The Year of the Rabbit

Standard

Today marks the first day of the Chinese New Year. As you may know, the Asian new year is based on the lunisolar calendar and celebrates the spring season. In reading up on it, it sounds a bit like our American Thanksgiving where you gather with family and friends and reflect with gratitude on our lives. In the Asian countries it marks the end of the winter season. The evening before is commemorated with a Lantern Festival and there are many cultural rituals and customs to be done to bring in a happy and healthy new year. I will suggest that you google some of them. I don’t want to give out the wrong information on a culture that I do not belong to. I can tell you, however how we, as non-Asian Americans celebrate the Chinese New Year in our house.

One fun feature of googlingChinese New Year” or “Year of the Rabbit” is there is an animated fireworks display across your screen with an accompanying bunny. It is very colorful and fun. Mesmerizing to watch.

I’ve done it three times now.

Typically, the New Year begins between January 21 and February 20 on the new moon. This year it starts today. It was first mentioned during the Han Dynasty which flourished between 202 BCE and 220 CE. It was written that the celebration included worshipping the ancestors and toasting their parents and grandparents.

We don’t go overboard in our house; we’re not of Asian descent, but we love to enjoy multicultural holidays and usually (if not always) celebrate with food. We’ll get take-out from our favorite Chinese restaurant. I think the last time we had take-out was for Christmas Eve which is our yearly tradition. One year, we took the kids to the local Chinese buffet – it was my daughter’s first new year – she had been born that year on the 5th of January, so she was a tiny baby, but cutely dressed in red with a bow on her head. They gave the kids red envelopes for luck and there was a dragon dance through the restaurant around the tables along with a train that traveled just below the ceiling. It really was a special time for the kids. They loved it.

At home recently, we’ve been enjoying barbeque chicken tenders in Hoisin sauce. It’s my version with Chinese spices and sauce. It’s funny because my daughter is quite picky and won’t really eat a lot of sauces or dressings, but she loves the hoisin sauce as well as the sesame chicken she gets from the restaurant. I also do a great fried rice, and now that I’m thinking of it, maybe I’ll whip that up some time this week. I’ll need sesame oil and I already have the eggs; those are probably the biggest expense.

The bunny picture that I’ve shared above is one that we’ve seen in our backyard. I think because we don’t have dogs, the rabbits tend to congregate in our yard. We even had babies in a burrow one spring. This one is probably the biggest rabbit we’ve seen locally.

Two customs that everyone can do is clean your house to sweep out the ill and welcome the good fortune. This is similar to our Jewish custom at Passover of cleaning and getting rid of any bread and crumbs to make ready for the unleavened matzo. Decorations in red are also fun to hang in windows and on doors.

For anyone wondering, my zodiac sign is the Horse.

Inspire.

Standard

I’m looking for a new title for this monthly series. They will continue to include quotations, photos/art, and reflections. Let me know any of your title ideas in the comments. I’m looking forward to your thoughts.

A few quotations that struck me for the new year (in no particular order):

In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.

Douglas Adams

And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been.

Ranier Maria Rilke

The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals.

Melody Beattie

You are your choices.

Seneca

Do not wait until the conditions are perfect to begin. Beginning makes the conditions perfect.

Alan Cohen

You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.

Mary Pickford

Every moment is a fresh beginning.

TS Eliot

Be willing to be a beginner every single morning.

Meister Eckhart


*waves to 2022* *Welcomes 2023*

Standard

As I struggle to write this last post of the year, I think on the last few weeks. (Because honestly, I can’t remember much further back from then without looking at my calendar or camera roll.) My husband and I started watching Wednesday, the Netflix series. I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch it, but one episode later, and I’m hooked. We’re also finishing Derry Girls and tonight we’ll be watching Banshees of Innisherin for our New Year. This is the first year we are home alone with no kids, and I have a series of stress induced stomach flips thinking about where they are and if they’re safe. One is at a hockey game, and two are out with friends. They’re all responsible, but I still worry. That’s the nature of parenting I suppose.

So a few pictures:

Continue reading

Inspire 2021. January.

Standard
Gratitude Art. (c)2021

Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.

– – Melody Beattie

What can we look forward to in this new year?

Beginning tomorrow, everything.

I’m optimistic. A new President and Vice President will be sworn in at noon tomorrow, and thus begins 100 days.

100 Days of mask wearing.

100 Days of vaccinations.

100 Days of returning to ourselves and becoming better.

A new year to set goals, to take chances, to create.

I’m looking forward.

Instead of publishing Election Connection today, I will publish the last one (unless times require updates) next week with ways we can continue to be civic minded every day, not only every four years. Persist, Stand up, Speak out, Rise up. Together, we can make things better.

