Wild ladies loose in the stores

Christmas gifts

Christmas gifts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Santa Claus with a little girl Espera...

English: Santa Claus with a little girl Esperanto: Patro Kristnasko kaj malgranda knabino Suomi: Joulupukki ja pieni tyttö (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Christmas lights on Aleksanterinkatu.

Christmas lights on Aleksanterinkatu. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This time of year, women go crazy for a couple of weeks or three, as they put all their energy into securing the best deals for Christmas. I’ve personally witnessed grown women get into hair-pulling, knock-down, arm-slinging fights in the narrow aisles of department stores.

Females, with hair that looks a cross between slept on and cat fight, elbows plowing anything non-essential, barge through entire sections with a 50% off sale. I’m sorry ladies, I am confessing for all of us, we can’t leave a store with a clearance sign that says 70 % off without going through that rack twice.

When we find something that appears worth the sale price of $2.99, we will go through our entire list (the one we keep in our heads) of friends and relatives to find someone who can wear a size zero. Hey, it’s a name-brand blouse. If the sale is on designer clothes or shoes and we find something that was regularly worth (In who’s opinion?) $80, on sale for $5, we will consider holding it until our chubby niece loses enough weight to squeeze into it.

Deciding what gift goes to which person on our list every Christmas is a challenging job, but finding the money in our budgets to pay for all the gifts is a horse of a different color. Some women try to buy gifts through the year so they can relax during the holidays. Other women lack the desire or ability to do this and find themselves in need of the biggest bargains on Black Friday.

Personally, I think stores get a kick out of forcing a large number of women to fight over the 15 in-stock Barbies dressed in the latest, on sale for $20, but only for one hour. This hour is usually the hour before dawn or between 10-11 a.m. No rain checks are allowed on these sale items, making them infinitely more valuable.

Some women enjoy this ritual every Holiday season. I don’t. I do buy all year long and fill my closet with birthday and Christmas presents for my family. Of course, I track down every bargain clearance available.

I use my coupons and ad matches, watch for store sales and stock up on expensive shampoos I manage to purchase for next to nothing. I’ve done so well on my bargain quests that I really don’t have to buy shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, disposable razors, hand soap, lotion or mouthwash for the next 30 years. Hey, they were on sale. What was I suppose to do?

The good news is that I caught my addiction in time to turn my life around. There may be no hope for those wild-eyed banshees hell-bent on getting a flat-screen, high definition television for their three-years-old sons this Christmas. Never mind that it cost $5 to make the regular price before it went on sale was increased from $150 to $225 so the sale would look more appealing at $175.

Face it ladies, the stores have us figured out. We can’t help ourselves. We need to band together and lend our strength to a fellow mom on a mission to get the best prices on Christmas gifts this year. We can’t make it alone. Corporation is stacked against us. Maybe it is time to get back to nature’s gifts. Did you know that gumbo fíle was dried sassafras leaves? That stuff sells for a bundle in stores.

By picking the wild fruits of the land all around us, we can capture the ultimate gift – the one that cost nothing but a little time and effort. God bless and watch your rear this holiday season.

The difference between happiness and joy


Everyone wants to be happy. That is a given. Ask people what it means to be happy and you will likely get a different answer from each one. Depending upon what we already have, perceived needs and our area of interest, we will give an answer based on who we are at the moment. Since every life is fluid, the definition of ‘happy’ is ever changing.

The feeling or emotion we call ‘being happy’ is a fleeting emotion. No one can be happy all the time. I know this because people die and this makes us very sad. We get hurt or become ill and there is nothing to be happy about in those situations. Even if you love your job, there are days when you just want it to be over so you can go home, kick off your shoes and collaspe on the sofa.

You may love your spouse and your children, live in a comfortable home and lack nothing, but you still will not be happy all day long every day of the year. Happiness is an emotion. Emotions change constantly. Joy is a state of being.

My children and grandchildren bring me joy. I enjoy gardening, making things with my own hands, writing, living in the mountains and going to church with my fellow Christians. I enjoy watching the deer graze in my front yard and knowing that a black bear cub makes his rounds through the edge of my property where he robs the wild honey bees every summer.

There is much joy in my life. I am content most days to do the things I normally do. I don’t live in a fancy house or drive the newest vehicle. I don’t have everything I want or many things that would make my life easier. I do have joy in my life.

Learning that a friend has overcome an illness and is back at work makes me happy. Seeing my children and grandchildren makes me happy. Winning the lottery would probably make me happy. Being happy comes and goes. God never promised us we would always be happy once we became Christians. He did say we would know peace and joy.

No matter what happens in our own lives or what happens in the world, we can live in peace and joy. The kind of peace that comes from knowing there is nothing too big for God to handle is the ultimate peace. It is a lasting peace. We can have a lasting peace and lasting joy in our lives by knowing that God is in control of everything.

