Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Holiday Season by Diane Burton

It’s official. The holiday season is upon us. Every year, I promise to start my Christmas shopping earlier. Then I get involved in a project—like finishing the darn book—and my promise goes the way of the Dodo bird. I did dog-ear catalogs that came in the mail this year. Found perfect gifts for some family members. Have I ordered them yet? Of course not. <groan>

My mother-in-law shopped all year round. She wrapped the gift in a plastic grocery bag and taped the name of the recipient to the bag so she would remember who she bought it for. When she passed, we found many gifts under her bed or on the shelf in a closet. Some even had dates (several years past) written along with the names. Hubs and I doled out the gifts, saddened that MIL never got to see the enjoyment the recipients expressed.

The PTO at the grandkiddies’ school had two bookfairs this year. I went to both when Daughter was working so she could tell me which books the kids would like and which ones they had, along with suggestions for the little one out in AZ. So I am sort of ahead on the gift purchasing. Sort of being the operative phrase.

As we get older, Hubs and I are at a loss as to get the other. He used to be easy to buy for. Power tools and woodworking machines were always a good bet. But now he has more than he needs. Gift cards to a hardware store sufficed for a while. Now I tell him to buy what he wants. He’ll ask what I want. My usual response is “I don’t know.” Real helpful, huh? Sometimes I’ll see something I like, buy it, and tell him he can give it to me. LOL Hey, it works.

I have more fun watching the kiddies open gifts than opening my own. Their delight fills me with warmth. Tossing gifts of clothing over their shoulders accompanied by rolling eyes makes me think of my favorite movie, The Christmas Story” aka “You’ll shoot your eye out.”

Decorating the house is becoming more of a challenge. The decorations are kept in big tubs in the basement. Carrying those tubs upstairs is too much for Hubs now. So he’ll make several trips over many days carrying the decorations upstairs. Not good. Maybe this weekend we can “borrow” the kiddies to do the running. One thing is a must, no matter how limited the decorations. The ceramic nativity set my mother.

Cards and the Christmas letter. Ever since our first move away from family (1981) Hubs has written a letter chronicling our year. Then he gives it to me to “clean up.” His spelling is, shall we say “original” and he must have slept through grammar classes. Since content outweighs mistakes, I try to keep the flavor of his words. Some in our family tell us they really enjoy our news. Nowadays so many are on Facebook, they already know everything we’ve done. Well, almost everything. LOL Getting a family picture from family and friends is my favorite thing. I love the letters, too, but seeing the little kids I used to know growing into adults is always fascinating. We have a great family picture I’ll be including this year.

As the end of the year approaches, I start making lists of what I want to accomplish the next year. Career-wise, I’ve made the same goal for the past three years: publish two full-length novels plus a novella. For two years, I managed the novels. This year, only the novella. Don’t know why I slowed down. Life, I guess. Lack of focus, maybe? For 2017, I’ll repeat my goal. Maybe this time I’ll get it right. If I don’t, oh well. I have other things to stress over.

Stress. An ugly word. For me, stress came when I tried to do too much. I had to make cookies. I had to buy the perfect gift. I had to clean. I had to decorate. Everything had to be just so. Letting go of those “had to do’s” made me calm and helped me enjoy the season. Now I do what I can and forget the rest. Makes life easier. Why is it that wisdom comes as we grow older?

Each December, we Roses have a tradition. Strictly voluntary, no have-to’s. LOL Our gift to you, our readers, is a collection of serialized short stories. Each story begins with the same first sentence. This year it’s “This was the absolute last time she kissed anyone under the mistletoe.” I am so looking forward to read what each Rose has written. My story will run from December 26 to the 28th. It picks up where last year’s story ended and was a lot of fun to write.

Come back tomorrow for Margo Hoornstra’s “A Sing-ular Tradition.” I can’t wait.


Margo Hoornstra said...

Your lives so mirror ours, Diane. Shopping for the grandkids, figuring out with my Hubs what to buy each other. This year, at our kids' request, we got into their name draw. Works for me. Simplify! Symplify! My older grandsons put items in my cart on Amazon. Click, click, from me and they get what they want. We're the family with six birthdays to celebrate between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Our outside decorations are up. My Hubs just needs to find the heavy duty extension cord he packed away last year. Wish him luck! I think I'll bribe the grandsons over with food to put decorations up indoors. Hope our readers enjoy the Christmas Stories this year.

Diane Burton said...

I like the Amazon gift cart idea, Margo. Our daughter's birthday falls between Thanksgiving and Christmas, right around the time of her daughter's dance recital. With so much craziness for her (grading end of the semester papers and preparing grades, dance rehearsals, etc.), she likes celebrating after everything is over. I don't blame her.

I hope our readers enjoy our stories, too.

Brenda Whiteside said...

So much the same as we grow up. Since FDW retired, plus other pitfalls, we've had less to spend on Christmas. But I've found a lot of fun in finding those perfect unique inexpensive gifts for everyone. I put more thought into it. And I keep my eyes open starting at the end of summer. I'm all done this year, everything wrapped. Loved your post.

Rolynn Anderson said...

I'll bet no two holiday seasons have been alike in my life. I grew up as an Army brat, and in my adult life, I keep changing 'homes.' (our boat was one of those homes) As a family (my sibs live all over the U.S.) we've decided to spend our money on travel, gathering in the summers, so my DH and I (no kids) are usually alone for the holidays. And then we travel. Last year we spent the holidays in Europe; this year in Sedona and Scottsdale. I don't haul Christmas decorations with me, so I make do. On this trip, I bought a four-foot metal heron (for my CA yard). I strung white battery-operated lights up its legs to its beak, so it's our 'tree' and it's also a Christmas gift to us. There will be other 'finds' which will be Christmas gifts, including a redo of our yard when we return to CA. I know how to play it fast and loose with the holidays...and cherish time with family and friends whenever I can.

Looking forward to the holiday stories...something I CAN count on during the holidays :-)

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

I write checks at Christmas so everyone gets what they want. I hate the crowded mall madness and the wasted time hunting for the perfect book. The family usually hates what I pick. So cash works! Each year I decorate less. I'm always in the middle of writing...always. I have a collection of snowmen and snowballs I haven't set out for three years. Sad, isn't it? No travel for us this year until we're sure of the stability of Calvin's heart medicine. We'll be lowkey, but together. Loved your post because it was so relatable to our lives. And I, too, am eager to read the Roses of Prose stories.

Mackenzie Crowne said...

Great post, Diane. I can so relate. Happily, the older I've become, the quicker I am to eject stress from my life. Especially at Christmas. Christmas is supposed to be about family, right? We're lucky enough to spend at least a few days together as a family at our cabin in the mountains each year, and everything else is icing on the cake. With my boys grown, the G'kids are nt main focus. I only have two important gifts to find which I can handle, even as the procrastinator I am. Otherwise, it's gift cards all around, a two foot tree I let the G'kids decorate, and time together with family and friends.

Diane Burton said...

Brenda, that sounds perfect. My 2 sisters and BIL are the only sibs I buy for, besides my own grown kids and the g'kids. I love finding something inexpensive & special for my sisters.

Rolynn, I love the decorated heron! How cute!

Vonnie, checks/gift cards are perfect for my g'kids, besides the books. LOL We also give our grown kids a check for family membership at the zoo, children's museum, wherever--their choice. I just need to find a little something special for the 4 "big" kids. Sure hope Calvin's meds are what he needs.

Mac, the cabin get-together sounds great. What a terrific tradition.

Jannine Gallant said...

Speaking of "have-to," my Christmas Village collection beckons. It generally takes me two days to erect all 30 houses plus the little cars and figures, and get the lights strung and hidden by "snow." I honestly don't think anyone would miss them but me, but they were a huge tradition with my MIL, so I do it in her memory. At least that's my excuse since I love them even if they are a total pain in the butt time drain. As for shopping, we stopped buying for the siblings several years ago and have finally ditched buying for all 9 nieces and nephews. So, with only my girls, husband and mom to buy for, you'd think I would have started shopping by now... Uh, hasn't happened yet. LOL So excited for this year's stories! Let that tradition march on!

