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The Breadcrumbs and the Tower

Some members of the Shenandoah Valley Writers and I recently held a Twisted Baby Shower for a fellow writer. Naturally, we can’t put on a normal party — even a baby shower. Two years ago, we came to a shower dressed as our favorite authors (and literary characters) and last Sunday, we gathered to give our favorite fairy tales some decidedly deadly twists.

hansel-cake

My writer friends and I (at left) were forced to destroy the Hansel cake, when no one was willing to take home the leftovers.

The theme was fractured fairy tales, and in addition to a game of Legos inspired by “The Three Little Pigs,” and food like grey gruel (guacamole) and a multi-flavored cake decorated to look like Hansel (from “Hansel and Gretel”), we also wrote our own twists on fairy tales that, I hope, would have made the Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, proud.

So, I thought I’d share with you the short fractured tale I wrote for the party, based on one of my favorites — Rapunzel.

The Breadcrumbs and the Tower

I remember the day I was taken.

Mommy had warned of talking with strangers, but Miss Abigail wasn’t a stranger. She lived next door. And anyway, I wasn’t talking with her — just waving at where she stood behind some curtains in her spooky, rundown house. Later, when I followed those breadcrumbs into the forest, I didn’t know she had put them there for me. I was only six, and I thought I was following my brother and sister. They were eight-year-olds then, and they did everything together. I just wanted to be included. I wanted a friend. It wasn’t my fault.

The breadcrumbs seemed to go on forever before finally leading me to a lone tower in a small clearing. The top was so high above me I couldn’t see where it ended, but there was a ladder on the side. I didn’t want to climb it, but a voice from up there called my name, and I was too curious not to wonder what might be inside. Daddy always said I was a dreamer — that I believed things too easily. But I didn’t know this would be a bad idea.

Twenty, thirty, forty I counted as I climbed. My legs begged me to stop, while my pounding heart urged me on, ever closer, until, gasping for air, I pulled myself in through a window.

Daylight still shone outside, but it was dark inside, and my eyes couldn’t explain to me what this room above the trees was. It was small and round with a floor that circled the sides around a small hole in the center that reached down into a pit of blackness. Then before I could decide to stay or leave — the witch, Miss Abigail, grabbed me.

It really was as quick as that, and as the weeks and months passed, and I thought back over that moment again and again wondering what I should have done differently, all I could tell myself was it wasn’t my fault. I was a little kid who had followed some breadcrumbs. It could have happened to anyone. But it didn’t happen to anyone. It happened to me. And now, here I was, the little blond girl trapped in a tower with no one but a beautiful wicked witch for company.

When she visited, she tried to be nice to me, probably so I wouldn’t try to escape. She would open the tower window’s metal doors with a screech of rusted hinges and let the sun into the cold, dank room. She brought leaves and moss for my bed and berries from the forest for me to eat. Sometimes she brought bread or sweets from towns too far for me to see, even over the trees, and she told me stories from her travels. She let me sit on her lap and play with her lovely dark hair, and I wished it were mine.

She was scary for keeping me locked in there, but she was all I had, and I even started to look forward to her visits. Because when she left me alone in the dark, closing those big metal doors with a clang, I wanted to die.

Years passed, until my strings of golden hair grew so long it dragged a few inches along the floor behind me. I was too big for such a small tower room now, and during Mother Abigail’s long absences, I would sneak outside using a key I had stolen from her one time, and lie in the moonlight or cool myself in a nearby stream.

I kept outgrowing my clothes and Mother would get angry knowing I would need something new. But she always returned with what I needed — dresses or shoes or blankets. My tower now had books so I wouldn’t be bored, and in the summer there were flowers to make the stale air smell better.

But I never saw another person until the day the boy showed up —springing a hunter’s trap as I was picking some wild mushrooms. His scream sliced through the otherwise quiet morning, and after getting over my initial shock, I decided I should help him.

