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Thursday, December 30, 2010

It's Almost 2011!

My mom died when I was 15, so I must have been about 12 when we had a conversation that has stuck with me for years.

We were talking about driving. I was bursting at the seems to get behind the wheel of a car and four years seemed like an eternity.

My mom laughed and said, "You are in such a hurry. You want to drive. You want to go to graduate from high school and you aren't even there yet! You're already thinking about college. For you, time is moving too slowly; but trust me, once you get around 25, you will be surprised at how time will fly."

I looked at her, as I often did at that age, with a look that said, "I have no idea what you are talking about."

Yet, I often hear her words in my head. It seems like yesterday that we were scared of Y2K. Would the banks lose all of our money? Should we really be storing water and canned goods. Should we just party like it's 1999?

But here we are ... over a decade into "The New Millenium"

In 2011, we will commemorate the 10 year anniversary of 9/11. I remember exactly where I was that day (working in DC from a building where I could see the Pentagon in the distance) and it doesn't seem like it was almost a decade ago.

Whether you make resolutions or not, I think we all need to resolve to savor a little bit more of life in the new year. It passes by too fast to just spend time working, worrying and waiting for something better to come along.

Laugh harder
Love deeper
Dream more
Enjoy more moments
Live fuller!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Holiday Handbook: What About Me?

The holidays. At times, hectic. Hopefully not horrific. Possibly holy (if you are so inclined). Occasionally hilarious. And, if we are lucky, for the most part happy. Join me on Mondays as we find a way to navigate the Season with style and smarts, and, most importantly, without losing our sanity.

The holidays are great. It's all about family and children and goodwill towards all ... but what about you. It's easy to be selfless during the holidays. There is so much to be done: gifts to buy, food to prepare, parties and gatherings to attend. There are the decorations, the gift wrapping and so much more. But now, it's time to take a breather.

It's time to take a moment for yourself and just relax. Give yourself one final gift and do something for you. Take a weekend, a day or an evening and indulge yourself. Don't know what to do? Here are some suggestions.
  1. Get a massage.
  2. Treat yourself to a manicure and pedicure.
  3. Get your hair done.
  4. Have dinner at that new restaurant you've been dying to check out.
  5. Take a long drive and check out some of the Christmas lights (they'll be gone soon).
  6. Retreat into a dark theater and watch a movie (don't forget the popcorn).
  7. Have a romantic evening at home or go to a hotel for the night.
  8. Have a relaxing facial.
  9. Take advantage of some after-Christmas sales (if you aren't completely tired of shopping).
  10. Cuddle up with a good book.

If you want your me time to also be alone time, that's fine. But it doesn't have to be! Grab a girlfriend and take her to the spa with you. Take the hubs or wife out, I'm sure they'll appreciate a little R&R too.
It doesn't matter what you do or who you do it with, just make sure you do something to relax and unwind! Before you know it, it will be January and we'll all be back to work!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Karyn Cooks: Shrimp and Creamy Spinach Feta Rice

A big part of the holidays are all of the classic food traditions: turkey, stuffing, ham, Christmas cookies. Growing up, Christmas dinner was pretty much a repeat of Thanksgiving dinner. It was fine with me because those were the two times of the year, we were treated to use a sumptuous feast (where every item was a favorite).

However, after the holidays, it is time for something a little different ... and that's what this dish is. It's healthy. It's easy. It is a complete departure from most traditional holiday fare. So when you are tried of trying to find ways to work with turkey and ham leftovers, try this.

Serves: 6
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 30 mins

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup julienne strips red bell pepper
1 6-ounce package fresh baby spinach leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 pound cooked, peeled, deveined medium shrimp, thawed if frozen
3 cups hot cooked medium or long grain white rice
1 cup crumbled feta cheese with basil & tomato (or plain)
Toasted pine nuts or sliced almonds (optional) *

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add raisins and bell pepper; sauté 1 minute. Add spinach, salt and pepper; toss until spinach is just wilted. Add shrimp; sauté 30 seconds. Add hot rice and feta cheese. Toss all ingredients until heated through and cheese is soft and creamy. Top with toasted nuts, if desired.

