Monday, December 29, 2008

Seeds sown.

Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant. - Robert Louis Stevenson

The fact that we are given a chance to renew our efforts, in whatever direction, each and every morning is possibly one of the greatest blessings of being human. For some, this will mean starting over all the time, but is it really starting over? The intentions that you have, with each little effort, grow and grow. How lovely your garden will be with the right amount of time.

Great things are not accomplished overnight. Rather, they require the ability to keep moving in a certain direction, or sometimes are the result of trial and error. Either way, as long as you plant your seeds every single day, you will find in time that you are moving closer and closer to the rewards of your deeds.

As we edge ever closer to a new year, with new promises and goals, remember that this as much a way of making a new start as any, as well as a time to reflect on the year 2008, it's mistakes and rewards alike. How blessed we are for these new starts. And how blessed we are to be able to plant new seeds of which the abundant harvest will be reaped.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus

By Francis P. Church, first published in The New York Sun in 1897. [See The People’s Almanac, pp. 1358–9.]

We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

Dear Editor—
I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
Virginia O’Hanlon

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I think you'll agree that my thoughts on this most celebrated of Christian holidays would be inadequate compared to the masters of the pen.

So, with that I wish you a blessed and safe Christmas and leave you with the words of others, their wit more joyful and song more illuminated than anything I could conjure.

The poulterers' shops were still half open, and the fruiterers' were radiant in their glory. There were great, round, pot-bellied baskets of chestnuts, shaped like the waistcoats of jolly old gentlemen, lolling at the doors, and tumbling out into the street in their apoplectic opulence. There were ruddy, brown-faced, broad-girthed Spanish Onions, shining in the fatness of their growth like Spanish Friars, and winking from their shelves in wanton slyness at the girls as they went by, and glanced demurely at the hung-up mistletoe. There were pears and apples, clustered high in blooming pyramids; there were bunches of grapes, made, in the shopkeepers' benevolence to dangle from conspicuous hooks, that people's mouths might water gratis as they passed; there were piles of filberts, mossy and brown, recalling, in their fragrance, ancient walks among the woods, and pleasant shufflings ankle deep through withered leaves; there were Norfolk Biffins, squab and swarthy, setting off the yellow of the oranges and lemons, and, in the great compactness of their juicy persons, urgently entreating and beseeching to be carried home in paper bags and eaten after dinner. - Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Once again we find ourselves enmeshed in the Holiday Season, that very special time of year when we join with our loved ones in sharing centuries-old traditions such as trying to find a parking space at the mall. We traditionally do this in my family by driving around the parking lot until we see a shopper emerge from the mall, then we follow her, in very much the same spirit as the Three Wise Men, who 2,000 years ago followed a star, week after week, until it led them to a parking space. - Dave Berry

Great little One! whose all-embracing birth Lifts Earth to Heaven, stoops Heaven to Earth. - Richard Crashaw

To the American People: Christmas is not a time or a season but a state of mind. To cherish peace and good will, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas. If we think on these things, there will be born in us a Savior and over us will shine a star sending its gleam of hope to the world. - Calvin Coolidge in his Presidential Message (December 25, 1927)

Were I a philosopher, I should write a philosophy of toys, showing that nothing else in life need to be taken seriously, and that Christmas Day in the company of children is one of the few occasions on which men become entirely alive. - Robert Lynd

Friday, December 19, 2008


If you're not using your smile, you're like a man with a millions dollars in the bank and no checkbook. -Les Giblin

Want to make someone's day? Smile.

I know that can sound pathetically simple, but when someone is terribly low, and feels all alone in the world, it can be the difference between despair and hope. Having been on both sides of that scenario, I can tell you that receiving a smile from someone may be enough to know that you're not in your boat alone. And that is a powerful message to give in a simple facial expression.

And, apparently, smiling is pretty good for the smiler too.

I found this great article by business coach Paul Sutherland that gives 5 Powerful Reasons to Smile. Of these reasons, one of them is the positive health effects of smiling. People who smile and attempt having a positive attitude "are less likely to suffer major life-threatening diseases". That's reason enough for me!

Have you smiled today?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Changing the world, one daydream at a time.

Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there will ever be to know and understand. - Albert Einstein

Has it ever occurred to you that without imagination, humans might still be living in caves (if that)? Every social and technological advancement ever achieved throughout human history was only possible because someone envisioned it. Wow, that's quite a thought!

What's more, everything that will come to be, even in our lifetimes, is the result of someone's daydream now. Someone's daydream is shaping our futures.

We shouldn't discount knowledge; certainly everything we know now has become integral to everyday life. But if you think about it, knowledge is the result of another's curiosity. Someone thought, "I wonder why?" or "How is this possible?" and went to all possible lengths to discover the truth. This adventure towards such knowledge starts with imagination.

With this in mind, I have realized that this imaginative, creative spirit that lies in the minds of us all enables opportunities to not only shape the life that we desire, but also to change the world.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The dork in all of us.

You must embrace your dorky-ness. To deny it is to deny a part of yourself. - Samantha Betts

I know what you're thinking. Today, I quoted myself. Yes, it appears to be shameless self-promoting, but I do have a point.

If you haven't had the chance to see Sydney White, check it out on HBO or rent it. While not one of the more remarkable films this generation has presented (let's face it, the acting, directing, writing, and everything else is lacking a certain refinement that classics tend to possess - it's no Gone With the Wind), it has an endearing quality that may give you that fuzzy warm feeling. And it also provides a lesson that everyone, even adults, need to be reminded of every once in a while.

None of us can claim perfection. In all honesty, few people would want to be around perfection; it gets old fast. Life is made up of conflict, debate, wittiness, awkwardness, and all other manner of personality traits. In short, life is not perfect. That's good. It keeps it interesting.

Furthermore, the short tale of Sydney White reminds us that which we all possess some level of, that quality that made you and I the butt of many a joke in high school (and possibly beyond). We are weird, harbor strange fascinations, hide bizarre habits. And yet, we manage to conveniently forget them when it comes to judging another's "dorky-ness". Not quite fair, is it?

So, my thought is this: embrace that awkward, funny, embarrassing, dorky thing that you can be. It's just as much a part of who you are as being skilled, creative, or confident. And it doesn't matter who you are; you can be a soccer mom or a CEO. No matter, you have it. Don't deny it. And don't forget it when you see someone walking down the street with her skirt tucked into her pantyhose or you inevitably receive an invitation to a Dungeons and Dragons get-together from your co-worker. They are just like you.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The life you love starts with your passions.

Only passions, great passions, can elevate the soul to great things. - Denis Diderot

Follow your bliss. - Joseph Campbell

When you turn on the TV, or the radio, or go to a locally owned shop, or listen at open mic night, or walk into someone's workshop, you are observing someone following what they are passionate about. Anyone who has ever done anything great in their lives, anyone who has achieved the status of "successful", is someone who has acknowledged the one thing they are truly passionate for, and followed it where it led them.

It can be assumed that the creative spirit lies in all of us, whether it be inventing the technology that keeps us connected, or educating children, it presents itself in a variety of ways in all walks of life. But that creativity is limited by your own self-belief. Meaning: do you think that by following that spirit you can do great things, is it worthwhile, or is it just a waste of time because it will come to nothing?

My mother, in all her infinite wisdom, has said that you have your dreams for a reason, that those aspirations are there for you to follow, instinctively. And when the passion that you have for those dreams builds in you with every step you take, it only works in your favor, creating more opportunities and pushing you in the direction that you want to go.

Look at successful people all around you, even people you don't know. Are they going to a job they dread everyday, or are they doing what they love?

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Only middles.

You're searching, Joe, for things that don't exist; I mean beginnings. Ends and beginnings -- there are no such things. There are only middles. - Robert Frost

You know, I have a bit of a morbid streak. (I think most people do, but they won't admit it.) And I was remembering the day that my beloved Grandpa died some four years ago. My family gathered in the hospital room and we watched him slip away. It wasn't sudden, like you see on TV. It was more of a fading, so much so that we aren't really sure when exactly he was gone. His heartbeat just grew slower and slower, until it was so faint. It was one of the saddest experiences I've ever had, and yet one of the most special. Odd how that works.

