Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Holiday Brakes

Time seems to move too fast these days, doesn't it? I swear, the kids just went back to school; I blinked and suddenly it was Halloween. Thanksgiving -- a day that for me has always been a nonstop celebration of food and family and fun -- was a flash this year. If I hadn't cooked all day I would have sworn we microwaved Thanksgiving.

Now the Christmas holidays are coming at me, and while I know I still have 24 days to finish my preparations, I suspect it's going to be more like 24 minutes. And then it'll be 2010, my baby will be driving (oh, yes. She's studying now to get her learner's permit at the end of the month) and I have a feeling the last few dark hairs on my head will be turning snowy.

Everyone is busy beyond the usual busy. My guy has so much work to do with his job in retail I've just cleared the next three weeks for him to come and go as needed, otherwise I might not see him again until January. At present my own work schedule is completely filled until March 16th. The kids have penciled in so much school and friend festivities on the calendar page for December that I had to start scheduling pickup and dropoff times. I've been asking people to call before they stop by during December to first make sure that we're even here.

There are things that do put the breaks on my warp-speed reality, such as waiting to see a doctor, shopping at malls, and wrapping packages, all of which take almost forever; my weekly physical therapy (forever plus a nice big side order of sweat and pain) and trying to talk to someone who isn't a robot at the mobile phone company (press one for service, press three if you have questions about your bill, press five if you are too stupid to use our automated FAQ service, press nine if we're driving you insane, etc.)

But there are good things that slow me down, too. When I write I forget about time until the stop-writing alarm clock goes off. Sewing, baking, listening to music, taking long walks with the pup and sitting by the fire with my guy have a nice timeless quality to them, too. Going out to photograph a sunrise or sunset. Hanging out with the kids and their friends on a Sunday. Going for a drive in the country to no place in particular. Game nights, when I shut off the TV, the computers and all the other electronics and take out the chess board, Scrabble or Monopoly.

I also read articles like Managing Your Holiday Stress to help cope with mine. I think I'm doing okay. I start working on my Christmas shopping lists in July so that once December arrives I don't have to live at the malls. I've been working extra hours to get all my contract work completed by next week, but I've also been taking time to do things like the NaNoNovel to keep my creative batteries charged. I also try to keep a sense of humor about all the things that can and will go wrong (my daughter is calling this Christmas CookieFail; I've been testing new recipes but so far every one of them has sucked.) And hard as it is, I accept that there are some things I'll have to gift bag instead of wrap, gift card instead of choose myself, and store-buy instead of hand-make.

The holidays will probably still fly by as fast as everything else has in 2009, but now and then I hope I remember to put on the brakes. It's the only way to get off the crazy train and spend an hour or an afternoon or an evening simply enjoying the reason we all work so hard this time of year: family and friends.

So what are you guys doing to combat the holiday rush? Have any really good tips to share? Let us know in comments.


  1. I'd like to give an excellent and different cookie recipe. Popcorn Cookies. Everyone here gobbles them up!


    Have a great and glorious holiday season!! {{hugg}}

  2. We keep holidays simple. Simple works for us. Stress does not. I think the key is to not overschedule and keep expectations reasonable. (Putting too much pressure on a day or event to be "perfect" always goes bad.)

    Cookies; I made pumpkin chocolate chip cookies everybody liked, and they're even reasonably nutritious. Recipe's in the Betty Crocker cookbook.

  3. Several years ago, we agreed to get kids presents but not each other and give the money to charity. This year, for me, it's St. Jude's hospital.

    Some friends still get gifts - a magazine subscription to Mental Floss, hand knit short scarves. The knitting is important to my stress level, very relaxing while I plot.

    And here's my great-grandmother's recipe for applesauce gingerbread. It's even low-fat :)


  4. I haven't noticed Holiday Stress yet this year primarily because I have a project due on December 15th that's swallowing up all my time and I just can't get distracted by the Holidays. It'll have to wait until the 16th. Easy to say now, but I suspect the next 15 days are going to be a little hairy. I've also tried to get away with the panic situation of dealing with all family members near and far and realizing we can't make everybody happy, so we set limits. That helps a lot.

  5. Try these cookies - they're a great time saver:

    Cake Cookies

    1 box cake mix (whichever one turns you on)
    1/2 c vegetable oil
    2 eggs
    nuts, raisins, chocolate chips, candy bits... whatever works with whichever mix you pick

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients together until thoroughly combined. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes until firm and slightly browned around the edges. Remove from oven and transfer cookies to cool.

  6. Anonymous9:39 AM

    Every year I hope to remember to start shopping earlier, but once school starts Christmas is the last thing on my mind.
    But we do have some small things that I rely on to keep things less than frantic.
    We always light an Advent wreath and eat by candlelight on Sundays. The kids are asking to do this on other nights and I'm considering doing this on nights when we're all home.
    Also, I avoid playing "Christmas music" until just before Christmas. I try to keep the weeks before more contemplative (ie George Winston's December and some more Windham Hill CDs) and only play the carols from Dec. 24th through Jan. 6th. (Sometimes I'm overrulled, and that's OK, but for the most part my family is happy.) Even so, I usually become too saturated hearing them playing constantly. (One store I was in was playing Christmas carols before Thanksgiving.)
    So, I try to avoid the stores too and purchase many things online.

  7. Keita Haruka11:17 AM

    No slowing the holiday rush for this one, I'm afraid. I may have to work over the holiday season. :P I'm on the roster for the skeleton crew that's set to mind the store while everyone else holidays. :P Not that I really mind. It's actually restful compared to the chaos of family holidays.

  8. When I make chocolate chips cookies, the recipie has instant pudding in it and they are wonderful. They don't spread and they stay soft for days.

  9. We mostly bought a few 'big' presents for the kids, especially the older ones, and that helps. Now all that's left is the smaller things.

    One thing I do instead of trying to find little presents for like teachers, people at church, etc, instead of buying little gifts, I go to World Vision and donate in their name-it's easy, it's a unique gift and it also helps out some people who don't have it quite as good as some of us.

    I'm dealing with release day insanity this week, but hopefully, once the next few days are done, I can finish my shopping up and just relax and enjoy. December is crazy enough, I don't need madness on top of it... :o\

  10. I am not stressing this year because I have no money to stress with. :P

    I have lots of material around here so I'm thinking of doing some small wall hangings for my MIL and SIL. If I have enough, they'll get lap quilts. Beyond that, I have a small list but it will be a lean holiday and that's fine with me. Quieter that way because I won't be entertaining this year. I usually do a family Christmas thing with 50+ people, but this year...nope. I needed a break.

    I'm rambling today, aren't I?

    Oh, and Lynn? Time flies faster the older you get. It's inevitable. It crawls just like we do when children, but far outruns us as adults. *sigh*

  11. I would love to say I have these wonderful plans for beating Holiday Stress, but sadly I've got nothing. I just kinda go with it and hope that *this* year will be the one that I actually succeed in getting as organized as I want to be.

  12. (I LOVE this month's quote. Since I told you I was tentatively back in the water, I've written 45 pages. *beams*)

    This year I feel on top of things because I made my list of people to send cards to and their addresses (over 60) and bought the cards to spend tomorrow writing them out.

    That's about as on the ball as I get - we do a Pollyanna in the family and my husband and I don't do gifts, instead saving up what we would spend on birthdays and anniversary and Christmas to actually go on vacation this year.

    I bake for close friends, and that's something I'd be doing ANYWAY. :)

  13. ya, i totaly agree with u.time flew away very fast ,i also have holiday stress in my mind.i also want to do smthg to do at the end of 2009.