Nan S. Russell
Author & Speaker
[ If you’re interested in a particular theme or topic I write about,
quickly find it in the blog by subject archives.]

Before Halloween I listed a holiday pin in my online vintage jewelry shop. It’s a whimsical moose on rollerblades, clearly hurrying while balancing a stack of red and green wrapped presents. Maybe he’s trying to beat-the-rush, move at the speed-of-sales, or make it to Christmas dinner on time. When I found and posted it, it made me smile. I took it as a comic nudge against the commercialization of the season and our robotic appetite for stuff-buying.

But unless we’re under eight, we know Christmas isn’t about the presents. It isn’t about a few magical weeks of a season, or one specific calendar date, either. While Christmas has different meanings for different people, both religious and secular, it brings for many enhanced connection and outreach to family, friends, and community.

The Christmas message is a message of love; a way of being. I aspire to the Charles Dickens sentiment to “honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year.” The way I see it, we do that through our actions, which is why I’m worried about losing Christmas. We seem to be short on love right now. Shopping-frenzies, Black Friday and Cyber Monday bargains aren’t stealing the real meaning of Christmas. No, we’re losing that all by ourselves.

We’re losing the Christmas message of love when neighbors stop speaking to neighbors based on political differences; when houses of worship become murderous targets of hate; when fear replaces compassion for those seeking a better life; and when pipe-bombs threaten to permanently silence those who disagree. We’re losing it when toxic language and incivility replace dialogue and understanding; when school yard taunts fill the halls of Congress and are echoed on playgrounds; when lies replace truth; when our planet’s health is compromised for business gains; and when we don’t see each other and our differences as a strength.

Still most of us aren’t like that. We don’t do those things. And yet, if (continue reading →)

In the Scheme of Things, Life 

While basement cleaning isn’t on my fun-to-do-during-time-off list, growing necessity prevailed during a recent staycation. Space was needed to expand the photo studio for my Etsy vintage shops, but too many boxes of stuff moved too many times, were in the way.

It was during that stuff elimination project I discovered old gratitude journals in a worn box. Every day for years I’d logged five or more things I was grateful for that day.  Skimming the pages in dozens of abundance journals, my gratitude statements kindled warm memories of occurrences, kindnesses, and people.

But they sparked something else, too. The last time I saw the journals, I chose not to part with them. Perhaps I thought someday family or friends would read how grateful I was about each of them. But now, I was struck with how silly it seemed to hope they’d find my words. This time, the journals ended up in the recycle bin.

I believed then that gratitude was an inner feeling, a heartfelt expression of appreciation, love, and thankfulness. And it is. It enables us to see the blessings we have, and the positive elements in our life. It’s the kind of gratitude we hold inside with love and thanksgiving and it makes us feel good on several levels.

There’s a second kind of gratitude, the external kind, that’s nice to get and give, too. I first felt its power (continue reading →)

In the Scheme of Things, Life 

When young children misbehave, parents, teachers, and caregivers frequently insist on a time-out. Think how much better your workplace would be if you initiated the same approach. No, it’s not for your boss or coworkers, it’s for you.

It’s hard to be amenable to reason or hear a contrary point of view when we’re stubbornly clinging to our position. It’s hard to hear a new idea when the change that’s being suggested will negatively impact us. And it’s hard to offer constructive input when we’re approaching the edge of unreasonableness, backed into a corner or seething with frustration.

When you feel like you’re teetering on the edge or spinning toward unproductive emotions, initiate a time-out. You don’t have to call it that, but take a walk around the building, shut your office door, get a cup of coffee, or suggest the group get back together later to continue the discussion.

People who are winning at working use this approach regularly. They (continue reading →)

Winning at Working 

Being a citizen comes with responsibility; voting is one. Voting provides an opportunity to influence the expectations you have for this country. Below are some of mine. 

Life, Quotes 

It was annoying. First, a system upgrade on the platform which houses my two vintage shops was not completed in the announced timeframe. That meant I was unable to resolve customer queries received overnight. Then, my mouse stopped working. Replacing its batteries didn’t enable its ability to navigate or scroll as needed. Neither issue resolved quickly.

You’ve likely gathered from my whining that the impact on my morning was unwelcomed. Of course, in the scheme of things, they’re both ridiculously minor issues, so it’s perhaps strange to use them in an opening paragraph. But there they are, so let me explain.

As I continued to struggle with my mouse and the software-bugs that precluded the resolution of customer issues, I decided to reboot my head with a long walk before returning to write. It’s good I did.

The problem with change, I realized, is there are different types lumped together under one word. There’s (continue reading →)

In the Scheme of Things, Life 

Once upon a time, a prince and princess lived in stressful palace, surrounded by a stressful village, inside a stressful land. They knew it was stressful because everyone said it was. Their parents, the king and queen, worked from sunrise to sunset hearing issues from their kingdom, weighing the requests, and appropriating the collective harvest to the people of their land.

