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.
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.