Thursday, November 24, 2011

Nontraditional Holidays

The best holidays are a marriage of tradition and new tradition. A traditional holiday can cause unnecessary grief and stress when a loved one has dementia. The family get-together that used to the highlight of the year can become the most depressing day of the year.

Our holidays were always split between Jim’s family and mine. Thanksgiving was the time my family gathered at the old home place for turkey, dressing, gravy, pumpkin pie, and all the side dishes and trimmings. After dinner, the kids (big and small) would go outside to mill around and maybe play a game of touch football. One year, Jim videotaped the game. Ever the showoff with his video skills, he brought it inside and played it on my mom and dad’s TV. We were all laughing at the game until my dad yelled, “Oh, my god! That’s my new tree,” when a couple of kids scuffled over the ball taking the spindly sapling to the ground.

The old home place groaned when filled with eight of us “kids” and our families, Mom and Dad, and the invitees that didn’t have a family dinner of their own. We felt sorry for those folks and thought that with the size of our family, it would never happen to us. Even the most distant cousin was a welcome guest at our traditional dinner
The first time I went to the dinner alone was when the reality set in that Thanksgiving dinner would never be the same. Jim was in the nursing home, and I knew the more than hour drive and crowd of rowdy family would no longer be a pleasant experience for him. It was a long lonely drive but once I arrived, the family time was worth the change in tradition
Eventually, my family decided to rotate homes for the annual get-together and changed the time to September. We were on our own for Thanksgiving for the first time in decades. After my mother-in-law passed, my other home for the holidays was gone. My kids, in the meantime, had both developed their own traditions.

The past few years, I’ve enjoyed a traditional thanksgiving with my friend who was on his own after his mom passed away. The holiday has been different, but with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, some of it seemed the same. It was still Turkey Day—for days on end. More like Turkey Week. How much turkey can two people eat?

Isn’t it time for a new tradition? You bet. This year we are grilling steak. Sometimes, a nontraditional holiday can take on a life of its own and possibly become a new tradition. We can enjoy the meal without the aftermath of enough food to feed an army. Cleanup will be easy and we will have more time to be thankful for all the blessings life has brought our way.

A little non-tradition may be the pumpkin pie spice of life you need to bring joy back into your holidays. Maybe a little less reflection on what used to be and more hopeful thought to new possibilities. I hope you find peace and happiness during the holidays regardless of how you celebrate.
Copyright © November 2011 by L.S. Fisher

Friday, November 11, 2011

Time Management

I’ve attended a couple of great seminars lately on time management. Both presenters touted organization as a key to save search time and increase leisure time. Well, organization does help, I suppose. It really irks me to have to figure out where I put something so that it will be “easy to find” when I need it.

One of Jim’s favorite sayings was “Right here, but I can’t find it.” Sometimes he referred to not being able to find the correct words to say what he meant, or he could be looking for an object. I helped him look for a lot of items even when he wasn’t able to tell me exactly what he wanted to find.

In my job, I have a spacious office, but I have to handle a vast amount of paper. My two file cabinets are jam-packed and with several different projects going at the same time, I have stacks of paper. Most of the time, if I’m looking for a particular piece of paper, I know which stack to search. I’m starting to think that when I go home at night, my papers play musical stacks. When searching for a particularly slippery piece of paper, I might feel like it’s right here, but I can’t find it.

Another time management tool I learned lately was to organize a To-Do list by priority. If something has to be done that day, you place an “A” next to it. A task that doesn’t have an urgent deadline, but must be done soon, is put on the “B” list. Anything else is put on a different list that you check from time to time when you catch up on your “A” and “B” lists, or if you are just totally freaked, and need something less stressful to do.

I’ve always been a believer in a To-Do list, especially if I can find time to list the things I need to do. Lately, I’ve graduated to a To-Do book for my personal life. I’m not joking about that either. I have a small, but thick, notebook that with the words “To-Do” marked boldly on the outside. Now, if I’d only remember to look at it every day. Should I put that reminder on the To-Do list?

One of the suggestions I came away with from the last seminar is to take a few minutes of quiet time at the end of the day and list the “A” and “B” tasks for the next day. Some days this works well and I leave work confident that I’m in control of my own work destiny. Other times, total chaos rules and, just like yesterday, I’m frantically pushing against a deadline—everything goes wrong, and at the end of the day I’m  trying to finish up just one or two more important “A” items that I didn’t have time to list.

With today a holiday and Monday my day off, my Tuesday “A” list consists of two folders and three pieces of paper in the middle of my desk weighted down with a stapler. Actually, that might be my “A+” list since I have to be prepared for the monthly board meeting by nine o’clock.

With my involvement in three organizations, writing, publishing, and a day job, my goal is to squeeze in some recreational time and, more importantly, family time. While my head is spinning with all that I have to do, I am shocked that my grandson is graduating from high school and filling out scholarship applications. Where has the time gone? It seems like only yesterday that his Grandpa Jim sang cowboy songs to him while I held him on my lap.

I  realize now that I don’t manage time; time manages me.

Copyright © November 2011 L.S. Fisher