Hen Galan

Standard

Today marks the celebration of Hen Galan or the Welsh New Year. This has been celebrated in Wales on 13 January since 1752 when Pope Gregory XIII changed the calendar from the Julian one, making the new year begin on January 1st. This is the Gregorian calendar which we use today. At that time, many people believed that losing those eleven days from the calendar coincided with losing those eleven days from their lives.

The village of Cwn Gwaun continues to celebrate this holiday in modern times. If the day falls on a weekday, school is closed. The town gathers with each other, in houses or more likely in the pub in town. It’s festive, filled with fun and feasting in celebration. Children go door-to-door or farm-to-farm around the valley parish (about 18 miles) singing traditional Welsh songs and receiving calennig from the grown-ups, sweets or money. It was like having two Christmases.

Enjoy the following links and Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!

Hen Galan: Welsh village celebrates new year on 13 January (first published 2019)

The tiny Welsh village that celebrates New Year’s Eve on this night every year: In Cwn Gwaun they party like it’s 1699! (first published 2018)

Gwaun Valley children mark old New Year (first published 2012)

Snowdon Mountains, North Wales. (c)2020

New Year, New Retreat

Standard

My first retreat of the year. A weekend devoted to writing memoir. I’m glad that it’s occuring at the end of the first full week of January. As you know from my previous writing and posts, I try to assess my life, goals, and writing at various times throughout the year and recalibrate. And coming at the traditional New Year, after all the major holidays are winding down and finished, January is always a good time to reassess nearly everything.

From past experiences, I know that this weekend’s retreat will be prayerful, but in addition to that it is primarily a writing weekend. This is the first retreat that I’ve brought my computer to, partly because it’s a newly acquired computer, and partly since it was offered as an option for our writing this weekend. I hesitated because despite my bringing my Kindle on retreats, I still try to unplug and get back to basics, but here I am: pad, pen, headphones, and computer.

I feel like this is an opportunity to jump start my commitment to writing, whether here on Griffins and Ginger Snaps or my ongoing book projects, journaling or what have you that I keep listing on assorted organizing apps. As I prepared for this weekend, I considered what I might want to accomplish before I returned home on Sunday afternoon. I don’t want to overwhelm myself with a to-do list or unrealistic expectations, but I also want to get things done. I’ve started a few ongoing series that I want to keep fresh and consistent. Talking about my Election Connection series on Twitter got me two likes (one from Alyssa Mastromonaco and one from Jon Favreau), and as you may remember, I collect likes just as I used to collect autographs when I was a kid. It was thrilling to get that small acknowledgement from two people I respect so much. But I digress.

As I thought about this weekend, made my packing lists, and prepared my mind, I really wanted to put a spotlight on my priorities and my intentions, and the three things that immediately came to me was

spiritual
political
writing.

This weekend allows me to remind myself that my writing is so many things for me. It is a creative outlet of course as it gives me space to express myself, my thoughts and beliefs. It lets me share with others and absorb new ideas. It is therapy. It is spiritual, prayerful even.

What do I want from this weekend and this ongoing year?

Do I really know?

Spiritually: Well, I definitely want to increase my spirituality and my faith. I want to use what I learned on my Cursillo weekend more consistently and routinely; pursuing persistently.

Politically: I want to encourage friends, family, and strangers that being political is life-saving. It is life-empowering. While politics can seem a far off, abstract, divisive, talking aimlessly without really listening, doesn’t affect me in real life, it actually affects our daily lives and trying to respond to that and protect ourselves from the current climate of racism, lies, and disinformation (propaganda) is all of our responsibilities; to ourselves and to each other. This is an election year. Well, they all are, but this presidential one has serious ramifications and consequences. The GOP is taking away Americans’ health care, women’s autonomous rights, LGBT+ rights, fair and free elections, and so much more that I can’t even get it all out without screaming into the void. I will not be silent.

Writing and Publishing: I want to write. Well. Constantly. Consistently. Be published. Finish a project and then start another one.

This retreat is one way, the first step to get that focus, write what I need to write, what I want to write, center on my personal priorities, set up my writing, schedule my goals and subjects, and just get shit done. And it’s only the start of what could be a great year.

I arrived here on Friday night in the dark amid a mixture of rain and sleet. It was cold, but I was pleasantly warm once I entered the building. I was greeted by familiar faces and the hushed tones of others settling into their rooms. I expected to be assigned my regular room, the one I had requested, and was taken aback and surprised to be given a different one. Simultaneously a short, internal struggle and confusion took place while outwardly, I took it in stride. As much as you read my rants, I’m not much of a complainer, and this new room was just as comfortable as my regular one, just as close to the bathroom, and included a recliner next to the window. I checked out this different recliner in this different room, which was mainly what I was looking forward to in the old one. This one was blue, rather than red, and slightly too close to the wall (which I rectified immediately), and it worked out just as well, just as comfortable, and after unpacking and settling in, I sat down, reclined, and got out my kindle. Before long, it was time to meet the group I’d be spending my weekend with. As an aside, after lunch, my intention to write was undermined by the comfort of the chair as it put me to sleep, easily for an hour. I was lucky that I set an alarm or I would have missed the next session.

