Completely UnTraditional: 5 Tips for a Non Stressful Christmas

I won’t lie, I kinda suck at holiday planning and prepping.  I’m a procrastinator of all things I don’t wanna deal with until the last moment.  Christmas is usually like a far off glimmer of blinking icicle lights: oh so pretty to look at, thats some awesome color schemes there, but wow, lookit, I found this on the ground!  Cue distraction in every other direction besides jolly fat old men and annoying overdone carols.

Then it sneaks up.

Like a stalking velociraptor.

Clever bastard.

It lurks in the background starting in October, slowly gaining more and more momentum.  Red and white and glitter sneaks into the end cap displays of every store.  Feliz Navidad increases volume.  Posters and pics of turkeys spread out like a Playboy centerfold infiltrate every freaking ad.  You’d think that would be enough, but hahahahahahahaha, yeah no.

Suddenly, out of the wild evergreen yonder, Christmas bursts forth in all its snowy, jingly, commercialized glory with its mistletoe hanging out and everything.

Christmas is the most stressful holiday of the year.  There is this huge pressure on the holiday for everything to be perfect, from the decorations to the presents to the food to the atmosphere, and you’re supposed to be happy and joyful while radio and TV stations shove holiday cheer down your throat.

The expectations riding on a single December day really dampens the entire holiday.  So my solution has been to go off book and make Christmas Untraditional.  Here are a couple of things I do to make the holiday more enjoyable.

1.  Switch up the menu.

Turkey.  Ham.  Green bean casserole.  That jiggly purple stuff that no one eats but everyone serves.  (Edit: I’ve been informed that stuff is cranberry, not chilled monster goo.  Am slightly disappointed.)  With most of the same stuff being served at Thanksgiving, sometimes it feels like you’d rather gnaw on your own leg than eat another gorging round of the same rich food.  So don’t.

This year it’s just me and my Mom at home and then a quick trip elsewhere with my Dad to eat with extended family, so Mom and I decided to have Hawaiian fajitas and one pie.  That’s all and that’s it.  No million dishes we can’t even fit in the fridge and no seriously rich food with the exception of the pie.  Easy peasy, lemon squeazy, and about a quarter of the time spent in the kitchen.  We’re using the rest of that time marathoning wonderful Christmas movies.  Like Die Hard.

2. Simple gift giving.

I, sadly, am not rich.  Like, at all, and not even as semi broke as usual thanks to my move, so gifts have been a bit of a stressor.  But the thing is, the holiday really isn’t about stuff, as mainstream media likes to remind us ever so often between toy ads.  There are more than enough ways to give without enslaving yourself to the debt troll if you just sit down and figure out what you are capable of.

Since I moved in with my Mom and we share a house, we decided to make gifts for the house.  Yes, you read that right.  Neither of us are design fashionistas or anything, but we both have similar tastes in decor.  Specifically, we like rustic looking things.  So we are gathering natural materials (sticks, rocks, dried animal bones, leaves, feathers, whatever is on the ground) to create decorations to hang on the walls.  Then there’s more of us we’ve put into the house, and that helps make it a home.  Ain’t that part of the holiday spirit?

3. A ban on music.

I am a music junkie, and I’m fond of certain kinds of Christmas music.  But after a couple trips to the grocery store anytime between October and now the radio stations cross my thin line of tolerance and merge into an unjolly red zone.  I refuse to listen to holiday music in the house and car until week of.  Sometimes like three days before.  Not only does it prevent me from hearing every freaking rendition of all ten Christmas songs in existence, it makes the experience of finally listening to them later much more enjoyable.  But until then, this place is rocking with hair bands, soundtracks, punk, and cheesy 90’s classics.  Viva la electric guitar, suckers!

4. Ditch the Perfection Virus.

And it is a virus.  The idea of perfection takes hold like a flu and fucks you up worse than the plague, and, because it’s the image the media likes to sell the most, it’s the hardest idea to outrun.  Perfection is a myth, though, plain and simple.  Life is full of potholes and speed bumps, just as the holidays are full of kitchen disasters and unruly relatives.  You can’t control the variables, but you can choose to enjoy yourself no matter what, and relax about the details.  The details don’t make the holiday.  Your attitude, outlook, and reaction to the missteps are what make it.  So choose to be joyful.  Choose to see the good that comes along with the annoying.

