FIRSTS AND LASTS
Today Thursday's Child explores Firsts and Lasts--partly because it's an appropriate thing to do on the last day of the "old" year and an appropriate lead-in to the "new" year.
This morning as I walked the track at the Y, one of the guys who often walks when I do, named Duane, said, "I've made a resolution--this is the last time I do this (walk the track) this year."
I laughed and said, "Oh, an early resolution."
He replied, "Tomorrow I'll make another one."
Guess it was also the last time I'll walk the track this year.
Time is a funny thing--not funny ha-ha, but funny-peculiar. We turn a calendar page and another day, or month, or year has passed from our view. We say we're letting go of the "old year" and welcoming a "new year." But the same sun rises and sets. The same moon goes through its phases. And, more often than not, we go through the same old-same old in our lives.
Long ago I discovered that New Year's Resolutions did me no good at all. I diligently thought them through, wrote them down, put them in a place I'd see them every day . . . and in less than a week, I'd not only got off the track, I'd replaced the resolutions (which, obviously, weren't very resolute) with different ones.
So instead of resolutions, I prefer Good Intentions.
For one thing, a Resolution sounds 'way too much like high school debate, or a corporate act. "RESOLVED, that the president and treasurer of XYZ Corporation be and hereby are authorized . . . ." I typed many a corporate resolution. And I hated debate in high school.
Resolution has a positive, definitive, finished ring to it. It says, "Here it is, folks. Take it or leave it."
Instead, I look at my life: what I can do, what I hope to do in the near (or far) future, what is practical or advisable (given the many factors that play into a decision). After some deep thinking, I make an intention.
Intentions have planning built into their nature. There's a kinetic sense of Something Going to Happen. And if it's something in progress, it may--perhaps--grow into something other than what I first intended.
Here's an example from a few years back. I knitted a prayer shawl for a woman in my church. Another woman saw it, told me they used to do things like that and they could do them again. In a couple of weeks, I was heading up a knitting (and now sewing) ministry. I hadn't even become a member of that church yet. And my intention was not to start anything at all. I was just making something warm for a woman who needed it.
So, the moral of this story is: Be careful what you do--it might just become an Intention.
(Or you might end up chairing a committee you didn't know existed.)
But the knitting/sewing ministry is going strong--and will start its fourth year next week.
When I was growing up, my mother had a ready supply of sayings and good advice. The one for this time of year was:
"Whatever you do on New Year's, you'll do all year through."
Naturally I tried to avoid cleaning the house, doing laundry, washing dishes. But it never worked out--I did those things, and more, all year through.
I have no advice for you. Much better if you make up your own. But I do have Good Intentions.
This year, I have three Good Intentions:
1. Practice kindness and forgiveness as often as possible.
2. Read three new authors.
3. Reduce the clutter and get rid of excess possessions.
That covers the spiritual, mental, and physical aspects of my life.
Good luck with your own Good Intentions.
And have a happy, healthy, and creative 2016!
PS--If you stay up till midnight, say "Happy New Year!" for me.
Thursday, December 24, 2015
Today is Christmas Eve. Gift-giving is a tradition at this season. We’ve searched for just the right thing for Aunt Susie, ordered what we hope will tickle our grandchild, maybe even made some gifts for special people.
If I could give each of you a gift, I’d wrap up four nice boxes and in each one there would be a word you could treasure the rest of your life.
In the first box I’d put Hope. Without hope in our lives, we can grow afraid of the future. It all looks bleak. Or endless nothing. Or terrifying. But with hope, we can see something greater than the fears we live with.
In the second box I’d put Peace. My favorite definition is on a mug I use to drink tea each day. It reads: “Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.”
In the third box I’d put Joy. A few days ago I read in a small devotional book this thought: “Joy feels deeper than momentary pride, satisfaction, or relief. . . . A sense of joy brings deep contentment and is often expressed by gratitude for what we’ve been given.” (Lelanda Lee, author)
And in the fourth box I’d put Love. Love encompasses Hope; it brings Peace; and underneath all Joy you’ll find Love.
