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Friday Favorites – Setting Goals, Not Resolutions

This week’s Friday Favorites post is going to be short. I think most people are getting into the spirit of the next holiday. All over the web you can find Best of 2011 lists for just about everything. You can also find a ton of posts on New Year’s resolutions.

I’ve already spoken about how I don’t like the idea of New Year’s resolutions mostly because I’m a natural goal setter.

Keeping goal setting in mind, I’d like to mention Row80. ROW80 is a writing challenge that I’ve seen a lot lately on Twitter. I’d never heard of it before, but after checking it out, it seems much more my speed than Nano. I like the idea of setting my own goals (instead of setting myself up for failure), but there is still accountability.

Over on Writer Unboxed, Jane Friedman talks about making time to do it all. We know that as writers we’re expected to write a darn good book. But we also need to have a presence on-line, whether it be through blogging, Twitter, or Facebook (or some combination of the 3). Of course, this doesn’t even touch on the fact that most writers also have another paying job and families and maybe even a life away from writing. I like this post because Jane doesn’t expect us to give up what we enjoy (like TV) but she talks about doing what makes sense and will work for our lives.

Lani Diane Rich (AKA Lucy March) posted this fabulous idea over on the Bettyverse. I love the concept of a Memory Jar. I’m going out today to find the perfect jar to host our memories. I think this is much better than coming up with resolutions that won’t mean much in the coming months.

Finally, as we close this year out, Ellie Ann Soderstrom has a great post up on unconditional love. This post reminds me of a book I’ve read to my kids, I Love You Stinky Face, by Lisa McCourt:

What’s your favorite story of unconditional love? Please share it. I’m always on the lookout for books to give my kids. I hope you all have a safe and happy New Year celebration.

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Non-Traditional Holiday Stuff

Sorry for the late post. Another migraine hit and made things move slower than usual around here.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve written about the few Christmas traditions we have as a family. While on Twitter, I noticed some people mentioning their non-traditional holiday meal — cheeseburgers and tater tots. While I do a turkey dinner, it did get me thinking about what we do that is different. I put up a tree every year and the ornaments are mostly homemade ones from my kids’ years in school. There’s no uniformity of color or style (kind of like my wardrobe), but it suits us.

Here’s our tree:

Yes, that is a Santa Yoda on top. My husband loves Yoda. Every year, I get him something Yoda for under the tree. A couple of years ago, I found this tree topper at Target, so I had to get it, not for the tree, just to add to my husband’s Yoda collection. My brother had the same idea, so we ended up with 2 at our house. (Yes, I could’ve returned one, but I hate those after-Christmas return lines). This year, my kids wanted to use the extra one for the tree instead of an angel, so I let them. I added the Santa hat at their request.

For all of the baking I do, especially around the holidays, gingerbread is one I won’t do from scratch. I buy gingerbread house kits. I build and the kids each decorate a house. Even the gingerbread men came from a mix. A really tasty mix, so I can’t complain. We did make some traditional gingerbread men, but the others we made are Buzz Lightyear, rocket ships, and Little Green Men.

Last, but not least, I refuse to make a New Year’s resolution. I can’t remember if I ever have, but for me, it’s like setting myself up for failure (which is something I despise more than the after-Christmas return lines). I figure if it’s something I really want to work toward, I would’ve set the goal a long time ago, without the aid of a holiday to get me to do it. Why should I all of a sudden be motivated simply because I made a New Year’s resolution? The whole concept doesn’t make much sense to me.

This is not to knock it if it works for you. By all means if you use this day to set a goal and work toward it, good for you. I guess the idea of a new year means a fresh start, and maybe I never feel that way about the new year. My days are so steeped in routine that one day easily bleeds into another and I don’t have that feeling of newness.

If I want to achieve something, I set it as a goal and do what I can in smaller steps to reach it. The day of the year doesn’t matter.

What non-traditional things do you do around the holidays? Do you make a New Year’s resolution? How well does it work for you?

Friday Favorites – Writing and the Holidays

You know, given that the holidays are this weekend, you’d think that the blogosphere would’ve slowed down some. Not the case. I still found gobs of great posts to share.

TV

Surprisingly, I only have a few TV post to mention. Of course the first up is Tiffany White again. I swear, we’re not related, but we might as well be with as much TV time as we share. This week, she talks about female cops we love.

Then Tiffany has a post about Leverage and White Collar. I’ve never watched White Collar, but I like the premise. Leverage, on the other hand, is a show I really like. Unfortunately, I’ve fallen way behind on watching episodes. I have most of the last season waiting on the DVR and the new stuff has started again. I guess it’s good that it’s rerun season. 🙂

Amber West talks about watching reruns and she covers one of my favoritesCastle.

Fun

Elena Aitken has a post that works as a companion to mine from earlier in the week about holiday music. She chose some great ones to listen to. Like me, she reached back to childhood to find favorites.

