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Christmas is: For Boundaries

stressfreechristmas

Last year,  a decree went out that there would be only one gathering around a traditional Christmas table.  She who does all the planning, shopping and personalizing,  shall be making one Christmas meal whenever the hell she liked, and you could show up (on time) or not at all.  And it brought her great relief and joy.  A very durable boundary wall went up to protect her, and the world was good.

Last year, after seven, yes, count’em, seven rescheduling attempts at a  family get together, it finally happened, with the people whom I arranged a second dinner for, arriving over two hours late.

My jolly goodwill and ho-ho-home form the holidays ended. I leaned on my wee bottle of Jameson to get me through the evening, and then I did some reflecting.

I decided, after much hurt, anger and frustration, that the only thing to do was surrender. I surrendered to the values I hold dear.  This was met with love and support from people who love me.  Everyone else continues to have that glazed, “I don’t compute”, look on their face.

You can’t change people. Although it’s a saying we frequently use, really accepting that means you hold fast to your boundaries like a life raft, especially around toxic people.

I came from a kooky family but we did Christmas right. We put aside our differences, and showed up, on time, respecting the effort we had all made to have a special day together.   Homemade gifts showcased every person’s creativity, and the food, my goodness, the food!

Since those days when we gathered on Christmas Eve to see one another, make our way to church, and finish off our meal and gift giving in the wee hours of the morning, so much has changed. I’ve experienced great loss during the holidays more than once. I’ve struggled to put food on the table and gifts under the tree. I’ve had Christmases when the pain of loneliness was almost unbearable. In other words, I’ve worked damn hard for my happy, and I’m not letting anyone take it from me.

I want no part of disrespectful, entitled people under any circumstances, but especially during one of the most joyful, loving, happy times of the year.

I have stopped being the only one who engineers parties, family gatherings and sacred times to connect. Planning, shopping, cooking, and decorating take a lot of time. I love doing it when I know it means something to my family and friends, and I resent doing it when someone shits all over the plans. I stopped buying gifts I didn’t want to buy and came back to my homemade roots. I stopped hosting parties for people who may or may not show up. And you know what? The world didn’t come to an end. In fact, it feels damn good. Boozy-eggnog-in-my-cocoa-good.

My exhaustion levels have gone WAY down, and my Hallmark Christmas movie watching time has gone up. I have come back to the sweet meditation of making; sewing, baking, stitching. And the people I thought it was so important to connect with have faded into distant social media clicks. Live and learn.

Boundaries are the best gift you can give yourself for Christmas. They give you the time and space you need to heal, and root yourself in traditions, new and old, that bring you joy.

 

 

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Keep Your Fa-La-La-La-La Opinion to Yourself

Last night, after a looooooong day at work (where, by the way, I have learned the very precious currency of living and loving every day), I had to run some errands. After snagging my kitties their favourite food and a few discounted Hallowe’en toys ( they don’t care if the feathers are purple and orange), I stepped out into the  crisp November air into some of the first here-to-stay snowflakes of the year.

It felt like Christmas.

It was a Wednesday evening, and the little strip mall was relatively quiet. There was a calm, cozy feel in the air, and I felt a simple joy. I was drawn into a shop to stroll through the aisles laden with Christmas items. I had a short conversation with another woman who was experiencing the same simple pleasure. There in the aisle, we talked about how she likes to come out early to pick up a few new items to add to her Christmas village for her autistic son to enjoy. She says he is mesmerized by the detail of the tiny village, and the lights.  We shared a small part of our selves as we shared our stories. We brought a little bit of humanity to one another’s life in this busy world.

It was just five minutes of connection. But for me, that’s what the season is about. Moments of connection; Slowing down to reconnect and appreciate the people in our lives who bring us light.

Sounds lovely and perfect right? Which leads me to wonder about the mental health of people who rage against how others experience joy.  Actually, I don’t wonder so much any more as I just wish they’d fuck off.

