Viewing entries tagged
Thanksgiving

Holiday Grace


May we all have compassion for ourselves, and for those around us.

That is what I pray for this time of year - compassion for myself and compassion for others. Over and over. It is actually more of a mantra than a prayer.

This time of year is so tricky for me, and I suspect it is tricky for a lot of other people too. Okay, I know it is tricky. It is so easy to fall prey to expectations - those that come from others and our own - of what we "should" be doing. What we should be planning, cooking, baking, eating, decorating, buying, selling, and how we should be doing it - gracefully, effortlessly, joyfully, gratefully, and with ease. Surrounded by loved ones.

I struggle enough with day to day life when it is not the holiday season. There is a pile of papers on my kitchen counter that is so tall, it could be dangerous. I don't know what to do with it so I move it from one place to another. I'm tempted to throw it all away. It overwhelms me. In the past several months I have missed appointments that I never thought I'd miss and forgotten to respond to a zillion different requests. My voice mailbox is full. I owe people money. My bedroom is a disaster. And, I have no idea what we're having for dinner.

I'm weary. It's only Monday. And, it's GO time. No rest for the weary here. On Thursday we're having Thanksgiving dinner at our house and Pierogi Day on Friday. Two days of crazy, busy, super messy fun.

These are fun days for sure, but they are exhausting days too, and in as much as it makes me happy to spend this time with my family during the holidays, it also makes me sad. When I look around the room at all the faces of those I love most, I am hyper-aware that certain other loved ones are missing. Their absence hits me when I least expect it. One minute I could be helping my husband whip the mashed potatoes and the next minute I am longing to crawl back into bed and hide under the covers because my dad isn't here to play his guitar and sing Amazing Grace before dinner.

You know the woman who just stole your parking spot? She might be grieving.

The man who cut in front of you in line at the grocery store? He might be wondering how he will pay his bill.

The friend who seems to be ignoring you? She might be fighting for her marriage.

That flaky mom from school who won't return your call? She could be waiting… waiting for test results… wondering what the future holds.

We just cannot know what is on another person's heart or mind. We cannot know what keeps her up at night or what keeps her from wanting to get out of bed in the morning. Sometimes we wonder, and yet we don't really need to know. Do we? Couldn't we all just drop the inquiry? What if we stopped speculating, comparing, and judging? What if we decided not to take things personally? What if we decided to take responsibility for ourselves, and to trust that others can do the same?

What if we stepped out of our own heads and hearts for just a moment to let love in - to make space for compassion?

What if we just loved each other? I think that would be so amazing.


Because this time of year is so very tricky and our hearts are tender and our minds are over-stressed, maybe we could start with a bit more compassion right now and give it a go through the end of December? Let's just try it. Shall we? What have we got to lose? We have so much to gain. So much.

I'll keep praying… I know you will too.

May we all have compassion for ourselves, and for those around us.
May we trust that we are all doing our best.
May we release judgment.
And, may we make way for love.
And so it is. Amen. Aho! xoxo

Happy Thanksgiving!

On Gratitude



This is my second try at this post. I wanted to share how I got here - to November 3, 2014 in relation to gratitude - and how my commitment to a daily gratitude practice has evolved over time. That seemed important to me. I was being defensive. Defending something I started years ago as a way of healing and holding on to hope, when I really only wanted to crawl into a hole and stay there through the holiday season. Something that a few of my Facebook friends were finding trite over time, and decided to complain about and tease in their own status updates… I thought I needed to clarify, to defend, and to justify why I think November is a great month for people to express gratitude on their own and in public.

I don't want to do any of that.

A few months ago I began reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. On page 58 of her book, Voskamp says the following: 

"I know there is poor and hideous suffering, and I've seen the hungry and the guns that go to war. I have lived pain, and my life can tell: I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks for early light dappled through leaves and the heavy perfume of wild roses in early July and the song of crickets on humid nights and the rivers that run and the stars that rise and the rain that falls and all the good things that a good God gives. Why would the world need more anger, more outrage? How does it save the world to reject unabashed joy when it is joy that saves us? Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn't rescue the suffering. The converse does. The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world. When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows. How can this not be the best thing for the world? For us? The clouds open when we mouth thanks."

