Tag Archives: holiday season

Pleasure at Christmas Is My Priority

Years ago while working with an energy healer I learned that I have great

What brings you pleasure at this special time of year?

What brings you pleasure at this special time of year?

difficulty allowing pleasure. I was raised by two people who worked first, played later if they played at all. Hard work was revered in our house. Plus, when my parents’ marriage began to go downhill, working hard distracted me from my fear and sadness. I worked hard at school, at home, at work, in my private life, and at anything that mattered to me. It was always difficult for me to lighten up and have fun.

When I became aware of my challenge allowing pleasure I decided to do something about it. I started by intentionally lightening up and taking pleasure in the festivities of favorite time of year — the Christmas holiday season. It was a good place to start because it was a time of year that included many things I already loved: Christmas music, spending time with family and friends, baking sweets to give away, showing people I love them, and Christmas colors and decorations.

I deliberately simplified what I did to prepare for the holidays each year to lower my stress and make it possible to be more present to those aspects of the season that touch my heart — lights, music, warm connections with loved ones, familiar decorations. I became more mindful and discriminating about social events I would attend. I enjoyed activities I loved and eliminated those that seemed like work.

Now, when I think of the December and the holiday season my heart smiles. It’s a time of year when I give my hard-working, driven self a break. I see fewer clients. I ease up on my expectations of myself to be consistently productive, and I follow the lead of my heart.

Choosing to allow pleasure at the holidays has made it possible for me to be gentler with myself all year long. I am a first child, which comes with challenges like perfectionism, drivenness, high standards, and a harsh inner critic. I still have a long way to go toward balancing work and fun all year long. But, thanks to my annual pleasure fest in December, I am making progress.

Does pleasure (other than alcohol induced pleasure) even show up on your radar during the holiday season? If not, set your intention to experience some type of holiday pleasure each day of December no matter how busy you are. Make pleasure your focus this holiday season and reap the benefits all year long!

Dispel Christmas Pressure! Simplify!

“Are you ready for Christmas yet?” That is the subject of many conversations angel-564351_640among women at this time of year. I was thinking about that question today, and the perspective it anchors. It keeps the focus on the tasks that must be done before the deadline of December 25, like a race to the finish line. Just thinking about that quest creates feelings of pressure and even dread inside me. No wonder some people hate the holidays! It’s just associated with more work to do, not pleasure.

I have always loved the Christmas season. The season, not just the day — the music, the bright lights, the special foods, getting together with friends and family, showing my love and care with gifts and cards I send to those I love. However, I once was like so many people, running as fast as I could to that magic deadline, only to feel let down once I got there. Instead of enjoying the season, I was focused on completing tasks, worrying about whether I’d get everything done on time, and not having much pleasure or fun.

One day I woke up to the fact that the way I was doing Christmas made it impossible to be present to the possible joys of the season. I had a choice to make. 1) Keep doing what I was doing and continue to feel stressed, irritable and burdened. Or, 2) modify what I do each Christmas so I can have time and energy to be fully present for all the joys of the holiday season.

I chose option number 2. My focus is no longer on the deadline of December 25. It is on enjoying the traditions, the feelings, and the opportunities for meaningful connection all through December. This is what did I did to get off the autopilot of stressful Christmas preparations.

  • I stopped putting up a big tree (it took me a day to set up just the tree), and I now have three smaller trees that I keep decorated. All I have to do to put them up is to remove the plastic bag that covers them during storage.
  • I downsized the number and kinds of decorations I put out. I kept only those decorations for which I had a strong heart connection, and I eliminated annoying, difficult to put up decorations like candles in the windows. 
  • I reduced baking from several different types of cookies and sweets to
    img_2656

    Cracker Candy

    one very simple recipe that everyone loves.

  • For many family members I only give token gifts or gift cards instead of numerous gifts.
  • I pair boring tasks like addressing and writing notes in Christmas cards and wrapping presents with tasks I enjoy like watching a Christmas movie or a special TV program.
  • I stopped attending holiday parties I didn’t enjoy.

I still have a Christmas to-do list, but it’s not my main focus. It is no longer driving my mood. I keep my eye on and devote my energies to enjoying the pleasures of the season. I go to Christmas concerts, schedule time to connect with special friends, listen to Christmas music as I drive and work around my house, sit quietly in my decorated space. And, guess what? The tasks that I want to get done (gift giving, card writing, baking, decorating, etc.) get done with less stress, less rush and more pleasure.

What can you do to shift your focus from the pressured rush to the December 25 deadline to enjoying the special opportunities for connection and pleasure that are available during the whole holiday season? You do have a choice!

Holiday Food Prep: Love It or Lose It

Over the years I’ve listened to many women complain about all they have to do at the holiday

Cracker Candy

Cracker Candy

season. And, it’s very true that the lion-share of the work to make holidays happy days is left up to women. What I’ve had a hard time reconciling is many a woman’s belief that they are being held hostage by the expectations of others, that they have no control over how much they have to do.

