Anticipation

“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.” 

A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

I wonder how many people find themselves a little depressed after the Christmas hustle and bustle?

Sometimes the anticipation fueled by our expectations sets us up for disappointment.

Which reminds me of the year my sisters and I figured out how to open and preview all of our Christmas presents.

I’m not sure who figured out a single edge razor blade would cleanly cut the tape of the wrapping paper. A few careful slices here and there and we had it all within our grasp.

Our  super sleuthing evolved as we took on each and every package under the tree. Proudly we declared no wrapped package could or would defeat us.

Because we did not understand the consequences of our prank, our ego and pride combined in such a way that the basic components of the Christmas season were lost before we even realized something was missing. We’d reached the point of no return, losing that element of surprise which immediately took away the one thing that there has no substitute–anticipation.

“Sometimes what we lack is the thrill of anticipation or the delay of gratification. We enjoy things far more when we’ve really desired them but had to wait for them. The real value is found in our self-control and patience, which allows us to delay gratification and build anticipation. Letting desire build is an abstract way to achieve balance and moderation in your life… Moderation just may be the answer to boredom – go figure!”                            Cristin Frank

I am…

B…simply being…

~Peace~

 

Christmas Touchstones

“We’re so caught up in our everyday lives that events of the past, like ancient stars that have burned out, are no longer in orbit around our minds. There are just too many things we have to think about every day, too many new things we have to learn. New styles, new information, new technology, new terminology … But still, no matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away. They remain with us forever, like a touchstone.” 

Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

Memories of Christmas past find their way into my head this time of year.

I bet you have some of the same ones crowding into your mind these days–

  • Growing up in Iowa, every year we prayed for a white Christmas. One of my favorite memories is the year the forecast called for no snow. As I walked into Midnight Mass late that night, I prayed for snow. As we turned to leave the church that very early Christmas morning, the doors opened onto a scene of white. Snow had been steadily fallen for some time, covering the trees and the ground with snow that looked like crushed diamonds. The air was quiet and calm–the silence enveloped us all in a blanket of peace. This is my favorite Christmas moment.
  • Today was the last day of school here in our neighborhood. I had to laugh, remember leaving school for Christmas break and telling everyone we’d see each other next year.
  • Getting ready for our school Christmas program and getting to wear my Mom’s red lipstick. I felt absolutely beautiful.
  • Going to Midnight Mass with my family and resting my head on my Mom’s shoulder as we sang Silent Night together.
  • The year my mom died, we went to Midnight Mass, came home to eat chili and open presents. This year when we woke up Christmas morning, we discovered we all had new gifts under the tree. I still don’t know where all these gifts came from but they were an extra special boost to three kids spirits that year.
  • As a young adult, singing Silent Night with my friends and co-workers before we left our neighborhood bar and headed home for the holiday. Because of the memories I have about this song, Silent Night always makes me cry.
  • Remembering that first Christmas with family and friends after moving far from home. That first Christmas back home taught me the true meaning of Christmas joy.

As Christmas draws near, set aside a little extra time to be with those you love. When I look at my list of remembered things, I don’t see any gifts mentioned. All those special memories revolve around time spent with people–people I’d give anything to have the chance to spend time with today.

As some of us still search for that perfect gift, stop all the rushing. Pack away your phone and give those you love those extra moments of your undivided attention.

That is the gift that will be remembered–always–and most likely get better with age.

“When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things – not the great occasions – give off the greatest glow of happiness.” 

Bob Hope

I am…

B…simply being…

~Peace~

 

The Gift

The gift of encouragement

Should be given each day—

Pass it out freely

And in gentle ways.

There’s no need for ribbons

To make it look grand—

Just the simple encouragement 

Of a kind, helping hand.

~Joan Stephen, Bedtime Prayers

As this busy season flies by, please take a moment to be kind.

It costs us nothing and it takes very little additional time.

And if you’re feeling up to it and ready for a more advanced challenge–think about this–

“Being kind to the unkind is a higher art of kindness” 

Vineet Raj Kapoor

I am…

B…simply being…

~Peace~

 

 

 

Let Sleep Come

Lord, unwrinkled my tired soul

unsnarl my garbled thoughts and words

unwind my gnarled nerves

and let me relax in Thee.  

