Holiday Memories are Worth Your Time and Energy

Baking holiday cookies 1983

Baking holiday cookies 1983

When my four children were young, I sometimes felt like a short order cook, especially as they grew up and began to have food preferences. Likewise, as their personalities and talents differentiated them, it was a challenge to keep daily activities on schedule, much less add the extra things that came with the holidays, but we did.

As my colleague, Gladys Anderson, of and I were preparing tips for reducing holiday stress, I thought back to some of the activities I enjoyed with my kids.

The catch with the holidays is that a new batch of tasks get added to your regular routine, with the potential of heightening anxiety and deepening stress.

In addition to regular homework, violin lessons, ballet and church, for example, now we had holiday programs, recitals and special services. Add to that the more than usual shopping for food and gifts, and preparation for holiday festivities, and it’s enough to make any sane person want to sit the holidays out.

But I’m very glad I didn’t. The time and energy was well worth it:

  • the annual making of the gingerbread house
  • baking decorative cookies and sharing with our neighbors,
  • making some handmade gifts
  • singing carols around the piano with my mom skillfully accompanying us
  • outings to see special events such as The Nutcracker Ballet.
  • Don’t get me wrong. We had our share of scrapes, disagreements and disappointments. But the warm holiday memories help sustain us through those times.

    What holiday memories stand out in your mind?

    Be sure to grab our free audio program, “30 Tips in 30 Minutes for Making Your Holidays Stress-Free, Budget-Friendly, and Loaded with Remarkable Memories.”

    Black Friday – Cyber Monday = Blue Christmas

    crowdshoppingHave you noticed that how we spend our holidays is increasingly being decided by marketing departments?

    Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is the kickoff of the holiday season and the busiest shopping day as well.

    As its popularity has increased in the United States, it has even spread to other nations such as Canada and Australlia.

    While it’s a day that retailers look forward to with visions of dollar signs dancing in their heads, it can be a gloomy day if you focus on it to the neglect of the holidays, get caught up in a frenzy that leads to incidents or even fatalities or allow it to lure you into overspending.

    212 million shoppers braved the stores this past Black Friday, 17 million more than last year. Although there were relatively few reported incidents according to Security Director News, some unfortunate incidents did take place. When the doors of a Target Store in Buffalo, NY opened at 4 AM, for example, the crowd that had waited in the cold became angry when latecomers rushed to get in front of them and again someone was injured when trampled.

    One neighbor told me that her niece was going to skip Thanksgiving dinner with the family to pitch a tent and camp outside of a Best Buy to be first in line for the Black Friday sale. What bargain could be worth spending hours outside a store, braving the cold (the temperature dropped to 34 in California) waiting for it to open at 5 AM?

    Cyber Monday is a term coined in 2005 for the Monday following Black Friday, and is thought to be the biggest online shopping day of the holiday season. This year major stores offered a great solution to the crazed mob approach that has become common on Black Friday. Bargains were readily available online and yet many still opted for the cold weather, long lines and adrenalin rush of the Black Friday sales.

    I love a bargain, like anyone else, but the Thanksgiving weekend sales that started off to offer discounts and afford good buys has become an event designed to heighten anxiety, instill a competitive spirit and feed into a sense of scarcity and limitations. The worse part is the focus on things, the least important part of holiday joy.

    Each year the stores seem to open earlier, air commercials touting the urgency of being there, and hire extra personnel to prepare for the rush they’ve help create. This year some chain stores that are traditionally closed on Thanksgiving were open all day Thanksgiving.

    I’m certainly in favor of stores making a living, and of course I think that getting bargains is a wonderful thing. But when we lose sight of the intended joy of the season, and succumb to the lures placed before us by marketers, it can only lead to a blue Christmas.

    Just ask the family of the Long Island New York WalMart employee who was trampled to death in 2008 by 1,000’s of early morning shoppers.


    You have survived Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Now find out how to take the stress out of your holiday at my upcoming teleclass, “How to Make Your Holiday Merry, Not Scary: Stress-reducing, Sanity-saving Tips That Work Year-Round” on Tuesdy, Dec. 7 at 5:30. If you want to attend, but aren’t able to be there live, don’t worry. I will email a recording to all who register. Get details and register at

    Busting the Holiday Illusion

    xmasgirlboxingglovesI’m about to reveal one of the biggest secrets around.

    Are you ready?

    Everybody doesn’t look forward to the holidays with glee.

    It’s true.

    Are you one who secretly dreads the nonstop music piped through the mall, the extra demand on your time spent shopping and cooking, the social expectations, the strain on your budget, and the clashing of personalities and unresolved hurts called “family holiday dinner?” If you are without a mate or any remaining relatives, the holidays may even promise loneliness.

    I’m reminded of one Thanksgiving many years ago.

    It was after dinner and I quietly observed my family hurling talk at each other as I carried the dirty dishes from the dining room to the kitchen.

    My 82-year-old mother had finished her dessert and was ready to go home. She wasn’t interested in playing games, having friendly conversation nor watching a holiday movie on TV. She couldn’t be consoled.

    My niece, who had brought my mother to my house for the dinner, was letting my mother and every else in earshot know that she was not leaving until she was ready to leave.

    While this clash of wills was going on, my 10 year old grandson was chasing his 9 year old brother through the house squealing, barely missing a collision with my teapot collection.

    My mother paused her appeals to my niece to turn on my daughter, their mom, “Why don’t you control your children!”

    In the meantime, my sister had gone out on the patio to have a cigarette, but was standing right on the other side of the screendoor. Her smoke was wafting into the house, triggering complaints from the unwilling recipients of her secondary smoke.

    As I watched these encounters and longing for one of those Disney holiday scenes, I thought to myself, “Why can’t we have a normal Thanksgiving?”

    Then I realized, sadly, that this was our “normal” Thanksgiving.

    If you’ve been trying unsuccesssfully for years to create the holidays you’ve seen in movies, you know what I mean.

    Those movie holiday celebrations are fictional.

    Your life is real.

    Even trying to recreate your childhood Christmases is fraught with problems since your family goals and lifestyle are probably very different from what they were when you were growing up.

    Setting out to create a fictional holiday only sets you up for disappointment.

    But all is not lost.

    Wouldn’t it be great if you could look forward to the holidays with joy, knowing that it was going to be exactly the wonderful occasion you wanted it to be?

    My friend and colleague, Monick Halm, and I have learned over the years a terrific set of tips and strategies that will help you do just that.

    They’re part of our December 7th teleclass on “How to Make Your Holiday Merry, not Scary: Stress-reducing, Sanity-saving Tips that Work Year-Round.”

    You’ll be familiar with some of the tips on our list, but some of them will be new to you. (Sorry, not one of them recommends decking relatives instead of halls.)

    And by the time we’re done, you’ll have a checklist of tips that have worked for us and many others. And best of all you
    will now be able to enjoy your holidays in ways you never thought were possible.

    Register at

    P.S. If you can’t attend on December 7th at 5:30 PM PST, go ahead and register anyway because we’ll send you the link to the replay.

    What Does Your Christmas Tree Say About You?

    decorating our first tree 1969
    [Decorating our first tree in 1969]

    I had never given any thought to what my Christmas tree says about me until I read a post by Maria Kellam, a colourist with a similar sounding blog to mine Colour Me Happy. As Maria shared her saga about her less-than-perfect tree, I began to reflect on my own tree story.

    My mother and father always put up our tree on Christmas Eve while my two sisters and I were asleep. You see the first room of our house was my mother’s beauty shop until the last customer was done on Christmas Eve. When we awoke on Christmas morning the tree would be up, decorated and have presents all around it. My parens must have been up all night creating this transformation and assembling toys. Even though we were asleep just on the other side of a makeshift wall my father had built to turn one big room into two, we slept very soundly in our eagerness to make Christmas arrive as quickly as possible.

    As I grew up I admired the Christmas trees in movies and Macy’s window and longed to have my own Christmas tree that would be up for many weeks for me to enjoy leading up to Christmas Day. It would be a real tree, like the one I had as a child, but it would be taller and lavishly decorated like the ones in the department stores.