Writing Advice

Writing around the holidays is really hard for a number of reasons. For me, the in-laws usually come to visit, so I’m expected to not disappear into my room to huddle over a computer. Also, the kids are home. Two. Whole. Weeks. I love my kids and I love spending time with them, but it usually means giving up writing time. And then there’s the questions from friends and family about your writing. Unless you have a book in hand, these conversations suck.  Lucky for you, I have some great advice from people who put it much more brilliantly than I:

Jeff Goins has a post about becoming a writer. He talks about the dreaded word “aspiring,” and why it’s important to call yourself a writer.

Kristen Lamb takes it one step further and points out that “Aspiring is for Pansies.” Writers write. If that’s what you do, claim it. This post reminds me a lot of what Lani Diane Rich says in the classes and workshops she teaches. If you’re already writing, you are a writer. She ends each class by having every student proclaim, “I AM A GREAT WRITER!” She goes by the philosophy that if you say it, you will believe it, and you will live it.

Marcy Kennedy’s post addresses how loved ones can crush our dreams and what you can do to stop them from getting you down.

A last bit of writing advice comes from Kelly Lyman who compares writing to baking cookies with two small children. As someone who loves to bake and is a mother of 3, I think the analogy is fabulous.

Before signing off to enjoy the holidays with friends and family, enjoy a couple of clips of Christmas lights set to music. I love the way these look, but I personally never have any outdoor lights. I refuse to do anything outside on the house, plus I hate the cold. And did I mention I live in Chicago? Nothing is getting me outside to hang lights, no matter how pretty they are. I’ll enjoy from the comfort of my couch and Youtube.

Have a happy and safe holiday!

Holiday Traditions – Music

Last week I said that I didn’t grow up with too many holiday traditions, but music was always a part of Christmas. A local radio station starts playing only Christmas music right after Thanksgiving. Usually by the first week of December, I’ve tuned in and listen a lot.

Half of our cookie baking day is spent with Christmas music playing. It usually only lasts about half a day. There’s only so many times you can listen to Frosty the Snowman, regardless of who is singing. My favorite Christmas song of all time is Bruce Springsteen’s version of Santa Claus is Coming to Town:

The first time I remember that version standing out for me, I was a freshman in high school. We were all brought into the auditorium for what we were told was a multi-cultural assembly. We were prepared to be bored out of our minds. When the lights went on, though, my English teacher, Mrs. Bellert, was on stage, dressed like Bruce Springsteen. She lip-synced that song. It was hilarious. Her act was followed by many other teachers doing equally silly things. To this day, it was the best assembly I ever attended.

Now that I’ve gotten sidetracked…this is supposed to be about tradition. For me, Christmas isn’t Christmas unless Johnny Mathis is singing.  My mom loved Johnny Mathis. She owned all of his albums and tapes (and I’m referring to the 8-track kind). Every Christmas morning, we listened to Johnny Mathis as we opened our presents and helped mom make breakfast for the whole family that would come to our house.

After growing up and moving out, I bought my own Johnny Mathis Christmas tapes (cassettes this time) because his music makes it feel like home. I’m not necessarily a Johnny Mathis fan, since the only time I listen to him is at the holidays, but I’d know his voice anywhere. You’ve probably heard him, even if you weren’t aware. Here he is singing Little Drummer Boy, which is another favorite of mine:

Are you a fan of holiday music? What’s your favorite singer or song?

Holiday Traditions – Christmas Cookies

I grew up with very few holiday traditions. The ones we did have came from my grandparents more than my mom. My dad died when I was 4, so she was a single working mother and she did her best. She always did Christmas morning breakfast for the whole family. Christmas Eve was at her mom’s house and Christmas dinner at my paternal grandma’s house. At the grandparents’ houses, we had traditions, but at home, not so much.

When I was a teenager, my best friend and I decided to take a Sunday and bake Christmas cookies. Sunday was the only day off we both had, and we both enjoy baking. The first few years we did this, we baked at my house and my mom was very tolerant of the mess we made. She of course got plenty of cookies for putting up with us. We gave cookies to everyone we knew.

It became our tradition. Through husbands and pregnancies and children, we’ve baked together every year for the last 24 years. We still have people asking why we do it. We get looks like we’re crazy when people hear that we spend ALL day baking. Our answer: we love it. It’s a day we can spend together and just bake and talk and have a few laughs.

This shows most of this year's cookies - there are a few outside the shot

Our production has definitely increased over the years. On average, we make about 20 kinds of cookies. I don’t think we’ve ever kept track of how many dozens, but I’m sure it’s a scary large number. People have come to depend on our Christmas cookies because they’re so good. I’ve had fellow teachers wince when I quit working because they knew they would no longer get that tray or tin of cookies. (Yes, I’ve actually had colleagues ask if I would deliver cookies even though I no longer worked there.)

It’s a tradition that our kids expect too. They’ve all taken part in cookie baking. Whether they roll dough into balls or sprinkle powdered sugar or just taste test new recipes, they all participate. They like bringing the tin of cookies to school and letting their teachers know they helped bake.

I bake year round, but this is special baking. This is about friendship and love and sharing.

What traditions have you started for yourself or your family?