Sunday, January 4, 2009

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!


Virginia said...

Is he coming to my house!

Dina said...

Have fun with thr GR. :)

Virginia said...

I have no tips on easing the pressure. I am just like you were. I have no me time. I have to do all the shopping, wrapping, decorating, everything that needs to be done during the holidays I have to do it or it doesn't get done. I also take care of everything in the house hold all year long.

A couple of years ago I came down with a good case of the shingles in Jan. which is caused by stress. I was about six months getting over those. I think they can still come back.

Right now I am not working outside the home, but I used to and still had to do everything. Since I am not working I also have to do all of the lawn work outside to.

I kept a full time job until about five years ago and I lost it due to plant closings. I did go to school for a while to learn a new trade and had a couple of jobs since but they didn't work out. I really didn't like them. I think my husband wants me to go back to work but I know that he want help around the house, so I am going to stay off for a while longer.

Helen said...

Well done Virginia have fun with him he probably doesn't need any chocolate he did find the Tim Tam stash.

Caren good on you for taking time out I should be learning from you I am the one who gets everything done here at home as well although over the years I have learn't to delegate jobs to other people I am not always happy with the way they are done and end up re doing them and often when I ask some one to do something I get the same answer I will later and of course they forget.
This Christmas I was on holidays from work and that made things a lot easier although I had the births of my grandsons there wasn't the presure of a full time job as well.
The answer for me is retirement but unfortunatley I can't afford to retire. At the moment I am trying to read as much as I can and spend time with the family before I go back to work on Wednesday after having 4 weekes off.
I am with you any suggestions as to how to slow down and not have everything just right at Christmas would be much appreciated but in saying that would it still feel like Christmas if there wasn't such a rush to get things done.

Have Fun

Keira Soleore said...

Yes, we must, deck the halls.

And gosh darn it, the GR didn't come up to my place.

flchen1 said...

Ugh, so sorry you've been laid low during the last year--bleargh! That's no fun, whether or not you've got a full to-do list! I'm so glad that it helped you realize you can choose how much to do and how much to exhaust yourself during the holidays and throughout the year :) I think that we tend to expect a lot of ourselves, and it's easy to lose focus and sometimes it's almost a pat on the back to think about how much you're needed rather than realizing that we don't have to make ourselves crazy and that our families and friends don't necessarily need all those things we're telling ourselves MUST happen for the perfect celebration. Half-decked halls can be just as merry :)

Congrats on the GR, Virginia!

Keira Soleore said...

The ladies invariably are left holding the bag, the bigger the bag, the more stuff there is for them to manage. The men coast on through home-life, doing only those when asked and putting a 101 question barrage every time asked to do so, so in the end the women end up doing it themselves with no wrinkle of guilt hurting the male consciences.

Having said all of that, it naturally comes down to: Women do all these things, because they want to. They allow themselves to be sucked into doing them because other are doing it, because it must be so, because then and only then will it snow on Xmas Day. :)

Keira Soleore said...

Caren, I'm so sorry to read that your health has been such a hardship ever since the Banditas started up. One of the best and one of the worst times of your life existing concurrently. You didn't breathe a word of this at the Awards Ceremony even though I was right by you. :)

Donna MacMeans said...

Caren -

Good for you. You realize you're just training your family for when you're on deadline. My husband does the grocery shopping when I'm stressed and he's learned that it's a PITA task.

All my extensive decorations are still up (except the outdoor lights. We had a warm day and my daughter took tham down - smart girl!) Now I'm wondering - why, why, why did I feel compelled to wrap garland around all the banisters and put out all of the Santa Claus collection & the snowmen collection & the angel collection...It's not like we had time to look at them!

One shortcut we took this year. My daughter bought a couple boxes of frozen dough balls and we used those to make cookies. They weren't the creative time-consuming ones we usually make, but they disappeared just the same.

Mary Marvella said...

I forgot. I hope you're better.

Margay said...

Caren, I wonder if our obsession for making everything perfect for the holidays is born out of our perception that everything was perfect around the holidays when we were kids? I remember my holidays as being wonderful experiences when I was a kid and then, as an adult, my (former) mother-in-law would host the most fantastic Christmas Eve parties for the family. I wonder if the reason we do this is to make sure that our children, nieces and nephews take the same wonderful memories of the holidays into adulthood as we did.

