Happy New Year! I ended 2012 and began 2013 by “walking the talk” with some self nurturing. I’m so relaxed. How are you starting the year?
Every time I get to the holiday season I just want to take time to really enjoy all of the festivities, and spend some extra time with my family. Basically have one of those old fashioned holidays you can see in movies. However, the reality is usually rushing from one event to another, surviving in the crowded stores of grumpy shoppers just trying to find presents to please everyone on our list, which seems to get longer every year, cooking for an army, wrapping loads of presents at the last minute. It’s no wonder people seem to get stressed this time of year.
So, should we just accept that’s how it shall be every November and December, and keep muddling through year after year? I think it’s time we take a stand for our own holiday season. Here’s some simple ways to take your holiday back.
1. Practice Gratitude
We become aware of gratitude in November when Thanksgiving is approaching. However, gratitude is something that we should practice all year long. This simple practice can really uplift your life and improve your mental and physical health. You can learn more about it in my article Five reasons gratitude is good for your health.
Many people keep a gratitude journal, and write three to five things they are grateful for at the end of every day. This is such a great way to practice, and I hope to get there one day. However, since childhood I have struggled with being able to regularly keep a journal. I may be able to keep it going for a few weeks or a month, but something always seems to break the routine, and the next thing I know I haven’t done it at all. Rather than chastise myself for not being enlightened enough, I decided to find a method that works for me. So I implemented the practice for my entire family, which holds me accountable. At least once a day before a meal we each state what we are grateful for that day. Some days this is more challenging than others, yet it puts things in perspective on those challenging days.
My 8 year old daughter was asked to journal about how she feels about doing a gratitude practice, and this is what she wrote:
“I feel as if God is right here when I say what I am grateful for. I feel great saying what I am grateful for. I feel even more alive when I say it.”
2. Shorten your gift list
Financial strain is a big part of holiday stress, and somehow, we have taken on a sense of obligation to buy gifts for everyone we see in passing. We put expectations on ourselves to buy gifts for our children’s teacher, soccer coach, dance instructor, piano teacher, our co-workers, acquaintances, neighbors, the cable guy, the lady who walks her dog down your street every morning. Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but you get the idea.
It is wonderful to have these people in your thoughts and want to express this to them, but it can definitely be done with a card, and perhaps a trinket that costs $1 or less. Remember if you are spending $5 on every one of these people, it easily adds up to $100. That’s $100 on top of what you will spend on your children and family.
3. Keep your gifts reasonable
In the same category as number two, it is nice to want to buy your family the best electronics, and top of the line clothing, but is it necessary? Could your affections for your family and friends be expressed in a more intimate way? I’m not saying that you have to take a knitting class, and make a sweater with one sleeve longer than the other, but perhaps looking at how the people in your life make you feel, and how you can express that to them with a gift from the heart.
4. Honor your time when accepting invitations
Everyone you know is planning parties or get-togethers all in the same month. I’ve known people to dash to two or three different parties in the same day. This hardly seems like a good time to me. YOU DON’T HAVE TO GO TO EVERY PARTY OR EVENT YOU’RE INVITED TO. Look at your schedule, and reasonably decide how many events you can make in one week. If you aren’t sure how to choose which party, choose to spend time with the people you are closer to, rather than the friend of your co-workers vet.
5. Stop putting pressure on yourself
No one is perfect, no day is perfect. Stop aiming for perfection, and aim for enjoyment. Enjoy yourself while wrapping presents, don’t fuss over every last detail of the paper and ribbons. It will all end up on the floor anyway. Make the holiday meal with love not determination. You will feel better, and it will taste better. So many of us tend to be our own worst critics, so let’s treat ourselves with kindness and love, and just have fun this season.
This year, my family had the opportunity to do something we’ve wanted to do for a long time – educate at home. No matter how excited or prepared you are, it is still a nerve wracking decision. I worried “am I doing the best thing for my child, will she stay on par with her school attending peers, or worse fall behind, will she miss out on opportunities or experiences?”
I still don’t know the answer to all of these questions, but I do know that I find myself frequently amazed as we travel this homeschool journey. My daughter has taken such initiative in her education, and her creativity has no limits.
Our focus of study for October was not surprisingly centered on Halloween. We delved in by learning about similar celebrations from around the world, and incorporated some of their traditions into our own celebration, such as the carving of punkies. This was a tradition of children in some England villages, they would carve beetroots, put a candle in them, and carry them while singing a song and asking for money. My daughter had so much fun carving beetroots, and wanted to go asking for money. Unfortunately, Mom wouldn’t let her solicit the neighbors for cash.
Not only did we learn many global traditions, we practiced our own customs with a Halloween party. My daughter planned and implemented a Halloween party for her friends and their families. She made a guest list and a healthy menu, designed and created activities and crafts, decorated, and even made her costume.
The menu included items such as:
Witch’s Brew (pumpkin soup),
Troll’s Wart Salad (bean salad),
Goblin Toes (akin to pigs in a blanket),
Vampire Punch (a cranberry cider concoction),
Punished Jack O’ Lantern (pumpkin pie),
and Rotten Apples (apple, cinnamon cupcakes).
Her clever activities included:
Monster Fortunes. As guests came through the door, they were greeted by a crystal ball, and were given their Monster Fortune, all of which were created and handwritten by my daughter.
Kiss the Pumpkin game similar to Pin the Tail on the Donkey, but she created lips to stick to a hanging Jack O’ Lantern.
She made Halloween color by number sheets,
and for a craft, make your own monster mask.
I must say, the party was a big hit. All of her friends, and their families had so much fun, and really appreciated all of her effort. I was astounded with her originality, and planning. Not bad for 3rd grade school work, and don’t worry we still covered Halloween math and reading.
I must admit that over the summer my kitchen seems to repel me out every time I even think of going to create a nice family meal. The Florida summer heat does not leave me craving time over the stove, much less, frequent hot meals. However, fall has subtly crept in, as it does here, and I am living in the kitchen. New vegetables are in season, which has me working like a mad scientist in the kitchen/ lab creating new inventions.
My newest concoction is Sweet Home Fries
For this you will need:
1/2 a chopped onion
2 medium sweet potatoes peeled and chopped
1 medium red potato peeled and chopped
1 pear peeled and chopped
1 apple peeled and chopped
salt and pepper to taste
How to put it together:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Begin by caramelizing the onions in olive oil. Once browned place the onions in a 9×9 casserole dish. Next brown the sweet potatoes in the skillet for a few minutes before adding the red potatoes. Once all the potatoes are nice and browned add them to the onions in the casserole dish. Finally saute the chopped pear and apple for a few minutes, and add to the casserole dish. Stir them up together, add salt and pepper or your seasoning of choice, and put in the oven for about 15 minutes or until they’re your desired tenderness.
The benefit of sauteing the ingredients separately before baking them is to even their cooking time once they enter the oven. This prevents having hard sweet potatoes with mushy pears.
This recipe was an enormous hit with my family. We enjoyed it as a side to a vegetable omelet. I apologize for not being able to post a picture, but it was gobbled up before I even had a chance to pull out the camera.
I am finally inserting myself into the world as a Health Coach. Previously, I worked with people with various abilities to achieve independence. However, health and wellness have been a passion for me for a very long time. Now, I have combined those skills and passions to assist people to achieve their goals pleasurably.
Changing my path at this juncture in my life has required a lot of self-reflection and fear confrontation, which I continue to work on everyday, but it only makes me stronger. I am so excited to be able to help others with similar challenges, and to share my experiences along the way.