That is why I do what I do and why I want to do it (THANK YOU ANN VOSKAMP!). I want to embrace joy, to be brave, to focus on all thing good and beautiful and true. I want to give thanks for all things, even the small things because I want to bring the fullest Light to all the world.

I don't care if it makes other people uncomfortable. In fact, I -kind-of like that it makes some people uncomfortable. I would invite you to explore the discomfort if and when it bothers you to witness another's expression of joy. That discomfort will tell you more about you than it does about the other person. Go there.

In the past, I have used an art journal as a means to capture my gratitude each day. I have been on  a mission to figure out the easiest, least expensive way to make an art journal because I LOVE art journaling, and find it to be healing and hopeful and fun. This is what I've come up with so far…

Junk Mail Art Journal

I took a catalog I received in the mail (it was a Williams-Sonoma Fall catalog). I glued 2-3 pages together throughout the catalog with a glue stick, to form a series of new, thicker pages. I used plain old cheap craft acrylic paint to cover each page. I glued tissue paper to the covers of the catalog - I used two pieces to completely cover the catalog cover. Some of the words and images from the catalog show through the paint, and I love that. It was so easy to make and it was virtually free because the catalog was junk mail and I had the paint on hand.

Each day this month, my family and I will choose one word to express that for which we are most grateful that day. We will record the words on a piece of paper and at the end of the month we will have a special journal filled with our gratitude. I look forward to seeing how this evolves.

Our first page. 
I stamped part of the quote from Ann Voskamp on the first page, and left the
Williams Sonoma Thanksgiving table, rather than painting it.
I love how the quote turned out.
My sister made a Junk Mail journal too! I love it!

Each and every day, in every minute even, we have a choice about whether to "deepen the wound of the world" with our voices and actions or "bring fullest Light to all the world." Hands down, I choose light. It is absolutely a choice. It is not always easy, but I make it because I believe it makes a difference to me, my children, my husband, and our community.  I make it because I want to experience joy while I'm here on Earth - to balance out the pain.

Gratitude manifests joy. It's been proven time and again. Try it - big or small, in whatever way works for you. Share what you find.

With love and gratitude. Especially to Ann Voskamp. I don't know her, but I LOVE her and her beautiful words. xoxo

Tradition with a Twist


Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It involves all of my favorite things in the world: Autumn, my family, friends, and food. For a while now, my husband Dan and I have hosted Thanksgiving dinner at our house. We invite all of his family, all of mine, and my sister's in-laws. Everyone is welcome.

When I faced my first Thanksgiving after my dad passed away - that would have been in 2011, I wanted to boycott Thanksgiving. I didn't want to host it. I didn't want to acknowledge it. I didn't want even a whiff of turkey.

While I was given a lot of grace in that first year after my dad's death, nobody would let me off the hook for Thanksgiving. I decided that instead of wallowing in my dread of the impending holiday, I would embrace the opportunity to give thanks.

On November 1 I used my Facebook status to share my gratitude for that day, and did the same for every day in November. I called it 30 Days of Gratitude. I'm not sure why I had to do it publicly, but I'm thinking maybe I needed some accountability. Once I committed to a public declaration of my gratitude for every day in November it was much harder to stew in the muck and much harder to disappear.

Several of my friends reminded me about 30 Days of Gratitude the following year and so it became a tradition for many of us to share our gratitude through the month of November.

This year, I'm trying something a little different. I've been keeping a gratitude journal for several months now, and it is something I've come to love - the actual journal itself and the practice of setting aside a few minutes each day to give thanks for the things that moved me that day.

The cover of my first journal (I'm on my second)

The journal itself is an old book I altered and made into an art journal. It was inspired by Jeanne Oliver in her class The Journey of Letting Go (Creating Beauty from Ashes). It's one of my favorite things I've ever made. In fact, at my fall retreat I incorporated an altered book workshop so my guests could make one of their own.

Art journaling is a really special way to combine words and art. Art journals aren't necessarily meant to be shared so it can be liberating to create just for the sake of creating. I love flipping through the pages of my art journals. There is so much going on in there!

