Doing YOU this holiday season

The holidays are stressful.  For everyone.  I think they are even stressful for kids, even if it’s just emanating from their parents and attaching to their psyche.  As wonderful and happy as the holidays are, at times they just suck.  Here is a standard train of thought in my brain around the holidays:  I need to remember to buy ingredients for neighbor treats, my portion of the Christmas dinner, and Boxing Day brunch and dinner.  But before I do that, I better make a list and plan the meal.  Next weekend I’ll go shopping for gifts for my husband, two boys, parents, grandparents, in-laws, brothers, sister-in-law, and niece (so excited to buy a girl gift)!  And we can’t forget our wonderful trash collector! Additionally, my husband’s office will most likely do some sort of meal that he needs to contribute to, and we can’t have him arriving with a store-bought layer dip, can we?  When should we visit Santa?  And we promised the boys we would go on a carriage ride at the plaza, better put that on the calendar.  I also need to get the Christmas card picture taken, and that might take an entire day with two toddlers.  After that, I need to order the cards and have them addressed and mailed by December 1!  But wait – I don’t have all the addresses I need this year!  I better make some phone calls.  Did I ever do thank you notes for the first birthday party?  Great, those people are probably checking their mailboxes every day and becoming more disappointed with every day that passes by with no thank you note.  I’ll do that tomorrow.  I should probably also try on every outfit in my closet so I have something to wear for the office Christmas party, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve.  Whew.  Time for some wine.

And honestly, with toddlers, my mind isn’t even racing nearly as much as parents with children in school!  Inevitably, I will end up crying on New Year’s Day, just out of pure relief that IT’S OVER.  Oh wait.  Another birthday January 5.  Better get my thank you notes started now!

So what to do?  My first response would be to eliminate unnecessary items.  But I am a creature of habit, and I feel very strongly about traditions.  So that might only stress me out more.  Instead, I just need to find ways to stay calm and relax.  I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago, suggesting yoga, aromatherapy and deep breathing for a few ways to calm down.  And I stand by those ideas for the holidays as well, as none of them take too much time and can be done while you’re wrapping presents (yes, even yoga).  But I might also suggest taking some time to yourself.  Around the holidays, we all spend so much time focusing on others, which is WONDERFUL.  But unless we take care of ourselves, we cannot accomplish everything we want to.  Even if it means pretending you need to grab something from the basement, but actually just sitting down there in the dark for a few minutes while your husband deals with the crying boys.  Wait, what?

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I have not done either of those things.  Promise.

But in all seriousness, at the end of my yoga classes, the instructor always thanks us for coming to class and doing something FOR OURSELVES.  I always feel such a sense of calm when they say that, because it reminds me of how important it is to take care of me in order to take care of others.   It also makes me feel less guilty for taking an hour away from the family for something other than grocery shopping.

So this holiday season, between the giving and creating, stay healthy and happy by taking some time for you!  Even if that means grabbing a Starbucks and taking a leisurely stroll around Target while you’re shopping instead of racing from one place to the next trying to cross everything off your list in record time.  Because if you’re like me, you might even prefer this over the beach:

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I am not thankful for…

This time of year, we spend so much time thinking and talking about what we are thankful for.  And that is AMAZING.  It is important, it is healthy.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with remembering the reasons we are lucky and happy.  But what if we switched it up, and spoke about the things for which we are not thankful, promoting action within ourselves?  For example, I am not thankful for hungry children.  I hate the thought of families not having enough to eat, especially around this time of so much gluttony for many of the more fortunate.  The next step to the “I’m not thankful” plan is to be part of the solution.  If I’m not thankful for hunger, then the obvious next step is to do something about it.  Feed someone, donate food, invite someone less fortunate to dinner.  But the solution portion of this plan  may take some time and planning, so don’t feel as though you have to come up with something concrete right away.  But rather than simply thinking about it and pushing it out of your mind, write it down and put it on your refrigerator.  Make it a part of your new year’s resolution.  Think about what you can do to help others all year, not just around Thanksgiving.  That being said, here is my “Not Thankful” list this year:

