Monday, December 30, 2013

Auld Lang Syne and all that jazz ...

After the rush of a crazy month, the final days of December slow down. They seem very dark and the rush of traffic is more a murmur as people settle in their homes and begin the reflection leading up to "the New Year." I consider this time of year the healing time we need after dashing about fulfilling wishes, attending parties and events, and merging our work lives with the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season.

But I too pause, set some resolutions and reflect. Mostly, I think about the people who have come into my life over the year and the places we have traveled together. There is a saying that Flavia used on a card I bought many years ago that springs to mind ... "Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Others stay for a while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never ever the same."

She doesn't say what happens to those people who "stay for a while" and leave the footprints on our hearts. I figure there are those that leave footprints and disappear while others hang around ... either in the direct spotlight or in the wings. Depends on the relationship and the other stuff that life brings us. 

I found myself really thinking about those people. The ones who have stayed and walked with me and still walk with me ... even those who have moved out of my life either due to distance or just the ebbs and flows of the world in which we live. No matter. I realize and celebrate that their mark is still a part of me. That their influence -- may it have been short-lived or still happening -- is a living, breathing part of me no matter what.

Many years ago I met a friend that I think of at times like this. Her name was Amy and we attended a week-long yearbook editing camp at Ball State University. We were room-mates in the dorm. Victims of a blind assignment that luckily worked out very nicely. We attended classes together and hung out all week. Afterwards, we became "pen pals." (Obviously this was before Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.) For a long time we wrote letters very regularly. She lived north of Chicago. We even met up once at Water Tower Place for lunch and shopping. But as time went on, I began to look differently at our friendship. I mean, when would we see each other again? What was the point of keeping in touch year after year? All these letters, but no face to face. And suddenly, the whole thing seemed kinda pointless. I stopped writing letters. Soon, I lost track of Amy. I have no idea where she is or where life carried her. But, she left a footprint on my heart...

I soon realized that I gave up on a friendship. I sabatoged it all by myself. I gave up on a friend. I decided that the distance and complications were more significant than the value of a good friendship. Yeah, it needed more effort. And I gave up on it. So, when I figured that out, I vowed to not allow that to happen again. If Dr. Seuss were to phrase it, he would say "A friend is a friend no matter the miles away ... A friend is a friend no matter the time that you play."

There are a handful of very special friends in my life. People who know me for all the sparkles, glitter and also the dark, dusty edges. People who know they can be who they are with me as well. I am selective and cautious, I guess, in choosing my dearest friends. Those I trust implicitly. Probably most of us are. I enjoy my time with these special individuals ... however long apart or regular that time might be. I think they know they can count on me. 

But I'm also a self-professed gypsy with friends near and far. Some I have nurture from high school days and others from my days at Albion. A few I only connect with on-line or in letters. But they are no less dear. I also love the stage and perform at venues all around town. I gladly drive the miles to embark on a theatrical adventure. I make new friends in every production. I renew friendships. I continue to strengthen those that are part of my every-day life.  I treasure these relationships though life, distance and other stuff may prevent us from spending lots and lots of time together. I consider them friends. And I value the footprints they have left on my heart. Oh sure, some came and went quickly. But others ... well, others retain a position of honor in my memory ... on my heart.

So, as the resolutions flow amidst the champagne tomorrow night ... and we sing "Should old acquaintance be forgot," I pause for a moment to reflect and remember. Though time and distance may keep physical beings apart, the soul and the heart can preserve a beautiful relationship. Just takes a little effort. And a little faith.

It's just another New Year's Eve, but I find myself feeling a deep sense of gratitude for each of you who walk -- or walked with me over the past 47 years. You left footprints .... see ya soon, I hope. But if not, you know where to find me.
                                                                                                                                  -- Jenni 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

I've Got A Little List ...

It's that time of year, and I've got a "little" list. But as I begin, let me go back one day ...

