Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Let The Season Begin

This time of year can be difficult for many; for a lot of reasons. Some people will be dealing with their first holidays after the loss of a loved one. Some people will be financially stressed. Some people will be battling an illness. Some people will be working on troubled relationships. Most everyone is dealing with 'something', but most people will try to keep their troubles and stresses covered and to themselves.

It should be the season of hope, of families, of good will, and of miracles. Yet, many will be overcome by the commercialism of the season, the self-imposed stress of wanting to buy and give too much, some sleepless nights, and the To Do lists that require writing on the back side of the paper. Many people will have long overdue lunches with friends they haven't seen, many will rush in traffic, and many will become short-tempered for no good reason. Some will treat the wait staff  and the department store cashiers well and others unfortunately will not.

Before you accuse a seasonal worker of not being 'fast enough' or 'friendly enough', stop for a moment and put yourself in their shoes. They may be taking on extra seasonal work to help make ends meet. They may have already put in a 10 hour day on their feet trying to help crabby customers. The transmission on their car may have gone out that morning. They MAY be doing a great job and the attitude adjustment needed isn't theirs, but YOURS

Someone read a devotion in a staff meeting the other day about how 'hurt people hurt'. This analogy works all year long, not just during the busy holiday times. If you run across a cashier or waiter or mechanic or postman (or whatever profession) who seems to be having a frazzled day, stop yourself before you react with judgment or a criticism. Stop and find out their story. Ask them about their day. Tell them you appreciate their work and their effort. You have the ability with a few words to turn their day around. Sometimes it is even the other way around. YOU could be the one having the bad day and some one's kind words and a smile turn you around.

Grace is a beautiful thing. It can be life-changing AND it costs you nothing. Often times, it is easier to show kindness and grace to a stranger, rather than a family member or friend. I'm not sure why that is, other than perhaps we are too connected to the situation to be as objective.

As the holiday season gets further underway, make the most of it. Be the one who holds the door open for a stranger, the one that says thank you, the one who lets the person with only one item in front of you at the check out line, or gives the tired waitress an extra $5 in her tip. You have the ability to make this holiday season one filled with positiveness, kindness, generosity, and good cheer.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Is It Too Early?

You'd have to be living in an isolated cave somewhere to not notice that Santa is already in some shopping malls, lights are being hung, ornaments are festively being put on display, and sales are already happening. Is it too soon? This is and always has been a controversial subject for many this time of year. There are valid arguments on both sides. Some don't want to feel rushed and quickly feel stressed that they won't be ready in time. They will argue that they don't want to hear Christmas music on the radio before Thanksgiving; very valid points. Others LOVE the Christmas season and simply cannot wait for it to get started. I would venture to say that I am some where in the middle, but leaning more toward the tinsel side.

While I do enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday; a wonderful meal, football, and time with family and friends ... I am a multi-tasker and can enjoy Thanksgiving Day and still get a little pumped about the Christmas season. I look forward to the decorations, the lights, the Hallmark movies (which I am already watching), the store displays, shopping for those special well thought-out gifts, wrapping, and even sending out Christmas cards. The month of December goes by so quickly as it is that I don't mind stretching it out a little longer. My theory is that if I get started earlier in November then hopefully I won't spend my December feeling as anxious. The sooner I check things off my proverbial 'list', the more time I will have to take walks in downtown Rochester to see the light show, meet a friend for hot chocolate, or curl up with a cozy blanket to watch a Christmas movie.

During the last 10 days our country has endured a controversial presidential election, Facebook has served as a sounding board for hatred and meanness, and my family suffered the loss of a great woman. Needless to say my emotions (as well as many other people's) have been on an unpleasant roller coaster ride. Next week we will gather once again for Thanksgiving and be thankful indeed ... for family, for good health, for having food on our tables, a roof over over our heads, and abundant love in our hearts. At the same time I will look forward to the future with hope and anticipation; a hope for a more peaceful world and anticipation that people can learn to unite for the common good.

For many, Christmas is a season filled with hope and love and goodness. That is something I can wrap my head and my heart around. If I could start celebrating it in July or September or any other month I probably would. It's not about the gifts or the material things (my shopping list actually gets smaller every year), it is about the spirit and the hope.

