Just a few days before Christmas…and I think if one more person asks me “are you all ready for Christmas?” I just may have to clock them upside the head. Of course, it’s a pretty reasonable question at this point, but since I’ve been getting asked that by various people since about a minute and a half after Thanksgiving, I’m a little over it. Continue reading “FraGEElay All Over the Place”
Thanksgiving used to be a “purer” holiday. No Black Friday. No Cyber Monday. Just family, friends, food, and football—along with being thankful for our many blessings. Commercialism hadn’t dug its talons into Thanksgiving yet—not like it had done to Christmas years ago.
Christmas has so much hoopla and hubbub surrounding it that it is easy to lose sight of why it came to be a holiday in the first place. It seems each year the pressure to have the “best” Christmas pushes earlier and harder.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the swirl of it all.
Over the last few years, though, I have made a conscious effort to push back. While some of the choices are a result of tighter finances, some are from my desire to simplify and stop the madness. I am fighting the vortex that wants to pull me in and cloud my vision with the “stuff” of the season—rather than the Reason for the season.
A few Decembers ago, the month was jammed—I was either scrambling to get things ready or scrambling to be at whatever it was that I was scrambling to get ready for. I could have easily won the “dog chasing her own tail” contest.
And then a little question popped into my head: why?
Yes, there were the things I was committed to doing—like getting the house decorated and ready to entertain—but what else was I taking on? And why?
Asking why made me opt out of a thing or two. Though the yearly cookie exchange was a tradition, I stepped back and asked myself why was I adding on the additional tasks of choosing the right recipe, shopping, and baking dozens of cookies when time was already so precious. It wasn’t because I love to bake—because I don’t. And while the cookies I came home with were (mostly) delicious and the couple of hours with friends was nice, I realized that it wasn’t worth the additional stress in a month already crammed with stress. (Though February would be a great month for such a thing!)
I realized it was time to say “no thank you” to the cookie exchange. Exhale.
And then there was our Christmas letter. For years I had crafted the Roach Report, which was a whimsical little newsletter of updates and photos. People always said they loved receiving it because it was fun to read, but it also took time to put together. And, quite frankly, our life events of late were getting a little harder to share in an amusing way: “Another job loss!” or “My mom nearly died!” are not exactly smile-inducing headlines. In my heart, I realized that—at least for now—the Roach Report was on hiatus. No writing, designing, printing, stuffing, stamping, or mailing. Exhale.
Some simplifiers come from necessary belt tightening due to job loss(es. Yes, plural. I told you the Christmas letter would be a downer!) Less money means fewer gifts, and fewer gifts means less to shop for and wrap! Staff parties are no longer on the calendar when you no longer belong to a staff, either! Simplify, simplify! Exhale.
For years, family and friends have come to our house to celebrate on Christmas Day. It’s “my” family holiday. Except for last year. As my sister’s kids get older and have significant others to plan around, coming down to our house on Christmas Day has become difficult. So last year, for the first time…my sister had Christmas at her house. At first, it was hard for me to acquiesce to losing “my” holiday, but…you know what? I realized how nice it was just to BE for Christmas. With the absence of the planning/cooking/doing, there was a whole different perspective to the day. It was so relaxing! Exhale.
Now, mind you—I will be, at least in part, hosting again this year—but I don’t want to forget the lesson of what the reduced stress felt like. There is middle ground to be had—and I’m going to find it if it kills me! (Which would be kind of ironic, given what I’m striving for…)
I’ve come to truly understand over these last few years how paring down does not mean losing the spirit of Christmas at all. In fact, it actually increases the true spirit behind the holiday. As a Christian, for me Christmas is the celebration of the coming of Christ (or, as Ricky Bobby would say, “dear 8 pound, 6 ounce newborn infant Jesus”)—that is THE reason for the season. Not Santa or decorated trees or ugly sweaters—not even family. Calming some of the chaos of the season only helps me to feel that more deeply. My heart draws closer to the Love that came for me. And you.
