10 Ways To Have The Perfect, Non-Perfect Holiday

holidayThis time of the year can be crazy and stressful or beautiful and meaningful. Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Solstice , Kwanzaa, Christmas or something else, there is so much to do.

December is busy for me. I celebrate not just Christmas, but also our wedding anniversary and several family member’s birthdays.

I’m older now and more relaxed about a lot of things but the first few years as a young wife, I wanted to have the perfect Christmas.

I wanted everything to be just right, so I did everything. I was baking lots of cookies, had a long list of gifts to buy and wrap, decorated every room of the house and went to every Christmas event in town. Too much energy went into these efforts and I still never, in my mind, had the perfect Christmas! I was bound and determined to create the best Christmas no matter what! I learned in a few years time that I wasn’t enjoying Christmas like I wanted to. I was just exhausted and spending money we didn’t have. I couldn’t wait to put Christmas away, but first I had to create a most amazing holiday. It was a crazy wheel and I was ready to jump off.

It was only when I decided to set some limits for myself that I began to actually enjoy the season. I saw the need to be real about how much time and money I had. Anything else would have to slide. Too bad, too sad. Nobody noticed that I wasn’t doing as much as years past. If they noticed anything, it was that I was more relaxed. It took me a few Decembers to really ease back but it became my new personal tradition. I do less now. I do what I decide to. Some years I do almost nothing and other years I do more. It depends on what else is going on and what mood I’m in. Now I enjoy the perfect, non-perfect holiday.

I hang up my red and green superwoman cape for the month of December. I work outside the home and don’t have people who clean my house and wrap gifts for me. I only have so much time and money to work with. So here’s how I take control of the biggest holiday of the year. Maybe you’ll find it helpful. (Keep in mind that if you are able to have a big and fabulous holiday and you enjoy it, then I say go for it. Friends like you always spread the glitter and cheer into my life and I enjoy all the work you do! You bring joy and beauty to the world! )

First, decide what is most important to YOU. The holiday will come and go no matter how much you involve yourself or not. It’s on the calendar and you have no say in that. Surprise, you are not making it all happen. You’ll find that those around you will still like you even if you have a shorter ‘to do’ list. They’d rather have you not stressed out. Period. Decide what 2 or 3 areas are most important to you and focus on those.

Last year I decided my energy would go into making some crafty things and I lived in a beautiful mess of glitter and ribbon on the living room floor. Also I put a (dollar store) light in every window of the house including the tip top attic and all 9 front porch windows. It looked impressive I have to say. And I baked lots of cookies. We didn’t put up a real tree, just a table top fake tree.

This year I decorated with fresh greenery rather than a live tree, also I want to enjoy the huge collection of Christmas music we’ve collected. It’s a wide range of music styles and I haven’t played it for a few years now. Then, I’ve got some tree ornaments that need to be restrung. I can do that while I listen to festive music. I plan to bake a few things, maybe…There are so many sweets and treats every time I turn around that if I don’t get to baking, I’ll still enjoy what other’s have made.

But let’s talk about the biggy, gift giving, which can be very stressful in so many ways! Gift giving can get out of hand. Now days, my husband and I have a budget limit which may be only $5.00 making it fun to see what we can do with that silly amount, or (my favorite) we each get to buy something special for ourself. Last year he completed his harmonica collection and I went out and got a cute pair of winter boots. No wondering if you got the right gift and nothing to wrap or return, just a free pass to shop. For many years we gave new gifts wrapped up in lovely paper and bows but now we save that for birthdays.

My in-laws are on board for going easy on gift giving. Stocking stuffers with coupons for hugs, and candy-pooping reindeer may appear. This year they’re not even doing stocking stuffers…just getting together for a potluck. Only the youngsters get new gifts. On my side of the family, there’s a lot of thrift store items and homemade things. A brand new item may pop up from time to time but the norm is to keep it cheap and simple. You can see there’s no shopping headaches or credit card debt here.

