Use a Little Magic to Beat the Stress This Season

Good morning! I hope your day is off to a nice start.

I’ve been admiring all the pictures people have been posting of their holiday decorations and kids sitting in Santa’s lap. Some are smiling, some are in a trance, and some are crying their eyes out as they look for any path of escape. After all these lectures about stranger danger, their parents tell them, “Go sit in that fat man’s lap and maybe he’ll give you a piece of candy!” Brilliant.

We did it, too. The whole experience. We tell them this figment of our imagination is watching their every move all through the month of December, just watching for them to misbehave, so he can divert all their gifts to a more deserving child. As parents, we think maybe it’ll help them try just a little harder to be good. To the kid, it’s just one more set of eyes watching their every move.

I remember my mom telling me we would get so wound up in the final weeks before Christmas, we were almost sick with anxiety. The more we’d try to behave, the more we’d misbehave. It’s like tying a person’s hands and telling them it’s a good thing their nose doesn’t itch. Within seconds, they’ll be scratching it against anything in sight. Be sure you’re not standing too close when that starts.

My grandson is having a hard time with the whole “be good” thing this year. The little boy has a heart of gold, and can be the most lovable child on the planet when the mood strikes him. But he can also be the most determined, defiant little demon you’ve ever met. And, I’m finding that the closer we get to Christmas, the more unpredictable that behavior becomes.

It’s not the child. It’s the pressure. It’s the memory of every act of disobedience in the past several months, and the knowledge that, if Santa truly has been watching, nothing he can do at this point will ever make up for it. And as soon as that sweet mood yields to the slightest misbehavior, it’s just one more reminder that he’s probably not getting anything this year. Is it any wonder they misbehave?

We can see it in kids. And, thankfully, we usually do something to defuse the situation and reassure them that they really haven’t been that bad – that even Santa can forgive a few indiscretions. But who reassures us? After all, we tend to react a bit differently to the stress of the season as well. And any time you react, there’s a 50/50 chance it won’t be completely positive.

This is a time when people are at their best. They smile a little more, they sing happy tunes, they let the old woman with two items get in front of them in the checkout line. It’s also a time when road rage is at its highest all year. People fight over parking spots, they blow their horn and flash indecent hand gestures, and swear like a sailor simply because the car in front of them is going too slow.

And that’s before they even get inside the store. I’ve actually seen people swipe a prized gift out of someone else’s shopping cart – not because the store was sold out, but because it’s there and they want it. Period. And if you want to see the Christmas spirit turn into seething disapproval, let the person at the checkout ask for a price check or struggle to find a credit card that’s not maxed out.

This should be the time of year when we’re a little more patient, a little more gracious, a little more excited. It’s a time when we find hope in things we normally wouldn’t notice. We see the magic in a young child’s eyes and can’t help feeling a little of the magic ourselves. It’s a time when we revisit the innocence of youth one more time, if only for a fleeting moment.

Yes, this is a season that can bring out the best or worst in people. It’s simply a matter of how we approach it. Slow down a little. Park a little further from the store. If somebody else insists on being miserable, don’t let it affect you. This is your holiday, and you’ve waited for it all year. So have the kids. So, make the most of it. In a couple more weeks, it’ll all be a memory. Make it a good one.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Don't Let the Craziness Define the Season

Good morning, and happy Friday! I hope your day is off to a nice start.

So, a couple of days ago, a female co-worker texted me and asked if I’m done with all my Christmas shopping. I responded, “So cute – she thinks I’ve already started.” I’ve been accused of being a little less manly on most things in life, but when it comes to shopping, my Y chromosomes shine through. I do as little as possible, and usually in the last hours of Christmas Eve – with all the other men.

I don’t know that it’s a “man” thing as much as just putting it off. I don’t like crowds. I don’t like traffic. I don’t like rude people, and I don’t like long lines at the store checkout. So, I put it off until the last possible minute. Then I complain because the stores have sold out of all the good stuff. Maybe if I started in July, I could avoid this mess. But then I’d hide stuff and forget where it is until April.

As a comedian, I often lamented the fact that, when you ask a woman what she wants for Christmas, the reply is always, “I don’t really want anything.” Yeah. I only fell for that once. What that really means is, “I’m not about to let you off the hook that easy.” We’re supposed to pay attention and pick up on all the little hints she drops all through the year. Well, we’re also supposed to obey the speed limit.

Next month we’ll celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary, and I don’t know my wife any better today than I did way back then. I guess the difference is that she’s not afraid to shop. When she needs something, she gets it. And after one year where I tried buying her clothes, we came to a mutual agreement not to ever do that again. Some mistakes you only make once.

So, I’m left with trying to surprise her with something she doesn’t even know she wants. And that’s not easy to do, especially in an age of online shopping where the complete inventory of every store in the world is available at the click of a button. More than once, I’ve found that perfect unique gift, only to hear her say, “I saw this online!” Of course you did.