Through the lush green forest I ran, until I found the boy where he was hanging upside down by one sneaker-clad foot from a rope strung over a tree branch. I wasn’t sure what kind of trap this was but guessed it was meant for animals and not children.

“Hang on,” I told him, stuffing mushrooms in my dress pockets.

“Take your time,” he said. “I’ve been hoping for a chance to find out how much blood my head can hold.”

I untied the knot in the rope that held him, not at all upset when he fell and landed on his head. But I still asked if he was okay, and after saying he was, he thanked me for saving him.

I guessed he was about my age, but I wasn’t sure exactly what age that was — maybe 12 or 13. I hadn’t seen anyone that age since the girl who played with me one time while her dad talked with my parents about some medicine they thought might stop the dreams I was having. Dreams that seemed to scare them more than they scared me.

But this boy wasn’t a dream. He was here, standing in front of me in the middle of the forest that for six or seven years had been all mine.

He was about my height, with light brown, combed hair and bright blue eyes. He carried a nice backpack and wore a sweater and corduroy pants, as if he had been on his way to school. His eyes took in my aging, tattered clothes.

“You live around here?” he asked.

“I, uh…” His question had snapped me out of my memories, and now I thought of Mother Abigail. “I got to go.” I turned and ran, ignoring his calls from behind that grew quieter the closer I got to my tower. There was no telling what Mother would do if she found me gone, and I couldn’t risk it.

My feet pounded back up the ladder steps, not pausing until I had reached the top. Then, turning, I scanned the forest floor. There was no sign of the boy, and I sucked in a relieved breath before climbing inside, and closing the doors behind me.

It was a week before I saw the boy again. I had been avoiding leaving the tower in case he was lurking around, but I’d already gone through all the food Mother had brought and, let’s face it, I was lonely. I kind of wanted to see him again.

We began arranging our meetings in the forest, on his way to or from school, and I learned his name was Peter.

“I’m Rapunzel,” I told him.

“You’re kidding,” he said. “Like the fairy tale?”

“It’s what Mother calls me.” I told him about the breadcrumbs and the tower.

“Why don’t you just leave?” he asked.

“I don’t know how to get home.”

“I’ll help you,” he said, but I was starting to get anxious now at the idea.

“She knows where my parents live — she has a house next door. She’ll find me again.”

“We’ll tell the police,” he said. “I’m sure they’ve been looking for you all these years.”

“I don’t know…”

“You can’t seriously go back to that tower.”

“I have to…” And, with that, I was away and running. But, a few minutes later, as I reached the top of the ladder, he was already climbing up after me.

I stepped into the room, searching around wildly, as if I might find a place to hide from him. And then I saw her. Mother. She had returned while I was gone.

“Rapunzel…” Peter’s voice said as he reached the top. “You know, I think this used to be a water tower.”

But as his sneakers touched the slick metal floor, Mother flew at him. She wacked him on the head with a frying pan, and he crumpled to the floor, dazed.

Mother tore up pieces of cloth from my old clothing to use around Peter’s wrists and ankles. He was writhing in pain too much to fight back.

“Rapunzel,” he said, coughing through his tears. “No.”

But Mother only cackled at his poor attempt at pleading.

“Who is this boy, Rapunzel? How’d he get here?

“I met him in the forest.”

“You dare leave this tower!”

“I heard him screaming — he was stuck in a trap. I cut him down.”

“One of my traps?”

“Who are you talking to?” Peter said, his eyes wide with horror. “W-why are you doing this?”

“You were trying to take her away from me, weren’t you?” Mother said, rounding on him. “She’s mine! She’s never going back.”

His jaw fell open, but he seemed unable to voice the thought he was going for.

“That trap,” Mother said, her tone suddenly soft, her eyes glazing over, “was for catching food. We get so little food here.”

As if in response, my stomach gurgled.

Then, with a quick shake of her head, Mother refocused on Peter.

“Sorry it’s come to this.” Mother reached for him, and he screamed, cringing away from her.

