Holiday Here, Holiday There, Everyday a Holiday

chocolate-covered-cherry-dayWhat the world needs is more holidays, or at least, it appears there is such a need based on the number of holidays that have been thought up. There are several websites dedicated to unusual holidays. At Days of the Year we are reminded to celebrate Old Stuff Day (March 2), or Cheese Doodle Day (March 5), or False Teeth Day (March 9) or Day of Awesomeness (March 10). The list goes on and on. Looks like we have a reason to celebrate every day.

Think about that for a moment – a reason to celebrate every day. When I was growing up, I was taught to celebrate every day because it could be your last. The implication was our days are precious and limited, don’t waste them. So now we have holidays for every day to remind us to celebrate something today.

I am in favor of celebrations but some of the holidays are a little silly – Underwear Day (August 5) or Moldy Cheese Day (October 9). Then there are others that can be reminders of what is important and we need to celebrate. Such as Middle Child’s Day (August 12), Make Your Dream Come True Day (January 13), or Hug a Plumber Day (April 25).

For me, I’m looking forward to celebrating Chocolate-Covered Cherry Day (January 3), Tell a Story Day (April 27), and Sangria Day (December 20), there are so many reasons to celebrate. Which days are you going to celebrate?

How Are You Measured?

Exceptional RatingDoctors measure all sorts of health related things – weight, blood pressure, etc. These measures are based on tests and scales, pretty well accepted across the board as a good way to measure our health.

Employers measure your effectiveness with performance reviews. Questions are raised to the validity these reviews due to the subjective nature of the measures.

Schools measure your ability to learn with various tests. Arguments abound that these tests are not a good way to measure a student, but none the less, tests are used to measure learning.

The government measures your ability to pay taxes, through your ability to pay taxes – sales, income, property, social security, etc. In theory, the more we can afford, the more we pay. With good tax planning, our tax liability can be reduced so it isn’t an effective way of measuring our financial capabilities.

But a measure that always makes me smile is the LinkedIn measure of my business profile. I’m an “All Star,” which is the highest ranking. Does this mean I’m someone that everyone should want to get to know and learn my secrets to becoming an “All Star”? Not really. The only reason I’m an “All Star” is that I have gone thru the hoops to provide information, posts, and befriending people. I’m not necessarily an outstanding person; however, based on this measure everyone should be clamoring for the opportunity to be one of my followers. (Hysterical laughing taking place as I write this.)

What if my profile is only “Advanced”; does that mean I’m a lesser person than the “All Star?” Or, heaven forbid, if my profile is found to be only “Intermediate.” Who wants to be a connection to someone who is only an “intermediate?”

We all forgive a “Novice” after all, they are still learning and will be looking for an “All Star” to follow – like me.

Frozen Fun

IMG_1694Recently went night tobogganing at a local park with lights on the run. I am convinced that getting onto the toboggan is an art form. I was bundled up in several layers of clothes and boots, so my mobility was less than it normally is. I sat on the small bench and tried to scoot up to the front of the toboggan as instructed.  It became an ordeal, similar to turning over a beached whale. I couldn’t get any traction, space to maneuver was limited, it was dark, and I couldn’t bend my legs very well thanks to all the warm clothes I was wearing.

Finally, tugging and squirming I was in position. My husband plopped in behind me and was told to put his feet on my lap to keep his legs and feet well inside the toboggan perimeter and not rub on the sides of the run. So he squirms almost pulling me out of my hard-earned front position, and then he plops his booted feet around my waist. The rope was handed to me like I was going to guide the silly thing.

Then I hear a clunk, and we drop. As we race down the hill, I can see the run and the landing zone ahead, but all around me is black. We laugh and scream the entire way down; it is much like riding down a long roller coaster hill.

As we near the end of the run, I get a face full of ice and snow that is being thrown up by the toboggan. It takes my breath but is refreshing in a freezing wet sort of way.

At the end of the run, is the landing zone which is substantially rougher than the run. Bouncing along at a very high rate of speed, watching the dark that is just on the other side of the lite zone growing closer, I drop my feet so that they rake the snow and ice. More cold stuff hits me in the face, but we are slowing down.

We come to a stop more than halfway across the landing zone. I now have to get off and out of the way of the next toboggan. Getting off is easier than getting on, but I am so excited about the ride, I take longer than I should and almost got ran over by the next toboggan. My husband pulls me out of the way. I am still holding onto the rope, so the toboggan follows me as we begin the slow walk up the hill to do it again!

