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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Auld Lang Syne, My Friends - Crafting the Perfect New Year's Toast

I just love a man with tenacity. New Year's Eve is the perfect time for such a quality to shine, particularly in my presence.

Crafting the perfect New Year's toast is challenging, but my husband kept right on trying. And my patience paid off. He finally saw things my way.

Happy New Year to you all. I wish you prosperity and peace in 2014. My wish for you will come true if you eat your pork, black-eyed peas and collard greens. Leave those off the menu, and, well, I can't make any promises about your future.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

To the North Pole Returns Department

From talking dolls to bleeping robots to ride-on toys with wheels, parents for generations have rued Christmas Day and the stuff Santa dumped on the doorstep. While the man in red runs in and runs out, parents have to live with the consequences. Claus receives the credit and adoration. Parents dole out the discipline.

One Christmas, I sat down and wrote the big man a respectful letter filled with my thoughts on what he brought.

Welcome to the Merry Days after Christmas.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Eve of Christmas Eve

Take a break from your last minute plans, and listen to my dealings with that little old man:

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

10 Success Secrets of Santa

Do you ever wonder how Santa does it all? This is the busiest time of the year, yet he stays jolly and calm and get his job done. What's the secret to Santa's success? 

10 Success Secrets of Santa

1. He makes a list. Highly productive people make prioritized lists. Santa focuses on naughty and nice. Those categories don't fit the needs of most of us. The point is to list what you need to do, and prioritize. 

2. He checks his list. Twice. The only way to know if you're completing important tasks is to check your list. 

3. He dresses to impress. As they say, the clothes make the man. You might not wear a red suit, but remember to dress according to your audience. Sweatpants in your home office are fine, but not so perfect for meeting with a client. 

4. He eats right. Santa consumes the required number of calories to maintain a jolly spirit. He balance his cookies with milk. Avoid being snippy by keeping your blood sugar at the right level. Eat a balanced diet. 

5. He makes an entrance. We can't all arrive via chimney, but there's more than one way to get noticed. Smile and make eye contact when entering a room. You'll be remembered as long as the jolly old elf himself. 

6. He surrounds himself with the right help. Santa delegates to his elves AND trusts that they can and will do the job. The right crew and connections can make the difference between getting a project done and getting it done well. 

7. He smiles even when others cry. Santa sits and lends a knee to his admirers, some of whom repay him with tears. Santa smiles anyway. There will always be people who cry no matter what you do for them. Smile anyway. 

8. He gives gifts to the good. Everyone loves to receive a gift. Gifts don't necessarily need to be consumer goods. You can give the gift of your time, of a listening ear, of a hug, of a handwritten note. Gifts of this kind build relationships with fans and friends. 

9. He isn't afraid to get a little dirty. Soot on the sleeves of his coat is a hazard of his occupation, likely not something he looks forward to. He gets his attitude right, though, and gets on with his business. Sometimes to succeed you have to get your hands dirty. 

10. He chooses his words carefully. Ho, ho, ho. Find a phrase that fits you. Say it with enthusiasm.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Be My Guest - Bette Lee Crosby

Merry Christmas! 
Leaving you a comment enters you to win a copy of Bette's book, Cupid's Christmas. Winner chooses to receive the book in either print OR digital format.
Hello faithful readers. Please welcome this month's guest author, Bette Lee Crosby. She and I connected about a year and a half ago. She's got southern roots and a gift for the pen.

Crosby originally studied art and began her career as a packaging designer. When asked to write a few lines of copy for the back of a pantyhose package, she discovered a love for words that was irrepressible. After years of writing for business, she turned to works of fiction and never looked back. “Storytelling is in my blood,” Crosby laughingly admits, “My mom was not a writer, but she was a captivating storyteller, so I find myself using bits and pieces of her voice in most everything I write.”

Award-winning novelist Bette Lee Crosby brings the wit and wisdom of her Southern Mama to works of fiction—the result is a delightful blend of humor, mystery and romance along with a cast of quirky charters who will steal your heart away.

Crosby’s work was first recognized in 2006 when she received The National League of American Pen Women Award for a then unpublished manuscript. Since then, she has gone on to win several more awards, including another NLAPW award, four Royal Palm Literary Awards, The Reviewer’s Choice Award, two FPA President’s Book Award Gold Medals and three silver medals.

Her published novels to date are: Cracks in the Sidewalk (2009), Spare Change (2011), The Twelfth Child (2012), Cupid’s Christmas (2012), What Matters Most (2013) and Jubilee’s Journey (2013).  She has also authored “Life in the Land of IS” a memoir of Lani Deauville, a woman the Guinness Book of Records lists as the world’s longest living quadriplegic.

