Thursday, December 31, 2009

Up in Smoke!

Here we are again , the end of another year … time to let it go!

Have you any plans to celebrate? Or, will this evening find you quietly reflecting, in the peace of your own home? At this writing, DH and I plan to attend our church’s Burning Bowl service. “What’s that”, you ask?

In brief, two candles are lit – one that stands for the old year, another signifying the New Year. Everyone is given a piece of paper on which we write whatever it is that we want to release. (I was once cautioned, ”No names, please – God’s not a ‘hit man’.”)

After a time of prayer, each row is invited to come up. We stand for a moment, touch our paper to the light and inwardly just feel, “I release you and let you go.” The paper is then placed it in the Burning Bowl. This is a universal sort of thing – placing in the fire and releasing – as a way of convincing our consciousness that we have let it go!

While this ritual may sound “New Age” or metaphysical, it actually has origins in ancient faiths and traditions. In her book, Transformative Rituals: Celebrations for Personal Growth, Gay Williamson-Grigas writes, “Fire is frequently used at the beginning of a new year for cleansing and transforming – like the mythical Phoenix, rising from the ashes.”

“When we make time to acknowledge our emotional life through ritual and ceremony, we free ourselves up to love more, to forgive more, to be full of more of God’s grace, which is really the healing balm.”

From our family to yours …. Happy New Year! (Stay safe out there!)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Do I Make You Proud?

From "service dog" to "SURF-ice" dog ...

I had to share this clip --easily, the best e-mail I've seen this year! Animal lover or not, it's message is so uplifting ... turning disappointment into a joyful new direction!

Hope you can open this link; or will make room this busy week to cut/paste to your browser:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGODurRfVv4

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Rekindle Your Inner Light

Are you familiar with Eric Harvey's website, WalkTheTalk.com? I look forward each workday to receiving his "Daily Inspiration" (e-feed), e-newsletter and book reviews. Here's a recent example:
* * * * *

Sometimes our light goes out but is blown again into flame by an encounter with another human being. Each of us owes the deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this inner light.”

Albert Schweitzer said these words and how very true they are. We’ve all had times in our lives when we desperately needed “a shot of inspiration” to move forward. Kate Nowak has written a beautiful book that truly brings this idea to life. Today, I’d like to share Kate’s introduction, which tells the story behind May You Be Blessed.

To Your Success,

Eric Harvey
Founder and President, WalkTheTalk.com

Excerpted from May You Be Blessed by Kate Nowak

It happened a few days after my father’s death, in that mind-numbing period of adjustment after someone we love leaves us. Having gone shopping for necessities for my trip back to my own home, I was standing in an otherwise empty aisle of a large chain store when suddenly I sneezed, the last vestiges of an allergy attack I’d fought earlier in the week.

Almost instantly, from the next aisle over I heard a voice call out, “Bless you,” and then another, and another, and yet another. All in all, in the span of only a few seconds, I counted eleven different voices coming from every possible direction in the store, some saying “God bless you,” others using the word “gezundheit,” but all blessing me, all calling good down upon me.

At first I thought little of it. After all the idea of blessing someone when they sneeze is rooted in superstition, an archaic belief that in the act of sneezing the soul is thrown from the body, and a blessing is needed for spiritual protection.

Today, it is usually offered as no more than a courtesy, a polite response that has come to be socially accepted and expected. But on that particular day, in the first few moments following all those blessings being called out to me, I began to notice a difference in myself: A slight shift in perception that left me feeling more connected and empowered than I had in days. It also left me, for the first time since my father’s passing, more confident that everything would be all right.

Driving back to my father’s house that day, I continued periodic “feelings” checks, marveling at how much stronger I felt. Later, sitting in my parent’s kitchen for what would be one of the last times, I recounted the story to my stepmother. “Do you think any of them realized what they were saying?” she asked. “Or was it just out of habit?”

“Just habit,” I answered with a shrug, thinking about what a shame it was that people could give such a needed gift as a blessing and not even be aware of what they had done. “It should be a habit, this business of blessing others,” I said a moment later. “But it would be nice if people actually knew they could and were making a difference.”

A seed was planted that day and two years later it sprouted, awakening me one morning to a gentle soul-whisper that poured forth as the words of a special blessing. Feeling compelled to take pen and paper from my nightstand, I prodded myself into full wakefulness and then sat on the edge of the bed, like a secretary poised for dictation, pen ready to capture each syllable as the inspired words flowed into my awareness.

