Tag Archives: Christmas

How to Get Through Christmas When You’re Depressed

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This article first appeared on Doing Life Together.

Shortly after Carly, my first child, turned a year old, we discovered I was pregnant again. After the initial shock, Greg and I were delighted, looking forward to a new baby in January, and joking that we hoped he or she would come in December, so we’d have an extra tax deduction.

But after a few months, our delight turned into concern. I never felt the baby move. The doctor could never find the baby’s heartbeat.

At my 20-week checkup, the baby measured slightly smaller than the month before. My little one was dead, and my body had started reabsorbing him/her. Despite my request for a Caesarian delivery or an induction, I was advised it would be safer for me to just wait and let nature take its course.

Sad child

In the meantime, I still looked pregnant. That meant that when I went grocery shopping or took Carly to the park, people commented on my coming blessed event. Not wanting to explain what had really happened to casual acquaintances and perfect strangers, I accepted their good wishes with a smile and a nod, though I was crying inside. Two weeks later I went into labor, and delivered in a hospital room. I chose not to see my baby; he or she will always be an anonymous angel to me.

When the holidays approached, all I could think about was how I’d expected to almost have a babe in arms by that time. I’d envisioned myself as a radiant madonna, creating a beautiful Christmas for my family, baking cookies with Carly, and buying and making perfect presents. Instead, I barely had the energy to get out of bed, and I felt incredibly guilty not to be genuinely in the holiday spirit for my family.

Title How to make it through Christmas when you're depressed copy

What are some tangible ways to acknowledge the Christmas season without draining your emotional resources? Here’s what I did that year:

  1. Read Christmas books. You don’t even have to buy them—most libraries have a large selection. Luckily, I already had started collecting Christmas books. I reread some myself, and I read Carly books about baby Jesus and about Santa Claus. (Here’s a list of some of my favorite Christmas books.)
  2. Bake the easiest possible Christmas cookies. Buy a roll of refrigerated sugar cookie dough. Slice it. Sprinkle it with red and green sprinkles or colored sugar. Bake as directed. Easy peasy. Your kids can help (or, if they’re old enough, completely take over). Even a one-year-old can help with the sprinkles if you don’t mind a little mess.
  3. Listen to Christmas music. If you subscribe to a streaming service, you can probably find a playlist you’ll like. If not, head over to Walmart. They have a bin of Christmas CDs for only $5 each. Mannheim Steamroller is the quintessential Christmas band, but this year I treated myself to Sarah McLachlan’s album. Back in the day, I’d already amassed a lot of classic albums on vinyl and cassette. (Here are some of my favorite Christmas CDs.)

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What holiday traditions can you let go when you’re struggling?

  1. Hosting a Christmas party or dinner. You don’t have to. There’s plenty going on; it’s unlikely you’d be depriving someone of their only fun activity. And you don’t have to go to any parties either, unless you want to.
  2. Giving perfect presents. Don’t obsess about it. A token to those you love most will suffice. It’s really okay to give a gift card instead of a hand-knit sweater. And don’t worry about getting a present for everyone.
  3. Sending Christmas cards. Forget about the annual holiday letter about everything your family has done. Just sign and mail cards to your nearest and dearest, or nobody at all. Lots of people never send Christmas cards, ever. You can skip a year.
  4. Decorating the house. You don’t have to have a Christmas tree, door wreath, or boughs of holly. Pine-scented candles go a long way to create a festive atmosphere; so does cider simmering on the stove. If you have one or two decorations handy, like a nativity set or a Santa or a sleigh, put it out. But you don’t have to do the Christmas lights or the blow-up snowman family.

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I pray these suggestions will help you get through this difficult time. My heart is with you. I give you permission to not do it all this year. And if anyone tries to pull a guilt trip on you, blame it on me—give them a link to this article. Take care of yourself, and have a peaceful holiday. Love you.

Christmas Recipe Challenge

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My parents were German immigrants, and my father was a professional baker, so my childhood memories of Christmas include Springerle, Pfeffernüße, and Stollen. I’ve never baked any of them myself, but Trader Joe’s always carries Pfeffernüße and Stollen starting in November, so I buy three packages of each. Christmas wouldn’t be the same without them.

