I have always been kind of anti-New-Year’s-Resolution. I thought they were silly and more of a way to pick on ourselves. Just an excuse to beat ourselves up for eating real food and liking our bodies with some curve.
I guess it was all those resolutions to diet and lose “the last five pounds” blasted across all the magazine covers and the ads for morning talk shows.
I thought I was better than all that.
The past few years my resolutions have been things like: I will drink more alcohol, I will stay up later at night, I will shop more, and I will go out dancing more often.
They were not tough resolutions to keep. It was sort of my way of flipping the bird to the whole idea.
But this year there have been a lot of changes in my life. When I moved across the country and took a job that is 80% time, I had to make some changes. Not full time means not full pay, so something had to give.
I decided that thing was CrossFit. It is exercise, but maybe it was a luxury. So I found a big gym just up the street with a pool, classes, every machine you could think of, and even a cardio movie theater. And all for only $10 a month.
I thought I was a financial genius. After all, if I really wanted to exercise I would do it anywhere. Right?
Wrong. After all those months of CrossFit going back to a big gym was hard. I had trouble motivating myself to go after a long day of work. There were no coaches waiting for me, no friends in class to ask where I’d been, and worst of all it was boring.
I’ve hated cardio machines for as long as I can remember. I also hate running and most of the other cardio exercises you can do on your own.
But I kept trying to force myself to go to the gym I hated, and then feeling guilty when I drove straight home instead.
Normally my step-mom and I make goals for the year every September. The start of the school year seems like a good time. And we make goals, not resolutions. Things that we want to accomplish, classes we want to take. It is never about beating ourselves up.
This past September I was unemployed and living in my best friend’s playroom, so my only goal was to get a job. Needless to say, I didn’t have to mull that one over with my step-mom.
So this year we’ve decided to come up with resolutions, over the phone. The first thing that came up for me was exercise. I want to want to work out, and I definitely want to be strong and healthy. I really want to get back to the place where I was physically before I moved out here.
I was on my way to doing a real pull-up and my push-ups on the bar where getting closer to the ground.
It made sense that my New Years Resolution would be to work out. But I didn’t want to do it in a self-punishing way. That never works out well.
Then my step-mom asked me an important question: How much is it worth to you?
Being healthy and enjoying exercise is worth a lot. Really, it is worth more than my cell phone or cable. And it’s certainly worth more than the drinks out and the shopping I do with the money in my budget for entertainment.
Maybe my New Year’s Resolution isn’t to work out, it’s to re-adjust my priorities. Remember what is important in life.
I found a nice CrossFit gym close to my new home, where I will be working out in 2013. And they even give a teacher discount. It seemed meant to be.
Who knows, maybe next year I won’t need a resolution at all. Or maybe it’ll always be to take another look at my life and my priorities. What’s most important should always come first.
And enjoyment should be up there at the top of the list, whether it’s about my job, writing, people in my life, or even exercise. There’s no reason we can’t be happy and healthy. Sometimes we just need a reminder, even if it’s something ”silly” like a New Year’s Resolution.
Do you have any resolutions for the new year? Is that something you do regularly? Or are you a skeptic like me? How do you want to spend the next twelve months of your life?
The winter holidays are a big deal to most people, but they mean different things to different people. For some people the holidays are serious religious time. For others it’s a vacation, a visit to Santa, or a time of many parties.
I was thinking about the holidays recently, especially because I have enough time off to head to a beach somewhere even warmer than North Carolina, if that’s what I want to do. But, in thinking about Chanukah and Christmas, I realized that for me the holidays are about two things: Family and Food.
When I think of Chanukah, I do remember the story of the oil that lasted for 8 nights and I think of the prayer my step-mom says as she lights the candles. I love the way it sounds even though I don’t know what it means.
But the truth is Chanukah for me is really about the latkes. My step-mom makes the best latkes I’ve ever tasted. And anyone who has ever tasted her latkes says the same thing. So, I feel justified in declaring her latkes the best ever.
