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December 11
, 2011

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OpalToney7-24.jpg (37075 bytes)As I Was Saying
By Opal Toney

Merry Christmas...
Well, once again, Iím here aching and looking out the window and watching the squirrels go up and down the trees.
Iím not going to stay here very long. Iím going to kick this blanket back and get up and do a little dancing.
But the thing that is bothering me, is that I canít get out and say hello to everybody. So, I decided to use this way to wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

honeyandflag.jpg (61206 bytes)The View From Here
By Katherine Veno

A new leaf...
I have always heard about turning over a new leaf. I never really focused on this old saying until the past year. Life sometimes forces you to make a change, start again, stop and look, and renew yourself.
Our lives can become scattered like a pile of leaves. One day I am a big stack of gold and red, and the next I am blown by the wind and everywhere at once. I find myself drifting from here to there, and canít seem to get anything accomplished. I become angry, depressed, and feel isolated. I believe we all need to be like a new leaf and cling to a branch.
When my life gets too hectic, I start to feel as scattered as the leaves I see in autumn. At first, they ar lovely, but then they begin to fall. The leaves become a clutter on the grass. Every gust of wind brings a new torrent of disarray, and no matter how furiously I rake, I cannot bring the scattered leaves of my emotions together again. At these moments, I need to turn over a new leaf.
Life is busy. There are responsibilities at work. There are more responsibilities at home. Some of us are caring for elderly parents, others are rearing children. Responsibilities include children, employers, employees, husbands, wives, friends and animals. It is difficult to keep up, and often the tasks just do not get done. Time is money and our to-do lists are too long.
Then the heart becomes overwhelmed, stress takes over, and there seems to be no answer to the schedule looming overhead. All my life I have struggled to not fall behind. I would find myself playing catch up. If I got a day off, it would slip through my fingers and I would be left wondering what happened to all those ďfreeĒ hours I had.
Then the harder I try to hold onto special moments, the faster the clock seems to tick. For me, this is hard to understand, because the hard days seem to last forever with their pain and sorrow, as do the boring days. These days have endless, countable, hours.
I donít know about you, but I am susceptible to viewing the lives of others from afar and believing their existence is easier, calmer, and more meaningful than mine. I have to be careful not to get into a period of envy of somebody elseís life because I feel I am trudging through a dreary season while they are walking down a glittering, fairy tale lit path.
The last minute is a hard way to live, but I have done it sometimes in my life. I tend to downshift when I should hit my accelerator. This on-the-edge habit leaves me breathless and exhausted and filled with anxiety. It has left me a bit dizzy, and I am making plans to change this habit. I am not going to let my life spin out of control.
Sometimes it is fear that keeps us from making even a small change in our life. Fear is indiscriminate. It does not care about your age or social ranking. Fear makes us think we are protecting ourselves, but it also keeps us from reaching out and living the way we want to live. If left alone, fear will suffocate.
Fear resides in little pockets inside all of us. Sometimes it is cowardice, and other times it is timidity. It can make us cower inside a protective shell of fear, and prevent anything good from happening. This is the time to clear the cobwebs and start something new.
I refuse to wander in a way that makes me feel like less. I want to feel like more. I donít know about you, but I want to do more than just survive my life. Now in the winter of my life, my greatest fear is running out of time. I do not think it is good for anybody to race through life, eat fast food in the car, always work overtime, and crowd everything we can into one day.
If I race through the day, and fill it too full, it runs over into stress, and lots of feelings of inadequacy. If I try to do too much in a quest to save time, I am losing something. The disturbing reality is we are all running. We are either running from our lives or for our lives. We are either running from our responsibilities, from hurtful memories, and from relationships that take discipline and time to repair. We are running from various fears we think may overtake us and we are even running from knowledge of ourselves.
I do not have to run to survive. As a matter of fact I believe I am programmed to rest to survive.
In turning over my new leaf, I am working on not letting stress turn life into something bad. A winner sees an answer for a problem, while a loser sees a problem for every single answer. To do much is as dangerous as to do nothing at all.


EmilyLundy4-2.jpg (36194 bytes)Escapades of Emily
By Emily Gail Lundy

What really counts...
Last week I read an ďexpertísĒ analysis of Christmas, especially on the one doing the most to make Christmas happen for the household or for some other group. ďDo you find the Christmas holidays blessed with peace, good will, fulfillment or do the days preceding keep you frantic, redoing gift switching, waiting for the late arrival of a late gift, baking too much, decorating too often, trying to keep the house in order, working yourself into a frenzy of collapse?Ē
Living in a Texas home that has seen all kinds of people for a multitude of reasons, I believe I might be one of each style in Christmas preparation.
Usually on Christmas Eve or at a really meaningful program somewhere, I receive the first feeling with all problems melting away. Whatever will be will be all right.
The latter role has me in its grips the weeks before December 25. I must do more for those who have little chance of celebrating the outer aura. Peace can come from love and nearness in a simple setting. A few gifts never hurt, no matter how humble.
Every year Iíve planned to shop earlier, cook starting Dec. 1, decorate by Thanksgiving, send cards timely, collect myself at all times.
Itís just not going to happen. Interruptions, trips, auto availability, right ingredients, noise ... all pull me into my old persona. My household and even me are held together by a glue gun and its ammunition. How did we live without this hot wax to stick quickly and efficiently.
My glue gun on outdoor Christmas figures fights the wind and rain. It makes bags unopenable as I donít wrap gifts but use gift sacks. Pictures on the wall that slide a tad with every train going by wonít if a touch of glue is hidden somewhere under the picture. Iíve thought about keeping a stubborn earring on a lobe with a touch of cooled glue, but I donít want to take a chance on when that would be.
My annual Christmas letter has to include photos with the heads in pictures of similar size. I found a print shop that can reduce and enlarge people. I wish they wouldnít hide when they see me coming. Then I have to write something that wonít anger anyone in the family. Grown children are too sensitive, and I wouldnít know where anyone kin to me got that quality.
Good happens. There was the year, long ago, when I realized it was better to give than receive. What a blessing. Then came the day of epiphany when I realized gifts coming my way didnít matter at all. Christmas was wonderful realizing precious memories, hilarious occurrences past and present, surprise appearances. Usually, someone has to say, ďMama, you havenít opened any of your gifts.Ē I donít reply, but my gifts are whoever is in the room, anyone who has ever kissed me bye or hugged me tightly or asked if I need any help or simply was born years ago.
Christmas is a wonderful day with speedy days leading to it. Suddenly, others are much more important than self, and I want to give, give, give, and listen to timeless carols all day. Iím happy thinking of what really counts from the birth of a babe so long ago, and how one day in winter jolts us into the reality of it in the form of giving and loving all we can. Every month needs a Christmas; soon it could be the day it was meant to be without Black Fridays, the lights, maybe just a humble tree with letters addressed to family members under it and simple conversation. Peace could rule and be justified more often. We would be nicer folks.
Merry Christmas. And I have just one last gift to buy for someone I overlooked.



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