Mindful Monday: New Year

Sine you are reading this, it can only mean one thing, you have survived 100% of your bad days. No doubt, you may have had many bad days in 2020. But, here you are reading this post, another bad, or maybe a good day behind you.

Today, we are less than a week from New Years Day. 2020 will be gone soon. So, today, I’d like to remind you to be thankful for the good days and I pray for you to have a happy, prosperous, and above all else, a healthy New Year.

Happy New Year!

Mindful Monday: New Year

Since you are reading this, it can only mean one thing, you have survived 100% of your bad days. No doubt, you may have had many bad days in 2020. But, here you are reading this post, another bad, or maybe a good day behind you.

Today, we are less than a week from New Years Day. 2020 will be gone soon. So, today, I’d like to remind you to be thankful for the good days and I pray for you to have a happy, prosperous, and above all else, a healthy New Year.

Happy New Year!

Mindful Monday: New Year

Since you are reading this, it can only mean one thing, you have survived 100% of your bad days. No doubt, you may have had many bad days in 2020. But, here you are reading this post, another bad, or maybe a good day behind you.

Today, we are less than a week from New Years Day. 2020 will be gone soon. So, today, I’d like to remind you to be thankful for the good days and I pray for you to have a happy, prosperous, and above all else, a healthy New Year.

Happy New Year!

Christmas Eve

My father’s family, circa 1972, at Crystal Lake. That’s little me in the center. I’m in front of my brother Michael who was making rabbit ears or the peace sign, standing next to my Aunt Gail, wearing the green vest.

I was holding my present; a little plastic slice of cheese with a fake clock on it. As if that wasn’t odd enough, cheese with a clock on it, the cheese was filled with bubble bath. I loved the gift though because the clock hands moved and I could practice telling time. I was 4 at the time but was very precocious; I loved telling time.

For as long back as my memory goes, and it goes a long way, I remember Christmas Eve being special.

As a girl, we always went to my Aunt Stella’s house; she was my dad’s aunt and had a very small, four-room home on Crystal Lake in Manchester. Well, it wasn’t actually on the lake, it was a short walk to get to the lake. And the lake wasn’t very crystal as its name implies. When he was a kid, my father tells me the lake was called Mosquito Pond, and he said that name was very accurate. As the years went by, Crystal Lake became more crystal in nature when the city made efforts to clean it up.  

Anyway, my father and his four siblings grew up in that tiny, little cabin turned home. My clearest memory of that small, little house was that it had a distinct aroma it. Years later, I learned it was cedar. The walls were paneled in it. Despite its diminutive size, the tiny home managed to host large gatherings with ease and was the home base for all Easter and Christmas Eve celebrations.

What I remember most about Christmas Eves of my youth was seeing my father and my uncle carrying in a gigantic table, perhaps 14-feet, into the kitchen. As the years went by, my brother and cousins would bring in the table. The kitchen wasn’t much larger than the table so it made the entire production of setting the feast quite the feat. Children were not be in the kitchen when the table was being set. There simply wasn’t any room for them.

Upon this table, my aunt would spread straw, as was tradition for our Lithuanian family, and the straw was covered by a crisp, white, linen table cloth. Dinner featured homemade kielbasa, fish, and Virtiniai; I pronounced it Va-Ten-e-A. The virtiniai were like a Polish pierogi or Italian ravioli. My Aunt Lona made them, and I can still smell the butter browning in the cast iron skillet and the smell of the onions. I never ate them, as I seem to recall they were stuffed with potato, but also cabbage. I’m not certain that’s what was in them, as my sister told me this. But, all these years later, I wish I knew how to make them so I could keep the tradition alive. Since my holiday plans are altered this year, I may take try to track down a recipe and take a crack at making them.  

Back to my story. After we ate, we would each pull one piece of straw from under the table cloth, and tradition was the person with the longest piece of straw would be gifted with long life. It was always fun to compare straw lengths, and I seem to remember one year I did have the longest straw. There we always presents for the youngsters; I was one of them. We never stayed very late after dinner when my siblings and I, there are five of us, were young because we needed to get home to bed so Santa could come. For many years when we were young, on the ride home, my brothers, sisters, and I sang Christmas Carols. That only added to the excitement of the evening.

