The One Question to Ask Yourself During the Holidays

Nine drummers drumming, a drum roll please. The big question, the ONE you need to ask yourself this holiday is…Why?

It really is the magic question, especially this time of year. Your answer can bring clarity, reduce stress and guilt, and make your entire holiday season more meaningful. For every task you “need” to do to prepare for the holidays ask yourself why.

Why am I sending Christmas cards? I asked myself this one as I was picking up fifty custom picture cards from Costco. My answer was to touch base with friends and family–most of whom are now on Facebook. So, they’ve seen pics of my family all year and they pretty much know what we are up to. Hmmmm. If I cut the list down to the ten or so people who are not on Facebook I would probably have time to make them some sort of homemade card with a sweet note and pictures. Sounds so much more fulfilling and a much better use of my time.

Why am I putting up a Christmas tree? I asked myself this a few years ago. Our family travels every Christmas to visit family. So I used to put the tree and unravel the lights and put the ornaments on,struggle to keep the dog’s tail from knocking the ornaments off then we would…leave. It seemed even sillier when we would return from our trip after new years eve and I would need to take it all down in addition to all the other post-trip tasks. I had some guilt when I packed it off to Goodwill, but I reminded myself that someone else would get so much more enjoyment out of it than we were. Now I go for a little garland and a few lights (’cause the lights are the best!) and it looks just as festive to me.

Which has brought me to the big why. Why are we doing this at all? Our family isn’t religious so celebrating Christmas is as odd as if we just picked some other religion’s customs and decided to randomly adopt them. I wouldn’t get a menorah just because I like candles. I feel like that would diminish the importance of the symbolism for the Jewish religion. Last year, after asking myself this question, I started to focus more on the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. After looking at some of the customs I felt like they made sense to me. To celebrate I thinly sliced an orange and dried it in the oven. It made the house smell wonderful and when I hung the dried slices in the window they were a bright reminder of the longer, sunny days to come. I’ve actually always liked the shortest day. I’m not a winter person and I love the idea that on that day we turn a corner and little by little start moving back to more sunlight and warmer days. The new custom felt so much more personal and significant.

What customs do you follow that you’ve never questioned? Are they still valid? Do they add to your family time or detract? Do they help you connect with friends and family? Are they significant in your life? Comment below and let me know if asking why changes anything for you.

P.S. I’m still going for less (see last week’s post). I’ve been tackling my closet and the junk drawer. The growing donation pile reminded me that this is also a great time to get last minute tax deductions for donations. They can make a huge difference come tax time and someone can enjoy the things you no longer need–win/win!

Small joys and little adventures

When it’s summer and your work from home and set your own schedule, TGIF really shouldn’t apply, but somehow it does.  The bubble of flex time my sons and I live in during July still touches on the 9-5, M-F world.  I like to wrap things up on Friday, get ready for more time with my husband and less time with my computer.  Hopefully this will be the first of many Friday posts of small joys and little adventures from the week past.

I splurged on a Vogue runway report magazine.  The magazine is pricey as hell (like the clothes inside) but its my inexpensive way of getting a front row seat at fashion week all over the world. 

Watching the sun rise on my peaceful road trip bears repeating.

As if the road trip wasn’t enough, I came home to find these beauties.  My husband missed me when I was gone. 

I ended up cutting them shorter to make typing easier, but for a week I had 10 perfect nails (yes, those are my own).  My short fingers were feeling so elegant this past week. (photo credit: my youngest, who we will call Wee Monkey)

And I can’t close out my week without noting the biggest adventure of all, this blog.  I tell my sons often that sometimes you have to do something that just scares the pee out of you to keep moving forward.  This adventure has proven less scary and more tech frustrating, but I am doing that, moving forward. . . on to next week.  Thank you for joining me in this one. 

Last Road trip of Summer

There is something soft and quiet and peaceful about the day just before dawn.  The air is cool and heavy with humidity.  It muffles the sound of car doors and traffic.  My voice is whispery because I’m not quite awake.  The sunrise colors are soft pink, lavender and peach, muted by the heavy, wet air.  

I want to take note of all these things, I record them for you, but also for me because midlife has definitely sharpened my sense of time.  I want to capture this perfect morning for a roadtrip because I’m driving to pick my kids up from summer camp.  And being half way through your life makes you accutely aware that there are only so many summers left for family roadtrips and summer camps and a house full of noisy neighborhood kids.  Chances are I have decades of quiet mornings ahead of me, but that’s just it, they will all be quiet.  This peace and quiet is special because it is the calm before the storm.  In three hours the car will be full or camp gear and wet, smelly sneakers and two boys talking over each other to tell me about all the adventures they had during their week away from home.  

Quiet time alone is precious to me now, but only because it is rare.  I know I have maybe four or five summers left of alone time being golden, then it will be come the norm.  Then I’ll wax poetic and get excited about each time one of my son’s comes to visit on a college break.  So instead of grousing about having to get up so early I’m celebrating it.  I packed grapes and french bread and iced coffee for breakfast.  

I loaded my iphone with music and podcasts and driving directions.  And I stopped along the way to take a few pictures, note my thoughts, capture the moment of being a mom on the last road trip of summer 2013.