Cupid's Christmas is the perfect book to curl up with beneath the tree during the holiday season. Let's see what Bette has to tell us about it. ~

Hello everyone! It's wonderful to visit with you today. Cupid's Christmas is a love story for both the young and the young at heart. In a spot somewhere between Heaven and Earth, Cupid is trying to overcome the forces of lust, jealousy and the events brought on by his nemeses — Life Management. 
Cupid matched John and Eleanor thirty years ago, but Life Management stepped in and fouled things up. Now they are both single and back together again, but before Cupid can give them the happiness they deserve, he’s got to come up with some magic, a few miracles and a dog for John’s daughter.

In the words of Cupid… from Cupid’s Christmas:

 Love makes believers of us all—yes, even me. With all the tragic love affairs I’ve witnessed you might think I would by now be disenchanted, but no—I’m the biggest believer of all.

 Love makes anything believable. One zap from me and the impossible becomes possible. Women feel their heart start to flutter and wise men begin to act foolish. Up until today Matthew has registered a zero on the gullibility scale, but now that he’s looked into Lindsay’s eyes, he’s ready to be a believer. I can tell you what is going to happen, but I won’t because it would only spoil the fun. Instead I’ll give you this small bit of wisdom—every human should have a dog because somewhere behind the bark and the wag of a tail is a heart that’s bigger than your own and the truth of what love is all about. 

Christmas is no doubt the most wonderful time of the year, we say it in song and we celebrate it in our heart.  Christmas is a time when people are kinder, food is tastier and good deeds start appearing from out of nowhere.  We start getting ready for Christmas when the first chill tickles our nose and we are saddened when the tree comes down and all the joy is packed away to wait for another year. But wait…why let go of Christmas? I don’t. I have ten fun ways that I carry Christmas with me throughout the year and I’m here to share them with you right now…

  1. Christmas Mugs – I collect them and use them every day, I start the day with my coffee in a Christmas cup.
  2. Night light – I have a bubbling Elf night light in the hall bath, and it remains there year-round.
  3. Christmas Countdown App on my iPhone – Starting on December 26th, one click and I’m reminded of exactly how many days, hours and minutes until the next Christmas.
  4. All year I collect pictures of people I love, because at Christmas I make personalized calendars for family and friends. Each calendar is customized with their family pictures and birthdays.
  5. When the clocks get turned back and days grow shorter, I celebrate the coming of Christmas by lighting a fat red candle and having a glass of spiced wine.  (you have to buy it around Christmas and keep it in the fridge until the following fall)
  6. A pick up dollar store stocking stuffers all year long and fill shopping bags with each person name on it – plus two extras for the Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes we do every year.
  7. I freeze slices of fruitcake to have with cinnamon tea n a rainy afternoon.
  8. I buy red tee shirts whenever I see them on sale, in all sizes so there’s always a spare for visitors.
  9. I try to do occasional kindnesses for strangers and act as we all do at Christmastime.
  10. And most importantly, I go to church every Sunday (okay almost every Sunday) to  celebrate what Christmas is all about.
~ Merry Christmas!

Connect with Bette Lee Crosby:

Don't forget. Your comment enters you in a drawing to win Cupid's Christmas in your choice of either print OR digital format!  
Winner will be drawn and announced Wednesday (12/18).

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Tipsy Tannenbaum

Year after year, my family takes to forest and field for the annual December tradition of sourcing the perfect Christmas tree. No matter how perfect the tree looked in the woods, when we get it home it's usually at least three limbs short of average.

One year, we returned home with our selection only to realize that it wasn't a tree at all. It was a bush. The next year, the men in my family brought home a true charity case:

Wish us luck this weekend, as we once again go traipsing and trespassing our way across the county in hopes of finding the most beautiful Christmas tree ever.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Seeking an Exciting Life on Craigslist

My husband and I watched the documentary, Craigslist Joe, about a guy in LA who decides to prove that the Internet brings people together rather than isolates us. He so strongly believes that goodwill among mankind still exists that he's willing to rely on it to meet all of his needs for 31 days. For the entire month of December, he depends on the generosity of people who posted Craigslist ads. He even found his camera man on Craigslist. 

First let me say, I recommend this movie. It's entertaining and interesting and Joe is a likeable and patient guy. It's easy to understand why people trust him and help him. WARNING: There's content in this picture that you do not want your children to see.

