As I was considering what to write about at the beginning of this New Year, I was going to write about reflecting on our accomplishments. I realized I had already written about that so I thought about how we see the New Year as an opportunity for change and decided to go with that. We often think that we need to make drastic changes that require tremendous effort. I want to challenge that thinking with the idea of making small changes over time to transform our lives.
This time of the year always seems to fly by at breakneck speed! There is much to do with all of the shopping, gift-wrapping, baking, Christmas cards, decorating, concerts, performances, recitals, parties, get-togethers at work or with friends and family, etc. The list seems endless and the time seems much too short to get it all done. I hate to add one more thing to your list but here goes. What about finding some time to try something new or to do something you have never done before?
I am sure you are thinking, “That’s all I need! One more thing to add to my already long list! Is she crazy? I don’t have time for that!” Hear me out. We tend to get “wrapped up” in all of the activity and expectations during the holidays. We work hard to keep family traditions alive. I love family traditions, too, but what about creating a new tradition, one of doing something different, trying something new, having a new experience? Let me give you some ideas.
There is a tradition in my family of cooking a 7 layer casserole on Christmas Eve and eating it when we return from church. We like this tradition. We follow dinner with another tradition that I grew up with and that is opening one gift. We do this while listening to Christmas music and with all of the Christmas decorations out and all of the Christmas lights on to make it more festive. Then we take a family photo by the Christmas tree. After this is when we get a little creative. When my son was little, we read Christmas stories before he went to bed. As he has grown older, we have adapted. We sometimes play a board game, or we play a game of pool, or we watch a Christmas movie. Sometimes we get out old family movies and watch them so our son can see either memories of his childhood or of ours. He gets to see his parents and grandparents much younger and makes a connection to his family and how much he is loved. He likes this time as both of his grandfathers died when he was young and he gets to see them and hear them, again. It is a nice time for us to connect as a family. We choose different movies every year or may choose different board games, but we take the time to enjoy one another as a family.
Another tradition we have carried over from my childhood is baking cookies and taking them to the neighbors. My son helps me to roll out sugar cookie dough, cut out cookies, add sprinkles or frost and then add sprinkles. He also helps me to roll peanut butter cookie dough into balls and to “smoosh” Hershey’s kisses into them when they come out of the oven. He also is the delivery elf and takes the plates of cookies to our neighbors. There is much room for creativity in baking and decorating cookies. I make some of the same ones every year, but also change it up a little bit by adding something different. This year, I am considering trying a new recipe or making something I haven’t made for many years. I don’t think I have made a peppermint roll since my Dad died nearly 10 years ago so that may be the winner.
I hope you are getting the idea I am trying to convey. Keep your traditions, enjoy them, cherish them. And consider doing something different or starting a new tradition. Maybe go out to a movie as a family, try a new recipe, eat at a restaurant you have never tried, try a family activity you have never done before like ice skating or building a snowman (if the weather is conducive to it).
Here’s an idea. Try something new that doesn’t have anything to do with the holiday season! I attended a creativity workshop last weekend and painted. It was fun to do something creative with a group of other women. I also did something interesting that I have thought of doing for ages. I had a reading done with a psychic/medium. It’s not for everybody, but it was new experience and I am glad I did it. An acquaintance invited me to attend a service at her synagogue. I have never been in a synagogue and am looking forward to a new and different experience during the holidays.
Is there something you have wanted to learn, a class you have wanted to take, something you have wanted to experience but haven’t done it, yet? What about ending the year by trying something new or different? It doesn’t have to be on your bucket list to be a fun experience. It can be anything! Get creative in your brainstorming. Take a time out from the holiday rush. Give yourself something to look forward to. It will stretch your brain and will give you some untapped energy to keep up with the high speed of the holidays. Experience something new this holiday season.
Yesterday was the 4th of July and I enjoyed seeing all of the flags decorating the neighborhood. The holidays that occur from May to September (Memorial Day, Flag Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day) use patriotism or service as their theme. We thank our military people for their service to our country. This caused me to think about service and how we serve one another and our communities.
As our son was growing up, I spent many hours volunteering at his schools and with his activities. I was the room mother when he was in elementary school and helped in the classrooms as well as field trips and special activities. We helped with the track club (Dad raked the long jump pit and Mom provided snacks and drinks) and we provided spaghetti feeds for the high school cross country team. We carpooled for many families who had trouble getting kids to or from school or activities. The list is much longer, but my point is that when you are raising children, you often find yourself in service of others, not only your children, but other people’s children, teachers, coaches, etc. What happens when the children grow up? Who do you serve and how? If you don’t have children, you may already have found ways to serve others. If you haven’t volunteered, you may consider it.
Our son is a young adult and recently moved out on his own. I now feel like I have more time to volunteer for things I am interested in doing. I recently adopted a section of the Mopac bike trail behind our office building to pick up trash. It is something I have considered doing with our son since he was little. I never felt like we had the time and we didn’t have easy access to the bike trail from our home. It is convenient for me now, as I walk the trail at least once a week and I am at our office building nearly every day.
We just hosted my family reunion last week. We had been asked to do it in the past, but I wanted to wait until our son graduated from high school so I would be sure to have the time to devote to doing it well. It was quite a bit of work in the organizing, communication, shopping and food preparation but it was well worth it and the family was appreciative of our service to them.
The other day, I spent a lot of time assisting my brother in setting up an online account to advertise a commercial property for sale. That same day, I spent time helping my husband and other brother to find and purchase season football tickets. These acts of service were done out of love and I would gladly do them again.
I am a member of a number of organizations and was just installed as an officer in my Toastmasters club again after taking a number of years off in that capacity. Others took over when I was otherwise engaged so I figured it is time for me to lift the burden of others, again. I also write this monthly blog for ATD as another act of service.
Service to others does not have to be on a grand scale, but can be on a small scale by helping one person or a few people. There are many organizations who would love to have volunteers as they can’t operate without the help. Are you involved in organizations, such as ATD, that could benefit from your help? Consider what your interests are, who could benefit from your help, the time you have available and the location. Choose something that you would enjoy supporting. You may choose to do it one time or you may choose an ongoing commitment. Do you like to help animals? Consider the animal shelter, the Cat House, or a rescue organization. Do you prefer to work alone in your service? What about shelving books or preparing them for mailing by volunteering at the library? If you don’t have a lot of time but would prefer to help once a year, what about helping with a race like the Lincoln Marathon? Do you want more of a regularly scheduled act of service? Soup kitchens and the People’s City Mission are always in need of volunteers. Do you like talking with the elderly? What about setting aside time to visit someone in a nursing home? They love to have visitors as many of them don’t have family nearby. Think about how you can give back to the world through service to others. I challenge you to think of something you can do and to take action to serve others this month. You will be glad you did.
This article was posted in the ATD Newsletter for July 2016.