Every year she makes batch after batch after batch. Because there will be a lot of people at the family dinner and the latkes will be the first thing to go. Yes, there will also be a delicious brisket and there will be bread and Kugel. But the latkes will be the star of the meal.
And we’ll sit around eating good food and talking about family, especially my step-mom’s dad Ray who died eighteen years ago.
Yes, food and family. That’s what it’s all about.
Christmas is not too far after Chanukah, and in my family we celebrate both. My dad’s family had some traditions we’ve carried on, like watching the holiday classics. But, my favorite are the traditions that my dad and step-mom started themselves.
Christmas is about a lot of things, but my favorite is the pajamas. Every Christmas-Eve we all get to open one present. And it is always pajamas. We all wear those pajamas to bed on Christmas Eve and stay in them all Christmas day. Anyone who comes over for Christmas dinner better be prepared to see the whole family in pajamas.
And one of the most fun parts is that we match! My step-mom and I will have matching jammies and my dad and brother, too. Even though I always know what it is, it’s my favorite gift to open every year.
We also have a breakfast tradition. Every Christmas Eve night we make the Christmas Morning Wife Saver, an egg and bread casserole that we bake on Christmas morning. So, in the morning all we have to do is add the last layer and stick it in the oven. When we are done with the stockings, breakfast is ready. And no matter what picky food mood my little brother is in, he always loves the Wife Saver.
There are many things to love about the holidays, but for me it really does come down to family and food. Being with the people I love and making the food we enjoy together.
What do you love about the holidays? Do you have any traditions that make the holidays more fun?
In case anyone is interested, here is the recipe for the Christmas Morning Wife Saver. Take my word, it is delicious!
At least once a year I read an article or see a show that talks about being thankful. I get the idea to start a gratitude journal, where you write down the things you’re grateful for at the end of every day.
It always sounds like such a good idea. So I go get a beautiful notebook and a nice pen to inspire myself. For a couple of days, I’ll actually use it. I write down the things I’m glad to have in my life like family and friends. My car, my job, heat, and other luxuries.
But after a few days the habit is hard to keep up. It becomes one more chore I have to do before bed, like making my lunch or setting up the coffee maker. And I’d rather have time to read, relax, or hang out with friends.
Every time I’ve started a gratitude journal, I’ve given it up. Usually in less than a week.
Then the other day I realized that I don’t need a fancy journal or another chore on my list to really be thankful for what I have.
When I was driving to work last week, I passed what remained of the scene of an accident. Two cars were pulled over to the side of the road, hazard lights flashing, and two women stood talking. Exchanging insurance information, most likely.
In that moment I was thankful. Thankful that it wasn’t me. I knew I was lucky to be a few minutes behind the accident and safe on my way to work. I whispered a quiet ”Thank you” out loud and continued on my way.
A few days ago while watching an episode of Grimm I’d recorded, I was thankful again.
I moved away from Portland because, although it was my home, it just wasn’t the city for me. It was too cold and rainy and I didn’t fit in with the majority of the people who have been making Portland their home.
When I first left, I thought I had to make a clear choice. I thought I had to dislike Portland enough to never want to live there. The same way we come up with lists of all the bad qualities of a guy before we break up with him.
Now that I’m living in Raleigh, a city that suits me so much better, I can see the good things about Portland. The coffee shops, the recycling, the progressive voting and education of Oregon.
I am thankful for where I came from. And thankful for where I now live.
A thankful attitude is something I can carry with me at all times. I don’t need a fancy journal or a special pen. I can just look at the things in my life and be grateful for what I have.
And if we go around looking for the good things, we’ll realize how much we really have to be grateful for. Even the things we thought we hated have some good in them. Sometimes all we need is a little perspective and a change in view.
What are you thankful for? Are you someone who sees the good in everything? Or, like me, do you need a little reminder? I’d love to hear any tips on how to stay thankful and focus on the good.
