Monday, December 31, 2018

Welcome, 2019!

"Cheers to a new year and 
another chance for us to get it right." 
~Oprah Winfrey


Cindy La Ferle

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Monday, December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas to all

"On Christmas, all roads lead home." 
~Marjorie Holmes

Cindy La Ferle

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I'm sending my very best wishes to all of you along with my gratitude for the many thoughtful emails you've sent throughout the year. Please note that I'm on a holiday break, starting today. Subscribers will receive notice as soon as I resume posting. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! ~Cindy La Ferle

Friday, December 21, 2018

Weekend column: Hope shines in a dark season

"Faith could be called a kind of whistling in the dark."  
~Frederick Buechner

Cindy La Ferle

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The Christmas season is an emotionally challenging time for people who are grieving the loss of loved ones. Last week, I received a Christmas card with a beautiful thank-you letter from Lynette Ruhlman, a woman in my community. The letter was written near the anniversary of the death of her son, Scott. Lynette reminded me of the Daily Tribune column I wrote a few days before Christmas, 17 years ago, and I was moved to pull it from my files to share with you. The piece is included in my book, Writing Home, and reprinted here in Scott Ruhlman's memory. . .  

Hope Shines in a Dark Season
 December 23, 2001

Three years ago, I decorated my kitchen window with a set of miniature white lights. I don’t recall where I got the idea, but I wound those tiny lights around a yard of silk grapevine leaves and the effect was magical. It cheered me up on the gloomiest winter evenings. I enjoyed the lights so much, in fact, that I never took them down. As far as I know, there's no interior design rule banning twinkle lights after the holiday season.

As it is, I’ve always had an uneasy relationship with Christmas. I love its essence, the message at its core, but I don’t like the way we’ve commercialized it. And this year, especially, Christmas seems more like a bizarre intrusion than a holiday. Still reeling from September 11, the whole country is in a recovery mode. 

Locally, it’s harder to feel festive because of a young man named Scott, an athletic high school student who died December 9 after a long, unfathomable illness. 

I didn’t know Scott personally. But I know Scott’s mother, Lynette, because our children have attended Shrine Catholic Schools since kindergarten. Everyone in this community admired Lynette’s grace and strength while Scott lingered in a coma at the hospital. We all kept track of his progress, and we all prayed night and day that he’d recover and return to baseball games and high school dances. 

His death at seventeen, so unfair and inexplicable, and so close to Christmas, left a hole the size of Colorado in our hearts. But Scott’s passing also served as a lesson in need of review: Our stay on Earth is unpredictable and we must savor the gift of every hour we’re given.  

So, ready or not, Christmas comes on Tuesday. It’s hanging like a star above our heads or a burden on our backs, depending on how we choose to see it. Or, as Anne Lamott wrote, “We must remind ourselves that you can only see the stars when it is dark, and the darker it is, the brighter the light breaking through.” 

I remembered this while sitting in an Advent meditation service a few evenings ago. I hadn’t been to church in a while; my recent hip replacement surgery had worked as an excuse to avoid getting up early on Sunday mornings. 

But after I settled into place in the sanctuary, decorated with greens for the season and softly lit with candles, it occurred to me that lately I’d been preoccupied with fear and suffering – my own and everyone else’s. Ever since September 11, I felt as if I’d been wandering around the living room with the lights turned off, wondering why I kept tripping on all the furniture. So I asked God to help me rekindle a small light, just a glimmer of Christmas spirit, in my closed heart. Then I went home. 

Later, I plugged in the white twinkle lights around my kitchen window. I began a mental list of the miracles that have glimmered through recent crises, local and national. 

I recalled the loving support of my family and friends, the skill of my orthopedic surgeon, the generosity of neighbors and parishioners who bake casseroles for grieving families like Scott’s, the selfless efforts of the rescue teams at Ground Zero, and the valor of mothers who lose children but never lose faith. The list went on.  

