Beyond Words

Words, Wit and Wisdom for Today's Style and Decision Makers

Snow Wonderful January 12, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 12:21 am

Who knew a snowstorm could bring such joy to a region, a city, and my neighborhood?  After being locked-up and quarantined for nearly a year now, kids and grown-ups alike took to the streets in a peaceful protest of warm and sunny weather and reveled in quickly found jackets and gloves as uncommon snow fell from the sky and did so for an entire day. Dogs scampered and sniffed. WFH and homeschooling took a quick pause. People were silly and a lightness filled the snow-filled air. It was beautiful. Big, fat, fluffy flakes falling from the sky for hours on end. Snowmen were made, sleds were created, and social media was filled with snow many photos. Oh wait, did I mention this happened in Central Texas, where in mere days temps are predicted to be in the 70s?

 

 

Friends and family out west and up north laughed as we shared photos with them and went on and on and on that it was “still snowing!”  Sorry guys, but our elation was as pure as the driven snow we were gazing at and we chose to make snow angels! Yes, we’ve had snow before, most of the time a mere dusting that wreaks havoc but is gone before photos can even be uploaded. Yesterday it was a snow day like I remember while growing up in the Rocky Mountains or like in my husband’s hometown of Buffalo. During the winter months growing up, my elementary school PE class on Fridays consisted of hopping on a Greyhound bus and riding it up the mountain for ski lessons. I loved every minute and to this day, when I smell a bus, it reminds me of that happy snow-filled moment of my life.

 

 

And speaking of Buffalo, it’s where Wilson Bentley’s amazing library of snowflake photographs is housed at the Buffalo Museum of Science and yes, those are real photos of real snowflakes! I cannot think of a more perfect place for it then Buffalo, also home of the famous Blizzard of 1977, the butt of many “lake effect” snow and weather jokes, and those lovable Buffalo Bills who, in a show of perfect timing for my household, had just a day prior won their first play-off game since 1995. Go Bills! We are snow excited!

 

 

Buffalo is also where I experienced and totally enjoyed eight feet of snowfall one Christmas. Yep, eight feet. It started snowing Christmas Eve and didn’t stop till sometime after New Year’s. We were literally snowed in there for days but it was one of our family’s most memorable Christmases. It was crazy. It was beautiful.

 

 

That’s what folks in these parts thought yesterday as up to six inches fell and accumulated city-wide. It was a thrill for all and seemed to almost wipe clean the miserable stain of the previous week and election cycle. It may not be able to actually wipe away a virus, but for one glorious day it wiped away hate, animosity, and stress.

 

Thank you snowflakes. Simple snowflakes.

 

 

I’ve always loved snow and that “Little Book of Snowflakes” is one of my favorites. I actually have it in our powder room at this very minute for guests to look through as they take care of business. The photos in it are amazing but author and photographer Kenneth Libbrecht was not the first to capture the delicate objects on film. That honor belongs to Mr. Bentley.

 

 

Bentley’s obsession with snowflakes began more than a hundred years ago on a small farm in Vermont. Young Wilson had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and was extremely curious even at the earliest of ages. He quickly became enthralled with his school teacher mother’s microscope and began studying rocks, birds, and everything in between. But it was snowflakes that fascinated him the most.

 

 

He concocted a way to collect the fragile flakes and began drawing them in a notebook. He later asked for a camera, which he trained himself to work and eventually attached a microscope lens to. It was in 1885 that he captured the earliest known photo of a single snowflake. He continued improving his photographing skills and snowflake collecting techniques and was asked to write about his methods and findings. Being an introvert though (yay introverts!), he first hesitated  but eventually agreed and was later featured in articles in the likes of “Popular Mechanics” and “National Geographic.” His 1931 book, “Snow Crystals,” features some 2,400 of his amazing images.

 

 

It is said that no two snowflakes are alike and that billions of them fall during one snow storm. Billions. Not all are beautifully symmetric but all are amazing in their own way, some no bigger than the head of pin but still decorated with a unique pattern. As for the largest snowflake ever recorded, it was found in Montana and measured 15 inches in diameter. Oh how dear old Mr. Bentley would have loved to have photographed that one!

 

 

There is something calming and peaceful about snow. Yeah, don’t tell that to the people of Buffalo or other places that get tons of snow every year, but I personally love a beautiful snow storm and the calming energy it brings with it. Speaking of snowy cities, which one do you think got the most snow during the last year? Here is the official standing of the snowiest cities of 2020:

 

Anchorage, AK

Spokane, WA

Buffalo, NY

Worcester, MA

Minneapolis, MN

Billings, MT

Pittsburg, PA

Fort Collins, CO

Erie, PA

Cleveland, OH

 

 

A snowflake isn’t a frozen raindrop, as many might believe, but rather a single crystal of ice that grows directly from water vapor in the air as the snowflake slowly drifts to earth. In short, a cloud is made from countless microscopic water droplets and when one freezes, snowflakes result. Simply moving from place to place within a cloud produces an infinite variety of different shapes of flakes, their patterns emerging as they tumble through the clouds and the air.

 

 

In the end, it was just one day. One magical day though. We did wake up to snow-filled yards the next morning, but save for a few shaded patches, it’s all but melted away. What a delight though to see how that same snow melted many a heart for a brief day in a most taxing period of time. I for one am snow grateful.

 

A Leap of Faith January 1, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 4:54 pm

We’ve collectively waited for this day for nearly a year, but now that it’s here, does anyone else feel a little meh about it? I know I do. The celebrations were muted and the uncertainty remains. It’s as though we’ve anticipated it for so long and now that it’s arrived, things are pretty much the same as they were yesterday…and in October…and in July…and back in March. Yes, there’s hope with the vaccines, but we shall wait to see.

 

 

 

Maybe for me it’s because 2021 didn’t start off on the right foot…literally. The annual Polar Plunge that I l’ve looked forward to for many years running was cancelled. Of all the years we needed it! But, I’m vowing to jump into the new year feet first anyway and with a lot of hope and a little optimism.

2020 was rough. To say the least. But it was also a good year for many. Friends of mine welcomed a beautiful baby boy into their lives after many years of fertility struggles. Weddings happened, albeit edited ones. And if you’re reading this, you survived a year thousands did not. So, 2020 will be a “good” year for so many and for that, I am grateful.

