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What Memories of My Mother Have Taught Me

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Last week we had Sarah’s guest post about her thoughtful and sweet memories of her mother this time of year and baking cookies. This post especially hit close to home for me with my recent lost and I felt like Sarah’s article could not have been more timely. And then Julie’s guest post came along and it seems many of us moms have similar things on our mind this time of year of the loved ones we have lost.

When I met Julie in a fellow writing group, I was always interested to see what new essay she had written. She has a great ability to write as if you are flowing through her daily life with her. In my mind, I see Julie as she is experiencing life and then things to herself, “This is something other moms would want to know to. Let me share my experience with them.”

Whether she actually thinks about her writing process like that or not, I definitely love the genuine, simple and real appeal Julie offers through her writing tips to other moms. And since we’re all about mom tips around here, I was excited to have Julie guest post. I was even more excited to see that she also decided to write about her mother and provide endearing, honest encouragement for many of this time of year.


Meet Julie! She is a freelance writer and blogger, wife, and mom to three busy boys, & fur mama to two rescue dogs and two guinea pigs. She writes on her blog about motherhood, kids, family, recipes, DIY, travel, and faith. She is a vegetarian who loves to cook and create recipes when she’s not driving her three boys all over town to sports practices in her crumb-filled minivan.

In her past life she has worked as a Scientist and Medical Data Manager, a Pediatric Nurse, and a SAHM. She loves to volunteer in her kids’ schools and help fundraise money for their schools. She is a Christian who loves nature, animals, traveling, gardening, swimming in her pool, and simply spending time with her family. Her favorites are dark chocolate, red wine, and cheese with yummy bread. Catch more of her writing at www.juliehoagwriter.com. Better yet, check her out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or my favorite!! her Pinterest.


 

Memories are like tissues. Sometimes they are out in my hand and present with me. Sometimes they are all crumpled up and thin, or balled up and tucked away with tear etched and hand wrung crevices. Yet others are shoved down in the deepest pockets of my heart. Memories like tissues are cried on, nose wiped, smudged with food. They are loved or used to help me feel better and soak up my sadness. Or some memories thicken my sadness. Whatever their role my memories have built me into who I am.

My motherhood memories from my own childhood are real. They are mine alone. Those memories built me into the mother I am today. Having lost my mother days before Christmas as a teen taught me many things about being a mother. I learned the lesson the hard way that my own motherhood will end someday when I’m not ready for it to end. I will be ripped from my children’s lives and I won’t be ready for it. They won’t be ready for it. It will leave my children scarred, scared, terrified, angry, and feeling cheated. And I will feel the same as I take my last breath when I die. No matter what age I will be when that happens, I know I won’t be ready to leave them behind. I will want to stay. I will want to be with them and imagining that moment scares me to my core.

I shove those feelings down deep in the pockets of my heart most days but they resurface from time to time to teach me.

Having lived the loss of my mother has brought me to a place in my motherhood where I know I can’t waste this motherhood of mine.

As I near the age my mother was when she died, I feel this realization the strongest I’ve ever felt it. I can’t waste my motherhood no matter how busy I am or how many tasks I get behind on; I am a mother first before laundry, before homemade lasagna, before writing my next post, and before my messy kitchen.

All I have to do is fall back into my sixteen-year-old heart (and this isn’t hard to do because it’s always at the surface) to realize how special those mother and child memories are for a child. I instantly put down my vacuum and stop folding clothes when I realize this. Sometimes I’m dense and my mountains of work cloud my vision and I keep working like a mad woman to get it all done. Sometimes this realization to live in the moment comes at me like a concrete fist to wake me up. This realization helps me stop working when my child asks me to snuggle with him on the couch while watching a Christmas movie. I remind myself the Christmas season is short and he won’t want to watch these movies with me in a few short weeks.

I’m a hard core type A personality and I often forget to savor moments because I get wrapped up in my to-do list. I remind myself I need to slow down. I recall that piercing memory of how I felt at Christmas when my mother had passed away, and all I had left was memories. This stops my racing type A mind cold and I sit down and be present with my child while I can because I don’t know when I will lose the ability to do so.

