Posts tagged ‘Holidays’

December 19, 2011

The Gift of Play

Bird whistles rockWhen was the last time you truly played? Did something fun simply for the enjoyment of it. No goals. No plans. No expectations. But also, active. Taking action without intention, simply for the amusement of that action, maybe to see what would happen. Did you play at all today?

Sometimes as we grow up, we forget how to play. Many times our children serve as reminders- however, what is play to children isn’t always satisfyingly playful to adults. Play dances at the edges of our developmental abilities. It can be enthralling to watch this and participate in this with children, at their level, but as ever growing and changing beings our edges like the dance as well.

Playing, in whatever form it takes for you, has many benefits- it reduces stress (which is well documented as a cause of many physical ailments), it increases our creativity, mental flexibility and focus. Play gives us energy. These are our edges as grown up people- the places where we are often challenged. Especially as parents. But do you know any adult who couldn’t use more energy, focus and creativity, and less stress? (You know, I do think I actually know a quite a few…and guess what? They play. Often.)

There is one caveat here. If we go into play time looking for benefits, we’ve turned it into something other than play. An assignment. A project. Something we do because it’s “good for us”. Yikes. I’ve noticed that I have a strong tendency to do this with my creative pursuits. Recently I began painting. My intention was to just have fun with it, and I painted an image that had been in my head for a while. It was fun. I did some more painting. Then I got ideas. I decided that I wanted to paint some more specific images. I wanted to use them for another project I’m working on. Can you guess what happened? I stopped painting. Somehow I didn’t feel the urge to pull the paints out again. I had turned my play into a chore. A project. Something that needed to be done. So much for the fun, energy, creativity and stress relief. But it’s also a fun juxtaposition. Play is only play when it’s done for it’s own sake. For fun. For the love of what you’re doing. Yep. Work can even be play.

So, how will you give yourself the gift of play? I will be pulling out my paints and a fresh canvas. No fixing that bizarre looking lizard. No grand attempts to paint that flame on the canvas I painted black, unless it feels like fun. Just me and some colors and some brushes and a blank canvas. Slap some paint down and see where it goes. But play can be anything- taking a walk down a different street, getting lost (literally or figuratively), making designs in the dirt (or your mashed potatoes), seeing what happens when….., making up a story about the people in the car ahead of you, jumping on the trampoline. Yes, it CAN be with your kids of course, they’re some of the best people to play with…. but give yourself permission to play without them as well!

Tell me how YOU are playing in the comments, or tell me what you’re doing about that ever so grown-up tendency to turn play into work. How are you turning work to play instead? And give others the gift of play (and good health, energy, focus, and creativity!) by sharing with the buttons below.

PS. If it’s the only way it will happen, schedule some time devoted to play. Pencil it in. Leave some time open for whatever strikes your fancy. Or, drop what you’re doing right now. Go play. I mean it. Go play!

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December 13, 2011

The Gift of Nurture

This week’s gift is one that I know all of you amazing mamma’s out there give to others- generously, beautifully, wonderously- every single day of your existence. You are the goddesses of nurture. Holding your families in nearly every thought with love, concern, appreciation and understanding. Or at least that’s your intention and your touchstone- what you come back to even when life feels hectic, out of control, too much ….. and well, normal.

Nurture is also what we do. Giving hugs. Making meals. Showing our kids how- when they want to try something new or do what we can do. Patching up boo-boo’s with compassion, validation and a kiss. And being present with their heartaches… also, with compassion and validation. And knowing when a hug or a kiss won’t be helpful.

But we often do not nurture ourselves. We forget to do the things that make us feel loved and supported. We don’t keep ourselves in our loving, appreciative, understanding thoughts. Sure it feels wonderful to have someone else nurture you in some way- making a favorite meal, providing you with a clean bathtub and a warm towel, giving you a hug after you slip in the dog slobber on the tile floor and land hard- but we can provide ourselves with the same. (Okay, maybe not a hug, but a chance to rest or that hot bath after the last one…)

I challenge you to come up with a list of 3 ways you can nurture yourself this week, starting now. I have a friend who has filled a jar with pomegranate seeds, to be treasured at will. I like to do yoga or meditate outside. Or go to a beautiful natural spot and just breathe in the beauty. Take a walk, or a run. Just be alone. Nap. Borrow any of these, come up with your own and report back in the comments! For bonus points, tell me what you’ve appreciated about yourself today.