 

 

But here we sit, all hoping this year is infinitely better than its predecessor.  But as I mentioned above, not much is different today. We’re still on lock down, struggling businesses are still closed, the virus is still out there, and sadly, a year that began with the chorus “we are all in this together” ended with still so much hate and animosity permeating our beloved country. I’m also exceedingly troubled by the direction so many people chose for our country. It’s something I will never, ever understand. So, where does that leave us? Are we hopeful? Pessimistic? Relieved? What do we really and truly want starting today?

 

Oddly enough, that very question was asked of my amazing yoga instructor Nicki at @InnerEssenceYoga and her response is one we can all embrace:

 

 

In other words, it’s on us people. We feed the flames, we feed the monsters, and we ultimately feed our souls. Let’s all try to focus on not only unity but what’s at stake if we don’t. Namaste!

 

 

There’s no denying 2020 has been a tumultuous year but in the midst of all the chaos, I’m pretty sure we each can come up with some positives and things we can appreciate. The little things. Maybe it was a book you read that you loved or the discovery of a new TV show that you enjoyed watching.  Perhaps you connected with your stay-at-home family on levels you never had. Maybe it was making new friends in your circle that was increasingly smaller or a new puppy. Courtney Carver of “Be More with Less” suggests creating a “Little Things Journal” to keep track of all of these soft nuances in our days that bring us joy and magic.

 

Carver takes this a bit further by reminding us we need to let go…let go of 2020 as much as we can and let go of the things that we just don’t need anymore.  These might include guilt; the guilt you have from not doing things, what you didn’t get done, or how you did things last year as well as the guilt of what you chose to help you feel better. If baking bread or shopping online made you happy during quarantine, it’s okay. Give yourself grace that you might have added a few pounds since last spring and kindly remind yourself that you can take those pounds off. Or not. Let go of guilt.

 

Let go of old goals and expectations and thoughts and beliefs that just don’t fit you anymore. Maybe you didn’t achieve your goals but remember, many of them might have be made back in January and things changed dramatically after. You are not the same person this January that you were last January or even last year as a whole. Things don’t always go our way and we will all fail, but don’t allow your failures to define you. Cut your goal-oriented self some slack and feel the freedom of starting over. At the same time, let go of expectations of others.

 

Let go also of what other people think or say about you. Live your best life and let them live theirs. Let go of any resentment, pain, or envy and replace them with forgiveness and understanding. We all changed in 2020 and none of us are obligated to be the same people we were even one year ago. Embrace the new you and stop caring about what others think of you. Their circus and monkeys are not yours to tend to and vice versa.

 

Let go of your mistakes. Acknowledge them and learn from them, but remind yourself of the successes you experienced and progress you made in 2020. Steer you brain train off the negative 2020 track and take stock in what you accomplished and the little things that made you smile. Make peace with 2020 and make peace with yourself.

 

 

Now it’s time to not see obstacles anymore, but opportunities instead. Start today by embracing you and giving yourself more credit. Look out for yourself and stick up for yourself. Self-care is not selfish and can indeed be done while caring for those around you. In fact, the more you love yourself the more you can give and share love with others. When you think better of yourself you live a better life, despite any obstacles or adversity.

 

Make happiness a priority and continue doing anything you enjoyed in 2020. Maybe it’s a new hobby or something you learned that brought you joy. This year, put your heart and soul into it in meaningful but healthy ways and see where it can take you emotionally.

 

Keep paying attention to the right people in 2021 and show them love and respect. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s how important some of the people in our lives are. We learned who we value, who we missed, and who we can count on.

 

Find the balance. Juggling working from home, homeschooling, and trying to stay healthy and informed is exhausting. Not much of that will change in the immediate future so work hard but rest, stay informed but unplug. The news cycle is toxic right now. Walk away from it.

 

Consider and reflect on your 2020 wins. Maybe you walked more and got more physically healthy. Maybe you organized and simplified. Maybe you learned all kinds of new things while homeschooling your kids. If you look and seek, you will find achievements you may not have been paying attention to.

 

Think beyond the pandemic and the politics and ask yourself what made 2020 memorable. Maybe it was someone you connected with for the first time or a milestone date. I had both. I turned 60 in 2020 and I made wonderful new friends when I took up tennis again and had the time to play more golf. When I look back on 2020 I also find memorable the time our daughter “got” to spend at home with us, reading more, slowing down, staying healthy, discovering a new priest and his fabulous Sunday sermons online, and that I really don’t need manis and pedis and not having to go to the appointments was actually freeing. I also learned just how big an introvert I am, and coupled with the fact the I’m also an empty nester, I actually didn’t mind and sometimes actually enjoyed the #stayhome mandate. But that’s just me.

 

 

So as we all dive into 2021, ask yourself what’s one thing you learned in 2020? What’s one hard thing you did and triumphed over? What is your biggest 2020 regret? What were some of 2020’s positive experiences? And finally, what are you grateful for? Be honest and then jump feet first into this new year and let go of the things you can’t control and make the positive changes you can.  It’s time to leave behind what you don’t need and the many bitter disappointments we encountered. It’s time to take a leap of faith.

 

One For the Books December 31, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:05 pm

 

Have you made yours? It’s down to the wire now with mere hours left. This year is different though, so maybe our resolutions should be different too. Yes there will probably still be the requisite “lose weight,” “eat healthier,” “exercise more,” and “worry less,” vows, but how about some unique goals to greet a new year that was preceded by the most unique of years.

 

 

LOL and sad but true but how about joining me and “Happiness Project” author and all things happy guru Gretchen Rubin in a fun and different New Year’s resolution idea for 2021 that can actually boost our happiness? It’s called #Read21in21 and promotes reading for 21 minutes every day in 2021. Sign me up!

 

 

None of us could go much further than our homes this year but we can go all kinds of places just by getting lost in a book. An added bonus is that, in addition to being entertained, we can learn so much when we read, especially if doing so becomes a habit…a good habit.

 

As Rubin says, if we have habits that are good for us, we’re far more likely to be happier…hence our constant push to improve our habits of healthy living and healthy eating. And, research shows we should by all means add reading to that list, as reading is good for us. In fact, reading is the most effective way to overcome stress, beating out both listening to music or taking a walk. It also improves mental health, prevents cognitive and memory decline, makes us more empathetic, increases imagination and vocabulary, and enhances acceptance during uncertainty…something we all need more of right now right? If you’re a nighttime reader, it can also improve healthy sleep patterns and increase restful sleep.

 

Still need convincing? Okay, then consider the fact that if you sign on to read for 21 minutes every day for 365 days it adds up to 7,665 minutes or almost 128 hours of reading. That sounds like a lot of reading and a lot of books, but when you think about it, I bet you spend way more than 21 minutes online, on your phone, on social media, or watching TV every day. How about replacing even just one of those with a book for 21 minutes?

