Monthly Archives: November 2014

Thanksgiving Memories

11 24 14 Thanks catWhen I was little and the family had a special dinner where there would be more plates on the table, such as Thanksgiving, we had a wooden table topper (the top of a table without legs) that we laid over the kitchen table to create a larger “table.” Five people then squeezed around that larger table in an already small kitchen. I really don’t know how we all fit!

At least I can say that I spared my mother from cooking Christmas dinner one particular year, because she was in the hospital at Christmas, enjoying the hospital special holiday food! It’s all good! She had given birth to me on Christmas Eve, so she told my dad and brothers they were on their own!

My mother kept threatening to retire from cooking for the holidays and one year she finally did. It fell to my brother to host the Thanksgiving dinner. That dining room was so small, they had to have a separate table for the kids in the living room. But there was another problem that my mom told me about: the turkey was terrible! My sister-in-law was cooking her turkey too long and drying it out! So why didn’t mom tell her that and teach her how to do to correctly? I guess to this day everyone is suffering in silence! Don’t do this! If the turkey is not to your liking, speak up! Everyone will be glad you did!

A young woman I know, 30 years old, old enough to know how to cook, and definitely old enough to read, freaked out when she was asked to cook a turkey for a holiday party. “I don’t know how to cook a turkey!” Hello, the instructions are on the label! She bought already cooked meat at the store and took the easy way out. Does this mean she will never cook a turkey and host a Thanksgiving dinner?

I remember the first time that I ever cooked a Thanksgiving dinner. The challenge was to time it so that everything would finish being cooked at the same time. As long as you are good at math, that is not a problem. Just figure out what time dinner will be served, list the cooking times for all items and then work backwards to calculate when each item should be put on the stove. No problems! Of course now that I like to watch the Macy’s Parade on Thanksgiving morning, I am chopping up my ingredients in the living room or during commercials!

One year I was watching the Macy’s Parade on my friend’s TV and eating plantains for breakfast! That was unique! I was in Nassau, Bahamas! Later that day, I ate a traditional turkey dinner at a restaurant in downtown Nassau. FYI, a Bahamian rum drink is not an appropriate side beverage! It was a bit too strong. Stick with the apple cider!

It’s nice that other cultures embrace the American turkey habit and provide tourists with “home-cooking.” Where is the most unusual place that you have ever eaten Thanksgiving dinner?

Another memorable Thanksgiving was when I had first moved across the country and did not know many people other than my co-workers. One of the young men hosted Thanksgiving dinner for the “orphans” as he called them, people who had no family in town and nowhere to go. We had several people from work there and  the spirit of friendship was wonderful. I have had other friends do the same over the years and this is the true meaning of the season.

Wherever you celebrate this week, make sure you take time to think of all the things you have to be thankful for. Did you wake up with a roof over your head? Be thankful. There are people sleeping on the streets. Did you get to eat turkey? Be thankful. Someone somewhere may go hungry on Thanksgiving. Be sure to tell your friends that you are thankful they are in your life. Thank the store cashier for their service when you run to the store for that item you forgot! Right now I’m very thankful for my mechanic, Ken, who is working on my naughty car today!

I always remember that my mom would tell me to say “Thank you” as a child. She was teaching me in the right way, and I always remember her teachings when I need to thank someone. It only takes a moment to say those words. Practice gratitude. It will actually make you feel good, as well as the person you are thanking.

Have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving weekend everyone!

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Let It Go

11 10 14 forgivenessThis week the content of a Wake Up Happy webinar had so much great content, I felt it deserved its own blog. The guest speaker was Dr. Fred Luskin, Director of the Stanford University Forgiveness Project. You can read more about his work at Learning to Forgive.

Forgiveness is a big topic in its own right. I’m sure everyone reading this has been hurt in some way and may hold bitterness in their heart. These feelings have more consequences that we realize.

When you hold onto “junk” from your past, it makes it very difficult to be happy.

