Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Sanity Clause

Deb: I knew if I was going to retain my sanity this holiday season, I would have to employ the Sanity Clause. Specifically, I employed the Sanity Clause regards my holiday prep and decorating.

Now, Colin and I usually have a friendly rule about Christmas tunes and tinsel. Given that his birthday is November 30th, we made a pact to start Christmas on the 1st of December. And not until said date, would we make with the trimmings and the ringings and the donnings.

This year however, I knew that I would not have a decorating day as in years past. There would be no circling the 1st or 3rd or even the 10th and claiming it as day to decorate, day of decor, deck the halls day.

I decided, with my husband’s blessing (have I waxed poetic about this man lately?), to festoon our home one surface at a time, one day at a time. I did the mantle for an hour on a Monday, the table for a half hour on a Tuesday, the stairs garland for twenty minutes on Wednesday ... you get the picture.

And now, as I write this, our home is done. It’s early, yes, even too early for me. But it sure is lovely. And it’s so nice to come home after a long day with nary a twinkle in your eye, to find your entire home twinkling for you.

I have also been signing ten or twenty Christmas cards a night so that I will not find myself two weeks from now screeching, “The CARDS, I’ve got to do the CARDS!”

So here I am, as a result of the Sanity Clause, able to focus on Mom’s transition home instead of fretting about surfaces un-festooned.

Usually I am 80% finished with my Christmas shopping by now, but this year I am 2% done. However, the beauty is that when December hits, I will leave my perfectly decorated home each day and hit the stores. And I will employ the Sanity Clause once more by doing my shopping just one hour a day. This will grant me the grace and patience with my parents I might otherwise be lacking, if I was feeling overwhelmed. It will also give me the gift of enjoying the hell out of buying the gifts. Or as it’s known in Section Four, Article Two of the Clause: Gift Squared.

And when Christmas parties start to lift their lively toasts, my glass will be raised among the reveling throngs and I will be thinking, “I’m having fun. I’m feeling festive. Peace on Deb”.

Yep, that’s what I am giving myself this Christmas. Peace. And the best part? It’s free.

To borrow from The Trouble with Angels’ Mary Clancy, the Sanity Claus has been “my most scathingly brilliant idea ever!”

Barbara: Let it be said here that Deb has Christmas times 10 compared to me. She has literally 10 times the family (and probably friends!), and 10 times the familial obligations, buying gifts on behalf of many members of her family as well as her own. I’m telling you this because I want you to know just how much work she faces each holiday season. Enough to stress the catatonic. And yet, she welcomes and celebrates the festivities better than any little elf I know.

I, on the other hand, have noticed how much less stressed I am this year thanks to 2 rather significant reasons: 1) my kids are big (and home) enough to help, and 2) with age comes experience. I have nailed the holiday season down to a ritual I can almost—not quite, but almost—do with my eyes closed. That said, I also think Deb’s idea is genius: one detail at a time, steady as she goes!  


  1. Wow Deb, I am so impressed!!! I absolutely love your mantle. It's amazing who well women multi task and then figure out a way that they can do it and still find peace.....well done. Happy Birthday Colin!

  2. I meant to's amazing HOW well women multi task....must remember to spell check

  3. I love that you all are in the Christmas mood. Christmas Is my favorite holiday and everything about it makes me smile. Although I have not done any of my shopping for it except for 2 little things it's still good. The only thing that I will not do till the week before Christmas is hear Christmas carols . Don't know why because I do love them but just have always been that. Love the way you decorated Deb it's very beautiful . Love it.

    PS: happy birthday to your husband . I hope he has a great birthday.

  4. 1. Happy Birthday, Colin! *heart bursts with love and birthday hugs* You have touched, comforted, and infused joy into so many people during your years on Earth so far. You lighten burdens. You give the gifts of laughter and encouragement. You are a tremendous blessing. Happy, happy birthday, and wishing you at least this many birthdays more! *tremendously snuggly birthday hugs*

    2. Deb, I am amazed at how thoroughly you Christmasify your house! Wow. Talk about a winter wonderland! My first reaction was, "I can't believe she even bothered with all that this year." But, upon further thought, I realized, "She'd've been continually sad, would've noticed and been disheartened and missed it every time she was home, if she hadn't. It would've been one more loss for her to grieve." So, I'm glad you get to take comfort and feel repeated little swells of holiday cheer each time you savor the decorations. Hopefully, you'll also follow a stress free take down plan when it's time to clean up and put away.

    3. I'm almost reluctant to say this because I DO NOT WANT TO ADD TO YOUR STRESS, but it's been in the back of my mind ever since you announced that your Mom would be able to come home to her house. Will someone put up a small Christmas tree where your Mom can see it and enjoy it?

    4. When I was at university and a part of Wesley Foundation (the United Methodist student fellowship), our benediction each Sunday morning was the Passing of the Peace. You turn to the person beside you, and one person holds up their hands like a little child holds her hands when she's gonna pray. The other person wraps their hands around the first person's hands. Then the 2nd person says to the first person, "The peace of Christ be with you." Then the first person replies, "And, also with you." Then, we'd turn to the other side and take the opposite role with the other person beside us. It was always such a soothing, fortifying way to be sent out of the sanctuary and back out into the world.

    *gently takes Deb's hands* Deb, the peace of Christ be with you.

  5. Thanks Mary-Jo! And I just passed on your birthday wishes to Colin, who thanks you! Oh Honey I could not live without the spell check! Lyndsie, I still have lots of shopping to do too! but at least my halls are decked! Colin thanks you Lyndsie! Just made him a birthday breakfast!

  6. Well,my dear, dear Deb...if a total stranger rings the bell and announces she's come about the Christmas stuff, it behooves us to be ready to let her in! You're good to go....

  7. Rigel, that is a beautiful wish! Thank you. I'm sure Deb will weigh in when she has a chance, but I can vouch for her taking very good Christmas care of her parents' home and gifts! She is amazing. Annette, lol! you kill me :)

    And Colin, I can't express it better than Rigel, so I'll stick with happy happy birthday!!! xoxo

  8. Deb, the house is beautiful! It truly is. It's like looking at a beautiful painting. I'm trying to decide how much in the way of decorations I want to pull out this year. Moving in December is just awful. Do I bother with any kind of decoration when we'll just pack it all up in a couple of weeks? To not decorate would be so sad, though. I don't know. I haven't even thought of gifts. Oh well. It will all work out some way or other.

    Colin, a very happy birthday to you! Wishing you all the best from our family.

  9. Wow, Deb, you are truly amazing! Your home looks absolutely beautiful! I especially love the first picture, with the Santa in a kilt, I believe. I hope your holiday season brings you and your family joy and PEACE and some time to relax and breathe.
    Happy Birthday, Colin! All the best to you too!
    "Men are like wine: some turn to vinegar, but the best improve with age."

    "Birthdays are good for you. Statistics show that the people who have the most live the longest."

    And one of my personal favorites:"Age is something that doesn’t matter, unless you are a cheese."
    Happy Birthday! :)

  10. Very lovely Deb. I do believe that is the first time I've seen a santa carrying bagpipes in full highland dress, I like it.

    I am so with you on this one and have come to much the same conclusion. Do what I can when I can and don't stress about the rest. I've been celebrating getting the little things done instead of worrying about the things still to do.

    The only thing I can't quite shake the nervousness about is getting my family together for a dinner. I booked the family room at my brothers care centre for us and will be transporting everyone and everything there for it. I've never transported a full turkey dinner before and am not yet quite sure how I'm going to accomplish it.

    Happy birthday to your husband as well. I fully understand his desire not to mix Christmas with his birthday, my Dad's was Nov 28th, my Mom's is Dec 18 and mine Dec 19. I'm used to sharing the spotlight as it were. The only part that actually irritates me though is Christmas cards as birthday cards. One or the other please.

  11. Deb, Christmas is my absolute favorite time of the year!!!! I've been in the Christmas spirit for a while now! :D LOVE how you decorated!!

    P.S. A very happy birthday to Colin!!! Please wish him well for me and tell him it was such a great pleasure (and a dream come true) meeting him in Richmond! :)

  12. Molly, yeah, that's a tough one. But I do think a little holiday cheer goes a long way to cheering, especially during a move -- which is always somewhat stressful.

