The End of the Year

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Well, Christmas is over, and onward we march into the new year in a few days.  Anybody remember when we partied like it was 1999?  A lot of people shared prophecy that the world would end when the clock struck midnight, and the year 2000 started.  The panic of Y2K.  As it turned out, it was a lot of fuss over nothing.

Every year, it seems like Christmas is coming somewhere up ahead in the future.  Then, all of a sudden it’s here.  Then, just as quickly, gone.  Some folks feel a bit of sadness when Christmas passes, after all the buildup.  My birthday falls between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, so I feel like it’s a celebration all week!

Now that my kids are grown, Christmas reinvents itself every year.  Some traditions stay, and some fade, as others emerge.  When I think of Christmas ten years ago, life has completely changed.  We’ve lost a few people, and gained quite a few new lives.

Now, it’s time to reflect on the dreaded resolutions.  This year, I feel like I have a million and one things that I want to do differently, or be better at, in the new year.   I’m still working on my final picks, since I can’t narrow it down.

I have:

Writing Goals

Health Goals

Family Goals

Career Goals

They are all urgent, so I will have to give them all a place in the resolution arena.  I tend to make big, chunky resolutions that I abandon, usually in January.  You know what they say about good intentions.  I give myself credit for trying again every year.  I need to set attainable goals, and break down the huge goals into little bites.

Do you make resolutions?  Can you stay committed to them?  Do you have any secrets to share about how you reach your year-long goals?

I hope that everyone had a beautiful Christmas.  If you don’t celebrate Christmas, I hope you’re enjoying the end of the year.  Let’s make 2017 the best year ever!

– Cat

This Year, Give Yourself More Meaning

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I’ve seen some posts from people lately reminding us that not everyone is filled with cheer at the holidays.  Some folks are grieving for loved ones who are not here to celebrate with us.  Sometimes, it’s a long distance separation that puts a damper on the holidays.  Lack of resources may leave some people frustrated and fed up.

We call this the season of miracles.  The Christmas message is one of hope… Glad tidings, if you will.  We tend to romanticize Christmases past.  When you contrast those memories with todays realities, you can feel profound disappointment.  Remind yourself that it’s like comparing Summers as a kid to Summers now.  Like comparing Saturday mornings eating cereal and watching cartoons with grown up Saturday mornings.   I’d like to share some things that I’ve found add deeper enjoyment to this time of year.

Whether you are Christian, or not, you can gain an understanding of Christmas, and its symbolism, by reading the first four chapters of the New Testament in the Bible.  These constitute the “gospel” of Jesus Christ, and tell of his birth and the first part of his life.  This may be Holy to some, and merely interesting to others, but will help you reflect on the point of it all.

Shop within your budget.  Don’t kill yourself with credit card bills the first of the new year.  I’m not telling you this because I’ve never done it.  I used to do it quite a bit, but since I stopped, Christmas is a lot more enjoyable for me.  By all means, buy gifts for those you love, just don’t take out a loan on your 401k to do it.

Do at least one or two “Christmasy” things.  There are a ton of feel-good holiday movies on television this time of year.  If you are lucky enough to have a light display nearby, go have a look.  We try to take at least one trip to our favorite garden center, to see the model Christmas train display.  I know that some of you get annoyed by carols of the season.  I like to sing along.  I do get funny looks at the grocery store, so sometimes I turn it down to a hum.

Don’t let the pressure get to you.  Sometimes, I think it’s easy to feel responsible for everyone having the perfect Christmas.  Like so many other things, just do your best… and don’t stress!  My friend, Amy, would recommend that you pause and take a few yoga breaths when that happens.  It may seem corny, but she never steers me wrong with that.  If you’re so inclined, it’s a great time for prayer and meditation.  Those efforts can also have a calming effect when you’re needing to press pause.

It doesn’t matter if you’re gathering with a big family, or doing Christmas on your own this year.  Remember to be kind… to yourself and others.  Be thankful for Christmas memories.   Be emotionally present for this year’s celebrations.  And look forward to what’s coming up in the New Year. It’s going to be great!

– Cat

 

Does Black Friday Make Sense?

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Today is the day.  People are out shopping for bargains to celebrate the holiday season kickoff.  These days, corporations lean one way or the other when it comes to being open at the crack of dawn on the day after Thanksgiving, and even on Thanksgiving Day.

