New Year's night is a melancholy time. You're coming off the high of the holidays and trying to squeeze out those last few precious moments of escaping reality before returning to work. It's ironic - we bring in the new year with celebrations and resolutions to improve and make the coming year better, but we're forced to return to the same old routine on January 2 and face the challenges of bring in new resolve to the same old things, day after day.
Getting back into the routine will be hard tomorrow. There's no sleeping in tomorrow morning. No more slow starts to the day. No taking it slow through the morning and afternoon. No twinking lights on the porch and window to welcome me home from work. No cards in the mail with well wishes. No parties or celebrations on the calendar. All the presents have been given. The cards have been sent. The Christmas decorations are down and packed away and the house is cleaned. Celebrations have been had with family and friends. It's nothing but the alarm going off at six in the morning to launch me into another day; one that will look much like the days before the holidays were upon us. Supper to put on the table after work. Get on the treadmill. Play with the birds. Work on writing or keep house. Go to bed. Repeat the next day. Two day weekend reprieves after every five days of work to catch up on what didn't get done during the week. Nothing on the calendar but meetings and appointments to prepare for and the humdrum of the everyday again.
It can be depressing. And yet, maybe now. Maybe this dormant period, this period of dullness, is exactly what we need to start again. Perhaps what we need is not newness of our situation, but newness of how we approach the life we have, day in and day out. 99% of living is done in the mundane of the everyday. If we are to accomplish that resolve for change; if we are to improve; we must do it within the life we have. Change comes through dealing with the everyday in new and different ways. It comes from altering our perspective of that same old routine. It comes with determination to do it right, to do it better, to do it more effectively, than the way we did it before.
It's a challenge. I look ahead and see miles of the same old road I always walk, wondering how I can walk it better. That's the real purpose of resolutions, isn't it? To be better. To do better. To make small changes that lead to big, powerful results that light up that road with hope and a future.
So this new years night, I ponder how I'll make this walk a better one than it was in 2012. I look at what I have and study it to see how I can do things better through creating better balance. It's an ongoing challenge, but one I believe I'm up to.
Happy New Year, everybody. I hope your holiday season was merry and bright, and that you're starting out 2013 with good plans and hope for a bright future.
Rick and I made the somewhat unsettling realization today that time's up. Oh, there are 2 weekends before Christmas, but both of those weekends are full of plans. Time's up on the gift buying and holiday prep for us. From here on out, all we can do is ride it out - and squeeze in the last of the "to do's" on lunch hours or any other brief intervals that we find a break.
I think this is the case with a lot of people. The second week of December is when "crunch time" hits. People are in a hustle to get things done, everything piles up, and stress levels skyrocket to astronomical levels. I look for a lot of traffic and accidents on the Interstates as people hustle to get those loose ends tied up before gearing up for those holiday festivities, be it last minute meetings, a hustle to knock out the shopping, rushing to holiday parties, or making preparations or travel arrangements for family gatherings. No doubt, some will hold out until the last minute, hoping for a Christmas miracle that seems to elude them every year but for some reason they believe this will be the year it works (or they believe that Mayan Doomsday crap and think the world is gonna end before Christmas, so why bother?).
I'm right in there in the thick of it with you, folks, and I'm here today to share some tips I've learned from 37 years of Christmases to help you manage that load and get things done without anxiety attacks, pulling hair, or drinking an entire liquor store. This year instead of panicing, why don't you try:
1. Letting go of unnecessary things. Is there something in your life that you can put on hiatus until January? If so, put it on hold.I usually don't work on new writing projects during the month of December. It's just too frustrating to try to hammer writing time into my schedule when it's already packed with so many other things. I still do promotional things for my published works, but that's not as time consuming as writing, rewrites, edits, proofreads, etc. Are there any projects or volunteer activities that you can shelve for a month? It might be worth it to free up your schedule - and your mind.
