7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 99)

October 1, 2010 | 56 comments

— 1 —

Okay, Christmas is in 12 weeks, and I’m determined not to be all stressed during the holiday season this year. I’ve identified my top three time- and energy-sucks that make me lose sight of the meaning of the season:

  1. Making the list of whom to get presents for. I spend weeks agonizing about where to draw the line in terms of gift-giving.
  2. Waffling about which presents to get everyone. I always feel like all my gift ideas are boring and unoriginal, and think that if I just wait a few more days I’ll encounter THE PERFECT GIFT IN ALL THE UNIVERSE, discounted 80%.
  3. Clutter. I walk around with this low-grade dread of bringing the new haul of presents back to the house after Christmas morning, because I feel like we’re already bursting at the seams. Also, I throw up my hands about decorating because I feel like you won’t even be able to see the Advent wreath among all the other junk on the mantle.

I’m going through each of these and figuring out what I do about them in October and November. What are your top Christmas stressors? Anything you can start doing now to make it easier?

— 2 —

Let me get in touch with my “web marketer” roots for a moment to say: if you have a blog or are thinking about starting one, you should read this post about how to have a great blog. It’s excellent. I thought point #4 (“know your story”) was particularly insightful. (Wish I could remember where I found it — sorry for the lack of hat tip!)

— 3 —

Speaking of which, I think this is a great idea for a site: this blogger offers plans for making five dinners in one hour. I think that’s a great example of a clearly-focused, useful content. My bet is that the author will make some money with that site, and probably get a book deal. (Sorry, can’t remember who told me about this one either. I’m slightly scatter-brained this week.)

— 4 —

Now let me balance all that marketing talk with something enriching: Sister Bridget Haase (who encouraged us to “SPAH-kle with self-forgetfulness“) was on fire again on Relevant Radio this week, talking about some saintly person who went through the following criteria before saying anything:

  1. Is what I am about to say true?
  2. Is it necessary to say it? (Because silence is golden.)
  3. Is it kind? (Even hard truths may be phrased charitably or at least calmly, mildly and matter-of-factly.)

It was humbling to consider how drastically my verbal and written output would be cut if I always followed those rules.

— 5 —

I switched to Google Chrome this week. It’s like a new world; like going from a phonograph to an iPod. The only downside is that it makes it a lot more tempting to waste time on the internet.

— 6 —

For the first time in my life as a parent, I’m one of those moms who runs around in the car a lot. It’s a big change to have to pick up my son from his new part-time school every day! On the plus side, it’s been fantastic for my prayer life: every day I arrive a few minutes early, put some music on the back speakers for the little kids, and pray the Rosary. I now really look forward to my moments before school lets out, sitting in the car and meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary. It’s brought a lot of grace into my life.

— 7 —

Speaking of which, I’ve been praying hard for blogging friend Bonnie, whose infant James is in a very precarious state, as well as for the continued recovery of my friend Abby‘s baby, Tess. Whom are you praying for these days?


Below is a linky list if you’d like to add a link to your own 7 Quick Takes post. (1) Make sure the link you submit is to the URL of your post and not your main blog URL. (2) Include a link back here.


  1. Leah @ Unequally Yoked

    I’m so so happy with Google Chrome. And it sounds like Google Instant for the search bar is in the dev channels, so should be released to the general public soon.

    In re your Christmas question, I usually buy books when I get presents, so I keep a folder of interesting book reviews that I clip from the NYT book review. It’s always had something for everyone.

  2. Eugene

    1) That you weren’t already using Chrome is probably the most surprising thing I’ve read on your site in years.

    2) I’m going to ACL next week and was curious about the Mass situation. It looks like St. Mary’s would be the closest church to Zilker Park, but I was wondering your thoughts.

    3) This is one of my absolute favorite blogs.

