Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Changing Traditions

When my twenty-four-year-old son recently said, “This doesn’t feel like Christmas,” the title of a book by Thomas Wolfe, “You Can’t Go Home Again,” popped into my head. Although we did some decorating as well as some gift shopping and wrapping, the meager group of presents under the tree didn’t look like the gift pile of past Christmases.

“Welcome to Grown-Up-Land,” I replied. When the kids were little it took very few dollars to fill the space under the Christmas tree. Now that they’re grown and half of them have moved out, we have scaled way back and limit the presents to one per person. This benefits me the most, since the majority of the baking, decorating, shopping, and wrapping, always fell to me. Now I have a lot less stress during the holiday season!

With changing family dynamics comes a change in traditions. We got our tree up this year. It is pre-lit and there’s an angel at the top. In addition, there are three candy canes on the tree. Two of them look like mice. The rest of the decorations sat in a box at the foot of the tree until Christmas Eve. We (my husband Denis and I) just couldn’t figure out when to decorate the tree.

Back when our children were young, we decorated as a family. Denis strung the lights and then we hung our favorite ornaments. Finally we added the silver glass spherical ornaments. They really reflected a lot of light. All this while munching on homemade caramel corn; my grandmother’s recipe.

This year I wasn’t in the mood to make caramel corn for just the two of us. I can’t handle that much sugar. Neither of us need the calories. But it was more than that. It just didn’t feel right. So, we never really decorated the tree.

So it’s time to create some new traditions. Traditions for two. For now. Until, perhaps, when the time comes that our family dynamics change once again?

Have your traditions changed? How did you handle it? What did you do? Leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

‘Tis the Season of Gratitude

Is it just me or is our society getting ruder? Please and thank you are so underrated and underused lately, in my opinion. When I worked at a fast food restaurant, my first “real job” back in the 70s, we were taught to give the customer their change and/or food, look them in the eye, and say, “Thank you, come again.” We even added a “Have a nice day.” With a smile.

My recent shopping experiences have concluded with me being handed my change and/or purchases and told, “Here you go.” To which I reply, “Yes, here I go.” The look on the clerk’s face is priceless and clueless. I don’t blame them. I blame their management, the people training them in customer service. Or not training them, apparently.

I feel that in this tight economy, retailers should be grateful for any business that comes their way. Showing gratitude to their customers through interactions with their employees is a place to start.

So now my fun shopping game is to look the clerk in the eye as I get ready to “go” and say, with a smile, “You’re welcome. Enjoy your day.” The blank, confused look is priceless. I’m sure they just think I’m insane. Perhaps, but at least I’m grateful.

What do you think?  Do you think manners are important to a positive shopping experience?  Leave me a comment.  I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, December 9, 2011


“Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year?” I heard some people asking each other in my writing class a few years ago. I had no clue what they were talking about so I eavesdropped so more. I soon learned that NaNoWriMo stood for National Novel Writing Month which happens to be November. It sounded insane to me—write a novel in a month.

Write a novel in a month? Fifty thousand words, to be exact. (1,666 words per day) As a true procrastinator I’ve never even written a novel in a year or make that all of my 51 years. I was always afraid to start one because it might not be perfect and I probably wouldn’t finish it anyway.

So this year I signed up for NaNoWriMo. (I even gave a modest donation to help this nonprofit that promotes writing.) And on November 1, 2011, I started to write.

I wrote and I wrote. I didn’t make the daily word goal every day but I didn’t give up. I wrote before and after school daily and for hours on the weekends. Unfortunately I “lost” some writing days due to Thanksgiving but it was worth it, the feasting was delicious!

Some days the story just flowed from my fingertips to my keyboard. Other days I struggled. Those were the times that my main character got hit by a car, was sickened with food poisoning, and got the flu. I laughed as I typed and I cried. It was amazing how emotionally involved I got with my characters. I imagined my fourth graders reading my words. I kept it clean—rated a mild PG. There’s no bad language or nudity, but it is a bit scary and sad due to the ghosts and orphans.

Now that November has ended in one big flurry of typing, I have a 50,013 word manuscript to work with. It’s not great, but I did it. It was painful at times. Especially the day I typed 8,000 words. My teddy bear shaped ice packs came in real handy that day.

I’m letting my manuscript “rest” for a while. I’ll probably start editing it in January. I know it will be a lot of work but I actually can’t wait! I’m so proud of what I accomplished so far.

The bottom line? Even when you think you can’t do something, just do it. You might just surprise yourself.

Have you ever done something you thought you couldn’t do but did? Leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from you!