2. Making plans, not excuses. I know some people who spend so much time making excuses for not doing what they're supposed to do that they could have just gotten it done in less time. What a waste. Stop procrastinating and rehearsing excuses for why things didn't get done. Take some time to sit down with your schedule, make a list of what needs to be done, and organize a schedule to do as much as you reasonably can. This is actually how I manage my "to do" list. It's amazing how quickly you can knock that list out if you commit to doing 2 things on it a day, and take advantage of open time that you find.
3. Taking occasional breaks. Don't jam pack your schedule. Have at least 30 minutes to an hour a day that's free for you to do what you please. You're going to burn out if you don't have some time each day to relax and recharge your batteries. Likewise, plan some activities you enjoy in there, even if they don't have anything to do with the holidays. Rick and I, for example, already have our tickets to see The Hobbit next Saturday. That's going to be our break from the work/home/family/friends/volunteer/whateverelseneedsourattention demands of life next weekend.
4. Getting enough sleep. A lot of people tout the benefits of getting up extra early or staying up late to get things done, when there are fewer distractions. I've found that this might be beneficial every once in a while, but as a regular part of life it's counterproductive. You aren't as effective if you're tired, and you get more done if you're well rested and energetic. Likewise, it's better for your health because skimping on sleep actually makes you more prone to catching illnesses (and plenty are going around). Go to bed on time every night and get up on time every morning. Keeping a steady daily schedule is the best thing you can do. I've found that I get much more accomplished during the day if I get my 7-8 hours of sleep every night.
5. Rewarding yourself for accomplishments. I know time and money are tight this time of year, but try to find ways to reward yourself for getting major things done every now and then. Buy yourself a little something when you finish the holiday shopping that you're sure nobody else will get you. Take a couple of hours off to read, engage in a hobby, play a game, or watch TV when you get the Christmas cards written. Take time out to surf online media or call a friend when you get the house cleaned. Take a break at work when you get a major thing wrapped up to take a short walk. Find small ways to reward youself for a job well done and you'll find yourself motivated to stay the course and cross the finish line to a great holiday.
Yes, it's crunch time folks, but that doesn't mean we have to be crushed under the weight of all that needs to be done. With some self-discipline and planning we'll make it. Because Christmas is coming on December 25 whether you're ready or not. The best way to be ready when it arrives is to prepare and work steadily toward the goals for that day ahead of time.
That's all today. Take care and I hope you have a great start to the new week.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! When the people are stressing and everyone’s venting and fretting their fears!
I don’t mean to sound cynical. The truth is that I really do enjoy the holidays. The problem is that people tend to lose their patience a bit faster this time of year. Packed schedules, gift buying conundrums, shorter days and increased traffic generally lead to shorter fuses, frayed nerves, and a general increase in spontaneous
outbursts. Not only that, but people that suffer with anxiety and depression disorders typically have extra struggles this time of year, as we go into colder weather, shorter days, heightened stress, and being forced to deal with family and friend issues that we successfully dodge the other 11 months of the year.
Might as well throw it out there, eh? Well, I see no reason to around the issue. Look at the pink elephant in the room, everybody! Seriously, I know we love our families and friends, but we get frustrated with them too. And
if it isn’t your own then it’s in-laws, out-laws, nosy neighbors, toxic friends, annoying colleagues, drama queens, and those distant branches you’d really like to prune from the tree altogether but can’t because the Lord has put them in your life to rub off your raw edges and you can’t get away no matter how hard you’ve tried. And you probably have run from them screaming on countless occasions, just to have them come back for another round of fun and shenanagins.
I touched on this recently in a blog entry about feeling like peoples’ intake valve. A good look around showed me that I’m not alone. It’s getting to everybody. And geeze, Thanksgiving was early, so we have an extra week of it to enjoy this year.
Truth be told, it is a lot for even the most stable, well balanced individual to deal with. I know my life is busy enough on a normal basis, so adding Christmas shopping, parties, and increased get-togethers can stretch me a bit thin. I try to keep it in balance, but sometimes that turns in to a juggling act and for a klutz like me, that can be something.
