Don’t let the bustle bring you down


‘Twas the month before Christmas and all through the store

people were shopping and buying galore,

charging and charging with all their might


so they could have gifts to hand out that night.

They bought so much stuff that their bills got too high;

if they had a clue they’d probably cry.

The holidays came and they passed out their gifts,


little aware of their financial rift.

In January, alas, the bills hit their door.

They saw what they owed, and ‘bout hit the floor!

It seems to have reached its peak in the 1990s, but it certainly

continues today -- this American compulsion to acquire, to spend many

times beyond all good sense. Frequently, during the December

holidays, we who work at the library’s information desk are asked for

a book, magazine, articles -- just something -- to help the frazzled


person get through the season intact. If you too are looking for ways

to make your holidays simpler and more meaningful, we have some


These books are well worth consulting:

“Happy Holidays!: Uplifting Advice About How to Avoid Holiday

Blues and Recapture the True Spirit of Christmas, Hanukkah and New


“How to Have a Perfect Christmas: Practical and Inspirational


Advice to Simplify Your Holiday Season,” and

“Simple Pleasures for the Holidays.”

Quicker but equally helpful sources are the December issues of

“Better Homes and Gardens,” “Real Simple,” “Good Housekeeping,”

“Family Fun” and “Parenting.”

Lastly, if you are considering donating to a charity this season,

it is important first to evaluate the organization. The following Web

sites can help you make a wise gift-giving choice:

The Web site of Philanthropic Research Inc. --

-- gives essential financial information on each charity, including a

link to a facsimile of the organization’s tax filing, Form 990,

required by the IRS.

The Web site of the American Institute of Philanthropy -- -- gives ratings (A-F) based on the portion of

the budget going to program services and their fund-raising

efficiency. The site lists top-rated charities and produces a

complete list of ratings in its quarterly print publication, “Charity

Rating Guide and Watchdog Report.”

The Web site of the state attorney general’s office --

disclaimer.htm -- provides access to the state’s database of more

than 80,000 charities registered in California. Some entries include

a link to the IRS Form 990.

We have a choice about how we will celebrate this special season.

The holidays do not have to be expensive or filled with stress. The

spirit can be simpler, more comfortable and hopefully very


* MARIANNA HOF is the Laguna Beach branch librarian.