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.
I am not a fan of walking into a mall before Thanksgiving and seeing Christmas decorations or hearing Christmas music on the radio. You know the drill. One holiday at a time. I know each year they start earlier and earlier and this year, because Thanksgiving falls so late, it means there is a short three-week window between Thanksgiving and Christmas. So I am the LAST person to talk about Christmas before Thanksgiving. However…
…yes, I am breaking my own hardcore rules. I could not resist sharing some laughter and Christmas hilarity before Thanksgiving. About a year ago I wrote a blog on “Poo-pourri.” Well, I have a Christmas update for you. Father Christmas, Santa, whatever you call him. You grow up leaving him a plate of cookies and milk or egg nog. Over the years you start to wonder how does he get into my house if we have no chimney? How does he carry all those toys on his back on a sleigh and still be able to fly all over the world — that would be too many toys. Did you ever ask yourself if he ever made a pit stop that night? After all those milk and cookies did you ever think that he might have had to take a poo?
There are clever lines galore inside this three-minute masterpiece, not to mention all the sound effects and extremely clever lines like: “The ghost of Christmas ass; Gingerbread Manslaughter; I have been holding this since Dubai; So you can keep sneaking without reeking; Your dingleberries will smell like jingleberries.” I am still laughing…
December has gone fast this year. It baffles me that Christmas is tomorrow. I have done everything I can to not step foot in any store, and do whatever shopping I can online this year. Is it sad that Christmas has in some ways made me want to stay away from people? That this holiday now makes me cringe? Our credit cards have made us greedy, stressed out, and potentially the true meaning of Christmas is lost in bags, receipts, and frustrated shoppers.
Somehow during the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, it is music that makes me grounded. I am usually one to quickly run out of the store, or change the radio station when a Christmas song is played before Thanksgiving. Yet, it is Christmas music that takes the Scrooge out of me. It is one of the few things that gives me a nostalgic feeling about Christmas, and reminds me of my father and his avid love for Christmas. I wish I knew what made him enjoy it so much. He loved decorating the house for Christmas, with lights, wreaths, our tree, and other Santa figurines around the house. Was he trying to compensate for Christmas’ he might not have enjoyed as a child? Or was he recreating his own memories?
Chris and I have leaned towards Christmas being a quiet day together, and potentially further towards “just another day in our life.” We lean towards a simpler life. Why has it come to that for us? We usually do not trade gifts, and this year we never got around to putting up the Christmas tree. Sometimes we decide to find a gift together for our home that we can share with each other. We always lean towards doing nothing rather than doing something just to fill a need to give a gift.
So what makes me nostalgic again this year for Christmas past? Music. I have always loved the Leonard Cohen song: Hallelujah, and my favorite is the Jeff Buckley version. Over the weekend, I came across this “Cloverton” version of “A Hallelujah Christmas.” I especially love the beginning with just the piano and vocals. For some reason I feel it in my bones. It makes me think about past Christmas’ with my parents. I wanted to share and, if you celebrate, wish you a wonderful Christmas. Cherish this special time with your family and friends.
Why, oh, why does hearing a good rendition of Silent Night make me cry? I am not one to cry too often. Yes, sometimes a television show or a movie will bring tears to my eyes, sometimes music does too. It is rare though. It is usually when the emotion felt moves me or gives me goose bumps, and the water flows to my eyes.
The emotion I feel is often the memories that fill my thoughts. Even as I write this the salt water is filling my eyes. I think of many Christmas Eve nights when we would go to a local church as a family. When I say as a family, it means my father joined us. Christmas Eve was really the only time of year we all went to church together. It was not our regular church, just one that we knew had a Christmas Eve service. It was a different type of evening. We got dressed up and my father was at his best. He loved Christmas. It brought out the best in him. The Christmas music, the lights, the tree and decorations. Lastly, the Santas. He had a thing for different types of Santa decorations (and I have to say some of them freaked me out). Maybe a better term for some of them was Father Christmas.
I never liked Santa…
In any case, whenever, we would sing Silent Night during the Christmas Eve service I would look up and there would be tears in my dad’s eyes. I never felt brave enough to ask him what his tears meant to him, but somehow I have inherited this same trait from him. For some reason, Silent Night reminds me of the Christmas Eve service, writing my letter to Santa, leaving him cookies and egg nog, and knowing that my dad would be writing a note back to me. It was part of the story, part of our tradition, it made life feel more normal. Even if we did not often have many gifts under the tree (one year I remember getting only a picture frame), somehow the service, letter, and egg nog/cookies made it all feel more normal.
Why is it that the holiday music we only hear for a few weeks a year pulls such strings in our hearts, and unravels memories that go so deep? Is there holiday music that brings the wave of salt water to your eyes?
Oh, and that picture above, it is one of a few. I guess Santa freaked me out.
Some days I feel older than others. Today is one of those days. I feel old, yet inspired. A woman that I have a lot of respect for, and was a friend and writing teacher of mine in college, had a boy. Then she had a girl. I have never met the girl, but I grew fond of her little boy after taking care of him at the day care I worked in at college. My good friend, Whit, and I would often babysit for him many nights. We would make him dinner, play, put him into his jammies, read stories, and tuck him into bed, then on to our homework.
What I remember fondly about those times in college was that these kids we took care of in day care or that we babysat for were in many ways a family to us. We grew to love them and their parents. Their parents were role models in many ways, as we watched them be parents, professors, and husbands or wives. Alden was his name. I have never met his sister, but I can tell that she has the same precious upbringing that I watched her brother have in his early years. Whit and I have many stories about Alden. He was precious. I remember he could not yet say motorcycle, and instead would say bikel bikel. He would also say: “I am living in a van, down by the r i v e r.” Ah, what smiles and laughter we had with Alden and his parents.
Fast forward to 2012. Alden is now 14. I told you I felt old. I apologize Alden if I have shared too much about what I remember about your first few years. I could not help myself. I am telling you about Alden because he has grown into such a talented young man (yes, Alden, I know I hated when folks called me that when I was younger, but remember I am old now). Alden has produced, mixed, mastered and recorded an album of his sister, Lydia’s vocals. He has also added: Guitar, Bass, Glockenspiel, Xylophone, Ukulele, and Percussion to the album.