Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Holidays: 5. Afterthoughts

Now that our biggest holiday season is over and gone, the associated decorations, cards, and wrappings tucked away for another year, in our part of the world cloudy, wet, winter continues and many feel inertia and hibernation tendencies settling in...

January Afterthoughts

The turkey made the soup pot,
We froze what wasn't downed.
Why, looky here, a brand new year,
And this morning, frozen ground.

The days are inching forward,
Each holds a tad more light.
If you're like me, can't wait to see
When 4 PM doesn't seem like night.

I try to live in the present,
And make the most of today,
But I cannot lie, the 4th of July
Is only 6 months away!

My mind definitely wanders forward towards longer days, warming temperatures, and spending more time outdoors, but I try to focus first on some holiday afterthoughts in the hopes of gleaning meaningful tidbits to keep in mind for the future:

Connections: We are pleased with the connections that we've managed to maintain with our far-flung family members. Each year, we consider what works - and what doesn't - to help us remain "close". We see them infrequently, so we treasure time spent with our grandkids. Because they do not have a computer (Not everyone does, you know...) we allow for a bit of time on ours. But we've made clear that our time spent together is just that - spent TOGETHER - and always plan some activities to do with them. They help to trim our tree and bake cookies. This year, our grandson remarked that he'd like to make some of the home-made ornaments that we have and so that is on the list of things to do next year. We always take pictures when they are here and several years ago I gave them each a small photo album. After each gathering, I send them each a thank-you or other appropriate card, along with some of the photos for them to add to their albums. Our hope is that they can always look back on all the good times we've shared.

Tree: I've been noting what some others do when having a full-sized, live Christmas tree no longer works for them. My elderly in-laws used to spend the winter "down south" and carried a small, ceramic tree with them. It was painted with decorations and wired with tiny lights, so filled that niche for them. We had a friend who lived alone with a less-than-well-trained (!) dog and wanted her tree out of reach. At her direction, my husband managed to attach her artificial tree up on her wall, bending all of the branches forward. The dog was probably frustrated, but our friend was well-pleased. Another friend has developed allergies, so this year bought a living tree, set it on their front porch outside a large window, and trimmed it with colored lights. A Christmas tree - like everything else - is what you make it.

Gifts: I finally did complete the rag quilt/bedspread for our granddaughter well after Christmas, along with a matching decorative pillow.

Besides the other gifts we gave her on Christmas Day, we included a very small, beautifully wrapped box with the following poem attached:
Love Gift
We took an ordinary box
As empty as can be.
We filled it with a special gift
And wrapped it carefully.
But please don't ever open it.
Just leave the ribbon tied,
And hold it tightly near your heart
Because our love's inside!
I cannot take credit for this poem as I found it in a newspaper years ago, with no author name attached. One year our son received this, and we repeat the gesture at various times with various special people. It's always well-received, so feel free to use this idea with those near and dear to you.
I was still on a sewing roll, so also added a decorative pillow for our grandson to match his rag quilt. Whew - glad to be done with those!!

We try to give gifts tailored to the recipient. This is not always easy and sometimes gift cards are the best bet. We have great fun wrapping these! Fast food is a rare treat for the grandkids, so we always include a McDonald's gift card for each of them. To our recently-widowed brother-in-law - a basket of fruit and chocolate delivered the week before Christmas, along with a heartfelt note. It was last year, just before Christmas, that he lost his dear wife of 60 years. To a niece who recently moved and down-sized due to the current financial climate - a small collection of food items for creating a special breakfast for herself and a friend. Phone calls have always helped to sustain these connections, and so they do today because even with e-mail, social media, etc. nothing beats the sound of a familiar, caring voice.

One more thought to consider - the almost always perfect gift that costs nothing but a bit of your time, takes nothing but a bit of your heart. How about a heartfelt note? Not a text message, e-mail or voice-mail, but the genuine thing, hand-written by you? Too often we seem to equate good gifts with big dollar signs, when most parents and grandparents really want no material things from their kids or grandkids. What they would deeply appreciate and cherish is a simple note of appreciation and thanks.

