Friday, December 15, 2017

A Recipe for Happy Memories

     Have you ever smelled a particular scent, heard a particular song or tasted a particular food and, as a result, a flood of memories fills your head and heart? So it is at this time of year when I smell the scent of evergreens and cinnamon sticks, sing Christmas carols, hear church bells on a winter night and taste Christmas cookies, candies and treats. 
     So it is, also, when I pull out my late mom's recipe box filled with cookie recipes from Christmases of days gone by. The memories hidden inside that unassuming, yet precious box envelop me like a warm comforter.
     As I reminisced over Mom's recipe box this year, I found myself carefully lifting out recipe cards that are faded and stained from years of use. I read recipes for Aunt Mae's sugar cookies, our good friend Betty's biscotti, Aunt Alice's date macaroons, our dear friend Barb's seven-layer cookies, Grandma Carrie's fruit cookies, Aunt Ellie's sugar cookies and Mom's dream bars. Each recipe was written carefully in the baker's penmanship on a plain, lined 3" x 5" index card. 
     I got swept away just thinking of these special women in my life.
     Soon, my memories took me back to Christmas days of my childhood, when my parents and I would drive the three hours across the state to Grandma and Grandpa's home. We'd enter their home through the kitchen where I'd immediately spy a huge stack of large coffee cans in the corner. Each can would be filled with a different variety of Christmas cookie. They might be peanut crunches, gum drop cookies, lemon snowballs, pinwheel cookies or bourbon balls. They would all be delicious because Grandma was a wonderful baker, but my favorites were always the Russian tea cakes -- a shortbread-type of cookie made primarily of butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, flour, salt and chopped nuts, rolled into balls or crescents and then smothered, while still warm, in another round of powdered sugar.
     If I was a lucky girl, I'd receive new pajamas for Christmas from Grandpa and Grandma. If I was a really lucky girl, I'd get a small container of my very own Russian tea cakes, too.
     I'm admittedly not the baker I once was. We rarely eat very much refined sugar anymore. But I can't part with that recipe box. It sits idle in the kitchen drawer for most of the year, but when December rolls around, I feel urged to look inside at its precious contents, holding each recipe card, studying the ingredients and directions through faded handwriting and cooking stains, and thinking back to Christmases past when coffee cans of cookies was one of the most spectacular holiday sights for a little girl.

Note: Check back here on January 1, 2018 when something new for the new year will be unveiled at "Time to Be"!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Give Yourself the Sacred Gift of Time to Be

     I have been writing this blog since October of 2011. I called it Time to Be because during that chapter in my life, I came to understand that I needed time each day for silence, for space, for centering, for reflection and for renewal in order to benefit my well-being. My energies were pretty well depleted at that time because I was still working my way through the profound grief of the passing of my beloved mother, as well as a lengthy recovery from a serious and debilitating illness. 
     The name of my blog came from the writings of my late mother's favorite author and one of mine, as well, Gladys Taber: "We need time to dream, time to remember, and time to reach the infinite, time to be."
     At this time of year as the holidays roll around and our calendars seem to roll out of control with the chaos of myriad seasonal activities, obligations and expenses, I believe that the precious gift of giving ourselves time to be is even more vital. It is in that sacred time and space, I believe, where we can fully experience this season for its beauty, its goodness, its joy and its awe -- not the contrived expectations and rushing around that we've come to identify with December. 
     When we give ourselves the gift of time to be, we give ourselves permission to stop for a while and allow hope and love to envelop us.
     We don't need to succumb to the pressures of racing through a holiday season of decorating, partying, baking, shopping, and merriment magnified. In fact, for many, this isn't a jolly season anyway. Sorrow and loss do not take a holiday, and often our griefs feel more intense at this time of year. If you're in a place of sadness, now is the time to be gentle with yourself. Listen to the wisdom of your inner being and respond with self-kindness.
     The bottom line: Consider carving out sacred time this month to be silent, to let go of your burdens and to breathe in peace. Feel the light and love that are with you today and always. Make time to reach the infinite. Make time to be.

Be watching for a "bonus" December blog post on Friday, December 15 at 4:00 p.m. central time.