My kids have Colby Caillet's "Christmas In the Sand" memorized from start to finish. The adult innuendos are above their head--"you look naughty but I'm sure you're nice..." Okay, I can sing this little Millennial Christmas Classic too; it's a catchy tune and who doesn't want to spend Christmas in the sand?

Growing up I remember wondering if I would receive coal in my stocking, fortunately I never did. I suppose my levels of naughtiness varied from year to year (especially between the 14-23 years). Once age 24 I realized my parents actually knew what they were talking about. Despite my grandiose perspective, they blessed me at Christmas. My dad always saved up for a trip and mom had the gifts perfectly wrapped. My four children all have their levels of naughtiness and  too have never found coal on Christmas morning (though one is getting the brown play-Dough Poo-Poo mold kit--this is considered encouraging for a near 7 year old boy.)

As we grow into adulthood, we experience guilt in a deeper more profound way and try to bury it with our vices--booze, shopping, religious practices, work...you name it. These behaviors exacerbate at the holidays. My December retail budget triples and I know it's not all gifts. I have several friends in in a self inflicted social isolation, sorting out the personal baggage of a failed relationship or job situation. Our country is experiencing the salting of old racism wounds this Christmas, the rage and guilt of our ancestors seems to have an inherent quality. Despite our tragedies and warranted or unwarranted guilt, God rises the sun for us all, sending rain and doesn't discriminate in love. Naughty or nice, God loves you and loves all. This Christmas, and everyday, let's choose to be like God and love the undeserving. We might just make the world a little less naughty and a lot more nice! Merry Christmas!

This holiday season is bittersweet for me. Learning of my sister's breast cancer has slowed down my yuletide hustle bustle. Thank God for internet shopping right? Despite the parties, concerts and sweet Baby Jesus story, I'm sad. Yesterday as I was grading papers in my basement office, a nervous anxiety was making me sick to my stomach. I walked upstairs to send her a text asking about an upcoming doctor appointment (cellular service doesn't work in the basement...I'm adjunct faculty). She immediately shot back that she was waiting in the doctors office right now as we speak (or text), hoping to get results from the tissue sample! Sibling psychosomatics. In my years of healthcare, helping rehab the breast cancer patients was always hard for me. It's such an embarrassing and humbling experience for a young chemo patient in need of occupational therapy. My sister may very well go through that, or she may respond keeping her strength to muddle through the chemo and radiation treatments with the help of her husband. 

This experience has reminded me of the power in meditation. Years ago I found relief in a painful time through a combination of yoga, meditation and my faith. Somehow the world was okay after I participated in the time of stillness in yoga class. Being part of a group or class in the meditation really brought a great energy. I sensed I was being healed. Completing class this morning brought me to a similar place. I can't say that I was holly jolly afterwards, though I was ready and at peace to face the world, despite my sister's dark situation hovering over my heart. 

Sometimes the fear of the unknown is worse than the actual circumstance. Before my sister's diagnosis, my family had arranged to spend part of Christmas vacation together with her in a mountain cabin. This little getaway has become much more poignant. Chemo doesn't start until after Christmas, so we will certainly enjoy our time without excess fatigue. Knowing what and with whom we will be able to spend next Christmas remains unknown. There will certainly be many hours of stillness and breathing in yoga and meditation for me as I accept this unknown. I hope you will join me as you accept your unknown too...

Today I went to the post office around 2 pm to find a long line of old ladies mailing large packages. These grandmas were getting their Christmas gifts out in the mail early to avoid the holiday crowd and potential inclement weather. Next week is Thanksgiving and our Indiana weather was 16 degrees with snow--yes it was colder than Siberia, Russia today, yes those old ladies were probably smart to get the packages out early. I drove past the mall around 2:20 and the lot was full. It's that time of year where the decorations are up and the yuletide insanity begins.

Keeping sane during the holidays is a challenge so here are 3 simple strategies to keep you sane this season:

 

1. Give to Yourself--The holidays are largely about giving, however we forget to give to ourselves. As our lives are full, the shiny packages under the tree don't mean as much as the intimate time with ourselves. Give yourself some time, whether it be 10 extra minutes in the morning with your cup of coffee or an afternoon walk in the brisk fresh air. Taking time in your holiday schedule to give to yourself will enrich your giving to others in the deepest of ways.

 

2. Remember--My holidays have been bittersweet seeing excited children as I hold on to the grief of losing my father. Each year it seems to get easier though never goes away. What has helped me is to remember the fun memories we had at Christmas. Dad LOVED Christmas and spoiled us all exclaiming, "this is why he came to America". The memories do bring tears but also bring peace as they settle my soul to be in the moment.

 

3. YOGATHEA®--The grocery store crowds, social gatherings, school programs, incompetent drivers and annoying music brings out the inner...well refer to the picture above. Get to your Yogathea class so you may

"Breathe the Peace Which Transcends All Understanding ~ Mind + Body + Spirit". If you don't have a class near you, I'll be glad to sell you a Christian Yoga Video  (yes this is shameless plug). If you already have one, don't forget about your friends (okay, another shameless plug. I'm done now.)

 

If you do become seized with the yuletide insanity, remember these simple strategies and I will see you in class or sitting on your back porch soon!

The birth of Jesus is a worldwide historical phenomenon representing peace that has inspired songs such as "Silent Night". Being a four time veteran of the delivery room, I never did have a silent night bringing forth my children into the world.  In fact, each night (and they all decided to be born at night during normal sleeping hours) was quite noisy and I wasn't feeling the heavenly peace.  I'm pretty sure by the intermittent cries of the women throughout the labor and delivery rooms, that calm and bright are not appropriate adjectives either.   Now mind you, I'm not Mary and I cringe thinking about her riding a donkey for miles and miles at 9 months pregnant.  I suppose people cringed at me leading yoga classes 9 months pregnant.  At least Joseph and Mary had shelter in a barn for the big event, right?  We don't know when Mary's labor began or how long it was, I'm guessing Joseph found a midwife because most first time fathers intuitively don't want to add extra anxiety to the situation and know their wife needs somebody because she is moaning, sweating, and laboring.  Moreover, the universal rule of childbirth says:  Everything a husband says or does while wife is in labor, can  be held against you for eternity.  Childbirth is just flat messy.  I wonder what they did with all of the emerging body excretions in the manger?  Oh wait, they must have used the straw to cover it along with the other animal excretions.

So after a baby is born, the silent night, holy, and heavenly peace become more of a reality.  I was moved to the postpartum unit where all IS really calm and bright and sweet with nurses to wait on you.  Not for Mary, her postpartum unit was a barn, perhaps a few feet away from the big event.   I grew up in a rural area and have played in many a barns and I can attest to you that the ones with animals are stinky and you better watch where you step.  Then comes the visits  by excited relatives who may or may not care to give you a moment to clean up and recover.  For Mary, these were crazy teenagers that have been out watching sheep for who knows how long.   After I delivered babies, I honestly wanted to sleep and snuggle my baby, not visit with strangers who have heard voices.  Poor Mary, away in a manger, no crib for a bed, no proper lodging or other necessities for her first babe, body wounded from childbirth (which is always scariest the first time) and receiving strange visitors ...how silent is that?

This Christmas Eve, as you meditate upon the birth of Jesus,  thank God for your silent night remembering every silent night has a bit of noise.