Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

These are happy words meant to convey goodwill. All my life-50 years–and 50 Christmases it has been my greeting, or my parting words when leaving a store, a restaurant or someone’s home during the season.

No one has ever gotten offended by my well wishes.

Even when the schools, the 15 years I taught, changed the bulletin boards to read Happy Holidays and the calendar changed to read ‘winter break’ instead of ‘Christmas Break’ I continued on my “Merry” way.

I have been wished a Happy Hanukkuh and Happy Kwanza and I was thrilled to be included in the sentiment.

I have never subscribed to this political correctness in an effort to be ‘inclusive’ of everyone’s differences and avoid hurting people’s feelings.

It seems ridiculous that I would be trying to insult someone by wishing someone a Merry Christmas.

And when the thought police decided to ban the word Christmas–which I love and has so much meaning for me and countless others–they were not worried about offending me or hurting our feelings by ‘excluding’ us.

You see, no one can exclude you unless you allow yourself to feel excluded–and that is all up to how YOU look at it.

Don’t exclude yourself from someone else’s good wishes to you no matter how they may express it–because only you are the one that will miss out.

So when someone wishes me a Happy Holiday, I likewise do not feel offended, I smile and wish them a Merry Christmas back.

This is the season of goodwill and of good wishes and generosity of feelings. Enjoy the season in all its glory!

Because baby, it’s cold outside! Merry Christmas!

Dear Santa

Dear Santa

When I was a little girl I wrote letters to Santa every year…even after I learned– in 4th grade–that Santa was not real.

He’s always been real to me. Christmas is my favorite holiday of the year and I never tire of the magic at this time of year!

When my children were growing up, I taught them to write letters to Santa too. And I even found a service that I could pay to send the girls a letter FROM Santa postmarked the North Pole.

The idea of Santa is so real to me that I don’t really know when the girls realized Santa was not real…as now, even as adults, I ask them to send me their Santa lists every year.

And so in keeping with my tradition here is my letter for this year:

Dear Santa,

I have been really good this year! And this has really been a good year for my family.

We are all healthy, we have all we need and never miss a meal. The family is strong and united and we are blessed with extended family and friends that are also doing well.

I really don’t want anything for Christmas in particular this year. I know that is a change from my usual lists of items…

But you see–I’ve already have all I want. Family, love, joy, and the magic of Christmas.

I hope all is well at the North Pole! I’ll leave the cookies and milk out for you.

P.S. Tell Donner he’s still my favorite!

19 days left until Christmas! Have you written your letter to Santa yet?

El Dia de los Muertos

El Dia de los Muertos

This week we will celebrate not only Halloween but a very significant and cultural holiday for Hispanics-the day of the dead.

It is culturally not a celebration of ghosts and goblins but a celebration of the lives of our loved ones that are no longer with us.

There has been some comments I’ve heard lately that Halloween and El Dia de los Muertos are un-Christian and further inspired by the devil himself!

It never ceases to surprise me how people who know nothing about a subject will have the strongest opinions about it. So let me tell you a little about how I understand El Dia de los Muertos.

Although this is not part of my cultural heritage it is part of my husband’s and many friends’ culture–and over the years, one that I have come to respect and enjoy.

The idea behind it is that we are provided a day in which we can remember and celebrate those that came before us–our parents, grandparents, children–that were once our family and have passed away.

Altars are created with their pictures, their favorite foods, and candles to light their way as they visit us here on earth.

Sugar skulls representing the souls of our dearly departed are also placed on the alters-which are called ofrendas- and hand decorated.

Believing that those that have gone before us visit us on this particular day feels to me to be extremely Christian.

It means–and as closely as we can almost, prove–that there is a heaven. That our loved ones are at peace and watching over us and that they have the ability to visit us here on earth.

It feels good to me to know that I can still communicate with my abuela, and my grandfather and my aunt and uncle who impacted me so much in life–and that they can communicate with me.

El Dia de los Muertos is a day each year when we have the opportunity to connect–with the past, with the future and with ourselves.

Enjoy the journey.

Speaking Victory

Speaking Victory

There is a Christian tenet of speaking victory over people or situations. I don’t mean speaking about victories–like celebrating goals or achievements that have been reached.

