Firebirdlifecoach's Blog

Pursuing a Passionate Life

Harvesting the Holiday Heart November 27, 2013

TurkeyTomorrow is Thanksgiving, and all across the country families and friends will gather together to enjoy a traditional meal accented with turkey and pie and various other special foods. And at some point likely they will “give thanks”, because in many ways that is what this holiday is all really about. While doing so – likely people will also reflect on those who are not with them this year, and those who are alone on this holiday or are for one reason or another less fortunate to be able to celebrate in the same way. On the news; you hear stories about celebrity athletes bringing pies to local food pantries, church and community collections to gather a variety of items to distribute to those who otherwise would not have a turkey this year. This time of year, when the temperatures drop, and while men and women are deployed overseas in the services, and the general populace is thinking not only about shopping and cooking and decorating – one can predict an up-tick in the expressions of gratitude and generosity. It’s a good thing.

And while I don’t want to throw a damper on what is truly a great expression of our humanity – I can’t help but find myself thinking about where this spirit goes during the rest of the year. After all, those who are in need and alone and the many gifts for which we are grateful on the holidays don’t magically appear on Thanksgiving and disappear on the first day of the New Year.

Back in 2001, after the tragedies of September 11th, for a while, it seemed that people were kinder to one another. There was a sense of a community drawn together in mourning and grief that in the horror of the moment were able to look at one another through a different lens than they had before – a lens of interconnectedness. There was a sense of shared humanity, of gratitude for life itself and of deep caring not just for those in our immediate lives but for the broader community. Is life such that we are only drawn together in this way in moments of great tragedy and of shared tradition?

My wish this holiday season is that we connect with this part of ourselves in a more enduring and constant way, that we appreciate all of the little blessings that we have in our lives and that we look upon one another through our hearts and not just our minds. So do your holiday thing; give thanks, donate, volunteer, remember and cherish – be fully grateful for the breath you draw today. And then tomorrow, when you are back on the highway during rush hour, when you are standing in line at the department store and impatiently rushing to finish your errands – use those eyes to see the elderly person who is driving slowly in front of you, the economically stretched parent who is paying for his child’s clothes with a pile of coupons and the co-worker who stands by your desk to chat too long each morning. If you can do it for a day, or a season, you can do it every day. Peace, happiness and gratitude to you and yours this Thanksgiving.

Advertisements
 

Evolving Traditions April 5, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — firebirdlifecoach @ 6:06 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Holidays and traditions, I grew-up with a strong dose of them. In my family, each holiday brought with it a very definite set of rituals and traditions, largely focused around various ethnic foods and familial gatherings. It was good stuff, and I liked the predictability and specialness that each occasion brought with it (often because we would eat really good foods that we would never have at other times of the year – what can I say, I am Italian-American and that’s just the way we rolled.) As an adult and a parent, I have the opportunity to make, carry-on and/or create traditions with my sons that hopefully will have their own magic for them similar to what I experienced as a child, and though some things hearken back to the traditions of my childhood, many do not. One of the biggest differences is that their father and I are divorced and so holidays are now spent with one or the other parent and each carries with it its own meaning, meals and memories.

So one of the biggest differences each year is that holidays don’t always mean family anymore, at least not the way it used to. The way it works out for our family is that some holidays are always spent with one particular parent, the boys are with me for Christmas Eve and Christmas and with their dad for New Year’s Eve and New Years. Thanksgiving is a swap off holiday – the boys spending every other year with the other parent and holidays like Easter, are determined by the regular weekly rotation. It’s a bit of a smorgasbord for all four of us (there’s an Italian saying which would be perfectly interjected here, roughly translating to: “A little of this, a little of that, a little of the other thing”.) It works for us for the most part and the boys seem to feel comfortable with the mixture of familiarity and fluctuation that are our new “traditions” if you will.

For me, this year Easter was spent with my friends since my boys were with their dad. I had given them their “Easter baskets” in the middle of last week, since I wasn’t sure that would be a part of his plans for them and what kid doesn’t look forward to the chocolate and jelly beans? I had a lovely day, great weather, good food, stimulating conversation, a lovely walk, laughter, warmth and appreciation for the people in my life. Yes, I did miss my boys, but it did not distract me from enjoying my day. Growing-up I would have never guessed that my holiday would be spent with all friends and no family, with ham and macaroni and cheese instead of frittata and Easter bread, with a lovely walk instead of an Easter egg hunt, but my enjoyment of the day was there just the same.

I think sometimes we make assumptions, that life is a certain way, some things are a given and a constant and will always be the same, but the reality is that this is of course an impossibility. Even those members of my family who gathered for the traditional brunch found themselves sitting around a table with a family constellation that looked different from how it did the year before. And this to me is not a bad thing. There may be times when I “wax nostalgic” for the memories of years passed, but I still appreciate the new. The fact is things change, continuously, allowing yourself to move and change with it expands the possibilities. Hopefully my sons will bring forward into their adulthood a mixture of tradition with flexibility; an appreciation for the old and an embrace of the new, and a sense that the outer trappings are less important than the internal spirit that they bring to the special moments in their lives, the confidence to know that traditions carry a sense of history and familiarity but are not so rigid that they cannot be changed to incorporate new circumstances.

 

Weaving a Tale of War, Wine and Wonder January 26, 2010

I have been watching the re-broadcast of HBO’s, Band of Brothers, having missed it the first time around. It is an excellent series, poignant, realistic, and thought-provoking. The personal stories of the soldiers and the atrocities of war that they endured are extremely moving. The series has caused me to think a lot about my father who passed away over 17 years ago. He was a WWII veteran who spent time during the war in Italy and Germany and watching this series has given me a glimpse of what that experience may have been like for him, or maybe not. My father would often tell “war stories” when we were growing up under the right set of circumstances. By that I mean that he was not one to go into a tale about his time in the service at just any old-time – usually his storytelling was more of a “treat” – something that happened on special occasions – like when he was holding court at the head of the table during Christmas Eve supper. And let me just be clear here – I loved hearing my dad’s stories – he had a way of telling them that was animated and alive – whether it was about some mischief he got into as an adolescent – or a delicious dinner he had at a favorite restaurant – my recollection was that he could really hold your attention. His army stories were some of the best in the collection. But my dad’s war stories were nothing like those seen in Band of Brothers. My dad was a cook in the army and his stories would be about things like; finding some wild mushrooms in the woods and cooking up a special meal for his buddies, or meeting some warm locals who shared their homemade wine with my father and his friends. To this day, I honestly have no idea if my father ever shot off a round of ammunition or saw the bloody skirmishes of war. If you asked him directly, he would say that he never did any real fighting, but I don’t know if that is true or even possible given where he was stationed. In fact, it is just as likely that he was protecting us from hearing the stories that we would never forget for reasons other than their entertainment value. There are all sorts of ways that we protect the people we love. I will never know the real story – but I guess I will go with the one that I was presented with by my dad. Sometimes in life you just get lucky – and maybe during his tour of duty in Europe my father was spared the atrocities of war. And whether or not that is 100% true – the fact remains that we were spared them in the retelling.