To Everything There Is A Season

Christmas Tree Lights

Merry Christmas everyone and wish for you a loving and happy New Year in 2022! I hope you have been well this year and, in spite of perhaps some ups and downs, life has been good to you. Here we are and to everything there is a season and this is the time to celebrate life and each other.

It has taken me all year to write, and I wanted to connect with you before the year ends. For me, it’s been a good year and I hope it has been the same for you given the challenges and obstacle courses we’ve had to maneuver. For me, it mostly has been a year of reorientation to regroup from 2020, the pandemic and the world in general.

I’ve found myself more in observation mode wondering where my place is in it all and I haven’t, until lately, found the words to write. There has been a feeling of ebbs and flows each day, as they unfold, not only in my personal life but in the lives of those around me and beyond. I have sensed a shift, though subtle, and notice the changes in me and my life as I practice love and being in the present moment.

How do I put into words what is going on in my life and throughout 2021? And how can that mean anything to you? I won’t attempt to catch you up in it all in this one post. But, in the past year-plus, we’ve had babies born in our family (our first great-grandson) and 2 great-nephews born to our niece and niece’s daughter – babies, such a fresh addition to life, joy of innocence and hope for the future.

Christmas Bears

We’ve also had loved ones and distant friends die while others are challenged with health issues. Life keeps nudging us along on this ride and we’re high one moment and then it gets messy the next. All the while, I feel we’re not alone.

But then, what better time than at Christmas is there to reflect and feel the spirit of love. The season gives us that opportunity to pause in our busy lives and take time to write a card or call a friend. It draws us closer in attempts to celebrate longtime traditions, though different, that still have meaning for connection when we haven’t had the time nor felt the need any other time of the year.

There is a strong stirring of spirit this time of year and a holiness, if you can quiet your mind long enough to hear it. I believe this time of year people want and try to be kinder in the midst of annoyances, cancellations and Covid restrictions. The expectations we put on each other are high but so is the spirit of this season to help us remember what is important. Just pull yourself away from the party or TV show and step outside one of these evenings and look up in the sky. Breathe in all the awesomeness and beauty that’s always there waiting for us to notice.

God bless you – everyone. I’m still here and wish you love and joy this beautiful Christmas season and a New Year full of new adventures and surprises.

Pat at the ‘ol kitchen table

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Christmas in 2020

Winter Solstice Conjunction – Jupiter and Saturn Image taken in Italy Dec 21, 2020 – Photographer Unknown

I’m wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah. Here we are nearing the end of 2020 and feeling the familiar spirit of love and giving, as we pause to celebrate life with all faiths and peoples around the world.

It’s been different and certainly painful for many, as I’ve watched and felt it through the days and months of 2020. It’s as if we’re struggling to break free and transform into something unlike anything we’ve ever known, like a caterpillar and butterfly. We haven’t quite accomplished it yet and we’re still in the breaking-free part. It’s hard to determine what any of this is about while still struggling in the cocoon of challenges. It feels like traveling along a foggy highway and cautiously moving along but can’t see what’s ahead of us.

There is a shift in the heavens and an alignment of the planets with the ushering in of this year’s Winter Solstice. As we watch Jupiter and Saturn rendezvous, while making another trip around the sun on Earth, the shift and alignment is going on in us, too.

Things no longer look the same nor work in the same way. No matter how bad we want it to go back to the way it was, it all seems so confusing and chaotic but I can’t help but believe there’s always hope. It’s part of the Christmas story handed down so many years ago.

Christmas Star courtesy of MSN Clipart

I recently came across one of my old journals where I wrote thoughts about things that were going on in my life some years ago. I must have been reaching for hope and drawing on some inner peace and you may think that ‘all is well’ is last thing you can relate to at this time. But, it caught my attention, while I was reflecting on my girlfriend and her husband’s challenges, both going through cancer at the same time and in their ’80’s.

Here are my entries and I hope they help you reach for hope and draw on your own inner peace right where you’re at and whatever may be going on in your life at this very moment. There is something bigger at work this 2020, no matter what it looks like, and there’s always hope.

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All is Well

The feeling when you breathe in that fresh, crisp air on a cool, fall evening and see the stars twinkling . . . all is well.