  3. Catholic Bibliophagist

    I don’t have any Christmas stressors. That’s probably because, except for the Advent wreath, I never get around to decorating until the third or fourth Sunday of Advent when we put up the three. (Okay, when the kids were small we had an Advent chain or a couple times we put up Jesse Tree type ornaments. (No Jesse Tree — we just stuck them up on the fridge or a door, I think. The lack of Christmas decorations is not a philosophical statement, so much as congenital disorganization. That and the fact that I really dislike taking down decorations and lights after the season is over.

    I don’t stress over my Christmas list because I only give gifts to my kids and my parents. (My sibilings just aren’t into the Gifts-to-the-Whole-Extended-Family thing.)

    Instead, our family has always done a lot of Christmas-related reading aloud. But that was fun, not stressful. (This is a post I wrote last year about some of the titles we’ve enjoyed.

    And my husband used to buy a new Christmas CD every year; playing music always lent a festive tone to the season. (I should point out that since I go to the store so seldom, I don’t overdose on Christmas carols before Christmas carols even arrive.)

    And I don’t have to worry about what gifts to buy because everyone in the immediate family is a reader. I can make everyone happy with just a few clicks on Amazon.


  4. Javier (JCA)

    #2 It’s an interesting point to ponder, but although I sign the my blog articles with my name, to put the picture can be dangerous, especially if there is always someone willing to snap one’s face. We live in an age where religion is uncomfortable and annoying to many, especially in Europe, where I live.

    #5 Chrome is not bad, but I prefer Opera, especially for Linux, for its excellent support for SVG and MathML. Is the one that best meets the W3C standards and possibly the best and faster for all OS. Chrome for Linux is still in its infancy and multilingual support is infamous.

    #7 I suggest that you pray for the intercession of the Venerable Sor María de Jesús de Ágreda (“The Lady in Blue”), whose cause for canonization is stopped due to financial problems, and it’s time to be at last your patron, of Texas, Arizona and New Mexico. More in María de Jesús de Ágreda

  5. Julia at LotsaLaundry

    The quickest fix for gift-buying stress is a dire budget. If you know now how much you’re going to spend overall (don’t plan per-person and then add the numbers!) it filters your priorities in an amazing way.

    I try to think of gifts that aren’t expensive in and of themselves, but are luxuries that the person wouldn’t buy for herself. My teen girl loved getting her own $10 box of Godiva chocolates last year: it was a real gift. My 6yo was thrilled with four rolls each of Scotch tape and duct tape. My 14yo boy will be getting his favorite olive spread, which is something we don’t ever buy because it’s $9.50 a jar. Add a book, an article of needed clothing, and one fun thing, and we’re done. We don’t buy for people outside our nuclear family, other than grandparents.

  6. Kathleen@so much to say, so little time

    How very timely your #1 is! 🙂 I don’t find gift shopping stressful because we have put our collective feet down and no longer exchange gifts in our extended families, so the carnage is significantly cut down. But I do think the season is inherently stressful because we cram so much into it.

    I wrote a book on this topic, which I referenced in my list today (great minds think alike!), about helping families to find balance between the sacred and secular during December. The first review is up at this link (warning! shameless plug alert!):


  7. Hermit Mama

    #1 I am wondering about how Christmas will go this year too, since this will be my first child’s first Christmas. I want to start some nice advent and Christmas traditions early, but thinking about it too much gets me stressed.

  8. Deanna

    Love #4, so very true.

  9. Mary @ A Simple Twist of Faith

    #1. This is the first Christmas we will celebrate that I am not working full-time outside the home. So…I hope to focus more on the “Christ” aspect of it, and less on the gift-giving aspect of it. As the season progresses, we will see if I succeed. Four years ago, when we were paying the trip to China to adopt our oldest child,we started the “kid’s only” policy of gift giving for our large extended family. However, it was not popular, and some of the family still give to all.

  10. syd

    I am praying for my sister who has kidney disease. She is only in her 20s, and she just got a catheter put in her stomach last week to ready for kidney dialysis. She will have to live with that tube in her side indefinitely until she can get a kidney transplant. She is very sore and weak and tired all of the time.