* Feta cheese comes in some tasty varieties, so if you are feeling adventurous, change up the cheese for a slightly different taste.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Holiday Handbook: Something Old, Something New

The holidays. At times, hectic. Hopefully not horrific. Possibly holy (if you are so inclined). Occassionally hilarious. And, if we are lucky, for the most part happy. Join me on Mondays as we find a way to navigate the Season with style and smarts, and, most importantly, without losing our sanity.

One of the best part of the holidays are the traditions. The things that we love and remain the same year after year: grandma's pound cake, opening one gift at midnight, getting in the car with the family to view the Christmas lights.

Traditions create cohesion with the family. We need to encourage as much tradition as possible. I maintain that it's those fun family traditions that the kids will remember, much more than most of the gifts under the tree.

However, this is a good time to create new traditions, traditions that enforce the values you want to encourage.
  • How about taking the kids to buy gifts to donate to kids who are less fortunate?
  • How about having the family help distribute coats or gifts or meals?
  • What about having everyone read a passage from the Bible or the Torah to celebrate the true reason for the season?
  • What about making Christmas cookies or handmade holiday cards?
  • What about putting a gag gift or funny item into everyone's stocking?

Memories are made of this. : )

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Zap Your Tolerations

The great thing about going through coach training is that while you are learning how to help others develop themselves; there are tons of opportunities for you to work on your personal development.

One of the concepts we discussed was called tolerations. Simply put, tolerations are things that we tolerate but are not happy with. They can range from minor things like a stopped up drain to major things like an unfulfilling job or a bad relationship.

All of these things, from the very minor to the majorly major, should be dealt with. Why are tolerating these things that annoy, aggravate or just generally make us unhappy? Let’s start with the small things.

For example, I was tolerating a slow drain in the bathroom and a messy car. Neither were big deals but when the drain would back up while I was washing my face, it was annoying and it zapped away some of my positive energy. Likewise, every time I got into my car, I was confronted with a mess and every time, I would say to myself “I really need to clean this car out!” Again, it would zap away a little more of my positive energy.

Can you see how even a number of minor tolerations can create a mental and emotional drain on you?

In coach training, we did a revealing exercise called ‘zapping tolerations.’ It started with making a list of things we were tolerating. Between home life, work, kids, family and other obligations, it isn’t surprising to have a list of over 60 tolerations!

I’ll share with you a few of the items on my list.

1. Unclog the bathroom drain
2. Clean out the car
3. Lose 50 pounds
4. Reorganize the kitchen cabinets, countertops and pantry
5. Organize the book shelf
6. Get out of debt
7. Frame and hang my photographs
8. Schedule Marty’s annual vet appointment
9. Schedule my mammogram
10. Have someone come out and look at the washing machine

As you can see, my lists goes includes everything from the minor to a few major items. Writing your list is important because it puts all of these things on your radar. I knew I needed to unclog the drain but once I wrote it down, it became a priority, something I needed to handle. A few days later, I was about to run the dishwasher, and I noticed, I had a bottle of Liquid Plumber. Immediately, I used it to unclog the drain. The Liquid Plumber had been there all along but until I made unclogging the drain a priority, I looked right by it.

Some of the items on my list (mammogram, vet) can be handled with a phone call. Others just take a little time (bookshelf, kitchen organization, photographs). I’ve already handled the kitchen and the bookshelf and the car. I can tell you honestly, that it has made a difference. I don’t have that nagging feeling that I need to take care of something when I walk into the kitchen or get into the car and it feels good.

My full list includes tolerations around the home at work and even those involving relationships and people. Look at your entire life and you’ll be surprised at the tolerations you’ll find.

My challenge to you is to make a list of your tolerations and start taking care of them one at a time. Many won’t take a lot of time and others (losing weight, getting a new job, repairing a relationship) will take a lot of time. For those larger tolerations, you will be surprised at how good you feel when you sit down and map out a plan for achieving them.

Ready, set … ZAP!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Holiday Handbook: Sit-Com or Drama

The holidays. At times, hectic. Hopefully not horrific. Possibly holy (if you are so inclined). Occassionally hilarious. And, if we are lucky, for the most part happy. Join me on Mondays as we find a way to navigate the Season with style and smarts, and, most importantly, without losing our sanity.

An author can take the same premise, let's say, a weekend at the beach, and turn it into a comedy, a drama or a tragedy. Maybe a woman brings her straight-laced fiance out to the beach cottage to meet her family of free-spirited eccentrics. Maybe a long-held family secret is revealed that will change the lives of everyone involved. Maybe someone drowns at the beach.
A writer has the amazing opportunity to create the story he wants to tell. He sets the mood and the tone. He controls the plot. He creates the characters. He even decides how and when it ends. As a screenwriter, I can tell you that the creative power is intoxicating.
However, I can't live my life behind the warm glow of a computer screen. At some point, I have to emerge and deal with life. I have no idea what plot twist lay ahead. I certainly didn't create my cast of characters and I have no idea how it will all end.
Yet, I can control somethings.
I can set my own tone and my own mood. I can choose to not approach a gathering with dread - replaying all the worse case scenarios and what-ifs in my mind. I can choose instead to focus on the family and friends whose company I enjoy and who I look forward to spending time with.
I can't create the cast of characters but I can determine how much screen time they get in my movie. My main characters are the ones who are postive, loving and fun. They are in almost every scene while the more toxic personalities are relegated to bit parts.
I can add a laugh track, just like they do on the sit-coms. When my aunt comes around with her negativity, I just smile and let it roll off my back, while I hear the laughter in my head. It's just not that serious!
I can't determine how it all ends but I can determine when I've had enough (which is harder to do if you are the host and you can't just leave!). I can set my own boundaries.
I might not have written this script, but make no mistake, I am the director who calls the shots and the star of my own film. This season, make your movie an award-winner!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Square Peg Phenomenon

My name is Karyn … not Karen but Karyn. As a kid, it was annoying because I could never find little key chains and other knick knacks with my name spelled correctly. Now, I love it. It’s different. It’s me.

Also, as a kid, I struggled with penmanship and I still do. I cringe to think what would be revealed about me if I ever submitted to a handwriting analysis! However, to the bane of my grade school teachers (Mr. Embrecia, Mr. Goodman and Ms. Brooks), I would not hold a pen the way they wanted me to. According to them, my grip was all wrong. They gave me guides and other ‘learning devices’ and I really did try, but it just wouldn’t work. It still doesn’t.

So what am I getting at? Here’s the moral of today’s story. Getting rid of little differences shouldn’t be a big deal. All of us have a little square peg within us that simply won’t fit into the prescribed round hole and that’s okay. That’s great!

As I was formulating the idea for this blog, I got a great email from one of my readers (wow, I love how that sounds). She wanted to share with me a list she worked on about the benefits of being left-handed (read it here).

Only 7 – 10% of Americans are lefties. Being a leftie in a rightie world can’t be easy. I’d imagine, at times, it’s downright frustrating but just like having a differently spelled name, it’s just one of those things that should be embraced … another square peg feature. I remember suffering through cursive writing with a leftie. She couldn’t be a rightie anymore than I could be a kid that held a pen correctly. It was just who we were!

Forcing a square peg into the round hole is a fruitless exercise. Think about all the energy and pain spent trying to cram that peg into that hole. The square peg isn’t the wrong peg, it’s a different peg.

Anyway, if all we had were round pegs and round holes the world would be a very boring place!

If you love trivia, the Leftie List is full of great info!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Holiday Handbook: The Why and Not The What

The holidays. At times, hectic. Hopefully not horrific. Possibly holy (if you are so inclined). Occassionally hilarious. And, if we are lucky, for the most part happy. Join me on Mondays as we find a way to navigate the Season with style and smarts, and, most importantly, without losing our sanity.

