Tag Archives: Christmas

Cheers To Simplicity This Holiday Season!

I am choosing simplicity this holiday season.

art-santa1-420x0

No elaborate Christmas light display this year for us. – Which means we didn’t spend the $1000 (?!?) to have our home professionally lit by off-season landscapers. Who does that? (Sadly, quite a few in our neighborhood.) Except for our two tasteful mini-lit trees flanking our door and the traditional candles in each window, I’ve convinced my husband to skip his traditional fling-up-to-see-what-branches-the-Christmas-lights-hit approach to decorating our yard. Seriously. One thousand dollars? You could feed a small village for that amount.

No lugging every single Christmas decoration box up from the basement. After a day of decorating, I called it quits. The tree is up. The stockings are hung by the chimney with care. I have my favorite advent calendar, a homemade advent wreath, a creche, a few favorite Santas and snowmen. But that’s about it. I looked around and thought, this looks festive enough. Key word = enough. Less clutter. More time for baking. Sounds good to me. And to my kids.

No guests to entertain for the first time………well, ever. The Jane household will be empty-ish. Just us. Me. Husband. Three adorable children. It will be quiet. It will be sane. It will be easy. Compared to years past, when we’ve entertained 3-4 weeks straight, of various out-of-town relatives and friends, this holiday season will be a breeze!

No laundry list of gifts to purchase. After working two food drives and our typical Salvation Army bell ringing stint the boys have decided they have too many toys! Well, that and the fact that they would love a pricey handheld gadget this year and knew they’d have a better chance of receiving it if it was the only thing on their list. I don’t care. Less shopping for me, less wrapping for my husband. Win-win-win.

No menus to create. I’m gonna stick with the standbys. Honeybaked ham, scalloped potatoes and bacon brussel spouts for Christmas Eve. Turkey, turkey fixin’s, green beans and lemon cranberry jello salad for Christmas Day. My famous-I-can-make-it-in-my-sleep-cranberry-relish will grace both meals. Come to think of it, all the above recipes I can make in my sleep. Holiday cooking this year will be a piece of pie! Probably apple. I haven’t decided yet.

No jam packed weekends for the month of December. My husband and I sat down and actually said no to a few invitations this year. It felt naughty but now our weekends look nice. Relaxing even. We’re actually looking forward to the few things we have penciled in. What a concept.

No blogging schedule to follow. For a few weeks, anyway. I’m taking a break to enjoy the season, enjoy my family and enjoy the peace and quiet we are actually going to be able to enjoy during this frightfully busy time of the year. I haven’t left. I promise not to disappear. But I’m taking a bit of a long winter’s nap to recharge.

Wishing you all a very Merry, Happy, Joyful, Restful, Relaxing, Healthy, Peaceful, Simple Holiday Season and New Year!

(And provided the doomsday prophets aren’t right and we find the Mayan’s new calendar, I’ll see you next year!)

9 Comments

Filed under Holiday, How We Roll

Elf On The Shelf, Or Lamp Shade, Or Wherever Else You Put Your Stupid Elf

(This post is inspired by a post found on People I Want To Punch In The Throat. And while the title of the blog suggests violence that I don’t condone, the writing there is clever and funny. I have only recently discovered this blog but plan on returning for further research. Feel free to visit and come to your own conclusions.)

I have a friend. A dear friend who has an Elf On The Shelf. And an addiction to Facebook. During this time of year, I find that combination to be deadly.

To my ego.

Every other day she has a post of the clever places they find their Elf every morning. Along with clever little tag lines.

Example #1 – Hiding in a lamp, with just his little hat peeking out. “Should we tell him his hat is giving him away? Or just leave him in the dark?”

Example #2 – In a large empty jar with lid tightly closed. “Oops. Looks like Elf has found himself in a pickle.”

Example #3 – Hiding deep inside the Christmas tree. “Can’t see the Elf for the tree.”

I could go on. But I won’t. It depresses me too much.

