30 Days of Holiday Prep

Halloween is over and we’re coming up on Thanksgiving pretty quickly. Then we really enter the holiday rush. And we get swamped. Overwhelmed. Stressed. We all want to have a happy holiday season- no matter what holidays we celebrate. But, often our best laid plans fall apart. The good news is, you can plan for an actually have a holiday season that is happy and less stressed. I can’t promise you won’t have any stress, but you can really cut it down. All it takes is a little planning and starting early. How early? Now. Here is my 30 day guide for preparing for the holidays. It requires one thing each day, but after the 30 days are up you will be way ahead of the holiday curve. 

If you stumble across this post after the 30 days begins that’s ok. Start whenever you see this. If you don’t have 30 days until the holidays, that’s ok, too. Just combine days when you can until you’re caught up. The goal is to do as much as you can in advance. Feel free to move days around if you need to. This is not a rigid schedule. It’s designed to help you prepare. There are no hard and fast rules.

November 4- Plan

The best way to prepare for anything is to plan. The holiday season is stuffed to overflowing with activities, celebrations, parties, etc., etc. etc. No one can do everything. Today, take a little time to determine what is most important to you. What celebrations does your family find the most meaningful? List everything you do during the holiday season and rank them. The top ranked activities are the ones you must do- those things that the holidays would be all wrong if you didn’t do them. The lower ranked things? Those are the ones you do because you feel like you have to but don’t find any meaning from. Mark those off the list. You don’t have time to do things that you don’t find meaningful. Now, you have a list of the things that are most important to you. Just realize that it’s ok if you don’t get to everything on the list. 

November 5- Set a Budget

This is pretty straight forward. No one enjoys starting a new year in debt from all they spent during the holidays. Set a limit on how much you will spend. Then, break that down into categories. If you plan to spend $500 during the holidays, set part of that aside for gifts. How much will you use to purchase supplies? Holiday foods? Ceremonial items? You’ll need cash for parties and events. Budget it all out and stick with it. You’ll feel so much better after the season ends to know you didn’t break the bank. 

November 6- Freshen Up Your Holiday Mailing List

Who do you plan to send cards to? Freshen up that list. Remove anyone that no longer needs to be on there, add any new ones. Make sure you have contact information for everyone. If you send digital holiday greetings, make sure you’re prepared with information for everyone you’ll send it to. 

November 7- Holiday Meal Plan

Today you’re going to lay out your holiday meal plan. Think Thanksgiving Day, Christmas, Chanukkah, Yule. Whatever holidays you celebrate between now and January 1st. Even New Year’s Day is included. If you have a special meal on any of these holidays plan it out now. 

November 8- Clean Out a Closet

It doesn’t actually have to be a closet. Pick a place to keep all of your holiday items and get them together. Wrangle up your gift wrap, scissors, tape, small decorations, etc. Put it all in one place. This will also be where you store your gifts later. 

November 9- Rest

Take a day off from the holiday prep. I’m an advocate of a weekly day of rest. The specific day doesn’t matter. I have Saturday built in for religious purposes. Many people have Sunday for their day of rest. Either of these is fine. If your spiritual tradition doesn’t designate a day, pick one yourself. It’s truly rejuvenating to have a day just for you. 

November 10- Purge

Go through your house and box and bag everything you don’t need. You’ll be bringing in lots of new stuff over the next two months, and you’ll need a place to put everything. Get ahead of the game now by getting rid of what you no longer need or want. This can also help other people have a brighter holiday season. 

November 11- Donate

Today is the day to donate everything you purged yesterday. All of those bags and boxes need to be taken out of your house and donated somewhere. Thrift stores are a good place to start. Just get it out and donate it somewhere that it will be used. 

November 12- Take Inventory

Now that you’ve downsized a bit it’s time to take stock of what you have in the way of holiday supplies. Lots of times we end up buying things we don’t need because don’t know what we have already. Raise your hand if you’ve done this. Mine’s definitely up!

November 13- Supplies List

So, now you know what you have. Make a list of all the things that you need for the holidays. Do you need new cookware? Write it down. How about wrapping paper. It goes on the list. Need a new tree? List it. Whatever you need in the way of holiday supplies goes on this list.

November 14- Grocery List

Once you have your supplies list make a grocery list. Anything you need for your holiday meals that can be bought in advance goes on this list. Include your turkey unless you absolutely need or want a fresh turkey. If you don’t mind having a frozen one list it now. Will you need more flour and sugar for baking? Think of any holiday foods that can be prepared ahead of time and frozen. List the ingredients you need for those now. 

