Hints for the Holidays

…Helpful hints for the holidays.

Fall dining table

Thanksgiving Table

As I thought about the November issue of Roving Ruth, I wondered how my friends cope with the chaos and pace of the holidays. How can we look serene when people arrive at the Thanksgiving and Christmas tables? Rather than research what others say online, I polled 25 of my friends to see what they would suggest to improve the holiday cheer.

I received ten responses: some sent short replies, all contained serious thought, and one response arrived from a male.  I’m sharing the best comments from each participant. The responses show kindness, wisdom, and humor devoted to our celebrations.


1) Buy a smaller tree which requires no help from others to trim.

2) Potluck parties.

3) Be kind to yourself; enjoy “time off” to relax.

4) Donate and volunteer.

I asked for two or three sentences and I received enough words for a short story or article.  I was stunned, pleased, and overwhelmed with how to use the insight wisely. Only one person responded with three sentences. I am sending her a small gift of appreciation for the ability to follow directions.

Best Christmas Poll Hints (in random order, slightly edited)

~Several years ago we decided in our extended family of twenty-four, to economize by starting one of those crazy gift exchanges. We created guidelines for letting each person bring one gift to exchange three times before the final stop. We use a pie tin and dice to keep things rolling with laughter and fun.

 ~I do not have family to celebrate with so I decorate the house early and invite my friends for a holiday party the Sunday before Thanksgiving. I am grateful I created my “family.” It sets the tone for the entire season.

 ~One thing I do each year is attend a holiday concert, play or other event with my immediate family or just my husband and I. It’s a brief respite from the chaos that otherwise ensues, and it gives us a few short hours to really enjoy each other’s company in the midst of a hectic time.

 ~I send relatives and friends a Christmas letter telling them we want their presence in our life, not presents.   

 ~I buy boxes of peppermint candy canes and keep them in my purse.  I give them to waitresses, cashiers, postal workers, or anyone I come in contact with…to remind them of the love and care that people still have in this world.  

 ~Now if you are Jewish this is a no brainer.  My sister and family would go to the malls and watch the people hurrying around and just enjoy the view!

 ~Buy a book for everyone on your shopping list or give them your book if they haven’t already read it.  It is so enjoyable. (My favorite, for some reason.)

The Winner of the Christmas Poll Hints

Wagon Wheel Antiques & Gifts Christmas Pole in Calico Rock, Arkansas

Wagon Wheel Antiques & Gifts
Christmas Pole in Calico Rock, Arkansas

Dale Wiley, long-time friend who lives in Florida, is the only man who took the time to answer the following question I posed in the email. In the email to my friends, I asked how to seek help from the spouse. His response resonates for all of us.

~It must be a guy thing about that Christmas tree and not being helpful. It’s not that we don’t want to see a nicely decorated Christmas tree or we don’t want to help. It is what a Christmas tree represents; that the Christmas season is really here again and in our minds it was here not that long ago. We are rarely ready for it to come again. Translation: Now we have to go shopping and there is no way out of this.

 The quote by Edna Ferber just might keep you and the rest of us sane. Christmas isn’t a season. It’s a feeling.

 Thank you, Dale Wiley. Your Gift of the Suitcase (my latest book) is in the mail.

Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas and a Joyous New Year!

The December issue of Roving Ruth is in process.

No Hope for the Holidays

light a candle

Ways to cope with no hope during the holidays.

As I weaved a path through the grocery store yesterday, I looked for perfect food for our Thanksgiving feast.  I looked for the best green beans and brightest cranberries.  I pictured our loving family seated at the dining table.

Highly unlikely!  I need to give up the hope of pleasing everyone.  With the family’s mix of vegetarians and meat eaters, a new baby in the family, parent/child arguments, and diverse personalities?  I need to give up hope for the holidays.

“Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different.   It’s accepting the past for what it was, and using this moment and this time to help yourself move forward.” Oprah Winfrey

Ways to Cope

In an article by Martha Beck, titled 5 Ways to Survive Your Next Family Gathering, she suggests:

1)  Give up hope.  Don’t expect it to be perfect or any different than usual.  If your uncle always drinks more than he should, why would it be different this year?

2)  Set boundaries.   Try saying, “I do not and will not talk about that right now.”  If your kids need to leave early to go visit their dad, try not to be hostile.  Get over it!

3)  Lose control.  Don’t try to make the vegetarian teenager eat meat.  Serving some shrimp, as well as turkey may help, but won’t change any issues.

4)  Become a “participant observer.”  Take mental notes rather than try to control the situation. Realize that most of the friction is silly and will definitely increase the tension, if you suggest change.

5) Debrief.  Share your observations with good friends afterwards to see whose family would win the prize for worst behaved.

Less Hope, New Behavior

I’ve said many times to people going through transitions, “If what you do is not working, do something else.”  Can I follow my own directions?  Can I laugh when I open the sour cream and it looks like green fuzz from a sweater?  Can I keep quiet when relatives arrive two hours late for the now cold casserole?  Can I accept that we will probably not all sit down at the table, looking like a Norman Rockwell painting?

The Perfect Person

I need to go to the book store to buy, Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection by Deborah Spar, President of Barnard College.  Recently she wrote a book telling all of us, not just women, that we need not try to be perfect.  I watched one of her book reviews on Youtube and could definitely relate.  It’s not just women who seek out the perfect family, the perfect job, stilettos or sleek cars.  Too often both men and women say “yes” to over-burdening ourselves with the need to make money and look good.  How is this madness affecting health and families?

Yes, I need to give up hope.  I need to stop trying to please everyone.  Holidays may be tough but  if I relax and try to be less perfect. I bet my family would enjoy the day more.  Maybe we could play charades???  Whoops!  There I go again, trying to make everyone happy!

So here’s hoping you can give up hope!  Relax, enjoy the dysfunction.  As they say, put the FUN in dysfunction.  Maybe I’ll see you at the bookstore, where I’m headed to buy that book about Wonder Woman  book.

Happy Thanksgiving.