~Marian Wright Edelman, Bedside Prayers

Lately, many people I talk with tell me they cannot sleep.

Thank heavens, I rarely have that problem.

When I was working, there’d be nights when my mind would not shift gears and slow down. I’d find myself re-hashing and replaying different scenarios from that day or the day before–some nights there’d be scenes from many years prior intertwining and mixing into the current featured attraction. When that started happening, I knew I was in for a very long night.

Luckily, I’ve made peace with most of that. I couldn’t help but wonder if I could find something to share that’d help those struggling now.

I’ve been reading my little book of bedside prayers. I enjoy this book a lot. It’s certainly a precious little find and quickly becoming one of my favorites.

Today I found two prayers I think my help ease some of the restless minds out there.

The first prayer introduced today’s story and the second follows.

Now is the time to light the vesper candles of the soul

for their flame shall illuminate this sacred place.

Now is the time to rest in the indigo blue arms of the earth

for the earth shall support and embrace you.

Now is the time to dry the tears of the day

for the Spirit shall comfort and console you.

Now is the time to offer thanks for the blessings of this day

for the Spirit shall receive and honor your graciousness.

Now is the time to hear the lullaby of wind over the land

for you shall be rocked in the soothing of  its rhythm.

Now is the time to close your eyes and let sleep come

for the Spirit shall keep tender vigil through the night.

~Susan J. Erickson, Bedside Prayers 

As someone shared with me earlier today–may angels rest upon your pillow.

I am…

B…simply being…

As someone shared with me earlier today–may angels rest on your pillow.

~Peace~

 

I am so fortunate to have an amazing photographer in my circle of Facebook friends. Thank you, Chuck Hackenmiller, for allowing me to use your wonderful photos as part of my blog.

You can see many of Mr. Hackenmiller beautiful photos on the Facebook page, I grew up in Iowa.

Please note, no re-use of this photo without permission from Chuck Hackenmiller, Boone, Iowa.

Starting a 2019 Awareness List

Without self-awareness and the ability to manage our emotions, we often unknowingly lead from hurt, not heart. Not only is this a huge energy suck for us and the people around us, it creates distrust, disengagement, and an eggshell culture.  Brené Brown

Over the weekend I saw Brene Brown on our local PBS station talking about her newest book, Daring to Lead.

I and many many others adore this woman.

If you aren’t familiar with her, the best way to “meet” her is to google her and watch her TED talks. The first time I heard her I was speechless and in tears. In a matter of minutes she opened my eyes to so many things.

As 2018 nears its final days, many of us begin to plan the for new year. Self-awareness is on my list. I no longer see it as a self-improvement list. How can I improve when I am unaware?

So–becoming aware is where I will begin 2019.

I’m thinking I’m not the only one who needs to re-evaluate their starting position. Kinda like that old game of Monopoly–you cannot pass go until….

At the top of my goals is investing the time to read Brene’s books. I have them all either on my shelf–thanks to my little used book store–or on my Kindle.

But here’s the deal–

Reading them is so hard because everything she says resounds so strongly with me. As I read I find myself thrown back in time–which is where I need to begin.

I know I need to address the old issues I’ve carried around with me for decades–like it or not–for a while, it really will be one step forward and one step back.

Because her words encourage me, I re-posted Brene’s blog on my Facebook page today and clipped parts to share here.

“Leading from hurt” behaviors can be fueled by feeling no value from our partner or our children, so we double down on being seen as “important” at work by taking credit for ideas that aren’t ours, staying in comparison mode, and always knowing instead of learning. The most common driver of the hurt that I’ve observed is from our first families.

The first-family stuff can look like seeking the approval and acceptance from colleagues that we never received from our parents. Also, if our parents’ professional failures and disappointments shaped our upbringing, we can spend our careers trying to undo that pain. That often takes the shape of an insatiable appetite for recognition and success, of unproductive competition, and, on occasion, of having zero tolerance for risk.

Identifying the source of the pain that’s driving how we lead and how we show up for other people is important, because returning to that place and doing that work is the only real fix. Projecting the pain onto others places it where it doesn’t belong and leads to serious trust violations. Our long, hard search for whatever it is that we need never ends and leaves a wake of disconnection.