This tradition lived on until I was a sophomore in High School. The year was 1984, and that was when my aunt died. After her little home was sold, we moved our Christmas Eve celebration to my parents’ house, and we have gathered as a family: my siblings, their children, and my family for this many years.

We never made virtiniais again but continued with the kielbasa. However, as years went on, and we all began contributing to the feast, it evolved. It went from a sit-down meal to a buffet, featuring my mother’s pork pies and fish chowder.

When Jeff and I bought our first house in 1991, we hosted Christmas Ever for one year, but my father said it didn’t feel the same so we changed it back to my parents’ house the following year, and they have hosted it annually ever since.

We will go to my parents this year, but the family is spreading out our visits. My mom will still make chowder and pork pies. However, will not break bread together. Instead, my family of four, Jeff, the kids, and me, will visit in the afternoon on Christmas Ever and take our food to-go. I will try and FaceTime when others are there so I can see them open gifts. It will be different this year, but we will still see each other. Some visits in person, others virtually. We have adapted yet again, and I pray it is a temporary adaptation. I pray we can gather together again next year, but until we are safe, we will hold Christmas dear in a smaller group, wear masks, and be thankful and grateful that fate has given us another Christmas to spend with our parents, and honor them with our precautions.

Mindful Monday: Empathy

I love this. Over the years I have lived with people in my life who never took responsibility for their actions; it was always another’s fault.

If one repeatedly blames others and never look to themselves for the issues that person is having, he/she deprives themselves for a chance to grow.

Just as you can’t blame the lettuce for not thriving, you can’t blame others for your failures. If you are continually stymied in life, if circumstances always feel like they are against you, look inside.

If you always use ingredients for cake and get cake but are disappointed with the outcome, change the recipe. By adding different ingredients, you will get a different outcome. Growth can’t happen if you resist change, and it begins with you.

Winter in my backyard

That sleepy, winter sun!

I’m not a warm weather person. I overheat too easily; I don’t like bugs or snakes, and I’m not a fan of mosquitoes, even a little bit. I know I said I don’t like bugs, but mosquitoes are in a category all their own.

Don’t get me wrong; I do love all the seasons. Spring brings rebirth and the prospect of a fall garden-harvest. Summer is nice because I like the long days, and fall – ahhhh! I love it because of the foliage, check out my blog post, and because I know when fall arrives, winter is right around the corner.

Winter! 😊❄️ I adore being outside. The feel of fresh air in my lungs, the sun on my face, it brings a feeling of not being confined and rejuvenates my soul. We received about a foot and half of snow the other day, and I’ve been taking advantage of it.

The past two days I’ve been venturing out under blue skies and heading into the woods. I’m blessed to have about 40 acres of conservation land behind my home, and I take advantage of it this time of year. The snow covers the fallen trees and makes it easy to create my own path. I don’t venture into the woods in the summer; there are too many bugs and the heat the forest holds is stifling. This time of year, the feeling from the woods is bliss. Also, in the Summer it’s easy to get lost in the woods. In the winter, you can follow your path back through the snow.

On Friday, my friend and I followed a well-worn path to a pond on the edge of the woods.

The snow-covered pond

We took a circuitous route to find the path to follow to the pond and discovered some tracks and an animal bed. It really was fun

On Saturday, I set out alone and decided to follow a deer track.

The day before, my friend and I were halted on our adventure when we reached a brook. On my explore Saturday, I followed the deer track safely over the brook and over the rock wall.

The brook and rock wall in the distance. I successfully traversed both.

I followed the tracks until I came to the deer beds but turned around because I heard a coyote.

I am so happy that winter is in its infancy in New England. I so look forward to more exploring, and of course some skiing. ❄️⛷

Mindful Monday: Ignorance

To follow up on my Mindful Monday from last week, I’m going to add to it a bit. Last week, I talked about criticism and how it can be helpful if delivered correctly. That said, if the person you are speaking with or conversing with doesn’t want to learn or grow from the advice or critique being offered, if they are ignorant, then you will be spinning your wheels. I will leave you with this thought, so you can learn when you should save your energy.