It's only when you grow up that you realize that you don't have to put on a bash fit for Paris in order to ensure wonderful memories for your children. What they take into adulthood with them is the time spent with people they love. They won't remember the food or what people wore. What they'll remember is who they celebrated the holiday with and how wonderful family is. So I think building the memories for them is more important than what you serve or how you decorate or even what you get for them. (As you can tell, I think the holidays is more for the kids than the adults, at least in my family.) I don't know if I have any tips for making this less stressful, just observations. I think, since I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, my sister with Crohn's and my brother had his neck surgery, that my perceptions on things have changed a bit. I used to stress out about everything being perfect for the holidays; now I realize that as long as you spend them with the people you love and care about, they already are perfect.

Caren Crane said...

Virginia, congrats on nabbing the GR! Er...are you sure your house is ready for him again?

Sympathies on the case of shingles! I have known people who developed them and know they are incredibly painful and definitely stress-related. Be careful!

I think one thing that has helped over the years was getting the point where I no longer cared whether things got done. *g* It sounds terrible but really, I decided that as long as things were not a health hazard, they simply didn't matter. It would be wonderful if things got done, but we can survive without them.

I also realized that most men care nothing about the holiday claptrap. Why do we?

Caren Crane said...

Helen, I hear you on others either: a) not doing things they say; or, b) not doing them as I would like. But really, if there is tinsel on the tree, does it matter if it's in clumps or doesn't cover as much of the greenery as we'd like? I wonder if we haven't just made things extra-hard on ourselves.

If no cookies are baked...what will happen? I can see worrying about not having a gift for someone, but must it be the just-right thing you thought of, or would something else do?

You were smart to save vacation for the holidays. I would have had the ideal season if I had had a week to do the "extras" like baking and tying gorgeous bows on gifts. But hey, most everything got done.

Except I still haven't sent a gift to my little nephew...that one must be corrected posthaste!

Caren Crane said...

Ah...I like this, Fedora. I hadn't considered that angle, but I think you're onto something. We want and need to be needed, so we arrange things in such a way that if we aren't in it 100 percent, it all falls apart.

I think I actually felt that way, once upon a time, when the kids were little. Now that they are all but grown, I realize they would all be fine without me. Sad, yes. Probably heartsick and definitely displeased with either waiting for my dh to figure out what they wanted or having to go and pick it all out themselves, but okay.

My kids would definitely have to pick up the slack and buy presents for my family. My darling husband would never know they expected such a thing! *g*

Caren Crane said...

Keira, I fear you're right. We are determined to have Christmas that is movie perfect, aren't we? Of course, no matter what I do, it will never snow here on Christmas, but I think I saw one or two as a child in Tennessee. Must have been my mother's doing. *g*

I know I wanted to create the sort of Christmas my kids would remember fondly and I think I achieved that. Maybe I've just slacked off since the baby is in high school?

I wonder if I will ever want to do all that nonsense again. Maybe when I have grandchildren to put it on for? *g*

Kirsten said...

Caren, I think there's also a transition point where kids stop having christmas "made" for them and become a part of "making" Christmas for others (including their mom). Sounds like your kids are at that point, perhaps?

I don't recall when I got to that point, but I do recall that my mom used to get really bummed out around Christmas (her dad was a pastor, and when she couldn't be with him at Christmas she would get really depressed). So my sister and I took on Christmas. We would decorate, do presents, cookies, etc. Definitely in high school, perhaps when I was in middle school and my sister was in high school.

Anyway, we got a budget to buy presents for stockings, my dad would pull down the boxes and we'd decorate the house, and we would love making cookies for all our friends at school. I adored having this opportunity -- I felt grown up, I felt magical, and I felt like a Christmas fairy. It was wonderful.

I can't remember how old your kids are, but maybe they're ready to make Christmas for YOU, instead of the other way around.

(((HUGS)))) and I hope your Christmas lesson leads to better health soon!

Joan said...

I wonder if our obsession for making everything perfect for the holidays is born out of our perception that everything was perfect around the holidays when we were kids?

I think this is a big part of it, Margay.

I was thinking along those lines the other night when I was watching "White Christmas" again.

I was marveling at the beautiful wrapped packages and remembering the wonder of those things when I was a kid.

Learning to let go of some things is hard but amazingly you find that memories and holiday happiness can be made with less.

Christie Kelley said...

Oh Caren, I wish I had tips for you but I'm an over-doer when it comes to the holidays too. Which is why I'm now heading to the cave. I wrote just about nothing in December and my deadline is March 1st.

Last year the only thing I did was cookies and presents because of the house mess. It was definitely easier but I really missed the decorations. So this year I went all out, too many decorations, too many cookies (too many eaten cookies that I now have to work off), and too many presents.