So, I thought of him and that day when I first read Robert Frost's wise words, because there really was no defined "death". That moment wasn't clear. But if you think about it, there's so little definition to our beginning. When do we become real? At conception? When we appear human in the ultrasounds? When we're born? When, exactly, is our beginning?

And so I've come to realize that life's definition, its truth isn't defined by birth or death. It's everything in between that's important. Besides birth and death aren't really the beginning and end of anything. Rather, they are continuations, only in different forms. This is comforting, isn't it?

Pear Tree Greetings

Friday, December 12, 2008

The symbol for crisis...

The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word 'crisis.' One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger - but recognize the opportunity. - John F. Kennedy, Speech in Indianapolis, April 12, 1959

So I got a little preachy yesterday, I'll be the first to admit. I have some didactic tendencies.

The first quotation I thought of today coincides with a report on the news I heard about. Apparently, even though the jobs are being dropped like a boulder, and spending is down for the fifth month in a row, this is the first time in quite a while that people are paying off their debts.

This is good news.

People may be tightening their belts, but they are committing to the strange opportunity that this affords them. Namely, they are losing the debt that's been holding them down. The credit crunch has an upside? Who knew?

I've been recognizing some opportunities myself. So, I guess my thought today is this: Look around you. Things might be rough right now, but are there opportunities abounding?

KarmaloopChristmas 2008

Thursday, December 11, 2008

It lies with you.

If you take responsibility for yourself you will develop a hunger to accomplish your dreams. - Les Brown

Expanding on the thoughts of a previous post, I found this quote incredibly appealing. I've already expressed that you are responsible for your own happiness. Now, take that a step further, and what do you have?

When you realize that you are in your current situation based on your own decisions, and ending any blame that you may be placing on others' heads, you will find this opening up possibilities before your very eyes.

If you got yourself into desperate situations, you can move yourself out of them and into that which is good. Maybe you can even accomplish the things you've only dreamed of. It starts with a decision. Your decision.

What are you capable of? Do you even know?

If there were no limits to what you could do, which path would you take?

The truth of all of your possibilities lies in you. You hold your dreams in your hands. Do not rely on others to tell you what you should be, to decide what your life will be. Has someone ever told you that you can't do something, or go somewhere, or be someone? Did they also tell you they were lying to you. When someone is saying these things to you, it has to do more with the fact that they are dissatisfied with their own circumstances because they listened to someone else who told them the exact same thing. But the truth is that they are only a voice, and whether that voice carries weight is up to you entirely. It only matters if you listen to them and repeat that to yourself.

Stop saying those words, "I can't", and you find your abilities widening, the world becoming more accessible, your dreams within reach.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Joy in living!

Find ecstasy in life; the mere sense of living is joy enough. - Emily Dickinson

On this day in 1830, Emily Dickinson was born. In honor of that, I thought we should reflect on one of her quotes.

Though not an avid bible reader myself, I love Psalms 118:24 - This is the day that the Lord hath made; we should rejoice and be glad in it.

When you wake in the morning, are you excited to rise and greet the day? Do you anticipate your schedule, who you will see, what you will do?

No matter your attitude about how life came to be on this small rotating sphere making its way through the heavens, you have to admit what an amazing thing it is to live.

Consider a baby: One day, it didn't exist. Maybe it wasn't even a thought in his or her parents' minds. And the next day, there it is. And roughly nine to ten months later, it appears to the world as something brand new. Isn't that truly astounding? How can something seem to come from nothing?

Life is remarkable. Remarkable! And for that we should feel a sense of excitement. It seems Miss Dickinson had it right.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Unfamiliar in the familiar

There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered. ~Nelson Mandela

I've lived in a few places, so I can tell you how strange it is to return. There will be some things that have changed, necessities of time. But there will be aspects of your former home that will remain the same. The strangest part about that is that you'll find that how you feel about the unaltered is much different than before. Maybe it's the sense of familiarity that has faded. Maybe it's that you simply feel that yourself has become unfamiliar to that place. You are different. This place is the same.