In the baking/food prep arena, for example, some women think they have to keep making all the special dishes that every family member loves even though their family members do little to help lighten their mom’s load at this busy time of year. These women sacrifice their own sanity and enjoyment of seasonal activities to please often ungrateful family members–because it’s what she’s always done. And, some women continue to make baked goods and food items because they think that’s what’s expected or that it wouldn’t be Christmas without them.

I recommend a new approach in the area of food prep. Make those special dishes and baked goods that you enjoy making, that you have time to make without stress, and offer to teach family members to make those dishes or baked goods that they want that you don’t like making. Or, purchase comparable ready-made items to substitute for those that are a hassle to make or too time consuming to make.

I once spent many an hour baking a variety of cookies because I thought I “should.” By Christmas I was exhausted, and I’m not certain anyone really cared about all my creations. In a desperate attempt to simplify my schedule and enjoy Christmas more, I began limiting my baking to just one item, the one everyone loves the best, Cracker Candy. It just has 4 ingredients. One batch takes 20 minutes to make. I give it to friends, family and to say thanks to people who have helped me during the year. I love the process of throwing a batch together. I love the simplicity of ingredients and creating a luscious batch.

Can you simplify food prep during the holiday season? Give Cracker Candy a try!

Cracker Candy

Ingredients

2 sticks margarine (Fleishman’s original — other’s don’t work)

1 cup sugar

1 12oz. pkg semi-sweet morsels

1 pkg saltine crackers (1 of 4 that comes in a big box)

Do This:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Use a cookie sheet with sides. Line it with tin foil.
  3. Line up crackers on cookie sheet. They should almost fill the sheet. Don’t worry about it if they don’t.
  4. Melt margarine and add sugar. Bring to a boil and boil for 3 minutes stirring constantly. Mixture should be frothy.
  5. Pour mixture over crackers to cover all cracker surfaces.
  6. Bake 8-11 minutes. Time needed will depend on how hot your oven is. Butter mixture should be a golden brown all over with small areas on the side beginning to get dark brown (burning!). If you don’t cook it long enough, it will be chewy.  If you cook it too long, it will burn. I know. I have done both!
  7. Remove from oven and immediately use wooden spoon to push all crackers back together (they drift apart while cooking).
  8. Pour semi-sweet morsels over crackers and spread with a spoon. The heat of the crackers will melt the chocolate so it will spread like icing.
  9. Refrigerate until cool.
  10. Break into pieces and enjoy! Beware! It’s addictive!

A Happy Holiday Season — A Matter of Perspective

I get a kick out of counting down the months to the holidays. . . “11 months until Christmas, 6 Christmas decorationmonths until Christmas. . . ” Invariably when I do that women groan, particularly mothers. Clearly they dread the holidays. I LOVE the holiday season. When I pondered why my response to this end of year tradition is so much different than many women, and considered why I love it so much, I realized that my view of the holidays is very different than the “normal” view of many harried women.

“Too much to do. Too commercial! Not enough time!” The focus is on all that “has to” be done in create the perfect holiday for everyone and all the added tasks added to an already overflowing plate of responsibility. No wonder they feel overwhelmed! Too many obligations and expectations (many residing in their own heads). Where’s the pleasure in that! The holidays are seen as a time of high stress, too much to do, and not much fun. No wonder they groan when they think of the holidays!

I view the holidays as a season of caring, as an opportunity to demonstrate caring and connection with friends and loved ones. I enjoy having a reason to deliberately reach out and touch people I care about, with cards, small gifts, and special foods. I have fun doing that. The spirit of the season as I see it (not the commercial spirit, rather the caring and connection spirit) gives me  permission to indulge my natural inclination to connect and give and express caring.

It’s so easy not to connect, to put off letting people know they matter, to put off spending time with them. When I let the special people in my life know they matter and spend time with them during the holidays, I invest in maintaining and perhaps strengthening those relationships. The process takes time and energy, yes, but those bonds make my life richer and give my life meaning.  Add to that the added sensory pleasures of special music, lights, delicious foods, enticing smells. Plus, during December I also give myself permission to lighten up, lighten my load and step out of the daily grind so I can fully partake in the pleasures of the season. It’s my favorite time of year!

Above are two different perspectives of the holidays:

  •  a time of high stress, little real rest and the burden of extra responsibilities, and
  •  a time to demonstrate caring, enjoy special pleasures, enjoy time with loved ones, and lighten up.

What’s your perspective about the holiday season? Do you groan or smile? Do you focus on the  possible pleasures or only see an endless to do list? Your perspective is a choice. What will you choose this year?

Start Organizing for a Great Christmas Now!

It’s never too soon to start planning for the holidays. Those who wait until the last moment to shop, wrap, do cards, bake, etc. usually find themselves up late Christmas eve and worn out by the time the big day arrives. Did you know that with a little planning you can have a very different sort of holiday season?