I love the way watercolors look over the old book pages

It can be super simple or very elaborate. I've seen photos of some really beautiful art journal pages. I keep mine pretty simple because I want to get them done fast. It's more about the process than the outcome for me.

a Zentangle page

Sooooo, this year instead of sharing a few words of gratitude on my personal Facebook page I'm going to share last night's entry from my gratitude journal on my Heart Connected Facebook page. I will most likely share the post on my personal page too. I think it's going to be fun, and maybe even inspiring?!

AND, here's where you come in... When you "like" the Heart Connected gratitude post on Facebook, you will be entered into a drawing. At the end of the month, I will draw a name from the "like" pile and make an altered book journal for the winner! YAY! How fun is that?! I may even include a little art journaling kit when I send it.

I hope you enjoy my posts! xoxo




You're likely to see a lot of hearts in my journal. This page is with acrylics.



OH, one more thing! You must "LIKE" or have already liked Heart Connected on Facebook to win.









One Lady a Leaping...

Hello My Sweet Blog!

Oh, how I have missed you.

I think I'm coming out from behind a creative block, of sorts. I just haven't been feeling the love. And, my attention, time, and energy have been needed elsewhere. I am here now though and I have something I really want to share as it is a bit of a breakthrough, and I looooove breakthroughs.

On February 11, 2006, my life changed in a way I had not imagined. I am afraid I would not have had the courage to imagine the impact, and it has taken years to realize the full effect. On February 11, 2006 I gave birth to my second son, Alexander. I had a very healthy pregnancy and there were no signs that my sweet baby would be anything less than healthy. Until he emerged. He was purple. His cry was very faint. The mood in the delivery room went from anticipatory to grave. I had no idea what was happening. Alexander landed on my belly for a brief moment, and then he was whisked away. I didn't hold him again for 10 days.

Alexander the Great this summer.

Thank God, it was only ten days! Thank God I held him again. Thank God he is healthy, and other than being a very feisty little guy, he bears no scars from his rocky start. We sometimes wonder if his start in life inspired Alexander's intensity, or if his intensity helped him fight for his life? I often think that if in the very beginning someone had said, "This will only last ten days," I would have been better equipped to handle the trauma of the birth of a very sick baby. Ten days doesn't seem very long to me now, but then, as the clock ticked, I didn't know what the future held.

I have told this story many times.

Each time I tell it I think, this is the last time I will have to tell this story. And then, each year since on February 11, I wake up eager to celebrate my boy and over the course of the day I notice a heavy feeling settling into my heart. I feel sad. Maybe even a little hopeless. I need to cry. And I always wonder if maybe this time I am really losing it... I can't figure out why I'm feeling the way I feel.

No matter how well we heal or much time has passed, our bodies remember trauma. Some people call it cell memory. I admit, it sounded a little hokey the first time I heard about it. But it is real. We are surrounded by triggers - scenes, smells, people, places - all of it and any of it can trigger a memory deep in our hearts and cause us to feel the way we felt way back when.

On a normal day, it may not be a big deal. We might make a quick recovery. But yesterday was a doozy. Not only was it Alexander's birthday, but we were also closing on the sale of our last house - the house where our family was made complete. The house Alexander came home to, and where his brother welcomed him. Just two years later, the pair of brothers welcomed their sister. Three years after that, in that house's kitchen my husband told me that my mom just called and said she thinks my dad is dead. We had people over after his funeral.

A huge part of my life took place in that house. It only spanned about six years, but those were six very big and eventful years.  Yesterday we cut ties with that house. It was the day I was called to let go of the house where the memories happened - where the people gathered, where my dad last played Amazing Grace before Thanksgiving Dinner, where my two youngest babies learned to walk and talk and where their big brother woke up on his first day of kindergarten.

I sure do miss this guy.

For someone else, maybe none of these things would matter. But for me, they do. When I was a kid people often said, "You're too sensitive, Anna..." I came to think that was a bad thing. Now I know that my deep sensitivity makes it possible for me to love deeply, and to feel intensely. It is a good thing. A very good thing.

Deeply and intensely I felt the weight of a loss yesterday. I felt the sadness of a good-bye. I felt empty. I was a bit of a wreck all day. I was lost in the muck.