Quite honestly, I had never heard of Elf On The Shelf until we moved to this subdivision. My rudimentary research discovers that his concept is old. But his commercial phenomenon is recent. Apparently, the Elf is a spy for Santa Claus. He sneaks away every night once the family is tucked in for the night, files his report with Santa and then returns by daylight, always in a new spot and typically up to some mischief of his own.

Oh. Yeah. Like I need one more Christmas chore to add to my list.

So, like any sane mother, I reject this holiday hobgoblin. My days are chock full of cookie baking, present wrapping, mantel dressing and shopping, cooking and a little more shopping. Who has time for 25 days of elfin mischief to create?

A lot of moms, apparently.

So many, that now, my children have been exposed to the little guy. And they want to know how Santa knows if they’re naughty or nice.

Santa peeks in on you himself. You boys are two of his favorites.

Cue eye rolls and exasperated sighs.

“Mom. Really? Because Nick’s Elf left him candy canes. Santa doesn’t leave us candy canes after he checks up on us.”

He saves that for Christmas Day. He knows about your last dentist appointment.

“If the leprechauns can visit us how come we don’t have an elf visit?”

I repeat the “Santa’s favorite” response. To no avail.

“Well, Sydney’s Elf bakes her cupcakes and cleans up her room.”

Hey! I bake you cupcakes and clean up your room.

“It’s not the same, Mom!”

Nope.

It’s not.

Stupid Elf.

11 Comments

Filed under children, Holiday, Moms

Superhero Anti-Depression Gene: Free At Jane’s Blog. All Qualified Sufferers Apply Within.

I was born with a sunny disposition. Just ask my mother. She always marveled to anyone who’d listen that “Jane was such a happy baby. She never cried. Ever. We took her to the doctor when she was 6 months old because we were worried she might be retarded or something.”

Yep. That’s my mom.

But I am. Happy, that is. Most all of the time. I’ve had my share of down moments but they rarely last long. And that is such a blessing. It truly is. My extended family is riddled with mental illness so I’ve seen the consequences first hand. I don’t want any part of it.

As I mentioned Wednesday, December was a &%!#$. Really. Awful. Struggles in all areas of my life. Financial. Marriage. Friends. Family. Even kids. Things so personal I would never, ever mention them here. You’ll have to let your imagination run wild. And quite honestly, my real life friends and family have no clue either. Only my therapist knows the deepest, darkest. I’m, believe it or not, a private person. (That sounds so funny from someone who blogs their life to the masses, doesn’t it?)

I am private about the deepest, darkest. I think because I don’t want to seem like someone who wallows in self-pity. I know it’s because I don’t want to be perceived as weak. Strong was always valued by my father. Letting things roll right off your back. Pick yourself up and move forward. “You’ll get over it,” was his common refrain. We used to joke that would be his epitaph — “They’ll get over it.”

Back to this past December.

I’ve heard, over and over, how tough the holidays are for some. The pressure. The strain. The in-laws and dysfunctional family get togethers. The financial pressure to measure up. To buy, buy, buy. The social obligations. Forced “Happy Holiday” greetings through gritted teeth.

The logical side of my brain got it. The emotional side of my brain didn’t.

That delicious time (and I do mean delicious) between Thanksgiving and New Years is my hands-down favorite time of the year. I live for it. I hum Christmas carols all year round. I start buying for next year (mostly out of necessity but that doesn’t make it any less fun) as soon as January hits.

And thank goodness, especially this year, that I enjoy December so much.

I said to my therapist, that if it weren’t for the fact that I love the holidays, I just might have slit my wrists. I’m not being flippant. I’m not trying to minimize anyone else’s pain out there. I’m trying to say the emotional part of my brain finally got it this year.

Now before you start worrying your pretty little heads – no one has cancer. Our home is not in foreclosure. It was just (Ha! Just. As if.) a bombardment of yucky, crappy things. A new one each day. For a little over three weeks. Every. Single. Day. From the vacuum cleaner breaking (a ridiculously expensive central vac system) to friendships crumbling to burst water pipes and …… well, I mentioned I’m private. I’m stopping there.