5. Whatever happens, you can always use it for a story.

Uncle Jim got drunk and set the curtains on fire?  Smile and catalogue the details.  Aunt Lenore misplaced her keys and decided the dog ate them?  Sneakily take notes.  Did cousin Larry decide he could tap dance and break the coffee table?  Again?  Laugh until you hurt but keep your vid app going, you want to be recording that.  The good thing about the holidays is that you will always find enough fictional fodder to fill your pages if you’re receptive to it.  Just remember to alter the situations a bit and change all the names and you’ll be golden.

Over all, I think the most important thing to remember during the holidays is that they come around once a year, and they don’t last forever.  Just have fun, be grateful, and don’t overdo the whiskey nog.  You wanna remember the details, not find them on Youtube because little cousin Lisa is devious as hell.  That’s your job.


Ice Cream for Breakfast

At the moment I am sitting in a quaint coffee shop around the corner from my house and enjoying a bowl of delicious lemon-lime ice cream at 9:30 in the morning.  My inner kid is having a ball inside my head right now.  She’s sticky fingered, fat cheeked grinning, and wants to spin around in circles with her arms stretched out until gravity takes over and she pukes in the lilac bushes.

And I am going to let her.  All except for the puking part because, no, been there, done that, am still trying to get rid of the icky tee-shirt.

It’s easy to forget about our inner kids the older we get, to push them aside in favor of worrying about “real-adult” stuff, especially when bills are due and your supervisor is breathing down your neck and, holy cheese balls, I swear I just took my car in for an oil change, what do you mean it’s gotta be done again?

We sigh and groan and stop playing with our inner kids because all this shit is piling up and we don’t have time.  Then, I bet you fifty bucks if you’re anything like me, you drag yourself to the keyboard and try to get to work on your current masterpiece and, whammo, putting together a sentence is like trying to hold on to a pissed off fish that’s been swimming in bacon grease.  No matter how hard you hang on or how many moves you think you have, that fish is having none of your shit and is gonna slap you in the face with its tail before it disappears into the murky bacon water it came from.

But you keep after it, right?  I mean, that’s what everyone tells you “real” adulthood is about.  It’s mostly work, only a little bit of play, and you just have to suck it up and deal, buttercup, because this is as good as it’s gonna get.

Yeah, no.  The definition of insanity is performing the same task over and over again hoping for a different result.  And just because most of us creative types qualify as some type of crazy, doesn’t mean our crazy has to be boring or unproductive.

Creativity is essentially the brain at play.  It’s making stuff up that doesn’t yet exist.  It’s putting things together and making something different.  It’s laying on the couch with our heads hanging off the edge and looking at everything upside down through a Kaleidoscope because that’s as close as you can get to dropping acid without actually dropping acid.  Or however that expression goes.

So, that bacon covered fish of inspiration?  You’re not gonna catch it going in bare-handed using society’s normal road map for achieving stuff (work hard, laser focus, no keg parties, blah blah blah).  You’ll catch it (and keep it) by throwing the adult rules out of the window and indulging in the awesomeness of play.

You decide whatever constitutes play for you.  It’s whatever makes your inner child shriek with unholy glee at the thought of doing.  For mine, ice cream for breakfast is a pretty damn good start.  So is buying myself a package of crayons and a kickass superhero coloring book.  Or watching Disney movie.  Or acting out the Titanic bow scene solo shouting, that’s right, bow down to your queen and empress, bitches.

Do something fun.  Do something silly.  Invite that fish to walk on land and hand that finicky fucker a cane and a stovepipe hat, because ya’ll are gonna invent something awesome.  Adulthood and all it’s suck will still be there when you finish, but not until your recess is over.  So go.  Have fun.  Indulge.  Create.  Get messy, as the wonderful and wise Mrs. Frizzle used to say.

Just try not to puke in the bushes, because no one wants to see that.


©Shiloh Ohmes 2013