Pensacola, Florida
Thursday October 2nd 2014

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How To Be

A Guide To Surviving The Holidays

How To Be Nice
{Joani}

Having worked retail for the better half of my teens and early twenties, I feel confident making this generalization: Way too many people turn into assholes around the holidays.

Of course, some people are just that way all the time. They don’t need a holiday to make them mean. Most people start out all jingle bells and holly jolly—shopping casually, humming along with soft rock renditions of classic carols, sipping peppermint mochas. But somewhere around Dec. 20, the pressure sets in and some of us begin to lose it.

I’ve seen sweet little old ladies turn in a flash when someone cuts them in line. I’ve also seen my fair share of people get pushy—literally—trying to make their way through crowds. And I’m sure we’ve all witnessed at least one in-store freak out when the “it” item of the season is sold out. “But my daughter HAS TO HAVE that doll. You don’t understand…”

Oh, I understand alright. I understand that you waited until the last minute and somewhere, deep down, you know that was dumb. But instead of beating yourself up about it, you’re taking it out on an innocent store clerk who doesn’t deserve it.

I know the holidays are a stressful time—there’s so much do and buy and wrap and not a lot of time to do any of it in. But here’s a news flash—you aren’t special just because you’ve procrastinated. There are a lot of last minute shoppers out there and chances are at least some of them are looking for the exact same things as you. But even though you’re in the same boat, you don’t have to go down with them. You can decide to not let the annoying parts of the season get to you and keep the holiday cheer in your heart.  Well, that might be a bit much, especially if you’re trying to start and finish your entire list on Christmas Eve. But you can at least be nice.

Nice? At Christmas? Even while waiting not-so-patiently in that insanely long line at the post office? Yes. Even then. I know it sounds like crazy talk—but I really do think most of us are nice enough in general to get through the holidays civilly. And yes, I think being nice is possible even in extra annoying holiday situations like the freaking post office (I mean, has nobody bought stamps in last three years? The price always changes!), and heaven forbid the mall, should you find yourself taking on that monster in the name of Christmas this week.

How do you keep from becoming a Christmas-zilla like the rest of those meanies out there shoving their way through the aisles and trying to steal your parking spot? Here are some tips that I’ve seen work (on myself and my former customers):

1. Take a deep breath. Seriously. It’s not that complicated, but it is easy to forget.
2. Before you honk your horn or sigh loudly or tap your foot anxiously while waiting in line or exclaim loudly that said line is “moving too slow,” ask yourself this simple question: Will it help anything? You know it won’t—and in the case of the line it might even have the opposite effect—so keep it to yourself.
3. It’s important to try and keep some perspective. Example: If it’s not the last item on the shelf and someone steps in front of you to grab it, let it slide. As long as you get what you’re shopping for too, it’s not that big of a deal. (But if it’s the last one, all bets are off.)
4. Never underestimate the power of a good meal or caffeine fix.  We’re all a little more on edge with empty stomachs, making shopping while hungry a surefire recipe for disaster. And even if you aren’t a coffee drinker, you might want to try getting a little caffeine buzz on in some form. Zipping through the crowds is way better than being bogged down in them.
5. Don’t let the bastards get you down. If someone bumps into you and doesn’t say “excuse me” don’t yell something snarky at them like “Thanks for not saying excuse me!” Instead just remember to apologize politely the next time you bump into someone. Two wrongs don’t make a right, remember? You don’t want to get moved to the naughty list this late in the game, do you?

How To Be Santa
{Samantha}

As parents of two very young children, my husband and I have recently been faced with the parental dilemma of whether or not to go along with the lie of Santa. Everyone (nearly) is doing it, after all. And while we don’t like the idea of lying to our children, it feels cruel to deny them something that is so culturally commonplace. It’s not as if we could avoid it if we wanted to anyway, since a large part of the Christmas season for kids is Santa-centric.

We aren’t dissing Santa based on our religion or because we are anti-Christmas on any level. It’s just that there are some really bizarre things tied to Santa, aside from the fact that he can defy some important laws of physics that seem pretty nonsensical and outdated. My toddler, for instance, is very fixated on the idea that he will get lots of dirty coal if he is naughty, and I still can’t wrap my head around how to explain that elves can make things like iPads. I’m also not a super big fan of the fact that Santa is generally portrayed as white either (but that’s another story).  But still, I’d feel like a horrible parent, failing my sweet kids, if I explained to them matter-of-factly that Santa is just symbolic for giving, not actually a dude with an elf workshop.

Recalling my own memories of “Santa,” they are largely tied to things my parents did—like making fake reindeer tracks, leaving cookies out for Santa, and carrots for the reindeer, and, of course, taking me to get the obligatory Santa mall photos. All those memories are happy and I think therein exists the reason why the Santa lie is ok.  Santa is just a vehicle to instill your own traditions, whatever they may be, while also getting to participate in the awesomeness that is happily surprising the crap out of your kids.