 

 

Every Christmas I’m reminded of that fabulous tradition in Iceland and can’t help but wonder if it could happen in the U.S. Sadly, we’d probably all argue about what to read. Insert sad emoji here.

 

But, even though we may not have done this for Christmas Eve, we can take the idea into the new year. Give books for gifts this year and ask for them for birthdays. If you’re not in a book club, consider joining one..even a virtual one… and make it a habit to visit local book stores and buy from them as often as possible. If your local library is open, get a library card. Have I mentioned that a dream of mine is to have a library card from the New York Public Library?

 

 

If you are considering signing on to #Read21in21, Rubin has some encouraging reminders to help you, including:

  • Designate and rearrange a space to create a more inviting area for reading. I did this last year just for prayer and meditation daily readings and it helped immensely.
  • Improve reading  lighting with a good lamp or a light that clips onto your book for reading in bed.
  • Log the books (make a list!) you want to read and maybe even those you’ve read to revisit at the end of the year.
  • Upgrade your earbuds and/or tablet if you read online.
  • Invite friends and family to join you in your reading mission and share and borrow books with them.
  • Introduce this challenge to your book club and celebrate everyone’s successes at year’s end.

 

In order to help form and strengthen the habit of reading, pay attention to what books you like. I tend to prefer non-fiction and novels and am not a sci-fi or mystery reader. The odds of succeeding at reading 21 minutes every day are much higher if I read what I like so I’m sticking to genres and topics that are my faves. As much as I love reading, this is the reason book clubs are a bit of a challenge for me…I tend to not read a pick I wouldn’t well, pick. On the flip-side however, reading something out of your comfort zone might be interesting and informative and might even surprise you. It’s your reading challenge and your call. No one gets to tell you what to read!

 

 

Another option if you’re out of book ideas (which I’m never not!) is to consider books on subject areas you have a personal interest in. Reading a book on something you already know you like opens the subject up in a whole new way. If you enjoy gardening, maybe read about the gardens Monet painted.  I love restaurants and one of my favorite books is “Garlic and Sapphires” by Ruth Reichl, former food critic and editor of Gourmet magazine. Maybe you loved a certain movie, find the book it was based on and read it. Are you a new parent or starting a new job? Read up on parenting and the industry you’re in. Another fun idea is to revist a book you remember from high school or college. On my list for 2021 is t re-read “Go Ask Alice,” which I remember heavily impacting me in high school.

 

Always keep in mind that what we read impacts us…it can inspire us, shape our thoughts, and even help us reach our potentials…but it can also negatively affect us if we’re not careful. Choose your books wisely.

 

 

Most importantly, make it fun and don’t stress about it. I’m a big proponent that unless you are reading for a class, if you start a book and don’t like it…stop reading it! There’s nothing worse than feeling like that book you looked forward to diving into feels like an assignment. I’m also a proponent of real books, but if you like audio-books or reading on a device, they count! So does re-reading a book you’ve previously read and reading to your kids. Spiritual reading also counts. Reading the bible, daily meditations, and books related to spirituality and self-help may be the best books you can read in these uncertain times.

 

 

Okay, so say you’re not loving the idea of reading for 21 minutes every day. I get it. It’s not for everyone. But, maybe you can alter the idea to fit you and your one beautiful life. Maybe exercise for 21 minutes every day. Maybe do a hobby like paint or a jigsaw puzzle every day. Vow to visit 21 new restaurants (if they are open!) in 2021. The list is endless and I’d love to hear your ideas.

 

At the beginning of each new year we are excited for a fresh start and we reflect and long for renewal and recharging. In 2021, this idea is on steroids. But maybe you don’t want to make a reading resolution…or any resolution at all. That’s okay and Rubin offers the option of writing your “21 for 2021.” And no, it’s not scary and doesn’t need to be extremely challenging. Here are some ideas:

 

Instead of a list of the standard resolutions of what you hope to do or accomplish, list things you want to stop doing. Stop worrying. Stop overeating. Stop criticizing. Yes, I know this goes against the popular thought that you’re more likely to succeed at positively-worded goals, but I kinda like this idea.

 

Keep your list focused on one area of your life such as your family, your free time, or your work rather than your entire world and the world as a whole. Instead of “be more helpful,” try “help my co-worker with challenging projects.” Rather than “teach my kids to pray,” aim to “pray more with my kids.”

 

Go in on a list with a family member or friend. Teamwork is a great motivator!

 

Make a list of only things that are fun!

 

Whatever you choose to do, make it doable and watch how you word it. As Rubin writes, would you rather “practice” piano or “play the piano?” “Turn off the TV and lights earlier” or “Get more restful sleep?” “Don’t eat sweets” or “Reserve sweets for one day a week?” It’s all about how we word it and how we go about it.

 

 

Brittany Fuson

2020 was indeed one for the books and one filled with uncertainty and division. It’s worth celebrating the end of though and by starting 2021 with something you can actually control is a way to start it off right. Pick your passion and book it.

 

 

Ring in Luck and Hope December 30, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 8:19 pm

Never has a new year been so anxiously awaited and saying goodbye and good riddance to a current year been so popular than right now. We are indeed so ready to drop the ball on 2020 but sadly, the iconic big ball in New York’s Time Square will drop but not in front of merry revelers and a massive crowd. For the first time in 114 years, this year the famous countdown so wonderfully hosted by Dick Clark for what seemed like hundreds of years, is going digital and will be livestreamed to quarantined homes across the globe. So 2020, right?

 

The tradition dates back to 1907 when a 700-pound sphere made out of iron, wood, and 100 light bulbs descended and marked the beginning of a new year. Since that first drop, seven different versions have been designed and used. The current version consists of a brightly patterned orb covered in LED lamps and Waterford Crystal panels and weighs nearly 12,000 pounds.

 

Also gone are many big New Year’s Eve bashes and galas as we’re all still asked (and in some cases, mandated) to refrain from socializing and congregating in large groups. So how, pray tell, are we to ring out the most tumultuous of years and ring in what is hopefully the light at the end of a very dark tunnel? Leaving behind the bad vibes of 2020 is on all of our resolutions list and I’m guessing just about anything goes this twisted year.

 

 

Food is always popular so it’s good to know that in a year when we could all certainly use a little more luck, many foods promise wealth and good fortune and are the perfect mates for those celebratory champagne toasts.  We’ve all heard that making a dish of black-eyed peas is said to be lucky, but if you’re like me and don’t like those little dotted peas, no worries, we have options!