Every day it was something new. It got to the point that I’d wake up and say, “So God (or is it the devil?), what are you going to throw at me today?”

I’d start mumbling mantras: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”

But that got old.

I’d start preparing and imagining for the worst every time the phone rang or we’d step into the car (Did I mention my husband’s car getting smashed in a parking lot? That was an eventful day.)

But that just put my stomach into knots.

Truly. If it weren’t for the joyous Christmas season – joyous for me, anyway – I never would have made it out. And there’s this little inkling in me, right this very minute, that is trying to strip away all the holiday spirit and really try to comprehend all that happened. But then there is this Superhero force that stops myself and doesn’t let me go there.

Thank goodness. Time to just forget it all and move forward.

Thank you, happy Christmas gene.

I am feeling so grateful that I lucked out with a happy Christmas gene that got me through. There are a small handful of you out there (you know who you are and to protect your privacy I’m not naming/linking here — I’m sure you understand) that  suffer during this time of year or also had a particularly difficult December. I’m sending a Superhero strength anti-depression gene to anyone who needs it.

He looks a little like this:

Cute, huh? He sits snug as a …..well, penguin in your nucleus accumbens and will travel to your prefrontal cortex, your amygdala. Wherever he is needed. He doesn’t look like much. Certainly not like a Superhero (I think his tux is cleverly hiding his cape). But he’s plenty powerful, believe you me.

I had to rely on him much this holiday season. And afterwards, too.

But I’m done with him now.

Thank goodness.

(Ahhhh, if only it were that simple. Hugs to ALL of you out there. Superhero hugs from me.)

25 Comments

Filed under Deep Thoughts, Holiday, Observations

Thank You, Colonel Harry Shoup and All You Others Out There For Keeping Christmas Magic Alive!

Sorry for the second re-run. This was my Christmas Eve post from last year. But after Wednesdays post, this needs to be said again. Colonel Harry Shoup and our now retired local Santa Claus – their examples to us – this is why I still believe. There IS a Santa Claus – in all of us. We just have to let him out.

In 1955, Colonel Harry Shoup received a phone call at work.

A six-year old boy began reciting his Christmas list. Colonel Shoup wasn’t amused. But when a second call from another child asking to speak to Santa Claus came into the Continental Air Defense Command office (CONAD) he was determined to get to the bottom of it.

Evidently, Sears Roebuck & Co. printed an ad with a phone number for children to be able to speak to Santa. The newspaper printed the wrong phone number. When Colonel Shoup realized this he instructed his staff to field all calls from children and give them the location of Santa Claus.

When the United States and Canada combined their air defense units (North American Aerospace Defense Command or NORAD) a couple of years later “the tradition continued.”  

Since 1955, volunteers man the phones on Christmas Eve to field calls requesting information on the whereabouts of Santa. Santa tracking went worldwide in 1997 when it was introduced to the web. According to Wikipedia over 500 volunteers field a half a million calls, over 12,500 emails and the website receives over 1 billion hits.  

A misprint in a newspaper started a phenomenon. And Colonel Shoup, just another of Santa’s helpers, kept the magic alive. It’s been said that one of his staff drew a little sleigh on a large glass map of the world that they had in the office. When Col. Shoup noticed it he called the local radio station and said, “We have a UFO coming across Canada. It looks like a sleigh.” The radio station played along and reported the news.

On March 14, 2009 Colonel Shoup died. But he left behind a way to transport us all into the magic of Christmas. What a beautiful gift he gave to us in the form of a simple phone call.

I remember turning on the television as a child to watch for news of where Santa had been and where he was headed. When my oldest was a child I logged onto the internet and showed her Santa’s trail. Now, I’m sharing that with my sons and with you – all because of one man’s belief in the magic of Santa Claus.

It’s Christmas Eve where I live. Santa has already begun his journey around the world and will be arriving here soon! Click here to follow Santa as he travels to our homes.  

Merry Christmas, my dear blog friends! I hope this post finds you happy, healthy, and surrounded by those you love. And may Santa bring you everything you’ve asked for!

