Embracing the Best of the Holidays

This post originally appeared November 8, 2011.


It seems that each holiday season is always more stressful than the previous year. I put too much pressure on myself to make it memorable and better. It wasn’t always like that. As a child it was so relaxing because there weren’t any expectations. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to have a stress-free holiday as an adult.

When I think about my ideal celebration, I imagine a Cleaverish celebration. Snow falls softly all day long and a fire crackles by an immaculately decorated tree as my family and friends laugh, listen to Christmas music and sip cider.

But in reality, despite growing up in South Dakota, I don’t specifically recall a Christmas with snow. It’s not that we never had snow, we did (although there were a few dry Christmases). Snow just wasn’t the most memorable part, and we didn’t even have a fireplace.

What I do remember is spending a snow-less Christmas in Arizona with my grandparents. (It was my Grandpa Jack’s last.) I remember my cousins, brothers and I sorting all of our presents under the tree. (The next day they were mixed together again.)

The perfect Christmas of my daydreams isn’t the one my memories are made of; it’s something much better. It’s memories of my family, and if I remember that, my holidays will be less stressful. It’s not about lowering my expectations. It’s about realizing what makes me happy, and stress isn’t one of those things.

If you celebrate, I’m wishing you a merry Christmas. If you don’t, still have a great week. I plan to be back on Friday with a new post. 

What Happens When TV Writers Truly Understand Book Lovers

My daughter is a huge fan of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. The show is actually pretty entertaining; I know this because I can admit that I do watch it with her frequently. As a book lover, I absolutely loved a recent new episode.

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic | When TV Writers Truly Understand Book Lovers

In a previous episode, Rainbow Dash, an athletic pony, was injured, laid up in the hospital and bored. Her friend Twilight Sparkle (Claire’s favorite pony) recommended a book that was part of the Daring Do adventure series. Rainbow Dash resisted reading the book but eventually gave in to boredom and quickly became addicted to the book. But, then she had to wait for the next book in the series.

And that’s when we arrive at the new episode. Rainbow Dash and Twilight Sparkle can hardly wait for the new book to be published. As true fans of the series, they get into an intense argument about who is a bigger fan of the books. The argument culminates in Rainbow deciding to track down the author and assist her with any real life things that are preventing her from writing the book.

I don’t generally start a series before the second, third, final, etc. book is finished. Series books, aside from Harry Potter, are something that I don’t really get into until they’re THE must read books (e.g.,the Millenium series, The Hunger Games). But I can absolutely understand finishing one book and needing to read the next one.

And, you know what? I’m happy that a TV show my daughter is watching is making reading a book a cool thing.

What experiences have you had with the portrayal of book lovers on TV? Good, bad, otherwise…

On Dance Class & Teaching Self Esteem

I’ve been tired lately, still trying to kick the virus that took me down a couple weeks ago. No surprises here, but I’m still working on Dracula. Enjoying it, but falling asleep at the drop of a hat. Here’s a little something different today.

“We’re looking for a class that will help her grow, so she could dance professionally,” Nick said.  Nick, Claire and I were touring the dance studio and asking questions about their program. I’m sure it’s not the first time the question had been asked, so the Director was ready with a response about the quality of their classes, the music they use and the moves they teach. It seemed pretty satisfying to Nick.

But I was a little unsure. I mean I’m happy to have Claire in a quality studio with good music and no inappropriate dance moves. But what am I looking for in Claire’s dance education? Were we looking for a professional-level education? Why were we looking to put her in dance class?

I do want to provide Claire with as many enriching opportunities as possible, so she can explore things that interest her. I want her to develop self esteem. To learn what she enjoys and what she’s good at. And I don’t want to limit her future abilities because I didn’t encourage her early on.

Research has stated that children who are involved in sports (and I consider dance a sport) have higher self esteem. I don’t strictly believe that; I think that’s only the case with kids who are good at the sport. The others–the benchwarmers or, worse, the kids who often embarrassingly play equal time–are probably resentful, sad or thinking about something other than the activity they’re involved in.

Then there are the activities in which all participants get a trophy. I’ve always thought it would be better to not waste money on the trophies and make it cheaper for kids to participate. Building a kid’s self esteem is a worthwhile endeavor, except when you’re rewarding him or her for something he or she isn’t good at. What happens when that kid faces a real challenge? Does that cause a self esteem crisis?

