Posts tagged with: holiday madness

Blue

I’ve been a little down lately. 

Not depressed or anything, just a touch…blue.  

I won’t bore you with the details; suffice it to say that I–like many of us this time of year–am taking a routine visit to the Pit of Despair.  

I suspect it has something to do with this being an “At Home Year” in terms of holiday travel.   Now don’t misunderstand.  I dearly adore the years we don’t take this circus on the road for the holidays.  But I have to admit it–I miss my family something terrible.  I was the only sister who missed Thanksgiving this year & I had kind of a hard time with it.

I’m not an amateur, though.  I’ve lived far from my family for years & I know a thing or two about clawing my way out of the Pit of Despair.  And since I have to assume that you lovely people also visit the holiday-themed PoD on occasion, I’m going to do you a solid.  I’m going to share with you my time-honored recipe for busting out.

First, you need a treat.  For me, this takes the form of a large bowl of ice cream.  Typically the ice cream is shoveled into my mouth on frozen cookies, which serve as a spoon & therefore don’t count as the treat itself.  Cookies & ice cream is my particular treat; you can scoop up whatever makes you happy.  But you must take care to indulge in this treat alone.  If other people are around they might A) judge you on the cookies-as-a-spoon thing, or B) talk to you.  Neither is acceptable in my mind.  Ice cream requires solitude.

Second, you need a juicy book.  I’m indulging in one of Victoria Dahl’s contemporaries right now–Start Me Up.  Love her.  She’s so fast-paced & funny & deliciously dirty. (Not makes-you-feel-dirty dirty.  Just makes-you-feel-naughty dirty.  That’s the good kind of dirty, in case you were wondering.) For maximum effect,I recommend reading the book while eating the ice cream.  Now that I have an e-reader, I can put the book on the stand & use both hands to eat.  This is wonderfully convenient.

Now usually this is enough but sometimes I’m really deep in there & need an additional boost.  If this is the case, I take Emergency Measures.  This is generally Diet Coke, a hot bath, lunch out, or some combination of the three.  Just something I usually deny myself.

Now I understand some women shop.  This doesn’t work for me, as I’m  not sized/shaped to feel validated by a trip to the mall.  (I can’t even do shoes; I have thick ankles.  It’s awful.)  However, if that’s your thing, go for it. 

I understand some women cook or bake.  I don’t do this either, sadly.  I used to but when I’m in the Pit of Despair, I need to feel indulged. Pampered.  Appreciated.  And nothing kills my self-esteem more than putting a delicious dinner on the table only to have my fussy little eaters sigh & ask if they can have a bowl of cereal.   

This photo is several years old, but that’s my youngest up there, approaching dinner in protective goggles.  As if my carefully and lovingly prepared meal were out to get her or something.  And, yeah, that’s a bowl of cereal in front of her.

Is it any wonder I end up in the Pit of Despair so routinely?

So what about you?  What do you do to shake the holiday blues?  Or do you wait until the holidays are over to visit the Pit of Despair?  What’s your recipe for busting out?  Believe me when I say, I would love to hear all about it. 

 

 

 

Must We Deck The Halls?

by Caren Crane

Now that the holidays are over, I have a confession to make. I have a tendency to…well…over-extend myself at the holidays. I commit to too many social gatherings. Offer to bake one batch of cookies too many or buy just one more gift for those in need. At my house, I am in charge of buying and wrapping all the gifts for my husband, children, family and friends. Also getting the kids’ Christmas pictures taken, doing the holiday baking, sending the Christmas cards and decorating the house. My husband helps, but only with things I specifically direct him to do (like, put up the Christmas tree or buy a gift for me).

For this past year, by time Christmas rolled around, I had no paid time off from work left. Not even one hour! So all the things I did were wedged in around a full-time job. The result of all this busy-ness has traditionally been complete burnout by Christmas day.

In 2008, I took it easier. My “take it easy” holiday philosophy developed slowly over the years and mostly due to desperation. I gave up stressing out about the house being decorated a few years back. It gets done, but no big deal if the outside lights don’t get put up or there aren’t electric candles in all the windows. I have let my daughters bake Christmas cookies in the past couple of years (for the record, we made none for 2008). Heck, three years ago, the girls sent all the Christmas cards! So, I’ve learned to let go a little. But in the past year and a half, I have been sick for long periods of time. Sinus infections and plenty of them, despite the best drugs on the market. Most of the illnesses were exacerbated by exhaustion.

This past year, I learned to take time for me. I often napped in my car at lunchtime, instead of running errands every day. I walked away from my desk and took a coffee or tea break. At home, the laundry often piled high and the cupboard got bare. I found that if things got desperate enough and there were literally no clean socks in the house…someone would be spurred to action. My children learned, at a core level, that if they did not write things on the grocery list, my husband never thought to buy them. This applied to everything from bread and milk to toilet paper. I didn’t abdicate my worrying and errand-running throne, but somehow I let go of the feeling of Impending Doom I used to get if we ran out of Special K bars or forgot to buy bagels for choir extended practice.