10 Comments

Filed under Holiday

Yes, Dear Bloggers, There IS A Santa Claus

(Below is an edited version of a post from last season. It has the same message. And I am as passionate today about the message as when I first wrote it. It needed to be said again.)

I believe in Santa Claus.

I’m shocked when I meet someone who doesn’t.

Recently, I was perusing your blogs out there and I found not one, not two, but three blogs dedicating posts to the evils of Santa Claus.

Santa = Evil?!?

And there were comments, lots and lots of comments agreeing with them.

I was angry. I was outraged. I vowed never to read those blogs again. I started taking names to avoid reading the blogs of people agreeing with such blasphemy.

And then I stopped myself. Jane, I said to myself, You believe in God. You have friends who don’t. You read their blogs. You’re fine with their difference of opinion, faith and beliefs. You preach, “One mountain, many paths.” How can you completely disregard another blogger’s right to disagree with your belief in Santa Claus? How can ONE post nullify all the other posts you read by them and enjoyed?

So….reluctantly….because logic won with this internal struggle…..I re-bookmarked all three of those blogs and I tore up my McCarthy list.

But not without defending my stand!

When my daughter was about three-years-old a friend told me about a wonderful Santa that I absolutely must take her to. We did. He was elderly. (Of course) He had a genuine white beard and longer white hair. (Of course)  He wore a red suit with shiny buttons and he sat out in his sleigh every night between Thanksgiving and December 23 (because he’s very busy on the 24th!) listening to children, finding out about their lives, helping them to narrow their lists (he only allowed 2 toys because his sleigh was only so big!) and chatted with the parents.

He must have had an eidetic memory. Through the years he would remember what school my daughter attended, her love of gymnastics, that she had a cat, even a few of the gifts he had brought her in the past. Before any of you start jumping up and down yelling, “Creepy!” I can assure you (and I’m quite sensitive to creepiness) it never, ever, ever, ever appeared creepy.

He was genuine. He was sweet. He was Santa Claus. And he did this out of the goodness of his heart. He was a member of our community – recently retired. His many acres of property were decorated with Christmas lights that brought people from miles around. He dedicated his time to help children believe in kindness, in goodness, in unconditional giving. He cared about the children in his community and took collections to “pay his light bill” and to give to the local Boys and Girls Club. He reminded them to study hard in school, mind their parents, brush their teeth. He reinforced strong values and the “real” reason for the season.

There is a 10 year age difference between my daughter and my sons. So for a time – she felt too old to see Santa in person – we skipped visiting. Oh sure, we always rode by to see the lights. If he wasn’t busy with another child he always waved to those passing by. But then we moved to another part of the county and once my boys arrived we skipped seeing Santa because we felt they were too young.

Then, they were 3 and 2 years old. They were ready! And I was so excited. I couldn’t wait for Santa to see how our daughter had grown. To meet her two new brothers. We talked to the boys about Santa. My daughter filled them in on what was to come Christmas morning. She helped them make a list. Just before we turned down the street I cried, “Let’s look for Santa!” But the street was dark. Only a porch light was on at the house. The area for parking wasn’t marked off anymore. My #1son asked, “Where Santa?” My husband quickly piped up, “Oh no! He’s not here tonight. I forget to check the schedule. I’ll bet he’s at the mall this evening.”

It’s a good thing my husband spoke up. I couldn’t. A tear made its way down my cheek.

When we got home I scoured the internet. I found our local online paper. The headline read “County Santa Will Return to the North Pole.” I was crushed. But he was getting older. His health wasn’t as good. And he just couldn’t keep up the hours anymore. He had been doing it for 13 years from 6pm until 8pm every night between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The article showcased parent after parent talking about all he meant to their child’s vision of Christmas and to our community.

He truly was Santa to all of us.

Santa is not about commercialism. He’s not about greed. He’s about giving for the sake of making someone else’s eyes light up. He’s about wonder and imagination. He’s about love and kindness.

And if you’re looking, you will see him. He may not be dressed up in a red suit. His beard may not have grown in. You will find his spirit in every act of generosity and grace during this wonderful season.

