30 rock, lemon holiday

Top six tips to enjoying the holiday season

The Christmas/holiday season is not my favorite. In fact, it didn't even make my list of top 10 favorite holidays. There are many reasons for this: the commercialism, the over-the-top consumerism, the crowds, politics, and so so much more. However, over the years, I have managed to get over myself and actually enjoy it. So, I'm presenting my top six tips for an enjoyable holiday season.

1. Lower your expectations. I think this is when I started to dislike Christmas actively: when I had such high hopes that it would be THE ABSOLUTE MOST PERFECT DAY EVER. Even though it was probably just fine, it was still a disappointment because of my unrealistic expectations. Over the years, I understand that Christmas is not all about me, and keeping my expectations low makes anything good that happens that much better. I know this seems cynical, but trust me, it totally helps.

2. Take time to enjoy the little things. This is a hugely busy time of year for everyone, but it helps to BE in the moment where you notice the Christmas lights in your neighborhood and enjoy them, or to enjoy the smell of Christmas trees, or to really listen to (and enjoy) the holiday music at the store when you are shopping.

3. Do small little acts of service everyday. During this time of year, I am constantly helping other people with college papers and presentations. I can't really do so much, but I take the time to do what I can for others. Also, I really appreciate the small acts of service that are rendered to me by both friends and strangers – opening doors for me, or moving something at the store for me so I don't run it over with my wheelchair. It doesn't need to be a huge sacrifice, but the smallest things mean so much sometimes.

4. Be kind to others and to yourself in your head. During this time of year, public places seem to be extremely crowded, and it can be very frustrating. You can be upset about someone cutting you off on the freeway, or you could give them the benefit of the doubt in your head. This is something that I pretty much always do, and I know it makes me happy. I don't have trouble being kind to myself or others in my head. I am constantly thinking the best about others, and when you do that, you don't really have time to think the worst about yourself.

5. Don't do too much. Cramming every possible holiday activity into the month of December can be extremely stressful. I really wanted to go to a church Christmas party last Friday, but I ended up hanging out with my mom and sister instead. Although Christmas partying is fun, it was easy for me to recognize that letting go of a couple of holiday activities is just fine if it means spending time with the people who really matter.

6. Be as kind to those who are closest to you as you would to complete strangers. Many times, we are polite to strangers and acquaintances, but we get short and snappy and angry at the people that we love the most. This can sometimes take an extraordinary effort, but it is well worth it. It's hard for me, too, sometimes. I know I can hold my loved ones to a ridiculously high standard, because I feel they should know better. Let the small things slide. Compliment them on what they do that is good. Stop being passive aggressive, and use your words and actions to let them know you love them.

I think one of the main reasons I have a problem with Christmas, sometimes, is that we exercise our will to do good to others MORE than we do at other times of the year. I know that sounds weird, but I feel like we should always try our best to be nice to people, not just around the holiday season. For those who believe in Christ, they always say that we should "remember the reason for the season." But I think that we should be Christlike and exercise charity all year round. Anyhow, that kind of got off on a tangent. It's important to recognize that those who make an extraordinary effort around this time of year are not hypocrites, and that we should take this holiday spirit and transform it into a year-round spirit to always be excellent to each other.
Joan of Arcadia


Today marks the 14th anniversary of the accident that paralyzed me from the shoulders down. I'm going to be going to Disneyland today later on. You know, to celebrate. It's kind of like my birthday, because it's the day that changed everything in my life.

But, I want to talk about something funny right now. The other day, I was at a doctor's appointment, and I was chatting with the lady who checked me in. She asked me how I was injured. I then told her the following, "I was riding a boat in the ocean, and then I dived headfirst into the ocean and hit my head on the back of a sea turtle!" She totally believed me, and you should have seen her face! Hilarious! Then, I told her I was lying. And she was all, "Yeah, I know." But it kind of looked like she was eating my story up. Ha ha ha ha ha ha!

You're worth it!

I know I haven't updated in quite a while, but I felt compelled to write something this morning that I have been thinking about a lot lately.

