I Love Jesus But I Hate Christmas

Yeah, that’s me as the Grinch. I know. It makes no sense to feel the way I do, but it’s been an especially hard year around my house and I’m just not feeling the spirit of the season the way I want to feel it. I mean, come on friends, Christmas is the commemoration of Christ’s birth—someone who did nothing but good in His lifetime. It’s about His spirit. His love—and the love of His Father for us.

Bah-frickin’-humbug.

It’s about Black Friday and extended credit. It’s about buying big-ticket items this single mom can’t afford for kids who don’t need squat. It’s about being politically correct and wishing people “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” even though it’s Christ we’re celebrating. So happy up, folks, to the spirit of guilt and greed. It’s about decorations and calories and countdown. It’s the advent of panic and pressure. It’s about a man in a red suit that lavishes rich kids with gifts galore while my kids (who’ve been good all year) open a new box containing old shoes.

Okay. Okay. I’m done. My rant is over and I beg you and Jesus to forgive me. I realize that I’m exceptionally blessed and I’m honestly grateful. It’s just that Christmas is hard for me because I can’t be as generous as my heart leads me to be. But then Christmas doesn’t come from the mall. Or Japan (or wherever they manufacture Play Stations and Nintendos). It’s supposed to come from our hearts. It’s supposed to make us feel closer, more hopeful, and above all—loved.

Do you feel loved? I hope so. And I hope that this season you won’t succumb to anybody jingling bells and half-off promises to get you to buy something you can’t afford or don’t need. Do you know what else I hope for you between now and December 25th?

  • I hope you’re swaddled in love
  • I hope you hear laughter, all kinds of laughter
  • I hope you create memory upon memory upon memory
  • I hope you catch a snowflake on your tongue
  • I hope you make a recipe that’s been in your family for years
  • I hope you get shivery cold and then warm up by a blazing fireplace
  • I hope you sip eggnog or hot cocoa or apple cider
  • I hope you write Christmas cards out by hand
  • I hope you crack the spine of a Bible to recount an ancient story
  • I hope you sing carols around a piano
  • I hope you at least make a brief appearance on Santa’s naughty list
  • I hope that your heart grows a couple of sizes but your waistline doesn’t
  • I hope you have your picture taken with Santa
  • I hope you experience the wonder of surprise
  • I hope you witness children reenacting the Nativity
  • I hope you drive around and marvel at Christmas lights
  • I hope the child in you emerges big-time
  • I hope you taste peppermint and chocolate
  • I hope while you’re waiting in a store line that you make friends with a stranger
  • I hope you dress up and take family photo
  • I hope you dress the dog up in red and green
  • I hope someone makes you a plate of homemade candy
  • I hope you find time to pray
  • I hope you gather ‘round a table with food, friends and family
  • I hope you get invited to a holiday party and I hope you host one too
  • I hope you light a candle
  • I hope you get to lick a beater
  • I hope you hear sleigh bells
  • I hope you enter a church
  • I hope you help decorate a tree
  • I hope you wear soft, warm jammies on crispy cold nights
  • I hope you look for silver stars against a night sky, one star in particular
  • I hope you read Christmas stories to a child
  • I hope you wonder about wisemen and shepherds and why there was no room at the inn
  • I hope you smell baking cookies or baking bread or anything baked at home
  • I hope you wrap a gift for someone you don’t know
  • I hope a little kid kisses your cheek
  • And I hope, oh I hope, that you celebrate the birthday of a very special King

Because no matter the tinseled distractions, when it comes down to the barest truth, Christmas is about the birth of a baby and the rebirth of all of us.

Some People You Might Want To Thank This Season

This is so incredibly cool. I don’t think I’ve ever felt the “spirit of Thanksgiving” before. I mean, it’s not really about food, is it? Crap. All these years I’ve missed the joy that I’m feeling this season. Oh sure, I know the 1621 story of the Colonists and the Wampanoag Native Americans (only because I looked it up). I stick a fake turkey on my entryway table. And every year at the dinner table we bow our heads and give thanks, then we circle around one-by-one citing something for which we are thankful—all before we dig into a feast of a million calories.