November 15- Shopping

Today you’re going to go and purchase everything on your lists from yesterday. You’ll likely be making several stops, so plan for the grocery store last. 

November 16- Rest

Rest Day!

November 17- Meal Prep

Cook it up today. All those holiday items you can make ahead of time? Do it today. Also think of any casseroles, lasagna, etc. that you may want to make ahead of time for dinners later. Prepping meals today and putting them in the freezer will make it easier- and lighter on your budget- when you’re in a hurry with no time for making dinner later. 

November 18- Gift List

Make a list of everyone you need gifts for this holiday season. Then list out exactly what you want to give them. Keep your budget in mind. Will you be purchasing ready made items, making gifts, or a mix of both. It doesn’t really matter. Just list out everything you plan to give to every person you plan to give to. 

November 19- Another List

Now that you know who you’re giving to and what you’re going to give them, list what you need. It doesn’t matter if you have it or don’t. If you need it for a gift, write it down. 

November 20- Organizing

Take the list you made yesterday and determine what you already have. No need to go shopping for things you don’t need. Gather up anything you do have and make a list of what you don’t. 

November 21- Last Minute Thanksgiving List

Make a list of everything you need for the remainder of your Thanksgiving meal. You’ve already prepared items, and purchased anything that was storable, but you’re likely to need fresher items, too. Make that list today. 

November 22- Thanksgiving Shopping

Go shopping for the items on your list from yesterday. 

November 23- Rest

Rest Day!

November 24- Cleaning & Turkey

If you bought a frozen turkey, you’ll need to set it in the refrigerator to start thawing. This is definitely based on the weight of the turkey so you may need to have done this a few days earlier or maybe tomorrow. But in general, this is a good day. Also take time to clean your house today. If you’re having guests for Thanksgiving you definitely want a clean house. But even if you’re not, you want your house clean so you feel less stressed. 

November 25- Holiday Cards

Prepare your holiday cards today. Write your annual letter, sign all your cards, whatever you do for sending holiday greetings, do it today. Address and stamp the envelopes. It’s all done today, except the actual mailing. If you send emails, write them out now and save them in your drafts. If you post on social media, create the post and schedule for later. 

November 26- Rest Day!

This is one week when I change up my rest day. You’ll see why when you get to Saturday. 

November 27- Thanksgiving Prep

Cook everything you can today and take anything you already made out of the freezer. Get as much done today as possible. It will be less work tomorrow!

November 28- Happy Thanksgiving

Enjoy your feast!

November 29- Decorate

I hate the Black Friday crowds so I refuse to go out shopping today. Feel free if you like. If you absolutely need a deal for something and don’t want to go out, buy it online today if you can. Otherwise, this is the day for decorating. Put up your tree. String your Chanukkah lights. Set up the menorah. Put up any decorations you like. Have fun with it. 

November 30- Shopping

While I normally don’t shop on Saturday I do today because it’s Small Business Saturday. It’s not nearly as insane as Black Friday. You get really good deals. And, I like to keep as many of my dollars local as possible. Go out and purchase any items you are giving that are ready made, and make sure you pick up the supplies you need for any gifts you plan to make. 

December 1- Gift Making

Today is the day for making any gifts you plan to create yourself. Have fun. 

December 2- Gift Wrap

Wrap all those gifts!

December 3- Mail Day

Post office time. Mail your cards and gifts today. It won’t be long until the lines at the post office are insane. If you do electronic holiday greetings send the emails today. If you post a general greeting on social media, go ahead. Get it done. 

That’s it. You’re done. Now, you’re ready to enjoy the holidays. All that’s left is the parties and celebrations. And cleaning and prepping for any holiday meals the rest of this month. But, you’ve got it planned out by now so it should be a lot less stressful. Go have fun. Enjoy the season. Happy Holidays!

Never Forget. Never Again

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is a day which commemorates the liberation of Auschwitz, the largest Nazi concentration camp and extermination center. 

Do you know how many people died during the Holocaust? Many people are aware of the six million Jews who died. They were not the only ones. According to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, a total of approximately 20 million people died. That number includes the approximate 17,303,900 known deaths as well as the undetermined numbers of certain groups of people. Who were all of these people?

