9 ways to survive the holidays.

It’s that time of year again! Why write a brand new article about surviving the holidays when this old one will do just as well?

You may be one of those people who really gets into the holiday season, but if you’re not (and believe me, if you’re not, you’re far from alone), here are some great ways to survive it (and even enjoy it in spite of yourself)!

Lucky Otters Haven

Originally posted on 12/12/15

holiday-stress-2011

Now that Thanksgiving is over, the Christmas season is officially here. That means crowded stores, grumpy drivers clogging the roads on their way to and from said stores, horrible office Christmas parties, commercials showing perfect happy families living in big houses with tons of relatives all appearing to love each other (are they TRYING to make us jealous?), fake cheerfulness, fake sleigh bells (did anyone ever REALLY go on a sleigh ride?), horrible canned Christmas music you cannot escape from, “Jingle Bell Rock” (quite possibly the most annoying Christmas song ever) playing endlessly on every pop music station, and maybe worst of all, the shortest days of the year. It’s dark in the morning when you get up for work, and it’s dark again at 5 PM when you get off.

All this is enough to make you want to shoot yourself in the head. But…

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9 ways to survive the holidays.

Originally posted on 12/12/15

holiday-stress-2011

Now that Thanksgiving is over, the Christmas season is officially here. That means crowded stores, grumpy drivers clogging the roads on their way to and from said stores, horrible office Christmas parties, commercials showing perfect happy families living in big houses with tons of relatives all appearing to love each other (are they TRYING to make us jealous?), fake cheerfulness, fake sleigh bells (did anyone ever REALLY go on a sleigh ride?), horrible canned Christmas music you cannot escape from, “Jingle Bell Rock” (quite possibly the most annoying Christmas song ever) playing endlessly on every pop music station, and maybe worst of all, the shortest days of the year. It’s dark in the morning when you get up for work, and it’s dark again at 5 PM when you get off.

All this is enough to make you want to shoot yourself in the head. But don’t do that!  There are better ways to deal with this often infuriating and, for many, depressing time of year. And remember, it’s only for a month.

Many of us who were raised in narcissistic or dysfunctional families don’t have good associations with Christmas and the holidays in general. On top of this, Christmas has become over-commercialized and even people from normal, happy families get stressed. Everywhere you go, there are messages telling you to be cheerful and “jolly” and ads telling you to buy, buy, and buy some more. People who don’t have families (or have dysfunctional families) or don’t have a lot of money often feel marginalized, as if they’re defective because they can’t fully participate in all the hoopla or be as happy as the wealthy, perfect (and annoying) people they see in TV commercials. The days are also short and gloomy. No wonder depression is so common this time of year.

Even if you dread the holidays, it’s still possible to enjoy them. I used to stress myself into a frenzy every Christmas. When you have small children, it’s easy to do this if money is tight, which it almost always was for us. After all, children are expecting Santa to come with his bag of gifts, and they will not understand if gifts are few. But kids being around also make Christmas fun. Now that my kids are adults, I’ve learned to not stress so much about Christmas. It’s still not my favorite time of year, but here are some ways you can make the most of it. Even though I still dread the holidays, I almost always wind up having a great time.

1. Treat Christmas like a second Thanksgiving.

foodquote7

Thanksgiving is probably the least commercialized holiday. In fact, it’s so underrated that now it’s been nearly co-opted by Black Friday, and stores remain open on Thanskgiving so people can get a head start on their Christmas shopping.
On Thanksgiving, the focus is on food, eating, and football. For the past few years, I’ve focused on the food at Christmas rather than the gifts. I give a few inexpensive or homemade gifts, but I spend more of my time and energy on cooking. My spinach-meat lasagna has become a family tradition rather than the usual turkey (I’m usually turkey’d out after a month of eating turkey, turkey soup, and turkey sandwiches) and the lasagna I make has all the Christmas colors too. (I’ll post my recipe later on). Add a salad and some garlic bread and some kind of pie (usually apple for us), and we’re good to go. Everyone’s so busy enjoying the food they barely register the fact the gifts are few.

2. Bake cookies (or other baked goods) and give them as gifts.
You don’t need to spend a fortune on presents. Everyone loves cookies and they can be wrapped in attractive and creative ways and given as gifts. If you’ve baked the cookies yourself, it can be a more thoughtful and personal gift than something you got from the store. If you prefer, bake a pie and wrap it like an Easter basket in red and green cellophane with a bow on top. Even a prettily wrapped basket of fruit can make a thoughtful gift.