We won’t be happy every minute of every day. There is too much life in living for us to always be happy. We have to earn money to pay bills and buy food. We have obligations that come even when we don’t have the energy to deal with them. We will have our hearts broken by people we thought we could trust and believe in. We will experience great sadness when those we love die. No, we just can’t be happy all the time. But, we can know joy every day.

Does the beauty of a sunrise or sunset bring you joy? Do you know joy when a cool breeze touches your face on a hot summer day? Can you feel the joy on a late summer night when the heat begins to wane and the crickets sing? Maybe you feel the joy when it rains at night or when you hear your child say something that proves he does listen to you after all.

Joy can fill your day. Happiness comes and goes. Don’t expect others to make you happy. It is not their job. It is not your job to make others happy. You can make them comfortable. You can feed them good food. You can make their lives easier, but it is not your job to make them happy.

Enjoy the riches of your life. You don’t have to be wealthy or be the prettiest or most handsome to know joy. Accept what you have and be at peace with who you are. If you believe you need to change, change because you want to change. Don’t change who you are to make someone else happy. Happiness comes and goes. People come and go. Sometimes, it is just time for them to go. Let go. You may be sad for a while, but sadness comes and goes also.

A Little Common Courtesy

The Christmas season can twist you into a pretzel if you aren’t careful. Mothers are harried, tired and rushed as they attempt to keep family life on track, shop for Christmas gifts, bake for Christmas parties at school, work and church, get the gifts wrapped, ready others for shipping, decorate the home and put up the tree and, well, just about everything that needs doing. Fathers are working overtime or a second job just to pay for Christmas and the children are overly excited, fighting with each other and not doing well in school as they dream of the Christmas holidays. 

Whether you are the mother that is shopping for groceries or gifts or the mother that is checking out others at her register, a little common courtesy is needed. Remember, everyone is stressed, tired and preoccupied with life’s difficulties. Try to be respectful and more than a little kind to each other. If not, then what is all the fuss about?

I remember, as a child, when I first heard the phrase, “can’t see the forest for the trees.” I really could not grasp what the teacher was trying to explain. A few years later, I understood. It seems we now live in a nation that can’t see the forest for the trees. Why do we celebrate the birth of our Savior if we are going to act uncivilized in the days leading up to the celebration? People are easily angered when they are tired, rushed or perceive an injustice.  Someone cuts in line at the check-out of Walmart and people behave as if they had their wallet stolen, ready to stone someone. No, it isn’t right to cut in line. That is another inconsideration. But hey, a simple, “excuse me, I believe it was my turn next,” should be enough to express your displeasure. There is no need to start a fight. How is that any way to celebrate the ‘Good News?’ It certainly isn’t any way to represent a Christian.

When the cashier is slow and makes several mistakes, smile and say, “It’s ok, I am not in a big hurry.” Maybe you are in a hurry, but don’t you remember how you felt when you were new on the job and were learning your way around? Besides, making her or him more nervous won’t get you checked out any quicker.

Yes, we have to deal with rude people every day of the year. Sometimes, you just want to throw something hard at them and tell them just how rude you think they are. Here is the thing, though, they know how rude they are and they don’t care. In fact, when you get angry, they are delighted that they caused you to get angry. Don’t give them the pleasure. Just smile and say, “I know your parents would be so proud of you right now.” Do it with sincerity and watch them try to figure out what just happened. They will probably lie awake all night trying to ‘get it.’

No matter how hard we try, we are going to do or say something that is rude to get even, eventually. It happens. Just apologize. You may not realize how quickly an apology can turn a situation around, but it can. And, it makes you feel better about yourself.

A little common courtesy is the least we can offer each other during the season we prepare to celebrate the greatest gift mankind has ever received.  Being the better person has its own rewards. Who knows, maybe your courtesy will cause others to slow down and think about their own actions.

It is really only common sense to stop and realize that we are all in the same boat. If someone is rocking the boat, do you really want to cause a scene and perhaps tip the boat over? At the end of the day, all we really want is to get home, throw those shoes off – ladies, you know what comes off next – get comfortable and relax with our own family. Don’t be one of those people who just can’t let it go; one who has to get in the face of the offending party and let them know just how angry you are. People are crazy these days. What if the person just lost his job, his wife has left him and taken his children and he feels as if he has nothing left to lose? You may be the one he pulls out a gun and shoots. Imagine the headlines in the morning paper.

“Man shoots and kills three, wounds four others because Joe Jones, one of the deceased, wouldn’t stop haggling the man for taking up so much time in the check-out lane.” It is always when we look back that we realize we made too much ado over nothing.

Go ahead and figure that people will tick you off this holiday season. Plan to be the courteous person you are all the rest of the year. You may start a chain of courteous behavior. Wouldn’t it be really nice to have a flash mob of courteous shoppers in the mall? Maybe you could start singing “Oh Holy Night” whenever you see an argument about to break out. Now that would cause people to stop and think about their actions! Especially if I were the one doing the singing. Hey, you never know, they might take up a collection to get me to stop.

