I hope your holiday was peaceful, joyful and healthy.
Well, it seems Santa successfully completed his annual magical mystery tour. If anyone was fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of him they would have noticed he was sporting a mask. Even the jolly fat man is socially conscious. Now, it’s time to look back and look ahead.
Stating the obvious, 2020 has been the worst year in 100 years. Even in the worst of times, there always seems to be a point when we can acknowledge there were actually positives. I had my moment a couple of days ago. The adjustments I needed to make to feel some flow with Covid were actually a plus. For example, I established a new routine which included early morning meditation, then going out for a walk around the block for some fresh air and exercise. I stocked up on my most favorite coffee beans since going out to coffee shops was out. I took several Zoom courses, taught a couple of courses myself. Not the least of all was connecting with friends, current ones and new ones, via various electronics. As I reviewed that and more, I felt so much gratitude and possibility.
I know we are all wearing down from pandemic living. What stands out is the resilience, creativity, generosity of spirit and how people rise up to meet the challenges of an extraordinary event.
Now it’s time to start looking ahead to 2021. I must confess that I have never been a New Year’s resolution person. This time calls for a different way of looking at the coming year. I’m still not making resolutions. What I do see as a way to get the new year going on a positive note. How about taking a look back at 2020 and list what worked for you navigating these worst of times. Then focusing on what worked for you, envision how you can continue those practices and even do more of what worked. It’s simple, yet an effective, realistic path toward something resembling normal.
Wishing you a Happy, Healthy New Year with all of life’s blessings.
The longer this pandemic rages on, the more uncertainty and unrest creeps into our lives. There are, nonetheless, still avenues to well being. One antidote to feeling discouragement and discontent is gratitude. When we can find something, no matter how small, to be grateful for, negativity flees. The following from Gregg Krech at the Todo Institute is a wonderful way of including gratitude as part of decorating for Christmas.
Not everyone celebrates Christmas. So what are some other creative ways to give thanks? I know the possibilities are limitless.
“We first displayed our growing and eclectic collection of ornaments on the table, ranging from simple pre-school treasures to ornaments fit for the tree
of a Russian Czar, and then took turns selecting and hanging one ornament at a time.
But before we would hang each ornament, we’d dedicate the ornament to a specific person. We’d announce who it was dedicated to, why we chose them and
what we wanted to thank them for. A friend might get a snowman ornament in honor of the snowy creatures they made in our yard. An aunt might get an angel,
in honor of her thoughtfulness and care. The piano teacher might get a miniature piano.
The ornaments would go up, one by one, and the tree would become a canvas of love and support. Each ornament represented the kindness and generosity of
someone we know or have known.
In some cases, we dedicated an ornament to someone who was no longer alive and, in doing so, honored that person’s life and our memory of them.
We might spend 30-40 minutes each evening for 3-4 nights before completing this process. The decorating itself becomes a practice of reflection on our good fortune.
Wishing all of you peace, joy and good health for the holidays and throughout the New Year.
This is the time of year I tend to thoroughly enjoy the whimsy and merriment that surfaces. I’ve written a couple of books of elf stories about their shenanigans for my grand-kids when they were young. Every holiday season I am inclined to write another one. Due to many distractions, it did not happen this year. Consequently, I am re-posting a previous story. The message seemed appropriate as well. Hope you enjoy.
This is a tale about a little known, in truth a totally unknown elf named Eddie. Eddie was born and raised at the North Pole like all of Santa’s elves. Eddie was a fine, yet nondescript, fellow. He minded his parents and teachers growing up. When he came of age, he went to work in one of Santa’s workshops. He always did his very best with whatever was asked of him. Eddie kept his elf nose in his own business, never complained, never participated in the elf gossip. Consequently, Eddie went unnoticed by the other elves. This did not seem to bother him. He was exceptionally observant which led to his grand idea. He became so consumed by his idea that he worked up the courage to make an appointment with Santa.