Know someone who could use the gift of nurture? Share the love using the links below….

December 6, 2011

The Gift of Permission

Your permission slipWhen I first considered what gift I’d like to give myself this year, permission was the first word to come to mind. What do I want permission for? To be more of a thriving creative force in the world. To do work that excites and fulfills me. To stop being critical of myself and seeing criticism in the words and actions of others. I am the only person who can give me permission for these things.

But why permission? There’s a formality to permission. A granting from an authoritative source. My generation, and those before it, have been trained deeply to look to an authority, someone who knows a great deal about a subject, someone who others also look to for information and guidance in that area. And the fact is that you are the best and absolute authority on you. Only you know your private thoughts and your inner workings. Only you truly know your greatest joys and fears. Only you know what is best for you.

Granting yourself permission is not only allowing yourself that thing that you want, it is declaring authority over your own life. There is no single more powerful thing you can do for yourself. Even if today you’re only granting yourself permission to take a walk in the woods, an extra long hot bath, or half an hour to release your inner artist. Giving yourself permission is empowerment.

So, what will you give yourself permission for today? For the holidays? For the new year and the rest of your life? Let me know in the comments!  Do you know someone who would benefit from giving themselves this gift?  Share the love. (links are right below!)

December 6, 2011

Gifts to Yourself- A holiday blog series

Sorry, forgot to wrap it....As much as some of my previous holiday posts may contradict this- I LOVE Holidays. Particularly ones with lights, their own music, stories, food, and traditions. But it’s also a time of year when many of us get so caught up in our duties as the creator of holiday joys that we forget to care for ourselves. So for the next few weeks, I’ll be posting holiday gifts to give to yourself. They will be linked below, so this is one place you can find them all, but if you subscribe to my blog over there on the right where it says “Get Updates by Email”, they’ll come right to your inbox each week.  They won’t cost you anything. They have no calories. They won’t even take much time. Play along and let me know in the comments…. there may be an extra gift for you from me when you do. Enjoy.  And share the love.

Week 1- The Gift of Permission

Week 2- The Gift of Nurture

Week 3- The Gift of Play

Week 4- The Gift of Rest

November 21, 2011

I Refuse to Survive the Holidays

Every year around this time I start noticing the magazine articles, tv talk show blurbs, and even blog posts about “how to survive the holidays”. While I know these can be incredibly helpful when you don’t know how to deal with your rude Aunt Marge or have backed yourself into a corner by saying yes to every event invitation that comes your way- complete with requisite cooking and gifting tasks (“gifts must be handmade” says the invite- oh yes, that sounds cool- until you realize you need to not only figure out what you can make, but actually make it, by next week.)…. this year every one of these tips has me both laughing and groaning. Putting “the holidays” and “survival” in the same sentence brings up images of harried women on a remote island, trying to forage and craft a “lovely traditional holiday” while competing in immunity challenges and plotting votes to exile their tribe sisters. The idea of “surviving” the upcoming holidays just seems equally absurd to me.

I have survived the holidays. Worn out, sick, grumpy and making up ugly holiday stories about how I can never do enough and my efforts are always thwarted or aren’t appreciated. No more. I plan to CELEBRATE! I will grab hold of joy and wave it boldly through the streets. I will appreciate everything around me and be delighted. Small things. Big things. Giving in delight and doing what is fun. Survive the holidays? No thanks. I think I’ll have fun and celebrate instead.

