It's that time again, gentle friends and readers. Unless you are living in a cave, it's hard not to get at least a taste, if not a deluge, of holiday madness when you step out of your home.
What are your thoughts, deep down? It's fine to think about your answers but I welcome any thoughts you wish to share, for catharsis or support to us all.
Quite honestly, the season starting around Thanksgiving and culminating in the New Year celebrations has not had the magic for me since Mom died in 2010. I had always been Mom's little girl and now I was the grown up, searching for a balance of tradition and self preservation.
Joyous announcements such as engagements, setting wedding dates and birth news are mingled at family dinner tables surrounded by separations, divorce and recent loss. For me, the holiday season is an ebb and flow, collectively the bittersweet.
Nevertheless, I have developed some survival strategies that help me keep the true holiday spirit alive all year.
Listen to your elders ...
I always got the same reaction. No matter what I gave Dad for a gift: "All I really need are your prayers."
No matter what I gave Mom: "You are entirely too generous. I appreciate the time we spend together all year."
For the record, I finally understand what they meant.
Now, thanks to Dad, I offer my thoughts and prayers freely all year round. For that person who has everything, one cannot have enough prayers and positive thoughts from someone who cares.
I frequently send Mass Cards that represent prayers from the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
My intimate core of family and friends have a year-long pass to the gift of my time. Parental example and life experiences have taught me the value of the here and now. Tomorrow is not promised.
I recognize an inherent fixer in myself. I listen carefully to see what is needed. Time after time, I am reminded of Mom's wisdom.
Family and friends most need to feel comfortable sharing with an empathic, trusting and loving ear.
Creative gifting does not have to break the bank
Shopping for kids and elders has taught me this concept. The monetary value of something pales in comparison to the thoughtfulness, individuality and heart that is placed in gift selection.
I give gifts that keep memories and legacies alive whenever possible for a myriad of reasons. Examples over the years include:
As time has passed, I have come to treasure pictures more and more. Whether framed, made into a simple photo album, tucked in a greeting card or sent on the Internet, the recipient will cherish pictures of their loved ones and pets.
Scrapbooks / Journals
Along with those special pictures, memories become even more interactive in a scrapbook, journal or treasure box. I have given blank journals as gifts though my life. The ones I now cherish are Mom's, as I can keep her words of wisdom alive forever.
Fill the scrapbook or treasure box with ticket stubs, postcards and other small items that tell you about the individual. In small books I made for each member of my family, I included some of Mom's favorite quotes and actual pieces of her writing. I even included Mom's Casino cards to remind everyone of her love of Atlantic City slot machines. I had just enough cards for each of the 13 books I made btw ... !
Most of us have at least one specialty for which we are locally famous. These are the staples of the season for me, as I love to see traditions and skills passed through the generations.
I am recruiting a youngster in the family to learn my knack for peanut brittle. My brother and I do our best to make Mom's southern fudge recipe and her mouth-watering butter ball cookies each year.
Don't underestimate the sentimentality of these gifts. My brittle was missed when I took off last year due to family illness.
I have always enjoyed the therapy and peace derived from an enjoyable hobby. Cross-stitch, beaded jewelry and scrapbooks / note cards are some examples of crafts I tend to give as gifts.
I appreciate receiving gifts that are handcrafted by family and friends as well. Mom made us heavy, warm and comforting blankets in beautiful crochet patterns. I have given handmade cross-stitch and jewelry gifts to others. This year a rubber band bracelet, which my trendy 10-year-old friend loomed, with glittery pink, orange and black tone was a sure favorite.
Books (by me)
I wrote Kylie's Blossoms to honor my Mom and her namesake, my great niece Kylie Samantha.
I have dedicated my published fiction and non-fiction writing to special people and causes in my life, including those suffering with mental illness and the issue of homelessness, especially with the military veteran population.
My writing led to a phenomenal collaboration with Angelia Phillips, and the rest of the Legacy Scribes and Contributors in the Mysterious & Miraculous Book series project. I am proud to offer my continued services to our all-volunteer team as editor and collector of future stories.
It brings me joy to share the gift of my writing, whether published or very personal. Consider the art and beauty of your own hand-written letters for the special people on your list. Tell them directly why they are special in your life and what makes them stand out in a crowd.
The more I give of myself, the better/happier/more peaceful I feel
I know I will always miss Mom. I am comforted in that I can keep her memory alive in ways that are very private to me.
Mom was spontaneous in the generosity of her time, talents and gifts. She was my first role model of a volunteer from the heart, with her church and school - related activities. She brought her love of learning and reading to our grade school by her work in the 'Great Books' program.
With Mom's example and my nursing experiences in the community, I am grounded with perspective.
I understand devastation on every level for the homeless. I can put real faces on this issue that is the complete antithesis a season now associated with excessive giving.
In this year's Christmas letter (spoiler alert) to my friends, I have written:
Instead of a Christmas card, I am sending you several of my simple homemade cards. Hoping you brighten someone's day when they least expect it with a handwritten note.
I am also going to send you a copy of Mysterious & Miraculous Book 2 via an Amazon gift card on / about December 15th. Let me know if I can send you a copy of MMB1 instead.
If you intended to send me a card or a small gift, I would be honored if you would instead purchase a gift copy. Even lovelier if you sent the book to a Retired Veteran as a thank you for their service to our country. Active Vets can get a free copy. Ask me and I will point you in the right direction.
Think about donating a coat / warm clothing you no longer wear to your local Church or homeless agency.
Blessed, peaceful and healthy 2014 to you.
"Examine your own motivations and behavior, and be honest about your part in all of this. To some degree, we have brought this situation upon ourselves by buying into it. It's worth making some changes so that we can enjoy ourselves even more - after all, the Christmas season was not supposed to be merely endured."
As we continue moving into the final holidays of 2013, I hope your days of holiday preparation are filled with the joy and fun that beautiful memories are made from.
Love and peace from my home to yours ...
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