I like dark chocolate and sometimes have a piece in the morning with my coffee. There’s a brand of individually wrapped pieces called Dove™ that includes brief thoughts and statements inside the wrapper. With our preparation for the holiday season each year, my wife buys bags of them and–one year–I thought to begin on December 14th and take each day’s chocolate wrapper and write a little bit about my first thoughts on reading it. Here they are (feel free to share), click the image to enlarge:
The 1st DOVE of Christmas
The 2nd DOVE of Christmas
Sometimes we think this takes money. That we have to be able to travel to distant places. Not true, though for me that’s one of my favorite ways to gain new and to build upon past experiences. Discovery often comes from merely doing something different or something familiar differently. Discovery means having a mindset open to its potential… knowing that there are opportunities for it, to a greater or lesser degree, each day. And when the chance is there to take it. Even in little amounts we can learn and benefit from it. I believe when you live with a purpose that there’s something to discover every day.
We all do it. No, not that… I’m talking about daydreaming. That moment when we slip into a mindscape of wishes wants and maybe a what-if or two. There’s been a lot written about visualization and how athletes use it for peak performance. Doing it—what you want to do or to get better at—in your mind helps. No, not that… well, maybe that, too. But I digress. I think that daydreaming can be constructive but only if anchored—mostly—in reality. I mean that it doesn’t become or isn’t from the start an absurd fantasy with little chance of existence. Guide your daydreams, base them in your real world, in a way that fits what you do, who you are and what you want from life. Make them possible… the kind of daydream that requires you to, in your actual world, stretch and reach. Making it tangible often starts with imagining it can be so and then believing in yourself enough to take action and get it done.
The 4th DOVE of Christmas
I disagree with this one.
What this Dove says (I think) means to not restrict love… let it flourish unbound. Don’t tell Love what to do.
Love can be unruly. It can happen when we least expect it. And it can run from us if we chase it. That can be problematic when most seek love and companionship in their life though I know those who are content without it.
But new love, at any age, that runs wild and free with the wrong person or a seasoned, mature, love that becomes abused or untended can wither and end in anger, sadness, hurt and pain.
For love to work, I believe one fundamental, paramount, rule is necessary: to love only someone who loves you in equal measure. Love someone who respects you as much as you respect them. This must hold true at the beginning and throughout any relationship.
Love has to include respect or it’s not love. That’s the rule.
The 5th DOVE of Christmas
The 6th DOVE of Christmas
Love. That’s what I got, along with the 6th Dove, for my birthday (which was yesterday, the 18th). Love. My wife and three of my daughters to celebrate with me and a warm birthday wish from my oldest who is married now and lives in another state. Handmade cards from Alpha and Beta (with their touching and so interesting thoughts inside) and a lovely letter from Cassidy, my second oldest daughter.
The personal messages within meant the most to me. They tell me my wife and I haven’t missed the mark in raising them to be young adults with their heads on straight about what’s important.
I also got a surprise. From one of Cassidy’s friends—a young man—who wrote a touching letter about how over the past couple of years he has come to view me as the type of father figure, and man, he aspires to be. Now, I’m not a perfect man—far from it—but I do try to impart, in subtle ways, some of what I’ve learned in life to not just my children, but their friends too. His letter was an unexpected and heart-warming gift.
I don’t need material things. I have all that I need and lack for nothing. [And yes, I’m fortunate and blessed to say that, but my wife and I have worked hard for what we have.] I count my riches in the love that I receive and that I can, in turn, give to others (that deserve it), especially my family and those friends closest to me.
So, for my birthday, I got the greatest gift of all. Love.
I hope this holiday season, you all receive and give love in equal measure, as deserved.
And I hope you get chocolate. The kind you like and if that’s not what you want… then the sweetest treat you enjoy most. Like maybe a chocolate-dipped vanilla ice cream cone from Dairy Queen.
This one says: “Take advantage of every free moment you have.”
Some would say this advice is about being productive; don’t waste time. Squeeze every bit into producing something. That in and of itself is not bad advice. I believe the road to getting ahead in life—and creating a sustainable good one—is paved by effort.
My writing work is mostly done in my head (before it gets to screen or paper), so wherever I happen to be, I can also be working on something. Here, in this picture, you see the area next to my chair, by the fireplace, in our family room. It’s prepared for when I have those moments when I need to write down something I’ve just thought or to make a note. So, I believe we should always be conscious of moments—lulls in the day—that can be useful. But you don’t have to feel compelled to fill them with work. Many serve you better as a time for quick reflection… for thought.