Maybe choose a theme like everyone gets a mug from the thrift store or everyone gets a book, new or used. Do something easy and fun. Many families draw names. New gifts for everyone is too much if you have lots of people on your list. (This way too, there’s more money to put into the kettle to help others.) If your loved ones can agree on setting limits this can lower the stress level a whole lot! You’ll find most are ready to go simple and welcome new ideas.

Less gift giving leaves what’s more important which is just being together. Reading seasonal poems, short stories and Scripture, telling stories, playing board games or watching a holiday movie are some no fail old school fun ways to experience time together! Who needs more things when more time together is what we really need. (Although I do think kids should get gifts!) What if you all went Christmas caroling? What a great memory that would be. Those old fashioned ideas are sure to be your best holiday memories…ever! Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it. Bring them back. The next generation will thank you for it.

Last Christmas, we bundled up, stomped through the snow to sit by a roaring fire under the Minnesota stars, drinking hot beverages while my husband played guitar. Then we came indoors to watch “White Christmas”. It was wonderful.

For me,  I want and need quiet time during the Advent season. I take a few minutes here and there to reflect on the spiritual meaning of the season. As a Christian, the birth of Jesus is important. Time in the scriptures and prayer is a must for me. It makes the entire holiday meaningful. It makes my entire life meaningful. Everyone, no matter what holiday you celebrate, needs to step back in the quiet and reflect on life now and then.

A really good feeling is when you give of those who struggle. Go to those in need and do a little something, or invite them into your world, on your turf. It makes the rest of your holiday list seem trivial. There is so much sadness on our planet and right next door. If each one of us would reach out to someone, it’d be a better world.

Let’s do it!

  1. Set YOUR priorities and allow yourself to have limits with no need to apologize. Start by deciding what the holiday means to you, and go from there.
  2. Keep your focus. Don’t let peers, our culture or traditions rule you.
  3. Make it a happy time. If it doesn’t bring joy, skip it.
  4. Know when to say ‘no’. Things will still happen if you don’t do it.
  5. Ask yourself, what will create the best memories down the road.
  6. While you can’t control what others expect, you can decide how you’ll react to demands or difficult people. Stay calm.
  7. Learn to enjoy the simple things. Less really is more.
  8. Remember the history of the holiday and why you celebrate it. Step back.
  9. Mix it up. You don’t have to do the same things every year. Ask yourself, what is important this year?
  10. Take control where you can. There may be traditions but there are no rules, only yours. When you give yourself permission to not be the super holiday fairy, you’ll quickly notice how the perfect holiday is the non-perfect one. Do it your way and have a happy one!



right, left, north and south

Library - 1545(spoiler alert: this is not soft…sometimes i think too much)

i am writing this out of a deep frustration…

 …at how the obvious is not noticed and the endless piles of mud are tossed..all the deep and lovely words about time and space and truth and beauty are raped by those who have put up a wall so high and so thick that no miracle or magic can be seen or heard through it……on our short journey through this life experience there is no place for these solid walls…

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Halloween in 1961

Halloween 1961That’s just me hangin’ out by the jack-o’-lantern waiting to go trick-or-treating. It was 1961 and I was 5 years old. (Notice the dog face to the right of the pumpkin. I wish I could say this was a ghost dog that appeared when the picture was developed, but it’s nothing like that, it’s just our dog, Lassie.) 

My mom had taken me to the five and dime store to buy my costume.

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On This Day



(I spoke at my mother’s Celebration of Life service on August 29th. Here it is.)


For the past several years my mom was living her life in a wheelchair unable to do much of anything, losing the strength to hold a book or spoon, stay awake very long or to even speak.

 This could be frustrating at times for her, this once independent, active person. And, I’m sure when she thought back to her prime years, that she found joy and satisfaction in those memories.

 Sometimes on my visits I would read from one of her old journals she’d so faithfully kept for most of her life, and we’d both marvel at how much she used to do in one day.  As her memory failed, her own written words from years past were interesting and enlightening to her.