A favorite spot in the old house. A decorator told us this chandelier wouldn't work with the farm table we had here. That made me love the chandelier even more.

I didn't want to wake up this morning. I wanted to stay in bed all day. I got up, I got going, and now I can say that today really is a new day. I feel lighter. I'm finally excited about staring some new projects. I was beginning to wonder if that excitement would come back. I'm writing on my blog... I think the fog lifted.

This was not the time that I finally lost it once and for all. I was triggered, I felt deeply, and I survived. Therein likes my breakthrough. In the thick of it all, when I thought this is it, I didn't see the light. I really didn't see the light. I forgot the light. It's strange how that happens, but for me it does indeed happen sometimes. With the sunrise today, the skies are still so gray here in Michigan, but there is the light of a new day.

I had to share that with someone. I know there are other people out there just like me - who forget about the light sometimes. I want you to know that it's out there. The light is waiting for you.

LEAP into the light.

This is a page I just finished for LifeBook 2013. It's all about Courage - there is  a bear in the background, and this little lady leaping into the light, I think. I'm not real crazy about how it turned out, but I love this lady. She seemed to be calling for a quote I love - "Leap and the net will appear." Julia Cameron said that.  I'm thinking lots of great things can come from a leap. Lots of good things.

In the light there is space for celebration. In the space left vacant by my memories of Alexander's birth, I can celebrate his 7th birthday and his zest for life. He is worth celebrating. In the space freed by memories of the life we lived in that old house, I is excitement for the family moving in there. I am so happy for them! I hope they are as happy there as we were. Even happier. And, like I said, after sitting in the muck all day, feeling what came up, today there is space to get excited about some new creations.   It is all part of the process - the cycle of light and dark and everything in between. Keep going. Keep moving through it, and into the light again. It's always there, somewhere, waiting to greet you. xo

What it Really Means to Keep it Simple

tangles used: Fife, Fescu/Opus variation, and Socc (sort-of)

This morning I was thinking about everything I need to do to prepare for Thanksgiving Dinner at my house on Thursday, and Pierogi Day (an Oginsky Family tradition) here on Friday. The list is a little daunting. I have been resisting the whole thing and having flashbacks to the sheer exhaustion I felt last year after this series of events took place at my house. It is all delicious, glorious, joyous fun, without a doubt, but it is exhausting.

I thought about my vow to keep it simple this year. I thought if I can just get through this weekend, THEN I will keep it simple. I took a deep breath and I kept moving. I noticed something strange. Even in the midst of my resistance and fear of exhaustion, I wasn't feeling even a little bit nervous about the coming days and my list of things to do to get through them. This is odd for me.

Then it clicked. When I vowed to keep it simple, I thought about taking it down a notch or two in the volume of what we do...what I buy, what I wrap, what I bake, what I prepare... What I realized today is that while those choices play a part in keeping it simple, the beauty of keeping it simple, lies in my ability to SIMPLY BE. No nerves, no worry, no fear of not meeting everyone's expectations, just showing up to stuff the turkey and put it in the oven. With my intention to keep it simple, I must have let myself off the hook a little. I gave myself the gift of being different this year, in addition to doing things differently. Being. Doing. There is a difference.

So it seems that keeping it simple has less to do with all the variables, all the stuff that gets in the way of really enjoying the holidays, than it does with SIMPLY being present. The turkey essentially takes care of itself. Why worry? What matters most is not what we eat or how the table looks, or even how I look, but who shows up to share it. For me, keeping it simple means showing up as-is and pouring myself into the people who showed up with me. My people. My sweet little, lovable people. Now, I am even MORE excited to keep it simple!

For Mandala Monday (which is actually Tuesday, I know), I invite you to take a minute and think about the plans you've made and all the variables that those plans encompass. Now take a deep breath, and blow it all out the window. Think about your loved ones and what they care about most this holiday. It is not really what you do or how you do it, but that you are there with them. No worries. Simply show up.

Happy Thanksgiving!
xoxo

p.s. I LOVE this Zendala. I wasn't going to participate this week, but when I saw Erin's template, I knew I just had to do it anyway. I tried the tangle, fife, which was inspired by the Flower of Life and I think I might have experienced some enlightenment. Wow. More about that some other time...