Monthly Archives: December 2011

2012: Breakthrough

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Are You Ready for the New Year?

Here it come ready or not.  2012.  I’ve decided to be ready.  I’ve done some years using “or not” mode.  It wasn’t pretty.   So I’m deciding ahead of time…this is my breakthrough year.  I hope someone out there is “rewarding points” for forward thinking gals like me.  Compliments and accolades will be accepted at any time.  (Applause signs are flashing here).

What is She Talking About?

Recently I read an article by Debbie Macomber featured in the December Guideposts magazine.  Debbie Macomber is an author who has learned to succeed in the business aspect of the profession of writing.

She reveals in this article that one of the things she does is choose a single word for each year. She thinks about this ahead of time until the right word seems to find her.   She uses this word in her reflections and decisions all throughout the year.  She described many of the words she has chosen in the past and recounted the experiences those selected words have influenced her life.

Bam!

It didn’t take long for my word to come to me.  My word for 2012 is BREAKTHROUGH.  

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Why?  It occurred to me that I am incredibly self-motivated and hard-working.  However, I am willing to work and work and work and yet when I hit certain barriers I don’t break through them. Want some examples?

  • Technology stymies me.  I can spend forever writing because I enjoy the process.  But when it comes to breaking through barriers of online marketing, social media, downloading gidgets and whatchamacallits and other google mysteries, I feel out of my element so I don’t get my writing to people who might enjoy it.
  • Weight.  I have been gaining and losing the same number of pounds for years when what my body really needs is a greater number of pounds to be eliminated once and for all.
  • I love to exercise right after I’m finished exercising.  I love the feeling of well-being that follows the exertion. I need some kind of breakthrough system for reminding myself of those rewards when I’m still lying in bed thinking about how cold and dark Ohio winter mornings really are.

I’m going to try for some major breakthrough in these areas.  I swear I am.  I felt much stronger about it before I tried for perhaps one hour in two sittings to attach an inspiring photo or picture right under the word breakthrough above.  Why can I attach a photo some days and find it completely impossible on other days?

So What the Heck is ZMOT?

Marky is my friend who is my technology mentor these days.  Why did I choose her?  I like to choose someone to help me with technology who is encouraging and just a little bit ahead of me.  Too much skill in an area in which I feel clueless is too intimidating for me.  She is also my writing partner in a new eBook I’m writing about Caregiving for Elderly Parents.

Anyway, Marky said we have to learn about ZMOT.  I thought she was talking gibberish but I downloaded it from Google.  ZMOT stands for the Zero Moment of Truth.  It preaches about today’s customers using the internet hand-held devices to decide about products and services instantanenously…sometimes while even standing in front of the product in a store.  Or even more frequently to order online.  Old ways of marketing are losing ground quickly to ZMOT types of marketing.

Do I really have to learn all this stuff? (Please read that question in a whining voice).  I just want to write and have people enjoy my writing…oh and maybe I’d like to make a little money at it sometime.  I’m trying to think like a breakthrough gal.

Yesterday I was out with a favorite little girl in my life who is ten years old. 

I told her all about my “BREAKTHROUGH” word for the new year.  I was proud of myself.  I felt like I was modeling positive behavior patterns for her.

She said, “There is a song titled Breakthrough.”

I said, “There is?”

“Yep,” she said, “Lemonade Mouth sings it.”

“Huh?” I said.

“As soon as I get two bars on my Ipod Touch from some Wi-fi area we pass, I’ll download the lyrics for you.”

And she did. 

I think that might have been a ZMOT moment.  I could hear Steven Jobs laughing at me from heaven.  It sounded like a cackle. 

Turns out I might need to learn this ZMOT stuff.  It is creeping up on all of us whether we are teachers, writers, health care professionals, store clerks or whatever. 

Do you want to try to breakthrough with me?  Maybe we can encourage one another.  I’m pretty determined.  December 30th is a safe time to feel determined.  But no I really mean it.  In 2012 I’m going to experience many breakthroughs.  I’ll keep you informed.

The Day After Christmas

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Kids hate the day after Christmas. Dads probably feel the let down too. The big TV sports games are over. Back to work looms. Only moms love this day. The shopping, wrapping, cleaning, cooking, dishwashing, cooking again, entertaining, cooking, cleaning again settles down.

