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Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

Aftermas: the importance of taking/ making time

christmas hourglassThere’s an inevitable fall-off after Christmas. All the fierce anticipation — even for grown-ups! — of presents (given or received), the worry about dinner (especially for the cooks!), and just the fatigue resulting from late nights baking, wrapping, and picking up family from the airport.

And that’s for a relatively perfect Christmas holiday. Just imagine if you have no real home, no money for the have-to-have toy, or maybe have lost someone you love. What do you do after Christmas? I can’t imagine — our first-world, happy Christmas blues are all I want to ever deal with.

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In our family, we solved the post-Christmas doldrums accidentally. Trying to accommodate new family members, their families, and various work schedules, we have our huge family celebration late — this year on December 28th. We call it Aftermas. :)

Everyone brings things — we host at our house (it’s the biggest, and closer than my niece’s, the next largest). Vegetarians introduce us to great non-meat dishes that are more than simple sides. Meat eaters scarf the spiral ham and brisket that have become tradition. And I work hard at devouring ALL the many salads & sides; we haven’t even gotten to dessert! christmas hourglass2

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It takes forever to feed us all — there will be about 20 or so this year, including holiday orphans and partners and rug rats. And in my family, when you unwrap gifts, you do it one by one. Every year the next generation rebels and stages a mutiny. So far, the four sisters (my three sisters & I) have won the field, and we still unwrap for HOURS. It’s glorious!

There’s so much paper that we all feel a bit guilty. Even though as I’ve said, I save the ribbon and ALL the bags the kids haven’t squashed. There’s a LOT of loud laughter, teasing, bad puns, and talking with mouths very full.

But more important, there’s time. Santa has come & gone, and there’s been at least one or two days to calm down. So that the food is welcome again, and the grownups aren’t worn to a frazzle from wrapping. The kids aren’t up to their necks in sugar, and the whole celebration is…well, more celebratory.Even when my beloved & I each commit — w/out consulting the other — to keeping my wonderful grandson the WHOLE DAY I should be shopping & cooking & fixing.

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maslow's hiearchyThe more I think about it, the more I wonder if time shouldn’t be on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Right up there with love & belonging. Because time — the time to enjoy love, the time to appreciate your family, your tribe — is critical. Without it? I don’t know if you really CAN have the others.

When my husband & I were raising young children the big buzz phrase was ‘quality time.’ What we decided, as we talked about work choices and moves and our priorities, was that without quantities of time, quality time didn’t really happen in the same way.

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And this holiday, as I cooked a big dinner for only the five of us (and a baby :) ), I was so grateful to have time to rest & relax. To be able to sleep in Christmas morning, and make coffee for the later risers. To go present by present, oohing & aahing at each one. Knowing we didn’t have to rush to make room for another ‘party.’ holiday tea 2

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As you wind down from your holiday — hectic or not — make time. You can, you know. You can create it out of almost nothing. After work, on the way home, listen to a holiday song you didn’t get to before Christmas or Solstice. Make a list of what all you received — if you start it this year and keep it up, it makes a lovely record of past holiday times. If you were lucky enough to receive a bottle of wine, or a tin of tea, maybe some hot cocoa mix, fix a glass or mug and just sit. Preferably by a fire… :)

Time will drift like perfect snowflakes into your lap. I promise.

 

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remembering the Christmas Truce

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Tonight, I wish you magic. I wish you peace, love, & joy. I wish you the kind of unexpected miracles that happened a century ago, in the middle of a war. When men reached out across the line of fire, and exchanged gifts and blessings. A Christmas truce that remains, for me, one of the most hopeful of miracles.

May your holy days be full of love.

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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…

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 ~

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