Holidays have been a bit rough the last few years. And this year is no different. It’s during these winter months that the deaths of my mother and grandmother are most felt. The holidays are very hard without them. I think one of the reasons I started to teach myself how to bake was to try and keep a small piece of them alive. My mom used to make 100s of rum cakes during the holidays and give as gifts. My sister makes these during the holidays now. I would never admit it to her but they’re just as good as mom used to make. My grandmother and mother both used to make potica. My grandmother loved fruit cake and my mom made her one every year. With the pandemic raging through the country this year the holidays present some new challenges. It was very important that I began a plan early for dealing with this holiday season.
I inevitably experience a major depressive episode during the fall or winter regardless of what is going on. From about early October to late March, I have to pay close attention to any changes in sleep, mood, anxiety and irritability. My counselor, doctor and I have a plan for medication changes if needed. My partner and I review daily/weekly any changes that may have occurred and share the information with my counselor during my weekly check in. If I don’t remain honest and be vigilant a slide in mood management could spell months of regroup and recovery. Even the years when I am not dealing with recent deaths of loved ones or the added stressors that a pandemic has brought into play these months are tricky. We have learned to plan for an episode and arm ourselves with some options for coping.
Almost all of my family members have birthdays in the months of October through the holiday season. Thanksgiving gatherings, Christmas planning and gift buying, and changes in weather. All of these things can add stress and affect mood. Typically beginning in September, I begin making a list of family members possible birthday and Christmas gifts. I start buying and storing Christmas stocking stuff from August on. To avoid any financial crunch or any last minute buying I plan ahead and do the purchases bit by bit. This doesn’t mean I’m not still buying and ordering into December sometimes. It just means I give myself some ideas in advance. Planning ahead with some possible options takes some pressure off. I create a Christmas Wishlist in January and add items throughout the entire year for the following Christmas. With so many health restrictions in the city online shopping has made this option super easy. We also use online order and pick up.
This year we made the decision, it was recommended by the CDC anyway, to stay within our house for the holidays. My partner has older family members, and we have some immune sensitive individuals. It is the right thing to do. Better to miss one Thanksgiving meal then all the rest of everything. It’s a small sacrifice to make. Because we decided to stay away from family and celebrate in our house, we needed to come up with some options to still feel connected. We decided to make cookies and other baked things together and create holiday goodie bags for Christmas. We have a list of what things from our families we might like to try, and most things will freeze just fine until Christmas. Our sugar cookie battle will continue. And potica will be made.
We have also scheduled Zoom calls with two of our best friends to share a holiday drink together instead of our usual dinner out. I have goodie bags ready to drop off at my sisters for their stockings. A family Zoom call with my partners extended family is set for Christmas. Which to be honest is a lot less overwhelming then actually meeting in person for the holidays LOL.
This year is about starting some new traditions, making some adjustments, and being thankful. Happy baking everyone. Be safe. Be happy.