Articles by Jim Gainan

As published in the Billings Gazette

Growing Up: Amidst the bustle of the season, let peace reign

A few years ago, when I first began writing this column, I was concerned about having enough content ideas to keep it fresh and relevant for the weekly venture. Happily, I have never realized that concern. There’s always something to share.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the word “peace”, what it means to me and how it could apply to Christmas decorating. I don’t have any idea where these disjointed thoughts come from, but I’ve learned to just go with them and see where they lead. Fortunately my fragmented thoughts were woven together in my head, as I shoveled the sidewalks this morning. So with Natalie Cole’s “Grown Up Christmas List” playing in the background and a fire lit, here goes. Almost six years ago, we started as a family of four. Our stockings hung on the fireplace from gold stocking hangers that spelled the word NOEL.

A lot of growing, learning and blending later, we became a family of five. That Christmas my search for stocking hangers made with a five letter word began to replace the one letter short NOEL version we had used in past years. Stocking hangers that made up the word PEACE found me somewhere between Pottery Barn and Restoration I thought “Hurray, it’s done…I’ve found the right word!” At the time I was completing a literal task. I needed a Christmas word with five letters so that my young son would have a letter to hang his stocking from. There was no deep spiritual reason for choosing PEACE; I just needed a five letter word.

It wasn’t until this year during our fourth Christmas set-up — while opening the sea of green Rubbermaid containers — that I realized why these letters had made their way into my life. As I pulled each letter out of the box amid the sea of permanent garlands, each letter struck me because, just four years later, I recognized the intrinsic value of peace in my life. As I look back at the time when our family was blending and expanding, if nothing else, my unconscious choice of the word PEACE may have been wishful thinking. We were not immune to the normal chaos and conflict that is the natural bi-product of such a life-altering journey.

I will say that the Christmas season with all its wonder and complications, truly came alive in for me in my heart while experiencing it with “the girls.” Now 12 and 10 respectively they’ve become little women in the blink of an eye. Having a young son who at the age of three is just beginning to understand the Christmas season, I can now reflect on and fully recognize the gift that I was given by being present during the girls’ similar process over the last seven years.

 I have to admit it’s a little disappointing to me that it took putting five letters on the mantle to realize the importance the word PEACE had in my life, but I recognize that truths reveal themselves when they are supposed to. Peace is defined as “a state of tranquility or quiet; freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions; harmony in personal relations”. Clearly making this a central truth in my life would take more than stocking hangers. It’s amazing how something that seems so simple can be so hard to remember when it’s most needed.

Conflict and negativity are easy and many times a justifiable stance to take when confronted with the issues of life. But taking the bait and wearing that cloak creates a burden in my life that I now recognize and seek to remove each time it creeps in.

In terms of decorating, if peace is something you seek for yourself and your guests there are a few essential elements to remember:

Monochromatic color schemes are best.

Choose one color and keeping the tones the same.

Limit opposing textures to 3 to 5.

Mixing colors just like lively conversation and passionate debate are a great part of life. If you are decorating for a party that is going to last one night — mix it up. The contrast creates excitement and heightened emotion. But, living like that every day can be exhausting. I think it’s important to have a place that is conducive to enter into the quiet and experience one of the best gifts you can give yourself and others — peace.

Getting quiet is always good. In the stillness, clarity emerges. In the breath the answers reveal themselves, and in between, there is peace. – UNKNOWN