So, no tips from me. And I'm off to take down the decorations and then write 10 pages.

catslady said...

I agree with what everyone said. It's always on the women's shoulders because we care more - we just have to nurture I guess. And I think as women we're our worst enemies - if a house isn't clean it's the women's fault and who seems to care - other women. I gave up on having the perfect house but I still feel guilty about it (sigh).

Treethyme said...

I always tend to go overboard with Christmas decorations and then regret it in January when it's time to take them down. This was the first year I didn't have either of my kids home for Christmas (one was in Europe, one lives in Florida and had to work), but we went to Chicago for an early Christmas the first weeks in December. By the time we got back, it didn't seem worth the effort. We put up two tabletop trees, displayed all our Christmas cards, put out Christmasy candles and fixed the table so it looked Christmasy. That was it.

I'm sure I'll go back to my usual excess next year, but this year has been fairly stressful already, so it's kind of nice to know the take-down job won't take more than a few minutes this year.

Treethyme said...

I forgot to mention -- I can really relate to the Supermom thing. Aren't women always the ones expected to do the Christmas shopping, wrapping, packing, mailing, decorating, cooking, etc., etc.?

If it was up to my husband to do these chores, Christmas would be a very Bah Humbug affair!

danie88 said...

I honestly have to have me time or I got nuts! I don't put a lot of pressure on myself even during the holidays. The holidays always seem to be a stressful time for everyone and I just really don't entirely understand that. The holidays are supposed to be about "celebrating" and spending time with friends/family. Not stressing yourself out to the max about getting something done like sending out christmas cards and wrapping gifts. I honestly also think people put way to much money and try way to hard to get someone the "perfect" gift. It's the thought that counts.

The way I go at life is not to rush myself or push myself into anything. If there is something that needs to get done quick then I get it done but I don't stress over it. I'm not saying that I haven't had stressful things go on in my life, but some of the more smaller and ridiculous things to stress over... there's no need. I think people are afraid of letting other people down and themselves as well, but there's no need to be "perfect"... i honestly think there's no such thing as perfect... we all have are flaws...

Louisa Cornell said...

Kudos, Virginia! Keep an eye on him! He has been completely indulged over the holidays!

Caren, I know exactly what you mean. I have been the original Type A personality all my life. And all that frantic - Must make everything perfect, must do it all, must be it all - got me through my DH's death. But eventually my health and even the edges of my sanity were affected. And most important, I was not happy, not truly.

And yes, there is happiness after a loss like that. You just have to slow down and let it find you. So I sat down and tried to figure out which of all those charitable activities and the three jobs I was working really meant something to me. Which ones left me feeling better and which ones made me feel worse. Once I did that I narrowed it down to animal rescue, music and writing. For relaxation I also do needlework, but I don't HAVE to do it. I do it because I want to!

My Mom, too, put on these magical do it all beautiful Christmases. She still does. BUT, she did not work outside the home. I don't care what anyone says. That makes a difference. Yes raising three kids is no picnic, but she did it at home and she had time to do the things that make Christmas wonderful. Now she even has three grandkids who help her decorate and bake and wrap gifts. And they LOVE to do it with her. It is a great tradition they will always remember.

So, I usually make a list of the things I want to do for Christmas and then I prioritize them. Things I HAVE to do, things I want to do and things I would like to do if time permits. Works for me!

Caren Crane said...

Keira, the thing about all my illness is, it only affects me Oct - April. All spring and summer (my least fave seasons) I am fine. Once fall sets in (my favorite!), I start a slow decline and end up sick my mid-October. This year was no exception. M&M was my last hurrah and I was starting to feel sick even then.

I haven't been quite as sick this winter and I think it's because I did all that napping at lunch in the car. The holidays meant more shopping at lunch and less napping, but I tried hard to get to bed on time and not to overcommit. I am always on guard, but end up taking on too much anyway. I'm not sure how it happens! It all seems reasonable when I say yes. *g*

You're right, though, we women DO put the pressure on ourselves for the most part. I know some women have husbands who expect all that, but my husband wouldn't care if we sat home in the dark during the holidays and never even knew about them!

Caren Crane said...

Donna, I like the way you think! You're right, my family needs to be prepared for when I have publisher deadlines. Those will have to be squeezed in around the job and life, too. *g*

I hear you on the why, Why, WHY! thing. We didn't overdo on the decorations this year, so thankfully it won't take long to get them put away. My poor mother, though, tends to get crazy with decorating inside the house. I called her on New Year's day and she was wrestling boxes in from the garage to get ready to start un-decking the halls. *g*

My house will not start being undecorated until Epiphany, so we have a couple of days yet!