For me, it could be a moment to pay attention to the course of events around me and step away from work inside my head. To catch the flash of my wife or daughters’ smile… or hear a low laugh that spills from some other part of the house; when my girls are chatting, seemingly amused or just enjoying themselves in their rooms… to overhear my wife talking with one of her friends and laughing together over something. To listen to Alpha and Beta singing—loudly—in their shower… the streams of it sometimes heard in the evening. Those moments make me appreciate that my wife and I have created a family environment where we all easily laugh and sing.
Or just now. A glance and I see movement around the Christmas tree… Murphy’s suddenly discovered his in-the-house ball had rolled under it and he’s belly crawling trying to get it. He looks over at me and pauses as if to say, “Give me a chance… I’ll get it.” I do, and he does. He takes it, climbs up on his chair with the Batman blanket in it, and he’s lying over there now alternating gnawing on the ball and looking at me. It’s just a moment, but I’m mindful of it and him. It—and he—makes me smile.
I guess what I’m advocating is that in our so demanding world of digital devices, alerts and reminders of a plugged in, multitasking and connected world… and in this holiday time of year that can be so hectic and hurried… that when we have a moment, take it for ourselves. Hear the sounds, see what’s around you—that makes you smile—and plug them firmly into memory. They come and go quickly, but they all add up… if we pay attention.
As I sit here typing this, pausing to take a drink of coffee, I hear my two youngest daughters getting ready for the last day of school before their Christmas and New Year’s break. I think of tomorrow when we make and bake our first batch of Christmas cookies. And you know when they come out of the oven, and that wonderful aroma fills the house, I’ll savor the sensation and appreciate the time with them to make those cookies. It will trigger thoughts (year after year it always does) to back when they were younger, shorter and had to stretch—or need help—to get at them. Little hands reaching up to the kitchen counter where the cookies cooled on sheets of aluminum foil. And I think of how they’ve all grown up, and what good and strong individuals they’ve become. Moments like that and more, make my day a better one.
I have to go now and want to leave you with this.
I hope that something in each and every day brings a smile to your face and a good feeling in your heart. Just remember they’re often there… hold them close and know there are more to come, if you pay attention to the moments.
The 8th DOVE of Christmas
I know that some of you do.
Others that I don’t know probably do too.
And I’m sure most–if not all– assholes don’t. They do the opposite, and no one likes them. 😉 No chocolate for them. Not from me anyway.
The 9th DOVE of Christmas
The 10th DOVE of Christmas
The 11th DOVE of Christmas
This one likely means—to many—to not let the clock rule you. To take the time to smell the roses and there is value in that. You should take time for yourself.
But another thought about time comes to mind.
I have a thing about it: focus on timeliness and being on time that preexisted the emphasis that military training, especially combat and force operations, instills in you. Time matters: Time on Target, Time to Impact, Course and Time to Intercept, Last Contact Time… Run Time, Elapsed Time Speed and Distance Target Motion Analysis. Relieve the Watch On Time. Time and Tide Wait for No Man. And on and on… So, I believe being disciplined with time is an integral part of success in life. But you have to make sure that it is spent on the things worth your time and on what’s important.
We all have work schedules. Even as a business owner/self-employed professional for 20+ years I have deadlines and a clock and calendar determined by what is negotiated in my contracts with clients and the demands and requirements of publishing and publication deadlines (including production and book manufacturing lead times and schedules).
But I believe there are times when people let someone else’s clock (not their job or work) rule their life. Others expect this or that from you… maybe you always say ‘yes’ to them when you should, more times than not, say no. For some reason, you feel obligated to do as they ask or are compelled to do it to curry favor. Sometimes you remain the gerbil on that wheel because you don’t know how to stop. And so you end up tense, frustrated and feeling life is out of your control.
If that’s how you’ve let things become, then it’s true. You don’t have control over your life. You’ve ceded that to someone else or to the whim of circumstance. Your life is governed by the ticking hands of someone else’s clock or that of fate. And that is the clock you should ignore.
We often use the words ‘spend’ or ‘give’ when it comes to time and how we use it. Both—to me—connote its intrinsic value. And as the years go by, we consider how it has been invested and have to be ever wiser with the care and management of what we (presumably) have left. Remember that the time you spend needs to be on what’s worthwhile and the time you give to anything or anyone… is never coming back. Treat time just as valuable as it truly is.
“How did it get so late so soon?” ―Dr. Seuss
The 12th DOVE of Christmas