Carrboro High Student Lobbies D.C. For Global Change

A Carrboro High School student went to Washington last week to press for action on issues of poverty, hunger and climate change.

“It was really such an amazing experience,” says fifteen-year-old Amanda Padden. She was one of 30 students traveling with the ONE campaign. “We just went and got to talk to American leaders about poverty and hunger and disease and give our thoughts about what the next 15 years should look like.”

ONE Campaign organizers say if concerted actions are taken to increase spending on public services and to reduce inequality, extreme poverty could be reduced from over a billion people today to around 360 million in 2030.

That translates to a drop from 18 percent down to 4 percent of the projected world population.

More than 1,000 organizations in 130 countries have teamed up in this effort, dubbed Action 2015. Participants aim to convince world leaders to take measurable steps to fight poverty and climate change at both the upcoming UN Special Summit on Sustainable Development in September and the Paris Climate talks in December.

Students around the world are holding similar meetings with leaders in India, Nigeria, the United Kingdom, Kenya, Uganda, and Norway as part of the outreach effort.

Padden says the enthusiasm of one Carrboro High teacher helped ignite her passion for global health issues.

“I have a teacher who has just really worked to get us involved in global health and get us to learn about the different problems around the world and it just sparked my interest. He helped us to get involved with the ONE Campaign.”

She’d like to see more students her age taking an interest in global health.

“I think just getting people to learn about the world and to look a little farther outside of North Carolina, outside of the United States and see what the problems are would really be a huge help,” says Padden.

You can find out more about the ONE Campaign here.

Dean Smith Awarded Presidential Medal Of Freedom

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Former UNC men’s basketball coach Dean Smith ceremoniously received the Presidential Medal of Freedom Wednesday morning.

“Dean Smith is one of the winningest coaches in basketball history,” President Barak Obama said. “But his successes go far beyond Xs and Os. Even as he won 78 percent of his games, he graduated 96 percent of his players.”

***Listen to the Ceremony***

President Obama said Smith was a courageous man on the sideline and outside of the gym.

“He recruited the first black scholarship athlete to North Carolina and helped integrate a restaurant and a neighborhood in Chapel Hill,” President Obama said. “That’s the kind of character that he represented on and off the court.”

Fifteen other men and women were honored at the White House for the 50th Anniversary of the Medal of Freedom.

President John F. Kennedy signed the executive order in 1963. Since then, more than 500 people have received the highest civilian honor.

“We salute fierce competitors who became true champions,” President Obama said.

Some of the others that were honored include baseball player, Ernie Banks, former president, Bill Clinton, the youngest American and first American woman in space, the late Sally Ride, and media proprietor, talk show host, actress, producer, and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey.

On the court, Smith won two national championships and when he retired, he was the winningest coach in college basketball history. But it is the humble man’s work away from the sport that truly set him apart and deems Smith worthy of the United States’ highest civilian honor.

Taking a stand in a time period when many high-profile figures sat on the sidelines, Smith used his position to advocate for civil rights. In fact, Smith recruited UNC’s first black scholarship athlete and helped in Chapel Hill’s desegregation process in the 1960’s.

Many of his players called Smith a “second father” and his leadership of these young men led to an impressive 96 percent graduation rate.

Gay Marriage Now Legal In MN, RI, And DC

Courtesy of Getty Images

MINNEAPOLIS – Marriage ceremonies started at midnight for gay couples in Minnesota, where same-sex marriage is now legal.

Minnesota officials estimate that about 5,000 gay couples will marry in the first year of the new law.

Laws legalizing same-sex marriage also took effect today in Rhode Island and the District of Columbia.

Lottery and Drones Bring Bipartisan Divisiveness

Are you tired of the partisan divisiveness that is poisoning the political environment of our state and nation?

Do you wish that the politicians from the two parties would work together more often on issues of common concern?

Me too.

Maybe we are getting what we wished for, thanks to the North Carolina lottery and our country’s use of unmanned drone aircraft to target and kill our enemies throughout the world.

