Stressed Out!?!? Who, Me?!!

Well, here we are again.

Snack dab in the middle of another holiday season, and sliding into the end of another year.

It seems that every year, no matter what I intend, I end up getting super-stressed out. Gifts to be got. More appointments to keep than usual. Parties to attend. Traffic. Travel arrangements. Crowded stores. Projects and aforesaid gifts to be wrapped up.

It always feels like I am running down a mountain with an ever-growing snowball rolling behind me. I can feel the icy snow at my neck. The avalanche threatens. Argh!!!

Let’s all take a deep breath. Just breathe in and hold a few counts, and breathe out, slowly and fully.

That’s better.

I am doing my best to do better this year. I took a day off yesterday to play with my husband. We both run our own businesses so we work 7 days/nights a week, so weekends aren’t really weekends.

But I consciously forced myself to put aside the many pressing things to do, and we took a short drive out of town and went to a day spa.

It was wonderful. Yes, I was jonesing a bit for my cell phone by hour four. But we did it, and it did feel great.

Guess what? Those pressing things are still all there. They did not go anywhere. Nothing fell apart.

I feel more nourished and not miserable in the way I can often feel at times like the end of the year. When I historically drive myself into a worry-filled bundle of stress.

I am remembering to get sleep as I can. Maybe not as much as I’d like, but sleep nonetheless.

Prompting myself (nicely) to drink water! It is easy to start to neglect the little things that are so important and that contribute to a feeling of well-being.

I am (so far) resisting the urge to use food to give myself anything other than sustenance. When I get into what I call Stepford Wife mode – as in, I am driving myself as if I were a robot and have no human needs – it is easy for my system to rebel and turn to food as a way to get the relief, comfort and attention I am no longer giving it. I am trying to take care, pay attention, even though it feels contra to how I tend to respond to the pressure o the holidays.

I am doing my best to maintain the daily practices that keep me connected to my soul: meditation, writing, prayer, gratitude. It is sometimes tempting to say I do not have the time, but they are the things that make the other stuff more enjoyable. They are the things that keep me tethered to myself. Otherwise I am a parade float that just blows off-track and eventually I crash and it is not pretty.

I am taking time to just breathe. Pet the cat. Do nothing for 3 minutes.

Another deep breath.

How are you riding the waves of this time of year? What are your go-to’s for staying sane? Your helpful tips for enjoying the rush?

May your days be filled with moments of connection and serenity within the inevitable chaos.

And don’t forget to drink some water!


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Cherished Objects

Happy holidays to all!

I am with my family in Texas, enjoying us all being together, laughing, talking, playing games.

My sister-in-love inherited all of my Mom’s many cherished collected holiday things.

My two favorites: my Mom’s manzanite tree that she decorated for every holiday, and a Santa that always sat under our tree at Christmas.

To you and yours, wishing you a wonderful day.

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Post: cherish

Carry On

Things That Are Traditional in My Family That I Inherited (Whether I Like It Or Not:)

Grandmother’s Thanksgiving Stuffing

Disbelief in Good Things Lasting

Aunt’s Pumpkin Bread Served at All Gatherings

Serving Dishes and Calling Them “Salads” Even Though They Contain No Vegetables Unless You Consider Miniature Marshmallows and Jello Vegetables

Dad and Uncle’s Christmas Chili

Finding the Least Trafficked Back-Routes When Driving Places Even If It Takes Much Longer Just Because “It’s The Back-Way”

Spode Christmas Tree China On the Table at Major Holidays Whether It Is Christmas Or Not

Distrust of Strangers & Non-Family People, Too

Gradma’s Green Bean Recipe

Waiting for The Proverbial “Other Shoe” to Drop

Watching Longhorn Games on TV No Matter What the Occasion (Funeral/Holiday)

The Avoidance of Heavy Traffic and Bad Weather At All Costs Even If It Means Not Going Out

Keeping A Stiff Upper Lip/Never Let Them See You Cry/Keep It In The Family

Inspired By The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: traditional





Holiday Panoply

This week’s blog is a few days early. I wrote this in response to a word prompt via Daily Prompt: Panoply.

My mother was one for panoplies. Not as in the historical definition of “panoply:” a complete set of arms or suit of armor. But as in “a group or collection that is impressive because it is so big or because it includes so many different kinds of people or things.”

