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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Seven Tips for Finding Balance in the Midst of Holiday Chaos

Our family leaves on an extended holiday trip in just over 2 weeks and I keep wondering how I'm going to get everything done. So, here are a few tips I've created to help myself maintain balance during this busy time of year - I hope you find them helpful also.

1. Prioritze your schedule to include activities most important to you. Say no to everything else and to obligations someone else can manage.
For me, that includes attending my son's Christmas party at school, special church services, a holiday piano performance in our hometown, a few Christmas parties, and various other events. However, it doesn't include ladies bunko night, the symphony performance, or lunch with each of my girlfriends to exchange gifts - there simply isn't time for all that. 

2. Start each day with a spiritual act - prayer, devotional, Bible reading, listening to songs of praise, etc. to center your mind and soul for the day.
When we start our day with God in control, it allows for a God-centered day instead of a  man-centered one.  

3. Don't allow someone else power over your emotions (i.e. ex-spouses, children/stepchildren).
Commit to staying in control of your emotions instead of allowing someone else to take that power from you. Walk away from volatile emotions or heated conversations. Engage in communication via e-mail or texting if necessary.

4. Stay faithful to healthy eating patterns and a regular exercise routine.
Get up earlier than usual if you need to, but don't skimp on exercise and sensible eating. You will feel better and manage your demanding schedule more competently if you maintain healthy habits through the season.

5. Break down consuming tasks into chunk-size actions that can be completed a little at a time.
For instance, I easily become overwhelmed when I think about shopping for our five children in addition to parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, etc. However, if  I choose one child to focus on until I'm finished and then move to the next child or a parent or whatever, the task seems less daunting.

6. Commit to making each day positive.
We have so much to be thankful for and if we choose to focus on the positives in our life, we will manage our schedule with greater ease. If we have a bump in the road one day, we can choose to pick ourselves up and keep moving forward instead of allowing negative thoughts to set in.

7. Read Thriving at the Holidays: A Stepparent's Guide to Success - Unwrapping the Gift of Peace (an easy-to-read e-book) to find additional tips on maintaing balance and creating a peaceful season.  

There they are - 7 tips for finding balance during holiday chaos.

Do you another tip to add? Would you please share it with us?

Related Posts:

Holiday Tip: Balancing Your Time as you Consider What's Important

Holiday Tips for Stepfamilies: Live One Day at a Time

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Your Holiday Doesn't Have to be Perfect to be Meaningful

I'll never forget the first holiday season our family celebrated together. My husband and I had married in mid-October and the holidays descended upon us before we could get settled in our new surroundings. My expectations of a joyous holiday season quickly faded as the reality of chaos and heartache took over.

Blending four young children, managing a harried schedule with two uncooperative ex-spouses while grappling with my expectations of a perfect, first holiday ignited a simmering blaze that burned throughout the season, leaving behind a trail of hurt feelings and defeat.

How could I expect it to be perfect? Because I'm a perfectionist. I wanted to prove to myself and others that, despite the odds of our new marriage and complexities, we could have a perfect, delightful holiday season. I was wrong.

In her book, Set Free to Live Free: Breaking through the 7 Lies Women Tell Themselves, Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith writes, "Perfection is not the goal on earth. ... Your life is a progressive journey. There will be times of success and times of failure. There will be times of faith and times of doubt. There will be moments of joy and moments of fear. You cannot maneuver this obstacle course we call life and expect to finish the race perfectly."

I've given up the idea of a perfect holiday season. But that doesn't mean it won't be meaningful. There may be squabbles among the kids, or sour attitudes while shopping, or a less-than-perfect decorated tree by my children, but that doesn't mean I won't cherish the memories of time together as a family.

You see, our time as a family isn't the same anymore. We only have one of our five children still living at home and we will only all be together briefly on Christmas day. So, I choose to value how small or large our family gathering is and enjoy every moment we have together as an imperfect family.

In our book, Thriving at the Holidays,  Heather writes, "Life rarely goes  as planned and the tighter we hold onto expectations of the perfect Thanksgiving or Christmas, the tighter, tenser and more stressed we are likely to feel. Let the strands of Christmas tree lights, not our emotions, be the only thing that gets tangled up this holiday season. Peace in the heart leads to peace in the home."

Have you experienced lesss-than-perfect holidays in the past? How did you cope?

Related Posts:

Holiday Tips for Stepfamilies: Face Your Challenges

Holiday Tips for Stepfamilies: Do the Right Thing

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Are You Prepared for the Unexpected this Holiday?

 "I took a fall tonight and I'm at the hospital. I'll be okay but I need you to pick me up when you get to town. Please hurry - I don't know if my house is secure because the paramedic broke the window to get in."

Those were the words spoken to my husband this past week-end as we were driving to Austin, TX for a visit with his mom and step-dad. We knew his step-dad had been in the hospital for several days due to complications from his diabetes but we were shocked to hear the news from his mom, and concerned about the urgency of the situation. But once we heard the story, we spoke with her about being prepared for an unexpected event in the future.

