Monday, November 29, 2010

The Fairy Godmother’s 2010 Holiday Gift Guide

Yes, boys and girls! She’s baaaack! The Fairy Godmother is now in her third year on Hot Flashbacks, Cool Insights. She’s here to bonk you with her magic wand and sprinkle you with fairy dust. As always, she’s got new gift ideas for spirited giving. I hope you find a match between some of Mom’s ideas and your gift list.

Spa-La-La- La-La – If you’ve got women on your list that love to soak in the lap of luxury, go to the health food store or your favorite boutique and buy some natural bath products. Plantlife is one of Mom’s favorite brands. These carefully chosen items should smell so good, it’s hard not to keep them for yourself! Pack them in a little basket, or in the case of the Plantlife products, soap and bath packets are square. They can be stacked, wrapped in clear vinyl wrap, tied with a bow and a tag that says Spa-La-La-La-La.

The Merry Martini Mixology Book.  Here’s one good-time gift for Sex & the City type girlfriends—or for any guy or gal who likes their holiday cheer unique and fun. Even if you aren’t an expert mixologist, no worries! The Martini Diva will guide you through all the necessary steps, making you laugh out loud while making your martinis—not to mention the laughter to follow while drinking them. Click the book cover to purchase. And don’t forget, you can mix it up a little on New Year’s Eve. Save the champagne for midnight, sandwiched in-between a few fancy ‘tinis on either side. Don’t forget to drink in moderation and schedule a designated driver or call a cab when living spirited in the distilled spirits way. This small volume will jingle the bells of your friends who like to party!

Avatar, Collector’s Edition – With its metaphysical and ecological themes, Avatar is a natural for your spirited friends. I plan to see it over and over again! It just came out in DVD in mid-November and is available on Amazon for under $20 regular and $25 in Blu-ray. And if you want another one of Joyce’s punny tags to go with this Godmom suggestion, try Feliz Na’vi-dad!

Winter Wellness Basket – Sniffles, flu, the blah’s. Anticipate winter and bringing comfort to those you love who have a tendency to get under the weather when the thermometer plummets and the rain or snow sets in. Fill it with some of these helpful, natural products: Occillococcinum to avert or reduce the symptoms of flu; and for colds and building immunity, big bottle of Vitamin C or other great C- products like Emergen-C (comes in yummy flavors) or Airborne. Echinacea tincture is another immune booster. You can include bath salts for aches and pains (Batherapy) or Dr. Singha’s Mustard Bath. It knocks bugs on their bum! Any health food store or Whole Foods can utterly inspire this gift basket with natural products from lip balm to cough syrup to comforting medicinal teas. Rescue Remedy, which now comes in drops, pastilles, or spray, can fight the blahs and emotional heaviness that sometimes sets in with winter. For pure comfort, add a teddy bear, fluffy slippers, and or a lightweight fleece blanket that offers warmth without weight for sitting in front of the fire. If you want to go all-out, add a paperback book packed with humor. Laughter is always the best medicine!

Nostalgic Music and Dining – If there’s someone 60ish or older on your list, “era” music CDs are a can’t-go-wrong favorite. The soundtrack from American Graffiti is a great choice for baby boomers. There are countless collections on Amazon for music from nearly any era—30’s, 40s, 50’s or styles such as Big Band or Do Wop. Check your local PBS affiliate, too. There are often pledge drives that feature collections from these groups that are dynamite. Amazon carries some wonderful nostalgic Christmas music. Alternatively, if you’ve got a local Mel’s or similar ‘50s-themed diner, a gift certificate can let them blast to the past in person.

Kindle – If you can afford a big gift for your closest loved ones who are also avid readers, they will never stop thanking you for an e-reader. Did you know that Amazon predicts by year’s end that e-books will outsell paperbacks? Check out the three Kindle versions now available. The two smaller ones are $139 and $189. Tim and I are foregoing other gifts to give each other Kindles for Christmas. Check out other e-readers, too. I prefer Kindle for its light weight and several other features, but each person’s needs are unique.  Here’s a link to start comparing e-book readers.