Santa could see Eddie was nervous, so he provided extra marshmallows with the customary hot chocolate. Eddie told Santa that he noticed that the elves were generally a happy lot, especially when the baker elves treated them with fresh cookies. He said that he also noticed that at times there was grumbling and criticizing of each other. Then Eddie said to Santa. I’ve thought of something that might make a difference when there is nattering and complaining.” Santa seemed most interested and urged him to continue.
Eddie explained that he had learned through his observations that elves were happier and worked harder when they were acknowledged for doing their jobs well. Eddie continued to say that he also noticed that each of the workshops had a big , empty white board. Eddie said he didn’t know what these white boards were for because no one ever used them. Then Eddie launched into his big idea. “Santa, what if we turn those white boards into like a happiness board? If the manager elves and the elf workers noticed an elf kindness or an especially beautiful toy was made and wrote a note and posted it on the white board for all to see, it would make us very happy. You know, like a note posted saying elf Clem shared his best paint brush with elf Sammy.”
Santa was intrigued. He thanked Eddie and said he and Mrs. Santa would discuss it further.
To make a long story a little bit longer, Santa and Mrs. Santa had a meeting with the entire elf population. It was decreed that all of the white boards in all of the workshops would become Joy Boards. The elves shared their ideas for what to post. The elves were very enthusiastic about developing the Joy Boards. As time went by, Eddie’s grand idea led to greater cheerfulness and verve throughout the North Pole. There were very few incidents of squabbling or discontent. Due to the great success of the Joy Boards, Santa honored Eddie with a new position. Eddie became the North Pole’s Mirth and Merriment Maven. In fact, over the eons, Eddie’s offspring took up the mantle of Mirth and Merriment in perpetuity, so that the North Pole would always be a place of flourishing and well-being for all it’s residents.
There are two morals to this story.
One: A little thoughtfulness, a little consideration can make all the difference.
Two: When you seek to find the best in others, you discover the best in yourself.
Comments are welcomed.
Did you ever consider the origin of the phrase ‘tis the season’? Neither did I. We all understand ‘tis is an old contraction for it is. As you likely surmised it comes from a centuries old Welsh carol. As you likely surmised, the carol is Deck The Halls – “Deck the halls with boughs of holly. ‘Tis the season to be jolly.”
'Tis the season when lots of people are saying "'Tis the season!" It is the time of the year that is also known broadly as the holiday season.
The song functions culturally as a constant earworm for many people during the month of December. Its tones ring out from radios and store speakers.
While the song is centuries old, the phrase hasn't been around as long as one might think, In fact, it wasn't really until the 1970s that we started to see it popping up in magazine and newspaper articles.
Just a further note on the song. It was translated from the Welsh into English around 1862 by a Scottish lyricist. Some of the words went through several iterations over the decades. For example, the Pennsylvania School Journal in the 1870’s published the song with ‘Halls’ in the singular and changed the word ‘yuletide’ to Christmas. One of the original lines in the song was ”Fill the mead cup and drain the barrel.” This was changed to “Don we now our gay apparel.”
The 'fa la la la las' were influenced by Madrigals. Madrigals usually featured poetry set to music, with a composer adding "accompaniment" sections for some voices (such as fa la la).
Even Mozart used this carol to start a duet with piano and violin.
And so ends this bit of useless trivia. Nonetheless, go ahead and deck a hall or two. After all, ‘tis the season. Fa la la.
Comments are welcomed.
Zoom has become like another family member these past several months. There may be some Zoom fatigue along with all the other pandemic fatigues. Still, it has been the next best thing to being there. What follows is another kind of zoom that caught my attention as I re-read several articles by Dr. Amit Sood from the Mayo Clinic. He is quite the expert on stress relief, resilience, how the brain works, happiness and gratitude. You can find several YouTubes in which he shares great information and techniques for well being. His web site is The Resilient Option as well as his Twitter feed. Hope you enjoy this different perspective of zoom.
“The happiest people in the world are the little children and the elderly – for different reasons.
The innocent children live their life with a zoomed-in presence. They are gifted at discovering and inventing novelty in the world around them. A tootsie roll or a pink hair clip may be enough to get them excited.
