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Artist Advent Calendar : Shannon Kinney-Duh from Kansas, USA

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My friend Shannon is an amazing, kind, creative coach and teacher who leads e-courses and yoga classes, and she is one of the most optimistic, friendly free spirits you could ever meet. She just gave birth to her third child, a baby boy, and she still took time out of her busy schedule to tell us about some of her favorite holiday traditions, enjoy!

I simply love this time of year.

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I’m one of those people who gets excited about the days getting shorter. The colder weather and the longer nights that force us to stay inside and snuggle – that’s my idea of a good time. I don’t know, maybe I was a bear in a former life, or maybe I’m just tired as I recently gave birth to my third baby boy, but I love surrendering to the busyness of life and hibernating in my cozy home. Nothing restores me more than those jammie days, with a pot of soup on the stove, a fire warming up the house, good coffee and lounging under a quilt with my knitting, some games, puzzles, books, movies and my boys.

And that’s pretty much a good description of my December.

I do love all the festivities of the season as well.  Getting together with friends, baking and cookie exchanges, seeing the Christmas lights, the decorations and other family traditions.

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One fun tradition that my kids just love is the 12 days of Christmas countdown. We have twelve boxes hanging in our dining room and each day, starting with the twelfth day before Christmas, the boys get to open one box each day where they discover a note inside.  The note might reveal that there’s a new Christmas book hidden in the house they have to find, or that we are having a pizza picnic for dinner.  It might say that it’s bonfire and hot chocolate night or that we are all going out for dinner and a play.  Regardless of what’s in the box, it’s the element of surprise that is just so darn fun.  And it’s the family time together that makes December extra special.

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It’s the surprises and the belief in magic that warms my heart and brings tears to my eyes this time of year. Watching my kids jump and bounce with pure excitement about all the little treasures they discover throughout the month is such a joy. The Christmas lights, decorating the tree, listening to Christmas music, watching The Grinch and Rudolph, baking cookies, making gifts, being of service to others, the delight of Christmas morning…

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And of course…the snow.

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I love the symbolism of winter as a time to go within. It’s that special time of year to return to solitude and stillness.  So to honor the coming of winter, on the solstice, we keep the lights off when the sun goes down that evening and instead use candles.  We play games and eat dinner by the fire, and share what we are thankful for. It’s also a time that I reflect on the past year and set my intentions for the new year to come.

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For 2013, my intention was this quote, “Wherever you go, go with your whole heart." After many healing moments this past year, including experiencing a natural birth that taught me I’m not scared anymore, I feel this intention guided me through an amazing year. 

My wishes for 2014 are to continue following my heart and live out my dreams big and bold, while walking slowly and staying present to the life I’m living now.

Be well, go slowly and enjoy your special moments.

Happy Holidays!

Thank you Shannon for the wintertime tour! Visit Shannon on her website,  check out her beautiful, inspiring art journaling e-course Inside Out: A Creative Adventure of Self-Discovery, and connect on facebook, twitter, and her blog.