The holiday season we love to hate as it hurtles toward us every year is here. Don’t tell me you haven’t already noticed all the red and green decorations and merchandise in the stores. Heck, I’ve already missed “holiday celebrations” that started last week.
Why? Because some people now feel there are so many parties and events for the holidays in December they’re now moving them to the first half of November. Sorry, I won’t be attending any holiday gatherings until after Thanksgiving. Just not ready yet.
Between cooking, decorating, shopping, entertaining and fitting it into a demanding, busy life it can be overwhelming and yet every year we try to do it all anyway. We want to create lovely memories of the holidays. However, if most of us dread the upcoming holidays what kind of memories have we been creating year after year?
Here in Las Vegas where I live we’ve had a drastic drop in temps the last couple days which is getting me in a holiday mood. Last week temperatures were in the 80s. Yesterday our high was 48 degrees. Brrrrrrr! On Friday I finally pulled out the sweaters, jackets and cozy socks. I bought a red sweater yesterday, so I’ve got something cozy, casual and holiday-ish to wear.
We dread the onslaught of the holidays as December 25th, Christmas, the MacDaddy of the holidays sneaks toward us because it’s a stressful time. It’s stressful in terms of all the things we feel we “have to” do to get ready. It’s also stressful when it comes to the hit on our finances. Women typically make the holidays happen while men are relegated to handling the decorations outside the home and footing much of the tab (if you’re married).
Christmas is supposed to be joyful as we celebrate the “reason for the season.” The last decade I’ve made a conscious choice to celebrate the spirit of fun and joy and dial back on the stress. The way I do it is pretty simple:
- Focus on doing the things that are fun and enjoyable for you
- Minimize things that aren’t much fun and are just plain irritating
- Don’t shop on credit cards or spend more than you can afford
I don’t love decorating – but I love the way holiday decorations look. Next weekend I’ll put up the Christmas tree. I know, it’s before Thanksgiving but I figure it takes the same amount of time to put up and take down the tree whether it’s before Thanksgiving or on Christmas Eve. Because it’s an artificial tree, I can keep it up as long as I like. It has the tiny, white lights already affixed to it so I save time. I make hot cocoa and put the Christmas CDs on as we adorn the tree with red, white, silver and gold decorations. The rest of the decorations go up after Thanksgiving, the first weekend of December.
Decorations are only in our entry, living room and dining area. The holiday finery is focused and feels inviting and Christmasy without spreading it everywhere. I don’t use Christmas towels in the bathroom or Christmas sheets on our bed. We have a Nativity set placed in a prominent place in the living room. After all, Christmas IS about celebrating the birth of Christ. As lovely as all the decorations are, they accompany the Nativity set.
Outdoors? We hang a beautiful wreath on our front door and call it good. My husband doesn’t want to spend an entire Saturday running up and down a ladder affixing lights. I also don’t want to run up our electric bill and get a January surprise.
Holiday cooking: for decades the Saturday before Christmas was baking day for me. I spent the whole day with Christmas music on in the kitchen working away. I enjoyed it. My husband Ernie is great about doing dishes in-between batches. Problem is I noticed I was eating a lot of those cookies. It’s easy to sneak a little cookie or two out of a ZipLoc bag when the mood strikes. Not a good thing when I really need to cut back on carbs.
So, I’ve made an adjustment to this routine. Now I bake a lot of holiday quick breads: Cranberry-Orange-Walnut Bread, Pumpkin Bread with Raisins and Chocolate Chips and I even have a tasty Apple-Rosemary Bread we enjoy.
Baked goods freeze well and a loaf of bread that takes hours to thaw is less tempting then grabbing one small cookie that thaws in minutes. Less temptation equals less stress. Before going in the freezer they’re cooled completely, wrapped in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil. I “feel” like I’ve enjoyed the holiday activity of baking I remember from the past, but it takes less time and the calories aren’t as tempting.
The breads become one of the gifts I give family and friends. I buy a roll of pretty fabric ribbon with a holiday look and tie a bow with a sprig of holly or a tiny pine bough tucked in.
