Simple Annual Greetings

My 4328/10
German Christmas Card c.1911 from University of Nottingham, shared through CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

The first year that I sent my own holiday greetings, I hand-wrote individual letters to everyone.   It was before our marriage, before our parenthood, and before my career burnout.  And even then, it was too much.

I love a good handwritten letter, and I still send them – Continue reading “Simple Annual Greetings”

Keeping spirits bright

snowwmWinter in the northern latitudes is a challenge, a marathon, an endurance test. A few months ago, we were basking in so much sunlight that it almost seemed pointless to go to sleep, and now we’re at the opposite end of the spectrum: on a chilly, cloudy, rainy day like today, with abbreviated sunlight hours, hibernating in my pajamas seems attractive… a marked contrast to the summer months of hours outdoors every day, absorbing light and being active.

In recent years, research on circadian rhythms has provided ample evidence that getting bright sunlight early in the day is important not only for mood and sleep, but for overall health. Continue reading “Keeping spirits bright”

Thanksgiving Simplified: Lessons from my Mother 


This year, since the loss of my mother, who was the queen of holidays, I  working on changing up our holiday celebrations. I have so many wonderful, glowing memories of her over-the-top celebrations. I truly enjoyed every one of them, but I am not my mother. She greatly enjoyed every bit of time and energy she put into our holiday celebrations, so the work was not a burden to her, but a joy. When I became a mom, for many years I tried to keep my childhood holiday traditions, the things my mother enjoyed doing, and add to them the parts that I enjoyed doing. I ended up pretty overwhelmed. This year, I’m working on simplifying Thanksgiving by paring it back to the things that are enjoyable to the people actually celebrating this year. 

Farming it out

My mom did not love to cook. She loved to decorate, do crafts, and shop for holiday supplies. She loved to set a tablescape fit for royalty, and have every little detail in place. She was willing to make the basics, but she did a lot of what she called “assembling” when it came to food. She knew the places to buy the best baked goods, appetizers, cheeses and desserts. She didn’t feel any pressure to make everything from scratch herself. I do love to cook, but I’m in a phase of life where trying to make everything myself is anything but a recipe for a happy holiday. This year, I am planning on buying some of the pies from a church fundraiser. I’m buying Pillsbury crescent rolls instead of making my own. 

Sharing the Load 

In part because my mom didn’t love cooking the way I do, she had no problem asking other people to do their part. My dad  did as much of the cooking as my mom did, and I was contributing to the feast by the time I was 10. I loved it. This year I assigned each kid a dish. Cheyenne made the green bean casserole the Saturday before, and Bella made the mashed potatoes. James made the sweet potato casserole, and I made the stuffing. Bella volunteered to do a baking activity, and help the little girls make pumpkin and sweet cream pies. Zach is in charge of the turkey, Travis will make the crescent rolls and my dad will bring the cranberries. The kids are excited to show off their contributions, and I am less stressed. Bella loves to decorate, so she wants to take care of the table. 

Expectation Management

If it doesn’t look like a magazine shoot, that’s fine with me. The point is for our family to get together and enjoy each other’s company. Anything that takes away from that is not something we need in our celebration. Having teenagers now, I’m always surprised when they talk about things they did when they were little that seemed like no big deal to me, but made a big impact on them. It’s amazing how little we really need to be happy. 

Brightening the Dark Days of Winter

wmdog in sunbeam
Everyone loves a good sunbeam.

I am tired. It’s only Monday, but I woke feeling unusually unrested this morning. I’m going to chalk it up to the return to standard time and a cloudy weekend. My activity level has plummeted in the past 8 weeks, from walking and/or biking several miles and spending hours gardening each and every day, to working in an office. I run the stairs and go outside whenever I can during the workday, but I am feeling the change in many ways… and none of them pleasant.

Winter in the northern latitudes is a challenge, a marathon, an endurance test. A few months ago, we were basking in so much sunlight that it almost seemed pointless to go to sleep Continue reading “Brightening the Dark Days of Winter”