Friday, December 31, 2010

From Rose Marie:

Never Be Disappointed Again

“Your intuition is your guiding light.”

Your intuition is your quiet inner voice. It helps you make decisions, gives you direction and acts as your guide.

Intuition talks to you in different ways. Sometimes it’s a strong feeling or an inner “knowing.” Sometimes it’s a sudden flash of inspiration or a moment of clarity. No matter how intuition speaks to you, know it always wants the best for you.

Next time you’re faced with an important decision, calm your mind, let go of self-serving emotions or thoughts and let your intuition speak. At first, it may be subtle. But, with awareness and practice, you can recognize it instantly.

Trust your intuition to be your guiding light. It will never disappoint you!

Today’s Affirmation: I trust my intuition.
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Traditions are What Give our Life Stability

Susan Dunn, The EQ Coach


I think of my Mom's potato salad, dying eggs with my children, the years our bird dog spent all Easter morning 'pointing' the eggs we'd hidden Al fresco brunches with fresh strawberry crepes which later gave way to dining room formalities of lamb roast with mint jelly, and fresh asparagus, then evolving back to ham, potato salad and deviled eggs, like my Mom. The years my sons and I celebrated in the Florida Keys, now celebrating with my son's in-laws, grilling out in the back yard. Religious services, spring bonnets, orchid corsages and Easter lilies. Customs particular to South Texas ' bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes along the highway, cascarones and Fiesta, and finally, PEEPS®!


Traditions are what give our life stability and meaning and keep us in the rhythm of life. They give us something to look forward to, something to count on, and something to change when we want to, move, or add new family members! Traditions can always be changed or re-created. In fact, many of our transitions in life involve redoing traditions. EASTER/SPRING

Some of us will celebrate Easter as a religious holiday, others as a secular celebration. It's simply in our blood to rejoice in the springtime. Easter began when the ancient Saxons celebrated the return of spring with a festival in honor of Eastre, their goddess of fertility and spring. Her symbol was the rabbit! It's the custom in most cultures to celebrate the vernal equinox with various symbols of fertility and rebirth, such as rabbits and eggs!

Easter is the first Sunday following the first full moon, which falls on or after the vernal equinox, March 21st. There it falls between March 22nd and April 25th.


Is it (a) a waterfall in Northern Mexico, (b)a rare species of Easter orchid, (c)a large South American rodent, or (d) none of the above.

The answer is d.

Cascarones are hollowed-out eggshells filled with confetti. The tradition in the Southwest and Mexico is to crack them over your friends' heads, and the person with the most confetti in their hair is the most loved!

Check out this great cascarones tutorial: .

Each year in April, San Antonio puts on FIESTA, which sometimes coincides with Easter ' weeks of festivities. Roadside vendors, grocery stores and upscale boutique sell cascarones. I used to mail them to my son when he was in college in Seattle, and wondered what the Washingtonians would think.

It's believed Marco Polo brought them to Mexico. You can order yours here, just $5.50: .


The Easter Lily originated in Japan, but today, 95% of the bulbs used for the potted Easter Lilies we give, and receive, come from 10 farms along the California/Oregon border. They're grown in various other places, including Michigan. Did you know growers can count the leaves to determine when the plants will flower? Is there anything more fragrant?


I eagerly await the annual spring ballotin from Lady Godiva: . Is the chocolate bunny more your speed? has chocolate bunnies, lambs, crosses, hens, roosters, loloes, Easter cards, you name it!

PEEPS® 50 Years of Divine Madness

Some year along the way, 'Peeps®' became a part of our Easter tradition. They're aren't in the house, we don't eat them, but they're v. much a part of the experience. And this year it's the 50th anniversary of Peeps®.

The 'San Francisco Chronicle' noted that over 600 million of these little marshmallow things will be produced, riding on a wave of 'kitsch and nostalgia drawn from two influential demographic pools.'

True in my household! I, the Baby Boomer, include them in baskets because that's what my parents did; my son, the Generation Xer, joins his peers in investigating all that a Peep® is, and all a Peep® can be.

Among the many mouth-watering recipes for Peeps® is Blue Peep® Pie which calls for blue gelatin, Caracao, and 15 blue Peeps®. 'Snip apart each family of Peeps®,' it says. 'Arrange in concentric circles atop pie filling. Use fresh blueberries to fill in gaps between Peeps®.' Full recipe is here: . WHAT CAN YOU DO BESIDES EAT A PEEP®?

'I'm glad I'm not the only one who's tried toasting peep!' writes a list member of Gail's Recipe Swap Archive. 'I recently toasted some over a gas stove burner and got pretty good results. The key is to blow them out immediately when they catch on fire''

'Creative alternative uses' are listed on : 'Pre-Easter fresh Peeps® can be moistened in punch cups and then used around the kitchen window as cheery caulking. You can color coordinate this with your kitchen.'

Eat your heart out, Martha!

Various forms of Peeps® abuse also take place and are noted on the Internet: April Showers is here: .

Gen Xers may be seeking a Peeps® screensaver: or to send a Peeps ® ecard: .

Created by Just Born, Inc., they've been joined by Peeps® Marshmallow Jelly Beans. You'll understand the 'creative alternative uses' for Peeps®' when I report that tasters at 'found the marshmallow-fruit combo overwhelmingly sweet. Comparisons were made to Pledge® wood cleaner, bad bubble gum, and lavender soap.'

Wait a minute. Does that mean someone knows what Pledge® wood cleaner tastes like?


It's coming to San Antonio, April 14-20! To find out when it's coming your way, go here: , or call the hotline: 1-866-270-9638. You can even request it for your special event or festival.

Heck, that's worth creating a festival for!


Q: What do you have to do to get a year's supply of Peeps®? A: Win the Easter basket contest:

Q: What's a 'year's supply' of Peeps®? A: 365 packages.

Q: What do the contest losers get? A: 2 years' supply of Peeps. j.k.


Will it be ham or lamb? Go here to cast your vote: In south Texas, it's customary to cook out. The parks are full. Not having done this myself, I don't know for sure, but I think neither ham NOR lamb is involved.

I think I'll revert to haute cuisine this year. Rack of Lamb with Spinach Pine-Cut Crust and Minted pea Sauce, Hibiscus-Marinated Leg of Lamb (featuring dried nontoxic and organic hibiscus flowers, Red Zinger tea, garlic, olive oil, red current jelly), Lavender Crème-Caramel Tart, Asparagus Napoleons with Oriental Black Bean Sauce, Hot Cross Buns ' ahhh '. sounds well worth the effort to me. Visit: for the menus. Or you may wish to have a Vegan Easter. Go here and you'll hear 'Easter Parade' playing.


·Get your brightly colored Panama hat here,

·Recipe for Easter bonnet cookies here, amf0401boncook.html

·Attend the Easter Bonnet Rod Run, Oak Ridge Tennessee,, 'Ladies bring your finest Easter bonnet, and Men, dress up your bonnet on your car' ·Attend the Annual Easter Bonnet and Hat Parade in San Diego,


And last, but not least, the songs from our childhood. 'Here comes Peter Cottontail, hoppin' down the bunny trail, hippity hoppin', Easter's on its way. He's got jelly beans for Tommy, colored eggs for sister Sue, There's an orchid for your mommy, and an Easter bonnet too.