But I’m feeling something novel this season. I’m feeling thankful. And grateful. My heart’s a little tender because my mind has been dwelling on people who have blessed my life and the lives of my loved ones. The photo is of my son, Collin, when he was in elementary school. Creative teachers morphed him into a pilgrim. They taught him history. I’m grateful for teachers who care about kids.

Which leads me to this…a different type of gratitude list. Hopefully, this one will do for you what it did for me…conjure up some pretty terrific memories and instill a sense of debt deep within the soul. All for people to whom we owe a debt of gratitude. All kinds of people.

Granted, some of the folks on my list are dead, so thanking them gets a little tricky. But not really. I carry the memories of my parents and grandparents. I share stories about them with my kids. Every year my daughter makes Grandma’s walnut pie. Tradition lives on.

You might have to dig into your past to link back up with some people like former teachers, mentors and benefactors. That’s okay. If you can’t reach them by phone, email or social media, you can drop a snail mail note, or just send them positive energy. It works. Good thoughts have connective power. Good thoughts have the power to turn a mundane holiday into a gratitude feast!

I wish I’d gotten into the festive spirit of Thanksgiving long ago. But Thanksgiving isn’t a time for regret…it’s a time for remembering and realizing that there is always, always someone for which to be grateful.

Here’s a possibility pool:

  1. The woman who gave birth to you
  2. The man you call Dad
  3. The one who taught you to pray
  4. A neighbor who loaned you what you lacked
  5. The person who taught you to ride a bike
  6. Someone who makes you laugh out loud
  7. Your best secret keeper
  8. The friend who forgets your darkest past
  9. A grandparent who nurtured you in any way
  10. Someone who cooked you a meal
  11. A reader who shared a great book with you
  12. Someone who pardoned your error and didn’t bring it up again
  13. Whoever once helped you clean your room
  14. Anyone who helps you feel safe and secure
  15. The person who gave you your first job
  16. A doctor or nurse who cared for you when you were hurt or sick
  17. The God who gives you everything
  18. An aunt or uncle who has been your advocate
  19. The person who introduced you to Shakespeare
  20. A dance partner
  21. The one who helped you mend a broken heart
  22. Someone who took you to a ballgame
  23. Whoever washed and ironed your clothes
  24. A cousin you love
  25. Whoever taught you to drive (or to drive a stick)
  26. Karaoke partner
  27. Whoever gave you a cherished pet
  28. Someone who cleaned up a mess you made
  29. The person you kissed in the rain
  30. Your typing teacher
  31. The one who held you when you cried
  32. A road tripping partner
  33. A hiking buddy
  34. Anyone who lightened your load
  35. Someone who held your hair back while you puked
  36. The person who pushed you highest on a swing
  37. Whoever taught you to whistle
  38. Your shenanigan partner
  39. Someone who chastened you because you deserved it
  40. Someone who loaned you money
  41. Whoever taught you to tie your shoes
  42. The person you call your best friend
  43. The person you consider your first friend
  44. A sibling you could be closer to
  45. A soldier
  46. A preacher
  47. Someone who helped you study for a test
  48. A music teacher
  49. A nemesis who teaches you about yourself
  50. The God to whom we all owe our all…He deserves a double mention!

 

100 Unlikely Things To Be Thankful For

I’ve always thought that thankfulness is expressed in words, while gratitude requires action…deeds…we’ve got to do something or it’s not true gratitude. My deed is to drag out this image of my son Eli and our neighbor’s turkey Gobbles. Rest assured no turkey was harmed in the taking of this photo, but the deranged look in little Eli’s eyes is what draws me in, knowing that his gentle soul would never harm a living thing, makes me laugh. I share it with you because it means a lot to me and so do you…all of YOU who sacrifice 90 seconds of your day to read my blog. I’m grateful. Thank you!

To get the holiday week in gear, I came up with a list of things that I have no business taking for granted. Most of them are not typical items on a “thankful for” list, so I hope that a quick read will generate your own thoughts, and I hope you’ll take a few seconds to share with us what you are thankful for.

