Because the Holidays Are Risky for a “Mood Sponge”

2011 Christmas Tree in a BoxWhat do I mean by a mood sponge? I doubt you’ll find the term in any psychology textbook per se, though you may recognize it for reasons of your own. It’s a description I base on personal observations and life experience.

Mood sponges are people who tend to take their emotional cues from others, whether as a defensive tactic or a learned behavior. They measure their responses and reactions by those around them and sadly, absorb way more than their share of the negative.

I think there are reasons someone becomes a mood sponge and it’s not because they are lazy or uninspired.  Maybe they’re trying to keep the peace. Or protect themselves. Or just make their lives work.

Here are some examples (names changed): Continue reading Because the Holidays Are Risky for a “Mood Sponge”

Why It’s Time to Rethink Christmas

Incarnation Day

If you were to visit my neighborhood tonight, you wouldn’t have to go far before being confronted by more than one of those front yard animatronic Santas that repeatedly drop their drawers to reveal “Happy Holidays” written in script on their rears. Down the block, there’s a rifle-toting Frosty the Snowman in camouflage gear, while SpongeBob grins weirdly at baby Jesus in the blow-up manger scene close by. I live in the Midwest, but I’m sure that wherever you are, the scene is similar.

It’s all very confusing.

Christmas has come to represent over-the-top materialism, endless parties, spiked eggnog, and that ubiquitous loop of holiday songs in the background everywhere – even at the gas station. It seems obvious: Christmas has been turned into a mostly secular holiday.

But before you go getting all nervous that I am about to launch into a rant about how NOT to observe Christmas, let me assure you I have exactly the opposite intent. Here’s my suggestion for a more meaningful season: Continue reading Why It’s Time to Rethink Christmas

And I Thought MY Life Was a Workaround

Despite our best efforts (or maybe because we often withhold our best efforts), we are forced to continually bob and weave, reposition, and adjust in this life. Even if all our own choices were wise (unlikely), we would still be operating in the company of other flawed humans.  We all lead workaround lives.

But have you ever stopped to think about who led the ultimate workaround life? Continue reading And I Thought MY Life Was a Workaround

How to Use A Runaway Truck Ramp

“Nothing, not even your dream coming true, is perfect.”

Before I went into law enforcement I lived in the world of advertising and public relations for almost a decade. All these years later, I am still drawn to a compelling headline or an irresistible book title. When good content follows, I’m affirmed and happy.  (I still believe words have a power that even a badge and a gun can’t touch.)

That said, how coSmucker book coveruld I resist a title like “How to Use a Runaway Truck Ramp”? I was hooked immediately.

I already knew Shawn Smucker’s writing from reading his blog and following him on Twitter. I knew he was accessible, funny, and wise, committed to his family and his faith. And here was a bonus: this book promised to introduce me to his wife, Maile, also a writer and deep thinker. I couldn’t wait to go along on his family’s cross-country journey.

Seriously, you ask, did they really take their four small children (ages 2, 3, 7 and 8 ) on a four-month long bus trip across the US and back again in a big old lumbering bus they named Willie?

Yes, and they survived with some great stories and more than a few surprising lessons. Both Shawn and Maile journaled throughout the experience so no detail was missed in the retelling. The result is a sometimes white-knuckling, often hilarious, completely relate-able story, not just of their journey, but of their transformation.

The writing is engaging:

“The road there is like a sliver of thread dropped amongst rocks, and it winds along the path of least resistance.”


“But what if my ‘today’ must die in order for such prolific life to rise? What if the destruction of this current beauty must take place so that the root of something even more glorious can push up new shoots through the darkness?”


“I wonder if maybe I didn’t fill my real life with enough gusto to make it worth staying in.”


“That’s the thing about adventures. The stuff that happens isn’t always easy. It’s not always fun. But it’s always worth telling.”

And inspiring:

“Adventures will change you. They’ll saturate you with a fresh view of life. They’ll take every foundation you ever stood on and shake them until they crack. Adventures will tear away layer after layer of you, and in the end, when it’s all over, you’ll step away from that pile of old skins and barely recognize the person you have become.”

How to Use A Runaway Truck Ramp: A great title that delivers fabulous content. (Can you tell I’m affirmed and happy?)

Click here for a sample of Shawn’s writing and then get a copy of the book here:

Shawn Smucker is the author of How to Use a Runaway Truck  Ramp and Building a Life Out of Words. He lives in Lancaster County, PA with his wife Maile and their four children. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook, and he blogs (almost) daily at Maile blogs at