By “junk” I mean things like anger and grudges that could be resolved by forgiving and letting go. If we don’t learn to let go of these negative emotions, the stress of them has health consequences, such as high blood pressure, muscle tension, anxiety and more. Forgive what happened and move on, before we create serious physical damage to ourselves.

The ability to forgive is inside of everyone. We are hard-wired with the capacity to be positive; we just have to learn how to access it.

This takes us back to the idea of choosing happiness and focusing on the positives instead of the pain. By saying “I’ll never get over it” you create strong mental pathways that make getting over it difficult, says Dr. Luskin. We need to cut through the layers of damage and reach a sense of forgiveness. Start saying to ourselves that we can get over it.

Are you creating an “emotional prison” for yourself by holding onto grudges instead of forgiving?

Have you made the decision that you are going to forgive? We need to make a decision about what kind of life it is that we want.

Have you said to yourself, “I’ve suffered enough. There’s nothing I can do with this. I am stewing in my anger, so I need to change. It is up to me to make that change. Do I want to keep suffering, or embrace happiness for myself?” The decision is up to you.

Forgiveness is a subsection of the happiness decision.

When you blame anyone from your past for why you’re not happy today, that’s a real problem. It’s tempting to blame outside sources for all of our suffering, but that is not the path to creating a better life. Sometimes it’s easier to blame others, and parents oftentimes get the bad rap. Maybe they didn’t do a great job, but now in the present, it’s up to us to make ourselves happier and more forgiving.

The decision to be happy and forgive means you have to work at it. We can only control our own lives; looking back with anger and blame will only cause us more hurt. One exercise you can do is to write a letter to your parent explaining why something she/he did may have hurt you. Don’t mail it! Just put it in a drawer. This act in itself can be very cathartic.

It takes a lot of effort to let go of anger and grudges, but there is a major pay-off: better health and wellbeing!

It takes a lot of work to be happy, but it also takes a lot of work to be unhappy! Put your effort towards the happy!

Try an exercise this week: choose one person who might have been unkind to you, and do something kind for that person. You will feel all the better when you do this, not only emotionally but physically.

Put forgiveness into action. “Let it go.”

Middle of the Week Muse

11 5 14 Badges“We don’t need no stinking backups!”

I’m actually paraphrasing Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles who was actually spoofing a line from Bogart’s The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. There have been a few other variations on the line, but this one will suffice.

When I began blogging, I said to myself, I need to write a few blogs and have them available for when things get crazy. But then I found that my writer’s muse preferred to write, as I call it: organically, and go with the flow of the week.

This worked well until this past week when all hell broke loose. In a good way!

Hmm, that might be an apt phrase since it was really Halloween that broke loose and started the ball rolling – that holiday has been described as a little hellish!

Remember that Black Cat? I was thinking of maybe writing a blog about cat adventures, but discarded that idea. By that time I was behind on my schedule.

OK, I’ll blame Halloween.

And then there was my desire to accomplish too many things in three days without factoring in time to eat lunch on Monday. I admit, my number one Strengthsfinder talent is Achiever. That was OK, I could last until dinner, and the satisfaction of so much done was too sweet.

Except for the blog.

This was the first week in months that I had a writer’s block. But hey, I’m a writer; I’m allowed, right?

There were so many opportunities flowing, I thought of writing about how it seemed that once one door opens, the Universe starts opening everything else.

It reminds me of the time my faucet got stuck and wouldn’t turn off, and the shut off valve below  jammed and uh oh, God please unstick the faucet!

A colleague of mine wrote a blog today about keeping one’s destination in mind. It was a great blog, and a good reminder. To remember the goal, but also plan for the unexpected. Like all the “unplanned for” opportunities that popped up this week for me!

I’m not complaining about unexpected opportunity by any means, but here are the lessons to remember:

  • Build in that buffer time for the unexpected.
  • Expect the unexpected.
  • Have backups.

The Universe is flowing and who knows what is next?

As for me, I’m going to make a point to have some backup blogs, because yes, in life, we always need stinking backups!