Caren Crane said...

Mary, sweetie, I'm so glad you popped in! I feel better than I have in months. Except for cooking up a storm, I have done little the past week. I finally feel like myself!

My hope is to remain healthy throughout the year this year and make sure I don't let myself get run down again. That way I'll be all jazzed up and ready to go for the conference in D.C.!

Caren Crane said...

They won't remember the food or what people wore. What they'll remember is who they celebrated the holiday with and how wonderful family is. So I think building the memories for them is more important than what you serve or how you decorate or even what you get for them.

Margay, you're so right. I have very rose-colored memories of family gatherings at the holidays and how picture-perfect they were. My mother has very different memories of the same holidays. *g*

One thing we all agree on, though, is how great is was, is and always will be to gather the family together around us. Family and friends make everyday special and the holidays especially special.

My bff is quite a Scrooge. She has no use for Christmas at all! For her, it means being forced to spend time with her family, who stress her out. She loves them, but prefers to adore them from afar. *g* She hasn't found a way to get out of Christmas, though. Believe me, she has tried!

What I hate is that she has few fond memories of gathering with those she loves and enjoying their company. I've tried to encourage her to create those opportunities, but I'm not sure that will happen anytime soon.

Meanwhile, you and I can enjoy all the memories we're creating with those we hold dear. *g*

Caren Crane said...

Virginia, I don't think I commented on how very much I love your Golden Rooster cookie avatar! He looks brilliant as a cookie!! And so very tasty, too...

Caren Crane said...

Kirsten, I think there's something to the "kids taking over" thing. I recall when I was a teenager, my mother gradually off-loaded more responsibilities to us. I was in charge of stringing lights on the Christmas tree every year. (Okay, I also baked pizza every Friday night. *g*)

My younger sister and I baked cookies - the ones we liked. Actually, I baked a lot in high school. Breaks felt endless and baking produced edible results!

My girls have definitely taken things on as they've gotten older. Largely because they are impatient and don't want to wait for me to do them. *g* I have to say, though, their break started right before Christmas, so they hardly had time to help this year!

Caren Crane said...

Joan, I had the same nostalgic feeling watching "It's a Wonderful Life". Of course, I just watched it on NYE, but still. *g*

I also know that the Rockwellian utopia of Bedford Falls didn't exist. I'm sure many towns had more than one Mr. Potter in charge of things!

Interestingly, even Christmases (recent ones) where I remember relatives behaving badly and arguments heating up take on a rosy hue in retrospect. Hey, at least we were together long enough to argue!

I do agree, though, the best memories often spring from holidays where there wasn't much on offer in a material way. Heck, that may be next Christmas around here!

I'm having to scrutinize the budget this month. Ack!

Caren Crane said...

Christie, do you ever feel like a gerbil on a treadmill? *g* I don't know how you do all that super-mom stuff with deadlines and your job. The house remodeling was just another cross to bear! So glad things are settled chez nous now. I hope this is an easier year all around.

I'm afraid once my nest empties, I will never bake another cookie!

Helen said...

I do hope that you are feeling better now and that things will improve for you this years.

As for Chrissy decorations we put some up but not many this year mainly because Hayley likes to get into things LOL our tree this year was only decorated at the top so she couldn't pull everything off which in hindsight was good because it only took me about 1 hour on Saturday to put all the decorations away for another year. We will see what happens this coming year because Jake and Corey will be 1 and probably into everything LOL.

Have Fun

Caren Crane said...

And I think as women we're our worst enemies - if a house isn't clean it's the women's fault and who seems to care - other women. I gave up on having the perfect house but I still feel guilty about it (sigh).

Catslady, that's why I loved the cartoon on my post. It's so true! Really, though, we rarely have people over to our house. When we do, we make sure to tidy up so that the obvious clutter is put away. My standards of cleaning are such that the kitchen is always clean and there is a minimum of obvious filth. But clutter? Forget it!

Clutter accumulates while we're gone all day, I'm convinced. *g* I spend time every night sorting, filing, tossing, recycling. Still, it's back the next day! Anyone else have that problem?

Caren Crane said...