This thought composes my prayers each night as I ask God to allow me to be with my children into my old age because I so desperately want to do just that. Loss of a mother at any age is extraordinarily difficult but when a parent is lost to a child that loss is devastating. The child doesn’t understand and they struggle to go on. Their world is forever altered and slanted yet they must struggle to walk straight. I know because I lived that loss and it devastated me even as a teen.

My memories of my mother are present all around my house today at Christmas time. My children place memories of her on the tree as they fit the little strings of her initialed ceramic ornaments on the branches. My memories are in the lit up ceramic Christmas tree she made as my kids put the little plastic bulbs on it. We listen to the faltering music box inside as they work with busy little hands. My memories of her are intertwined with their fighting chatter about who gets to put what bulb where. Their fighting annoys me, but still I smile because I know decorating this tree will be a memory for them.

Memories of her are intertwined in my time making cookies with my own kids. We make many of the same cookie recipes I made with my own mom as a child.  As I make these cookies with my kids the images of my mother drift into my brain. I can see her standing in the kitchen with a spatula raised like a magic wand, or setting the caramels pan on the snowy deck in the cold winter air to harden.

As my kids shake sprinkles heavily onto white frosted cookies, I recall the time as a child when I shook the sprinkles too much. I had loved to shake the sprinkles container, the cylindrical kind with the little colored ball sprinkles, and I thought it made a glorious sound when I shook it. I loved to see the tiny colored balls burst out the holes in top. After I sprinkled my cookie one cookie making day, I kept shaking, and shaking, and shaking that container. I shook it until there were little balls rolling all over the kitchen floor. My mother had looked at me and asked me to stop. She had the you-need-to-stop-now look I know so well now as a mother myself. She didn’t get too mad at me because we were making cookies, it was a joyous day, but I knew she didn’t like my thoughtless mess. The beauty of that priceless memory is I hold it cherished deep in my heart pockets where it lives soaked into my tissues, and it comes out to dance and make me smile at Christmas time when I make cookies with my kids.

What Memories of My Mother Have Taught Me. Growing in the loss of your Mother to be a better mother.

I want to create special mother and child memories for my own kids so they can hold them in their own hearts. Hold them deep down in their heart pockets where their tissues will live all soaked in Christmas memories, tears, but with tons of joy too.

I try to relish the moments of each day so I don’t waste this motherhood of mine. I pray each night that God will permit me more time with my kids so I can keep watching Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer with them on the couch each Christmas. I pray for the foresight to sometimes ignore my to-do list. I pray I will get to nurture my kids’ Christmas memories by making cut-out cookies as they grow each year to add new talents like rolling out their own ball of dough.

I lost my mother just days before Christmas on a fluffy giant snowflake falling day. That is the day I learned how to be a mother even though I didn’t realize this until just now as I hug and kiss my each of my children goodnight.

The secret of how to be a mother is to truly be present with your kids.

I know this as my kids and I talk about how Christmas is only a lovely few days away. It’s clear to me as we talk about how we will make more cookies this weekend, the ones they love made of peanut butter and a chocolate kiss. It’s reinforced as we talk about how they need to write their letters to Santa quick before we run out of time.

I tuck them in at bedtime and say their prayers, and add my own that I will get yet another day tomorrow, another year, another Christmas, another fifty years with them. And I know in my heart it still won’t be enough and I will still want more.

Fellow moms, may God grant you more time with your babies and may God help us remember we need to love our kids and live in the now of this Christmas.

Sprinkles and Burnt Antlers: The Joy of Cooking with Kids

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I went back to her website to find that article. I remember it well because she had talked about her child seeing beauty in something that she, as the mother, saw as a mess. I remember this one well because it struck me to the heart. As a type A personality, I worry that I might rob the beauty my children will see in the daily mundane because I’m too worried about cleaning things up.

I’ve been following Sarah and her blogging since about February. I’m sure I stumbled along her writing in a mutual writer’s group. I do remember that I was immediately drawn to her writing. That’s what I love about growing as a writer. You find so many other great writers and you feel like you could be friends if you met in a coffee shop.

I wont keep you any longer. Sarah is our guest today and I can’t wait for you to meet her!


