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I don’t know who started the tradition of Christmas cookies but after today I think I know why. There is nothing like a sugar-carb fix for stress. Today was an exemplar of Christmas stress. To the usual Christmas stress we added moving and remembering all the things lost in the fire that we don’t even have to move. Even Sophie the dog was off kilter.

The morning started unassumingly enough with Belly, Coffee and a Story. After that, before breakfast I was sick. The past several months I have been sick a lot of mornings. It happened so often I wondered if I was pregnant even at my age. I’m not. It has been going on so long that if I am pregnant I am carrying an elephant. Elephants have the longest gestation of any mammal, 21-22 months. I suppose it takes a long time to bring forth such an elaborate creature. My being sick is not elaborate but it is frustrating especially since no one seems to know what it is. We even went to Mayo Clinic and they did not pursue it much. We arrived with hope and about the third day in of a ten day visit we were flagging. We were flagging today but it was not so bad as that. At Mayo we had expected help and only got confusion. Today there was confusion but we manage to help each other.

After being sick and after breakfast, I was still feeling bad and was moving slowly. With all we had to do I needed to move faster. The upshot was the predictable packing wars. It is nothing like on TV, just a bit of wrestling over who gets which bit of packing paper. If I snap up the bubble wrap really fast that leaves you with the blasted peanuts. “Ha, got ‘cha.” Dumb? Beyond dumb but stress makes us all dumb.

Poor Sophie, feeling the tension over the bubble wrap in the air stretched out on the floor like a wise Sphinx and wagged her tail like mad to remind us that who got the bubble wrap and who the peanuts had nothing to do with (a) packing and (b) life. Of course, it had everything to do with being a family under stress.

Christmas is a stressful time all by itself. The struggle to get everything done, work, cleaning the house, buying presents, finding the holiday decorations, dealing with your own stress and then with the stress of those around you is exhausting. For me, and I think a lot of other families, the backdrop to all of this is money.

We have never been extravagant with gifts in our family. A $200 gift garners you whispers and gossip from other family members. Year before last for our 35th wedding anniversary and Christmas combined, my husband gave me a vintage anniversary ring with 5 infinitesimally small diamonds in it that we bought online for $247. Nonetheless, we made sure everyone in the family knew about it in advance so there was no gossiping about how much money we spent on a Christmas present.

This year, between the house, retiring and me being sick a lot, money feels like a really big thing. Money for me today was “Christmas-super-sized.” Everything was out of proportion. We bought Christmas wrapping paper last weekend. We got the $1.49 roll because we knew the 99 cent roll would fall apart when you tried to wrap with it. Today the 49 cents was the object of questioning my judgement. “What does Christmas paper mean? We could have just wrapped it in news paper. They have free news papers around here. Why did I spend $1.49 on paper? I was in charge of making that decision and maybe it was the wrong one.”

Of course, the worry was really Christmas and moving stress not wrapping paper. No one could ever tell for sure the affect of buying the $1.49 wrapping paper compared to 99 cent wrapping paper compared to free newspaper. We had one Christmas when it really did make a difference so I really do know this Christmas it is not about 49 cents in wrapping paper. That Christmas even the 99 cent paper was too much. For Christmas dinner we had dressing and no turkey. I made the dressing with chicken necks I got at the store for some ridiculously cheap price. No doubt I questioned that purchase too.

In the middle afternoon today we realized why we were all so out of sorts. It was the stress of moving, the stress of the fire, the stress of building a house, the stress of money, the stress of an unreliable car and the stress of leaving town for Christmas and the stress of not knowing where we were going to be when we came back. Together it is amazing that we did not trip over that vat of stress days ago.

I also discovered that our airplane tickets to our family were for days from now, not Thursday as I had been working toward. I told my spouse tonight that I was not sure if finding out we had days longer to get moved was helpful or not. While the extra days really are useful, I was mentally prepared for Thursday so now all of my timing is off kilter.

It was that sort of day. Off kilter. Enter cookies. We have been carefully eating all of the food that we had since we need to use it all up before we leave. Tonight my spouse went to the neighboring town where the box stores are to pick up toilet paper and paper towels to replenish the supply that was here in the condo when we arrived. I said, “get some cookies.” He came home with three boxes.

I was astounded. Who knew there was such variety? The cookies available in the stores at Christmas are different from cookies at other times of the year. The first box was filled with our standard treat cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies from the bakery. The second box was beautifully wrapped with a pale green bow on the top looking not at all like a box of cookies. The beautifully wrapped box was filled with chocolate mint graham cracker cookies. The third box was a gorgeous Christmas tin filled with Danish Butter cookies.

I wonder how many boxes of those cookie, rather than given as impersonal gifts to acquaintances, are munched around the Christmas tree by stressed out families looking for a sugar-carb fix. I suppose their nutritional value is trumped by the job they have done. They brought us together.

vacuum cleaner head with packing popcorn lined up against it

Who knew that a vacuum cleaner had such an affinity for packing popcorn?