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5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Holiday

Christmas tree

Image via Wikipedia

When we look back on our fondest memories of Christmas past, it is probably not the perfectly trimmed tree and beautifully wrapped gifts that we most remember. It is rather those joyously happy, splendidly unplanned moments that were ripe with laughter (or tears,) family, friends and fun. It is the time spent helping others, connecting with those we love and embracing the good cheer of the festivities.

As the holiday fast approaches, it’s so easy to get caught up in the crazed busyness. Many of us have fallen victim to the pressures and pulls of the holiday chaos all around us, only to find that we have missed the entire meaning and joyousness of this special time. The gifts we cherish most are not the most expensive, but the most meaningful. The memories we hold dear are those filled with laughter and light.

Some suggestions to get the most out of your holiday:

Create Traditions – Whether it’s caroling or making snowmen, crafting gingerbread houses or baking cookies, volunteering or reading as a family it becomes so much more special if you make it a tradition. It’s often the simple things that are the most fun. Ask your children or family what they enjoy. Some of my children’s favorite traditions: Christmas layer cookies and wassail while we decorate the tree, answering questions from “The Christmas Conversation Piece” book, watching The Polar Express and the Grinch as a family and opening one gift on Christmas Eve.

Schedule Down-Time – Be selective about which social functions you attend. And don’t try to fit in too many family activities. Even well intended choices can become stressful if you don’t leave some time to unwind and just be together. I really cherish those evenings when we sit in front of the Christmas tree in our pajamas playing a game or watching Christmas movies.

Don’t Break the Bank – The biggest stress of the season can be the credit card bills that hit the mailbox in January. Don’t get tripped up by unrealistic spending. Stick to budget that you can handle, save ahead of time if you can and don’t make the mistake of thinking more expensive is better.

Forget Martha – I am not Martha Stewart and neither are you. Forget about perfection. Forget about making 12 kinds of cookies, expecting your home to look like a magazine and finding the perfect present for everyone on your list. Reality check. Martha has an entire crew to help her create and those homes in magazines are staged by professionals. Oh and those people on television who are always so elated with their gifts…they’re actors…

Have Fun – Most importantly don’t forget to have fun! Throw snowballs, make a snowman, dance and sing to your holiday favorites or visit Santa. Do whatever brings you joy and makes you feel like a kid again.

Make this the best holiday season ever!

What do you enjoy? Care to share a holiday favorite?

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Get Involved in Your Community

Photo by Dennis Herrara (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Smart Moves

Did getting more involved in your community make your list of goals or resolutions?

Here’s why it should.

Any form of community involvement can be a wonderful thing in itself. The satisfaction you experience by contributing to your community and the people around you is priceless and many times is the most positive thing you do in your day. Although community involvement by its very nature is altruistic, you will often find that you receive more than you give.

But beyond the personal rewards, being active in your community also provides a tremendous opportunity to network with people who live in your area and the professional connections can help you advance your career or bring in more business. It can also present a fantastic opportunity to make new friends and build your personal support network.

Start participating in neighborhood or community meetings, take part in activities relating to your kids’ school or join a volunteer group or cause that interests you. The choices are endless. Find something that appeals to you and fits into your schedule. Don’t view this as another demand on your time, but as a possibility to enhance your career and your life.

Plus you’ll be setting a great example for your children.

I have over the years been a part of the school PTO and joined a local literacy tutoring group. I found both to be enjoyable, rewarding and very beneficial in adding to my pool of connections.

What type of community involvement have you done or are you planning to di in the future?

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Books Make the Perfect Holiday Gift – My Picks

Stack of thin flexicover books on reflective table

Image by Horia Varlan via Flickr

Need a gift for that hard-to-buy-for person? Books make great gifts. Thoughtful, affordable and simple. Here are some of my favorite gift picks:

For the tech lover – Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson or The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood by James Gleick

For the young reader (or the young at heart) – The Hunger Games Trilogy Boxed Set by Suzanne Collins or The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse a new picture book by Eric Carle

For the suspense lover – The Litigators by John Grisham or Zero Day by David Baldacci

For the history buff – Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever by Bill O’Reilly, Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero by Chris Matthews or Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy by Caroline Kennedy

For the cook – Paula Deen’s Southern Cooking Bible: The New Classic Guide to Delicious Dishes with More Than 300 Recipes or my personal favorite Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook

For the fiction lover – 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami or The Marriage Plot: A Novel by Jeffrey Eugenides

Look no further than your local bookstore or get them online.

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Are You Ready for Change?

“It’s not that some people have willpower and some don’t. It’s that some people are ready to change and others are not.” ―James Gordon

Are you ready to make changes in your life? To move to a  more fulfilling, productive and purposeful type of existence?

Don’t be ashamed to answer no! This may not be the right time in your life. You may not be ready to examine what you have been doing. You may not have a burning desire to accomplish something more than you have so far. You may not feel that it’s important to know where you’re going in life or sort out the meaning and purpose behind your life and work.

That’s OK. Really. Just briefly consider that clinging to your old habits and attitudes may be costing you more than you think. It can be physically and mentally freeing to let it all go and try something different.

Consider a career shift if you don’t feel fulfilled.

Examine your family roles and dynamic.

Analyze your routines and habits – both personal and professional.

Evaluate the health of your relationships.

Assess or re-assess your goals and priorities.

Look at your health patterns.

Move toward a mindset of generosity, kindness, forgiveness and gratitude.

You may find many areas where it’s time for a change. What would you like to do about it? Change is inevitable. Why not make it a considered change rather than a forced one?

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Say Thank You

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice. ~Meister Eckhart

Who do you need to say thank you to today? Is there a gesture or act that has gone unappreciated?Is there a thank you card that needs to be written – you can send an email if you have to, but I prefer a good old fashioned hand written note!

Say thank you to someone today for their help or kindness.

It’s quick and painless for you and may mean the world to someone else.

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