Then I understood. For all we’ve endured, we have every reason to sustain hope. We need the hopeful message of Christmas all year long, and maybe a small string of white lights to remember it. ~Cindy La Ferle
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This column was originally published on December 23, 2001, in The Daily Tribune of Royal Oak. It is also reprinted in my book, Writing Home.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Realistic expectations

"There are two ways to be happy: 
Improve your reality 
or lower your expectations." 
~Jodi Picoult


Apollo's Holiday Hairdo - 2018 / Cindy La Ferle

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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Gifting

"We rise by lifting others." 
~Robert Ingersoll

Wrapping up / Cindy La Ferle

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Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Ringing in the new

"Plans change. People disappoint. Traditions expire. Release your expectations for the holidays and be open to surprise." ~Cheryl Richardson


Christmas on Washington Blvd., Royal Oak / Cindy La Ferle

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Monday, December 17, 2018

Making time for yourself

"Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others."  ~BrenĂ© Brown

Samantha's spot / Cindy La Ferle

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Saturday, December 15, 2018

Weekend column: Practicing yoga with my mother-in-law

"For me, fitness is not just about hitting the gym; it is also about an inner happiness and an overall well-being." ~Rakul Preet Singh


Cindy La Ferle

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Had you told me three years ago that I’d be practicing yoga or pressing weights with my mother-in-law, I would've laughed out loud. Since my late forties, I’ve struggled to find a fitness routine that won't strain my bilateral hip replacements. Everything I tried in the past, from Hatha yoga to zumba, left me feeling sore, exhausted, and humiliated -- and eager for the classes to end. 

Like any seasoned mother-in-law, mine has a solution for nearly any problem. At our family gatherings, she often raved about her aerobics and chair yoga classes at the Clawson Senior Community Center. "You're welcome to join us," she'd remind me.  
Even after turning 60, I wasn’t quite sure if I qualified for “senior activities” at any local community center. Or maybe I just didn’t want to believe I did. Either way, I heard my wake-up call after my family physician expressed concern about cardiovascular issues during my routine health exam. For starters, the doctor suggested a regular exercise program in addition to daily walks with my dog.   
Just as my mother-in-law predicted, I was hooked after trying my first fitness class at the Senior Center. Within six weeks, I found that attending classes consistently was yielding positive results – without the pain or shame I’d experienced in other workout programs. 
Getting my rear in gear
Having an ongoing fitness program within a ten-minute drive from home helps to keep me motivated. (My mother-in-law tracks my attendance, too.) Furthermore, since I'm not competitive or athletic, I'm much happier moving at my own pace with others who aren't interested in showing off at the gym. And that's why these classes are actually fun

The chair yoga classes, offered early on Monday and Friday mornings, have provided a minor breakthrough for me.  I can even strike the warrior poses without toppling over or dislocating my titanium hips. Experienced instructors offer a gentler version of yoga poses while incorporating the deep breathing and mind-body benefits of traditional yoga practices. Though we work primarily from a seated position, we're often guided through a series of standing poses for balance, too. 

In the chair exercise classes (every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday), guided routines using resistance bands and hand weights are performed with music. The stretches have helped ease the chronic pain in my arthritic right shoulder. 

And if I'm ready for a full-body workout, I can stay for an additional half hour of aerobics -- I'd call it Jazzercise Lite -- after the chair exercise class. 
Fun and fitness
“Our fitness classes are designed to make it easier for people with physical limitations to lead a healthier lifestyle and feel better about themselves,” explains Karen Kmiecik, a certified instructor who leads the chair exercise programs at the Senior Center. 
Karen recommends working out three times weekly to achieve the full benefits of any exercise program. Her lifelong devotion to health and fitness makes her look years younger -- an inspiration to us all. 
Along with her nonstop sense of humor, Karen's enthusiasm keeps us all coming back, week after week. She knows everyone in our chair exercise class by name. She also understands our individual limitations, and is quick to remind us to take it easy if any exercise is uncomfortable. 
No matter what shape you’re in, it’s never too late to start a fitness routine. Whenever I’m tempted to skip a class, I think of the energetic men and women who attend regularly -- some of whom are well past 80. If they can do it, so can I. Or so my mother-in-law reminds me. ~Cindy La Ferle
The Clawson Senior Center is located at 509 Fisher Court, Clawson, MI 48017. For a monthly schedule of fitness and yoga classes, phone 248-583-6700 or click here for contact info. Classes are free to the public; donations welcome.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Funny Friday: Cooking for company

