Sunday, January 17

The Human Experiment

You are invited to join me in something entirely different on my new Web site titled, Me Amoeba. I've donated myself to science, a sort of human experiment involving personal transformation--no religious connotation there.

After several years of testing the water, using the tip of my big toe and barely breaking the surface tension, it's time to get serious, jump in, and design a life I want to live. It frightens me to strip down to my skivvies--so to speak--and shed that which keeps me warm and safe. But I'll do it for you. I'll expose the flaws of my process to prove that an average amoeba can do it. If I can do it, certainly you can too.

My quest, thus far, has uncovered effective tactics and useful tools for reinvention. It has also exposed what does not work, what promotes stagnation rather than progress. By sharing both I can help you annihilate the excuse "I don't have time to change."

Me Amoeba will function as a progressive account of mistakes, successes, and findings during my metamorphosis. In a sense, more posts more often with information you can use. I hope you join me.

Thursday, December 24

Merr E-Christmas

I dedicate tonight's gift idea to procrastinators. As much as I empathize, we are down to the wire. We haven’t the time to ship a summer sausage or mail a card. Stores will close in a few hours—if they haven’t already—eliminating the possibility of personally delivering a gift. But do not fear. We have the tools to keep the cloaked, fat man's horns under his Santa hat this year.

Until recently, sending identical greeting cards to the 20 or 30 individuals on our list was considered proper Christmas etiquette. The task was tedious. Fortunately, the “green” movement, greater procrastination, fewer days until Christmas, and the “digitize me” generation sabotaged tradition. The electronic greeting card became a worthy adversary. Like their paper ancestors, e-cards address all types of sentiments: Thank You, Miss You, Happy Anniversary or Birthday, Congratulations, Deepest Sympathy, Get Well, and, of course, Happy Holidays.

Having sent or received a lame e-card may require you to reboot your perspective. They’ve come a long way. The Web sites below offer e-cards that broaden the envelope set by the first stream.

Check out this pop-up card, complete with audio, on Smilebox. You can embed photos of the family, too.

Blue Mountain livens up their e-cards with animation. Choose from a variety of holiday sub-categories.

Looking for something more interactive? Grab a free computer game on Funmunch. Help Santa and his hung-over reindeer make up for lost time in Late Santa; or turn Santa into a Mario Brothers type character and battle frozen tundra in Xmas Grandpa.

Even though we are t-minus three hours 'til Christmas, the timeliness of an e-card, unlike its paper predecessor, is graded on "send" time—not arrival date.

Monday, December 21

Gifting Personal Certificates

Remember the IOU and its convenience during childhood? The vague “I owe ya!” was dragged around like a favorite toy, thus absent integrity by the time Christmas arrived. Issuing an IOU before debt incurred, however, created new meaning and fresh excuses. It became shorthand for "I thought of the perfect gift for you this morning only to find out that stores are closed on Christmas;" and "I don’t have the money now, but perhaps when you are ready to redeem this Caribbean vacation, I will." The world was ours—to give.

No one (my mother included) expected a tropical getaway from a 13-year-old. We've grown in our sophistication right along with those notes of intent. Be realistic. Share a talent or provide a service for those on your gift list. Let's say you're a skilled photographer; offer to take photos of someone’s family, their baby, their pet, garden or house. If computers are your gig, offer to install a new program, add a memory chip, or set up a home computer. Perhaps you like to cook or bake; give a voucher for a three-course meal or pies—one each month throughout the coming year. Gift a massage, a foot rub, babysitting, house-sitting, dog walking, a knit hat or scarf, a few driving lessons, write poem or letter, compile a music CD, create a photo album, or design a business card for the appropriate someone on your list. Be creative.

Take pride in your promises. In time, the reverberations of a verbal invitation will die. The tangibility of a certificate or voucher, on the other hand, will last. Besides, it gives the recipient something to open. Enclose it in a festive envelope with a card—or by itself. Then follow through. You may have to encourage them, periodically, to redeem your offer.

A traditional piece of torn construction paper will carry the message of your voucher; however, we talked about sophistication. If creating a gift certificate is not one of your talents, look to one of several Web sites that offer free templates. Here are three sites to get you started:

Christmas and Hanukkah themes
winter and holiday themes
any occasion

Download. Modify. Print. Gift! The best part is that your loved ones still have something to look forward to ... like the inevitable calm that comes when the relatives leave.