Originally sung by Gene Autry ( 0 ) and you can listen to it here: . SPRING CLEANING

Surely this is a time to spring clean ' your house, car, office, garden, mind, and spirit! Get the weeds out, turn the soil, add some fertilizer, water and sunshine, plants seeds, prepare for blossoms. Rebirth yourself ' come back to life!

About the author: EQ Coach', licensed Accountability Coach'. Emotional intelligence coaching, Internet courses, EQ assessments, business EQ culture programs, products available for licensing, training for EQ coaches., for FREE ezine. Affiliates in UK, Australia, Malaysia. Ofrece coaching personal y cursos de Internet sobre inteligencia emotional (EQ). Se habla espanol.

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Monday, December 20, 2010

The Harp: Emotional Intelligence and Healing

THE HARP - an appropriate topic for Christmas time

Some say the harp is the most healing instrument -- both to listen to, and to play. Read about HEALING STRINGS - serving the critically and chronically ill and the dying, providing harp music at the bedside from the neonatal ICU to Hospice.

"It took me away from the hospital to a place to beauty and stillness." - a post-op patient

Why the harp? It has centuries of archetypal associations to angels, peace, healing, comfort, the end of suffering, and

... Heaven.

Why the harp?

It's wide pitch range (low C-32.703 Hz to high G-3136.0 Hz), vibrates the entire body;

It's unique glissando technique, using enharmonic tones, is heavenly;

Pythagoras saw the strings as symbols of the nervous system and plucking the strings appears to release tension;

Playing the harp vibrates the harpist's body, especially the thymus gland which is in the chest and important to the immune system

Even as long as 3,000 years ago, we understood the relationship between the music of the harp and the healing of the body and mind.

Recent medical studies have confirmed that the particular frequencies and sounds of the harp can aid healing and foster well-being.

This is true of other instruments and of classical music.

Susan Dunn, the EQ Coach also offer Club Vivo Per Lei

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Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Best Christmas Gift You Can Give Yourself: Simplicity

I had to laugh when I read that quote recently. I particularly remember a time in my merry life when I had two sons, 3 dogs, my clothes filled two
closets in my home, I owned Madeleine pans, exotic juicers, a regular and a gourmet coffeemaker, 3 sets of flatware, 10 tableclothes, 10 sets of placemats for 6 or 8, and formal china tablesettings for 12 … and most "cluttering" of all, a social calendar that was unmanageable.

Life is a series of stages, and there is the "acquiring" stage.

However, there came a point where I felt overwhelmed by my "blessings" and took a look at what was going on. At the time, my boyfriend, who was a stock broker, kept saying, "Simplify, simplify." He lived what I considered a "Sparten existence."

It caused me to take a look at the whole picture. I was exhausted all the time. I went to a therapist; too bad there weren't coaches then. She said I was "trying to do too much." I interpreted it that I wasn't capable of handling all these things, and redoubled my efforts.

Coaches make things more clear. "Why are you doing what doesn't bring you pleasure?" would've been the question to ask. Eventually I asked myself that question and here are some of the things I did.

I was still operating from an old childhood scarcity-mentality. I never had "enough" clothes in high school, not because my parents couldn't afford it, just that they didn't want to spend their money on that. I started babysitting rigorously to buy myself clothes and makeup and stuff. Not a bad thing to do, but I realized that
time was over. I gave a number of things to Goodwill, set aside a space-allotment, and stuck to it.

I did have to "dress" for my profession at the time (PR), so I chose two outfits I could accessorize in infinite ways. Scarves, jewelry and pins take far less storage space!

Two were strays we had "adopted," under pressure from my good-hearted son. However, they were difficult dogs, not having been well-raised, and took far more work than our original family pet. I decided to give up this rescuing mentality and at the same time educate my children. We found good homes for two of them, and the family pact was "no more." We stuck with our one chosen, well-cared for, and well-trained dog.

That's a hard one. It's been an abiding interest and love in my life, to entertain with all the accoutrements. I decided that was an okay hobby, but to stick with what I had for a long time. How many sets of Christmas tablemats does one really

Life is choices. I could eliminate a lot of these things by turning to fast food, eating out, less elaborate meals. I decided this was not something
to sacrifice. There are health benefits to wok cooking, steamers, double boilers, etc., and "happy" benefits to beautiful Bundt cakes. My youngest son particularly enjoyed the camaraderie of a fondue meal. Our family dinners were fun for all of us, and a good thing, and I didn't want to sacrifice that for "convenience."

Not everything in the enriched life should be "efficient."

My stocks were scattered all over the place, and we consolidated. It seemed risky to me to "put all my eggs in one basket," but we did, and it resulted in a nice financial gain.

I decided it wasn't all that I had that was the problem - many of them were valuable to me and my lifestyle - it was the organization of it all.

One thing I did was buy containers, for instance, "fall decorations" and got everything in one place. I added to the box my apparel for that time of year - autumn sweaters, accessories, and jewelry. I labeled them clearly, stacked them in one place, and felt better about it all.

I tackled the gift-producing area. I had a bow maker, rolls of paper, ribbons, ready for every occasion. It was a time when the boys would be invited to a birthday party quite suddenly, and it kept me from "running out" at the last minute to buy the wrapping. This I decided to eliminate.
The storage space required and the clutter were not worth it, and it seemed I never had the right thing anyway. I bought 10 generic gift bags with white tissue, appropriate for any age or occasion.

Also, seeing myself "burdened" by the gifts coming my way - that teddy bear statuette just wasn't "me" even if it was expensive crystal - I switched
to what I call "disposable" gifts. Sending someone a floral arrangement, or a basket of fruit, or a Honey-baked ham would note the occasion, but it would "go away" and they wouldn't
have to find a place for it.

I have never been comfortable giving money, but gift certificates seemed possible. It showed at least a little "thought" and "effort," the two things I find missing in gifts of money. (Not that I've ever refused one!)

For those with no material needs whatsoever, I would donate money to a charity close to their heart. That is greatly appreciated by most people. Charities list in their newsletter the
gifts made in honor of, or in memory of, others, and that's a nice touch.

Re: the people in my life, I took a look at the investment-return ratio. Some of them, I had to admit, were a drain. With me being in a helping profession, some were "using" me for free counseling, while making no improvements in their lives, and that didn't give me the friendship I needed, or provide for them the counseling or
coaching they needed.

I made a list of the people who really meant something to me, with whom I had strong mutual bonds, and I whittled away at the ones who didn't contribute anything to my life. We call this in coaching, "getting rid of tolerations." Yes, people can be "tolerations" and I think this is one of the more important "ah hahs" Thomas Leonard, the founder of coaching, gave to the world.

I eliminated immediately the ones who were a negative drain on me, and took a closer look at ones wanting entry. I quietly discouraged some "friendships" from ever occurring in the first place. Life is choices.

I believe that our lives are greatly influenced by the 5 people we spend the most time with. I made sure the Top 5 were the ones I wanted and needed them to be.

