Susan Neder

The Magic of Christmas and the Uninvited Guest

In Uncategorized on January 14, 2013 at 7:20 pm

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(photo credit: Norman Rockwell)

 

Another holiday season has come and gone. The last few years our holidays have been dampened by health issues, so this year I decided to go all out with decorating. With kids and grandkids coming, I got into the spirit and decorated and baked and planned and listened to the music in joyful anticipation of everyone’s arrival.

A few days before everyone came,  one of my friends, who shall remain anonymous ( but her name is Mary and she owns a printing company) told me my living room looked like someone had vomited Christmas into it; an odd choice of words, I thought, for a compliment. Or was it? Pretty sketchy, but I decided to take it as a positive statement, just a recognition that I had gone at it enthusiastically. Little did I know that her statement would prove to be prophetic as well.

 

When my four year old grandson arrived at my door with a solemn expression on his face, clutching a mixing bowl, and announced “Ya-Ya I frew up”, I had my first inkling that this might not be the idyllic holiday I had imagined. Turns out, I was right. Mike and I managed to stay above the fray with only minor symptoms, but everyone else succumbed, then recovered, then relapsed, each on a different schedule. 

 

You know, it isn’t easy to plan holiday meals around the needs and preferences of meat eaters, vegetarians, and vegans all together, but it is even harder when one group is sick and can’t eat or stand the sight of food, and the rest of the group is preoccupied by the idea that they might get sick next. Looking back, we could have saved a lot of money and time byy just serving saltine crackers and Sprite. Everyone can eat that, and it’s practically all that was eaten.

 

It was interesting to note that many people hate to admit they have the flu – they prefer to tell you it was “just something they ate”. This group was no different. The vegans said they must have gotten some “dairy”  somewhere, looking suspiciously around, and the vegetarians blamed some sneaky meat product in something, like chicken broth, or maybe “processed food” (oh no!) and also eyed me with doubt. Of the three meat eaters, the two oldest and probably least healthy were ok and the third was sick as a dog. By that time everyone had to admit it was the flu, though relapses were still looked on with suspicion until most everyone had one. Once the internet described the flu and its symptoms in Colorado, my kitchen and I were finally vindicated!

 

The thing is, even with the stomach flu as an uninvited guest at our Christmas celebration, there was still some magic. We all had a really good time. It was wonderful to be able to kick back and spend time together; to laugh and watch movies and play in the snow. Just being together felt good. Christmas means different things to different people, but maybe one of the best things it does for us is to give us a few days to slow down our hectic schedules and relax and be together with our families and friends. It seems like the older I get, the more important I realize that is. I don’t know if that is because I am acutely aware of my own mortality these days – that probably is a factor – but I just know any time I get to spend with family and friends, old and new, is special.

It even felt good to nurse them through their encounters with our uninvited guest. I am just not sure when I will get all the laundry put away, though, and I wonder who will want to come back next year……..

Group Hope

In Uncategorized on December 18, 2012 at 5:27 pm

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As I sit here looking out at the first snowflakes of December, I am thinking they are almost too small to see, but they are there. Lots of people have been hoping for them and I wonder how much that helped them be here. I know – the cynics among you will say it is just a weather system that can be explained in detail, and you would be right, but I can’t help believe there is an unexplainable component to life and at times like this, it is interesting to speculate about the influence it exerts. I don’t suggest I have an answer to that question, by the way, and I’m not sure anyone does, but it is still worth considering. I am guessing it works on both sides of the positive and negative spectrum, but for today i am focusing on the positive side of things. If there is anything to this idea, then I choose to believe that deliberate positive intention will always overcome negative things.

 

After all, we all know about prayer chains and prayer quilts, but we don’t really know how or why those work, but they seem to. I sleep under a beautiful prayer quilt every night. Aren’t these things an example of what I have ecided to call “group hope”? We all know how important having hope is to everyone; it can sometimes make the difference between life and death for someone. So, shouldn’t it follow that “group hope” focused on something would be even more powerful?