I’m talking about speaking–verbally and out load–positive outcomes, encouraging ideas and blessings to those around us as well as ourselves.

I had never really thought about it in this way–although I have known about this concept for most of my life.

And it is a concept that when put into practice works.

Think about this–when we are happy and we talk about it–usually other good things begin happening.

When we complain and dwell on problems, sickness or bad fortune–and those complaints come out of our mouths–things usually continue on a negative trajectory.

But more importantly when we speak victory over others it can many times change the life path for those individuals.

Here is how to do it. First you need to understand that life is fluid and ever changing.

Second, you need to believe that because life is ever changing we should be open to the fact that anyone is capable of anything.

And then thirdly, you share these beliefs with those you are speaking victory over.

For example, speak victory over your children by telling them, truthfully, that there is nothing that can stop them from accomplishing what they want in life.

Speak victory over your marriage by sharing with your significant other the things you appreciate about them. Thank them for their caring, hard work and understanding.

Tell friends positive attributes you like about them and how it has influenced your life. As you do this their victory will manifest in more positive attributes.

Speak victory over people who may be struggling and it just might give them a different outlook to their future.

And speak victory over yourself and you will soon see that all you need will find itself into your life just when you need it.

Use your words for good–Speak Victory.

The Complications of Life

The Complications of Life

We humans like to make things so complicated–our lives are complex convoluted messes–of our own making.

And if someone tries to simplify and enjoy their life, with less stress and less anxiety, those around us tend to freak out.

It is, at this stage of my life, amusing to watch as people tie themselves into knots trying to change everyone around them. When instead they should just take a step back, take a deep breath and be grateful for a quiet simple life.

This is part of my plan– to live happily and as uncomplicated as possible.

Some people may not understand this-in fact I encounter many who don’t–but it is really quite simple.

I am happy and I want to be around others who are happy.

I love unconditionally and like spending time with people who love me unconditionally.

Its very simple-if you are grumpy or mean I probably won’t be spending time with you.

I like to eat healthy and exercise, I am conscious about my health both physical and mental. I enjoy living in a clean house with clean habits.

If you want to live differently and that makes you happy I will not be judging you or trying to change you.

It does not matter to me how much money a person makes or how they spend it. I know how much I make and what I spend it on.

It is none of my business how you handle your finances or the financial problems you may have. Do what makes you happy and I will do the same.

I am keeping things simple.

And it is really easy to do. Just stop and evaluate what you really want, the things that need to happen in order to get it and then take the steps to get you there. Period. No excuses.

Don’t worry about what other people do or say…just walk away from all the complications and be happy.

Creating the Home You Want

Creating the Home You Want

I am learning that decluttering is an ongoing process.  Although I have decluttered my house A LOT…I still have a long way to go.

In the process of going through things and keeping what we really love, we are also creating spaces in which we are comfortable.  After all, our home is our haven. While we enjoy having friends and family over for visits our primary goal is not to have a showplace but a comfortable space where anyone that comes will feel at home.

Of course, getting everything to look and feel this way is a work in progress and a very large organizational goal.

Each room should be decluttered and should focus on the function of the room.  For example, we should not have dishes in the bedroom or a hair brush in the kitchen.  

Here are my tips to organizing your home:

Kitchen:  The kitchen should be light, airy and clean.  There should be a place for all the pots, pans, dishes, cups, utensils, and pantry items.  Clearing off the counters of unused appliances, jars and other miscellaneous items will help your kitchen seem cleaner and larger.   If all your kitchen accessories don’t have a specific home or a place, then you have too much stuff in your kitchen.

Your kitchen is the heart of the home.  This is where most people gather and where memories are made.  Give yourself the space to make them.

Your kitchen is also where we prepare food and eat our meals.  It should be a place that is clean, bright and comforting. When we eat in a relaxed atmosphere we digest better and we feel better!  

Living Areas:  Our family room is where we entertain ourselves and others.   It is not a formal space, but strives to be one of comfort. Comfortable chairs and tables within arms reach make it easy to sit back with a cold drink or a snack and give attention to the people there and not the things.   

The living room is where we live in our down time, where we can relax, laugh, watch T.V. and play games.  When you are organizing your living room or family room, think about the activities that take place there and make sure there is designated furniture or items that enhance that not that just fill up the space.

