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

Something To Look Forward To

We all need something to look forward to, something special waiting for us in the future. As children, we had many things to look forward to – birthdays, vacations, ball games, excursions, visits from grandparents, new toys, just to name a few. We went from one eagerly anticipated event to the next and life was filled with expectations and lots of fun. Of course, there were dreams of things which never came true and gave rise to disappointment, but it didn’t last very long because there was always something new waiting for us to look forward to.

And then we grew up and forgot along the way that feeling of anticipation and excitement of our childhood. Our careers and the demands of daily life took over, and we ignored our inner voice telling us that we need to make some time for things to look forward to and to nourish our child within. A long overdue get together with dear friends? A vacation with loved ones? An uplifting and interesting book or movie? These make life interesting, take us out of our routine, and allow our minds and bodies to rejuvenate.

For me travel was always a great highlight in my life. I liked to visit different parts of the world and immerse myself in various cultures. I also loved to attend spiritual retreats and seminars. There were always stars waiting for me, and they made my life interesting and balanced. I always felt that I became a better and more complete person when I returned home. I fondly remember the time spent with my little Yorkie Sunny who attended all my seminars and traveled with me extensively. I believe she enjoyed it as much as I did, and everyone was in love with her … well, maybe not the ping pong players since Sunny assisted them in retrieving their balls, and they got them back with little teeth marks and holes.

I still have stars waiting for me to look forward to, and the next one is a trip to Sedona, one of my favorite places in Arizona. It will be a wonderful break, and I cannot wait to see the red rocks and feel the spiritual energy of this enchanted place. It is never too late to reach for the stars and just dreaming about them is a worthwhile experience in itself. Maybe you would like to explore whether you have maintained some of your childhood anticipation and feel the excitement and a high like the one described by John Denver in his song “Rocky Mountain High”. Steve and I met John Denver once on top of a mountain beside a glacier lake in Colorado, and I always wondered if that was the place that inspired his lyrics and the song. We exchanged a few words and then, when we were alone, we meditated in that pristine and spiritual surrounding, and I could hear his music in my heart. Find those highs within you and stay with it for a while. It will bring you joy and peace.

Silvia Coggin, CPC
Author and Founder of NotJustCooking.com

 

Worrying

We have all experienced thoughts creeping into our minds which make us feel insecure and uncomfortable. How often do we ask ourselves, “what if” and then worry about things which will never happen?

Worrying is planning for what we don’t want by giving energy to a reality we don’t desire and will not enjoy.  It can even become a habit nourished by our insecurities. A much better way to a more enjoyable life is to let go of regrets and guilt from the past, enjoy the present, and have faith in the future. We can neither control the future nor the behavior of other people, and all the worrying in the world will not make things better or change people. However, maintaining a positive and optimistic attitude, can pave the road to a happier and more fulfilling life.

Replacing worrisome thoughts with feelings of gratitude for past and present experiences, and visualizing the future unfolding in beautiful colors will bring joy and happiness.

Having grown up in Post War Germany, in an environment filled with worry and fear, I know that a lot of life’s beauty and peace of mind were lost because worries overshadowed everything. My mother was consumed by her personal worry: Will there be enough food? Can my children live a happier life? How will I manage on my own without the support of a spouse? Am I doing the right things? and so on. If I could set back the clock, I would assure my mother that all would be well and that her worries couldn’t change anything in my life. Her constant worry stemmed from living through World War I as a child and World War II as an adult, spouse and mother. She never was able to completely disburse her worry clouds and to become a truly happy person. Ultimately she died prematurely and I am convinced that all her worries and the stress they caused shortened her life.

When I realized that worrying equates to planning for what I don’t want, I started replacing my worries with thoughts of love, compassion, empathy and having faith in the future. It doesn’t always turn out as I imagined and troublesome thoughts still play around in my mind from time to time. But my faith helps me to be in peace and with time I always realize that unwanted happenings were a lesson to be learned and an experience to be lived.

Not worrying doesn’t mean being passive. On the contrary, faith and self-confidence allow us to visualize a bright future. With less worry, there is a much greater probability of reaching the desired outcome. Let’s all keep the worry at bay, and fill our minds with thoughts of love and joy.

Silvia Coggin, CPC
Author and Founder of NotJustCooking.com

 

Excitement

Life without excitement is like champagne without bubbles, it has lost its appeal and attraction. Would we drink flat champagne? Of course not! So why do we think that sometimes we have to live a life without excitement?

In the various stages of our life we are attracted and enthralled by different things, and our excitement changes as well. The simple things, which are so exciting for a young child, become bolder and usually more costly with increasing age. But one fact remains the same: we feel that we can conquer the world, and that there are no limitations. Everything seems possible; we are riding the waves of life feeling the wind in our hair and the energy flowing through us. It is like a drug and we want more. Do you remember your first date? The excitement of getting ready, your beating heart and you couldn’t think of anything else? Yes, at that moment you drank bubbly champagne and enjoyed every moment of it.

There is never a reason to drink flat champagne, we are always worth a good bubbly. And if you find yourself asking the question why the world became so bland or why you became so blasé, then it is time to lighten up and bring some spice into your life.  Do something you have never done but always wanted to do. A cruise? Riding a horse? Buying a sports car? Taking dance lessons to become the dancer you always wanted to be? Let your imagination fly, feel the excitement, and soar like an eagle. Excitement is what keeps us young and going strong.

Excitement can be laced with fear and doubts, but the thrill of being excited is worth the trepidations. Excitement is contagious, we like to be around people ready to embrace life’s many opportunities and challenges, and just listening to them gives birth to our own excitement. I fondly remember a recent get together with friends during which they enthusiastically talked about the safari they had planned. My love and passion for Africa started stirring, and I found myself googling safari possibilities, imagining myself in Africa and it was like taking a short mini trip. Yes, reality had to set in a little later, but the excitement of those moments cannot be replaced and I still cherish them.

So, what are you waiting for? Pop the cork and enjoy your bubbly! Live and enjoy the moment and some excitement regularly.

Silvia Coggin, CPC
Founder and Author of NotJustCooking.com

 

ShareThis Copy and Paste