I am not thankful for:

  1. Hungry Children – I stated this above, but it’s on my list so I don’t want to forget it!
  2. Stress – I don’t like being stressed myself, and I don’t want my family or loved ones to feel it either.  Next week, I will lay out my plan for combating stress for myself and others during this holiday season!
  3.  Anger – I don’t like when others are angry with me, and I especially don’t like when I am angry with others!  Maybe my plan will be watching Frozen on repeat and learning to “Let it go.”
  4. Time away from family – don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the idea my mom and I came up with of a commune for our family will actually work.  Some time away from family is healthy.   However, I don’t like when too much time passes, or when I could be spending time with my boys but I’m working instead – like right now!  I also don’t like the idea of people (other than our heroes, police officers and firefighters) having to work and be away from family on the holidays.  That is why I appreciate companies like this!

  5. Sadness – sometimes this is unavoidable.  But there are ways to pull yourself out of it, and I intend to find those ways for the next time I or someone I love is feeling down.

This is a start.  And hopefully it gives you some ideas for your list!  If you have some great ideas you would like to share, please do so in the comments below!

Keeping calm during the MADNESS

The past seven days have been insane.  MADNESS I tell you.  And I think we can all agree with Kevin O’Leary:

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Unfortunately, Kevin cannot actually do anything for us.  So we must rely on ourselves to get through our feelings of stress and frustration, no matter which team you are on.  Here are some things I have been doing, as well as some other ideas I would like to try.  I hope they will help you as well!

  1. Aromatherapy – this might sound hokey to you, but smells really do have such an effect on our moods and feelings.  I’m sure everyone can think of a smell that reminds them of a very happy, or maybe very sad time in their life.  Smells trigger emotions, and therefore really can have an impact on how we feel.  Depending on what I need, I have been combining different ingredients and simmering them on the stove.  I especially love the calming effects of lavender (I also used this to make a spray for my son’s pillow to help him fall asleep at night), as well as the energizing effect of orange and mint.  Here are some tips on using aromatherapy in your everyday life!
  2. Yoga – again, maybe not for you, but something that has been working for me like a dream!  I joined a yoga studio near my house, but many gyms and even some employers offer yoga classes for members and employees.  The combination of stretching, strength  building and deep breathing is a great way to calm down and build confidence at the same time.  When I walk out of that studio, I always feel better than when I walked in, and that’s enough reason for me to keep doing it!
  3. Breathing – this is a part of yoga, but also something to concentrate on in your everyday life.  When we feel stressed, our breathing becomes more shallow, so it makes sense that deepening our breaths will relieve some of that stress.  Try to focus on breathing in for 5 counts, holding it for a few seconds, then taking 5 counts to breath out.  Here are some more tips that could be of some help!
  4. Laughing – seems easy enough, right?  But during difficult times, this could be asking a lot.  Everyone has a different sense of humor, so find what makes you laugh and let loose!  Or maybe call that one friend that always makes you laugh until you cry and share a bottle of wine.  This made me laugh out loud the other day, maybe it will do the same for you!
  5. Delegate – sometimes it all just gets to be too much, and when you are doing everything on your own, it can get downright overwhelming.  So ask for help; assign jobs to others; hire new people.  If you are a store manager and need facility or maintenance services, call Royal!  Whatever it takes, just remember you can’t do it all alone!

These are just a few ideas, but hopefully you will find something that helps you stop the madness in your life and get back on track.  And if all else fails,

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Working with family pays off

My first job was working for my mom at the consignment store she started with my grandfather.  I would work there after school and on Saturdays.  It was a great way for me to begin to understand the world of work and responsibility, while helping my family at the same time.  As a bonus, I got to spend time with my mom and share in her business endeavor.  My mom stayed home with us when we were younger, but as we got older, she wanted a job that was flexible, where she could take us along.  So she started her own!