So the big day is coming up. Valentine’s Day. When everyone in a relationship looks forward to romance, candy, and maybe a gift. And everyone who is single gets a great big reminder as we sit home alone and watch re-runs.
Even children understand the concept. When one recently asked me who my valentine was going to be, I tried to be clever and avoid the subject by suggesting he be mine. The kid looked at me like I’d told him the Power Rangers were breaking up and said, “You’re supposed to go on a date for Valentine’s Day.” Then he walked away shaking his head.
Every year up until now, I would’ve agreed with him. I always made plans.
In a relationship, I’d expect some big deal that usually just turned into dinner. And maybe a movie. I would always build it up in my head so that the real thing could never be good enough. Candles, flowers, music, love poems, and later a bathtub filled with rose petals. Doesn’t happen that often outside of Hollywood.
Then there were the single years. Like the break-up that comes on February 10th, which we all know is just an excuse to get out of Valentine’s Day. You always get back together in March, once the pressure is off. Those are the times when V Day turned into a single-girl backlash holiday. We’d get together for an Anti-Valentine’s Day celebration. Maybe joke about calling it VD and how lucky we were that we weren’t going to catch it. Martinis and dinner and talking about how great it is to be single. And how much men suck. And couples, they suck too.
Obviously I wasn’t happy to be single if I had to say it so loud, and hate others in the process.
Well, this year is different. I don’t have a romantic date and I’m actually ok with being single. I don’t need to make big I-Hate-Valentine’s-Day plans. Because I don’t hate it. I can let the lovers have their day. I will get cute cards from friends and kids. There will be candy hearts, chocolate, and teddy bears that make kissing sounds when you squeeze them. Valentine’s Day is just going to be about having fun.
There will be a time when I get to have a Valentine’s date, but until then I’m happy to spend the day just being. This year, my valentine is me.
How do you feel about Valentine’s Day when you’re single? In a relationship? Does it ever live up to the hype?
I love traditions, especially fun ones. I’m all about Birthday cakes, Christmas jammies, and Signature drinks at cocktail parties. But, one of my favorite times for traditions is the New Year. The eve before and the day of are full of fun things to do every year. Some are well known and long celebrated by my family. Some are fun things I’ve discovered through research and forced upon my family.
They know they love it.
Living in Ecuador I learned a lot of tricks for bringing luck in the New Year. Most of them done at the stroke of midnight.
The first was Grapes. The tradition is to eat twelve grapes right at midnight and make a wish with each grape. One wish for each month of the new year. Twelve is a lot of wishes, so you have to plan ahead. And chew fast.
If you want to travel in the new year, there is something you can do to help make your wish come true. Also done at midnight, you grab a bag or suitcase and run around the block. You have to make it around the block before 12:01.
It can be hard to do the grapes and the suitcase in the same year, but it can be done. A few years ago a friend and I planned it out. We had our wishes written out and popped the grapes in quickly. Then we picked up a suitcase together and ran around the block while chewing. It was fun and we ended up taking some fun trips together that year.
My favorite New Year’s tradition, of course, is the underwear.
In Ecuador, you wear a pair of colored underwear on New Year’s Eve to bring you luck in a certain area of your life. Red is for love, romance, and passion. Blue is for travel, Green is for money, and Yellow for good health. You cannot wear undies with a little of each color and think you’ll be lucky in all areas. It’s important to choose.
When I moved back to the US I heard of a similar tradition somewhere in Asia. Maybe my Cambodian friend told me, or maybe I read it in a magazine. I can’t remember, and really that’s not the important part. What is important is that it’s a tradition to wear red underwear on New Year’s Eve to bring good luck.
I decided that love and passion can really be for everything. If you love travel and are passionate about cooking, then red underwear will bring you luck in those areas, too. So, we made it a family tradition to wear red underwear on New Year’s Eve. Even my little brother gets a pair of red boxers in his stocking at Christmas. He grumbles about it, but he puts them on.
New Year’s Day is the ritual that is most important to my dad. We have a good luck dinner as a family every January first.