Yes, it’s harsh, but it’s true. Misery loves company, and joy just doesn’t really give a crap. Joy is too busy shining and casting out shadows.

I’m a Christmas person. I have always chosen joy.

I have already loaded the PVR with scheduled recordings of Hallmark Christmas movies. Although I’m way behind on my shopping, I’m over half way finished. Today I will set up the spare room to be our ‘wrapping room’ for the family so that everyone has access to all of the paper, bows, gift tags, tissue, boxes and thoughtful little gifts that make the season happy for so many of our friends.

I have a menu planned for our Christmas Cottage FamJam. The itinerary for our ultimate Chistmas-in-New-York weekend is set, including hard to get reservations and a reminder to book our appointment at Santaland. It has been plugged in so at midnight on the day that reservations open, I will be up, sipping cocoa spiked with peppermint-vodka and clicking us into the magic of every kid’s fantasy.

I spent days and weeks in the summer prepping homemade gifts to bundle up for my friends, who at this age and stage have every ‘thing’ that they need, but I don’t get to spend enough time with. Gifts are now tokens of friendship, and a lovely introduction into the hours spent during the Christmas season catching up and rekindling our connection.

For those of you who have the opinion that people who use Christmas as a time to reconnect are hypocrites, you are most welcome to your opinion. And those of us who use the season as an excuse to spend time with loved ones, and celebrate the beauty of life, are entitled to our joy.  In the parlance of our times; haters gonna hate.

eggnogJoyful people do not need miserly permission to be joyful, so hold your smug bullshit. Better yet, strap on a nightcap, grab yourself some spiked eggnog, (I recommend Old Tom’s), and chill the hell out. Smug is the opposite of sexy, get over it already.

Those folks who meme the hell out of celebrating Christmas too early (before; Remembrance day, American Thanksgiving, or some other arbitrary chosen date) make me wonder if they need to up their dose. God forbid anyone be joyful and not offended by something. If marking another day is more important for you, gobble ’til you wobble, make your front porch a giant poppy-laden memorial, but for the love of God, get off your lazy meme-clicking ass and do something about it. Celebrate, decorate, bake…live out your preachy preference, and be happy. Happy oozes sexy. Happy can fix all that’s wrong in our little worlds.

Drink the spiked egg-nog, watch the Hallmark movie.

 

 

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Santa Baby: Slipping Something Under the Tree

surpriseIt’s that time of year. Shopping for your sweetie. Women have the edge on this one. Men seem to have less romantic notions of what should appear after the landing of the eight tiny reindeer.

Women on the other hand are dreamy eyed and romantic. We may not share it with you gentleman, but trust me, this is what we talk about during our wine and yoga pants nights…

I wish I may

I wish I might

Find a robin’s egg blue box

Under my tree tonight

It’s not that difficult really. We like shiny things, things that smell nice, and other stuff that falls under the category of ‘want’ not ‘need’.  Often neediness is confused with wantiness. Strong women are not needy – they can take care of their basic needs. Strong women are wanty, but wouldnt’ dare ask for anything.

So, if you guys want to know what we sit around dreaming you quantify your undying love with, flag this list. Trust me, I’ve saved the best for last…a.k.a., #6.

  1. First of all, we want romantic dates. Take us to the Christmas market. Take us to a Christmas show. Take us home and take it all off…

christmas-market

2. Every woman wants to smell delicious. You can’t go wrong wrapping up her favourite fragrance. Buy it in layers and wrap it in something soft.

perfume

3. Shiny things.  Just new? Try this…

heart-bracelet

 

A little more sure? Try this…

keys

Getting seriously serious??? See #1 and go window shopping during your romantic stroll so that you know what her dreams were made of as a little girl.

