The simplicity of appreciating and sharing…

Chris and I had a solo Christmas. More like it was another day. I was so sick we did not even follow through on the food we were going to make. Instead we watched a few movies and I napped, oh and we slept until 11 am. (What is not to love about that?) We were thinking maybe we would just have today be Christmas Day. I think I am feeling better. It is hard to say as there have been many moments over the last few days where I have felt better, and then whoosh I get hit hard again. No one should ever have to feel this way!

In any case, I was thinking about simplicity. We had a simple Christmas which I love. I absorbed many Christmas trees, gifts being opened, and gatherings via Facebook these past few days, and there are two things I want to mention: opening presents and how to share with others on Christmas.

Opening presents. As a kid our tradition was to take turns selecting a present under the tree for someone else in the family, and when it was someone’s turn everyone gave that person their attention. They could take as long (within reason) as they wanted to open that gift, share gratitude to the giver, and if it were not filled with a million pieces they might even get to put it together quickly. After opening up their present, they cleaned up the mess of paper and ribbons and put it in the trash bag available. You would have your own turn when someone else gave you a gift to open, but you could not hand a gift to yourself. That was our tradition. It has stuck with me. There was a patience, appreciation, and enjoyment with watching each person feel loved and grateful for their gift. Why am I telling you this? Facebook photos yesterday showed crazy amounts of toys, with kids surrounded by them and all the paper and the mess. It makes it hard for me to think that they appreciated them, were grateful to the giver (if they knew who they came from), and I wonder if they cleaned up the mess. Maybe I am horrible, but I think my childhood tradition is one I would like to pass to many.

Which leads me to: share with others on Christmas. Another find on Facebook was a mention of a tradition I do want to start when I have kids that are old enough. This specific family writes a note to Santa on Christmas Eve, leaves a plate of cookies and milk, and each child selects a toy of their own (that they like or no longer play with) and leaves it for Santa to take to a kid somewhere in the world that may not have many toys. A brilliant idea! It is a great way for kids to think about others that do not have what they have and it is a way to have children part with unneeded toys (especially when they are going to be getting more the next morning).

The simplicity of appreciating the gifts we open. The simplicity of sharing with others on Christmas.

Too much happening

The holidays bring about different sides of people. For some it is a happy time, where Christmas music, lights, parties, and family all fill their free time. For others the holidays can be a time of obligations, shopping, crowds, and absolute craziness a.ka. stress. On top of all that there could be added stress from work, expectations from family, and even the reality of making sure those in your life have a memorable holiday. I wonder though, is it all worth it?

What expectations have we put on ourselves that are unrealistic? Is it fun to feel so stressed for a holiday? Between finding the right gifts, to wrapping and mailing them, to Christmas cards, parties, food, and keeping up with traditions it is a lot of pressure to do it all and make it all happen. Why do we do it? Is it wanting to give and ensure your family has an amazing holiday? Would they care if you dropped off a few responsibilities?

My stress level has definitely risen these last few weeks. There is a lot going on at work, and our home to-do list seems to be never-ending. Whether it is something for the holidays, or the yard, or something needs to be fixed, or we are trying to get all our year-end eye and dentist appointments complete before December 31. I am ready to get off the 2014 roller coaster and breathe.

In between all the stress and to-do’s on your list, be sure to take time for yourself. Get a massage (I mean it)! Take a bath, put your feet up. I am going to do all those things over the holiday. While it is an important time to be with family, indulge in amazing holiday treats, and give, give, give, make sure you give to yourself. Rest, recharge, and be ready for 2015. I have a hunch it will start with a bang and you will be ready if you have taken some time to refuel.

Wounded Warriors: Hallelujah

Hallelujah. Most renditions of this song give me the chills. I have always loved the Leonard Cohen song done by Jeff Buckley (at any time of year) but there is something around Christmas time that makes the music get under my skin, crawl through my emotions, and often bring tears to my eyes. Last year I came across this version from: Cloverton and this past week I found this one from “Wounded Warriors.”

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There is something even more gut wrenching about watching those that have fought for our freedom, have been wounded, and singing such a beautiful song of praise. It makes me think about all the good I have in my life. So much goodness. Now, savor all the good you have with those you love, those that you fear, and those that you dislike. Take this holiday time to slow down, be more present, laugh, eat, play, and think Hallelujah. (Mental note: take my own advice).

What’s in your stocking?

If you celebrate Christmas, do you have a tradition of hanging a stocking? Chris and I have not done it at all during our marriage, but growing up it was part of our tradition. We did not have a fireplace, or mantle to hang our stockings, but instead my dad hammered nails into this makeshift bookcase. It was about my height at the time, so maybe four feet high, and we each had our own stocking. Even our dog, who always received dog bones of different varieties — from rawhide to Milkbone, and if our dog was lucky maybe a new toy. Probably to distract them from all the sounds, lights, and interesting happenings in the house.

Everyone’s stocking was different. My grandma knit my sister’s, brother’s, and mine. I have no idea how she did it, but she knit our names into the stocking so we always knew if it was ours. She was an impressive knitter, and I still have my childhood stocking today. While we never received much at Christmas, for some reason my stocking always intrigued me. What did my stocking usually contain? At the bottom (and I think to weigh it down) there was usually an apple or orange. Followed by a pair of socks, a handful of candy, and maybe a tiny toy. Every once in a while there was a coloring book or some sort of object that did not fit into the stocking itself. Any items that did not fit were laid on the floor just below the stocking.

The tradition was that we were not allowed to leave our rooms on Christmas morning until we were given the approval from our parents. We would scurry out to the living room to scope out the Christmas tree and whether Santa had made it to our house that year. Were the milk and cookies gone? Then we were allowed to go to our stockings and dump out the contents. We could do whatever we wanted, play with anything included, and even have our own candy. We were not allowed to touch any gifts. Then we had breakfast together (my mom’s coffee cake). Once everyone finished their breakfast (my parents made us stay at the table for what felt like forever) we would make it back to the living room and our Christmas tree to open the presents that were under the tree.

I have not had a traditional Christmas since I was twelve, and so that was probably the last time I had a stocking too. These days I am such a minimalist. I do not want “stuff” just to give/get. Thus, we have not continued the tradition. Maybe someday I will knit a new stocking for a little one and start our version of stocking traditions on Christmas morning.

What did/does your stocking usually consist of?

Young Entrepreneurs – Crafty Wonderland

I wrote yesterday about the artisan markets we went to over the weekend. A big one that happens twice a year in Portland is called Crafty Wonderland. As full, big, and overwhelming it is, I still love the inspiration I gain from interacting with artists and artisans at their finest.

This year they had almost an entire wall with kid entrepreneurs. As I began my venture into Crafty Wonderland I saw these kids (mostly girls) sitting at their tables, sketching, knitting, and painting while their finished products were up for sale. While we did not end up purchasing any of the kid products, I got a bit nostalgic and teary for these young artists. What courage they must have to get together enough art to sell, and set up a table in the Oregon Convention Center in a very large event room. I wish such events were available to me when I was a kid. I think it might have inspired a lot of ideas for me and encouraged me to continue to make art at such a young age.

Kids inspire me. They have had fewer opportunities for someone to tell them they are not good enough. Imagine what it must feel like to have a two-day event where individuals can purchase your works of art. Inspiring. If only we had the same untainted sense that kids have, maybe we would be more vulnerable to put our own artistic endeavors into the public eye.

Thank you, Portland kid artists for being bold and brave and putting yourselves out there. You inspired me this past weekend to continue to care less of what other people think, and to open the door to my studio, to paint and play, and be free.