Stresses of the Season

janet-stressedYears ago, my friend Judy invited me to drop by for a visit the day after Christmas. When I arrived, I found her draping wet laundry around her kitchen and wiping away tears. She wasn’t crying about her dead dryer.

On Christmas Eve, she and her husband were helping her recently married son and his wife prepare dinner in their new home when her son said, “Why don’t you let Mom fix the gravy, Bev. She knows how I like it.”

In response, Bev burst into tears and said to Judy, “I’m sick of hearing about your perfect Christmases, your perfect cooking, your perfect dinners. Why don’t you go home? Here, take my car. I’m sure you’ll drive it perfectly.” Then she grabbed her keys, threw them at Judy and ran from the house, leaving an open-mouthed family, a half-cooked turkey and a doomed merry little Christmas behind.

“I felt like I was in a country-western song,” Judy told me, “It was terrible.”

More recently, friends and I discussed the anxieties of gift giving: “I need guidelines,” said one, “What do you buy for the grandchildren you loved when they already get too much for Christmas? What do you give babies who have no concept of Santa and would rather chew on a cardboard box? Or teenagers who have demanding taste in clothing or want specific, expensive technology?”

Another friend added, “My husband and I buy things for our children and grandchildren throughout the year, when they need it; we also help finance school trips and events, and we’re happy to do so. We spent a lot last year, so we gave less expensive gifts for Christmas. And I felt guilty the entire season.”

Fortunately, we have media experts who tell us how to glide gracefully through the holiday without exploding into hysteria, eating a pound of peanut brittle, or crawling under a bed. Their advice flows freely: Get enough sleep. Make a list of tasks to be accomplished and stick to it. Stay within your budget. Relax in a bubble bath before your guests arrive.

Right.

They also warn if we deny ourselves the foods of the season, we’ll binge later on stale marshmallows or stray chocolate chips. Instead, we should enjoy the goodies that come our way by sampling them: take half a brownie and a taste or two of ice cream.

Seriously? Might as well ask a flea not to bite.

Despite such expert advice, most of us experience some stress during the holidays. We over-schedule our lives and become cranky as we rush about. We grow too weary, or drink more than a sip or two of eggnog and then say things we regret. We wonder about gifts we receive — elf house slippers or salt-and-pepper shakers from Branson — and worry others won’t like the gifts we chose for them.

We also wonder why we don’t feel the joy of Christmas we did when young: everybody happy, everything beautiful, each moment perfect. Experts answer this one correctly: the wonder of childhood Christmases cannot be duplicated; nor were they perfect.

I remember seeing a photograph taken by my aunt when I was eight — the year I asked Santa for a red-headed princess doll — that shows me using a blonde baby doll to bludgeon Bob as we battle fiercely in front of a tree tilted awkwardly to one side as though trying to escape.But, in my memory, 1950 was a perfectly joyful Christmas; and I wish the same for you in 2016.

Enjoying the Holiday Season

The following is adapted from a column published in the Craig Daily Press in 2012.

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My husband Joel and I disagree about holiday movies. He refuses to watch A Christmas Story every year, and I’m not interested in reruns of Miracle on 34th Street.

Compared to other anxiety-ridden situations that surface during the holidays, disagreeing about whether to watch the shenanigans of a department store Santa or Ralphie’s pleas for a BB gun seem insignificant.

Fortunately, we have experts eager to tell us how to glide gracefully through the holiday season without exploding into hysteria, eating a pound of peanut brittle, or crawling under a bed.

Their advice flows freely: Get enough sleep. Make a list of tasks to be accomplished and stick to it. Stay within your budget. Relax in a bubble bath before your guests arrive.

Right.

They warn that when we deny ourselves the special foods of the season, we’ll binge later on stale marshmallows. Instead, we should indulge in all the goodies that come our way, but only sample them: take half of a brownie and a taste or two of ice cream.

Seriously? Might as well ask a flea not to bite.

Despite expert advice, most of us experience stress during the holidays. We over-schedule our lives and become cranky as we rush about. We grow too weary, or drink more than a sip or two of eggnog, and then say things we regret. We question gifts we receive—elf house slippers or salt-and-peppershakers from Branson—and worry when others don’t seem to like the gift we gave them.

And through it all, we wonder why we don’t feel the joy of Christmas like we did when young: everybody happy, everything beautiful, each moment perfect. Advice columnists answer this one correctly: the wonder of childhood Christmases cannot be duplicated; nor were they perfect.

As an adult, looking through my Aunt Mary’s photograph album, I came across a snapshot she took when I was eight — the year I asked Santa for a redheaded princess doll. The photo, dated 1950, showed me bludgeoning my brother Bob with a blonde baby doll, and bawling, as we battled in front of a Christmas tree that tilted awkwardly to one side, as though trying to escape.

But I remember the Christmases of my childhood as perfectly joyous occasions.

And I wish the same for you in 2014.

 

 

 

 

ChristArt.com

ChristArt.com

Blessed Moments

I once read descriptions of love written by children. The words of one young boy became part of me: “Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas, if you stop opening presents and listen.”

When you think about all your Christmases, do you remember moments when you felt such love?

I remember riding home in a crowded car from my grandmother’s Christmas Eve party. A glossy meringue of snow swirled across moonlit fields as I searched an unending sky, hoping to find the Christmas star. I held a sleeping baby, my brother Blaine, in my arms; he stirred, then melted back into me. I felt joy: unbidden, complete, unexplainable.

When I was older, Dad, Barbara and I danced wildly to Fats Domino singing “Blueberry Hill” on the record player Santa brought. We held hands and twirled and laughed. At one point, a self-conscious teenager, I ducked my head so the others wouldn’t see the love of family that suddenly swept me.

Home from college for the holidays, I took a late walk with my mother on Christmas Eve. A car crept along the snow-bound street. Its headlights battled snowflakes; its trunk lid bounced high; and a giggling woman drove carefully. As the car passed, a man wearing a grin and a Santa hat, yelled, “Merry Christmas,” from inside the open trunk where he sat, anchoring a pair of bicycles with bright red bows attached.

Mom and I joined their laughter, happy to be part of the Norman Rockwell moment: parents sneaking home with their children’s Christmas bicycles.

Many years later, our 10-year-old grandson showed his friends a Christmas card with two photographs: a young girl deformed by a cleft palate and the same child with a radiant smile. We’d made a donation in the names of our grandchildren to Smile Train, which sponsored her surgery, and wondered how they’d react.

“Look at this,” Jack said to his buddies, “This is the best. For Christmas, we helped the doctors fix her mouth. That’s pretty cool.”

No other holiday scatters sparkling snowflakes of hope and love and faith among us as does Christmas: moments when we recognize our blessings, feel love for one another, and believe in the goodness of others and ourselves.

Have a
blessed moment of your own?
Please share.

Recap of Comments on “The Fine Art of Giving”
A common and important theme about gift giving emerged in the comments and spilled over into a discussion on Facebook: The best Christmas present we can give is our presence.

No words of mine can improve that thought. Please read the compelling comments left by Blaine, Janice, Mercy, and Dawna and consider making presence more important than presents next Christmas.