Wednesday, December 6, 2017

'Tis the Season

Greetings faithful blog readers, 

Around here, we put up our Christmas decor the day after Thanksgiving, and this year was no exception. I love the sparkle and magic that happens during this time of year, but simultaneously, it's our busiest time at work, and I feel lots of tension after a long day spent teaching and helping students revise their papers. Next weekend, I'll be frantically grading finals, and I don't want the happiness of the season to get buried under a pile of essays. 

Here's a few things I plan to do and to keep in mind this holiday season; I hope my list inspires you to reflect on (and do) whatever is important to you. 

1.) Take time to say "thank you"

After a long semester, I know it means so much to me if a student gives me a handwritten, or even emailed, note of thanks. Being appreciated for what you do just feels good. That's why, my number one mantra of this season will be to say thank you. We're gifting our housekeepers, school secretaries, doctor and nurses, and co-workers notes and gifts to show our appreciation for all they do. Not only do I want to acknowledge the people who do so much for me, but I also want to make an extra effort to be kind to strangers: hold open doors, spare some change, smile and be friendly; for some, the holidays are a rough time, and your kindness could mean more than you know.

2.) Give back

I feel overwhelmed with how many worthy charities there are out there, but this week, I want to sit down with Brendan and pick a few charities to give to. Sometimes, I think I get trapped in thinking I can never do enough instead of focusing on what I can do. Picking charities that spend their dollars wisely and making a contribution has become a tradition I look forward to. This year especially, I think we all need to remember that people's worth as human beings is not connected to their financial situation. I'm disturbed when I read comments (by certain politicians) indicating that people are to blame for their own needs. You never know what landed someone in a difficult position. The truth is, any of us could need a helping hand at some point (and likely will more than once). I'd encourage anyone struggling with finding empathy to do some "soul searching" this season; I truly believe the meaning of life (to big answer to the question "why are we here?") is to help others.

3.) Ditch "perfect present" pressure

I'm not going to lie: tracking down the "perfect gift" for everyone on my list can often leave me feeling like a grinch, but this year, I'm ditching all the pressure. The purpose of a gift is to show people you're thinking of them. I'm saving gift receipts, so my recipients can choose something else if need be. I'm also enjoying wrapping small and silly presents: sometimes it's nice to simply get something useful.

4.) Don't let the news negatively impact you

Back in graduate school, I didn't pay attention to the news because it would put me in a bad frame of mind. In fact, my and Brendan's first disagreement was about this very issue (he ended up buying me flowers, which is how I knew he was a keeper). Now, I do read the news daily because it helps me make real world connections in the classroom, and I want my students to be involved citizens, but I still believe going overboard on news consumption is a fast recipe for unhappiness. One rule I have: reading, not watching. Television news is not for me. My second rule: acting, not venting. When I read something that upsets me, I don't wait to take action: I contact my representatives. Do what you can, and then let go. Venting to a friend is sometimes necessary, but it has never improved a situation.

5.) Take time out

Brendan and I took a break from grading (and test writing) this weekend and saw Three Billboards. I laughed, I cried, and it was an amazing film. We almost didn't go because there was so much to do, but then I realized our days of seeing movies in a theater may be limited, and I didn't want to miss a chance. We had a really good time, and it reminded me to take time out for experiences. Whether it's a yoga class, a trip to the coffee shop, a walk around the neighborhood (which was our Sunday activity), or listening to a podcast, take time to do something just because it brings you joy or helps you relax. Likewise, when your social calendar fills with holiday parties, potlucks, gift exchanges, and invitations to travel, don't feel guilty for saying no. Better to know yourself than to agree to something that will increase your stress.

6.) Take in the Lights

Who doesn't feel instantly happy looking at Christmas lights? We'll be sure to take some drives through festive neighborhoods just to look at lights.

7.) Make time for friends

Most of my life in the next ten days will be all about grading, but I've scheduled a lunch, a mani/pedi, and an evening out with various friends, so I'll have a nice break from the monotony of grading and get to spend time with the people I care about too.

8.) Hot Chocolate

I'm going to make myself some :)

9.) A Christmas Movie

Bad Santa, A Muppet Christmas, and Home Alone are some of my favorite Christmas movies (all have been on Netflix in previous years). I definitely plan on finding a holiday movie and enjoying it (with some gingerbread cookies my mom brought us, of course!)

We're already nearly a week into December, but we wish you all peace, love, and hope this holiday season. Here's to taking in the wonder & joy (even if you need to temporarily put aside a stack of papers to do it).


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