Yesterday, I launched myself into life. Do you ever do that? One minute you are restful amidst flannel sheets and the next minute you discover yourself navigating traffic with a travel mug of cold coffee in your hand? Well, that was my day yesterday. I rushed from one errand to the next, checking my watch to ensure I'd make the many critical appointments. Enjoying little since something else demanded my attention two steps ahead. Inevitably, I didn't pick up my daughter at school, was late getting my son to swimming and nearly late to my daughter's ballet class. By the time I collapsed on the couch, it was nearly 9pm. And as a reward for my desperate efforts all day, I treated myself ... watching the Winter Finale of Scandal.

So much to do at this time of year. So many things to remember. I, like many people I suppose, feel like a whirling dervish. When did this happen? And where did the joy go? As Cindy Lou Who asked in Jim Carey's "Grinch" movie ... "Where Are You Christmas??? Why can't I find you?" I pondered this last night. And today I began differently.

Today, I awoke with a festive song on my iPod. Think Dean Martin or Frank Sinatra were crooning It Came Upon a Midnight Clear. That was one of my Granddaddy's favorite songs. So, before I "launched" into today like I did yesterday, I took a deep breath and imagined a Christmas Eve service at my childhood church where I stood next to him and sang that song. I could hear the organ. I could see the stained glass windows. I could smell his pipe tobacco.

Today, I ventured into "my room" and sat on "my chair" to begin my morning by reading a few passages from the Simple Abundance book by Sarah ban Breathnach, a journey to authenticity which I've been undertaking all year long. I drank my Gingerbread Latte. I turned on the Christmas tree. I absorbed her simple words of wisdom. And, I smiled.

Today, I hand-wrote messages on a small stack of Christmas cards. I actually went to the store, selected a few cards, and wrote messages. Did you ever do that? I used to ... long, long ago when my Christmas tree was 3 ft tall and placed in the window of my Lafayette Court Apartment. When I only decorated, cleaned and maintained a small space -- when it was only me. Before the dreaded 8 pt. Arial Narrow Christmas letters were discovered where we learned we could actually cram in 365 days of information on one piece of stationary, some of us wrote notes in real Christmas cards. Not that the photo cards aren't real. But I miss actual "cards." And Truly, I do love seeing my kids friends and hearing all about them in these photo cards. BUT, I miss the handwritten notes and signatures. Not only were they shorter ... but they seemed a little more heartfelt. (No offense meant to you lengthy-letter writers. But right now, all the received cards are stacked in my messy kitchen waiting a quiet moment for perusal. I typically read the long letters AFTER Christmas.

Today, I will ring the bells at the Royal Oak Post Office for the Salvation Army. I coordinate a day for the Chamber to do this every December. And, for the past 4 years, we have been blessed with sunny, not-too-cold days. I wear my pink Disney Santa hat and ring the bells for an hour shift. I smile and speak to everyone who walks thru those doors. Yes, I smile the whole time and LOVE this day. It reminds me of the true meaning of this season. One year, a nun gave me a St. Christopher medal. Last year, a gentleman stopped his car to give me a warm cookie and hot chocolate from Brueggers. For some reason, the very idea of ringing the bells feeds my spirit.

Perhaps that is what changed me today. After yesterday's frenzy, I remembered to pause this morning instead of launch myself from the sheets. I remembered  to ask for the Grace to "make it." And I chose to find a new way to reflect joy to the world.

This Christmas, I pray you find a way to do a little of this too. The "Gifts of the Season" don't come in wrapped packages ... These simple gifts are Smiles, Hugs, A Touch, Encouragement, Kindness, Gratitude, Goodness, Consideration, Patience, Gentleness, Thoughtfulness, Joyfulness and Love shared freely. And I really don't need a list to remember to find those.

Merry Christmas to All ....
                                                                                                                  -- Jenni

Thursday, December 5, 2013

This December ... KISS

It's cold and grey outside. On a day such as this, wouldn't it be nice to gather around a fire with a few friends and "hang out." Oh, but that's not be. At this time of year, we all become White Rabbits, rushing about with a pocket watch knowing we are running out of time and soon will be late for that very important date.

I don't need a calendar to tell me the month. It's December ... hustle and bustle is happening outside my window. Someone is ringing the bell for Salvation Army donations at the Post Office and people rush in and out. Some of them pause. Others of them seem harried. There seems to be more traffic on the roads and the line at Starbucks extends outside the door.