And then there’s the issue of using a debit card from our joint account for shopping. “What did you buy at Godiva Chocolates?” A circular saw and some wool socks. So much for that surprise. I finally got smart and started using a credit card of my own. Because, even if I take cash, that’s right there on the bank statement three seconds after I complete the transaction.

Yes, women and men are different, and that’s never more evident than this crazy season of holiday shopping. My wife always insisted that we had to have special wrapping paper for the gifts from Santa so the girls wouldn’t notice it was the same wrapping paper we used for one another. A boy wouldn’t notice. It’s paper. It’s red and green. Oh, and there are snowmen on it. Beautiful. Now dig in!

The difference is my wife always wanted to create the perfect Christmas for our daughters and now our grandchildren. I always figured my job was to fund it. Otherwise, stay out of the way. We used to shop together, but she found that shopping while the kids are in school was a lot easier. Now it’s mostly done online. We get deliveries from UPS, FedEx, and Amazon almost daily.

A couple of days ago, my wife was having some issues with high blood pressure and what felt like a racing heart. I told her she’s not allowed to die until after Christmas, because there are too many gifts to wrap and I don’t know who gets what. I’ve often said I’m as surprised as the kids are on Christmas morning. With a couple of exceptions, I have no real idea what any of them are getting.

Yet, somehow, we bring it all together and the day is pretty special every year. Because, it’s really not about the gifts and the lights and the retail frenzy. It’s about family. It’s about warm feet and warm hearts. It’s about spending the day with one another celebrating something bigger than we can truly comprehend. It’s about kindness, generosity, and those smiling little faces. It’s about hope.

So, as you go through the motions of putting the finishing touches on your holiday celebration, take a moment to remember what it’s really about. Whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, or simply Wednesday, find the special meaning that day holds for you and enjoy it for what you want it to be. Because, long after the gifts are forgotten, the memories of what really matters will linger on.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Make Time to Enjoy the Season

Good morning, and happy Hump Day! I hope your day is starting off nicely.

This is a time of year when routines change and what we’ve become accustomed to yields to something completely out of the normal. We shop. We go to parties. We spend a little time with the kids as they thumb through toy catalogs with nearly every page earmarked. And we eat. Oh, do we eat. Candy, cookies, cupcakes, pastries, and everything else our brain tells us we should avoid.

Even the morning traffic is reduced, which I’m still trying to figure out because the parking lot at work is still just as full, so I imagine everyone else’s is as well. Are people just leaving a little later? Are they leaving earlier? Or are they simply driving with a little more of a cool head, not in such a rush to get someplace they’d rather not be? Maybe someday I’ll look into that. For now, I’m just enjoying it.

But in the evening, there are a lot more people out and about. Parking lots at stores fill up more by the day, and even Walmart has hired a few extra people to work the cash registers. Too bad they don’t keep that up through the year. It’s a good time to go grocery shopping, because everybody else is in a different store. Unless they shop online, which more and more people are doing.

And then there are the parties. I have one this week and one next week, plus a happy hour after work. Twice. After that, I’m not sure. But given that this will be my last month in my current position, I’m sure I’ll get out with a few more people before this calendar page hits the floor.

And then there are the holiday celebrations, church services, and meals. You’d think we’d lose weight with all this running around. But, remember the candy and cookies? Yeah. Mystery solved.

It’s a time of year most of us look forward to, because we find ourselves interacting just a little more. We’re a little nicer (well, most of us). We’re a little more generous. We find delight in the simple things, like a child sitting on Santa’s lap, eyes aglow, as they verbalize their dreams.

It’s also a time when stress levels are through the roof. Just watch cars in a parking lot jockeying for position as somebody in a prime spot sits with the engine running and the transmission in reverse, carefully checking their receipts against their shopping list. It takes about 6.2 seconds for tempers to flare. Before long, fingers are in the air and the Christmas spirit goes right out the window.

A lot of that is simply the result of overcommitment – trying to do too much in too short a time, when there are other things we should be doing instead. Kids are still in school, and the teacher still expects them to finish their homework. Dinner still needs to be served. And the boss still expects us to get the job done, even if that means working a little late to make up for all the socializing. And on it goes.

I’m not sure how to really fix that, but there are a couple of things we can do. First, be realistic about what you can and can’t do each day. You don’t have to do it all, and certainly not all at once. If the store is sold out of that prized toy, look online. With parties, you don’t have to be the first to arrive and the last to leave. Just showing up is enough. Fit it into your schedule as your schedule permits.

And no matter what, set aside some time to drive around and look at house decorations, or to take the kids for a sleigh ride. Go out for ice cream. Enjoy a quiet dinner for two, or drinks by the fire. Breathe. The holidays will come regardless, and in January another year begins. Make sure you leave enough of yourself intact to face the new year. Everything else will work out. It always does.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved