Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Frazzle Free Holiday Season. Is it Possible? By Catherine Lanigan and Rula Sinara

Get unfrazzled with a $25 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway and free tips! Read on!

Catherine's warm and inviting hearth and mantel

CATHERINE: The holidays are upon us and no matter what your religion or creed, even if you don’t celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas or Kwanza, trust me, everyone in the world goes all out for New Year’s Eve. There’s no escaping it. It’s a lot of work. The decorating, the shopping, the list making, the parties, the gift wrapping and the endless worry of forgetting someone on the list that you should have remembered with a card, a call or a real visit. Then there’s the stress of not doing enough. We are called upon by just about every charity you can think of to donate more. More time, which none of us have, more money, which is also sparse at this time of year, and more of our expertise to help others.

Be honest. Do any of you want to cut out any single aspect of your holiday tradition? Nope, didn’t think so. Our “doing it all” is what makes those memories for our children, friends and their children, which of course, they will remember all their lives. See? More pressure to perform.

I have often joked to my friends that Christmas, (in particular) was invented by men to kill women. Somehow, we are expected to do it all. And somehow, we get it all done. Not without a great deal of headaches, jumbled nerves, heart arrhythmia and often, a sore tongue from biting back our anger at everything and everyone who gets in our way when we are trying to “GET IT ALL DONE.”

I know Rula will agree with me on these points, because she’s got boys still at home to care for and to create a wonderful holiday for.

RULA: So true, Catherine! For all the fun and joy it brings, December is a hectic month. I call them December Deadlines…things that have to be done by certain dates, like shopping, social events, class parties (if you have kids in school), finding the right dress etc… Plus there’s that invisible, psychological ‘push’ to get things (other than gifts) all ‘wrapped up’ (pun intended) because the year is coming to an end. I’ll admit, I get a little bit frazzled at times :).

CATHERINE: I was very lucky to have been raised by a mother who appeared to get it all done without raising her voice to half the world around her. She was a very patient woman and felt it was her mission on earth to teach me patience. (She did.) Now that she has passed on, she’s not here to refute my observations. But I do know that December was NOT an easy month for her. First of all, both my sister and I had our birthdays in December. My mother’s wedding anniversary was in December. Then there was Christmas.
Courtesy of Morguefile.com

I have taken some excellent points from my mother about how to get through the holidays with peace of mind and peace still in your heart.

Rule #1 Shop all year. Never shop in December, except for the deals on toys. (This is a great rule, but since it’s already December, it’s one we have to remember for next year)

Rule #2 Send the kids to the movies. A lot. Hire a sitter to take them if you have to. Then you can wrap, decorate, clean or shop while they are occupied.

Rule #3 Finish all baking before December 15th and freeze the cookies and pies. This is an excellent one. Also, it was cold here in Indiana and she just piled the cookies in the freezing cold garage—hidden away from young eyes and husband’s eyes.

Rule #4 Christmas cards are optional. Today a lot of us send e-cards. Personally, I like sending real cards. I have friends all over the country and I want to make sure they know I’m not dead.

Rule #5 Make soup. Big giant pots of soups, so that the family can eat while you are wrapping presents in another room.

Rule #6 Lists and calendars are a must. Re-write lists every day crossing off projects that are accomplished. Check the calendar every day so you know what day it is. This time of year, you could get confused.

Rule #7 Smile. If you don't feel like smiling, buy a new lipstick. Then you'll feel better.
Courtesy of Morguefile.com

RULA: Catherine, those are awesome tips! I need to find better hiding places for both presents and cookies. My boys (and dogs) can sniff out sweets like sugar seeking missiles, LOL! My youngest just told me this morning that he’s planning to put catnip on all the gifts under the tree with his name on them, so that our cats will scratch off the wrapping paper…and he’ll remain innocent. I need to go over the word ‘accomplice’ with him.

Oh, and I love doing traditional cards. I always include a photo of my kids with our pets. Coordinating said photo would stress out stunt professionals. But I do have some frazzle-free tips to add!

Rule #1 If you missed out on Catherine’s Rule #1 or have more last minute gifts…go online shopping! It saves time, saves you from crowds and I can wrap gifts (especially odd shaped ones) in the boxes they arrive in.