It seems to me that life is a lot like a jack-in-the-box. You’ll be bopping along to your merry little tune, and suddenly somebody or something will get in your face. It scares the hell out of you. And those clowns seem to
jump at us more this time of year than any other.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 37 years roaming this earth, it’s that you have to learn to find and hold on to your own peace. If you’re doing your best, then there’s no point in stressing or worrying about things. In addition, you shouldn’t volunteer to take on other peoples’ problems either. People will try to push their problems on you, but you don’t have to accept it. You can support them. You can listen to them. If there’s anything you
can do to help, by all means do. But learn that you can’t move Heaven and earth, and if that’s what it takes to make the world happy, well, they’re SOL and that’s it. Be ok with imperfection. Learn to accept your best and make it clear that others in your life need to learn to accept it or find the door. And by all means, when those clowns pop in your face, don’t flinch.
That’s the real secret – it’s being grounded in right things and insisting on holding on to your peace and joy no matter what life throws at you. Whatever people say or do, whatever happens, whatever situations you face, believe that you have what you need to get through and that all things will work together for good. It takes
some work to do this, but inner peace is something that only you can find, and you must defend it from the attacks that will always come.
So this holiday season, claim your peace. Find your balance. Accept your best. And don’t flinch.
That’s all today. Next time, I’ll share my “poinsettia delimma” with you. And if you think the jack-in-the-box analogy was something, wait until you hear my “cheeseburger basket and a drive by wave” theory. For now, enjoy this video sure to put you in the holiday spirit - an oldie but a goodie.
As we head into the chaotic holiday season, I’d like to offer a few more tips on how to get great customer service.I’ve already offered some in an entry earlier this year, but now I’d like to expand to give you information that will help you get what you need faster and more efficiently:
1.Read and follow all of the instructions before you make a telephone call or send an email. I said this the last time I did customer service tips, but it’s a perpetual problem that so many people face. People tend to panic when they read something that alarms or confuses them and skim right to a telephone number to start dialing and firing off questions. Don’t do that. I can’t tell you how many times people said “oh yea, it says that right here.” Keep reading because businesses try to address their most commonly asked questions in instructions and the answer to your question may be in the next sentence (or paragraph). If you read everything and still have questions, then make the call.
2.Be mindful of deadlines and routinely busy times. There are two times when volume spikes: Right before a deadline and right around a holiday. Everybody rushes to get thing in, and that results in a slow down in productivity, especially if the staff has a heavy schedule or is short staffed due to people taking off for the holidays. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day are especially heavy times (frankly, New Year’s Resolutions nearly kill me just about every year). So don’t wait until the last minute, or set an arbitrary deadline for the next major holiday. can assure you that you’re likely to miss it because you aren’t the only one cleaning off your desk. Submitting about a week to ten days prior to a deadline or holiday can make a world of difference in response time.
3.Gather things together before you call. It makes it easier for the conversation to flow if you don’t have to say “wait a minute” while you dig through piles of paper, or break into a conversation with a question you just thought of. Sit down and plan your questions before hand – write them down if you need to, and gather any paperwork you need to reference during the call before you dial. If you have to leave a voicemail and wait for a callback, set it aside where you can get to it quickly.
4.Find a quiet place to make telephone calls before you dial. I know this can be tricky because you can have an hour of silence, and then the place lights up with noise the minute you pick up the phone.Machinery, pets, children, and other people tend to pipe up when you pick up a receiver. I face it myself with screaming parrots at home and co-workers in the cubical farm around me at work. Just do the best you can to limit that background noise and it will actually make things easier for you.
5.If you have a heavy accent, consider saying “no” to the telephone. If you must call, be sure to speak slowly and annunciate. I’m not trying to sound rude. It’s just a simple fact that accents don’t translate well over the telephone and the heaver it is, the harder it can be to understand. This applies to domestic and foreign accents, too. And this is inexcusable to plead ignorance on because people aren’t shy about the “you aren’t from around here, are you?” question. If you’ve ever been asked that, at any place, any time, or in any contect, then you have an accent. Consider emailing your question if possible. And yes, I know I’m guilty on this one. I have a southern accent and I’m frequently asked to repeat myself over the telephone – in fact, I try to avoid drive-in restaurant speakers for this very reason.