Welcome to the world of bipartisan divisiveness?

You might get tired of this form of divisiveness, too.

The legislature, then controlled by Democrats, established the state lottery at the urging of Democratic Governor Mike Easley, whose pro-lottery positions were major campaign planks.

It was a popular issue for the governor, too. Schools needed the money. People wanted to play the games and were going across state lines to buy lottery tickets. A lottery would be a voluntary tax. Free money. 

Most Republicans opposed the lottery’s establishment. So did lots of Democrats. Liberal Democrats agreed with libertarian Republicans that running a gambling business is not a proper function of government.

Government, they said, should encourage its citizens to work and save for their future, not on fostering dreams of getting rich by winning the lottery. Certainly, they continued, government should not stoop to the low level of a carnival barker selling chances on games in which the odds of winning are stacked against the player.

Some lottery opponents argued that having state officials deal with the gaming industry would have special pitfalls. Don’t expect to lie down with dogs and not come up with fleas, they warned.

Today, the lottery is an established part of state government, and there have been fewer fleabites than expected.

But, with Republicans now in charge of state government, they could ditch the lottery.

Will they?

Governor Pat McCrory recommends only a first step, suggesting that the state “reallocate a portion of money away from the bloated and frankly annoying advertising and the large administration costs of the lottery commission.”

Senate Republican Leader Phil Berger and one-time vigorous lottery opponent Representative Paul Stam are not pushing for lottery repeal, only reducing advertising and administrative expenses and fees.

Even these modest proposals have put the lottery back in play. Some Democrats will join Republicans to cut the lottery’s wings. And some Republicans will vote with Democrats to maintain or enhance the lottery’s profits.

More lottery divisiveness, but it is bipartisan divisiveness.

Similarly the bitter partisan divisions in Washington collapsed for a moment last week after Senator Rand Paul filibustered the nomination of John Brennan to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Paul used his speaking time to call for accountability and clear policy for the use of drone aircraft for targeted killings. Specifically, Paul demanded to know whether the U.S. president has the authority to direct the killing of some presumed enemy within the United States.

Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham denounced Paul for trying to tie the president’s hands in the fight against worldwide terrorism. Meanwhile, liberals like Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson supported Paul. Robinson wrote, “The way we use drones as killing machines has to be consistent with our freedoms and our values. For grabbing us by the lapels, Rand Paul deserves praise.”

How much authority should the president have to call for drone strikes against suspected enemies of the country?

The question is divisive.

Bipartisan divisive.

Enjoy it while you can.

D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch.” During UNC-TV’s Festival, the program airs Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. For more information or to view prior programs visit the webpage at
Next week’s (Thursday, March 21 at 5 p.m.) guest is Terry Roberts, author of “A Short Time to Stay Here.” (Note the Sunday airing will be preempted by UNC-TV’s Festival programming). The program will also air at Wednesday March 20 at 11 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on UNC-MX, a digital cable system channel (Time Warner #172 or #4.4). In addition, airing at 11:30 Wednesday on UNC-MX will be a classic Bookwatch program featuring Haven Kimmel author of The Solace of Leaving Early.
A grant from the North Carolina Humanities Council provides crucial support for North Carolina Bookwatch.
More about Terry Roberts:
Madison County, north of Asheville and up along the Tennessee border, has been the location of two novels featured recently on Bookwatch: Ron Rash’s “The Cove” and Wiley Cash’s “A Land More Kind than Home.” Now there is a third fine Madison County novel. Terry Roberts’ “A Short Time to Stay Here” is a story of World War I and more than 2,000 Germans interned in a resort hotel in Hot Springs. It is a story of love, killing and conflict of different cultures that come together in explosive and surprising fashion.

Quick Hits Around Washington

Washington, DC

– Former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, didn’t take long to cause a commotion once out of office. Her office released causing rumors predicting a 2016 run to gain further traction. The new site, launched January 30th, is undergoing further development, though it is worth noting that now forwards to this new URL.

