Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What a Fabulous Holiday...More or Less

Ok, so December just flew by in the blink and 1/1/11 blew in and out without much more than a "Happy New Year" and a nod.  Did you think the "holidays" went particularly fast?  I used to love December.  My birthday is in December (8th) and if you knew me then, you know I tended to mention my upcoming birthday thousands of times in the days and weeks leading up the big day.  Honestly I didn't do it to get attention or special gift…. No, I just LOVED the idea of my birthday as a special day.  I loved the excitement of thinking of an extra special way to treat myself my birthday.  How great is it that my birthday falls between the beloved holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas?\

December holds so many wonderful memories of family, cozy fires after soft snow falls, skiing, warm soup, paper snowflakes, 
hot coffee or chocolate, picking out the perfect present for my family and friends, Christmas cards with news from the year, Christmas pictures of friends long since moved away, Christmas Trees hung with my cherished ornaments,  red green, gold, and silver everywhere look, and beautiful store windows.
My first Menorah was similar to this one
 Then I married a Jewish boy and we decided we should celebrate BOTH Christmas and Hanukkah.  At this point we had my birthday, my dad's birthday and two major holidays happening in December, and while it was a little crazy it was  manageable.  I collected gorgeous Menorah candles and Rick tried to teach me how to say the Hebrew prayers each of the 8 nights of Hanukkah.
Unlike Christmas that comes faithfully every year on December 25th, Hanukkah fluctuates based on the Jewish calendar.  To further confuse this Christian-raised woman, Hanukkah starts at sundown the night BEFORE so the calendar is a day off… I think.   In the mid '90's I was still doing great, got the Hanukkah gifts off on time, purchased and addressed the Christmas cards, decorated a beautiful tree… it was always such a magical time for me.  Then we decided to start a family and I swore to myself that there was NO WAY I would have a December baby.  After all, I had too many years of the “combined gift” and watching my sister throw pool parties to celebrate  her August birthday.  Of course, as you work at a pregnancy time passes and suddenly you joyously realize your going to be a mom….. in December.  What? Huh?  How did that happen?  On No!  It make it even worse, my December 13th baby became a December 20th baby and the holiday season has been but a blur every since.  In an effort to illustrate this point I will divulge one dirty little secret (I have picture proof of another later on).   I purchased a Martha Stewart Gingerbread House kit, 3 years ago thinking Ryann, my niece Ally, and I would enjoy building and decorating this simple kit.  You know where this is going right?  I packed it up again this year and it's still as a kit… here's hoping for next year!

So as Y2k was approaching and the December page of my datebook (remember when we had paper datebooks?) was getting really messy but I was confident I was still in control, right?  Then, when baby was 9-months-old, I rediscovered rubber-stamping and I was hooked, lined, and sinkered.   I was invited to a Stampin' Up party, hosted by somebody I liked a lot and just wanted to support.  You know those women whose energy and life spirit draws you in?  I had wanted to make a velvet embossed scarf for sometime and Stampin' Up had a rose stamp that I knew would be perfect. Unfortunately, the rose was a hostess set- meaning there was no way I could buy it without hosting a party.  I begged, pleaded, and whined, but in the end I signed up to host a party, got the stamp, and made a beautiful black-velvet scarf.  

Ryann's 1st birthday approached and I think it goes without saying that I added the Big Birthday Party to my December routine.  Maybe I started this because I found the perfect "1st birthday" theme in a rubber-stamp….Raggedy Ann.  For those of you who weren’t friends of mine in 1972, I was deeply love with a raggedy Raggedy Ann and my bully of a sister decided to decapitate her in a moment of rage.  
There was no replacing my Annie, though my mom tried.  I remember to this day, exactly how the new doll felt and smelled.  She was all stiff and chemically smelling; not at all good for snuggling while I sucked my thumb, at night, or during a particularly scary moment on Captain Kangaroo.  The bully did make amends a few years ago by shopping on E-bay (back when you could still find a treasure now and then) and surprised me at Christmas with a vintage Ann that isn’t stiff or chemical smelling.  
What is this crumbly thing?

