Tuesday, December 23, 2014

That Gingerbread Man that smelled so sweet...


Tonight the traditional Gingerbread-cookie-making ritual begins. I'll make the dough, tomorrow we'll bake them and ice them. My daughter and I have been making these cookies every single year since her birth. I do not think we missed *one* year. Sometimes I would experiment with different recipes... and sometimes I'd be exhausted and buy the pre-made dough, but for 12 years, I flew to Ohio to make cookies and to spend part of the holidays with Candace and her family. Wow. I think I even made cookies two years ago when she passed away. A tradition is a tradition.

Last year was my first year with M out here, living with me. My cookies weren't very good. I made them with gluten free flour and a lot of stress. This year, I am making them from scratch - using real butter, real flour and almost no stress. How things change in a year.

How things change in 14 years.

I think my favorite year was when she was about eight. Her brother was just a toddler. Candace had her house decorated - she had even scavenged a live tree because she knew how much I loved them. I told Candace not to tell the kids what day I was coming. I got to the airport, rented a car, stopped briefly at Kroger, and pulled in the driveway laden with gifts from home and ingredients for gingerbread cookies. The moment I parked the car, the dogs started barking inside the house. Candace had left the back door unlocked knowing I would be coming. I walked in and called out, "Ho! Ho! Ho!"

Little M came running in from the other room screaming, "MK!MK!MK!" and gave me the biggest hug ever - I think she had tears in her eyes she was so excited. Her little brother came toddling in behind her and hugged my leg. I could barely set my luggage down and hobble into the kitchen.

There is something to be said for tradition. For ritual. It is the time of year for it. And while tradition can be something that holds people back, it can also be the foundation from which we build our lives. Making gingerbreadmen is a tradition I will follow every year I have my daughter with me, and even into the future when she goes on to college and then someday shares the holiday not just with me but with her own version of family. The smell and taste of gingerbread will always be something that grounds me and reminds me of blessings I have in my life.

Speaking of tradition, I'm watching 'White Christmas' with Bing Crosby and my favorite Irving Berlin song just came on:

Traditions can be amazing blessings - if you feel so inclined, share some of your blessings and traditions with me, I'd love to hear about them!

Many blessings to you all this holiday season - so many it is difficult to count! May your own traditions warm your heart and ground you as you prepare to enter the new year with all the joy and resolutions to come!



Monday, December 01, 2014

Weighing of the Heart


Do you know the Egyptian story of the weighing of the heart? Let me give you the short version. The Egyptians believed that upon death, the soul or "akh" would, using the Book of the Dead as a guide and often Anubis as well, work through the 12 gates of the Duat on the journey to the the Hall of Judgement. Once in the hall, the initiate would recite the 42 confessions in front of the 42 judges. Then, the heart would be put on the scale against Ma'at's white feather of Truth. If the scales didn't balance, the akh would be thrown to the crocodile god Ammit and the soul devoured. If the heart was not 'heavy' and the scales balanced, the akh would be welcomed by Osiris to the Field of Reeds - where the akh would rejoin family and loved ones.

My birthday is next week. I'll be 47.  The number doesn't bother me, I'm not sure I look my age, and I'm pretty sure I don't always act it. 

Joseph Campbell said, "Out of perfection nothing can be made. Every process involves breaking something up.”  I feel, around my birthday, like part of me is breaking away and something new is evolving. Around this time of year, I seem to find myself re-enacting my own "Weighing of the Heart" ceremony.

I don't throw myself to the crocodile god if I feel I haven't lived by my truth during the proceeding year, but I do find myself evaluating where I was a year ago, and where I am now.

Last year at this time, I was in my fourth month of being a full time mom. The path had turned rocky and the honeymoon phase was definitely over. I worried if I was doing the 'mom' thing right. I felt unsure and I did a lot of questioning of myself. This year, I have a full year under my belt. Even with some of the changes and upheavals over the last year, I feel more confident I am doing the 'mom' thing okay. I still make mistakes and sometimes I still question if I have any idea what I am doing. December is a hard month, but I feel like the ground under my feet is more stable, and I feel like, as a family, things will be okay.

Last year at this time, I was not single. I did not expect to be so this year. However, I have found a new strength in getting to know myself. I still stumble at times with knowing who I am outside of being a 'mom', 'sis', 'daughter', 'friend', 'teacher' and 'partner', but I think I'm learning. I am finding my voice. It's not the 3 octave range it once was, but it is strong and clear and I am grateful for it.

Last year at this time, we had just moved to a new building at work. It was a big shift for everyone. The transition took some time, but I have settled into my new digs and I like being able to look out the window and see blue sky and trees. I still wake up every day loving what I do and where I do it. Teaching is one of the constants in my life and I am fortunate to find joy in what I do.

Last year at this time, I was 35 pounds heavier than I am now. I am proud of the running I did, and frustrated by the knee injury that has stopped that progress. I am also proud that I haven't put that weight back on and that I have continued a path forward to reach the goal of wearing one of these in Mexico!

I have changed over the past 12 months. I think I have become more centered, more connected and better in touch with what I want in life and what I don't want. In other ways, I feel like I have fallen in my goals of writing that great novel and my continued goal of letting go of perfection. I still haven't mastered the art of distinction between which pieces of my life I should hold on to, and which pieces need to be released. I second guess myself and, at times, I make choices from a place of fear, versus a place of centeredness.

It's a process, right? At this point in my life, I am not heavy-hearted; I feel light-hearted and joyful. I see such potential in the upcoming year!

It's my birthday and I am looking forward to celebrating. Because beyond it all, I am deeply grateful for each day I am on this planet. Each life I touch and each heart that reaches out and touches mine, changes me. Each moment I am here, each moment I am alive is a profound gift I treasure. I'm continually reminded that even when I forget about the magic - the magic doesn't forget about me.