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Woman of the Year: Katy Townsend

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Welcoming the Holidays with Wisdom

By Jan McFarlane
Posted: 11/27/2023
Tags: jan mcfarlane

One of my favorite stories was told to me by my freshman roommate in college. Whenever her great-grandmother, who was in her 90s, showed up at church, she would be wearing knee-high socks. I was horrified. Having come from a very strait-laced upbringing in the Deep South, where tradition for ladies at church required high heels, hose, and white gloves, I couldn’t imagine someone having the temerity to arrive in knee socks. But my roommate told me that her great-grandmother, who also happened to be very wealthy, believed that at age 90 she was entitled to wear whatever she wanted. And so she did. I had to chew on that a while.


As we welcome the holidays this season, consider the wisdom of my roommate’s great-grandmother: we of Pasadena Village —now in our prime — have arrived at the age where we may celebrate not only with tradition, but also in creative ways, acknowledging that we may choose how to spend our time and energy. Here are some holiday options I have found:


Gift-giving: Braving the crowds in stores and circling the parking lot for a space is not fun for me. Various gift catalogs show up in my mailbox beginning in October and at nighttime before bed I have fun paging through them to get ideas. On the front of each catalog I jot down the item, the page number, and who it might be for. Then when I’m ready to buy I take out my stack of catalogs and make the final selection and place the order.  


And during the year, whenever I see something I think someone might like for Christmas, I buy it and stick it in my closet. Then when the holidays roll around I have a head start. 


Also, I look for online stores that have Black Friday sales, discounts and free shipping if bought by a certain date. For relatives out of town, I look for items that can be shipped directly to them — saves on time needed to wrap gifts, box them and stand in line in the post office. If you happen to love to wrap gifts in gorgeous paper and ribbon and then stand in line to chat with other harried folks at the post office, be my guest!


Holiday cards: About a year ago I discovered the Jacquie Lawson website for e-cards, For a nominal annual fee, you can select from a variety of cards for many occasions. Each card has a theme with a video of animated characters, accompanied by  classical or contemporary music. At the end you can type in your personal message and email it immediately. No driving to a store, looking for stamps and remembering to mail them on time.  Again, if you love to browse for just the right greeting cards, great. But I’m sold on Jacquie Lawson.


The House: If you’re having visitors and are worried about appearances, clean and tidy the area where guests will congregate. Discourage visitation to other areas. Keep decorations within bounds. I put out my collection of angels and hang something festive on my door. For this year I bought a door-hanger that is a metal tree decorated with bright beads from India. That’s it. If you want a traditional fir tree, go ahead and enjoy decorating it.


The Meal: If you are a talented and dedicated chef and love nothing more than to while away hours in the kitchen, wonderful! I am not in this category. Organizing a turkey with potluck side dishes is more my style. In the past, when my brother-in-law was in charge, he would order a catered meal from a grocery store. We called it “Thanksgiving in a Box.” Let’s face it, this option does the job but lacks a little of the spirit of the day. But, if it’s all you’re up to, don’t be embarrassed by taking short-cuts. And, there are always restaurants offering festive meals.


 The Schedule:  To retain the joy and peace of holidays it helps to keep it simple. A friend and her husband developed a strategy for reducing the stress of unlimited activity. Her daughter, who was in a new marriage, had a mother-in-law whose idea of celebrating the holidays was to schedule a barrage of non-stop meals, activities and parties over several days, with required attendance by all. My friend and her husband gamely went along with this the first year. The second year they made polite excuses and decamped to Hawaii to escape these exhausting and depleting demands. So, plan some get-away time or sit quietly outside in the warm December sun to rest and breathe during these busy days.


Emotions:  Store advertisements would have us believe that we should feel continuous joy and happiness throughout the holidays. True, we can take time for thanksgiving and gratitude at closing out the old year and welcoming the new. However, we may also need to set aside time and space to grieve losses that we might have experienced, recently or in the past.  


If you feel discouraged by the need to force cheerfulness when you feel otherwise, take time away from the hustle and bustle to listen to music, drink a cup of tea and just allow yourself to feel whatever you are feeling. When you have regained your emotional equilibrium, you can rejoin others.


Focusing on what really matters during the holidays — being with those with whom we share connection — will keep us balanced and help us find joy in our time together. Happy Holidays!

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