My husband’s first job was working with his father for his construction business.  He helped build additions onto houses, and always stayed until everything was cleaned up and looked even better than when they arrived, as his father taught him.  When we went to England over the summer, Jamie drove us around and showed us many of the houses he worked on and he could not contain the pride he felt having built something with his father and having something to show for it.  I know the times they spent together working are times neither of them will forget, and the lessons Jamie learned have shaped his work ethic throughout his professional life.

I now have the pleasure of staying home with my own children, but like my mother, I want to contribute to my family’s finances.  I have found a few things that I can do from home, but in looking for an additional source of income, my husband and I  began cleaning an office building.  As opposed to his previous side job of soccer coach, this actually gives our family a chance to spend more time together, instead of taking one member of our family away from us all weekend, every weekend.  Additionally, since we can bring the boys along, this allows them to begin learning about working for what we need and want.

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Ultimately, although the cleaning takes away a little bit of our weekends, it allows us to accomplish something as a family.  At Royal Services, also a family business, the Shyvers have the opportunity to work with their family members and achieve success together, building their relationships and developing a sense of pride for what they have accomplished.

Not everyone has the opportunity to work with their family, but if you have a chance to do something together, it is a great way to build closeness and teach important life lessons!



Lessons Learned

My best friend died six weeks ago.  My head is filled with all kinds of new knowledge that I have needed to share with others, but have not found the strength until now.  I do not want her passing to be in vain, so I hope that some of the lessons I have learned will benefit you as well.

Lindsay and I met when we were 14 years old.  We shared 18 years of laughter and tears, secrets and inside jokes, momentous life occasions and not-so-momentous everyday life experiences.  Lindsay was probably best known for her giant smile and amazing sense of humor.  She was also that friend that was always there, for every important and unimportant event in your life.  She was intelligent, kind and genuine, and this world is a lot crappier without her in it.


Lindsay had ovarian cancer, and that is the first lesson I would like to preach about.  Ladies: pay attention.  This is a very deadly form of cancer because the symptoms do not talk to you; they whisper.  Know the symptoms, and talk to your doctor right away if you are experiencing them.  Men, talk to your wives and sisters and mothers and daughters.  Make sure that every woman you know and care about is familiar with these symptoms and prepared to take action right away.

I will now step down from my soapbox and talk about dealing with difficult situations.  Personally, I find myself empathizing with others when they are going through terrible times, but still in the back of my mind feeling thankful that it isn’t happening to me or someone I love.  You never think it’s going to hit your world, but the fact is, it does.  In one way or another, you will experience grief and heartache and you have to ask yourself: how will you handle it?  I always imagined that I would be the sort of person who got under my covers for six months until my family had an intervention.  However, I somehow found strength within to support Lindsay’s family and I feel so grateful for that.  At a time when all I wanted to do was help, and the only thing they wanted was for Lindsay to be healthy, I found myself arranging food on the table, getting ice and providing wine.  Not much, but it made me feel useful and gave her family extra moments to spend with her.  This is not so much of a lesson, but something to think about – how can you be of service to others who are grieving?  And how will you take care of yourself during that time?

The next lesson I learned was to hold on to your friendships tight.  Lindsay and I attended different colleges, and while we kept in touch, we weren’t in regular contact with one another during those years.  About six years ago, Lindsay and I decided to start having monthly dinners.  And thank God we did.  I would not trade those six years for anything, and feel so grateful that I got to spend that time with her to rekindle our friendship.  If you have a friend that you care about and want in your life, then do everything you can to keep that friend in your life.  Friendships are like any relationship – they need to be nurtured, and you have to be willing to put in the work to keep them alive.

Finally, don’t wait to do the things you want to do.  Don’t feel embarrassed to reveal your dreams to your loved ones, as they will likely help you accomplish them.  To quote a line from about a million songs, you may not have tomorrow.  Take advantage of every moment you have on this earth, work to accomplish your dreams, and strive to have no regrets.  Be kind and loving to others, so when you do pass on, the memories people have of you will be positive and happy, just like the memories that myself and Lindsay’s loved ones have of her.