Simply Grateful: Twelve days of Christmas inspires my 2020 gratitude list

Christmas is a season for kindling the fire for hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart. – Washington Irving, 18th century American writer

During the 12 days of Christmas, when the world is on hold, it’s fun to think of the ways I’m simply grateful. It’s especially so this year of transition from 2019 to 2020 which launches a new decade. Imagine…the 2020s!

How can we be 20 years into the 21st Century? Twenty years after Y2K. I remember the turn of the century – now long in the rear view mirror. But then, I remember when the turn of the century meant 1900; now, it’s 2000. I remember when 2000 seemed in the distant future. I remember when the world approached the new millennium with that perfect combo of wonder and trepidation. Would we survive?

Today on the 12th night of the Christmas season, I’m in wonderment as this new decade begins. At this critical time in our history, there’s plenty of trepidation about what the 2020s have in store. Truly, though, I’m grateful that I’m still enjoying the show…this movie that is my life. I’m glad to be at the precipice of a new decade, which I intend to dive into with a renewed sense of gratitude and joy.

The notion that life is your own movie makes sense to me. Looking at life that way means you have something to say about what happens in the script. I’m grateful for the inspiration of cinema and for the many ways movies help create change, both in my life and in the world.

When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things — not the great occasions — give off the greatest glow of happiness. ~Bob Hope

Movies are among the wonderful, sometimes quirky, crazy, simple ways that I’m grateful. Movies, it turns out, relate to my gratitude for my family – our kids and my siblings. The movie connection, including TV series, is a good thing and a great inter-generational activity.

This holiday season we enjoyed the movie Jumanji: The Next Level with my siblings, on the occasion of our sister’s December birthday. Having a sibling movie date has become a tradition in recent times and a wonderful way to spend time together.

One thing that intrigued me regarding Jumanji was learning that the author of the children’s book, Chris Van Allsburg, holds charity premier movie events for pediatric hospice care, with a statewide premier here in Michigan in December.

Also in December, we managed to take in the Tom Hanks’ movie, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood , with our daughter. The Mr Rogers film is a not only a beautiful day in his neighborhood, but also a beautiful story of forgiveness and the effect of kindness.

It only takes one kind word to nourish another person, said Rogers. I think we often took the show for granted, I think, while our kids were growing up. But the Fred Rogers kindness effect lives on. I’m thankful that the show was beloved by a generation of children, such as my daughter.

Hanks, who happens to be Rogers’ distant relative, won the Cecil B DeMille Award at the 2020 Golden Globes. He was nominated in the category of “best performance by an actor in a supporting role in a motion picture” for his role in the Fred Rogers movie.

We celebrated the first day of the new decade with our daughter and son-in-law enjoying Star Wars: The Rise of Luke Skywalker. The film brings the story full circle. I can still picture the starry night drive home from the first Star Wars movie, when our daughter was five. A generation, again, has grown up with tales from “a galaxy far, far away.”

Imagine being thankful for the Star Wars saga. But movie memories are often some of our most wonderful family memories. As for TV series (think Downton Abbey, Outlander, Justified, Foyle’s War)…all nudged upon us by our kids. But one in particular was gifted to us – Stranger Things. Last year they got us the first season of the 1980s Netflix series. They insisted we’d like it. Skeptical, we watched the first couple of episodes on our winter camping trip in Florida, not so into it, and promptly forgot about it.

All year they kept asking us if we’d watched. “No, not yet,” we’d admit. This year Season Two was among our Christmas gifts. So, outnumbered, we succumbed. And, you guessed it, we did get into it, and we did appreciate why they like it so much. That 1980s time they grew up, for one thing.

Despite my rather dislike of horror type films, I found myself (as they predicted) getting into it, the characters, the story. So we appreciate that our kids love movies. If we want to know anything about them, we know who to ask. The trick is to keep up with the culture. But we love it that we’re able to engage and share this movie connection as a family.

Always inspired by the Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life, this year I gifted our kids with a silver bell ornament, a replica of ZuZu’s angel bell, to hang on the tree as a reminder of Christmas miracles.

The 12 days of Christmas – as defined in Wikepedia – is the period that in Christian theology marks the span between the birth of Christ and the coming of the Magi, the three wise men. It begins on December 25 (Christmas) and runs through January 6 (the Epiphany, sometimes also called Three Kings Day). This span of time is sometimes called Christmastide.

The days between Christmas and Twelfth Night (The Feast of Epiphany) on Jan. 6 provide a quieter time frame for pondering…for revealing the ways in which we are grateful, the ways we are blessed, the ways we might focus our intentions in the new year. I love to allow myself to sink into these days, as if burrowing in a fluffy down comforter. I love to indulge in an extra winter nap or two, providing an opportunity to daydream for the future.