But today begins the preparatin for next year. Today is the best and most economical way to purchase next year’s teacher gifts, wrapping paper, Christmas cards, yard and house decorations. For moms Chirstmas preparation is a 365 day proposition. For all those moms who are not still entertaining out of town company, today is probably the best day of preparation. The cooking for big groups is over. It is still days before moms have to face the giant dismantling of the decorations. Today is just low stress after Christmas shopping. Today is the day moms feel most ahead of the game for next Christmas. Anything we do today is a plus, a pat on the back. However, today is a nightmare for moms who have gifts to return. Surely we can put that off at least a day or two. Who has time to return gifts when we have to begin shopping for next year?

Ahhh, but all is well. We have 365 days to pull this all together again. Is 2012 a Leap Year? Do we get an extra day? We can use it.

Confessions of a Blogging Fool

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Every instinct in me tells me not to reveal what I am about to reveal, but I’m gonna’ do it anyway.  That just shows you how desperate (or stupid) I am.

I’m only pretending to be a blogger, but I honestly don’t know how to blog.  Every time I get on to post something I feel like I’m some kind of a bumbling archeologist digging for tiny clues about what I’m supposed to be doing.

In other areas of my life, I actually feel some tiny bit of competence, but not when I blog.  It’s annoying to feel like such a fool.

Example:  I’m an author.  Yes, I’ve actually written a published book.  I have the cover of that book on a jpeg on my desktop, but I don’t know how to post it on my blog.  !?  How stupid is that?  Today I actually found a comment on my blog from a college instructor, asking for copies of my book.  The poor gal had to be extremely motivated because I can’t even post the bookcover so I know she didn’t find out about the book from me.  Duh.

I can, however, post photos of Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal faking it… or David Letterman.  My skills aren’t nonexistent.  I just don’t get the whole blog puzzle.  I refuse to confess how many hours I have spent trying to post that one simple jpeg that contains the cover of my book on my blog.  You would throw yourself on the floor and laugh for a week.

Last week someone “liked me’ on my blog.  That actually does happen quite a bit and I am grateful.  These people do not know I am clueless.  When I read a blogpost from the person who “liked” me they listed blog do’s and don’ts.  I was amazed.  The post said, “Never blog more than twice a week.  People won’t want to be bothered.”  Oh dear, I’ve been rude.  Forgive me.  She “liked” me in spite of my goof.

Her blog also said not to post in the middle of the night or on a weekend.  Another goof.  I almost always write and post in the middle of the night.  No wonder I’m getting responses from the other side of the world.  And I’m sorry I’m writing this on a weekend.

I’m going to try to follow these mysterious rules.  I have slowed down on my blogging.  If you don’t know what you are doing….do it less.  That’s probably a good rule.  However, that’s not the real reason I’ve been blogging less.  The real reason is I’m writing another book.  Yay!  This one will be an eBook.

Can you imagine the misplaced confidence of a blogging idiot to attempt to write an eBook?  I must be crazy.  But I have to confess, I’m completely absorbed in it.  The invitation was extended to me and I jumped on board.  I’m excited about the opportunity and as  the writing flows, I have a sneaking suspicion that it is going to be great.  I’ll tell you more about it when it is closer to being finished.  But I doubt that I will be able to post the cover.

My book that has already been published is titled Teachers Touch Eternity.  It’s a wonderul inspiring book for teachers or future teachers.  It has a great cover.  But you’ll probably never see it because I still can’t figure out how to post the cover on my blog.

A couple of days ago, one of the “likes” I received I believe belongs to a treasured former student.  Hi Ally!  She will not be surprised that I am clueless about blogging.  She could tell you stories.

Forgive me as I continue to fumble along doing something that is really difficult for me.  I suppose that is the only way to learn a new skill.  I’m a teacher so I should know.  Thanks to all of you for your patience with a blogging fool.

 

 

Holiday Pet Peeves

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I love this time of year, but it is not without its challenges.  I’m starting to notice aggravations which could morph into full blown pet peeves.  Maybe you’ve noticed some of your own.  Forgive me while I vent just a little.

