Thanks to 2011 for being a great year full of progress. Here's to continuing a successful journey in 2012!
Happy New Year everybody! I want to thank each and every one of you for supporting my writing, and for following me online. I hope that you have a joyful, successful and very happy 2012 and that you make your dreams come true.
Thanks to 2011 for being a great year full of progress. Here's to continuing a successful journey in 2012!
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!
Well, here we stand near the end of the holiday season. Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hakunnah are over, and New Year's Day is on the horizon. But before we tackle the issue of the all-important "resolutions," I feel there's one more issue we need to discuss: Holiday detox.
Now that the meals are eaten, the gifts are opened, and the family visits are done, there's the usual "letdown" to deal with. It's time to go home, time to pack up the decorations, time to get ready to get back in the swing of day to day life again. But right now, we have a few days to kick back, relax, and "detox" from the holiday festivities.
Personally, this is one of my favorite parts of the season. Yes, it's a letdown when the festivities end, and you take the decorations down. But there's something nice about having the rest of this week to wind down, rest from the activity, and take stock. It's good to slow the pace for no other reason than to catch your breath, take a much needed break, and enjoy life without the stress of a huge "to do" list hanging over your head.
So take the rest of this week for yourself. Spend time with your spouse/significant other. Enjoy those presents. Eat some candy before going on that New Year's diet and exercise program. Waste time online, or watching TV, or playing video games. Stay up too late and sleep even later. Go out for lunch on a weekday afternoon. Hit those post-holiday sales. Dress down on a weekday just because ou can. The festivities are over so now is the perfect time to drop out of the race of day to day life and just be for a few days. Real life will start again before you know it, so detox from the holidays and life itself now while you can!
Who says it's the post-holiday gloom? These can still be some of the best days of the year, if you use them wisely!
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.
As we approach the holidays, I'm reminded of holidays past and the gifts I received. Some, obviously, were winners: Jewelry and electronics are always a hit for me, as I imagine they are for most women. But there were some other things I received that were also hits, and they weren't big or glamerous - just useful and beneficials. For example, Rick gave me a ruby ring two years ago and I loved it, but he also gave me a pair of bedroom booties that I wear every night during the winter. Yes, the ruby ring was the big hit of the holiday, but those booties - well, I'm wearing them now as I type this entry. Obviously a winner too, and they weren't that expensive.
There have been some other surprises under the tree that became staples in my life and my home, and I'd like to reflect on that now. I'm not talking about the big ticket items, but those little things that snuck into your everyday life. Maybe you'll get some ideas for last minute gift shopping, or perhaps remember some winners tucked away in your own home.
1. An electric razor. Oh wow, what a time saver this has turned out to be! Yes, you can spend some money on these, but there are also some inexpensive ones that work very well. I believe the one I have was under $20 at Walmart. It doesn't give as close a shave and you will still have to use a straight razor every few days, but if you're a woman that wears pants a lot (like I do), this is a great item to have.
2. A firesafe box. Actually, we've been given two of these. One is file size for important documents and the other is a smaller one that I store my valuable jewelry, external hard drive, and other small but important items in. A definite must have for everybody!
3. A crock pot. This is a working woman's best friend. There are so many recipes and it's great to have supper ready as soon as you come home from work. Clean up usually isn't hard, either.
4. Slipper socks. I must have given the former colleague that gave me these a look when she handed them to me because she laughed and said "try them out, I know you'll love them." She was right. They were warm and comfortable and I have several pair now. They were especially helpful when I sprained my ankle and it was so swollen that shoes (even my beloved bedroom booties) were a problem.
5. Christmas china. One of the schools Rick works at gave him a 4 piece place setting of china back in the days when the economy was better. At first I thought "what the heck are we gonna do with that?" until we hosted a few holidays and parties at our house. It was a hit, and nice to have too.
6. Picture frames. This is getting more rare as a gift with digital cameras, but they still make great gifts for people you know that do needlearts. That small collection of frames I collected in the early days of our marriage were used to frame many counted cross stitch projects.
7. Fleece blankets. This was another one of those gifts that raised eyebrows until I used them. Very good to have when the winter gets cold.
8. A flash drive. I know it doesn't sound like much of a gift, but it's so important to back up your data. Target has many brands with great storage capacity for reasonable prices. Great stocking stuffer!
9. A laptop case. I didn't understand why Rick made a big deal out of getting a good laptop case until he got me one for my first laptop. It didn't take long for me to realize how vitally important it is to have appropriate storage cases for not only your laptop, but all of your electronics that you plan to carry around. In fact, I used that old case so much that it's wearing out, and a new case that fits the laptop I got for my birthday is on my Christmas list this year. I know it doesn't sound great, but cases for laptops, tablets, e-readers, or cell phones make good and beneficial gifts for anybody.
