5:10 PM EST, December 24, 2013
I'm so grateful for everyone reading all year 'round that I wish I could show up at every single reader's doorstep this morning at 5 with a cup of hot chocolate, your daily paper and a big hug.
Unfortunately, that's not possible.
Plus, it'd probably be creepy.
So instead, I thought I'd make my holiday gift to you a regift of sorts: sharing 10 of the best pieces of advice others have given me.
Avoid using the words "always" and "never." This is something my hometown pastor told my wife and me just before he walked us down the aisle 17 years ago. He said couples will sometimes annoy each other. But when they say things like: "You're always late," or "You never clean up," it's almost always, never accurate … and usually just ends up exacerbating things. He's right. Good advice for discourse everywhere.
Always have a vacation planned. (And yeah, I know what I said about "always.") I once heard: "Half the fun of taking a vacation is the anticipation beforehand." It's true. There's something therapeutic knowing there's a respite on the horizon, even if it's just a long weekend, several months out.
The words "Calm down" rarely ever work. Think about it.
Dads, you're modeling the behavior for daughter's future husband. We all know we're role models for our kids. But it really hit home for me when a woman on a treadmill next to me told me that she once reminded her husband: When you degrade me, you are teaching your daughter what level of respect to accept from the man she'll one day marry.
Kids should play an instrument. And a sport. At least one of each. This may sound like a no-brainer. But it's not these days. When most of us grew up, arts and sports were integral parts of school. That's no longer the case. Yet arts and athletics teach and foster all kinds of values — such as character and discipline, strength and beauty, teamwork and sacrifice — that don't come from textbooks.
It is better to remain silent and appear stupid than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. Variations of this quote have been attributed to everyone from Mark Twain to Abraham Lincoln. It's a good message for those of the blabber-first-think-later persuasion.
That guy who cut you off may be hurrying to get to a sick kid. OK, probably not. But there's some value in reminding yourself that you don't know everyone else's full story. And maybe you can find a way to laugh instead of lay on the horn. My wife and I once joked — after being cut off six times on Interstate 4 — that there must be a full-on pediatric epidemic raging through Central Florida.
Exercise. Even if you don't care much about the calorie-burning, study after study shows that people who exercise are happier. Everyone's busy. But I've often found the days when I feel like I have the least amount of time to exercise are the days I most need to do so. Plus, if you've worked out in the morning, you can enjoy things such as fruitcake guilt-free … if people really do enjoy fruitcake.
There's always time to take the long way home and look at Christmas lights. No matter how harried the holiday season is, you will rarely regret taking an extra 10 minutes to soak up holiday beauty.
Ignore the Grinches. I've learned there's a segment of the world that is simply miserable — and which lives to make others miserable as well. I hear from them pretty regularly — people who actually get angry when they hear stories about faith, altruism or the downtrodden. One joyful soul recently wrote to say he hoped I contracted a terminal illness for Christmas … this, in response to a column about environmental stewardship. Ignore these folks. Or at least learn to laugh at them. That's what I did in a special holiday Grinch-filled installment of "Maxwell's Mailbag." (Viewable at OrlandoSentinel.com/takingnames.) They're not worth your energy.
Heaven knows, I can't claim to live up to all these ideals all the time. (My wife knows, too.)
But they are wise words for all year-round.
I hope your holidays are joy-filled and Grinch-free.
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