Susan Coryell said...

Lucky us! My hubs and I get to spend most Christmas days in Hawaii visiting our son and his wife and two grand girls. Nothing like a brisk swim at Ala Moana Beach and then dinner at a little out-of-the-way dive with succulent sushi. Smart boy--he could have married someone from--say North Dakota! Happy Holidays to all.

Andrea Downing said...

Yup, the decorating has gone out the window, and no tree most likely this year. In general, I've been lucky enough to be abroad in warmer climes--this year I'll be in Tucson and Sedona, not that AZ is much warmer than NY. But I will be looking forward to reading everyone's story, that's for sure. Merry Christmas !

Elizabeth Alsobrooks said...

However they have set up the response box I can actually comment on this blogger, Diane! Great post here, too! I am with you with letting go of the stress and just relaxing and doing what you can and want. Great advice.

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

Boy can I identify!

Last year I gave my daughter money and told her to buy/wrap and put from Maw Maw LOL!

May do the same this year.
Great post.

Good luck and God's blessings.

Alison Henderson said...

I still do all my decorating, but I think this is the last year for outside lights. OG just about did himself in, and he's still suffering. We have the same problem with gifts that you and many other long-marrieds have. Neither of us really needs or wants anything, and it's a lot of trouble trying to figure out something that will surprise and delight each other. We don't have grandchildren yet, so this year OG got into Toys for Tots in a big way and had a wonderful time shopping for toys. I predict trouble if we do ever have a grandchild. LOL

Alicia Dean said...

Letting go of the have-to's most definitely lessens the stress level. I love the story about your MIL's gifts. So cute. Bless her heart. I have been lazy the last few years and put up a tiny tabletop tree, but this year, I'll put a little more effort into it. Just haven't done it yet. Also haven't done any Christmas shopping. I am always last-minute at everything. :/ I do love buying actual gifts, though, although cash is much easier. I have several family birthdays all at the same time, so it's a challenge. I'm also looking forward to the Roses' Christmas stories!!

Unknown said...

Letting go of so many "have-tos" has been helpful for me too. This year I even cooked a big Thanksgiving dinner for the first time in years. It was fun because I knew I didn't "have to". Thanks for the wonderful holiday kick-off!

Diane Burton said...

Jannine, I totally understand your reasoning for putting up the cottages. My MIL started my nutcracker collection.

Susan, while we're buried under 8 feet of snow, I'll think of you in Hawaii...with envy.

Andrea, we'll be in Mesa in Feb. I'll wave. :)

Elizabeth, glad you could comment. Enjoy the holidays.

Good idea, Pam. No shipping woes, either.

Alison, Toys for Tots, a wonderful idea!

Alicia, that's why I'm still looking at catalogs. I want something special.

You're welcome, Debra. I made Thanksgiving dinner last year because I wanted to. It was very nice.

Diane Burton said...

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone. I am so looking forward to the stories. Can't wait to see you how guys incorporate that 1st sentence.

Anonymous said...

You've inspired me to let go of some of the "have tos" this year. Everyone may not get their favorite cookie. Bah humbug. Looking forward to this year's stories too.

Leah St. James said...

So sorry I'm late (Ha! What else is new?) I had to go to choir practice after work for our Christmas cantata and Christmas Eve services. :-) And believe me...I need the rehearsal time. We're about in the same boat, Diane, except we have a kitten as a "grand" instead of "real" grandbabies. I hope some day we'll get to that stage. This year our treasured family ornaments are staying in the attic. I have visions (nightmares?) of the kitten and the tree! My son has been tasked with getting some cheap, unbreakable ornaments. I'll miss seeing those family "heirlooms" (you know, the cartoon character ornaments my sons baked and painted) on the tree, but I'll feel better knowing they're safe from kitty mischief!