He tells us the story of how eating pork on New Year’s Day is lucky because it shows that you had enough money left over from the year to afford pork at the end. It can be pork chops or pork roast, the way it is prepared is not important. It’s that you are eating pork on the first day of the year. It also has something to do with the pig being lucky because it moves forward, unlike lobster and chickens who move backwards.
Black eyes peas are also considered lucky. They are supposed to represent coins, meaning gold or money. We usually have them with rice, as Hoppin’ John. Greens are also on the menu because they represent cash. There is usually hot links and cornbread, too. But that’s more about what we like eating than bringing luck.
Some years we look up a lucky dessert to go along with it. Last year we made an orange sponge cake that is considered lucky in China. The year before that it was Red Velvet cake because anything red should be lucky on New Year’s.
The best part of the tradition is that we sit down together as a family and share what we are grateful for from the year that just ended.
Some people may not believe in lucky food or underwear. I say, that’s their loss. Try picking out a pair of fun undies for New Year’s Eve and I dare you not to smile!
What are your favorite New Year’s traditions? Anything you do for luck?
From the time I entered high school I had the belief that a social life meant something to do every day. Especially on weekends and holidays. But, the most important night of all was New Year’s Eve. If you didn’t have big plans for the count down, then you were a nobody. Super lame, hopeless, embarrassing.
In high school that meant parties. If you couldn’t wrangle an invitation to the cool kids’ party, at least you were partying with the other regular folks. Staying home or going to the band-geek sleepover was out of the question. Not that you knew any bank-geeks anyway.
After the age of twenty-one New Year’s meant standing in long lines in the cold while wearing very little clothing, to get into the new hot club. We paid the high cover and bought expensive drinks for the chance to be among the “in” crowd. We even had our pictures taken for the bar websites a few times. Score.
No lame New Year’s Eve for me!
But once I turned thirty I didn’t know what to do for New Year’s. On TV and in the movies every town has a big, fancy New Year’s ball. Everyone in town wears a formal gown and they are usually raising money for AIDS or some other worthy cause.
Unfortunately, I live in reality. If my town has a ball, I don’t know about it. And I probably wouldn’t ever make it on the list.
I thought of doing the same old thing and hitting the bars like old times. Turning thirty had brought me a lot of realizations, though. I realized that the cool kids really weren’t that cool. I ran into people from high school who told stories about trashing the popular girl’s house because it turned out popular didn’t actually mean liked. At my high school it meant easy.
The people who were always at the hottest bars and knew about the nightlife were the same ones living in their mom’s basement because they hadn’t had a real job since high school. Didn’t really mesh with my definition of cool.
I wanted to save my money, and my nice car makes me a little wary of drunk drivers. So I decided to be lame and stay home. Actually, to make it even lamer, I went to my parents’ house.
They have a long-standing tradition of New Year’s Eve at home. They make all their favorite appetizers: fancy cheeses, spicy dips, and even caviar. They sip champagne and mimosas and watch movies until just before midnight.
Then, they switch the TV to Dick Clark in Times Square. They count down with everyone on TV and blow noise makers when the ball drops. Their glasses clink, they drink more champagne, and they put on another movie.
I was prepared to feel old and boring. Too young to be at home on such a party night. Instead I had fun. Much more fun than all those nights standing in line in the cold.
Turns out good food, a warm fire, and people I love are what make celebrating fun. And Dick Clark doesn’t hurt.
What are your favorite New Year’s traditions? Have they changed as you have matured?
The New Year is a time for resolutions. Usually we go for the same ones again and again: lose weight, eat healthy, or find the new job we love.
The past few years I have staged my own little personal revolt. My resolutions were things like: drink more alcohol, eat more chocolate, and spend more time at the mall. I thought I was being sarcastic and showing I was smarter than everyone else.
As usual, I was wrong. Kind of like everyone else.
Resolutions shouldn’t be about limiting ourselves or becoming an alcoholic. They should be a time to look at ourselves and our lives and see what could make us better.
