Keeping It Real at Christmas

I recently received a Christmas card with the following note:

After reading your last blog entry I couldn’t resist sending you a copy of our Christmas card.  It is a far cry from Martha Stewart, but it should give you a good laugh.

Here it is:

Christmas Card

Seriously, how darling is that family?

Here’s the real-life, not-perfect, but super-cute story behind the photo:

We decided that our Christmas card needed some explanation this year:  
Let’s just say there were hopes and dreams of the “perfect family photo” for this card.  

About 10 minutes into our photo secession, son #1 found a section of perfectly flat, bright green, artificial turf.  

Naturally, he decided to run onto the grass…only to find that it was not.  

Imagine his surprise as the carpet of pond scum parted as he fell face first into the water.
This photo was candidly taken right after pulling him out.  

It describes life with 3 children perfectly!

 Merry Christmas!

Thanks so much for sharing, Mandy! Your Christmas card certainly shows us that real and honest – along with it’s accompanying scum – makes for the most memorable (and sincere) holiday greetings!

Why the Holidays Are Tough

I hate to be bah-humbug about it, but the holidays suck are tough.  Every year around this time my mood fluctuates like crazy, and I can tell the people around me are feeling the same way.  I’ve written about holiday stress many times before, but this year I really tried to stop and think about WHY the holidays are so hard for so many of us.  Beyond offering tips for coping with holiday turmoil, here’s my best guess as to why this season can stink (to put it mildly):


Perhaps in the “good old days” the holiday season meant spending time with loved ones and enjoying the meaning of the season (whatever the meaning might have been).  But these days, it feels like it has become the season of measuring up:

  • Do you have enough money to by your sweetie the diamonds, luxury cars, and furs shown on TV ads?
  • Have you decorated your house with hand-dyed partridge feathers and spiced citrus?
  • Do have a perpetually-smiling brood of 4 or 5 who love to play Parcheesi and giggle while sipping on homemade cider?


Well, guess what? Me neither.  And I am here to tell you that no one measures up to those kinds of standards.  Not even Ms. Martha Stewart herself would come out on top with the above as goals.  So, let’s put an end to this measuring-up, and deal with ourselves, our family, our friends, and our finances for who and what they are: imperfect.  I propose that we simply do our best to get through this month with our mental health intact.  Happy Holidays!

Stressed? Take a Hike!

Last spring I was interviewed for this article in the Yuma Sun. I have to be honest, I never would have thought of starting a nature club with my family had the reporter, Chris McDaniel, given me the idea.  After reading the article and the ideas provided, I think it sounds like a lot of fun!  Here’s a quote:

“Sometimes we as parents think that we need to spend lots of money or drive long distances to find things our kids will think are fun. This is rarely the case. Most kids just like to spend time with their parents doing something together. This can be a simple walk around the block, or an exploration trip at the nearest park.”

I gave this quote in the spring, but it seems particularly pertinent this time of year with the holidays – and all the craziness that accompanies them – right around the corner.  Just last night I started to feel a little hint of holiday stress when I caught a glimpse of a kids clothing catalog and started summing up the cash for three coordinating outfits for my kids.  I think I might be taking my own advice today and ditch the expensive things we don’t really need, and head out for a walk in the fall leaves instead.

Yuma Sun April 2012

Pre-Holiday Blues

Image by Poco de Mucho

Some of us love and look forward to the holiday season.  Others of us dread it.  But did you know that the holiday blues can start as early as September and October?  I see it all the time in my office: the leaves start to fly and moods go down.  As the holidays are still a ways off, it can take some detective work to realize that the low mood (or increased anxiety, tearfulness, or worry) is due to the change of season and impending holidays.

Folks dread the holidays for lots of reasons: past (and/or current) family drama, financial problems, marital strain, grief, absence of family and friends, spiritual ambiguity.  There are many reasons for the holiday blues – and it seems that more and more people experience them each year.  So, what to do if your autumn is being gobbled up by the dread of the upcoming months?

Live in the moment.  When you notice yourself thinking and worrying about November and December, take a few deep breaths and focus on the present.  I know, this is much easier said than done, but it is still worth a try.  If it means avoiding Costco and the mall with all their holiday decorations, so be it.

Throw a wrench in the works.  Do you hate going to your in-laws every year for Thanksgiving?  Now’s the time to discuss alternative plans for the holiday with your partner.  Who says you can’t go camping over the holiday and celebrate with franks, beans, and s’mores?  Overwhelmed at the thought of spending too much money for Christmas presents?  Now’s the time to talk to your family about foregoing presents for the year, exchanging only small items, or doing one secret Santa gift instead of buying for everyone.

Find a new meaning.  Some folks find great meaning in the pilgrims’ stories in New England and the birth of Jesus.  Others not so much.  If the traditional stories don’t resonate with you, try figuring out something that does – outrageous overeating, mass consumption, the need for Martha Stewart-like perfection, and adding to your credit card debt don’t count.  Is this a good time of year to volunteer at your kids’ school?  A local shelter?  Donate blood?  Is it a time to focus on family and friends?  Time to learn a new skill or try something new?  Whatever it is, make it mean something.

Need some other ideas for warding off the holiday blues?  Check out my post: Sex, Costumes, and Rock Band: The Ingredients for a Stress-Free Holiday over at APA’s Your Mind. Your Body.


Surviving the Holidays – with Flair

Here it is. My obligatory post on holiday stress. Every year reporters, clients, family, and friends ask me the same question “How can I get through the holidays without losing my mind?” And every year I try to come up with some new, interesting, and actually useful tips so we can all get to January 2nd with our bodies and minds intact. Try the tips below and I guarantee you’ll have fun – and maybe even take the stress level down a notch or two.

Bust out the bling. I was watching Oprah interview Naomi and Wynonna Judd yesterday and I couldn’t

Look closely and you can see the sparkle

take my eyes off Tammy’s bling. I mean, that girl sparkled! Her eyelids, her hands, her arms, her shoes – just about every surface blazed with jewels. As I sat mesmerized by the glow I realized that if a 64-year-old woman can pull off that kind of bling – so can I. And what better time of year to don all your jewels (real and fake) at once?!

Get outside. I love being outside, but even a sunshine addict like me can be stuck indoors for days during the holiday season. Baking cookies, wrapping gifts, shopping online – all inside activities. But we know fresh air, sunshine, and a quick walk can help relieve stress – so get out there and soak up the cool, crisp air.

Put the card down. Now. I try not to be negative in this blog, but I have to ask: When did Christmas become the season of bragging? I love receiving Christmas cards, reading sweet sentiments for the new year, and looking at photos of friends I haven’t seen in a while. But I dread the cards with long lists of accomplishments for each family member. “Tommy got 1st place in every swim meet this summer, is the starting quarterback as a Freshman, got the lead in the school play, and is now taking math courses at the University!” or “In addition to running my cupcake business and publishing my third novel, I am also the triplets’ Brownie troop leader, the president of the PTA (for the 4th year in a row – a record!), and completed 2 marathons.” These types of cards are enough to throw me into a fit of irritation, disgust, and feelings of inadequacy. Just what I DON’T need. Next time I think I’ll just leave the offensive Christmas cards/resumes for next year.

Keep it sexy. Yes, Christmas is a family holiday, but it can also be sexy. And who among us couldn’t use a little something to spice up the season?

Whether it’s watching a show like this:

Or looking at pictures of people like this:

Or this:

Or maybe wearing something like this:

Have fun, and don’t forget to bring your sexy back.