6.If you leave a telephone message, don’t spit out your telephone number in a fraction of a second. Sometimes people ramble on messages, then spit out the number quickly when they realize they’re about to “time out.” Give your name and telephone number first (speak slowly, and consider repeating your number), and then give a brief description (1-2 sentences) about why you’re calling. Try to keep your entire message under 30 seconds. In fact, it might be wise to consider what you will say in a voice mail message prior to calling so you'll be prepared.
7.When you visit a place of business, be sure to fully secure your vehicle. This isn't really a customer service tip - it's more of a CYA tip (if you know what I mean). Don’t leave anything out in plain sight. Businesses have things stolen too. In fact, we had a customer have their truck broken into one morning during a meeting – in broad daylight in a public parking lot! It happens. Put personal items in trunks, consoles, or glove compartments and be
sure to lock all doors and set car alarms (if you have one).
8.Be mindful of business hours. Don’t loiter in parking lots before opening or after closing and whatever you do, DO NOT grab random employees and ask questions. Employees can only address questions related to their area and sometimes aren’t allowed to personally interact with customers unless they are in the building or
at a business-related function. Loitering around a building and approaching employees in parking lots is a good way to get security – or worse yet, the police – called. If you arrive early, stay in your car and direct questions to
the front desk receptionist or the person you’re there to meet.
9.Set deadline dates in your cell phone with a reminder to go off about a week before the deadline date. I mentioned this too, but it bears repeating because people keep claiming that “I got busy and it snuck up on me.” This is inexcusable with everybody flashing smartphones all over the place. Even the most basic cell phone has a calendar function. Use it.
10.Give other employees a chance to help you. So often, people will get a name, and that’s the only person they want to talk to. Don’t make your life harder by being stubborn and clinging to a particular employee. They’ve all
been trained and have the same answers for you. And likewise, don’t think you can play this the other way by calling back several times to “shop” for the answer you want. The answer to your question will be the same whether you talk to your favorite person, or whether you’re “fishing” for an answer. So accept what you get and don’t be a bully.
That’s it – eight new tips for great customer service and a repeat on two that, well, seem to need repeating. Follow these tips, and I can guarantee that you’ll get faster and better service all around.
That’s all today.
Hi all, sorry to not update for a while. Life seems to naturally get much busier for me in the fall, and I've been trying to squeeze out one more draft of Move before the holidays. Thank God, I finally managed to finish draft #4 last night. I tell you, I struggled with this one. I found out that both of my publishers now require a minimum 60,000 word count for mystery novels now, and the last draft of Move came in at a little under 50,000 words. I had to add over 10,000 words. It resulted in six new chapters and adding a lot of detail. I beleive the changes are well worth it and make it a much better novel, but this wasn't easy. I have done three read throughs to make the additions and make sure that everything is "plugged in" and fits together correctly. I'm happy with this draft, though. The plot is much stronger now and I feel the story benefitted from the additions. I hope to have a final draft of this done and submitted to one of my publishers by May 2013.
Oh NaNo participants, this is what you have to look forward to. Yes, writing that rough draft is the hardest (and most time consuming) part, but the rewrites can be a pain too. But don't worry about that now. Just get that draft out there and you can worry about editing hell in 2013.
I also managed to squeeze in a revision of Feathered Frenzy this morning too. That's a very short work - I actually call it a guide because it's more the length of a novellette (at 15,500 words). I'm going to self publish that one, so it will get done when it gets done. Maybe I'll have it ready in late winter or early spring 2013.
