15 December 2015      

Welcome to this week's issue of Living Life Fully's e-zine--we're joyful that you're here.
The Christmas season is upon us once more, which means that many people are sharing peace
and good will more than they usually are, and all of us benefit from the fact that more people
are willing to share and focus on others these days than they are most other days of the year.
Please enjoy this holiday season that is focused on giving and sharing.

All I Want for Christmas
Linda Sharp

Lasting Gifts
Gail Pursell Elliott

Moderation
tom walsh

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Blessed is the season which engages
the whole world in a conspiracy of love.

Hamilton Wright Mabie

I wish we could put up some of the Christmas spirit in jars and open a jar of it every month.

Harlan Miller

Christmas is for children.  But it is for grown-ups, too.  Even if it is a headache, a chore, and nightmare, it is a period of necessary defrosting of chill and hide-bound hearts.

Lenora Mattingly Weber

Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind.  To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.

Calvin Coolidge

  
All I Want for Christmas. . . Parents, You May Be Surprised
Linda Sharp

I am a huge advocate of parents getting into their children's schools on a regular basis. As a stay-at-home mom, I am able to assist in my daughters' classrooms each week. Whether helping with art projects, reading or spelling, it keeps me connected and allows me direct insight into my girls' day-to-day lives. It also affords me the opportunity to connect with other children. And connect I do. The hugs and openness with which I am greeted are huge indicators that I have broken through that Grown-up/Child barrier.

It could be that when I go into the school, I don't dress like an authority figure. You won't find me wearing Chinos, skirts, loafers, untouchable hair or any other spiffy adult attire. Instead, look for the person clad in sweatpants or jeans, a comfy sweater and a baseball cap . . . always a baseball cap. I come prepared to hug, get dirty on the playground and sweep the floor with my butt during reading circle. I also come with enough hugs to go around, twice. As a result, I have been granted access into the Inner Sanctum of the Schoolyard.

Last week while working on an art project with a rotating group of kids we talked about music, movies, swear words, parents, the holidays. As talk turned to what they hoped would be under their tree for Christmas or part of their Hannukah 7 Day Gift Haul, I decided to take advantage of my "non-threatening" status and pose the question: "Name one thing you would like your Mom or Dad to give you this season that would not cost a penny." 

You could have heard that penny hit the floor as silence enveloped them, and their young minds went to work. As they each took turns answering, I was moved to tears by their candor, their honesty and in some cases the heartbreaking realities revealed in their words.

It is my holiday gift to you all that I share what your kids REALLY want this year. And no, a Play Station is nowhere on the lists of their hearts.

Listen To Me Please:  At the top of their lists is for we parents to stop being so busy all the time and just listen to them talk. I know I have been guilty of this one. God knows, we really are not interested in hearing about the latest unpronounceable character in their Harry Potter books, but we need to stop, look them in the eye, and listen. If we don't, they will simply stop trying. And we all know that the teenage days will come when they won't want to discuss anything with us, be it Harry Potter or their newly hairy pits.

Teach Me To Cook:  I was surprised by this request, but when I pressed for an explanation, it quickly became clear. We are raising a generation of Microwave Kids. They know how to use every button on the magic box, but have no idea how to simmer, bake or boil. Granted, there is great messiness in allowing your youngsters to cook with you, but take it from me, some of my happiest memories are in the kitchen with my Mom, dusted with flour and smudged with love.

Please Stop Smoking:  One child spoke this wish and it was quickly echoed by many others. They have seen enough commercials to be truly concerned about your health and their own, but it goes a bit further than that. One young girl pulled me aside and whispered her reason in my ear, "The other kids say I always smell bad." I hugged her close and bent to kiss her head and she was right. Her hair did not smell of Johnson & Johnson's, but of Benson & Hedges. Not her choice and certainly not fair.

Stop Being So Busy All The Time:  If guilt were a color, I would have been painted with it when I heard this one. How many of us use the phrase, "Just a minute . . ." or "Hold on . . ." too much? Personally, there have been too many times I have looked up after "just a minute" to find my child has given up waiting and is gone.

Read TO Me:  We tend to think that once a child can read, our job is done. Actually, these children expressed a desire to have Mom or Dad read a chapter book TO them each night. And while they would really enjoy the reading, it leads to a deeper desire . . . the other request that made me choke back a tear . . .

Hug Me More:  I experience these children each week when I enter the classrooms. They cling to me tighter than a wet pair of Levis. They are the ones that are not getting enough hugs and snuggling and attention at home. For them, I hug them not once, not twice, but as much and as long as they need. 

So while you are running around doing that last minute shopping, add some of these items to your own child's list. Rich or poor, they are all things that cost not a dime and we all have in endless supply. We just have to stop and open our arms and hearts a little wider.

Happy Holidays, Everyone!


Copyright 2000 by Linda M. Sharp. Reprinted with permission. 
Linda Sharp is an internationally published author and columnist who writes regularly on the joyous and frustrating world of parenting.  Her work appears across the Internet and wraps around the globe in parenting publications from Canada to Malaysia to all points in between.