So is it too early to be decorating, or looking at lights, or buying Christmas cards, or listening to holiday music that makes you smile? I say no, but that's just me. Sure, I will have my days when I feel a bit overwhelmed and anxious, but truth be told that also happens in February and April too, lol. 

The holidays (any of them) are what we choose to make of them. Yes, department stores will continue to set up displays earlier and earlier ... but so what. If it bothers you, then do your best to avoid it or simply don't let it get to you. But don't be a scrooge to those who look forward to it. Many people are lonely or sad or simply looking for more positiveness in their world. If they can find it in a store display or by looking at the twinkling lights on the trees, let them. It doesn't mean you have to hang a wreath on your door or a stocking on your mantle just yet. You can wait til the time is right for you.

I hope that all of us can embrace the goodness of the Christmas season, as well as be thankful for our blessings (but we can be thankful EVERY day - not just on the fourth Thursday of November).

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Turn Over A New Leaf

Happy November 1st! We've made it through the summer months and are cruising smoothly right through autumn. We are almost to peak color here in Michigan due to the rains, chilly days, then warmer days. As of last night Halloween has come and gone. Depending on the children traffic in your neighborhood, many adults will be running on a sugar high today as they've been sent out the door with the leftover candy.

With the seasonal change comes lower temperatures, the colors on the trees are now reds and oranges and yellows, and there's a certain sense of calm in the early morning hours. The air is crisp, there's a covering of frost on the grass and the rooftops, and there's a feeling of peace and quiet. And then another ten minutes goes by; the sunrise is just a memory and the traffic and noise begins once again.
For me, autumn is the season of leaves; they're colorful, they're crunchy when you walk through them, and there's the sense of peace and adventure everyone experiences when they drive down the road and the wind swirls all the leaves up into the air and around your car. For that brief moment you can just take a deep breath and enjoy the beauty of the moment for what it is.

Many people associate New Year's Day with the day you set a new goal and focus on the changes and opportunities that are presenting themselves to you in the upcoming year, BUT why not take advantage of November 1st and the glorious autumn season to TURN OVER A NEW LEAF? Why wait another two months to begin fresh and make a needed change? Why not get a jump start on improving your life by beginning today ... right now?

In another seven days the election will take place and life, as we know it, will change big time. No matter WHO you vote for and no matter which side you're on; someone will win and someone will lose. Someone will have a less than desirable moral character and someone will be considered corrupt. Both candidates will continue to bash each other and then act surprised and hurt and violated when the tables are turned. Some voters will be thrilled and others will be devastated. I will always be entitled to my own opinion and beliefs, as will you; but I can still hold firm to my own values and hope that my vote will still make a difference. Early polls and phone surveys will still try to sway potential voters and predict a winner a week before the election (which always fascinates me because in all my years of voting no one has EVER asked me who I plan to vote for; although even if they did I would tell them that was my business and not theirs, lol).
Yes, our country is at a pivotal point for all of us. History is about to be written and added to the books. Either we will have our first woman president or our first non-politician president. Future decisions will be made for us (supposedly with our interests being considered, but I have yet to see any real proof of that). Right now the ONLY thing I can do is cast MY vote. I will continue to listen and observe and think and ponder and HOPE that my vote and yours actually matter.
I am choosing to honor today by turning over a new leaf. I will hope and pray that by honoring my civic duty and voting - I will be making a difference. Yet I have the peace of mind knowing that while I may not be able to make a noticeable difference on the larger scale I CAN make a difference in my own life by living my days based on my morals and values. I can choose to live MY life by the standards I deem are important. Government may be in a position to tell me how much more I will pay for my required healthcare, how much my taxes are going to cost me, and what the economy will look like ... BUT they can never tell me not to still be nice to my neighbor, to not be a courteous driver, to not continue to try to make a difference at my job or as a parent. While the characters of most politicians may be questionable, I still get to decide my own. Whether I'm doing a good or bad job of that just shows that I am human and clearly a work in progress. It also means, on a good day, that I get to sleep at night with a clear conscious.
What about you? While I encourage everyone to vote in this upcoming election, I also encourage you to take the reigns on your own life. Stand back and look in the mirror. What are you happy with in your life and what do you think needs a little work? Where do you think you can improve and make a difference? Making a change requires effort and forethought; it's never easy, but definitely worth it.
Happy November 1st!