This weekend, at last, it's my time to hunker down in the kitchen preparing my favorite items for holiday time. Today I will teach my 10-year-old sous chef how to make sugar-friend pecans. I've also got cat-sitting (no more overdoing that after the last round), the Christmas Card, the wrapping, and checking everything twice so that Christmas Eve doesn't become the night before madness.

No matter how I kvetch, I do love Christmas. I just love it! I find that Christmas surprises reach me in small and large ways each year, even in the midst of the chaos. Perhaps it is because of the chaos that I am surprised when it happens.

Take yesterday. I had a conversation with my coach. She and I usually connect with ease, and yesterday seemed no different except that she was especially focused on framing our discussion so that I produced some label I could use to describe myself, my essence, in a very simple way. We were focused on "naming" that which I held most near and dear to my soul and that which I might diminish over time if I didn't get conscious about it. She was helping me name my way in the world.

We shared an uplifting conversation to say the least, "workshopping" the idea from all angles. In the end, I felt she had given me wings that were neither too large nor too small for my humble soul. Plus -- and this is a good test -- there was an immediate rightness about this new label, as if I had just received prescription glasses and felt opened up to a new clarity. "What now, then?" my soul seemed to clamor excitedly . . .

My wonderful coach gave me wings and tuned-up my voice. She was clear and confident on the phone. That's why, when she mentioned that she would begin treatment for cancer early next month, I was so surprised.

She wasn't sick, though, I thought. She may have a tumor but she isn't sick.

She had made room for this cancer in her life, so the cancer was not a struggle. There was no charge to it at all. Gracefully, her healing energy remained flowing. Wow. That is impressive. While I paused to check in with her about the details and her doctors, I never had a doubt about this friend's wellness. She may need a toxic mass removed, but her energy is free of disease. Still, I will hold her rightly in my thoughts.

The encounter reminded me that the circle of wellness and of disease, of giving and receiving, of asking and being asked is the focus of our lives whether we notice it or not.

We may call these things by different names and wrap them up in other phrases, believing that someday we'll arrive at "in balance" or "out of balance" for good. I don't think that is part of the plan. It seems more vast than that to me.


Ms. Grinch pays a visit

Mr. Grinch's friend, Ms. Grinch, appeared at my house last night looking to cut corners and curb every one's enthusiasm, especially the children's.

She was insisting that patience was a virtue and that waiting and waiting and waiting for the big day to come builds character.

She was obsessed with tidying up, getting organized and crossing items off her Christmas TO-DO list.

She had no time to laugh with Alvin and the Chipmunks.

When she glanced at the adorable
Christmas card that she and her husband made, she immediately got hives thinking of the stack she needed to personalize and mail out in the days to come.

She was frustrated that her soon-to-be-eight-year-old son was digging his heels in about opening up the Star Wars costume that arrived for his birthday party in January.

As the evening went on and the fire roared, Ms. Grinch got very close to roaring herself. She was dangerously close to making a Christmas memory no one would ever forget . . .

She had the distinct calling to eat Candy Cane Joe-Joe's as a way to soothe herself, but realized that a new assignment at
work had her so closely allied to calorie counting that she was suddenly aware of her emotional eating.

She was tired, a Monday night tired.
So she brewed up some Chamomile tea and sipped it quietly.

She longed in that moment for a change of heart, a small adjustment to her Grinchiness and wondered how to find the way out.

She sat down on the sofa to watch the evening news with her husband. But, instead of listening to what was announced, Ms. Grinch fell asleep.

She drifted into a deep slumber.
In fact, she slept and slept and slept, like a young princess atop a feather bed.

Her husband tucked her in upstairs where she slept for seven more hours.

When she awoke, she brewed up her single cup of coffee, skipped the heavy cream due to the job assignment, and realized that she - Ms. Grinch herself -
was worthy of Christmas joy too!

She promised to loosen the tight string around her heart and make room for the love of the season. She wasn't sure how it would go, but something about it felt very familiar to her.

As if she had felt that way once before, perhaps as a young girl . . . And all was new again.


Writing a birthday letter for your child

Before I became a parent, I didn't realize the energy that went into a child's birthday celebration. First, there is the work of intention, of consciously creating a meaningful experience for your child. Then, there is scheduling, making and buying, planning and inviting. Lastly, there is allowing the awareness that another year has passed into your psyche. That's sometimes a bittersweet notion when you feel ambivalent about your baby growing up.

All of these details require energy. So, if you happen to have a child's birthday to plan amidst the holiday buzz (like I do), you may find yourself needing a little extra TLC to get by. How to get some good TLC? Here's my plan:

Hydrate with simple clear drinks, including warm herbal teas
Get outdoors
Laught and let go
Write your child a birthday letter

A birthday letter is just a conversation letter to your child, about your child. I started doing them when my daughter was young and struggling with a variety of issues. It helped me make sense of all the new information we were managing, and gave me a way to make a snapshot of her progress that was truly worth celebrating. Birthday letters also recount the key milestones of the year, the friendships, and the adventures enjoyed.

Try writing a birthday letter anytime of the year.