 

 

The pork and rice dish commonly referred to as Hoppin’ John with Greens consists of those peas, but adds to them ham hocks, turnip greens, and other ingredients to make a soupy delight. The turnip greens are said to symbolize paper money and the peas, coins. But, if you don’t like pork, fish is also considered a good luck dish based on the belief that fish only swim in one direction…forward…which is what we all strive to do at the start of a new year.

 

Germans believe having a spoonful of sauerkraut on New Year’s Day will bring blessings and wealth, but leave it to the Italians, who I believe have the best food on planet earth, to bring it with their traditional new year meal of Lentils and Cotechino, an Italian large pork sausage, similar to salami.

 

If you’re looking for a new and different way to ring in the new year in this most different of years, scan the globe as countries around the world have many interesting traditions, and in fact, one of the most popular ways of acknowledging a new year comes from English and German folklore.

 

 

It’s no secret that when the clock strikes midnight on December 31, young and old alike kiss someone. These days you actually choose who to kiss, but according to the original English and German folklore, you kissed the first person you come in contact with and it’s them who you’re to share good luck with. Be careful who you’re standing next to!

 

 

Another popular tradition and one that I love is participating in a Polar Plunge on New Year’s Day. I’ve done so for the past several years and admit it is my favorite New Year tradition and one that is so cleansing and invigorating. I did plunge on January 1, 2020, which apparently didn’t do any good, and am so bummed that our local plunge has been cancelled this year. If you’re wondering, this cool custom takes place in cities around the world and consists of running or jumping into frigid water on New Year’s Day. Until I did it myself I thought it was the craziest thing I’d ever heard but I was sold on the cold!

 

 

Still looking for a unique way to say Hello 2021? Here are some fun international ideas:

 

In Brazil everyone wears white on New Year’s Eve, which is thought to bring luck and peace. Brazilians also believe you can increase your luck by jumping over seven waves and make one wish for each.

 

If you wake up in Denmark and find tons of broken dishes in your yard or on your porch, consider it a good thing. Sounds crazy, but those crazy Danes go around breaking dishes on the doorsteps of their friends and family and believe the more shards you find, the luckier you’ll be. Danes also physically “leap” into the new year by standing on chairs and jumping off, making sure their feet are actually airborne at midnight and that they land firmly in the new year.

 

Spaniards also have some fun and quirky new year rituals. From Seville to Madrid, you might find people wearing red underwear on New Year’s Eve, especially if the undies were given to them by someone else. Spaniards are also known for their love of sherry, so it’s appropriate that grapes are also part of their new year traditions. Easting 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve is thought to ensure 12 months of good luck for the coming year. Ole!

 

Spain’s Mediterranean neighbor Greece also has a fruit-based new year tradition, albeit a bit more ferocious one. At the stroke of midnight, Greeks toss pomegranates on the ground and believe the more pieces that burst into pieces, the more abundance you will have in the new year.

 

In Ireland, people open their doors at midnight on New Year’s Eve to let the old year out and the new year in. This year we might want to include windows!

 

Keeping bad things away and evil at bay is the meaning behind dressing up in bear costumes and dancing from house to house in Romania. Now this I’d like to see!

 

This next tradition reminds me slightly of the King Cake Mardi Gras tradition of baking a baby inside each one, but this time it’s Bolivia, Greece, and other countries where it’s considered good luck to bake coins into desserts to celebrate the new year.

 

Scotland can lay claim to perhaps one of the most famous new year traditions, that of Auld Lang Syne. We all know it, we all sing it, but why?

 

Auld Lang Syne began as a Scottish poem written by Robert Burns in 1788 and then set to the tune of a traditional folk song. The well-known and beloved tune is used to bid farewell to the old year and is also sung at funerals, graduations, and other occasions. Its Scottish title can be translated into standard English as “old long since” and loosely translated in the first line of the chorus to “for the sake of old times.” Both it and “America The Beautiful” have the same meter, songwriter George M. Cohan quotes the first line of it in in chorus of “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” Beethoven wrote an arrangement of it in the original brisk strathspey rhythm as part of his “12 Scottish Songs,” and the tune is played and sung by the crowd at the conclusion of Edinburgh’s fabulous Military Tattoo, which I’ve had the privilege of seeing and highly recommend!

 

So there you have it, fun and festive ways to say hola 2021 and au revoir 2020. Here’s to a blessed 2021, where even in Ireland they’ll probably be saying “don’t let the door hit you” to 2020!

 

 

Hindsight 2020 December 27, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:34 pm

Anyone remember the above meme from early this year? Boy were we way off!

 

 

My intent today was to write about looking forward to 2021, much like everyone and their blogging dog is doing, but am feeling a bit blue today and I’m not sure why. Maybe cuz Christmas is over, families are back in their hunker-downed homes, and what festivities and fun there were, are done. It was undoubtedly a strange Christmas for most of us…and anyone who disagrees just isn’t being honest… and all we have left to look forward to is 2021, which IMHO doesn’t look much better, at least from the get go.  But if we’ve learned anything this year it’s to remain hopeful and hope-filled so I will do so.

 

 

We learned a lot this most uncertain and train-wreck of years but not all of it was negative. Yes, we couldn’t ravel, send our kids to schools, eat out, and had to wear masks everywhere, but we also learned to look inward, reconnect with others and connect in ways we never had, slow down, our homes are indeed our sanctuaries but may need some tweaking, and how to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Sadly, this year we also witnessed unbearable pain and loss, unprecedented acts of violence and hate, unhealthy levels of fear and anxiety, and a disturbing lack of any hope for unity in our country but, we also helped each other, realized what really matters, and witnessed good amongst the evil…for the most part. It was, for all intents and purposes, a collective wake up call for literally the entire world and if only we could put that wake up call to bed for all eternity. If only.

 

 

For me personally, the silver linings of 2020 included slowing down and getting outdoors more. I took up tennis again and met a fabulous new friend by doing so and got closer to other women as I golfed more. I read more and I prayed more. I walked and I did yoga online and discovered a great squad of fellow yogis. I also learned I’m waaaaaay more of an introvert than I ever knew and realize now I always have been. I had no problem with #stayhome but being an introvert also means my worry radar is off the charts, which didn’t serve me well during 2020. More on that in an upcoming blog!

 

 

So what did you learn this CRAZY year? What did society as a whole learn? Here are just a few things we’ve all learned to some extent or another:

 

How strong our friendships are and who our real friends are. I think we would all agree with this one and I for sure can honestly say a big “amen” to it. Who reached out to you? Who did you really and truly miss?

