Surviving the Holidays - 5 Things Not to Stress About
1. Sending out the "perfect family" Christmas card.
Do you love the cards from your friends or family with a perfect (and most likely Photoshop'd) picture of their darling little kids in a holiday setting? Don't get me wrong, I love seeing how my friends' kids have grown. But often, it's only kids in the picture without the parents. Why? Where are the grown-ups, the ones that I'm actually friends with? Is it so difficult for them to get in the picture? Maybe we don't have the oh-so-cute outfits and bright-eyed expressions, but really, I'm starting to think people have something to hide.
What's even better is the family newsletter, where we all brag about how our family is so wonderful, accomplished, and well-adjusted! I've read some epic newsletters that are travelogue (always of exotic vacation spots), soap opera and political diatribe all in one document! You'd think we're writing the next Great American Novel. If you're a newsletter sender, great, just keep it short and simple. And don't try to crowd more than a dozen photos onto that 8 1/2 by 11 inch sheet of paper.
Early holiday photo with cooperative youngsters
We like to try getting the whole family in the holiday picture. Our
results have been deteriorating over the years as the kids get more
reluctant to pose. But there we ALL are, see below - mom, dad, kids
sticking out tongues and the dog with her head turned, too. You can imagine what she's really doing. If that's
the best picture we can get, I'm goin' with it. No need to stress. Yep, below, that's an actual holiday card sent from us a couple of years ago.
Later holiday pic - an unruly bunch
2. Gift Giving
I admit, this is the most stressful item for me and loads of other people. Finding the "right" gifts without spending a fortune causes much grief. My mom, however, has almost no stress in this category. She just gives money. No worries about breaking a hip while getting to the mall in icy wintry weather. No worries about guessing the ever-changing sizes of her grandchildren. No going postal trying to pack and ship everything. All she has to buy is a package of red "Hung bow" envelopes from Chinatown. Fortunately, in our family's culture, money from the elders is a perfectly acceptable and even expected gift.
I think money is better than gift cards - a large percentage (estimates up to 27%) of gift cards goes unused, with the retailer just pocketing the money. Gift card holders run the risk of the cards expiring, or even of the retailer going bankrupt before they can redeem it. Then there's the problem of forgetting you have the cards at all or not using the whole amount up completely. In these tough economic times especially, a gift of money to help pay the mortgage or the electric bill may be the most appreciated gift of all. I think my mom's onto something.
3. Getting It There In Time for Christmas
This applies to gifts, cards and newsletters. The Postal Service and other shipping companies give advice on what deadlines you must meet in order for your items to make their destinations by Dec. 24th. But I say it's enough to be ready just for the people you're actually spending Christmas Day with. For everyone else, if you miss the deadline and your card gets there Dec. 28th, so what? My husband's aunt doesn't even write and mail her holiday newsletter until after New Year's. Not a problem, we still always enjoy hearing from her. Last year, a gift package from my sister somehow disappeared in the jungle that is our garage. I didn't discover it until March! But no one was wondering why Aunt Cyndy flaked out that year and didn't send anything. In fact, no one thought anything of it. The kids were pleased to get an "extra" gift at a time of year when they weren't expecting it.
4. Baking (or cooking, decorating or other home/crafty activity)
This goes for the folks who must have the perfectly orchestrated mega-light and sound display for all the neighborhood, and even some low-flying airplane passengers, to see! Besides, if you have a low-key or minimalist lights display, or no lights at all, you're being green and saving the planet. What could be wrong with that?
Take a cue from the Ditto House
5. Accomplishing the "to-do" list
Change the big "to-do" list to the "do what you can" list. The most important stuff in your life is probably going to get done. Making it to work or school. Taking care of each other and kids. Eating. Bathing. Not letting the car run out of gas. Chances are if something on that endless holiday to-do list doesn't get done, no one else will notice. As for cleaning chores, why do we think we need to straighten up the garage, wash windows, or steam clean carpets now, before the in-laws come for a holiday visit? If it hasn't been cleaned up all year long, holiday season isn't the time to start. Just close the door, and don't let 'em in the garage! This is probably why Aunt Cyndy's package was in there until March...
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