How? By refusing to do things that don’t feel good and running with what does. I’ve ordered Thanksgiving dinner. On Black Friday, I might go out – not to shop- but to observe the absurdity of it all and smile at everyone I see. Funnier than reality tv. My kids and I will snip paper snowflakes and cover things in glitter. It will be ephemeral and euphoric (or not ;-D, then I’ll stop). Impromptu holiday movie parties, with appropriately themed snacks featuring the 4 food groups- candy, candy canes, candy corn and syrup. Because it’s fun. I’ll plan a day to wrap gifts, because I love creating beautiful packages, complete with holiday chick flicks. I will take my daughter to do her holiday shopping- she’s so excited to do it. Perhaps we’ll make a day of it. And that’s probably it. No pressure. No obligations. No trying to be Martha Stewart or Mrs. S. Claus or June Cleaver or Molly Weasley (I mean, the woman has a wand. No muggle should even attempt that one!) Likely I’ll strike several of these things from the list. And I’ll do it gleefully. And joyously. And while singing out whatever tune strikes my fancy… whether it’s Deck the Halls, Caught in a Mosh or Blah, Blah, Blah. Because I’m celebrating…. life and love and light and everything. And celebrating feels good. If not, it’s not celebration.

So, what about you? How will you ditch survival and celebrate?

Lesley

ps. Somehow I feel like I’m missing out on that whole plotting thing…. but hey, I bet I can find some kind of joyous plotting to do…. hmmm….

December 27, 2010

If I had one wish

Be the star cookie man!Just a quick note to mention that I’m finishing up this year with daily blog posts, making some updates and changes, AND a big announcement and opportunity on Friday.  Subscribers will get this announcement first- so if you’re curious go ahead and subscribe. 

And Happy Birthday, Mom!

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“If I had one wish this holiday season…” – Steve Martin

 Okay, so I’ve now proven that I’m truly scarred by a lifetime of SNL viewing.  And my one wish has nothing to do with singing children, swiss bank accounts, all encompassing power, revenge or orgasms.  If I’ve lost you here, I can only hope to catch you up with a youtube clip

I have a holiday tradition of wrapping gifts while watching movies.  I love this time alone.  I love making my gifts look beautiful.  And I love holiday movies.  My favorite gift wrapping movies for the past few years have been Love Actually and The Holiday- because they are ones the rest of my family scoffs at as “chick flicks”, which results in them somehow being magically repelled from my presence for a couple of hours.  Brilliant.   

As I watched and wrapped this year, I noticed something I hadn’t consciously noticed in the past.  At some point in the story line, the characters are overtaken with the urge to do something unusual.  Something that’s out of character.  Something bold and daring.  Even something that everyone else thinks is completely nuts.  Or that actually is kind of insane.  And they don’t have the urge to do these things simply for the expected result.  They have the urge to do these things because they can’t *not* do them. 

 This is the magic in these holiday movies- watching the characters being overtaken with a completely illogical urge to follow their hearts.  They become unflinchingly honest.  They admit to their mistakes. They panic and nearly back out.  They say “What the hell am I doing?” then do it anyway.  You get the sense that the result is irrelevant.  They seem to be saying “Hey, this may work out, and it might not.  But the only thing worse than it not working out is not taking the chance”

 There really is something like magic in that feeling.  Just following your heart, or your inner being, or your essential self.  Just doing what feels perfectly right.  It might be a little crazy.  It might be a little scary.  Or it might be a lot of both.  But it feels absolutely and perfectly right. 

 That is my one wish this holiday season.  That everyone, myself included, live a life of heart inspired action.  To experience that wild-excited-scary feeling and to follow through, knowing that the thing much worse than an unexpected or unwanted result is to not have taken the leap of faith at all.  I wish this for individual moments, this season, and for the new year to come. 

 A somewhat belated happy holidays and a very, very happy new year to all.