I decided to slow myself down at the checkout counter. I disciplined myself for 6 months. I would not make any impulse buys. I would go home and consider it. Usually it wasn't worth the effort to go back.

I would not go shopping to "window shop." There's no such thing! There's always something attracts my eye I think I "must have."

Shopping would be a necessity for essentials, not Saturday afternoon entertainment for me and the kids.

I put more thought into the things I gave others so as to slow the flow into their lives as well.

As you participate in, or observe, the shopping frenzy of the holiday season. Ask yourself, "Why am I doing this?"

Good reasons are:
·It's meaningful
·I enjoy it
·I know it's something I can afford and know it's
something they need or would like

Bad reasons are:
·I don't know why
·To keep up with the Joneses
·Because I always have
·Because you're supposed to

Oserve closely your own behavior. That's the beginning of making positive changes.

It's the emotionally intelligent thing to do!
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Holiday Survival Guide for Introverts

If you're an introvert, celebrate the holidays YOUR way! None of that dancing on the table with a lampshade on the head for YOU! The holidays are a stressful time, but especially so for introverts (roughly 10% of the population).

One of the most important things you can know about yourself is whether you're an introvert or extravert, and how to enhance your life according to your natural tendencies.
If you're an introvert, here are some tips for a more enjoyable holiday season.
Allow extra time for sleep, rest, and quiet relaxation so you can recharge. When the world reves up even higher, it will get to you even more than usual.
Nobody has to accept every holiday invitation, in fact it's best to be discriminatory so you don't overdo. If you're an introvert, this applies double for you. It's okay to turn down party invitations!

Get PROACTIVE. If you sense an invitation coming, or if you want to, or must, celebrate with someone, jump the gun (which isn't your style) and channel it YOUR way. Invite someone to a concert, or the ballet. Think "time-limited." If you invite someone to lunch and then a concert, you know when it will begin and end and this eliminates some stress. Not so an Open House! Christmas Eve is also a good time to take your turn having the family over, as it's usually more peaceful, and nobody stays late.

When an introvert must attend a party or family gathering, it's best to plan ahead. Sometimes it works well to work out just before the gathering or take a nap. Whatever refreshes you. Experiment and find out! Then arriving at the party on time and greeting everyone makes your presence known and then you can disappear. It's also good to smile and reassure people you're having a good time, or else they'll become concerned -- since introverts show it different and are often under stress -- so people will be reassured and you won't get any more unwanted attention.
There are little tricks like bringing your camera and appointing yourself the official photographer, or being in charge of the music and spending a lot of time changing CDs. Also, then, the introvert can choose their own style of music.
What to do about the dreaded OFFICE PARTY ? They are really command performances and can be a strain. Volunteer immediately to do a job that requires working alone (such as being in charge of the invitations), or volunteer to sit at the sign-in table, which can take half the night. It allows for the kind of structured socializing that introverts often prefer.

After a party or family-gathering, take a warm bubble bath, or a nice evening walk - something to help you unwind and self-soothe. Your extraverted husband may drive home talking all the way and then plop into bed and start snoring immediately. Not you!

Everyone's entitled -- of course! -- to celebrate the holidays in ways they like. Another option is to save up vacation time and leave town -- a quiet cabin in the mountains with some good books and music and a loved one (or not), or maybe taking a cruise. You don't have to put up lights and frenzy - you can enjoy other people's when you get the urge, and you can shut it down, tune it out, and turn it off. You can choose your own level of stimulation.

Introverts also need to be alert to protect themselves from boundary violations. They are often "ready targets" at parties for loud, aggressive people, simply because they're quiet and often sensitive and considerate. Also for people who are agitated and want to be around a soothing person, or anyone looking for an "audience". Sitting alone in a corner leaves you prey to people you may find annoying and you can get cornered; getting up and moving around and choosing with whom you interact is the proactive way to handle this. Be a moving target!
You can also find ways to busy yourself at a party or gathering that allow you time alone -- helping out in the kitchen, passing hors d'oeuvres, taking out the wrapping paper trash and garbage, taking coats and wraps to the bedroom, or disappearing to the playroom with the children are some options.

Another part of the holidays that's stressful for everyone but may be more so for introverts is when multiple family appearances are required on one day, such as hitting every relative's house on Christmas Day. Best to establish the policy that you're going to do it one year at a time -- this year this house, next year the next.

There are many things introverts can do to help themselves enjoy the holidays more. Get proactive and make decisions early on!

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Dysfunctional Family Christmas

The articles are starting to appear in print and on the Internet about how to cope with the holiday family get-togethers and the word "dysfunctional" will be bandied about.

This article is about another way of looking at things I hope will be helpful. "Dysfunction" refers to something that doesn't function the way it should; something that doesn't do what it's supposed to. "Dys" means "bad" or "difficult."

Now, unless you're a flaming extravert with a staff of 10 to help you, it may well be "difficult." Whether it will be "bad" is another matter.

Thank heavens for Positive Psychology! Barring extremes, why not assume your holiday is functioning normally, that is, like everyone else's - it isn't perfect, but it's functioning just fine.

How so? The reason we talk about "peace on earth, goodwill to men" at Christmas is because it's an ideal. We pray for it because it exists so rarely, in brief moments only, or maybe a state of the heart. It's the song the angels sing.

Let's put a new spin on this by looking at the function of a family. The function of a family is to nurture, but it's also about learning to relate and deal with emotions. It's about imperfect you learning how to co-exist with imperfect others in an imperfect world, and it's the proving ground for getting out into the real world. It's where we learn many life lessons.

Some of them are what to do when we don't get what we want, how to fight and make up, how to share and how to get our share, how to comfort or soothe someone else or ourselves, what to do when other people are angry or when we are, and how to keep loving someone when we really don't like what they're doing. In other words how to deal with the ins and outs of interpersonal relating with resilience.

And what better place to experience this than at the family get-together? It will all be there. It always is.

The only totally calm, uneventful Christmas I participated in, where there were no tiffs and sputters and frustrations, everyone was numbed from a recent tragedy and simply going through the motions. We could've been in bed asleep, except we were sitting up, walking around, and talking. No one had the energy for either joy or anger. Perspective did not allow us to be upset that year that the gravy was lumpy.

Emotions are energy. They're part of life. The only thing worse than the ones we don't like, would be having none at all.

But even that was a functional celebration. Grief-stricken, we were together for support, and we were doing what we could about Christmas, which seemed an ugly charade, and some of them will. It worked. It won't be featured on the front cover of "Saturday Evening Post," painted by Norman Rockwell, but it will remain painted in our hearts.

Positive psychology refuses to focus on what's wrong; it looks at what's right, strong, and going well. If your family is together and your sister and brother are fighting again, well didn't they always? Isn't that what siblings do? Surely they have the sense to temper it a little in light of the occasion, but if they don't, ignore it, send them outside with the dogs, use your sense of humor and EQ, and get on with your own celebration.