On our last run, we challenge a much younger couple to see who could go the furthest. During our previous runs, we were getting pretty good at sliding across the landing zone. Our challenge is accepted, and they go first. We loaded up and scooted/squirmed as far forward as we could and then comes the drop.

We are going so much faster than before. The snow and ice are hitting me in the face, and breathing is difficult because the air is so cold. But screaming and laughing seems to be no problem. We come off the run and can see the other couple standing beside their toboggan barely a third of the way across the zone. We stay tucked inside the toboggan, waving to them as we pass. When we finally come to a stop, it is dark where we are crawling off the toboggan.

It was a good run that was so much fun. If you get the chance, go tobogganing. Word of caution, don’t let your feet hit the sides of the run, you will crash, and it isn’t pretty.

 

Resolved or Go with the Flow?

NeFireworksw Year’s Resolutions definitions:

  • Dictionary definition of a Resolution: 1) a firm decision to do or not to do something; 2) the action of solving a problem, dispute, or contentious matter.
  • Mark Twain’s definition, “New Year’s Day now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.”

Which definition applies to you? For me, most of the times I fall in line with Mark Twain. On occasions, I have made New Year’s Resolutions and more times than I care to admit I have failed to keep these resolutions. But that doesn’t stop me from thinking about new goals for the year. This exercise in goal setting is beneficial even if I fail to reach the goal. Looking at where I want to be, helps me formulate steps to get there. Now taking the steps is where the truth comes out about my resolve to change.

I set the goals, map out the steps for success and begin. Sometimes I am successful, and at other times, I take only a couple of steps towards the goal before abandoning it. But by abandoning the goal, I have decided it’s not worth my time or energy. If that goal is health related and I choose not to follow the steps, then I have decided that my health isn’t a big priority or that I’m OK as I am, but I have decided not to improve.

New Year’s Resolutions help focus us but when we choose to ignore our own good advice and plans are we doing the best for ourselves?

Happy New Year to all.

Searching for The Star

A children’s story I wrote several years ago. Hope it brightens your Christmas.Star

“Wake up Ahmad!  Bring me the big star chart!  Ahmad!”  Ahmad rolled out of the bedroll and stumbled to the shelf where the scrolls were stored.  He hurried back to his master carrying the star chart.

His master fumbled with the scroll, spreading it on the ground.  He looked at the scroll, then back to the stars.  He was every excited.  “I found it again – just where it was last night,” cried his master, Melchior.  Ahmad was told to load up the camel they were going on a trip.

Ahmad worked all the next day packing for the journey.  He packed a tent, food, clothes, star scrolls, quills, ink, and gold.  As the sun was setting Ahmad and his master set out on their trip.  They traveled all night and rested during the day with his master writing notes along the way.

The second day was like the first, traveling at night, stopping to make notes, and more walking.  They spent the night at an inn where many people were staying.  Ahmad was so tired that all he could think about was getting some sleep, but first he had to make sure the pack animals were taken care of and their things stored.  Then it would be time to rest.

His master was sitting at a long table talking with two other travelers, their servants standing nearby.  Like Ahmad, their servants looked tired.  Ahmad took his place near his master.

All Melchior and the other travelers talked about were the stars.  While his master finished eating Ahmad stood quietly waiting so they could get some rest; he heard them talking about the very different star they had just discovered.  The star did not move like the other stars in the heavens.  It stayed in the same place day after day as if it marked the spot of something important.  The travelers were going to where the star was pointing to see what was there.  Ahmad’s master and the two travelers were all going to the same place and decided to travel together.  After more conversation, they decided to rest and then they would leave as the sun set.  Finally, Ahmad could get some sleep.

Ahmad was still sleeping when his master called him and asked if the camels were ready to go.  Ahmad hurried out to prepare to leave.  Outside the other servants were getting their camels ready to go also.  Ahmad introduced himself, and they said their names were Dawud and Hanif.  They had been traveling for four days.

The servants helped their masters onto the camels, and then they were off.  Heading westward, just like the last few days.  As they walked along, the masters talked about the star.  Sharing information about when they first saw it and wondering what could it mean.  They agreed it had to be something very important.  On they traveled.

Ten days later, they neared Jerusalem.  The star seemed to be very close, but it was not standing over Jerusalem.  The travelers decided they would go to Jerusalem, the home of the king of the Jews, and ask what the star meant.