 

 

Our homes are where our hearts are, but “hindsight 2020,” we’d make some changes to them. The entire home industry – real estate, design and décor, and remodel/construction – surprisingly boomed in 2020 as we were all forced to stay home for work, school, play and everything in between. The result? We saw our homes in a new and different light and the “open concept” so popular on HGTV maybe wasn’t the perfect pandemic answer. Designer Erin Gates writes that separate living areas, offices, kid study areas, dens, and livable and bigger outdoor living spaces are now all the rage. For nearly a year, we’ve felt the collective need for separate Zoom and study rooms as our big family rooms proved a messy eyesore in the background of online meetings and distracting for studying and homeschooling. Enter the office and study areas, answers to indefinite WFH situations, allowing kitchen and dining tables to remain just that, and convenient ways to literally and figuratively shut the door on work and school at night. “Escape” rooms are also trending as we crave a quick get away from the fam. These might be separate sitting rooms or maybe an indoor/outdoor sunroom. Whatever you discovered, find what changes you can make and make them in 2021 as it doesn’t look like a whole lot is going to change very soon.

 

 

How to press pause and savor quiet, alone time. Struggles for many, especially extroverts, over-achievers, and those who live alone, these were nonetheless much-needed new skills for many. We were forced to face our emotions, simply enjoy time and space, let go of busyness and learn that it alone does not equate to happiness or productivity, and how important resting and recharging are. And, perhaps most importantly, we learned to be happy with ourselves and accept our flaws, including those gray hairs we couldn’t get colored, those eyelash extensions we couldn’t replace, and those chipped finger and toe nails we couldn’t “pick color” for. I have not had a pedi or mani since March and I gotta tell you, I don’t miss them at all.  In short, we learned to let go…let go of high expectations and perfection, old habits that were unhealthy, and anything that weighs us down. When 24-7 newscasts and social media blasts contain an incredible amount of suffering and loss, gloom and doom, lies and hypocrisy, we are forced to look inward and elsewhere for inspiration and hope.

 

We really can do it all. Granted, this was forced upon us as we learned to juggle working from home while homeschooling our kids but learn we did. I don’t have kids at home but I know this had to be immensely challenging for mom and dad and I salute them all. I cannot even imagine. Still, hopefully time at home allowed families to gain valuable insight in and gratitude toward each other and maybe, just maybe, we actually had a little fun at home every day. Sadly, many learned they had to give up their jobs in order to take care of the kids and homes, but hopefully along the way some of them also learned to live with less and put others first. This is a tough one.

 

Try new things. This might be baking bread or asking for help. The courage to try something new was all the rage early on in 2020 and unlocking new talents was the result. We were forced into our homes but out of our comfort zones and had to make the best of it.

 

 

Gratitude, but a whole new kind of gratitude. Instead of being grateful for travel and shopping, we were grateful for our health and that of family and friends as well as for front line workers in hospitals and grocery stores, and truck drivers and delivery services. We learned who and what is really essential and it wasn’t who or what we would have predicted it to be.

 

 

What about you? What did you learn? What else did we all learn in 2020 that perhaps isn’t or wasn’t so obvious?

 

 

After such a challenging and tumultuous year, it’s really hard to imagine life ever getting back to “normal” and I for one am peaking at 2021 with one eye shut as very little of what I see coming around the bend seems positive or promising. Still, I say goodbye to 2020 with both those eyes looking up and fingers crossed with hand on heart. So long 2020. It’s been real. Real strange. Real hard. Real frustrating. Real eye-opening.

 

 

 

1 Corinthians Christmas Version December 20, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 7:13 pm

It is one of most popular readings from the bible and is often quoted in both secular and non-secular worlds. It talks about being patient, kind, and honest and not being envious, proud, or rude. It was read during my wedding and I had to memorize it to be initiated in my college sorority. It is, 1 Corinthians 13 and one of my favorite scriptures. I recently read the idea that single men and women should replace the word “love” with the name of who they are thinking about dating or marrying. Love it! I’m guessing many of you do too and probably know it almost by heart, but did you know there is a Christmas version? It’s not found in the bible, but it’s well worth a read. Enjoy!

 

1 Corinthians 13 Christmas Version

 

If I decorate my house perfectly with strands of twinkly lights and shiny balls

but do not show love to my family, I am just a decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen baking dozens of Christmas cookies and arranging them on a beautifully

adorned table but do not share the true meaning of Christmas, I am just another cook.

If I volunteer at a soup kitchen, carol in a nursing home, or donate to charity

but do not demonstrate simple kindness to strangers, it profits me nothing.

If I attend holiday parties but do not go to church, I have missed the point

and am celebrating the wrong thing.

Love stops cooking to hug a child.

Love sets aside decorating to kiss a spouse.

Love is kind during the holidays though harried and tired.

Love doesn’t envy another’s home that has coordinated Christmas china,

perfectly strung outdoor lights, or a flawless tree.

Love doesn’t ask family to get out of the way but is thankful they are in the way.

Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return or those on our lists,

but rejoices in giving to those who can’t and those who aren’t.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.

Love never fails, even at Christmas.

 

Merry Christmas everyone!

 

Do You Know What I Know? December 12, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 12:07 am

 

It’s no secret I’m very traditional and love a good tradition. In a recent blog on St. Nicholas, I explained why we hang stockings on our fireplaces, which is just one of many traditions of the Christmas season, so today I thought I’d write about three additional ones and a little bonus trivia. Enjoy!

 

 

Tis the season for seeing “Merry Christmas” and all things Christmas everywhere.  Sadly, you also often see the word “Christmas” shortened and referred to as “Xmas,” which has always irked me. In my thinking, doing so literally removes the real meaning of Christmas: Christ. But, I’m happy to report that there’s a somewhat acceptable explanation for it.

 

Apparently the X in Xmas doesn’t replace “Christ” from the word with the English letter X, but rather with the Greek letter “chi,” which looks like the English letter X. Chi is the first letter in the Greek word that we translate as “Christmas” and ancient Christians would abbreviate it by using only the first letter of it. They meant no offense and coincidentally, the letter also resembles a cross. In addition, the word “Christ” is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word “messiah” and both mean “anointed.”

 

I still much prefer “Christmas” over “Xmas,” but am happy to learn the origins of the latter meant no disrespect to why we celebrate Christmas. Amen!

 

 

You don’t need to look very far this time of year to see those beloved red-and-white-striped treasures, candy canes. You see real ones hanging on trees, created and grouped onto wreaths, decorating packages, and all sorts of red-and-white themed Christmas decorations. They’re fun and they’re festive and they have an interesting story behind them.

