Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

Warning: Grinch alert

image So — you’ve been notified: I just hit my Grinch wall. I am heartily SICK of cooking, cleaning, wrapping presents, and the whole shebang. I want to be on a beach SOMEWHERE WARM, w/out ice bending my beloved trees to the point of pain. I want MORE SUNLIGHT. I want TO NOT BE CRANKY the day before it all starts up! (at least at our house)

Grandmother would say I have wantin’ ways… She’d even say wantin’ instead of wanting, even though she taught school for years. Probably an echo of her own grandmother…

I don’t really. I’m just tired. And kind of used up. It’s an easy place to get, if you’re not careful. Or if the weather conspires against us, and you get ACUTE cabin fever, aggravaged by your usual “I need more LIGHT!” winter doldrums.

Waking up, I didn’t even want to get out of bed. The driveway is a solid sheet of ice, so going somewhere is like driving with a beginner’s permit. And all the stuff to eat is either leftovers I’m heartily sick of, or more cooking. Glurg.

Now that I’ve TOTALLY depressed you with my first-world problems ( :) ), I’ll tell you what I’m doing to fix things. Actually, what my beloved is doing to fix things .image

He’s currently defrosting our car. And then he’s taking me to LUNCH! EVEN with the ice, the traffic, and my crankiness. How great is that?

So here’s today thought: sometimes even beginner’s hearts need a rest. NOT a break. :) But just a moment when someone else does the whole love & caring thing. When you can just relax and be what you are, that moment. It’s part of what meditation & Buddhism teach you now: be here, now. This crankiness is who I am right now — exhausted, and worried I won’t be back to my (relatively cheerful) normal self when my kids & grandson arrive this weekend. So far, I’ve managed to only put love into what I’ve done for the holiday prep. I don’t WANT those preparations to become irritating, or to infuse crankiness into what I’m doing.

Hence, as my younger son would say, I’m on holiday strike today. I’m being who I am right now. And luckily? I have the best beloved in the universe to indulge & comfort me. I wish the same for each of you.

a tracery of branches

icy winter branchesI love the look of branches sheathed in ice. Especially when the grey winter light silvers them against the sky.This is actually a colour photo, taken out my breakfast room window — with winter a monotone of greys, silvers, charcoals and the occasional not-quite-white.

Winter is so much more beautiful — almost tame — when we have working central heat. It becomes a kind of 1st world game to keep the thermostat a bit low, so we have to wear layers (I have on a sweater over a Tshirt, and took this picture in comfort). The dogs snuggle on old rugs in front of the heating vent, and no one is suffering.

But a few years back, a homeless man froze to death only 6 blocks from our home. He was trying to shelter under the drive-through at the bank on the corner. A bitter winter night killed him. And it brought ‘home’ to me what home means: safety. Warmth. More than a roof — the drive-through had that.

I know: it wasn’t (& isn’t) my ‘fault.’ But a homeless man, here. Freezing to death in my neighbourhood. How can that happen? How can we make sure it never happens again? Anywhere??

And the truth is? I can’t. Not really. Homelessness is a fact of the economic downturn, the greed of banks, and the apathy of most of us. I give to local charities that work with homeless women and men, but I also know that not everyone goes in to charity shelters. And this time of year — when it’s a windchill in the low 20s, and branches are cracking like gunshots as they succumb to sheaths of ice — they’re woefully overcrowded.

But if we work together, WE can. Make a difference (and even one of us can do that, really). So here’s my hope: that everyone who reads this will send something — even a couple of $$ — to a local charity that works with the homeless. If each of us did, there would be thousands of dollar$ going towards warmth and safety and life.

It’s enough to warm hearts, for sure ~

giving really IS more fun (well, most of the time…)

Christmas tree2This is our Christmas tree. And so far, I’ve wrapped all but maybe three of the gifts beneath it. By hand. With love & thoughts of each recipient. Because that’s how Aunt Bonnie taught me to do it. Along with toooo much Scotch tape (or so I’m told — but hey! Shouldn’t you tape every side??), mitred corners, and careful matching of wrap to person and ribbon to wrap.