  • There is a national craft store that had several coupons in the paper for black Friday.  But when you read the fine print you realized that the coupons changed every four hours.  Essentially you had to go to the store in your jammies, stay all night and all the next day, carefully watching the clock to enter the check out line within specified time frames to take advantage of any of the coupons.
  • This same store always gives a 40% or 50% coupon for your next visit.  Read the small print.  It says 50% off any regular priced item.  To keep you from getting that real bargain, they reduce almost every store item by 10% making your coupon useless.  You won’t discover this until you check out.
  • Other stores give you “bucks” for when you return.  What is wrong with giving us the lowest possible price now?  Why can’t we have the sale price while we are actually in the store?  I need to hire a personal shopper to buy small items the day before I actually shop to accumulate the coupons I need to really shop.
  • Many stores now show you how much money you saved on their receipt.  How dense do they think we are?  If they can give you 50% off, it really means their prices are inflated by 70%.  Economics wasn’t my strongest subject, but even I can figure that out.
  • Pre-lit trees should light up when you first plug them in.  You shouldn’t have to test each bulb individually to find the culprit that blackened the entire tree, the very first time you assemble it.  Didn’t those kind of lights disappear twenty years ago?  This makes real trees on which you could hang lights that don’t burn out all at once look pretty darn good.  You could drive to a forest and cut down a tree and drag it home faster than you can find the one bum bulb on a pre-lit tree.
  • Another pet peeve?  Online sources that send me three reminders of their great bargain offering free shipping on cyber-Monday.  Then on Tuesday they offer 20% off the item you bought the day before.  That’s not marketing.  That is a premeditated attack on your holiday cheer.

I fear if I go any further I will begin to sound like Scrooge.  I think I’ll sit in front of a fire and get my holiday spirit from a cup of…uh… cocoa this evening.

The Coincidence

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Melody Beattie is a favorite author of mine. She doesn’t write novels. She writes nonfiction books that help me navigate through my days. Her pages always encourage and inspire me and give me new perspectives on the things that happen in my life.
I also admire Ms. Beattie because her first bestselling book was rejected by twenty publishers before it was finally published. I simply love stories about authors proving publishing companies wrong. Fortunately there are dozens of stories just like that to give aspiring authors hope. Did you know that Kathryn Stockett’s book The Help was rejected by sixty agents/publishers before it was finally accepted by one? You see, there is hope for all of us.
My personal two favorites of Melody Beattie’s books are titled The Language of Letting Go and More on the Language of Letting Go. (But all of her books are great.) Each of my two favorites contains daily readings that comprise a year’s worth of inspiring thoughts and suggestions. I’ve read both of these books several times. In fact I carry them in my car and read them at traffic lights. If you catch me reading, please don’t honk.
Ms. Beattie’s latest book is titled Making Miracles in Forty Days. Who wouldn’t want a miracle? I learned about the existence of the book by exploring on Amazon.com. I was intrigued by the title and have always been impressed with Melody’s advice. The paperback wasn’t even out yet, but they promised it by December 10th. In late October I decided to order the CD read aloud by Melody. How fun it was to finally hear her actual voice after only reading her words off a page for years.
Now here’s my secret. I’ve been following her suggestions in her miracle project for the past thirty days. I see you shaking your head and doubting my intelligence. I used to teach high school, so I’m used to people questioning my intelligence. But I am definitely NOT one of those gals who receives a pen pal type email offering good luck if you pass it along. I just hit the delete button and take my chances.
I must admit I feel sheepish even telling you this. I began on November 4th. It requires you to write out how you would like to change your life if you had a magic wand. You also write out your goals. Haven’t we all done that at one time or another? “So what?” I thought. But I did it.
She requires that you list things you are grateful for each day, first thing in the morning. I’ve listed my gratitudes before too, no big news there. However, she also insisted that we list the negative issues going on in our lives first, and claim in writing, that we are grateful for them. Is she nuts? By then I not only questioned my sanity, but hers as well. But what did I have to lose? No one would know. I felt like an idiot.