3. Give handmade gifts.
I make suncatchers made of bits of glass, stone and small mirrors and they make terrific gifts. I haven’t made any in about a year, but I have several still around that I plan to give as gifts this year. Each one is unique and everyone appreciates them. Years ago, when I had a kiln, I used to paint ceramic tiles. People loved those too. If you paint, make jewelry, knit, or do any other kind of arts and crafts, think about making your gifts instead of buying them. People will appreciate the time and effort that went into making such a personal and unique gift.

4. Remember that the days are now becoming longer.

WinterSolsticeHappy

If you’re like me (I suffer from SAD), the short days of this time of year can get you down. But there’s an upside too. Starting the first day of winter, the days start growing longer! Christmas was originally a pagan holiday to celebrate the “return of the sun”–the winter solstice. Remind yourself of the lengthening days and try not to think about the cold months ahead.   As of the first day of Winter, there are ONLY THREE MORE MONTHS UNTIL SPRING!   That’s great news for SAD sufferers like me!

5. Do something special for yourself.
If you’re not blessed with a big, boisterous family–or even if you have no one to spend Christmas with, you can still enjoy the day. Make it special: give (or make) yourself a gift, go to a movie, take a long walk, or a long luxurious bath. Also, you can remind yourself that sometimes big family get-togethers can turn into unpleasant drama fests. Remind yourself that you’re spared from that.

6. Volunteer.

volunteer

Most churches sponsor Christmas dinners. Other organizations do too. If you don’t have a family to spend the day with, or you have negative memories associated with this time of year, consider donating your time to preparing or serving food to take your mind off your woes. You might even meet others in the same boat and wind up making new friends and having a great time.

7. It’s only one day.
Even though the Christmas season can seem endless, it’s all leading up to one day, and then it’s all over for another whole year.

8. Skip Christmas this year.
I’m serious. If Christmas really stresses you out, consider skipping it altogether. Explain to your friends and family that you need a break from the stress and assure them it’s nothing personal. If they’re true friends they will understand. If you’re a Christian, you will not offend Jesus if you skip Christmas. The Bible doesn’t tell us we have to celebrate his birthday.

9. Remember what Christmas is really all about.

Three Kings Behold the Star of Bethlehem

Three Kings Behold the Star of Bethlehem

In spite of what all the commercials tell us, Christmas isn’t about the trees, Santa Claus, reindeer and gifts. It’s about the birth of Jesus Christ. Most churches have some sort of Christmas service. Consider attending and focusing on the true meaning of Christmas instead of all the material trappings. Watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” always a treat for me.

12 reasons why I don’t like autumn.

ugly_autumn
In my neck of the woods, this is what Autumn looks like.

Yesterday was the first cool-ish day we’ve had since May.   While the lower temperature felt nice, I also noticed for the first time that some of the trees are beginning to change colors.  It was also overcast and gloomy, and I realized that my SAD symptoms have kicked in full bore.   I just felt like crawling into bed to escape from the sadness I felt.   After winter, fall is my least favorite season.   Here are 12 reasons why I hate it.

1.  Around here, the “changing colors” just means the trees change from green to brown to bare.  A few turn this unattractive shade of deep maroon or this dirty looking yellow, but unless you go up to the Parkway, we really don’t get the brilliant fall colors you see in places further north, like Vermont.   To me, fall is not only not pretty,  it’s actually sort of ugly.  The traditional “fall colors”–gold, brown, red and orange–look like ’70s colors to me–I much prefer the ’80s colors of spring.

2.  Everyone crowing about how great fall is.   Shut up.  Please.  Just shut up.

3.  I have to deal with the school traffic again every morning on my way to work.

4. “Pumpkin spice” everything.  Makes me want to puke in my mouth.   Take your damn pumpkin scents and flavors (newsflash–pumpkin tastes like nothing) and GTFO.

5.  It gets dark early and it’s dark when you get up for work, and every day is darker and shorter than the last.

6.  The gloom.  November and December are the worst, but October is guilty too.  Gray, overcast, dark, rainy, and depressing doesn’t bode well for my SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). And in late fall, around here it rains.   And rains. And rains.  And it’s not the life-giving, energizing sudden showers of spring, it’s all-day-and-all-night-long, cold, dismal, continuous drizzle that sometimes turns icy and makes you want to go hibernate until spring.

7.  All the “fall-foliage” seeking idiots who clog the roads on their way to the Parkway. Go to Vermont instead. The colors there are much nicer.

8.  Fake, over-commercialized holidays — in particular the extended Christmas season which seems to start earlier every year–which seem intended to bring some “cheer” to the gloomy last half of fall, but really just makes everyone a nervous wreck instead because of its unrealistic expectations of “family togetherness,” over the top commercialization, and extravagant gift-giving that no one can really afford.  Oh, and let’s not forget Thanksgiving, with its heavy, fatty, depressing food and its gross PUMPKIN pie.  And these days, Thanksgiving is eclipsed by Black Friday anyway, which now starts on Thanksgiving, so all the turkey stuffed lemmings go rushing out to stand on line all night in the rainy cold for a new flat screen TV.  Halloween is okay, but is overrated as f.

