Photographs by Meadow Linn

Monday, December 30, 2013

Count Your Blessings

While preparing Christmas Eve dinner I sliced the tip of my finger on a sharp blade. Although it wasn’t a particularly bad cut, it was deep, and I couldn’t easily stop the bleeding. After going through a handful of gauze bandages, I finally wrapped it tightly in a towel and went outside to catch the final rays of evening light. While I was sitting on the porch, feeling sorry for myself and pouting about how much more difficult finishing the meal was going to be, a neighbor popped over. As we chatted over my picket fence, I held my towel-wrapped finger in my palm and grumbled about having cut myself. After offering me a pair of latex gloves so I could continue making dinner, he mentioned in passing how difficult the past few days had been. A close friend of his family, a woman with four children, had been killed in a tragic accident.

The weight of his story sunk in deep. I kept picturing the children without their mother on Christmas, or any future Christmases. In an instant, the life of this family had been irrevocably changed.

My house on Christmas Eve
I returned to my house with a heavy heart. I felt deeply for my neighbor and the family dealing with this awful tragedy, but I realized that my sadness wouldn’t serve anyone in that moment. My sorrow would never bring back the wife and mother, nor would it put their family back together. The only thing I had control over was my feelings. I could continue to feel sad, or I could say a prayer for the family and make a greater effort to appreciate every moment. And, so that’s what I did. 

I plugged in the Christmas tree, lit a candle, and turned on some Christmas carols. I decided I would create a magical Christmas Eve dinner for my family so that we could cherish the time we have together. 

I headed to my kitchen with a completely different perspective from when I’d left with my towel-wrapped finger. Cutting myself was annoying. I would have to wear gloves, and I would have to be more deliberate in my movements. Most likely, it would begin throbbing the moment I stirred the soup or chopped a vegetable. And, I would have to keep it wrapped in bulky gauze for many days since I’m allergic to the adhesive in typical bandages, which would make showering and other tasks difficult. But, in the grand scheme of things, I realized, this was so minor. My brief conversation with my neighbor had jolted me out of my self-pity. It also opened a window for me to have even more gratitude for the many blessings in my life.

Letter to Santa Claus
I realized how often I take life for granted. It’s easy to get caught up in the daily minutia and lose sight of the bigger picture. Life is ephemeral. Simply having the opportunity to live, love, and laugh is a blessing. There are things I wish I had and things in my life that I wish were different, but when I take a step back and look at my life from the outside, I see so many blessings. We hear a lot about perspective and sometimes it can even feel a bit clichéd, but there is power in looking beyond your immediate surroundings.

As we move forward into the New Year, whether you make resolutions or not, I encourage you take time to be grateful, every day. This can be something you do in an organized, methodical way, or it can be simply something you feel as you hop out of bed in the morning.

What are the blessings in your life? What fills you with joy? Who do you love? Who loves you? The more we take time to appreciate and acknowledge all that we have and all that we are, the more joy we will feel and the more there will be. Imagine your life like a cup…the more gratitude you put into it, the fuller it will become, until eventually it overflows with love, joy, and kindness.

I wish you a joyful and meaningful New Year! I'm so grateful to have you in my life.

Count Your Blessings Blender Guacamole with Crudités

For Christmas Eve dinner I prepared a Mexican themed feast. When my guests arrived, I had a platter of crudités and guacamole waiting on the table to go with glasses of crisp Chardonnay. Typically, we think of guacamole with tortilla chips, but vegetables can be a delicious and healthy alternative. In the winter months, my raw vegetable intake is severely lacking, so I’ve found this to be a great way to enjoy more vegetables.

There’s a secret ingredient in this guacamole, which I learned from the chefs at Rancho la Puerta. You won’t be able to taste the peas, but they add texture and lighten the dip.

Mayan Mystery Guacamole from The Mystic Cookbook also pairs exceptionally well with crudités.

Makes about 1½ cups

1 avocado
½ cup frozen peas
a handful of cilantro
1 small garlic clove
juice of ½ to 1 lime, depending how tangy you want it
¼ tsp. sea salt

jicama, peeled and cut into sticks
English cucumber, sliced at a sharp angle
red bell pepper, cut into thick strips
Belgian endive

To make the guacamole, place all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Serve with crudités.

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