• I keep getting thicker in the middle. Joy to the world.
• I enjoy writing but no one seems to care. Woo-hoo! I’m grateful for that.
• I’m grateful for a pain I have in my neck…no, not a person….an actual pain. Love that pain.
• I am so thrilled that I received another rejection yesterday from an agent to whom I sent a manuscript. I   love receiving emails and letters that reject me. Just makes my day lovely.
Well, you get the idea. I felt completely absurd the entire time. Following your kind of “fake” gratitudes each day you may list the real things for which you are actually thankful. I like that part better. Melody demands you do this as soon as you wake up each day. She claims that is when we are most honest with ourselves. Later in the day we click on our denial skills and never even recognize our negative issues that bug us.
Well, there you have it my embarrassing confession. I have only a few days left before my forty days are up. So if you possess a miracle, send it my way.
There have been some baffling things I have noticed along the way. It seems like when I list a negative issue and ‘fake’ claim my gratitude for it, somehow it plants itself in my subconscious mind or something and my subconscious mind seems to work a little harder at resolving it. This takes no effort on my part. So I say, “Cool.”
In the beginning one of the issues I wrote that I would change if I could wave a magic wand, was to overcome my fear of technology enough to begin to blog. Agents and publishers insist that today’s authors blog, have a website and are active in social media. Blah. I wanted to do none of those things and had avoided them like being weighed in public. But here I am blogging and enjoying it. In less than a month I have received “likes” and positive comments from all over the world. I’ve discovered I enjoy writing humor pieces. Who knew? Thank you to all of you who have taken the time to read any one of my pieces. I think you are pretty miraculous.
Just last week I received an email from someone in Seattle. I live in Cincinnati. For those of you who don’t live in the states, or are geographically challenged, these places are maybe 2,000 miles apart. Completely out of the blue this was an old friend contacting me and asking if I wanted to collaborate on writing an eBook. She is a person whose writing I have always admired and she was suggesting a topic I never thought I would write about. But it is a topic close to my heart. This other gal has a website, blog and is into social media. She suggested a coach she uses who could help me with the eBook process. This gal is someone I send a Christmas letter to once a year. We typically have no other contact throughout the year.
You know what? I’m going to do it. This sounds eerily like a miracle. Nah, couldn’t be. I don’t believe in that stuff. It’s obviously just a coincidence. But guess who is going to keep listing her challenges each morning and claiming that she is grateful for them?

Faking It

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 No, sorry.  This is not a post about the kind of faking Meg Ryan demonstrated for Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally.  Not that it wouldn’t make a great post.   It would be a wonderful topic to explore.

This topic is just not for me.  Well, not for today anyway.  Another time when thousands of people aren’t reading my blog and you and I are just talking alone…with a bottle of wine…maybe then we can discuss that kind of faking it.

This is a post about other ways women “fake it” especially during the holidays.  Let’s be honest we women are great at faking things.  We’ve grown up learning to fake.  Our mothers taught us how.

When a guy in our lives says, “Do you have something on your mind?”  We say, “No,” even if we have recently hired a hit man to avoid divorce court.

When a friend says, “Do these pants make my butt look smaller?”   We say, “Yes.”  And then we plan to hang out with her while she is wearing them, so our butt will look smaller in comparison.

There are so many ways to fake during the holidays. And frankly we deserve all the fake help we can get. After all we are the ones doing all the shopping, mailing, wrapping, decorating and cleaning. I say, “Fake away, gals! You’ve earned the right.”

Some Great “Fake Ideas” to Try for the Holidays

  • Use Photoshop for the family photo. We could erase pounds and wrinkles from ourselves and leave the rest of the family sporting their zits and belly rolls. I’m pretty sure my former college roomie does this. She couldn’t possibly look that good after all these years.

  • Thomas Edison may have invented the light bulb, but I’m fairly certain it was a woman who created the first gift wrap bag. God bless her. She is my hero. Plop it in, throw tissue on top, done! My hubby misses boxes you could unwrap but he has never wrapped a present in his life. His vote doesn’t count.