Second, let me say, I am disturbed by the lack of resolution. As he sets out early in his experiment, Joe borrows a bicycle for the month, per an offer on Craigslist. A short time later he no longer has the bike in his possession. No explanation is given for the missing bike. Did he throw it in a ditch? Did he wreck it beyond repair? Was it stolen? 
Much to my husband's annoyance, I can't quit obsessing about the bike. I mean, if the project is to demonstrate that people are still generous and trustworthy yet he doesn't return the bike to the person from whom he borrowed it, hasn't he shot himself in the foot? I want to know what happened to the bike!

Third, don't try this at home. Mostly what the project proves is that people, particularly those who use Craigslist, are CRAZY. Not just a little off their rockers, either. Nuts in a can, I tell you.
My husband says I'm reading too much into it. He says they edited the film that way to make it interesting. Maybe so, but when I went snooping around my local Craigslist this is what I found:

Reply [?] 

Secret Society (Central)

I am currently dissatisfied with the amount of exceptional in my life.

I would like to begin a formal secret society with ritual and rules. I want a society of intellectuals banded together, loyal to an unconditional extent. Dedicated to a cause -- my cause -- with blinders on. We'll become rich and powerful, and no one will know.

In members, I want bravery, creativity, and fidelity. I want those who feel as though their purpose has not yet come along in life. I want those who can boldly commit to a new enterprise.

We will be exclusive--in time, once built. For now, write me if you are interested. Include your rationale for wanting to join--why is it that your life hasn't mattered yet? Include the talents you're bringing to the group. Can you shoot a gun? Repair cars? Paint? Any talent is appreciated.

Let us know.
Sure thing, CRAZY.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Three Books for the Holiday Hostess

There comes a point in the holidays when even the bestest, most perfectest person needs a little help. If you don't own these three books, get them any way you can. They provide the road map for surviving the holidays with your hair still in place.

1. The Joy of Family Traditions by Jennifer Trainer Thompson.

No matter how hard you try to ignore the calendar, teachers and school administrators will shove it in your face. The Christmas break will begin whether you bring your grievances to the school board about it or not. And, being the "good" parent that you are, you desire to turn these compulsory days at home together into special memories. But how? With great ideas that you make your own, of course.

2. The Art of the Visit by Kathy Bertone.

Don't look now, but Aunt Eulene, Uncle Edgar and the Arkansas rug rats have loaded up their car and they're headed your way! In true Christmas spirit, you must greet them at the door with a smile and hugs all around and remain just as enthusiastic to be in their company for the entire two weeks of their visit. Kathy Bertone offers practical wisdom for living your intention.

3. Peterson's Holiday Helper by Valerie Peterson

Guess what. We ALL know you're not perfect. We heard you in the pantry mumbling to yourself and slamming cans of cranberries on the shelves. There's a no-bake cure for this! Peterson's Holiday Helper is filled with recipes for keeping one's sanity.

Yes, these invaluable resources are in my personal collection. How else could I make it to New Year's with such grace and composure? And now YOU know my little secret. Shhh. Don't tell.

Friday, December 6, 2013

It's Not Far to the Promised Land

The Promised Land Grocery (located in Promised Land, South Carolina) has everything you need when you're all out of manna. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Naughty or Nice

I thought I had more time. I was planning to change my ways, to straighten up and quit being sarcastic and silly. I was going to get serious about getting on Santa's "Nice" List.

But today is the day that he locks it all in. The bah-humbugs like me, who had all intentions of jingling bells and smiling at elves and wearing Christmas sweaters, will have our names inscribed on the "Naughty" List. There's no way after today to erase them.

December 4th is Santa's official list day, when he finalizes his lists and 
lays off the spying elves in order to busy the building 
elves. All hope is lost for those of us waiting for the Christmas crunch 
before correcting cantankerous behavior. This is no joking matter.
Read about it for yourself:

 The woes of procrastination and a poor attitude are catching up with me today.

I'm SORRY, Santa! Give me one more chance. I promise I'll be nice.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Don't Say That Period

I was on the phone with someone, I won't say with whom, last week, and the conversation was going well until he said, "That being said however comma."

Whoa, Jack. Was that necessary? He'd negated everything he just said. Did have to give me an acid burn, too?

I interrupted him. Rude, I know, but I couldn't overlook his egregious comment. "You don't need to do that," I said.

"What? Do what?" he asked.

"What you just did."

"What did I just do?" He was irritated that I'd interrupted him.

"You don't have to speak your punctuation," I told him.

He was silent.

I reassured him. "I'm a writer. I can do punctuation in my head."