Time Wasters, Holiday Style!

christmastree manI am easily distracted. Too easily distracted, I’m afraid, especially when I am not too excited about whatever I’m supposed to be doing. Like writing a difficult scene or figuring out how to get my characters out of the mess they have created (it’s always them, not me). At this time of year, I find myself more distractable than at other times. Here are a few of my most egregious holiday distractions:

SaveOnlineChristmasShopping1. Shopping Online – I do lots of shopping online. Almost everything I buy for Christmas gifts comes to my house in a cardboard box or Tyvek envelope. Shopping online takes time, though. Lots of time. It’s easier to glance around and dismiss an entire store in a matter of seconds, but when you have to scroll through page after page of merchandise, it takes a lot longer. Plus, comparison shopping once you find the perfect item can take another good while. The time I save not driving around town is more than wasted searching for the perfect something online.

Traditional-Christmas-Decor2. Christmas Decorations – Whether it’s mine (or my lack thereof) or someone’s picture of their ornamental extravaganza on Facebook (I’m looking at you, Debra Webb!), decorations are a huge distraction. I managed to get a couple of wreaths on doors and a Christmas flag hung outside this weekend. But seeing people post pictures of their gorgeous trees is a huge distraction. I need to stop looking at everyone else’s and get my own done. Until I can wrest my husband away from his German (!) language and Python (!) programming classes to get the boxes from the attic, though, I think the distraction will continue. Look, Christmas lights!

white christmas3. Holiday Music  – I don’t have to keep the radio on in my kitchen or the music streaming on my computer. Really, I don’t. But I do at this time of year. I have listened to about 16 hours of Casey Kasem’s old Top 10 and Top 20 Christmas song countdowns this weekend. My favorite station, which normally plays lots of old school favorites, apparently does nothing but Christmas hit countdowns on the weekend. Sadly, I can listen to and sing Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song” and John Lennon’s “So This Is Christmas” and Bruce Springsteen’s version of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” an infinite number of times without tiring of them. I also love to hear all the tidbits Casey relates about the background of the songs. There is something wrong with me!

Christmas stollen4. Holiday Food – I have no idea how many hours I have already spent this holiday season on food. Cooking, baking, shopping, looking at recipes, looking at catalogs, looking at websites. I have perused catalogs full of nuts, candy, cakes and cookies. My husband and I had to go to the NC Farmer’s Market this weekend to find the German bakery stall and buy Christmas Stollen that the owner makes from her grandmother’s recipe. We also ended up with spritz butter cookies and a Swabian Merello Cherry Cake, but the Stollen was the main attraction. I did find out, though, that Walker’s shortbread now has a USA website, so I can order Ginger Royals online! Yes, I did that. Also several bags of shortbread in holiday shapes. I am a sucker for all the holiday treats. I spent almost an hour at Aldi checking out all the German (and other) goodies they had for the holidays. Baum Kuchen! Christkindl Mulled Cherry Wine! Cranberry goat cheese! Three flavors of Stollen (though I didn’t buy theirs, since we had the one from Annelore’s bakery already)! Chocolate-covered gingerbread! Pfeffernuss! I will gain at least 10 pounds just looking at the food, even if I only eat salad until the new year. As if!

Charlie Brown ChristmasSo what are your favorite distractions at this time of year? Christmas lights? Cyber sales? Handel’s Messiah? The Transiberian Orchestra? I’ll confess, I have stayed away from the animated TV specials so far, because I can’t say no to any of them. Tell me what you are obsessing about and make me feel better!

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  • Helen says:

    Is he coming to visit me ?

    Have Fun

  • Jane says:

    Hello Caren,
    We hit the stores today and I spent a lot of time checking out the awesome Christmas decorations, but I have to wait for after Christmas to get them on sale. I like Trans Siberian Orchestra, but I can’t listen to Christmas music all day. I’ve spent this past week wasting a lot of time checking out Amazon’s limited time deals.

    • Caren Crane says:

      Jane, you are sort of in the capital of Christmas decorations. I would have trouble not just standing and staring if I were you!

      Until this year, I was having the reflex of wanting to turn off the radio whenever the popular Christmas songs came on. ‘Feliz Navidad” meant OFF for the radio. For some reason, though, Casey Kasem gets to me. I want to hear him talk about the songs and the artists. Maybe it’s the nostalgia, now that he’s gone, but he makes it all magical again. Even the Chipmunks! 😀

      Those Amazon Limited Time deals are lethal, aren’t they? I can’t stream Christmas music at work, but I can open a window and see what’s going on at Amazon. More than once, I have found myself about to buy something I don’t really need – or even want – because of that ticking clock. They are evil marketing geniuses!

