Christmas Cheer 2017

Originally published as a TinyLetter

As a child, I felt more and more excited as the holidays approached. Strings of lights twinkling around town, tins of cookies, Christmas carols, presents, time off school…what’s not to love?

Now that I’m an adult, I realize how hard the grown-ups, especially Mom and Dad, must have worked to make the holidays magical for me. All of those presents don’t thoughtfully pick out themselves! I wrote about this feeling a few Christmases ago, when the weight of so many obligations had all but crushed my Christmas spirit.

This year when one of my preset radio stations started playing all Christmas music, all the time, it wasn’t excitement that I felt. It was dread. Instead of singing along to Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” like I wanted to, all I could think about was my long To-Do list unspooling like a scroll.

When I told Darren about this, he said, “That’s not acceptable to me. What can we do to change that?”

In my world, any new undertaking calls for a Google Doc, so I created one called “Christmas Cheer 2017” (yes, tongue-in-cheek) and started unloading the To-Do’s rattling around in my brain: Bake cookies. Shoot Christmas cards. Buy presents. I was hoping that making a To-Do list would clear my mind and put the “happy” back in the holidays.

Well, it’s now midway through December, and I’ve succeeded in not being a stress ball. But I haven’t ever gone back to the list. I turns out that it wasn’t the To-Do list that’s made this holiday season more pleasant; it was the To-Don’t list: the things that I cut out or simplified that took the pressure off.

Darren designed a Christmas card with some of our favorite photos from this year, so we didn’t need to shoot new ones, and the printer sent it out. I made a one-stop shop at Shutterfly to personalize gifts for the whole family (looking at photos boosts happiness). I’m going to bake the simpler Christmas cookies and save the labor-intensive ones for my family get-together, when we can make a day of it. I bought a tabletop Christmas tree while grocery shopping at Kroger, and we decorated it as a family with carols in the background (Bing Crosby made me smile this time).

Project Christmas Cheer 2017 is working. It’s not that I’m gritting my teeth and getting through the Christmas season; I’m just cutting out everything that doesn’t matter to me so I can focus on what does.

Please remind me of this next week if I have a meltdown next week during “Spirit Days” at Evan’s school. (Why, God, WHY?!)

what’s fueling me

I printed a few copies of the Reschool Yourself manuscript on CreateSpace, and it was a beautiful moment to lift it out of the box and into the world as a real book. I have a few trusted “beta readers” who are helping me tighten it up, and they’ve been sending me photos of “Reschool Yourself in the wild.” My sister, Gill, sent me this from a cafe in Barcelona:

My sister-in-law, Meghan, sent me this one, cozy in her PJs with a fittingly inspirational mug:

I put my book on the shelf among the ones written by talented women I admire. It’s good for my soul.

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