Rule #2 Pet-proof your decorations so that you’re not redecorating over and over. I kept having to re-hang ornaments and fish kittens out of our tree last year. This year, one of those cats is 15 pounds…enough to do some real damage or knock the tree down. So I’m going to put that wide, double-sided ‘cat’ tape all over the floor around the tree (and maybe on it too) for a few days before decorating it. Hopefully, they’ll lose interest. Fingers crossed. And on this same note, pet-proof in the name of pet safety too!

Rule #3 Shed the guilt and keep the joy in giving! Remember that gifts are meant to be heartfelt tokens. They’re not meant to put you in financial stress. Give what you can afford to give. If the recipient can’t appreciate the gesture, they have a problem…not you.

Rule #4 I have kids so I love to give to the teachers and school staff who are such a huge and important part of their lives. I keep it simple and practical by giving them gift cards. They’re appreciated, useful and quick to buy. After all, one teacher can only handle so many mugs and chocolates! ;)

Rule #5 If you don’t have specific holidays to shop for, you may still have a vacation to plan for…especially if you have kids. Have a trip planned? Does the forecast include getting snowed in? Plan ahead with movies, games, fun craft projects and any entertainment you can think of! Trust me. Cabin fever is not a pretty thing.

Rule #6 Single? Serendipity vs Stress. Is the person you’d like to kiss under the mistletoe the same one you’re thinking of accepting that New Year’s Eve invite from? Don’t let things get too complicated! Just sayin’, because something tells me that 2015 will be a fine year for love ;). 

So what about you? Have any tips for a stress free December and smooth sailing into the New Year? Share for a chance to win (see below)!

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment with your ‘frazzle-free holiday tip’ and you’ll be entered in a drawing for a $25 Amazon Gift Card! One winner will be announced in the comments of this post tomorrow, so be sure to check back!

Coming soon:
Catherine Lanigan's next book, A Fine Year for Love, book 3 in her popular Shores of Indian Lake series, will release on New Year's Day, January 1, 2015.
www.catherinelanigan.com

Rula Sinara's next book, After the Silence, releases March 1, 2015 and will bring readers back to family and friends in The Promise of Rain.
www.rulasinara.com

29 comments:

  1. I love this post! I think I've pretty much mastered un-frazzling, once the decorations are up--which they are not! My best tip is to make priorities. I love traditional cards, too, and if something else doesn't get done because I'm writing them, that's okay.

    Merry Christmas!

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    1. Mine aren't all up either, Liz. Last night we put up the tree and added the lights only to find half were burned out (yes, should have checked first). But I did put the sticky cat repel tape on the floor around it and you should have seen their reaction at first contact. I think it'll work...

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  2. Could have used that advice last week!

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    1. LOL, Mel. Time has been flying lately and I need more of it! Let's just say I'll be doing a lot of online shopping...

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    2. I need to take my own advice! Doing more and more on line shopping really helps.

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  3. December with all its parties, potlucks, sales, concerts – you name it. I have to say no to most of it because I don’t have the time. One tradition I do enjoy is taking my granddaughters to the Angel Tree at Walmart’s. They spend a great deal of time trying to pick out the perfect gift for someone else. It’s something we started way back before they could read what’s on the card.

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    1. Marion, being able to say no and not overload your schedule is a great tip. And I love Angel Trees! My kids' schools usually have them. It's a great way to teach kids the joy of giving.

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    2. Marion,
      I love this tradition. Thinking of others is what this season is all about.

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  4. I need all these tips right now! :-) Gotta remember, the important thing is enjoying the people!

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    1. Absolutely, Anna!! Boy, if we can stay focused on that, then all the rest remains fun. Enjoying the people in our lives is an instant stress antidote. Great reminder!

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  5. As someone who is usually on top of things, but feeling very behind this year, I need to write down all of those great tips for next year.

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    1. Roz, I couldn't agree more. I feel like it's September and I'm just not ready for the holidays, even though I'm keeping up. Also, a tip is for all of us to TAKE OUR VITAMINS. It's so easy to get run down. Last night I didn't feel good and ate cream of wheat for supper!

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    2. You're not alone, Roz. The tips don't make me Martha Stewart...well, maybe just a wanna be LOL. I'm very behind this year but I'm taking it a step at a time. And I'm definitely taking vitamins! So true, Catherine!

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  6. Thank you for all these tips, the festive season is always stressing!

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    1. Glad you liked them, Nicole! I hope at least a few help keep your stress in check. Happy days ahead! :)

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  7. Great tips, ladies! My holiday lists are always more of a fantasy of what I'd like to accomplish than what I'll actually manage to get done!