“Rapunzel, you’re sick! You need help. Let me go. I’m your friend, I’ll help you.”

But Mother wouldn’t listen. If Peter took me home, everything would be ruined. Home meant doctors and medicine and no more fairy tales. I glanced across the room to where my old clothes lay in scraps beside a set of steak knives and a camping stove I had stolen from town sometime last year. I remembered the mushrooms in my pockets — perfect for the sauce I had in mind. A quick dash into town later today for some milk and breadcrumbs would provide the remaining ingredients.

I liked Peter, but friends had never saved me before, and they weren’t going to save me now. I stood back and let Mother take over.

Mother gripped the cold frying pan handle with both hands, raising it above her head.

“Won’t you join us for dinner?”

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Power of choice, forgiveness at the heart of new novel by Margaret Locke

I’m excited to offer this book review of my friend Margaret Locke’s third novel. A romance author, she writes strong female leads who are hoping for a second chance at love — and in life. Enjoy!


In this third installment of the Magic of Love series, author Margaret Locke continues an epic adventure of love and time travel, made possible through the magic of writing. 

The cover of

The cover of “A Scandalous Matter,” by Margaret Locke

Having read Locke’s first two books, I think this is a fitting third chapter.

In the first one, A Man of Character, bookstore owner Catherine Schreiber discovers she has the power to write real life love connections when she realizes she’s been unknowingly dating men she wrote into existence years ago.

In the second book, A Matter of Time, Cat’s best friend Eliza James has a second chance at love when Cat writes her a love connection with a duke in 1812 England.

The third book, A Scandalous Matter, brings the story full circle by sending Eliza’s new sister-in-law Amara Mattersley to the bookshop to live with Cat and forge a new life for herself in 21st-century America.

Though it isn’t necessary to read the first two books before this one (each book can stand alone as its own story), I think it’s probably more fun reading them in order.

Amara, we learned in Book 2, is quite a spitfire, so it’s fun following her into the future (our present) and watching her discover the wonders of things like indoor plumbing and refrigeration.

But Amara doesn’t come to the future for its technological advances. She comes to escape the oppression of scandal that has ruined her chances at love and happiness in her own era. She wants independence, she wants an education previously reserved only for the men in her life, and most importantly she wants a second chance in a place where society’s cruel expectations aren’t (usually) as damning as they are in Georgian England.

Thankfully, Amara gets all she’s looking for and more as she finds a sympathetic friend in Cat, an unexpected love interest in university professor Matthew Goodson, and a new world of opportunity in Charlottesville, Virginia.

It’s a fun little story of love and independence — but its real magic is in how it actually achieves so much more than that.

This book offers a wonderful social commentary on the way things have — and maybe haven’t —  changed over the last 200 years, but I love its largely optimistic view on life and our seemingly infinite number of opportunities for forgiveness and the chance to make things right.

In the 1800s, Amara made one foolish choice to sleep with a man she thought was going to propose to her — who turned out to be married already — and for years afterward she was slut-shamed by her social circle. Even worse, she can’t forgive herself. But in 2016, Amara learns that mistakes don’t have to define us, and that women, though maybe not as equal to men in society’s view as they would like to be, can still in many ways “have it all.”

This offers a remarkable juxtaposition for the reader to experience through someone like Amara — a forward-thinking young woman who’s just escaped a world that viewed her as little more than property. While we in the 21st century can, reasonably, find ways to mourn how long it’s taken for women to make it this far — earning the right to vote in 1920, but still, nearly 100 years later, unable to secure equity in the workplace — Amara celebrates that here, in contemporary America, she has access to a world-class education; she can choose, without shame, whether or not to marry; and she can be master of her own future — whatever challenges life throws at her.

It’s a refreshing reminder of all we have accomplished, regardless of how far we might still have to go. But maybe most stunning of all is how this novel calls to action any woman who feels pigeonholed into one path in life because of the choices she’s made.

