Thanksgiving TurkeyThanksgiving is my favorite holiday and, true to the name, a time of reflection and gratitude.

While the holiday’s historic significance is the Pilgrim’s celebration of the first harvest in Plymouth Colony, my attachment stems from a tradition of family gathering and bountiful food. As I’ve grown older, the words of free-lance writer Robert Brault have become increasingly true:

Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.

You can hear my musings on Thanksgiving by playing this selection using the player (below).

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Music: Butterfly Dreams, David Modica, from

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Wish come true

A wish come trueIt seemed routine, just another event in a child’s over-committed schedule. Yet Andrea’s gymnastics meet this morning was hardly that, despite the appearance.

Today marks six weeks and six days since surgery to remove a brain tumor.

Andrea’s surgeon stipulated that she couldn’t return to gymnastics for six weeks following the surgery — which gave her just two practices to prepare for this meet. And she was in good form, considering the limited time to refresh those muscle memories.

Andrea was thrilled to be able to keep a commitment she had made to her team before the surgery, a goal that no doubt helped propel her recovery.

Once again, life has blessed us with an incredible gift, one easily overlooked by the appearance of normalcy. The tumor or the surgery to remove it could certainly have impaired her abilities. Why or why not, we’ll never know. In the words of Gertrude Stein,

“There ain’t no answer. There ain’t going to be any answer. There never has been an answer. That’s the answer.”

All that’s left is to be grateful.

We add to the list deep appreciation to Dick Widhu for his drawings of the young gymnast, which he did for Andrea when he heard of her pending surgery.

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Simple Gifts

Sun bathing puppyThose mornings when the sun is out, our Miniature Schnauzer positions herself on a chair in the dining room and sun bathes. She sits quite still, happy and content.

Seeing her meditative pose this morning reminded me of the simple gifts we experience every day. Just a moment of presence can enable us to remember our blessings: the warmth of the sun, a sip of coffee, a deep and conscious breath, a smile, a hug, remembering someone dear to us, a melody, quiet.

May your day be filled with these precious moments.

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Christmas reflections

flameChristmas is such a conflicting mix of emotions for me. The essence of the season is light and love and giving. However, the spirit is too easily trampled in a frantic rush of felt obligations and blatant consumerism.

This year mimicked the mistaken perception I had as a small child, that Christmas occurred the day after Thanksgiving. Travel, an ice storm, work, other non-holiday commitments, and my overall preoccupation and distraction with the world compressed the past few weeks until I found Christmas upon me. Already. My holiday checklist, ill-formed and floating in my mind, largely unchecked. Emotionally disconnected.

As always, though, there are moments of grace where I am touched by the spirit of the season, moments that reconnect me to the transcendent mystery of life.

The music of my daughter’s high school choral concert last week immersed me in traditional and new expressions of the season. Listening, I was able to just be, rather than thinking and doing. It may have been the best meditation I have ever experienced.

Last night, we attended the Christmas Eve candlelight service at our church. Each person passing the flame while singing Dona Nobis Pacem and Silent Night never fails to stream tears down my face.

Before this ever-emotional finale, two congregants shared personal reflections and insight.

One woman spoke of first-time experiences that bring such enjoyment they become traditions. Paradoxically, with time the traditions become rote, “check the box” tasks and lose their meaning and ability to create joy. Rather than serving us, we serve them and for no reason. She admonished us not to fall into the numbness of such repetition and obligation, rather to be mindful and discern the blessings in whatever happens.

The second woman told of dissolving into tears as her list of obligations mounted and seemed to overwhelm all available time. She recounted the outburst that she vented to her husband: “I have to drive to the mall through the horrible traffic to buy presents, then I have to stop by the store to buy the groceries I need for Christmas dinner, then I have to come home and clean the house, then I have to start cooking,” and on it went.

Her outlook changed dramatically when, for some reason, she replaced have with get. The tasks on her list were privileges, made possible because of her good fortune. She was healthy, with a car, with enough money to buy groceries and presents. She knew not all were able to do what she could do, not all had a loving family with whom to share the holiday.

Usually by the time Christmas arrives, I am ready for it to pass and look forward to the normal days after. This year, though, since I feel I missed much of the buildup, I want the season to linger. Perhaps in the spirit of the 12 days of Christmas or the 8 days of Hanukkah, I can hold on to the underlying essence of the season and carry the light and love and giving into the new year. No doubt the world needs it, I need it, and my blessings are plentiful.

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