Perhaps the greatest change is that you realize that memories often expand the importance, the sense of home, even the scale of certain things about what was once home. The memory improved upon the circumstances, making them more worthwhile in the remembering. And you return to find that, while still worth remembering, perhaps it wasn't as you exactly remembered it to begin with.

Consider that, perhaps, you find yourself more self-realized, more complex, different than you once were. And this could only have occurred if you were willing to leave. Maybe it's in the returning that you realize your own difference from who and what you once were.

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Monday, December 8, 2008

What we all long for...

Acceptance. It is the true thing everyone longs for. The one thing everyone craves. To walk in a room and to be greeted by everyone with hugs and smiles. And in that small passing moment, you truly know you're loved, needed, and accepted. - Rena Harmon

Last night, I had the great fortune to catch the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, Front of the Class. If you missed it, once on DVD, you might want to check it out.

The true story follows the life of Bradley Cohen, a young man who, plagued from childhood with Tourette's Syndrome, overcame odds to become a second grade teacher. Despite encountering ignorance of the disability many, many times, he finally found the right school (and administration) to accept him and his condition. They also grew to know him as a fantastic educator.

And all it took for him to reach great heights was for others to accept him as he was.

Just think how every hardship, every ambition, every dream, despite all difficulties, would make our most sought after goals more possible.

It seems we all want this same thing: acceptance. It is one of our many commonalities as human beings. To be who we are, and loved anyway; that is one of the greatest things one could ever hope for.

Pear Tree Greetings

Friday, December 5, 2008

Ah, the blessings of friendship...

A good friend can tell you what is the matter with you in a minute. He may not seem such a good friend after telling. - Arthur Brisbane

As you weave your way down your life's path, numerous people will accompany you. If you are lucky, you will have the sturdy, steady friendship necessary during difficult times.

Today, I have chosen a quote on friendship that didn't reflect the opinion of so many that friendships are proven during these tough times. I think we all know that is true. But, rather, a comment on the qualities of the person's whose voice and hand are at the ready when needed.

When I was younger, I took the criticism of friends badly. Who was anyone to say anything to tarnish my own self-image? With the years came the realization that I was blessed to have anyone close enough to me who cared enough to want me to be improved, to want my life to be better than it was.

Yes, true friendship is proven when the niceties of life flitter away, whether due to circumstance or personal decisions. But those who would tell you the truth, even when, especially when, you don't want to hear it, to reveal the possibilities of the future for you, are those most worthy of being kept.

I am so blessed for my friendships. May they last as long as life.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The change lies with you...

You must be the change you wish to see in the world. - Mahatma Gandhi

It all starts with you. One of the things I remember when I feel myself or circumstances stagnating is this: Nothing changes if nothing changes.

When you make a decision to do something different, to be something different, to take a different attitude, and to create change, then that is exactly what happens.

We live in a world that is faltering on many a front. People are losing jobs, losing homes, losing livelihoods. If you are in the position to do something, do it. It's not the time to look the other way and hope that the economy will change, that someone else will help. Change starts with you. Even in small ways. Even if it means placing change in a Salvation Army kettle.

The world is imperfect, yes. But that does not mean it must continue to worsen before it gets better. In times of discontent, it was the small acts by people, acts that moved us forward, that made all the real difference. When people decide to put aside their differences and come together to find real solutions to problems that change was created.

It starts with one voice. It starts with you.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Baby, baby!

This post is in honor of my niece, Lily Rae, who will soon be ten months old, has already been weened from the boob, gotten a tooth, and learned to walk. Oh, and apparently she knows all she needs to to get along in the world. Perhaps she went right from nine months to nineteen years old. They grow up so fast these days!

On the wall of her nursery, my brother-in-law painted the quotation (that I suggested, by the way):

Babies are bits of stardust, blown from the hand of God. - Barretto

What a wonderful thought! We start from somewhere (and thing) divine enough to think we deserve to be born in such a remarkable way. Like the potter, the glass-blower, the painter.

But as children often do, Lily reminded me of some of my favorite quotes that remind us of the wonder and imagination of childhood.

I hope you enjoy!

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real." "Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit. "Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt." "Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?" "It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand." - Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

"If you live to be 100, I hope I live to be 100 minus 1 day, so I never have to live without you." - A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh