Friday, December 7, 2012

Really, It's Christmas time?

I have been unprepared for Christmas for almost fifty-five years - yes, I said 55! (to be fair lets say I get a pass for the first dozen or so years because I wasn't at what one would consider an age of accountability, but after that it's totally on me.)

Every single year Christmas comes at the same time - December 25th. The day of the week changes but the actual date ... it's always the same ... twelfth month, twenty-fifth day. Every. Single. Year.

And yet,

Every. Single. Year.

I am unprepared.

Each December 26th I make a vow that next year will be different. I pinkie-swear promise myself that the following year will be thoughtfully planned out and executed. Sometimes I even go as far to put it in writing and it goes something like this:

  1. Start a Christmas fund where money is saved from every paycheck so when the time comes the funds will be available
  2. Make a list of all the people who should be on my gift list and beside each one list a couple of suggestions for what they might want or need; keep eyes and ears open all year long, you never know when the perfect gift will be mentioned
  3. Handmade gifts - begin in July
  4. Pick dates for get togethers and coordinate with family and friends ... before Thanksgiving. Write it on the calendar in big red letters
  5. Make purchases early, spread them out over the year, keeping a list of what is bought and where it's hidden so come December everything can be located
  6. As soon as the tree goes up, begin wrapping presents. Wrapping a few at a time sure beats spending an entire night frantically trying to get it done. Or worse yet, just handing gifts over still in the bag - now that's really pathetic! 
  7. The same goes for decking the halls, a little bit here and there is much better than a  marathon decorating session that leaves you tired and worn out. Start early but not too early ... before Turkey day is a little much
  8. Save a little money for last minute stocking stuffers and don't forget to put a little bit aside for shopping the day after Christmas - the best time for replenishing my gift wrap supply and purchasing new decorations, not to mention the after-Christmas specials, oh my! 
  9. Simplify whenever possible and remember - celebrating Christmas is not a competition, nor should it be a chore - do what feels right and forget the rest
  10. Sit back and enjoy
Now, doesn't this sound like a good, well thought out plan? I believe it is. It's too bad that I can't seem to follow through with my own plan. Sadly I don't even come close. Instead it's the same thing every year. Everything is a big fat NO! No money. No time. No ideas. No early preparations. No plans. Instead of sitting back and enjoying life I'm rushing around, running in circles. Sometimes I find myself wandering aimlessly in a store and other times I'm standing with my head stuck in the sand just hoping it will all go away. I find myself filled with dread and despair instead of anticipation and joy. There is no peace just inner turmoil and self-inflicted pain. 

Bah - humbug! 

Why do I torture myself this way? Why do allow the same thing to continue happening (or not happening) year after year? I have a good plan. I know how to fix it all. But, I don't. Instead I procrastinate, ignore, and in the end end up settling for whatever falls into place. 

You'd think, after almost fifty-five years of procrastinating, ignoring, and settling I would change. You'd think, right? I'll get back to you this time next year and let you know how it all worked out this time around. Meanwhile, I'm off to wrap the ONE present I've gotten so far for this Christmas. 

Bah - humbug!

---- I do have all the decorations up, score one for me, yay! -----
Christmas Village usually stays out until after the first snow. I'm not
so sure I want snow this year so it might go away early!
Dining Room centerpiece, Angel works better here than on the tree where she belongs!
Boys need bigger stockings and something that mom's made.
They'll get a new one once they bring home a bride!
Mother made the Santa in ceramics eons ago
Mother also made the Nativity set. It's got lots of dings and
poor Mary was broken in half, but it still tells the story. 
Louise gave the boys this Advent Calendar .
Eddie puts up the pieces now. 
Tree of gold (where's the frankincense and myrrh?)
In the dining room. 

Miniature trees in the foyer brings the total number of trees to 
seven. Once upon a time there were three more (3 1/2 footers) 
one each in the kitchen, the boys room, and the end of the 
hallway, AND another miniature in the hall bathroom. 
That's way too many now!
Big tree back in front of the window this year
There are actually three tubs of Christmas decorations that didn't make it out of the garage. I'm simplifying!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

An Anniversary to Commemorate

If my dad were still alive today would be my parents 66th wedding anniversary. He died in September of 1974 just a few months shy of 28 years of marriage. If you do the math you'll know Mother has been a widow a lot longer (38 years to be precise) than she was a wife, a fact which makes me really sad. I think about all the years and things they missed out on as a couple because of stupid, stupid heart disease. At the time, he needed a quadruple by-pass, something that today, while still serious, is so much more treatable.

In their twenty eight years of marriage my parents experienced a lot but I'd like to think the highlight was the birth of three children, the first in 1947, the second in 1950, and last (and best!) in 1957. After the births came a lifetime of birthdays and Christmases, first days of school, lost teeth, learning to ride bicycles, swimming lessons, Little League, ballet, and family vacations. As parents together, they witnessed:

... their oldest child graduate from high school, get married, be drafted into the army, and produce two grandchildren.

... their oldest daughter graduate from high school, join the work force, experience a marriage misstep and then get a second chance, this time with the right guy.

... their youngest daughter work her way through the elementary years and enter into her teens.

And then suddenly in the blink of an eye life changed. Their time together was cut short just before my high school graduation. My daddy was gone and my mother was left to carry on alone.

Mother saw me through the college years, the time as a career woman, and finally a marriage that some thought might never occur. She saw three more grandsons be born. She witnessed the marriage of two of her grandchildren and the birth of four great-grandchildren. She worked hard at a career started in her middle age years. She survived selling a home and buying a new one. She traveled abroad. She bought new cars. She retired. And finally, just this year, she knows the pride that comes from having a college graduate, though it came in the form of a grandchild instead of a child. I always told her if she wanted that college diploma so bad she should go back and get one herself. She chose to leave it up to the grandkids.

I am now older than my mother was when she became a widow and just celebrated my own 25th wedding anniversary. Today as I reflect upon how short their time was together I think about my own marriage and the life we've built together. I think about how easy it is to get wrapped up in everyday life and take for granted the gift God has bestowed on me - having a mate to love and cherish.

Mother has told me that if she had known that their time together would be cut short she would have done some things differently. But then, isn't that how we all often feel after reflecting on the different stages of our pasts? It doesn't matter if the stage has changed due to a death or a simple changing of a "season," life can be full of  "could haves, should haves, and would haves" if we allow it. We must remember we are imperfect people living imperfect lives and it's our choice as to how we live these lives and our choice on how we look back on them. We must decide whether to cling to the past or let go and claim "live and learn" as our motto.  We can be filled with regrets, dwelling on things we should have said or done, or we can choose to simply cherish the memories of time gone by.

Today I choose to celebrate the anniversary of my parents. I am thankful for the life they gave me and for laying down foundations of faith and family. I'm also thankful for the memories, many of which have faded with time, but will always live on in my heart. Happy Anniversary Mother and Daddy, I love you!

I wish I had a photo of my parents on their wedding day. Sadly there are none due to one of those darn unlucky life happenings. Even worse, right now I can't even come up with one photo of my parents together. I think the next time I'm down visiting with my mother I better pull out her box of pictures and start scanning!