– New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been making the media rounds this week, appearing on David Letterman’s The Tonight Show on Monday night, drawing praise from the notoriously liberal, Letterman, for his wonderful work in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Christie, who has been critical of his own party’s leadership, has recently become a very vocal voice for bi-partisanship and is now an overwhelming favorite to be re-elected to the same office in 2013. When asked if he would run for President in 2016, Christie said that when he last polled his family, it was 6 votes to none for NOT running. He plans to re-evaluate their stance moving forward.

– The Wall Street Journal published an article on Kansas Governor, Sam Brownback, and his “Red-State Model” that he hopes will generate momentum for the party in future years. With the stable of appealing candidates is in short supply, Brownback hopes that his state’s success of slashing the budget (and taxes), weaning people off entitlements and the ensuing strong jobs record will move people to the economic right. Meanwhile, states like North Carolina are likely headed in a similar policy direction, according to Brownback.

– Barack Obama continues his dual-threat ground game this week in Minneapolis (on Monday) as he pushes for greater gun control measures. Obama was in Nevada last week to launch his immigration reform push. Both issues are hot topics in North Carolina. 41.3% of North Carolina households self-reported having a gun in 2012, while 25% of NC’s population growth in the last 20 years can be attributed to Latinos (according to the NC Governor’s office).

Have a question about what’s going on in Washington? Let us know.


Ryan Watts is a Chapel Hill native and recent UNC graduate in Political Science and Business Administration. Now living in Washington DC, he works as a Consultant. You can find him on Twitter @RyanVWatts or at his blog.

image by paul-w via flickr

What to Watch For in Obama's Second Term

Washington, DC

An estimated 900,000 people showed up to the area surrounding the National Mall, Capitol Building and Pennsylvania Avenue to watch President Barack Obama take his public oath of office on Monday.

Per Constitutional rules requiring the new President to be sworn in on January 20th, Obama took his official oath on Sunday in the Oval Office. Several key Congressional players were also invited to partake in the ceremony. Sources have indicated that Mr. Obama took the opportunity to reset the playing field for his new term by “starting fresh.”

What’s on the docket for Obama’s second term? What should North Carolinians be on the watch for the next four years?

1. Gun Control

Following the tragic events in Aurora, Colorado & Newtown, the calling for greater gun control measures has escalated across the country. Unfortunately, like most things in politics, there is far from a consensus. Following rumors of greater gun control measures, the NRA saw a huge spike in membership, averaging 8,000 new members a day since the Newtown tragedy.

While gun control is a microcosm of the political division in America, there does seem to be a consensus that America’s problems in this regard are bigger than guns and point to a larger cultural issue. Obama’s recent proposals relating to the topic seem to want to address the broader crisis, including studying the role of the media in violence.

North Carolina will continue to be an indicator of the nation’s thought process moving forward. As a traditionally Southern and diverse swing state, the blend of ideology in North Carolina will result in a struggle for control in the debate, and will likely serve as an indicator of the overall sentiment of the nation. It is unlikely that the Republican controlled State legislature will make significant changes like New York enacted last week, and thus, any anti-gun advocates will have to look to Washington for changes in NC.

Lastly, it will be worth eyeing how Obama’s administration navigates the issues it will be sure to face with the Supreme Court in passing any gun legislation as it pertains to the 2nd Amendment. Obama and the nine justices have not seen completely eye-to-eye since Obama was first inaugurated in 2009.

2. Addressing ‘Failure’ From the First Term

Americans have been highly critical of Obama’s first term. Policy Mic released an article on Monday discussing the outlook to address Obama’s failures in his first term. While Obamacare passed under duress, there were more misses than ‘makes’ and the administration has acknowledged its shortcomings. “Change” and “Forward” have been the go-to sayings for Obama and he will look to leave a more significant mark in term number two.