The people also worked from sunrise to sunset, doing their assigned tasks, completing their logs, filing their reports, and seeking an audience with the king and queen to request their needed resources. So it went, year after year after year. And the land became known as Stressland.

When the princess and prince grew up and took over the responsibility for the kingdom from their retiring parents, having watched and listened and learned the process for years, it was second nature for them to share responsibilities according to their talents.

But it happened that the young royals grew tired of their inherited routine and began to feel the stress they had only heard spoken of, but never experienced personally. “Enough of this,” said (continue reading →)

Winning at Working 

Her name is Mallory. At least it is for now. She’s the amateur sleuth in my new cozy mystery — or technically I should say my first cozy mystery. While I’ve written non-fiction books on leadership, trust, and self-development topics, and hope to write more, I’ve started a few mysteries over the years but never finished them.

Mallory’s story might just be read by me. Who knows? But, I’m at a point that to acknowledge her presence in my life is a step in learning more about her and her voice. These days, becoming a mystery writer is something I’m actively involved in doing. The operative word here is becoming.

I think of it like my oldest granddaughter becoming more educated. Her “Continuation Ceremony” in June marked a move from elementary school to middle school. I’m doing my own continuation of sorts, comprised of studying, practicing, learning, and evolving new skills to include fiction writing, specifically mysteries. As author T. Harv Eker put it, “You will live into your story.” While I’ve been learning the craft of fiction writing for a couple years now, at the beginning of this year I decided (continue reading →)

In the Scheme of Things, Life 

Last week, I ordered an item from the world’s largest retailer. While it arrived quickly, its contents were not as expected. The plastic that held the toe protectors was taped, the items stretched, and the gel-lined fabric dirty. How did such a used product get resold as new?

I expect occasional quality issues when I buy online at an auction or estate site for my vintage shops, but not from the world’s biggest retailer. My expectation is people who work for that organization are engaged enough to notice dirty toe protectors and empowered enough to decide they can’t be resold. I also expect it’s an outlier and won’t happen again.

But expectations are funny things. They’re beliefs about what should happen, how it should happen, or that it will or won’t happen. We all have them about everything from food and movies to places and people. We’re influenced by what we expect to find. If we think online retailers sell junk, we won’t be disappointed if that’s what we get. Expect terrible bosses, difficult spouses, or untrustworthy people and you’ll find them; expect engaged, compassionate, and wonderful people and you’ll find them.

Some believe if you don’t expect anything, you won’t be disappointed. Others say (continue reading →)

In the Scheme of Things 

Maybe you read on Facebook that Dollar General Stores were celebrating their anniversary by giving out $150 shopping coupons to those who liked and shared their posts, or maybe you received an email seeking applicants as paid mystery shoppers in your area. Maybe you heard that theaters used subliminal advertising to increase sales of popcorn and soft drinks, or saw a “send old shoes, get a new one free” promotion that caught your attention. Or maybe you read about the discovery that disease can be cured by drinking four glasses of water every morning.

The fact that these are all false didn’t stop thousands of people from forwarding, liking, retweeting, repeating, or believing them. One even made it into the top 50 “hottest urban legends” on

Likewise, the fact that office grapevines are filled with false information, speculation, innuendo, and gossip doesn’t stop people from using rumor to fuel distrust, reinforce silo building, or enhance “us” versus “them” thinking, either. This workplace ladder fuel can devastate motivation and destroy work cultures as quickly as nature’s fuel of underbrush, branches, leaves, and vegetation can cause a ground fire to scale trees and devour forests.

A few years ago a forest fire came within a half-mile of our remote cabin, engulfing (continue reading →)

Winning at Working 

I felt the malice immediately, arriving without warning via my website, with no return email. Her poisoned-laced words were intended to sting, and they did, although perhaps not in the way she intended. Mostly my heart ached with sadness for her long held pain.

At the bottom of the message was the name of an old friend I’d lost contact with years before. Her message accused me of betraying her trust decades ago. But despite the venom released at me, there was no mention or explanation of what it was that I did in my twenties that caused her to reach that conclusion, or why she held onto her anger all these years. All I knew was someone I still cared about saw me responsible for something that upset her.

The message haunted me, not because of what it said, but because I never knew I hurt her. I never knew there was festering pain attributed to my words or actions. Certainly, there are people I know I’ve hurt, but this was different. Am I accountable when someone feels slighted or wounded by something I did or said, or didn’t do or didn’t say, and I never knew it? How we perceive another’s actions, motives or intentions is subject to our interpretation.

I’m reminded of how inaccurate my own assumptions have been. I remember feeling (continue reading →)

In the Scheme of Things