The funny thing is I make new goals every September. Something about the fall seems like a good time to evaluate and plan. I don’t mock and not a single sarcastic comment comes out of my mouth. Maybe there’s a way to do the same thing in January.
So this year I’m being serious.
I’ve noticed patterns in my behavior over the past twelve months, and one stuck out as the most disturbing. I can be mean. Even cruel. Not to other people, but to myself.
If I forget to set the alarm at night and over-sleep by five minutes, suddenly I’m a moron. If I don’t listen to my intuition and make a wrong decision, I’m an idiot with no redeeming qualities. Miss a few days at the gym and I question whether I deserve the piece of chocolate.
Fat, lazy, stupid, not working hard enough. All the things I say to myself that I would never think about saying to someone else. If anyone else said it to me, I’d call Friendship Over and move on. So why was it ok coming from me?
Shouldn’t we all be our own best friends? Champion for ourselves? I shouldn’t expect better treatment from others than I give myself. Something is definitely askew.
So this year, I resolve to be kind. To me. I will treat myself the way I want others to treat me. And the way I believe everyone deserves to be treated. A missed alarm is not the end of the world and a few extra pounds doesn’t make me any less beautiful.
It starts with me. I’m going to be like that great line from Jackie on That Seventies Show. I’m going to run down the beach into my own arms. Figuratively.
I choose me.
What are your New Year’s resolutions? Anything positive? Or a list that full of don’t and won’t?
I don’t know about you, but something happens to me the day after Christmas. I wake up a little depressed. There are no more presents to open, but we’re left with piles of wrapping paper to recycle and a kitchen full of dirty dishes. For me, the worst part may be that there is no longer an excuse for all the cookies and peppermint mochas.
Back to lattes. How depressing.
As a kid, my mother planned out annual trip to the ballet for Boxing Day. Christmas may have been over, but I got to wear my new dress, see The Nutcracker, and eat a cookie at intermission. For her, it was probably about the ticket prices going down after the holiday. But, for me it extended the fun of Christmas one more day.
Now that I am an adult, the day after Christmas is about cleaning up. Like unpacking a suitcase after a fun vacation. Something I’d rather not do. To beat the post-vacation-blues, I start planning my next trip. That doesn’t really work with Christmas.
Once all the gifts have been opened and everything tried out on Christmas day, the joy begins to wear off. Even for the kids. The remote control car or new Wii game is a little less fun the day after Santa came.
So maybe it’s time to bring back the fun of childhood and start some fun Boxing Day traditions.
Movie Marathon Day. The cable TV channels do it for a reason. It’s fun to watch movies or a TV series one after the other and spend all day in your bathrobe on the couch. We could even pick a theme: chick flicks, spy movies, slap-stick, or tear jerkers. Then see if you can find something that runs through all the movies.
A BFF and I did this one day, in the summer, when we watched ten romantic comedies in a row. Yeah, I said ten. It was awesome. We realized that all romantic comedies have a running scene toward the end. He runs through the airport to tell her she is more than a friend or she runs after the boat to say she really does love him. Fun research even if the findings don’t cure cancer.
Cooking Contest. See which person in the family can create the best new dish with Christmas dinner leftovers. I have to admit, I have an amazing ability to make last night’s dinner into a delicious breakfast. During Thanksgiving dinner this year I mentioned that the stuffing would be good in the morning, fried with an egg. It was a hit. Pick one meal, or spread the contest out over the day and make dinner the finals. Winner gets first pick of left over desserts.
Gift Fashion Show. Holiday fashion shows are fun before the holiday because they get you in the spirit. But I say they can be even more fun after. Everyone can gather up their gifts and put them together into different looks. Clothes, toys, games, and silly hats all together can create a certain theme. Clear out space in front of the tree for a runway, which makes cleaning up a little more bearable. Then choose some upbeat music and have everyone take their turns going down the catwalk. You can even give out prizes for best strut, foxiest pose, and most Christmassy ensemble.