Whatever you give, she will make greater

My neighorhood friend -- wife, mother to two great kids, and a doctor on top of that -- sent me a wonderful quote this morning:

Whatever you give a woman, she will make greater. If you give her sperm, she'll give you a baby. If you give her a house, she'll give you a home. If you give her groceries, she'll give you a meal. If you give her a smile, she'll give you her heart. She multiplies and enlarges what is given to her.

So . . . if you give her any crap, be ready to receive a ton of _ _ _ _ !



Simple holiday flowers

Each year in time for Christmas we grow simple amaryllis and paper whites on a table in a south-facing window behind one of the living room sofas. Observing the flowers unfold in a bloom of color and fragrance is a holiday tradition that prepares me and the house for Christmas. I enjoy this tradition as much as I enjoy my advent wreath.

What's no fun to celebrate is the cost of Amaryllis bulbs. In Washington/Bethesda, I have seen the loose bulbs selling for as much as $25 at one of our nursery/garden shops! I've never bought the flower bulbs at that high price. Instead, I've had good luck with the Holland Bulb kits that sell between $8-12 at the supermarket. (They are also available online.)

The downside with the kits is that they come shipped with a plastic planting pot and bag of peat moss which we don't use. Cheaper price, but excessive waste in my opinion . . .

I don't know how or when the tradition of forcing amaryllis during the holidays evolved. Part of the Lily family, the flower is "symbolic of pride and at times timidity." It may also be a symbol of "pastoral poetry and of satisfactory outcomes" according to one vendor. I like the sound of a little "pastoral poetry" around the house.


Killing the page rank

Seth Godin's recent post, The Making Chasm, includes the following spot-on quote: "Doing appears risky, because it exposes you to criticism and perhaps failure."

How many of us can relate to that?

Here's my question, how can we figure out a way to network our failures and have more fun learning from one another's mistakes when the idea of "rank" itself inspires business as usual and covering up?

How can we open our hearts and minds up to playful inventiveness at work if the measure of productivity requires the long view?

The kids want a puppy

Our fluffy, bright-white, spirited American Eskimo dog, Blanco (with his terrible yapping bark) died a year and a half ago. We really miss playing fetch with him, having him greet us at the door, and hearing the pitter-patter of his feet around the house.

What we don't miss are the huge vet bills, the boarding fees incurred when we travel, the pooper-scooping of the yard, and worrying about him daily as his health deteriorated in the end. Ever since we buried Blanco, the hamster and the fish - in short sequence - the kids have been rallying around the cry:
We don't want to be a family with no pets!
I agree with them, and yet I am on the fence about bringing another puppy or a rescue pet home to care for. I feel a lot of pressure to make a loving, conscious choice about adopting or buying a dog and am concerned that now isn't the time to make it happen. The Humane Society of the United States blurb describes my feelings precisely:
The key to creating a true "family pet"—one who is gentle, loyal, and loving to both animals and people—is to treat the animal as a beloved family member and to provide the training and care he deserves. It's not enough to get a pet "for the kids." A pet is not a temporary playmate for children, but a lifelong family member who depends on the entire family, especially adults.
It is the word "depends" that gets me. So many things depend on me now that adding another makes me cringe! I ask myself:

Is there room enough to love another soul in your life?
  • Yes, there is always room to love another soul.
Can I tolerate a bit more chaos in my life?
  • Umm. In the past I'd say, sure, but these days I want less and less chaos.
Can I handle the poop?
  • Not sure about that, might be my husband's job.
Can I handle training my children to help?
  • Yes, absolutely. And they're great with pet responsibilities.Link
You know, as I write out this Q + A, I am reminded that loving a living creature, even when it is chaotic, imperfect, expensive, and scary, is still love. And wise people say that the best time for love is the moment before you. It's all got me thinking . . .

. . .

Today it was a total shoe meltdown


Peppermint Joe-Joe's

Forget about my good intentions in the last post. It's a new day and I am here to spread the weight inducing word that:

Peppermint Joe-Joe's are back at Trader's


Bettina from Loulies.com tipped me off to these festive little cookies -- think Oreos with fine peppermint candy shavings laced into the creme -- last year and we loved them.

These cookies are super rich!

And that's what makes them perfect for holiday mudslides (vanilla ice cream, milk, and Oreos blended together) and other artery-clogging delights . . .

I'll be munching on a few of these in the weeks to come. In fact, we're hosting a bonfire this weekend so perhaps one of these boxes will make its way onto a goodies plate. My kids like them but if yours aren't fans of true peppermint flavor, skip 'em altogether.


Gaining weight is expensive

And ... Fresh air is cheaper than a gym. Buying new clothes is more fun when it is optional (not a result of outgrowing your wardrobe). Adding bulk hides your beauty from the world. Low self esteem demands a high payment. Sedentary days turn into sedentary weeks.

photo snapped along the Blue Ridge parkway, NC

Nothing gets done when you do not do it. Food guilt is a dead end. Aches and pains are often reminders that we need to change. No two bodies are created alike, so stop giving your power to someone else. Gaining weight is an energy drain.


Putting the me in media
Signal-to-noise ratio