Christmas Eve and we’re still here. Rejoice!


Christmas Eve has always been the “real Christmas” for me. Following the traditions of my Norwegian ancestors, that is the day when the whole family gathers for meatballs, lefse and lots of presents. Everyone brings gifts for everyone else so that the living room is piled high in festive boxes. Many years the festivities continued late into the night as we each opened our presents in turn, slowly savoring each one.

This year there are not so many people here, as many have passed on and some have moved away. We cherish those who remain, especially those we might have lost. Last Christmas Eve, my uncle had a stroke at this very table. He has recovered and is with us again this year. My husband had stomach and esophagus surgery to remove a tumor this past year. Though he is not eating as much as he used to, he will still be making sure that he gets his share of the lefse, just like a real Norwegian. We rejoice for our family.

However you celebrate the holidays, best wishes for you and the ones you love.

Is this any way to start off a new year?

Drunken man

It’s the first day of the New Year. You wake up some time in the afternoon with a headache and a vague recollection of kissing people you don’t even know. You had too much food, too much booze and not enough sleep. You spend the rest of the day on the couch in your pajamas watching repeats of the Rose Parade. You had made some resolutions. Exercise, eat right, something like that. Oh, no, please, not today.

Is this any way to start off a new year? The New Year is a fresh start, a new beginning. Shouldn’t it be welcomed with enthusiasm and exhilaration?

Since it’s now time to firm up New Year’s plans, I have a radical proposal. It’s so radical I may not even do it myself (my husband will never go for it).

Don’t celebrate New Year’s Eve, the passing of the old. Celebrate New Year’s Day, the start of the new. Plan something for New Year’s Day that will make you feel alive and get your momentum going. Go for a hike, start a project that you’ve been wanting to do, cook a new recipe you’ve been wanting to try.

Now here’s the hard part. Celebrate New Year’s Eve with a healthy dinner and an early bedtime. Make New Year’s Eve the preparation to meet the new year with enthusiasm the next day. Get up early on New Year’s Day and watch the sun come up. Do what you planned and revel in it. In the evening celebrate your new beginning with a luxurious dinner. I guarantee you will have no trouble getting reservations at any restaurant and they won’t gouge you on the price.

I’d be interested in hearing from you if you are planning to celebrate the New Year as an exciting new beginning. What do you have planned?

Take charge of your life. Live intentionally.

‘Tis the season to…

tis the season

It’s the holiday season. How does that make you feel? Excited? Stressed out? Some of each? You are probably very busy. I didn’t get this posted yesterday as planned because I was running around buying presents and wrapping paper. Some of these activities you enjoy and others you don’t. It’s really hard to change what you do because it’s all tied up in traditions.

Some of these traditions arise for no reason. My daughter was appalled that we were having turkey for Christmas. “We have to have ham. We’re always had ham,” she wailed. Actually, we started having ham for Christmas only when Grandma found it too hard to make our traditional turkey, but still wanted to host the Christmas dinner. But now a tradition has been born, inadvertently. When my daughter hosts Christmas dinner, I’m sure she’ll have ham, and so will her children. This may go on for generations.

You can actually pick and choose your traditions. When I was a kid, the Norwegian relatives made a traditional dish called lutefisk. It’s made by soaking cod in lye to remove all the flavor and texture. It’s mushy, stinky and turns the silverware black. It’s good for jokes, but that’s about it (“Lutefisk: The piece of cod that passes all understanding.”). We’re not in Norway anymore, so we don’t have to eat this stuff. We honor my Norwegian ancestors with lefse, a simple bread, somewhat like a potato tortilla. Spread it with butter, roll it up, yum! My husband, who is Norwegian by marriage, has become an accomplished lefse baker. Now, that tastes like Christmas.

Just like any other choice, step back and examine all the things you do for the holidays, especially the ones you find stressful. What do I get out of doing it? What do I give up? “We’ve always done it this way” isn’t a good enough reason. However, if you get the inevitable pushback, the reason you choose may be simply to maintain peace in the family. Do you really enjoy making decorations, cooking, baking, shopping, or whatever it is you do this time of year? What would you lose if you stopped doing it?

Here are some ideas.

What do I get out of doing it?

  • The joy of giving
  • Helping those less fortunate
  • A meaningful religious experience
  • Time with friends and family
  • Reconnecting with people
  • Sharing my creative talents
  • Honoring the past
  • Entertainment
  • Good food
  • Helping others enjoy traditions they find meaningful

What do I give up?

  • Money
  • Relaxation
  • Time to do other things I enjoy
  • Normal routine
  • Healthy diet
  • Simple pleasures without all the pressure for extravagance
  • Time alone or with people of my choosing
  • Other things people want me to be doing at the same time

What can you add to these lists?

Stop and take a deep breath. Is what you’re giving up worth what you get from your various holiday activities?
Take charge of your life. Live intentionally.

Spend $10! Save $50!

hatIsn’t this great? I bought this hat for $10. It was marked $60. Wow, how much did I save? $50, you say. Well, you’re wrong.

Did I sell the hat to someone else for $60? No. Did I go into the store with $60 specifically to buy that hat? No. Was I even planning to buy a hat? No. Would I ever spend $60 on a hat? No. I don’t see that elusive $50 anywhere. All I have is a hat and $10 less in my wallet.

You may protest, “But it’s a $60 hat.” Really? The fair price is what a willing buyer (that would be me) will pay a willing seller (the store) for the item. It’s a $10 hat.

So many otherwise sensible and frugal people will get sucked into the lure of Black Friday and the competitive shopping that goes with it. “I saved $400!” “That’s nothing, I saved $600!” Sorry, but neither of you saved anything. You spent some money and got some stuff. You can’t make money by spending money.

There’s a simple decision technique that helps to clarify things when you’re deciding whether to do something or not. Ask two questions.

What will I gain?

What will I give up?

In my case, I will gain a hat and give up $10 and I figure it’s worth it. Period. Nothing here about previous prices, or what other people think it’s worth or other hats. Nothing about past purchases I’ve regretted, or things I wished I’d bought, or the hat I liked that got ruined, or wishing I had more money. These two questions strip away all the baggage. It’s just this choice right now.

Take charge of your spending, your decisions and your life. Live intentionally.