Loose Ends

Santa may be making his list and checking it twice, but The Mountain Farmgirl is juggling LOTS of lists these days. How ‘bout you … anyone else feeling a little bit
S-T-R-E-T-C-H-E-D as the holidays approach? Check out some great coping mechanisms to get you through the hectic season while you tie up all those …. Loose Ends…

So okay, gals … the order of the day seems to be ‘Activity’, but it’s busy-work with a purpose, right?  Well, that’s what we try to tell ourselves  anyway, as we hustle and bustle from morning till night. The object seems to be crossing items off the To-Do lists faster than we add new items. We need to whittle them down to some sort of human scale that we can tackle.  Is it any wonder that right about now we wish it was all behind us and that we could be safely transported into the New Year  to settle in ‘for a long winter’s nap?’    

Yes, that’s often the all-too-sad-but-true state of life at this time of the year .  Let’s see … there’s the Christmas card list to write and envelopes to address; the cookies to bake and send;  the gifts to finish making, wrapping and mailing; the Christmas dinner list to shop, then prep for and freeze ahead. There’s the parties to attend; the decorating to finish; the lecture series at the library.  My son’s homeschooling assignments need to be graded and shelved until after the New Year; and the two courses I recently started have reading and homework projects awaiting.  My writing deadlines – which include this blog – are hanging overhead … and that doesn’t even take into account the everyday responsibilities of  home and family. And, oh yes, there’s the  24/7 round-the-clock live-in  duties of an innkeeper – my full-time profession.  By Christmas I will have welcomed and cooked for 300+ families this month alone, who have come to experience the magical Polar Express train that embarks from our neck of the woods to Santa’s North Pole workshop each and every weekend.


Good stuff, all of it, to be sure,  but really … is life supposed to stress us out like this? From now on let’s wake up and smell the cedar, girls!! We need to turn these hectic holidays into holly-filled  HOLY-days!  Here are some tips on how I cope with a non-stop, nigh on impossible schedule:

• No Guilt.  First of all, if the above describes you, feel no guilt … you’re not alone.  I wrote about this same topic last Christmas, because just like clockwork, these familiar feelings of ‘being on a treadmill ‘return to overwhelm all of us if we let them. This year I took some of my own advice and got a jump on the rush (I’ve been making and stashing gifts all year, so no mad dash in that department). As a result, life has been much more enjoyable.  Remember, it’s a process not a destination, and wherever you find yourself on the path:skip the guilt trip!

• “Good enough”. Even if nothing else were to get accomplished between now and the New Year, we need to realize that life is already “good enough” as it is.  In fact, it’s wonderful! The sun comes up every morning. The delicious, earthy smell of wood smoke is in the crisp winter air (at least where I live). We each have at least one true friend who loves us, God, who has a plan for each of us and which is unfolding as it should. In essence, our lists and busy-work don’t really matter; we just think they do. Despite the size of our bank accounts (or lack of them) … there is abundance in the moment. Seize the day!

• Attitude and Perspective. We may think that we have problems and feel like we’re overburdened, but our petty details are really not all  that important in the grander scheme of things. So what if I don’t get all the cookies made, or write some of the Christmas cards until after the holiday? (or even not at all?). Not a biggie! … Take for example,  my sister’s best friend, Collette. She and her husband Mel came to visit us two years ago at the inn, along with my mom and sister. We had a wonderful time laughing, sight-seeing, and playing board games in the evening. Mel was a big healthy cowboy of a guy …who worked as an electrician, loved model trains and his family and friends. As I write this, Mel may be taking his last breaths on this earth, if he is even still with us at all. Diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer just a few short months ago, it is almost a certainty that he won’t be with us by Christmas. God bless you, Mel, wherever you are this moment. Many people are battling illness this Christmas; others I know are without jobs, or homes, or food … and yet I somehow think that think I’ve got problems when I feel like I’m cramming too much into a day… It’s attitude adjustment time, my friends; we need to keep it all in perspective.

• Walk.  Take a walk every day, even if only for 5 minutes. Get outside, smell the pine trees and move your body!  It may take sheer will power to overcome what I call “indoor inertia” in the beginning, and we may have to mentally and physically force ourselves to put one foot in front of the other … but done often enough it will soon become a habit. Once it does it will actually give back energy, relieve stress and get rid of the doldrums we may be feeling from the lack of sunlight. Even if we think we’re too busy, we’re not. Walk!  Be proACTIVE (even the word implies movement!).

• Do something for someone who doesn’t expect it. And better yet, do it anonymously.  That is the spirit of Christmas in action. It may not be on your  'To Do list’, but it will make you feel good as you do a good deed and lift up someone else in the process.