When your puppy licks your hand and you can feel it’s cold, wet nose on your leg . . . all is well.

When you’ve worked hard all day and come home to the ones you love and love you . . .all is well.

You all know those moments, those times, when all the challenges and struggles of life are worth it. And they’re more than we realize. Somehow, it’s like we’re trained to only give credence to those things that make life hard, as if we need to pass an initiation to an important club.

But, if we would only take time to look around at the precious moments in life that pass through and mean so much with very little effort. How it touches your heart. Oh, the laughter of a child, when he’s being tickled – so much to notice – so much love – just for us to enjoy . . . no charge.

Life shouldn’t be so hard. I think we make it hard so we feel like we’ve accomplished something. But, life just happens whether you’re making it hard or easy. It just happens. Sooo . . .

The taste of a cold, fresh glass of orange juice . . . all is well.

A phone call from an old friend you haven’t heard from for years . . . all is well.

You smell a sweet fragrance of perfume or food cooking and flash back to a childhood memory . . . all is well.

Your husband takes your hand in the movie . . . all is well.

Your baby took his first step . . .all is well.

See, there is so much around us to be thankful for, to feel good about. Maybe, if we concentrated more on the good that is happening, rather than the bad, then when we are faced with a real difficult challenge, we would handle it better and be able to move through it faster and be more open to learn from it.

But, somehow, it seems more appropriate to bring attention to our crisis so we have something more in common to talk about. It’s awkward and we’re looking for comfort – a safe place to land. But, did you notice there are not many people listening. They would much rather hear about something that feels good and distracts them from their own challenges.

Imagine with me, if you will, floating up in space and, as you do, panning out and looking back at that big, beautiful blue ball we call home – suspended there – slowly and silently moving on course. Tell me, in the bigger picture of things taking in all that, you can’t say, “All is well!?”

Earth space universe globe Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com (https://www.pexels.com/photo/earth-space-universe-globe-41953/)
Earth space universe globe Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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God bless you this Christmas holiday season. Remember you are never alone as you walk this path of your journey. That is hope . . . that is the spirit of Christmas.

Pat from the ‘ol kitchen table.

A Better Way

Photo of Road During Daytime by Quang Nguyen Vinh on Pexels.com at https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-road-during-daytime-3872146/

I watch and observe what’s playing out these days in governments, politics and the media and I ask myself, “Isn’t there a better way?” Whether we’re in the era of gladiators, Civil War or pandemic, the scenarios are different but the human dilemma is the same. It’s the powerful versus the powerless. Each side digs in until they get enough support to overcome the other side and then, when they succeed, they proceed to reign over the rest but in a different way. It’s a never ending cycle.

Oh, we’ve evolved and improved life, as we know it, but we just can’t seem to get passed this power play. I wonder what it will take . . . are we experiencing that right now, the birth of a better way, in this pandemic where it doesn’t have a preference nor takes sides?

“The Real You” by Alan Watts

There were many power plays I observed growing up and noted briefly in my last post, “Imperfection”, when I said my parents were from the North and South. That’s a reference to the Civil War era where places in the U.S. will always hold onto their ancestors’ deference of pride and belief.

In the South, on summer vacations as a young child, I witnessed anger and hate between my grandfather and his black neighbor and the heated exchanges they had with each other. The police came to cool things down but the anger remained and I wondered how it began. It’s been more than a century since we had slavery in this country, that resulted in a Civil War, and the lack of understanding and respect on both sides still causes conflicts.

The human dilemma . . . and how far back does it go? I suppose it’s been there since the beginning of time and we’ve all taken turns on one side or the other, either being the one to hurt and apply force or the other who is beaten down and wounded.

My grandmother, as years passed, grew weary of the feud and cut down the story-tall hedge along the driveway that separated their homes. I don’t know if that was the beginning of change or not – time has a way of revealing truth and the handling of past events. On the day of my grandmother’s funeral, my sister and I were walking up to the funeral home when we saw an elderly black man with a straw hat coming out. We recognized him as their neighbor long ago. He gestured as he paused to acknowledge his condolences and we noticed a tear on his cheek.

