Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Home for the holidays

Our thoughts turn to home and family during the holiday season. For many people thoughts of home bring warm memories of childhood dreams and fantasies. When I think of Christmas, my thoughts turn to fond memories of stringing popcorn and making cookies for tree decorations. I made popcorn and cookie decorations with my children, and I also remember stringing popcorn with my sister when I was young. My grandmother considered the singing of spiritual songs serious business, so my sister and I tried not to laugh while we sang. When my children got older, we would hang an assortment of decorations and throw tinsel at the tree and at each other while we laughed, sang, and drank sparkling cider. Holiday traditions stay with us even at times through generations. Whether we have fun happy memories or feelings of tension and distress, we often expect the same experience each year. But times change, seasons change, and thoughts of home and holidays can change also.

In the past, home for the holidays often brought the expectation of sitting around the fire in a home of your own with your extended family. This in itself can bring with it feelings of tension and anxiety as families grow and expand. Your house or mine? Where shall we go for Christmas? Or, worse yet, you might try to resolve the conflict by house hopping from one parent or grandparent’s house to another. Our American past is filled with so many stories about trying to be everywhere at the same time, and trying to fit too much fun into each moment. I remember one year inviting each side of the family over, one after the other, and fixing two different dinners on the same day. Whew! The expectation of so much fun and family can cause stress to children and adults alike.

Some people will always feel sad during the holidays. Whether for lack of gifts, family or warmth, the holidays can be a time of sadness for people who have great expectations for the season. I can’t think of any time of the year that carries such high expectations as the Christmas season (which has extended to cover at least three months). For some people early lights, shopping and decorating are ways to spread the joy. For others, shopping and advertising means more disappointment.

Now fast forward to the 21st century with soaring housing prices in many areas, long commutes to work, ambiguous work hours and conditions. You may be left wondering, “Where is home for the holidays?” Television and advertisers are still touting the big Christmas tree in the big house with a big family in red sweaters receiving big gifts. The commercial that caught my attention was the one where the long stockings were pulled out of the gift box. The stockings brought back memories of sneaking under the tree with my brother and sister to open an exciting gift before Christmas morning. To my disappointment, I had opened the gift from my grandmother. Socks! Not the best pick for an early surprise.

Maybe I’m just getting older, but now I think that warm fuzzy socks are a great Christmas gift. Celebrating the love of God, family where ever they are, the warmth of socks and a hot cup of tea are a great way to spend the holidays. How will you connect with your home, friends, and family for the holidays? This may be the year that your family is spread out or you are working or traveling. It may be a time when you can share family and holiday stories with someone else, or just sit down to a hot cup of tea and be thankful for what you have. Knowing your values and knowing what is really important to you will help make this a wonderful holiday season.

Copyright LWD © 2005 Nancy Miller

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Writer's Conference

I had a wonderful opportunity to attend the Writer's Conference at CSUS this past weekend. It was a very humbling experience for some of us. It was invigorating to hear so many talented writers who had a vision for sharing something with others, whether it was something personal about themselves or a topic of importance. We heard the success stories and also the daunting reality of getting yourself published.

One of the authors that showed incredible determination in gettting her book published was Sandy Lynne Holman who wrote, "Grandpa, Is Everything Black Bad?" As a teacher, Sandy helps young people of all cultures understand and appreciate their heritage. She was a dynamic speaker who had us all dancing before the presentation was over.

As I was leaving the workshop, I met Susan Wooldridge who has written books and presents workshops to adults and young people on self expression through poetry. She offers "PoemCrazy Workshops" for community libraries, schools, and individual requests.

Growing and learning can be a rigorous process. It is very difficult to critique other people's writing as we did in the workshops, and it is also very difficult to hear your own wonderful work critiqued. The workshop facilitators emphasized the importance of writing what's in your heart, following your passion, and then editing...editing..editing. Writing is at the heart of the human experience. Sharing yourself with others through writing, speaking, or conversing puts you in a vulnerable position. It's through that vulnerability that you feel human. Receiving a positive response to that communication makes you feel bigger than life.

Too often in our experiences with others we sit in the director, editor, or critics chair asking ourselves if the person we are listening to deserves to be heard. We tell ourselves they are wasting our time. Go work on yourself some more and come back when you are successful. Publishers want to see a person's work when it has already shown a track record for success. I'm afraid that we as individuals often do the same. Some of the most wonderful successful books like, "Harry Potter" were rejected by all of the major publishers. Then someone took a chance on something different. They listened to something no one else was listening to.

Have you ever shrugged someone off for being a little odd, unique, or different? Maybe they talked more, louder, or with a lisp. Maybe they wore a colorful outfit when their friends were wearing black. I certainly have, and others have done that to me. I think we are really missing out when we are not open to people who are creative, unusual and mysterious. They may be like the best book not yet edited and published to sell to the masses.

Friday, July 08, 2005


Recently my daughter and grandson from Texas stayed with us for a couple of weeks. As I held 2 month old Jonah, I could feel how trusting and vulnerable he was. We know that babies can't take care of themselves, but holding a baby in your arms and looking into his eyes, you can really feel how much more there is to the relationship than caregiving. An infant needs touch, they can sense when something is wrong, and they need physical and emotional caring to live and thrive.

As I looked into this little baby's eyes, I thought about how vulnerable relationships can be. Just as a baby needs a great deal of nurturing, so do relationships. The heart of a relationship is trust.

If a person hasn't been nurtured and loved in the past, they often lose their natural sense of trust for other human beings.