If you start your Christmas get-together saying, "It's Christmas, couldn't we all just get along for an hour or two? And Mother, will you please stop crying?" think about what you're requiring. Is your household one in which it's implicit that certain emotions are not welcome (anger, disappointment, fear, sorrow)?

Of course no one in their right mind would begin by saying, "Okay, everybody fight! Get ready, get set, Go!" But toy with that notion for a moment. What do you think would happen if you did? By welcoming it, you take away its power. Even if you said this to two preschoolers, they'd probably giggle.

It's traditional in my family that the kids are always sick at Christmas. We live in South Texas; it's allergy time. However, it has traveled with us as well! This is the one thing we can count on. It's also traditional that some of us are tired and overwrought, and the more highstrung ones will be decompensating. Some of the kids are this way too.

I remember one Christmas when I was a kid when my folks just suddenly brought the whole thing to a halt and put us all to bed for a nap. That's sensible!

There are other "traditions" I won't go into, but let's just say people don't leave their regular personalities at home when they venture out at Christmas time.

It may be the tradition in your household that Granny will complain about the commercialism of Christmas (she always does), Uncle Fred and Aunt Mary won't be talking to one another (they never do), and Candee will be dressed inappropriately (just to embarrass her parents). Is the further tradition that you worry about these things or in some way try to prevent them happening? That might be one tradition you'd like to change this year. You might as well try and stop the tide, and you'll only make yourself miserable about being miserable.

You could also rid your mind of the "nevers" and "always." People do surprise us. It has been said "you can't go home again" because things change. It won't be there when you get there. Maybe this year Granny will have made her peace with commercialism. Ya never know.

Am I talking about extreme circumstances and crises? They can happen too. In our minds Christmas Day is something special, but in the grand scheme of things, it's a day when things that happen on any day can happen. I know several people who, sadly, had a relative die on Christmas Day, one even right at the dinner table.

The only thing you can control - better to say "manage" - is your response to things that happen. You can't control what happens.

If things are really bad, you know it, and you need to do something about it, and I hope you will. Get therapy, prescribe therapy, don't show up, go with your loving partner on a cruise, or don't invite the cousin who needs to be in rehab and tell him why and pray for him.

But if it's like it is for most of us, somewhat unpredictable and nutty enough to be real, I hope you have a great, albeit imperfect Christmas, and keep your expectations flexible and low and your emotional intelligence high.

I'm thinking of the first Christmas after my son died. "Have a Christmas," one of my sensitive friends told me. I did. You can too.
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Decorating for the Holidays When Short on Time and Money

Lucky you if you live in the north (of the US). Lucky all of us that nature is plentiful in providing free supplies for decorating our homes for Thanksgiving no matter where we live.

Even in South Texas at this time of year I can wander outside and clip off some branches from my yellow-berried pyracantha (I planted some with yellow berries as well as red just for this occasion), and grab a handful of at least brown leaves.

If you live in the north and can garner pine cones, seed pods, pine branches and fallen leaves in all their glorious colors, use these as the basis for your color scheme.

I'm also lucky to have a garden full of chrysanthemums in bloom ready to be put around in vases in the house. Since they're perennials (down here), I can always count on having them come back this time of year.

Check your yard and garden for blooms in keeping with your color scheme (and next year, consider planting accordingly).

You also have an array of decorating materials available in the produce department of your grocery. All those squashes lend themselves beautifully to the fall color scheme. It's nature's way. Go for it!

Arrange some greenery branches across the mantle and place fruits and vegetables around and there you have it. We're celebrating the harvest, after all.

Now here's the trick. We have two major celebrations coming up: Thanksgiving and then Christmas. Here at my house I need to make a quick transition and I'm short on time, like everyone else. I'm having guests for Thanksgiving, but then my grandchildren will be coming here the Friday after. I'm giving a Christmas Cookie Baking Party for Kids on Friday, and will need to switch rapidly from Thanksgiving to Christmas, so I've planned my decorating accordingly.

I'll be using only greens, yellows, golds and whites for Thanksgiving. Then, for instance, I can remove the white, green and yellow gourds and squashes from the greenery on the mantle, add some white lights and gold stars, gold jingle bells, and gold ornaments and I'm set to go.

The white, yellow and gold candles and tealights for Thanksgiving can remain. See how easy it can be!

Cheap tip for a real glow? Buy a fair-sized mirror, place it on your dining room table, buffet or mantel and cover it with tea lights. Beautiful!

You could achieve this same easy transition keeping green and brown for basic background and using accents of burgundy and rust. This is a more subtle look for Christmas than the bright primary red, but it works just as well.

Also make some trips to your local Goodwill and Thrift Stores and visit some garage sales. People give away the most amazing holiday decorations that can be yours for pennies. I've found everything - hand towels, wreaths, pillows, stuffed animals, wall pictures, water globes and statuettes. Since they're used only for a short time, you hate to spend too much on them.

And here's a neat tip. My Goodwill store has a selection of lamp shades and I have the lamps, don't you? You can change out your lampshades to fit your decorating scheme. Did you ever think of that? It only takes a minute. Just make sure before you go that you know which kind of lampshades you have, and match them.

Oh and don't forget to check out the picture frames at the resale shop. You could move a favorite photo to a holiday frame and place that up on the mantel as well.

In fact if you don't already have some great holiday photos, take some this year. I have a great photo of my grand-daughter sitting with a pumpkin I move to a central location at Thanksgiving, and then a collage of my own children at former Christmases I bring out in December. I bought an ugly print at a garage sale that had a beautiful forest green frame, threw away the print and substituted with the collage. It's such a dear reminder.

And while you're decorating, don't forget yourself! Most thrift stores set up displays of holiday apparel you'll want to take advantage of for you and the kids.

Some planning ahead can help you save time and money and still allow for a festively decorated home for the holidays.
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Making Christmas Dinner More Festive

"But Susan," you say, "Why would I be worried about making Christmas dinner more 'festive'? It's a family tradition my kids are sick on Christmas, my in-laws are staying with us for a week, I have to work Christmas Eve, and I've promised the maid the week off, ha ha. What I'm worried about is getting it to the table at all."

Oh, for many reasons, I reply. Because of the memories, because it's soothing and fun, if you work it right (read on), because it looks so nice and is so appreciated it can make up for other things you could let slip. There are many reasons.

So hang on, here we go. All these tips are sort of like "sleight of hand." They're things you can do while you have to be in the kitchen anyway type of things. They're relaxing even. Trust me!

And the "oohs" and "aahs" will be oh-so-energizing. They're affordable, too. This Christmas-tree shaped butter (see above) cost a couple of bucks at the grocery and who's going to notice what's sitting next to it?

Here are some ways to dress up the traditional Christmas table.


Make your usual pie crust, 2-crust version. OK, who am I kidding. Buy the frozen ones. Thaw them and dump them out of their original tins, combine several (they're too skimpy I think), roll them out, begin all over again.

Line the pie tin, put in the filling, then roll out the second crust and cut shapes using cookie cutters, or cut out shapes free-form with a sharp knife. First one doesn't work? Pie dough is very forgiving. Roll it up and start again. Your "second chances" are infinite. You could also use something from a child's coloring book for a pattern.