I eat this?
 But I digress (again)… we were talking about Ryann’s 1st Birthday Party…. In December 1999, the kids b-day party scene was just beginning to overboard in America.  I'm pretty sure that Oriental Trading was still somewhat unknown and Birthday Party Express had yet to take-over the world.  Most kids who had big parties, did so at a venue like Chuckie Cheese or a scary jungley-gym place with a big bin full of dirty-plastic balls and a rope net.  Nobody wanted the hassle of entertaining a gang of toddlers, but I loved having her party at home because I enjoy all the planning, decorating, crafting and baking.  It was even more fun because while we lived in North Carolina, we had a solid group of friends with kids all around the same age.  
I broke out the new stamps and made probably 10 invitations, a cool cake, some treat bags, and a few others foods that fit the theme and we had a fun party.  While the 1st Birthday party wasn't a tremendous amount of work it did set the standard and each year they got more and more elaborate. One day I may blog about some of those parties.  

Sadly, I didn't keep an invitation from that party.  It was a shaker card with Raggedy Ann holding a book and hearts floating in the shaker portion.  It was pretty simple but hey, she was only 1! 

I think it was the next year that I decided I should MAKE my Christmas cards.  I mean, I really enjoyed making those 10 birthday invitations and a few birthday cards over the previous 12 months, so why not make holiday cards?  All 70 of them.   I admit that over the years, the cards a year were a huge source of stress as well as pride.  I love sending something beautiful to my friends.  Sending something pretty and that I designed and handmade, feels to me like sending a little part of my spirit to my dear friends.  Being former Air Force family, we have been privileged to know many amazing families and keeping in touch means a lot to us.  Before Facebook, it was much harder to keep in touch, but sending a Christmas card was always one simple way to remind those families that we miss them, think about them often,  and am honored to be their friends.  For me, sending a preprinted card just wasn't enough but every year Rick, gets annoyed and (repeatedly) tells me "they just throw them out".  EVERY YEAR...Ah… yeah, I get that, but it isn't about what THEY do with the card; it's about what sending the card means to me.  

I tried to do it all for years but, slowly it dawned on me that the month of December which had always meant so much to me, had became so over-booked and over-stressed, it wasn't any fun anymore.  I had forgotten how to enjoy it.  I have yet to discuss it in this blog but my health is ever an issue and I never know if I am going to have a good day or a bad day.  Though I probably will talk about this more as time passes I will say that I, and both my children, have Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (HEDS) which is a genetic collagen deficiency that ultimately causes pain and fatigue.  You can get more information here.  HEDS obviously adds to the stress and makes all the obligations, expectation, and deadlines so much more difficult to meet.  Throw in anything extra like planning of the huge Squadron Kids Christmas Party (while in NC) or Hosting Bunco (here in Michigan)... December was on chronic and perpetual OVERLOAD and I was more often than not running on empty, stressed at myself for not getting everything done, and certainly not enjoying the moments of family and friends that I've always treasured around the holidays.  

As much as I adore Martha Stewart, there is now way to get as much done as she pretends to on her ubiquitous calendar.  Obviously, needed to do something(s).  I stopped making Christmas cards a few years ago and instead will stick with New Year or Valentine cards- take that one off the list.  I try NOT to host Bunco in December because it always falls within a day or two of Ryann’s birthday- take that off the list. 
 Last year I decided no more big birthday parties for Miss Ryann after the Twilight-Tween Extravaganza.  She doesn’t want a big, activity-filled, pinata-bashing party anyway at this age.  She'd rather "hang out", maybe go skating, and have a sleep over-take that one off as well.  

Hey, I did makes some changes but did my changes help?  I can’t say that this year was perfect, and I didn’t get to relax as much as I would have liked to, but at least I wasn’t a complete basket case so I guess I would say… YES….


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