It's official! The holiday "silly season" (as I call it) is now underway and before I know it, it will be New Year's Day and I'll be looking back and asking, "Where did December go?!" This year's holiday goals …


Avoid feeling exhausted, get everything important checked off my list, and have time to enjoy the spirit of the season.

I love my lists, but when it comes to the holidays you can truly go crazy! There's lots of detailed holiday checklists online, but I felt overwhelmed just reading them. So, I created the following checklist to help me stay focused on what's important, and hope it gives you some food-for-thought.

  1. Gifts – Gifts – Gifts

It's really easy to drive yourself crazy, so it's critical to write down not only the WHO and WHAT, but also WHEN to shop. Remember to consider things that can cause stress later – small things like you forgot to get gift wrapping supplies to the large like large January credit card statements, so make sure to have and follow a BUDGET.

  1. Wishing All Happy Holidays!

I started to call this a holiday card list but then realized that the only cards I give are to my daughters. Everyone else I either email, text, call, or FaceTime. To me, it's making sure I reach out to everyone on this list.

  1. It's All About The Food

I don't know about you, but it's not a holiday without our favorite foods. But those don't just magically appear. It has to be planned – starting with what to make from scratch and what can be bought already made. Add in shopping, prep time, and actual cooking, and you have a plan. The holidays are definitely a food marathon, but a little bit of planning and time management will go a long way.

  1. Making Your Home Festive

For me, that means at least one inflatable on my front lawn and decorations in the most used areas of the house. (Black would call them "high traffic" areas.) I'll admit that I have fewer decorations than I did when the girls were little, and I love it that way. The house looks festive but it doesn't take me days to set up and then put away.

  1. What Are We Doing Today?

It doesn't matter whether it's your kids asking this question or the adults in your life – everyone wants to "do something" during the holidays. Of course, I'm usually responsible for planning holiday activities, and with this year's corona-craziness it will mean a little more thought and creativity. But hopping in the car and looking at Christmas lights or just taking a road trip for the day may well be in my future!

  1. Remember Others

I don't need to tell you that the holidays are a tough time for so many, and this year it's going to be even more so. So, think about possibly doing something for others – whether making a donation, delivering food, giving some of your time, the possibilities are endless. And will put you in the holiday spirit!

  1. Don't Forget About You!

If you're the person "in charge" of making sure the holidays are special for everyone else, it can be stressful and all-consuming. In the past, I'd "escape" for a few hours to the movies but, unfortunately, that's not an option this year. (I admit it … I miss movie popcorn!) So remember to do something for you. For me, the best gift is time. Time to do whatever I want, even if it means doing nothing.

As always, I wondered what Black thought/would put on her list, if she even has one as she's definitely NOT a holiday person. Her response? "Well, my holidays are much simpler as I live alone and have a very short list of people and business associates who receive gifts and, with the exception of my nieces, most are edible treats I order online. For me, charitable giving is year-long. And, I stopped sending holiday cards years ago and no one seemed to miss them. But, I do have one holiday tradition on my checklist that is being modified this year."

  • Black's Holiday "Blast From The Past"

Every year, I send about a dozen people a very short, personalized, and to-the-point email to let them know that I am thinking about them. Starting this year, I am going to add a few people to the list who I have not "spoken" with for some time, just to let them know they have not been forgotten.

If you have gotten this far, I have one last item …

HO-HO-HO Happy Holidays!
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Over the last month or so, I have been contacted by various people and organizations wondering how I managed to "teach" my 40+ year-old-sister about personal finance. (Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks, especially if you are an even older dog.) It seems everyone is looking for a step-by-step guide or even lesson plans, but I realize the key to making smart financial decisions is to learn to talk to yourself. And then, if appropriate, expand the conversation to your significant other and/or family.

Upfront disclaimer: I am not a financial expert or a self-help guru. My sister had a crisis, and I did the best I could to help her. (OK, so I also turned it into a book, but that was because I thought it would make a good sitcom.) Which meant, much to her dismay, instead of giving her "answers" … I gave her questions. Lots of questions.

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People have told us they're using our sisterly banter to start conversations with others (family, friends, and even in classrooms), so Black created "Conversation Starters".