  1. Tweezers
  2. Public libraries
  3. TED Talks
  4. Friends who have more than you do, and are willing to share
  5. Mentors to you and to those you love
  6. Teachers and all smart people
  7. Anything or anyone that makes you laugh
  8. Antibiotics
  9. Duct Tape
  10. Science and its discoveries
  11. Children’s picture books
  12. Flush toilets
  13. Exercise
  14. Heat
  15. Grocery stores
  16. Toilet paper
  17. An accessible God
  18. Aviation
  19. Opportunities
  20. Clean sheets
  21. Windex (trust me, we’ll get to this later)
  22. Memories
  23. Mother Eve’s courage
  24. Toothbrushes
  25. Fly swatters
  26. Refrigeration
  27. Someone who listens to you, really listens to you
  28. Forgiveness
  29. Our ability to change
  30. Movement, all kinds of movement
  31. Books
  32. Ancestors
  33. Bubbles (Don’t ya just love bubbles?)
  34. Fresh fruit
  35. Zoos
  36. Auto mechanics
  37. Karma
  38. Silence
  39. Mountain trails
  40. Good, brave cops
  41. Differences
  42. Music
  43. Balls, the kind that bounce
  44. Snow capped mountains
  45. All forms of freedom and the soldiers who fight for ours
  46. Self-discipline
  47. Phones
  48. Miracles
  49. Clean warm showers and baths
  50. Technology
  51. Flowers
  52. Farmers
  53. Sleep
  54. Intuition
  55. Order
  56. Dance
  57. Photographs
  58. Transportation
  59. Chairs
  60. Pillows
  61. Dishwashers
  62. Schools
  63. The movies
  64. Toys and games
  65. Light and darkness
  66. Animals
  67. Sun, moon and stars
  68. Faith
  69. Internet
  70. Baby diapers and wet wipes
  71. Travel
  72. Your brain
  73. Your body
  74. Mother Earth
  75. Your health
  76. Medicine
  77. Stories
  78. Storms and rainbows
  79. Second Chances
  80. Sunrises and sunsets
  81. Beaches
  82. Human touch
  83. Doctors
  84. Waterfalls
  85. Clean blank sheets of paper
  86. Paint
  87. Carpet
  88. Mirrors
  89. Safe drinking water
  90. Children, everything about them
  91. Healing
  92. Unpolluted air
  93. Honesty in people
  94. Colors
  95. Progress
  96. Museums
  97. Abundance
  98. Children’s playgrounds
  99. Love in its endless forms
  100. This very moment

This Might Just Make You Happier Than You’ve Been In A Long Time

This is my precious G-baby, Adelaide. We like to swing together, so this week while I’m pumping my way to the sky she says to me, “Did you feel that? Something just sprayed me.”

We’re in a forest in Florida so it could be anything, but I go with, “It’s probably just tree sap.”

“Or bird sweat. It could be bird sweat!” Her shout startles a flock of fowl skyward.

“Or bird sweat,” I concede.

We swing side by side for a few more pumps when a warm, wet glob plops down on my forehead. While I’m wiping it away lil’ Miss A turns to me and makes a face. “I know what it is, G-Mom.”

I don’t even dare to ask.

“It’s squirrel pee. It’s raining squirrel pee!”

Mercy me! Squirrel pee.

I start to giggle. Then I laugh. And then I’m happier than I’ve been in a very long time.

Know why? Because I’m feeding my brain all the good stuff. Look up a hormone called prolactin. It’s usually associated with female milk production, but since my lactating days have long since dried up, this is the cranial magic that breaks down barriers between individuals and allows us to bond. Mother/baby, G-Mom/G-baby, Stranger/Friend, etc.

We humans are not meant to live life solo. We’re meant to bond by dancing and singing and thriving in tribes. Survival depends on it.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, my heart is with my “tribe.” It’s also with those who are without a tribe. I’ve been there. I was raised in foster care. Some homes made me feel welcome and safe. Others made sure I felt isolated and inferior.

No child should ever feel those feelings or be that vulnerable to predators.

So here’s what I hope we’ll do this week. I hope we’ll seek for ways to include others. It’s not hard to find lonely people. They’re on the streets, in nursing homes, and in our own homes. Next I hope we’ll find a way to better bond with each other. To pardon old trespasses once and for all. I hope that we’ll invest in experiences rather than things. Make memories. Shop. Cook. Create. Laugh. Reminisce. TOGETHER!