Dressing Up Gift Cards

With times tough on the financial front for many people, gift cards are often the way to go. Many of us can’t go to Starbuck’s much any more, and I’m telling you, at the price of groceries, I’d jump up and down if someone gave me a card to one of my favorite markets. Restaurants are always a winner, but the problem with gift cards is that they seem a little uncreative and blah compared to a present that was carefully chosen. Gift cards could stand to be punched up a little, so here are some ideas our Fairy Godmom shared with me:

“Jungle Bells” – The Amazon’s a jungle, and there’s surely as much “wild life” when it comes to diversity of gifts on the website of the same name. If your recipients are web savvy, an Amazon gift card is a great choice because of Amazon’s many departments. Consider adding in a small stuffed “jungle” character like a monkey. The card can be taped or propped in the animal’s arms with a tag that says “Jungle Bells.”

Travel by Restaurant – In lasts year’s Fairy Godmother post, I talked about creating a “travel” gift by packaging an Outback Restaurant gift card as a trip to Australia. This same concept can be applied to any cuisine—a trip to Italy, Mexico, Greece—you name it! You can also apply this idea to gift baskets. Pack a basket with olive oil, pasta, the canned ingredients to make sauce, and your favorite recipe. Add a $10 gift card to a grocery store for meat, sausage or other fresh ingredients needed. Tag it as a trip to Italy and don’t forget to add “Merry Christmas” in the appropriate language (Buon Natale!).

Winter Reads – There’s nothing like curling up with a good book in the cold weather by the fire. Create a warm and cozy environment for your favorite bookworm. Package the card with some nice winter tea (the Celestial Seasons holiday line is superb) or cocoa. Place in a small basket or box with a bookmark or other reading paraphernalia, such as a pair of inexpensive reading glasses (if you can sneak a peak at their prescription), or my favorite reading tool, a leather book weight. It helps keep pages with a mind of their own flat and open. If you’re computer creative, you can even make your own bookmark with something special to the recipient, like a photo of grandkids or a favorite quote.

Between this year’s and the previous year’s Fairy Godmother’s posts, linked below, I hope you have plenty of ideas to make your holiday gift giving a delight to both giver and receiver. Spin off these suggestions and make them your own … and remember that the thoughtfulness behind your gift will shine through and keep giving long after the gift opening ritual is just a memory.

Happy Shopping—and Happy Holidays!


Photo Credit:  Granny Fairy © Regissercom |

Past Godmother Gift Posts:  The Fairy Godmother (2008) and The Fairy Godmother Wands You (2009)

Friday, November 19, 2010

10 Weeks of Word Oracles - Backlog

© 2010 by Joyce Mason
All Rights Reserved

No one has to tell me why I drew backlog as one of our word oracles and potential goldmines of insight. I live in such backlog; it makes my hair stand on end. How about you?

My office is always in what I call an advanced state of chaos. I can barely find the things I need. Sometimes I can’t find them at all. I cringe to think of the money I’ve wasted buying replacements for things that are simply hidden away somewhere in my Fibber McGee’s closet. You know, the one where you open the door and assorted flying objects launch and go straight for your head. The avalanche is what you get for disturbing the peace of your put-off stuff. Now you want to access something or even deal with cleaning the mess and the mess is resistant.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

To read more about the word oracle series: 10 weeks of Word Oracles #1

The Bottom Line of Backlog

Backlog comes from an inability to make decisions, especially about the use of our time. It’s particularly hard for people like me with multiple interests. I keep thinking I can do it all, and my busy brain hates boredom so much, I actually try. I keep trying to do in my sixties what I could do in my forties. (At least I finally gave up trying to keep up with my twenties.) I can’t count the binders, tote bags and boxes for my various interests: making art from cast-off jewelry, saving scraps for Soul Collage cards, accumulating reading material on subjects so varied, I need a Dewey Decimal system to find anything.

Let’s not even get started on my computer. I can’t seem to let go of anything. I finally sort and do a purge on my In Box when it pushes 500. I might need one of those e-mails sometime, you know? And since I do occasionally, it just feeds my resistance to the Delete button. Add the fact that I’m terribly sentimental. Any object, e-mail, book or tschotschke given to me by someone I care about is destined to become a permanent relic.