    S-- again with the awesome quotes! Love these!!

    Erin, wow -- could you share with us how you actually do that??? And good luck!

    Holly xoxo

  13. I actually have a close family member whose birthday is December 24, so basically her birthday IS Christmas! Sometimes we do her birthday thing (gifts, cake, etc) a week or so before so that there is a little separation. It is a little crazy though, trying to keep Christmas and birthday gifts separated (I also have several other family and friends whose birthdays are in December). It gets a little crazy in my house too around the hoidays (and birthdays)!

  14. I actually have a family member whose birthday is December 24, so basically her birthday IS Christmas! We try to celebrate her birthday a week or so before so that there is a bit of a separation between it and Christmas, but it is still kind of crazy. It can be difficult sometimes trying to keep the birthday gifts and Christmas gifts separated (I also have more family and friends whose birthdays are also in December). At least by New Year I am done with birthdays for a while!

  15. Oops...did not mean to post that twice! Oh well... no harm done I guess. I guess it is pretty clear that I am not, shall we say computer savvy!?

  16. What lovely decorations, Deb. The Sanity Clause is a great idea for actually being able to enjoy the holidays.

    Happy birthday to Colin!

  17. S -- that was interesting enough to post twice ;) PS and you are safely amongst the tech-unsavvy here (referring only, of course, to Deb and myself!)

  18. Rigel "and also with you". Thank you. And yes, Mom and Dad have a lovely little tree and other decorations that they put up. Not as many as they used to, but it still looks lovely. Since we were kids, they would host a Christmas Eve party and bless them, they are still doing it now. The only difference is that we now run it, and they greet their guests as gracious hosts. Thanks Annette. Always nice to know I'm good to go!!!!!!!

  19. Molly I gave your birthday wishes to Colin, thanks. And you are right. The alternative of not decorating is soooooooooo sad! Thanks S, passed your wishes along and thanks for the house compliments. That is only a small sampling of what the house looks like during this festive season.

  20. Hi S, just answering this one now as I am doing them one at a time. Had a three hour meeting with Mom's crack care team so just responding now. I hear you! My brother's birthday is December 26 or Boxing Day in Canada.

  21. Yes Lisa I agree, we should all employ the Sanity Clause right? I gave Colin your birthday wishes. He thanks all of you guys!

  22. Happy Birthday Colin!! November 30th is clearly a very quality day, it's my birthday too! (I forget about the time zone thing - it's Dec 1st already here... since it's still Nov 30 over there Rigel, you've still got time to send Nathan my way ;) lol)

    Loving the decorations Deb, sounds like you and my mum and grandmother would get along like a house on fire. My mum especially, is a Christmas fanatic. She usually has the house decked out by mid-November - I'm not kidding, she sometimes beats the shops! This is mostly part of her own sanity clause (great name for it!) My sister, grandmother, and I all have our birthdays around the end of November, and then all the holiday chaos begins... so it's much easier to just have everything up and ready earlier. She was actually a lot later than usual this year and only put them up last week. The house is very very festive :)

    Erin, I know exactly what you mean about the card thing. I'm used to the tree and everything being up on my birthday, I can even tolerate my birthday presents being wrapped in Christmas paper... but please no Christmas cards for birthday, that's just lazy and rude.

  23. I love christmas! My birthday is on the 24th of december, so we usually combine the two things (we do celebrate christmas on the 24th here in Germany). We even put up the tree, after we've celebrated my's funny I think. Haven't decorated the house, yet...but will do that, soon. I love the smell of fir branches, and all the lights...

    Your decorations look really nice!

    Tomorrow I will start baking "Plätzchen" (cookies).

    Oh, and I have to make/write some cards...

    I would like to send you one, but I don't know if that's possible?

    And happy, happy birthday, Colin! :) Hope you had a great day (or still have).

  24. Wow, I can't believe how many of you have birthdays in this season! Our little Christmas presents :)

    PS meant to add this when I posted this entry, but Deb, I frickin' LOVE that Bairn is staring out at us from her little perch under the Santa!!