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Blood, Sweat and Ice Cream Cones

FullSizeRenderI used to work for a temp agency that placed me in offices around the city to fill in for receptionist and office support work. A particular job could be anywhere from one day to two years. I worked all over the city, meeting lots of people and experiencing all types of office environments.

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Friday Nights at My Dad’s Store

Go GamblesI walked into the drug store late on a Friday night when I noticed a sign saying “OPEN 24 HOURS”. I’m glad they stay open late. It was the only chance I had to get shopping done before the weekend. Next stop would be the grocery store, open until 11:00.

When I was growing up in the 1960s, my dad owned a hardware store. You’d never see that sign in his store or any of the stores in our small town. They all closed at 5:30. But Friday nights were different. The stores stayed open until 9:00.

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My Dad

me & daddyMy dad…I thought he was the next thing to Superman. Even though he didn’t leap from tall buildings, (although I did see him fall out of a tree once landing on his feet!), he could do a little of everything, and do it well.


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Season of Joy, Life of Faith


Meaning of ChristmasI write this on a quiet and lonesome Christmas Eve.

My loved ones are hundreds, and some are thousands of miles away, yet I still find myself almost giddy with joy. I do feel blessed to have the love of family and friends. I have a home, a job, and all my needs are taken care of. This alone would cause anyone to be happy. But I feel such an overwhelmingly deep joy that can’t compare to anything else, and I’d be a fool not to share this with others.

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I Did Not Go To Church Today

church steepleI did not go to church today.

I drove around taking pictures of church steeples.


I walked up the steps of a big old church to get an artsy shot and there sat a young man who looked like he’d had a rough night, a real rough life. He was waiting for a bus.

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The Current

road to Nancy's

road to Nancy’s

After driving over 100 miles, I turned off the freeway to a county road then onto a narrow dirt road that leads toward Nancy’s. Driving through the lonesome wooded hills and swampland, cattails grow on both sides of the road. Nature looked picture perfect on that summer day out in the middle of nowhere. One more turn goes down a crude winding driveway that leads to her large rustic house, an impressive work of construction done by her husband’s hands.

Here is where hospice was set up for her.

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Turn Up The Silence

shoe on TVI’m that driver with the loud music on. Heavy bass, please. I enjoy TV. Most of it’s junk to me, but what I like, I really like.

I love to have my family around me. There is no sweeter sound in the house than the voices and footsteps of those I love.

We live in a noisy world. Sounds are everywhere and are a normal part of our everyday lives. Sounds from people, traffic, social media, TV and music are whirling around us in a constant hum, and we just sing along.

Have you ever found yourself in a very quiet place?

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A Is For Amazing

first apple

This apple has come a long way.

This morning it glowed in the sunshine like a giant ruby. My husband brought it home after he’d been to visit his mom. She lives with his sister in the old house that has been in the family for five generations.

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Summers Outside

sand townWhen I was a kid, my friends and I were outside all day long in the summer. After breakfast I was out the door and into the summer sun where us kids decided what we wanted to do when we wanted to do it.

We were old enough to leave the yard but not old enough to have a summer job. This is a glorious and brief time in a person’s life. Those years between your mother’s apron strings and sliding into the work world. The ‘Tom Sawyer’ summers, I call them. Days spent outside, barefoot, with no keys, money or phone to carry. Days that were simple.

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Adventure at the Yellow House

Usually my blog has pleasant postings. True, my world is full of recipes, pretty junk and I’ve been to cool places, but to be honest it isn’t all cupcakes and monkeys. 

I’m going to share with you the other side. The yellow house isn’t always fluff, one day it was iron.

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Women’s History Month: Frieda

FriedaThe theme for Woman’s History Month (2013) was ‘celebrating women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics’. The names of famous women who’ve done impressive things is too long to list here. But I can think of several women in my personal history who are worth a mention when talking about outstanding females.

I think of my Grandma Frieda

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