by Frances Edstrom
I start getting them in August "” the press releases from those who find it necessary to help the rest of us "avoid holiday stress."
Don't they understand that if it were so simple to get to Jan. 1 without one little burst of panic or temper any fool could do it?
"Organize your schedule." Is this a joke? When was the last time you remember it being YOU who got to organize your schedule. Teachers, coaches, church groups, your boss. Those are the people who organize your schedule. As far as I know, it's your job to write stuff on the calendar or stick the note on the fridge. Even then, who hasn't sat bolt upright in the middle of the night suddenly remembering the thing you forgot?
"Evaluate traditions." Would that be the tradition of making the cookies that always meant Christmas to you but that make your kids say, "Oh, yuck! Didn't you get any Oreos?"
"Be realistic." So, on the way to Christmas dinner, bite your tongue before you say, "I hope Uncle won't give me a slobbery kiss," or "I wonder if your mother has learned how to make gravy?"
"Simplify gift-giving." This is my favorite. Sit the kids down early in the month and tell them Santa Claus is experiencing a downturn in business, the elves staged a work slowdown, and it means one or two meaningful gifts under the tree. Then hide the keys from yourself so you don't run frantically "” eyes wild, partially dressed, one check left in the book, credit card maxed out, hauling the jar of change you've been saving for a new washing machine "” to the discount store on Christmas Eve. Believe me, the kids will understand. Children, according to some sources, are full of natural goodness.
"Take care of yourself." This suggestion immediately follows "Simplify" because you will need a fallback plan in case "donating to a charity in your name" was not the gift that significant other was hoping for. Put a lock on the bedroom door, stock up on tissues, buy earplugs. Do not take this lightly. Take care of yourself.
For the first time in my life, I approach the holidays with absolutely no stress. What is my secret?
Crutches. I keep them close to me at all times. Shop? Can't. Order on the Internet? Nobody to carry it into the house when they deliver it. Bake? Sorry. Get a tree? Don't forget your mittens. Decorate the tree? Can't get to the tree stand from the attic. Outside lights? Not this year. Cousin Woozie's "Winter Song Fest?" Can't sit that long. Send cards? Can't wait in the stamp line.
See? No stress. A household without a pair of crutches is a household without a chance to avoid that holiday stress. And, it's much simpler than changing religions.