Because of the power of the internet, those words have since been sent across the planet and read by millions, and as a result, I have received thousands of letters from people telling me how May You Be Blessed has impacted their lives. And in each and every instance I have found myself blessed in return.

I have often wondered since if my newfound work as a dispatcher of blessings is the result of a serendipitous accident that placed me in a crowded store on a day when I was both prone to sneeze, and to listen to subtle nudges from the heart. Or was it, perhaps, that my father’s gentle spirit was present that day, inspiring others to offer blessings so that I might be lifted up?

Of course, it is a question I cannot answer, but I do know that since that time my life has changed remarkably. Each day is now entirely centered on the act of blessing and I have come to recognize it not only as one of the most powerful and practical ways we have for reconnecting with each other, our world and Life itself, but also the most phenomenal way possible to lead us to happiness and success. It is a discovery I now endeavor daily to share with all.

A blessing, I have come to realize, is a sweet release from pain; a sacred reminder that we are made of love and light and goodness and, as such, part of a greater and most wondrous whole. It is an ancient key to a successful and fulfilling life.

Today, whenever I share with others this phenomenal key, explaining how, as we each develop the habit of blessing others we are blessing our own lives, as well, I feel as if I have been given a wonderful gift. I realize once again how truly blessed I am. It is my hope that as you read this book and allow the words of this blessing to enter your heart, you will be blessed in return. I could not ask for anything sweeter to my soul that that.



Thursday, December 24, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

Rudolph - The Rest of the Story!

A man named Bob May, depressed and broken-hearted, stared out his drafty apartment window into the chilling December night.

His 4-year-old daughter Barbara sat on his lap quietly sobbing. Bobs wife, Evelyn, was dying of cancer. Little Barbara couldn't understand why her mommy could never come home. Looking into her dad's eyes she asked, "Why isn't Mommy just like everybody else's Mom.?"

Bob's jaw tightened and his eyes welled with tears. Her question brought waves of grief, but also of anger.

It had been the story of Bob's life. Life always had to be different for Bob.

Small when he was a kid, Bob was often bullied by other boys. He was too little at the time to compete in sports. He was often called names he'd rather not remember. From childhood, Bob was different and never seemed to fit in.

Bob did complete college, married his loving wife and was grateful to get his job as a copywriter at Montgomery Ward during the Great Depression. Then he was blessed with his little girl.

But it was all short-lived. Evelyn's bout with cancer stripped them of all their savings and now Bob and his daughter were forced to live in a two-room apartment in the Chicago slums.

Evelyn died just days before Christmas in 1938.

Bob struggled to give hope to his child, for whom he couldn't even afford to buy a Christmas gift. But if he couldn't buy a gift, he was determined to make one - a storybook!

Bob had created an animal character in his own mind and told the animal's story to little Barbara to give her comfort and hope.

Again and again Bob told the story, embellishing it more with each telling.

Who was the character? What was the story all about?

The story Bob May created was his own autobiography in fable form.

The character he created was a misfit outcast like he was. The name of the character?

A little reindeer named Rudolph, with a big shiny nose.

Bob finished the book just in time to give it to his little girl on Christmas Day. But the story doesn't end there.

The general manager of Montgomery Ward caught wind of the little storybook and offered Bob May a nominal fee to purchase the rights to print the book. Wards went on to print, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and distribute it to children visiting Santa Claus in their stores.

By 1946 Wards had printed and distributed more than six million copies of Rudolph. That same year, a major publisher wanted to purchase the rights from Wards to print an updated version of the book.

In an unprecedented gesture of kindness, the CEO of Wards returned all rights back to Bob May. The book became a best seller.

Many toy and marketing deals followed and Bob May, now remarried with a growing family, became wealthy from the story he created to comfort his grieving daughter.

But the story doesn't end there either.

Bob's brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, made a song adaptation to Rudolph. Though the song was turned down by such popular vocalists as Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore, it was recorded by the singing cowboy, Gene Autry.

"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" was released in 1949 and became a phenomenal success, selling more records than any other Christmas song, with the exception of "White Christmas."

The gift of love that Bob May created for his daughter so long ago kept on returning back to bless him again and again.

And Bob May learned the lesson, just like his dear friend Rudolph, that being different isn't so bad. In fact, being different can be a blessing.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Silent Night


Wow! Just one year ago, sweet Charlotte invited me to Spiritual Sundays ... introducing me to your wonderfully warm and caring team. Thank you, all of you, for making my world a richer place!

Yes, this is a "re-run", but it's message is timeless. Like my blog title reads, may we "learn from the past."

