Discovering What Is Important

Today I have been in a real funk about Christmas, the whole Hallmark Holiday thing, the consumerism, the almost anti-American thoughts I have about Not Shopping. While in a store recently the appearance of shoppers with loaded carts, the sheer crowds, the hurry up and get in line, all of it seemed like intense peer pressure. Come on, you should be doing this, too. It’s all about spending, getting those last minute gifts.

It would be hard to describe what it felt like this evening when it suddenly occurred to me that indeed it is not the gifts that I remember from all those Christmases of my past.  When I realized this I had to ask myself what is important about those holidays? If the gifts are not what you recall then what is?  Here is what came to mind.

There was Grandma and Grandpa. They brought us the best gifts, and seemed to be really delighted in giving them and seeing how we received them. Grandpa would arrive with camera in tow and take as many photos as he could. Grandma would cook, or at least help to clean up the turkey from the bone after the meal.  

Our parents were the host and hostess, sometimes including dear friends and relatives around the table on Christmas Day.  They had to keep all four of us in line, my older sister and my two younger brothers.  I know now that they worked closely with Grandma and Grandpa to make sure we had a nice Christmas.  (But I must confess to being 12 years old and looking out my bedroom window at midnight on Christmas Eve really hoping to see the sleigh and reindeer in the sky.  I did NOT want to grow up.) 

There was the dining room table and all the dishes, beautiful dishes with apples on them that were kept in the buffet except for special occasions. My sister and I learned how to properly set a table in 4-H, and we would help with this.

But there was excitement in the air about this meal. Special food. Cranberry relish, suet pudding, pumpkin pie, turkey and dressing and all the trimmings. The smells, the feast.  Ah, the feast.  (The Grinch would be amazed…)

The prayer at the meal would always be special.  As a young child I did not correctly understand a phrase that my Grandpa used in his prayers. I thought he was saying a word like “in-tend-did-use”. Later I discovered he was asking for our food to be blessed “to our intended use”.  Thank goodness I finally figured it out. 

In more recent years when my Dad would pray his words would bring tears to my eyes. He still does, as I write these words. His prayers always seem to be so true, so deep, and so heartfelt. 

Washing dishes and cleaning up (and trying to sneak out of it) came next. Then playing with new toys or trying on the new clothing. Or…the Nap.  The long winter’s nap of poetic fame.  Members of my family claim to be professional nappers now. This could be where that all began.

The perfect place for the nap? On the living room rug in front of the fire place. The smell of the wood smoke, the pop and crackle of the fire, the ambiance.  Just being so full of food and getting sleepy.  A little Christmas music playing on the stereo (LP’s, of course).  

What was important was that this was a family day, a day off, a time to enjoy being together. Yes, my Dad would sometimes have to go out on a service call since he was an electrician/plumber by trade, but we were still family, still able to be together in our home. 
This was all about family, friends, good food, a warm loving place to be.

This is that gingerbread feeling I referred to in my last post.  This is what I miss. I would do it all again any day – without any gifts.  In a heartbeat.

Through Different Eyes

The Grinch Has A Paradigm Shift

My challenge today in the Big Picture Class was to take an actual frame and see something about the Christmas season through it in a different perspective.  At first my thoughts were bouncing around to one thing and then another that I could create, but after some quiet time this came to a stop.  I was being nudged to just let go and listen, to not try to force this bit of creativity.  There was a message for me in this which I was not going to hear unless just allowed it to flow. (Sounds crazy but it works for me.)

So there was some laundry that got done, some cleaning of floors, making the beds, doing my morning reading, enjoying my tea. And it came. 
My long time favorite Dr. Seuss book was sitting on the shelf, one that brings a new lesson each time I read it. (I love that books can do that to me.) This homely character, like so many of us, thought that Christmas was all about the gifts under the tree, the decorations, the lights, the shopping, the commercialism of the holiday season.  Until he witnessed something totally different; people enjoying each other’s company, not caring about the Stuff, just caring about each other, about community, about celebrating.  
I love the look on his face in this illustration. His entire attitude and way of thinking changes. He sees this event in a new frame of mind, and he has what Steven Covey would call a paradigm shift. 
Just be here, now
My other photo through an actual frame says what every Who down in Who-ville was actually doing after Mr. Grinch “stole” Christmas. Rather than cry over Stuff they lost they decided to just Be with each other.  
The surprise for me is how working on a simple photography project can bring so much to mind, to my awareness. 
Blessings to all who read this, whether you live in Who-ville or just down the street. 

Being Present

Choral singing is one of my favorite things, and this year will be my sixth season with the Lima Symphony Chorus. You can learn more about the Lima Symphony here.  The sound is amazing, but even more amazing just before time for a performance, when all the music, the words, the notes, the rhythm, and the little pauses between the notes all come together as one nice harmonious sound.

It was interesting tonight to see out the corner of my eye how everyone was sort of swaying the same way at the same time on some of the music. It was as though we were all doing the same dance to what we were singing. I don’t think I’ve ever noticed this before, this spontaneous movement, feeling the lift of the music together. It made me smile.

I am most present when I am in this group because I have to pay attention to the director and what I’m singing. All the worries of life are put aside because I’m there for one purpose, to learn the music and sing it well.
How difficult it is to learn to be truly present in all other areas of life. To just be right here right now. To carefully listen to what someone is saying without thinking about what I am going to say next, or what my opinion is on what I’m hearing. To look that person in the eye, sense their body language, and show them the respect and honor they deserve. And to learn to simply be, to know that this moment is enough. 
What went before is done, what will come we don’t know. Just like that favorite flower that blooms with all its might, I need to learn better how to be present.
“Take no thought for tomorrow. It has enough trouble of it’s own….”