All I want for Christmas is…

At my office we have a whiteboard which I’ve been using to detail exactly how many working days are left in the year as means of motivating my staff to complete their goals. As I was updating it on Friday, one of them joked with me that all I was doing was reminding him of his impending mortality. He was actually rather poetic about it. I however was not swayed – we have only a handful of days left after all and we still have goals to make (or miles to go before we sleep) and the large red number seems to get that message across nicely.

As I returned to my desk I realized that the same countdown applied to my Christmas shopping. Cue the look of stricken panic. I’ve only scratched the surface of my gift buying. (This is the downside of my refusing to have anything to do with Christmas until after Thanksgiving).

Once I was back at home, I scrolled through the saved wishlists of my family, almost all were filled with books, games, and toys for my nieces and nephews, and nearly nothing for their parents. I thought about my online wishlist. If anything, there was even less of me represented on that list than my sibling’s. (My kids claim to have been very, very good this year)

I am seriously beginning to wonder if my house is bugged because shortly after I made this realization I heard from both my stepmom and my sister-in-law. They both were pleading with me to add some additional items on there. My sister-in-law told me that if I didn’t, she would be getting me a zombie survival kit (little does she know that rather than being a threat, that if it wasn’t so expensive, that would sound awesome to me).

Ever since getting their notes, I have been thinking hard about what I want for Christmas, and I am no closer to adding things to the list than I was on Friday. The things I want don’t fit nicely in a box.

I want my husband’s business to grow with sustainability. I want my toddler to be potty trained over night and be willing to eat his vegetables (really is this so much to ask?). I want my kindergartener to continue to look at the world with the same joy next year as he does this year. I want my published book to sell and my unpublished book gain some buzz. I want to be able to take a vacation or work when and where I want to (at my same rate of pay of course). I want more of the things that add value to my life, moments that live on in memories. Above all I want us to be healthy and happy. I want a lot of things, but I don’t want many things.

So I apologize if I am now in the hard to buy category. A gift card. A bottle of wine. A book or three. I will be content knowing that I was thought of this holiday season. As soon as I figure out a way to fit my wishlist in a cart I will be the first to let you know.

Success and Happiness Quote
original image by Gray Lensman (flickr)

What’s in your garden?

Garden "butchart gardens", Vancouver...
Definitely not my garden. Garden “butchart gardens”, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When my husband and I decided to start landscaping our yard, we decided that we wanted to include a garden in our plans. I thought to myself how nice it would be to have rows of flower beds. My husband, having grown up in a more rural setting, wanted to plant things like corn and other vegetables.

We wanted the same thing in theory, but had completely different ideas as to how to achieve it. It was one of those times requiring compromise. He was willing to plant things other than corn, but every plant we selected for the garden had to serve a purpose beyond looking pretty.

Blackberry-flower (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We selected strawberries, blackberries, grapes, tomatoes, peppers, squash, green beans, some herbs, and others. Almost all of these flower before transforming. Those that don’t at least smell wonderful before being chopped up or dried for recipes. Everything is edible.

I still love viewing other people’s flower gardens. But everything we chose had to add something to our lives we both valued. As a result, our garden feeds our stomachs as well as our senses.

One of the challenges I have faced since I began writing has been ensuring the words I select for inclusion serve a purpose beyond looking pretty. For example, flowery language is fine, but it must bear fruit. If it doesn’t, then I have to cut it out like a garden weed.

It’s a skill I am still working to improve, both in my novels as well as on my blog. This article used to be twice as long, but the only value those extra words added was as an increase to my word count.

It is the same at the day job. If the assignment or opportunity doesn’t create a value for me or the organization exceeding the resource drain then I have to ask if it should be pursued. You can still be a team player even if you turn a task down now and then. Not all business opportunities are created equal either.

Yes, you can eat dandelions if you are starving, but most people would classify those as weeds. Left unchecked, weeds will choke out better crops or rob those crops of nutrients. They will grow and spread even if you ignore them. Why help them do their damage by spreading nitrogen or other fertilizer on them?  The trick is recognizing the weeds for what they are before they have taken root.