"My doctor told me I had to stop throwing intimate dinners for four unless there are three other people." ~Orson Welles


Cindy La Ferle

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Thursday, December 13, 2018

Unconditional generosity

“Love your neighbors, even the ones who do not show you the same courtesy. You can’t expect to receive love if you’re selective and not really willing to give it. What you put into the world, you will indeed get back -- even if it’s not from the person you’re expecting it to be.” ~Alexandra Elle



Cindy La Ferle
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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Cheerfulness

“The belief that unhappiness is selfless and happiness is selfish is misguided. It's more selfless to act happy. It takes energy, generosity, and discipline to be unfailingly lighthearted today, yet everyone takes the happy person for granted."~Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project


Cindy La Ferle

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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Not playing small

“The next time you decide to withhold your help, your gratitude, your affection, a compliment, or your support for another person, ask yourself a simple question: Do the reasons you want to withhold it reflect more on them or on you? ~Dan Pearce


Cindy La Ferle

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Monday, December 10, 2018

People who light our way

“Surround yourself with the dreamers, the doers, the believers, and the thinkers. But most of all, surround yourself with positive people who see the best within you, even when you don’t see it yourself.” ~Edmund Lee

Cindy La Ferle

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Saturday, December 8, 2018

Weekend column: Being there

“In prosperity our friends know us;  in adversity we know our friends.” ~ John Churton Collins

Cindy La Ferle

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It was almost midnight. My husband and I had just returned home after spending eight grueling hours in the emergency room with my elderly mother, who had fallen and fractured her ankle earlier that day. Staggering like zombies into the kitchen, we were surprised to discover that our dear friend and neighbor, Matilda, had left a warm pot of minestrone on the stove -- and even fed the cats in our absence.  
That was more than six years ago, and my mother has since passed away. But I've never forgotten how comforting it was to be on the receiving end of such a thoughtful gesture. 
Once we hit midlife, it seems, family emergencies and health crises seem to crop up as quickly as forehead wrinkles and under-eye bags. Suddenly, we’re spending more time caring for elders, visiting hospitals, attending funerals, and answering twice as many calls in the middle of the night.
More than prayers and platitudes, we need reliable shoulders to lean on.  Sometimes we need hands-on, roll-up-your-sleeves assistance and emotional support. Sometimes we need check-in phone calls. Sometimes we need a homemade casserole.
How to help

I’ll be the first to admit that being fully present for a loved one in crisis isn't always possible. We’re all sandwiched tightly between our own commitments and good intentions, and it can take a herculean effort just to pop a greeting card in the mail. It's much easier to send a text or a Facebook message and be done with it.
But showing up for someone needn't be complicated. Most folks appreciate simple acts of kindness that answer their basic needs.  
During another time when my mother was in the hospital, for instance, my husband and I didn’t have much time to grocery shop. At exactly the right moment, a Fed Ex delivery guy arrived at our door with a gift box of fresh fruit and nuts from a couple of our friends. “This will give you the energy you need to keep going. We love you guys,” the accompanying note read. 
Others phoned to inquire about my own well-being as well as my mom's condition after her surgery. Like good therapy, those calls helped ease my stress and made me feel less isolated. Every comforting gesture, in fact, lifted my spirit and helped me face each unpredictable day at the hospital. 
Friends in deed
This time of year is especially trying for anyone dealing with a family crisis, illness, or the loss of a loved one. 
In her recent holiday blog, author Cheryl Richardson explains the importance of providing tangible help to our friends and family members.  
"Right now, there's someone you care about who is burdened by a project they feel unequipped to handle," Richardson says. "Instead of spending money on gifts, why not offer to help out?" She suggests assisting a family member who has trouble getting organized, or offering to help a busy friend with holiday decorating.
Other ideas: Offer to babysit the kids of working friends who need free time for Christmas shopping. Or bake an extra batch of cookies for a grieving family. Whatever the need, don't wait to be asked. Most people aren't comfortable requesting help or favors, even when they're overburdened. 
Closer in crisis