It is your world. Don’t allow others to push your buttons or make you dance to their music. Use your gift of salvation to point others in the right direction. Don’t believe in Christ? In that case, do the right thing and put Christians to shame. Sometimes, we should be ashamed of our behavior. Whatever you believe, “A little common courtesy, please.”

Dealing with Christmas stress

Whether you look forward to Christmas every year or dread the very thought of Christmas, either way, there is stress involved. Christmas has become time-consuming and expensive and is rife with opportunities for misunderstandings.

When you consider all the Christmas parties you and/or your children are expected to attend, all the family gatherings and all the food you have to prepare, it is little wonder that stress comes with Christmas.

Some stress is good for the mind and body, but too much can cause physical illness. If you notice excess hair falling out, daily headaches, insomnia, muscle tension in the neck and shoulders, inability to tolerate minor nuisances, anxiety or sudden weight gain several weeks before Christmas, you probably suffer from Christmas stress.

Natural treatments for periodic stress include:

  • Understanding the cause of your stress by writing in a journal: Whenever you feel your muscles tensing up and your anxiety rising, make a note of your symptoms and what took place just prior to the symptoms. For instance, you receive a phone call form a sibling about whose house will be used for the family Christmas gathering and you feel a headache coming on, write, “Sue called, where to meet for Christmas, head began to ache.”
  • When you can see the pattern of cause and effect, you can begin to deal with the issues.
  • Drink chamomile or green tea to help calm your nerves. Use a small amount of honey to sweeten.
  • Ask your spouse, friend or relative to massage your neck and shoulders where tension usually settles.
  • Lie down for 20 to 30 minutes in a dark room with soft, soothing music playing.
  • Exercise: Do some stretches to keep muscles from becoming tense.

If Christmas events cause you great stress, you might want to make new traditions that will lessen the stress and bring back the joy you once had at Christmas. Too many activities, too little time, too little rest and sleep and too little money to spend on gifts equals a great deal of stress.

Always remember that you are in charge of your life. You decide what you are willing to do, with whom, where and when. You can’t please everyone no matter how much effort you put into trying. No one expects you to be perfect. If they do, the problem belongs to them, not you.

Have one Christmas gathering for each side of the family. Draw names for gifts or agree that all gifts will cost no more than five dollars and will be functional, usable gifts. Gifts can also be handmade, re-purposed or come from a thrift store.

Begin a new Christmas tradition of baking cookies with the entire family where each makes their favorite kind, then exchanges so that each person has a dozen of each kind. This can take the place of a formal gathering with the exchanging of gifts.

Don’t give in to emotional blackmail. No one can make you feel guilty unless you allow them. The more you know about your own expectations, the easier it will be to make a stand for your beliefs and your values.

Enjoy this Christmas and end the stress that robs you of your joy.

Christmas plus credit cards equal overspending

English: Santa Claus with a little girl Espera...

English: Santa Claus with a little girl Esperanto: Patro Kristnasko kaj malgranda knabino Suomi: Joulupukki ja pieni tyttö (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Humans are strange creatures. We reason that, since we don’t have any extra money to buy Christmas gifts, it is okay to charge the gifts. With a credit card, it is too easy to charge and charge until we have created a huge bill. Where will the money come from to pay the large monthly bill? No problem, we have an entire month before we have to start paying it back.

Every parent wants to buy gifts for his children. Nobody wants young children to learn too early that Santa doesn’t exist. If Christians would tell their children that Santa is just a fairy tale like Cinderella or Snow White, and mom and dad have to buy the gifts, maybe they wouldn’t be so expectant of expensive gifts. For some reason, parents believe it is justified to lavish children with anywhere from five to 15 expensive gifts. Children won’t expect what they have never received.

Keep Christmas gift-giving sane. Don’t get carried away and try to buy every gift on a child’s wish-list. The entire family suffers when the credit card bills come due anyway. Even if you have already established a pattern of over-giving at Christmas, you can still halt this run-away train and put it in reverse.

If children are old enough to understand, explain that Christmas will be lean due to financial circumstances. Ask them to choose just one gift this year. If children are too young to understand about finances, they are too young to know the difference between what they received last year and what they will receive this year. In other words, just buy one or two durable, but inexpensive gifts. Too many toys just overwhelm children anyway.

For gift exchanging among friends, church family and relatives, bake your best desserts, cookies or make candy and wrap it in pretty package. You can’t really please everyone anyway. Food puts a smile on their face every time. You could also get ideas for homemade gifts that look as elegant as anything you could buy by checking pinterest or stumbleupon.

Don’t let Christmas put you in depression when the bills roll in for the new year. Take charge instead of letting the charge cards take control of you. Getting out of debt is like losing weight. It takes a few minutes of pleasure to gain it, but a lifetime to lose it.