 

On that very first Christmas morn, who were the first people to visit and meet Baby Jesus? That would be the shepherds and as they paid homage to the newborn Savior, they carried with them their crooks, which they used in the fields to round up sheep. It’s no coincidence that candy canes resemble those curved rods and that if you turn one upside down, you get the letter J for Jesus. The traditional colors of a candy, red and white, are also significant as they represent our Lord’s sacrifice and purity. Lastly, candy canes are just that: candy. They are sweet and meant for sharing so do so!

 

Candy canes can also be somewhat healing too, depending on how much actual peppermint they have in them. Peppermint, as many know, is great for taming tummy troubles like nausea to menstrual cramps and recent evidence shows it may also be a powerful response to irritable bowel syndrome. Peppermint is also known to curb cravings, with one study reporting that by just smelling peppermint oil every two hours, participants were less hungry and less liable to overeat.

 

In addition to merriment and giving, the holidays are also known for bringing on headaches caused by tension, anxiety, and alcohol, but did you know that rubbing peppermint oil on your forehead and temples can be just as effective as acetaminophen at relieving the pain? Plus it smells so good!

 

Speaking of smell, tis the season for many a stuffy nose and congestion and yes, peppermint can help here too as it is chalk-full of menthol, the compound found in over-the-counter cough and cold medicines.

 

Peppermint oil is one of my favorites, and I use it in many ways, including:

 

  • Inflammation/arthritis/tendonitis: massage on inflamed area or joints
  • Headaches – rub on temples, forehead, sinuses, and neck
  • Respiratory – rub on sinuses
  • Appetite – inhale to curb
  • Diffuse for mental clarity
  • Itching – rub on area

 

I also use it in combination with other essential oils to relieve joints and muscle aches, sciatica, arthritis, inflammation, and tendinitis.

 

There are many versions of peppermint oil out there, so just make sure you get a pure and natural variety. I personally swear by Young Living and highly recommend its Peppermint Oil, along with all of its other essential oils and products.

 

Finally, the scent of peppermint can also improve concentration and has been linked to improved alertness, motivation, and even performance.

 

There are so many benefits and so many uses of sweet peppermint and who doesn’t love a festive candy cane?

 

 

We’ve all heard the song, have sang it many times, and probably know all the words by heart but what in the world are we talking about with “calling birds,” “maids a milking,” and “lords a leaping?” They’re all part of the famous “Twelve Days of Christmas” carol but they don’t signify the 12 days before Christmas as many believe and they have a Christian origin.

 

The celebration behind the tune started back in the Middle Ages as a way to mark the days between Christmas Day and the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6. From 1558 to 1829, Catholics in England were forbidden from openly practicing their faith so a song of 12 days was written as a catechetical tune that included hidden meanings of the faith. Secretly and on the down low, the verses reminded believers of some of the tenets of their faith without being overtly religious. This way, they could be sung without fear of punishment.

 

On that “note,” here are what the “Twelve Days of Christmas” symbols symbolize:

 

First Day: A partridge in a pear true. Jesus. Mother partridges are known to pretend they are injured as a way of keeping predators from their helpless nestlings, much like our Lord protects us.

 

Second Day: 2 turtledoves. Mary and Joseph and the Old and New Testaments.

 

Third Day: 3 French hens. The 3 Wise Men; the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and the 3 Theological Virtues; faith, hope, and love.

 

Fourth Day: 4 calling birds. The four evangelists – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – and their four gospels.

 

Fifth Day: 5 golden rings. The first five books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Also called the Pentateuch, from the Greek words for “five” and “books,” they are meant to answer the basic questions of life and its origins.

 

Sixth Day: 6 geese-a-laying. The six days of Creation as written in the Book of Genesis.

 

Seventh Day: 7 swans-a-swimming. The seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord as well as the seven Sacraments: baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, reconciliation, anointing of the sick, holy orders, and matrimony.

 

Eight Day: 8 maids-a-milking. The eight Beatitudes given to us through Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Guidelines for true happiness, they have the power to turn the values of a secular world upside down.

 

Ninth Day: 9 ladies dancing. The nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity.

 

Tenth Day: 10 lords-a-leaping. The 10 Commandments.

 

Eleventh Day: 11 pipers piping. The 11 faithful apostles: Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James, Simon, and Jude.

 

Twelfth Day: 12 drummers drumming. The 12 points of the apostles’ beliefs and their creed.

 

 

And finally, just for grins, how about some fun reindeer trivia and facts?

 

All of Santa’s reindeer were female because only female reindeer keep their antlers in December.

 

Reindeer are one of the only mammals that can see UV light, allowing them to see predatory polar bears against the snow and lichen, that fungi, moss-like plant they eat.

 

Caribou is simply the North American name for reindeer.

 

As the name suggests, reindeer are a species of deer and the only deer species in which both males and females can grow antlers. Yes dear…um deer!

 

The Sámi people, those famous reindeer herders of northern Norway, really do use reindeer to pull sleighs through the snow.

 

And now that you know all the 12 Days of Christmas meaning, do you know the names of all nine Santa’s reindeer?

 

And just to be safe, here’s a fun “Reindeer Food” idea to do with your kids: combine oats, “snow” glitter, and silver glitter in a bowl and have your children sprinkle it on the lawn or your porch on Christmas Eve. Tell them it will attract Santa’s sleigh with food and sparkle!

 

So there you have it and now you know. I love this kind of stuff and I hope you do too!

 

Merry Christmas everyone!

 

 

I’m Making A List December 6, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 7:03 pm

 

He’s making a list and he’s checking it twice.

 

We all know who “he” is without even naming names and we all know just what list he’s making. Are you on his naughty or nice list? Finger’s crossed!

 

 

St. Nicholas, who we celebrate the feast day of today, probably also had a list. You could say St. Nick was the OG: original giver. Nicholas was a very rich man who liked to share his riches. He heard about a family that didn’t have enough money to buy food so he snuck onto their roof and threw some gold coins down their chimney that landed in their stocking socks hanging over the fireplace to dry. Kids all over the world heard this story and began the tradition of hanging socks and shoes in front of their fireplaces hoping to get treats from St. Nicholas. Yep, that’s why we hang Christmas stockings on our mantels and why St. Nick if often regarding as the real or first Santa Claus. He even wore a red coat!

 

 

I also love the color red and share two other traits with Santa: I love to give gifts and I love to make lists. I have lists everywhere. To do lists. Grocery lists. Gifts for Christmas list. “Ship order” lists. “Books I want to read” list. “Shows I want to watch” list. You name it. I’ve listed it.