The wise elderly live their life with a zoomed-out perspective. They have overcome hardships. They know that fear is largely unhelpful. They aren’t surprised or shocked when they see lack of kindness. So, they move on quicker.
The problem is we lose innocence too soon and get wisdom too late.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can train your phenomenal brain to combine the best of zooming in and zooming out.
Zoom in by asking your mind to pick the load of only the next one hour. Commit to ‘no planning no problem solving’ when spending time with your family. Several times during the day, notice the little details – the color of your child’s (or friend’s or partner’s) eyes, the marks on an apple, the grain of the wood on the door, the window trim, and more.
Zoom out by taking a longer-term view. Painful as the realities around us are, this too shall pass. To the extent it seems reasonable, reframe an unpleasant situation by finding the right within the wrong. Perhaps an adversity may be bringing you closer to your loved ones. Perhaps an adversary may be helping you grow. None of these thoughts are to deny the present struggles. They are meant to dilute the bad with the good, so the bad is a bit more bearable.
Let’s commit to living with a zoomed-in presence as we think from a zoomed-out perspective.
Disruptions that do not diminish love take us to the other shore.”
Comments are welcomed.
We are right in the midst of turkey season. There was Canadian Thanksgiving, American Thanksgiving this week and Christmas on the horizon. Turkeys are generally the centrepiece of holidays. How often do we ever think about turkeys beyond the dinner plate? There is a lot more to these birds besides stuffing, gravy and the rest. After reading the Old Farmers Almanac’s turkey trivia, I’m not so sure how much I can think of them as food. But, that’s just me. Below are interesting facts about turkeys including a letter from Benjamin Franklin asserting they really ought to be the national symbol.
“Turkeys originated in the “New World.” Specifically, wild turkeys are native to Mexico. It’s a funny history. European explorers brought back wild turkeys in the early 1500s. They were domesticated in Europe and later brought to North America by English colonists. Note that the domesticated turkeys have white-tipped tails; wild turkeys have dark-tipped tails.
Only male turkeys, or toms, can make a call known as a “gobble,” and they mostly do it in the spring and fall. It is a mating call and attracts the hens.
Wild turkeys gobble at loud sounds and when they settle in for the night. The wild turkey can make at least 30 different calls!
Ben Franklin thought the turkey would be a better national symbol than the bald eagle. According to the Franklin Institute, he wrote in a letter to his daughter:
“For my own part, I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country; he is a bird of bad moral character; he does not get his living honestly…like those among men who live by sharping and robbing…he is generally poor, and often very lousy. Besides, he is a rank coward; the little king-bird, not bigger than a sparrow, attacks him boldly and drives him out of the district…For in truth, the turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America. Eagles have been found in all countries, but the turkey was peculiar to ours…”
The loose red skin attached to the underside of a turkey’s beak is called a wattle. When the male turkey is excited, especially during mating season, the wattle turns a scarlet red. The fleshy flap of skin that hangs over the gobbler’s beak is called a snood and also turns bright red when the bird is excited. The wobbly little thing on the turkey’s chest is the turkey’s beard and is made up of keratin bristles. Keratin is the same substance that forms hair and horns on other animals.
The wild turkey is one of the more difficult game birds to hunt. It won’t be flushed out of the brush with a dog. Instead, hunters must try to
attract it with different calls. Even with two seasons a year, only one in six hunters will get a wild turkey. By the 1930s, almost all of the wild turkeys in the U.S. had been hunted. Today, thanks to conservation programs, there are plenty of wild turkeys—they even invade cities and suburbs!
When Europeans first encountered the wild turkey in Mexico, they incorrectly classified the bird as a type of guinea fowl called a turkey fowl. It was Turkish traders who originally sold guinea fowl from Africa to European markets; Turkey has no native turkeys!
A baby turkey is called a poult, chick, or even turklette. An adult male turkey is called a tom and a female is a hen. The domestic tom can weigh up to 50 pounds, the domestic hen up to 16 pounds. The wild tom can weigh up to 20 pounds, the wild hen up to 12 pounds.. The wild turkey can fly! (It does, however, prefer to walk or run.) The domestic turkey is not an agile flyer, though the bird will perch in trees to stay safe from predators.
