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Posted on Thu, Dec 23, 2010 : 9:29 a.m.

The most wonderful time of the year... and a time of temporary insanity

By Barb Roether

It has been said that this is the most wonderful time of the year. I sometimes wonder how true that is so I did a little investigating on my own.

Since I am of another faith than Christian, I would watch in awe all the wonderful decorations , the excitement and good cheer this holiday offered. Everyone seemed so happy and carefree and loving during this season. I even thought if I laid quietly in the dark on Christmas Eve looking out my window, I would actually see that jolly old fellow in his sleigh flying through the sky. I knew he wouldn't stop at my house, but why not just hope? Maybe he didn't reallize we had no tree or decorations.

As I grew older and especially after many years of working in retail, my vision was not quite the same.

From my side of the counter what I saw was otherwise normal people going into a frenzy. It became a time of temporary insanity. The stakes kept getting larger, with more and bigger gifts, buying things just to buy something, giving clothing not knowing the right sizes, style or needs of the giftee, thinking if you spent more money the gifts would be more appreciated. This year, I decided to ask people what they really felt about this time of year, and I got many interesting responses.

People who work in retail are not looking forward to this time. It seems to come sooner and faster each year. Of course, when the stores decorate right after school starts in September, you can understand. Many people with grown kids don't plan to decorate at all. They are so happy to simplify by giving gift cards or one gift that gets requested — no more figuring out what to buy, just keep it simple and ask what they need.

Some of the ladies in my knitting group told me they would love to take a pill and wake up when it is over. Many told me they are just not going to decorate the whole house and maybe not even put up a tree. They say that their children already have plenty. In fact some say they have more than they need. Actually many of us have more than we really need.

Love is not measured in how much you spend or how many gifts you buy, so focus on things that matter the most. You don't need to do it or have it all because it is the holiday. You probably do more than enough through the entire year for your family. Make happy memories, not more stress and more debt for yourself. Don't worry that everything is not perfect. Simple is good. Gratitude and love are even better. Most people don't remember much about what gifts they got. Many can't wait to take them back and get what they really wanted.

Love what you have and who you have in your life already. Take time to appreciate the good things. Review your year like they do on some televsion shows.

You need to remember what good things happened and what good people you have in your life. It has been a tough couple of years, and each year seems to go faster than the ones before. Evaluate what is right in your life and how each special person in your life has been a positive force.

I heard today that Elizabeth Edwards had a sign in her kitchen that said "cracks are what let  the light shine in." No one lives life in a straight line. So just remember that a hug is one size fits all and can't be returned. Have a wonderful holiday and a very healthy and peaceful new year. Make every day the most wonderful time of the year.

Barb Roether is an Ann Arbor resident who spent her career working in retail, including many years as a personal shopper, and blogs about shopping for 


Emily Marshall

Sun, Jan 2, 2011 : 9:05 a.m.

Wonderful article! Reflecting back over the holidays, this article rings true in so many ways.

Annie Zirkel

Fri, Dec 31, 2010 : 2:45 p.m.

A little late in commenting but thanks for the insights and inspiration. It is funny how different the holidays look depending on your view. Very good food for thought.


Tue, Dec 28, 2010 : 8:13 a.m.

Well said. This article should be a mandatory read before each shopping experience in December.