If you do choose to promote the hype, and “Be Santa” for your kids too, here are some tips to help you through:

1. Prepare for the big guy’s arrival. Yeah, those aforementioned snacks are a winner. Write a wish list to Santa with your kids. Make a big deal about needing to make your house findable on the big night—maybe place a light or decoration in the window, wreath on the door, something so Santa knows how to find you. Getting your kid involved in the process with you helps promote the believability of what you’re doing.
2. Leave evidence. Make sure those cookies left out for Santa are gone by the morning.
3. Gather proof. Scientific evidence/technology is important in proving something that by nature is a bit physically improbable. Multiple reindeer flying a huge Santa plus presents around the globe in one night? Yeah, that requires some explaining. The NORAD tracker can help give some validity to this improbable journey. noradSanta.org
4. Explain away. Eventually your kid will figure out that mall Santas look suspiciously different. Don’t insult your kid’s intelligence, but help keep the dream alive by presenting some plausible explanations for these Santa impostors that also encourage some critical thinking on your kid’s part. The real Santa is probably too busy to make all of these appearances, so he sends out some of his friends for this job. Yay for delegation, Santa.
5. Lastly, let go of any guilt you may have. Enjoy this fleeting time where your kid wholeheartedly believes, and take comfort in the fact that you are promoting the idea that some far away guy magically bestows awesome gifts upon us, and all we have to do is be a nice person. At the heart of the fraud, after all, is a pretty good morality lesson. Once they are old enough to uncover the truth, transfer that spirit of giving into something they also can participate in, like helping out those in need.

How To Be Family Friendly
{Sarah}

For some, having a “family friendly” holiday may simply mean seeing distant relatives, driving around and taking in some festive lights, or maybe even some holiday baking. Simple enough, right? But for others, myself included, being “family friendly” has always been about finding the function amidst something that by definition is dysfunctional.

As a grown up only child of two loving parents who aren’t together, I’ve managed to pull off something a little different for the holidays every year of my life—from visiting extended family across the states, to spending holidays overseas with each parent, respectively. And of course, during the time spent back on the home front, there’s the simple joy that is getting multiple meals served to you on any given holiday, which if you love food as much as I do, is a total win.

Everyone has their own unique family scenarios that can trigger certain stressors that tend to bubble up to the surface this time of year, and understandably so. Maybe it’s a crazy aunt; or perhaps a persnickety uncle. Whatever the case may be, the holidays are a time to celebrate together, rather than stand divided.

Sure, it’s easy to get stressed out about fulfilling obligations, and partaking in traditions that you may consider outside the “norm.”  But as you grow up you realize the norm is a joke—there is no norm. Nobody’s family is perfect—nobody’s. So you may as well make the best of what and who you have in your life.

Our advice to you this holiday season: Rather than trying to work around your imperfect family—embrace them. When you sit down at the table with family members who you haven’t seen in a coon’s age, who may not know any better than to ask you questions you don’t have an answer to, don’t simply blow them off. Instead, blow them away with an answer they couldn’t possible contest. For example, if you’re asked, “When are you getting married and having babies?” A favorite question to ask singletons, respond with a slight edge. “I don’t know my dear second cousin twice removed. Maybe after I travel the world in my tiny house and write a few books, ya bish.” And as they reach to stack the ham or sweet rolls on your plate, don’t expect them to remember which dietary sensitivity is on your radar this year. Just smile and kindly remind them you are vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free, or are just sticking to an economical water and air diet these days.

Ultimately, it’s not about what you do, but rather who you are with. After all, family—however you choose to define it—means forever.

How To Be Drunk (But not too drunk—just enough to take the edge off, you know?)
{Ed}

I don’t know about you, but my parents still think of me as that little tyke sitting cross-legged in front of the Curtis Mathes floor model TV playing ping-pong on the Atari. I’m 35, by the way. This is especially true during the holiday season. Christmas morning, as I open what will inevitably be stacks of new socks, I can see in my mother’s eyes that I might as well be sitting there in footie pajamas instead of the 35-year-old man who microwaves leftover taquitos from Whataburger for breakfast. Let’s face it. No matter how old we are, we’ll always be kids to our parents.

It’s bad enough that I’m Facebook friends with my parents (a topic for a future article, I’m sure), but if I started drinking scotch on Christmas morning, it wouldn’t be long before the subsequent frowns of disapproval appear followed by genuine caring concern that leads to horrendous Catholic-sized guilt. It’s unfortunate because dealing with your family in a confined space during the holidays is exactly when you need a drink or three.

So how can you hide your boozehound ways and still be that awesome kid your parents still think you are? It’s not an exact science—believe me. Here’s how I do it.

You’re going to need clear liquor. My preference is vodka, of course. If your parents don’t have a stash, sneak in a bottle. Here’s where you’ll get into a little bit of questionable behavior. I use the real kids. In this case, my nephews. During dinner, I’ll excuse myself. I’ll come back with homemade Shirley Temples complete with lots of cherries for my nephews. Of course, I’ve made myself one too. No one suspects that I’ve added a healthy helping of vodka to my own.

Here’s another trick: Go old school, grab a can of coke and drink half of it. When no one’s looking, sneak off to the cabinet and pour some rum in there.