Treethyme, I envy your quick take-down. Though we scaled way back this year, it will still take half a day. Then I have to clean afterward and reorder the things I moved. Sounds too much like spring cleaning to me! *g*

If only I could do like my husband and not look behind the couch when I move it. I'm compelled, though! It's rather like an archaelogical dig to sift through the detritus behind and under the couch. Pencils, pens, candy wrappers, erasers, the occasional "missing quiz", and lots of unidentifiable bits and pieces.

And yes, if my husband were in charge of Christmas, we would have no tree and no decorations at all. He actually enjoys it, but it's way too much effort for him to actually DO it except under duress. *g*

Keira Soleore said...

I'm convinced gremlins are at work. How else does clutter collect? Everyone in the family vouches for putting things back in their spots once they're done with it. Hah!

Caren Crane said...

Dani, you are a voice of sanity in this go-go-go era! You're right, of course. We should focus on the important things and let the little things go.

This afternoon, for instance, I was making chicken enchiladas for my family. No problem. And refried beans. No sweat. Then I started thinking I should make Spanish rice, so I pulled out my mother's recipe. It was going to involve a bit of chopping and prep work and my time frame for getting it done would be tight before the girls had to be back at church. I had time, though, so I could have done it.

Then I thought about the post today and said, "Enough!" I didn't need to make myself crazy. They were delighted with the enchiladas and beans and everyone had enough to eat. Would the rice have been eaten and appreciated? Of course. Did they miss it? Not at all!

You know who it would have meant something to? Me. You know how badly I felt for not doing it? Not at all. I gave myself permission and it was great.

I think we need to do this more often!

Caren Crane said...

So, I usually make a list of the things I want to do for Christmas and then I prioritize them. Things I HAVE to do, things I want to do and things I would like to do if time permits. Works for me!

Louisa, I think you've hit on something here. This sounds very do-able. For me this year, Christmas cards fell on the "want to do" list. I got them done, but the last ones went out just a few days before Christmas. I wasn't staying up late to do them or anything, just doing a few when I had a few minutes. It worked out!

Cookies were on the "would like to do" as was the big Christmas handbells concert by the Raleigh Ringers. I would have loved baking and seeing the concert, but time didn't allow without cutting into my "me time". So I did neither. I didn't miss them.

I ate so many cookies OTHER people baked that I ended up grateful there were none waiting for me at home!

I'm sorry you learned this as the result of such a low point in your young life, though. You're such a strong woman...and so wise!

Caren Crane said...

Helen, I have a feeling you may have a "decorated at the top" tree for several years to come! :-)

Sounds like your plan worked with "whirlwind Hayley" about. I recall my mother putting only the least expensive and most expendable ornaments within the reach of the toddlers when the grandkids were little. My youngest nephew is 6 now, so they are all past the "whirlwind" stage!

It's odd to think that in a few years, we'll be back to the "no little ones" years. I suppose then it will be time for me and my siblings to have grandchildren. Scary thought!

Caren Crane said...

Keira, I think you're onto something with the gremlins. I swear, there was a piece of paper on the kitchen table the other day with my older daughter's login for the school system's grading system. She desperately wanted to log on to see what her assigned classes for next semester are. Did I move the paper? No. Could I find the sheet of paper? No!

It has disappeared once more into thin air. Gremlins, indeed.

Kate Carlisle said...

{{{Caren}}} Hope you're back to perfect health asap!

Every year, I'm rudely reminded that I'm no longer that kid who gets to show up and have everything ready for the perfect holiday experience with presents wrapped and food prepared and a beautiful tree for me to enjoy.

It's such a bummer to realize I've got to do all that stuff myself!

I think I'm pretty lucky because, believe it or not, my DH is the one who cares most about decorating the house and getting all the old ornaments out and baking and sending out Christmas cards and all that. He likes the scents and the traditions so he's in charge every year. But he still makes me help clean up! LOL

Virginia, hope you had a fun-filled day with the GR!

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

I basically just quit on the whole holiday thing, as Caren said men don't really care about all of that so I don't do a lot at all. I fix dinner and even it has been trimmed down to it being manageable by one person.

Tawny said...

What a great, thought-provoking post! I love the holidays. I'm probably the biggest Christmas Geek in my family. I guess I'm lucky, too, because everyone really pitches in. Sure, I might have to nag them to keep their calender clear for a certain day to decorate, but hubby and the kids are right there decorating on command *g*. Some years I go all out and bake, craft, build gingerbread houses, and some years like this one my energy shifts to a holiday trip or something else that puts all my favorite traditions on the backburner.

But I can't say its a 'keeping up with the jones' type of thing or even pressure to make a perfect holiday. I just love the whole process... right up until the moment before I have to take down the decorations (I wish I had an elf for that chore). But by the time that happens, I'm so ready for life as normal, that its a relief.

