2011dec3Christmas, like Thanksgiving, is just another holiday to stress over – much more so because of the looming deadline of Christmas morning with the expectation of perfectly-chosen, perfectly-wrapped presents all under a tree. And, don’t forget the tree! My “tree” this year is a generous bundle of pine boughs strung with white lights in a beautiful Sosse Baker basket that sits by the fireplace.

For years, I made elaborate Christmas plans to be on a cruise, on a safari, or anywhere I could imagine, just not to be home alone for the holidays. Ultimately, I always cancelled these plans by reminding myself that Christmas is only one day. Over the years, I’ve cooked up a variety of Christmas events like: a breakfast pajama party for friends who show up in their PJ’s and robe. A Christmas favorite is a long walk on the beach followed by a favorite tomato soup from the Wheatmarket served with fabulous grilled cheese sandwiches shared with niece Abbey-Jane and Mom, Nan, followed by a movie. Sosse just e-mailed a movie idea: “Hugo,” an animated 3D movie about Paris in the early 1900s designed for the family. This year’s plan is brewing.

What matters most?

Recently, I heard a lecture by Neale Donald Walsch, author of the best seller, “Conversations with God.” His opening remarks were his observations on how similar we are in our wants and needs, no matter where we are in the world or our station in life. His research pretty much boiled down to our shared worldwide wish-list: peace, security, health, happiness, family, love and opportunity (I add connectedness and community).

What matters most to you? Last week at the Chester Sunday Market, I asked a few people this question.

2011dec1Family and good health were the number one answer from those queried ages 30 to 67.

Other answers included: “To push my limits to be bigger than I see myself” - from Michael, 52. And for Lori, 40: “To keep my priorities in line - family first, health second, my art and work third.” What mattered most to Rik, 60, is “putting my life in order” while his partner Jean, 67, said “to stay healthy so I can take care of everybody else.”

So how did some of us lose sight of what is important? I was appalled by the Black Friday shopping reports and how these consumer spending numbers drive the well being of our economy. When did greed, spending and fighting for a $2 waffle iron take us prisoners? What kind of bargain could possibly be worth being maimed in a shopping aisle? When did “got to have it at all cost” take over our world? On the flip side, I loved the focus on “Small Store Saturday.”

Consider the shopping experience as an exchange of energies and creativity. I’m noticing that people are wanting the experience of the exchange. We want to know where and how things are created; what is the story, what we are purchasing? I’m curious about this idea of exchange. It is, after all, an exchange. I have a product to offer for sale and you have currency. What I’m wanting to know is how did you create the currency you are about to exchange for my product? What do you create or what service do you provide that now allows you to pass it on. It’s like bartering or swapping what I have to offer for what you have to offer. These things are real and alive and are a part of us.

2011dec2Less is more, has become my motto for the holidays. Keep it simple. Go underground for a few days between Christmas and New Years. Look to the new year and write down what matters most. Build a fire. Take stock. Hug the cat. Connect with nature. Make cookies. Drink hot chocolate. Put pen to paper. Give the keyboard a rest. Send a few cards via the post office to someone, or a lot of someones. Your friends will be happy to hear from you. Connect.

And while we’re being postal, visit The Postcard Show at the Chester Gallery. You’ll find great works of art created by local artists all in postcard format. Look for the “What I’m Grateful for (Postcard) Project”. Take a moment to pause and think about what you are grateful for. You can participate in this project by creating a simple, or an elaborate, postcard that expresses your gratitude and mail it to: P.O. Box 602, Old Lyme, CT 06371. The cards will be included in a future traveling art show. What’s the back story of this project? Meet charming Anne Kubitsky on Kickstarter.com and read how her gratitude experience led to this project. Contribute and support the project if you’re moved to do so.

The holidays are a season to slow down and be grateful. To pause. It’s a time to look at realigning our values as part of a greater shift that’s happening on the planet. For the moment, choose not to shift to reverse but rather into cruise by humming along at a reasonable speed noticing who and what is before you. Breathe, that’s my bottom line for all of us. It’s a day, a few days, it’s the holy days to be noticed, experienced, shared, and enjoyed. Happy Holidays!

Editor’s Note: There’s one more Chester Market on Sunday, Dec. 18 from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. and Jill will be open in her studio at 4 Water Street, over the Wheatmarket, enter by the Fed Ex box, second floor.

You’re also invited to her studio Open House, Dec. 15, 4 – 8 p.m. All are welcome. For more information: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 850-526-5155