Tag Archives: Christmas

Add a Little More Joy to Your Family’s Holiday

“Tidings of comfort and joy.” Yeah, right. So many wives I know view the holidays—starting next week—as a time of overwhelming responsibilities. They feel the weight of creating a magical experience for their husband and children, and sometimes for other family members. Comfort and joy might be the last things on their minds. Husbands and wives have a responsibility to change the tone of the season.

I’m planning to do a few posts on this topic to help minimize stress during the holidays, but if you hope to have any energy and joy to infuse into your holidays, now is the time to do something differently. Put comfort and joy back on your radar this year.  Would you like the enjoy the holidays more, and see your spouse enjoying them more?

Find the Joy
Whether you have positive or negative memories of the holidays growing up, chances are you can think of a few things this time of year that excite you. Brainstorm ideas on your own about things you would like to do during the season, and then ask your spouse for input on what is important to him or her. The key is to get those items on your calendar before the extraneous events begin to crowd out what you find joyful. Do you love food, travel, religious services, or musical performances? Make time for the things you enjoy. Cut down on the obligations you don’t enjoy.

Even small things like scheduling time to make a gingerbread house or drive through the Christmas light displays can put a little jingle in your step and give you a great memory to treasure.  Schedule an evening to watch old Christmas movies while cuddled up with your sweetheart and the kids (or the dogs/cats). Think about annual traditions you would like to begin. They don’t have to be like everyone else’s traditions, but they should incorporate what you value most. If faith is important to you, schedule ample time for religious traditions. Keep some family traditions for the two of you as husband and wife. If you have always spent holidays with extended family, don’t forget to create some of your own unique traditions.

Schedule It In
One you have all your “want tos” and “have tos” on a list, get them onto the family calendar. You may find some things you have done in previous years have to be deleted to make room for new fun. That may mean you may not have time to prepare homemade food baskets for your neighbors or for knitting scarves for all your friends (unless this is what you enjoy most). You might have to skip a few holiday parties, or just stop by for 30 minutes instead of spending the entire evening. Do you really need to write a four-page Christmas letter or develop custom cards? Must you decorate three Christmas trees?

Try to do the things you decide to keep on the calendar with more joy. If your wife needs help putting the lights on the tree, try not to be a grouch. If your husband has done all the shopping and asks you to pick up one item, do it with a smile. If your kids need help writing letters to Santa, give them your full attention, and savor the memory.

Revise the Gifting
Part of the stress of the holidays is the overwhelming gift giving. Talk to your spouse about paring down the list of presents you’ll each need to purchase. Offer to help so one person isn’t expected to do all the planning, shopping, wrapping, cooking and entertaining. If you have young children, let them help you plan creative gift ideas, or give charitable gifts. Last year, my kids and I surprised my husband by secretly practicing and performing a song together. We also had them each select a charity for a family donation. Kids can help write notes to grandparents that are treasured more than an expensive gift.

If you like to give lots of gifts (and you have the funds), schedule time to select and wrap them, so that you’re not stressed at the last minute. Spending more than you budgeted for will just create more stress in January, so buy accordingly.

Avoid unrealistic expectations about gifts from your partner. I know men who try very hard to select a romantic gift, only to be rebuffed by their wives. Either tell him exactly what you want, or treasure what he gives you. Anything less is a form of rejection.

Share With Your Partner
Talk to your spouse about your expectations for the holidays (for yourself and for each other). If you feel responsible to create special memories, explain your feelings. If you feel overwhelmed, share why. By connecting with your spouse during the season and sharing how you are feeling, you can help maintain intimacy. Ask for specific help when you need it rather than complaining that you are doing it all alone. Remember the true reason for each holiday you celebrate, for example to give thanks for what we have on Thanksgiving, not to stress out about our home’s décor or cleanliness.

Step one: Schedule time to create your ultimate holiday to-do list with your spouse. With Thanksgiving next week, there’s no time to lose. Do you feel you could make improvements on the amount of joy and comfort in your holiday season? What tips do you have for increased enjoyment of the season?

Photo credit: ©Michah Jared/PhotoXpress.com  

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7 Last-Minute (Free)Thoughtful Gifts for Your Spouse

Christmas is less than a week away. If you want to avoid the malls or the large credit card bills in January, consider some of these thoughtful gifts for your honey:

  1. Write a love letter—Always my favorite choice.
  2. Schedule a night away with your spouse, and make a coupon or card with the details. If you don’t want to spend the money on a hotel or a sitter, offer to trade overnight childcare with a friend so that you each get a night at home alone.
  3. Make coupons for things you provide that your spouse loves—massages, their favorite dinner, breakfast in bed, ironing for a week, etc. Coupons for “intimate” services will probably be your hubby’s favorite gift.
  4. Offer to watch the kids while your spouse takes a long bubble bath or goes shopping or watches football with friends.
  5. Vacuum and wash the car.
  6. Ask your spouse what would make their holiday special or memorable this year, then try to make that happen.
  7. Even if you have to wait until after Christmas, spend some quality time with just the two of you reconnecting. Sip a warm drink by the fire, take a drive to look at Christmas lights, play your favorite game together, or go to bed early.

What’s your favorite gift to give or receive? Have a blessed Christmas with those you love.