Three things I noticed that were unusual for a retreat weekend: First, I made dinner (homemade chicken pot pie, and it was delicious) and ate before I left for the retreat center. We often grab something on the go or I eat in my room while my husband takes the kids to Sonic or McDonald’s. Second, I brought my computer, which made me feel odd at first. I’ll get used to it, but it’s such a different mindset to be in. And, third, I’m in a different room (which I may have mentioned), and that will take a little time to adjust to.

Morning brings bright sunshine to make up for the night rain, warm oatmeal, inspired daily readings, book recommendations for writing and for writing memoir, prompts, and then writing. What’s seemingly wonderful is the time given to write, think, pray, rest; whatever needs to be in order to get the mind in the writing place. There are no wrong answers. A bottle of soda, a handful of M&Ms, reading my devotional, listening to Saturday’s Lovett or Leave It, also the first for 2020, stepping out into the cold courtyard for a moment of fresh air. Inspiration is everywhere. Motivation, however…

How will I tackle two sessions before mass, and one after? Will lists be enough? Will focusing on three separate topics keep me going? And once this weekend is finished, how will I keep the momentum moving forward?

I’ll leave you with a list of what I plan for the rest of the weekend, and I’ll check in on Monday (another “New Year”) with what I actually got done, word counts, new words learned (thesaurus.com is a lifesaver), and other motivation that I hope you can use for your own writing or New Year’s goals.

1. Set up editorial calendar for the next three months from my personal Book of Days.

2. Finish planning and research the rest of the tea series for January.

3. Plan out Election Connection through Leap Day.

4. Write stories from Canada that I’ve been meaning to write since the summer.

5. Wales book outline.

6. Labyrinth book outline.

Inspire. January.

Standard

New Computer. New Calendar. New Creativity. (c)2020

What you do today can improve all your tomorrows.

– Ralph Marston

Getting Through the Holiday Letdown

Nothing in our lives is perfect; nor should it be. No matter how wonderful the holidays are, I feel as though there is still some underlying disappointment. Since Halloween, we’ve been rush-rush-rushing to get everything done: Thanksgiving travel and dinner, cleaning our houses to some perceived perfection for house guests or just answering the door to the mail carrier, who I just realized I never gave a Christmas gift to. *facepalm* We’re shopping, wrapping presents, trying not to eat out too much but not having time to cook, putting up the tree, finding (or not finding) the boxes of ornaments, planning the menu, remembering what times the religious services are, finding the mismatched candles for the menorah and like every other Jewish family across the world, laying down a strip of aluminum foil to catch the wax drippings. When Christmas dinner is over and the dishes are put away, we barely have time to breathe before the year ends, and a new one begins. Will there be parties? Work? Sleep? There will be food, but what kind and how much effort? Or is that just me?

Did I mention that my daughter’s birthday is at the end of the week?

What are some ways that you deal with the holiday letdown and prepare for the excitement and anticipation of the new year? Comment with your best advice. Here are a few of my own:

1. Breathe. I know I said it last week, but it’s true. Breathing is essential. Slowing down, counting to ten (or twenty or one hundred) and breathe. In through your nose; out through your mouth. You can do it; I know you can.

2. Journal. Even if you’re not typically a journal keeper, get a cheap notebook for the next couple of weeks, and write it down. Write down your feelings. Write down a list of what you need to do. For me, if it’s not on a list, it won’t be remembered.

3. Doodle. If you’re not a journaler, doodle in the margins like you did in school. Stick figures. Hearts. Circles, squares, triangles, and more circles. Trees and flowers. Mindless doodling.

4. Water. Have a tall, cool glass of water. It will make your whole body feel better.

5. Music. Listen to something you love. My two go-to’s for getting lost in the sound are the Patrick Doyle’s Henry V soundtrack from the 1989 movie and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. Equally engrossing at loud or soft volume. It pulls me in and keeps me there.

6. Read. Read something new. Read something you love. If I haven’t already, I’ll share my 2019 books to offer what I read and what I recommend.

7. Relax. I do not mean this in that condescending way that people often advise you. I speak from where you are because I’m there right now and have been there before. Take a minute. Most of what we’re worrying and stressing about aren’t as big as we think they are. Step back, relax, and the keep moving forward.

Happy New Year!