Sunday, December 30, 2012

Taking Stock at Year's End

A week ago, I saw this blog post from Laurie Gerber on The Huffington Post. They have an intriguing page called, GPS For the Soul and I'm a regular reader.

Gerber is a life coach and had a clever post title, "5 Easy Steps to End the Year With a Bang."  (see link above)

The idea of a new year is obviously a human construct but is an illustration for a fresh start, for new beginnings, "for another chance to get it right," as Oprah says.

Gerber's five steps include taking the time to write a  list of all your accomplishments for the past year. She is adamant that the list be as long as possible and to take the time to really celebrate what you have done. Perhaps acquiring the habit of checking the car's oil on a regular basis isn't worthy of being on your list of accomplishments, but it is on mine. List them all, regardless of how life-changing you may deem them to be.

It felt really good to look over the list I had written. There were some things on that list that were truly transformational, i.e. I am debt-free, save my mortgage, for the first time in 20 years. I put myself "out there" and met new people who have been trusted and invaluable guides and companions on my journey this year. I looked a lot of fear in the eyes and the fear backed down. I marveled at the growth my children have made as individuals and our growth as a very close family.

The next step in the exercise is to write out the failures, the things I wanted to happen but they didn't happen... after the high of the list of accomplishments, this list wasn't as painful as it might have been. Yeah,  there were several things that I left undone and unsaid and things that I wish I hadn't done and said, too. It's all a part of being human which means we make mistakes and we are not perfect. I can apply that very easily to just about everyone else on the planet, but it is much harder to apply that to ourselves, isn't it? Giving myself grace and forgiveness for my inevitable missteps is a lesson I am learning.

Gerber then instructs us to write what we want to acknowledge about all of this, our successes and our failures. What does it all mean?

And then.

We are to set fire to the whole thing. Burn it up. Emotionally, it is a pretty final way to let go of it all. Spiritually, it's putting it out to the universe to release it for us. Physically, it is a way to really and truly watch the wheat and the chaff of the past year go up in smoke.

From there, Gerber suggests creating a vision board for what we hope for in the coming year. Our aspirations, goals, dreams... maybe it's a photo of a vacation place we are saving toward. Maybe it includes words that represent feelings or values. Maybe it is the name of a friend or a family member we want to especially spend more time with this year.

Taking stock and organizing life is a popular activity at this time of year. While we are busy concentrating on the junk drawer in the kitchen, the basement, the garage, the coat closet... maybe taking stock internally and dealing with the clutter in our hearts and minds is as important, possibly even more so, than the box we have set aside to take to Goodwill.

However you choose to end 2012, I hope you do so surrounded by those you love with someone special to kiss at midnight.

"Cheers to the New Year and another chance to get it right."  ~ Oprah Winfrey

Sunday, December 23, 2012


It's December 23 and many of us are focused on heading home. Maybe we are traveling to holiday gatherings with family and friends, or we are going "home" in our Advent journey to a deeper relationship with God, or we are going home to simply enjoy a couple of days off.
My next home will have a fireplace...

I've been to the Des Moines Airport today, giving a ride to three college students, each of them on their way home. It was interesting to hear that the two first-year students each said that Grinnell already felt like home, even though Iowa is a far cry from each of their homes in Los Angeles or Tanzania.

The older I get, the more I believe that for me, home is a feeling as much if not more, than a physical place. My friend, the nomad isn't going home this year to her "home" but going to Ireland to meet up with family. Another way of being "home."

People at the airport coming and going. Travelers on the interstate with cars packed to the gills with packages, parcels, and people.

And I, too, was on my back home. As I drove, I found myself singing an old Billy Joel tune that only those of us who listened to albums rather than singles would know... "Wherever we're together, that's my home." Home is a feeling for me when I am with those I love.

I wish for each of you the feeling of home in whatever that means for you...comfort, peace, security, love...

Sunday, December 16, 2012

And the children told the story...

The annual Christmas pageant. The traditional carols. The littlest ones dressed as cows or sheep. Honestly, adorable to tears.

It's an old story. Nothing new to tell. But that's the appeal of the whole thing, isn't it?

Maybe it was just my imagination, but it seemed there were more people there than usual. Maybe  tonight we needed to be with our children and to take the time to be children ourselves.

Telling children they are treasured is one thing, but actions speak much louder than words, don't they?

It's been a tough week.  A student at the college died and that affects us all in this little town. A life cut short too soon. And this was before Friday's senseless event.

From our littlest three-month-old member to the eldest members of our congregation, we gathered to watch the familiar story told and acted out by our children and adults. To sing the songs, to allow our smiles to bring tears as the children sang "The Friendly Beasts," and to pray together as a community. And our children comforted us.

"Joy and sorrow are inseparable...together they come and when one sits alone with you, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed." ~ Kahlil Gilbran

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Singing with the lady in the back of the room...

She sat there in the back of the room as we ran through the Christmas songs. I know a lot of people at the Mayflower, one of our town's retirement communities, but she was not a familiar face to me. She was one of the first to arrive from her room for the program. She chose a seat in the back row on the aisle.

As others came in, the room began to fill. More chairs were brought out and set up so that everyone could enjoy the program. From "Jingle Bells" with real jingle bells, "Jolly Old St. Nicholas" and "Up on the Housetop" songs of childhood Christmas came right back. When Mrs. Claus read "The Night Before Christmas," I could imagine the years falling away and each of them sitting in their chairs as children, wearing grownups clothes.

Moving out of childhood and into their young adult years, we sing "Winter Wonderland" and "Silver Bells." I can still see my lady in the back who's with me note for note. These songs are not necessarily the favorites of children. They mention city streets, romance, walks in the snow with sweethearts facing unafraid the plans they've made... From where I stand singing with them and for them, I see those I know who have lost a spouse. In the space of the music, it doesn't matter if it's been 20 years or two weeks. Those feelings are still present.

I know that my favorite secular Christmas song catches my voice every time. It is so sentimental. Front and center before the room, direct eye contact could be my undoing. But I know we will all be somewhere other than this room when we sing "White Christmas." This room of people from so many different worlds of my life are very special to me. As we begin to sing, I do look around and notice I'm not the only one with a catch in my voice or an extra tear.

My lady in the back of the room with eyes closed, was a young girl in 1942 when Bing Crosby first sang "White Christmas." The woman next to her wearing a headset so that she can hear, has her hand over her mouth and is gently rocking. Music touches us. It transports us. The energy created in that room was extraordinary and ordinary all at the same time. It wasn't anything fancy. It wasn't a difficult piece. We all knew the words.... by heart.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Getting In Touch with Grace

In the building where I work, there is a fitness center. Treadmills, cardio equipment, weight machines... you know.

I have no reason, no excuse not to workout here. I know all the benefits and have certainly experienced them. But I simply do not care one jot to actually take advantage of this more-than-convenient place to exercise. Like so many other things, once I'm there, I have a good time. I'm glad I went. I like the people. The staff are great. But, what a CHORE to get myself to go. I avoid it like the plague. Seriously.

I've been doing a lot of mental mining with my dear shrink lately. It's been a pretty extraordinary fall, a whole year, frankly. I've learned a great deal about myself. Kinda like meeting myself for the first time, really. 

Some people say that they "feel good in their own skin." All of a sudden,
I've realized that I really don't. Hmm... guess that means one thing.

It's time to get in touch with Grace.

In the same way that Dear Shrink is helping me mentally and spiritually, Grace is going to add the physical part, to help me continue discovering my true self.

Grace is the name of my personal coach. Isn't that perfect?