But for now, my current writing projects are caught up and I'm putting them on hold for the holidays. Life is just too busy now. We're doing a major housecleaning to prepare for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and that season is always a whirlwind of activity. There's just too much to do and trying to squeeze in time for ongoing writing projects with family activities, social activities, and work is more stress than it's worth. So I've decided to just do promotion for my published works and blogging for the remainder of 2012, and I'll pick up my ongoing writing projects again in 2013.
In other news, Rick's term on council is drawing to a close. He and the other three members had nominees put forth to replace them next year, and the congregation will vote on them December 2. Rick has one more thing to follow up with on his committee and he's helping with the congregational meetings for the elections, but it's winding down. Only one more meeting in December and he turns in his office key and goes back to being a regular member of the congregation. I say yay. He's done a lot the past 3 years. We all have (meaning the fellow council members and their spouses). I wish the nominees luck and blessing as they take over the reigns.
You know I left my committees? I'm helping Rick with his through the end of his term, but I had to come off the other committee. They're planning ongoing activities on weekdays and I just can't do that with my work schedule, so I had to quit. It's too bad because I did enjoy being more active in church, but my writing is building up and my workload is increasing since one of my colleagues resigned to go work for another section in the agency. The good news is that she has a window office and I'm moving in it when she moves out in a couple of weeks. So for the first time in my almost 15 years of working full time, I'll have a window office. The bad news is, I'm also getting her Board - so there are more meetings I have to put on and disciplinary actions to deal with until a replacement is hired. *Groan* And we all know that can be a slow process. But I'll survive. If the Lord brings you to it, He'll bring you through it. It just meant that I had to quit my church committees. Too bad really, but hopefully I'll be able to help out with activities here and there in the future. There are a couple of things I really enjoy helping with like greeting and our free thrift day, and I'd really like to continue helping with those things.
So that's where it's at for now. Things are coming along and I'm happy for that. Thankfully, I have today off for Veteran's Day, so hopefully I'll be able to get even more in order and on track. I've already made great progress today, but now I need to log off to deal with other matters, like holiday shopping and housecleaning.
Thanks to all the Veteran's that fought and gave their lives so we're free to live our crazy, hectic lives under the blessing of freedom. God bless all those who have served and continue to serve our country and to protect our freedom. We do appreciate you and pray for your safety and well being every day.
That's all today. Take care and have a great week.
I think what I really need is to cut my life back to basics and take stock of what I have and how to best nurture the things most important to me.
Fall is naturally the busiest time of year for me, and coiencidentally it's when people want to "get together" the most too. Football season is usually the excuse for this - "let's get together to watch the game!" And I've been a social butterfly these past couple of months and participated in all sorts of gatherings, visits and get togethers.
But folks, this butterfly needs to retreat to her cocoon. No offence, but the Carolina's bye week didn't come soon enough for me this year. I need to sit out a few. The season is going on, but my "to do" list and my schedule don't get it. There are things I need to tend to around the house and with the technology committee at church. I know I said I was going to take a hiatus from my in-progress writing projects, but I really do want to get back to them with as few distractions as possible, and that means I need to put my nose to the grindstone and get things done now. And if you want me at my best during the busy holiday season, well, I need a break.
I mean no offence, of course. I just need some time to myself every now and then to catch up, rest up, take stock, and move on. I need to recharge my batteries and right now I'm running low. I've come to the conclusion that I must be an anomoly, because this seems to be a need that not many other people have. Other than my family, only Rick and one other person has admitted to needing time to themselves. It seems others actually clamor to fill those empty spaces in their lives to the point where there's no quiet, no hiatus, no opportunities to simply "be" and exist in communion with the Lord and the world. Doing, doing, doing. Well, I admire their energy and their tireless dedication to their social schedule, but I'm not afraid I can't operate like that. My life is very full right now and all the "blessings" keep me quite busy. It can be a challenge to find those moments and days with an empty spot on the calender. And they aren't usually give, so it looks like I'm going to have to take them.
I'm burned out. I need to clear off my plate to I can be true to my priorities and focus on what really matters - not on what the world says should matter.