During his second inaugural speech, he noted that addressing climate change would be a priority, acknowledging that “the path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult.” And in a historical moment, Obama advocated for equal rights for “our gay brothers and sisters,” which was one of, if not the first time “gay” has been used by a President in a public address. Perhaps just as significant was the stage set for same-sex rights. Obama placed his comments regarding gay marriage directly adjacent to his comments on women’s rights and his equal pay for equal work initiatives. Analysts suggested that it was a calculated move by the Obama camp to put the two on level footing, demonstrating the importance Obama places on gay rights. These two issues look to be two that Obama will add to the leftovers from his first term agenda.

North Carolina will be in the cross-hairs of both topics in addition to many others. RTP’s prowess in the sciences field could see increased government dollars for research and development towards alternative energy. And the passing of Amendment One will stand in stark contrast to Obama’s desire to level the playing field for all genders, races and orientations.

3. The American Debt Ceiling

Last but certainly not least is the looming debt ceiling and exponentially growing national debt. Organizations like The Can Kicks Back are organizing to raise awareness about the consequences of the growing debt issue. The U.S. government spends almost 7 million dollars per minute per CBS news, a number that far surpasses any historical record high.

As leaders in Washington suggest temporarily raising the debt ceiling so as to avoid short-term economic catastrophe, a longer term plan must be developed that is generationally balanced to cut the deficit and, in turn, the debt. In the coming decades, interest payments on the debt will grow to over 50% of the federal budget, with debt exceeding 100% of annual GDP without significant action.

The government has kicked the can down the road for far too long and has shown little regard for controlling spending. With the temporary fiscal cliff ‘fix’ in December of 2012 to raise revenues, it will now be time to slice spending.

Long-term, this is an issue of immense importance and must be dealt with. The success or failure of Obama as a President from a historical perspective could be dependent on how he deals with this issue.

With Inauguration Weekend winding to a close, the 113th Congress will be sworn in and the approaching debt ceiling will come back into focus. Obama will have to hit the ground running to ensure the economic recovery remains on track and address his broad agenda.

Ryan Watts is a Chapel Hill native and recent UNC graduate in Political Science and Business Administration. Now living in Washington DC, he works as a Consultant. You can find him on Twitter @RyanVWatts or at his blog.

image by paul-w via flickr

Bye Bye, Big 10 Terps

Amidst the chaos that has become college athletics, Carolina defeated Maryland Saturday in truly a tale of two halves. The Tar Heels played perhaps their best 20 minutes of basketball to begin the game and ended with perhaps their worst.

Depending on when they officially bolt for the Big 10 and the 2014 basketball schedule, this could well have been the Terrapins’ last trip to the Dean Smith Center as a member of the ACC. Maryland coach Mark Turgeon, a Kansas protégé of both Larry Brown and Roy Williams, took what he considered to be one of the best jobs in the country two years ago. When the Terps, along with Rutgers, join the Big 10, who knows what kind of a job it will be.

For sure, trips to Columbus, Ann Arbor and Iowa City will never match those January games in a warm climate on Tobacco Road. And the load of talent in the Metro Washington-Baltimore area will surely have second thoughts about playing in an unfamiliar conference as opposed to the rivalries they’ve been watching all their lives.

But it’s all about money these days, and Maryland’s athletic department had to stave off bankruptcy by dropping seven varsity sports before opting out for the Big 10, which has guaranteed the university at least $20 million more per year than the ACC in television revenues beginning in 2017. The Terps promptly reinstated four of those sports.

So when the near-capacity crowd at the Smith Center began cheering “ACC! ACC!” at the end of Carolina’s 62-52 victory, it was clear that Maryland is a lame duck. And Turgeon’s Terps were pretty lame in the first half, committing 15 turnovers that the Tar Heels converted into 14 points while Reggie Bullock was single-handedly outscoring them.

Bullock came out firing, hitting two “3s” and a regular field goal before Maryland could even hold onto the ball long enough to attempt a shot. Bullock had UNC’s first four field goals as his 21 points in the first half were more than Maryland’s team total (42-20) and had the fans amped for a blowout and perhaps a chance to get out into the spring weather a little early.