    Needless to say the emotional upheaval is big as well.

    Please pray for my sister and my mom trying to care for her. My mom had to go through this with my dad too, so it is very hard.

  11. Barbara

    Thinking about Christmas, too. Perfect gifts is my stressor. Decorating can be a drag, but not a stressor. When you get your decorations out, take all the other decorations down — all of them — and place them in the Christmas decoration boxes. Then, you can enjoy your Christmas decorations with no clutter. When Christmas is over (all 12 days!), you can bring out the other decorations when you put away the Christmas things.

  12. Laura

    great article from #2. I feel as if I’ve lost “my story” lately so that was very helpful. Love your new site.
    God Bless

  13. Mom of 4

    Jennifer, to cut down on the clutter with Christmas decorations — and I sure feel your pain on that one! — I do two things. First, we have a small box of Advent decorations separate from the Christmas stuff. It’s not much more than a wall-hanging Advent calendar and a wreath. Those go up the first Sunday of Advent. Nothing else goes up until the last Sunday of Advent, including the tree.

    Second, as I put up Christmas or Advent decorations, I put all the non-Christmas stuff into the boxes that hold the Christmas decorations. We leave the decorations up until Epiphany, which makes us officially weird. 😉 As I put away the decorations every year, I scrutinize them and decide if they’re truly precious and worth keeping. If I just don’t like something that well, or can’t even remember who gave it to us, then it goes into a box to be donated. Otherwise, one accretes an ever-increasing number of Christmas decorations.

    I’ve also found it helps to do a major pre-Christmas purge on the kids’ toys. I try to throw away anything that’s broken and donate things that they aren’t interested in, or have outgrown.

  14. Mom of 4

    Forgot something! I’ve created wish lists on Amazon for my husband and kids. During the year, if I hear about a book that they’d like, or have some other brilliant idea, I add it to the wish list. I don’t always actually buy it from Amazon, but it’s a handy way to keep track, especially since our lists always include lots of books.

  15. suburbancorrespondent

    For years I did the “get everything ready for Christmas in November” routine. And that made it so that, by the time 25 December rolled around, I was sick of Christmas. Also, it gave me too much time – time to let my perfectionist tendencies take over.

    So! Last year? I swore not to do anything for Christmas until December 15. Nada. It was scary. It got scarier when a freak snowstorm hit our area and closed down all the stores the weekend after the 15th. But you know what? It was my best Christmas in years. Amazon’s 2-day shipping really works.

  16. Brianna

    Oh man I NEVER know what to buy people! It’s horrible! And we don’t even have that many extended family to buy for. Sooooo stressful!!!

  17. That Married Couple

    Our first baby is due nine days before Christmas, which is great motivation to get all those gifts done early! Once that is done, I am not allowing myself to stress over anything else though – decorations, food, nada. If it happens, great, and if not, we’ll still be celebrating Christmas itself.

    Thanks for the blog tip links!

  18. Missus Wookie

    Christmas and clutter are always sore spots, thanks for the review of Google Chrome.

  19. Alice

    I’m praying for my husband– I know that should be obvious, but we’ve only been married to him for three months and we’re still learning to pray for one another as husband and wife. The priest who officiated gave us some good advice last week, to talk to one another about specific moral goals/virtues/sins we are struggling with and then pray for those requests. It has very much helped!

    There are also so many babies right now to be praying for, it seems.

    The advice in item 4 is such good advice. I’m working so hard on keeping a guard over my mouth– it can be really difficult in a graduate department, where everyone is gossiping.