This is a crazy way to live. I am not a slob at heart—quite the opposite. I am apparently not a good decision maker on the small things that accumulate into huge piles of backlog, whether work or do-dads. I seem to do much better with the big things—choosing a house, a spouse, a pet, or where to on vacation. It’s the little stuff that’s making my house into my Aunt Donna’s* curse. When she saw a messy house, she’d look around with a critical eye and declare, “Picks live here!” Her siblings shared my mother’s gift for malapropisms and mangling language, and her sister Donna was probably the worst in the family of everyone. Except for Uncle Enzo. He had no problem making big decisions. He wanted a “bunk” (bungalow) in “Skoke” (Skokie, a suburb of Chicago.) If “picks” could make better decisions on the little things, they could live here and I wouldn’t even complain or threaten to turn them into bacon.

Messes, Mom Energy, and Self-Love

The truth is my cumulative messiness has more to do with giving away my energy to everyone but me. I’m a giver by nature, and while this is not a bad thing in and of itself, the criminal neglect of my surroundings is a result of putting others first and my ambience last. Ambience is important to me! It’s another one of those ways women in particular can slip easily into doing for others more than the do unto themselves. (Is it time to reread The Converse Golden Rule?)

My adoptive mom was an immaculate housekeeper. I can remember how angry I’d get at her when she’d wake us up early on a Saturday morning, the only day we could sleep in, usually with a poke in the arm or ribs. Why? To clean house. What was she thinking? If you couldn’t eat off the floors, she would make so much noise, you’d scrub them with a toothbrush, if she wanted, just for the blessed silence.

Maybe I’m still rebelling, but I think it’s more that I’m too much like her in my over-mothering skills. I have to do less tending of others and more tending to myself.  My situation is complicated by the fact that my husband’s health conditions limits his mobility and energy, though he does do whatever he can to help when he can. But where it hits home is in my office, which he has nothing to do with. Work is obviously much more important than cleaning to me, but it’s getting to the point that I have to spend a lot of time clearing the debris of my backlog so I can continue to function in my bedroom-converted office. Can someone give me the formula for converting it back to organized? Can a priest, minister, or rabbi do something about this—say a prayer or at least let me tell a good joke about them?

What’s the Psychology of Whatever You’re Drowning In?

Backlogs involve resistance and poor prioritization skills for me. What’s the make-up of your mess or pile of Can’t Get To’s? These are topics worth pondering, if you truly want to break out of the endless loop of things piled up in whatever form. In the current economy, most people can’t afford household help, so it’s time to help yourself. Maybe I’ll finally read that book on How to Conquer Clutter—if I can find it!

Meanwhile, let’s discover mine some insights to downsize your current backlog.

Meditation and Journaling on Backlog

Sit quietly in a meditative posture, whatever one works for you. Have pen and paper nearby.

1.      Take three deep breaths. Say “backlog” to yourself. Let the word and the question rest on your mind, and then let your mind speak. Now ask yourself, “What’s piling up in my life that I can’t get to?” Take plenty of time to let the thoughts form or memories come back to you. Let your memories or thoughts finish speaking. When they’re done saying what they have to say, write down their message.

2.      Return to meditation. Read this thought, and then sit with it in the silence for as long as it feels right:  I understand what’s behind my backlog, and I will address it, bit by bit. This condition built up over time. I will clear my backlog with steady work. When I’m “caught up,” I will do whatever it takes to form new habits of making decisions, tackling work, putting things away and staying on top of them.

3.      When you come out of meditation, look at what you wrote about “backlog.” Take some time to contemplate it. Carry these thoughts and intentions into your week. Learn as much as possible about your relationship to backlog. Write a few wrap-up notes before the end of the week and our next word.

May your life flow!


Next word:  Belief

Note:  We’ll be taking a break for a few weeks to address some other topics, including the annual Fairy Godmother holiday gift ideas post. 10 Weeks of Word Oracles will be back in mid-December.

* The names of my family members have been changed to protect the privacy of my relatives and for consistency with their pseudonyms in some of my other writing.

Photo Credit: Person in Pile of Papers © Qwasyz | Dreamstime


Sunday, November 7, 2010

10 Weeks of Word Oracles - Bother

The cusp of "why bother?"
© 2010 by Joyce Mason
All Rights Reserved

Drawing this word as one of our oracles bothered me! To bother is to pester or annoy. A bother is something that requires a lot of work without adequate return. Bothered can also mean to be bewildered or confused when you don’t “get” something. The last meaning is the stuff of Hot Flashbacks, Cool Insights. Here we dig into the meaning of things. Like why I’d draw bother for discussion.