Here are a few suggestions to get you rolling:

  1. Decide whether or not you’ll send cards this year. If you want to be sure you get them out before February, buy your cards and stamps, write your Christmas letter and print your photo cards NOW. Then, schedule a weekend day in the next few weeks to do your cards. Put on some Christmas music. Make a festive beverage, and make doing your cards a pleasurable opportunity to connect with friends and family members. Set a goal to put the cards in the mail the day after Thanksgiving. Once your cards are out, you’ll have one weight off your shoulders.
  2. Clear out Christmas decorations that either never get used or that are a hassle to to use. It’s the start of simplifying your decorating process so that it takes less time and can be more pleasurable to do. Decoration clearing can be done right now–before you get caught up in all the activities of the season.
  3. Make decorating a fun event. Schedule a date to put up Christmas decorations now. Pick a weekend day to do it. That will give you a deadline to get any necessary supplies. Make decorating a fun, memorable event instead of just one more “have to” on your list of too much to do. Put on the Christmas music. Make cookies to munch, and have hot cider or hot chocolate while decorating. Include children in the process if they are interested or invite friends for a tree decorating party and a shared meal.
  4. Simplify gift giving by reducing the number of gifts you give and by giving lots of gift cards. You can reduce the time spent wrapping if you give gift cards because they can be slipped into a pretty card or a Christmas bag. Gift cards allow people to enjoy holiday cheer after the holidays when they use their cards to get things they really want and need. Wrap gifts as you purchase them or schedule parts of weekend days before the last week before Christmas as decorating times. Again, listen to music you love. Fix yourself a warm beverage and reflect on Christmases gone by as you wrap. If you leave gift buying and gift giving to the last moment, you’re setting yourself up for a stressful, exhausting and exhausted holiday. Do it different this year!
  5. Limit socializing to a few events with people who matter the most. Saying no to invitations for events that don’t interest you is one way to ensure that what you do will be pleasurable and will free up time to do holiday activities that feed you instead of drain you.

Make this holiday season the kind of celebration that you really want. You get to decide how much or how little you do. Start now by thinking about what it would take to have a season of joy and fun instead of a season of too much to do.

© 2012 Clutter Clearing Community | Debbie Bowie

“Author, Organizing Expert and Feng Shui Practitioner, Debbie Bowie, is a leading authority on clutter clearing to attract more of what you want in life. If you’re ready to clear clutter and move your life forward, get your FREE TIP SHEET, “Feng Shui Tips for Instant Success” at http://www.clutterclearingcommunity.com.

Christmas Joy is Choice!

Some people really hate the Christmas holiday season. I love it! Why? It is such a nice break in routine from my day to day life. I’ll admit, Bob and I have our own little rut–go to work, come home, watch TV, go to bed, repeat the next day with small variations and many things to do crammed in here and there. Weekends are spent recovering from the week with occasional fun times with friends.

During the holiday season I enjoy special music I’ve heard for over five decades. I eat foods that are prepared only during the holiday season. I visit friends just because it’s the holidays! And, the decorations! I love the lights on trees, decorating front porches and seen through the windows of houses. Christmas tickles the little kid in me!

It seems to be the “in” thing to grouse about how commercial Christmas has become. If I focused on that I’d miss the all the special sensations, sounds, sights and experiences of the season. Who cares! So what if it’s commercial! People have to make a living and the Christmas season can been a boon for retail. So what! I choose to focus on the blessings of this season, and turn down the volume on any commercial annoyances.

Many years ago I separated from my first husband. It was a sad disturbing experience. When the holidays came around I was still grieving, but I decided that there was no way I was going to let that ruin my Christmas. It was an important decision. It was the first time I consciously realized that I have a choice about how I feel. Christmas was so important to me, had always been a high point in my year. I was not going to forsake that joy, even in the midst of grieving a major loss. I decided that I could enjoy Christmas on my own. I decorated my own little apartment. I listened to Christmas music. I reveled in all the holiday celebrations at work. Sure, I had sad moments, but I didn’t give up on enjoying the pleasure of the season.

And, here we are again at the edge of another joyous Christmas season. Yes, the economy is in rough shape. Many of us have lost big bucks from our nest eggs because of the ups and downs of the stock market. We can focus on that or we can turn our heads toward the lights, smells, sights and sounds, the red, green, gold and glitter of the season and give thanks for those blessings and all those special people who give our lives meaning. We have a choice. I hope you choose joy!

© 2012 Clutter Clearing Community | Debbie Bowie

“Author, Organizing Expert and Feng Shui Practitioner, Debbie Bowie, is a leading authority on clutter clearing to attract more of what you want in life. If you’re ready to clear clutter and move your life forward, get your FREE TIP SHEET, “Feng Shui Tips for Instant Success” at http://www.clutterclearingcommunity.com.