Feng Shui Simplicity, Thanksgiving Greeting Cards and the Madness of the Season: How to Opt-Out

I just saw an ad for Hallmark Thanksgiving cards. At first I thought it was a typo, so I Googled it and according to Hallmark, Inc. 17 million Thanksgiving cards are sent each year: 63% are given to family and 23% go to friends. This years’ selection includes audio cards with “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge, “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen, and the NFL “Heavy Action” theme.

Thanksgiving Greeting Cards
Do you want to add Thanksgiving greeting cards to your holiday frenzy?

What happened to getting together with family and friends for a wonderful meal, connection with each other, and a chance to count our blessings?  The media and the marketplace are saying that is not enough. You must serve a gargantuan meal, preceded by plenty of snacks to eat while the turkey is in the oven. All so we can eat ourselves to the point of feeling ill. But wait, there is more!

Not only do you have to cook a gourmet meal, you have to clean the house to spotlessness and then decorate it. Your dining table and coffee table and mantelpiece must be festooned with seasonal garlands and candles and figurines.

Now Hallmark, Inc is just one of thousands of companies that want you to do more and spend more for this once quiet holiday. You have a choice. You do not have to get caught up in this madness.

You want to make connection with family and friends the focus of the day/weekend. Make the meal and the day simpler for you. Take the pressure off yourself and Keep it Simple.

Clean your house, yes, but it does not have to be perfect. Martha Stewart will not be making a personal inspection of your home.

Make Thanksgiving a pot-luck meal. Simplify your menu and ask people to bring side dishes and desserts. If Uncle Stanley absolutely must have a particular dish, then he, or his wife Aunt Millie, can bring it. Just let everyone know in advance your kitchen is only available for pot luck warm up, not for food preparation. Share the culinary glory and the work.

Simplify your decorations. If you have grandchildren or nieces and nephews – ask them to bring the decorations. A hand-print turkey or drawing of the Pilgrims and the Indians is the best decoration. A few well placed candles – on your dining table and/or mantel – can add to the coziness of the occasion. If you have little ones running around, then forget the candles. Simply pull out the kitschy turkey salt and pepper shakers you got years ago and leave it at that. Remember, décor is to support a feeling of warmth and fond memories, not to create a “Wow reaction.”

Whether you have a family you truly enjoy or one that you can only tolerate, give yourself some time away from all the people and activity. Go for a walk before or after the meal; or the day after. Find a quiet corner to read, or take a nap – you deserve it.

The focus is connection with those you love. This is not a competition. The perfect food and the perfect décor will not make this a perfect holiday. You are not responsible for the happiness of others. We all make our own happiness. Take care of yourself: “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” (I say this because most of my readers are women. But this applies to men too.)

And remember – after Thanksgiving you have only 29 days until the next blow-out holiday extravaganza: Christmas! And, only six days until the first day of Chanukah. More on that in next month’s news letter.

Now I will step-down from my soap-box. 😉

Have a Happy and Sane Thanksgiving!

Feng Shui Holiday Spirit: Give Experiences Instead of “Stuff” This Holiday Season

Stuck in Back Bay traffic last week, (it was the Speedo Santa 5K Run – don’t ask) I saw a sign on a church “Live the Gift”, which I misread as “Give Life.”  This is what I have been thinking during this hyped holiday shopping season. This time of year all the joy of the season gets trampled by the frenzy of shopping, holiday performances and obligatory social events. Instead of fighting the crowds at the mall give experiences that can be renewed during the doldrums of January and February. “Give Life” Experiences, they make the best memories. Sometimes it is good to have mild dyslexia.

We do not remember days, we remember moments.Cesare Pavese

hot cocoa with marshmallows makes the best memories

Hot cocoa makes the best memories

The most powerful moments are the shared simple ones, not the big bang of going to Disney World or on a cruise. Instead of “stuff” that too quickly becomes clutter or big events that become endurance trials, give those you love the gift of you, your time and attention.

Write out a “gift certificate” or coupon with your gift written out. You can include a copy of the cookie or pizza recipe, a mini candy cane, a list of videos, a copy of the book to be read together, or a map of the hike path (even hand drawn is great). Include a date for the shared time together or at least an expiration date and follow-up to make time together, soon.

Here are some ideas for memorable shared moments:

  • Making cookies or pizza together in the kitchen
  • Bird watching or a hike together in the woods
  • Spend an afternoon at your local museum or historical site.
  • Snow is for more than shoveling – build a snowman or have a snowball fight.
  • Have REAL hot cocoa (not from a mix) with peppermint sticks or mini-marshmallows to warm up with afterward.
  • Find a hill and sled down – if you don’t have a snow sled or saucer improvise with a plastic trash can lid or a big piece of corrugated cardboard. Improvising adds to the fun and memories.
  • Read aloud from a favorite book – Harry Potter or Little Women can fill many a cold and dreary afternoon or evening.
  • Purchase admission to a class or lecture on a topic of interest that you share with a friend or family member. Go together, learn and have great fun.
  • Rent or borrow from the library some great classic videos and enjoy with homemade popcorn. Add grated parmesan cheese and/or cayenne pepper to your hot popcorn.
  • Have tea/coffee and chat with a good friend at a pastry shop or at your place. (It is OK to buy your delicacies rather than make from scratch.) The main thing is relaxed time together with your friend to catch-up.

