Happy New Year

Standing at the threshold of the New Year, I feel nostalgic and excited at the same time. I am looking forward to writing a new chapter in my book of life reflecting lessons learned and new dreams.

When you lift your glass and toast to a happy and healthy New Year, don’t forget that you want to start a fresh New Year, not one burdened with unresolved issues. Find peace within, love and forgive yourself, and then forgive the people who hurt you. You can do this in various ways. I like to relive my year, make peace, and then visualize a blank page waiting for me to begin the new chapter in my book of life. I see myself surrounded by love, compassion and empathy, and my heart is filled with the same feelings for others. My goal is to love, laugh a lot, and not to sweat the small stuff. Remember the serenity prayer:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change
 the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”

Reinhold Niebuhr

The beginning of a New Year can be a continuation of what is, or it can be a fresh start. Maybe your 2018 just needs a little tweaking, a commitment to change a few things to make you happier and more fulfilled. Starting a new chapter in your book of life is a great opportunity to look at yourself and the life you live. If you are satisfied and happy with what you see, then congratulate yourself on your achievement and enjoy 2018. But many of us would like to make some changes. If so, don’t procrastinate but don’t be overly ambitious. Keep in mind that any resolution you make becomes a journey. Success will come to you as long as you stay focused on your goal and believe in yourself.

Imagine your book of life with all the chapters you have lived and all the blank pages waiting for you. There is great wisdom in your book of life and much more to be added.  Always remember that only you can be the author of your book of life. Be kind, patient, and confident that it will be a great year, filled with good health, lots of joy, and happiness.

Wishing you “einen guten Rutsch ins Neue Jahr” (Happy New Year)!

Silvia Coggin, CPC
Founder and Author of NotJustCooking.com

 

Holiday Season

My heart is filled with gratitude this holiday season, and I am enjoying every day. Advent is bringing me happiness.

The holiday season means different things to everyone, depending on religious beliefs and origins. It is a great time of the year to show our respect and acceptance of diversity. Maybe we can even participate in a new kind of celebration, if the opportunity presents itself. Broadening our understanding allows us to grow, and that is always beneficial.

I was raised a Catholic, and my mother instilled in me that Christmas is a time to give and to share. For us it wasn’t about gifts, since we had very limited funds, but about the spirit of Christmas. And, she taught me that there are always people who have less than us.

In Germany, the holiday season started with Advent. Then, on December 6th, “Sankt Nikolaus” and “Knecht Ruprecht” came. When I was in Kindergarten, they both physically showed up, “Sankt Nikolaus” had a golden book with the names of the “good” children and “Ruprecht” had a sack on his back where he stuck the “bad” children. The anticipation and fear was great, and I remember how terrifying it was when “Ruprech”t put a boy, who was considered “bad”, into his sack and walked out. We all hoped to be mentioned in “Sankt Nikolaus” book which meant we received some sweets and a pat on the head. At home, we put a shoe outside hoping that it would be filled with sweets and chocolates the next morning. A little story: one year I thought that maybe I could put a boot out so that I would get more goodies. Well, the boot was empty the next morning, and I was told that greedy children are not rewarded.

Christmas time was magic for me. My mother, who was an incredible baker, somehow managed to bake the Christmas cookies without leaving a trace behind. When I came back from Kindergarten and smelled the aromas of baking, she told me that the angels were making Christmas cookies and then she showed me the sunset sky. I believed her explanation and that the pink sky reflected the fire from the ovens of the angels. We didn’t have much, but magic was free, and I will always be grateful for this gift since it stimulated me to use my imagination.

Christmas Eve for a German child was about the Christkind (Christ-child) who brought gifts. The tree was put up on Christmas Eve and my mother was able to keep it secret. She decorated it and lit all the candles, and then we were called in. It was magical and I still remember how my little heart was pounding. We didn’t have a television, but my sister and I listened to the radio in the kitchen which featured programming for children to increase our anticipation and excitement.

There were few gifts in our family, but delicious home baked cookies were brought out and my sister and I each received two oranges. It was special because in my early years oranges were a rare treat. Before we went to midnight mass, my sister and I had to choose something we received that day to give to people who had less than us. I always took one of my oranges, which was a big gift since I didn’t know when I would see another one. I can still remember the big basket at church where everyone deposited something for the ones in need. It was a great lesson which I never forgot.

For me Christmas is a special time to remember the ones we love and to tell them how much they mean to us in whatever way we wish to express our feelings. It is also a time to make peace, to forgive, and to have faith in the future.

I have shared my childhood Christmas memories and hopefully you cherish wonderful seasonal memories as well, of Christmas or any other celebration you observe during the holiday season. Times change, and I am sure German children celebrate differently now. But I am grateful that my mother taught me at a young age that giving is more rewarding than receiving, that being greedy is nothing to be proud of, and that beauty and magic can be created from very little. Yes, Christmas is special for me, and I am still just a little girl when I see the shimmering lights and feel blessed that I have loved ones with whom to share.

I wish you a happy and fulfilling holiday season.

Silvia Coggin, CPC
Author and Founder of NotJustCooking.com

 

Advent

A friend sent me a Jackie Lawson Advents Calendar, and it brought back vivid memories of enjoying this lovely gift last year, as well as my childhood memories from many years ago.

Advent was a very important time for me in my youth, not only because of its religious significance but also because of the family tradition, which I enjoyed tremendously.

Four Sundays before Christmas an “Adventskranz”, a wreath of fresh pine with four large red candles, was placed in the middle of the dining table. On the four consecutive Sundays before Christmas one candle was lit, starting with one candle on the first Sunday and ending with four lit candles on the Sunday before Christmas. This year the fourth Sunday falls on Christmas Eve which will make it very special for me since it was my Mother’s birthday.