But you have to be willing to suspend your cynicism. You have to be willing to accept gifts without the expectation of something in return. To my knowledge, Santa doesn’t discriminate. As long as you believe, the gifts will come. Some are wrapped. Some are not. Some are obvious gifts. Some you realize as a gift only later.

But Santa is real.

If only you believe.

18 Comments

Filed under children, Holiday

Love It Or Hate It? (50 Cent Fans? This Post Isn’t What You Think It Is)

Love it or Hate it?

I’ll tell you. (My answers are in parenthesis)

Then, you tell me.

Ready?

Set.

Go!

1. Snow days when school gets cancelled and there isn’t any snow on the ground and the roads are clear? (Hate it!)

2. A real Christmas tree complete with dropping needles? (Love it!)

3. Asymmetrical haircuts? (Still hate it!)

4. House guests in your home for 20 straight days in a row? (It’s love/hate for me)

5. Shopping online? (Love it!)

6. Shopping at Whole Foods? (I love it! My wallet hates it!)

7. Tuna Noodle Casserole? (I loved it as a kid. As an adult, I’ve pulled a 180. Hate it!)

8. The Apprentice Season 10? (Loved it!)

9. Amazing Race – any season? (Love it!)

10. Reality shows on MTV?  (Hate it!)

11. College bowl games on December 31 and January 1? (Love it!)

12. Spreading out the football games from December 18 – January 10th? (Hate it!)

13. The mom who chewed out her NHL coaching son for using foul language? (Love it!)

14. Eggnog? (Hate it!)

15. Truman Capote’s boxed set of The Thanksgiving Visitor and A Christmas Memory? (Love it, love it, love it and I read it every year and never tire of it!)

16. Pixie haircuts? (Love it! Just wish I could pull it off.)

17. Creating a Facebook page for your baby? (Hate it!)

18. Trying to complete this post on a dinosaur of a computer with a slow internet hook-up? (Hate it!)

19. Being completely finished with Christmas shopping a week before the big day? (Love it!)

20. Having a blog that, not only provides a creative outlet, but has introduced me to some amazing people and some amazing writing? (Love it, love it, love it!!!)

What do you love and hate?

19 Comments

Filed under Completely Random

When I Think About Traditions I Can’t Help But Hear Tevye’s Voice Booming In My Head

Traditions. Traditions. Tra-di-tions!

I never realized how essential they are to me until one is forgotten, or lost, or cancelled. Now, I make it my mission to continue old and create new traditions for our family. We have traditions that we follow throughout the year. For birthdays, for Halloween, for our favorite vacation spots. At Disney, we always start and end with Magic Kingdom. At Hilton Head, as the rest of the family is settling into the condo, I go to Fresh Market and stock up and that evening we take a long walk on the beach after dinner.

But Christmas? That’s when the traditions start the month before. This has to be my all-time-favorite season. I get into the Christmas spirit long before the actual season arrives. For goodness sake, I never put away my Christmas cds. I listen to them all year-long.

Our traditions are many…..

1. We always decorate the house on the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving, get our tree the weekend after and put the finishing touches on Christmas cards the week after that.

2. My mother-in-law has made us two advent calendars. One for me, a beautiful quilted piece where I add a quilted square each day until all 25 squares are completed and Christmas has arrived. One for the boys, little pockets filled with coins, candy and tiny gifts.

3. Honeybaked Ham on Christmas Eve and Turkey on Christmas Day. Only the side dishes vary. The one time I made beef tenderloin the family complained. We’re back to the traditional menu this year.

4. We always open one present on Christmas Eve and it’s always a pair of pajamas. Although, I always pretend I have no idea what we’re opening and act surprised at my own gift. (I’ve purchased all of them, for everyone, including my in-laws who share Christmas with us every year — another tradition, of sorts.)