So I'm starting today. I'm sitting out the USC-Florida game. I know, it's a big one and how could I. It's simple, really. The need for quiet in my soul outweighs "the big game." As I said, I need some time to catch up on some stuff around the house and with church so I'll be free to resume work on Move next month when I end my writing hiatus, and what better time than by focusing on that while the rest of the world (around here) is tuned into the big game. Plus, I still have Feathered Frenzy to finish, and I already have an idea for my next writing project which is a novella I hope to start in 2013. And promotion work on my already published works never ends. So there's lots to do there and I really need to get focused and get back to work on my writing soon, and taking care of the other things on my plate will really help with that.
I know life won't always be like this. I'm quitting volunteer activities in 2013, so I won't have to make decisions based on things like this soon. That was another decision I made this week. I need fewer meetings in my life and the truth is that I need to focus my time away from work on home, family and writing and that doesn't leave time for much else. I wanted to be more involved at church, and I will certainly continue to be a greeter and help with activities as I can, but I can't be bound to a committee anymore. It just doesn't work in my busy life.
As for the rest - well, eventually I'll retire from work, so that won't always be eating up most of my weekdays, but that's far away as I'm not even at the halfway point of my career. Frankly, I do have concerns about being bored if I didn't work, but those aren't concerns I need to ponder now or any time soon. Until then, it's the immovable object in my life and I have to work around it. Those aggrivations and annoyances aren't going to stop and I have to march on and do what must be done because it's my responsibilty and financial support, now and in the future. That's a reality for most people and it's something that should be easy to understand and respect.
Yes, life is busy, and sometimes it won't give you what you need so you have to take it. That's what I'm going to to today. Because if I don't take care of myself and my needs, then I'm not much good to anybody else, now am I?
That's all today. I hope you have a great weekend.
Ok folks, the holidays are over and the University of South Carolina Gamecocks pulled off an outstanding win over Nebraska yesterday. Today was back to reality. Hmm. Can we skip the rest of winter now and go straight to spring?
Didn't think so. Crap.
This is when winter starts to hurt. The excitement of the holidays are over and it's time to get back in our routine that has us out at sunrise and coming back at sunset as we muddle through the cold days of winter. Everything seems bare, dead, and cold. Yes, it's depressing. The trees and decorations are down. No goodies lie around the office to munch on anymore. No more presents will be given or received. And there were no Christmas lights to welcome me home.
Truth is, though, it's not all dead - it's merely resting to put forth that burst of energy that brings vibrancy and life during the other three seasons of the year. The trees and grass are dormant, not dead. Just as I needed the past 11 days off work to keep from getting burned out, so too does nature need to rest in order to bring us life and bounty through the rest of the year.
Truth be told, the season isn't without merit. I usually do my most (and best) writing in the winter. In fact, I wrote the rough drafts of Blurry and Anywhere But Here in January and February, and did major work on Splinter during that same time frame last year. My productivity with my writing seems to be at it's highest during the winter. I guess that makes sense. If everything is dull routine, then that means fewer distractions to pull me away from my computer. A resting world gives my muse time and energy to come alive. And I hope that pattern resumes this winter - considering that I haven't written anything new since November and am itching to create more new work in the new year! (All of the work on my writing has been in the area of publicity and promotion - good, but I miss creating new work too!)
Winter is a good time to catch up on indoor activities that seem to move to the back burner during the busy summer and holiday seasons. It's a great time to read, for example, or take up an art or craft. I've been doing a lot of reading lately, and I used to stitch a good bit in the winter when I wasn't working on novels. Cold days are also good fo DVD marathons of your favorite movie series or TV shows or playing games. I noticed yesterday when I went out that most stores are having some of their best sales of the season, so there are deals to be had on winter clothes. Treadmills and gyms make it possible to exercise indoors to keep you active. And, of course, the Internet is an endless source of information and entertainment to keep you occupied, from joining online groups that focus on an interest or hobby, finding new recipes to try cooking this weekend, or looking up entertainment in books, music, etc from independent artists.