Anna Campbell said...

Virgina, happy rooster day!

Caren, I really like your post. I think we're all too inclined to take on too much and then suffer for it - but who said yes in the first place? WE DID!!! I think you taking time for yourself is a great idea - especially as it saves on things like illness and exhaustion both of which really aren't productive ;-) And I think getting the kids to take some responsibility for stuff in the house is great training for them. And as Donna said, especially for when you have deadlines to meet! Yay, you! I'm standing down here cheering you, my Bandita friend! More power to your right arm.

Nancy said...

Virginia, have fun with the bird!

Caren, we found ourselves slammed by a combo of exams and travel. We put up a tree, did the exterior lights, and stopped. We did bake fruitcake, and the dh did print cards, which will be going out sometime this month (if I'm lucky, considering that we start teaching again in 8 days). But we took our time about it.

My theory is that we all have this image, courtesy of Hallmark and the late Norman Rockwell, of what the holiday is supposed to look like. Almost no one I know has a holiday like this.

I used to do the shopping for my mom's gifts to both my son and her other grandchildren, the dh's parents' gifts to the boy and to us, and for us to give to almost everyone. A few years back, I just told the dh I couldn't do it anymore. I was making myself so nuts trying to give everyone else a great Christmas holiday that mine was miserable. He stepped up, and we split the purchasing. I told my mom that the boy's cousins' parents should handle their gifts from her, which I'd offered to buy one year and then somehow gotten sucked into in perpetuity.

But I think simplifying takes an effort, a conscious choice to do so rather than be swept up in the image and the shopping and the social pressure and the general insanity.

Being sick has a way of putting these things in perspective. An inconvenient, annoying, and sometimes icky way but an effective one.

Joan said...

Virginia, I don't think I commented on how very much I love your Golden Rooster cookie avatar!

How cool! I had not paid attention but I looked at it full sized and....yum.

Now if I was only over the nasty stomach bug that grabbed me by the throat yesterday, I'd beg you for some!

Anna Campbell said...

Virgina, I didn't realize - wow, look at those cookies! Ha, how brilliant! Thanks for showing us!

Nancy said...

Caren, glad you're feeling better (forgot to say that). In keeping with virtually everyone's comments, I agree that it's mostly women who take these things on. I noticed when I worked for (as they say on TV game shows) "a nationally known weight loss company" that a big part of the problem women had with losing weight was putting their own needs and desires first. As opposed to last.

"Well, my husband likes all his food deep-fried" or its equivalent was frequently given as a reason for not sticking to the food plan.

Would it kill him to eat it steamed or sauteed with a nonstick spray? Or a healthy oil? Or--here's a radical thought--to consider his wife's need to lose weight and change his habits to support her? Not to revile husbands, especially since mine is very supportive in such matters, of course. But women don't stand up for ourselves in so many things.

Trish Milburn said...

It is crazy that we put so much stress on ourselves for a holiday that's supposed to be all about joy. This was the first year ever that I didn't decorate. I just was so busy, and we're always the ones traveling to other states for Christmas anyway. I did miss my tree, but it was less stressful.

I don't know exactly why we put so much stress on ourselves, but we all seem to do it.

Caren Crane said...

Kate, you lucky girl, you! You realize, of course, that your DH is worth his weight in gold. Is he, perhaps, from some cold climate where much more ado was made about Christmas than it is in SoCal? *g*

Caren Crane said...

Dianna, I think it's great you have found an alternate way that works for you. I tell you, if it isn't worth the bother to you, why bother?

I promise you the Christmas light police did NOT come by our place this year to see whether our lights were up - they weren't, btw. But I had bought these plug-in three little trees at an after-Christmas clearance sale that we plugged in outside.

The third one kept leaning over in a very special way - like "short bus" special. We finally gave up and just let it lean. It amused me every time I saw it! They're still out there, but we stopped lighting them after New Year's day. *g*

Caren Crane said...

Tawny, I admire your holiday fervor! Some years I have really felt it. When the kids were little, they were year-round school and had 3 - 5 weeks off in December. By the weekend, they were ready for some serious cookie baking and decorating.

These days, the younger ones are in high school and the approaching holidays mean projects, papers and tests. It is stressful for all of us! All they want to do on the weekend is decompress and I completely sympathize.

Maybe if my "take it easy" plan works this year, I'll once again be full of vim and vigor when Christmas rolls around. I hope so!