Tomorrow is a new day, Locke tells us through her characters. It may not feel like it now, but the sun will come up. And when it does, we all get to decide what we’re going to do next — who we’re going to be and how we might challenge ourselves on to greater things.

Because here in 2017, women can do anything.

But more importantly, they have the choice.


A Scandalous Matter, by Margaret Locke, is available at Amazon or at www.margaretlocke.com.

My rating: Five Stars

Full disclosure: Margaret Locke and I are members of the Shenandoah Valley Writers, and I was a beta reader for this book before it was published. She gave me a free unedited copy to read, and, in thanks, she also gave me a free published copy. However, I did purchase the Kindle edition. As a beta reader, I offered her edits and opinions I thought would help her in completing her book. After publication, I read the book a second time before reviewing it.

I am planning a second review for Goodreads and Amazon in the next couple days that focuses more on the plot and characters, and less on the book’s themes.

This review is my own opinion of a book that I realized, while attempting to write a review, deserved a deeper look at its themes of love and self-forgiveness, and its commentary on society. I had already, before beginning my review, planned on giving this book five stars based on its plot alone, as I felt this is the best of Locke’s books so far.

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A world of subtext in SNL sketch

I’ve been more than a little obsessed with last Saturday’s SNL sketch depicting Kellyanne Conway and CNN’s Jake Tapper.

Normally I’ll watch a sketch once — or if it’s really good, twice. I think I’ve watched this one 15 or 20 times. So, yeah, not normal.

If you haven’t seen it yet, view it below. If you have seen it, watch it again.

I think what works so well here  – besides the nods to Fatal Attraction and Death Becomes Her – is that the characters’ motivations make the startling escalation so believable.

Kate McKinnon’s Kellyanne is so desperate to get back on the news, she’s willing to up her game each time Beck Bennett’s Jake refuses her – eventually resorting to assault and death threats.

Jake wants her to accept his decision not to allow her on his show, and he’s willing to give her some latitude if it lets her accept the truth on her own without him having to force some sort of result. But reasoning with her is futile, and ultimately he’s forced to give in to her demands.

But that’s only one level of this story. Another level pits them against each other on opposite sides of a public war.

Jake is a journalist and Kellyanne is counselor to the president – and not just any president, but one who’s highly suspicious of the media.

You can see the weight of that truth come into play at minute 1:15, when Jake wants to remove himself from Kellyanne’s grasp. He lifts his right hand but seems to think better of the action. He realizes he can’t place hands on her, even in a defensive move, and risk the possible outcome – like, say, any assault charges she might bring against him should this exchange get any more physical.

Maybe it’s a stretch that Jake considers all the potential outcomes of his actions in the span of a second. And, yes, his hand raise could be merely a gesture of frustration.

But he does it again at minute 2:08, when Kellyanne catches him on his way to the front door and shoves him against the wall in a one-handed choke hold. He lifts his left hand as if to stop her, but resists the urge – at least until she lowers her hand and he can kind of brush her away rather than push or grab at her.

It’s subtle, but it’s there, and it explains why he seemingly lets her get away with so much. She’s a small woman. He could have easily guided her by the shoulders and attempted to shove her out the door. (He doesn’t know she has a second knife hidden on her.)

But he doesn’t throw her out, maybe in part because he’s a decent guy or he’s just so overwhelmed in the moment. But I think it’s also because he can’t risk the possible hellstorm she could rain down on him. She has an office at the White House, and since, with every passing second, she seems to become more and more unhinged, there’s really no telling how she might use her public platform against him.

In the sketch’s final moment, she seals that implication. Unflappable and unbreakable, she can’t be stopped. And now that she’s forced compliance from Jake, she owns him.

I find this whole thing fascinating from a storytelling standpoint. Every line, every action works so well.

At face value, this is stunning, biting, well-crafted satire to rival SNL’s best. But below it all is a world of subtext that I think sets this one apart.