• Do something for yourself. You know the safety instructions you get on an airplane? Think of this step as putting on your own oxygen mask first, before you put on your children’s’.  Once you address your own needs, you will be more able to meet the needs of others.  I just hung up 3 new birdfeeders for myself today, and almost immediately they attracted a flock of little red polls who are vacationing here from the arctic circle! These little ground-feeders are enjoying the seed which I accidentally spilled on the back patio.  I’m enjoying watching and photographing the cardinals, chickadees and juncos, too. Here I sit on the floor, watching my birds out the window while knitting the final touches on the Christmas presents for my daughter and daughters-in-law. Yes, I could be doing some other more pressing things, but right now I’m thinking about each of my precious daughters, and praying love into each knitted stitch. The birds I’m watching all the while are just the icing on the cake.  What could be better (or more important) than this?


• Make every moment count. Life is too short and too precious to waste time doing things that don’t really need to be done, or going through the motions taking care of obligations that we resent. If our heart isn’t in it, then we probably shouldn’t be doing it. Make every second count. At the end of our lives, none of us will ever say ‘I wish I had spent more time on … “that frustrating committee”; or “working at that dead-end job”, etc. Make life count! Count your blessings!

• Live by the ‘spirit’, not the ‘letter’… Lists are wonderful ways to be efficient and get things done, but if we get super hung up on ‘what’ we’re doing at the expense of ‘how” we’re doing it, we become legalistic and miss the main point of life. Be passionate, loving, and have a very HAPPY Christmas season!

How about you? Do you get tense this time of year, or have you discovered some helpful coping mechanisms of your own? Please share some of your very own Christmas miracles in the comments below.  Thanks so much Farmgirls. My association with all of you, near and far, is a wonderful gift. Merry Christmas!

Until next time,
Mountain Bounty, Mountain Blessings, from Cathi
The Mountain Farmgirl




By: Diane
On: 12/10/2012 07:37:16
Thank you for the gentle, hands on reminder of how to truly live this Christmas time!
By: Marion
On: 12/10/2012 08:18:59
This year my husband and I donated the money we usually spend on Christmas to a local agency. We asked that anyone wishing to give us a present donate to someone in need and that in turn we will not be giving gifts. Throughout the past year I made counted cross-stitch ornaments for each of my grandchildren as their gift this year. I will be making Christmas cookies with them and the weekend before Christmas they will stay overnight and we will be going out to the woods to decorate a tree for the animals loaded with animal friendly food. Each year I have tried to eliminate the things that I no longer enjoy and this year I'm enjoying the extra time with friends and family and have no pressure on me. It is truly a wonderful way to celebrate the season and I think a wonderful example to my grandchildren that there is more in life than the mall and presents.
By: Dianne
On: 12/10/2012 10:48:43
My Mom always loved Christmas. She is no longer with me to thank her for all the wonderful Christmases she gave us. Women seem to do it all, year after year after year. We can't seem to ask for help. Maybe because it is never as nice as when we do it. Merry CHristmas to all. xxoo DIanne
By: Debbie
On: 12/10/2012 12:02:15
Lovely post as always dear Cathi! A spot on reminder of what is truly important... Being grateful, watching over health and those we love and expressing our true selves by sharing our gifts... What more does a farmgirl need at Christmas?
Love to you and yours this holiday season... I don't know how you do all you do... list or no list! LOL!
Deb ( your blogging sis in the east )
By: KimberlyD
On: 12/10/2012 18:39:15
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family!

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Cathi Belcher

Cathi Belcher,
an old-fashioned farmgirl with a pioneer spirit, lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. As a “lifelong learner” in the “Live-Free-or-Die” state, she fiercely values self-reliance, independence, freedom, and fresh mountain air. Married to her childhood sweetheart of 40+ years (a few of them “uphill climbs”), she’s had plenty of time to reinvent herself. From museum curator, restaurant owner, homeschool mom/conference speaker, to post-and-beam house builder and entrepreneur, she’s also a multi-media artist, with an obsession for off-grid living and alternative housing. Cathi owns and operates a 32-room mountain lodge. Her specialty has evolved to include “hermit hospitality” at her rustic cabin in the mountains, where she offers weekend workshops of special interest to women.

“Mountains speak to my soul, and farming is an important part of my heritage. I want to pass on my love of these things to others through my writing. Living in the mountains has its own particular challenges, but I delight in turning them into opportunities from which we can all learn and grow.”

Column content copyright © 2010– Cathi Belcher. All rights reserved.

Mountain Bounty

“Keep close to Nature’s heart ... and break clear away once in awhile to climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods, to wash your spirit clean.”
– John Muir