Nourish our bodies with healthy food and our brains with healthy neurotransmitters that come from bonding, laughing, being grateful—from tossing stress out with that nasty, soggy little giblets package you find when you violate a turkey’s cavity by sticking your hand where it doesn’t belong.

Here’s the deal. You are meant to be happy. You deserve to be happy. Happiness thrives when it is shared. So I pray that you’ll find yourself showered this holiday week with unexpected delights. Maybe not squirrel pee, but then again…it worked wonders for me.

This One Thought Will Change Every Thought You Ever Think

One morning while I was stalking an iguana a thought struck me out of nowhere: I think I’ll spend the rest of my life doing this—not the iguana part, but traveling the world as a student and a servant.

WHAT?

Where on earth did that come from?

Exactly my point. It didn’t come from any earthly source and there’s scientific research to back me up on that “thought.”

By now you know that I’m over the moon about the human brain. I study it all of the time. I can name parts and tell you how those parts function. I wake up in the morning excited to learn what science discovered over night about the three-pound mass of neurons we have between our ears.

What does any of that matter? It’s trivia to most people. To me, it’s the pathway to metamorphism. I want to change my stony life. But I can’t change anything if I don’t change my thinking. Yes. Yes. Every self-help guru I read said the same thing: Change your thoughts to change your life. It may well have begun with Buddha who observed, “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.”

I wanted my world to change. I wanted my life to change. I wanted to start by changing my thoughts. Problem was…none of them told me how to do it. So I spent a good chunk of my life figuring it out, and that’s the genesis of this blog.

Webster says that a thought is an idea, plan, opinion or picture formed in your mind. It stems from the act of thinking.

Yes, but where does a thought originate?

Guess what? Nobody knows. Not even Einstein. Not even today’s most brilliant neuroscientists. Some of the world’s greatest thinkers speculated that there is a massive pool of ideas somewhere in the universe. It’s from that unseen source that we draw our genius and creativity.

Are we a result of our “thought pool” as surely as we are a result of our “gene pool”? Some minds think so, they even equate this theory to Aristotle’s “Sensus communis”…the fact that we all perform perceptual operations far beyond the capacities of our five senses. Some things we just “know” without knowing how we know them.

While there are scientists who believe in an opaque subconscious process where thoughts form before we’re able to think them, there’s no viable science behind those theories. Thoughts might be self-generated from information and memories, but no one knows for certain. Truth is there is no identifiable part of the brain where thoughts are born. There is no concise neurological pathway that traces the journey of a thought. Science doesn’t even know for sure which populace of neurons fire in a common thought process. Research is evolving and the subject is still very controversial and exciting.

We do know that once a thought enters the brain there are incalculable electro-chemical reactions, but these are complex beyond computation. At a basic level we know that our thoughts influence our emotions and our emotions influence our actions. We know about neurotransmitters and their effects, but we can’t connect them to the fountain of thought.

A good place to begin is by understanding that no one understands where thoughts originate.

The concept is life changing—that your thoughts are gifts, guides, and nothing to be taken lightly. They choose you and come to you for a reason. Add to that the fact that you get to control or drive those thoughts. That endows you with the kind of power that boggles the mind. You get to accept or reject thoughts. You get to experiment or enhance your thoughts. No one else can think like you. Your thoughts are yours alone.

Wowzers!

We’ve all heard or said something like: “A thought just struck me out of the blue…I don’t know where that thought came from…I never thought of it like that before.”

Considering the possibilities, I hope you’ll be more open to inspiration. More appreciative of your own genius and creativity. I hope you’ll be more cognizant of the thoughts you allow to enter and dally around your mind. Most of all I hope that you’ll be more welcoming to whatever Source and Force is out there caring about you, and trusting that you can handle your muse.

It’s something to think about, isn’t it?

References:

What Is A Thought?

Thoughts

Do We Know Our Own Thoughts?

Parts of A Thought

Scholarly Thoughts On Thoughts

Brilliant Thoughts on The Creative Process

Surviving A Dragon Attack With Flair and Finality

The other night my g-baby Adelaide and I were walking when we came upon a dragon.

Adelaide’s three so she’s a lot braver than I am.

“Come back here, G-Mom and don’t look so scared. It’s not real.” (more like “wheel”)

“How do you know it’s not real?” I whispered.