9. I could give a rat’s arse about football, and that’s all anyone talks about besides their holiday plans.

10.  Fall means winter is coming and winter is torture to me on every level.

11. Let’s stop denying it.  In the fall, everything’s dying.  Those “brilliant colors” you see for about two weeks?  It’s just the leaves  attempting to get your attention one last time before they drop dead and turn into worm-food, that’s all.

12.  Once you get into the months ending in -ber, you know one more year is in its death throes and for some reason that’s really depressing.

Fall2008
A sad little twig with its wilting, dying leaves just makes me want to cry.

*****

Further reading:

https://luckyottershaven.com/2015/09/27/my-seasonal-affective-disorder-makes-me-want-to-hibernate-until-spring/

9 ways to survive the holidays.

holiday-stress-2011

Many of us who were raised in narcissistic families or come from abusive backgrounds don’t have good associations with Christmas and the holidays in general. On top of this, Christmas has become overcommercialized and even people from normal, happy families get stressed. Everywhere you go, there are messages telling you to be cheerful and “jolly” and ads telling you to buy, buy, and buy some more. People who don’t have families (or have dysfunctional families) or don’t have a lot of money often feel marginalized, as if they’re defective because they can’t fully participate in all the hoopla or be as happy as the wealthy, perfect (and annoying) people they see in TV commercials. The days are also short and gloomy. No wonder depression is so common this time of year.

Even if you dread the holidays, it’s still possible to enjoy them. I used to stress myself into a frenzy every Christmas. When you have small children, it’s easy to do this if money is tight, which it almost always was for us. After all, children are expecting Santa to come with his bag of gifts, and they will not understand if gifts are few. But kids being around also make Christmas fun. Now that my kids are adults, I’ve learned to not stress so much about Christmas. It’s still not my favorite time of year, but here are some ways you can make the most of it. Even though I still dread the holidays, I almost always wind up having a great time.

1. Treat Christmas like a second Thanksgiving.

foodquote7

Thanksgiving is probably the least commercialized holiday. In fact, it’s so underrated that now it’s been nearly co-opted by Black Friday, and stores remain open on Thanskgiving so people can get a head start on their Christmas shopping.
On Thanksgiving, the focus is on food, eating, and football. For the past few years, I’ve focused on the food at Christmas rather than the gifts. I give a few inexpensive or homemade gifts, but I spend more of my time and energy on cooking. My spinach-meat lasagna has become a family tradition rather than the usual turkey (I’m usually turkey’d out after a month of eating turkey, turkey soup, and turkey sandwiches) and the lasagna I make has all the Christmas colors too. (I’ll post my recipe later on). Add a salad and some garlic bread and some kind of pie (usually apple for us), and we’re good to go. Everyone’s so busy enjoying the food they barely register the fact the gifts are few.

2. Bake cookies (or other baked goods) and give them as gifts.
You don’t need to spend a fortune on presents. Everyone loves cookies and they can be wrapped in attractive and creative ways and given as gifts. If you’ve baked the cookies yourself, it can be a more thoughtful and personal gift than something you got from the store. If you prefer, bake a pie and wrap it like an Easter basket in red and green cellophane with a bow on top. Even a prettily wrapped basket of fruit can make a thoughtful gift.

3. Give handmade gifts.
I make suncatchers made of bits of glass, stone and small mirrors and they make terrific gifts. I haven’t made any in about a year, but I have several still around that I plan to give as gifts this year. Each one is unique and everyone appreciates them. Years ago, when I had a kiln, I used to paint ceramic tiles. People loved those too. If you paint, make jewelry, knit, or do any other kind of arts and crafts, think about making your gifts instead of buying them. People will appreciate the time and effort that went into making such a personal and unique gift.

4. Remember that the days are now becoming longer.

WinterSolsticeHappy

If you’re like me (I suffer from SAD), the short days of this time of year can get you down. But there’s an upside too. Starting the first day of winter, the days start growing longer! Christmas was originally a pagan holiday to celebrate the “return of the sun”–the winter solstice. Remind yourself of the lengthening days and try not to think about the cold months ahead.

5. Do something special for yourself.
If you’re not blessed with a big, boisterous family–or even if you have no one to spend Christmas with, you can still enjoy the day. Make it special: give (or make) yourself a gift, go to a movie, take a long walk, or a long luxurious bath. Also, you can remind yourself that sometimes big family get-togethers can turn into unpleasant drama fests. Remind yourself that you’re spared from that.

