Wednesday, December 31, 2008

And a Happy New Year!

Today is the last day of 2008. What a year it's been, all around. I call it the "Year of Firsts." Of course, we had our first African American elected as President in the United States. There were also firsts made on the economic and international scene, although not quite as exhilarating or welcomed as the U.S. election. Personally, there were many firsts for me - most of which, in the grand scheme of things, are minor, but firsts none the less: my first Rita's Ice, my first trip to Vegas, my first visit to Montréal, the first time I have someone reporting directly to me at work, the first time I tried to participate in NaNoWriMo, my first blog attempt, the first time I've reconnected with some friends in 8 or more years, and many, many more things.

It was a year for learning and growing. It was a year for trying to survive, or being thankful for surviving. As I said, it was quite the year all around.

I'm not a resolution-making kind of gal. I've tried, but, due to a sheer lack of will power, always fail, usually within the first 12 hours of the new year. But I know I want 2009 to be different, better, happier. I've taken the last few weeks of 2008 to do a bit of introspection (more than this introvert usually does), and there are bits of myself I've suppressed, and bits that I would like to change. And this doesn't mean that it's all just about me. It's about you. It's about my world and the people in that world. The other morning, I turned on the TV to find the station tuned to Joyce Meyer ; her message for the day was to live a fruitful life, not just be "busy." She hit the nail on the head and spoke directly to what I have been grappling with all this time. This will be my mission in 2009.

So, with that, I raise my imaginary champagne flute, and toast all of you. I wish you all a very healthy, happy and most of all peaceful New Year! See you in 2009!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

'Twas two nights before Christmas...

When all through the house,
I finished gift wrapping, well - at least for my spouse.
The stocking was hung by the chimney with care;
it's stuffed with some goodies - how did those things get there?
In sweatpants I snuggle, warm in my bed,
While my to-do list still dances around in my head:
We leave in the morning and I still need to pack,
and sync up the iPod for the ride there and back.
I suppose we'll leave early to beat the great rush;
Pray the L.I. Expressway is not full of slush!
To church with the family, then off to the feast,
we'll have pasta and bratwurst, but no rare roast beast.
Christmas Eve night, we'll eat such good food,
and with wine we'll be merry and in a good mood.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear -
Gifts under the tree! Looks like Santa was here!
And I'll worry 'bout whether our gifts are enough...
or maybe, just maybe, it's a tad too much.
But it's not about presents or boxes or bows,
It's about loving and giving, as everyone knows.
So, 'though it's Christmas that I wait to be here,
I say to you all, "Happy Holidays and a Splendid New Year!!"

Monday, December 22, 2008


If you've ever watched Irving Berlin's White Christmas, you'll surely remember the song the foursome sings about the splendor of winter on the train up to Pine Tree, Vermont, "Snow, snow, snow, snow, SNOW!"

How ironic, then, that it was the first measurable snowfall in these parts that kept my sister and me from seeing the Broadway version of White Christmas on this weekend in New York City. No worries. We enjoyed the scenery in our respective homes - both in front of gleaming fires amidst twinkling Christmas lights and decorations with cups of hot chocolate or tea. Snow days are the best, especially when you don't have to go anywhere.

Which is why I loved the article that columnist Mark Di Ionno wrote in Saturday's Star Ledger (a local paper) about "the innocent snows of yesteryear." He hit the nail on the head. Snow, in no small fault of the media and weather reporters, has become a point of anxiety, inconvenience and worse to us adults rather than a beautiful, seasonal blanket that christens the world anew with shimmering brightness.

Now, I know that this is nothing new. The wonders of snow always seems to fade away that moment we start driving and moving about our adult worlds. Snow days are for the kids. Right? No. I don't believe so. But whenever there's a snow storm (at least here in the NYC metro area) it's like the biggest catastrophic event that you could imagine. Batten down the hatches! Snow is coming! A whole 3-5 inches! SAVE YOURSELVES!!