10. Shower gel and moisturizer gift sets. I especially like rose and lavendar. Scented hand lotions are also a great idea.
There have been more, of course, but these are the top 10 winners for me. I know you can probably think of more, and hopefully you'll be giving some great surprises to friends and family this holiday season.
It's T-minus 10 days until Christmas and counting. Are you ready?
I'm not either. Yes, I feel your pain.
As we enter peak holiday prep time, I'd like to offer some tips on making life easier during these hectic days. These are good tips all the time, and hopefully you can implement them now to find some relief from holiday stress.
1. Follow the instructions. Even if you think they're stupid. Even if you think you know a better way. Even if you think you're better than that. They're there for a reason, and following them will save everybody time and frustration - especially you.
2. Use the calendar function on your devices. Even the most basic cell phone has a calendar feature, so there's no excuse for missing appointments, functions or deadlines if your schedule is on a device that you have with you all the time.
3. Set priorities and organize your life by them. It's literally impossible to do everything, so you have to decide what's the most important. Take stock of your life and to-do list and organize your schedule in these remaining days according to what matters the most.
4. Be sure you get enough sleep. It's easy to skimp on sleep when your schedule is full and a few more minutes - or hours - would help, and that's dangerous. Getting enough sleep is the secret to staying healthy, energetic, and alert so you can accomplish more in the other 16 hours of the day.
5. Take a timeout this weekend. I don't care how long your "to do" list is - you need time for yourself before family descends on you for the blessed season of celebration. Don't go into the next two weeks tired, stressed out, and frazzled. Take at least a few hours to do something for yourself: Read a book, watch a movie, go out to a good dinner, or just sleep in Saturday morning. Trust me, it will give you the energy you need to cross the finish line.
And in closing, I urge you to remember the reason for the season. Christmas isn't about decorations, parties, and presents. It's about Christ and the give of our salvation. Sometimes the celebration overshadows the reason we're doing everything we're doing all of this. I'll have more on this as we get closer to Christmas.
Ok folks, there's not much time yet but we'll make it by the grace of God, like we do every year. Take care, and I hope these tips will help you preserve your sanity now, when you need it the most.
As we enter the frenzy of holiday shopping, I feel it’s necessary to address the ultimate gift giving debate that we face in trying to finish up that shopping list:
Gift cards – great gift idea or the ultimate cop out?
Opinions are widely divided on this issue. Personally, I love gift cards. I’m at the point in life where I have what I need, and my list of “wants” isn’t very long. Most of my needs are in the areas of replacing things that wear out or break (like clothes), and gift cards make this much easier. In fact, one of our favorite post-holiday traditions is taking a day after the family get togethers are over is taking advantage of great post-holiday sales with those gift cards.
My family agrees, and buying gift cards does make holiday shopping much easier. Ah, but herein lies the debate. The opposite end of this argument is that buying gift cards is too easy – that it’s not personal and shows no consideration for the recipient. I had a friend once that thought gift cards were not only a cop out, but insulting and rude as well, because “if you know someone well enough to buy them a gift, then you should know what they like and take time to select an appropriate present for them.”
I can see both ends of this debate. On the one hand, gift buying is tough when you buy gifts for the same people, year after year. After some time, you’ve given them everything you know to give, and finding unique gift ideas becomes impossible. I know that the last thing I need are more trinkets or nick-nacks to clutter up my home or work space and collect dust. Gift cards are a great way of acknowledging that you know what kinds of places they like, and giving them the gift of choosing a present that they want or need. Plus, it’s great if you have to ship gifts to people, because there are greeting cards with gift card slots, so you can send it to them with little (or no) additional postage.
On the other hand, there are some situations where giving gift cards is inappropriate. I’d never suggest giving it to a child that’s under about 10 years old, because they want to open presents and the concept of waiting even longer to get their gift is torture. Likewise, it’s also inappropriate for a person you’ve been in a romantic relationship with for less than two years. There are plenty of special, personal gifts you can give for these occasions. It’s also not practical for elderly people that have health issues that limit their mental function or mobility, as they simply can’t use them unless a caregiver takes them out or uses it on their behalf. The point of a gift is to give the recipient something they can use personally, and this point is moot if the person isn’t able to go out or use the Internet to cash in the card.
Then there are the people that just don’t like them. I guess they do have a point – gift giving is about considering the recipient. Perhaps they just don’t like going out much, or buying online. If that’s the case and you’re completely stumped on what to get them, well, these are the people they make the nick knacks for. Every store I’ve been so far has had gift racks of miscellaneous items and kits for use around the home. Charging stations and desk organizers seem to be very popular this year, as do flashlights, handkerchiefs, mini game sets, whistle key rings, make up sets, nail polish sets, lotions, holiday jewelry, and small cleaning kits. Some people appreciate these fun, whimsical items. I don’t. But somebody must because they’re on sale every year and seem to keep moving every holiday season.