Cookies and candy aren’t the only holiday temptation: colder temps mean we lean toward more artery-clogging “comfort foods.” For many there’s a greater temptation to imbibe more alcohol to celebrate. How can we stay healthy and avoid stressful weight gain without eating salads when it feels like the last food we want?
Soup to the rescue.
A hot, hearty bowl of soup loaded with veggies and a little meat or beans if you choose is a great way to eat in between the parties and get togethers that’s smart for your health and for your wallet.
Soup is a great way to eat during cold, winter months. It’s also the perfect way to use up vegetables that have been in the frig a few days and become a little wilted. I usually start by sauteeing onions, carrots, celery, garlic and red bell pepper and then add prepared broth and anything else that sounds good. I toss in some protein rich quinoa (say “keen-wah”) rather than pasta or rice to keep carbs fairly low. Add a little crusty baguette on the side or crackers and dinner is ready to go. Leftovers the next day usually taste even better as flavors meld together in the frig overnight.
Holiday shopping: this is where people really lose all sense of sanity about the holidays. Budgets go berserk and people end up secretly wishing they could bomb the mall to avoid the crowds. I enjoy shopping and I’m good at finding bargains. I’m one of those crazy people who’s out the door before the sun is up on black Friday, newspaper circulars in hand and ready to go. That’s because I’m naturally an early riser AND I like shopping. It’s like a holiday after the holiday for me. If you hate that idea, enjoy sleeping in instead.
If you dislike shopping – buy gift cards. One of our local grocery stores has a big rack of gift cards from a variety of retailers and restaurants. Match with a lovely card and a personal note and you’re good to go for most people on your list. A trip to your grocery store could be all you need to complete your holiday shopping and make everyone happy.
Don’t let Christmas sneak up on you. It happens December 25th every year. Never changes. You know who you need to buy for, right? No reason to be out with mobs of people at 6:00 pm on Christmas Eve. Buy one or two gifts per week and your gift-giving will fit better in your budget without pulling out the credit cards. Organize your time and make it happen in advance.
Set a budget you can live with. Decide how much you’ll spend per person and stick with it. Tell family and friends you’ve decided to be sensible and focus on what matters most and less on making a big splash with gifts. Chances are they’ll be relieved and agree with your choice. It’s up to them to follow suit.
Do some of your shopping online. Or, if you can, shop when malls aren’t busy. Weekday mornings you’ll find no mind-numbing crowds and sales people actually able to help with your purchases. Big crowds don’t always mean better prices. If you shop with a very specific list, unwilling to stray from every item on the list, you might meet with disappointment. Have clear ideas in mind but also consider, “What would my brother Jim like?” You just might come up with an even better gift choice faster and easier.
Go to one wonderful holiday event that makes you feel in a holiday mood. Whether its a beautiful presentation of The Nutcracker Suite ballet, to a performer you love doing a Christmas show or something else - attend a ”feel good” performance. Ernie and I have attended a holiday musical presentation at our local community college several years in a row. It’s a feast of Christmas music, decorations and good feelings. Cost: about $10 per ticket.
When you attend a performance you’re focused rather than catching a few notes of holiday tunes in the background as you navigate rush hour traffic. You get dressed up and for the duration of the show you immerse yourself in the beauty of the holidays.
Many other activities can make the holidays fun and festive without crazy spending. Play games with Christmas carols playing softly in the background. I got the Baby Boomer edition of Trivial Pursuit at a yard sale for two dollars. It’s a blast to play with my friends to remember those days.
Sing Christmas Carols: Go online and get the words of holiday music and print them out for your holiday singers. Pull the chairs together in a circle and sing. It’s good for you – really. Or, venture outdoors in the chilly, early evening air with flashlights. Stroll down the streets in your neighborhood with friends and sing. It’s a great way to enjoy an hour, bring a smile to your neighbors, and, burn off a few calories after a big, holiday meal.
Help Out a Mission or Soup Kitchen: Collect things that can help out others less fortunate: food, cash, blankets and your time. It’s a good reminder that giving to those less fortunate warms the soul and reminds you to have gratitude for what you DO have this time of year.