  • Jews
  • Soviet Civilians
  • Soviet prisoners of war
  • Polish civilians
  • Serb civilians
  • disabled individuals
  • Roma
  • Jehovah’s Witnesses
  • Repeat criminal offenders
  • German political opponents
  • Homosexuals

You can read more about this here

I’m going to include here a piece I wrote in November 2015. It has been just over three years and we are still no closer to finding an answer to this question. I don’t know what the answer is. I do know that we must never forget the horror of what happened to 20 million people. I do know that when we say “Never Again” that it is exactly what we mean. This atrocity can never happen again. We must make sure that it doesn’t. And it doesn’t just apply to Jews. While Jews were the largest single group who died in the Holocaust, there were 14 million non-Jews who perished. Never again means never again…for anyone. 

Here is my piece from 2015:

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the #Syrianrefugees issue. I can understand both points of view when it comes to deciding if the USA and individual states should admit refugees. I really can. It’s not an easy decision no matter which way you look at it. On one hand you have innocent people trying to flee hellish conditions just to be able to stay alive. On the other hand, you have a real threat of terrorism from a small percentage of those people. Or at least we have a potential threat.

The one thing that weighs heavy on my mind is something that I’m sure many people get tired of hearing. The Holocaust. This has happened before. European refugees attempting to flee to the USA and being denied entrance. Lest we forget, in 1939, 937 refugees fled Hamburg, Germany for Havana, Cuba aboard the MS St. Louis. When they arrived in Havana, only 28 passengers were allowed to disembark and enter Cuba. The remaining passengers were denied entry.

After leaving Cuban waters, the St. Louis sailed so close to Florida that the passengers could see the lights of Miami. They begged President Roosevelt to grant entry to the US, but he didn’t even respond. The St. Louis was sent back to Europe with 908 passengers. Great Britain admitted 288 refugees and the remainder were admitted to continental European countries. Of those 620 refugees admitted to the European mainland, 532 were trapped when Hitler invaded Western Europe. Ultimately 254 of those people died in the Holocaust.

Two hundred fifty four lives that could have been spared. Think about that. It seems like such a small number compared to the millions of people who died, but 254 more people could have lived. Imagine what their decedents could have done. Decedents who were never born. I know a beautiful woman who lives because her mother was put on the kinder transport to England while her other family members were on the St. Louis. If I remember correctly, they landed in Holland, but were part of those who ultimately died. Just thinking about it makes me cry.

We can not continue to live a life ruled by xenophobia. We have to do our best to make the world a better place. Yes, terrorism is real. Yes, we need to be mindful of those who we allow in our country. But that goes for anyone, not just refugees. 254 people died in the Holocaust because of American antisemitism and xenophobia. Jewish people say “Never Again”. We all should say never again. But we shouldn’t just mean never again for Jews. We should mean never again for all people. I’m not saying we should just admit anyone. But saying refugees should be vetted isn’t enough. We need to have some real dialogue about what can honestly be done, what can truly work. This isn’t the time for ideals. It’s the time for making real choices. Will we continue to repeat the mistakes of the past or will we be better people this time around and do the right thing? I’m not saying what the right thing is. I don’t know. I really don’t. But we have to stop being ruled by fear and start living out compassion and love for our fellow man.

If you want to read more about the tragedy of the St. Louis, please go to this page on the US Holocaust Memorial Museum website.

10 Self Care Strategies

Last week I blogged about being thankful for yourself. You can read that here. One way to be thankful for yourself is to practice self care. I used to think of self care in terms of big sweeping measures such as a bubble bath with flowers or a massage. Those are good things and they are acts of self care. In fact, I had a massage yesterday and it was bliss. Massages are an act of self care that I swear by and make them a regular part of my self love routine.

However, I have found that self care does not need to be fancy. Often, the little things that you do for yourself often make a big difference in how you feel. So, I have come up with the following ten ideas for self care that are simple, every day acts. They don’t cost anything, or don’t have to depending on how you incorporate them into your life.

Pick one of these or all of these. Incorporate some of them into your life and see how they make you feel. If you already do some of these pick some more. The more self care you practice the better you will feel.

Focus on the now. 

Don’t live your life in the past or in the future. Take each moment as it comes to you. Worrying about the past or future only robs you of the pleasure that can be found in the current moment. The past can’t be changed. The future is often not nearly as bad as we worry it will be. Live in the now and face each moment and day as it comes.

Spend time in silence. 