Note: I photocopied this article several years ago. 'Think it appeared in my folks' December issue of Readers Digest? Unfortunately, I cannot locate the exact source --so to credit the author, an individual named "Shlomo" (I don't know if that's his first or last name).
Still, it's message so moved me.....and I hope it does you, as well.



Of the narrow escapes my sister, Judith, and I had from discovery during our year in the orphanage, one stands out particularly. It was Christmas of 1944 -- a white Christmas, with snow falling outside, but warmth within from extra coal and larger food portions. We even had meat -- meat! A Christmas tree stood in the corner, and we children were seated on both sides of a long table nicely arranged with plates. We were singing Christmas carols, their simple and pleasant melodies totally out of context of the savage war that had been raging for six consecutive Christmases.

The pleasant feeling of food in our stomachs loosened our tongues, and contrary to the usual silence enforced during meals we were permitted by the sisters to converse quietly. Boys and girls were separated as usual, but Judith and I could see and smile at each other.

Then suddenly, the door opens and Mother Superior enters, accompanied by a German officer. Judging by his uniform he must be at least a general.

"Children," Mother Superior says, "the commander of the German garrison in Zilina is a devout Catholic, and he asked to spend the evening with you. He also brought you a nice present."

The present turns out to be a large chocolate cake. It is delicious, but I cannot escape an oppressive feeling. Even on this night must the Germans intrude on the tiny and shaky island of peace I have tried to carve out for myself? I notice, too, the tension on Judith's face as she eats her cake silently, her apprehensive eyes on Herr Commandant.

Again we sing some carols -- one of them "Silent Night, Holy Night," itself so close to a prayer.

When we finish there is a pause, and the commandant whispers something to Mother Superior. After a moment's hesitation she asks: "Is there anyone here who can sing 'Silent Night' in German? It will make our distinguished guest very happy."

Both Judith and I know some German; actually we had learned the German version of this song before the Slovak one. But should I now stand up and sing it for our enemy?

As I hesitate I see Judith slowly rise from her chair and walk toward the commandant. The decision has been made for me, so I stand beside her and we join our voices: "Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht ..." As we sing, the face above the medals becomes animated and involved in our performance -- the lips move together with our words.

Then suddenly Judith gasps and stops, terror in her eyes. She has suddenly realized what I, too, had feared: Why are we two the only children who know the German version? Where are the others? The answer is simple, and surely the German officer knows it. In this part of the land it is only Jews who understand German. The Commandant has trapped us -- he knows we are Jewish.

He motions to us to approach. It seems an eternity before he speaks. Then looking at us, he says softly: "Hab keine Angst, deine Mutter und Vater werden zuruck kommen" -- "Don't be afraid, your mother and father will come back."

For him, too, it was a silent night.



Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sidelined!

Noooo, I didn't make my transition. 'Twas our computer.
Here, I was "talking" about Andy Williams, then poof! Out of its misery after 11 long years.
Whew ...What stories, what secrets it might have boasted! (Shhhh!)

Nostalgia be darned! Like the child who suddenly develops a dislike for certain food groups, it balked at any site containing color or audio. That pretty much sums up Blog-land, hmmm?

Perhaps DH figured I might "go postal" without ready access to the internet. At any rate, we've just put in it's place a fresh, FAST HP. I'm euphoric at the possibilities! Think I'll call it "Comet."

I'm MISSED ya'all! Be back soon ... if'n I've not forgotten how!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Happy 82nd Birthday, Andy Williams!!! (#82 ...Jaw drop? Me, too!)

I’m sure missing the Christmas Specials of my youth. Color me, stuck in the 60’s tonight.

‘Specially Andy Williams annual extravaganza ...I close my eyes and still envision the impossibly-lovely Claudine making her entrance down the staircase with a toddler in one hand, a babe in the other, as her husband gazed on adoringly. An age of innocence … before we knew of men called “Spider” and the Grinch commeth.

Then, there were Lawrence Welk’s Specials, featuring “the lovely Lennon Sisters” (… and brothers, and still more sisters!). As a youngster I’d secretly fantasized about being a “Lennon” – I wanted DeeDee as a big sister in the worst way! Later I came to read their beautifully-written autobiography, “Same Song, Separate Voices.” An eye-opener to be sure … great read, if anyone’s inclined to learn “the rest of the story.”

I’m sure there were others … Perry Como, perhaps?
Life went on, while I wasn’t looking. Guess I’d better sit up, while there’s time and start paying attention!