The average life span of a wild turkey is three or four years. It generally feeds on seeds, nuts, insects, and berries.”
I prefer not to mention the life span of the domestic turkey. It is sad. BTW, did you know there was a passenger on a plane who boarded with a turkey on a leash. It was his emotional support and therapy pet. True story.
Happy Thanksgiving to those celebrating this week. Please stay safe. Count your blessings. Bon appetit.
Comments are welcomed.
You are probably familiar with the song, Autumn Leaves. You know, the one that begins, “The autumn leaves drift by my window. The Autumn leaves of red and gold.” I’m not so taken with those drifting by my window as much as the ones that pile up on the ground. The other day I was walking with a friend along a street which had places where leaves had piled up. Likely blown onto the street by the wind. We walked through the leaves listening to the crunching sound as we went. Walking through crunching leaves is seriously one of my favorite aspects of Autumn. The only thing missing was a street vendor selling hot roasted chestnuts.
Those few moments of joy brought back some childhood memories of fallen leaves and the great fun we had playing in them.
My all time favorite involved my 3 best friends who lived on my block. The Presbyterian church was right across the street from my house. There was a big lawn beside the church contained by a chain link fence. The minister’s daughter was my very best friend in our group. Consequently we often played in the church yard and sometimes even in the church itself. When the leaves fell to the ground in Autumn we would go into the church yard and make huge piles of leaves up against the fence. Then we’d go outside the yard, climb the fence and jump into the magnificent piles of leaves. We would do this over and over again until exhausted. At that point we’d lie down on the ground and completely cover ourselves with leaves.
It was an innocent time. It preceded cell phones, social media, video games, et al. Most of the time we were left to our own devices, our imaginations and spending hours with neighborhood friends doing whatever popped into our heads. Usually it was games, sports, playing pretend or just hanging out. Whatever we did always became fun, joyous fun.
Here's the thing. We hardly need reminding of the crazy, stressful times in which we live. The longer it goes on, more folks seem to be wearing down. One of the things I find helpful is either recalling and re-feeling a cherished, joyful memory or indulging in something playful. With the big second wave upon us, we all need a stress breaker. Take a few moments, or longer, each day to do something that gives you joy. Do something playful or even silly. It will short circuit any stress and allow dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin the feel good, happiness hormones to flow. Even lowers blood pressure.
Self care is an important part of well being. Give yourself a mental break. Do something out of the box.
“Sometimes it's important to work for that pot of gold. Other times it's essential to take time off and to make sure that your most important decision in the day simply consists of choosing which color to slide down on the rainbow.” Douglas Pagels
Choose your favorite color and go for it. Or, you can always jump into a pile of leaves.
Comments are welcomed.
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees, No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds, November!” Thomas Hood
November is a month of nuts and nutty thoughts. When I think about November, I experience an agglomeration of nutty and not so nutty thoughts. When I think about November, the first images that come to mind are trees with bare branches, intermittent sunshine, a chill in the air, snow, shrinking daylight, looming winter. In other words a picture that oozes bleakness and cheerlessness. Pretty depressing, right?
While those dreary thoughts swirl around, there is always another side, another array of images. There is the crunching sound from walking on leaf covered paths, the comforting smell of wood stove smoke wafting through the air, hot roasted chestnuts, mulled cider, the enticing aromas of spicy baked goods, family gatherings. And, in case we may have forgotten, 'tis a time to be thankful. The truth, of course, that it is always time to be thankful.
It is definitely November, but we are currently experiencing a weird weather anomaly. I have to wonder if those in charge of the seasons were pranked by some unknown force or are playing a big joke on us. For nearly a week we have been experiencing very Spring like temperatures. As if the pandemic hasn’t messed with our heads enough, Mother Nature has gotten into the act, too.
November is definitely a month of nuts and nutty thoughts. Enjoy the nuts and smile at nutty thoughts. Most of all, be thankful for all of life’s blessings and the blessings in your life.
Comments are welcomed.