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The Mind of a Procrastinator

In the movie Groundhog Day Phil tells Rita he spent four or five hours a day for six months learning to flick playing cards into a top hat.

“Is this what you do with eternity?” she asks.

Short answer? If you’re a procrastinator, yes.

I’m one of the worst procrastinators I know – always have been. I’ll find almost anything to occupy my time other than what I should be doing. If you know the feeling – or even if you don’t – here’s a brilliant video that perfectly illustrates the mind of a procrastinator:

If that’s you in a nutshell, and you’re not sure Tim Urban’s presentation is enough to kick your butt into gear, then this might help:

Stop saying this: “Sorry, I don’t have time.”

Say this instead: “Sorry, it’s not a priority to me.”

 

Imagine telling your niece, “I’m sorry I couldn’t make your dance recital, it wasn’t a priority to me.”

Or telling your best friend, “I’m sorry I haven’t looked at your website yet, it isn’t a priority to me.”

How did that feel? Painful, right? It should feel painful, because it’s honest.

And that’s the problem with the phrase, “I don’t have time.” It’s a lie. Or, at least it’s mostly a lie.

Just the other day, I was all set to cancel my gym membership, because “I don’t have time to go to the gym,” and my husband told me, “If working out isn’t a priority to you, then go ahead.”

Damn.

So I kept the gym membership.

Maybe, we can’t be expected to do everything, but we do actually have more “time” than we think. But that won’t be true forever. So let’s look at those priorities again. That way, the next time we tell someone, “Sorry, that isn’t a priority to me,” it’s not only honest but also something we can live with.

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Loving the life well-lived

“Loving life includes loving the fact that it goes.” – Rick Brookhiser, critic

I came across this remarkable quote while reading about the staying power of the film Groundhog Day – a highly acclaimed movie I watch every year, usually more than once, because it leaves me with a feeling of such inspiration that I immediately want to run out my front door and change the world.

But, in spite of the effect Groundhog Day has on me, that quote is such a foreign idea, I can hardly wrap my mind around it. And considering the popularity of the recent nostalgia boom, I would imagine it’s just as foreign to most other people trying to resurrect wonderful things about the past that they wish were still true today.

I find myself doing that all the time – trying to make aspects of my world today mimick parts of my childhood. Or else longing for the feelings I associate with former times, which I fear aren’t possible anymore.

But that’s a dangerous game, because if you ignore the present to live in the past, then one day you’ll wake up and wonder where in the world the last 15 years went.

Plus, memories are deceptive. We can remember things being better than they were, focusing on the good and glossing over the bad. We start living for the past and ignoring our present, and that gets us in trouble. Because the present can never live up to the past we’ve built in our mind, and dragging the past into the present doesn’t let us live with honesty.

So I think that’s where that quote I mentioned above becomes so important.

If you were truly happy right now, this very moment, would you happily let go of that feeling so that tomorrow you could experience something else? Something new? 

Would you be okay packaging away today’s experiences and leaving them in the past? 

How do we even go about living for the present and not longing for that moment to last forever?

And when it all ends, can we really expect to love “the fact that [life] goes” and embrace death as the next great adventure?

Well, yes, I suppose that’s exactly what we’re meant to expect, isn’t it?

“Don’t be afraid of death,” Natalie Babbitt wrote in her book Tuck Everlasting. “Be afraid of the unlived life. You don’t have to live forever, you just have to live.”

And that’s one of the conclusions of Groundhog Day as well.

Bill Murray’s Phil Connors is a cynical man who doesn’t realize how very stuck he is in life until he gets trapped in a time loop on the worst day of his life. He eventually learns from the experience not only to embrace living, but also to be a hero for others whose misery and pain might have gone unnoticed by others if not for him.

“The curse is lifted when Bill Murray blesses the day he has just lived,” Brookhiser wrote. “And his reward is that the day is taken from him.”

