The holidays are a glittery joyful time filled with tradition and wonder! With gifts and cards and decorations everywhere!

Depending on where you are with your shopping and holiday prep, it’s possible some people reading this may want to injure me after reading those optimistic words.

Let me assure you that I feel the same every time some person jauntily says to me, “you all ready for the holidays?” Shut the &$*#& up Calvin, it’s none of your g-d business. Because no, I’m not and I don’t want to think about it.

My kids are teenagers and shopping for them is hellish. They want things that cost a bajillion dollars and are the size of a postage stamp.

I’ve taken my holiday card pic, but haven’t done anything with it.

The house is decorated, but half of the lights I purchased on sale last year don’t work. So it’s not merely just half decorated, it also annoys me every time I look at it. Brand! New! !ights! My tree is lit but not decorated.

The millions of cookies I bake for everyone and their brother are still in their IKEA parts (you know: sugar, flour, butter).

My regular life is running at full tilt making getting to above to-do list difficult – to say the least.

Traditions can sometimes be expectations and obligations that are stressful and just plain hard to maintain in our busy lives. I have no great advice on how to get to all the things you want to do. But I can share with you the traditions that are little pieces of joy for me in the holiday season – the things that I can’t wait to do every year, no matter how onerous they may be.

For me these traditions make the holiday season special and take the stress out of the holidays.

– Use your tree as a place to put all those memory box items you don’t want to toss but don’t know what to do with. Yes, those pretty glass ornaments are great, but they have nothing on a laminated note one brother wrote to the other or those baby shoes. It also doesn’t just need to be kid items, your college ID that lurks in your junk drawer, your first business card. Just put a hole in it and tie some ribbon on.

You will love finding those memories as you decorate your tree. My oldest just got his voter card, and it is going right on the tree. For people who don’t do a tree, I have a friend that doesn’t celebrate Christmas and does a similar thing with a garland in her house.

– If you have little kids, trace their hands and have them decorate them. These little hands make me nostalgic and at least once a week one of my kids holds their hand up to a small hand and says: OMG, look how small my hand was! With my kids now in their teenage years, creating new hands has fallen off, along with many other little kid traditions. But it’s the tradition that keeps on giving; it brings so much joy in the house.

– Create some sort of theme to your holiday outreach and stick with it. It’s worth it. Eight years ago I made my kids pose like an album cover and now it’s a thing we do each year. Everyone in our family loves it. I’ve seen people take a picture in the same place each year, people who use a picture from vacations, people who pose with their freshly picked tree. Whatever it is, make it something you look forward to. Everyone else will as well, and it becomes a neat way to document over the years.

– Find the way to break bread with your loved ones that you can look forward to. This can be so many things. For me, my middle child asked for coffee cake as his only present for several years, so I have a big Christmas breakfast spread. I know another family that does pizza for their Christmas dinner. My kids’ grandparents always have pancakes and sausage for Christmas Eve. I have several friends that have latke parties over Hannukah. I’ve heard of lasagna Christmas dinners and many more.

Pick one, go all in with something you love and then let yourself off the hook for the rest.

– Give to a charity. There are so many options for giving. You can donate to a charity you love. You can buy presents for families in need. You can buy a cow for an international family. It doesn’t matter what you do, but find something that resonates with you, and whether it’s monetary, something you create by hand, or time you give, it all matters. You don’t have to give to everything concrete, there are many options, but finding someplace to put some goodness into the world is what this season is about.

Find the traditions that matter to you and let go of the guilt of everything else. If you can get to it, great, but the beauty of finding the traditions that matter is giving yourself space to enjoy them and letting go of what you can’t find time to accomplish.

Didn’t get to your holiday cards? That’s okay, send them next year, – or not.

Didn’t make cookies for your neighbors? Make them Valentine’s Day treats, or just focus on being a good neighbor year round and know that’s enough.

Holidays are about spending time with the people that matter to you, the traditions you love the most will likely highlight that and the rest really aren’t as important.

So, I’m still annoyed with my half lighted garland. (Did I mention that the lights are brand new?!). But it’s fine. My younger kids have been going through the box of ornaments reminiscing about the sweet memories in there. We’ll decorate once my oldest is home from college. Many people laugh about the things on my tree, it’s not as well put together as the ones you see on “Like to Know It” or any other design site, but it’s filled with memories that we look forward to reconnecting with every year.

The holiday card photo is taken. This year’s was a spin on Weezer’s Blue Album. I still have not gotten it to the printer. Fingers crossed.

As for the cookies? I think they will stay in their IKEA parts. Who needs more treats this time of year?