Make your Christmas feel less stressful and more special and unique to you and what matters to you. Focus on what’s fun and steer away from things that feel like “have to’s” especially when it comes to spending more money then you’re comfortable laying out for the holidays.
Recognize that people, not stuff, is what’s truly important during the holidays and throughout the entire year. Make your Christmas an expression of the love you share with people close to you and don’t worry about the perfect, opulent display of holiday riches.
You can’t turn on your TV or computer without being impacted by the stunning images of catastrophic damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy earlier this week.
There are a few important things to look at in the aftermath of such a tragedy. With a big election next week, maybe it’s the right time to reconsider the kind of country we want to live in.
Government: doesn’t it make you feel a little better to see those images of President Obama together with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie? That’s what government is supposed to do – work together to create solutions no matter what party, red or blue. Consider that as you go to the voting booth next week. (I already voted earlier this week.)
The “I won’t talk with you, I won’t deal with you” attitude toward governance the last few years has resulted in more problems and a sluggish response to the challenges we face as a nation. I’m tired of the vitriole and the bickering, aren’t you?
When we work together – even if we have strong differences of opinion - good things happen, Obama and Christie have taken the lead here. I give both credit for putting aside their differences and working together to help the thousands impacted by Sandy.
A few years ago crossing the aisle was considered the preferred norm, not a reason to get your shorts in a twist. You don’t get a doggone thing done if you don’t find workable ways to get along with others.
I blame marketing. Yep, it’s what I’ve been doing my entire career. But I lay the responsibility for a lot of our sniggering small-mindedness on marketing. If we couldn’t tell the difference between one candidate or another and where they stood on issues in the past – we sure can now. Politicians have made certain of it by distancing themselves from each other so much we look ridiculous.
The “have it my way” culture that sprung up in the 1980s and the “me generation” has led to the expectation that’s how it should be all the time, every minute with everything. That everyone should get things exactly as they want them and no one’s feelings should ever be hurt along the way. A little unrealistic, don’t you think?
Infrastructure: Let’s start getting honest here. If you haven’t travelled around the world there’s probably a chance you feel America has the most advanced systems in the world. Not even close. We’re seriously behind the eight-ball when it comes to mass transit, bridges, education, energy development of renewables, delivery of medical care and much more. As a matter of fact we’re currently rated 20 in the world. Not even in the top ten. We’re at 20. Sheesh!
New York subway officials have said this is the worst damage to the system in its 108 year history. They’ll get it patched back up and running again with duct tape and chewing gum. Thank goodness for our weather satellites that provided enough lead time to get all the trains and all the machines moved to safe places, saving billions of dollars in further damages.
The people of New York, New Jersey and other states are still waiting to get back their subways and power back. Mayor Bloomberg has issued a rule you must have three people in a car to get into NY City. Right now just walking down the street without slogging through a few feet of water, debri, sewage, petroleum and more is a challenge. Anyone who knows me knows I love walking, and, walking in New York City has always been an empowering experience in such a vibrant, exciting city. Well, especially if I can sneak in a little shopping – but I digress.
Global warming: whether it’s due to man-made activities or not we have to deal with the fact killer storms and hurricanes happen more often. Let’s stop politicizing what’s obviously happening, kicking the can down the road. Can you believe some turkeys see weather as a Democratic or Republican issue? Weather? Really?
These once-every-century storms and floods now happen about once every two years. Let’s stop kidding ourselves. Scientists, the most apolitical people on the planet, say that our artic ice is melting more and more every year. The result is crazy weather systems like mega hurricanes, flooding and massive snowfalls in winter.
Is it due to our “carbon footprint” or something else? I don’t know. Who cares? Do we really want to keep acting shocked when these events happen,, plunking our heads in the sand? Really?
Our natural tendency is to reach out and help someone who is in worse shape than we are. We selflessly give what we can when our fellow man or woman is hurting, and, we sure as heck don’t ask if they’re Republican or Democrat first.
