It’s that time of year again, the holiday season.

IMG_2561It’s been a “Good” year. I’m pleased to say, I have had some “Excellent” moments. I feel very lucky and blessed. I promised myself that I would continue on the same path, it seems to be working for me.

Celebrating this time of year to its fullest sounds like a good plan.  Both my children were born around Hanukkah and Christmas, so birthday celebrations are a part of my extended holiday season.  I start celebrating on Thanksgiving and continue until around January 10th.

This holiday season I plan on:

Cooking and Baking     Cooking and baking makes me happy; I smile through the process, and it makes my home smell inviting (added bonus!)

The oatmeal cookies I made (without raisins) for the ninth graders at FDNY High School Prep For Success’ after school program were a huge hit! I’m looking forward to spending more time in my kitchen this holiday season. Holidays, for me, are about the list of dishes that are “must have” favorites. It’s also a wonderful time to try new recipes. My friends are not shy about asking me to bring something to their place.  My Lemon Pound and Sour Cream Cakes are everyone’s favorite gift.Sour Cream Cake

Entertaining     This summer, while visiting with friends in Moscow and Italy, I was inspired to fix up my place.  From the minute I got back home, I had the remodeling bug. One day, I couldn’t look at the carpet in my place any more. So, I ripped out.  Once everything was gone I discovered a floor under the carpet! Getting rid of the carpet forced me to get rid of more “stuff”. . I now have room in my closets! I rearranged everything.   I still have a lot to do. But I am having the grandest time transforming my home to fit me.  For the first time, in a long time, I’m looking forward to hanging out at home with my family and friends.   IMG_0044

Getting out of the House     It’s been so long since I went to the movies that I forgot what I saw? I need to do new stuff too. It’s been too long since I crossed the park to visit the Guggenhuim.  I plan to be out and about this holiday season!

Starting with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade,  New York City has a special holiday energy. All the stores and buildings are decorated for the holidays.  The classic New York Christmas “must see” traditional spots: Rock Center Christmas Tree, 5th Ave Store displays, Macy’s. Madison Avenue store windows must be lovely at this time of year too- I’ll have to check them out. I’ve never ice skated in Central Park, maybe I’ll try that.

Closing out the Year    Year ending means goal setting for the New Year. Getting ready for the New Year is exciting.  During the holiday season, I assess my work year and think about strategy.  I reflect on what I did.  What I should have done differently. I’m glad some commitments have ended, excited to begin new endeavors, and I’m very proud of on-going projects that are moving to the next level- super cool!

Enjoying Downtime     Home spa days are a “must do” for girls any time of the year. On spa days, I love wearing the most comfortable clothes, looking through fashion and cooking magazines or watching Lifetime romance stories. This time of the year, how can you not watch all the Christmas classics?

Connecting with My “girlfriends”     Sharing the holidays with my girlfriends makes it more fun. Some of my closest friends live in different parts of the world. Getting together is hard. It is especially hard to stay in touch during this time of year with work hectic schedules family and holiday obligations. Modern technology has made it so easier to bring the world together. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, email, texting and phones make it so easy for girlfriends to keep in touch. It’s not the same as being in person, but it’s fun having coffee together via Skype.

IMG_0009Saying Thank you     I plan on making a conscience effort to thank people.  I discovered when you say and give from your heart it reverses the aging process, as well as, numerous other health benefits.  I suggest putting it into your daily routine.  This time of the year is the perfect time to get started by saying “thank you”, “you are the best”, “greatly appreciated”, “I’m grateful”,  “ I like you”, “I love you”.

Holiday Magic     I plan on making this holiday season memorable by saying “yes” to the out of the ordinary.  Say “yes” to unknown surprises or any unexpected spontaneous things that come up.  Friends from out of town visiting…yes.  Letting someone show me the holidays though their eyes…Yes. Go with the flow; Let it all happen like magic.

That’s a long list. I’m excited to start the celebrating and enjoying the holiday season to the fullest.IMG_0010

I want to wish you and your family a wonderful, healthy & happy holiday season.  Make a promise to yourself to enjoy the holiday season to the fullest. Make your own holiday “to do” list with all the things that will make the holiday special for you.

Join me on my holiday adventure @NewLifeSusanne or Facebook.

Hugs  Susanne

“Turning Off the Boxes”

In the coming year, I’m resolving to turn off my “boxes” – computer, TV, cell phone – a little more often.  Instead, I’m going to use that time to focus on connecting with a real, live person, whether that person is myself or someone else.  IMAG0393[2]

I confess that I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with computers.  Back in college, I remember taking a computer-based math course, and after only a few weeks of the course, I remember wishing for a tutor to save me from being completely overwhelmed.  I protested the existence of computers altogether because I thought they would destroy our creativity and social skills.  A few decades later, having seen how computers have been instrumental in enabling me to become a writer and to be successful in business, I have to admit that I owe a lot to the “boxes” I’ve worked with over the years.  But I can’t say that my initial reaction was entirely off the mark, either.

Computers do help us become more creative – and to tap that creativity in new and different and magnificent ways – but sometimes we forget that ideas start with a human being.  After all, what good is an Excel spreadsheet filled with numbers if you don’t know what those numbers mean?  And if we’re being honest, surely all of us must admit that we’ve taken to talking less since the advent of the cell phone.  Yes, we text, we email, we speak over the phone, but how often do we seek each other out for face-to-face connection like we did before these “boxes” became such a big part of our lives?

The problem with all of this digital “talk” is that there’s no real depth. I’ve noticed that on all these online dating sites, when I talk to people and they ask how my day was, if I go beyond, “Good,” they lose interest.  I worry that technology has made us lazy, and this laziness has carried over into the realm of our social communication.  We’re all become accustomed to instant gratification and speed and anything that will make our lives easier.  As a result, we’re not willing to put in the time to really listen and connect. Is a “smiley” emoticon really an acceptable substitute for a smile?

For me, it’s an essential truth that nothing takes away from the real.  Touching, feeling, being a part of three dimensions – there’s nothing like it.  Our boxes certainly make us more productive, but they’re also isolating us from each other. When you’re sad and having a bad day, it’s hard to curl up in bed with some great e-mails from your friends. Sometimes you just need real intimacy, and for that you need a person.

For that reason, a little while ago, I started turning off my boxes.  On one occasion I turned off the television for a day.  Then I turned off my computer for a day. It’s interesting what happens when you turn these things off and you have to amuse yourself instead.  You get creative.  You read a book or cook a new meal or simply spend some time outside.  You seek out other people, whether that’s calling your mom or meeting up with an old friend for lunch.  I found that when I turned off my boxes, that time became a gift.

I want to encourage everyone to give themselves this same little gift.  Every day, even if just for an hour, turn off your boxes. Just like a diet, it may be hard to stick to at first, but if you make it “a must,” I promise that eventually you’ll start really enjoying it.  You’ll become more selective about how you spend your time, and as a result you’ll use it more productively and focus more on the things that truly make you happy.  It’s very empowering to realize that you know what to do with yourself if and when the boxes go away.

We all need to devote a little time to ourselves, to doing something different and growing and discovering.  And when we do this, we find that we’re more open to other people as well.  We realize that we’ve been missing out on a lot of information, and all of a sudden we remember how to communicate, and how to let others in.

This year, let’s all stop hiding behind our little square boxes, whether it’s the computer or the television or something else.  Instead, let’s rebuild the foundations of our lives by seeking out more human contact, by getting emotionally involved and being open to deeper communication. There’s no substitute for a real experience, and no connection that can’t be enhanced by taking out the electronic middleman.  Let’s turn off the boxes and make better use of our time, together.