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Meet Sarah! She is a current stay-at-home mom. After years of teaching high school English (ahh my kindred spirit! 🙂 ), she is now enjoying focusing on her two children while learning to slow down and look at the world through their eyes.

She has learned more about dinosaurs and princesses in the past few years than she ever thought possible.  Sarah writes about parenting on her blog, One Mile Smile, and has recently been published in the following sites:  Mothers Always Write, Parent.Co, and Her View From Home.

Check out her Facebook or Instagram to see what she’s up to! After reading her post today, I think you’ll want to!


Spinkles & Burnt Antlers: Joy of Cooking with Kids. A Guest Post.

As a child, one of my favorite Christmas activities was baking sugar cookies with my mom. Every year, my siblings and I would clamor into the kitchen to help her, mainly for the opportunity to make a huge mess with the sprinkles.

Flour filled the air as my mom rolled out the cold dough on the counter and hummed along to Christmas carols. She used a family recipe for the kind of sugar cookies that are thin and have a bit of a crunch when you bite into them. These cookies take time and patience.

When I was young, I was mainly delegated to the task of sprinkling the colored sugar onto the cookies before they went into the oven. I would complete this task with utmost care. I sprinkled crooked red stripes on the candy canes and only allowed green sprinkles on the Christmas trees. Of course, more sprinkles ended up on the table and floor than anywhere else, but my mother never said a word.

As I got older, my mother taught me how to cut out the shapes. Her preferred shapes were the star and the bell because they were the most dough-efficient; very little dough was wasted between each cookie. These shapes also didn’t have small parts that made it difficult to transfer to the cookie sheet.

Of course, I preferred the most impractical of shapes, like the long and narrow candy cane or the angel with delicate wings. The reindeer was also a favorite; however, the antlers posed a problem, as they were narrow and cooked much faster than the rest of the cookie. Usually, they ended up slightly burnt.

One year, I distinctly remember slowly transferring prancing reindeer after reindeer onto the cookie sheet under my mother’s watchful eye. The dough was so thin you could almost see through it, and because of this, some reindeers lost limbs. I tried to smoosh them back onto the bodies, but they remained crooked.

My mother continued to roll dough as I set the timer and kept an eye on the cookies.  Although I was careful with the timing, all of the reindeer came out of the oven with the tips of their antlers and hooves singed brown.

I nervously waited for my mom to say something, maybe a comment about the impracticality of  the reindeer cookie cutter, or how I should have been more careful watching the oven.

Instead, as she slid them off of the cookie sheet to cool, she set aside a few on a small plate. “I’ll have these with my tea,” she decided.  I beamed with pride. Despite singed antlers, my reindeer were a success.  

Many years later, as I made my own tray of cookies to take to a holiday party, arranging them in a perfect spiral on the plate, I thought of those reindeer and finally understood my mother’s actions.

She didn’t want to break her daughter’s heart by throwing the ruined cookies in the trashcan, but she also didn’t want those burnt, crooked-limbed reindeer to end up on her tray of cookies she planned to take to my aunt’s Christmas party.

So, she just did what moms do. She ate the burnt cookies.

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After my mother passed away, the cookie cutters eventually made their way into my own kitchen. I now unpack them with the rest of the Christmas decorations stored in the attic. Some years, I simply set them aside because homemade sugar cookies involve so much time and patience.

This year, however, as I peeked into the bag and sorted through the various shapes, I thought of the reindeer and couldn’t wait to show the cookie cutters to my kids. At 4 and 6, this will be their first real introduction to sugar cookies that do not come in a slice-and-bake roll from the grocery store.

Although I love cooking with my kids, I find it a true test of patience. I struggle to bite my tongue when they drop an entire bottle of sprinkles on the floor. My initial reaction is to scold when I find them leaning over the bowl eating large chunks of raw dough. And that time when a bag of flour somehow ended up all over the floor? It nearly brought me to tears.

I know baking with my kids this holiday season will be a messy affair. They will want to use the impractical brachiosaurus cookie cutter I bought on a whim. I’m sure I will end up with plenty of broken dinosaur necks and scorched dinosaur tails. I’m sure there will be more green sprinkles on my floor than on the cookies.

But, I’m also sure that my children’s laughter will be louder than the Christmas carols playing in the background. Their smiles will be more delightful than a perfectly shaped cookie. And, the memories we create together will last much longer than the tray of cookies we offer to our guests on Christmas day.  It seems that these messy, less than perfect moments are usually the most memorable.

So, as I create these sprinkle-filled memories with my children, I will remember my mom. I will ignore the crunch of sprinkles on the floor, and I will look the other way when they sneak globs of dough from the mixing bowl.

And, the singed, broken-necked dinosaur cookies? I will simply put them aside on a special plate to enjoy with my cup of tea later.

Visit her site, One Mile Smile, or check out her Facebook or Instagram. Thanks so much for stopping by mamas to meet this special lady!

If you’re interested in guest posting, I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at onlyaseasonblog@gmail.com. Check out other guest posts here.

Tips to Help You Reduce Stress During the Holidays

I find myself in a constant battle with time and stress. I know I know, we all get 24 hours in a day and many make it work for them, but as the holiday season is full fledge upon us, I am constantly checking my calendar and clock, shaking my head at how busy I let myself become. 

Ladies, why do we do this to ourselves?

Why do we feel the need to say yes all the time?

You need an extra helper for the Christmas pageant at school? Sure! I’ll help you. You were wondering if I would host the block party this year? Yes, I can do that. It’s probably my turn anyways. I need to use my Shutterfly coupon code and get out those cards for once this year!

And the list goes on and on. The more I think about it, the more I realize that I let fear drive my decision to say yes. Fear that I will be judged. Fear that I will be looked down on. Fear that I’ll be viewed as inadequate. And THAT list could go on and on…

In attempt to shut down fear and make proactive decisions to maintain peace in the chaos of life, I have been making it a point to check my motives in saying yes and to lessen my stress for this time of year. Let me share with you tips that I have been using.

I would encourage you to look over what I’ve mentioned and see how you can tweak this to fit you and your needs.

(This post may contain affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Full disclosure here.)

Tips to help you reduce stress during the holidays. Ideas to lessen your stress during the holidays.

Setting Boundaries
This seems like a no brainer, but I recently read this UH-MAZING book titled Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life and it has literally changed my life. I think a lot of us have different interpretations of what the word “boundaries” means and this book dives deep into the meaning of boundaries and how there are so many we have in our relationship with others that I just can’t help but pass it along to you moms out there. It’s not a light-hearted read, so be prepared for serious evaluation of how you view yourself and others if you decide to read it. Trust me though, you should.

Boundaries are complicated but shouldn’t be overlooked just because it’s “the holidays.” Take a look at the limits and dynamics you have created in your relationships. Do they become stressful during Christmas time?

Telling others it’s OK to say no to me
I have started this practice recently (partly from reading the above mentioned book) and this practice alone has done something to me. By reminding others they can say no to me 1) sets them free from the pressure to say yes! And 2) by speaking it out loud I am sort of ingraining in my brain that it IS OK to say no too. Try it sometime. You might be surprised the effect it has on you and others.

Giving a single gift to my family members
I had to mention this to guys. I am the youngest of six kids in my family and all my siblings have kids of their own. When we ALL get together for the holidays, it’s like 30 people! I used to buy everyone a book for Christmas but since becoming a SAHM, I have had to limit our Christmas budget. This year I have decided to use online photo printing and photo books with Amazon since I am a Prime member who gets free shipping! They always have great deals going with sale codes you can pick right up from their site so that’s always a bonus too! You’re welcome! 🙂

Just the decision to simplify gifts by giving each family a photo book of some of our childhood memories has simplified my holiday shopping significantly and reduced a great amount of stress. What about you? How could you simplify shopping for your family members?


 

Prioritizing relationships
This is a time of year when you can easily plan a lot of nights out and catch up with friends. I have realized that for me personally, it’s the quality of friendships that brings me energy, not quantity. With that being said, I realized that I can’t say yes to every invite for a gift exchange if it means missing an intimate dinner with one of my mama friends who’s part of my village.

This is where saying no can be hard for many of us. I think it’s important to look at your relationships and evaluate the ones you hold close and want to stay connected to. The PTA Christmas party may have to hear a no from you this year. Or maybe the office party isn’t a great idea this year. I can think of a million reasons (or can I?) how it helps build my relationships in that part of my life, but if I haven’t seen my husband in over a week because of travels for business, then this may be a time to practice saying no.

I would encourage you to take a hard look at where you divide your time in your relationships especially with how quickly it goes during December!

Guarding my Gate
I love the image of the phrase “guard your gate” creates. I believe that what we put into our lives is what we’ll reap as our days progress. If I am constantly looking to social media for engagement, then I am building a false foundation of security for myself. If I am looking to that group of ladies who are quick to judge my Christmas party for validation in my mom life, then I am setting myself up for a stressful season.

While I love eating all the sweets and delicious food this time of year, I easily start to feel like crap before it’s even Christmas morning. And mamas, trust me, this is especially hard being a big o’l pregnant lady this year. But the food I put into my body is just another facet of guarding my gate to keep myself feeling healthy. What else could we guard about what we put into our lives this time of year to help lessen the stress?

At the end of the day, we are left with ourselves. It’s just us looking in the mirror and when I reflect on the decisions I made and the relationships I cultivated, I want to smile back at myself, knowing I stayed true to who I am and kept my peace, while loving others too. What about you? What would you add?

Peace,
Glo

Reasons to Get Excited about Christmas Ornaments in November

I don’t know about you but when I walk through Walmart and they have the Halloween and fall stuff starting to fill the shelves in August, I begin to get anxiety. I get anxious because then I start thinking about everything that I will eventually need to do to get ready for the upcoming holidays. Honestly, I can’t think of many reasons to celebrate the holidays so early just yet.

And then I get that little flair in my heart… There’s excitement in the holidays too, not just stress. The holidays can be a time full of mixed emotions. Happiness to be with those you love. Sadness over the ones you’ve lost. Anxiety for the gifts you still have to buy.

But I can’t ignore the beautiful fall colors that adorn the shelves in Wal-Mart. They beckon me. Pumpkin Spiced Lattes after Labor Day are my jam. So instead of rolling my eyes when I see Christmas ornaments out at Hobby Lobby in November scratch that, July, I can think a few reasons why getting ready for the holidays early in the year ain’t too shabby of an idea.

Five Reasons why getting ready for the holidays early is a good idea.

You Start Thinking about What Gifts to Get Sooner.
Some people *cough cough* that would be me, start buying Christmas gifts during the summer. If you’re not that crazy and tend to lean towards normal, then seeing the change in the seasons that bring the fall and winter holidays can spark your mind. When you see something you think someone close to you might like, snatch it up and save it as their gift for the holiday office party.

You Can Get Gifts for a Good Bargain during the End-of-the-Season Sales.
August and October are notorious for seasonal sales. August for end of summer and October as most stores transition to winter. Want to get your husband that camping gear he’s always wanted? Look for it in October and November. Know your son will have another class party next October for Halloween? Go to Walmart, Kohl’s or Target the first week after Halloween and you’ll see all those holiday prices slashed in nearly half.

You May Start Setting Aside Time to Spend with Your Family Ahead of Time.
All my family (and Husband’s) live in a different town. When it comes time for the holidays, we start gearing up to make the rounds to see everyone. I enjoy the holidays because I know this will be a time that I will see my family, when otherwise, I may not have seen them so much during the rest of the year. We have Black Friday traditions that we do every year. We have Christmas jokes we say every year. We know who’s going to bring what food to our family meals. It’s fun to start thinking about them and plan a good time to reconnect. I start looking at my calendar in September to get ready for the weekends and weeks we’ll be away to visit family.

Black Friday
OK, my family bonds over Black Friday when I know this shopping can easily bring a wedge for some. Let’s face it–we all want a good bargain and the bargains on Black Friday can be hard to pass up. Now that Black Friday is happening on Thanksgiving and during the day nonetheless, I see Black Friday becoming more and more of a tradition for families and being incorporated in their holiday. Personally, when I start thinking about those gifts in October, I am on the lookout for them on Black Friday.

It’s a Great Time to Budgeting Money for Your Holiday Expenses
If you’re like most Americans who spend A LOT during the holidays, then you may be interested in finding ways to start preparing for the holidays NOW. Some great resources are available online. I especially like these tips and advice from the Penny Hoarder. We are big Dave Ramsey fans, so we have a Holidays envelope that we start putting money in at the beginning of the year in January! But it’s never too late and you can start budgeting money now!

Oh, and don’t forget about those Pumpkin Spiced Lattes. 🙂 Cheers!

What about you? Can you think of other reasons that seeing Christmas decorations out so early might not be such a bad idea?

Peace,
Glo

16 “Must-Dos” That Should Be on Your Holiday Tradition List

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I love traditions. Now that my husband and I have a little guy, I am gushing with excitement about traditions to start as he grows up and as we add to our family! The more people I talk to about traditions they have for the holidays, the more I realized that traditions are what make the holidays fun for me! Some of these traditions I still do even though a holiday isn’t attached, but I would dare say they don’t quite have the flare and excitement as they do when it’s holiday time! Whether these are your guilty pleasures or typical family fun, you really should add some of these to your holiday tradition list.
I know my list is 16. I can’t help it. I tried to make it 15 so it was more balanced but I just couldn’t bring myself to get rid of one.

Here are some fun ideas to add to your tradition list for the holidays!

1. Eat Little Debbie Christmas Cakes. Yes, they’re the Devil, but evil has never tasted so good.

2. Wear your pajamas all day. I would probably still wear underwear…well, then again, maybe not.

3. Have a big freaking breakfast with your family or close friends. I’m talking create your own version of the IHOP gigantic breakfast platter. I feel like gluttony is allowed here. Wait, let me think about that…

4. Better yet, have those family members or friends bring a bag full of food. Take the food and pile it in your vehicle and head down to your local Food Pantry and give someone else a breakfast they may be in dire need of.

5.Take a big nap in the middle of the day. If you have kids and this is impossible, you could always dream about it…

6. Binge watch something (OK, this might be more for me, but do it. You know you want to…)

7. Read something new and different than what you would normally read. Try a different blog or nonfiction instead of fiction. You never know, you might realize that fishing in Wyoming might be pretty cool to add to your Bucket List.

8. Watch a Christmas classic. There’s nothing that gets the Christmas juices going than a movie like It’s a Wonderful Life. It’s OK if you need the Kleenex. I find holiday movies can put your significant other in the mood. You might even get a little lucky…

9. Listen to some Classic Christmas music. I love Bing. Bing Crosby. Or Bubble’. He’s classic enough, right?

10. Stay up late with your family or close friends playing board games. Try not to kill each other. Apparently, Catan can cause uprisings.

11. Stay up late watching all the Star Wars movies…AGAIN.

12. Cook or Bake something new. You know you’ve always wanted to try your snicker doodle cookies with actual Snickers chunks. Would someone please make these already!

13. “Check” your phone less. The world will still go on without us glued to our phones. Unless that means you quit reading my blog.

14. Teach your kids how to shovel snow out off the driveway, the sidewalk, the porch. Better yet, show them how to do it for their neighbors too.

15. Buy yummy scented holiday candles. Olfactory can create a huge “sense” of holiday buzz!

16. My favorite one: Create a “Family Top Ten List.” Take a look back over the year and reminisce with your loved ones about the highlights of the year that everyone experienced. Maybe it was a trip, a movie, a song or a show or a book or a restaurant you’ve discovered you guys can’t live without.

Have fun with it and feel free to eat Little Debbies while you’re at it.

 

Can You Guess the Christmas Movie? #christmasmovietrivia

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I LOVE this time of year. I am a hard core Christmas enthusiast. Shoot, my husband and I got married two days after Christmas because we both love the holidays!

I have always been someone who associates movies and music with a certain time of year. Favorite movie during fall time: You’ve Got Mail. Favorite Movie to watch at the beginning of summer: The Sandlot. Favorite movie to watch on Labor Day weekend: The Goonies. Who wouldn’t want a little truffle shuffle and end-of-the-summer adventure as school revs up. You’re mocking me, aren’t you? I was a middle school teacher and I’m pretty sure being in middle school all day as an adult for a period of time stays with you for life.