  25. Elle - Obviously, you did not receive Nathan for your birthday because he's already allotted to me! :D Remember, I, too, am one of those near-Christmas birthdays (12/31). *sigh* My pet peeve? Birthday presents wrapped in Christmas paper! Argh! But, you know what? I wouldn't complain if it were Nathan Fillion that I unwrapped! :D lol

    Deb -
    Funny twist! So, today you posted about the Christmasfication of your house. Well, I was treated (awwwww *sniffle* So nice!) to lunch (yummmmmmm BBQ platter and fried peach pie MMmmmMMmmmm) with R, her youngest daughter (my son's best friend), L, and her 2 kids today (all kids = homeschoolers), and then we ran a couple of errands before it was time to pick my kiddo up from school. They had been decorating their church for Christmas this morning and were a little frustrated. Among other things, they need a star for their tree top, but it's an unusually small space. (Hard to explain, you'd just have to see the problem.) Anyway, as it happened, after we all went to pick up kiddo from school (we were all piled into R's big van), we all went to R and L's church to drop off the poinsettias and stuff. The kids all ran around outside going bonkers having fun in the last of the piles of snow and with empty wrapping paper tube swords. And, *squeeee!* I got to help with the Christmasification of their church! They'd gotten the sanctuary finished, but the fellowship hall and the narthex and the upstairs were, well, errrr, lacking. And, R and L aren't quite the glitter and ribbons giddy glee type that I am. They needed fresh eyes and fresh energy on the scene. I had sooooo much fun! A GREAT afternoon! Total recharged my spirit! And, I get to help some more on Friday before I go to work! Oh, it's an explosion of greenery and golden ornaments and stars and bells and lights, and I'm getting to go berserk with it! I'm in Christmas decorating overdrive!!! SO FUN!!! And, you wanna know the best part?!?!? I am MAKING the star for their church's tree! They have a peculiar need, so I am going to just custom craft a star! I'm starting on it tonight. The goal is to finish by Saturday night so it can go on the tree before Sunday School the next morning. So, even though kiddo and I live in a little apartment and will only put up a tree, I still get to take part is a gigantic extravaganza of Christmas decorating at R's church! AMD, I get to make a fancy tree topper star for them! :D YEAH!

    There's glitter all over my sweatshirt and in my hair right now. This makes me happy. :D

    When we were in the church, I giggled and told R, "So, guess what Deb blogged about today?" She got a kick out of the twist of fate!

    So, for the next few evenings, I am awash in beads and sequins and embroidery floss and golden felt and all sorts of pretty, crafting bobs and bits! :D

    *wanders off catterwauling "Deck the halls..."*

    P.S. Even though I gave Colin's birthday wishes above, since I'm posting again while it's still 11/30, I simply must include an extra batch of birthday hugs. Because, when in doubt, hug, right? When all else fails, figure out how to show love.

  26. I forgot to add: There's further joy in our household. I've got a tiny Christmas miracle on my hands. It may not seem like a big deal to y'all, but it is a super big deal to me. The timing along chokes me up a little.

    I had very recently lamented in an email to Barbara (because sometimes a gal just needs to vent!) that one of my ongoing thorns of sadness and frustration and regret is that I miss having a well stocked kitchen. I pitched a little pity party and whined all over Barbara for a couple of paragraphs that I miss having full cupboards and fridge shelves. I miss having a variety of ingredients at my fingertips. I miss having enough in the kitchen. Don't get me wrong. Eddie and I have meals to eat. But, every week, I only buy a bare minimum, and by the last couple of days, I'm always carefully finagling to get the last couple of suppers to work out right. I threw myself a little pity party about not having a full pantry, a well stocked kitchen. I know, I know. Pathetic and whiny. There are people who ARE hungry. I should shut up with my white, First World whining over having lost a comfortably middle class lifestyle. Go ahead and Gibbs slap me. I deserve it.

    But, do you know what happened?

