Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Nearly Final Christmas: Recipe for Lowering Stress in the Nick of Time

Okay, so mostly it is my own fault. The kitchen reno had gone on forever, (yes, yes, pictures are coming soon,) and I was determined to have some order in that holy of holies for Christmas dinner. I had been shopping for so long that some people had several gifts too many. Twenty-six individually wrapped parcels, with seven more for the personal care workers who help my mother bathe and dress, had been delivered to the Villa. Two candlelight services were in the offing. I had joined Rob on "kettle" duty as a charitable act towards him and for old times' sake. Various bouts of sickness continued to plague family members. Robbie's christening took place, after having been scheduled and cancelled twice before. And I was losing it. Crying on odd shoulders. Snapping at family. Wanting to fall to the floor screaming. Thinking negatively.

Very negatively.

I knew the signs and those of you who have been down this road know
them also. I called my doctor. This was the verdict three days before Christmas. "Take more &*%$# and go more easily, or be hospitalized for four days over Christmas." Then he prayed with me. Bless him.

I have to admit that hospitalization seemed preferrable to the heaps of work left in front of me. Nevertheless, I swallowed my pills and carried on. I slept as much as five hours in the middle of the day and did what I could when my energy was higher.

This is my recipe for lowering stress in the St. Nick of time. Once again, the items are in no particular order.

1.) Forget the minutia of decorating. No snowy villages. No elaborate manger scenes. Put a small tree on a table with a long cloth, light a few candles and sit in the near dark.

2.) Order baked goods from a good bakery instead of being hospitalized, and make your partner or a friend pick them up on Christmas Eve in the morning.

3.) Limit the time, especially the meal times, that all three grandchildren and their parents will be in your house together. Let an adult child play with the children. Hold the baby yourself, in a darkened quiet room, if possible.

4.) If some gifts aren't wrapped, so what? Just put them under the little tree.

5.) Let someone bring good cheese to go with bread, crackers and fruit.

6.) Cut down on the number of vegetables served with Christmas dinner. The usual 8 or 9 vegetables are not necessary. A squash with a little water will cook very nicely in the slow cooker while the bird is doing.

7.) Scrap the traditions which have seemed so indispensible for years. No midnight smorgasboard on Christmas Eve, after the Candlelight Service. No Christmas morning brunch. Let them eat toast.

8.) Wear comfortable older clothes.

9.) Use stuff already in freezer or pantry:
  • instant stuffing
  • frozen broccoli
  • salad in a bag
  • sparkling drinks

10.) Open presents slowly over the day. Spread out the pleasure. If your mother has some memory problems, she will enjoy looking at her gifts several times and they will give her the same happiness each time. And you can enjoy her smiling.

11.) Let dinner be late. This saves the panic of preparation in the morning when your energy is at its lowest. It also increases the possibility of guests volunteering to peel veggies, set table and make gravy, and decreases the chance of someone yelling the inevitable words, "Board games anyone?"

12.) Never mind that the French doors and kitchen windows need cleaning. It is dark on December 25. No one will notice.

13.) Let others take pictures.

14.) If all the bathrooms were cleaned well before Christmas, let family clean for themselves, or not.

15.) Leave the computer alone, especially if your son-in-law is taking it apart and putting it back together again.

16.) Refuse to do more laundry.

17.) Refuse last minute shopping. Enough is enough.

Hope you all had a blessed Christmas. I had a low key, peaceful time, and will be recovering nicely somewhere warm in the near future.


georgia said...

heh girl, good for you, take care of you first, so you will have some energy to enjoy and love on your family! We went low key too, and then did all the family stuff boxing day and the day after that! Survived quite nicely!

Fred said...

Great list. I'll have to bookmark this and pull it up in November.

Hope you're recovering nicely.

Cindy said...

Oh, Connie, I needed this list! Thank you very, very much. Some internal part of me is still operating in "Christmess" mode, stressed and tense, and simply reading this began loosening some tight places. I think it was the repeated images of sitting quietly in a dark room--sounds like heaven. I'm glad your Christmas was low-key and peaceful. Stay sane for both of us. :)

Barbara said...

Oh, I had such a wonderful time this Christmas! (Although Rachael was sick and needed to go to Emerge on Christmas Eve., and we missed the traditional Candle Light Service at the Church) we had a lovely time. This is a time for family! I am really happy this Christmas went so well. We all would've had a terrible time had you not have been with us! I hope you have a great time on vacation!
Love, Barbara

magoo77 said...

Well... it's hard to believe that old traditions can be broken and new ones set in play for all to enjoy! From the one who does not like too much change in life I thought that this Christmas was very special. Low key doesn't mean boring! Food was great as always but not overdone! It was a releif to not be accompanying you in the kitchen for 8hrs on Christmas day preparing food for everyone ha ha! I was pleased to see you relaxed, watching grandchildren unwraping gifts, sitting by the fire sipping the many cups of coffee and yummy breakfast.
St. Nick's traditions were broken and the endless vegetables that 'g' was known for was reduced a wee bit. Not even notice by herself!!
I'm sure I can speak for all of us... sitting in the newly renovated French Provencal kitchen was a true treat. WOW cool... with 2 thumbs up!! is what came from your 1st grandson when he saw it for the first time! That says it all.
Be very proud of all that you have done. Dawsonwood is a retreat for all to enjoy even yourself. 'G' is looking down very impressed with all the work that has been done. Two thumbs up are coming down from heaven too!

Luv You! S

Deb said...

What good advice. Merry Christmas Connie!!

annie said...

Yes, thanks Connie, for some very good reminders! Glad you survived and all had a good day.

annie said...

Yes, thanks Connie, for some very good reminders! Glad you survived and all had a good day.

Bar Bar A said...

Hi Connie,

I am going to remember all of your tips next Christmas!

Thanks for your comment on my blog about the coyote and all of your "sitings" in Canada! How cool! I would love to live somewhere like that. A bear! A moose! That would be incredible.

Also, Rachael is adorable!