  20. MemeGRL

    Boy, are we living in the same place today. I’ve been thinking about downloading Chrome but hadn’t gotten to it. I’ll put that on the list.
    We’ve had “Is it kind/true/necessary” in fancy magic marker on green construction paper hanging in our kitchen for about a year. And I knew my prayers were answered when my son’s first grade teacher had the same thing posted right at the center of the blackboard.
    Five dinners in an hour is a godsend.
    And as to where to go with Xmas presents: Same here. CCD (PREP) teachers? Bus drivers (heck to the yeah!)? Gymnastics coaches? And on. I have used some of the 100 Days to Christmas website to just keep me on track…there are lots of “now decorate for fall” days I use to “catch up” with the early Xmas thinking. But so far, I have cleaned out toy cabinets (easier for me as I think our family is complete–we’d be open to a surprise but really, there are lots of things that have not been favorites for a while hanging around) to prepare for the onslaught. We have encouraged gifts of events (zoo memberships, etc.) instead of Things or of Things Which Are Not Permanent (play-doh, crayons, coloring books, etc.) for our kids. Finally, we try to decide early what our “standard” gift will be; for the swim instructors, etc., I usually buy nice one-bloom poinsettias for $3 at the nursery school fundraiser (and get two birds with one stone). And an iTunes gift card is a good present for virtually anyone under 40 and most over. I’m a big fan of “not perfect, but done.” Good luck–I was just thinking of Advent this morning and thought I was rushing the season so you make me feel more normal.
    And as to my prayer list–still, my best friend with the cancer relapse. I’ll send you an update when I have a moment. And I will pray for James and Tess too and am glad to be able to return the favor in a small way.

    • Jet

      For CCD teachers, I have had masses said for them and last year I got inexpensive baskets from a Christian bookstore with a liner that read “Give us this day our daily bread.” I baked a loaf of bread and every one was overjoyed. You could get the basket somewhere and make your own liner; I am not good with a sewing machine. A small gift bag or basket with microwave popcorn, 1 box of candy and a gift card for a movie rental is fun. You can make bathsalts very easily with epsom salt and glycerin and a few drops of an essential oil like lavender and place it in a cute little glass jar. I have gotten these ideas from others; I am gift-challenged, too, but these ideas were very successful for me.

  21. Jane

    I LOVE google chrome. And I do not over use the word love. And, Jen think of it as “enabling you to more proficiently and effectively conduct your online ministry” as opposed wasting time on the internet. 🙂

  22. Michelle

    Oh my, what a small world. I’m praying for James too! His grandmother asked us to pray for him after Mass last week. I didn’t know about the service at St. Mary’s or I would have hauled the family over.

  23. Jane

    A priest gave me good gossiping avoidance advice. Think about each person you will be with and think of something you would like to know about them Then when the gossip starts sort of say, “OH, Jen I have been meaning to ask you where you went to undergraduate school…” People love to talk about themselves and if you do this often enough they should get the message.

  24. Josephene Kealey

    I am just about finished our Christmas shopping; just one more gift idea pending. I had to finish it this early since the gift-giving is my domestic domain in our marriage, and our baby is due at Christmas this year, and shopping is not something I can drag my other two children into without creating a lot of stress for them.

    I pray about gift-giving each time the occasion comes up. I leave it at Jesus’ feet, asking Him to help me find an appropriate gift for each person. We have 39 people to shop for this year, and it’s growing with new children, husbands and wives entering both of our families. I really wish the cousins, who are in the late 30s, would cease gift-giving with us (spending time would be more fruitful and meaningful), but it continues, will-nilly.

    My husband earns less than $55K a year, and we have two children ex-utero. We are living in an apartment, not yet being able to afford a house. So, we budget our gifts at no more than $20 a person with tax (13%) on average (so, Robin’s gift was under $20 but Genevieve’s was over $20). So far, to my husband’s delight, I’ve kept it at $18.50 per person. We send cards only to those whom we are not gifting (extended-extended family, and our friends).

    Like another commentator said, keeping a strict budget forces you into thinking into money ranges, and gets you thinking more creatively. I really like Amazon.ca for the free shipping after $39.00. This is the first year I purchased gifts online to be delivered, and am grateful for the service.