Have a Happy Christmas!
Thursday, December 17, 2015
It’s one week before Christmas Eve. Are you ready? How do you know?
This year is turning out to be much different from past years. Less flurry and scurry at my house. Fewer moments—actually, none at all—of anxiety and breathlessness about “being ready.”
There has been time to shop for food that will be consumed by my two daughters and me during their visit next week.
Sewing and knitting projects I took on for other folks have been completed and delivered, leaving time for my own endeavors.
Our family Christmas get-together was moved to January 2—and that move opened up extra days for me to build little quilts for great-grands.
Decorating is not a big thing for me, and hasn’t been for many years. I find the Advent season a quiet time of preparation; my house will grow more festive next week, but for now, it’s just right.
Baking? I baked two kinds of brownies and took them to a local business that has helped my house stay warm and dry for many years.
Cooking? Not really . . . just cleaning veggies and arranging them on a tray with one or two kinds of dip (made from scratch), slicing cheese and adding pickles and little beef bites, covering with plastic wrap and delivering the whole thing with a smile to folks who also have kept my life on an even keel for years.
In ways that count, I am ready. My heart and mind are focused on the coming Christmas season as a time of celebration—when God sent love into the world, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.
All the trappings—large or small—point to that event.
Are we ready? Check in with your heart and mind. You may be more ready than you realize.
[No pictures again this week--my ISP and I are rapidly coming to a parting of the ways. Hope to have better service next week. Have a good one!]
Thursday, December 10, 2015
ARE WE STRESSED YET?
Confession time: I’m not much of a shopper.
I never go out on Black Friday. I seldom shop the online specials that clog my cell phone’s memory. Many of my gifts are handmade, and the shopping for the fabric or yarn has been purchased during the year.
That said, I do have to be out and about in my community during the holiday buying season. There are groceries to purchase. Toiletries and household paper products run low. The gas tank on my Big Old Buick requests fuel.
So far this year—with the holidays only just over two (2) weeks away—I haven’t stressed over any of it. Some of my gifts are partially finished and require very little more work. Our family’s get-together has had to be delayed until after December 25 because of the day of the week and people’s work schedules. That’s a plus for Handmade Hannah who wants the gifts finished and wrapped by the day they’re due.
Over the years—and there have been plenty of those—I’ve developed some useful coping strategies. You may not like them—you may have been doing these for decades—you may laugh right out loud at them. But I swear they work.
So, here goes:
Make Lists. These include what has to be done each week, possibly each day. Lists are the foundation of prioritizing. Don’t like that one? Not a list maker? Okay, try the next one.
Trade Tasks. If you don’t have time to bake cookies/muffins/pies, because you’re revved up the sewing machine, check with your sewing friend who does have time to bake. Maybe her machine broke, or she’s not using it this year. (And maybe she’s better at prioritizing than we are, hm?)
Downsize the List. I know you won’t like this one. I don’t really like it myself. But it has bailed me out of the Stress Abyss on more than one occasion. Besides, it helps tremendously when you’re (1) out of touch with members of your family, (2) unable to find out what they like, want, or currently have, or (3) low on funds for purchasing all gifts, never mind the high-priced, overpriced ones. My solution was to give the grandchildren and their spouses cash—I remember being 30-something, traveling a long ways to get to Grandma’s house, and hoping I had enough money in my purse to fill the gas tank at least once.
Downsizing my list leaves me free to make things for the great-grands, sometimes for my own children, and guess what? I enjoy the season of creating gifts! Not for myself, but knowing I’m doing things I like doing and (I’m told) I do well, and they’ll make somebody else happy. Worth the trade-off.
The main thing that will make these work is a little secret I learned long ago: “Let go of the results.”