The Home Office:  Not all homes have a home office–some have an office space but either way this is the home command center.  And while this is where I “work” at home, it is possible to make it a comfortable and functional area. A desk is essential as is your computer and a printer/scanner if you need one.  

Organizing a home office is imperative because this is the space that can get out of control–at least for me–very fast!  This is where the paper lives or better said–where it lives for a short time until you decide what to do with it. (See my tips for organizing paper here.)

So for my purposes–and I highly recommend one–your office should also include a shredder.  It is one of my favorite machines in the house!

Our office is a reflection of what we do there–pay bills, write, be creative and read.  Other than your desk, you may want to have a small sofa or comfy chair, a bookshelf and a place to keep important papers–in an organized system of course!

Bathrooms:  I have found that one of the smallest spaces in our home can contain the most “stuff”–read junk!  Not junk that is just to be thrown away but that should be addressed.

When I decluttered the bathrooms, I found bottles and bottles and bottles of shampoo, creams, moisturizer, hair products, vitamins, etc.  What helped me tremendously was to stop buying more of these items and using all that I have to 1) stop adding to the madness and 2) create space.

To organize the bathroom–treat it like a bathroom in a nice hotel. Keep it spotless and free of bottles and bathroom items on the sink top.  Use the things you need to use and put them away immediately. Wipe everything down each day (takes me about 20 seconds) and it will always look ready for its functions.

I’ve left the best for last—

Bedrooms: Again, like in a nice hotel–think sleek, clean, and functional. Keep your area free of extra paper, clothes, and shoes.  Our bedrooms is where our body, mind and spirit come to relax and rest after a day of our hurried run around lives. It is our quiet place. Create a space that is organized and can fulfill a restful experience for yourself.  After all we are worth it.

Organizing your home is a huge task–but one that is satisfying and will ultimately reflect who you are, what you find important, and how you want to live your life.

Enjoy the journey and have fun with it!

It’s a Good Friday

It’s a Good Friday

On this Good Friday, like each year, Christians observe the crucifixion of Jesus. For some it is a day of mourning and fasting before Easter and for others it can be a time of expressing gratitude for the sacrifice given on the cross.

As a Christian, I do observe this day and it brought to the forefront thoughts of becoming a better me every day.

How can we become a better person each day?  If your goal, like me, is to live a full meaningful life, becoming a better person each day should be a simple task.

I believe it starts with gratitude.  Being grateful for all you are and all you have each morning will start your day in a way that will bring to you more of that for which you are grateful.  

Sometimes, when we are going through a particularly difficult time we may find it hard to find things to be grateful for.

I remember a story about a soldier I heard recently.  An American soldier that had come back from the Middle East was being asked some questions about how medical professionals could help him if they were to provide him with a prosthetic arm. You see, he lost his left arm serving his country.

The young man was very optimistic and upbeat and thankful that the doctors were looking into a prosthetic arm that could have the range of motion that a real arm would have.

He was so thankful to the doctors that when they thanked him for his time in that session and for his service–he turned to them and said “I am just so grateful I didn’t lose my good arm”–you see he was a righty, so he could still use his right hand and arm.

As he backed his wheelchair away from the table the doctors were very moved by his gratitude and the fact that he had also lost both legs.

Gratitude then becomes a much larger proposition when we think about how lucky and blessed we truly are.

We do not have to strive to be as grateful as that soldier–but to be better each day, we should be grateful and acknowledge those things in our lives that are so wonderful.

Secondly, to strive to be a better person each day–we should live with a clear intention. An intention that will guide not only your day but how you want to live your life each and everyday.

An intention may be harder to come up with and fulfill on a daily basis–if we put too much pressure on ourselves to “intend” the right things.

Many times my intentions are very simple ones: I intend to do no harm today, I intend to turn the other cheek if I am offended, I intend to smile at someone who may need a smile today.

It does not have to be hard or perfect.

To become a better me everyday, I just need to remember to forgive myself for my mistakes of yesterday, have gratitude for the new chance this day gives us to be different and to intend to do the best with that opportunity.

I am an imperfect person. Good Friday reminds me that I am already forgiven.

On this Good Friday, I leave you with this: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Enjoy this day. Be better than yesterday and have fun.