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

 

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

 

Opportunities

Opportunities are all around us, we see them or don’t, we take advantage of them or let them slip by. They are there to grasp, but one has to have an open mind and open heart.

My widowed mother raised me in postwar Germany. Looking back, we had very little, although there was always food, clothing and a roof over our heads. I remember vividly that I sometimes took my doll and went to the tennis club. There was a bench outside the courts of the club, and I sat watching the people play. They were so beautiful in their white outfits, swinging their rackets and gliding over the clay courts. I sat there, watching and dreaming, and promised myself that one day I would play tennis like that as well. For a poor girl in post-war Germany, that was an outrageous dream. It was so far out that I never shared it with my mother. I didn’t want her to shatter my dream. I knew she meant well, but I always heard “be reasonable, that is not possible for people like us”, and so on. As an adult, I joined a club and played tennis on clay courts in a white skirt and top just like my dream. I saw an opportunity, took it, and made my dream come true.

I have always questioned and rejected the concept that there are limitations on what I can dream and achieve, although I had to conform when I was young. I would have loved to become a professional like a doctor or a lawyer, but it was out of reach. I had to compromise and take opportunities that were open to me, mostly for financial reasons, and I have no regrets. During my earlier years the pressure of postwar Germany, family, and the German class system made for a limited life, but I was always sustained by my dreams. The easiest way for many was to go to America, the land of opportunities, where anyone could succeed and live the life so much desired. America was a shining beacon of hope in those difficult times and a promise for a better life.

When I started studying metaphysics, I realized that I had choices, that in effect I had all the choices, and that I did not have to give my power away to tradition. The thought was intoxicating, and I felt my wings growing. I took my power back and opened my heart and my eyes to opportunities. I let many of them go by or saw them too late. It was up to me how I wanted to look at the missed opportunities: do I want to play the “if only game” and watch with regret some missed opportunities sail down the river, or do I turn my eyes upstream to see and accept new ones coming to me? This is a choice we all have to make more often than we realize, and sometimes we make this choice unconsciously based on old beliefs or imagined limitations. If you feel you don’t have opportunities, that you are an unfortunate and unlucky person stuck in a situation through no fault of yours, then now is a perfect time to reevaluate, regroup and develop new dreams. Watch your mind and clean out limiting beliefs and negative thoughts. Open your heart and mind to new opportunities. They are all around you, you are not excluded, and there are no exceptions.

It is your choice, and yours alone. Believe in your dreams and opportunities will appear, so that you will be able to live the life you are seeking.

Like many others, I immigrated to America after living in Belgium. My life unfolded, with obstacles sometimes barring my way. But I never gave up dreaming and believing in opportunities. I am still the young girl watching people play tennis and dreaming about my future. I will always dream, it is the beginning and the opening of the portal to opportunities. When the day comes that I no longer dream, it will be my time to say good bye.

Silvia Coggin, CPC
Author and Founder of NotJustCooking.com

 

The Monsoon Is Back

There has never been a time when I was more looking forward to the monsoon bringing rain and more bearable temperatures than this year. We have lived in Tucson since 2002, and I do not remember the searing heat we have endured this year. I missed my walks and being able to spend time outdoors. But all this is now changing with the arrival of the Arizona monsoon, and I am rejoicing and happy. We have had only a few brief showers so far, but the monsoon has started and everything and everyone delights in it.

Although the monsoon in Arizona is not as strong and persistent as in other parts of the world, it shares the same characteristics. Wikipedia explains it like this: “There is a shift in wind patterns in summer which occurs as Mexico and the southwest U.S. warm under intense solar heating. As this happens, the flow reverses. The prevailing winds start to flow from moist ocean areas into dry land areas”.

Before moving to Tucson, I never appreciated the rain as I do now. It reminded me that when we have too much of something, we start losing our appreciation for it. Rain was never my thing because I had more than my share growing up in Germany and then living in Belgium. I couldn’t wait to vacation in a place with sunshine and no rain.

But we can change and learn to appreciate things we really didn’t care for. It all depends on how we look at it and if we keep an open mind and open heart. I love change, it allows me to grow and expand. If I would be younger, I would have danced in those first monsoon rains. I embraced the lightning and thunder and was all sad when the clouds moved on to bring life and moisture to another area.

There is so much to be grateful for and I count my blessings every day. The monsoon and rain are very much part of my appreciation right now. I look out of the window and imagine that the rain is washing away all worries, concerns and painful memories. I feel its gentle cleaning. I cannot wait for the next storm and rain and I know that I will enjoy it to the fullest. Nature is powerful and inspirational, and I am genuinely happy feeling I am part of it.

Silvia Coggin, CPC
Author and Founder of NotJustCooking.com

 

Father’s Day

We honor fathers and celebrate fatherhood on Father’s Day, not only for their status within the family but also their influence within society. It is an old tradition in Europe dating back to the Middle Ages where fathers were celebrated on March nineteenth – St. Joseph’s Day.ince then, most countries have adopted the US date which is the third Sunday in June.

Fathers are a special pillar of strength within the family unit giving balance so the feminine and masculine energy can become strongly bonded. Having grown up without any masculine influence, I know how difficult it was for me to understand and relate to the opposite sex. For a long time, I was looking for a father figure to fill the void within me. But despite never having a father, I strongly related to the relationships of my friends and my husband with their fathers. They played or are still playing an important part in their lives and the pain from losing this strong and supporting love is deep and distressing.

The love of a father is a gift and I include all fathers, biological, adoptive or just a kind soul who becomes that pillar in a child’s life. This brings me to a touching wildlife story. Last year a male quail and his tiny offsprings landed in our yard and one could clearly see the distress in this overwhelmed dad. He knew his role was to look out for danger by sitting on an elevated spot, but his partner wasn’t with them. Most likely she lost her life shortly after the eggs hatched. The little baby quail were very spooked and frightened and they ran wildly around the yard. The dad finally decided to come down from his observation post and he tried to put them all under his wings. It was quite difficult for him, but he managed. The chaos and distress of the situation was palpable, but the father quail took his responsibility seriously and ultimately made his babies feel safe, despite the painful loss to his family. I watched him playing daddy and mommy, and as nature does so beautifully, he managed successfully.

I would be amiss if I wouldn’t mention the loving and caring dads of our pets. Watching my husband with our little Romeo touches my heart deeply and I know he has a deep love for this endearing little boy.

When I grew up in Germany, fathers were the economic providers and the rest of the responsibilities fell to the mother. This was not only in Germany, but in most parts of the world. Over the years, this changed and now dads push a stroller as easily and comfortably as moms. They even change diapers! The role of a father has expanded in many parts of the world and most dads have taken to the change with enthusiasm and pride. Just looking into the face of a future daddy, one sees the joy and happiness he feels, then the awe and devotion when the baby is born and he cradles it for the first time in his arms. It brings tears into my eyes and I feel grateful and filled with awe. This love and bond is meant to lasts a life time, but sometimes circumstances play out differently. And when finally the circle closes and the now adult child starts his/her own family, he feels pride and looks forward to becoming a grandfather.

Yes, fathers deserve a special celebration, showing them how much they are loved, appreciated and respected. Fathers are a powerful presence and life without them is not complete.

Silvia Coggin, CPC
Author and Founder of NotJustCooking.com

Happy Father’s Day !

 

 

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