simply making room

131124 QF

After the rain and the drip, drip, drip the hubs requested I forklift him onto the roof.  With the mastic and trowel he plugged holes, clearing leaf debris from the gutters.  Inside I awaited the cell phone call for his return trip down.  We are expecting more rain on Thanksgiving and so we prepare.

131124 towmotor

We are moving steel parts today, the deliveries coming and going.  Our children laze around on couches as they enjoy a week’s break for Thanksgiving.  We have 3-1/2 weeks to get all outstanding orders out-the-door.

Half the battle, during the holiday season, is mental.  The overwhelming feelings of all the details to do: shopping lists, cleaning lists, Santa lists…it is never ending.  Christmas cards, letters, invite lists, parties, parades & performances…my calendar is already full.   How will I create white space in the X’d calendar boxes?  The howling winds of the holiday blizzard are already upon us.

How can I simplify our holidays?IMG_8312

As the hubs plugs the roof leaks with mastic I must also plug holes, the pitfalls, during the holiday season.  I try to clear the debris in our messy life by mentally preparing.  The beauty of constantly photo journaling and blogging is that I can look back and see what we have done.   Last year I filed for memory that the gingerbread house, a tradition I have done with my boys since 2005, was quite stressful.  The eldest placed the icing directly into his mouth, the middle child refused to help and the youngest ate most of the candy and dropped the excess to our dog.  We had honored a family member who, unexpectedly, died of alcoholism at age 38; leaving behind a 10 y/o and 7 y/o.  The Home Depot gingerbread house was for her.  Home Depot, apparently, takes care of their employees and paid a portion of her funeral costs.  We will nix this tradition this year.  If the boys make a fuss it will make a triumphant return in 2014.

My Christmas cards are already in envelopes, photo cards from my beloved Shutterfly ordered while ON-SALE.  Each year I pare down my list…decreasing it from the 100+ to a more reasonable amount.  Last weekend I sat with my spreadsheet, something I have not done in a few years, and calculated the cost of printing cards, labels and stamps. $93.82 does not include the specialty paper or the ink I use to write Christmas poems…a tradition I have done since 1997.  Surprisingly, this is much cheaper than what I used to do; handcrafting cards with stamps, sequins, bows and various specialty paper.  I am  foregoing the poem this year.   I cringe when I open the Christmas cards with the lengthy, single spaced letter sharing about all the trips, awards and promotions.  I avoid Facebook for all of these reasons.  Humility.  The holidays aren’t supposed to be about bragging.  It’s about giving thanks and celebrating a humble baby’s birth.  If people get upset, I’ll refer them to the blog so they can hear me rant and rave at their own leisure versus forced reading and the wasteful use of trees.  (grin)

Over the years we have accumulated various decorations.  I dreamily gaze at color-coordinated trees with white twinkly lights and sparkly, over-sized ornaments in decorating magazines and Pinterest.  I am led to believe that if, I too, create this wonderful masterpiece of beauty that my children will gratefully sit in awe by the tree, graciously fuss and profusely thank friends and family for gifts received and smile happily with goodwill.   The reality is that the shiny hand-picked wrapping paper (truly people go to great lengths to choose gift paper since presentation is everything) means nothing when the gift inside is not what they want.   The expectations are way too high.  I search for a way to prepare my boys to be disappointed; that Christmas is not about the material gift.  It is easy to say this cliche but it is quite another  to make them understand and practice this.  What self-respecting parent doesn’t want to grant their child what they want, within reason?    I search for how to teach them the true, reason for the season.

Thoughts whirl around in my head.  I contemplate sharing with my older sons my spreadsheet; the costs and expenses of the holidays.   Yesterday at a party, I asked the parents present when they learned how to budget money.  Some adults still do not know how to do this and the ads and consumerism become a teachable moment.  I would like to ask my sons what reasonable amount of money they should spend on one another.  Should they pool their resources for one large gift?  When asked, by family, what they want for Christmas the deer-in-the-headlights expression crosses their faces.  Only the youngest has articulated his desires and he added a caveat that was reasonable.   Each year as I observe my sons on Christmas morning it isn’t always the big ticket item that generates a response.  What has more weight and meaning is the thoughtfulness in selecting the gift and the element of surprise.  It is unexpected.

Because sometimes getting what you want isn’t really what you need.  It’s the sheer joy from the anticipation of the unexpected.  Who knew the bike, one year, would be set aside for the blanket that still is carried throughout my home by my eldest son seven years later?  There is no joy in telling someone what you want unless you absolutely have to have it.  And if that’s the case, buy it yourself when it goes on sale.  You can be giddy that you got it discounted!  Sometimes the hunt is more fun than the purchase.  What do I really need this Christmas?

IMG_8644It used to be fun to search for the perfect gift on sale.  But over the years we have simplified this with extended family.  On the hubs’ side we draw names, amongst the adults, and since my boys are the only children under aged 21 I let family members know that they have everything they need.  It is usually their own choice to buy the boys something.  On my side of the family our gift exchange is a white elephant…the “Miracle Eyes Jesus” and “Vomiting Mary” being a memorable moment last year.  That was the best!  My dear cousin and significant other had no idea the white elephant wasn’t, really, a white elephant and brought these items last year to hysterical laughter.   I can’t even recall what it was that I brought home!  I share the same sentiments with my side of the family; that my boys have everything they need.  Once again, my sons are the only kids under aged 21.

These exchanges slim down the cost and simplify things immensely.  The only things allowed, on both sides of our family, are homemade, consumable gifts, created for each family.  This usually entails cookies, jams, rubs, fruit, wine.  The only stress felt is to decide what food item to prepare and for those who do not bake or cook; to purchase.  We went from purchasing over 35+ gifts to two.  J-O-Y.  Simple things.

The battle I always lose is creating time on my calendar to just gaze at the lights; sitting by the tree with a hot cocoa in hand.  The quiet moments to watch the flickering candles of our Advent wreath.  Since there are no more crafts and the accumulated decor is simplified our time is spent shuttling kids, here, there and everywhere.  Party this, performance that.   Instead of fighting my schedule I must learn to be grateful for it.  Ten years from now my youngest will leave the nest and I will, no longer, be running around like a crazed parent, photographing and videotaping.  It flashes by in a blink of an eye and I am always grateful for the reminder from those who have been there and done that.  I must firmly plant my feet in the present and accept the things I cannot change; gracefully.  I will work at not adding things to my calendar unless it is something we really want to do;  like spending time with friends and family over food and drink.  There will be no Nutcracker performances, football tailgates or involved home projects. As Ann Voskamp advocates…I will slow down the P A C E, insert space  (between the P and A with an E) and create P E A C E.


Acknowledging the above allows me to spend the energy and time on my gift; of being hospitable.  To merrily open up my home to celebrate all things miraculous, continued health and the wealth of the people who touch our lives.   I am thankful.  Simplicity is all I need.



‘Tis the season.  Time to spread holiday cheer!!!


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