She was quite mad for decorating for holidays. From my earliest recollections, she put time and effort into decorating our house for each holiday.

It began with a small Manzanita branch which she spray-painted white. From its branches she would hang little ornaments and such. Perhaps she had seen something like it in one of those women’s magazines of the 1960’s with articles of how to be a good mother, wife and hostess. Those same magazines provided the recipes for many of the staples that she came to cook for us, too. Lots of recipes utilizing canned goods, as I recall. Things like Spam casserole and meat dishes with sauces made from Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup.

My mother had grown up in a rather eccentric household. Somehow, she and her twin sister never learned how to cook. My Grandma, their mother, did not cook. Their father, an active alcoholic, did the cooking, sometimes. I am not, to this day, sure how they all managed to feed themselves. But once my mother was married, she underwent a self-education of things such as housekeeping and cooking. With knowledge gleaned from the resources at her disposal then – women’s magazines, popular cookbooks and recipes from newly forming friendships – my young mother forged her way through the early years of starting a family.

At first, the Manzanita branch was decorated for the major holidays: Valentines Day, July Fourth, Thanksgiving and Christmas. But soon this expanded beyond just the basics to the other less widely decorated holidays as well: President’s Day, Easter, Halloween, Graduation Days, even Veteran’s Day.

We all teased her about it. My friends through the years would always comment upon seeing the tree and its adornments become more and more elaborate. But even in the midst of our jaded perspective on it all, there was also a sense of amazement, too.

The Manzanita branch holiday tree became a central figure of whatever house we lived in. From the first little house in the Sharpstown neighborhood of Houston, TX, to the house in Dallas, TX where we lived for a year until my Dad’s business venture failed and we moved back to Houston. To the Briargrove neighborhood house where my Dad started a new company and went back to night school. To another house a few blocks away in Briargrove as his business grew and thrived. And finally to the really nice house my parents bought after I was off to college in the higher-end neighborhood of Memorial.

How it made all of those moves intact is a mystery to me. Those branches are fairly delicate things. But somehow, it survived, and was always a symbol of something constant amidst the changing environments of our family’s life.

Once in that really  beautiful and much larger home, the home that was to be my parent’s last house, my mother’s decorating could really take flight. The Manzanita tree took a much less central role, bowing down alongside the growing collections of decorations. It would still be decorated, but it sat on the kitchen island, a more ordinary display in comparison to the dining and living rooms, which were transformed into holiday wonderlands that could have competed with any department store displays.

I came home for holidays and though I am sure on some level I appreciated it, I never stopped to think about the effort she put into it. (And I never once thanked her for doing it, which I feel regret over to this day.)

I didn’t reflect on any of this until after she and my father died, when my husband and brother and sister-in-love were going through that big, beautiful house, processing our parents’ lives and deaths by going through all of the things they had amassed in their lives together.

The hours she must have spent collecting each item. Putting them all out. Then taking them down and packing them all away again.

The love she must have had for us and for the doing of it. It takes true love to accumulate a Santa collection that literally has its own room. Closets for each season…with shelves and drawers filled with bunnies, Lincolns and Washingtons, hearts, witches, black cats, pumpkins, ceramic figures of patriotic people, stars of congratulations, new baby banners…

It was so hard to let go of those collections. I did not have the room in our small New York City apartment to store or even use all of those beloved objects. But I could feel her in them, as we sorted through and discovered her hiding places for even more of her collections.  I imagine my father must have tried now and then to get her to promise to stop buying things. It was clear that she hadn’t. The joy she must have had in finding each one. The love she must have felt for us as she imagined creating each holiday wonderland for our enjoyment.

I chose to take one object from each of the major holidays. I cherish them today. We found the Manzanita, and thankfully, my sister-in-love (who is much like my wonderful mother in her ways and in her heart) expressed a desire to keep it. She and my brother have a larger home in Houston. I know that my mom would be so happy for them to be using it.

My sister-in-love also chose to keep many of my mom’s holiday panoplies. I now get to enjoy them on our holidays together visiting their home in Houston. I walk amidst the Santas, beautifully displayed and lovingly put up now by my amazing sister-in-love. I take time with each one, appreciating them, remembering my Mom, and her love.

The Manzanita branch is there, now stripped down to its natural color. It is still a symbol of something constant amidst the ever-changing world and our family in it.

#holidaydecorations #manzanitabranch