Tag Archives: postaday2011

New Year’s Resolutions: Find a mantra and make it matter

To make New Year’s resolutions that stick, think like a marketer.

Focus on benefits, not features. A feature describes (more noodles, hybrid power, sheepskin lining. A benefit is about desires (which means a heartier lunch, fewer stops at the gas station, your feet won’t get sweaty).

And use a easy-to-remember tagline. “Just do it” sings. “Got milk?” has generated millions of copy cats. “Tastes great, less filling” says something.

So, your resolution should focus on benefits and should come with an easy-to-remember mantra. In the past, my resolutions have revolved around “Let go” (I was proposed to that year I tried to just let things happen), “Make room” (I cleared clutter) and, last year, “Boldly go” (spent three months down south and finished my book).

I’m a big fan of New Year’s resolutions, and I’ll share mine tomorrow, but here are a few I won’t be making:

  • I resolve to read People magazine like I’ll be taking a test on the contents.
  • I resolve to obsess about imagined slights from minor players.
  • I resolve to wipe the counter tops more effectively (my Beloved might like me to make this resolution but … not gonna happen!).
  • I resolve to watch the stock market fluctuate wildly, move my investments around and lose sleep over it.
  • I resolve to figure out the lure of Housewives of Anywhere.

Some things just aren’t worth worrying about. Major on the majors, I’ve heard it said.

Whatever that means.

Well, at least we know it’s solid

You know how heavy a dining room table is?

I do.

I moved ours tonight.

This is the same glorious dining room table that seated 11 on Christmas Day. I love this table. It’s ridiculously ornate, but the legs — removed — were surprisingly light. And the leaves were removed. Then we tried to pick up the table top.

Oh my gosh.

It reminded me of my upright grand piano. It is wildly unwieldy and weighed a ton (and I’m not exaggerating that much). I eventually paid experts to move it from place to place and finally left it at my sister’s house for a while. Or perhaps forever.

We’ll see.

Anyway, we awkwardly lugged the table top up the steps to store while we paint the dining room.

Here’s the dining room BEFORE:

You see those rugs? They’re for sale. Too much red for the new color scheme. And they’re not too heavy to move.

Make me an offer.

Is Mother Nature taking her cues from us?

My Beloved claims you can credit him for the mild winter so far.

You see, he bought the world’s biggest snow blower in November. The few flakes we’ve seen here in northern Illinois barely required a broom, let alone a snow blower. Since he prepared, of course, it doesn’t snow.

My stepson, looking for a romantic outing with his sweetheart back in Minnesota  this week, planned to go skiing. Until the weather forecast predicted highs in the upper 30s. He was so disappointed.

Even I, the winter-hater who clings to the treadmill when the weather turns cold, have run or walked outside several times this month. Without complaint.

The Chicago Tribune today claimed the balmy December weather foreshadows a wet and mild winter (ironic, since I heard we were in for the mother of all winters earlier this season). Check out this line from the news story:

Even if the weather does break bad, the worst of winter can’t last more than another few months.

Oh, no. I hope the reporter knocked wood when he wrote that or we’ll all be in for a Mother’s Day blizzard.

Writing thank-you notes has gotten a bad rap … here are some tips for writing good ones

If you have some people to thank after getting some extravagant gifts for Christmas, think of your gratitude as being among those gifts.

“Expressing gratitude is not an obligation,” says Margaret Shepherd in her book, “The Art of the Handwritten Note: A Guide to Reclaiming Civilized Communication.” “In fact, it is one of the most intense pleasures you can have.”

I wrote thank-you notes for Christmas tonight, and I do this for me as much as for the recipient. I get to savor the gifts I received and think good thoughts about the givers. Yes, it was part of my “to do” list today so I guess that makes it a chore, but I like putting pen to paper and saying thanks in a semi-creative way. And for me, there’s double value. Even though I insist the gifts be separate, as a Dec. 23 baby I can thank people for both birthday and Christmas gifts in the same note.

Shepherd says there are five characteristics for a good thank-you note:

  1. Be generous. “Send a note even if you’ve already thanked the giver another way,” Shepherd says.
  2. Be specific.
  3. Be prompt. (I haven’t finished sending all my Christmas cards, but I’ve got those thank-you notes done!)
  4. Be succinct. (See, you don’t have to write a book.)
  5. Be personal.

Stuck with writer’s block? Try beginning one of these phrases from Shepherd:”I was so pleased to …,” “You were so nice to …,” “What a nice surprise …,” “That was a thoughtful gift …” and “It was a treat when we … .”

I’m always so pleased to know I have regular readers. You’re so kind to tune in and comment on occasion. Thanks for reading!

Gifts of love

The frenzy of buying, wrapping and even opening gifts often outweighs the actual gifts received.

Some gifts are truly fun to give (like the calendar I made my mother-in-law or the night-vision goggles we gave to my 12-year-old nephew) but sometimes, the act of giving is just a lot of work that plays out in a matter of seconds on Christmas Day.

I received a lot of lovely — some extravagant — gifts for my birthday and Christmas this year. I’m still enjoying fresh pears packaged so perfectly, they’re like opening a gift each morning. I was proud to use my shiny new flatware for my guests on Christmas Day. I’m writing this post wearing a comfy new running outfit. And I will enjoy all kinds of interesting wines and wine accessories in the weeks to come, all while thinking of the friends who thought of me.

And while I loathe ranking them at all, I will especially treasure two of the gifts I received this year.

I know that even “real” mothers don’t always receive gifts from their children, but I know, too, that stepmoms often are not the highest priority on a child’s gift-giving list, so to receive anything at all is a gift. Of course, ’tis better to give than receive, so even if I got nothing for Christmas, I could relish in my own generosity. But I feel extra special this year.