One of the key learnings emerging from our leadership study took my breath away: Leaders must either invest a reasonable amount of time attending to fears and feelings or squander an unreasonable amount of time trying to manage ineffective and unproductive behavior.  Well, leader, heal thyself.

I am…

B…simply being…

~Peace~

The People Away

“She always spoke about “the people away” and how important it was to remember them and to keep in contact. She knew from listening to some of them when they came on summer holidays that at Christmas their thoughts turned to home and they loved to be remembered at that time. For others the cards was even more important; it provided the only link they had because they never made it home. I visualized my mother’s Christmas cards as so many messengers winging their way to scattered family members all over the world from the nest from which they or their parents had all flown. She was the warm glow at the heart of our Christmas, but that warmth stretched much further than our house.” 

Alice Taylor, An Irish Country Christmas

Christmas cards.

So many memories come up when I think of Christmas cards.

Early in my “adult” life, I’d spend hours upon hours writing cards to all my family members. It was really the only time of year many of us heard from each other.Today, there are very few of our branch of the McDonald family around.

For me, writing Christmas cards was a major production. I started looking for cards as soon as the stores started putting up their displays. My cards had to represent something of myself.

One of my favorite memories revolves around the year I found Ziggy cards–remember that character? His life was always just a little bit sad and off kilter. To me, he mirrored my own life and this one year I’d found a whole box of Ziggy Christmas cards.

I was ecstatic.

I grabbed my box knowing these cards would be sent to a very select group of people. That was not unusual. Most years I’d have several boxes of cards subdivided into stacks for different groups that made up my life.

A great example of this would be my very prime and proper Aunt Eve. She  would not have appreciated a Ziggy card. She and the rest of the family would require a much more traditional type card.

The best part of this memory is the young guy who was at the checkout that day. He rang up my box of cards and other supplies while going through all those questions the sales staff are required to ask.

Smiling, he told me it was a perfect time to take advantage of their imprinting service. Was I interested in having my cards professionally imprinted?

We were both quiet for a couple of seconds and then I started to laugh.

He stopped, looked up at me with a questioning expression. What was so funny?

I shook my head as I apologized, explaining I did not think it just did not seem right to me to have a Ziggy Christmas card imprinted. He looked down at my box of cards, chuckled, and quietly agreed with me.

May your Christmas preparations also give you many reasons to smile.

“Mrs. Casey, do you love Christmas? 

Well you know, she answered reflectively, Christmas can be a sad time for people too. It’s a remembering time for us older ones. We remember the people who are gone.

Oh, I never thought of that, I told her in surprise.

Well that’s youth for you, she said; you don’t start to look back over your shoulder until there is something to look back at, and around Christmas I tend to think of the Christmases past and the people gone with them.” 

Alice Taylor, An Irish Country Christmas

I am…

B…simply being…

~Peace~

 

 

More Treasures

“The greatest treasure in life is the possession of time.” 

Sunday Adelaja, How To Become Great Through Time Conversion: Are you wasting time, spending time or investing time?

I found another treasure in my little used bookstore.

It’s the small book pictured above and it is packed with things that make me sit back and think.

Finding books that were gifts to others always tugs at my heart and makes them very special to me.

I always wonder if the person gifted the book actually had the time to appreciate it?

These are the books that become immediate treasures for me because I now have the time to scour the pages and share what I find with others.

In some type of odd unspoken ceremony, I’ve become the surrogate recipient.

There is only one page ear-marked in this little book which makes my choice of what to share first very easy.

Heart Of My Heart

While striding on life’s pathway

fill up your days with cheer

just laugh at rainbows, small or great, 

to banish every fear.

Hold tight to what life offers

content with all you do

for all adventures help create

the treasure that is you.

~Kris Ediger

I am…

B…simply being

~Peace~

O’Christmas Tree

“A tree.” She spotted one. It was hidden behind a much larger tree, its limbs misshapen in its attempt to fight for even a little sunlight in the shadow. “Dana has this tradition of giving a sad-looking tree the honor of being a Christmas tree.” She walked over to the small, nearly hidden tree. “I like this one. “It’s…”

He laughed. “Ugly?”

“No, it’s beautiful because it’s had a hard life. It’s struggled to survive against all odds and would keep doing that without much hope. But it has a chance to be something special.” 