We are a capitalistic society, driven by consumerism.  We do live in a material world.  We have pushed the holiday gift giving frenzy to the limits. How many other catch phrases can I use to rationalize what is going on these days?  What happened to our supposed holiday of love and peace?

As I said, some corporations are bold and unashamed.  They will be open all day on turkey day, sometimes through the night, and super early the next day.  Other corporations state that their policy is to stay closed and maintain reasonable hours.  They do this out of respect for their employees.  Both stances have an impact on marketing and public relations for a company.  Both strategies also affect employees, both directly and indirectly.

Supply and demand, along with diminishing returns on brick and mortar businesses, both factor in.  Retailers are desperate to cash in during the fourth quarter.  It’s the Super Bowl of retail.

Shoppers seem to set up camp on one side or another as well.   Some people, myself included, will not shop on Black Friday or the day before.  Others have built this as a new part of the family tradition.  These shoppers are on a mission.  For me, the last thing I want to do after eating a huge feast with my family is go tromping around stores, fighting for my place, and the bargains that I deserve.  I’m just not interested, to be truthful.

Shoppers love a deal, it’s true.  I think that the funniest places to shop are Kohl’s, or Bath and Body Works.  The last time I came out of Kohl’s I paid $58 for my purchases.  My receipt says I saved $103 that day, with my coupons, my Kohl’s Cash, sale prices.  That says to me that the original prices are way too high.  Bath and Body Works.  Oh my goodness.  Buy 3, get 3 free.  20% off your entire purchase.  Free item with the purchase of something else.  On sale, today only!  And, when you’re done trying to do the math to maximize your savings, you get more coupons.  It’s a part-time job.

A few years ago, JC Penney decided they were going to stop all the coupons, special sales, and incentives.  They went to everyday low prices instead.  It was a marketing disaster that they’re still trying to recover from.  The point is, we are shopping monsters that demand 24 hour access to our sport.  Yes, it’s a sport.  Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.  Sometimes you get trampled to death by someone trying to get to a big screen TV at Walmart before you do.  But when you get that trophy…. YES!

I have to ask this ludicrous questions about holiday shopping.  What would Jesus do?

– Cat

Is There a Pill Yet … Or is it Still Diet and Exercise?

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Good news!  Over the past 10 years, I’ve lost 150 pounds!  Bad news…  I’ve lost, on average, 15 pounds a year.  I think that I’m the original yo-yo dieter.  Sometimes I feel bad about it, other days it doesn’t cross my mind.  Right now, I’m going through my “not focusing on that” phase, as opposed to my “freaking out about my health” phase.

Tomorrow, I cook with my Mom, and my daughter Catie, as we prepare for Thanksgiving.  No matter how hectic things get, I always cook with my Mom the day before our annual feast.  We are so happy to have Catie join us in the family tradition as we share recipes and laughs.

This time of year, so much of the celebrating involves eating.  Most of what you eat is not salad.  If you are eating light this year, more power to you.  It’s not human nature, though.  I know how to control my diet and eating habits, I just don’t do a great job at it.

Think for a moment about how many people you know in the medical profession that you see out on a smoke break.  I’d be willing to bet that they’ve heard that smoking isn’t healthy.  The point here is that knowing what to do doesn’t necessarily mean that you do it.

With all the medical advancements, why can’t they just develop a pill for this problem?  Why does it have to be the long, tedious process of diet and exercise?  I know that several companies acknowledge the problem.   They offer appetite suppressants, fat blockers, shakes, bars, shots, and other magic tricks.  You can get surgery.  You can buy a fad diet book… and you may even follow it for a while.  You might try a multi level marketing solution for weight loss.  Maybe joining Weight Watchers, or one of the other diet plans, will work for you.  I’m of the opinion that trying anything is better than trying nothing.

I know people with the opposite problem, who are trying to gain weight and can’t.  They know what they have to do.  It’s just hard work to do it.  I can’t imagine the heartbreak involved with having an eating disorder.

I admire you if you have a sensible diet and stay fit and on top of your health at all times.  Are you in the minority, or am I just biased towards the “pretty plus” mindset?  I’m not sure that I’m not viewing it all through the lens of my experience.

So, here’s to a wonderful Thanksgiving, everyone.  I hope you feel the love of family and friends.  I hope you have a grateful heart.  I hope you get to taste two kinds of pie… and enjoy it!

-Cat

Let’s Talk Turkey

It’s getting to be that time of year again.  We’ll all be getting out our “fat pants”.  Don’t roll your eyes and pretend that I’m the only one that has two sizes of pants on hand, just for this season.  Now is when we start to ramp up and get ourselves in perfect position for a strong New Year’s resolution.