If you don't have cookie cutters, cut out 3 rounds for holly berries using a bottle cap, and cut out some spiky holly leaves with a knife.

If you have the time and the inclination, when the pie is baked and cooled, then use frosting to decorate your crust. Of course this is frosting from a can or tube you bought. On another planet, in another lifetime, you'll make the frosting. Buy the plastic tips and plastic pastry bag so you can just throw them away.

Repeat after me -- if it's pretty, it, like the well-chosen dress, can hide a multitude of sins. Get some candies 'n' stuff, like licorice for Santa's belt. I'd come home from working the Christmas Eve church service, you know a bit weary, and my sons would come in the kitchen to watch and "help out." It was cozy. Memories.

Any kind of liquor goes well with any kind of fruit pie, so splash a little um in the pumpkin pie, or a little cognac in the cherry.

Or do the usual-only-very-different. Make a frozen pumpkin chiffon pie. The virtue of that is -- you guessed it --it can be done so far ahead of time. Then at serving time, crumble candy canes and sprinkle them on top. Don't know who helps you at your house, but I had sons, and they loved to put the canes in waxed paper and then whack it with the rolling pin. Festive Family Fun at the Dunn household. Me 'n' the boys.

I hope by now you're beginning to see that we are playing and enjoying ourselves as much as anything.


Candy canes go so well with chocolate. You can make a chocolate dessert, like that instant pudding concoction with dream whip that kids like so much. Email me if you don't have that recipe. Then sprinkle candy canes atop.


Mash canned yams and place in Pyrex. Then whip up meringue nice and stiff, with lots of sugar. Beating things is therapeutic as well, and the kids are fascinated by the process. ("Is it ready yet?")

Circle the bowl with the meringue, and then make dollops on top with peaks. Then you can (1) sprinkle it with colored sprinkles, or (2) in the center put 3 maraschino cherries and some pineapple leaves, like holly. Or put marshmallows around the rim and decoration in the middle. In your next reincarnation you will make Martha's
homemade marshmallows and put them on top.


Simple, cheap, elegant-looking, quick, do-ahead treat. Yay!

Use seasonal ice cream -- peppermint, coconut, eggnog, pistachio. Let the ice cream soften and scoop it into a round Pyrex® that you've greased lightly with Pam®. Put it in the freezer until well frozen again. (Don't you love the things you can do in stages? Maybe at this point you'll need to run the dog to the vet because it ate 2' of tinsel, like I did one Christmas, oh yes.)

Later ... take it out, soak the dish briefly in larger bowl of warm water till you see the ice cream melting on the edges, turn it over on a pretty serving platter, and out it comes in a ome. Tear strips of waxed paper and place them all around the plate, under the ice cream. Now whip cream till stiff, put it in pastry bag, use a tip such as Wilton 2D and pipe, pipe, pipe, little shaped blobs, each one next to the other till the mound is completely covered. Gently remove the waxed paper, wipe the serving platter with a wet rag, and place the ball back in the freezer till frozen. Once it's frozen, cover it with a bowl or wrap until ready to serve. "Boule de niege" is French for "snowball"!

If you want to use Redi-whip, you must do it right before serving because it doesn't last. How do I know? Well, it was a very sad "learning experience" involving a Christmas luncheon for my bridge group and I'll leave it at that.

Want it even easier? There's an ice cream baking kit available here: .


Make a mixture of Dijon mustard red, green and white peppercorns (available here: ). Coat the beef with this before you encrust it. Put cut-out shapes on the crust as well.


Mash them and put them in a serving bowl. Then sprinkle just enough cayenne and parsley flakes for color. Wait a minute, I forgot we've let the maid have the week off. Use mashed potato mix, plump it into those festive individual ramekins (Williams-Sonoma has some pretty bright red ones) and bingo! Oh wait, place a star-shaped pat of butter atop each one.


Bake your cake in a springform pan with a Christmas base - Christmas tree and holly patterns are available here:


Super easy, cheap, eye-candy, and doaheadable.

X-rated Version: Fill fluted glasses with any ice cream. Drizzle green crème de menthe and chocolate over it. Add maraschino cherry - red or green. If you use red cherry, add green mint leaf.

GP-rated Version:Drizzle with hot fudge sauce and sprinkle crumbled candy cane on top.


Trifle is the original LOW MAINTENANCE dessert. There are as many recipes as there are people making it. We love it because it's like that old "dump cake" recipe, remember? It just doesn't matter that much. Soak that cake in amaretto or schnapps, add what you like, layer it ... it's got cheap ingredients, it's retro-new, and the presentation! It's so NOT FRAGILE. Put it in a huge brandy snifter type container. Or put it in a Christmas tureen and smooth a layer of whipped cream on the top (use warm wet flat spatula). This makes it look like a lid and people will keep trying to pick it up and there will be finger prints all over it (and lots of laughs).


Put chopped red peppers in among the peas, Brussels sprouts or broccoli; stuff tomatoes with hamburger, cheese, green peppers, parsley. Cut stars out of processed cheese slices and place atop casserole.


If you did even 3 of these things, it would be "gilding the lily." Choose one or two. That's all!

I'm sure you can tell my philosophy has always been 'if I'm going to have to do it, I'm doing to make a party out of it.'


Christmas present for my wife - ask the EQ Coach

Dear EQ Coach:

I don't know what to get my wife for Christmas. I love her, but I hate to shop. I want to ask my secretary to pick something out for her. Do you think this is wise? I have plenty of money, no time, and I hate to shop.

Signed: Ready to Delegate in Delaware

Dear Ready to Detonate Relationship in Delaware:

You have plenty of money, no time, and a death wish. No secretary, no friend, nobody can choose a gift for your girlfriend that won't reek of "didn't care." Have you forgotten for a moment that women are intuitive? She will know.

How will she know? Take the EQ Foundation Course© and find out about intuition. Any man considering letting someone else choose the gift for the woman he loves needs EQ help right now.

Do it yourself. Call a coach for some ideas. Order it online to be gift-wrapped and delivered. Send your secretary out to pick it u or use a courier service. But never let someone else choose that special gift. She will know.

Signed: The EQ Coach

P.S. Yes, she WILL know.

Still not convinced?

Dear EQ Coach:

I'm appalled. My husband just gave me my Christmas gift early. We've been married 3 years. It was an expensive Lladro. Of a horse. I don't like horses. I've never ridden a horse. I've never talked about one. I don't have any horse thing in my house. I think they smell and are dangerous and my hobby is needlepoint. Furthermore, I don't ^collect^.

On the other hand, his secretary owns and breeds horses. She has horse statues all over her desk.

I'm sick. What should I do?

Signed: Horses my A**

Dear Horses:

Well, I don't recommend gelding ...

Signed: The EQ Coach
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All I Want for Christmas is My Son Back

The holidays are upon us … and how they churn up our emotions. The expectations … the memories … the empty chairs …
Somewhere there's the Norman Rockwell family celebrating, but it was never at my house. Was it at yours?

