Lessons Learned: The Week in Between

The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is filled with different emotions for me. I start to feel the creep of the Christmas blues trickling in, knowing that the festivities are over. I’ve enjoyed spending time with family, yet I’m relieved that all the gift shopping and running around is over. I continue to catch up with family and friends while looking forward to a little down time as well. During this week, I let my emotions change by allowing time for rest (which I need this year since I’ve been pretty sick) and to prepare myself for 2015.

To help with the blues, I take down the Christmas decorations a few days after the holiday. The takedown is like therapy for me as I say goodbye to the year. As the tree comes down and the house returns to normal, I start to think about what I want to accomplish for the coming year. Like many others, I think about goals and how I can improve myself. January will be spent writing down those goals and deciding what I want to accomplish. Until then, I’ll say my goodbyes to 2014 and take a peek into 2015.

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Lessons Learned: House Naming

Saturday night was our neighborhood progressive Jingle Mingle party. This is our seventh year attending and over the years we’ve had families move in and out. Some families have moved from one house to a new house in the same development. Last night I met a new neighbor named Lynn. She tried explaining where she lived and then I realized it was Kristi’s old house. Kristi and her family moved two houses down to the red house which will always be Mechelle’s house. I told Lynn that if she wanted to tell those at the party where she lived to tell them that she lived in Kristi’s old house. Got that? :)

We have the same with neighbors who’ve come and gone. The white house across the park will forever be Penny’s house. The green house will be the Heichel’s. The house next to us will be Bob and Terri’s. It seems as if houses are branded with the name of the original or longtime resident. In a way, it’s nice for those neighbors moving on to know that they are still part of the neighborhood. It’s also nice to know that we know the people in our neighborhood. Getting out and celebrating the holidays is a great way to bring the community together. If you don’t know your neighbor, make sure to say hello and introduce yourself to them. You’ll name their house and yours.

Lessons Learned: Giving versus Guilting

The holiday season is also considered the giving season. The Salvation Army has their red kettles out, Toys for Tots is in full swing, and Adopt a Family connects people or businesses with families in need. On top of the traditional holiday charities, there are also the other organizations vying for money by offering free Christmas cards, calendars, or address labels. So how do you know which ones to give to, how much to give, or how often? Only you can decide how you want to handle your donations. The premise is not to feel bad if you can’t give to all. The idea is that you want to give to the organization, not be guilted into giving.

I’ve been bombarded with charities and organizations asking for money. Some I get annoyed with when they continue to pester me. For the ones who call on the phone, I don’t appreciate when they start the conversation with a casual laugh and make the comment how I’m super hard to get a hold of, like I’m their personal friend—I had three calls like this within a 48 hour time period. Or they send a “bill” by mail, making it look like the payment is past due when I never agreed to send anything. For these charities, I keep them at the bottom of my list.

For the season, and even for the next year, I’ve decided to make a list of those charities or organizations that are important to me. I like to donate to local organizations or ones that I know will directly benefit others, like the hospice center that took care of my brother in his final weeks. I know they use the money for patients who can’t afford their medical expenses. I’ll add new organizations, both local and national, to my list and drop others that I’ve given to in the past.

By focusing on the names on my list, I won’t let other organizations guilt me. I know that I’m giving to those that I’ve chosen and to those who I feel will appreciate it (I’m not a number and the money isn’t going to administrative expenses). And remember, there’s still those spur-of-the-moment gifts that don’t fall into this category, like the policeman who bought socks and boots for the homeless man. His gift-giving was truly priceless.

Lessons Learned: Must Do, Want to Do, Optional

The holiday season brings on lots of events, stress, and limited time to relax. Every year I can’t believe how fast the dates come up. First it’s Thanksgiving and then within a blink of an eye it’s Christmas. In between there are a whole lot of events going on.

No one can slow down the time, but you can choose to plan out and balance the month of December so not to pull out hairs, become overextended, or get depressed. Instead, make a chart of events or write them down on a calendar for the month of December. Next, color code the events based on the following categories:

Must Do – Green
Events that you can’t avoid doing. You could be excited and want to go or absolutely dread going. You just know that you cannot miss it. Shopping for gifts could be one of them. Color these green. For me, I will celebrate Christmas with my mom and siblings on Christmas Eve night. We’ve celebrated on this night for many, many years. I mark it green because we siblings can plan events around that date in order for us to be together. If done every year, we know to keep the night open. Also, this year will be a tough one for my mom. This will be the first Christmas without my dad. Now isn’t the time to break tradition. The event is a Must Do and also one that I enjoy doing.

Want to Do – Yellow
Events that you really want to go to and have some fun. Color these yellow. We have a neighborhood Jingle Mingle progressive party. Three houses in the neighborhood open their houses at different times during the night, and we all go from one house to the next at a designated time. We bring appetizers to the first two houses and then dessert to the last house. I look forward to getting together with the neighbors and seeing what they’re up to. I don’t have to go to this event. It’s not a must but something I really enjoy doing.

Optional – Blue
Events that you’re not obligated to go to, but they could still be fun if you have the time. Highlight the events in blue. For example, you’ve been invited to join a cookie exchange. This means you’ll need a day to make the cookies and then attend the event. Or, a friend is having a cocktail party on a night that you already have something going on. Still put it on the calendar. If the other event is cancelled, you have a Plan B.

By having all the events laid out on a calendar or on a list, you’ll be able to see what you can manage. The colors will help give you a visual. All the greens will show events that you have to do. The yellows are those that you want to do. The blues are ones that are optional. If there’s too many colors for one weekend, you may need to consider crossing the blue ones off your list. Or, maybe you can arrange the event for another, less crowded, night. Remember to have a good balance. If your weekends are booked, you may need to consider bowing out of the greens and yellows as well. Keep yourself sane. Have a few nights to yourself and take time to enjoy the holidays.