Thursday, December 30, 2010

Another New Year

A Fresh Start

The resolution. A promise to yourself that you will give up or do something better than you did last year. Everyone does it--every year. But, how many of us break most of our resolutions by the end of January?

I found that once I break that resolution, I give it up--until next year, when I start the process all over again. Therefore, I don’t make resolutions.

 The Trick

Instead of resolutions, I trick myself by making goals instead. You see, if I make a goal, I give myself until the end of the year to complete, or come close to completing it. It has worked for me for the past ten years or so. I write them down in my planner under “goals,” and every few months I check on my progress. That gives me extra chances to give myself a kick in the butt.

For instance, if I make a goal to get or keep my weight under a certain number, and I find myself slipping, I can get myself back on track. But, if I make a “resolution” to stop eating chocolate, by February I am throwing in the towel—for good. I know I will never give up chocolate anyway, so that’s just ridiculous. I need that chocolate to get over my rejection letters!

Keeping it Real

Don’t make a goal that you know you can’t possibly reach, Keep it real. Then break it down into smaller goals.

Like the weight thing. Virtually everyone makes a goal to lose weight, yet we are the same weight or fatter at the end of the year. To keep it real, you can make the goal to get your weight under a certain mark, but beneath that goal, you need smaller goals to help you stay on track. For instance:

#1. I will walk 20 minutes every day.

#2. I will eat chocolate only after I have completed a week of goal #1.
By completing the smaller goals, you will find the larger goal takes care of itself.

Know Your Values

Your goals should be in sync with your values. For instance, if you value family, one of your goals could be to set aside more time to spend with them. You can make it a point to schedule vacations with family, or take the grandchildren to a movie once a month. If you have creative values, don’t put them aside to take care of everyone else’s needs.

Include a goal that sets aside time for things that make you smile. Then your other goals will become easier.


Every year, I make about five main goals, and usually complete at least four of them by the end of the year. And that’s a whole lot better than when I used to make resolutions.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Legend of the Bottle Tree

Have you ever been driving through Louisiana, or some other southern state,  and noticed a tree with colored bottles either hanging from it or stuck onto their branches? More than likely they were blue bottles. No, they are not a poor man’s stained glass display.

It is said that this traditional practice was brought here by the Africans during the slave trade. In the Congo, Natives have hung hand-blown glass on huts and trees to ward off evil spirits since the ninth century, and perhaps earlier.

The Legend is told that the spirits are attracted to the sparkling color of the bottles, blue ones seemingly more enticing. The moaning sound made by the wind as it passes over the bottle openings are said to be proof that a spirit is trapped within.

Whether you believe the legend or not, the trees are a sight to behold, displayed in various shapes, sizes, and forms, as beautiful yard and garden decorations.

An excerpt from Eudora Welty’s short story Livvie, describes one such tree:

“…Then coming around up the path from the deep cut of the Natchez Trace below was a line of bare crape-myrtle trees with every branch of them ending in a colored bottle of green or blue.

There was no word that fell from Solomon’s lips to say what they were for, but Livvie knew that there could be a spell put in the trees, and she was familiar from the time she was born with the way bottle trees kept evil spirits from coming into the house – by luring them inside the colored bottles, where they cannot get out again.”

A bottle tree is featured in the movie, Ray, a Ray Charles biopic. And again in the Princess and the Frog, a cartoon movie set in New Orleans, where bottle trees hang in the bayou.

In my children’s Novel, The Legend of Ghost Dog Island, a bottle tree adorns the front entrance of a voodoo woman’s shack. Excerpt below:

“What y’all want?” The yellow glow from a kerosene lamp cast the shadowy outline of scraggly hair and humped shoulders.
I took my braid and twisted it between my fingers. “I’m looking for my dog, ma’am.”

“What kinda dog?” The face pushed closer to the small window and into view.

Red paint decorated the porch and railing—or was it blood? Some sort of animal skin hung from nails.

She was a witch all right. My hands felt sweaty. “A beagle, ma’am.” My voice cracked. “Do you have a beagle?” I remembered the three quarters, two dimes, and six pennies Patti and I got from her piggy bank in case we needed it to buy Snooper back. “I have money.”

The door creaked open. “Come on in.” A wrinkled eye peered through the crack.

Spikes took a step forward.

I followed close behind him. I didn’t want to go in that creepy shack, but I sure didn’t want to go back through the swamp alone. A slight breeze blew up, triggering a tinkling sound behind me. I turned to see colored bottles hanging from a nearby tree. The moonlight bounced off the deep-blue glass like fireflies dancing in the warm night air.

“Look at that.” I pointed to the display.

“Yeah, it’s a bottle tree. Some folks ’round here make those to trap evil spirits, to keep them away,” Spikes whispered.

“She wants to keep evil away?”
Book now available at Musa Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.


If you choose to read further, see Felder Rushing, of, who has done extensive research on the topic of bottle trees . More information, along with more photos of bottle trees,can also be found at 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

NANO-Bah Humbugggg

Well, National Novel Writing Month has come and gone, and I managed to get my usual word count. Around 20,000 words. I just envy those people that can whip out 50,000 words in a month. I had very good intentions this year. I was going to plug away at the keyboard and GIT R DONE. And even with all those encouraging words from the NANO team, things still seem to come up in the month of November. Like house guests, Thanksgiving, getting the house set up for Christmas, and gift buying. Not to mention, Solitaire, Free Cell, and I can’t ignore my Facebook friends.

Sigh! Which makes congratulations to those that did stick it out even more special.

 As I say each year, I really think NANO would work better in the looooong month of March, when holidays are done, Christmas stuff is put away, house guests are gone, and nothing is happening but getting through the winter.