G.K. Chesterton

The Critical Thing

November 22, 2017

“When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted
or take them with gratitude.”
—G.K. Chesterton

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day here in the United States. Wishing you a very happy day, whether or not celebrating Thanksgiving is a part of your tradition!  


Already Overwhelmed by the Coming Holidays? Here Are 7 Ways to Find the Holiday Happy

November 17, 2017

Photo by +Simple on Unsplash

Can we postpone Thanksgiving? Maybe until sometime after the New Year?

It’s not that I don’t have plenty to be thankful for, I do—it’s just that I’m feeling overwhelmed. The last three months have been a blur and things don’t seem to be slowing down. Thanksgiving is next week, and then, oh then, here comes Christmas. (That’s right. I said the C word.)

I’m not ready.

This seems to be a theme with me around the holidays—feeling overwhelmed and stressed. I don’t think it’s just me, however. There are many reasons someone might not feel that happy about the upcoming holiday season. Perhaps you’re feeling sorrow over a death in the family, fighting an illness, or you’re overloaded with work or other responsibilities.

Since I don’t want to be the Bah Humbug of the holiday season, I sat down to ponder what I—and anyone else finding him or herself overwhelmed by the prospect of the upcoming holidays—could do to find some Holiday Happy.

Here’s what I came up with:

1. Work on your communication skills. Communicate what you need for yourself and what you need from others. If necessary, practice saying what you need to say so that you don’t explode or cry or go silent when you have the chance to speak up.

2. Ask for and—even more important—accept help. Gatherings are more fun for everyone when we all get to contribute. No one wants to see you become a shell of yourself because you spent the entire day cooking a fabulous meal and then it was all over in 10 minutes and WHY DID I EVEN BOTHER, YOU UNGRATEFUL WRETCHES. No, no one wants to see that.

On a related note, cut back and outsource. Don’t try to do everything you’d normally do as well as all the holiday preparations. Pick up dinner at the grocery store, have the gifts professionally wrapped, hire a housecleaner just before your holiday party. See: “former shell of yourself,” above.

3. Don’t expect too much. We often raise our expectations about a number of things during the holidays. How our homes look, how much fancy cooking we do, even how we or others will behave. It’s OK to expect to have some special moments during this festive season. Just try not to expect everything to go perfectly. Don’t expect Uncle Elmo to suddenly become the warm fuzzy of the family when he’s more likely to be the Grinch, or that the cat won’t climb the Christmas tree and break at least one ornament. I speak from experience.

4. Take care of your health. Don’t skimp on sleep, vegetables, or exercise. A few late nights or an extra piece of pie will be much easier to recover from if you maintain your basic health habits. And I’m sorry, but pumpkin pie doesn’t count as a vegetable.

5. Choose one or two special holiday rituals and let the rest go. I know there are tempting experiences around every corner, but you’ll just make yourself crazy if you try to do them all.

6. Focus on what you want to celebrate. Being together? Gratitude? Your personal religious tradition? Your child’s (or grandchild’s) first holiday? The fact that it’s cool outside and you don’t have to run the AC on Thanksgiving Day this year? There is always something to celebrate and something to be grateful for.

7. Develop your sense of humor, and don’t take everything so seriously. It’s not the end of the world when the squirrels eat your holiday pumpkin display on the front porch, for example.

I’m going to try to follow my own advice, and make this a happy—not harried—holiday season. How about you?

What special holiday experiences do you look forward to every year?


Is There Better Than Here?

November 15, 2017

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

“So often we imagine that There is more full of gold than Here. It is the same with love and dreams and the work of our lives. We see the light everywhere but where we are, and chase after what we think we lack, only to find, humbly, it was with us all along.”
—Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

Everyday adventures

Field Trip Friday--Ghost Ranch

November 10, 2017

One of my favorite things about traveling is discovery—not just discovery of a place, but discovery of people and subject matter I was previously ignorant of. Back in April, on my enchanted meander in Arizona and New Mexico, I went to a place I had previously never heard of that completely, well, enchanted me: Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, NM.

Ghost Ranch came by its name when cattle rustlers spread the rumor that the area was haunted by evil spirits in order to keep their neighbors from discovering the stolen animals hidden in the canyon next to Kitchen Mesa. The name, “Rancho de los Brujos” (“Ranch of the Witches”) eventually evolved into Ghost Ranch. 

In 1934, painter Georgia O’Keeffe visited Ghost Ranch. At the time, it was a dude ranch owned by Arthur Pack and Carol Stanley. O’Keeffe began spending summers there, renting Pack’s own residence, Rancho de los Burros, so she could have the privacy and isolation she craved. In 1940, Pack sold her the house and seven acres. She returned every year until the last few years of her life. Ghost Ranch’s logo is an adaptation of a sketch O’Keeffe gave to Arthur Pack in the 1930s.

The landscape of Ghost Ranch offered O’Keeffe many subjects to paint. One of her favorites was the flat-topped mountain she saw from her kitchen window, Cerro Pedernal:

Ghost Ranch is now an educational conference center owned by the Presbyterian Church. Visitors can take guided tours, hike the grounds, visit the museums of anthropology and paleontology, take an O’Keeffe-inspired trail ride (I wish we’d had time for that!), or simply soak in the peaceful atmosphere.

Exploring the world, whether on road trips or Field Trip Friday, whether near or far, will always be more than just a simple pleasure for me, or even an everyday adventure. At the risk of sounding clich├ęd, it feeds my soul. It takes me out of myself and my daily cares and responsibilities, broadens my outlook, helps me feel connected to other people who may (or may not) have those same daily cares and responsibilities. I’ve got several Georgia O’Keeffe-related books on my TBR list now, and I still intend to paint an O’Keeffe inspired watercolor in my sketchbook. (I’m just wrapping up Laure Ferlita’s Imaginary Visit to the American Southwest class, and that should help!)

Where have your everyday adventures taken you lately?


Grateful for the Small and Simple Things

November 08, 2017

“Sometimes we should express our gratitude for the small and simple things like the scent of the rain, the taste of your favorite food, or the sound of a loved one's voice.”
—Joseph B. Wirthlin

What are some small, simple things you’re grateful for?

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