I guess it’s an idea I’ll have to mull over. Because for me, the idea of devoting one’s life to others sounds a whole lot easier than loving the passage of time – and the changes that come with it.

But I don’t suppose great ideas like this are meant to be understood easily. Otherwise they wouldn’t be meaningful.

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Deodorant ad pulls the ladder out from under a woman’s climb to success

Flipping through the February edition of Better Homes and Gardens magazine,  I happened upon the following advertisement for Secret deodorant for women.

I’m not sure how I’m supposed to react to this ad, except to say how very disappointing I find it.

The pink dress, the 3-inch yellow heels, the implication that helping this woman smell “fresh” is Secret’s sole contribution to encouraging women along their climb to success… Where to begin?

Yesterday, around the world, an estimated 4.8 million men, women, and children united in an effort to show that the opinions of women and other “minorities” matter in politics and in life. It was an astounding effort, much greater than most people seemed to expect. And although, nothing has actually been accomplished yet, the 673 marches are still symbolic of what people can accomplish when they decide to show up and unite their voices in a fight for equality and against injustice.

That’s partly why this Secret ad was so disappointing to me.

Not that I don’t understand what Secret was trying to achieve. It’s clear the company thought that by showing a strong woman literally climbing her way up to a new level of success, women would feel that Secret is supportive of their efforts in the workplace. However, I don’t understand why the company thought this woman needed to look party ready to convey that message.

The three men at the table she’s attempting to join are dressed identically in standard grey suits and brown shoes. I want to know why she isn’t also wearing a suit and sensible shoes.

Does Secret think we’re not going to identify her as a woman if she isn’t wearing a pink sundress? 

And the heels? Besides undermining her perception of strength (Does she really think she can’t measure up to those men without ludicrously tall shoes?), they’re an odd choice for fitting the metaphorical scenario we’re asked to believe – that her climb up the corporate ladder is every bit as grueling as climbing a mountain or scaling a high rise building that is somehow missing any staircases or elevators. (Did someone kick the ladder out from under her to make her climb more difficult?)

Again, I get what Secret was going for. It was trying to be understanding of how hard women have to work in the corporate world. It’s a well-known mantra that women have to work twice as hard as men to achieve the same success, which in itself is incredibly offensive, however accurate.

So Secret isn’t revealing any secrets here; in fact I think it’s assuming we already know that women “have to work harder to get ahead.” But that’s also part of what’s so discouraging about this ad.

It misses the mark of trying to make us believe that she’s worked twice as hard to get where she is. She’s arriving late to the table, and I would imagine if she’s really put in that much effort to get there, she would have dressed for the seriousness of the situation.

Moreover, the ad tries to be sensitive without offering any solutions. It tells women, “We know your struggle, and we’re going to help mask your efforts so that the men at the table won’t realize how hard you worked to get there.”

I find this ad to be sad and self-defeating. The woman in pink, struggling to maintain equal footing with the men at the table, doesn’t really look like she belongs there, does she? She looks different from them in every possible way, and she goes unnoticed by them in her struggle to join them.

It’s almost like this ad is saying, “Though we sympathize with your struggle, as a woman you’re never really going to fit in with the men at that table.”

And in 2017, that kind of advertising is not at all acceptable. We need to be telling women that they are every bit as worthy as men. Even if we know how hard their struggle is going to be and how long that road to success might take, we still need to give every assurance that women are on equal footing with men.

The only way we as humans can achieve anything meaningful is if we can already imagine ourselves succeeding. And this ad doesn’t achieve that. It shows a woman’s struggle, not a woman’s success.

I would have preferred to see an ad of a woman doing something to show she belongs at that table, something that shows she has the same skills the men do and can lead the conversation.

Maybe she doesn’t need to wear a suit, per se, but how about something that shows she understands the concept of “dress code”? It would have illustrated her attempt to prove herself, but would not have separated her so distinctly by dressing her like a little girl trying to make it in a man’s world.