Hmm. Suddenly winter doesn't seem so glum. In fact, it sounds like I could find plenty to do that will make the next two months pass painlessly.
Here's hoping your new year is off to a great start. Take care and I'll see you next time.
Two years ago, I opened my Open Salon blog with an entry on why most New Year's Resolutions fail. In retrospect, I believe I took the wrong angle on the subject. I should have taken a more positive and helpful approach by addressing what makes them work, instead of how they fail. In this final entry in the "Surviving the Holidays With Your Sanity Intact" series, I'd like to discuss this issue. Don't worry - it won't be a lengthy dissertation. In fact, in two years of retrospect and reflection on that entry, I see that there's really one secret to making those resolutions stick.
In order for a New Year's Resolution to work, it has to be something that you believe in. Simple as that.
Ok, maybe it's not so simple. We live in a world full of voices that tell us what we should do, what we ought to be. You should diet and exercise, they say. You should get organized, they say. You should break a bad habit, they say. Good advice, except for one thing: Who are "they?" And what do "they" know about what's truly in your heart?
Perhaps this is harsh. Maybe "they" are concerned friends or family members. Maybe "they" are colleagues or neighbors or acquaintances. Maybe "they" mean nothing but the very best and "they" really and truly believe that these suggestions are for your own good. The problem is that "they" don't live your life every minute of every day. You do, and if you aren't happy with it then you'll only be able to force yourself to do something to make others happy for so long before you crack.
Don't get me wrong. It is helpful to be held accountable, but the fact of the matter is that people aren't going to be there every minute of every day to hold you up. Nobody is going to follow you around to make sure you get on the treadmill, or avoid the vending machine, or tidy up before you leave today. There's no substitute for self discipline and you're only going to have it if your resolution is something that is meaningful to you on a deep, personal level.
That's not to say that the common resolutions are wrong - just that you need to make sure you have a reason that is meaningful to you. Start the diet and/or exercise program to get in better health. Clean up to feed a personal need to get more organized and efficient in your life. Take that class in something that your passionate about. Write that novel because it's a story that you feel passionate about sharing with the world. Volunteer with that committee or group because it's a cause you believe in. You alone are the only one that knows what speaks to you, and I urge you to search within to find out what you truly long for in your life when making those New Year's Resolutions.
Thanks for joining me for another blog series! I hope this has been inspirational and helpful. 2012 promises to be another exciting year with my next novel, Anywhere But Here, scheduled for publication in 2012. I plan to take you through the journey to publication when it goes into pre-production in the coming weeks. I will also continue to work on publicity for my novels and will tackle another type of writing that I have long needed to improve in: Short stories. Stay tuned!
Happy New Year everybody!
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s almost here: Christmas, the most magical time of the year. Weeks of planning, coordination, and frantic planning are about to come to their purpose as that blessed date finally arrives.
As we come upon Christmas, I’d like to urge all of you to remember the reason for the season. It’s so easy to get caught up in full schedules, gift buying, parties, family, friends, food and fun that we forget WHY we’re celebrating. It isn’t about gifts, decorations, meals, or Santa. It’s about the most wonderful gift that humanity has been given: Christ, our King who brings our salvation.
We talk about family, friends and church. These are wonderful gifts, but remember that the core of why we celebrate is the personal victory that Christ gave us when he died on the cross and defeated Satan for once and for all. It’s our responsibility to claim that victory and the free Grace of God that is offered with it. Nobody can do it for us. This is a free gift offered to each and every one of us and we alone must claim it. This is a time to give thanks for it. Remember that we join together to give thanks to Christ for coming into this world. We give gifts to one another as symbols of the wonderful gift of Salvation that Christ has given to us. We celebrate because we know that we’re free from the devastating consequences of sin on our soul and know we have eternal life.
I know the days ahead are full, but please take some quiet time to reflect on the reason for all of the activity in the coming days. Otherwise, it becomes another item on the “to do” list. Christ deserves better than that.