Growing up in the North, south of Philly in blue-collar family suburbs, the culture was different than the South. Struggles were not as much focused between colors of skin as it was with money and power between the “haves” and “have-nots”. My family was no different in that I observed those struggles with my parents in their community and their neighbors. In what I can remember, gathered from stories I’ve heard, our little community was built by a somewhat rich developer. Even the name of our street we lived on was named after him, “Love”. He had influence in the community and politics where even some regulations became law from his recommendations.

They didn’t have property management companies in those days but fines were enforced if certain laws were not abided by. My dad grumbled at having to cut his grass, as his pie-shaped lot was larger than most because it was on a curve. Likewise, he grumbled at having to shovel the sidewalk, again twice as long as others. And, if he didn’t comply in a set amount of time he was threatened with a fine.

It wasn’t that he didn’t want to keep his home kept up and safe for the neighborhood. It was how those in power flexed their muscles and enjoyed it. Many of times I heard him complain . . . “old man Love is at it again” . . . or “old man Love is making us do this now.” I don’t know whether any of that is true or not. I just remember the mutters every time we passed his big house on the hill when coming up out of our complex.

This is mild compared to the many union battles and displays of anger and hate between workers and owners. My father was a welder in the shipyards and spoke of the many disputes disgruntled workers were having with their employers either over wages or working conditions. In some places, it even came to violence. The scenarios are different now but the battles still linger on.

Is there a better way? Is it possible we could make a shift, while in the midst of a pandemic that doesn’t play favorites and economic losses that, if not already touched by it, seep out and eventually affect everyone? I’m hopeful we can draw on a source deep within us and learn a different way than how it’s been done . . . forever. Perhaps, it would look something like this.

Years ago, I came across this passage by Ram Dass in his book, “Still Here”:

“…when there is true surrender and service between people, the roles of helper and helped, and the boundaries between those in power and those who are powerless, begin to dissolve.”

These words have always stuck with me and I’ve wondered what true surrender and service would look like in my own heart. How do I truly surrender when I look to be validated and want my voice heard? And, what is true service look like aside from volunteering and giving of my time when it fits in my life.

I think Mother Teresa was the pure example of what true surrender and service looked like. She had a poem above her bed in her little ashram in Calcutta, India where she must have looked every day before stepping out on the street (similar to the 1968 publication by Dr. Kent M. Keith called the Paradoxical Commandments).  It goes like this:

The Final Analysis

People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered;

Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;

Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;

Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;

Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone may destroy overnight;

Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;

Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;

Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;

Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is all between you and God;

It was never between you and them anyway.

The Final Analysis” — Dr. Wayne Dyer

We’re living in unusual times. In my 70+ years, I don’t remember when we’ve had a disease spread across our country and the whole world not only taking lives but causing economic hardships for many. It’s something calling our attention, where we no longer have the luxury of sitting on the sidelines watching others go through it, but where it can potentially touch each one of us in some way or another. It gives me pause to look deeper within myself and seek direction on what part I have to play.

As I do, I can’t help but reflect on those great teachers that have left behind for us their nuggets of truth. At this time and space, there is opportunity to find a better way. Where we’re poised at a crossroads we’ve never seen before, I believe it’s possible. Do we listen and understand?

“It may be when we no longer know what we have to do, we have come to our real work, and that when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey” ~~ Wendell Berry

Pat from the ‘ol kitchen table

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Acknowledgements: Photo of road during daytime by Quang more...

Imperfection

Roof and Bottle Photo - © ¬Jim Ruppel 8-26-2012
Roof and Bottle Photo – © ¬Jim Ruppel 8-26-2012

Hubby took this photo many years ago and it struck me as something seemingly out of place – imperfect, if you will. How did that beer bottle get lodged in the rubble of that old roof? There’s evidence that a human has been there and everywhere else you go, even on the moon.

I suppose we try to put things in order, align and match, as some illusionary effort of control. Nothing escapes these attempts and, yet, where’s the perfection? I have been trying to perfect me and the world my whole life only to manage to always come up short. Oddly, I have the innate ability to perfect what I’m working on, while completely ignoring everything else around me.