    I logged onto the company portal today to see my payslip for this coming Friday's direct deposit. I've got to pay rent this week, and I was calculating how much I could allot for groceries and gas in the car and would I have enough left to get one of the Christmas presents I've planned for my son. Between the extra hours I worked on Black Friday and the part time holiday hours the company granted for Thanksgiving Day (which I did not know in advance was going to happen), I have $40 MORE than normal in the grocery budget this week. That more than doubles what I usually spend on me and kiddo in a week for food. It'll help me do just what my heart was longing for: stock the kitchen a bit better. I can get a few things toward making cookies and candies for friends for Christmas, and it'll let me put some frozen meats up in the freezer. This week, I'll buy a pound of ground turkey AND some chicken. *happy sigh*

    I thought, "Should I pay down a bill with this money?" I thought, "Should I hide this money somewhere toward future car maintenance?" And, then I thought, "No. There's too much grace in this timing. This $40 is meant for groceries. It has to be." And, I felt warm peace deep in my guts and knew it to be true.

    I found this out how long after I was being a selfish, blubbering fool to Barbara? Less than 48 hours?

    Small Christmas miracle. *sniffle*

    I am so grateful.

  27. Wow, Deb. What a beautifully decorated house. That would certainly be a welcome sight to come home to. Do you have scented candles, as well? Since we stopped getting a live tree (cats would sleep in the branches), we've relied on Yankee candles to try to recapture the scent. Balsam/cedar is one viable option.
    I love the look on the pup's face, as well.

    Christmas here is no longer the big production it used to be, but one tradition carries on, and it's the most important one to the parents. They have a creche, and the figurines are all Hummels. They bought this for their first Christmas together and it is always set up in its place of honor on the dining room buffet. It's never been my favorite, but I now appreciate that at least SOMETHING has remained constant through the years.

    Any little gift to yourself is well-deserved, Deb.

    You can tell Colin I said happy birthday, but he's already heard or read it a few times from me. :)

  28. I LOVE this time of year! Everything about it!!! And your decorations are just splendid! :]

    P.S. A very happy birthday to Colin!!!! :D

  29. Rigel, told you I would wish for you! The more, the merrier :) Yay!!!!

  30. Hi Deb,

    Your decorations are beautiful! I love how you've decorated your house! You are wise to do a little at a time. Good for you for remembering to take care of yourself during the holidays; it's so easy to get stressed out.

    I really enjoy reading your blog; everyone seems so friendly here. :)

    Tell Colin I said Happy Birthday.


  31. My daughter's birthday is December 28th. She used to look forward to Christmas because three days after that it was her birthday.

    I do all my gift-shopping for her at once, then divide the stuff into two piles. The day is ALWAYS separated from Christmas.

  32. Rigel that is wonderful news. And it is huge. Breathing space for little treats. We are big Nathan F fans too. We know him actually. Not well but we do know him. LOVE HIM! We don't have scented candles Dawn as they tend to make the boy sneeze but we do have a lovely creche that my Dad MADE. I will take a pix of that for you. How lovely that your parents keep that tradition going. Kelly I am with you on that. And yes, Colin said thanks to all of you for the birthday wishes. Thanks Christina, it is friendly because of people like you that join in the conversation. Dawn I like Barb am amazed by all the holiday birthdays and I hear you Rigel with the gifts wrapped in Christmas paper. Like you Dawn we have always made my brother's boxing day birthday separate and wrapped in non christmas paper for that reason.

  33. I don't know why my post didn't post but I love all your great holiday ideas.

  34. Dear Deb,

    Please, may I have Nathan Fillion as my birthday gift? I promise to feed him and take very good care of him. I will be careful not to break him while I am playing with him.

    Thank you.

    Love and hugs,


  35. My first christmas cookies! Yummy!

    The first ones are supposed to look like spaghetti. :)

    I don't know how they're called in English, in German it's: Spritzgebäck

  36. Oh, Becki -- these links are empty to us. Would love to see them!

  37. Rigel! how rude stealing my birthday gift! :P oh well, at least I got my Firefly/Serenity marathon - probably as close as I'll ever get. Congrats on your little miracle, you definitely deserve it :)

  38. Oops, something went wrong...
    Hope this works?

    First ones are the spaghetti cookies, second the so called "Spritzbgebaeck"

  39. Becki, it worked! You made these??? Mmmmmm. But also very pro-looking. Mmmmm.

  40. Great. Yeah, it wasn't that difficult. :)
    But thank you!

    I used a pastry syringe for the "Spritzgebäck" and a garlic press for the spaghetti.

    I'm looking forward to making more. :D


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