Caren Crane said...

Anna, thank you for the cheering session! I have become a fan of the midday nap, which I used to think was a bit of lunacy dreamed up by those too lazy to cram a few errands into a lunch hour. *g* I'm a true believer, now, that taking a nap two or three days a week does wonders for you all the way around.

I plan to take a nap at least twice this week. I'm really looking forward to it!

Caren Crane said...

Nancy, you are my hero! Isn't it odd how saying yes once can get you sucked into these perpetual cycles of behavior? When my MIL was alive, I INSISTED that my husband buy her Christmas present and one for his sister. If I hadn't demanded that he do it, he would never even have thought of it. He would have assumed I would handle it - or not - and probably wouldn't have cared either way. By demanding his participation, I drew a firm "do not cross" line for him.

Now, if only I can figure out how to do that with all the other gifts I buy. *g* Actually, I think next year I'll put the girls in charge of buying gifts for my younger nieces and nephew. They are much more clued in to the kids than I am!

Caren Crane said...

Joan and Anna, isn't that the coolest avatar ever? No wonder the GR keeps darting off with Virginia. He's a vain bird!

Christine Wells said...

Posh, I think you're so smart to scale back on the Christmas activity. I don't know how you would get all that done with a full-time job! My family and friends are accustomed to my not sending Christmas cards by now--in fact the only ones I sent this year were to all the Banditas! Christmas is supposed to be a joyous time but it all too often falls to the mother's lot to make sure it's fun for everyone but herself.

I am SO tempted next year to convince all the women in my family to fold their arms and refuse to do any Christmas cooking. I'd love to see the men handle the day for a change!

Sorry for the rant but I really identified with this post!

Caren Crane said...

Nancy, I think you're dead on about women putting their needs last. I'm not sure why we do, except there seems to be a great long history of it throughout the generations! My mother was forever and always doing, doing, doing for us and others. She never even thought to do anything to please herself (and believe me, she is a strong-minded and independent woman, not a shrinking violet) until a therapist told her to!

Of course, once she did it was most inconvenient for me and my teenaged siblings still at home. Then she went a litle overboard and sort of abdicated for a bit, which wasn't helpful either. *g*

But I think men today are more apt to be willing to take on things their fathers may not have. My husband has certainly done his share of cooking, cleaning and laundry. He also does most all the running of people to appointments, practices and rehearsals. Thing is, we have to ask for help. I'm getting better at asking!

Caren Crane said...

Trish, at least you don't have to fret about taking the tree down, since it was never up. I promise you, one of these years I am getting the plug-in tree that comes in three parts!

I think, this year, I'm going to reinstitute my strategy of only taking off the lowest limbs, then putting a sheet over the tree for dust protection until next year. My husband thought I was crazy, but man did it save us some time!

Caren Crane said...

Christine, I like the idea of you starting a peaceful Christmas protest. Now, you may all end up eating Nutella sandwiches and Tim Tams, but it would still be Christmas, right? I'm sure the men could light the barbie and grill some chicken or steaks or something. *g* I think you should go for it!

I really appreciated my Christmas card, by the way. Yours should arrive about Valentine's Day. *g*

Christine Wells said...

Posh, it would be really interesting to see what they come up with! Knowing my father, there'd be a lot of cold seafood. And I'd be happy eating Tim Tams and Nutella sandwiches if it meant I didn't have to do more than buy and pour the drinks:) That would raise a Christmas cheer from me!

Kate Carlisle said...

LOL - you guessed it, Caren, the DH is from Buffalo, land of snow and lots of old family traditions! He's got boxes of ornaments his mother knitted or box-stitched or...heck, I don't know what they are, but they're handmade and we must hang them everywhere!!

Virginia, those are the cutest cookies!! I'll bet the GR swooped them up!

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Hey, Posh, great post. I have to confess, I did much the same thing this year. I hosted my local chapter's Christmas party, so I did decorate. However, when I only got half the decorations on the tree, I let it go.

Now, don't think I did it without stress, the way it sounds in that last sentence. HAHAHAHAH! Right. But by about the 15th, I let it go. Then again, that was right after the tree toppled over and broke half the ornaments I DID put on it! Arrrgh. :>

Cookies? Oh, yeah. So NOT. Once the boys get a bit older and can help...maybe.

Speaking of cookies - WOW, Virginia! Love your icon. Is that the GR immortalized in sugar cookie dough? Coooooool! And congrats on nabbing the bird himself today.

But back to the subject, surprisingly, this year, I stressed a whole lot less. We set a better, smaller budget. We didn't fret so much.