Our brains are over stimulated  most of the time. We have televisions, computers, phones, and a plethora of other devices that are constantly streaming information at us. It’s no wonder that we have a difficult time relaxing. Spend time in silence. Yes, I mean time without talking, but I also mean brain silence. Take time away from the constant stream of information. Quieting your mind will lead to a wide range of positive changes in your body and mood.

Move.

Find some type of physical activity that you enjoy. I am the first person to admit that I hate to exercise. But moving your body does wonders to improve your mood and how you feel physically. I have taken up yoga and it has made me feel so good. I’m not good at it- yet. But I do it. Actually, over the past two months I haven’t been able to go to my weekly class because of my husband’s health issues. I miss it. I miss it more than I thought I would. I knew I would miss the people, but I didn’t know I’d miss the physical activity. I can’t wait to go back.

Meditate. 

This goes hand in hand with spending time in silence. When you quiet your mind it makes it easier to meditate. It doesn’t matter how you meditate. You don’t have to sit with your legs crossed and your fingers touching saying “om” over and over. You can, but you don’t have to. Meditation can be as complex or as simple as you want it to be. The simplest form of meditation is being mindful of your breathing. Take slow deep breaths and focus on the inhale and exhale. Do this for as long as you like.

Do things that bring you joy. 

It doesn’t really matter what you do for self care. If it’s something you enjoy than it is caring for yourself. I’ve been under a tremendous amount of stress lately. On top of all that I’ve started writing a novel this month. It is Work with a capital W. In addition to my full time job, and launching this business I’m writing a freaking novel! But I enjoy it. Yes, it’s difficult. But there is a joy I get from disciplining myself to sit down and write something every day. Sometimes I reach my daily goal and sometimes I don’t. But I write something every day. And that brings me joy. Find something you enjoy doing and then go do it. That is self care.

Eat the “bad” foods. 

There are so many people who cut out foods they love because they are bad for them. Carbs. Fat. Sugar. Cholesterol. Whatever. Constantly trying to change what you eat to fit an ideal- even health- brings misery. I’m not saying not to be mindful of your health. Definitely be mindful of your health. But don’t ban entire food groups. No food is bad. Just eat in moderation. Of course, if you have an allergy you have to not eat it. Or, if you eschew certain foods for religious reasons (I do), then I’m not talking about that either. But if it’s a food you would normally eat but don’t because you think it’s “bad”, go ahead. Eat it. Just be mindful of it.

Forgive. 

We’ve all heard the cliche about not forgiving someone only hurts you, not the one you won’t forgive. Or how harboring un-forgiveness is like drinking poison and waiting on the other person to die. Well, I’m here to tell you that there is some truth in all cliches. I’m not saying it’s easy to forgive. I’m not saying you have to forgive if you’re not ready. I struggle with that one myself. What I am saying is that when you choose to forgive someone it does absolutely nothing for them, but it lightens the burden that you carry. Plus, not forgiving someone is living in the past, clinging to the hurt. So, you can’t live in the now and refuse to forgive.

Do nothing.

Yes, that’s right. Don’t. Do. Anything. Set aside some time, be it a day, a few hours, whatever, and do absolutely nothing. Some religions have an entire day that was designed for this. Some people choose to do it while others don’t. But, if you set aside a regular time to do nothing then it helps you to be more productive when you actually get back to doing something. Besides, doing nothing isn’t actually doing nothing. It’s taking care of yourself. And that’s something.

Be spiritual. 

I don’t care if you practice a religion or not. I don’t care if you believe in a higher power or not. Everyone can, and should, be spiritual. Find something outside of yourself that brings meaning to your life. If you find meaning in helping others then go out of your way to be helpful. That is a spiritual practice. If you’re more traditional and follow a religion, do so in a mindful way. Don’t just blindly follow what your religion dictates. Take time to contemplate the teachings and customs. That is spirituality. Finding meaning outside of yourself and connecting to that meaning will bring you an inner peace beyond measure.

Be yourself. 

Above all else be true to who you are. The worst kind of self loathing is derived from trying to fit your life into someone else’s mold. I spent many years of my life rejecting my true self and I was miserable. I was actually pretty good at living according to other people’s expectations. But deep inside my life was chaos. I have physical and emotional issues that I carry to this day that are the result of trying to fit a mold I wasn’t born for. When I decided to be me no matter what I reached a point where I could heal. It’s not easy, but I’m slowly getting there. And I have found that the absolute best self care is to be who I was meant to be.