6. Volunteer.

volunteer

Most churches sponsor Christmas dinners. Other organizations do too. If you don’t have a family to spend the day with, or you have negative memories associated with this time of year, consider donating your time to preparing or serving food to take your mind off your woes. You might even meet others in the same boat and wind up making new friends and having a great time.

7. It’s only one day.
Even though the Christmas season can seem endless, it’s all leading up to one day, and then it’s all over for another whole year.

8. Skip Christmas this year.
I’m serious. If Christmas really stresses you out, consider skipping it altogether. Explain to your friends and family that you need a break from the stress and assure them it’s nothing personal. If they’re true friends they will understand. If you’re a Christian, you will not offend Jesus if you skip Christmas. The Bible doesn’t tell us we have to celebrate his birthday.

9. Remember what Christmas is really all about.

Three Kings Behold the Star of Bethlehem

Three Kings Behold the Star of Bethlehem

In spite of what all the commercials tell us, Christmas isn’t about the trees, Santa Claus, reindeer and gifts. It’s about the birth of Jesus Christ. Most churches have some sort of Christmas service. Consider attending and focusing on the true meaning of Christmas instead of all the material trappings. Watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” always a treat for me.

Blogging for holiday cash.

SantaCash

Since I started running ads (through WP’s WordAds program) back in January, my monthly earnings have increased from a measly $12.00 in January to about $25.00 a month.

You’re not allowed to cash out until your account reaches $100, which finally happened for me in July. Funds earned for July and August are $49.84. If things stay about the same, I should be able to cash out again just in time for the holiday season, which I always dread because I really can’t afford much in the way of gifts. It’s always the most stressful time of year for me.

$100 should be enough to keep my stress levels down this coming Christmas season. I only have a few people I exchange gifts with anyway, and I should be able to afford a few nice things for them. It’s nice to know I’ll have earned that money by doing something that’s more play than work.

Sickie

sick

My face is melting and my throat is full of sand. My eyes are gross and gummy. My hair is lank and greasy and my nose is raw as sushi. I’m hacking up unspeakable things.

Oh, wait, I feel a sneeze coming on. Ahhhhh—

Dammit! It’s one of those infuriating swallowed sneezes, you know, when you feel like you have to sneeze but it doesn’t come–or maybe your nose just emits a mouselike squeak . Non-sneezes must be one of God’s little practical jokes.

So, what was I talking about?

Oh, right. My danged cold.

I still had to work today (otherwise I lose my Christmas holiday pay) but I felt like I was dragging around a 100 pound weight as I moved around today, sniffling and sneezing and spewing my germs everywhere like Typhoid Mary. I took Dayquil to cope with the symptoms, but still felt horrible, and sleepy on the way home in the car from the medicine. (By the way, Dayquil will make you groggy, so drive with caution if you must).

I drank about a gallon of orange juice and popped vitamin C like a crackhead pops rocks, but all it does is make my bladder work overtime making bright orange urine, which I guess is the point since all that peeing is supposed to rid your body of the illness. Eventually. I’ve been eating so much canned chicken noodle soup I think I might lay an egg if I eat too much more.

In the meantime I have no choice but to power through this. Thankfully, day after tomorrow I’ll have a nice 4 day long weekend to relax and get better. I’ll be cooking my incredible (yes, I don’t mind saying so) spinach and meat lasagna at Paul’s house and my daughter will be home. I’ll also be baking a red velvet cake (with buttercream icing, not cream cheese, which I hate).
All my Christmas shopping is finally done and I’m anticipating a small but lovely Christmas dinner. I’ll still be glad when all this holiday business is over for another year.

As I sit here sipping my peppermint tea with honey, I’m dreaming of spring.

earlyspring

Once the stores start putting up the Valentines day merchandise (which happens the minute Christmas is over), I start to see spring on the horizon. Here in North Carolina (with the exception of last year, which was exceptionally cold for this part of the country), by the end of February it starts to warm up a bit and even a few of the trees begin to take on a pale green tinge. (Has anyone ever noticed, even before the green begins to show, in the very early spring the trees have a diluted form of the same colors they do in the fall?)

The days are already getting longer by one minute a day. By the end of January, it will be noticeable. Ah, spring. I can’t wait for you. I love you. I wish I could hibernate until then.

I hate everything about winter. The dark. The cold. The gloominess. The damned SNOW. But most of all I hate colds and flu. It’s getting late. Guess it’s time to take some Nyquil and rest my body for one more day of work until the long weekend.

But before I do that, I think I’ll take another eucalyptus bath and light my Silver Birch Yankee candle.