 

 

This is an especially busy time of the year when lists are made and goals are set. But, it’s also the perfect time of year to set aside those lists for just a moment or two and list what really matters and what you could be doing. Some of the above may be challenging or even forbidden this year in some parts, but you can still send and make peace, donate food, and be the light.

 

 

Many a famous and successful person were or are list makers, including Thomas Jefferson, Martha Stewart, Johnny Cash, and Benjamin Franklin. Numbering things and counting lists is also biblical, as Moses learned in Numbers 4:49 and when he received the 10 Commandments, written by the finger of God on two tables of stone.  The word “list” itself also has a somewhat famous history as according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word can be traced back to William Shakespeare who penned in Hamlet, “a list of landlesse resolutes.” Bravo!

 

 

So what is it about lists that I…and my fellow list maker teammates…love about the habit of writing it down and listing it up? For me, it’s quite simple: it keeps me from worrying or forgetting about things. I don’t need to remember everything at the grocery store cuz I have my handy-dandy grocery list. I won’t forget to plan or prepare something for an upcoming trip cuz I have my trip list. Knowing it’s all written down somewhere allows my mind to ease up and it also prevents stress and anxiety…two things that are rampant this time of year and quite frankly, this entire crazy year.

 

 

Lists bring order to chaos and confusion.  Uncertainty…which has been anything but masked this year…is reduced and a sense of structure and control is brought to the multiple tasks at hand. If you have lots to get done or lots of information coming at you, write it all down and not only will you organize it, you will have something on which to visually and purposefully focus.

 

 

Writing stuff down is indeed an effective productivity tool and studies show that list-makers often perform better than their non-list-making counterparts. Being able to clearly see “what’s next” offers predictability and allows us to develop what psychologists call “schemata,” the mental maps we accumulate from experience and that give us a sense of what to expect. In short, lists help us organize what is otherwise often overwhelming.

 

 

Sometimes we… okay ME…focus too much on to do lists though. I do love a sweeping check noting a completed task but I also need to remind myself that life is not entirely about a check or to do list. I need to remind myself of things not to do and put on a list. I work every day on living between list entries and aim to tame my compulsive habit of taking notes and writing everything down. Once a wordsmith always a wordsmith I suppose, but sometimes I go overboard with my bardish attempts.

 

 

List making can prove especially beneficial for procrastinators. I am the farthest thing from a procrastinator but I’m married to one. And surprise, surprise: he’s not a list maker!  The key here of course is starting the work and not simply just writing it all down. Procrastinators…and others in general…can also focus too much on the big picture and a large project, which can feel daunting and intimidating, which often results in nothing getting done until the last minute. Lists, can help here.  The right lists.

 

Think about it, if you need to pack and move but write down “pack house for move” alongside “dentist appointment” and “anniversary party” on a list, it can feel paralyzing just getting started, right? Instead, make a list of smaller tasks to tackle one at a time, such as “pack closet,” “pack kitchen,” “send change of address cards,” etc. Way more doable!

 

 

If you’re one of those who think making a list will stymie your creativity or flexibility, worry no more! Allow on that list…or don’t even list…opportunities to do something fun and don’t think of the list as an end all. It’s a road map not a prison sentence.

 

 

If you’re wondering if you’re an obsessive list maker or just a fan of the habit, here are some signs to look for:

You own lots of notebooks and journals

You have favorite pens

You love post-a-notes

You add things you’ve already done to an existing list just to cross them off

You make to do list for others

You simply cannot understand why others don’t make lists!

 

I can say I’m all of those and I proudly own them all. Yes, the habit can be a bit obsessive but it also makes us who we are as list lovers, which ultimately makes us valuable parents, friends, and staff members.

 

 

Be More With Less

So now, I’ll cross “write blog on lists” off my to do list, focus back on my Christmas to do list, glance over my Hallmark movies to watch list, flip one on, enjoy the day, and hope I can write it all down and let it all go. How about you? Are you a list maker?  I’m list-ening!

 

 

 

 

 

Truly Gifted December 2, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 6:34 pm

David Arms

 

All fall décor has been packed neatly away and it’s officially beginning to look a lot like Christmas in our home. I have simplified things a bit this year and truth be told, Christmas looks nothing like it has in the past. We all know this. We’re all trying to make the best of it. Expectations vs. reality is for real this year.

 

 

As the brilliant and gifted Susie Davis reminds us, expectations can cause us to hold on too tightly to what we envision things should look like and in the long run can steal joy and lead to disappointment when reality doesn’t meet those expectations. Maybe this year, of all years, we need to adjust our expectations and face reality.

 

 

If you’re like me, you are grappling with what to buy friends and family for Christmas in this oddest of odd years. When our daughter was young, every Christmas she asked for an American Girl doll. So glad she won’t be getting “Homeschool Heather” this year.  Back then and to this day as a young adult, she only receives three gifts at Christmas. My thinking was that if three gifts were good enough for Jesus, they’re good enough for the rest of us. Granted, she’s never asked for Frankincense or Myrrh, but a touch of gold here and there has made its way under the tree.

 

 

Naturally we long to give each other all the toys and gifts we possibly can. The holidays can certainly test our gift of self-control when it comes to showering loved ones with gifts and even overspending on extravagant and unnecessary ones. But maybe this year we can switch things up. How about giving gifts we can’t wrap or order online? Courtney Carver advises acceptance should be at the top of our lists in that we should…

 

  • Accept that the holidays are going to be different this year
  • Accept that December is always a hectic month
  • Accept that you won’t get it all done and that’s okay
  • Accept that you don’t need to create the “perfect” holiday
  • Accept that emotions will run high this time of year

 

 

The Gift of Time

How many ticks on a clock have you lived so far? It’s estimated that one year equals 31,536,000 seconds. How many of those seconds have you wasted? Shared with others? Relaxed? Learned? Listened? Played? Prayed?

 

Given the current “we’re in the middle of a pandemic” situation, giving the gift of time will be more challenging. In the past, our presence could be such a welcomed present, but this year being present with even our closest family members and friends is practically forbidden. But, time has been a key element in 2020. We’ve either had too much of it on our hands hunkering down at home or we haven’t had enough hours in a day to successfully work from home, teach our kids from home, and keep the home going. Time has somewhat stood still this year, leaving us all longing for quality time. Maybe that’s something you can give and share.