It seems to me that the root of all evil in this world is related to the way we feel about ourselves. The way that people treat other people is sometimes mean and cruel, and this often happens, paradoxically, because they want to feel better about themselves by putting someone else down. I say paradoxically, because this doesn't really work. You will never feel better by putting someone else down. It makes you feel worse. And yet, we all continue to do it. And I say we, because I count myself among the offenders, as much as I try not to.

I was struck by this scene in the movie Wreck-It Ralph. I'm going to sum up part of the movie, so there will be some slight spoilers in this next paragraph, but nothing that would affect your enjoyment of the film, in my opinion. Ralph is really sad because he doesn't want to be the bad guy in his videogame anymore. He attends a bad guy support meeting where they share this mantra: "I'm a bad guy, and that's good. I will never be good, and that's not bad." On his quest to shed his bad guy persona, he befriends a little girl in another videogame. In an effort to save her life, he decides to sacrifice his own life. As he is falling to his ultimate demise, he starts chanting: "I'm a bad guy, and that's good. I will never be good, and that's not bad."

I'm not ashamed to admit that I became a little teary-eyed during this part. As he is committing the ultimate good act, he still believes that he is not good – that he will never be good. While this example is somewhat hyperbolic, I feel like it is also applicable to ourselves. How often, even when we are doing our best, do we believe that we are bad? It breaks my heart that there are so many of us out there who feel this way about themselves.

A few weeks ago, I attended a women's success meeting in Menifee. One of the speakers was a delightful woman named Terry Hawkins. She told of the story of one of her nieces who was five years old and overweight. As she was speaking with her niece about her problem, she asked her, "Why do you eat so much?" Her niece answered, "Because I'm a bad person." It made me cry to hear that, to think that there are hopeless people out in the world who believe that they are "bad" people, and can therefore not make good decisions.

We are good people. At our cores, in our hearts, we are good, beautiful, VALUABLE people. What we choose to do may not be always good. These not-so-good acts may make us feel like we are not worth it, but we are. What we do may be "bad" from time to time, but that does not define us.

I am lucky because I know in my heart that I am special, valuable and worthwhile. I don't feel like this 100% of the time, but I do for a majority of the time. I know everyone is special, valuable and worthwhile. It pains me to think that people continue to feel bad about themselves at all!

This is what I know: People who feel genuinely good about themselves have no need to put anyone else down in action, in word, or in their thoughts. People who feel genuinely good about themselves are some of the nicest people to be around, and they attract other people to their brightness and confidence.

When I start to put someone else down, something in my heart asks me, "why are you doing this?" Why do I feel the need to bring someone else down right now? It's usually because I'm feeling insecure. It's usually because I want to excuse my not-so-good behavior in some way. It's usually because I am feeling badly about myself. Because I know this, when I hear someone else say something negative about me, I can't really judge them for it. What they are saying isn't about me. It's about themselves, and it just makes me sad that they don't know their own value, and somehow have to minimalize me to make themselves feel better.

I also know this: sometimes it's hard to think good things about other people, and sometimes it's hard to stop ourselves from saying mean things. I can testify that the more you think the best in people, not only does it get easier, but the more you think the best about yourself.

I went to Disneyland the other week. Every time I go to Disneyland, I always feel emotional at the end of the day. It's because every time I go, I'm exposed to so many different people, and I see them and love each of them. And I hope that through my eye contact, through my smile, or through my conversation with them, that they feel that. Because I've had so much practice believing and thinking the best in other people, it is not hard for me to see the good in just about everyone, including the mom needlessly scolding her child or the man who annoyingly steps in front of me because he wasn't watching or because he wanted to be in front of me in line.

I know it sounds contradictory, but the more you really love yourself, the more you are able to really love others. The more I think the best of other people, the more I think the best of myself, and the more I think that others are thinking the best about me.

I know that we are all special. Some of us may feel that we are beyond help. That we are damaged. That we are no good. That someone hurt us. That we are permanently broken. I know that this is not true. And I know that you can feel good about yourself. You need to decide you can do it, and then, if you need to, you need to ask for help.

I have to ask for help on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. I literally cannot do a single physical thing for myself, in terms of survival. I depend on those around me for this essential aid. Sometimes, it can get rough when those around me give their help grudgingly, or I have to coerce them for it. It really makes me feel like I am a huge burden, sometimes, like I am worth nothing when this happens. (For the record, I am not saying that my family/friends are like this all the time, or that they are bad people or anything like that. I am incredibly needy, and I know it is hard for them to always WANT to help me with what I need or want.) Anyhow, I know that feeling good about ourselves is somewhat contingent on our environment.

