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Posts Tagged ‘stress’

Is this the true meaning of Christmas?

Whether one observes a secular or religious Christmas, we are all bombarded each year with messages – both subtle and gross – to buy, buy, buy. It’s no different this year, except that the vast Christmas machine seems to have shifted into overdrive. Watching the evening news over the last week, I note a recurring emphasis on the fact that most major American retailers had the worst October, saleswise, since 1969. While this is certainly newsworthy, the extent of the coverage betrays an array of underlying “details”– (more…)

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A lot of holiday stress can be attributed to lack of organization. Possibly you have these amorphous thoughts floating around in your head about what needs to be done, but you never sit down and make out a list or a schedule. Perhaps you don’t even evaluate how much you can–or how much you want to spend–this year. Then the 15th of December rolls around, and just like last year, you haven’t made any preparations at all….

So you stress. And come New Year’s Day, you’re exhausted and you’re glad it’s over for another year.

Get yourself organized. Get a blank calendar, and start planning out every aspect of your holiday season. There is something about getting all the plans out on paper that is both stress-reducing and liberating. Not only that, but after you’ve finished filling out your calendar, you can ruminate over it for a few days and decide what you need or would like to hack out to make things easier on you and yours.

No excuses. Here is a link to a site where you can design and print out as many custom, full page blank calendars as you’d like, for free – no membership necessary, no leaving your e-mail address. 100% free, no strings attached. You can even personalize your calendar(s) with a photograph(s).

samplecalendarA reduced-size version of a blank calendar created for free at dayweekyear.com.

Do it NOW. Don’t wait. To give you some ideas on how to go about scheduling, see my  posts from last year: Tips for Simplifying the Holiday Dinner & Holiday Dinners Don’t Have to Be a Lot of Work. You may also want to have a look at the posts

Lastly, here’s a Christmas schedule that no one but Martha Stewart would attempt. 😉

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I know that October  8th may seem rather early to debut the Christmas calendar for 2008, but the fact of the matter is that some of the ticketed events are already selling seats – and it wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense to bring the calendar online after these have sold out. Surprisingly, however, one very big holiday event kicks off before the end of this month – namely, the Tacoma Holiday Food and Gift Festival, to be held at the Tacoma Dome October 22-26.

As with last year, there will be a strong emphasis this year on discovering and listing free and low-cost events throughout Whatcom County and greater Western Washington that the whole family can enjoy. This is in line with the general theme of this site: simplifying Christmas, and  creating pleasant and memorable experiences in the place of pre-Christmas stress and a post-Christmas flat wallet.

Events with a price for admission will of course be listed, as well – there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the producers of an event asking that a production or festival be supported by the attendees (although I must confess that $184-$450 price tags on a family-of-four admission to a certain time-honored production this year strikes me as near-larceny).

From now until Halloween, I’ll be very busy behind the scenes, here, gathering material for the site, and discovering even more events to populate the calendar (there’s a whole lot out there). Before I close this post, though, I’d like to ask you to keep the following phrase in mind: Ornament is for joy. Christmastime is a season of ornament, and has the potential to be a time of real value, of real joy, rather than a time for superficial affectations of joy and a closing value that can be summed off of gift-receipts.  But it’s up to you. If you’ve turned the holiday season into a finance-straining, nerve-shattering experience…well, it’s your own damned fault. About that, here’s some good news: it doesn’t have to be that way. You can make it better; you can make this very Christmas one to remember fondly.  And I can help you with that.

See you on November 1st: All Saint’s Day!

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I’m an outspoken person, so by all means, take the following with a grain of salt…

It will officially be winter in a few hours. I had to go out on this near-winter’s day, because I needed a few groceries and a pair of pants. I expected it would be bad out there, and my expectations were, in fact, exceeded. It was horrible out there. The traffic was horrible, the stores were packed, and there seemed to be an inordinate number of cranky people around. My brother (who went with me) said, “I have a feeling it’s going to be one of those days….”

Stressed out SantaPeople blowing through the roundabouts and cutting others off like the bold “yield” warning on the pavement had been erased. Others punching the accelerator to make it through the yellow light at intersections. Cutting others off, when perhaps on another day, they might have taken their foot off the gas and given someone an opening. A line of cars, stretching from Bakerview all the way to Bennett Road. Parking lots packed and the stores crowded with masses of complete strangers, shoulder to shoulder, each “safe” inside his/her insulated little world. Frowning. Yessir, I took an inventory. A lot of frowning and furrowed brows out there.

But maybe it’s always that way. I’ll have to do a post-Xmas comparison.

I’m glad I’ve backed off from this sort of thing, this”surfing the fray,” for the most part. Because anyone who’s out in that on a daily basis…well, I can understand why y’all feel like crap at Christmastime.

Not that I endorse simulated cheer*. But there’s an old Vietnamese saying: “Ornament is for joy.” Why are you doing it, if there’s no joy in it? But more importantly, what is life for, if not to enjoy?

One thing is certain: I’ll not go near a retail establishment, save maybe Starbucks for a cup of coffee, from now until Christmas is over. It’s a jungle out there.

P.S. – You erratic drivers – take a chill pill. You’re a danger to yourself and others.

*Actually, I do endorse simulated cheer, for its therapeutic value, but not when it’s employed simply as a “veneer.”

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Ultimately, Christmas isn’t about what you buy, or what you get, in material terms. A lot of people believe otherwise, but the fact of the matter is that ten, or twenty, or fifty years down the road, the memories will be what stand out, and even the gifts that remain in your possession will be intimately tied to those memories. The same is true for the people who receive gifts from you.

It’s about experiences, and you have a part in the shaping of those experiences. Good experiences make for good memories; bad experiences leave a sour taste in our mouth on New Year’s Day (a New Year’s hangover may add to that, as well).

It’s hard to have good experiences when you’re stressed out to the max, isn’t it? So, I ask you: is this going to be another Christmas where you follow the same pattern you always have, suffer the same anxieties, and maybe pick up a bit of good cheer on the luck of the draw?

Try simplifying, and enjoying the holidays. Make it about experiences, and not about “stuff.” You have nothing to lose but a big credit card bill, a big headache, and maybe even a heartache.

On Christmas Eve, we gathered, merrily.
Father offered a prayer to whatsoever powers that be.
Then we ate the fare,
‘Twas a toast of wine,
And after dinner I dreamed of
Far places and things divine,
I’d love to see,
In a storybook under the Christmas tree.

On Christmas Day, I was up before the dawn.
Seeing what that happy supernatural man
Had brought me, from the Great Beyond.
It was many years ago, and very far to see,
Brother, sister, and me, in a
Storybook under the Christmas tree
I’d love to be.

– R. Dean Brock, “Christmas Storybook”

Christmas, 1905

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Angry Santabot

I came across a pointed article by Carey Keavy, over at Associated Content, on the subject of taking back the holidays–

One Weird Christmas: Ditching Holiday Traditions That Bog Us Down

by Carey Keavy

“Did I remember to lock the door? Have you seen my kids lately? What color hair does my husband have? What was my name again?” What do all of these questions have in common? They all signify the ringing in of the hustle and bustle of the holidays, of course!

Along with the wholesome family traditions of the season comes the negative traditions we’ve come to know and expect…worry, busyness, stress and anxiety. Some of these traditions we’ve inherited from the examples of our parents. Some we’ve conjured up anew and all on our own. Wouldn’t attempting to shed some of these negative holiday traditions this year be the best gift to give both to yourself and those around you? (read more)

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