In a tragedy we see people coming together in ways that show we understand the Golden Rule. Living with meaning and purpose for most of us means finding ways to help others whenever we can.
Here’s something funny in an ironic way:
People in the affected areas without power are running around trying to find power to recharge their cell phones, iPads, laptops, etc. Wouldn’t it be funny in a good way if as a result of this tragedy people actually look at each other and say “hi” rather than endlessly staring at the screen on their phone?
When I ask people what’s most important they almost always reply “helping others” and “making a difference.” Its a more powerful core value than anything else. If so, why do some folks get in a snit when two people with a difference of opinion AND the power to make a difference actually get along? Why do we cross our arms refusing to acknowledge what’s clearly happening and act like we can stuff the toothpaste back in the tube? Why do we posture and act like arch enemies when people clearly care and want the best for each other?
Even as we are all hurtling toward the holidays at breakneck speed, in the back of your mind you are probably thinking about the goals you want to set for 2012. For many small business owners the holiday season is a slowing down time. A good opportunity to hunker down and think about what you want next year.
I consider goals differently now because the world is changing so fast. In a post Arab Spring world, you must be flexible and adaptable. Goals must be set in Jello® not in concrete.
- Will achieve your goals faster than anticipated because of a new technology that didn’t exist before. This is the good news.
- Won’t achieve goals because you underestimated the one-two punch this economy packs. Offers that formerly resulted in a feeding frenzy of sales can result in thundering silence today.
- May set a goal that becomes obsolete. New discoveries can result in a quantum leap to something better. More good news if you’re nimble and quick like Ol’ Saint Nick.
The economic foundation and constancy most Americans always took for granted has changed. Thousands of Americans are scrambling to create financial abundance, good health, reduced stress and balance in the midst of accelerating changes.
The seismic shifts the last three years may have changed where you work, live, your relationships, and/or, your health. Truth is, few people have been unscathed by the spiral that resulted from the credit crunch and the housing bubble that went, “Pop!”
If you’re striving to return to the way it was – save yourself time. Instead, embrace a new way of working with change and you will create an unprecedented opportunity to build what you always wanted in the first place but perhaps never believed was possible.
Insisting others must change seems simple, but it’s a path to nowhere. Assigning blame is what we see in the media, however it doesn’t solve how to move forward in “the new normal.” Only swimming with the flow of change rather than against it will help you create the abundance you’ve always wanted, financially, emotionally, spiritually, in your relationships and in your health.
Whether you agree or disagree with the “Occupy” protesters fanning out across the country and around the globe, the only thing we truly have power over changing is ourselves. If you’re open to discovering how to make essential strategic moves now, life can improve in an instant.
Working harder may look like the solution. That’s our tradition: the “American work ethic.” Working smart and focusing on the highest and best use of your time is key. Also, working with the eleven energy surges discussed by Stacey Hall in her groundbreaking book, “Chi-to-Be: Achieving Your Ultimate B’All” is the secret to feeling an elevated level of prosperity and increased hope in every facet of your life.
Hall says, “There are times when it makes sense to take a rest stop and re-charge your batteries. Or, it may be time to surge ahead and get things done even if the result is not the picture of perfection you envisioned.”
Many Americans never considered owning a business a few years ago. Yet as the Fortune 500 and large businesses continue to morph and re-shape, sending jobs overseas, the lure of becoming an entrepreneur is undeniable. Benefits include increased flexibility, family time, time for health and personal pursuits, and, an opportunity to create greater financial success. Increased wellness and quality of life on every level.
The trade-off is less of what we used to call “security.” Twenty years ago I met a woman who worked for a Fortune 100 manufacturer. She was laid off for the third time in five years.
I asked, “Why not consider a different career?”
She replied, “And leave behind all that job security?”
As a business owner it’s impossible to get laid off – which is pretty cool. There are no barriers to entry, but there are indeed barriers to success. Many new business owners jump in with enthusiasm, but they possess few business skills. The skills to creating income in your business are marketing and selling. They are essential.