In Germany we gathered around the Advents wreath each Sunday evening to sing and pray. It was very spiritual and festive, and I have fond memories of those special times. When Christmas finally came, I was pumped and ready, and the anticipation built up over the Advent was palpable in me.

Advent also brought the “Advent calendar” which served to count down the days to Christmas. In postwar Germany, chocolates and sweets were rare, and the calendar was a special delight because behind each window was a small chocolate, and my joy at finding a sweet treat during every day of Advent was immense.

Traditions are important. They keep our cultures and memories alive. Having lost my mother at 17, and immigrating to two countries with different ways of celebrating, I maintained a few traditions in my adult life. Advent is one of them. Our wreath is not fresh pine, but it adorns our breakfast table and while we don’t sing, Steve and I meditate in the gentle glow of the candles. It is very peaceful and brings joy into our hearts.

It doesn’t matter what traditions we chose to maintain. The objective is to find something which resonates within us and makes us feel alive and connected to our origins and who we have become. Why is this important you may ask? I believe that in order to live a centered and balanced life, the past and present need to flow harmoniously together. Just a few cherished memories can allow us to achieve this goal.

Advent is a great time to get into our spiritual mode and avoid being consumed by all the hustle and bustle of the holidays. I wish you a most enjoyable holiday season.

Silvia Coggin, CPC
Author and Founder of NotJustCooking.com

Thanksgiving 2017

On this special holiday, I want to thank all of you for your friendship and support. You are my inspiration, and every time I write my blog, I feel connected to you and my unlimited gratitude. I hope this year has brought you health, joy and happiness, and that you will celebrate Thanksgiving surrounded by family and friends with hearts full of appreciation.

I have much to be thankful for, and I will go briefly down memory lane like I do every Thanksgiving to thank everyone who touched my life and made it better. This also includes my loved ones who have transitioned but still live in my heart. I also include the few people who brought me pain, and I thank them for the lessons they provided. I am a stronger and better person because of them.

This year I’ll enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving dinner and feel blessed to have been invited by dear friends. It will be a very special day and Steve and I are looking forward to it. After a difficult year with many health challenges but feeling better now, I have so much to be grateful for and spending this holiday with wonderful friends will be a perfect way to celebrate my blessings.

For me Thanksgiving is not only a great opportunity to express appreciation and gratitude but also to celebrate life. We normally take life for granted, but when it slowly slips away, we become very much aware of it, and I feel more in touch with my life than ever before. For the pilgrims, the goal was living in freedom, for me it is the joy of being alive. We have come a long way since the First American Thanksgiving in October 1621 which was organized by the pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World. It was attended by 90 Native Americans and 53 pilgrims. But the spirit of this holiday remains the same: being thankful for our blessings and coming together with family and friends.

There have been many Thanksgivings since I immigrated to the United States. The first one, just two months after I was married, came as a surprise. We were invited by Steve’s colleague who, like Steve, came from Texas. I had no idea that according to certain Southern customs the women are supposed to be in the kitchen while the men enjoy drinks and delicious hors d’oeuvres while watching football on the tele. And I thought that German men were chauvinistic when growing up in Germany! Well, I “sweetly” conformed, and spent my Thanksgiving cooking, serving, and cleaning up. It was an amazing experience! I hoped that the men, who hung out and never lifted a finger, had a wonderful time and extended their “thanks” to the women who made their celebration possible.

This first Thanksgiving has been followed by many more, some traditional, some uniquely different like my vegetarian feast. Sometimes we were traveling internationally and our hotel tried to make Americans feel comfortable by serving delicious Thanksgiving dinners. But there was never another like our first one! The most important thing for me at Thanksgiving is taking the time to be thankful and celebrating with friends and family. I have also adopted my own traditions and always enjoy the cooking, decorating and gathering around the bounties of the table.

Happy Thanksgiving. You are my inspiration!

Silvia Coggin, CPC
Author and Founder of NotJustCooking.com

 

Staying Positive

We are now living in a world where negativity seems to overshadow everything. Just turning on the television can make me depressed. People often seem to be on edge and short tempered. We can decide if we want to run with the herd, or if we will consciously fill our life with love, joy and happiness.

This is not as t as one might think, although it does take some effort. I know how I want to live the rest of my life. I will not listen to the bickering, doomsday preaching, blaming, finger pointing, and rough language. I am focused on a future filled with kindness, compassion, love, and empathy. I still watch the news, but I don’t linger there, staying just long enough to learn what is going on in the world. Then I go on with my life knowing that there is a bright future ahead, that things will work out, and that good ultimately prevails. I avoid blaming and judging and remind myself that there is no way to know why someone behaves in a certain way.

Meditation, mindfulness and affirmations are key to remaining positive, and I use them throughout the day and under any circumstances. Sometimes just counting to 10 before replying or reacting can be a great help. I practice this regularly and my life has become much easier and more peaceful. I listen, but I do not necessarily internalize what I hear. I respect other’s opinions and beliefs, even if they feel foreign and unreal. And by focusing on the good in everyone, even tense relationships can become pleasant.

Facing serious health challenges every day, I quickly realized that I don’t want to spend too much energy worrying and trying to change people. I really cannot change anyone. The future is uncertain for everyone, but I envision it bright and shining. By focusing on hope, optimism and faith, I remain positive and live in joy and harmony. Staying positive is and has always been a supporting pillar in my life.

Happy 4th of July!

Silvia Coggin, CPF
Author and Founder of NotJustCooking.com

 

 

 

 

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