I am also someone who loves to make lists. I have the most organized iPod you’ll probably ever see. Playlists galore. I have a planner with a “to-do” list for everyday. Love, love, love it. I get a kick out of categorizing my lists.

Enter the “Christmas Move Watchlist.” Apparently “Watchlist” is supposed to be two words but I don’t like the Feng Shui of it. What movies do I love to watch and associate with the holidays? Here we go and in no particular order.

I know this goes against the organization gods but I just can’t bring myself to pick one over the other… Instead of making this some ordinary list, let’s see a photo for each one I enjoy and see if you can guess. Honor code people. I didn’t create these pics myself so I had to borrow them. Clicking on the source is cheating. Sheesh.

Can you guess which holiday movie just by looking at a photo from the movie? Read on for more fun details!

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I feel like a renegade having a list of eleven, instead of a traditional list of ten. It really could be more, but these are definitely on my list of movies I always try to watch around the holidays. I also just realized that Nicolas Cage is popular for me this time of year.

Answers:
1. Home Alone
2. Family Man
3. White Christmas
4. Elf
5. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
6. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
7. The Family Stone
8. The Muppet Christmas Carol
9. The Santa Claus
10. A Christmas Story
11. Trapped in Paradise

What would your Christmas Movie Watchlist be?

Ideas to Help You Fight Winter Blues

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Have you heard of winter blues before? I had not until a few years ago. It was about this time of a year, and I became pretty depressed. There were some challenges with my job that I think triggered the spiral. Ever since that time, I’m more aware of how easy it is for me to get depressed this time of year. You’d think with the holidays approaching that every thing would be fun and jolly. Well, it is, at times, but there are also those times when it’s not.

Many people may get what is called the “winter blues,” a seasonal depression, and if it’s a mild or a light case, this depression can be helped relatively easily, without medication and with some proactive measures. According to an article from National Institute of Health (NIH), Dr. Matthew Rudorfer explains that winter blues is used as a general term and is considered more mild than serious and can eventually go away within a short amount of time. He goes on to say that many times this depression is triggered by the stress of the holidays and reminders of lost loved ones. Ding! Ding! Ding! That would be me.

It is worth noting that there can be more intense and serious cases of depression during the winter months called Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD). Dr. Rudorfer mentions that this depression is “a well-defined clinical diagnosis that’s related to the shortening of daylight hours” and it “interferes with daily functioning over a significant period of time” (para 4).

I have always felt that as the days get darker sooner during this time of year that I was affected by that, especially since I worked in a room with no windowns! I never knew what was going on outside during the day. I would head to work and it was dark! By the time I I drove home it was dark. Dr. Rudorfer goes on to explain that there is a pattern to SAD, meaning it flares up during the winter with “less light” months and clears up during the spring and summer time.

For me, I feel the less daylight hours, along with the stresses of the holidays, can easily trigger winter blues. I don’t know about you, but I can hide my emotions pretty well. My husband was pretty unaware of my feelings when I was really depressed a few years ago.

I didn’t want to get out of bed, go to work, I wasn’t sleeping well,  and I was willing to lie to get out of responsibilities if it meant I could avoid certain activities that fed into my depression. I feel like this is especially easy to do around the holidays because the good times can easily mask the rough patches from those close to you. Husband just thought I was sick–like physically sick. Honestly, I think I made myself sick. The mind can do amazing things. The built up anxiety can do wonders to the body. I found I am easily prone to ulcers if anxiety and depression settle in for a winter vacation and my winter blues to be kicked up a notch.

The holidays can create this tension that pulls you up and quickly pushes you down. One minute you’re excited to be home for the weekend and be able to spend time with your family and as Monday approaches, the dread settles in. Eventually this dread causes you to take action–sick for the day, which turns in to days, which might lead to resentment for the obligations you made two months ago and now you’re supposed to host this Christmas party you completely forgot about, which cuts in to the indoor soccer game you planned on watching of your son, which takes a night away from you and your husband hanging out and you feel like this always happens this time of year.