To read the whys and wherefores of the word oracle series, see 10 weeks of Word Oracles #1

Why Bother?

Yet having trouble seeing the light about events in our lives is not where I want to focus this time. What calls to me from my intuition to discuss is the expression, “Why bother?” It implies a lot of effort for little result—or the point at which a person begins to question the input-to-output ratio on anything they do.

Bother seems to be a negative word, but it’s only when we look at both the light the dark side of anything that we attain balance.

What are just tired of doing? What’s going on in your life where putting in a lot of effort doesn’t seem to be giving you much in return?

We reach these cusps in relationships, jobs, volunteer organizations and activities—in all aspects of life. They are not a bad thing. They are simply turning points.

Giving-to-Receiving Ratio

Not all things in life are meant to be in perfect balance when it comes to giving and receiving. As any parent will attest, the role of mother or father, over the course of a lifetime, has periods when giving outweighs receiving. But in the big picture, few parents would give back their children or deny they’re “worth it.” Infancy passes, when a child is totally dependent on his or her parents for every need. Adolescence, when your kid drives you up the wall? It passes, too, as do the years of high college expenses for results hoped for and often nowadays in no way assured.

We all go through our ups-and-downs in personal relationships, too. Our partner may be cranky, dealing with issues at work, health challenges, or any number of potential reasons that put us in the position for some time of giving much and feeling on the short end of the receiving stick. 

Whether it’s our church, club or other group we hold dear, we have hair-pulling times of always being the one to do it all and wondering why the whole thing revolves around the big heartedness of a few. These why bother moments are disheartening—more so the bigger the heart.

The question, why bother, asks us to examine when the cumulative imbalance becomes a deal breaker.

The Cusp of Change

We all know the expression, the straw the broke the camel’s back. You give one thing too many, and you’re done—ready to bolt. Sometimes that’s a good move; sometimes it’s a mistake.

The cusp of why bother begs analysis of a situation. For a spirited individual, analysis should always precede action. If we cut something or someone loose too soon, we might be kicking out the kid, the spouse, or resigning from a committee that’s important to us during one of those seasons where it's OK to give more than receive. These giving upticks and temporary imbalances are just part of life.  We might not have enough long-term experience with the situation to determine if the giving-to-receiving ratio is a permanent pattern.

But boy oh boy, if it is, when you hear why bother in your mind on a regular basis, the analysis is due, if not overdue. Always listen to your inner voice when it bothers you with that pesky question.

The Final Analysis

In the end, the decision of whether it’s time to stop bothering—or not—is a conclusion that can only come from analysis of your unique situation, perhaps in conjunction with some trusted advisors. Let your higher self and inner voice be among them. And if it’s time to move on, ask for help from the spiritual realm to make it gentle on yourself and everyone concerned.

Meanwhile, here’s an exercise to help you hear any voices that might be crying or crying out from giver’s fatigue.

Meditation and Journaling on Bother

Sit quietly in a meditative posture, whatever one works for you. Have pen and paper nearby.

1.      Take three deep breaths. Say “bother” to yourself.  Let it rest on your mind, and then let your mind speak. Now ask if the expression why bother hits home for you in any way.  Take plenty of time to let the thoughts form or memories come back to you. Let your memories or thoughts finish speaking. When they are done saying what they have to say, write down their message.

2.      Return to meditation. Read this thought, and then sit with it in the silence for as long as it feels right:  I will tune up my inner hearing and notice whenever I hear, “why bother?” from my inner self. I commit to weighing what it means and giving myself time to form considered conclusions about it. Then I will act, if change is needed.

3.      When you come out of meditation, look at what you wrote about “bother.” Take some time to contemplate it. Carry these thoughts and intentions into your week. Learn as much as possible about your relationship to bother.  (Other meanings besides why bother and over-giving may have come up. Are you being or putting up with someone who’s a bother?) Write a few wrap-up notes before the end of the week and our next word.

Hope your week is no bother whatsoever.


Next word:  Backlog

Photo credit: Overwhelmed © Blake Anthony | Dreamstime