A client and I have in common the loss of beautiful young men on the cusp of adulthood -- my youngest son, who died at 21, 3 years ago; her younger brother, who died at 17, much longer ago than that, and yet it was only yesterday. I share with her my poem saying it is the hardest time to lose a child … "and the world never knew him at all," it ends -- and she says she knows what I mean.

My mother used to tell me when I was young and tragedy occurred to others, never to speak of "luck" or "dessert," but to say, "There but for the grace of God, go I," and my first Thanksgiving after my son's death, I hoped the church-goers would pray for someone who had lacked the grace of God.

My client says she is going to have everyone share their gratitude this year and she knows it will be emotional. "There are too many empty chairs," she says. She lost her older brother as well, and her father.

She says my grief is still "raw," and she's right, but hers is too, around Christmas. We agree that all emotions will be welcome at the holiday table. We're working on emotional intelligence together. I'm The EQ Coach.

I tell her that my family is still in the early recovery stages - there are conversations my older son and I haven't had yet about the death of his younger brother. She says she knows what I mean. We talk about the importance of ‘saying their name' - the names of the ones who are dead. I tell her that my grand-daughter speaks Chester's name all the time She asks me at the dinner table if Chettie liked yogurt when he was 5. She catches me on the patio at night and tells me that Chettie Chettie Bang Bang is dancing with the stars.

"I want you to die when you are very, very old, Nana," she says to me.

"Yes," I say, with tears in my eyes. "That's the way it's supposed to be."

"Your grand-daughter knows," says my client. We share a silent moment of Empathy.

Some years ago I worked for a church. I ‘worked' the Christmas Eve service. Other services were filled with loudness, but the Christmas Eve service is silent. My job was to meet and greet, to ‘be a presence,' but the holy silence at the Christmas Eve service was so palpable, so pregnant with meaning, mostly I just stood there. No one was looking for ‘a presence.' Every person seemed to have a person sitting on either side of them in memory only. Especially the old women.

Some of them would hug me with tears in their eyes and say a name … "Paul," a dead husband … or "Missy", a lost child … Ghosts from Christmasses past.

Those of us who worked the church service held one another together. Meanwhile the children ran around screaming, high on sugar and excitement, dressed in their party clothes, the sound of their laughter and their bright and noisy dress shoes echoing down the halls.

Do you have memories of Christmas like I do?

Kids throwing up, the first one in the new home, the canceled flights, the gift that pleased or didn't, the first Christmas as "the mother-in-law," the last one with a loved one, the first one with the new baby, someone drunk, someone newly married, someone away from home for the first time, the first Christmas after my divorce, the time the table caught fire, the time everyone got along, the time everyone fought, the snow, the heat wave, the beautiful red satin skirt, the peace, the chaos, the curdled crème Anglais, my dad peeling a tangerine, the kiss under the mistletoe, the Hallelujah chorus …

I remember the time our kids were with their fathers, hers for the first time, and I found my friend crying in the church restroom and took her out for dinner, saying, "Come on. I'll show you how to do this."

The time I listened to a psychologist friend of mine talk of his exhaustion from "all the people who need to be heard this time of year".

The worst Christmas Eve? There wasn't one. They were all good in their own way. The best Christmas Eve? All of them, and this one coming up! One in particular though, a lesson in ‘you never know.' The best adult Christmas Eve - my second and last date with a man named Chris, but it turned out we had exactly the same idea of how Christmas Eve should be and we accomplished it together. Sometimes the butterfly of happiness comes and lights on your shoulder if you don't go after it.

Perhaps your memories are as mixed and full as mine. I have good and bad memories, and none of them like the Norman Rockwell Christmas.

The holidays are particularly difficult for those of us with alcohol problems in the family. The memories - or the reality -- of someone drunk or passed out, the fighting, the fear, the anger, the unpredictability and the denial.

The holidays are particularly hard for those of us far from home.

And the holidays are particularly hard for single people, who must go and "sit at the end of the couch" at other people's houses.

And the holidays are particularly hard for young folks with babies. The kids are always sick, there's too much to do, too little time, maybe too little money.

But the holidays are no less hard for those of us with no family, too little to do, too much time, too much money.

The EQ Coach reminds herself that
·It's our expectations that cause us misery; keep them realistic. Better yet, don't have any.
·If you don't go looking, it could be your year for the Christmas butterfly.
·That exhaustion and stress aren't good this time of year. Take care of yourself!
·All emotions are welcome; our grief is the price we pay for the exquisite joy in the same proportion - that's the deal, that's the way it is. If we won't allow grief, we can't have joy.
·That some people aren't able to be present at Christmas - some are dead, some are locked in the past, and some are off in the future, and that's okay.
·That Optimism is a good option - how we attribute bad things that happen. If the turkey burns - not a small thing if you're the daughter-in-law fixing the meal for the first time -- that it means the thermostat didn't work, not that you can't cook.
·That Flexbility is wise - people get sick, plans change, gifts don't arrive, but the celebration can still occur - there are many ways to skin a cat.
·That Resilience is earned not given, and it's earned by processing hard times and learning from them. GROWING through them, not just GOING through them.
·That nothing's perfect and you'll only exhaust yourself and make yourself and everyone else miserable if that's your goal.
·That we have Personal Power and choices - it's your holiday to spend as you wish. Christmas has a knob - turn it on, turn it up, turn it down, turn it off.
·And that if it's good, it will change, and if it's bad, it will change.

Ask yourself and those around you, "How do you feel about Christmas?" There are lots of people who need to be heard this time of year.

My client tells me she's going to start a new tradition this year. She'll invite everyone over for a Christmas brunch. I tell her I think this is a great idea, and I make a note to send her some of my cardamom bread. It mails well and has the virtue of containing no candied fruit!

I have new traditions, too. I have a little cap for my dog that says "Chimney Watch: Santa Patrol" on it. I'll have it on her when the kids walk in the door, and there will be jingle bells on the door knob and a motion-sensored wreath on the door with eyeballs from K-Mart that says "Ho Ho Ho".

I have an ineffable desire to enjoy myself and my life. I hope you do too!

Chettie would approve.
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Expectations and the Family Vacation

This article is about vacations in general. Modify to suit the holidays. It applies even moreso.

It's that time of year again: Time for the family vacation. It's a good time to rethink some things like perfectionism, expectations, and the meaning of the word "vacation."

First of all, we call it a "vacation," but if you're the parent, it isn't going to be one. Maybe I was slow, but it took me quite a while to figure out that I, the parent (and a single-parent at that), was going to work even harder on a vacation than at home, and that it wouldn't be a relaxing time for me. After all, I was taking the boys to new places where they would be full of new ideas, and it always required more supervision than at home. As soon as we hit the beach, outrageous demands began. One ran one way, the other another. Being in a new place, they weren't sure what the rules were, and they had to be re-established. Being around new things, they weren't always as cautious as they should be, and I had to be vigilant. They got sick, got fishing hooks in their thumbs, stepped on man-o-wars, the rental car got a flat, the resort room's air conditioning broke and we had to pack up and change rooms, and more than once someone was throwing up all night long. While we always had a wonderful time, and I always returned happy (and of course the kids did), I often returned more tired than when I'd left!