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    1. LOL, Carol, I'm so behind it's not funny. Or maybe it is...laughter is great at reducing stress levels, so I guess I should laugh at how behind I am ;).

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  8. There are some fine points here. Since I love Christmas, I look forward to doing all those things. And I don't get stressed about them. I find if I include my kids and give them tasks, we all have a wonderful time.

    Shopping all year is something I've always done. And I'm a list maker. so that's natural. I love crossing things off the list.

    My tip for stress relief is to do something fun. Whatever it is. Have a card signing party where you all sit around the table and pass the cards around for each person to sign. If there is someone who can't write, give them a stamp (one of those you press on ink). Give them a crayon. The receiver will know how much love went into the cards.

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    1. Shirley, I'm a list maker too. I know with some it reminds them of how much there is to do, but with me, crossing things off makes me feel like I'm getting things done and I'm in control. Love the idea of the card signing party!

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  9. This year most of my stress is writing related. lol. But I am taking time to help with our Singing Christmas Tree at church...not sing. Never sing. But I can help with the lights and bows and such.

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    1. I hear you on writing related stress, but good for you getting out to help with the tree. There's something so relaxing about decorating a tree. And I love lights. I can meditate watching them (maybe I'm weird, lol?).

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  10. Wonderful ideas, Catherine and Rula. I used to love all that fuss, but now that there isn't time for it, I don't do cards, do very little shopping, but do extend my dubious domestic skills to make White Trash and cookies. (Loved that photo of the cookie tree in the middle of your post.) I still love to decorate the house and the front porch, play Christmas music, and watch the Hallmark Channel. I like Anna A's comment that it's all about the people. Wish you all an angel to help you through!

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    1. Muriel, I love the Hallmark Channel holiday movies and I think you've got it all boiled down to how it should be. Sounds like you've gotten to the heart of the holidays. Now...I have to put my ignorance on the table and ask about White Trash. What is that that you're making? A type of cookie?

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    2. White Trash uses the basic ingredients in the Chex Mix recipe - the cereals, peanuts, pretzels - but instead of the savory ingredients, you mix it all into melted white chocolate! Oh, yum! If you Google White Trash, there are several variations, one using M & Ms. I have a high sugar tolerance, but that one's a little sweet for me. I have a friend you adds pistachios and cranberries to make it look festive. Try it. You'll love it!

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    3. Oh, that sounds good, Muriel! And most Chex are gluten free, so I always have some on hand for the kids. It sounds like endless variations are possible. So much fun for kids to take part in making! Thanks for the idea :).

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  11. Great ideas, ladies. I've chosen to try and simplify over the last few years. We've opted not to exchange gifts with certain friends, instead choosing to plan dinner or an evening out together. Spending time with them is more valuable than any gift they could buy me! Also, I don't think you have to do it all to make a memorable Christmas. My daughter isn't going to remember if we baked only two types of cookies rather than five--she's going to remember the experience of baking cookies together. Another tip is from a blog post someone sent me. Gifts don't always have to be things. Experiences like passes to the zoo, movie tickets, wine tastings, etc. can be just as much (or more) fun. And let's be honest, how many of us really need more stuff? Thanks for the tips and giveaway. Happy Holidays to all!

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    1. Oh my gosh, Christy, I LOVE everything you just said!!! Especially the part about remembering the experience of baking cookies, not how many varieties were made. A wise person once said that people may or may not remember what you said or did...but they'll always remember how you made them feel. Happy experiences, as you've said, are what we want to build on. And I love what you agreed to do with friends. I've had friends where we've given each other the gift of not having to shop for a gift, but instead did something fun together. You're wise, Christy!

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    2. Thanks, Rula. I don't know if I'd go that far, though. ;-) Christmas has just become too much for so many people. I'm afraid that we put so much pressure on ourselves that we miss out on the joy in the little things, and we definitely don't feel any peace! I had to smile at the mention of Hallmark movies. This past weekend after an overnight at Grandma's, that's all my six-year-old wants to watch! Seeing her excitement definitely helps get me into the spirit of things!

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  12. Winner! Winner!

    NICOLE LAVERDURE, you've won a $25 Amazon Gift Card! Please contact me via my contact page at www.rulasinara.com (direct link http://www.rulasinara.com/p/contact-me.html). Congrats!

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