-use that wrapping paper! Run it through the shredder and save it in a big garbage bag for the next time you need to pad a package for shipping.
  • Inexpensive holiday dishes are deeply discounted now in grocery stores. You can actually buy the dishes less expensively than a package of paper plates, and you can reuse them. I've been buying a box or two a year and now have enough for all our holiday parties. I just use them thoughout Christmas and New Years and then pack them in the attic until next year. In these days of dishwashers, there's no reason to use throw-away plates. True - they aren't fine china - but they're nicer than paper!
  • Instead of buying those one-use plastic champagne glasses, buy inexpensive glass ones. IKEA and many grocery stores sell them for 50 cents a stem! OR -- ask your guests to bring their own glass. As each guest arrives, tie a unique ribbon around the stem (leftover from Christmas, of course), so they can keep track of their glass.
  • Craft stores sell holiday plastic cups for kids as cheaply as single use ones. Buy a couple stacks for the kids then store them after the holidays.
  • Instead of buying those silly mylar decorations, consider using what you have on hand. Old champagne bottles and corks make great decorations with a little curly ribbon or star wire. Fill a glass bowl with glass tree ornaments. A vase filled with cranberries or a larger container with oranges or lemons is festive. Baby food jars embellished with glitter or ribbon make pretty tea light holders.
  • It takes 10 minutes to fix a fresh vegetable tray and it will taste better, look prettier, and cost half of buying it pre-made. Plus you aren't contributing that giant plastic tray to your local landfill
That should be enough to help you channel your inner Heloise!

Have a happy and safe New Year's celebration!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Present Present

(pictured: Sharon Parish)

One of my beautiful daughters is an enthusiastic 10 year old, Chanelle. She has been very distracted of late by a giant present that I hid in plain site on a high shelf in the laundry room. Since she discovered it last week, "the present" has been a part of at least a half-dozen conversations every day.

When I wrapped that particular gift, I was thinking of my absent soul-mate and "sister," Sharon Parish. She infused me with an enthusiasm for taking my time in wrapping gifts and presenting them lovingly, beautifully and with care. In fact, much of her life was "wrapped" with great care . . . lovingly . . . beautifully. It was so inspiring to me.

The present. Sharon was a master of it. She used to sit for hours making little woodland creatures with acorn caps for hats. She sewed their tiny felt costumes and embellished them with embroidery thread. She did this without worrying about the laundry, her job, or anything at all. As she wrapped those tiny figures in beautiful clothes, she did so in the present. She took this approach to each thing she undertook. If she and I were on the phone, it was as if she had all the time in world. I am still evoked and challenged by Sharon's sense of time expanding to accommodate all of her life.

Chanelle will still have to wait two days for that big, intriguing present in the laundry room to find it's way under the Christmas tree. There is a lot I could do (housework, raking leaves, going crazy with the cleaning and decorating), but not a lot I'm planning to do. I'm committed to wrapping my world and my present in love and beauty. I'm soaking the most out of every precious moment. And the laundry? Well, it may have to wait!

(Thank you, Sharon. Miss you!)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Nature of Work

I have been thinking about the nature of work and -- more specifically -- the nature of my work versus that of my forebears. My work consists of three basic activities: Talking, thinking/creating, and recording my thoughts (mostly in writing).

Contrast that with the work of my progenitors. I only have to skip one generation to find a far different type of work. One of my grandfathers ran a grain warehouse. His job was more than managing employees and keeping records; it involved a fair mix of manual labor, too. At home, he had a good-sized garden, kept chickens, and had at least one milk cow. He was no different from nearly everyone he knew; regardless of their day job, their second job was usually feeding their family. And only a generation or two ahead of him, their was no warehouse or man to run it; there were only frontiersmen taming the prairies and fighting nature.

Fathers trained their sons to manage the plow, steady the reins, trim the horses feet, gather the wheat and even to read the weather. They had coaches, didn't they? Though some were undoubtedly more effective than others.

Women were brought along the same way. My grandma learned to cook at the wood stove of her mother. She learned to darn socks and tend young plants. At her mama's knee she also learned to milk cows, butcher chickens, build a fire and scare off wildlife. Her cooking became her livelihood on several occasions and she was coached and trained all along the way.

Things have changed a lot in a couple of generations. We live in a culture where the vast majority of work is not done with our hands, it's done with our heads and -- if we're lucky -- with our hearts. Humankind has been creating results with dexterous limbs and ingenuity since the beginning of time. But never have so many humans spent so much of their time thinking and creating. Indeed, you might say it's a developing skill set. In addition, what we are learning about the human brain is, well, mind boggling! (That will be the topic of some future posts).

Here's where coaching and training come in; coaching and training are directed toward increasing creativity and decreasing stress responses. You, a human, are then able to act thoughtfully more often and instinctively less often. And the net result is that you get more of what you want in your life more of the time. Ahhhhh.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Holiday stress

Today I woke up and suddenly remembered something: if I am putting off doing something, it's not because I don't have time. It's because I'm scared; so I decided that it was time to start blogging!

I notice my priorities are shifting. I want my family to have a beautiful holiday season. I want them to have me, standing in my authority, relaxed, having fun. I don't want my evil twin -- "Stressed Out Crazed Mom" -- to show up. Therefore, I have taken a proactive stand against holiday stress.

Instead of sending holiday cards today, I spent a half hour with my calendar and blocked out loads of time for all of the events happening in the next ten days. I blocked out "tea time" so I can chat with my girls every afternoon. I added an hour cushion on both sides of every commitment I have so I can be relaxed getting there and about going home. I blocked out "dressing up" time before each party so we can all look our best without my yelling at everyone to get to that point! I even added laundry time to make sure those "ready to wear" duds are actually ready to wear!

I have declared my shopping "finished." I planned the simplest menu EVER for Christmas Eve, and every time I start feeling guilty about it, I am going to write down three reasons why it makes sense to UNcomplicate my life -- or three reasons I want to focus on the family and not the food!

So what am I going to do with all this free time? Here are my holiday resolutions:

I am going to sit in the "company" room and just take in the lovely decorations I've put up.
I am going to actually read every holiday card I receive.
I am going to laugh more, dance more, make more hot cocoa, and listen more.
I am going to LIVE IT UP and cherish this beautiful life I've been blessed with.

I hope you will do the same. My holiday wish is that you will be richly blessed with the love of friends and family and that you will soak it up!