    Also, if you think a gift is “not much,” add something homemade to it! Most people appreciate that quite a bit.

    I think agonizing over Christmas hurts the self. Focus more on the love you extend in each gift, and not on how people are going to react. We don’t decorate until the day before Christmas Day, either. Advent is a kind of second Lent in our household. So when the boys wake up to the decorations and gifts and tree from Jesus, the effect is so much more.

    Gift-giving is one of my love-languages; I like to talk about it. : )If it’s not, then I sympathize how much not-fun it is. I hope it’s a happier and more peaceful experience for you this year.

  25. suki @ [Super Duper Fantastic]

    Christmas shopping already?! :/ I’ve never been good at that, but we also don’t do a lot of gift giving. It saves everyone a lot of money, and we still have a good time.

  26. Kassie @ Secret Vatican Spy

    THANK YOU for reminding me that CHRISTMAS IS ALMOST HERE! Advent has always been my favorite time of year – even as a Protestant. I am in a blissful state of sheer glee now.

  27. alison

    Wow, #4 was too timely. I was trying to convince my husband that its better if I say somethings to people that I’m thinking that to only say them to other people. While I guess that might be better…it would be best if I just kept my mouth shut in general! Reading St. Faustina and just got to the paragraph where she says that too…

  28. Elizabeth@GoodnessAdded

    12 weeks until Christmas?!? Now I am a little stressed. The only trick my husband and I do is sit down mid November and order as many of the gifts we can through Amazon. They have just about everything, prices are usually competitive and we have Prime so shipping is included. I figure I save some money (and a lot of stress) not running around from store to store. For those gifts that need to go out of state we will just have them wrap and ship for us. I finally figured out I wasn’t really saving much doing it myself.

  29. 'Becca

    Honestly, I think my best tool for resisting Christmas stress is avoiding thoughts like, “Christmas is only 12 weeks away!” Meh, it’ll all work out somehow. The one thing we do have to start well in advance is putting together our annual Pittsburgh photo calendar so that we can get it printed in time for New Year’s, if not for Christmas…but the stress of doing that is balanced by being able to give just about everybody a calendar and get additional gifts only for our closest relatives.

    Consider the advice on gift-giving Dear Abby gave somebody decades ago: “Never mind what he’d like. Give him a tie.” 🙂

    Thanks for the links; those look really interesting!

    My prayers today are for the little girl I saw in a photo in Sunday’s paper, in a camp for victims of the Haiti earthquake, where most of the tents were blown down by a recent storm. No fair!!! I am praying for something good to lift her spirits.

  30. Salome Ellen

    My son would love it if I’d switch to Chrome, but I’m pigheadedly happy with Firefox.

  31. Catie

    Gift giving: Well, we’ve been trying adamantly to cut down on STUFF… so lately I’ve been thinking, “If I don’t want STUFF, why am I giving it to others?” So now I try to focus on little luxuries… gourmet coffee, chocolate, foods, gift certificates… basically edibles/consumables plus a really thoughtfully written card/embellishment. So far, so good. We’ll see how the extended family responds this Christmas. 🙂

    Something I find stressful about the Christmas season is the Christmas picture and getting it out to our grooowing Christmas list! I start looking now for opportunities when our family will be together at an extended family function (and look decent) so that we can take the time to have someone snap a picture. With Fall and all the beautiful leaves, the scenery really adds nicely to the photo.

  32. Megnanimity

    Regarding Christmas….my kids get only 3 gifts from us/santa (we don’t do him…but that’s beside the point) because Baby Jesus only got 3…you know from the three kings! That cuts down on cluttering and last minute shopping to “even things up”. We also decorate in stages during advent and leave it up for all of the christmas season. 1st Sunday- advent wreath and advent calendars. 2nd Sunday- outdoor decorations 3rd Sunday- indoor stuff (stockings, tabletop junk) 4th Sunday- tree. Then we keep it up until at least January 6th!!