Its time to embrace these skills. Ignore new marketing and selling strategies and you don’t have a business – you have an expensive hobby. You can be yourself and have customers happily say ‘yes.’ Stretching outside your comfort zone isn’t about becoming a “pushy” salesperson. Old-school approaches fail in a sea of smart consumers. Align with your customer’s values and goals and they will rightfully see you as trustworthy and helpful.
We live in a new environment that requires different skills than ever before. Dump the old. Instead, open up and apply the skills and strategies that work in “the new normal.” That’s when you can finally create the fun and abundance you missed all those long, boring years sitting in a cubicle.
Stacey Hall and Denise Michaels are conducting their breakthrough workshop, “Occupy Your Life… NOW!” in Las Vegas, January 26-28th,2012. They will provide essential tools and strategies to make your life and business work in “the new normal” For more information and to register click here now.
Sometimes making the space where you live a little more pleasant and inviting is a wonderful way to make life feel better. So, why not create a slice of that exotic getaway right at home for the time being?
Even if you can’t go off to the Caribbean to lollygag away the rest of your life while ogling hunky cabana boys and drinking cocktails with fruit and little umbrellas in them. It’s still an improvement.
A couple weeks ago I started a decorating project for our porch. Where we live in Las Vegas the heat in the summer is scorching. So much so you feel pretty much trapped indoors all the time.
It’s like the flip side of winter in the northern climes where you don’t want to go outdoors most of the time. Want to go walking? You better do it at 5:30 or 6:00 am when it’s only in the 80′s because in a few hours the temps will soar to the triple digits.
I wanted to create a sense of cool and ease. I figured turquoise blue – like the Caribbean Sea – was probably the best way to do it. I’ve been growing herbs this spring and summer to add a touch of life to our porch rather than four stark, stucco walls. (Keeping them happy and well-watered is a challenge in the desert heat.)
Cost Plus World Imports inspired me with their cool, summery decorating ideas that are reasonably priced. I already owned the two Adirondack chairs for several years. They were a faded white and needed a scrubbing down first. I got Rustoleum spray paint in a deep aqua shade called “Lagoon.” Almost teal, actually. What a big difference. The cushions, the mosaic table and the umbrella are from Cost Plus. I gotta say, the umbrella we purchased yesterday, made the biggest single change.
Our porch is easily 10-15 degrees cooler now. But an added bonus – my office (behind the curtained sliding glass doorwall) and our living room feels cooler, too. (Even with insulated drapes my office is sometimes still uncomfortably hot during the summer.)
On the far wall you can see four small objects hanging in a neat row: those are small birdhouses. I paid about $4 each for them at Joann’s and painted them colors to match the cushions. The glass topped table and two cafe chairs I’ve owned for many years. I did a little faux painting treatment. On the chair seats I covered them with new foam, cool tropical fabric and vinyl over the top so they work with all the cool blue hues.
I mentioned plants earlier. They’re pretty much all herbs. In the picture below you see lavender and oregano. (The grass is fake.) I also have rosemary, tarragon, two types of basil, mint, thyme and sage. I’m looking forward to cooking with my herbs as they grow this summer. Have no idea what I’ll do with all of them during the winter.
This morning I was out on my porch at about six this morning enjoying my tea. For a change I was unconcerned about the sun that would rise soon. We also have wifi on the porch so it’s easy to plug in our laptops or use my iPad out there.
We have a solid three months of this kind of heat. The second half of June, all of July and August and the first half of September. I plan to do a little entertaining out here. Maybe invite a few friends over for Mojitos and a big fresh seafood salad. Or brunch on a lazy Saturday. I’m ready for entertaining adventures now.
Now, if only I could get my husband Ernie to serve me an icy Pina Colada adorned only in a bath towel. *wink*
By Denise Michaels
In recent years many of us have become drawn into finally understanding and caring about what life is like, in many other places and among different cultures around the world. We see more clearly how we’re alike and how we’re different from
other people we didn’t take much time to care about before.