The Tar Heels also duplicated the aggressive defense they played three weeks before against UNLV, stealing the ball from the shell-shocked Terps nine times. Maryland made nine field goals, went 0-7 from the arc and, frankly, was lucky to be down just 22 at the half. The crowd got further aroused by an appearance from the 2012 UNC football team, which is calling itself the ACC Coastal Division champions after finishing in a three-way tie with Miami and Georgia Tech.

Having already printed up t-shirts boasting as much, it seemed a little defiant since NCAA sanctions kept the gridders out of the post-season. But there is so much unrest and speculation about the future of the ACC these days, reminding UNC that it wasn’t eligible to win anything last season seems like a waste of time and energy. Will there even be an ACC title to compete for in the next few years? If not, maybe Maryland made the right decision to get out while the getting was good. Aside from the money, the Terps can resume their once-heated football rivalry with Penn State, which has won 35 of the 37 games they used to play. Ouch.

The second half was a reversal of fortunes as Carolina made just one more three (from Bullock, his only points of the period) and missed 26 of its 34 shots. Maryland kept clawing around and turned it over only six times, allowing the Terps to make a moderate late run. In fact, if P.J. Hairston had not rebounded James Michael McAdoo’s missed free throw and fired it out to Marcus Paige for his sixth assist to JMM underneath, Maryland might have really made it interesting.

The Tar Heels are improving individually but as a team still look pretty lost on offense. When Bullock is getting his college high (24) and McAdoo is recording a double-double (19 and 11), they can be “pretty doggone good,” as Roy Williams said afterward, choosing to focus on the first half and not the second. But when the shots stop falling and the offense bogs down, the 35-second clock is their enemy and the lane starts to look like the subway at rush hour.

Freshman J.P. Tokoto hit his only shot and was the lone Tar Heel to make more than he missed. They continued their dogged defense, especially against Ukrainian seven-footer Alex Len, who was held to 10 points and five rebounds. The pivot committee of Desmond Hubert, Joel James and Brice Johnson managed to contain Len, who will be playing in the NBA some day.

The pro draft could bypass Carolina completely, which only bodes well for those regulars returning, those substitutes improving and those recruits coming. The Tar Heels are scrapping for their lives as they try to make scoring easier than hitting from outside. As the hot-cold Bullock proved, it’s still a game where the sum must be better than the parts.

Image by Todd Melet

4/4: A 44-Year Reflection

Today is 4/4 and 44 years ago, that date was one that is defining for a generation.  I’m sure that the classmates and friends I was with also remember it as if it were yesterday.  It was a Thursday evening, and I was in a student government meeting in the Student Center at Howard University in Washington, D.C..  And since it was Thursday – ROTC day – I was still in my uniform.  Before the meeting was over, someone came into the room and told us that someone had shot Dr. King in Memphis.  A hush fell over the room, and a few short minutes later, someone else came back to tell us that Dr. King had been pronounced dead.

We left the Student Center, and before I got to my car a block or two away, I could smell smoke and see flames; Washington was starting to burn.  I got to my apartment off 17th Street NW and was thankful that the fires and rioting hadn’t moved up as far north as I was.  Arriving home, I immediately turned on the TV and heard all of the confusing reports about what had happened in Memphis and what was happening in DC and other cities.

The phone rang, and it was my mom calling to check on me.  I assured her that I was safe, but you know moms: saying so just wasn’t enough.  I told her that I would remain in my apartment and under no circumstances would I venture out.  Being mom, she asked if there was enough food in the apartment.  I told her yes.  I just didn’t tell her that it was Vienna sausages, crackers, noodles, Cheerios and beer (18 was the drinking age back then); my roommate and I could last three or four days at least!

At some point Mayor-Commissioner Walter Washington (DC didn’t have an elected mayor at that point) declared a curfew, and then we learned that the University had been closed.  This was a concern because, back in March, we had missed a week of school when students took over Howard University and demanded reforms and the resignation of our president, James Nabrit. (See “Eyes on the Prize, Episode 11.  Look who appears at 26:30.)