   

    

    

Lasting Gifts
Gail Pursell Elliott

The most important gifts are not those that you can hold in your hand.  These, in their purest form, are simply an outward representation of the gifts that are the most lasting: the gifts of time, attention, thought, caring, peace of mind, true friendship, acceptance, patience, tolerance, laughter, joy, freedom of expression, companionship, insight, understanding, compassion. 

Sometimes what is really important in life becomes obscured by outer concerns. These have a tendency to make us feel poor and wanting when we are not and to pull our attention to focus on the attainment of symbols of a rich existence, which can ultimately leave us destitute if we lack perspective and balance.

Money and possessions are not in themselves important.  Only what they represent has meaning.  Note also that power, recognition, reputation, influence, control, and manipulation are not included on the list of lasting gifts.   Our real life exists elsewhere, for if those inner gifts are ignored or lacking the rest are empty icons that can symbolize ultimately not abundance, but lack. 

You are fortunate to be both rich and generous with gifts that have real value.  The rest, in the end, is truly nothing.  My wish for all of us this holiday season, is the ability to recognize, express, and appreciate the lasting gifts in our lives.

Have a Wonderful Holiday and be good to yourself.  You deserve it!

  
  

Over the years our world has changed dramatically. People often treat each other like objects and opportunities rather than as human beings. In many cases we’ve lost touch with one another as people. Each of us is unique; each of us has wants, hopes, needs, dreams, desires and the right to dignity and respect as individuals. We must gain insight and awareness to see each other with new eyes. This Food for Thought Anthology is the original collection of essays, stories and quotes that was released by Gail Pursell Elliott in 2001.

   

   

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It was a thrill to wake up and find an orange in my stocking, and I'll never
forget how excited I was the year I got a banana!  We were a country
preacher's family, and we were poor.  But we had a mighty good time.

Norman Vincent Peale

   

 
Moderation

While I truly love the holiday season, it's dismaying sometimes to see that it has become a season of excess--in the giving of gifts, in the amount of money spent on decorations, in the expectations that we have of one another, in the competitions that seem to exist to "out-do" one another in any of several categories.  'Tis not the season of moderation.

Moderation, though, is one of the keys to a balanced and healthy life.  We live in a society that tells us that moderation is for fools, mainly because there are so many people trying to sell us goods that if we all practiced moderation in our lives, we would not be buying many of the almost-useless products that we currently buy.  We run up excessive balances on our credit cards in order to maintain lifestyles that are dependent upon having, possessing, and consuming.  We gain weight because we don't practice moderation in our eating habits, and because we neglect our exercise.  When we live in extremes, though, we don't live in healthy ways; rather, we stagger from extreme to extreme--gorging to fasting, luxury to monastic simplicity--and the roller coaster ride never allows us to gain our equilibrium, and we can't simply stand in one place and relax.

It isn't usually a question of gluttony or greed that causes us to do such things.  In my case for example, I learned rather late in life that my tendency to want to stockpile things comes from the fact that I grew up in a household with an alcoholic parent.  When I would shop and I'd see something at a good price, I'd buy tons of it, for I couldn't trust that I would ever see it at that price again.  My wife was constantly astonished at how full our pantry was--and it was full because I had grown up not trusting the future, not trusting that in the future, I would have enough money or enough food or enough of anything.  I've had to literally train myself to trust life and to stop buying so much of everything when I shopped, but I have to admit that the urge to do so is still within me, and I'm sure it will be until the day I die. 
   

Balance recognizes that many good things in life are good only
in moderation. There really can be too much of something wonderful.
Most virtues, taken to excess become vices. When an interest,
affection, or endeavor becomes utterly consuming, it doesn't
allow room for other kinds of goodness.

unattributed

   
I'm fortunate in that I learned early on just how unpleasant it is to eat too much.  Excess in almost any form is unhealthy mostly because it robs us of perspective and causes us to lose sight of what the other side of the coin is like.  If I don't practice moderation in my pleasure seeking, as Stephen mentions below, then I never allow myself to experience life without those pleasures--and I never allow myself to learn that life can be absolutely amazing in its pure, raw form.  The person who gets pleasure from watching television, for example, and who watches it for untold hours each week, robs him- or herself of the chance to experience the outdoors in all its glory.  There are those days that are simply too cold for going outdoors, for example, and then it can be nice to have an indoor movie day or two.  In general, though, too much time in front of the television keeps us from practicing crafts, cleaning the house, spending time with friends, getting the exercise we need, and a huge number of other things.

