Wednesday Wellness: Planning Ahead for the Holidays and Gift-Giving

listHappy Wednesday Wellness, Friends! I started writing about wellness as I noted that so many of my friends and creatives struggle with balance, as do I.  Join me on my wellness journey!

I haven’t always liked to plan. I’d been spontaneous all my life, until becoming a mom.  Then I started seeing the value of planning, researching and mapping out. I discovered the crafty stickering planning community. I still love the shiny sparkles of whatever whims, though, and the stickers really help!  (Read more about my planning here.) Yes, organized chaos is a too a thing.

I just dusted off my 12 year historical gift giving spreadsheet, as I do every September.  I review the prior year for completeness, copy and paste a new year, and clear the contents.  I also add any new recipients, and sadly, hide anyone necessary. I don’t actually delete anyone, I just hide the row.  I may need to check what I got beloved Aunt Barbara before she passed away, as it may be a good idea for somebody else in the future. I also study last years budget vs. spend.  If I spent less for somebody, maybe that’s my new budget.  If I spent more on somebody, maybe that’s my new budget!  My niece became a teen this year, so her new budget is now the same as her older brother.  See?

This is a gift-giving list, reference, and budget, all in one. My own family has a ton of birthdays September through January, so I track those here, too. Many times as my own children approached certain ages, I’d scroll back and look at what I got my godson when he turned 12, for instance. Or, where did I get that musical teapot that all two year old girls seem to love?  Scroll back- and I see the store and the price.  Have I already given so-and-so my favorite book?  Scroll back to that year I gave most everybody the same book… oh look, so-and-so wasn’t on my list yet at that time.   See what I mean? Super helpful.

Here is a snapshot of a clean year.  I started on Excel, but I moved it to Google Sheets last year.  (I blacked out my budget so that my dear family members won’t see what I’ve budgeted for them.) But you can see from this template what I’m doing.  Many of my family members have two entries for their two occasions.  So I start shopping in September, and spread my shopping budget over ten paychecks (through January).

Pro-Tip: Enter your spouse and children’s gifts in white font, so they won’t see it on the printout.


Nota Bene: Creative Gifts. Two years ago I made necklaces for my best friends and sweet cousins. So last year I made a different kind of necklace for them.  Earlier this year, my daughter and I made her a memory quilt using her favorite t shirts that she had outgrown.


We made this Memory Quilt together!

As my godson approaches college age, its something I’d consider doing for him.  But I may outsource such a big project.  This may change my budget.  Or, I may bookmark that for his Graduation. I’m learning how to knit, maybe I will knit scarves and give some out as gifts!  Oh hey, I WROTE A BOOK THIS YEAR! maybe I can give somebody on my list a copy of my book.   (Maybe I can afford to outsource that quilt after all.)

I hope you enjoyed learning about my planning tool.  Let me know if you try it this gift-giving season!

How do YOU organize your shopping?





I had an electronic keyboard in my dorm room.  On the desk where one would normally do homework, that is where I had by workstation.  I practiced and composed a lot of music back in the day.   I became inspired to write a musical, Mass parts, instrumental pieces, pop songs, and liturgical songs.  One of my compositions from that era, Be Still, was later published by GIA Music.

Many things led led me to that particular piece.  I was taking a course in Religious Studies called Christian Love, and one of the books we read cited  Psalm 46 verse 10.  I’d just finished writing a piece for flute and piano, and I liked a little turn of the flute melody, which later became the piano accompaniment into the verses of this piece.  At the time I thought writing lyrics inspired from others scripture verses -and relating them to music- was clever.  Though in actuality, too many scriptural references may have made it hard to find liturgical publication (it didn’t fit too easily in any one part of the Catholic Mass).  The first verse is inspired by a story in the Old Testament,  the second is inspired by the Emmaus story in the Gospels, the third by one of the Psalms. I thought the fourth verse, without an obvious scripture reference, was divine inspiration.

Leave behind your fears and worries

Soon you will rejoice,

You will rejoice and know/

You have no need to worry.

Imagine my surprise YEARS LATER as I drove down the freeway listening to KKIS 98.1 FM. I was groovin’ along to Chic’s “Good Times” when I heard

These are the Good Times!

Leave your fears behind.

MO-DED!  I had to admit, maybe I had been inspired by this Disco song.  Or maybe others.  My verse was kind of a hybrid of this song and Heatwave’s

Leave your worries behind,

‘Cause rain, shine don’t mind

We’re riding on the groove line tonight.

(Sing with me, now: Ooh-ah!  ooh-ah!)

You know I love you if you heard that in your head and/or sang it out loud!

So I’m writing about this now because you never know.  You never know where inspiration may come from.  Sometimes -lots of times- it is not where you expect it.  Disco lyrics swimming around your mind two decades past the era.

But it’s all related, it comes full circle.  It is your journey.

A Maze in Grace is now available in Kindle on  Print version coming soon.

Advent Calendar

Starbucks has their Advent calendars out.

But really it’s just a candy box.

Yes, I am offended that Starbucks markets it as an Advent calendar.

Advent is the Catholic understanding of the season of preparation for the religious reason for the season: the birth of baby Jesus. The Incarnation of God made human.

This is major theology, folks. Not chocolates in teeny boxes at a first world coffee shop.

There’s already enough distractions. We live in a commercialized smart-phone zombie world in which retailers are opening earlier and earlier on actual Thanksgiving Day in America. Amidst all the “Christmas” hype, I’m drowning. Where are you, Christmas?

Somehow, my kids perceive the magic. This is my kids’ Advent Calendar.

Little People

Little People

This is mine.

Tis the Season

Tis the Season

Am I the only one who inevitably feels like I’ve been run over by train?

My calendar is already filling up.

This year I am honoring Advent. I am practicing mindfulness and scheduling self-care.

In all my years as a highly sensitive introverted intuitive feeling perceiver, I have resisted scheduling and traditional organization. I much prefer the creativity and spontaneity that comes from well, organized chaos. But not utter chaos. We live in a society, after all.

One thing I’ve learned is to Plan to Have Fun. That is, Plan, to have fun. I know if you buy airfare in advance it doesn’t cost as much. I know that when I pay the mortgage first, I can better visualize what remains for expense and excess. I get the chores out of the way, so I can play. I don’t love the chores and the mortgage, but it’s part of the process. I admit I do enjoy consulting my ten year historical gifting spreadsheet, though. Knowing little girl B is now the same age little girl A was when I have her the musical tea set, I can now look for the same set online. The preparation is anticipation.

I guess Advent translates to our modern world, after all.

Snow White