What is that? Oh ... yeah ... the "holiday season" is upon us. And with the rush of cold comes this frenzy. People seem frantic. Rushed. Pressured. Tense. Distracted and Stressed. No one strolls casually at this time of year. The pace is fast ... so are the heart-rates.

Gotta get it done. Gotta get it bought. Gotta shop. Gotta wrap. Gotta plan and clean and decorate. Gotta make a list. Gotta find that gift. Gotta ... gotta ... gotta .... Just typing these words makes my heart skip a little faster.  

I hardly think the idea of a Happy Holiday Season was to give yourself a panic attack. Why then do we choose this course of action ... this crazed, frenetic behavior? (Yes, we do choose it.) Is this rush truly the key to making our loved ones' eyes sparkle and showcase that good feeling holiday magic?

Consider another option ... Stop wherever you are, take a deep breath, sigh it out and remember this December to KISS. Keep It Simple, Stupid ... er, my daughter would tell me that is a not nice word so let's go with Silly. Keep It Simple Silly.
  • When you decorate, take your time. If it takes a few days, so it takes a few days. 
  • When you wrap, put on your favorite holiday movie and pour yourself a nice beer or a glass of wine or my personal holiday fav ... Bailey's with some Peppermint Schnapps. Drink it in a festive glass. (I'm sure there is an easy non-alcoholic version you can makeshift with similar ingredients. I just personally enjoy the "leaded" version.) Sit on the floor and enjoy placing those gifts in fooler boxes, wrapping and writing messages.
  • If baking is your thing, make it fun. I bake with my kids. It gets messy. I put on my iPod Christmas Mix and let it happen as it happens. M&M Cookies. Peanut Butter Blossoms. Sugar Cut Outs .. Oh, and I have one friend who is an amazing frost-er. Her talent is impressive. So I invite her over to frost sugar cookies ... and chat, catch-up and laugh. While I get the baking done, I also enjoy a spontaneous grown up play date!
  • Shop local. Shop on-line. Me, I seek surprises for the special people who give me so much all year long ... and I buy off lists as well. It's a mix. But, I do a little at a time and think about it as I go. I try not to be a reactionary or aggressive shopper. (You will never find me at Wal-mart at 4am -- no matter how good the deal!)  I have a passion for seeking the "Special Gift"... you know, the one I find when I'm not truly looking. I think about the person and then add my own elfish magic. It makes the shopping fun for me. Apply your own "tricks of the trade." Just take the stress out as far as you can.
  • Be kind to yourself this month. Here's something I do ...I pause a bit during the shopping or decorating or what-evering for a little "me" time. I watch the kids visiting Santa. I enjoy a Peppermint Mocha from Starbucks. I gaze at the windows at Tiffany's -- no, I don't go in. Or, I enjoy a decadent treat. Try that. And remember to breathe.
  •  If it doesn't get done, it just doesn't get done.
Me, I would rather have a hand-written card than any fancy box. A small gift picked out based on something I might have said during the year in conversation -- or chosen because it reminded them of me or made them think of me. Perhaps that is true for most of us. Personally, I do all I can to gift from the heart and that takes me being in a good, non-whirling dervish mode. I find joy in selecting a special item ... I don't want to just buy anything. I want to give something ...

Don't get me wrong. I can rush thru that list as easily as the next guy. I can check it off and get it done. But, I'd rather not. I'd rather remember what this season means and enjoy time with the special people in my life than have them rush about trying to grant me a "wish" in the form of a package. My WISH this holiday season is for a call ... a text ... a note ... a handwritten letter ... a "Hey, I was thinking of you wanna grab a beer/coke/coffee/snack ... " An experience ... time with the people I treasure.

KISS. And if you want to interpret that literally, that's okay too. :)  Take a little time this season and share some joy and love with the dazzling people who surround you. Pretty simple. Not silly. Just remember, when everything seems to be spinning around you, take a deep breath ... sigh it out ... and KISS.

Mistletoe optional :)
                                                                                                                                   -- Jenni