Monday, December 29, 2014

Slow News Day

This morning when I woke up, the clock read 7:54.  I haven’t slept that late in a while.

Funny how that happens.  Not too long ago, it seems, there were weeks – months? years? –  that I didn’t see a time earlier than 7:54 on the clock upon awakening.  Those were luxurious days.

There’s no real reason for me to get up earlier than this most days.  The kids are old enough to get their days started even if the covers are pulled up over my head.  My husband doesn’t care if I’m up or not when he leaves for work.

I get up early anyway.  I have learned to love the morning.  Those minutes (hours) of quiet before anyone else is up are mine.  They have been assigned the feeling of luxuriousness that I remember from years ago, of lolling in bed until way past sunrise.  I love to be the first one to greet my family when they tumble out of bed and shuffle to the kitchen still half asleep, eyes squinting against the light above the kitchen table, the smell of coffee fresh in their noses. 

But still.  To sleep in - sigh.

The week before Christmas and New Year’s is typically a busy one for us.  Unlike most people, for us this week is not any less action-packed than the weeks leading up to the end of the year due to a couple of things: our close-but-not-that-close proximity from our respective families and the get togethers we plan to ensure that our long-held traditions of family-filled holidays stay intact.

We made a last minute decision not to go anywhere this week, so we are home.  Okay, I made a last minute decision not to go anywhere this week.

I just couldn’t do One. More. Thing.  Or go One. More. Place.  Or – gasp – visit One. More. Loved One.  I didn’t want to stop the mail and do laundry and pack and drive and sleep in someone else’s house and visit and drive and unpack and do laundry and clean the house and get ready for school and work and life.  I wanted the kids to be home so they could hang out with their friends and watch TV all day, spend a little Christmas money and return gifts that didn’t fit.  I wanted to do the same. 

So the clock read 7:54 when I woke up this morning.  I didn’t have anything special to do, or to be, or anyplace special to go.  My body knew that today was the first of seven days that had no plan, no agenda, no have-to or must-go or should-see on the List of Things.  It felt luxurious. 

Just as I remember.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

If I was in charge. REALLY in charge.

It’s no secret around here that Christmas stresses me out.

Immediately after Halloween, it starts.  Emails touting “HUGE SALE!” flood my inbox.  Coupons stream into the mail, store signs and billboards boast lowest prices of the year, the century, the universe.  It’s hard to ignore.  People crow that they’ve had all their shopping done since September because they’ve learned that when they wait until November to buy, they spend twice as much and they don’t even get anything they wanted.  I stare at them, wide-eyed.  My children wait until mid-December to talk about the things they want, want, want.  So does my husband.

Around November 2 family members and friends start discussing how we will spend the holidays together.  Party invitations go out.   The dates must be nailed down, NOW.  All the activities the kids are into this year have big, big, BIG EVENTS on those exact dates.  Activities call for ramped-up practices for these Big Events.  Everything is twice as intense, twice as much, twice as everything.  I am running kids to school at 7 am and picking them up from practice at 9 pm.  They miss half of everything they are involved in because all of these things happen at the same time.

My views are unpopular here.  My husband doesn’t understand the angst with which I associate Christmas.  He doesn’t like that I seriously consider not doing everything.  He wants to do everything.    

People say “Just say No!  You don’t have to do everything!  Christmas is a time for Joy!  And Peace!  And Love!  Come to my cookie exchange and relax!  Bring six dozen cookies!”

The problem with saying no is that I’ve already said yes to all of it.  The activities are already in the works.  I can’t sign my kids up for stuff and then say “We take all of November and December off because I just can’t even.”  We have family and friends whom we love and want to spend time with.  We can’t just NOT celebrate Christmas the way that it’s expected to be celebrated.  It’s only me that feels burdened at Christmas.  The more cavalier part of me says “You can do whatever you want to do!  Don’t give into the pressure – do what makes you happy!”

I know this is ridiculous.  If I had it my way, everyone would be miserable.