As a child and teenager, I was a fast sprinter. I did build a lot of self esteem because I won a lot. I sometimes wonder if that esteem alone is what carries me through the day or what portion of it exists still to this day.  What I know I took from that experience is an understanding of my own strength and determination. And, I suppose, a certain amount of self esteem solely based on knowing what I was capable of when I put my mind to it.

Encouraging Claire to explore and find what she’s good at seems to be a great way to help her build self esteem and find out a little more about herself. Additionally, activities like dance teach some much needed coordination to preschoolers, including some of the skills she’ll be tested on before kindergarten. Hopefully she’ll also learn some good skills like determination and dedication. And, if she becomes a professional dancer, then I can be satisfied that Nick and I helped her get there by putting her in dance early.

What do you think about kids’ activities? Is it to help them build self esteem?

On Being Perfect, Part 2

read Part 1 here

The conference room was full. The oval table that filled the long room was itself full with a few extra people sitting in chairs lined around the perimeter. The meeting’s casual appearance belied its importance: It was my first meeting with a lot of my higher ranking coworkers. It was my chance to prove my commitment and my knowledge.

I had just started to use Cozi.com, and its free Android app the week prior, and I felt pretty smugly satisfied with my success at juggling multiple calendars. My meeting was scheduled until 5:00 but realistically could last until 5:30. Nick was all set to pick Claire up from daycare.

But then I saw a missed call on my phone and a new voicemail. I surreptitiously checked my missed calls. It was daycare. I snuck out of the room during a slower, less critical part of the meeting to check my voicemail. And my scheduling smugness evaporated. Claire was supposed to be picked up at 4:00. It was 4:10. I quickly arranged with Claire’s provider to leave her with her responsible teenage daughters.

After my meeting, I called Nick who confirmed that he’d picked Claire up. It seemed to be fine. Except I couldn’t stop worrying about it. It almost completely consumed my thoughts on the drive home.

I revealed here that I’m no stranger to worrying about my shortcomings. I feel like I’ve made progress since then, but I also feel like the harder I try to remember everything the more mistakes I’ve made. This week alone I’ve made two grocery store trips: on trip one I forgot a bag of purchased items and on trip two I replaced those items but forgot to buy the chicken nuggets that are crucial to my toddler’s diet.

Sometimes it’s easy to laugh off my forgetfulness. Claire and I laughed at my silliness after I’d confirmed that I’d left the items on my first trip (most likely in the shopping cart) and received a refund. Or I remind myself that I remember the really important things. My phone and/or my purse might be lost, but I have Claire! But other times I mentally beat myself up about it. (And, let me tell you, I’m very brutal mentally.)

So, how am I dealing with this (besides not well)? Notebooks, lists, sticky notes, Cozi.com and the Cozi app. I write things down as I recall them; I make lists. And, most of all, I enter events into my Cozi calendar ASAP because it’s not Cozi’s fault if I don’t enter an appointment.

Do you struggle with trying to be perfect? Anxiety? How do you cope and/or overcome?

To read more of my thoughts, follow me on Twitter. For more book reviews, books I’ve read and books I want to read, find me on Goodreads. And of course, don’t forget to check out my Pinterest to see all the craft and home decor projects I’ll probably never do and some cool book and social media pins.

Living Intentionally

This year Lent is providing me an excellent opportunity to push myself to live my life more intentionally, to really focus on how I live and how it impacts me, my family, my community and the earth.

My first step in to learning to live intentionally was figuring out how I spend my time and if it fits with my goals and values. I quickly identified one way that I spend my time that doesn’t match up to my goals. I frequent a forum where I can spend hours chatting away without accomplishing anything.  I really enjoy my time there, but it’s become my go-to for entertainment when I could be focusing most (not all) of my time and energy actively engaged in achieving my goals.

A large part of living intentionally is truly understanding the world around me an embracing my spirituality. For the next 40 days, I will be reading 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker and Rediscovering Catholicism by Matthew Kelly. These books will help me understand how my actions impact me spiritually and my community.

I’ve been gradually working towards being more environmentally friendly, but I’ve been a little too gradual. I believe it’s time to be more focused on how I can be a better steward of the environment. It’s really time for me to define a strategy to become more environmentally friendly.

Are you giving anything up for Lent or trying to live more intentionally regardless of a religious or nonreligious affiliation?