Holidays – your favorite time or your worst nightmare?

I

It’s that time of year for candlelight and warm beverages and heart-warming stories. Do you have happy memories from your childhood holidays? So many people don’t–and it often makes their adult holiday times less than enjoyable.

I’m glad to say my childhood memories are mostly positive. With nine living kids in my family let me tell you, when we came down on Christmas morning, it looked like heaven had opened up and dropped a giant bag of presents on us—all piled under and around the multi-color lighted real tree. Even though none of us received a lot, the combination of a few things for each of the nine of us added up to what looked like a mountain of treasure. Plus, many of us were close enough in age that we could look forward to potentially sharing goodies with each other. Another favorite tradition for me was getting the honor of moving Joseph and Mary one step closer to the manger each day, then putting the baby Jesus into the scene on Christmas eve. Oh, and of course singing hymns together that night.

Do you start celebrating early so you can get more fun out of the season? In Chicago we have a radio station that starts playing only Christmas music from November 1st on! Do you try to make your present-day holidays fun despite not-so-happy memories? Or do you just struggle to get through these days and hope not to get majorly depressed? Are you religious and hope to spend extra time attending services? I’ve sung in a choir at a few times in my life—I have some fond memories of singing during Advent and at Christmas night celebrations.

If you’re single and don’t have a family (or have one that you don’t care to see) while all your friends disappear into theirs, this time of year can be crummy. If you’re single and want to create a special time, find some other single women (I know it can be hard; some single women are reluctant to identify themselves as such) and plan a story-sharing evening. Make it a potluck gathering so no one person has to do too much work. Share good memories of holidays. Share ideas for making the end of the year special and for celebrating the beginning of the new year. Encourage each other. Get to know each other better. Plan something fun together—bake something together. Go ice skating if you’re still young enough, or drink hot toddies if that feels better. Or maybe drink hot toddies and then go skating… Doesn’t matter. Whatever feels good is good.

What do you do for fun or satisfying ways to make this time of year special?

Patinoire du marché de Noël : Plaisir d'hiver 2006

Image via Wikipedia

Enhanced by Zemanta

On living sparely yet generously

I’m moving in a few weeks. In preparation I’ve been sifting through my accumulated stuff. Interesting what I thought was essential when I downsized to move to my Chicago condo. Now I’m turning my heart and mind to starting a new, modified-minimalist approach to living–i.e., stop holding onto so many objects.

One nice part of this process is being able to choose things from among my Christmas candles and cookiessurroundings that I think my family members might enjoy having. Haven’t wrapped this many Christmas presents in a long time.

My daughter points out to me that it’s nice to live so that you have absolutely anything and everything you could possibly need should you decide one day to repair an appliance, wrap a massive package, or create a special gourmet dinner that requires an unusual herb or spice. Being able to be creative at will, without having to go to the store to buy items, has been fun all these years. But the fact is, the closer you live to the center of a great metropolis, the less space you get for the same money.

Now, as I read recently in Frenchwomen Don’t Get Fat, there is beauty in planning what you will eat for only a day or two and walking to the store to buy just what you need. There is luxury in making and enjoying a very small serving of any wonderful dish that strikes your fancy–including those with such rich and decadent ingredients as heavy cream and dark chocolate.

In my current Chicago neighborhood I can walk to two different grocery stores, but neither one of them carries even slightly exotic or unusual items. I can’t get, for example, leeks at either place. Even something as basic as basil isn’t a staple in Hispanic groceries.

The new neighborhood, Lakeview, while it doesn’t have a reasonably priced grocery store in walking distance has dozens of other places to get what you need. I look forward to exploring it.

But most of all, I look forward to living even more in the moment. Like the Japanese who make a prayer out of making and serving tea, I will try to  complete the steps to each task with full attention and appreciation. From walking through a snowstorm to the store, to riding the bus through Lincoln Park to downtown, to lighting candles and gazing out my new windows down the lovely street where I had my first apartment at age 19, I relish the chance to practice living my life sparely yet generously.

May your thoughts be warm and your heart full of love this blessed Christmas week.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Pre-Christmas

What do you do when you have a ton of work to do and you just can’t motivate yourself to do it? Hey, it’s a wind-chill of 16-below outside–the wind is ridiculous. And it’s Sunday, and I’ve got Christmas lights and decorations and flickering candles and Christmas music in here. Is it right that I should have to sit at the computer and not enjoy all that?

Well, part of the joy of working at home is the ability to work at strange hours like 4 am if you want. And I did accomplish a lot of personal chores today, so at least I don’t feel lazy. That means I will plan on one of those incredibly productive Monday mornings tomorrow. I can usually get more work done in 4 hours in the early hours–providing I keep the email program closed–than I do in a whole typical day with distractions.

Are you planning a love-filled Christmas this year? I am so glad to be alive and well and blessed with a 17-month-old little pistol of a granddaughter that this Christmas feels especially joyful and emotional to me. I hope you are feeling much love for family and for the whole human race.