When my mother-in-law fell she was home alone. She hit the floor hard and couldn't get up but managed to reach a nearby phone. However, when the ambulance came to pick her up, she couldn't get to the front door and the paramedics had to break a window to enter the house. It was an added stress to the situation that could have been prevented if there had been an extra key hidden outside, as the paramedics requested in case of another unexpected accident.

We can't always anticipate what kind of events are going to invade our home at the holidays, particularly in a stepfamily. But we can prepare ourselves for unexpected events by managing our expectations throughout the season. Here's a snippet of what we included in our new e-book, "Thriving at the Holidays: A Stepparent's Guide to Success:"  in regards to expectations.

"At the holidays, we manage our lists, our schedules and our budgets. Yet the most important items to manage during the holiday season are our expectations! As stepparents, we are committed to our families and because we want to give our blended family the gift of a joyous and peaceful holiday, we often take it upon ourselves to bring that joy and peace.

While holidays seem like the perfect opportunity to show your stepkids how much you care about them, this time of year can easily become a source of disappointment and frustration. The problem lies in the fact that we have little-to-no control over those around us. When we attach expectations to those in our stepfamily with whom we have little to no influence over, we set ourselves up for potential heartache.

...Whatever expectations you allow to enter your head also enter your heart and your home. It is important to manage expectations so they don't manage us."

How do you manage your expectations during the holidays? Will you share what works for you?

Related Posts:

Holiday Tip: Accept What You Cannot Change

Holiday Tip: Take Care of the Small Stuff

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Managing Your Holiday Schedule - Define Your Date to Celebrate

Many blended families are beginning to make visitation schedules for the holidays and I hear co-parents grumbling about the stress of making it work. I love what Heather Hetchler shared in our e-book, "Thriving at the Holidays: A Stepparent's Guide to Success," about her Thanksgiving routine.

"In my family, we have all the kids every other year for Thanksgiving. On the years when my four children are with their father, we make a special Thanksgiving breakfast before they go. We make turkey shaped pancakes and decorate with a chocolate chip eyeball, turkey bacon feathers and maple syrup for dressing.

In addition, when they return home on Saturday, we have a Thanksgiving celebration 'Peanuts' style. We watch 'A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving' while snacking on toast, popcorn, and jelly beans."

Holidays don't have to be on a certain date to be meaningful. If we get hung up on wanting things our way, including always celebrating on Thanksgiving day or Christmas day, we will end up with  a tension-filled holiday.

The important thing to remember is the celebration of being together with loved ones and offering thanks for our relationships and the blessings God freely offers us.

Here's another suggestion from our e-book about creating a meaningful and peaceful holiday, even if the kids aren't with you on the actual date:

"You can always tuck a small gift and/or note in your stepkids' belongings when they head back to their other home. Mark it to be opened on the actual holiday. While they won't be with you and their parent, they'll have something from both of you to open that day."

The holiday season has enough stress of its own without adding an inflexible attiutude surrounding the schedule. Commit to creating a peaceful holiday season this year - your kids will thank you for it.

Are you comfortable with defining your date to celebrate other than the actual holiday? If you have done this in the past, will you share your experience?

Related Posts:

Holiday Tip: Be Flexible and Agreeable with Others, Whenever Possible

Holiday Tip: Do the Right Thing

Take Care of the Small Stuff Before it Gets Big

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Friday, November 4, 2011

Thankful - In Good Times and Bad

"I have a lesion on my kidney. The doctors are running more tests today. Please pray for me."

"My friend's 2-year-old daughter has just been diagonsed with a malignant brain tumor. Please pray for them."

These are words I've heard this week from friends. Difficult circumstances. Uncertain times. Anxious moments.

How do we continue to be thankful during hard times? I must admit there have been times this past year that I haven't felt thankful.

I wasn't thankful when my husband lost his job. I wasn't thankful when I learned we had to re-locate for a new job. (although I was thankful for the job!). And I have struggled to be thankful in a new town when three of our children now live four hours away.

But God tells us to be thankful in all things. "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." I Thess 5:16-18

Did you notice the Scripture says to pray continually before we can give thanks? I think that's the key - stay in an attitude of prayer.

A devotional I read this week by Dr. Fred Lowery said, "The Bible says, 'Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving.' Only when you've spent time in God's presence and drawn strength from him, will you be equal to the challenges you face on any given day."

Only when we've allowed God to penetrate our heart and our mind can we be thankful when our circumstances don't appear worthy of thanksgiving.

So, what are you thankful for today? I'm thankful for a new writing opportunity God gave me that resulted in my first e-book! The e-book, Thriving at the Holidays: A Stepparent's Guide to Success," is currently available on Amazon and will be available on Apple and Barnes and Nobles shortly.

I hope you'll check it out and tell me what you think.

Are you feeling thankful today? Will you share with us what you're thankful for? 

Related Posts:

Being Thankful for Stepchildren

Count Your Blessings

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