    In the early days of my marriage our tree was indeed a real tree. I insisted on it. It was about 6-7 ft. tall, but the decorating was not very inspired. I draped the typical tinsel and hung the ornaments, but was never thrilled with the results. As I began to have children, getting the toys, books and cookies baked became more important than the tree. We always had the real tree, but while it was decorated to the kids’ satisfaction, I always longed for more. My husband was content because he preferred simplicity and often viewed me as being too flamboyant. (Can you be “too” flamboyant? Isn’t flamboyant enough said?)

    Over the years I began to grow disenchanted with the real tree because after a few weeks of burning lights in it and the drying effects of the fireplace, I began to worry disproportionately about the potential for fire. Besides, a three-week-old real Christmas tree loses its vibrant green color, gets brittly and begins to droop.

    As the children grew older and even less interested in decorating the tree than they were before, decorating the tree became my holiday focus. Although I wanted the fragrance of a real tree, I succumbed to investing in an artificial tree, a 9 ft. tall one, eventually the prelit one. To maintain the illusion of the real tree I put potted rosemary around the tree.

    After giving thought to my over forty years of Christmas tree decorating, I’ve discovered a few things my Christmas tree says about me.

    1. I can be just as shallow as the next person, choosing appearance over authenticity.

    Even though I love the fragrance of a real tree, I eventually gave up this pleasure in exchange for a perfectly shaped tree that I could control. I could decorate heavily without branches breaking and could enjoy for the whole month of December without worry about a fire.


    2. I’m influenced by beauty wherever I find it thus creating an eclectic theme.

    To get ideas on decorating my tree I observed Christmas trees in stores and offices wherever I go, as well as combed the Internet. One year while spending Thanksgiving in Hawaii I spotted a Christmas tree configuration that was about 12 feet of poinsettia. Every year since then I’ve included poinsettia as part of my decorations.

    Another year I didn’t want to display my Christmas cards on the wall as I once had, so I stuck them in the tree. Beautiful!

    Even though our tree is prelit with white lights I added a few more strings of multicolored blinking lights. I like fullness (are you starting to think I’m flamboyant too?)

    My ornament collection is quite extensive and yet I like to add something new from the after-Christmas sales or unique items I find on vacation. My newest ornaments are a Cloissone Christmas boot ornament from China, some elongated stylized angels from Pier Imports after Christmas sale last year, two USC Santa hat ornaments from my son and a Peet’s coffee mug ornament from my walking buddy. (I told you I was eclectic.)

    3. Tradition and nostalgia are very important to me. but I am practical too.

    Although I admire the themed trees I see in craft stores and other places every season, I prefer to put up the multitude of ornaments my children and grandchildren made over the years as well as the many ornaments my coworkers gave me as gifts during twenty years at my last teaching position.

    Since this wide assortment of keepsake ornaments are many colors, I stick mainly to red and gold ribbon and other enhancements. One year I tried weaving a candy-cane-striped ribbon throughout the tree, but it seemed to disrupt the look, so I removed it and used a wide gold netting instead. Exquisite!

    I could never see the sense of using those Christmas tree skirts they sell in the stores. They were too small and since the gifts were going to cover them, why invest in them in something where you wouldn’t see the design. Instead, I put a large red tablecloth around the base of the tree. It did the trick and are very affordable from discount stores.

    Sitting on the floor in front center of the tree is our very first nativity set. It’s 40 years old and missing the nativitywise men. I remember that one by one the wise men lost their heads, then got cracked on the sides, and eventually disappeared altogether. It’s absolutely amazing that the Mary, Joseph and Jesus survived the rough handling of my children, nieces, nephews and grandchildren over the years. That proves that they are indeed Holy. Even the shepherd boy, a lamb a donkey and oxen are intact.

    No matter what my Christmas tree says about me, the important thing is that I’m now thrilled with it each year. It always recalls many happy memories of the past, embraces the joy of the present and brings hope for the future as well.

    What does your Christmas tree reveal about you?