Why can’t you just get a grip? Great. You’re starting to get sick. You’re waking up in the night because you can’t sleep. Oh man. Now the real monster comes out to play when you start operating on less sleep.

I find myself walking this balance beam at times during this time of year, and try to take proactive steps to prevent winter blues from settling in.

I am by no means an expert. These tips should not replace any sort of medical advice you may receive or should not replace a reader seeking medical attention for any kind of depression.

Tips to Help Fight Depression Tips to fight Winter Blues

Get outside as much as you can.
If you know that you dislike the hour changes, then try to get outside as much as you can. When I was at my job, I would use my lunch break and plan period to take a quick step outside, either for a short walk or a quick breath of fresh air. I would try not to check my phone and just enjoy being outside for a brief moment. The National Institute of health found that people diagnosed with SAD who underwent light therapy had an “improvement in depression scores after the first treatment of light” (para 11). This can apply too for getting outside more often.

Talk with someone about what you’re feeling…seriously, do it.
Why do we tend to be so secretive about being depressed? Depression seems to have such a negative stigma, almost like it’s a sign of weakness. Satan couldn’t be anymore glad if no one ever talked about their depression, whether it’s mild or serious. If no one is talking about it, then many are probably not getting help or being proactive, which means more people missing out on God’s amazing grace!

When you feel the depression starting to creep up, evaluate positive ways to cope and possibly divert the depression.
For me, a key ingredient to fighting the hormones that come with depression is exercise. For my husband, it’s having a time of no responsibilities in the home, a break from the every day routine. Another coping tool for me is sleep. I can get in serious ruts with little sleep (which made Postpartum Depression really hard to deal with for me!). Since it’s dark anyways, I tend to just go to bed earlier if I feel tired, then getting up early the next day to meet my obligations seems less daunting.

What might be some tools you have that could help you with this? Have you taken the time to evaluate what they might be? Have you talked with someone about this?

Deal with what you can control and seek guidance for the rest.
This tends to be the biggest obstacle for me and it is so easily said than done at times. I can’t control other people’s actions. I can control my emotions and actions. Another easier said than done…cough cough.

For me, this means everyday I have to remind myself that I am a child of God and no matter what happens, He is with me and is there no matter what. If the finances are falling apart or your brother wont talk to you or you’re reminded of your sweet grandma and her delicious cookies which aren’t around anymore, then those are the times to look for guidance. Counseling may be an effective tool for you this time of year in particular.

As I mentioned, for me I have to speak to myself the promises of God from his Word. I don’t always remember those promises in the heat of emotions. I like to write them down on cards and place them around the house, in my purse, in my car.

I can control how many Christmas parties I host. I can control how many activities I get my family involved in. I can control how much money I spend on others. I always think of Matthew 5:37 when Jesus says something along the lines of “let your yes be yes and your no be no.” I have always felt this means if you say you’re going to do something, you should follow through and if you can’t do it, then just say so. I’m sorry my good friend, but we’ve got too much going on already to go to that party you mentioned. I’m sorry cousin, but this argument is between you and your sister. I would prefer to stay out of it. Again, easier said than done. But if we’re doing what we know is right, then we have to trust that decision.

Try not to worry about appearing weak.
Honestly, I was nervous to talk to my husband about it because I didn’t want to appear weak. There it is again, that stupid stigma. Eventually, he caught on though. My demeanor had changed too much at home and he brought me out to talk about some things.

Having someone close that can help you be “accountable” can be very beneficial for some people. Someone who can remind you in a loving way to speak positive in those low moments or maybe remind you to speak God’s Word. Someone who can walk with you during those low moments. Some might prefer someone who isn’t close to them, maybe a therapist, someone you might feel you can be more open with. Either way, the more you keep things in the worse things can get and spiral out of control.

Clinical depression can be far worse and should be treated as soon as possible. This post is not to minimize someone’s experience with serious depression and all the obstacles that come with it. If you feel you are on any path of depression, seek help as soon as you can.

Have you experienced Winter Blues? If so, what have you found that works best for you? Any tips to avoid depression during the holidays?
Peace mamas,
Glo