I can see how this could apply in a number of different situations. In my own experience with the “battle of the netherlands”, I have had so many kind people praying for me, that I know they have made a huge difference. I just returned from Denver where I had another round of tests to be sure I amstill ok, and all of the tests were clear. Did “group hope” play a part in that outcome? I think it did.

We are approaching the Winter Solstice and  the end of the Mayan calendar and I admit I am one of those who hope that the calendar ended because they ran out of pencils or ink or something; on a more serious note, I recently read an article saying that the author believed that the predicted catastrophe had been avoided because of all the positive energy and intention focused on healing the planet right now by a lot of people. I really hope that is true; but if it is, isn’t that just another example of “group hope”?

 I have noticed in the last 30 days more hope from people in all sorts of situations. It is as though things that haven’t been working well are slowly starting to work again. It is a slow shift, but I see people who have been afraid to trust, beginning to become hopeful again.

 

One thing I have learned about all this is that it may not be enough to just be generally positive and cheerful about life in general; “Group hope” needs a focus and lots of intentional positive energy or prayer directed on something. So, like a character in one of my favorite movies, I have decided to get a little notebook that I can carry around with me that has the names of people or situations I want to focus hope on regularly. I want to establish a routine of this. You know, I have been wondering how to help the victims of hurricane Sandy – maybe this is something I can give. I don’t really know if it will help them, but it will probably help me! Perhaps in this season of giving, this is an idea to think more about……..   

Thanksgiving Unplugged

In Uncategorized on November 27, 2012 at 5:01 pm

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Another Thanksgiving has come and gone, and we are left with the remnants of turkey and “Black Friday”, among other things. I have to admit that this has never been my favorite holiday. We teach the children about the pilgrims and the Indians, but do we explain to them about the consequences of that symbolic meal to such a proud race of people? And this holiday doesn’t work well for the turkeys, either. Those of you who have viewed Sarah Palin’s now famous “faux pax” video of her pardonning turkeys and then finishing her interview  in front of an operating turkey-killing machine of some sort know what I mean. The level of hypocracy in the “traditional” celebration of this day is too much for me! 

 

Why don’t we just use this day as a day of true gratitude for what we have around us? Wouldn’t that be a more authentic way to celebrate Thanksgiving Day? Yes, we can thank the pilgrims for being there, and the Indians for their many sacrifices, and rejoice in the settling of our country, but shouldn’t we also focus on what we have today? Not everything is wonderful, I realize, but we have a lot that is right – why don’t we celebrate those things? Wouldn’t that provide a better atmosphere for healing this great country that has been so torn apart by recent politics? I hear it said that fault for all this devisiveness falls on the politicians, as well as those”other guys” who do not agree with us. I have to label this as more hypocracy. I argue that politicians really can’t do anything we don’t let them do, but we do have to speak with one voice. That does not mean we all have to agree on the same outcome, but it does mean we have to embrace cooperation and bipartisanship and compromise. The same thing is true for the media – they respond to ratings. If we refuse, as a group, to listen to the news channels and “talking heads”who promote doom and gloom and hostility, they will change. We do not need people with their own private agendas telling us how to think – that hurts our country more than anything else.

 

Imagine what would happen if everyone sat down the night before Thanksgiving Day and turned off their TVs, radio programs and computers, and just thought quietly about what they have to be grateful for. Then they could think about what things need to be changed, and how to do that without causing harm. They could do that for the country, as well as for the world, and their own family. Too much time with no electronics?  Maybe, but I think less electronics now and then can be a good thing. We are just talking about one evening here, not all day every day. (More than once a year would probably be a really good idea for this exercise, but it is just an option). Those who enjoy this quiet time could expand their thinking to what do they really like? What do they really believe? What if they are wrong – what are the consequences of a bad decision? How would they remake their world? The list of worthwhile musings is long, but it is incomplete if it does not include some question about how to help someone else who is in need. A recognition that the world is not all about you is handy if you reach this point, as is the question “Who is thankful for me tonight?” If the answer is “no one” or “I don’t know” then you may want to spend more time thinking about other people than you do of yourself on this evening. One thing I know for sure – whether you spend one evening a year or one evening a month or a week doing this, it will eventually cure you of “cancer of the soul”, which could turn out to be the biggest killer on our planet these days.