Archive | December, 2011

Resolve

29 Dec

I’m not really a person who does the whole “New Year’s Resolution” thing. At least, I didn’t think I was. And then last night, I was writing down all the things that I wanted to do in the next year. I didn’t call them resolutions…but the list went something like…

1. Eat Better

2. Lose Weight

3. Exercise More

4. Read More New Releases

5. Read the Classics On My To-Read List

6. Get My Manuscript Edited

7. Submit My Manuscript For Publication

You get the idea. And it occurred to me that this list of goals was exactly what  I always try to avoid: a list of New Year’s Resolutions.

It’s not that I don’t believe that the idea has merit. I think resolutions are a great way to look at the things you want to do with your life and start planning for a better year than the one before. But I think that the word “resolution” only gets us so far.

Resolution comes from the root word “resolve” which means to come to a firm / definite / earnest decision about whatever it is we are resolving. But what good did coming to a decision ever do anyone?

I don’t mean to downplay decision-making. It is certainly necessary to get on with the daily job of living. If no one ever made any decisions, we’d all be sitting around in our pj’s all day, watching TV and doing nothing productive. While that sounds awesome, it is not typically how success comes about.

What I’m saying, I guess, is that we need something past the act of “resolution” to complete our goals. We need action and support. I’ve found that support mattered to me more than any decision I made in the last year. Deciding was the easy part. But nothing that I accomplished would have happened if I had simply decided and then tried to act alone. I am not one of those happy few individuals who can provide all of their internal motivation and drive without any input from others. They are certainly out there, and I am in awe of them.

The rest of us, however, need friends and co-workers and even rivals to give us the oomph we need to make the important steps of action and completion. Without the help of others, all most of us (myself most definitely included) end up with is a list of decisions on a piece of paper, and a feeling that we failed.

Thank you to everyone who helped me and supported me this year. Whether you were there through my recent graduation and the three months of tortured studying for my license that occurred after that, during the drafting and early editing of my manuscript, or through the endless search for employment and meaning that has dominated my life since last spring…Thank you.

Who are the people who take your resolutions from decision to success?

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Visions of Sugar Plums

22 Dec

I’ve started a new Christmas tradition in my house. While we were always a cookie family when I was a child, I’ve decided that there is a downside to cookies. They make mountains of dishes, they take forever, and even when they’re done baking, they still need to be decorated!

My new tradition is Christmas candy. Of course, by tradition, I mean I’ve been doing it for two years (this is the second). But I’ve already learned a few valuable things about sugar.

For one thing, nonstick pans are a must when you are boiling sugar. There may be no hope of scraping and chipping that hard candy off the candy thermometer, but if you have any sense at all, you’ll give yourself a head start when it comes to getting the candy off your pots and pans.

White chocolate is impossible to work with. It burns at the drop of a hat! The only way to avoid this is constant vigilance, and even then, you may be screwed. I had to throw out a whole batch of melted white chocolate because, halfway into my melting process, I managed to burn it and turn it brown.

Use a very shallow, long baking sheet when making any kind of hard candy, from caramels to peanut brittle. It will make life easier when you need to break apart the pieces. This year I had an epic battle with my caramels that ended with me wielding a meat tenderizer in order to break the inch-thick BLOCK of caramel into workable pieces. My sharpest knives had failed me, and breaking the pieces apart by hand proved impossible. Now I have tiny chips of caramel scattered all over my countertops and floors. I’ll clean it up…eventually.

The good thing is that I have carefully measured my batches so that all this candy will be leaving my house by the end of the holidays. The bad thing is that I feel like after all this work, I should get to keep some of it!

Do you have a favorite holiday tradition?

In Your Dreams

4 Dec

Lately, I’ve been having the strangest dreams.

I should start by saying that I very rarely dream. While I am not the best sleeper in the world (I’ve had frequent bouts with insomnia, for example), I don’t usually wake up with any memory of my dreams. I know that they say we all dream at certain points in our sleep cycle, and that remembering dreams can be based pretty heavily on the point in the sleep cycle where you wake up. That is about as much as I remember from my high school psych lesson on dreaming, and I’m sure I’ve screwed something up in there.

Anyway, to put it shortly, I don’t usually dream. Lately, though, I’ve been having these vivid, weird dreams. I can’t quite call them nightmares, because I don’t wake from them in some kind of panic or fearing for my life, but they are definitely not the kind of dream that I enjoy having. Almost all of them have involved the end of the world.

I picked up the premise of my book from a dream I had about four months ago, and it was amazing how quickly things came together once I started actually writing it. Like it was all waiting for me right there in my subconscious. I can’t help but wonder if these new dreams are kernels of stories that I should be paying attention to. I’ve considered keeping a dream journal, but honestly, when I wake up I am usually so disoriented and confused that by the time I could organize my thoughts enough to write down my dream, I’ve forgotten most of the details.

I wonder if this is akin to the problem solving method that my mother always recommends: sleep on it. You’ll know what to do in the morning. Inevitably, if I go to sleep thinking about my problem, I will wake up the next morning having solved the issue in my sleep, or at the very least, with new ideas on how to approach the problem. While it isn’t a sure-fire way to solve all problems, and while it certainly has some unfortunate timing requirements, it has worked too many times for me to discount the power of my sleeping mind.

How about you? Do you pluck ideas from your subconscious?