I began to name these "The Kids' Vacations," just so I kept my expectations in line with reality, and to plan vacation-vacations for myself - getaways where I could relax in ways I needed to. The Kids' Vacations were for having fun as a family! And kids don't need a "vacation." They're always high energy and on-the-go, yes?

Here are some things to keep in mind as you plan and take the family vacation that can keep you from unrealistic expectations which will erode your experience:

1.Kids are likely to become more boisterous on a vacation, because of all the new fun things. New experiences and new situations will present things they haven't encountered before, so you have to be on guard about their safety on a constant basis. Try and GO rested; don't plan on COMING HOME rested.

2.Think of it as a fun adventure for the family where you get to know one another better and spend time together under new circumstances. Then whatever happens will fall in line.

3.There are more options all the time where childcare is also available. Many resorts and cruise lines offer programs for children and teens that provide great activities, supervision, and a chance for them to make new friends, while giving you some adult time to yourself. Consider this option.

4.Consider bringing along a mother's helper, or older niece or nephew, or willing grandmother to help with the children.

5.Because it's all new, anticipate some irregularities, and relax into the situation. It's typical when we get stressed to tighten up and become rigid and this only makes things worse. Use your emotional intelligence to be flexible and creative. If your child has never been fishing before, or never been to a bit-city museum, you can't anticipate all the things they can go wrong, so don't be surprised if they do. It's part of new learning experiences. If they've never participated in formal night on a cruise, their table manners may not be quite in line. Anticipate what you can. Deal with what happens.

6.If you intend to have a great time together, don't let anything get in your way. There's no reason why a visit to the ER should "ruin your vacation," any more than a few tantrums, some embarrassing table manners, a flat tire, or missed plan connections should. Your experience of your vacation is in your own hands.

7.Plan ahead for the predictable - high spirits, moments of boredom, and fights with siblings. You've dealt with these at home, and they will accompany you on your trip. Think of ways to deal with these under new circumstances - in the car, plane, resort, tourist sights, and be prepared with the materials you need. A kit with magic markers, some ear phones, a journal or a good book to read can make the difference.

8.Anticipate testing of the limits. It will only throw you if it comes as a surprise. Children do this in any new situation, and a vacation is full of them. Apply the same measures you do at home - make it clear where the boundaries are, be consistent, pleasant, and anticipate the best.

9.Understand that children will rev up for a vacation, not calm down. Some adults do this as well, of course. Some of us plan vacations where we can relax and rest; others plan mountain-climbing adventures, and barefoot sailing. Some of us plan both! Be mindful about what comes with the territory.

10.Allow times for children to work off their energy. Plan breaks during long car trips. Take them for a run on the beach before you go to the art museum. After the formal dinner with Aunt Betty, turn them loose in the courtyard to run around a bit.

11.Discuss expectations beforehand. Explain what you can, and what sort of behavior you expect in different circumstances. You can't cover everything, but you can cover a lot. One thing that's very important with smaller children is "coming when called." You can also buy those harnesses for errant toddlers, for their own safety and your peace of mind.

12.Be sure and provide safety equipment - car seats, restraints, life jackets and such. Bring along syrup of ipecac, epinephrine, and other things your physician may recommend for emergencies. Carry a first-aid kit with bandages, Neosporin and tweezers. The same sort of equipment you have at home. Because a vacation provides new situations, accidents can be more likely to occur.

Last but not least, process after each vacation. What did you plan well, what did you plan poorly? What worked and what didn't? What would you do again, and what would it be best to avoid? What would you do differently? Get the whole family involved in the discussion, so everyone becomes mindful.

And don't forget the most important thing: find out what everyone enjoyed the most. Be sure and go over the good times with the family, and make plans for more in the future.
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Friday, December 10, 2010

10 Ways to Use Music During the Holiday Season

This might be a time of year where you're looking for, oh, some different ways to soothe, level, motivate, energize yourself and otherwise get on top of your cascading emotions. The EQ Foundation Course© emphasizes the great arts as an adjunct to Emotional Intelligence, though the not-so-great arts are helpful too. May we suggest?

1. Need to get solidly centered
Like, as the metaphysicians say, when you vision yourself growing a tail and having it grow like an anchor down to the center of the earth kind of centered?

Try anything with a big solid bass, up loud, but make sure the lyrics don't interfere. The right-brain will dominate and you'll hear the music first, but your left-brain will still be getting the lyrics. Thus, avoid "Oh Elizabeth" which has the beat, but the lyrics are sad.

OUR SUGGESTION: "I Loved ‘Em Everyone," by T. G. Sheppard

2. Need to deal with something heavy, such as last year your father died on Christmas Eve and here comes the first anniversary

OUR SUGGESTION: Only classical music will work for this and that's why we call it classical. For such a deep need, to maintain your grip when something's rocked the foundation of your world, we recommend, Beethoven's "Eroica".

"Eroica" means "heroic" and that you will need to be.

Beethoven lived through the worst thing that can happen to a person. It's there, in his music. For you.

3. To get lightly level

OUR SUGGESTION: Nothing will probably ever compare to Pachelbel's "Canon". After that we give 5 stars to George Winston, particularly "December." Good masseuses play these tapes. There are no ups and downs and that may be just what you're aiming at. :)

Also "What Child is This"

4. To rip the heart out of Christmas, like when you want to just sit down in front of the tree and cry at the beauty and the splendor of it all and get it over with (and get the toxins out) and then eat a pint of Haagen Daz and go to sleep

OUR SUGGESTION: Pavarotti's Christmas video, Panis Angelicus duet with the little boy, especially if you had a little boy who now has whiskers on his cheeks. Or Placido Domingo with the Vienna Boys Choir. Then you can pull out your heart and put it on the table beside you, right there beside the dish of peppermints, and the cinnamon-scented candle, and you'll know you had Christmas.

5. Want something Christmassy but light

OUR SUGGESTION: Harp music is good for this, like for baking cookies to. It doesn't pull the emotions. It's close to the lyre, the instrument the Greek god Orpheus played to soothe the savage beasts, and to win a favor from Hades, the god to whom there is no altar (death), the god with whom there is no bargaining.

Completely upbeat, light and fun is "A Reggae Christmas," by Various Artists, and yes, my friend, "sensei" does rhyme with "pear tree." Listen to it on the way in to work. That's girl's laughter will carry you through your day - The Ras Family, "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," and June Lodge's "Joy to the World" will put joy in YOUR world.

6. Need to get some physical work done, sick of Christmas, got the kids around

GP RECOMMENDATION: (1) "Great Balls of Fire," Jerry Lee Lewis. How could you possibly be "mindful" with that going on? It's great fun. It will clear the air. (2) "Don't Worry Be Happy," by Marley.

7. The out-laws are coming, I mean the IN-laws, and you, exhausted, crabby and high on sugar as you are, must clean the house and you aren't exactly in the MOOD for a Christmas Carol, if you know what I mean

OUR SUGGESTION: If you haven't cleaned house with your two preschoolers marching along behind you to a John Philip Sousa march, you haven't lived. Give the little one a paper hat and get out his toy drum. Ok, quit laughing and taking pictures and get back to work, you!