Lesley

December 3, 2010

Joy: the most important ingredient

This week I’d like to send you over to my friend Scott Noelle’s website to read his Thanksgiving message (then come back!).  It was particularly timely for me last week, as I spent a part of Thanksgiving day feeling anything but thankful.  My 10yo was screaming, my 6yo was attempting to create havoc in response, my 15yo walked in and began making snarky commentary, my dh was cleaning violently, and I was thinking (among other things that I’d rather not mention) that I’d be lucky to ever get around to cooking the meal that I didn’t really want to cook in the first place.  Glad I didn’t invite you to dinner?  Indeed, life here is not always sunshine, unicorns and rainbows.  However, by the end of the day all was well.  We had a pretty nice Thanksgiving.  I hope those of you who celebrated Thanksgiving had one that was just as nice, though perhaps with a bit less drama.

 Here in the U.S., we’ve officially kicked off the winter holiday season.  Some people enjoy this time, others don’t, but it seems to me that being overstressed, overbooked, overindulged and overwhelmed from late November into the New Year is almost a cliché.  We have fond memories of holidays past when we were happy and relaxed, joyfully anticipating visiting with people we love, eating delicious foods, giving and receiving surprises from one another.  Then we do everything we can to try to recreate these past experiences.  Sometimes it even works!  But the efforts involved also seem to create the stress, full schedules, poor self-care and overwhelm.  It’s like we’re caught in a system of intermittent positive reinforcement- continuing to do things we don’t enjoy out of hope that we’ll have moments we do enjoy.  Kind of crazy isn’t it?

 So, this year I’ve decided that I want to live an actual season of joy.  You can join me if you like.  Every tradition, commitment, or obligation I come across as I move through the next month will be evaluated with the following questions-

 Do I want to do this? Why?

 Last Thursday, I didn’t much feel like making a Thanksgiving dinner.  I had it planned.  I had all the food here in the kitchen.  But I was feeling pretty burnt out on cooking in general and with tensions running high the last thing I thought I wanted to do was make an elaborate meal.  And around here, more than a main dish and a side dish is an elaborate meal.  But I’ve learned from some incredibly wise people that I have the ability to change my attitude about a situation, and that my attitude generally sets the tone for my entire family.  So, I retreated to my bedroom and began to examine my feelings about everything that was happening and my contributions to the stress. 

 I’m going to step aside here to mention this is not a “blame myself” moment.  I am very aware that I am not responsible for the feelings or actions of my family members.  I also know that blaming is not transformative.  Blame, whether aimed at yourself or others, keeps things stuck right where they are.  I also know that there is nothing I can change except what is within myself, and know that when I take responsibility for my contributions to a situation- my confrontational statements to my husband and my lack of willingness to stop and listen to my older daughter’s frustration and my younger daughter’s distress- I can look at whatever painful thoughts fueled those actions and decide whether or not those thoughts are serving me.

 In my examination of my thoughts,  I eventually came back to “Do I want to do this?” and “Why?”.  After considering for a bit, I decided that since we needed to eat *something*, and this meal was planned and required fairly little preparation (comparative to a usual Turkey Day feast) that I actually wanted to go ahead and cook it.  I truly had been looking forward to the meal.  I also realized that mostly I was doing this big meal because it is TRADITIONAL and something I’ve enjoyed in the past.  But the fact is, I’ve never actually enjoyed preparing a large meal alone- what I’ve enjoyed is preparing a delicious dish or two (usually in advance) and spending a day in the company of people I love.  Frantically cleaning in order to be able to cook a meal I wasn’t truly interested in cooking was separating me from the loved ones who were right here in my home and I was preventing myself from connecting with them in a meaningful way because I was focused on “having a nice Thanksgiving”- which in reality was just the outward trappings of our usual traditions. 

 To wrap up what turns into a very boring story- I made dinner.  My husband made the mashed potatoes.  My 6yo got very excited about the meal and decided to set the table.  We ended the day with pie, courtesy of Mrs. Smith and Marie Callender, and laughter.  I ended up feeling love and gratitude for my family, and for the knowledge that joy is the most important ingredient in any holiday. 

 So, as we move into the December holiday season I am not dreading any activity that is to come- but I know that if I find myself in a place of dread I am free to decide- “Do I want to do this?”  And ask myself “Why?”.

 And next Thanksgiving, I might just make reservations.

 Feel free to add your experiences in the comments! 

 Joyfully yours,

Lesley

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