It’s part of the fun. IF you have time…

I’m coming to believe that the reason most surveys show retirees as happier than any other demographic is because we have time. Not so much $$, but time to make up for it. This year, I learned to tie a variation on the famous Tiffany bow. Because the variation uses less ribbon, and I like nice ribbon. Which is… well, not cheap. :) I don’t do grosgrain any more, really — I like French ribbon, with wire edges, and old-fashioned hang tags that become part of the present.

But again, I have this luxury. My beloved indulges me. And we do reuse the ribbon from year to year, plus I’m very good at hiding the original tag on a nice gift bag to use it again, as well!

I know — you’re wondering: what the HECK does this have to do beginner’s heart? Much less Buddhism??

If you were in one of my classes, I’d make you guess. ;) Because the guesses are always sooo much more fun than my answers! :)

We spent a lot of time finding gifts we hope our sons, DIL, nieces, nephews, sisters & brothers, will love. Or at least like! And the package is part of that. As is the smile and generous eye contact you make w/ barista at your favourite coffee shop. Or the æsthetician who cuts your hair, does your nails. Or the nice trash guys who always take that extra box that didn’t fit in the recycle bin.

It’s nice to tip — you should (servers and service personnel make ZIP base wages). But the smile — the recognition of the other person’s shared humanity? THAT’s the foil wrap and glitter ribbon. And THAT’s what is so much fun to give. As well as receive. (Although so is Tiffany’s!)

Just sayin’ ~ :)

peppermint bark and merriment

peppermint barkHi, my  name is Britton, and I L♥VE food. Well, I love good food. I’m not interested in crappy calories; only the best! And over the holidays? I’m in (as my Aunt Bonnie would say) hog heaven! Although they’d have to be VERRRY spoiled hogs…

Right now, it’s peppermint bark time. I adore peppermint bark! I mean, chocolate & peppermint? Creamy & crunchy together? One bite & I’m 9 years old again, at Aunt Velma’s, sneaking to the footed crystal candy dish…

And I love ham, although I don’t eat it any more. No pigs, remember? But I still love the smell — that salty/sweet tang of good ham. And eggnog, and ambrosia, and pie, and roast and Yorkshire pudding and hot chocolate with marshmallows and all the treats we fête ourselves with. After all, if it’s Chanukah or Kwanza/ Solstice, Harvest, or December 25th, it deserves our very best food, dress, conversation… And merriment.

Because whatever your reason for this season is, if it doesn’t make you happy, it’s not much of a celebration. Celebrate: from the  Latin celebrare, which one article says means ‘to assemble to honour.’ Another says it means ‘to honour a day or occasion by festivities.’ Either will do, and as the Christian Science Monitor points out, we do gather together (a much more informal word for ‘assembling’!). And that gathering should be FESTIVE (read: fun), folks.

~ from Visual Thesaurus

~ from Visual Thesaurus

Instead, we worry about the presents. Fret over the food. Stress over the entire celebration. And miss whatever our point is: birth, rebirth, Solstice, culture, family… As the Dalai Lama says, faith should bring us happiness. As should its celebrations. Whether you are Christian, Buddhist, agnostic, or Muslim, Jew, atheist or something else, the gathering of friends & family to celebrate is beyond mere ‘observance.’ You can observe something from a distance. Celebration requires full-out engagement. (Which is NOT the same thing as worry!).

So as you ready for the year’s end, grab some peppermint bark. It’s vegan! Well, at least the kind I buy is: dark chocolate doesn’t have any milk in it :). Make some hot tea, a cappuccino, or grab a glass of wine…whatever. Just take time to sit down, relax, and treat yourself with loving kindness. Breathe. And let your faith bring you joy in our upcoming celebrations.

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