Here in America, we kick it all off with Thanksgiving.  According to tradition, most of us have a nice turkey, with all the trimmings.  The other day at work, my friend Ryan asked me if I’d ever heard of turducken.  I have heard of it, but it seems like quite an oddity to me.  Ryan said he was thinking about getting one for Thanksgiving this year.

I’m not that adventurous when it comes to food choices.  As it turns out, turducken is not that unusual.  It’s quite common in other parts of the world.  In case you don’t know, turducken is a turkey that’s stuffed with a duck that’s stuffed with a chicken. In some places they call it a “three bird roast”.   When doing a bit of research before writing this post, I came across many variations.  What do you think about a turbaconducken?  Would you like to have turporken this year?

I guess that some people aren’t crazy about plain old turkey.  Okay.  I am in the group that thinks that you shouldn’t fix stuff that’s not broken.  How far do we have to go to make things more interesting?  I saw one example of turducken that has a quail’s egg cooked inside.  I guess that the possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

My daughter-in-law, Amy, is a vegetarian, and so are her sons.  They are not having turducken at their Thanksgiving feast.  They are having tofurkey.  I’ve never tried it, but I haven’t had much tofu, the animal that tofurkey comes from, either.  I can’t say that I don’t like it.  It’s in that same unknown territory as turducken.

So, this Thanksgiving, I’m giving thanks for all the simple joys in life. I know each of us has so much to be thankful for.  There’s one thing in particular that I feel blessed with.  My son-in-law, Richard, is passionate about cooking a big turkey for us all!

– Cat

You Could Spell Pigeon If You Had The Right Letters

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Photo by Tyler Lambert

 

In my family, we play Scrabble.  My daughter plays. I play. My Mom plays. Her Mom played.  Other women in our family, as well as close family friends, have joined in over the generations.  We even let the men play from time to time.  We’ve had marathon games, and we’ve  heard stories about memorable games over the years.  It’s kind of like sports in other families.  At family gatherings, we would fix dinner, eat, clean up, and settle in to play.

My daughter has the deluxe version of the game, with the rotating turntable board.  It’s the actual one that I bought for my Granny.  The styrofoam is missing from one corner.  It was chewed away by a raccoon that got into it at Granny’s house, when she stored it in the basement.  Inside the lid, you can find documented historical moves.  You can see the date when Granny’s best friend, Francis, dumped her rack.  You can also see particularly high score games and other outstanding accomplishments.

My husband is from Scotland. We played Scrabble on our wedding night.  He likes to think he can use words that are common usage in the UK, but I only allow this when we are playing in UK.  He is a good player, and it’s usually a pretty close game between us.  I keep a little notebook in my Scrabble box, so that I can keep a dated record of every game played.  My letter tiles are in a bag that my Mom sewed for me after the original bag gave out.  It’s made out of a pig print fabric, because I love pigs.

You see, there is a reason why you have to get dinner, and all the clean up, done before you start to play.  You never know when a game is going to end.  It’s not unheard of for a nap to happen between moves.  There is a story of one such game that has been retold many times in our family. It presents a great analogy for life, so it’s value is immeasurable.

So, Granny, Francis, and her Aunt Clydie, are playing into the night.  Granny’s son, my Uncle Chris, is a little boy sitting on laps.  He  moves around the table as the women take their turns.  He knows he is not allowed to give away any secrets.  He can see all of the letters on everyone’s rack, and studies them as he moves from seat to seat.  The play is long, the room is quiet.  My Uncle looks up and says “You could spell PIGEON if you had the right letters”.  Everyone has a good laugh at this punchline.

The point is, you can spell anything if you have the right letters.  So it is with life.  As you move through life, you will sometimes get the distinct feeling that your rack is full of vowels, without a consonant in sight.  Sometimes, you have all the high scoring letters, but you’re sunk without a vowel. Then there are the times when you’ve got an awesome word, but no place to play it.  Some days, everything works for you, and you dump your rack.  You will struggle as you grow, trying to beat your Mom, or your Granny, in a game.  When you do, it may not feel as sweet as you expected.

You get to pick your letters, but you don’t get to see them first…  Just like life.  We need to accept our letters and play our best every day.  It’s always easier when every thing goes your way, and your letters are perfect. Sometimes, though, when you have no other options, just play your word and move on.