Merry Christmas! Wow! I can't believe it's time to say that again. I know . . . I say that every year, but it's true. The years keep flying by at an ever increasing rate (or maybe it's because I'm so old??). Anyway . . .

After our wet October weather, November 2009 was a wonderful change of pace. Highs in the upper 60's and lower 70's. Night time temperatures in the upper 40's and 50's. Bright sunny days most of the time. Very nice!

My husband is pleased. Apparently the wet October weather was good for our native pecan tree. He's been out gathering pecans for the last several weeks. The back yard is covered in crunchy sweet pecans.

My daughter and I have been working on getting ready to premiere some boutique baby items in 2010. I've been working hard on making several types of baby shoes and booties. Some are from patterns I've purchased others (like the cowboy/cowgirl boots and baby wingtips) are my own design. These are so cute, they're becoming addicting to make.

I hope you and your family and healthy, happy and looking forward to this Christmas holiday season.


Shelly Morton

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This Christmas. . .
Give Holiday Stress the Heave-Ho-Ho-Ho!

Christmas is, indeed, "the most wonderful time of the year." That being said, it is usually also one of the most stressful times of the year as well. We all know what's about to happen:

Gift lists
Shopping lists
Parties and party planning
Finding enough money
Finding enough time
Baking and cooking
Kids home every day
Crowded stores
Even more crowded parking lots
Gift Wrapping
Who goes to what family for Christmas, etc.

And, that's on top of your already busy daily schedules! No wonder people look worried, frustrated, grumpy and unhappy. Anxiety is written all over most people. When you add the troubled economy of 2009 and many people unemployed for facing unemployment, the odds seem insurmountable.

I'm no stranger to the stress this year. The economic downturns have affected me and my immediate family as well. Like a lot of people, my tendency is to compensate with less sleep and eating comfort foods (usually high in calories and sugar). None of these are recipes for good health.

As the Serenity Prayer says, I am seeking this Christmas season "To have the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

I can't change the economy, work-related pressures or make the pressures of the holiday season go away. However, I did sit down and make a list of things I can do that will make a difference. In passing them along to you, my readers, my Christmas wish for you is that you will use some or all of these tips to have a more relaxed and stress-less Christmas.

Celebrate with Simplicity With so many things on my "To Do" list, it's often hard for me to even know where to start. I looked at my list and tried to find one thing that really didn't need to be done and marked it off. By celebrating a little more simply, I'll save money and have more time to do something good for myself and my family. Besides, do I really need to build a made-from-scratch gingerbread nativity with the three wise men, animals, shepherds and angels? Nope -- I don't have to be "super mom" or "Martha Stewart."

Get Control of My Schedule My family and I don't have to attend every party we get invited to. Time is limited. Christmas is a time for families and sharing. Instead of running the kids to several parties or attending dozens of adult parties, I’m opting to try more simple pleasures. Make cookies with my grandkids or look at Christmas lights together.

Eat right and exercise What's that? Did I hear a "Yeah, right! Maybe after New Years?" This is one of my big problems. But, why wait? Exercise is a great stress buster. Like me, most women tend to neglect their health in order to get everything done. I'm not going to join a gym, but I can choose pass on the surgery treats and eat an apple instead. I can be prepared and pack a lunch and put non-fat pretzel sticks in a baggy and keep them in my purse. I can park further away from the store. I can walk the dog or just sit outside with my coffee (when it's not too cold). Being outside in the fresh air and sunshine lifts my spirits. Eating right and exercise will also help keep my holiday guilt in check and lift my self esteem.

Simple shopping My family and my husband's have grown to the point it's not reasonable to get everyone a gift. My husband's family opted for everyone to get presents for their immediate family only. My family took a different twist. We have a big family get-together, but we do a Chinese gift exchange instead. Everyone who participates brings a gift of a designated amount and let the gift stealing begin! Everyone had a great time and enjoyed it immensely. Another option is to get gift cards to movies, bookstores, etc. in equal dollar amounts for everyone on your list. It may not be as personal, but will be appreciated and it eliminates any gift comparing.

Get Tickled Laughter is the best medicine. The endorphins that are released make me feel better and reduces my stress levels. Laughing also stimulates my circulation, helps my immune system and works my abs! Hummmm . . .I think I'll sit down and watch a funny movie!

Take a Breather Breathing exercises help reduce stress. When stressed, the "fight/flight" mode kicks in and we tend to shallow breathe. I plan on trying to find time to do some deep breathing and stretching. I always feel happier and invigorated afterward.

Hopefully, if I follow my own advice, I'll have a more enjoyable Christmas season this year, bad economy and all!

Here's hoping you and your family enjoy your time together and celebrate the birth of our Lord (who is, after all, the "reason for the season").

Merry Christmas!!

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