Thanksgiving’s over and it was great! This week we have to get back to normal and take care of our stuff that we ignored last week AND it’s a full one. Seems like this week is a month long, doesn’t it?
This is also the week before I bring out the Christmas spirit and start going crazy! So I clean the house, put some things away, get my stuff ready and in place…and wait for the weekend!
Hmmm, do these two things ever go together? I think they can, but I don’t think it’s necessarily the best way to go into a holiday. We all do the best that we can through this holiday season but, when we set unrealistic expectations of either ourselves or others, it’s a setup for failure. We all joke about that family get-together that includes the crazy uncle, the forgetful aunt, or the parents that are disappointed in us. Unfortunately, this happens more often than less. Most of us are versions of that family. We may have disagreements and things can be awkward or irritating. The picture-perfect family gathered around a fireplace and singing Christmas carols is extremely rare and, when we try to force this into our lives in an effort to make our holiday idyllic, we’re likely to be disappointed. We don’t have to be, though! Don’t try to be something that you’re not. Do more of what makes you (and your family) happy and don’t worry about how it “should be”.
I don’t think we should try to meet expectations that aren’t realistic for ourselves. We should each do what’s best for our OWN families and friends. It’s what makes us happy, what brings us together, how we feel about each other that’s important. It’s not the dinner, the gifts, the presentation or decorations. It’s the joy that we are looking for. Bearing in mind that none of us are perfect, it’s reasonable to assume that nobody else that shows up is perfect either. Does that mean that your holiday gathering won’t be perfect? Nope. The perfection comes in the love, the heartfelt good wishes and acceptance that we have for each other. Of course we’re all stressed out, tired from the running and trying to get everything done and, for a lot of us, work pressures, health, or weather problems on top of it. We’re going to be a bit on edge, easily irritated and may not be in the best frame of mind in the exact moment we need to be. Let’s try to be patient with each other. There are things that matter (like caring, forgiveness, love) and things that don’t (irritation, intolerance, rudeness). We have a choice on how we want to let these things affect us, not just on the holiday itself, but every other day as well. Sometimes we need to overlook those things that aren’t perfect. If the food is overcooked, you don’t approve of somebody’s clothing or the life choices a family member makes, it’s okay. If everybody is there to share their day with each other, that’s what counts. The rest will all make good stories in the years to come. We should choose to look for the things that make us happy and not get upset about things that aren’t important. THAT’S what it means to enjoy the holiday. I hope yours is all that you wish for!
So, it’s Christmas and time for gift giving once again. That’s great when you have the money to get the kids just what they want. It’s a good feeling when you can get that nice co-worker a little something or give an extra couple of dollars to the woman who does your hair. What do you do, though, if you simply don’t have the funds to do these things but want to show somebody a little love? Do you need to look like Scrooge? Nope. There are lots of ways around this problem.
When the kids that you want to buy for are little (your own or others), there’s the knock-off route. You may not be able to afford the name brand that’s the hottest thing out there, but you may be able to afford that very similar item at a much lower cost. Beware, though, that there is an age when they know the difference and you might as well gift them underwear as a substitute for what they really want. Before that time, you are free and clear. If you’re past that window of opportunity, I would veer off in another direction entirely. You don’t want to look like you tried to get what they wanted but failed. Find something completely different so it’s not a comparison. Think about what they like, their hobbies and their interests. Think about things that you find interesting that you might want to share with them. Who knows, they could find a new and interesting hobby. Everybody is good at something and you’re giving the gift of your time and expertise.
