Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Stress

I'm feeling a little Christmas stress. No not the shopping. I've got that done. Every year it gets a little easier. When my kids were little, I used to stress over just the right gift. Did each child have exactly the same number? Then there were stocking stuffers and wrapping everything on Christmas Eve and wondering again if I'd managed to get the one thing they were hoping for.

Then they grew up and had kids of their own. Each of the grandchildren used to send us a list. Al would have a great time picking out the noisiest toys for the boys and I'd shop for frilly dresses for the girls. Then when they reached about ten or eleven, we discovered we could no longer afford anything on the boy's lists and the girls didn't want anything picked out by an adult, so we went to money or gift cards instead. Their parents said they liked the change. Now that most of my grandchildren are older, we only get to buy a few presents.

 Al and I still exchange gifts and he is the hardest person to buy for. It's a struggle to find something he hasn't already bought for himself.  I especially like to buy trips because then I get to share the gift, but they're hard to wrap. This year I think he'll be surprised by at least one gift under the tree.

 We got in the habit a long time ago of not using credit except for each other and then just to be able to hide the amount spent. There were years when there wasn't much money and the kids were little that nothing under the tree cost over $5, and then we had years where we spent a great deal. As long as there were presents to open, it didn't seem to matter, so we learned to stay within out budget.

It's the decorating that makes me crazy. I have no talent when it comes to handicrafts and that includes flower arrangements and decorating. I don't mind decorating the tree, even though when I'm finished it looks pretty thrown together. I tell myself all the twinkling lights make it pretty. I have a village and a collection of Santa Clauses that get set wherever there is space. We hang lights outside only because everyone on our street does and we don't want to be the black hole of the street. It makes me crazy to see Al teetering on a ladder. I can't help remembering the time he fell off and we had to rush him to emergency. I don't know how people can put decorations up before Thanksgiving and leave them there until after New Years. We don't even start until the middle of December and by the day after Christmas, I'm feeling claustrophobic from all the clutter and tired of the lights blinking on and off all night through my bedroom window. I know your probably thinking that I have no holiday spirit and you might be right.

However, instead of taking Christ out of Christmas, I wish there was a way to make it more about Him. I have small nativity sets that I treasure. I wish I could find a large one that I could afford to put on my lawn. In place of all the blinking lights, I'd have just one lighted star over the manager. I wish when I walked in the mall or turned on the radio, I'd hear Christmas carols celebrating His birth instead of jingles. I respect all religions and don't wish to offend anyone. Why is it socially unacceptable to expect others to respect mine? I don't want to take Santa Claus or any of the fun out of the Christmas season. I'm all for anything that fosters love and caring. I just want to feel more of the peace that comes when I let myself remember that Christmas is supposed to be a celebration of Christ's birth and not about whether my home qualifies for a page in Good Housekeeping.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Goals vs. Resolutions

I stopped making New Year's resolutions a long time ago.  They are always the same--lose weight and exercise--and I never keep them for long, if at all. But goals, goals are different.  As an HR director, I always made sure we set new goals every year. Not setting them meant we just did the same thing year as last year, and that was no way to stay in business.

For me resolutions tend to be "don'ts" while goals are "do's. The minute I say to myself "don't," I instantly want to. While I tend to balk at goals as well, I'm more inclined to at least try. Goals only work for me if they're reasonable and if I give myself some leeway. For instance I'm really trying to discipline myself to write more.  I love writing, but let's face it, it's work. I've tried making a goal to write for a specific number of hours each day. I've set aside a time, turned on the computer and stared at the blank page, maybe even written a paragraph before I get distracted or decide there's something more important that I should be doing. Then because I have a life and I can't stay home every day, I can't write every day. So much for that goal.

Recently I decided I wanted to finish the mystery I've been working on by the end of the year. I figured out it would take writing 1000 words a day every day for the next month. For the last two days I've been able to accomplish that. This works for me. It's a finite goal with no restrictions. I can do it at ten in the morning or midnight, all at once or in increments. If I can't do all 1000 words one day, then I have to make up the difference the next day. As long as it averages out to 1000 a day, I'm still on target. Also it's a short term goal, one month, so it doesn't seem that intimidating.

Granted this works because I actually enjoy writing, so it's no real hardship. But I think there are elements here that might work for other things. For instance, maybe instead of dieting, I could make a goal to eat more vegetables.