OUR PG SUGGESTION: Got older kids you need to get working with you? Call it "the main event," and put on the Jock Jams, "Let's Get Ready to Rumble."

OUR X RATED SUGGESTION: You and your partner put "Cotton Eyed Joe" on -- I mean the Texas version - and invent your own lyrics appropos to the, um, challenges of the moment. (This is popular at office holiday parties with adjusted lyrics as well!) And DO the Cotton Eye Joe as you push that vacuum around. Here's how.

OUR X-17 RATED SUGGESTION: The Pogues, "A New York Fairytale." The boys in the NYPD were singing Galway Bay ... (a little venting).

8. Need to be inspired and also to get in touch with the spiritual side of Christmas

OUR SUGGESTION: Handel's "Messiah, Hallelujah Chorus," of course. Just the chorus, unless you're an aficianado and can afford to tire yourself out.

Remember, if you will, that when you hear "The Hallelujah Chorus," you are to stand up.

Do this. Right there at home in your living room. It will do something for you.

Great Christmas Carols like "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," and "Go Tell It on the Mountain"

9. Now, or any time you're beginning to feel just slightly resentful of all your "blessings"

OUR SUGGESTION: "Lord, What Did I Ever Do," by the Oak Ridge Boys is great for attitude adjustment.

10. For the peace that passeth all understanding

OUR SUGGESTION: Stille Naq, Noite de Paz, Noche de Paz, Sainte Nuit, Cicha Noc, Glade Jul, Stille Nacht, Po La`i E, or, as many of us know it, Silent Night, the lullaby that's been translated into every language on earth, composed by the greatest unsung duo in musical history, Mohr (lyrics) and Gruber (melody).

We also recommend "Ave Maria."

Let them still your heart and bring you peace.

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When the Holiday Office Party is a Seated Dinner

Q: What's harder than knowing how to shine at the Christmas office party?
A: Knowing how to shine when it's a seated dinner.

The open-format Christmas office party is a piece of cake compared to a seated lunch or dinner. At a buffet-type function you can move around, which means you can disappear when you want to. You don't want to get caught hiding out in the ladies' room all night, but since you're free to move around, you can leave any person or group when you want, and even leave the room.

However, at the seated affair you are trapped. If it strikes fear in your heart, you aren't alone. Even for a pro, this isn't easy. Here are some tips:


Never forget this. It may superficially appear different (new place, new people), but remember everything you say can and will be used against you.

You'll be seeing these people Monday morning. If you think it's hard to face a one-night stand after creeping out of her house in the middle of the night, wait till you have to face your boss Monday morning after getting sloppy drunk Saturday night and spilling your guts about some personal problem you can't handle. I mean how will (s)he expect you to be a competent Marketing Director when you were crying because your cat had died? I know the two things have nothing to do with one another, but your boss doesn't.

Think of the word "mortifying." No one needs to know about your hysterectomy, how well Viagra works for you, that your young wife left you, that you think the new manager stinks, or anything else about your personal life.

You simply are not free to say anything you want to.


Once seated, you must watch the leader to know what to do. It can be the boss, or his or her spouse, whichever one is dominant. Watch what they're doing. Emily Post may say not to eat asparagus with your fingers, but if your boss' wife is, you really need to think about it. In most cases, I'd go ahead and do it along with her. If you don't, you're making a statement. It's that important what your boss and his or her partner do. Don't start to eat until they do. If they don't order dessert, you don't. Monkey see, monkey do.


General conversation while you're being seated will devolve into one conversation dominated by the boss at least for a while, often for the entire meal. Your job is to pay attention. If the boss, sometimes aided and abetted by a crony or colleague, starts in on a monologue, be an attentive audience. Look horrified if something bad happened, laugh if he tells a joke, maintain eye contact, be respectful. It can amount to a performance. It's almost always dominated by males.


There may be lulls in this monologue from the boss. Don't attempt to fill them if you're an amateur. Nowhere does the expression "fools rush in where angels fear to tread" apply more fully.

You don't know this side of your boss. You don't know her sense of humor, what annoys her, what her prejudices are, her religion, or any number of important things that you can step right into if you feel compelled to fill air time. Even the most innocent comment can get you in trouble because it's a very magnified situation - one person talking at a
time to the whole table. What you say will echo and reverberate, all the way to your next performance appraisal.


Timing matters. No choice here. Arrive 15 minutes early and don't leave before everyone leaves.

Don't be the first to complain about anything. No matter how it appears to you, the company (boss) is putting on the affair, and criticisms will be taken personally. Don't send the meat back; don't complain about how hard the chairs are. You're a guest; be appreciative. Save face.

If the boss does complain about something, agree, but be milder about it. Never upstage. If he thinks the salmon is "atrocious," don't say, "I thought it was heavenly," or talk
about a time when you got instantly ill with food poisoning over salmon one time. If he's got a big personality, he'll probably announce the salmon won't do and tell the waiter to take back everyone's. If it's more minor than that, say something like, "Yes, I think you're right, but isn't the risotto delicious?"

Conversation is the focus. Comments should never be made about what someone else is eating or isn't ("What's wrong Marcia? Don't you like the XX?") or doing. If someone knocks over their water glass, help them out surreptitiously, but keep the conversation going as if nothing had happened.


If the boss starts a conversation with the person on her side, you may do the same, but be prepared to cease if the boss takes the stage again.

Many people find this practice obnoxious, but the boss is "the presence," and it's their job to hold court. It's work and it's expected. Save any personal issues you may have about this for another time.


All of us know intuitively that the person who isn't nice to the waiter isn't a nice person at all. You are being watched.


Match behaviors. Sedate, or rowdy, attempt to get with the spirit of the thing. Whatever personal idiosyncrasies you may have about food or spirits, keep it to yourself. No one wants to know that you're on a diet, lactose intolerant, in recovery, allergic to chocolate, or a vegan. Order or eat from what's available, without comment.


What to wear? Office festive, which means a muted Christmas pin, scarf or tie, but don't be shouting "Christmas." Stay within the normal range for attire at your office adding only a 'nod' to the holidays. If you don't know the difference between "professional dress up" and "party attire," you're going to flunk. This is not a time for skins, latex, cleavage, a lot of hairy chest exposed, a jingle bell bracelet, or anything remotely approaching a "costume."

You may feel like Mrs. Santa or the Christmas Elf that night, but Monday morning you're going to be HR Director or Senior Accountant, and how can they respect you when they were staring at your exposed breasts across the table?


Sorry, it's one of the most stressful things you can go through. You are trapped for an hour or more of scrutiny, you have to think every moment, and you must've relax.

If you're new to this, observe others to know what to do, imitate the person you think is most savvy, and resist all urges to stand out in any way. There's nothing wrong with sitting there, smiling, and saying a little when spoken to. Observe with the intent of learning. Notice what goes over well and what doesn't, and make mental notes for the next time.

©Susan Dunn, MA, The EQ Coach, . Offering coaching, Internet courses and ebooks for your personal and professional development. Visit the best ebook library on the Internet - . for free EQ ezine.
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