    • Jane

      Yes! Yes! We do the three gifts as well. We also go to 8:30 mass Christmas morning and open gifts afterward. The kids know this so they don’t wake at 5am demanding to open presents. We actually give 4 gifts now that I think of it. We give a gift of new pj’s on Christmas eve

  33. Calah

    Our top Christmas stressor has always been figuring out how to juggle both our families (and my two sets of grandparents) without anyone feeling like they didn’t get enough/an equal amount of time with us (read: with our kids). So we decided, after a horrible Christmas last year, to not go home at all. Christmas day and the days leading up to it are reserved only for our immediate family; we’ll see everyone else after the holidays. It may be unfair, but it was totally necessary to maintain our sanity and to keep our marriage intact (I’m only slightly kidding.) That decision has already eliminated tons of stress from the holidays.

  34. Bender

    If you have so many people that you need to draw a line, then it is time for everyone to start picking one or two names out of a hat each year and just get for them (in addition to immediate family (spouse, kids, parents).

    And as to where to go with Xmas presents: Same here. CCD (PREP) teachers?

    What would be most appreciative is simply being involved — make sure they learn the material, speak to the teacher once in a while about how your kid is doing, and say, “Thank you.” That is about as good a present as a CCD teacher would want.

    If you absolutely MUST get something, again, something to help with the class, even if it is only markers or paper or refreshments now and then.

  35. Catholic Poet

    I’m praying for a friend who died suddenly last week. I’m blessed that where I go to daily mass, the priest always makes a point of praying for the souls of the departed.

  36. mrs.marcus

    I always worry about what to get people for Christmas! I love finding things on sale, but then I always worry if I look cheap (as if they know how much I paid!). This is my second married Christmas selecting my MIL’s gift is the hardest. My family doesn’t expect presents – they’re happy with inexpensive but thoughtful gifts. My husband’s family is much more extravagant, but I also want to keep things fair and try to spend the same amount on both sets of parents. The intricacies of gift giving!

  37. Kerri B.

    One of my Christmas stressors is getting Christmas cards out. It’s not just sending them, but deciding what kind of “update” to include (do the traditional letter or not? If so, how to make it interesting) and which cards to send to which people (can I send a religious card to this person, does this other person not celebrate Christmas, etc?).

    I keep seeing the ads on Google for Google Chrome. I’m always hesitant to change something I’m so used it. Plus I could switch at home, but not at work, so I’d constantly be switching between Chrome and IE. I wonder how difficult that would be?

  38. Christy

    Great post, as always! #1 is definitely on my mind this week as I try to set a budget for this year…kind of overwhelming, I think, but I’m sure it’ll go well. Last year after Christmas was over I wrote myself a letter reminding myself how well it went and telling myself that I don’t have to worry so much. I’m sure I’ll be reading it soon! 🙂

  39. Leila

    #4…. Don’t I know it. 🙂

  40. Julie

    With nine kids, gift-shopping was always a huge stressor for me so I would put it off and put it off and put it off — and feel guilty about all the procrastination. I finally figured out one year that it is my TRADITION to leave things to the last minute (I do this with menu planning, too) and that I actually function best under a deadline. Just accepting that fact about myself was a big relief.

    Many years ago we established a “3 gifts per child” limit and it made a world of difference in the kids’ christmas lists. Instead of pages and pages of “wants,” they are now very, very careful to ask for only the things they truly desire, because they don’t want to “waste” a gift request.

    It helped many years ago to write a frank note to all the siblings-in-law suggesting we stop the “cousins” gifts. They were all relieved to be relieved of that stressor, too! Now we only buy gifts for the grandparents.

    Sometimes, to solve the problem of the kids giving gifts for each other, we have put them in charge of stocking fillers. Other years, we take everyone to the dollar store with just enough money to get something for each person in the immediate family. I have to admit I cringe about the amount of dollar-store junk this brings into the house, but the kids love it.