Was it this?pink-ringor this ?big-enough-to-skate-on

 

4. We love romantic cards and notes. Seriously gentlemen – get thee to a Hallmark store. Five bucks can make you the most romantic guy on the planet and she will love it.

hallmark

5. First Christmas together? First Christmas in your new home? First Christmas with a new little one? There’s an ornament for that…

first-christmas-ornament

6. As promised, I’ve saved the best for last. What all women want is to feel like your woman at Christmas time. We want to be hand in hand with our man. We want to go to sleep with you on Christmas eve and wake up with you on Christmas morning. We want to see you smile when you open the gifts that we give to you, and we want you to know that you are loved.

coffee-morning

 

 

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Do You?

Christmas lights backgroundLate at night, long after I should have gone to bed and should have finished my to-do list for the day, I often turn off all of the lights but those on the Christmas tree,  and spend quiet time on my own.

These moments are too infrequent, and wrought with what if’s. However, if I’m still, and if I let go of everything that I’m clinging to; my fears, my worries, my lists of wants and needs, I can still touch that place I thought I left behind when I was a little girl.

Growing up in a small town, I did not know the indulgence of city parades and rows of shop windows. We had a small grocery store, with the original French doors and hard-wood floors. Produce and meat were weighed, measured and priced on the shelves, and were all passed along a simple groove-worn counter top without a conveyor. String hung above the cash register to wrap and tie parcels, and your bags were still packed in brown-paper bags and carried to your car for you.

I grew up in a land where time had, for a few years at least, been stopped.

Each Christmas the grocer’s wife would decorate the store window with the same dollhouse filled with miniature furniture and smiling dolls. It was the picture of a perfect family. Mom rolled out dough on the kitchen table while the kids and dog looked on. Each detail was perfect and so very tiny.

As a little girl, I stood, mesmerized by the scene before me, and the creation of my own imagination.  How wonderfully perfect it must have been to live in that house of smiling dolls, with the warm fireplace and kind faces.

Beyond the store window, I knew there would be paper-wrapped stands holding clear plastic bags of French creams, snow balls, ribbon candy, and my very favourite; chicken bones, the hard cinnamon candy with a chocolate centre.  Beyond that, during the holiday season only, there were bins of loose nuts and those wonderful tangerines!

While my mother and grandmother would shop, I spent a lot of time looking at the doll house in the window, imagining and dreaming, and hoping.

Those precious years of endless, hopeful dreaming  slip away without us realizing. As a teen, I worked in that store every summer, and eventually, one-by-one, the businesses closed, including the grocery store and the tradition of the doll house.

When I hear about ‘believing in the magic of Christmas’, I don’t so much relate to the little boy born in a manger. That may horrify some of you, but it’s true.

The magic of Christmas for me has always been the effort we make to stop time for just a few hours; to slow down our ever-busier lives that slip by faster and faster as we age. The magic of Christmas is now, more than ever, the miracle of making time for one another and really taking time to share, listen and care.

I do still believe in that.

Each Christmas my hope is that whether at my home, or when I’m visiting with friends,  that the joy, hope and magic I believed was happening in that miniature doll-house that decorated our old-fashioned grocery store window, does still exist among us today. Even if it’s only at Christmas time when we pause, reflect, and give thanks to the people who make our hearts feel as happy as I imagined those little dolls to be.

I still believe in the magic of Christmas. Do you?

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2014 Christmas Lesson #1

fatmanDo you ever get sick of reading bargain pages that are written for the ‘middle class’? You know the ones that I mean, with $50 lipstick and $250 iPad covers?  Give. Me. A Break.

Seriously. I live in the city on a single income with a teenage whose grocery bill is twice what it was just a couple of years ago. That $50 lipstick? Yes darling, it may as well be $5,000,000. A $250 iPad cover? I can’t even afford the iPad.

Now that Christmas is just around the corner, I’m going to jump on the bandwagon with decadent recipes, carols, parade watching, and lovemaking in my flannel onsie by the fireplace. Don’t even begin to try to picture that. Trust me, it’s painful.

Anyway, this post is for everyone out there who lives in the present-day-world of just getting by. For years I always stretched my budget, and then broke it, hoping that my Christmas gifts were ‘enough’.