Note also that Easter was April 14th, and we usually had Spring Break then, so would we graduate in June after being out of school so much?  We didn’t know for sure at that time, but they ended up crafting a 2nd semester plan to make up some of the missing days.  As we watched what was happening all over the country, graduation quickly became a secondary concern as we wondered about the future of the United States of America!  Seeing so many cities on fire and seeing the rioting was sobering for sure, but asking how we would fix the frustration and despair behind it all was the unanswered question.

We have seen much progress in the 44 years since Dr. King’s assassination, but every day we see the reminders about how much further we need to go to realize “The Dream.”  Forty-four years from today, where will we as a nation be?

Elections Have Consequences

As we move into 2012, I’m betting that we will see several really significant examples of the old political truth, “elections have consequences.” Intuitively, we know that every election produces winners and losers, but it’s not the individual outcomes that I’m thinking about, but the cumulative impact of the elections. One example is when the elections produces such a significant change in the make-up of a legislative body that the ramifications a felt for years to come.

We had such an election in North Carolina in 2010 and we will soon feel a major impact of that election. When the Republican majority took control of the General Assembly in 2010, they gained the ability to redistrict North Carolina based on the 2010 U.S. Census data. As happens every 10 years after a census, those with the power to draw the new lines for federal and state districts try to ensure that the new lines provide a political advantage for their party, and that advantage can last for years.

Our community will certainly see the effects of the new lines in several major ways. First, if there is a successful legal challenge to the lines, then we might see the spring primary dates pushed back. The General Assembly voted to put the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage on the primary ballot. So whatever the date of the primary, we know a lot of energy and money will be behind both sides of the issue, trying to encourage people to vote in what is usually a low-turnout election. More or fewer primary voters can then possibly alter the outcome of the party primaries just because who decides to vote.

Second, if the lines are upheld by the court, we will see new congressional districts that may alter who runs in November in our 4th District. Under the proposed lines, the primary might see Rep. David Price, our current Congressman, facing Rep. Brad Miller who currently serves the 13th District. Of course, it’s no accident that the two Democrats were drawn into the same district. Some pundits believe that the new lines could shift the North Carolina delegation from the current 7-6 split favoring the Democrats to something much more favorable to the Republicans.

Third, new lines will also impact the state senate and house races because the way that they a currently drawn, “double bunking” of those currently serving means that those people are in a zero sum game; both cannot win the party primary. In the senate, there four intraparty cases, one being Democratic Sens. Ellie Kinnaird (D-Orange) and Bob Atwater (D-Chatham), and there are two interparty cases. As the North Carolina Free Enterprise Foundation notes, the situation in our state is complex:

When examining double-bunkings in the N.C. Senate, it’s important to note that just because two Republicans have been drawn together in one district, that does not necessarily mean the GOP is losing seats in the chamber. Redistricting is required to ensure North Carolina’s population has equal representation. As the demographics of the state shift, districts based in rural locations around the state are becoming geographically larger and those areas are losing relative representation. In some regions of the state, Republicans hold those rural districts, making it difficult to avoid double-bunking among the majority party. However, just as districts in some parts of the state are forced to expand in order to meet population requirements, other districts are being added in urban and suburban areas that don’t contain incumbent members of the General Assembly.

In the N.C. House there are five double-bunkings involving just Republican incumbents, six with just Democratic incumbents, and three cases where a Republican and Democratic incumbent are drawn into the same district. Consequently, 15 Democrats and 13 Republicans have been combined in the same district lines as one of their House colleagues. The one that has a major impact on our community is District 56, where former Speaker Democrat Joe Hackney would face his party colleague Verla Insko in the primary if both ran for reelection in District 56.

So yes, elections have consequences and in our local community, we could see a major change in who represents us in Washington and Raleigh, not to mention a revised election calendar in the spring. Some be fine with this, but is this the fair way to operate? The courts will rule on the lines and that will answer that part of the question, and maybe the voters might shift the political alignment again in the next election.

But for all of those who stayed home in 2010, for all of those who believed that their vote didn’t matter, and for all of those who don’t think it’s worth their time to follow politics, you let others make the decisions. As the drama unfolds, remember, being a participant or not, elections do have consequences.

2 Simple Ways to Make This the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Washington, DC has some of the worst traffic in the nation. It is not uncommon to wait for the same light to turn from red, to green, to yellow, and back to red, without moving an inch. This paired with the fact that people in Washington like to have holiday parties in downtown DC makes for a lot of character building car rides during the holiday season. One holiday my husband and I were on our way to a holiday party and thus sitting in traffic. During the time it took to move from one block to another I had the opportunity to thoroughly study the people in the cars around us. On one side of us was a fancy Mercedes. The woman was wearing a fur coat, fancy gown, and jewels and the man was dressed in a tux. He was even more interesting to observe because he was screaming at the traffic which was – going nowhere. The woman looked both stressed and miserable and I understood why since my blood pressure went up just watching the man next to her. In the car next to us on the other side was a family joyfully singing Christmas carols; clearly tourists. I don’t remember much about them except that they looked happy even though they were just as stuck in traffic as the rest of us.

The contrast between these two family’s experiences is something I think about often during this time of year because the holidays have the unique ability to bring out the joy and Grinch in all of us. It was then I realized what control I had over my inner experience so I decided to find ways to maximize the happiness because – well, why not? Here are the two things I do to keep my attitude positive during the holidays and if you want – give them a try.

1. Each I night remind myself that I am in control of my inner experience. Then I think about things that have the power to derail my inner peace. Here they are in no particular order: 1. screaming kids 2. obnoxious people 3. long lines 4. indecisive people trying to make plans 5. being late 6. not being able to find something I need like the keys 7. traffic 8. money. In my life 1+3+5+6+7 usually combine to cause the stress-o-meter to spike into the red zone. Then I feel and picture myself remaining calm. When I wake up in the morning I do the same exercise lest I forget my planned reaction in the thick of things which has been known to happen. Again I remind myself, “I am in control of my inner experience.”

When I start my day, I know that I will be tested at every turn. In my head I hear the theme song from Mission Impossible so dealing with the stressors becomes almost like a fun game. “What new thing can the universe throw at me to derail my inner peace?” I will admit it has come up with some good ones including the time when my youngest child, a mere 6 month old, batted my piping hot coffee onto the man in front of me in line at the airport and soaked his suit. (The guy was super nice when he figured what happened and that helped me maintain my inner peace immensely!) Or when my older child, a mere three at the time, did her own holiday decorations on a friend’s wall and carpet with a black Sharpie. It is moments like these when “I’m terribly sorry” just does not seem to be enough and the internal voice gets a wee bit louder and more persistent in reminding me that “I AM IN CONTROL of my inner experience.”

2. When I feel my blood pressure going up, I look for things to be grateful for in my life. I often start with the big things such as living in a country where we have the ability to celebrate the holidays regardless of our beliefs. My beliefs come from the Christian tradition so there are many reasons to celebrate this time of the year as well. I’ll then start on more personal things like the fact that I’m grateful for my family, a job I enjoy, and a roof over my head. Finally, if I still need to keep my attitude in check, I’ll start silently thanking any thing I can think of; I find my internal music usually shifts to The Sound of Music’s “My Favorite Things”. I thank God, the planet, the troops, Christmas Carolers, cushioned shoe inventors, hot coffee makers, magazines, the sky for not snowing, etc… and yes, this all has the potential to happen when I’m standing in line at Walmart.

From the very beginning, the holiday’s were a time of celebration, giving, and hope. We all have the potential to harmonize our own attitudes with these founding intentions and to make this the most wonderful time of the year. I’ve found these two strategies do an amazing job of shifting my mood and keeping me in the Christmas spirit. I’d love to know what works for you!