I’m not here to preach to you how you should handle your holidays. Nope. But I am here to say that losing some of the insanity of the season works for me and maybe it will work for you, too. I am encouraging you to fight the vortex—don’t let the holiday “spirit” deplete your Spirit.
Maybe you are already feeling the tug and stress of all of the HaveTos facing you and thinking there is no way that you can realistically stop the madness. If that is where you find yourself, I hope that you are at least able to carve out moments to exhale and feel the Spirit. While stopping may be impossible, let’s at least make it a point to hit a few rest stops along the way!
All photos are my own.
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This is a beautiful but crazy season. More things to get done, more places to go, and more people to see. Highs and lows come swiftly, leaving you in a swirl. At least it’s been that way for me. Continue reading “Fra GEE lay Redux”
Son of a nutcracker, do I love the movie Elf. Watching it with my family last night for the umpteenth time, I realized why this has become my second favorite Christmas movie (after It’s a Wonderful Life, of course):
Buddy the Elf has a passion for life that I want. He is full throttle in a world that is used to idling, and it’s contagious.
[Side note: if you have yet to see this movie, you need to. Not only will it make you smile, but this post might make more sense!]
Buddy is excited and curious and wonderfully open in a very jaded, guarded world. Every day is an adventure that he just can’t wait to begin.
His over-the-top enthusiasm is on full display in the mailroom scene, where he is talking to the ex-con who is adding “syrup” to his coffee. Before long, he is having a tickle fight with the guy and Russian dancing on the tabletop. Even former inmates melt with the zest that Buddy brings to life. (Yes, I’m sure the coffee-spiking helped smooth the rough edges, too, but I doubt there would be table dancing in the absence of our exuberant elf).
Elf’s childlike qualities don’t mean he is one-dimensional, though. His life hasn’t been one big success after another. He has been an oddball since he was a child—and then he gets sprung from one world where he doesn’t quite fit right into another. And without getting too ridiculously analytical about a lighthearted Christmas movie, he also has to face the fact that the world and father he thought he knew aren’t really his—and leave to face rejection from his “real” dad. Not exactly a walk in the park—in fact, walks in the park with Buddy can result in getting mauled by an angry raccoon who is simply not interested in hugging it out.
He could have let the world beat him down and lose his joy, but Buddy’s spirit is indomitable. Whether he’s having a blast discovering a revolving door or trying to put the angel on top of the Christmas tree, Buddy is all in.
And couldn’t we all stand to be a bit more like that? I know I could. What’s wrong with singing loud for all to hear or putting “snuggle” on your ToDo list? Not one darn thing.
Buddy’s enthusiasm and openness offers hope in a cynical world of disbelief. And, thankfully, that goodness has a ripple effect on those around him. The good guys win this round. Santa’s sleigh gets the lift it needs, and everyone is a little better off for taking a few notes from a big green and yellow tights-wearing elf who likes to put maple syrup on his spaghetti.
Yes, I know it is not as simple as that. After all, it IS a movie. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t remind ourselves that there is beauty in the unaffected approach to life. That looking at the world with fresh eyes helps us to see things that we otherwise would have missed with our world-weary blinders on.
And what better time to remember this than the Christmas season, where there is so much magic to enjoy and embrace?
So go find an escalator to explore or a snowball fight to engage in or someone to hug…The clock is ticking, and there’s a wide world out there with plenty of cotton balls for you to eat.
Christmas isn’t coming to me easy this year. I’m working on it, though.
This helped me get a little closer.
Whether you are already in the Christmas spirit or you, too, need some nudging, I’m pretty darn sure you’ll find this 4:14 worth your time.
PS–for email subscribers, you will need to click on the post to enjoy this beautiful rendition of Little Drummer Boy by the a capella group Pentatonix.
Thanks to A Christmas Story, I can never see the word “fragile” without pronouncing it fraGEElay in my head. And on this Christmas Eve, things can indeed be fragile…huge ToDo lists…family gatherings…full schedules…exhausted parents trying to provide the “perfect” Christmas for their kids…It can get messy and broken pretty quickly. So as you would with fragile things, be gentle. Continue reading “Fra GEE lay”