I've lived in New Jersey all my life, with the exception of my college years in even-snowier Massachusetts. It's no big deal. If it's bad, don't go out. If you HAVE to go out, wait until they clear the roads. Drive safely. Leave yourself enough time and room between cars. Done. But, if you DON'T have to go out, enjoy it! Don't think "Oh, God! I have to shovel this mess. It's going to freeze. I'm trapped inside (and that's another in the NYC metro area, no on is so isolated that they will be trapped for days on end, except maybe the extreme North/ Northwestern corners - not even, so I have to laugh when people go to the grocery store at the mention of snow in case the snowy apocalypse comes and they don't have their Ding-Dongs on hand.)

So, enjoy the snow. Revel in the beauty of it. It won't last forever.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Then & Now

I hadn't planned on posting anything today, but I need a mental health break, so what better way to enjoy a few minutes than to fill out a survey and give you more of an idea (maybe too much of an idea?) of who I am (and then, it will be your turn!) A special thanks to PQ Nation for posting this first!

THEN AND NOW: This tag basically asks what I was like as a kid, at age 18, and now, for all of the following:

Kid: It varied. For a while, I wanted to be an English teacher. Then, since I played "business" all the time (with no more than a tricked out calculator and a pad of paper), I wanted to go into "business." Then I wanted to be a journalist. I even used to have weekly issues of a newspaper I made myself on lined paper. My only subscriber was my sister, so the paper folded.
Age 18: I was a freshman in college studying child psychology. But my dream job was to be a journalist for Rolling Stone or National Geographic.
Now: Would love to be a published writer (book or magazine). Also, anything to do with music (magazine, radio station, whatever). Hey, you said "dream job!"

Kid: Kirk Cameron, Joey McIntyre (NKOTB)
Age 18: Brad Pitt
Now: Anthony Bourdain, House (do I have a thing for grumpy, scruffy old men?)

Kid: Anything NKOTB or Debbie Gibson, then I really loved "I Beg Your Pardon" by Kon Kan...toward the end of the 80s I was into New Order and the Cure. And many many more.
Age 18: Anything Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan, Ani DiFranco, BNL, Britpop. Loved "The Child Inside" by Qkumba Zoo. And many many more.
Now: I listen to a ton of music so it's hard to narrow down.

Kid: "Never Ending Story" and "Sound of Music." A few others, I'm sure. There was also a time when I watched "White Christmas" almost every day for a week. Don't ask me why.
Age 18: Anything John Hughes. It's a Wonderful Life. Sound of Music, a ton of others
Now: Anything John Hughes. It's a Wonderful Life. Sound of Music, Donnie Darko. About a Boy. The Notebook. A ton of others

Kid: watched TV or played until bedtime
Age 18: Classes, watched TV, parties, typical college stuff
Now: cooking dinner or get togethers with friends, watching TV, reading, running errands

Kid: my sister, Lynette, Sam, James, my cousin Jaime
Age 18: Sam, James, my college roommate and friends
Now: my husband, my sister, Sam, Joanne, Beth

Kid: Being a kid.
Age 18: I worked over the summer and on holiday breaks as a bank teller
Now: Director for CME programs at med ed company

Kid: I had a few. None you need to know about.
Age 18: I had a boyfriend then but it lasted only a few months. Not sure if that counts as a crush.
Now: My husband!

Kid: The thought of losing my mom, then when that happened, having a stepmonster, which also happened
Age 18: living away from home for the first time and trying to make new friends
Now: The thought of losing my grandparents

Kid: my mom, Amelia Earhart
Age 18: my mom, Amelia Earhart, Audrey Hepburn
Now: my husband, my mom, my grandparents, my sister and to echo Princess Q "Anyone who spends their life trying to make a difference in the world by being true to who they are."

Kid: it seems that kids are always laughing at something stupid, so it could have been anything
Age 18: Being goofy with friends
Now: Inside jokes and being goofy with friends/my husband/my sister; stupid people

Kid: Loved my mom and grandparents. My sister was annoying. My father was, well, there.
Age 18: Loved my grandparents and sister. My father put stepmonster first which strained things a little. Loved him but it was hard at times.
Now: Love them all even if they can get annoying. Family is the most important thing.

Kid: not that I can recall.
Age 18: Um...not that I can recall.
Now: My husband.

Kid: The youngest in my family. Incredibly shy. A four-eyed, braces-wearing, taller than all the other kids in class, brainiac (aka, Nerd!). In a black hole after my mother's death.
Age 18: College freshmen trying to find my way. Trying new things and listening to my heart. A bit more confident.
Now: Still shy and trying to find what it is I am meant to do on this great earth. A wife, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a coworker.