However, there is one traditional goody which I do bake for Christmas breakfast every year, which my children ask for as they come through the door later in the day:

Marsha’s Easy Cinnamon Rolls

cinnamon buns stacy-spensley-on-wikimedia

Photo by stacy-spensley-on-wikimedia

1 stick of butter, melted
¾ C. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ C. chopped nuts
1 bag frozen dinner rolls
¾ package butterscotch pudding (the kind you cook, not instant)

Mix together: melted butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon.

Use a well-greased angel-food or Bundt cake pan. Place nuts in the bottom of the pan and distribute frozen rolls around the pan. Sprinkle the pudding mix over the rolls. Pour the butter/brown sugar/cinnamon mixture over the rolls and cover the pan with a clean dishtowel. Let the pan sit on the counter overnight. Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes and carefully turn over onto a large plate.

Disclaimer: my children will always remember 1999 as the Christmas Mommy almost burned the house down. I made these buns for the first time in an angel-food pan and didn’t think to put the pan on a cookie sheet. As it baked, the brown sugar coating leaked out of the bottom of the pan and dripped onto the oven floor. Reasoning that it would be bad to cook the Christmas turkey in a sugary oven, I started the self-cleaning feature of the oven. Within minutes, the sugar ignited, the house filled with smoke, and flames shot out of the oven! My husband saved the day by turning off the cleaning cycle, and scraping the burnt sugar out when the oven cooled. The moral of the story: Put the pan on a cookie sheet!

Christmas ballsThe other Christmas food tradition that my husband and I have is potato pancakes for dinner on December 23. They’re labor intensive, or I’d make them Christmas Eve. (Since we go to church Christmas Eve night, we eat take-out pizza for dinner.) Greg’s dad always made potato pancakes for Christmas Eve dinner, and Greg hated them. He described them as “gray,” and said they tasted horrible, which surprised me, because the only potato pancakes I ever had were delicious, made by Hanna, an au pair from Germany who worked for/lived with a family in our neighborhood. So I make them similar to the way Hanna did, from hand-grated potatoes with chopped onions and red and green peppers (to make them look Christmasy), fried crisp, served with applesauce. Greg loves them.

What about you? Is there a special family recipe that you always make for Christmas? Take the ARHtistic License Christmas Recipe Challenge—post the recipe on your blog, and share a link to your post in the comments below. Or if you don’t have a blog, just share a link to an online recipe or describe the food in the comments section. Then share on social media with the hashtag #ALCRC so others can find it. And, everybody who likes to try out new holiday recipes (or eat them), check back here frequently between now and New Year’s to see what others post. Happy eating! And happy holidays!

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Creative Juice #71

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Creative Juice #71

Your weekend dose of inspiration:

  1. A different kind of travel photos.
  2. Amazing photographs of spiders.
  3. Surreal murals.
  4. 25 free quilt patterns.
  5. How and why to read daily.
  6. Artist workspace.
  7. An orthodontist who’s also a very successful cartoonist.
  8. What to read next?
  9. Symbolism in a Renaissance painting.
  10. Unbelievably beautiful photographs submitted to National Geographic contest.
  11. Lovely Christmas ornaments to make by hand. Gift idea!
  12. A federal program to give work to artists? What a revolutionary idea!

 

Guest Post: My Favorite Christmas Books by Linda Carlblom

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Guest Post: My Favorite Christmas Books by Linda Carlblom

A big thank you to Linda Carlblom for these Christmas reading recommendations. Linda is the author of Meet Shelby Culpepper and other books for tweens.

Doing Life Together

At Christmas, I sometimes like to read something that gets me in the Christmas spirit. I’ll share a few of the books that have helped me do that.

marys-journal-bookMary’s Journal, A Mother’s Story by Evelyn Bence gives life to Jesus’s mother, before she conceived him, during her pregnancy, and in the early years of Jesus’ life. It is imaginatively written, but done in such a way that it seems very believable. I gained fresh insight into that time period, its customs, and what might have been some of Mary’s thoughts and feelings as the mother of God’s Son.

shepherds-abidingShepherd’s Abiding by Jan Karon is the heartwarming story of Father Tim trying to restore an old nativity for his wife, Cynthia. It’s filled with the usual quirky characters from Mitford and written with Karon’s typical warmth and humor. If you’re a Mitford fan, you need to add this to your collection.