At Christmastime, we count our blessings. We gather with family and friends. We think of the ties that bind. The season reminds us to be in gratitude; and gratitude is often the blessing that will help us move along in the new year, bringing new growth of spirit.

The word blessing, wrote John O’Donohue, in To Bless the Space Between Us, evokes a sense of warmth and protection; it suggests that no life is alone or unreachable. Each life is clothed in raiment of spirit that secretly links it to everything else. We need that inspiration to be revealed to us, as we journey through our lives.

Christmastime is a welcoming time, when our hearts are more open to blessings being revealed. We’re drawn to memories of days gone by, and of the people who’ve inspired us and connected with us at various points on the journey. As the days of Christmastide (I love the sound of it), finds us sending and receiving holiday greetings, I’ve noticed how much more I appreciate letters now. I’m talking about family letters, real letters written with pen to paper…archival missives you can hold in your hand, that came with lovely stamps in the corner, and from the U.S. Postal Service.

I was looking through a box of letters my parents had saved. These are vintage letters now, letters sent to them or to my grandmother from great uncles I never met. I’d forgotten the slew of letters I’d sent them in our early years of marriage. It’s like opening a time capsule – so amazing to peer into, and to remember the person I once was. In these times of all things digital, I’m grateful for these memories

Christmas is not a time or a season but a state of mind. To cherish peace and good will, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas. ~Calvin Coolidge, 1927

This Christmastime 2019-2020 found me discovering an unexpected blessing.

Perfectly passionate for pink poinsettias …

You might think of it as an upside down blessing, that made me think about the real spirit of Christmas.

This has to do with pink poinsettias. I’m unabashedly, passionately partial to pink poinsettias. Apparently others are, as well. It’s happened more than once at Christmastime. I’ll order a pink poinsettia for the church Christmas Eve floral display. The idea is that there are lots of flowers for the service and then you take them home for your Christmas.

I was excited that pink ones were offered this year, since we were gone last year. When it turned out that we were unable to be at the service after all, I stopped in the day before to look at the beautiful Christmas decorations. I’d ordered pink and white. There were two pink ones; they looked perfect by the altar rail next to the antique lanterns. I was so glad I’d stopped by, as I had a feeling

that I might not see my pink poinsettia again. So I took in all the glory of the setting; and I snapped some photos, knowing I’d at least have those. When Sunday arrived, and we made it to church, there was my white one between two large red ones that were left in front of the altar. But, alas, as suspected, no pink poinsettias.

Keep your Christmas-heart open all the year round, said J.L. W. Brooks. I hadn’t seen this quote that day, but inwardly I was thinking it. While I’d anticipated the outcome, I was surprised by my reaction of frustration, sadness and even anger. If someone wants pink poinsettias, they can order them, I’d mutter to myself. Then, I’d re-think, feeling silly and uncharitable. I finally came around to the conclusion that there’s a lesson for me in this. That is, to look at it as a blessing. A chance to practice what I preach. In the real spirit of Christmas, I can give myself the gift of letting it go, to know that someone is enjoying the beautiful flower.

We’ll see what happens next Christmas season. Meanwhile, I’m simply grateful…for the gift of being able to put my fingers to the keys to write about this, or anything else, if I wish. I’m thankful for keyboards. I’ve had a fascinating journey with them. There was my lovely sky blue Olympia typewriter in college. Then the awesome ancient, clunky typewriters (the ones you see in old movies) at the Livingston County Press. I’d love to have one of those. Eventually there came electric typewriters and computer keyboards –again at the Livingston County Press, the Fowlerville News & Views, and at home on my own typewriters, computers, laptops and iPhones. I’ve loved writing my online blog for the past decade for Livingston Talk/ The Livingston Post – with life lessons galore.

Ah, technology. Where will it lead me? On this day of Epiphany 2020, I wonder what the new year and decade will have in store? Will it be the roaring 20s again? Or might it turn out to be the revolutionary 20s?

Rebellions are built on hope.”Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

I smiled at a recent horoscope message I came across the other day. Your eagerness to dance to the deeper rhythms of the cosmos might catch others off guard today. Sounds like a bit of a rebellion.

In any case, I’m going rogue for hope once again, declared in my blog in January 2017. As I wind down my 12 days of Christmas gratitude reflection intention – welcoming the light of each new day – I declare a quiet rebellion for 2020…a rebellion kindled on hope, gratitude, and beauty.

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Susan G Parcheta dreamed of being an inspirational writer, even as heading off after college to a teaching job. While teaching was not her passion, words were -- writing many years for Livingston newspapers, especially in the areas of education, health and wellness. The dream continues: to inspire creative, healthy living and to explore new concepts of body, mind, spirit. Her signature theme “All Things Beautiful” invites you to embrace the beauty and imagine the possibilities that life has to offer. She lives in Gregory with her husband, Jerry, and their fluffy, pointy-eared -- and always lovable -- cat, Spock.