Thanksgiving snuck up on me. It was a busy year–buying and selling a house, doing the staging, showing, and construction leading up to the sale/purchase, moving, dealing with the “finer points of education reform,” writing, creating, blogging, supporting my husband in expanding our business and converting the adult kickboxing portion to the ilovekickboxing.com franchise (coming to a city near you). All on top of trying to run my end of the household simultaneously.
They say that women can have it all. That’s not true. There are only 24 hours in a day and choices must be made with values prioritized. I try to be creative about time management–never easy for me. I’ve settled for getting up at 4AM to be productive when there are no possible distractions around. The East Coast is asleep, the West Coast just went to bed, and the only people awake are on the other side of the globe, and they’re usually at work. This is the best system for me in organizing and reining in my ADHD and keeping things in check before they take on a life of their own.
Thanksgiving clearly got away from me. Last weekend, it occurred to me that I should procure a turkey. Sometimes I forget about this step, being a vegetarian and all. There have been years where I either forgot the turkey until a couple of days before Thanksgiving, or if I purchased it in advance (which I usually remember to do after being slapped in the face with a dozen sale fliers advising me that dead turkey season is upon us) I invariably forget to take it out of the freezer.
For those of you who cook, you know this is why the Butterball Hotline was invented–to deal with simpletons like me. Because you simply cannot thaw out a million pound carcass overnight. I’ve done lots of shady things. I’ve put it in warm water (bacteria can kill you). I’ve left it on the counter overnight (another version of bacterial Russian Roulette). I’ve even hired a group of kids to breathe on the turkey. Even then, it takes a long time to thaw. I’ve been lucky.
Holiday planning is important.
Holidays are tough for many people. Even though I have been especially blessed this year, the holidays will cause stress if not well planned.
Nearly forgetting about Thanksgiving caused a scramble. But in the end, I got to bring together a branch of family that doesn’t often get together. I got to hike in the woods with Declan. Both are important.
For Christmas and New Years, though, I need to step up the pace and plan. I must shop. I must bake and cook to ensure everyone gets their favorites. I must prep and send boxes, bags, baskets, and gifts, so they GET there by the right dates, be it Christmas, Hanukkah, or the Russian New Year.
Incidentally, that’s why I like my Buddhist and Hindu friends the best–first of all, December 25th is irrelevant, so I can totally be late if I want, and they have a lot of lives to begin with, so my lack of attention to the calendar means nothing. Maybe they’ll need my gift more in the next life anyway. My Jewish friends come in close second, because if I plan to get something there by Day One of Hanukkah, I have seven days to screw up and still be on time. The Russians are a close third since they hail from a country where they had to change their holiday from Christmas to New Year’s to avoid persecution. They’re very forgiving. It’s just the Christians that keep me on task.
And there are a lot of them. So I must be prepared.
I need a strategy. I need a list.
Then, I must reduce that list–we have too much crap in this world anyway. Best not to get carried away. And while “three carbon credits have just been purchased in your honor” isn’t really an ideal gift for kids, I can pull it off for my environmentalist sister. Parents always say they don’t want anything but quality time. That’s worth a try. And my husband wants a tow hitch now that we live in the sticks. I’m not really sure how to steal his Jeep for two days without him noticing, though. I guess I could draft a fake police report and tell him I saw two farmers in the driveway with a slim jim–I couldn’t fight them off because of their guard cow. But that would cause him stress. And the holidays are about reducing stress.
Here’s my strategy:
1. Buy less–create joy with experiences and quality time, both of which are far more valuable commodities these days.
2. Handwrite cards–reconnect with people and enjoy the lost art of hand-written correspondence. I’ll need discipline as well as a touch of forgiveness from friends because my handwriting is truly awful.
3. Create a calendar and checklist–making sure I get everything out on time. The post office trip has always been my worst enemy.
4. Reduce the list by 50%–make the favorite candies, fudges, cookies, and breads. The canning is done. Sometimes I go overboard, so, this year, I’m making a few key favorites, and that’s that.
5. Relax. No perfect tablescape is worth losing the time to enjoy the holiday, unless you are Martha Stewart. But Martha has interns and I do not. So, this year, since I’m getting a late start, I’m going to schedule in all the things I absolutely must do and cross off the ones I do not. End of story.
Considering that planning and organization is a part-time job itself, no wonder so many people say they dread the holidays. That’s sad. I love the holidays–the music, the wonder, the tradition, the joy. Best to keep it that way. Planning and preparation will help me do just that!
I’ve organized a lot of my material on Learnist boards. I created some of these to get my own mind in gear, but I hope you find them useful. Here are a few resources:
Organizing for the Holidays: This was my attempt to avoid procrastinating.
Going Green: Waste-Free Holidays: I truly believe in this, but I’m struggling to get over the tradition of wrapping paper. Maybe I’ll evolve.
Frugal Holidays: There have been years where frugal was the only option. Those years have been a gift. They have created my happiest memories.
Gift Baskets Galore: This board is by blogger and Mom Colleen Sullivan. I love it because gift baskets make me think about the recipient for longer–they show love.
Holiday Food Gifts: This board is by Lauren Atkins Budde. I have always done “gifts in a jar,” canned foods, and homemade candies. I’m glad Lauren put this together.
Why We Can Never Be Martha Stewart: You might wonder if I’m serious about this board, but the truth is I hold nothing but the highest reverence for Martha, who shows women that independence and domesticity can reside in the same sphere. I think I’ll write an entire post about her soon.