Difficult times provide opportunities to strengthen relationships -- whether you're the one who's giving or receiving help. We grow closer to friends and relatives who are willing to sit with us in the trenches while we battle our toughest challenges. 

I was numb and depressed during the first two years after my mother died. Friends who understood my exhaustion -- as well as the depth of my loss -- could see that I wasn't myself and needed time to recover. They understood that I needed more than lunch dates and shopping sprees. Those friends were available to listen and offer emotional support. And they didn't take it personally when I had to pull back from normal activities. 
All said and done, most of us have a list of casual friends who'll meet us for dinner and show up at our cocktail parties. We need those good-time friendships, too. But there's no substitute for true friends of the soul -- the ones who keep us glued together and nourished during a full-blown crisis. 

As Oprah Winfrey puts it, “Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.” It also helps to have friends who can make an awesome kettle of minestrone. -- Cindy La Ferle
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*Part of this post was originally published in Michigan Prime magazine. 

Friday, December 7, 2018

Funny Friday: Christmas sweaters

"Christmas sweaters are only
 acceptable as a cry for help." 

~Andy Borowitz


Remy's first Christmas sweater / Cindy La Ferle

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Thursday, December 6, 2018

Small accomplishments

“Don’t be afraid to give your best to seemingly small jobs. Every time you conquer one it makes you that much stronger. If you do the little jobs well, the big ones will tend to take care of themselves.” ~Dale Carnegie


Cindy La Ferle

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Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Telling it like it is

"The word 'politics' has become a euphemism for 'things we don't agree on.'" ~Adam Hamilton on NPR



Snow job / Cindy La Ferle

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Tuesday, December 4, 2018

People who encourage us

“I want to show up in life in such a way that you feel encouraged in my presence. Not just applauded, but deeply hopeful.” ~Shasta Nelson, Friendships Don't Just Happen


Brys Estate & Winery / Cindy La Ferle
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Monday, December 3, 2018

Finding the way

"You may think you're utterly lost, but brush away the leaves, wait for the clouds to clear, and you'll see your destiny shining as brightly as ever: the fixed point in the constantly changing constellations of your life." ~Martha Beck, Finding Your Own North Star


Cindy La Ferle

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Saturday, December 1, 2018

Giving books as gifts

“A book is a gift you can open again and again.” ~Garrison Keillor

Cindy La Ferle
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I've never been comfortable with self-promotion -- despite the fact that social media sites have turned boasting into an art form. So, I'd like to point out that I'm not merely trying to persuade you to buy my book as a holiday gift this year. I'm also hoping you'll buy dozens of other books -- or that you'll at least consider the gift of reading for the people on your list. 

Books deliver information and entertainment. They introduce us to different worlds, expand our viewpoints, increase our understanding of others and ourselves, and even provide stress relief. Anyone who's ever curled up with a riveting novel on a wintery afternoon knows that reading is the next best thing to a real vacation. 

Even if you don't purchase my book for your loved ones this season, please ask your local bookseller to help you match another book with their interests -- or consider gifting them with a classic novel or biography you've read and loved. 

In the Detroit area, you'll find copies of Writing Home at Yellow Door Art Market in Berkley and at Paper Trail Bookstore in downtown Royal Oak. To learn more about my book, click here. ~Cindy La Ferle