I’ll want to get my writing perfect, down to the last comma, while my piano reveals the dust of my signature. It’s selective and I know it, yet, not alone as I see a lot of it these days; especially in the midst of this pandemic, where we notice those imperfections of others not so easily noticed in us.

Life is just imperfect and, for me, I’m really seeing it in a profound way in giving up trying to fix things. There will always be injustices and, perhaps, the point is not to right the wrongs but to bring something better into the equation – maybe, the best of both sides.

I’ve recently considered possibly some of the battles I’ve had within myself are rooted in history with parents from the North and South. Even though the Civil War in the U.S has long been fought and is over, there will still remain distinctive beliefs supporting each side to the extent of rioting and killing. It’s gotten to extremes in demanding rights completing discounting the fact others may have rights, too. Why is it we try so hard to get others to believe our way? We think life would be so much easier if others would just do what we want them to do.

On the lighter side, it’s quite funny, when I think of it, in the many situations where my imperfections have showed up – in fact; it’s been like a spotlight augmenting the flaws. I think at this stage in my life I’ve learned to embrace it and love the quirkiness of it all. Hubby can tell you that for so long, having lived with me for over 53 years, between him and girls, I’m surprised the outcomes have turned out as good as they did.

It usually shows up when I’m not true to myself. I’ll try to do something like someone else or want to give a good impression. Or, when I don’t have the courage to follow my own instincts and instead follow along with everyone else. And, also it’s particularly revealing when I have something in mind that I want to do and don’t want to take the time to consider the consequences and think it through.

An early example is when hubby and I were first dating (and I don’t know why I’m sharing this). We were parked after a movie and talking before having to get home. It was dark and, in the stillness, the moment was perfect as hubby pulled me close to hold and kiss me. As he held me tight I felt the cup of my bra fold in but didn’t think much of it. A few moments afterwards – still in the moment and silence – there was a “pop” where my bra sprang back out. It was awkward and spontaneous and we both burst out laughing. I was glad it was dark and you couldn’t see how embarrassed I was but happy another date followed. Now, you can’t make that stuff up.

Another time was when I drove the girls down a back way off a mountain trail to empty their snails in a stream. That was probably not a good idea either. The hill coming back up was so steep I had a hard time getting any traction. Halfway up, I lost my momentum in the climb and slowed down long enough where the tires just started spinning. Every time I tried the car would shift sideways and wasn’t getting a grip. Because the hill was so steep and the car had gotten sideways so far it looked as if it could tip over. So, the girls bailed on the higher side and I managed to get out too. They ran back home and a neighbor graciously came to our rescue.

I suppose imperfections also show up in making bad choices. Maybe somewhere deep inside of us there’s a moment, when the results could be avoided if we took the time to listen. But, in our headstrong quest we boldly forge ahead. One such event like that happened in making a wrong choice. If I had paused long enough I probably would have done something differently.

Again, the girls were with me. They “enjoyed” these adventures with me and so enjoyed sharing them with their dad. We were downtown Denver, Colorado, in a ’77 Ford Van (orange – go Broncos). We came to the entrance of a parking garage, where a pole is suspended by chains to stop you long enough from entering to consider the height of your vehicle.

I stopped. I even think I got out to look and assess whether I had the clearance or not to proceed. I concluded that I did and continued on but didn’t consider the vent we had just installed on top of the van. I realized it was too late then and no going back after going under one of the main concrete beams . . . “shhhh”! It was “shhhh” all the way through the parking garage until we finally came out on the other side.

I’m making light attempting to interject some humor in the complexities of life and some of the difficult events we’re experiencing in these times. It gets hard when we insist on doing things the way we see it. We live in a world of right-wrong, up-down, in-out and the universe will be patient and allow us to go on beating the wind to justify our position and rights until we pause long enough to consider that’s the point. Eventually, in the challenging struggles and frustrations we’ll look for another way and there it will be.

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.” ― Rumi

Life is serious and there’s a lot of heavy stuff happening that’s not to be taken lightly. But, we’re all in this ride together on this big beautiful world taking another trip around the sun. It could be so much better if we’d pulled together in finding a better way to solve these challenges and embrace the imperfections.

