Can I talk to you for a second?” My husband peeked into my sewing room. Fifteen projects in various stages of production covered every flat surface.
I looked up from the ironing board for a second. “Hey! Yeah, sure.”
A pause. “On the couch?”
“No, no…we have to talk in here. I have to keep working or I won’t get this done in time. It’s only fifteen days until Christmas.”
He looked at me like I’d sprouted elf ears. Clearly, he didn’t understand what a magical Christmas genie I was. All I needed was time to focus.
“Please. Just for a few minutes.”
I sighed. Maybe I could do with a break.
In the living room, my husband spent the better part of twenty minutes trying to talk me out of my crazy idea.
I sat listening, glancing at the sewing room door every three seconds. Nodded and smiled. Bounced my knee.
Meanwhile, time was wasting.
He cleared his throat, a sure sign that I needed to focus back on what he was saying. “I just don’t want you to spend three days in bed after Christmas is over.”
I popped up from the couch. “Don’t worry, I won’t. Back to work.” I gave him a quick peck on the cheek and scurried back into the sewing room. I thought I heard him mumble something about “manic,” but I didn’t have time to ask him to repeat himself.
I could get this done. Would get this done. And it would be an epic Christmas.
I wish I could say I took my husband’s wise advice that December 10. But I didn’t.
After raising a family, I felt like I’d pulled off enough Christmases to know what I was doing. I didn’t need help! Certainly not in the form of my husband’s counsel. Besides, isn’t everyone crazy-busy around Christmas?
True to form, I exhausted myself so much that I was sick in bed from December 26 until January 2. All for one day of celebration.
Skip forward to last year, when I discovered Kathi’s Christmas Project Planner. Not only was I able to have a joyful Christmas without driving my husband crazy, but I could record notes and thoughts about my Christmas plan for this year. (I already know I don’t need to buy wrapping paper and that I’m going to feature the blue and silver decorations I bought on clearance last December 27. It was fun to go shopping instead of recovering in bed!)
Each day, I tackled that day’s project without worrying about missing something or over stressing the details. My December went from frantic to peaceful and pleasant.
One of the most impactful pieces of advice Kathi gives is to find out what Christmas traditions and foods are most important to those you’ll be celebrating with. I was able to plan for the things my family thinks are important (homemade pumpkin pie with real whipped cream) and leave out what isn’t. Who knew that once they became adults, Christmas eve pajamas wouldn’t be cool anymore?
Through the process, I learned that the Christmas season is more than one day. Life can be joyful throughout the month of December with a little planning and setting of expectations.
The other positive change was scheduling everything I needed or wanted to do. That way I could have a realistic view of when things would get done and how much I could reasonably do. (My husband was very grateful that I didn’t take on a massive December sewing project last year.) We saved a ton of money on shipping alone. Instead of last-minute priority mail, we could send packages media mail with confidence they’d get there in plenty of time for Christmas.
This year, I’m already excited to plan for Christmas. I just received this year’s planner in the mail and it’s beautiful! I love that it has a place to write lists, menus, and notes inside. That way, when we’re shopping for gifts we don’t have to try to remember if we got our daughter a toaster already — it’s written down in the book. There are even pockets designed to tuck away recipes and receipts.
Since two of our kids are flying from the West coast to visit over Christmas, we’re delighted to have a houseful. But that will take some planning and preparation. We’ve already started having conversations about what traditions, activities, and food are the most important. Like last year, everything we expect to do will be on the calendar.
I’m glad I took notes about decorations, menus, and gifts last year because I wouldn’t have remembered any of those details. That saves me work.
Speaking of memories, I’m smiling as I begin this year’s Christmas planning. This morning it dawned on me that, for the first time, all of my planning and preparations last year freed me up to focus on what’s important. I don’t remember a hectic season of frantic work, or all of the details it took to pull off a wonderful Christmas.
The memories I do have are special family times and a sacred worship service. It turns out that it would be our last candlelight communion led by a well-loved young pastor. He passed away from cancer a couple months later, leaving a wife and three beautiful daughters. I wouldn’t trade that precious time for anything, and I’m glad I wasn’t distracted by a chaotic schedule and Christmas stress.
Lyneta Smith is a writer and editor who lives near Nashville, TN with her husband and an opinionated tortoiseshell cat. They enjoy holidays and family nights with their adult daughters more than ever. Lyneta is the author of Curtain Call: A Memoir, and has been published in numerous national magazines and newspapers.