Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's resolutions that can make you happier

Each year, every year, we all resolve the same things. Usually something along the lines of "lose five pounds — or 10." "Stop smoking." "Exercise more." "Be more patient." "Get more sleep." "Make me time." "Save money." Etc., etc., etc. And each year, every year, instead of sticking with those resolutions they often fall by the wayside, leaving us feeling guilty.

What are we really trying to achieve?

“We’re all longing for happiness,” says Todd Patkin, co-author of Finding Happiness: One Man’s Quest to Beat Depression and Anxiety and—Finally—Let the Sunshine In. “We think we can achieve it by losing ten pounds or kicking a bad habit or making more money, and that’s why we vow to do those things year after year after year.”

I believe that being happy is a choice. And I believe that it’s possible to make resolutions that you can actually keep — and that the success leads to more happiness down the road. Here are four New Year’s resolutions you really can keep in 2011:

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Looking for the little things: The important part of Christmas

Confession: I love Thanksgiving a lot more than I do Christmas. Thanksgiving is about food and friends and family, and the only thing you need to wrap up are leftovers, if you're lucky. Once you're an adult, I grumble to myself, all Grinch-like, Christmas is about presents and obligations and rushing around and wrapping up reams of stuff that no one really needs in yards and yards of pretty and sometimes expensive paper that you buy intending to throw away almost immediately.

I really, really wasn't into Christmas this year. My youngest kids wanted to know when we were getting our tree and could we decorate the house and do we have lights to put up outside and etc., etc., etc., and I smiled and gave vague answers and really, wanted nothing to do with Christmas whatsoever.

And then, a couple of weeks ago, that changed.

Friday, December 24, 2010

How to cook a ham (for the holiday, or any day)

My youngest brother talked me into making a holiday ham for a recent family brunch, and while I groused about the extra work, it was mostly for effect. I was quite happy to "have" to make one.

(How did he talk me into it? By telling me that his newly minted 1-year-old loves the stuff. I pretty much agreed immediately. I'm a pushover that way.)

This same brother is the only one in my immediate family who actually likes turkey, so we've always had a ham on the Thanksgiving table as well as a small, token bird for him. And, during our recent early-Christmas celebration, we had ham as well. But I've been known to make a full-on holiday ham for no particular reason, not just for a celebratory feast, because it is one of the easiest, most cost-effective ways to feed a crowd -- even if the crowd is made up of people who happen to be living at my house at the time.

Cooking a ham may seem intimidating if you haven't tackled one before. Here's what to look for at the store, how to cook it, why it works for a busy working mom, and what to do with all those leftovers.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Not-so-random act of kindness. Beautiful.

If you have anything to spare this Christmas, head over to Jenny The Bloggess and read this post, be inspired, and then go out and HELP SOMEONE.  Donate cash to a food bank -- they can make it go much farther than you know. Bring toys to a shelter for women and children. Bring books to the hospital. Wait until Christmas is over and then act, if you like -- there are people who are down on their luck after the holidays are over, too.

Count your blessings. And then share the wealth.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Why their insecurities shouldn't be your problem

I've been thinking a lot recently about the way women interact at work, the way we interact as mothers and as friends, and the way we inadvertently undermine our professional and personal relationships. And I've come to a pretty liberating conclusion, which I shared with my readers at The 36-Hour Day: Much of the time, it's about insecurity. But you can't control other people's behavior, only your own. Which is why you can't make other people's insecurities your problem.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Picking up snapshots along the way

I was chatting online with a friend of mine a few weeks back, someone for whom I used to work more than half a lifetime ago, back when I was a teenager and I was helping take care of his children.

My youngest kids now are the same age his oldest kids were when I started babysitting for them. Now, 20-plus years later, those kids have grown into wonderful young adults (of course we're friends on Facebook) and I'm the same age now that their parents were back then, when I'd come over after school or work and cook dinner and give the kids baths and tuck them into bed.

Life is a journey. But when you're in the thick of it, juggling work and parenthood, it's hard to remember that all of it, the bad and the good, goes by faster than you'd think.

Monday, December 13, 2010

My most-important network: Other working parents

Most of the time, when we talk about the importance of networking, we're referring to our professional networks -- coworkers, mentors, people in "the business" -- and we pour time, money, and energy into figuring out ways to build and maintain those valuable contacts. But there's another network, one that we tend to take for granted, one that is just as important -- or perhaps more so when it comes to our sanity, at least: Other working parents.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Natural, drug-free ways to cope with flu-and-cold season

With cold medications contraindicated for children younger than 4, and with the risks of some over-the-counter drugs outweighing the benefits for many pregnant women, it's a good idea to have on hand a few drug-free, tried-and-true ways to get through the flu-and-cold season.

A confession: I snore. Like a lumberjack. So much so that my husband keeps a flat speaker under his pillow, permanently tuned to NPR. And when I am sick, it gets much, much worse. But sleep-like-a-baby nighttime cold medications leave me groggy and loggy for hours the next day; antihistimines take even longer to leave my system, which means that even most daytime formulas make me sleepy.

How bad does a sinus infection have to be for someone who has a fear of getting water up her nose to consider flushing out her sinus cavities with lukewarm saline? And then actually do it?

This bad, apparently.