 

 

One of my favorite gifts of all time was the above: homemade Frankincense body scrub, Myrrh bath salts, and gold chocolate coins. It was years ago that I received them but I remember them to this day and am so grateful to the sweet friend who took the time to think of them, make them, package them so perfectly, and give them.

 

Time is a gift from God but it can also be a gift from you to someone else.  It may be as simple as taking the time to listen to them; really listen. Take a time out and actually call someone…don’t text, message, or email…call them.  Take the time to create and make gifts for your neighbors and delivery people. You could also offer to be someone’s personal assistant for a day…or a week. Offer to pick up their dry cleaning, take their dog to the vet, wash their car, file items, make appointments, or even pack away Christmas décor. If you have the time to endlessly scroll through social media and binge watch the hottest shows, you have the time to give the gift of time.

 

 

Things Money Can’t Buy

Maybe it’s time to put away the credit cards and stop “adding to cart” and instead give gifts that money can’t buy such as…

 

  • Give forgiveness to your enemy or someone who’s hurt you
  • Give tolerance to those you disagree with
  • Give loyalty to your friends
  • Give a friendly smile and patience to customer service reps and store clerks
  • Give good examples to your children
  • Give comfort to anyone hurting or struggling

 

These are all priceless gifts that we can all afford to share.

 

 

 

Evelyn Henson

Gifts That Stimulate the Five Senses

All of the above are great ideas that we can somewhat easily implement this season, but let’s be honest, we also love giving actual gift-wrapped gifts. So, why not create a gift theme (I love a great theme!) and give friends and family presents that appeal to their hearing, taste, touch, smell, or sight? Make it fun and make it “stimulating!” Here are just a few suggestions:

 

  • Wind chimes
  • Candles
  • Snuggly throw blankets
  • Music
  • Art
  • Coffee and a festive mug
  • A music box
  • Peppermint oil and a diffuser
  • A massage or facial gift card
  • Bath salts or oils

 

 

Simple Yet Thoughtful Gifts They Haven’t Thought Of

Everyone has a list but that list often consists of the standard fare. What if we dig deep inside our creative gift-giving minds and wrap up something someone doesn’t even realize they want or something they love? This could be:

 

  • One of their favorite foods either homemade or delivered.
  • A book on someone they love, a coffee table book, or even their favorite childhood book
  • A cooking gift box filled with a cookbook, recipe, cooking utensils, etc.
  • A nature gift box filled with seeds, garden gloves and tools, and bird feeder.
  • A craft gift box. People are staying home more and more and many a new hobby has been discovered. Honor that hobby with a box filled with items to continue it or even take it to a new level.
  • I speak from what I know here, as something I’ve asked for this year is a gift certificate for my beloved yoga classes. What do I really “need” anyway I asked myself. I need yoga!
  • A gift card to their hair stylist. Not only will you help them out with what can be an expensive appointment, you’re helping a local small business along the way.
  • Donate to their favorite philanthropy in their name. Times are tough for many charities this year while at the same time needs are greater.

 

 

In the end, the giving of gifts is not all about what you give, but how you give it and why you give it. Do you spend more time and effort on the buying of gifts and the outward wrappings of them than you do on what’s inside? Today ask yourself, “If I were gift wrapped as a package would others be happy to receive me?” Yes, you have to believe to receive but you should also graciously and thoughtfully give. After all, takers may procure better, but givers sleep better.

 

This year, perhaps more than ever, we should also remember to look at the true gifts around us: our family, friends, homes, jobs, health, and faith. Some of these are missing or gone for so many this year and it might be a tough road ahead and not one paved with endless and meaningless gifts. Let’s not forget them and their needs as we shop and when we pray.

 

Thanksgiving is History November 26, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 3:49 pm

 

As we gather round our tables and TVs today in celebration of the uniquely American holiday that is Thanksgiving, let’s take a minute to learn why we’re doing so and take another minute to actually be thankful, even in this most unusual and tumultuous year.

 

 

Appropriately, the very first Thanksgiving was preceded by a series of tumultuous events, starting in September of 1620 when a small ship called the Mayflower left Plymouth, England carrying 102 passengers. The group consisted of an assortment of religious separatists who were seeking a new home where they could freely practice their faith and were joined by others lured by the promise of prosperity and land ownership in a New World. You could say the Mayflower was filled with the original faithful and capitalists.

 

 

After a very treacherous 66 day trip, the Mayflower dropped anchor near the tip of Cape Cod and one month later crossed Massachusetts Bay where who we now call Pilgrims established a village at Plymouth.  It still was rough going though, as during that first brutal winter most of them remained on board and many got sick. Only half of the Mayflower’s original passengers and crew lived to see their first New England spring.

 

 

The following March in 1621, surviving settlers moved ashore and were later visited by various Native Americans who taught them how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish, and avoid poisonous plants. In November, after the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest proved successful, Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast and invited their Native American allies for what is now considered America’s first “Thanksgiving.”

 

In 1789 George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation when he called upon Americans to express their gratitude for the happy conclusion to our war of independence and the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. It wasn’t until 1846, however, that Thanksgiving became a national holiday when Abraham Lincoln made it official during the height of the Civil War. His proclamation entreated all Americans to ask God to “commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of this nation.” Lincoln deemed the fourth Thursday in November Thanksgiving Day, but in 1939 Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday up a week in an attempt to spur retail sales during the Great Depression.

 

 

As I write the previous paragraph I can’t help but think what our former leaders would think if they could see us today. Washington would probably cringe that our Constitution is being disparaged by many and in many ways and Lincoln would think his words sadly ring as clear today as they did back then. Racial and civil strife. Heal the nation. Chills, right? And as for Roosevelt’s move, it was probably a wise one for the times, but how ironic that the holiday meant to stimulate gratitude is followed by a day when we’re cajoled to spur retail sales all our own. We’re so thankful and yet want so much.

 

 

Yes, this year is different but there is always, always something to be thankful for. So today, let’s try to count really our blessings. Count our joys instead of our woes, count our friends instead of our foes, count our courage instead of our fear, count our health instead of our wealth, and count our smiles instead of our tears.

 

Thanksgiving Fun Facts

Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be named the national bird instead of the bald eagle.

The tradition of the president pardoning a turkey every year started with Harry Truman.

More than 250 million turkeys are raised in the U.S. with more than 40 million gobbled up on Thanksgiving.

Male turkey gobble; females cluck.

The original Pilgrims and Native Americans probably shared rabbit, chicken, fish, goose, pigeon, squash, cabbage, beans, nuts, onions, eggs, and cheese at the first Thanksgiving, with not a green bean casserole in sight.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!