Pat from the ‘ol kitchen table

Hope and a Future

candles
Candle Photo from MSN Clipart

These are trying times and no matter how this pandemic is touching you, there are times when you may feel like you’ve lost all hope. I know I’m not saying anything you already don’t know and aren’t experiencing – life isn’t normal these days.

Whether, it’s keeping social distancing with a neighbor or not having a job to go back to. These are the highs and lows with many layers in between – a roller coaster ride, with no end in sight, rising from one level of worry about paying bills to another dip if your spouse or parent gets sick. Sounds pretty grim but please read on.

I came across a scripture in a sample of a daily devotional I received in the mail last year and it struck a chord. I was feeling low at the time and it touched me deeply and comforted me. It seemed to be exactly what I needed to hear at the time.

The same passage popped up again a couple of Sundays ago in an evening TV series finale showing of “God Friended Me”. I noticed the mention of the same scripture and remembered how it affected me when I first read it. When something shows up again like this, even after a year, it gets my attention, especially in times like these. It reads like this:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

Hope comes in many forms and this one may not particularly fit for you. You may wonder where’s the comfort in prosperity if your family is hungry and you don’t know how you’ll get the next meal. Or, the one you loved has just died and you couldn’t be there to say goodbye. It hurts and we feel in harm’s way when we’re in depths of despair when these events happen to us.

But, even in those darkest times a glimmer of hope can happen. May be just how the light cast shadows through a window or a passing gesture of someone walking down the street. It’s what catches our attention, grabs our heart for just a moment and we notice long enough to feel that feeling of hope that goes beyond our situation.

“Four Candles”

What’s different these days is that circumstances are forcing us to refocus. We’ve been locked down and staying home – only now recently going back to work, wearing masks when we go out in public, sanitizing groceries and goods we bring home and washing our hands. Before, we never gave any of that a second thought. We’d meet up with friends at a game or a restaurant and now that’s been all closed down, even airports have looked like ghost towns.

We have to rethink how to work, shop, cook, travel, entertain ourselves and communicate with each other. We have so much time on our hands it all seems so different and, no doubt, foreign. But, when circumstances dictate new routines a new reality appears. You may now notice things that weren’t on your radar before.

It’s like someone who has visited a friend once a week for many years and that friend is going out of town for a few weeks and asks them to house sit. Even though they’ve been in their house for years on weekly visits, there are things they come across while house sitting they never noticed before – a crack in the ceiling or a painting in the hallway. So, when their friend returns and they come for a visit, they won’t see their home in the same way they saw it before.

Even though life is different these days, maybe having to change our routines and refocus is a good thing. We’ll realize we can be more creative and do the same job in a different way and have more time. Once we settle down and move off our old ruts and out of our comfort zones, we may realize it’s nice and less stressful. We find ourselves breathing again with a space for hope. Maybe, in terms of this pandemic, we’ll no longer view things in gloomy black and white but in rainbows.

The “Rainbow Song” – A celebration of Nelson Mandela. “He didn’t dream in black and white, he saw a rainbow”.

I’ve always found that no matter what I’ve had to go through in my life, and no matter how devastating it was, there was always extra grace to match the circumstance. I believe this grace is being matched all over the world in every circumstance that’s being experienced in these times. Hope is for everyone no matter your belief.

When the pandemic has calmed down and we’ve discovered how to treat this coronavirus, life will seem to begin to return but it may look a lot different than it did before. We will have learned and experienced a new reality and ways of living we may not want to give up to go back to the way it was. We will have learned to function in a new way and enjoy it. The old way may no longer work for us.

Old jobs won’t be there anymore to go back to but new jobs will have cropped up to replace them. In reinventing ourselves we’ll have realized we moved onto something more efficient and better. But, more importantly we’ve touched something within that’s more important and noticed things about ourselves and life we never had time to realize before. Life has more meaning and depth.

Dr. Maya Angelou: “Be a Rainbow in Someone Else’s Cloud”

Dr. Maya Angelou: “Be A Rainbow In Someone Else’s Cloud”

Life is a gift and no matter how bad the coronavirus is realized in your life, there will be something different come out of it you will notice. Let it happen for you and hope will be in the center of it among many other things. God bless you and be safe and well.

Pat from the ‘ol kitchen table