  • Helen says:


    Seeing as how I have just got back from my cruise I am so far behind for Christmas this year I don’t know where to start we have no Christmas tree up yet no decorations and I haven’t even pulled the cards out to write and send and of course I can’t find my address book either I have no cake or pudding done and no presents either so getting distracted is not good for me at the moment LOL with anything tomorrow I really need to get started so I am staying right away from TV and trying hard to stay off the internet until I start buying the gifts 🙂

    Have Fun

    • Caren Crane says:

      Helen, I feel your pain, having gotten back from my cruise three days before Thanksgiving. Ack! I’m sure you will get everything sorted, though, with your usual aplomb. You must be a veritable tornado of efficiency once you set about something, because you get so many things done!

      Best of luck with the puddings, since they seem to take FOREVER. I hope we’ll see posts and bits from you as you are dashing from website to website, clicking and buying gifts. Best of luck and don’t let the Golden Rooster distract you. He was offering tango lessons last time I saw him. Just say no!!

    • Jo Robertson says:

      But your cruise was SO worth it, wasn’t it, Helen?

  • Shannon says:

    It’s been one of those weeks that I’ve been putting out proverbial fires that I envy you holiday distractions.

    Go with the holiday flow! The music, the food, and the decorations may feel like time-wasters, it’s possible to embrace them as play.

    While I was sitting in traffic somewhere, I listened to some expert prose on how much children needed play–not computer games or structured play dates–but time to explore. He said the adults, especially super-parents, are scornful of something that isn’t learning or task-oriented. He then listed the benefits of play and the damage of not having play time. The interviewer suggested adults needed playtime, and the expert laughed, agreeing that perhaps that was a good idea.

    I’ve been procrastinating on housecleaning. Decorating cannot occur until decluttering, swiping, and vacuuming. So today is not/not a play day now that the ladies agreed to just dinner. After going out with friends for coffee, I am, really, am going to do the 30 minute on/ 30 minute off cleaning program until dinner. I may even put on the streaming Christmas station and sing off key.

    • Caren Crane says:

      Shannon, you are always so wise! I love that advice that we all need play time. It’s so true. Time for our minds to wonder about things and for us to explore and create.

      As a writer, writing can really feel like work, but it’s a weird hybrid of creativity and productivity. We need to get words on paper, but there is a ton of imagination that must happen to do that.

      I hope your coffees and dinners with friends rejuvenates you and recharges your energy for housecleaning. I had depressing thoughts about vacuuming and dusting yesterday, but spent my time shopping – in person, not online – for most of the afternoon instead. Then I made a ton of German food for dinner. Which was amazing and delicious, but didn’t get the house cleaned. 🙂

      Baking Christmas cookies will be a whole ‘nother distraction once my daughters get home. Guess I’d better make time to clean the house, then decorate it before they get here!

      • Shannon says:

        I got diverted on my cleaning spree… But my bedroom dresser drawers are in order, and more than a dozen orphan socks are now in a separate place. I am still saying that I will toss them out.

  • Mozette says:

    I’m pretty good when it comes to the holiday distractions… I tend to stay away from the stores by the beginning of the holidays because I’ve got my shopping all completed before the end of the first week of December – along with the Christmas Cards sent out… as for the holiday music? Well, I only play it the week before Christmas…

    So, distractions aren’t that big in my life… they just aren’t.

    • Caren Crane says:

      Mozette, you are a model of discipline. I think I may be a bit too hedonistic to be that tough on myself. I adore life’s simple pleasures, and getting things checked off my list gets pushed aside in favor of, say, watching “Elf.” 🙂

      I do try to combine the tasks and pleasures, though. Stream lovely Christmas music while shopping online. Watch “Elf” or “The Nightmare Before Christmas” while decorating. Reminisce about years gone by while unpacking the decorations and bedecking the tree.

      I honestly love all the “to do” things around Christmas…except the cleaning. I need to borrow a cup of your discipline to get that done. The carpeted stairs need vacuuming and no amount of pleasure to come seems to make that more attractive!

      • Mozette says:

        Aaah… living in Australia, I find crowds are my biggest problem. I hate them. So, I get my Christmas shopping started around September/October and it’s finished by the beginning of December.

        And by the mid-November, our storm season is well under way… so really, it’s not great to be out on the roads while it’s pouring rain with lightning and thunder and hail around us. I’d rather have my presents mostly shopped for, be all organised and having everything almost ready when the storm season is upon us. 🙂

        yes, I’m very organised that way… always have been since I moved into a place of my own. 🙂

        • Caren Crane says:

          That’s really great planning! I know you guys have already had some bad storms this season. Looks poised to be a doozy, weather-wise. I hope you can stay safely tucked indoors! 😀

  • catslady says:

    I love their chocolate covered gingerbread! I just had my yearly tree trimming party – days to prepare and days to clean up lol. Now I have to think about shopping.

    • Caren Crane says:

      Catslady, you were brilliant to come up with the tree-trimming party. Honestly, I was an idiot to get married on November 14th. It means we are inclined to take vacation right before Thanksgiving, which puts me behind every year.

      One of these years all my kids will be out of college and I may be able to arrange s really nice tree-trimming party. I’ll make cookies and lay in good ahead of time, then enjoy the fruits of my early-done labor. Someday! 😀

      For now, I’ll enjoy my dark-chocolate-covered gingerbread in the shape of pretzels and stars and hearts. Aldi can make my holiday treats for me this year! I love those things! Also, they have dark chocolate sea salt-covered caramels this year. They are to die for!!

