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[Note from Barb: Two of my favorite early holiday presents this year have been author Kassandra Lamb’s new Christmas-themed cozy mystery A Mayfair Christmas Carol (see my review here) and Kass’ generous offer to be a guest blogger.]


Kassandra Lamb is a retired psychotherapist/college professor turned
mystery writer. She spends most of her time with her characters in an alternate universe, the magic portal to which (i.e., her computer) is located in Florida, where her husband and dog catch occasional glimpses of her. She is the author of the Kate Huntington mystery series, The Kate on Vacation novellas, and the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, plus a guidebook for novice writers, Someday Is Here! A Beginner’s Guide to Writing and Publishing Your First Book. You can read more about Kassandra and her books at http://kassandralamb.com.


 

Christmas: It’s the Most Stre-ess-ful Time of the Year!

Guest Post by Kassandra Lamb

I’ve got some new lyrics for an old classic!

It’s the most stre-ess-ful time of the year!
There’ll be much to and froing,
And tempers a blowing
When loved ones are near.
It’s the most stre-ess-ful time of the year.
It’s the crab-crabbiest season of all!
With the holiday shopping
and pushing and stomping
when crowds raid the stores.
It’s the crab-crabbiest season for sure.
There’ll be parties for hosting,
Uncle Joe’ll be boasting,
after he’s had enough beer.
There’ll be scary Aunt Glory
and Gramps telling stories
of how he shot the reindeer!
It’s the most stre-ess-ful time of the year!

[Image credit: sketch by Duncan McPhee, Archives of New Zealand, CC-BY-SA 2.0 Wikimedia Commons.

Can you imagine Andy Williams singing that?!?

Joking aside, this is indeed the most stressful time for anyone who celebrates Christmas. Some years I’m tempted to take up Buddhism.

I’ve learned the hard way, through the years, how to reduce the stress of the holiday season. Here are my top five tips!

1. Lists, Lists, Lists…

Our Floridian Santa contemplating his lists. 

 

Santa and his elves aren’t the only ones who should be making lists and checking them twice. There are three ways that lists can save your sanity.

First, ask your family members with whom you exchange gifts to make up a wish list. We’ve been doing this for years in our clan. It makes shopping so much easier. One is not bound by the list, but it’s there as guidance and a safety net, as needed and desired.

Second, make a list of the people you give gifts to and which gifts you plan to buy/have bought/have ordered, etc. for each person. No need to stress over whether or not you’ve forgotten someone if you have a list!

And third, make a list of the things you need to do to get ready for the holidays. Do this no later than November 1st (okay, it’s a little late this year, but do it now anyway). It is so satisfying to check things off as you get them done, and that often makes the rest of the list seem less overwhelming.

My list looks something like this:

  1. Start shopping.
  2. Make travel arrangements (we go to our son’s for Christmas).
  3. Decorate house.
  4. More shopping.
  5. Find that person in the store who keeps playing It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year on the loudspeaker and strangle them.
  6. Wrap gifts.
  7. Pack clothes for trip.
  8. Take dog to kennel.
  9. Load car.
  10. Drive to son’s house.
  11. Hide gifts in guest room closet and booby-trap the door to keep grandkids out!

Those of you without grown children who are willing to feed you on Christmas may have grocery shopping, thawing the turkey, and stuff like that on your list. Maybe even baking things.

(Note: Back when baking was on my list, it involved Pillsbury tubes of dough.)

2. Shop early, shop often!

[image credit: imgflip.com]

I start in October, and I’m done by Thanksgiving. Now before you decide to hate me, take a deep breath and realize that you could be me. All you have to do is plan a Christmas shopping trip in October.

I go with my brother. I love to shop; he hates it. Together, we have a fun day and usually knock out at least two-thirds of our lists.

But if we don’t check everyone off our list, it’s okay. It’s only October, so we know we have lots of time left to find those items that didn’t jump into our cart that day.

3. Two words: Gift bags!

[Image credit: Photo by Melinda & Cristiano, CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr/Wikimedia]

I like wrapping packages almost as much as I like shopping. But in recent years, I’ve become more and more enamored with gift bags. It’s so easy to pop that gift into that bag, stuff a little colorful tissue paper on top and slap a tag on the side. Done!

You can put multiple related items in them, such as a tee-shirt that says “Grandma loves me best” along with chocolates that the grandchild recipient will, of course, share with said Grandma.

They are especially wonderful for those odd-shaped items like that gizmo that will help your bending-at-the-waist-challenged father put his socks on.

4. Traditions vs. Choices.

It’s easy to get caught up in doing things for the holidays that you aren’t all that crazy about just because that’s what your family has always done. Traditions are wonderful, if they enhance the experience.

But we should give ourselves permission to break with traditions when they become more cumbersome and labor-intensive than they’re worth.

A few years ago, my family faced some stressors around the holidays that made us want to simplify things. We decided we would have a cold buffet for Christmas dinner, for just that year. I baked two turkey rolls and my daughter-in-law and I made various salads the day before.

Guess what? We didn’t miss the traditional big Christmas dinner one little bit. The meal was just as tasty, and so much less stressful. Instead of spending half our time in the kitchen, we spent that time balancing plates on our laps and laughing and talking as we enjoyed each other’s company. We’ve been doing Christmas dinner that way ever since!

[meme created on imgflip.com]

You can make these choices about lots of things holiday-related, such as decorating.

For years I struggled with strings of #%@&* outside lights, stringing them over trees and bushes and freezing my tuckus off in the process (we still lived up north then). Today, the inside of my house is a Christmas wonderland, but outside, there’s a wreath on the front door and a pre-lit tabletop tree in the dining room window. That’s all my neighbors are getting from me.

And you know what, they’ve never complained!

5. Take care of Mama!

(Or Papa, if he’s the one doing most of the Christmas prep.)

Schedule proper rest and eating into your days. Put your feet up for a few minutes occasionally and read a book. Stop often to take a deep breath.

This is me grinning at my new doll family!

My mother used to wear herself down to the nub by Christmas Eve. My brother and I would hide in our rooms. She was so exhausted and cranky, if we landed on her radar who knew what would happen? By the next day, she was better and we always had a great Christmas, but much of what she had done to prepare for it (such as insisting on a spotless house) wasn’t really what made it special for us.

The specialness of Christmas came from having a whole day of relaxation and freedom to play and lots of attention from the adults in the family. Everybody was in a great mood and we had a blast.

Oh, and there were new toys, of course.

And I have something new for you! A fun Christmas story to read during your rest breaks—a Christmas novella in my Marcia Banks and Buddy mystery series.

 A Mayfair Christmas Carol: A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery Novella (The Marcia Banks and Buddy Cozy Mysteries Book 4) by Kassandra Lamb

When Mayfair, Florida’s newly-minted Chamber of Commerce goes off the rails and decides to build an ice skating rink for a Christmas extravaganza, a decades-old skeleton is uncovered. The secrets it reveals threaten more than the town’s Christmas plans.

Feeling responsible since the whole let’s-attract-more-tourists idea was hers initially, dog trainer Marcia Banks is determined to help her police detective boyfriend solve the mystery—whether he wants her help or not. Maybe she can wheedle more out of the townspeople than he can.

Will she and her Black Lab, Buddy, keep the ghost of Christmas past from destroying what is left of Mayfair’s founding family, or will her meddling make things worse?

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