Ahmad was sent to the king’s palace to deliver a note requesting a time the travelers could visit the king.  He waited for a reply and was told to come back tomorrow.  The next day they went to the palace.  The king of the Jews, Herod, was delighted to have distinguished visitors.  He prepared a feast for them.  After they had eaten, Herod asked what he could do for them.  They explained about seeing the star and how they believed it meant something important was nearby.  They wondered if Herod knew what the new star meant.

Herod sent for his kingdom’s wise men.  They thought a moment and then said that the prophets of old had written in the town of Bethlehem the king of the Jews would be born.  Herod told the travelers what his wise men had told him about Bethlehem.  And he asked if they found the new king, to please come back and tell him so he could go see.

The next evening there was the star, brighter and bigger than ever.  The travelers started towards Bethlehem.  When they arrived, there was the star standing over at a small inn.  The travelers went in to find that a couple was there with a baby boy.  Ahmad watched in disbelief as his master, a man of wealth and power, bowed down on his knees in front of the child and then the other travelers did the same thing.

Ahmad’s master sent him to get the gold they carried.  Ahmad brought in the gold.  His master took the gold and gave it to the parents of the baby.  It was obvious this couple was very poor and had never seen this much gold.  The other travelers gave valuable gifts also, frankincense and myrrh.  The couple thanked them.  They spent the next few days at the inn.

Ahmad was bringing in some water for his master when he heard the baby crying.  He looked and saw that no one was in the room with the baby.  He went into the room quietly to look at the baby.  As he approached the baby’s bed, the baby stopped crying and smiled.  Ahmad stood there looking at the baby and realized he was looking at a very special child – a child different than any before.  Like his master, Ahmad fell to his knees and bowed his head to the ground.  He didn’t understand why he should do this but knew that he was in the room with a king and should show respect.  Shortly the child’s mother came in the room.  He was afraid she would be angry, but she smiled and said thank you for watching over Jesus while she was away.

Jesus, so that was the baby’s name.  That would be a name he would never forget.

 

Growth is Not Comfortable

Schemeekly Path“A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.” Unknown.

Be honest for a moment, you prefer to be in your comfort zone. We all do. Where is your comfort zone? It is the place, the activity, the time when you feel you can relax and handle whatever comes your way.

This zone is many things – security, reaffirming, peaceful, etc. – but what it isn’t is growth. When we accept (or are pushed) a new challenge, we grow. This growth is uncomfortable, it can challenge your perceptions and causes you to wonder if you are up to handling the task or wonder why you accepted it.

The growth process is scary; it is much easier to stay in the comfort zone where you know what is going to happen. But once you start the process it can be exhilarating. The thought you don’t know what is going to happen, that you are changing the way you think and act, trying new things, and the admiration others share with you for being so brave. Wow! It’s like a “Superman” high.

When you finally complete the task, you find several things. First, you aren’t the same.  Whether it was a good or bad experience, you are changed by it. Second, you have confidence that you can handle the task, and it can become part of your comfort zone.

A couple of times when I got out of my zone were entering the NaNoWriMo and publishing my book Canyon Riddle. The scary part of the NaNoWriMo was the question of whether or not I could write 50,000 words in 30 days. I found I can. Canyon Riddle is a novel for adults (or at least not a young child). I am comfortable writing children stories, Bible studies, and such but a novel for adults? That was scary. But since then I have written three more adult stories, and I know that I can do it again.

One of my latest growth opportunities is I am learning to knit. That may not sound scary to anyone but at my age (I remember when the Beach Boys were young) learning a new skill that you have spent most of your life avoiding, is not easy and certainly is not in my wheelhouse. But as I knit, purl, and unravel over and over, I see small glimpses that I can do this, and my comfort zone is expanding.

Every time I step into an unknown situation, I grow. Not all the experiences are pleasant, but I do learn from them. Where there is an unpleasant outcome, I try not to repeat it. That is also growth.

So the next time opportunity presents itself to take on something new, give it a whirl. Keep those brain cells active and grow your comfort zone.

How I Won NaNoWriMo 2015

nano-2015-winner-badge-large-squareNaNoWriMo is officially over for 2015. How did you do? Me? I wrote over 52,000 words during the month of November but didn’t finish the story until December 2.

The experience this year was very different than previous years. The common thread was the push to write every day. The reality was I wrote fewer days but wrote more each day. And I didn’t feel anxious about not writing every day. No nagging feelings that I shouldn’t be out with friends when I need to write a thousand words. Not sure why this change but I believe it has to do with my confidence that I could write enough words to be a “Winner.” This was the fourth year for me to participate in NaNoWriMo.

In previous years I had a lot of uncertainty about having enough words to meet the goal. My writing style is a “pantser.” I don’t outline, write a story brief, or anything that organized. I set down with the roughest of ideas for the start of a story and then I write. Characters grow as the story progresses and when I reach a point that I’m not sure what is going to happen next, I have one of the characters do something. It may be something as small as calling a friend to talk, or taking a walk, or looking through a photo album. From this action, I create a situation of what happens, what they learn, etc. and then work the story from this new information.

The ending of the story came as a surprise to me. I was writing but didn’t know how to end the story. As I wrote about what was learned through a phone call one of the characters made, the ending just appeared. And it’s a great ending! (No false modesty here.)

Thanks NaNoWriMo for helping me develop as a writer.

Words to Live By

17-17When asked for a quote that I try to live by, I’m quick to respond with this Bible verse. As a child, I learned the first part of the verse – “A friend loves at all times” – and thought that was a great thing. When we are young we are taught to be friends, treat each other nicely, to share, and such. All of these things are good ways to live your life.

This verse fit nicely into my childhood ideas of what a friend was/is – someone I can count on, someone who laughs with and not at me, a secret keeper, a companion when causing trouble. I had very few friends growing up that met this criterion.

As an adult – yep, it took me that long to look at the complete verse – I discovered the second part of the verse – “…and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” Now that gives an entirely different meaning to the proverb. The first part is much easier than the second part.

What does it mean to be “a brother”? A brother (or sister) is family. Family loves you regardless and is there to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you when times get terrible. The family is where you turn to carry you through, sometimes to provide material needs (shelter, food, etc.), and always to provide moral support.

I know from first-hand experience that sometimes blood relatives fail you. This verse is talking about the person (and usually there is only one or two in your life) that is there regardless. Land in jail – they show up with bond money and a lawyer; so sick you can’t get out of bed – they bring the chicken soup; so sad or happy you have no words – they are the ones that instinctively know the right words (or no words) to get you through.

So how do we find this “brother” for our time of adversity? That isn’t the point of the Proverb. The point is, are you the “brother” for someone else’s adversity? This is the way I try to live my life. More than a fun-loving, trouble making friend but that I’m the “brother” someone can rely on at all times.

 

Crazy Writing Time

Writing Work AreaJust about half way thru NaNoWriMo and things are going well.

I am spending a big portion of my evenings shut up in a room with a computer where I write like a crazy person. Pouring out ideas, creating characters, talking aloud to the walls, and crafting a plot or two while watching the word count increase.

The words flow from my brain to my fingers to the computer screen, but I fear I’m missing words during the transfer process. At the end of the month, I will stand with my arms raised high and shout “Winner!” and then it will be time to cry over the words.

Now, is the time to toss caution to the wind and be brave and daring – to attempt plot lines that loosely hold the story together, to write a scene that you’re not sure is believable even in your pretend world, and to leave all the adverbs and passive sentences.

But maybe I should cut back on the amount of caffeine I’m ingesting and try getting a little more sleep.

Armed for Battle

IMG_1559It’s November, end of the beautiful fall colors in my area of the country, cold weather is creeping down from the north, and it is the start of short daylight hours. Just thinking about going and coming home from work in the dark depresses me. Watching the sun set at 4:00 is difficult but knowing it won’t be above the horizon until after 7:00 adds to the sad feelings I get. But the bright side to all this darkness is hot chocolate.

Hot chocolate is what I crave when the daylight gives way to darkness. I am sure this is my body fighting off the depression caused by the lack of sunlight, officially called Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. I don’t have SAD, but I become moody and uninvolved with long periods of no sunshine. Which really bothers me since I’m usually an upbeat person.

That brings me back to chocolate, loaded with substances that cause the brain to release endorphins – the feel good chemicals. The problem with chocolate is it tastes so good. It takes only a small amount of chocolate to activate the happy endorphins, but your mouth wants more, which overloads the brain. So how to find the perfect balance. For me, it is a cup of hot chocolate. It is hot which means I have to drink it slowly giving me a longer time to enjoy the flavor, and it is a controlled portion of chocolate that keeps the brain happy.

So bring on those long dark winter days, I’m armed and ready to take it on.