Dear Ann Cannon • Help! I have fulfilled my gift list but I can’t stop shopping! (I have bought some GREAT stuff, however!)
— Really Feeling the Christmas Spirit This Year
Dear Really Feeling • I just listened to an interview on this very subject. The trick, according to the person interviewed, is to set a budget BEFORE you start shopping and then STICK TO IT. Which is an awesome idea! Too bad, so sad that the mere act of creating a budget doesn’t automatically stop you from going over it!
Because I myself often have the problem you’ve described, I’m not the best person to answer this question. When I catch myself being too spendy, however, I try to a) leave my credit card at home for a while and b) avoid the stores where I know I’ll get myself into trouble. I hope this helps. And also, merry Christmas!
Dear Ann Cannon • How long can a Christmas tree stay up before it becomes ridiculous not to take it down?
— Love Myself a Tree
Dear Love Myself a Tree • OK. I feel a little detour coming on here, so feel free to skip to the end.
The year I was in the fourth grade, we kept our tree up F.O.R.E.V.E.R., and because it was a real tree, it began to droop and sag and lose its ornaments, which plopped to the ground and rolled around sadly on the carpet for a little while before coming to a full stop. Friends who came over would ask me why we still had our tree up and all I could do was hang my head in shame and say, “I don’t know,” so I promised myself I would never, ever leave a tree up past New Year’s Day. Except now that I’m old, which means Christmas feels like it comes every other weekend, I’m starting to think leaving a tree up all year-round is a fantastic idea.
And now for the advice part: When it comes to your tree, do whatever you damn well please. It’s your tree, after all. Who cares what anyone else thinks?
How should individuals deal with those whose political views differ from their own, anyway? I received a wide range of responses to my request for your advice, including the suggestion that anyone who likes Trump should be OFF THE PARTY HEARTY LIST. That’s certainly one approach. But in the end, I appreciated the calm advice in this email sent by reader Taylor Layton — although it does presuppose you actually want to maintain a relationship. (I especially like his idea that we should look at and question our own opinions.)
Dear Ann Cannon • I read your column about Trump ripping apart a friendship. Here are some suggestions for handling toxic political conversations.
1. Leave your strongly held beliefs behind — at least at first (probably hard for most people). Listen. Learn.
2. Ask questions — although not as inflammatory as the “grab ‘em by the 8#$&@” question printed in the original column.
3. Try to see what is most important for your friend. Find common ground on values. Once you have common ground on values, you can generally communicate better with a shared end in mind.
4. Model and urge a more balanced media diet. People won’t change overnight, but if you can be a model to your friends of a well-rounded, critical news consumer, they might follow in your footsteps. Suggest some other news sources that may help.
5. If you have strongly held beliefs, interrogate them yourself. If conversations continue, you could both examine a less polarizing news issue by looking at multiple sources to see if you agree and then discuss how more facts and perspectives helped your understanding.
I also appreciated this recommendation from another reader:
Dear Ann Cannon • I just finished a good book on this topic: “I Love You, But I Hate Your Politics: How to Protect Your Intimate Relationships in a Poisonous Partisan World” by Jeanne Safer, Ph.D.
Many thanks to everyone who responded.