I…tag…YOU!! Do this…it was a lot of fun

Monday, December 15, 2008

Run, Run, Rudolph!

Ack! 10 days until Christmas!

I was having a near-heart attack 37 days ago so you can imagine the frantic state I'm in now! I have managed to get the majority of my cards out, which is good. There are just a handful left to mail because I don't have new addresses (people, you know who you are! Please respond!) We also cut down our tree last weekend (I know, I know...for you greenies out there, I'm sorry. It's tradition, what can I say? Maybe next year we'll go "green" to speak) and decorated the house. Christmas shopping is about 50% done. Ack! It's not for lack of trying - I just cannot find the things that I wanted to get. So, over all, we're getting there. With 10 days and counting.

A few things have been put on the back-burner. Like the christmas cookie marathon. I'll be lucky if I can make a single batch of cookies this year with the lack of spare time. Same goes for seeing the NYC lights and displays. Thank goodness I have some time off after Christmas.

Added stress comes from work - an unusally busy time right now due to a major change in our company. But I suppose that's a good problem to have in light of the economy and all right now. So, I just feel like I'm running, running, running. Come December 25, I will be a more relaxed, and happier, camper.

So, my posts will be few and far between in the next few weeks. In the meantime, here's a little tune for you:

Vince Guaraldi: Christmas is Coming

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Toy Catalogue

Unless you have children (which I don't...not yet), have young relatives or have close friends who are parents of young children, it's not expected that you'd be hip to the cool toys of the season. I know for certain that I fall into that category. For instance, what was last year's Hannah Montana craze is this year's Twilight rampage (or is it HSM?); what was once Pictionary is now Wii (or is it XBox?). It's hard to keep up. And that's just for the "older" kids. I'm totally lost when it comes to the hot list for those under, say, 10.

So, why am I surprised every year when our company does its charity holiday gift giving initiative, I select a child who wants a toy I have never heard of in my life? Last year it was the Backyardigans. I had no clue. Luckily, a coworker had a young granddaughter who also liked those characters, so she helped me. This year, it's Elmo Dance and Learn. Now, I know who Elmo is. That part is simple. What I didn't know is that Elmo Dance and Learn is not, in fact, a dancing furry monster that giggles when you press his hand. It, as I've learned, is a mat for dancing....and learning. (I just thought I'd share my new-found knowledge for those of you in my shoes.) I still can't find the darn thing in stores, but that's besides the point.

When I was young, it was simple year after year: Barbie! Loved her. I had all sorts of Barbies, and accessories, including her townhouse, her Corvette, her McDonald's; then there was Ken, Theresa, and Skipper, and some other cousin/sister/friend whose name escapes me...and the horses....Oh, it was great. I don't think Barbie has the same luster any more. She doesn't even look the same. Even though Barbie just won a legal battle against Bratz dolls, I don't even know if either is popular with girls anymore.

I was in the toy section of a store today. They still sell Lincoln Logs. Can you believe that? With all the gizmos and gadgets out there now, they still sell the simplest (and most boring, if you ask me) toy.

I'm not sure what my point is today, except that suddenly I am reminded again how old I'm getting and how different childhood seems through these adult eyes.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Embracing and Owning

On any given day, I often find myself thinking that I should have done this or I wish I did that instead of whatever it was that ultimately happened. I obsessively go over in my mind all the "wrong" things that happened that were in my control, such as words I may have said or wrote and how I maybe should not have said it that particular way (just an example). It's really a nuisance. I try to convince myself that it happened, it's over, time to move on. Maybe it's not nearly as bad as I think it is. Or not. Maybe it was but no one really noticed. Maybe they did and are just being polite. {I really take the art of being my own self-critic to a new level.}

I go through this exercise daily. It's crazy, yes, I know. Which, I suppose is why I had to smile when I came across this posting on PQ Nation "Owning Your Words". Princess Q quotes Sonia Choquette when she says "Behind every word flows energy." Then PQ urges her readers to "figure out your flaws and your strengths…and OWN THEM. Don’t give ANYONE ELSE power over YOU."