Moderation can be a question of perspective, too.  My wife and I, for example, have a very large collection of movies--and some might call it excessive.  But we don't spend our money going to movies, we don't have a Netflix account, and we don't spend money on any movie channels.  We also buy our movies at pawn shops and thrift stores, where we pay an average of about two dollars a movie.  And once we watch them, we keep them, so over the course of quite a few years, the collection has built significantly, even though we watch only two movies a week at the most, on weekends.  So by no measure can our film watching or our spending on films be considered excessive, even if the collection that you see seems to indicate otherwise.  We are very moderate in our film-watching habits.  We recently bought all nine seasons of a television show that my wife loves for three dollars a season, and I can guarantee you that those discs will last us at least two years before we finish watching them.  But anyone walking into our house will think that we're definitely addicted to television shows.
    

Innocent pleasures in moderation can provide relaxation for the body
and mind and can foster family and other relationships. But pleasure,
per se, offers no deep, lasting satisfaction or sense of fulfillment. The
pleasure-centered person, too soon bored with each succeeding level
of "fun," constantly cries for more and more.

Stephen Covey

    
The danger with not practicing moderation is just what Stephen says it is:  we become bored with the current excess, and it no longer is excessive, but not enough--and we need even more.  This is how people become alcoholics, how people become addicts, how people lose control of their ability to judge properly when enough is enough.  We build tolerances to substances and situations, and once that tolerance is built we need more of it to provide the stimulation that the lesser amount used to provide.

One of the reasons that I know that moderation is important in our lives is the way that I've felt when I've been around people who don't practice it.  Whenever I'm around someone who does things to excess, I feel uncomfortable.  Not judgmental and not critical, but uncomfortable.  There's something inside of me that tells me that something's wrong, that excess is neither normal nor healthy, and I want to pay attention to that something, the instinct with which we all are born but that we spend so much time ignoring.  When I see a table filled with much more food than is necessary, when I see people spending much more money than is necessary, or when I see people drinking to excess, I feel that something's wrong, and our feelings are very important indicators of what's right and what's wrong in life.

Practicing moderation has many very positive benefits.  With a moderate diet, we avoid many weight and health issues.  With moderate spending, we avoid problems that can come with running out of money or having to borrow to make ends meet.  When we're satisfied with a really good car instead of a much more expensive model, we don't put ourselves into a deep hole of debt.  There are many examples of how we can help ourselves with moderation, and it's important that we keep them in mind when we have decisions to make as to just how far we'll go or just how much we'll need.
   

To go beyond the bounds of moderation is to outrage humanity.

Blaise Pascal

   
Our planet does not have unlimited resources for us.  Moderation also helps us to be responsible stewards of this amazing planet on which we live, for it will keep us using only what we need.  Sometimes we may feel the desire to use or own more than our share, but if we keep in mind the responsibility we have to help to maintain our planet's ability to support us, we just may find that moderation is easier for us to practice.  And even if advertisers and marketers continue to try to convince us to buy more and own more, we can rise above their influence by being true to ourselves and principles that we find to be important in our lives.

I firmly believe that one day when I'm on my deathbed, I'll be much more satisfied with having lived a life defined by moderation and responsibility than I would have been had I lived a life focused on excess and irresponsibility.  And since I want my deathbed to be a peaceful place, I know that I'll want to have the peace of mind that will come from not having abused the resources available to me, and from having accepted the need to practice moderation out of respect to the world in which I've lived.

   
More on moderation.

   

One of the most important elements of living life fully is awareness-- awareness of our surroundings, of other people and their motives and fears and desires, of the things that affect us most in our lives, both positively and negatively. In the twelve years of livinglifefully.com's existence, this essay series has been a mainstay of the weekly e-zine--a series that has explored not just the things that exist and that happen around us, but also our reactions to those things. The first five years of the column are now available exclusively on Kindle.

   

  

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What is Christmas?  It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future.  It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace.

Agnes M. Pharo

  
The Art of Keeping Christmas
Wilferd A. Peterson

How can we best keep Christmas?  How can we best defeat the little bit of Scrooge in all of us and experience the glory of the Great Day?

By sinking the shafts of our spirits deep beneath the sparkling tinsel of the surface of Christmas and renewing within us the radiance of the inner meaning of the season.

By following the Star on an inward journey to Bethlehem to stand again in awe and wonder before the Babe in a Manger.

By rediscovering the faith and simplicity of a little child, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.

By being still and listening to the angels sing within our hearts.

By quietly evaluating our lives according to the Master's standards as set forth in the Sermon on the Mount.

By reaffirming the supremacy of the spirit in man's conquest of himself.

By rededicating ourselves to the Master's ideals of Peace, Brotherhood, and Good Will.

By resolving to give ourselves away to others in love, joy and devotion.

By using the light of Christmas to guide us through the darkness of the coming year, refusing to go back to the dim kerosene lamps of the spirit when the brilliant electricity of Christmas is available to show us the way. 
   
  

Next morning an orange in one's stocking, along with candy and popcorn,
was the greatest treat.  For with no fruit stores as we now have them,
oranges were to be found in the stores only at Christmastime.  An orange
for Christmas!  That was something to remember and feel proud of
having received!  It was something worth telling to your playmates.

Fred L. Holmes

    

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