There is nothing like being laid low to teach you what is important in life. Your life. The only one you get. I learned to take time for me. When I did, guess what happened? Nothing. At least, nothing I didn’t want to happen. In the just-passed holiday season, I took time for me. This Christmas, I got to enjoy all the wonders of the holiday season without undue stress or bone-deep exhaustion. I’m looking forward to next Christmas already–even if our halls don’t get decked a bit!

So, why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to make things perfect during the holidays? Are we afraid of letting others down or simply not meeting our own expectations? And when it comes to holiday brouhaha, why are we so reluctant to relax? Please share any tips and tricks you’ve learned to ease the pressure. We could all use more ME time!

A Brief Lull

by Nancy Northcott

Before we start today’s blog, please join the entire lair in wishing our friends Maria and Marisa at RNTV a very happy birthday! We’re all grateful for the wonderful promotion they give our genre. If you get a chance, pop over there and give them birthday greetings.

And now back to our regularly scheduled program . . .

Tomorrow is, in the United States, Thanksgiving Day, a time for friends and family to gather, take time out from the usual rush of life, and reflect on the good things in our lives. It’s generally a day of tranquility, of peace and reflection.

And then the madness begins! “Black Friday,” as it’s called because so many merchants depend on it to keep their ledgers in black ink for the rest of the year, follows hard on Thanksgiving’s heels. Malls and big box stores become swamped. While this day theoretically belongs to thoughts of others, to shopping for something to bring joy to the people for whom we were grateful the day before, it seems to bring out the worst in some people.

Parents start scheming–who do they know who works in retail and can get this year’s equivalent of a Cabbage Patch Kid or Tickle Me Elmo? (I confess to having spent a couple of hours driving around town in search of the Yu-Gi-Oh Duel Disk one Christmas Eve and finding one only because I happened to walk into the toy store just after someone returned it.) Special deals on limited-quantity items spur people to stand in line for hours, then stampede into the store, often with serious injuries resulting. People battle over the last Hot Gizmo in stock as if they were Joan’s gladiators. The police often have to come restore order. This is the spirit of Christmas? Or is it our American tendency to compete coming to the fore in a very destructive way? Or a little of both?

Just as an aside here, I’m a sucker for Christmas decorations. Seriously. I’d rather not have seen them since before Halloween, but after December 1, I love them. I even loved them on my recent trip to NY and felt that, considering that I was in town for just a couple of days, the big tree at Rockefeller Center really should’ve been lit so I could see it. Even if December 1 was a week away (just kidding, but I’ve only seen it once and was so hoping to see it again).

But the premature appearance of tinsel and holly and Santa seem to gear us all up for this shopping marathon-sprint- madhouse. Then Thanksgiving comes, and it’s “Oh, my gosh, the good stuff will be gone if I don’t hurry!” For some people. Not for everyone, of course. I know plenty of people who go out on Black Friday with a plan, avoid places that could lead to mass insanity and violence, and are home by lunchtime.

From there, though, it’s holiday cards, home decorations, shopping, packing, mailing–an evolving list that leads lead up to a “whew, it’s done!” about midnight on Christmas Eve. And, sometimes, to a letdown on Christmas morning, a sense that weeks of work led up to a brief frenzy of tearing paper and blinking tree lights. Sort of like the scene of the family opening gifts in the dh’s favorite Christmas movie, A Christmas Story.

Our Christmases were leisurely when the boy was little. We’d get up, peek into our stockings, and watch him play with Santa’s gifts while his dad made Swedish pancakes, a tradition in his family. Then we’d have our pancakes and open our gifts. Since our son wanted to play with each new gift, we paused frequently in the opening process to enjoy watching him do that. Now that he has “graduated” to electronics and video games, it isn’t the same, but we still try to take the day slowly, to really look at and think about the various gifts we exchange, the people who gave them, and the fact that our family has reached another Christmas.

We also have friends, Roberta and Art, who are Jewish but loved Christmas. Since they don’t feel right about decorating, they came over every year until they moved out of state to help us decorate our tree. We’d spend a leisurely afternoon putting up ornaments, visiting, and discussing the holiday. They often contributed ornaments to the cause, and Roberta made us a beautiful Christmas tree skirt that we cherish. Every year, we think of them when we hang their ornaments or drape that wonderful skirt around the tree.

Because I love Christmas decorations and the dh loves everything Christmas (and has made his own Christmas cards–now our cards–since long before I knew him), we’ve amassed a fair number of decorative items. We try to buy an ornament everywhere we go on vacation (though we have none from England, which seems strange when we think how much we love it), and people give us ornaments and decorations. A couple of years ago, though, we were both going nuts in the lead-up to the holiday. We looked at each other and said, “What are we doing? This is supposed to make our house cheerful, not transform us into frenzied lunatics.” So we put up the tree, put out the snow globes, and stuck the candletower in the middle of the table. And called it done. And you know what? We had just as much fun as we would’ve had with every piece of holiday bric-a-brac in place. Maybe we even had more fun because we didn’t hit December 25 in a state of deadline anxiety.

So what do you find most challenging about the holiday season? What’s your favorite coping technique? Do you have a favorite memory of holiday preparations?