Hold onto Your Carving Knife! (and Other Holiday Survival Tips)

Have you seen today’s date?
Veteran’s Day flew by over the weekend. Some of us paused to remember our heroes. Took a day off. Worked retail. Whatever happened, somehow we woke up this morning to find ourselves waist-deep in November.
And you know what this means, right?
(Slaps cheeks and screams like an abandoned boy in a 1980’s film.) Company’s coming!
I’m making a list and checking it twice. Not with a jolly laugh, mind you.
Tidy unused rooms. Tackle the put-away-later piles cluttering our tables. Vacuum those dust bunnies from their habitats. Windex the windows and glass doors no one normally cares about. Clean. Scrub. Hide stuff. All while doing the regular weekly tasks.
Hair mats together with sweat by the end of the week. I collapse on a bar stool (in my kitchen, okay?) because I don’t want perspiration on the leather couches I just cleaned. Eyes crossed with exhaustion, I attempt to check off my entire list … (Squints at the bottom of page).
Right. I suppose these guests expect me to FEED them on Thanksgiving.
Rush to market on last weekend before holiday. Brave the raging river of grocery shoppers. Fight for the last jar of mincemeat. Try to use my Jedi mind trick to redirect people blocking my way. Because that sometimes works. Mentally insult people for slowing me down (since Christians don’t say these things out loud). 
Thanksgiving morning demands a hostess to rise far earlier than seems appropriate for a vacation day. Many will spring from bed ahead of the dawn. Before God intended people to wake (otherwise there would be light–see Genesis).
I plan to delegate the unholy hours of turkey preparation to my husband. He likes to cook. I love him enough to let him enjoy the privilege. I’m a great wife, you see.
I stagger into the kitchen for my cup of defibrillator a couple of hours later. Still early for a not-such-a-morning-person. Must start rinsing and chopping. Slip-clang-clatter. There goes the first utensil flying across the room. 
I start mixing, splattering … Puree launches into more creative flight pattern than utensil.
Drink extra brain-resuscitator. Lock escape-prone ingredients into casserole dishes. The stove-top, oven, toaster-oven increase the heat steaming from my caffeinated pores. Make-up melts into my eyes as I puzzle-fit the pans in to bake. Cram two layers of sides into the toaster oven. Stir the potatoes. Mash bubble pops at my chin. Screams and flicks hot tater off face as second utensil soars across the kitchen.
The chef grins broadly and sets the smoked turkey on the counter. Mentions countdown to mealtime.
I pause my burn treatment activities to check a mirror. As I smooth the Picasso-like features of my face back into position, the doorbell rings. I hustle across the spattered floor decorated with random potato peelings. You know, the one I just mopped.
Fresh, sweat-free guests appear. All smiles and wrapped in freshly pressed clothing. Someone compliments the turkey. Several complain about hunger. Wondering when we will eat.
I grab the carving knife. Consider pointing it at the guests with a curt reply about the schedule. Declare a warning for early birds like the smoked one on the counter. Thankfully, I stop myself before wielding a sharp utensil. Who knows which color meat the knife would end up carving? I dry my hands instead. Take a deep breath. Ask who wants to bless the meal.
Someone suggests I lead grace.
I accept. Nods sheepishly. Reorient attitude. Lead my guests in prayer.
Which is how I should have led myself a week ago.
Although I’ve added a little embellishment to accentuate the point, there’s truth in the main elements of this story. I am rather clumsy when tired or distracted, for example. And I have cleaned furiously for the holidays, only to make a mess in the kitchen.
In fact, I’ve often put myself through physical and emotional strain to prepare for guests. Especially during the holidays. I want to present a clean home and a good experience. Work hard to make everything just so. By the time my loved ones arrive, I could be too stressed out and tired to enjoy their company. If I focus too much on the feast’s details, our big picture of shared time together gets spoiled.
While not the perfectionist I used to be, I’ve still got room for improvement. So, I’m writing today’s blog post for me as much as I’m posting it for you. Some of the tips posted here today reflect ways I’ve learned to reduce holiday stress. Others represent new commitments for making this and upcoming years even more peaceful.
Here’s a quick list of tips for holiday survival:

  • Minimize tasks. Ask yourself why this item deserves to threaten your inner peace. If melodrama helps motivate you, I mean.
  • Delegating helps others own a significant part of the holiday. Don’t make every dish yourself. You’ll come off like a food-diva, after all. Letting guests share their favorites demonstrates humility and saves you enough energy to embrace time with them.
  • Limiting events you attend ensures your enjoyment of a choice few.
  • Leave a few dust bunnies. It helps people feel less intimidated if they can tell right away you’re no Martha Stewart.
  • Plan WAY ahead. Start a month or two in advance with stocking up on supplies. I’ve got Christmas stocking stuffers tucked away, for example.
  • Unless you can view the posts with a healthy dose of skepticism and humor, skip perfection-oriented media. I love HGTV, Pinterest, etc, but some days I just don’t go there. If in a perfectionist mindset, the image of an ideal home can be an enemy to a blessed holiday. The impossible standard will seem to glare down its nose from the screen at us mere mortals. It helps to imagine it also laughs like a cartoon villain.
  • Lastly, but MOST importantly, keep the essence of the holiday in view. Literally. Put thankfulness quotes in front of your eyes each day. Write gratitude statements. Read something focused on thankfulness (Ann Voscamp, for example). Whatever it takes to keep the true purpose in sight, do it. It’s worth the five minutes. Dusting the furniture has less impact on your soul. Even if you sneeze and someone blesses you.
  • In case you think I’ve lost more of my mind than the average woman my age, I know I said the above recommendation was the last one. This is an addendum to the end, because it ties onto the previous tip. Share thankfulness. Post it on social media, but don’t stop there. Smile and share the positive messages you learned with others in person. At the grocery store. In the neighborhood. At work. Wherever you go. Smile and bless people. They’re at risk for holiday stress, too. And sharing positives deepens your personal blessing.

What tips can you add? Share them with us! I’d love to hear your suggestions.
*And if you’d like something else to be thankful for, consider entering last week’s contest. The entries haven’t really started coming in yet, so you’ve got an excellent chance to win the FREE book and DVD study (Listen, Love, Repeat by Karen Ehman).  Go to last week’s post or my Facebook page to enter. *

Creative K Kids

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