In the end, I believe the safest course of action is to ask. It’s not insulting or rude, and I think it’s much easier to be honest than to guess and risk giving them a dud gift (which is something I’ll address in a future entry). After all, our time and energy are limited, and we are at a point where we simply don’t have time to play games or guess anymore.
And if all else fails and they really hate gift cards, suggest skipping the gift and going out for a meal or a movie together after the holidays are over. Because it really is the thought that counts – and in the end people care more about the thought behind the gift than the gift itself.
Hi folks, I'm taking a break from the holiday blog series to share a story with you that's so odd, it has to be true. Because you just can't make this stuff up. I now have the best excuse for missing church yet.
My alarm clock burned to death.
Yep, you heard me right. We woke up around 1AM (that's what time Rick said it was) to smell something burning. It didn't take long to figure it was electrical, and in the room right with us. A few minutes of shaking off grogginess while we looked, and we finally figured it was RIGHT BESIDE ME! The clock was out and ROASTING! Something in there was definitely frying. I yanked the back up battery out and Rick ran down the stairs and put it out on the front porch.
Such oddities seem to only happen to me.
I don't know why, but alarm clocks seem to break on me every 6-7 years. It's been a lifelong plague. Rick's been using the same alarm clock since college, and Mom and Dad have been using Granddaddy's old alarm clock (he died 22 years ago!).
I even tried getting a very basic one that only had the time and a buzzer. Dang if that one didn't eventually go on the fritz with me too. Maybe it's God's way of reminding me that I'm living a lie. I'm a night owl living in a morning-glory world.
I don't know, but that story was so odd, that I just had to share it. I mean, who else does this happen to?
And by the way, I did buy a new alarm clock today. I thought I could get a basic one for cheap, but we found a small iHome setup that would dock and charge my iPod Touch that was only $2 more than the cheapest clock they had. Well why not? I figured. So I got it. Good grief, I'm almost scared. Of all the songs on my iPod, it will probably pick the heaviest thing on there. It'll go off to Slipknot's "Wait and Bleed" at 5:45 a.m. and I'll go through the roof. And not remember how to shut the dang thing off because the shut off button is so small and I'm horribly uncoordinated first thing in the morning. No doubt, I'll wake up to an adventure tomorrow.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why this is is called Into the Rabbit Hole. You wouldn't be surprised to find a chester cat having a unbirthday party here now, would you?
Take care and I hope you have a great start to the new week. The blog series will resume soon. Next up is the ultimate debate: Gift cards - Great Gift or Cop Out?
5 times. That's how many times people have almost hit me in traffic over the past 2 days. Traffic wasn't bad. They had no passengers. They weren't on cell phones or texting. They just weren't paying attention.
You want to know the worst part? I only work 10 minutes from home, and I ran 2 errands in that time. And I almost had 5 people ram into me. One lady came barreling into my lane this afternoon. She looked sheepish when she discovered we aren't in jolly old England.
On second thought, that's not the worst part. The worst part is that this happens this time every year. People get stressed, people get in a hurry, and people aren't paying attention. And that's dangerous when operating a motor vehicle. It can lead to problems and consequences that can stain your holiday and cause problems (and a rising insurance premium) long after the most wonderful time of the year is over.
Ladies and gentlemen, I completely understand having too much to do with too little time and a HUGE date in red approaching - but please, take a deep breath, calm down, and take Yoda's advice: Pay attention to where you are and what you're doing NOW. Not on what all needs to be done, or your frustration, or the ticking clock that runs too fast, or the endless to do list, or traffic, or parties, or the fight you had with the drama queens in your life that always crawl out of the woodwork this time of year (OUCH! How rude and awkward of me to bring up that inconvenient truth in a public forum!).
I know it sounds terribly adolecent, but the advice we give teens learning to drive applies to each and every one of us with a license: Driving is a huge responsibility that is not to be taken lightly, and you must be 100% attentive to it. I don't care how long you've been driving - distractions lead to errors in perception and judgement no matter how experienced you are. So please, if you don't want to become the grinch that ruins Christmas for yourself and some innocent person, put your entire attention and focus on driving when behind the wheel of a car. Turn off the radio, if you must. Plan your route and use a GPS system, if you're traveling. Partition your brain so you can put driving mode in a seperate area from chaos mode. Do whatever you must to pay attention to operating a motor vehicle while you are operating a motor vehicle.
And please, feel free to stress, fret, and have all the panic you want once you're parked.
Sherri the Writer
By day, I'm a program assistant. By night, I'm an independent author. My fiction is a dark mirror to the reality I see every day.