  • Use your computer to fake shop.  Play Christmas music in the house to pretend you are at the mall.
  • Use your empty Christmas storage tubs to sweep all the junk mail and other crap off surfaces to fake clean.  Put the lid on the tub and stuff it somewhere to go through after Christmas.  If you’re lucky it will get lost and you’ll never have to deal with it.
  • Precooked, presliced honey baked ham also had to be the brainchild of a woman.  I say, “Pay the exorbitant prices or better yet, put it on the list of a male guest to bring.”  Meal half done.
  • I have a friend who shall remain nameless (in case her son reads this) who makes her mother’s time honored traditional sausage dressing by frying up some sausage and adding it to boxed Stove Top stuffing.  You go girl.
  • Bob Evans mashed potatoes taste better than mine. Lots of people wouldn’t have the courage to admit that…but I’m a gutsy girl.  Caution:  Take them out of the plastic container and don’t use the microwave. Warm them in a saucepan and as guests arrive fake taste them.  Add a plop of butter and salt and pepper.  They will all be fooled.  The truth is they taste as good made in the microwave…but remember, our goal is faking the real deal.
  • I used to bake.  Now I fake bake.  Here’s the truth; those tube cookies you slice and even those cookies all ready sliced and ready to just slide in the oven smell just as good while they’re baking, as the ones where you had to sift the flour and separate the eggs. When you taste them it’s a different story.  But during the holidays we can’t be bothered with details.  We can’t be expected to fake the scent and the taste.  Get real.
  • If you take this a step further and actually buy your cookies instead of even fake baking them, I suggest you buy a Yankee candle to burn to simulate cooking.  My favorite Yankee scent is Christmas Cookie.  I buy them the day after Christmas at half price.  Then I can fake bake all year.
  • If you can’t sing carols because you have the vocal cords of a frog, just move your lips.  If you wear a Santa hat while lip syncing everyone will think you are the lead singer.
  • Fake iron the tablecloth by throwing it in the dryer for a few minutes on permanent press with a wet towel to dampen the wrinkles out.  Who am I kidding?  I don’t use a tablecloth. I use a fake tablecloth.  And fake napkins.  If they have a picture on them I call them designer linens.
  • Buy your cranberry salad from the Kroger deli and put it in a festive glass bowl in your fridge.  Throw away the container and take the trash to the garage before your guests arrive.  Use this same technique for bagged salad makings, gravy in a jar, and the price code on your homemade cheese ball.

Warning.  Never share any of this inside information with a man or your picky neighbor or sister-in-law.  You know who I’m talking about.   It would be a breach to the Fakers Code of Honor and next year I would have to write a blog about you…the loathsome gal who ruined faking it for women everywhere.  I’d put your unphotoshopped photo where Meg Ryan’s face is today and add the audio.   So don’t test me.

The Truth About Those Christmas Letters

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Here they come…the Christmas cards. I admit I love to see them in my mailbox. I like to open them and catch up on and celebrate all that has happened in my friends’ lives. I even enjoy the whole process of sending my own card complete with my not-so-perfect family photo. Not of me, of course, but of the young people in my family who are thinner than I.

But I have to admit. Sometimes the Christmas letters included inside the card make me feel inadequate. It seems like the whole world is moving on fast forward while I’m simply treading water. Everyone else is taking exotic vacations while I’m only carpooling. Other people’s kids win awards and scholarships. My friends receive promotions and opportunities that seem to elude my family. What is wrong with me/us?

In order to maintain just a little bit of self-esteem, I’ve decided that these Christmas letters are mainly overstated hype. They have become the reality TV shows of the holidays.  Surely these families employ publicists who put a positive spin on everything that happens in their lives. Those PR professionals are probably the ones who actually write the Christmas letters.

As a public service to the world at large, I’ve decided to provide a translation to all the other folks who are feeling as inadequate as I am when they receive these fake letters.

Here is what the Christmas letters really mean.  I promise.

“Jim has accepted a new position with the largest corporation in America. He is excited about the growth potential there.”

Really means…

Jim has been unemployed for eight months this year and is now a Walmart Greeter. There is nowhere to go but up.

“Our son was offered a full scholarship to several colleges. We are so proud of his accomplishments!”

Really means…

We are homeless and on food stamps. Since we are now penniless our “indigent” status qualified him for full tuition.

“Susie, our sixteen year old, loves children and plans to seek a career in which she can help them grow and develop into their full potential.”

Really means….

Susie is pregnant out-of-wedlock and will be raising her child alone. She will be a teacher’s aide at a daycare center in exchange for free babysitting for her child. She will be working on her GED at night.

“We decided to fulfill a lifelong dream and travel around the world. We’ve been to Paris, Jamaica, Australia, and Bermuda. We spent last week in Norway in a beautiful hotel made entirely of ice.”

Really means…

Hubby is a Wall Street tycoon accused of a Ponzie scheme. We are on the run burning up funds from our Swiss accounts before the authorities catch us and lock us away.

“We have relocated and have decided to finally embrace the technology era to communicate with our friends. Our current email address is successfulcouple@winner.net  We have recently written a bestseller together.

Really means…

We had to walk away from our home when the bank foreclosed. We are now living in our brother-in-law’s old car checking our email in the public library. If you want to know the location of every store open twenty-four hours with a restroom, we have the best-selling ebook on Amazon.com.

OK.  There you have it…the real truth about those Christmas letters.  Do you feel better now?  I know I do.