This is an awesome time of year. For eight days, the Jews celebrate Hannukah, called The Festival of Light. It commenorates their victory over persecution and the rededication of the Holy Temple. Christians celebrate Christmas which commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ. While not based in religion, many African-Americans end the year celebrating Kwanzaa which focuses on making a strong connection to our African ancestors.

So, if you practice any of these traditions, there is a definite reason behind the season - and that reason - should feature prominently in your celebrations. Even if you aren't religious or even spiritual, the Holidays offer the opportunity to connect with family and friends.

Take some time this season to teach your children about why they are celebrating the Holidays. Let them know what it means to you. But, it's not just about the kids, take some time yourself, to reconnect with why you are celebrating. While gifts are great, they should never be the sum total of the holiday tradition.
I went out for my first Black Friday shopping event about 15 years ago. I was going to Wal-Mart. I didn't know at the time, I was supposed to get there several hours before the store was set to open. I arrived around ten minutes to 6:00 a.m. and was shocked to find the line wrapping around the store.
As I approached, I commented about the line to several other people who had just arrived. The three of us agreed, instead of walking all the way to the end of the line, we would stand across from the doors and wait until the store opened and everyone entered before going in.
Well, the shoppers in line assumed we were going to try to cut and they unleashed a torrent of threats, slurs and words that would have made Santa blush (and move them to the top of the naughty list).
When 6:00 arrived, pandemonium broke out as people sprinted from the end of the line up to the doors. Several people had carts and used them to try to ram their way into the store. The three of us were scared to move!
When we finally got into the store, I heard calls for security repeatedly over the loud speaker. I saw an old woman get cursed out because she accidentally bumped a woman with her cart. It was crazy. I got out of their as soon as possible. I was so traumatized that it was years before I ventured out on Black Friday again.
Those aggressive and angry shoppers made the holiday about the what; their behavior showed that they didn't understand the why - the real reason for the season.
By the way, the 'must-have' item that year was the Furby. All of that negative energy for a Furby. I wonder how long those kids played with it before they lost interest in their little furry friend. The what fades quickly from memory but the whys endure.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Face Time

I have friends who live on Facebook and Twitter. Their every thought and every move is chronicled online. I know people who routinely bid their ‘Facebook Family’, good morning and good night. When I was tweeting on a regular basis (or at least trying to), a man who was ‘following’ me would tell his followers daily what he had for breakfast and what he was contemplating for lunch. Really?

I just don’t have the patience for that. I will never forget the relief I felt when I went to a social media seminar and the speaker said you didn’t have to blog, facebook, tweet, get linked in and four square. She said to do what works for you … that day, I canceled my Twitter account and didn’t look back.

I ended up starting another Twitter account to promote my other blog (DivaSoulSista where I do movie and television news and reviews). Still, I don’t live and breathe social media. For those who do, here are a few tips.

Your Friends are Your Friends: I have a handful of good friends. I talk to them on the phone. We email. We visit each other when possible. I’m not an active Facebooker and even I have almost 250 friends! Some of these are friends but a lot of them are acquaintances. If you are using your Facebook to network, be careful about what some of your friends are posting.

There Is No Such Thing As Privacy: Potential employers and current employers are increasingly checking Facebook and other social media. Your drunken weekend, your rants against your ex, your opinions of your co-workers and company are all fair game. See tip number 1. Not all of your friends are your friends, it only takes one to copy and send your posts and pictures to someone else. Almost daily, you hear about people who have lost their jobs due to something they posted on a social media site.

Your Words Can Still Hurt: I recently ran across an article that talked about a friend who had given a gift to another friend. This ‘friend’ tweeted about how unhappy she was with the gift … not considering that the gift giver was a ‘friend’ of hers and could view all of her tweets and posts. And we are all becoming more and more familiar with the reality of cyber-bullying.

Be a Real Friend: I’ve reconnected with high school and college friends and many family members through Facebook and that’s great. But I encourage you to take those connections to the next level. An occasional call or personal ‘let’s catch up’ email can go a long way with making a true connection.

Facebook is great but face time is better.