Sometimes, you aren’t able to afford anything close to what you want to buy for somebody. It’s okay. It truly IS the thought that counts, not the gift itself. If you can afford your time, your caring thoughts, your prayers, or your love, THAT is a gift worth giving. You can wrap it up however you like. You can write a poem, find something in a magazine or book that expresses how you feel or that you find interesting and frame it for a dollar or reuse a frame that you already have. You can write up a gift certificate for a hand car wash or a homemade meal for a parent or a night of babysitting for a favorite friend or relative. How about a trip to a museum or even the library; bring lunch and have a picnic at a park! Think about the things that make them happy, think about the things that you can do and put them together. How about a neighbor who has trouble getting around? Why not offer a ride to the grocery store or a monthly trip somewhere they may have trouble getting to. Manual labor is a pretty darn good gift and one that is much appreciated. It means that you’re truly giving of yourself and it’s a wonderful low-cost, high-reward gift. The real value of this gift is the time and thoughtfulness that you put into it. No doll, pajamas, scarf, or tie can touch that!
Have fun, be creative and, most of all, be sincere and your gift will truly be treasured.
Who doesn’t enjoy a holiday treat like cookies, candy, fudge or cake? Well, those of us with celiac disease typically can’t indulge since it’s rare to find a gluten-free item included. It’s really hard to manage this, as well as other food allergies, during the holidays when all of these goodies show up at work, friends’ homes, and at family dinners.
I think we’re all at least somewhat familiar with celiac disease these days. It’s become much more common than it used to be and is all over the news and social media. We likely know someone with either a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease itself. According to the Celiac Disease Foundation:
“Celiac disease is a serious genetic autoimmune disorder where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. It is estimated to affect 1 in 100 people worldwide. Two and one-half million Americans are undiagnosed and are at risk for long-term health complications.”
If you or someone you love is affected with celiac disease, this is one of several amazing resources. They offer information, product suggestions, recipes, etc.
Since it’s become more publicized, it’s become both easier and more difficult to manage. You would think that with the additional publicity, resources, and additional gluten-free food offerings, both in the store and at restaurants, it would be easier to eat gluten-free. It is, in a way. However, there are so many foods being offered as gluten-free that truly aren’t, it’s frightening to me as a consumer. At this time, manufacturers are not required to test their product in order to label it as gluten-free; it’s up to the individual manufacturer to ensure that they meet their labeling requirement. In restaurants, you have to be cautious as well. Just because they use a gluten-free crust or gluten-free pasta doesn’t ensure that your pizza or your meal is safe. The preparation, the tools, the surfaces, and the pasta water must all be separate and gluten-free as well. As much as I appreciate the extra effort by companies and restaurants to accommodate our needs (even though we pay much more for the privilege) it’s not fair to me, as a consumer, to be told something is gluten-free when it’s really not. It IS up to me, however, to verify this information to my own satisfaction and to then decide whether I will purchase from them or not and choose whether to eat there or not. Personally, I’m sticking with those brands that are certified or Celiac Support Association-approved (another great resource for lists, resources, and info.) and those restaurants that are diligent in their preparation.
It’s hard enough to manage a gluten-free diet on a regular basis and make these decisions. To do so around the holidays is the worst! We are faced with these temptations daily and, as much as we want to give in, we can’t! It’s not just a matter of gaining a pound or two; it’s a matter of getting sick and setting off an internal process that damages our body and hurts us. In consideration of your gluten-free friends and family that will likely be with you around the holidays, please honor their restrictions without making them feel guilty or embarrassed by it. Please feel free to ask questions and we would be happy to provide information on brands or ingredients, etc. We’re happy to talk about it and share information and awareness. If you would like to provide something for your guests to enjoy (especially kids), there are lots of gluten-free grab-and-go boxed cookies and cakes at the grocery stores. Please remember to store and serve these separately! Fresh fruit or vegetables (with a g-f dip?) are great. There are also so many more things that we can cook and bake such as Chex mixes, candied nuts, fudge, and baked goods with gluten-free flour and ingredients. I use Progresso cream of mushroom soup in my cooking without issue. We have lots of resources and we must rely on the information provided to us. Trust me; we are no happier than you are about this. We need to make sure that, when it says gluten-free, that it actually is. Please help us stay safe throughout this holiday season.