Early Thursday morning, Jan. 15, after I arrived at my office, I turned on my computer and checked my e-mail. That's when I saw the surprise message that schools in South Washington County were closed due to extreme temperatures. "Oh no, school is closed!" I wasn't happy about school closing, but this time, at least, I got the news and could let my kids know so they didn't have to wait for the bus in vain, as happened to them the last time. A few years ago, when the first school closing happened to us due to the same weather condition, we didn't know anything about it in advance.
Every time I go to the R. H. Stafford Library, I always stop at the new book shelf near the entrance to check what new books are there. Recently, I happened to see the autobiography by Lang Lang, "Journey of a Thousand Miles: My Story" ((Random House, 2008). I had heard about Lang Lang and read articles about him. Lang Lang, from China, is considered one of the greatest pianists of our time. He has played with the leading orchestras in all major concert halls throughout the world. I was interested in reading more about him. The 256-page book proved to be an easy and interesting read.
There has been a lot of talk about de-cluttering our physical space. Our houses, garages, closets or drawers all need a clean-up on a regular basis, otherwise they will overflow and make our lives stressful. The same thing is happening to our virtual lives. Virtual clutter can drag us down and create stress and anxiety like physical clutter can. These days, many people not only live in the physical world, but also in a very active virtual world.
As I sit down to write this column, another Christmas holiday has just passed. I didn't do anything special during the holiday. I didn't go on vacation. I went to work on both days before and after Christmas. The office was dead quiet. As usual, I spent several hours on Christmas Eve preparing my annual Christmas treasure hunt for my kids. I went to bed long past midnight so I got up really late on Christmas morning. My kids had fun with the treasure hunt while I was still sleeping. In the afternoon after lunch, I went out for a walk by myself in the neighborhood.
Last week, a cousin living in Hungary sent me a YouTube link to a video clip about Nick Vujicic, a man without limbs. The video was only a few minutes long, but it was very powerful. I felt so inspired and moved that I had to forward it to a few friends. I even went to Oprah's website to submit a suggestion for her "Oprah Winfrey Show." I sent it to one of her producers whom I recently read about in the UW-Madison Alumni magazine "On Wisconsin." Even though I don't watch Oprah or other TV programs, I know Oprah has perhaps the most influential TV talk show in the world.
Life is a balancing act, we all know and agree. When people talk about finding balance in life, it is often about balance of work and family life, and about balance of the hectic lifestyle and stress management. But I don't think that is the most important area in our life that needs balance. What we truly need is to balance the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual dimensions of our live. As human beings, we have body, mind and spirit. Our body needs nutrition and exercise, so do our mind and spirit.
Recently, a lady from the church I attend gave me an early Christmas present at our book club gathering. Cindy, an art teacher, is very creative. She made every woman in the group a bookmark with unique designs and different colors in the shape of a cross. While I marveled at this beautiful handmade glass bookmark and at her creativity, I was also touched by her thoughtfulness and by this very special present, created specifically for each one of us. What a great idea and a special present, I thought. I like the idea of giving gifts from the heart and I like presents that are handmade.
The current economic crisis hits hard for every business, big and small, from multinational corporations such as Citigroup to local small and home businesses. I think it is especially difficult for small businesses that provide products and services in an increasingly competitive environment that we face today. I am not a business owner, but I have experience dealing with small businesses.
During the holiday season, I find more and more articles with headings such as "Flawless Thanksgiving" or "Perfect Christmas" appearing in newspapers, magazines or on the Internet. As someone who is not a perfectionist, my immediate reaction after reading such headings is, "It's not for me." I often skip reading those articles. I would rather have a "stress-less" or "carefree" holiday than a "flawless" or "perfect" one. I think if our goal is a "flawless" and "perfect" holiday, we can set ourselves up for more stress and some disappointments. Yes, we can plan ahead and be creative.
In my last column, I wrote about my love letter to my son which was the parents' homework assigned by his fifth grade teacher at Liberty Ridge Elementary, Mrs. Lynda Caughron. Mrs. Caughron has been a teacher for 23 years. More than 10 years ago while working on a project, she got the idea of asking parents to write a love letter to the students in her class.