This is the mantra I've been using lately "Embrace your imperfections." Go ahead - call me a head case. I know I am. There, see: I owned that! I have to keep reminding myself that behind all these words flow energy, like superpowers, and they are to be used for good. I really do need some good energy right now.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Perfect Boss?

File this under "um...ok?"

Ever have an employer who could easily be described as a "Hitler" of sorts?

I have to say, I've been lucky when it comes to having great bosses. No, really. I'm serious. Two people stand head-and-shoulders above the rest, since I would describe them more as "mentors", "friends", and "inspirations" than "bosses." There may have been one or two that raised eyebrows, but none were ever totally horrific. But I know others who have not been as fortunate.

Then there is Rosa Mitterer, a 91-year old woman in Germany who was a maid for Hilter himself back in the 1930s at his retreat house in Bavaria. According to this article in the London-based Mail Online, Hitler was the perfect boss and treated her, and her sister - also an employee - well. Mitterer, the last survivor of his staff from the years just prior to the onset of World War II, remarks, "That he had ordered such terrible things, I just couldn't believe it. Even now, I prefer to remember the charming facets of his personality." Right.

Does this mean even the absolute worst of all mankind has the ability to be human? More importantly, does this mean we need to find a new reference for all loathsome bosses?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Hand for Brit Brit

I have a confession to make.

Going against all I believe to be good music, I find myself curiously addicted to the sticky, sweet, overdubbed current single of Britney Spears, "Womanizer." <click here to listen>.

Now, I would not call myself a Britney Spears fan, but it's not her fault. When she first appeared on the scene as a pop princess (post "Mickey Mouse Club"), I was a senior in college listening to the post-folk folkies like Ani DiFranco, Sarah McLachlan and Dar Williams, chock-full of thought-provoking lyrics and girl power. I had moved out of the age of pop years before. To me, Britney's music focused more on synchronized dancing and thumping rhythms rather than actual singing. I didn't mind her insistent display of her personal sexual revolution - that's her prerogative (so to speak.) But that's all it seemed to be - there was no substance and that bothered me. I did give her a chance by watching Crossroads (yep - I did, but because a friend made me do it) and "Toxic" caught my attention. Just for a fleeting moment.

Thanks to non-stop pap coverage, we had the luxury of watching her train fall right off the tracks...down a steep embankment...plunging headfirst into a ravine. My heart goes out to the girl. With the controlling efforts of her father, the train has been pulled up and placed upright, although still mud-covered and dented. I didn't watch her special on MTV this week, but saw clips and she still seems miserable. We think she's doing much better because we don't get to watch her make a fool of herself anymore. For as famous as she is, we have to remember - she's still human.

Today is Britney's 27th birthday, and the release of her latest album, Circus. I sincerely wish her a happy day and a better year ahead. Her song (and probably her album) will put her back on top, but hopefully she'll be able to enjoy it on her own terms this time.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The NaNoWriMo that wasn't

Welcome, December!

Yesterday was the official close of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I was a participant...up to a point. Instead of reaching the goal of 50,000 words in 30 days, I clocked in at a measly 5,000. I lost steam about half way through and never regained it. I was disappointed in myself to say the least; after all, I truly intended on going the distance. But all is not lost, and I've learned quite a bit in the process, such as:
  • The support I have for my writing is not just from family and friends but some unexpected sources like coworkers and other writers, and that's just outright awesome. (Thanks, guys!)
  • Jumping into NaNoWriMo without a fully outlined novel is like running the NY Marathon without training.
  • I cannot force myself to write. It needs to flow naturally, from a clear mind. Psyching myself out because I need to reach a word limit does not, in any way, make me a better writer, but...
  • Having a goal was the push I needed to stay focused. However...
  • I let my inner editor get the best of me and that's the first thing a writer should not do
I wonder at times if my so-called failure is a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. Until I decided to take the plunge, I held true to my belief that "I don't do novels." Still, I wrote. It may not have been a novel, but I wrote...and learned. As insignificant as it might seem to the outside world, it was an accomplishment, however small, and it pushed that wall down in my mind that said I couldn't (or shouldn't) do it. Baby steps.

So, in short, I am entering December with a new sense of growth. Maybe I'm not the winner of the NaNoWriMo word count, but I am coming out of November a wiser (and for that, better) writer. Thanks again to those of you out there who supported me on this journey.