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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So, the college applications, including financial aid, are done. And even though my daughter understood what it would entail, until you're actually in the midst of it, you don't appreciate it's a lot of hard work. And stress.

Now the difficult part … waiting. Wondering which of the schools will accept you. Hoping that you'll have options, including at least one on your "wish list". Well, before you know it, you'll hear back and will be faced with having to make a decision. One that may feel like the biggest decision of your life, so hopefully, these five steps will help …

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I have to tell you that when I first moved to Houston, I was not only totally clueless about how to deal with hurricanes, but was really scared of them. Years later, it's not like I welcome them, and after having to evacuate from Hurricane Harvey, I still can feel myself stressing out at the mere mention of a potentially serious hurricane coming our way. But, at least, I have my beloved lists, and year-round I have many things already in place (non-perishable food, plenty of water, candles, and extra batteries) plus last-minute items (keeping all my gizmos charged, gas in the car), the lists go on and on. But when last month's Texas winter storm was first forecast, it caught me off guard as I realized that a prolonged cold weather event has its own range of serious issues not typically experienced in Houston and the surrounding areas – like how to protect pipes and deal with loss of power when you have sub-zero temperatures for a long period of time. It's frustrating because although I'm a planner and love my lists, I felt totally unprepared.


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What happened in the Houston area, and Texas, during that storm is inexcusable and was avoidable. And embarrassing as it was such a massive "fail" of a major point of state pride: energy independence. For individuals, there is a limit to what you can do for a rare event such as a historic winter storm as our houses and apartments were never constructed for extreme cold.

I, too, was as prepared as possible but there comes a point where you have to recognize that somethings are totally out of your control. And, all you can control is how you deal with the situation. Within a few hours of my high-rise losing power (we frequently lose power), I booked a room in a hotel down the street that still had power as I would rather have a room that I did not need versus needing one and not be able to get it (the hotel was totally booked within hours). I know that I was extremely fortunate – for many reasons. Unfortunately, many people were left with minimal or no options. Hopefully, Texas will start taking action now in order to be better prepared for next time …

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  • How much can you prepare for the unexpected without driving yourself (and others around you) crazy?
  • What potential weather-related events can cause disruptions to your life? Do you have an emergency plan in place? If not, why not? If so, do you review them on a regular basis?
  • Hindsight should be 20-20. Did you learn anything from this storm (or other weather events) that will help you be better prepared for future events? If so, what?
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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". Stay tuned as we'll be introducing new topics on a regular basis!


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I know that we're living in stressful times, so I've been trying not to get worked up over things, especially as I know that it doesn't take much to "set me off" these days. We both know I'm a warm and fuzzy person, who prefers to avoid conflict, but it's becoming a struggle for me to be patient with people. I know I'm a "better" person when I can remain calm, but knowing that doesn't make it any easier to actually do. Plus, if I can't stay calm, cool, and collected with myself, there's no hope of treating others that way. As much as I want to.


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Recognizing the situation is a major first step. Sometimes, you have to find a way to step back so you can reset. If that does not work, then just pretend to be calm. Think of it as style over substance. When I was in the corporate world, there were always people who tended to over-react. They thought of themselves as inspiring and passionate when, in reality, they were exhausting. Plus, they often came across as being overly emotional, and even having knee-jerk reactions, versus being professional and knowledgeable.

THE CONVERSATION STARTERS

  • How would you react to someone who's calm and displaying decorum? How would you react to someone that's "screaming in your face" or agitated?
  • Our mother used to say, "You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar." What do you think she meant by that? Do you agree or disagree? Why?
  • If you were being interviewed for a job, how would you answer the question, "How well do you work under pressure?" Why do you think they'd ask that question? How might it apply to your personal life?