It isn’t about putting on the “perfect holiday.” It’s about celebrating the “perfect gift” that we have, now and always, throughout all of eternity. Thanks be to God.
I got my first “dud” Christmas gift when I was 16 years old. It was one of those “trolls” that were so popular in the early to mid-90’s. I don’t know if any of you remember them – they were small dolls with outfits and wild hair. They were quite the craze at the time, and one of my friends thought I’d like one.
I hated it. But I didn’t want to offend her, so I put on a smile and said “wow, it’s interesting.” Unfortunately, this friend didn’t know me well enough to know that “interesting” from me could me in a good or bad way. I meant the bad way. She thought I meant the good way. And the word spread. Then someone got the bright idea: Let’s help Sherri build up a troll collection.
I wound out with countless of these hideous, ugly figurines. The rumor even made it’s way to my family, who also bestowed me with several to add to my “collection.” I didn’t know what to do, because I understood their intentions were good and didn’t want to offend anybody. So for years, I had a corner of my room devoted to this hideous, ugly monstrosity building up in my life. By the time Rick and I started dating 3 years later, the collection took up an entire shelf on my bookshelf. They represented every holiday or possible event that had taken place in my life.
“That’s an interesting collection,” Rick commented.
“I hate them!” I said, finally cracking. “Somebody thought I liked them and told everybody!”
“Really? Then why do you have them up? That’s only going to encourage people to give you more of them.”
That made me think. I was in college by that time, and had lost touch with many of the old high school friends that gave me those horrible monsters. So I took the collection down. A few friends that visited asked about them later and I told them that I outgrew it and was no longer interested in the collection. Their popularity was waning by that time anyway (thank God), so I didn’t face too many questions over it.
Looking back, that whole three year scenario was avoidable. I could have been honest and told my friends that I appreciated the unique gift, but I didn’t want to make a collection out of them. Or I could have “regifted” it to a friend at another school the next year. I didn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings, but honesty really is better in the long run, and I resented those trolls for far longer than any feelings would have been hurt by just saying from the start that I didn’t like the things.
The point of this entry is that you’re going to get a gift that’s a dud every now and then. We celebrate the holidays every year, so it’s inevitable that something is going to be a bust from time to time. The secret is to handle these situations appropriately and as discretely as possible. If it’s a wrong size or style or if it’s something you can’t have because of allergy or health problems, be honest. Remember that people give you gifts because they want you to use them, and they’ll feel bad if you can’t. If it’s something that can be corrected, by all means talk to them and get it exchanged or refunded so the problem can be corrected. If it’s something that you can’t have because of your health, let people know because they don’t want their gifts to make you sick.
And if it’s a “troll” situation like mine, well, you have options. You can give it a try. I thought the slipper socks from my last entry were going to be another “troll,” but I tried them and they because a gem. Sometimes things do work out in unexpected ways. If you don’t want to give it a try, you can ask about exchanging it for something more appropriate, or you can regift it. I warn you, though, to note the name of the giver. Regifting to the person that gave you the present is rude, so be discrete and make sure you give it to somebody different.
Then there are those situations where the person gives you the same thing every year, and by golly they aren’t going to change no matter what. I’ve known a few people that give magazine subscriptions every year and they refuse to give anything else, even though many of their recipients have asked for something different every year. Likewise, I think we’ve all had the one relative that gives you a gift that you absolutely can’t use every year, and they won’t consider a change. These are usually situations where the giver has limited resources, and they probably can’t do much more. You have no choice but to accept these gifts. But take heart. You’ll probably appreciate those handmade towels or sweaters one day for happy memories, even if you wouldn’t dream of wearing them in public. And magazines can be shared, so take those issues to the “giveaway” table at work, or donate them to a local doctor’s or dentist’s office.
Incidentally, I ran across one of those pesky trolls when I took down the Christmas decorations a few weeks ago. I put it on the “giveaway” table at work. And surprisingly, somebody took it. Oh well, better them than me.