If your environment or the people around you are causing you to feel this way, you need to change that aspect if you can. If you can't, because you are in a permanent living situation with those who are not helping you rise, my heart goes out to you, but there are things that you can do to improve your situation. My suggestions would be to stop feeling like a victim. You may be being victimized, but you don't have to become a victim based on that. When I was first injured, and I learned that I would never be able to walk or use my hands and arms again, my mind went back to a book I read in high school – Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl. As a concentration camp survivor, Frankl tells the story of how he was treated so badly by those who thought he was little more than an animal, much less than a man. Throughout his extremely depressing ordeal, he felt that he did have one basic freedom left – the freedom to choose how he felt. He wasn't going to let the Nazis take away that freedom, and he chose happiness. I felt I was in the same way. There is nothing I could do to become physically able to do the things that I once loved, but I am free to choose how I feel about my situation. I made a conscious effort to choose happiness, and I make that conscious effort every single day. I am not a victim of my circumstance. I can choose to be happy.

One of my favorite quotes is that "No one can make you feel inferior without your permission." It's true. I know it's hard sometimes. The heart of this quote is that the way you feel about yourself is a choice. At least, in the beginning, it is. And you can choose it for yourself every day.

We already have so many hardships without being our own worst enemies. We need to love ourselves. We need to know that we are awesome, beautiful, VALUABLE people. The strongest thing I know in my heart is that there is a God, and that he knows and loves me. I know he knows and loves everyone. (I don't mean to ostracize or exclude any who believe differently; you are not any less valuable to me as my friend because of your belief system.) I hope that everyone can feel at least in their heart of hearts that they are beautiful, amazing people with wonderful potentials.

So, to sum up, you are beautiful and awesome and wonderful and terrific and worthwhile and valuable. If you cannot feel so… Well, just quit it! Stop feeling badly about yourself. It's not doing you or anyone else good. I know that you're worth it. I know that! Every single person I've ever encountered is a valuable and wonderful person. And so are you!
Click yes!!

Daily recommendation: Unsubscribe!

Today my recommendation is to unsubscribe. Today and yesterday, I have been actively unsubscribing from all of the e-mail lists I have randomly (and sometimes unknowingly) subscribed to over the years. If you check your e-mail daily, it's not a big deal to delete a dozen or so unwanted e-mails. However, if you don't check your e-mail for over a week, you are deleting hundreds of undesirable solicitations. I found this out the hard way by not checking my e-mail for over a week. So, I have been busy unsubscribing from groupon and livingsocial, Staples, and Ticketmaster. It feels great knowing that those e-mails will no longer clutter my inbox. Yay! It doesn't take long to click the unsubscribe button, and you usually don't have to do anything else. Sometimes, they ask why you are unsubscribing, but those are usually optional. If you have a lot of clutter in your inbox, you will feel so much better following this recommendation. Also, I found that I was subscribed to a lot of Facebook apps, and I had to uncheck 108 boxes. It was sort of a pain, but knowing that those are going to be 108+ e-mails I don't have to delete was extremely satisfying. You can manage your own notification settings here (http://www.facebook.com/settings?tab=notifications). You will be happy that you did!
California bear

Daily recommendation: Carly's Clean and Smooth

I'm going to try and recommend something every day for the rest of January.

Today, I'm recommending Carly's Clear and Smooth, which is a line of skin care products. If you like to have clear, beautiful, smooth skin that is healthier and awesome, this is the product for you. I love their bars of soap, but I also highly recommend their lotions. Their products are made with natural ingredients, and they are available online. (http://clearandsmoothskin.com/store/) The good thing about their online store is that they have a flat rate shipping (six dollars) no matter how much you buy. They also send you a bunch of free samples with your order, so it's kind of like unwrapping a surprise.

They're the real deal. If you know me, you probably have seen how awesome my skin is. I pretty much never wear makeup. I don't have to because my skin gets pampered with this stuff. It's a little on the expensive side, but totally worth it.

Here's a recent picture of me with my three-year-old niece. I'm not wearing makeup.