My stepdaughter gave some careful thought to my interests and hobbies and found this Star Trek Enterprise model that is actually a fabulous pizza cutter. It’s a brilliant gift for a Trekker.

My stepson is taking a ceramics class this semester, and I got this beautiful piece of pottery he made. It’s a perfectly thrown bowl.

It’s extra special because it makes me think of my brother, too, who made a pitcher for my parents one year, one they still use as a serving piece.

All these lovely gifts were the backdrop to a perfectly wonderful Christmas Day when we entertained nearly a dozen people with a perfectly grilled roast and lots of good company.

It was a good Christmas. How was yours?

Object of obsession

Host cannot put puzzle away (or blog or clean up or write thank you notes) until puzzle she put out to occupy the Christmas guests is solved.

Note: It’s an image of Wrigley Field — a suitable stand-in for a summertime obsession in the middle of winter.

Wishing you stillness at Christmas

Sometimes I think the buildup to Christmas is not only a nuisance but a detriment. The weeks leading up to Dec. 25 are so much hustle and bustle — buying gifts, wrapping gifts, writing Christmas cards, decorating, baking — that I think we forget for a while how to slow down.

When the big day finally arrives, we are so programmed to keep moving and keep doing that we don’t know how to sit and simply absorb the joy.

A Facebook friend of mine posted that after so much wrapping and baking and so on, she felt like making another batch of cookies today. I wished for her a moment to simply absorb.

Part of my email moniker includes “mindful.” Being mindful — fully aware of the present moment — is more of a Buddhist concept than a Christian one, but it applies to many characters in the Christmas story. Zechariah is made silent when he is told by an angel that his wife will become pregnant with a baby who is to become John the Baptist. God’s message, put crassly, may have been “Shut up and sit down.” And his did, until his son was born.

The shepherds, who worked shifts like policemen filled with long, boring hours of desert doughnuts and occasional high-speed chases with blood-thirty wolfs, were just hanging with their flocks enjoying the starry sky that quiet night.

Mary, the teenage mother who ends up giving birth after a long journey in a barn and is surprised by a passel of shepherds who show up uninvited (at least by her), keeps “all these things, pondering them in her heart.” She simply absorbed the awesome moment.

I will try to do as Mary did this weekend, and I wish it for you, too. Forget about the unwritten cards (like me) and the unbaked cookies (like my Facebook friend). Take a walk to admire the Christmas lights with a loved one. Relax and savor the Christmas card. Open the gifts one by one. Look into a loved one’s eyes. Spend a few minutes at church enjoying the flickering candles. Soak in the holiday music.

“Be still, and know that I am God.”

~Psalm 46:10a

Sands of time … these are the days of our lives

As the second-hand is swinging past my last moments of my 44th year on earth, I’m going to consider my day the way I shall consider the year:

  • I shall dwell on the things I got done rather than the things I didn’t get done.
  • I shall worry less about how I’m late and more about the present moment.
  • I shall be grateful for the way my friends uplift me and try to be uplifting in return.
  • I shall not rue the wrinkles but rather rally the wisdom won by the wrinkles.

In the midst of the little party I threw for myself in the name of the “holidays” (my birthday tomorrow qualifies as a holiday), the neighbor children wearing bonnets and top hats rang the doorbell and sang Christmas carols on my porch. As I swallowed the bite of cake I made for myself, I swallowed a lump in my throat, too, as I was surrounded by friends and neighbors and music and joy.

The last consideration I shall muse upon is this: If no one throws a party for you, throw a party for yourself and spread the joy around.

Skate dates

Dec. 29, 1980

Dear Diary,

I went skating twice today. When I went this afternoon, I went with Carrie and Wayne & Rick were there. In fact it was kinda fun. I almost called Tim. I am afraid that he doesn’t like me. Or maybe he thinks I don’t like him but if that’s the case, he is dead wrong.

Ice skating has always held a certain romance for me. When I was growing up on the frozen tundra of northern Minnesota, the ice skating rink was a hub of activity. A place to meet and greet. To see and be seen. Long johns and down jackets were ways to look fashionably attractive (or so I thought).

Back then, I did what good Minnesotans are supposed to do: Enjoy winter with outdoor activity. Ice skating in almost any temperature (and wind chill) was one way to while away a cold day, even if you spent most of the time in the warming house.

Now I while away the winter by staying as far away from the outdoors as possible, but I still think of ice skating as a romantic activity.

My stepson, who lives with his mother in Minnesota, got new ice skates for Christmas, he told me last night (apparently, the rules about opening Christmas presents on Christmas don’t apply at his house). Many of his friends play hockey, and he was happy to report he could skate backward and he was “pretty good out there.”

I didn’t care about his prowess at checking, but he mentioned his girlfriend has ice skates, too. “Oh, how romantical,” I said with a flourish on the imaginary word romantical.

I smiled, thinking about the crushes I nursed around those rinks in the ’80s, about holding hands while taking corners, about leaning on a boy to keep from falling. And I hoped my stepson feels those same warm flutters of the heart at the chilly rink.


Always be prepared … for Christmas magic

A lot of Christmas music is tired and overdone.

I appreciate the power the music but I’m not one of those people who listen to Christmas Muzak 24/7 from Thanksgiving until Christmas. It can get, well, tiresome (but some people say that about my daily dose of Pakistani news on NPR, so go figure).

Today, however, I witnessed a choir of angels singing Christmas carols at lunch. A quintet of 9-year-old Girl Scouts fa, la, la-ed their way into my heart with their little voices and their velvet Santa hats at my networking lunch.

Amid the traffic and Scotch tape and forgotten groceries of this week, I wish such moments of holiday joy and lightness.