the good, the bad, and the ugly about the writing life

How to SURVIVE the Holidays: My Top 5 Tips

My favorite shiny Starbucks mug!I think we would all like our Winter holidays to resemble the movie White Christmas with maybe Bing Crosby (“Der Bingle” at my house) singing Adeste Fideles with a boy’s choir backing him up.

Sadly, the reality of my holidays is more like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation–Griswold-esque. Maybe you can commiserate.

So, given the reality of lots of “family” time in the near future, how do you cope?

I’ve got your back with my five time-tested tips for surviving the holidays with your sanity intact and NO dead bodies to hide in the backyard.

1. Don’t spend too much–whatever that is for you.

After the holidays, you are giving yourself an additional headache if you spend too much and have to deal with the debt in 2020.

No matter what kind of crazy family you belong to, don’t do it. Please! I’m speaking from experience.

If possible, get your family to agree to a “no gifts” policy or gifts only for kids under 18 or swap names, so each of you only buy one gift.

In 2019 America, do we really need more stuff?

2. Give to those less fortunate.

Heifer International is a great charity that I’ve used for gifts with my family. The giftee gets a notice that he or she bought a duck or goat or cow (you get the idea) for a family in a poor country.

The gift helps the family to rise above poverty, and Heifer ensures that this family in turn helps others in their village to take care of similar animals.

You can also give to your local food pantry. I’m a big fan and support them myself. They were there when I needed them after my husband died.

3. Practice saying NO to family and friends.

You don’t have to be a jerk about it. You can say “no” very quietly and still mean it.

My brother used to have to trundle his wife and daughters to every relative’s house during the holidays. It’s not a big surprise that this resulted in grouchy children and an annoyed spouse.

Try as much as possible to get everyone in the same place to gift you and the kids. And feel free to set a boundary that you aren’t going to visit every far-flung uncle or cousin just because it’s December.

Please don’t get stuck in the “gotta” syndrome. Gotta see people on THIS day because it’s Thanksgiving or Christmas Eve. Is your visit less festive on December 26?

Make allowances for yourself and others. And BREATHE. It seems as if the air gets all sucked up when the holidays approach.

4. Make a plan to ensure that you do your fave holiday activities.

Whether you are single or en famille, plan out time to do the parts of the holidays that you like.

Go see tree lightings with your kids. Take your spouse holiday shopping at the mall with a nice long lunch break in the middle. Listen to Christmas songs in your car in November. (That’s MY jam!)

In all the crazy, take time to enjoy your family and friends. That’s what the holidays are all about. And YES, binge watching movies on the Hallmark Channel or Disney’s Prep and Landing series is a thing.

5. Steal some quiet time for yourself.

It is not sinful to steal a little quiet reflection time during the madness. I like to grab some Starbucks (peppermint mocha anyone?) during the holidays.

Sometimes the very best holiday moments happen when you are feeling grateful for what you have.

And if you aren’t feeling grateful as you gnash your teeth at yet another stupid joke from an inebriated uncle, please reflect that you are a grown-up now and can go home to your peaceful abode whenever you want.

You can “gotta go” to another event even if that event is a date with some eggnog on your sofa. Being a grown-up means that you can make judicious use of “white lies” if it saves you from murdering not-so-innocent relatives.


6. Think of your relatives’ or in-laws’ bad behavior as a treasure trove of character flaws for future villains and other fictional characters.

Don’t worry; nobody ever thinks they are “that” person.

I have a friend who is a re-gifter. I figured it out when she re-gifted me a pin that I’d given her the year before. Now that trait is waiting to be transferred to a character in my new book.

BTW, this trick also works for co-workers who don’t seem to know what Bluetooth is and yak constantly on their speaker phones. (Or maybe that’s just my pet peeve. Lol.)


My sister’s friend, Mark Mezadourian, offers the advice above if you aren’t a writer. It’s nice to have a little buffer between you and your loved ones. (Sigh.)

Last Word

Hang in there, Folks. Next week, I’ll share my holiday movie guide with some wonderful films that my late hubby, Greg Lackner, used to love.

No matter what you think about the holi-DAZE, there’s a movie for that–even a Sci-Fi one that is really quite horrible.

Oh, and, you are all SO tinsel!

A special shout out to my sister, Shauna St. Clair (my Graphix Goddess) for a reminder about the holiday movies!

2 Responses to “How to SURVIVE the Holidays: My Top 5 Tips”


    Hi Heather,

    Just a quick hi to say that I love getting your emails & story installments. But, I’m mostly happy to have the memories of Greg in this email. I was thinking of him recently when I went by Oak Park Arms, a senior center in Oak Park, and saw that they’re still doing the radio plays that he used to do.

    Hope you are well. Miss you!




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