I liked it.

THe other cool thing was that I had time to reflect on the year. That, however, caused I'm taking over a infrequently used bedroom for my "new" office. I spent the day cleaning and painting and tomorrow, I'm pulling up the been-on-the-floor-way-too-long carpet to reveal the lovely hardwood floors beneath.

I have totally gotten off your topic, Posh. Sorry! Blame it on the paint fumes.

jo robertson said...

Great topic for an after-holiday post, Caren. I think most women very vulnerable to this kind of stress. We want things to be wonderful, to be perfect, to be memorable, and in trying to attain that, we forget to take care of ourselves so the holidays can be pleasant for everyone.

As someone said, if momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

Yay, Virginia, treat the rooster kindly.

jo robertson said...

I hear a refrain from among our readers of having to do everything ourselves. And if we dole out the jobs to other family members, they don't perform to our standards and we re-do them.

I learned an important lesson from my (mostly) wonderful husband years ago. He said that if I asked him to do something then I had to let go of the how and when of it. I had to allow him (within reason) to do the job in his own way. His ways, of course, were never like mine, and I'm still convinced MY way is far better (g), but once I let go of the control, I learned that his way was just different, not less. It was a very stress-alleviating lesson to learn.

jo robertson said...

Caren, you're so right about us women taking on too much. I'd been feeling guilty about not helping out in the many organizations that've given me so much, so I signed up for the membership committee of one of them. No problem, right? Well, I forgot that membership reneweals coincided with my trip to New York, so I came back to many, many emails on my personal email. Plus I had to sift through all the viagra ads!

Still, I think persons who've been doers all their lives find it very hard to say no. Some get great personal satisfaction from it and others just feel it's the right thing to do. As women we have to be very gentle with ourselves. Think hard about what our priorities. And that's different for everyone!

Virginia said...

Hey Jeanne, that Golden Rooster polished off that plate of cookies in no time. He said they were not as good as Tim Tams but since I didn't have the Tim Tams he would munch on those rooster cookies.

Pat Cochran said...

Caren, I must admit it: I'm an
over-doer and an over-spender when
it comes to the holidays. I keep
telling myself that I can't do that
again, yet I do! My sweet Honey had
to make two trips to our son's to
take all the gifts over for the
family celebration. I did most of
the cooking, too! Of course, when
told my 6 y/o grandson said it was
"awesome" (describing what all
Grandma had done for the family)
I admit to a warm feeling! Is
there a Shopaholic group nearby?
I think I need their assistance!!

Pat Cochran

Caren Crane said...

Christine, I could seriously dog-pound some cold boiled shrimp at Christmas. You know, if I were in Australia and it were summer. Oh, okay, I would eat them even in winter! I say go for it, Bandita!

Caren Crane said...

Kate, I had a feeling your dh was from the land of ice and snow. How much snowier does it get than Buffalo?! It's great he's willing to do the work for his traditional Christmas, too. Do you sip cocktails and cheer him on? *eg*

And if the GR eats GR cookies, is that like us eating gingerbread men?

Caren Crane said...

Jeanne, congrats on the new office space. I DREAM of having an office in my home! When the second one goes to college in--2-1/2 years, holy smokes!--I can start working on that plan.

Enjoy the paint fumes!

Caren Crane said...

Jo, I think it's a universal. Certainly in my family of origin, if Mama wasn't happy, NOBODY was or ever would be. *g* I'm afraid I wield a similar power, but try to do so with a light hand. Still, somedays are might-y trying on the nerves...

Caren Crane said...

Jo, my husband gave me the same lecture. Maybe it's in the Man Book! *g* It was about the childcare, I think. He was right, though. They turned out fine (even if they would have turned out better had things been done MY way. *eg*) You really needed Dr. Big's help with 7 kids. Good gosh!

Caren Crane said...

Jo, I'm still perfecting the "priority" thing. It's easy for me to set OTHER people's priorities, but hard to do my own! I decided to resign from something (kind of a NY's resolution), but it will still be hard to do!

Caren Crane said...

Virginia, the GR was supposed to be dieting for the new year! I guess he didn't stick to his resolutions. Or mine. *eg*

Caren Crane said...

Pat, put down the credit card and back away slowly...*g*

Really, it feels like madness in retrospect, but somehow we can justify it at the time. I don't understand the holiday madness thing at all! But this year I plan to have a firm budget and stick to it, by gum. Maybe budgeting TIME would work as well? I'll have to try that.