Ultimately, I guess that’s what so offends me about this ad. It’s 2017 – a year in which 19 world leaders are women*, and a woman (Hillary Clinton) won the popular vote in the most recent U.S. election. 

 Why are we still calling it a man’s world?

* Based on January 2017 data from http://www.UNWomen.org.

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Spreading Less Fear and Doubt

I recently read a terrific column in our local newspaper by a pastor who talked of New Year’s resolutions.

In our efforts this year to change – to look better, feel better, or better manage our lives – he offered what I thought was a magnificent challenge: Make an effort to look more like Jesus by the end of the year.

Although none of us will achieve perfection in this life, becoming like Christ and being mistaken for him really should be every Christian’s goal, not because of our titles or positions, but because of our actions, attitudes and thoughts. – George Bowers Sr., pastor

I was moved by the idea since I’m usually terrible at achieving New Year’s resolutions, and, yet, I still love making them each year. There’s just something about figuratively closing the book on the past year and looking ahead to a year untouched and jam-packed with potential. The New Year makes me believe anything is possible, while the Year End makes me sad for missed opportunities.

But never, in all my New Year’s lists, have I ever resolved to be a better Christian. All of my plans have been primarily worldly – become healthier (ie. more physically fit), become better at managing my finances (ie. save more money), update my blog every week (ie. increase output of my product to improve my writing prowess).

To put it in the words of Dustin Hoffman’s Captain Hook: “Me, me, me, mine, mine, mine, now, now, now.”

Of course our intentions aren’t necessarily selfish. We resolve to be healthier so we can live longer and enjoy more quality time with those we love. We resolve to be better at money management to provide a better future for our family and friends – and perhaps so we’re not leaching off family or friends. We resolve to be more productive in our jobs or hobbies, because we hope to be of use to those who need us, to do our part to better the world, and actually use those talents God gave us, rather than letting them atrophy while we watch Netflix.

There’s honor in each of those ambitions – as long as we aren’t trading in sloth and gluttony for greed and vanity.

And that, I think, is where George Bowers’s idea of resolving to be more like Jesus fits in. Yes, let’s become healthier, more active, better at handling our finances, and more productive in our lives. But instead of focusing on how we (you and I) will benefit from our change in habits, let’s think how these changes will bring us closer to Jesus (or any of the other prophets who support your faith.)

In becoming “healthier,” are you shunning worldly items/habits that would otherwise draw you away from God? (ie. smoking, drugs, alcohol, sloth, gluttony, working too much, not sleeping enough, stressing yourself out.)

In becoming more productive, are you benefiting anyone but yourself? (ie. volunteering your time, donating money or items to others, producing anything of value that will help people.)

In decluttering your home, are you also “decluttering” your life? (ie. Removing the things that stress you out and bog you down, and instead sharing your life with others.)

In better managing your money, are you using that money for good?

This past Christmas, I was watching (for probably the 30th time) A Muppet Christmas Carol, when for the first time I really “heard” a line I’d never really heard before – in a song that Jacob and Robert Marley sing to Ebenezer Scrooge.

You specialize in causing pain, spreading fear and doubt.

And it hit me in that moment that so often, out of fear for the future or desperation to make others understand what I view as the truth, I have also spread fear and doubt. Example: Posting news articles on Facebook that I think people “need” to see, when really all I’m doing is sharing my fear with them and promoting more doubt in our government.

So I’m resolving to do that less. The world has enough fear and doubt without me stoking the fire. And I figure if people really want to read the news, they’ll read the news. They don’t need me bogging down their Facebook newsfeed with doomsday messages and calls to action, which will probably only reach the people who already agree with me.

That doesn’t mean I’ll suddenly stop sharing ideas I think are important. But my aim is in changing my tone. Instead of sharing the bad, I will share the good. Instead of pointing out fearful images, I will try to offer solutions of love.

The world is scary enough without feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and hatred bombarding us every time we log onto social media.

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