What I want is for everything to just calm down.  Simplify.  Tone down down the Specialness of the season.  It’s already special; I buck against the circus of it.  I want to get together with family and friends and not miss the hundred other things that are scheduled for those dates.  I want to give thoughtfully and meaningfully without feeling as if someone might be missing something if they don’t have five (Ten?  Twenty?) amazing things to open on Christmas morning.

It’s a big suggestion, to simplify Christmas.  I know for a fact that it doesn’t go over well in our house.  I’ve tried.  It's impossible for one person to convince the others that another plan is better without concrete facts and figures.  Christmas is a sacred time, protected by custom and culture. People don't like new ideas at a time steeped in tradition.

So instead, I hunker down every year and manage it.  I sit and stare at our beautiful Christmas tree and for a moment feel at peace in the loveliness of the season.  But only for a moment.  Because I have to run someone to practice again.  And is that another package on the porch?


This post inspired by:

Mama Kat's Writing Workshop

Prompt #11: Describe how you would celebrate the holidays
if it was totally up to you and money was not a factor.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Being Sick at Christmas Is A Total Bummer. Eh, Whatever.

I have a cold.  I haven’t been sick since the dawn of the dinosaurs.  It seems.  I’M NOT REALLY THAT OLD BE QUIET

It’s been a slow burn, this sick.  It started the week of Thanksgiving with an innocent dry cough that would come and go with no warning, belligerent in its effect on a quiet moment but quickly forgotten.

Then, as soon as I remembered that it went away, it came back as a sinus and chest congestion combo that took turns with symptoms: today, a headache.  Tomorrow, a wicked rumbling cough.  The next day, a few sniffles and sneezes.

Many people in our area have had this particular brand of sickness recently.  Everyone has the same story.  It hangs on for a month.  I am well within this time frame.  I hate myself for being so common. It seems I am not above the law of seasonal cold-catching, even though I haven’t been sick in recent years and isn’t it something – I got a flu shot this year for the first time in a long time and I got sick.  Let’s not dwell on this.

The arrival of this illness in dribs and drabs has served only to slow me down, not lay me out entirely.  It is Christmas, after all.  No time to be under the weather.  Jesus’ birthday waits for no one, especially one with a wittle cold.  So I try, haphazardly, to fight it.

I guzzled the expired cough syrup languishing in the back of our medicine cupboard to get relief from the hacking.  Leftover cough-and-cold medicine that one of the kids took at the beginning of the school year soothed my occasional headache.  I finally gave in and bought some heavy-duty congestion pills to loosen up the crunk that I imagine enrobes the soft parts of my chest cavity. 

They are all gone.  I am still sick.  Sort of.

Please enjoy this picture of my used tissues and cold cup of coffee.
Yup.  Those are actual used tissues.
Little known effect of having a cold?  Apathy.

I drink fluids, wash my hands, and repeat.  I blow my nose, suck on cough drops, lie on the couch and turn on the TV.  Don’t we fight colds when we rest?  The DVR is clear.

Luckily the internet is here to save the day for the Christmas shopping that would certainly be neglected if it was 2007.  I have only the energy to get a little excited that most of the purchases I’ve made are shipped for free.  I grab a wad of tissues and sit on the floor in my room with the wrapping supplies left over from last year and cut and fold paper to hide the items that just minutes before were delivered to our front porch.

It’s all that can be done until this sick is gone.  The bare minimum.  The schedule looms, threatening to overwhelm with the many huge things that we have going on.  I pick one and say no.  Another is cancelled.  The rest are holding fast to their positions, like soldiers on the winning side in a war zone or that last five pounds of baby weight you still haven’t lost even as your children are careening toward the high school years.  My house is dirty, and will be dirtier next week when my family visits.  Eh, maybe they won’t notice that the toilets haven’t been scrubbed in weeks.

Being sick has infected me with indifference.

My head feels like it’s filling up again.  I pop another cold pill, heat up some water for tea, lie down, and figure out what to cook for dinner tonight.  Maybe the cookies won’t get baked this year.  I figure I’m a week behind in my Christmas preparations.  I don’t even care.  Will the kids notice if they don’t have stockings this year?  Hoping to be free of this cold soon, I send out telepathic messages to the universe.

Send cookies.