What do you do to create shared moments with family and friends? The goal is connection with the people who are important to you, not a perfect event.

photo by gail at the pink peppercorn

Lighting the Holiday Table Brings People Together

The best part of the holidays is reconnecting with those you love most.

Enhance people-to-people connection by lighting your dining table

Think of the glowing faces of family and friends around your table.  Fine-tuning your lighting can create this powerful bonding environment.

Lighting the holiday table is more than mere illumination. Feng Shui tells us light is a form of energy. Interior Psychology points out that human beings are drawn to light and avoid the dark. Lighting is a powerful tool for bringing people together – if you know how to use it.

lighting the holiday table
Lighting the holiday table brightens the faces of family and friends, literally.

Think of the archetypal camp fire and how it invites everyone to gather ‘round. It’s in that circle we make eye contact and strengthen our deepest connections. Gathering at the holiday table (no matter its shape) is the place for such connections.

Enhance connections with the people you love most by bringing light to the center of your dining table: pendant light, chandelier or cluster of candles.

– Dim light around the edges of the room will enhance this feeling and gather people together. 
– Recessed ceiling lights alone give a room all the warmth of a hotel lobby.
– Not only does this work for the holidays, it works for any time your family gathers for a meal.

Want help creating a home that helps friends and family connect with each other? Contact me

What part of your holiday table (besides the food ;-D ) makes you the happiest? Share your ideas in the comments below.

photo by thskyt

Feng Shui and the Power of Photos: Tap into their Chi

As you may know, I believe personal mementos can be powerful Feng Shui cures. During a consultation, when I ask a client “Tell me about this [photo/painting/knick-knack]” and their face lights-up, I know I have just witnessed their personal Chi rise. Raising or enhancing  your personal Chi is an important part of what Feng Shui cures do for you.

Feng Shui family photo with positive chi.
Love, joy and Chi radiate from this family photo. These are the kind of photos that energize the Chi of a space as well as your personal Chi.

While traditional Feng Shui cures are great, personal treasures with powerful positive emotional associations and energetic impact are your best cures. They may already be in your home simply waiting to be discovered.
This article will briefly explore:

  • The Power of photos and personal mementos
  • The importance of up-to-date photos to celebrate your current blessings, and
  • How to use the energy of the past and present to enhance the future.

In some clients’ homes I will see delightful photos of family, friends, and special places, but these photos are from years ago. When I ask if they have any current photos, I may get a genuinely puzzled response. Honoring the past is important, but you also need to actively celebrate you current blessings in the form of photos and mementos of the people, places and events you love the most.

Chi expresses itself in space and time. The Chi that radiates-off mementos of the past combined with the Chi connected to reminders of your blessings in the present creates a powerful energetic momentum for blessings in the future.  I am NOT suggesting you turn your home into a gallery of photos or museum of mementos, but be conscious of having reminders of your present life blessings where you can see them and be aware.

As the holidays approach, this is a great time to plan for snapshots of your favorite people and events. Then, make sure to get those pictures out of your camera and off your computer to a local or online photo developer and display them!

On a personal note  – I am on the hunt for a frame for a great photo of my brother and sister-in-law taken on a day trip to Santa Barbara. I look forward to again seeing their happy faces on that day.

photo by fuzzysaurus

Living Room and Family Room Furniture Placement: Close the Gap and Avoid Shouting Distance

“A number of relatives whom I love dearly suffer from progressive hearing loss significant enough to require the speaker to shout. I find it nearly impossible to do this when carrying on a conversation without sounding harsh and without my sentiments eventually changing to match my voice. How do I maintain a conversational tone when speaking at top decibel.”

The above was a letter to a Boston Globe etiquette advice columnist. The writer brilliantly identified the problem: that when she had to shout to be heard, her emotions soon followed with harsh feelings.

Couple sitting too far apart, straining to talk.

While you may not have relatives with significant hearing loss, the wrong arrangement of furniture in a gathering room can have the same effect – people shouting at each other with voices and feelings becoming harsh.

Architectural Psychology has studied this phenomenon and measured what is the ideal distance, face-to-face, for relaxed conversation.  It is 2-4 feet, the measurement nose-to-nose, or more significantly eye-to-eye and ear-to-ear. Beyond that distance you will have to stretch your voice and energy to connect. And then you wonder why everyone avoids that room, or why television watching is the only activity in that space.

An example is the photo at right which shows a couple seated on park benches too far apart for easy conversation. The woman in the photo is sitting on the edge of her seat and leaning forward in an attempt to bridge the interpersonal distance between herself and the man.

Most people reflexively place their furniture against the walls. This is often shown in decorating magazines and television shows with the thought this makes the room look larger. What is lost is a sense of connection and coziness.  But furniture, even in smaller homes, should be arranged for ease of conversation.  Ideally, cluster your furniture for relaxed speaking and good eye contact when you gather with friends and family.

  • Working with a client I reconfigured her sectional sofa, so the seats – and her family members – faced each other, instead of the television. She was extremely happy with the significant improvement in family interactions this simple change created.
  • Another client told me moving her son’s favorite chair 18 inches brought him into the family conversational circle and a greater sense of inclusion in her family – and no was aware of his feeling of being on the periphery until after the change.
  • The solution can be as simple as moving chairs and sofas 6 inches closer to each other.
  • Or you may need to “float” a conversational grouping in the room – and anchor it in relation to a fireplace or window.

Photo by  clairity