      Shop online, catslady, and save yourself the mall drama!

  • Jo Robertson says:

    Pobre Caren! I think the Buddies need to do a Christmas intervention for you!

    We’re going minimalist holiday decorations this year. I refuse to let Dr. Big climb up into the rafters and pull down the boxes of Christmas decorations! He’s getting too old for that.

    However, I confess to enjoying decorations that other people put up, so we enjoy drives through, not only our own neighborhood, but more upscale neighborhood whose decorations range from delightfully funny to reverently beautiful.

    Also, Christmas is the only time I allow myself to watch the sometimes cheesy, sometimes warming holiday shows — you know, the kind of silly throwbacks to the 50’s and 60’s where Christmas made everything perfect, the ones generally shown on the Hallmark or Lifetime channels.

    • Caren Crane says:

      Jo, you are a very wise woman. I’ll admit, we’ve scaled our decorating down quite a bit. I do love to have my happy things in the kitchen, especially, though. So I will be dragging boxes down from the attic. It’s a walk-in, so it won’t be too bad! 😀

      I want the Hallmark channel in the worst way. I seriously need a cheesy holiday movie binge-a-thon! Wonder if I can get the DH to download a bunch of super cheesy movies onto our Plex server? I bet I could. But I would need a list.

      Quick, what are the best cheesy Hallmark and Lifetime holiday movies? I need a lit! 😀

  • Amy Conley says:

    I have to get in the mood before I can be distracted

    • Caren Crane says:

      Amy, some years it can be really tough to embrace the Christmas spirit. I hope you can grab hold of it and make it stick this year! Life can make that tough, though. I hope you have a great season, even if it takes a while to get into the whole holiday brouhaha!

  • Helen will have the GR firmly in hand I am certain. She wrestles grandchildren after all! And the GR is nothing if not a big kid!

    I have a stack of Christmas DVD’s and a stack of Christmas anthologies to read. Those are my big Christmas distractions.

    Work is INSANE this time of year. If I have one more little old lady give me the stink eye because a certain brand of fruitcake is not in stock I will not be held responsible for my actions. And the Christmas Muzak is making me nuts. Especially as most of it this year is country versions and rap versions of the classics. No. Just NO !!

    And the customers during the holidays are simply RUDE !! I’ve already had to give the “You will not speak to my staff in that fashion.” speech twice so far. I have to laugh because the younger set get a kick out of it. They say “She goes all proper and college educated on them and they go all ‘Sorry. Didn’t mean it.’ and get out of there.” We may work at Walmart, but we deserve some respect.

    • Caren Crane says:

      Louisa, you deserve all the distractions you can get at this time of year. I swear, every time I am forced to go to a huge retail store, I remember you and your bakery staff fighting the good fight. I can’t even imagine the horror of the Muzak all day, every day. Eeek!

      I can’t fathom WHY people are so rude during Advent, which is all about remembering the promise and hope of Christ’s birth and the gift of his death to us all. It sounds trite to tell people they should remember WHY we are doing the whole holiday shebang, but it definitely puts finding the right brand of fruit cake into perspective!

      I would be tempted to tell the fruitcake ladies they could just make their own at home. HA! I would pay money to watch video of you schooling a rude customer. I really would. I’m sure it’s even better since you are so very, very tiny! 😀 You guys deserve serious respect. I’m so happy that you demand it from the madding crowd!

  • Deb says:

    I don’t go all out in decorating; my tree and Nativity and an old light-up Santa in the living room is it. I don’t decorate every room. I do, however, LOVE Christmas lights and like looking at the ornaments on my tree. Yep, I have even moved some to different spots. I love Christmas music and movies. Christmas is my fave time of year.
    Finances are tough this year, so there won’t be many gifts under the tree. That is hard for me not to buy extra special things for my daughter and I am sure it is hard for a 14-year-old to grasp as well. Perhaps next year will be better. But, I am blessed with family and love.

    • Caren Crane says:

      Oh, Deb, I have spent many hours gazing at the Christmas tree in years past. All the ornaments have memories associated with them and the whole thing is just like magic to me. I have tried to convince my husband there is no such thing as “too many lights” but he is not a believer. 🙂

      Don’t worry about the lean year. We had several lean years when my girls were in high school. They understood, because we were very candid about our finances, what was and was not possible for us. We had few vacations (and the few we had were extra-cheap) and presents tended to be what they needed rather than wanted. They were happy with whatever they got, though, and they both learned to spend their money wisely. Both decided it was better to buy $4 jeans at Goodwill than $40 at the mall. 😀

      Although you want to give her everything – and I so empathize with that! – this “smaller” Christmas will be a great learning experience for her. Maybe one that will help her be wiser than her peers in the years to come. That’s a gift beyond price!

      Enjoy your Christmas tree and family and all the delights of the season, Deb!