That’s it in a nutshell. You have good intentions. You do your part. Now, let go of the results. If the kids don’t like money, or the gift you saved to buy, or already have three copies of the CD you thought they wanted—let it go. You can’t change their lives or persuade them that they can always use cash. Their good manners—or otherwise—are no longer your business. Smile and let it go.
One of the most important lessons I’ve had to learn is that the holidays aren’t all about me—or my children—or my grands and great-grands—or even my church. The holidays are all about celebrating an important event in your history—Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, many others.
If you aren’t involved in a religious organization, you can help others enjoy a holiday dinner at an inner-city mission; or give food to a food bank or other collection point to be distributed to folks who have very little; or share out-grown or no-longer-useful clothing.
And who knows? That experience during the holidays might strike a spark that lights a path for you to help other times of the year. Not all shelters are for homeless people. Some are for military veterans working to overcome substance abuse. Some are for women and their children who have broken away from an abusive home. Check around, ask somebody. You may be surprised.
I’ll think about you while I finish binding the little quilts I’m making. And when the holidays are over and my gifts have gone to their new homes, I’ll begin again sewing blankies for the Neo-Natal ICU.
Blessed holidays for you and yours, from Thursday’s Child.
And do yourself a favor—try not to stress!
PS--No photos today--the Internet threatened to give me stress and I refused. I said no, thanks, and walked away.
Thursday, December 3, 2015
Well, it arrived, this new month, trailing all sorts of expectations, connotations, wishes and promises, surprises galore.
Yep, that’s December, all right.
The list makers among us—of which I am currently reigning empress—have gone into overdrive. Some of us (I won’t name names) have even begun early, which is clearly against the rules. So is using last year’s lists. What’s with that? If it’s last year’s list, it’s old stuff. Each year brings out new possibilities. Live a little, folks!
Here’s a thought I like: From a one-page reading in a daily devotions book I use, I read about helping Christmas come day by day. Many churches celebrate Advent, a time of preparation and waiting for the birth of the Christ Child. Along with the preparing and waiting, the church folks don’t hurry up Christmas—they ease it into being.
The writer of that particular selection has developed a practice of doing one new thing each day—find greens in her yard and trim some for hanging on the front door; winding evergreen boughs around porch posts and rails; arranging ornamental grasses from the yard in a jar on the porch; letting wreaths appear, one by one, on different days . . . .
I don’t have the kind of yard that yields natural greens and grasses in any abundance for decorating. But I can make my own brand of Advent preparation.
So far, in these first three days of December:
--I’ve watched a movie whose story ends on Christmas morning. The whole story is preparation for the ending.
--I’ve watched a movie whose story ends on Christmas morning. The whole story is preparation for the ending.
--Each day I’ve practiced music for the coming Sunday—mainly Advent hymns and the prelude and postlude I’ll play.
--Yesterday I searched for, and found (!) the yarns I’ll knit into some of my Christmas gifts. The yarns, along with their patterns and notes about each recipient, are in a medium-sized tote in my living room where I can’t fail to see them, waiting for me to settle down with needles and another movie for company.
--Oh, and today I hung a wreath on the front door. The wreath was a gift from a friend who had too many decorations and wanted to share them with somebody. She also gave me two short pencil-trees that will fit beautifully on the hearth of my non-functioning fireplace and save floor space.
In the big picture: The sewing machine is up, and the first strips of cloth have been run through to start one of three quilts I’m making for great-grandsons this year. Another day or two and the whole house will look like Santa’s workshop--yarn here, fabrics there, tissue paper on that desk, oh—and cards. Will I have time to write Christmas cards? Maybe a Christmas letter instead? Decisions, decisions . . . .
In another week, I’ll be wishing for some elves of my own to help with those quilts, and the baking, and the rest of the shopping, and the wrapping, and . . . .
If I disappear from view, look for me under the nearest pile of fabric, or tissue paper, or perhaps hiding out in my cave with a blanket over my head.
But don’t look too hard. I may need a mid-winter sleep.