THE day: I have come to believe that the celebration is, in most cases anyway, more important than a precise date. I shared before how the threat of snow might have changed our plans for Christmas Day, but we lucked out. One of my dear friends has three grown kids, with spouses and families, who live in our area. It has proven impossible for them to share Christmas all together at one time, although they all want to do that. Their solution? Gather together on a 3 day weekend at a large rented home at a nearby State Park sometime in January. They each have their own celebration on "THE day" and then gather as an extended family later. Another older friend, who happens to be a nurse and a widow, willingly spends Christmas Day working at a local nursing home, feeding those in the dementia unit. She says she loves spending this day that way. The following day she flies to another state to spend several weeks with her daughter and family - and yes, they celebrate again after she arrives! Someone else spent this year with her mother at the assisted-living facility she recently moved into. She found this experience very low-key, relaxing and meaningful. To all of this I say - whatever works!

Odd and Ends: We have been slowly downsizing, so as I put things away I set aside things not used or no longer wanted to be donated to thrift stores or given away to family or friends who might want them. Things that need fixing or mended are thrown, fixed, or put together in a box and clearly marked to be dealt with next year before the holiday. There is a catalogue company that I like which offers great bargains after holidays, so I've ordered a supply of baked goods boxes, gift card enclosures, and small stocking-stuffers to be added to the box I have for those "early" things needed for next year. While I was at it, I ordered a bunch of Get Well cards - my Current supply has been depleted by the many illnesses, surgeries, and other situations many of the folks we know have been going through this winter. At one time or another, we all have to deal with some of these things, so every ray of sun we can offer is a real boost. Life goes on...

Waste NOT: We are improving at this, and this year more of our gifts were packaged in re-purposed bags, boxes, papers and ribbons than ever. I can't say that we never use new wrapping materials, but it's becoming less and less. I can say, however, that the only things thrown were the un-recyclable plastics (drat those!!) - all other waste was recycled or repurposed. Baby steps forward, but better than none at all...

With the holidays behind us - and assessed - a shiny new year stretches before us. I savor this quiet time, taking my cue from those which hibernate; it is a time to rest up, reflect, regroup, and plan how to best reach out to the future. Because I can, I sometimes sleep in; I spend time reading and enjoying coffee with friends; I continue with a multitude of volunteer activities, carefully choosing the what, where, and when of those. I exercise my body and mind; I enjoy dinner nights out and movie nights in with my husband. We are looking ahead to spring and summer, planning and marking our calendar for those special times and events we want to take part in...

... I cannot lie, the 4th of July
Is only 6 months away!

For more ideas on
making holidays meaningful
click below:

Holidays: 1. Prepare Yourself
Holidays: 2. Figure It Out
Holidays: 3. Forge Ahead
Holidays: 4. Celebrate!


  1. i'm kind of glad the 'holidays' are over...and we're into a new year. for the past few years, the holidays have been very small...and quiet...and a little down...as i have no family left. i think too much...and should be happy for my memories...but you know, it gets tough.
    anyway...i LOVE your quilt...and the recycling...repackaging...of gifts. giving something hand made...something from the heart, rather than from the store...means so much more.
    and yes, a REAL snail-mail card or note is so nice!! i like all your meaningful holiday ideas, ladybug!!

  2. Laura - I well know how difficult the holidays can be, which is exactly why I wrote this series of posts. Between today's hectic pace of life, the media's constant bantering, and our rampant consumerism which seems to ramp up each year, expectations can well exceed our own realities. It's so easy to think that everyone else is having a wonderful time, but maybe they're feeling down, also. That is why I believe we should do whatever makes the holidays work for us - including ignoring them if one wants. That, of course, is hard to do, but you get my drift. Small & quiet is perfectly fine and maybe you'll be able to come up with some ideas that make that time of year a bit easier for yourself.

    Take care, dear friend, and as usual - THANKS for stopping by.