Needless to say, all of the above should be done as a Pajama-jam: try to stay in your pajamas all day.
What traditions do you and yours have for after the holidays? How do you beat the Boxing Day blues?
Every family has holiday traditions. Some are them are fun, like deep fried Turkey on Thanksgiving and baking cookies on Christmas. There are others that we don’t look forward to. Liver spread at Hanukkah, even if they don’t make us eat it, and hard boiled eggs at Easter. Yuck. Yes, I’m sensing a pattern. Everything has to do with food. But we have other traditions in my family, too.
My dad is an old movie fan. Especially when it comes to Christmas.
Every year he makes us all sit down and watch Miracle on 34th Street and It’s a Wonderful Life. I’m not into black and white movies and I can’t stand the way the women talked back then. Those could not be their real voices. Come to think of it, the men bugged me, too. And the kids. Whenever I hear, “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.” I want to scream. It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard.
My idea of a Christmas movie is A Christmas Story or Home Alone, but the old movies make my dad cry. Even though he knows what’s going to happen because he sees them every year. That makes them worth sitting through.
My part of the tradition is complaining about the movies and imitating the annoying voices. Good times. I know my dad likes it, even though he won’t admit it.
My favorite Christmas tradition is the one started by Santa and my step-mom. I think they planned it together in the beginning, but now it’s all up to her. On Christmas Eve we each open one present from Santa, clearly marked for the night before Christmas. It is always a pair of pajamas. Somehow Santa knows our styles. And we are always matching: My dad with my brother and my step-mom with me. We wear them to bed Christmas Eve and all day on Christmas.
Even through dinner.
We warn people who are invited to eat with us. They usually dress in casual clothes, and sometimes the join us in P.J’s. The fun ones at least try.
There is something special about a day that you don’t have to get dressed. There is nothing more important than cooking, eating, and spending time with family. And we have an excuse not to go out in public. Wouldn’t want to be seen in pajamas.
It makes Christmas day different from every other day. Even if it’s only because I don’t get dressed.
What holiday traditions does your family have? Any that you’ve started?
Christmas is all about give and take, especially in this country when much of the holiday revolves around gifts. We spend time shopping for others and making our own Christmas wish lists. There is an old saying that tells us giving is more important. But is it really more fun?
Personally, I like both sides of presents. Shopping for someone you care about is fun. Especially when you find the perfect gift. And definitely when that person is someone who enjoys receiving.
I love holidays and presents, no matter how small. I have been told many times that I am fun to give gifts to because of the way I react. Knowing that someone took the time to think of me makes me feel special. And I do love things. So when someone hands me the wrapped box or the pencil with the “diamond” on top they brought back from the Kardashian store in LA, I am going to get excited. I will scream and holler, for sure. There will probably be some jumping up and down. And several hugs.
Is it because it’s the most beautiful pencil I’ve ever seen? Actually, it was. But that’s not the point. The point is that someone took the time to think about me. They planned something special for me. Because they love me. And the fact that they chose something perfect just shows how well they know me.
That is special. Special enough to scream and jump about.
The side of giving involves shopping, something I love and am very good at. At Christmas I get to think about the people in my life and pick out something that will make them smile. This is sort of like being a personal stylist or shopper, only for loved ones instead of stars. I love styling other people and picking out things that would look good on them. And I much prefer working with loved ones than divas who might throw a cell phone at your head. Your mother can’t fire you even though she might not want to hear that it’s time to get rid of the fanny pack. So pick out the perfect purse for her.
The time at the mall or looking at boutiques gives you a chance to get to know loved ones better. Which sweater would he like more? Would this perfume make her think of France or a street walker in Hollywood? It’s almost like a game of How Well Do You Know Your Family?
What could be more fun than that?
Just the look on their faces when they open the perfect gift. They will see how much you love them and how well you know them. And then it’s your turn to open a present.
So, is it better to give or to receive? I say the answer is yes, all of the above.
How do you feel? Do you prefer giving presents or getting presents?