5. We all know the reason for the season. Don’t worry about our salvation – we are well aware about the true meaning of Christmas. But Santa Claus is a really big deal in our house. My kids still believe in Santa and more importantly, I still believe in Santa. (A message to little Brandon in #2son’s class at school: I respect YOUR beliefs but if you hint/tell/try to convert my child one more time about the “myth” of Santa Claus I will come to your house, beat down your door and give your entire family a stern talking to. There is nothing wrong with teaching my children about unconditional giving and surprise and wonder.)

6. On Christmas Eve, after dinner, we all pile into the car and go enjoy the Christmas lights. A few years ago, my sons asked why they had to put on the pjs but the big people didn’t. We do this because they typically fall asleep in the car and it made it easier to slip them into bed. My mother-in-law said, “Yeah? Why don’t the big people have to put on their pjs?” So a new tradition was born. We ALL get into our jammies, pile into the car and see the Christmas lights now. God help us if the car should ever break down!

7. The kids sleep with us on Christmas Eve and they can’t leave the bedroom until we wake everyone in the house (their sister is 10 years older and the grandparents want to be in on the fun, too!).

8. We open gifts one at a time. One present at a time. Everyone taking turns. Yes, this can last hours. But this is the way our family focuses on the giving rather than the getting.

There you have it. A few of our family traditions. I would love to hear what you do to enjoy this wonderful holiday season.

What are some of your traditions?

24 Comments

Filed under family, Holiday

Christmas In November. Well, Actually I Saw Signs In September But I Refused To Notice.

Halloween is two days behind us. We haven’t even come down off our sugar high and there are candy canes and displays in the grocery stores for fruit cakes and Christmas cookie decorations.

It has always amazed me how early Christmas displays pop up. And I know I sound old when I say this, but the signs seems to be popping up earlier and earlier. Back in my day…..

OK. I really don’t remember what it was like back in the day. I was too excited for Halloween and getting tons of candy and then making it last until Christmas. At least. And because my sister would scarf up her candy within the week and I would carefully and deliberately  ration my own stash — Christmas seemed a long way off.

And it is. 53 days away. But I was out shopping today and from the looks of things, I’d say it’s just around the corner. They’re even playing Christmas carols.

What about Thanksgiving? Or Election Day (today), for that matter? What about living in the moment? Or one day at a time? Why are we rushing things?

Zen-zen, people! Breathe.

I have a friend who refuses to decorate for a holiday until she is actually in the month that the holiday falls. I admire her restraint. I think the stores should follow suit.

But then I remember why the stores are getting ready so early. And that reminds me of the Green Day song “Macy’s Day Parade.”

“Give me something that I need
Satisfaction guaranteed
Because I’m thinking about
A brand new hope
The one I’ve never known
Cause now I know
It’s all that I wanted” – And I find these lyrics particularly interesting, today of all days. I don’t know how the elections are going to turn out in your area but I know in mine, people are ticked. They’re tired of the same-old-same-old from politicians on both sides. They’re disillusioned by the great hope our poor president promised two years ago.

I truly feel for the man. What a mess he has to clean up. A mess many people are expecting him to fix – and him alone. This recession, that was supposed to be over in the summer of 2009, seems far from over. Even if we wanted to celebrate with mass materialism, many people just can’t do it.

And I say? That’s a good thing.

We can blame Macy’s and Publix and the evil bankers on Wall Street. But when it comes right down to it, we’re the ones pulling out our credit cards and signing mortgage loans we have no idea how we’re going to honor. I read an article recently (I wish I remember where, but I don’t. Sorry!) that said 50 years ago the majority of Americans didn’t own homes and car loans were unheard of. You paid cash. You rented until you could put down a hefty down payment on a house. The only credit you used was with your local butcher or milkman.

We’re the ones getting sucked into the merchant’s insistence that we start celebrating (by spending, spending, spending on stuff we don’t need) early.

And we’re the ones who can show a little restraint.

Like my friend.

14 Comments

Filed under All In A Day's Work, Be-Causes, Music, Observations

A Giggle for the Holidays

See? I have a little cynic in me, too. Enjoy!

Silver Bells – Steve Martin and Paul Simon

8 Comments

Filed under funny