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As a mom, over the years, I've had to become familiar with various children's health issues and basic healthcare (and don't get me started on health insurance). But whenever it was something more than the common cold or flu, a stomach ache, or the usual scrapes and bruises, I felt like I was back in school. And between the terminology and trying to understand how the body works, I often felt like I needed a nursing degree. Not to mention, there's so much information on the internet, it can be overwhelming as well as confusing and sometimes scary.

Over the years, I've also had to deal with my aging parent's more serious health issues, and I've lost count of the pages of notes I've taken and questions I've asked. Or the conversations discussing risks vs. benefits that I've had with medical professionals and my sister. (I'm glad Black finds statistics "fun" and can look at them unemotionally because they give me a headache.)


Black's Head Black assets.rebelmouse.io

Until recently, I had never heard the term "health literacy," and when I first did, I initially thought about general literacy skills such as the ability to read and understand numbers. Skills that are essential if you are sick and need health information and services, but also impact health decisions that should be simple, like filling out forms, taking over-the-counter drugs (aspirin, cold and flu remedies, etc.), and learning about the things we should (or should not) do to live a healthier life and reduce the chances of serious illness.

But then, I thought about how anytime I had to deal with a health issue, especially ones that could potentially be serious, it was a tedious, complicated, and technical challenge. And, at the risk of sounding arrogant, I like to consider myself well-read, pragmatic, and comfortable with numbers and research documents. In other words, although it impacts some people more than others, the issue of "health literacy" affects us all. (And, that does not even address what it does to the cost of healthcare.)

THE CONVERSATION STARTERS

  • Before now, have you ever thought about "health literacy"? How would you describe it? What impact does it have on your life? How can it impact your ability to be successful in the workplace?
  • Why do health and healthcare topics seem so daunting?
  • Does health literacy only impact you when you are facing health issues? Explain your answer.
  • Have you ever had a medical situation or condition that required you to learn more about it? Where did you seek information? Did you have any problems learning about it? Explain your answers.
P.S. – You might be interested in our Conversation Starters for Financial Literacy and Digital Literacy.

People have told us they're using our sisterly banter to start conversations with others (family, friends, and even in classrooms), so Black created "Conversation Starters".


Red's Head assets.rebelmouse.io

When I first heard the term "digital literacy," I wasn't exactly sure what it meant, but I'll admit that I feel like a dinosaur when it comes to technology, and usually turn to my daughters for help. I don't know if it's just generational, but I'm intimidated by my computer, and although I can do the basics, any time things go "wrong" I default into panic mode, followed by feeling lost and frustrated. And the thought of buying a new computer? Well, it gives me a headache – not only the cost but especially learning how to use it. And if I lose internet service, I feel disconnected from the world. (I guess that can sometimes be a good thing.)

Then there's my cell phone, and I admit that smartphones often make me feel stupid. I remember when phones were landlines, and cordless was a big deal. Now I'm walking around with a small computer that also makes phone calls and takes photos. I've learned how to text, load some simple apps, and even how to set the alarm clock, but that's about it.


Black's Head Black assets.rebelmouse.io

I know us "older" people think younger people are technology-savvy, but many are merely technology-dependent, which is very different. Technology is much more than access and setup. Being able to use computers, smartphones, and the internet covers a wide range of "basics" (such as emails and other communication tools, web browsers, and search engines), and there are specific computer skills that improve our productivity (such as word processing and spreadsheets). Now, you often need web conferencing skills (like Zoom or other audio and video applications) just to interview for a job.

But, that is only the beginning. Since we live in a digital world, we need the skills to find and analyze information, and also make sure it is accurate and credible. (What is that old adage, "Garbage in – garbage out"?) However, it is not only finding the right information, it is then knowing what to do with it. Including what and how to share.

THE CONVERSATION STARTERS

  • How would you describe digital literacy? What skills do you think are necessary to manage daily life? To be successful in the workplace?
  • Why does using technology correctly seem so daunting?
  • What do you think is the best way to learn about technology and become digitally literate?
  • How do you evaluate the reliability of internet websites and other resources? How do you locate appropriate and credible sources of information?

P.S. – You might be interested in this animated video on Research & Analytical Skills we did as part of a soft skills series for The Greater Houston Partnership's UpSkill Houston initiative.