“Because I said so.” And off she trundled to prove it, slapping a hand on it to feel for a pulse. “See, no heart. It’s just made of stone.”

I chuckled and snapped a photo with my phone, but later, I thought about what Adelaide had said. I even did a little research and found that dragons have been around since the beginning. The Old Testament specifically mentions dragons 21 times—both sea and field dragons. Does that mean real fire-breathing beasts existed?

I dunno.

Historians speculate they were actually dinosaurs, but the word didn’t exist—all they had was the Greek drakon (serpent) or the Latin draconem (long snake).

None of that info is very useful. What counts here is that if we equate dragons with danger and adversity, then we’ve all slain dragons.

But I’ve come to the point in my life when I’m tired of being defined by what I’ve survived or even what I’ve accomplished. I’m grateful to my past, but I no longer want to live in it.

Yes, I’ve learned lessons and I bear scars from my experiences, but I feel like every time someone defines me by my past a downed dragon is resurrected to strike again.

The time has come to slay the beasts once and for all, and to move forward. One of the benefits of my brain studies is that I now know it’s possible to reprogram our thinking. A change in thought can create neuropathways that that gives us a renewed sense of confidence and a healthier identity.

For me it means believing that I’m more than a survivor. I’m an adventurer. I’m a visionary.

So are you.

Understand that you have evolved from all of your experiences, every person you’ve met, every challenge you’ve overcome and every defeat you’ve endured, but you are more than those things. You are hope for today and faith for tomorrow.

Say out loud, “I was…”

There’s a weakness to it.

Now say, “I am…”

Two words never formed a more powerful de facto statement.

Now say aloud, “I will be…”

A combination of the three is a complete definition of who you truly are. Let’s refuse to be defined by only what we conquered long ago. Let’s live today to its fullest. Let’s evolve with the unfolding of the day.

This morning I’ll take my own advice. I’ll take Adelaide by the hand and head back out into her jungle where dragons are only as real and as powerful as we decide they are.

A Rainy Day, Donald Trump and Me

I was with HER. But that doesn’t change the fact that Donald Trump once showed me a generous side of humanity. So I share this story, not to offend, but because mudslinging doesn’t do anything but make a mess.

This is a photo of my two sons, brothers, playing in the mud. If you don’t know that I have white sons and black sons, and in-between children, you might interpret this photo inaccurately. Fact is, it was a rainy day and I wanted those boys to play in the mud because I wanted the image. At my encouragement, they took turns plastering each other. Splashing. Laughing. Being brothers. And making one heck of a mess.

Now I want to tell you a story of another rainy day. Early one morning ten years ago I walked outside of a NYC building owned by Donald Trump. There was a downpour and I was ill prepared. So there I stood on the curb, trying to hail a taxi when a car pulled up. A couple of men climbed out and one happened to be Mr. Trump. Now I’m nothing that would lure his attention my way. I’m middle-aged and far from a double-zero with double-D’s. But he still saw a woman caught in the rain and offered me an umbrella.

“Thank you, but I can’t accept it because I’m headed to the airport and won’t be able to return it.”

“It’s yours,” he said.

That was that.

The umbrella is in my closet. My kids know not to mess with it because it’s symbolic of unwarranted and unexpected kindness. Every time I see it I want to be a little more thoughtful and a lot more cognizant of those in need around me.

The umbrella presented a mystery during this past political campaign. Where was the kindness that had been extended to me? I hope it surfaces for the whole wide world, and I hope that I can better cultivate it in my own life.

I tell this story not so you’ll want to borrow my umbrella, but to think about something Aristotle believed, “Fear is pain rising from the anticipation of evil.”

Let’s not anticipate the worst. Let’s not live in fear and pain. We’re still Americans—free to choose. Let’s choose to not allow our differences to divide us. Because there is change around us does not have to mean there is change within us.

Aristotle also observed that: “We are what we repeatedly do.” Let’s repeatedly choose kindness, strength, love, respect, inclusion, support and unity.

How we come together and not come undone…is the history that we can still decide, it’s the history yet to be made. Yes, it’s storming and we’re all outside in a deluge. Will we share an umbrella? Oh, I sure, sure hope so.