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Ornamental

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If you want to experience the Christmas spirit, just browse through the Christmas ornaments on Etsy. It will remind you of holidays past, and of your loved ones near and far. Some of these would make excellent gifts, for yourself or the others on your list.

Just so you know, I like to share pretty things I find online. Long ago I made the decision not to monetize my blog. I do not have “affiliates.” Nobody pays me to advertise their stuff on my blog. I just like to acknowledge people who create beauty. I also make no guarantees. That said, click on the highlighted descriptions to link to purchasing information.

Laser-cut wood

Die-cut wooden snowflakes.
Finnish Star
Woven paper stars.
Scissors
Turned wood
Unicorn!
Of course, you knew I’d find unicorns.
 Necklace
This crocheted-bead necklace came up in my search for ornaments. Much too precious to put on the tree, but I had to share it. (Santa, take note–this is on my list, and I’ve been very good.)
Butterfly
Jeweled butterfly.
Crocheted bulbs
Crocheted Christmas lights.
Beard ornaments
Okay, these are just silly, but if you need a gag gift for your bearded colleague…
City maps
A map showing any city special to you.
Gymnastics
For your gymnast.
Kangaroo
For your favorite Aussie, for someone who’s been to Australia, or who just likes kangaroos.
Reindeer
Nutcracker
For your favorite ballerina when she lands the quintessential Christmas role. Or for anyone who loves the Nutcracker.
Pet
To commemorate your favorite cat or dog; many breeds available.
Your house
Your home, custom-made.

Friday Tangles: LitBee Variation

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I participated in the Friday Tangles challenge on Zentangle All Around, and came up with a variation of LitBee. See my holly? I’ve got Christmas on the brain.

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Creative Juice #69

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Creative Juice #69

A dozen after-turkey articles to motivate you to create during this holiday weekend. (By the way, I’m thankful for all the people who read Creative Juice.)

  1. The Other Art Fair.
  2. What if life really is just the dress rehearsal? I never thought of eternity in quite this way before.
  3. Can you determine whether a poem was written by a human or a computer? (I missed two out of three.)
  4. Rituals and memories.
  5. Why a painting by Manet shocked his contemporary audience.
  6. Need some inexpensive gift ideas? Be sure to watch the video of the grown-up fidget spinner.
  7. Here’s an alternative advent calendar you create yourself.
  8. Christmas decorations you can make yourself with paper.
  9. Beautiful quilting. Be sure to click on each image for the enlargement.
  10. Why it’s good to try your hand at different arts.
  11. Marvelous photographs by Cig Harvey.
  12. Psychologist Dean Simonton writes: “On average, creative geniuses aren’t qualitatively better in their fields than their peers, they simply produce a greater volume of work which gives them more variation and a higher chance of originality.” Author Thomas Oppong says, “If you want to be prolific, stop judging yourself.” (I don’t totally believe that—you have to judge yourself somewhat if you want to put out excellent work. But this article gives creatives much to think about.)

 

#DC341: Go Big (or Go Home)

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Last week’s Diva Challenge was to tangle in a larger format than you usually use. Since I usually make my tangles on a 3-inch tile, I worked in my 5×7-inch sketchbook instead. Having a larger area to cover took a lot more time–three sittings instead of my usual one, which is why I’m posting this so late.

I’m getting into the holiday spirit:IMG_0212

Patterns used: crux, cuidad, heartline, fiore, golvin, moving day, leaflet, static.

Creative Juice #65

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Creative Juice #65

Twelve sips of creative juiciness to inspire artistic vision.

  1. Total cuteness.
  2. Why bloggers blog.
  3. It’s not too early to start some Christmas quilting projects.
  4. In honor of the coming 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, here are Martin Luther’s 95 Theses. I confess I haven’t read them yet, but I’ve printed them out with every intention of studying them.
  5. Awesome prize-winning photographs from the National Geographic contest.
  6. Epic ink landscapes.
  7. For the writers: best books about writing. I only know half of these—I’ve got some reading to do!J
  8. A cute and easy little weaving project for kids of all ages.
  9. I’d love to see a resurgence of interest in embroidery. Here’s what you need to get started.
  10. There are still a few days left to enter this photography contest. Check out your competitors.
  11. Homage to the doily.
  12. It’s almost time for the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall.

Video of the Day: Best Christmas Pageant Ever

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Video of the Day: Best Christmas Pageant Ever