Archive for honest

My Little Game

By Carolyn Cook, Guest Blogger.

I’m pondering another life change.  I don’t know if it counts as a risk, but I think any change is inherently risky, so here goes:

I’m thinking about closing in.  Cutting back.  Focusing.  Minimizing.  Simplifying for a while.

If you know me, you know this is a ridiculous idea.  I can’t resist opportunities for adventure, artistic growth, and discovery.  Give me a challenge, and I’m out the door like a shot.  So it would be really, really hard for me to do what I’m talking about.

Specifically, I’m talking about creating a daily routine where the paperwork and the housework and the prep work for my classes actually gets done, every day.  (Oh dear, I’m already terrified.)  I’m talking about planning meals and keeping healthy food in the fridge and getting regular exercise.

I actually have time to do this. For once in my life, I have just enough work to do outside the home, and I don’t want to take on any more.  I have time to see my mother, talk with my husband and daughter, cook dinner, and keep up with paperwork, while still pursuing an interesting career.  I even have time to study voice again.

Yet I find myself putting off going to grocery store, letting my mom’s papers pile up, procrastinating, and of course, feeling stressed.  It’s natural.  My husband and I have a favorite quote, which I believe is from Life 101:  “If your game is too small, you’ll screw up your game just to give yourself something to do.”  Oh, the drama.

What if I mustered the courage, the discipline, not to screw up this little game of mine?  What if I developed the discipline to meet deadlines, take care of my health, create interesting classes for my students, and practice my music?  I know I can do it; I only risk giving up the thrill of running on adrenalin when I get behind.  And the potential reward is so great:  a sense of purpose, a sense of accomplishment, a sense of being true to myself.

Maybe being true to myself is the biggest risk of all.  What do you think?

This post originally appeared on my RiskADay blog.

 is a sometimes peaceful, sometimes frazzled individual who works to raise a daughter, build a marriage, and explore the human condition through theatre, art, music, history, literature, and relationship.

Is it Winter in Your Heart?

Regardless of what or how we celebrate this time of year, there is an unspoken expectation to be joyful, grateful, giving, and loving.  And for some of us this is simply not how we feel, not what we are experiencing.  Whether it’s due to the loss of a loved one, or the loss of a connection to the spark within us, the holiday cheer can be a painful reminder, if not downright heartbreaking.

To put it more beautifully, I’d like to share with you a poem, written by my dear friend, Janie Cook, on her blog, Living with the Loss of a Child.


in the shadow of blinking Christmas lights

of holiday parties and celebrations

surrounded by gift shoppers

and promises of peace, hope and joy

it is winter in my heart

i am the cold, cloudy days

the damp leafless trees

the stark stillness of the night sky

filled with longing

so . . . Holy One who knows the seasons of our hearts

be the sunrise that warms

be the breeze that freshens

be the light that illuminates

and help me give birth to The Love that is ever deeper and more sustaining

(To read Janie’s post in its entirety, click here.

Regardless of what it is you are feeling during this holiday season, please consider this note a kind of permission slip to feel whatever that is – whether it’s joy, sadness, grief, gratitude, indifference, anger, etc.  You may even want to share with someone close what is true for you so that you don’t feel so alone in your seemingly unique situation.

Remember, we can’t put our feelings on a timer, and only feel them when they are welcome.  We must welcome them when they are present so that they don’t overtake and cripple us for even longer a time…

May you find some peace with your feelings this holiday season, and know that I’ll be joining you in doing my best to honor my feelings.  May we all find peace, all over the whole wide world.  Amen.


PS  This post is directly lifted from my December, 2012 newsletter, True Voices Express.  To make sure you don’t miss another offering like this, please go to the the top right of this page, and sign up to receive future issues.  I’d love to be in contact with you more often – but not too often, I promise.  Thanks!


The Holidays: Holy? Holey? Wholly?

Just hearing these words – without seeing them – brings me back to church hymns of my youth.  This month hymns and carols and traditional music are all around us.  Many of us are even hearing and singing them without much attention to the words.  It’s a time of year when I think we do a lot of things without much attention. We run on automatic at the very time it would serve us to be more intentional.

Whatever holidays you celebrate this month, chances are there is much to do.  Decorating, shopping, planning, cooking, packing, delivering, mailing.  There’s so much packed into the few weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day that it hardly seems there could even be room for “holes.” And yet, they’re there:  those spaces between what we’re doing and what it all really means.  It isn’t always easy to acknowledge that our observance of holidays – those days we hold sacred and dear – could have holes, could be incomplete.  But in the busy-ness, it’s easy to rush past meaning in our efforts to just get it all done.  How many times, for instance, have you pulled out the Christmas decorations before the Thanksgiving dishes were even dry, and then spent New Year’s Day packing them all away in a hurry to “get the house back to normal”?  Did you get to enjoy them, remembering the trip to Mexico where you purchased the tiny bird ornament made of clay?  Or what about thinking of how your parents lit the candles on this very same menorah? Or was getting them put out and then put away just another chore on your to-do list?

Can we fill the holes? Perhaps. And perhaps focusing on the holiness of our holidays is a way to do so.  Regardless of your tradition, holidays in this season are all holy in some way. (I’m assuming that’s where the word holiday came from, in the first place!)  Beyond the decorating, shopping, cooking and parties, there are – to borrow the phrase – the reasons for the season.  If we put first the true meaning of our holidays, the real reason we have them in the first place, our priorities become clear, making it easier for us to follow suit with our actions.

We might do this in very simple ways – reading and meditating on sacred texts, attending services with family and friends, spending some time working with a favorite charity, spending time in nature, breathing in the grandeur, or just stopping and breathing and listening – being attentive, regardless of where we are.  We can bring our focus back to what it is that makes our holidays holy.  Can’t we?

That’s a tall order – celebrating the true and holy bases for our holidays and still take care of the shopping and wrapping and party planning.  Can we possibly do all of that and remain whole ourselves?  How do we make it to January 1st with the energy to move into a new year with excitement and purpose?

What if we don’t have to do it all?  Try making a “Not to Do” list this year.  Include those things that you’ve felt pressured to take care of in the past, but that you really don’t enjoy and that aren’t even critical to your celebration of the holiday. Then, don’t do them.

In his book, “Hundred Dollar Holiday: the Case for a More Joyful Christmas,” author Bill McKibben writes, “The reason the holidays are wonderful is because there remains a residual set of traditions from before hyper-consumerism, of being together with friends and family, and doing things like singing carols that connect you with other people. Most of the best traditions of Christmas and other holidays pre-date the current commercial celebrations, and they’re among the things that we need to recapture even as we invent new celebrations.”

If we take an honest look at our priorities, we can probably separate those things we do out of a sense of obligation and duty from those in which we truly find joy.  It is then that we can celebrate the holy, wholly.