It is always in your best interest to walk away.

Mindful Monday: Experts

This week, I wanted to remind you that, yes, it’s nice to offer advice, input, or insight into a person’s work or help in sorting out a problem. However, when all you do is find fault or make the receiver of your words feel less-than, you’re not helping the situation. You’re being critical of it and that isn’t going to move the conversation along or fix the problem. It will only hamper its resolution.

Listen, consider that perhaps you aren’t the subject matter expert on everything. Opinions are just that, opinions. They aren’t solutions. Criticism can be helpful, but it’s all about the delivery. In my training to teach college composition, I learned not to pick apart an essay of an aspiring writer. Yes, the writer needs to know where the faults are in their work. But, that person also needs to know where the merit is their work. If you only deliver negative criticism, the student won’t know where the strong parts of their essay are, and it may cause that person to feel the need to start over. If you show where the foundation is, then the student will know what needs tweaking and what can be left alone.

Conversations involving criticism are difficult to have, but if they are done with compassion, understanding, and active listening, then all parties will be better for it.

Just Kidding!?

I get irritated just seeing this! Keep reading to learn why.

A friend just made an off-colored remark and you can’t help but look a bit incredulous at them. That person replies, “Just kidding!” You smile and think, “Were you just kidding, though? Because, it didn’t feel like that to me.”

How many times has that happened to you? How many times has someone made a remark and you felt attacked? Or, perhaps you made a remark in judgement and followed it with, “I was just kidding.” Were you truly kidding or trying to cover for a passive aggressive comment?

The receiver of the remark or your friends may play along with the implied joke to cover embarrassment, because they are your friends. However, stop and think, and consider the lengths they are going to in order to cover for you. They are playing along despite their discomfort. Perhaps it’s better you didn’t make that remark at all.

I’ve written a blog about how judgey I was when I was younger. I still have to fight the urge to judge sometimes, but I’ve been on the receiving end of judgement too often to be party to that kind of scrutiny anymore.

Admittedly, I’m not 100% recovered. The presidential election has taxed my ability to remain unbiased. My judgement is steeped in my complete inability to wrap my head around what is unfolding, so I’m judging hard. And, it doesn’t feel good. I pray I can let it go soon. Our current political climate aside, as a whole, I try to live and let live.

Now, back to the point. I need to share how the idea for this blog popped in my head. I was driving home from my parents’ house last week and I passed by a rundown two-story cape-style house. It was grey with white trim, had an A-frame style roof with no dormers, and the gable end faced the road. The yard was shabby, and as I passed I noticed some Christmas lights hanging from the house. I first wondered if they were just put up, or if they were never taken down last year. They were sparse and looked like they were thrown upon the home and the owner was just happy they stuck, mildly clinging to the eaves.

When I saw this, 20-year-old Judy wanted to burst out laughing at the shoddy attempt to decorate, but I stopped myself and thought, “What if the owners tried their best and this was the result. Maybe they have a child who marvels at the home when they arrive home at night.” At that moment, my grinchy heart softened a bit and fell in love with the memory of that home. They did their best and that’s all that mattered. There was no need to judge, just admire.

As I continued to drive and thought about that house, my mind wandered to people I know who would have openly mocked it. After they laughed, and I rebutted by sharing my observation of the home, perhaps they would have replied, “Just kidding.” Secretly inside they weren’t kidding, though, and couldn’t appreciate that maybe this home was someone’s best effort.

There-in lies problem with, “Just kidding.” It’s usually a cover for how the speaker truly feels. It’s passive aggressive and hurtful. If one needs to follow a statement with “Just kidding” to clarify, then perhaps refrain from saying it and say what you really mean. Just kidding leaves a mark on people and falls into the category of bullying.

Be thoughtful with people. Think before you speak. Be real with people and they will be real back. Put out positive to receive positive. Your type of humor may not resonate with everyone, so try to be kind rather than funny. Try to see a situation as a shabby home someone put their best into, rather than a poorly decorated home to be the butt of a joke.