B.J. Daniels, Cardwell Christmas Crime Scene

My dear friend, Mary, sent me this picture of the Christmas tree she and her grands decorated. I absolutely love this little tree and asked if I could share it with one of my stories. Thankfully, she agreed.

It is so special made even more so by the fact she fought back the urge to re-arrange! Proud of you and love you.

The older I get the more special these types of photographs are to me.

As I looked at this picture, I smiled and thought of some of my own childhood Christmas stories.

Like many young families, money was always tight at our house. Even more so at Christmas time.

I remember one Christmas when my parents had a rather heated discussion about buying a Christmas Tree. Dad didn’t think we should spend the money. Mom felt having a tree was important for “the kids.”

As I stood just outside of the kitchen door, my usual eavesdropping spot, I silently rooted for mom.

This “discussion” ended in a stalemate. This was not good. I knew from previous experiences our little house had just been put into the quiet zone.

My sisters and I understood this place all to well. Until some type of truce was called, words would be scarce–replaced by quick, sharp looks and heavy sighs. In kid-time this often seemed to last forever.

Being the super responsible oldest child, I felt it was up to me to help smooth things out.

I had a plan.

For a few days I checked out the different places trees were being sold. I knew I could find the perfect tree at a do-able price.

Because the adults were not speaking, I had the perfect set-up. Each evening at the supper table, I shared what I had found. I’d describe the trees I saw–the type, the size and all the different prices.

As I talked, my sisters and I looked from mom to dad, and back again. Each of us watched carefully, looking for any indication an answer had been found and we would have a tree and peace would return to our little world.

After a couple of nights of silence and sighs, I stopped reporting.

There was not going to be a tree.

As Christmas inched closer, I had a new worry.

This was serious.

It was now Christmas Eve.

If we didn’t have a tree, where would Santa put our presents?

This was a real worry for this oldest child. This worry kept me awake. Because I couldn’t sleep I noticed there was something different about the light outside our bedroom door.

It was red, and green, and yellow and….

Wait a minute.

Was I dreaming?

I climbed out of bed and walked slowly in the direction of the living room.

Wait a minute.

I rubbed my eyes. I blinked and blinked again.

Was this possible? Was it real?

There, in the middle of our dark living room, sitting on a small table, covered in the most brilliant lights I’d ever seen, was a beautiful, perfectly shaped Christmas tree.

The Christmas tree is a symbol of love, not money. There’s a kind of glory to them when they’re all lit up that exceeds anything all the money in the world could buy.  

~Andy Rooney

I am…

B…simply being…

~Peace~

 

 

 

The Sorcery of a Name

“A name can’t begin to encompass the sum of all her parts. But that’s the magic of names, isn’t it? That the complex, contradictory individuals we are can be called up complete and whole in another mind through the simple sorcery of a name.” 

Charles de Lint, Dreams Underfoot

This is such a tricky time of the year.

So many emotions come bubbling up to the surface when we are least expecting them and least prepared.

What I once called the season of magic is now a little more haunting.

Memories steal into my mind when my guard is down–before I’ve had the chance to reinforced all my weakest check-points.

I know I am not alone.

I’m thinking one of the most beautiful gifts we could give each other right now is the gift of time. The gift of an evening filled with conversations about those we are missing this holiday season–whether this is the first or the sixtieth. A time filled with names that are rarely–if ever–heard these days. An evening where names and stories are shared without the guilt often associated with those things judged to be well past the appropriate time frame of grieving.

The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.” 

Lois Lowry, The Giver

I am…

B…simple being…

~Peace~

“Names are a way to keep people in your mind” 

Maggie Stiefvater, Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception  

 

 

 

The Gift of Laughter

B...simply being...

Re-posting from December, 2017, because it is just such a great memory. Love you Doug and Lana Flemmer.

The church is near, but the road is icy. The bar is far, but we will walk carefully.  

Russian Proverb.

Oh, the holidays are so stressful. Honestly, I am feeling some stress this year because I have no stress–zip–nothing–nada.

Let me remind you all that it is okay–really okay–to say no. You do not have to accept every invitation or attend every gathering or buy every single person who ever entered your life a gift. It’s okay to say no and it’s okay to say no without some excuse. You, my friend, need time to unwind and relax. You cannot give to others without taking some time to recharge your own batteries.

For all my recently retired friends, know that your retirement is not the time for you to run errands…

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