Look at the common thread running through each of these holidays celebrated by people with different religious and spiritual beliefs:
• The wise men followed the light from a star in the East to leading them to a manger in Bethlehem to find the newborn king bathed in light. That’s the reason for the season: Christmas
• Hanukah, celebrated by the Jewish people is about the miracle of the oil in the lamp lasting for seven days when it should only have lasted for one day and so candles are lit on the menorah.
• The Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins when the light of the crescent moon is seen. For 30 days, the fasting ends and celebrating begins when the crescent light is seen again.
• The Winter Solstice is celebrated by Pagans on the darkest day of the year, December 21st, to pay homage to the fact that very soon the days will be more and more light.
• Kwanzaa, a newer holiday for people of African descent celebrates the virtues of Unity, Determination, Responsibility, Cooperation, Purpose, Creativity and Faith. Beginning December 26th, a different colored candle is lit each day.
• In India, a nation of 80 percent Hindus, Divali, known as the Festival of Lights is celebrated in November. There are joyful lights everywhere and countless millions splurge on sweets.
• New Years Day is about new beginnings and is celebrated with noisemakers, bubbly champagne, music, fireworks, the ball dropping in NY City and sparkly, light-attracting clothes.
Why discuss the common thread of light in the midst of all the festivities?
Because marketing your business is about letting your light shine. Not being afraid to let others know how proud you are of your business and what you offer to others.
Are you letting your light shine? Are you getting out of your comfort zone a little bit more each day to shine a light on your business and yourself? Or, do you feel uncomfortable when another person let’s her light shine? Do you try to pull her down because her light makes you aware you’ve missed opportunities to shine your own light? Do you fall into the predictable pattern of waiting for others to notice you?
I want to wrap up by sharing these famous words from Marianne Williamson’s book “A Return to Love.” Williamson wrote:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves,
“Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us.
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.”
By Denise Michaels, Author, “Testosterone-Free Marketing”
It’s 12:30 pm on Labor Day and I’m thinking about what to have for lunch. Haven’t decided yet. I’ve already bought groceries, spent some time Facebooking, gone for a walk and I have two client meetings a little later this afternoon.
Most of us know Labor Day as one of the last blasts of summer. The last day to celebrate with baseball games, beaches and burgers on the grill. The kids are back in school and according to the Staples ads it’s, “The Most Wonderful Day of the Year!!!!”
Before you know it Halloween will be here. Then it’s a hop, skip and a jump until Thanksgiving. Smell the turkey and spices wafting from the oven. Then, all the holidays of light happen depending on which spiritual path you follow: Ramadan (Muslim), Divali (Hindu), Hanukah (Jewish), the Winter Solstice (Pagan) and Christmas (Christian). What all these holidays have in common is that they celebrate light at the darkest time of year – when the days are at their shortest. Then, the New Year - celebrated with lights and sparkles is right around the bend. I can already feel your heart beating a little faster as you contemplate these obvious facts.
But right now you still have the better part of four months to make the rest of 2009 a great year with your business as you possibly can. It’s easy to get distracted with all the things we’re supposed to do this time of year. I say only do the ones you like.
Many women business owners just throw in the towel the closer they get to the holidays. But it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s Labor Day and the skies are still sunny. You probably do a lot of labor already with your business and your family. Vow this year to make the most of your business and go easy on the holiday magician stuff.
We sometimes forget how much is expected of us that wasn’t expected of our moms:
- We don’t just work hard - we own businesses.
- We’re expected to stay looking “hot” or be considered invisible until we keel over.
- Our homes are supposed to be not just clean – they’re supposed to be disinfected like a hospital room.
- We don’t just put up a Christmas tree. We’re supposed to re-decorate the entire house.
- Our children can’t walk to school by themselves or play outdoors – too dangerous.
- We need to watch out for trans-fats, sodium and other bad stuff in our food
- And we’re supposed to be plugged in and online 24/7.
I don’t know about you – but that’s a lot of labor. Give yourself permission not to be perfect. You don’t have to do it the way your mom or grandma did it. In fact if you had her life chances are you’d actually have it a little easier. Enjoy your Labor Day and then decide to put that extra energy into your business.