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Channeling My Inner Martha Stewart

Updated on December 19, 2017

With the arrival of the holiday season, my desire to create the perfect family Christmas overtakes my life, lest I disappoint the diva of all things holiday.

It is that time of year when cookies are baking, lights are up, gifts are being wrapped, and we are all trying to outdo ourselves.

I am always perplexed that, during this busy time of year, we are determined to cram more and more projects into our already busy schedule. In between the Christmas programs and recitals, the shopping and wrapping and sending cards to everyone who ever crossed our paths, we are determined to make that homemade potpourri or bake that cheesecake with 16 different ingredients.

I finally understand why. We have been brainwashed by Martha Stewart.

We are surrounded by Martha Stewart products in at least three different national chain stores. Her books and magazine offer us images of holiday perfection for which we must strive.

Certainly, Martha Stewart has her share of critics, not to mention some tarnished spots on her reputation. The largest of those stains is a five-month stint in prison in 2004-2005 for using insider trading to dispose of some stocks.

However, Martha has a devoted following on social media. According to Twitter, she has 3.95 million followers, and Instagram records her at 1.6 million. Her Wikipedia biography credits her with eight best-selling books, four television series and a magazine, Martha Stewart Living, with a circulation of 9,000,000. Obviously Martha has her fans as well. She has taken something as ordinary as housekeeping--something many of us look forward to with as much anticipation as our next root canal--and turned it into a multi-million dollar industry.

My Martha moment came several years ago when I saw a picture of oranges decorated with cloves placed in a bowl full of evergreen sprigs and pinecones. I was hooked.

I now have to do these every year or face Martha's wrath that I am not doing everything to provide my family with the perfect Christmas. Not that I have a prayer of Martha showing up on my doorstep. But some little voice inside me would accuse me of being such a disappointment to the proverbial goddess of all things domestic if I skimp on the holiday preparations.

We all have visions of that picture-perfect Christmas, with a perfect, exquisitely wrapped gift under the tree for each person and a table full of gourmet holiday foods set before our adoring, non-bickering families. But the reality is few of us will get a Martha Stewart moment. The potatoes burn. Your mother-in-law obviously does not like the gift for which you spent weeks searching. Kids bicker. And your uncle starts a political argument. Again.

Holidays can indeed bring out the best of us. But the reality is that high expectations can only lead to crushing disappointment. Rather than go for perfection, go for making memories. The website becomingminimalist.com in their article, "12 Steps to Avoid Disappointment this Holiday Season" by Joshua Becker, advises us to identify one thing you want the holiday to represent--whether that is a religious celebration or making family memories--and focus on that one goal. The article also advises us to slow down, stop placing expectations of perfection on ourselves and others, and place more emphasis on making memories rather than perfection.

The article also advises us to know when to stop--from drinking to eating to spending money--and to focus on the spiritual side of the holiday rather than the physical trappings.

I am doing my best to break free of the image of perfection that Martha has bestowed upon me. I stopped making homemade gift tags a few years ago and now use store-bought varieties. One year I did actually make embossed Christmas cards, but it took me so long I thought I would not get them mailed until Easter.

Sadly, however, I will never be totally free of her influence. I have made eight different kinds of cookies. I spent two days making marzipan. And those clove oranges do look lovely on my coffee table.

Martha would be so proud.

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