If there’s one freedom about getting older, it’s not giving a crap what anyone else thinks, following your heart, and feeling adequate regardless of your bank balance.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times;

the holidays are about spending time with the people we love.

Caveat: not necessarily those we have consanguineous relationships with.

First of all, don’t feel guilty or ashamed to say that you don’t want to exchange gifts.  Suggest a visit over a mug of coffee or tea at  home, or a movie night in together.

Now, having said that, I also believe that it is better to give than to receive, so I like to have a gift for special people in my life. That’s where my kitchen often comes in,  my sewing machine, or my nekked self. Ok, just kidding with the last one….

A Short List of Truly Thrifty but Heartfelt Holiday Cheer:

1) Bag some homemade caramel corn and tie it to a $5 movie from the oldie-but-goodie bin at your local shop

2) A dozen of their favourite homemade Christmas cookies

3)  A take-home meal for that pal who just can’t navigate the kitchen. Make them a pot of stew, chili, or your famous homemade pasta sauce. Put it in  kitchy mason jars with a simple Christmas ribbon tied to it.

4) A book from the thriftstore  with a mug and packet of hot cocoa with it.

5) A story. That’s right, a story about your friend and how you met, and how you knew you’d be pals.  Now, that’s the spirit of the season.

6) Pinterest. ” Christmas Treats”, “Christmas Crafts”, “Christmas Cookies”…you get the picture. It’s a great website with a lot of ideas that don’t break the already cracked-bank.

 

 

 

 

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Christmas Countdown

 "I don't care. We'll decorate it and it'll be just right for our play. Besides, I think it needs me. " ~Charlie Brown~
“I don’t care. We’ll decorate it and it’ll be just right for our play. Besides, I think it needs me. “
~Charlie Brown~

Whether you like it or not, it’s that time of year.

I’ve seen countless pithy social media posts whining about holding off on Christmas celebrations until after Remembrance Day.

Pish Posh!

Celebrating anything after Halloween and before Remembrance Day does not minimize the solemn honouring of the men and women who have fought to keep our country free. Rest assured, that on November 11th, I will be not only wearing my poppy, but attending a memorial service.

Note to the cynics out there who are rolling their scrooge-like eyes; I finish my shopping before the end of November. My idea of Christmas is not fighting over parking spots and being elbowed like a pinball through the mall.

As I begin to squirrel away special gifts for my near and dear, and drizzle more rum on the fruitcake, I am giddy with the thought that I might be fortunate enough to celebrate all  of the following between now and the new year;

1) Coffee chats with friends over eggnog lattes, caramel brulee lattes, or even a glass or two of wine.

2) Leisurely shopping to finish up the last few gifts that I need to buy.

3) Writing Christmas cards and receiving Christmas cards.

4) Mistletoes kisses

5) Hearthside humping love-making

6) A toasty shot or two of bourbon or scotch with my writer pals

7) Escaping into the world of Christmas romance novels

8) Baking every kind of cookie you can imagine

9) Outdoor, night-time skating

10) A night-time parade

11) Civic tree-lighting, carol singing and outdoor Christmas markets

12) Our annual visit to the craft show with my mumster

13) The first night admiring the lights on the Christmas tree

14) Donating to my local food bank and  the Salvation Army

15) Christmas afternoon and dinner with my friends

16) Communion on Christmas eve and singing Silent Night by candlelight in the sanctuary

17) Watching my favourite Christmas movies; White Christmas, Christmas Vacation, The Sound of Music, It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story

18) Hosting dinners and gatherings

19) Listening to Christmas music

20) Always having ‘room for one more’ when it comes to sharing the spirit of the season.

21) Raspberry Schweppes gingerale

22) Hot apple cider

23) The smell of cloves and pine

24) Invitations to parties and dinners

25) Listening to the Christmas story read in our candlelit church

26) Watching the Charlie Brown Christmas special

 

……what are you looking forward to this Christmas?