What's on your Sugar Plum List?

Do you have a list? You know the one I mean...the list of hopes and dreams and lofty expectations. Long about the week before Thanksgiving, I begin to get sucked into it. Every year it's the same. “THIS year will be different.” Our home will be “Pinterest perfect”. The food will be “Food Network fantastic.” The gifts will be purchased on-time and under-budget, wrapped with effortlessly hand-crafted embellishments, in coordinating paper under the twinkle-lights of one of three beautifully decorated trees.

At this point, you may think this post is about comparison. (Not so much.) You may think it’s about lowering unrealistic expectations. (That may be a little bit true.) You may think it’s about perfectionism. (You might be onto something.)

If by “comparison” you mean looking at the images of the holidays inspired by the open-houses of friends, or Folgers commercials and Hallmark movies, that’s not my struggle. Nope. It’s the comparison to what’s in my own head, based on my own expectations of what the holidays “should” be. Who is telling me what those “shoulds” should be? No one but me. In fact, I’m pretty sure if you asked my husband or my kids, none of those things would even make their top 10 list. AND, they might have a fighting chance of a happy, non-exhausted wife/mom if I were to skip staying up until 2 am stringing popcorn for the tree, only to find the house mouse we didn’t realize we’re hosting thought it was an early Christmas dinner. Yep. That happened. It brought a new meaning to my old favorite Christmas Mouse story. Grrr.

If by “unrealistic expectations” you mean those things which are setting the bar too high for what will be gained on the “comfort and joy” scale, I guess I have to disagree, to a point. I heard it said once that “you CAN have it all, just not at the same time.” I think this rings true with me because there are those things I love and am completely capable of doing, things that provide a warm and inviting backdrop for the memories revisited and new traditions created at our celebrations. Then there are those which I add to my list “just because”.

We’ve all heard it: “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” Which leads me to my next point.

If by “perfectionism” you mean achieving everything on my self-imposed list, that could be very well be the case. We can chat more about perfectionism later; let’s just agree to agree that my list for how to achieve a “perfect” Christmas just isn’t going to happen. Is yours?

In a recent podcast by Father Mike Schmitz*, he explains that we all have the same 168 hours per week and we can make the most of those hours by being intentional. He recommends crafting an “ideal week.” I’m going to borrow this advice and suggest that we CAN create an ideal Christmas. Notice I didn’t say perfect. Now, time for the “Sugar Plum Session”! Sit down with a nice warm cup of Chai Tea (or whatever you prefer!) and start to envision your ideal Christmas season: the people you will spend time with, the decorations, the food and special events, etc. It may be helpful to categorize your brainstorm list. No fair judging yourself on this...no right or wrong answers, just a collections of your hopes and dreams. You’ll get realistic later. (If you’ll be celebrating with a spouse and/or kids, it would be good to have a second “Sugar Plum Session” with them, or invite them to yours.)

We all have the same 4 weeks of advent (although we ARE getting shorted by almost a full week this year!) For each of those weeks, figure 56 hours for sleeping (but who am I kidding? You may find a few extra hours in this category if you’re not an 8 hour sleeper- just be sure to allow what you need.) 40 hours for working (more or less, depending on your situation), That leaves 456 hours during the 23 days of Advent (if you start on Saturday, Dec 2.) to plug in all of the other responsibilities and preparations, appointments and festivities. My recommendation is to map out the whole 4 weeks and plug in your non-negotiables. Then take a look at your family’s “Sugar Plum List” and see what will fit. It will become apparent pretty quickly which things are priorities and which things will have to wait until next year. This may sound something like old-school “time-blocking”, but let me tell you, it works! Click HERE for my free weekly planning template!

Have fun and may visions of Sugar Plums dance in your heads! Happy Advent and a Blessed Christmas Season to you and yours.

*ps-If you don’t already listen to Father Mike, or <gasp> have never heard of him, stop reading this right now and go directly to this website to learn more- you won’t regret it!

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