It doesn’t really matter how you hide the fact that you’d rather catch a buzz while dealing with your entire family, the main thing to remember is you don’t want your breath smelling like you’ve just walked into Waffle House at three in the morning. So keep the food nearby. I heard peanut butter kills liquor breath.

How To Be Broke
{Joani}

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the commercialism of Christmas. Especially when you can’t afford anything you’re seeing on those darn commercials.  Sure, a shiny new PlayStation4 sounds like a great gift. But I’m guessing it’s a little bit out of a lot of people’s price range (myself included—which I know is going to totally make Christmas suck for my teenage nephew).

But it is possible to get through the holidays without maxing out your credit cards.  You just have to get creative and stop worrying about what you can’t buy and focus on what you can. And don’t forget about what you can make and do for the people on your list too.

1. Try the DIY route. Christmas is the perfect time to capitalize on your craft skills (if you have any) and try some of those Pinterest projects you’ve saved. I know it’s cliché, but it really is the thought that counts and nothing is more thoughtful that something you spent time making—especially if it’s sentimental like a photo collage or scrapbook.
2. But remember that DIY isn’t for everybody and it isn’t always cheaper. If you have no supplies, make sure you take that into account when budgeting. Spray paint and glitter add up—trust me.  And if you aren’t particularly good at this type of stuff and get stressed out easily when you screw up (like I do) factor that into your decision too. Sometimes saving a few bucks isn’t worth the headache.
3. Just say “yes” to thrift stores and antique malls. It’s easy to forget these retail gems when holiday shopping, but you really shouldn’t. Sure, some antiques get pricey especially when you’re dealing with the rare “one of the kind” stuff.  But there are still plenty of great finds hiding at most places with even better price tags—including books, used vinyl and quirky things like jewelry, coffee mugs and aprons.
4. Think small. If you can’t afford a big ticket item, try instead to think of a few smaller items and pair them together. Like a bottle wine and some new glasses or a pen with a journal or set of stationery.  There’s safety in numbers and added value in being thoughtful—just don’t go throwing random crap together or it won’t work as well.
5. Coupons are your friend.  I’m not just talking about actual coupons—even though those are great and bountiful during the holidays if you check the right places, like your email. You can also make your own coupons for friends and family—things like one night of free babysitting or a home-cooked meal. You just have to keep up your end of the bargain and actually fulfill the coupon when the giftee chooses. Nobody likes a lame duck gift-giver.

How To Be A Slacker
{Sam & Joani}

It happens to the best of us.  We don’t plan on procrastinating and having a list a mile long left to accomplish the week of Christmas. But somehow that’s exactly where we end up.

It’s okay, we aren’t here to judge. Some of us on team IN may even possibly be right there with you…not naming any names though.  We’re sure it didn’t help anyone that there was one less week of shopping this year between Black Friday and Dec. 25, just saying. Anyhow, we’d better make this short. I mean, really, what are you doing reading? You should be out shopping!

Here’s the number one rule every holiday procrastinator must abide by: Don’t panic. It’s easy to get caught up in the adrenaline and buy bad gifts—but you must resist that urge. Everyone can tell you bought those matching blanket and furry slipper sets as a punt.  And those scented candles aren’t fooling anyone either.

You must also refuse to allow yourself to fall victim to “overnight shipping” fees unless it’s 100 percent necessary.  Here’s a good rule to keep in mind: Don’t spend more money on last minute shipping than on the item itself.

Now that we’ve talked you down from panic mode (hopefully), let’s move on. Next step: Breathe, think calmly, and assess your options. Too freaked out to think of any? It’s okay, we’ve got you covered.

1. Shop local. Yeah, no shipping fees here! A lot of local places, like Waterboyz, even carry the same brands as mall stores, so you can avoid THAT craziness and appeal to the brand lovers on your list while also helping to keep your money circulating through our community.
2. Don’t forget the market. Palafox Market is a procrastinator’s dream, and again, you get to avoid the mall. No one is going to turn down super unique, locally made food items, arts, or crafts. It’s un-Pensacolian. You especially don’t have to worry about your gift being some blah generic item they already have and it being immediately tossed into their re-gifting closet. You could even get crafty with a few items and make a gift basket of awesome.
3 Don’t look a gift card in the mouth. Avoid that awful feeling in the pit of your stomach when you just came up with the perfect last minute gift idea for someone…just to find that too many other people (darn those non-procrastinators) had that same brilliant idea, and now it’s gone. Chances are, if you think your giftee would love a particular item from a store, they will be equally excited to receive a gift card for future shopping purposes. Just as an aside, restaurant gift cards are a pretty quick, easy, and much appreciated gift too. Maybe throw one of those into that above-mentioned gift basket you’re working on.
4. Forget things and gift experiences instead. Just pick up a pair of tickets (or even better—full or partial season passes) to the ballet, opera, art museum, symphony, Wahoos, or Ice Flyers games. Bonus, they are sure to be in stock, so no dealing with the last minute shopping crowd for hours, only to return home empty-handed.