Find Your Christmas Cheer: Overcome the Guilt and Dread of Holidays

It’s the best time of the year. All our troubles will be far away. How many of you think this way about Christmas? On the contrary, many people I talk to start to dread the holidays well before Thanksgiving. What was once a joyous time for them has become a stressful time of overeating and being pulled in too many directions. For too many couples, the stress comes between them.

I remember one year when we had a new baby, we didn’t even put up a tree. It was just one more thing to do, and baby was too young to notice. I fretted about buying nice gifts everyone would like and making baked goods from scratch for friends and even business associates. I even delivered them myself all over the city. What was I thinking? Thankfully, I have changed my ways and find I am more peaceful and excited about the holiday.

Here are some tips I have picked up over the years:

  • Schedule it out—decide the things you really like to do during the holidays. As early as possible in the season, preferably with your spouse, make a list of the things you enjoy and don’t want to miss. If you enjoy caroling, baking or visiting lights displays or musical performances, add to your list, and try to schedule them first.
  • Add the items you feel are mandatory, and include religious observances that are important to your family. Schedule these important activities before your calendar gets full of holiday parties and other obligations. Be creative, maybe you can combine a social group get-together with one of the activities you have on your list (seeing a concert together or baking together). I even schedule time for addressing cards and wrapping presents. Once I have everything on paper that I need and want to do, I feel so much better. I can see that it’s not an overwhelming list, but rather something small or fun to do every few days.
  • Would you like to start new traditions? We enjoy collecting Christmas ornaments whenever we travel, so putting up the tree is like traveling around the world. Our kids enjoy writing letters to Santa and choosing charities to support as a family gift. These things don’t add to our time commitment, but they enhance our enjoyment of the season.
  • Consider what you can remove from your list. Can you purchase items online instead of shopping store to store? Do you need to send 200 cards with personal messages?  Is making homemade cookies that important to you?  Would you rather not exchange gifts with so many people? Bring it up; they probably feel the same way.
  • If family obligations are causing stress, tackle this issue head on with a frank discussion of expectations. Be open to changing the way you have “always” celebrated. Alternating family visits on different holidays or different years usually works better than trying to fit everything into one or two days to please everyone else. For years, we never had Christmas morning in our own home, but now we treasure that time.
  • Financial stress is never good for a marriage. Maintain a detailed notebook from year to year with lists of gifts you have purchased for your spouse or other important people in your life. You can add ideas during the year, and you will have a better idea of what you will spend, or where you need to trim back. A small, thoughtful gift is often more appreciated than an extravagant, impersonal one. A handmade item or a love letter always sends the perfect message without breaking the bank.
  • Keep an eye out for friends and neighbors who are lonely or otherwise suffering hardship, and lend a helping hand if you can. The holidays can be nearly unbearable for the grieving, unemployed or seriously ill.
  • When you feel stressed, think about all you have to be grateful for this year. Have a Merry Christmas.

Are you feeling the holiday cheer or more like the Grinch? What causes the most stress in your holiday season? Have you found a solution?

Read this helpful article for more tips: Your First Christmas as Husband and Wife – Making the Holidays Fun, Memorable and Stress-Free

The Free Christmas Gift Your Spouse will Treasure

“Whatever I treasure and enjoy—this home, our ranch, the sight of the sea—all would be without meaning if I didn’t have you. I live in a permanent Christmas because God gave me you.”– Ronald Reagan

 

I hear a lot of people talking about needing to scale back this Christmas. From the large crowds in the malls already, I’m not sure they will stick to their goals. What if there was a gift you knew your spouse would really treasure, and it would cost you nothing but your time and effort? The gift is a love letter. Wait! Before you get too scared, please at least hear me out.

 

The book, “My Dear President,” details hundreds of letters between Presidents and their wives, from George Washington to George Bush. It’s fascinating to not only read about their lives but about their feelings for one another so eloquently expressed. They don’t call Ronald Reagan “The Great Communicator” for nothing. Not only did he communicate well with a nation, he communicated his love with amazing detail in daily letters. The book “I love you, Ronnie,” details these letters, but you can read a quick glimpse here http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4201869/. No matter where he was, Reagan made time to write letters to his wife, whether they were in different countries or in the same room.

 

My point is that if the President of the United States can make time to write letters to his wife, so can you. I know you are used to emailing and text messaging and maybe aren’t used to expressing your feelings. So, here are a couple of suggestions. Don’t buy a greeting card and write a line at the bottom. Write a real letter with at least a couple of paragraphs and a beginning and closing. You get extra points for nice stationery and hand writing instead of typing. Tell your spouse not only what you appreciate about what he or she does, but also what you appreciate about who they are and what they mean to you. Express your gratitude and love. If you need further inspiration, read one of the books mentioned above. Or link to this IBJ article, which includes one of the greatest love letters I have ever read, from a Civil War Union officer to his wife while on the battlefield. Go to: www.ibj.com and search for Mike Redmond’s column title “The art of letter writing.”

 

Chances are that your spouse doesn’t remember many of the gifts from years past. But great letters become treasures for generations.

 

 While you’re at it, draft a letter to your children, your parents or those you want to know how much you care about them. Even hand-written notes to business associates stand out because they are so rare.

 

Share your letter-writing experience. Have you written or received a letter that has great value to you?