We all have holidays that have special meaning to us. Today happens to be Dave's birthday, so we are celebrating his birth. I am so grateful that God decided to have Dave's and my lives intersect, as I believe he is the perfect match for me. Christmas was a wonderful time with family and friends around, a Christmas Eve service reminding us why we celebrate this special day in the first place....and way too much good food.
In the months leading up to the holidays, I worked a bunch. Maybe even a bit too much, as I found myself getting mentally and physically exhausted. A few days before Christmas, I came down with a nasty chest-congestion/cold/whatever you want to call it. Whatever it was put me down on the couch for a day and made me lose my voice for two days, as well. I have to wonder about this. First of all, I truly am grateful that I didn't lose my voice when I was doing all my teaching and consulting. Somehow, this gunk waited until I had a bit of free time to rear its ugly head. But maybe that isn't exactly a coincidence. Maybe things like that are God's way of saying, "Shelly, you need to slow down." What if a cold is precisely what was necessary for me to take a day to lie on the couch and relax? Dave and I call those moments "Godwinks", as they seem to be God's way of winking at us and whispering "Gotcha".
After having company come over for Christmas lunch, everyone had left by 3:30 in the afternoon. With all the Christmas lights, low lamplight, and candles glowing, Dave and I sat in the living room with the pups and read books. If you know Dave very well, you know that this is not his typical routine, as he is much more the "turn on the t.v. to see whatever sports might be on" type of dude. But we enjoyed the peaceful calm and restful sounds of silence that evening so very much.
Maybe holy days/holidays have dual purposes----not just to celebrate the true meaning behind their creation but also to allow us to sit back and take a deep breath, breathing in all for which we are grateful, and breathing out all that has worried or bothered us. Maybe we just need to take time to recharge our proverbial batteries, not to rev up for any next thing in particular but rather to revel in all we have and to take the time to breathe in and out.
This holiday season, I am grateful for all that has been given to me, which is OH-so-much, and I am taking time to be particularly grateful for the time to recharge. Maybe I can work on doing that without God having to tap me on the shoulder with a cold in the future.
My fervent prayer for each one of you is that you enjoy this season as well!
Dave and I just returned from a week in Cabo, where we read books, sat by the lagoon, ate great food, and really just enjoyed spending time with one another after a CRAZY busy fall (work for me; golf for Dave). <sigh>
When we were leaving yesterday for the airport, another couple leaving vacation for Chicago asked if they could ride along with us in our shuttle. We gladly brought them along, and we all began talking about how beautiful the beaches were, how green Cabo was this time (usually by December, it is a bit brown other than the resort areas that are meticulously landscaped and the Pacific Ocean and the lovely Sea of Cortez), and how serene the week had been. I said aloud, "Cabo has truly become our happy place", and the couple agreed. But as Dave and I sat, side by side, in the airport, awaiting our departure back home, I realized that pretty much any place can be my happy place if I simply have the right attitude.
As many of you know, Dave gives me grief about saying "Today was the best day ever!" after I conduct a workshop for teachers, administrators, or professors. He argues, "Not every day can be the best day ever!" Hmmm....but I wonder if it can if you simply look at it the right way. The best job I ever had was the one I was doing at the time. When I was a teacher, that was the best. I didn't believe anything could be more fun...or frustrating...or tiring...or rewarding. But when I became a school counselor, I said the same thing: "This is the best job ever!" Not only did I get a chance to still teach lessons in classrooms, I got to know every student in the school and get hugs all the time. Lo and behold, when I became the principal at "the best elementary school in the world" (do you happen to see a theme brewing?), that truly was the best gig ever! Not only was I working with all the students, parents, and staff, I got a chance to work with other principals and mentor some potential administrators as well. What a treat!! But then Dave and I moved to Tucson from Florida, and I had a choice to make: become a principal here...or strike out and try something new! Seven years later, and educational consulting is still new with every single school or district or university with whom I am blessed to work! BEST JOB EVER!!! Was I lying about the other paths being the best? Of course not! They all prepared me to become the best "me" I can be today! And that is no easy feat to be a best me, just ask Dave. On second thought, just take my word for it.
Do I get frustrated sometimes? Oh sure. But I can honestly say I cannot remember having a bad DAY! I have had not-so-ideal moments, but there is always more learning to do and always more teaching to do as long as there are others who believe there is more learning to do, as well. And that, my friends, is a pretty cool deal.
So, is Cabo my happy place? Absolutely! But so is sitting right here on the couch, listening to the gentle snore of our latest foster Lab. Ana is so happy to simply have a soft place to land for now, and for being able to give her that for awhile makes this current couch with this current love of a dog my happy place.
I hope and pray you have a happy place and that you are able to access it often and fondly.
I am definitely not in favor of the craze in which people on Facebook put down a particular airline, restaurant chain, hotel chain, etc. just because they had a bad experience or two. Folks, this shouldn't be a secret, but every single airline has delays, canceled flights, flight attendants who have a bad day, and bumpy landings. To publicly berate them on Facebook is, in my humble opinion, silly. I am loyal to an airline because I fly a lot. Sometimes, flights are delayed, and a few times in the last seven years of heavy traveling, I have had to spend the night somewhere I didn't intend to stay because of a missed flight, etc. The good news is: when you remain loyal to a brand, they typically treat you better. I get off a delayed flight and have a new boarding pass waiting for me or a text on my phone telling me when my next option to get home is. Same with my preferred hotel chain: when I check in, I often get upgraded to a nicer room or a nicer view. Why? Not because it is better than another hotel chain, but because I have remained loyal and I have status with them. I simply think it is silly (that is the best word choice I can come up with) to dog a hotel or airline when you have one or two bad experiences. And if you really want to thin the herd of the people who will send you Christmas cards this year, just reply to one of those "rants" with a dissenting view. Wowee! What a mess.
Now, I will say that some customer service people crack me up (and by "crack me up", they would truly make me crazy if I didn't have the Serenity Prayer tucked away for such occasions). Dave and I were in the airport yesterday, about to hop on a flight to come to one of my favorite places on earth, Cabo San Lucas. For some odd reason, my boarding pass from Phoenix to Cabo didn't have my seat assignment on it. Dave's did, and he booked us to sit together several months ago (we like each other, still, so we try to sit together). So, when I got to the gate, I approached the gate agent (maybe I should mention this airline is not one on which I have any status, so I was unclear as to how things worked for them). I asked her if she could assign the seat for me next to Dave, as he had booked it that way. She looked at the boarding pass that didn't have a seat assignment on it, and then handed it back to me and said, "That's not my station." I have NO idea what those words meant in this context, so I may or may not have looked at her like I had NO idea what she had just said (ummm...because I didn't). I cocked my head to the side, and asked, "What 'station' can help me?" She looked at me like I had just told her that her pants were too tight on her, and she said, "I am not working this station." More cocking of my head, so I am certain I now look like one of our Labs when they hear the word "treat" or the word "walk", but I am not excited like they are. I am just plain confused (no pun intended). "Ummmm....you're not working this station where you are standing at the computer?" She now looked at me like I had a horn coming out of my head, and she said (a bit curtly this time), "That's right. I am here but I am not working this flight." I know I shouldn't have pressed it, but I asked, "The flight that boards in 10 minutes?" She nodded (words must have failed her by this point). "Is there a possibility you could tell me whose station this might be, then, so I can get a seat assignment?" She responded, "My partner who works this station will be here in about 10 minutes." This time, I kept it to myself, but my thought was, of course, "The flight that boards in 10 minutes???" Instead, I simply said "Thank you" and went back to Dave, so much more confused than when I had begun that conversation.
As a person who believes in the power of communication, and that HOW we say things sometimes matters more than WHAT we say, I was stymied. My suggestion is to simply answer customer's questions in a different manner. If someone asks a question like, "Can you help me get a seat assignment?" the answer "It's not my station" simply invites and breeds negativity. On the contrary, "Someone will be with you in just a few moments to help you" invites a belief that everyone behind that counter has not lost their ever-lovin' minds.
Just for today, I invite you to think about how you say things to your loved ones, your co-workers, or the customers who are coming to you with questions.
In the meantime, I am enjoying being in my happy place (a.k.a. Cabo).
I remember listening to this song and thinking, "Wow! I am an affectionate person. I tell people all the time that I love them!" Even Dave sometimes says, "You love everybody, don't you?" Ummm....that would be a big fat negative. I only wish and pray I could love everyone all the time, but....drivers. But when I listen to Van Morrison sing, I start to wonder if I am really taking the time to tell people how much I care about them enough in a genuine, authentic way. What about you?
My hairstylist and I had an in-depth discussion (I love her, by the way) about love languages the other day when she cut my hair. She said her love language is "acts of service" while her boyfriend's is "words of affirmation". I laughed outloud, as Dave and I are the exact opposite. I want to hear "I love you" and "You made my day today with your sense of humor" on an ongoing basis, but Dave is all about "what have you done for me lately?" The irony (maybe not so much for those in the know) is that Dave does acts of service so adeptly for everyone in his life, including me. And I always tell people how much I love them, and I love to hug. I do not, however, want to be kissed on the lips by anyone but Dave. That is a weird area, right? How do you tell someone that you don't want them to kiss you on the lips, even if they are family or good friends? I have resorted to simply turning my head so the kisses land on the cheek. It has worked well so far. I suppose the point of this is: we do the thing to others that we want for ourselves. Dave would absolutely love for me to cook dinner for him, I know, but that is SO not my thing. With my hefty work schedule (can you say "overcommitment"?), I would just as soon come home to food already prepared or brought in from a restaurant. So, when it is Dave's birthday, I always try to make him a spice cake that he loves. I, on the other hand, hint (not so subtly) how much I love Dave and then sometimes ask, "What do you love best about me?" I guess I need to be fed.
Telling other people in our lives how much they mean to us was the topic of today's sermon by our dear priest, Debra, who started off Advent with a bang. She told us she is going to challenge us to say "yes" to acts that will bring us closer to Jesus during this Advent season. I love a good challenge, but I also know I am going to struggle to do this on a daily basis. The struggle is the point, though, right? If everyone did one act of kindness every single day, I think we could honestly begin to live as Mister Rogers challenged us to do. It would, in fact, be a beautiful day in the neighborhood, and people wouldn't question whether or not our words and deeds were authentic or not. They would simply know we are doing for others what we want done for ourselves.
Are you in a position to say "yes" to this challenge, as well? I invite you to do so. Each day, consciously make a point to help one other person in some way, whether it is obvious or anonymous. I'd love to hear some of yours! I'll share some of mine with you, as we go through the next few weeks!
In the meantime, know this: it warms my heart immensely when people say something to me like, "I loved that piece in your last blog about -------" when I hadn't even had a clue they were reading my blog. I care about you, dear and faithful (or one-time, for that matter) readers. Have I told you, lately? Now, I have.