  41. Tammy

    Whom am I praying for these days? Several of my friends are dealing with ailing parents. It has brought back a lot of memories of the last two years of my father’s life, in particular, how difficult it all was. It was one of the most painful times of my life so I have been praying for the grace of a happy death for the parents (when it’s their time) and strength for my friends.

  42. Bonnie

    Thank you very much for including James, Jen. It’s getting to be really hard.

  43. priest's wife

    Love the idea of praying while waiting for the kids- I like to knit (very simple stuff only) and pray

    Don’t forget that Christmas begins on Christmas day! The 12 days of Christmas STARTS December 25th_ you have all of Advent to prepare.

    Any advice on how to get your link back to my blog? Blogger isn’t allowing it because of ‘frames’ (?)

  44. Meredith

    This year we’re expecting a January baby, so I’m extra motivated to get Christmas bought/made/organized before December! (Note to self: get in gear!)

    I also struggle with gift perfectionism, especially since so many on our list have everything they want and/or their gift is one of the few tangible connections we have all year. This year, the brother and sister-in-law who restricted all gifts to consumable food items have decided they’re allergic to gluten and dairy, too. Argh!

  45. Kathy

    Ugh! Christmas shopping! We’re trying to shift to less stuff and more handmade stuff. Plus, knowing that our families will spend ridiculous amounts, we try to save up ideas so that at least they’ll get something we’ll enjoy, instead of guessing (often poorly).

    Actually, thinking about it, I think I hate making Christmas lists more than I dislike shopping. Between books and CD’s, I can polish off most of our shopping in less than an hour on Amazon. Making the lists is harder.

    And relatives who won’t listen to any suggestions, so they guess what you’d like. We still have unopened stuff from last Christmas. If you’re giving the gift in love, don’t you want to get them something they’d like?

  46. Monica

    Loved all of these. Especially #1, getting ready for Christmas and #4, “spah-kling” with self-forgetfulness. Thank you!

  47. Grainne

    Re Christmas stress if you can’t think what to buy someone the alternative gift ideas are great (like buying a goat for an African village right down to a football or school supplies for orphans. As I decorate I replace my regular stuff sitting about with the Christmas decs and that way the place doesn’t get any more cluttered or feel more bare when you take down Christmas.
    Think you’d really enjoy this commentary re the Pope’s visit to the UK http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/opinion/columnists/gail-walker/do-the-liberals-hate-benedict-er–is-the-pope-a-catholic-14948753.html
    The true/necessary/kind thing is one I’m come across before – it’s quite like what the Amish/Amana/Mennonites practice (generally less chatter) not something I’ll ever be good at I fear
    I too love the moments before the school bell, they prove a very good time for prayer, reflection or Bible reading
    Always love your posts – thank you. You’ve helped educate me much better in the distinctions between RC and Protestant beliefs ta

  48. Jen G

    Some may consider this a cop-out, but I’ve become a big believer in gift cards. There’s no problem buying them at the last minute, and many grocery stores now carry gift cards for other stores so you can do one-stop shopping. A Barnes & Noble or Borders gift card suits my bookworm relatives. Bed Bath & Beyond for younger couples, and movie tickets or a nice restaurant gift card for the folks who already have everything they need. I budget an amount I can afford to spend on each family and stick to that. It really makes things much easier. My relatives will often give me specific gift ideas for their kids, though. One of my young nephews actually requested a Walmart gift card one year!

  49. Wendy

    We are praying for friends, Jamie and Ben, who mourn the loss of their twins,Conley and Hadley.

    We never stress about Christmas. We shop all year round. Gifts go into a box with a sticky note, so we don’t forget where it goes. We put the tree up the last week of Advent and take down after Epiphany. Extended family stuff before Christmas, turkey sandwhiches for us on the day as we are tired and just want to enjoy the time off and each others company. And yes, we attend both services on Christmas Eve!

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