Gratitude and reflection

Gratitude and reflection

This year, like many others, it seems like everything is getting crammed into 2022’s last 6 weeks. But this year, I’m going to do it differently. I’m going to start with an attitude of gratitude, a sense of reflection and then I’m going to leverage my years of wisdom from experience to winnow what really needs to be done instead of what I currently think needs to be done. Those lists are very different in length.

Thanksgiving, at that 5-6 week out point, should be a time for resetting our personal expectations. This holiday is the one where we are expected to spend time reflecting on what we are thankful for. But as soon as midnight rolls onto Black Friday, all that seems to go out the window as retailers push us to buy, buy, buy, we start getting our homes ready for the holidays, and the party invites again roll in.

After two years of redefining the holidays in light of COVID, I have to admit that I like the slower pace of social distancing and limited invitations. I have not missed once the open house I was known for that one year had over 100 people show up. Of course, I miss seeing friends, but that open house, scheduled for Christmas Eve, exhausted me. It didn’t start that way, but 15 years later, I found the need to sleep most of Christmas Day to recover from the frenzy of the evening before.

I really don’t know how Santa does it.

I’m grateful to everyone who would bring a dish or pot of soup, help in the kitchen, be full of holiday cheer, and make it a very special evening. And I’m even more grateful to them for understanding why I am not continuing with the tradition now that the pandemic is easing. It was the first thing to be triaged off my “needs to be done” list.

With a company to run, my priority is to make sure that my employees understand how I appreciate their time and talents. So that is the one event that we will hold, a meal together where we reflect on the year and I share my thoughts about the year to come. And show my appreciation. That’s on the list.

Reaching out to my clients to wish them happy holidays is also on my list. I am very grateful to the people who support what we are doing. They need to know that. It’s on my list.

I love our friends party that started out as a multi-house progressive dinner by boat with a crazy gift exchange at the end. Now, some years we have cocktails at one house and then go to our destination, by car, for dinner, desert and the mad exchange. And some years we just have one location. But it is a party that has endured, and I know I love it. So, that’s on the list.

Christmas cards, that throwback to yesteryear, is one that I’m really struggling with. I admit to having decades of past cards stored in anticipation of the grandchildren projects I hope to do some year in the future when I have grandchildren. That habit of sending and storing the cards I received did land me a first place award for the office door decorating one year. I covered the entire door with old Christmas cards I received. I was surprised that many people don’t receive many cards for the holidays.

A Kodak moment

My dad worked for Kodak in marketing and distribution in addition to his strong church life and strong sense of volunteerism. That translated into our annual weekends writing addresses on envelopes, stuffing and stamping the 300+ cards that would be mailed to pretty much everyone my folks had ever met. And the cards always featured a picture of our family taken with a Kodak Instamatic camera, pets included, printed on Kodak paper. Always.

In the past few years, I’ve been paring down my list significantly. But it’s still over 100. I have been meaning to review who sends me cards back and use that to guide my mailing list, but I just can’t bring myself to do that. I also admit that there are still a few from my folk’s list, aging family friends and neighbors, who I imagine are happy to hear from me, or at least know that someone is thinking of them at this time of year. So, sending cards has stayed on my list. At least this year. I did try an email version a few years ago but found that VERY unsatisfying.

Buying, wrapping, and sending gifts is fun, but I no longer do much of that. Immediate family only plus a couple close friends. And I either share great food items I’ve found that year or I try to find the time to make the gifts I share. Napkins, placemats, runners, tree skirts, and ornaments are some of the gifts I’ve sewn in years past. What is done by the end of Thanksgiving weekend will be what gets done. Then I put my scissors down until next year.

Real tree or fake? That one is debated, but my family loves a real tree, so if I can manage it, and not feel too guilty about the environmental impact, I’ll continue that tradition.

There will always be cookies

Christmas cookies? Well, I love to make them just as much as I love to eat them. But they are on the “only if I have time or only if someone really wants me to” list. I used to make them by myself, and then it turned into a social day with my girlfriends, but the cookie friends have moved away. Last year, visiting my daughter for Christmas, I was asked to make the Swedish butter cookies we almost always have. My daughter’s fiancé was able to get a cookie press for me on a local website where people post what they have to give away for free. He got it because he shared that his future mother-in-law needed it to make cookies for the holiday and that was the reason the person who was sharing it had the press in the first place. It worked great. I should have made more.

11pm Christmas service is on my list. It’s been off in years past since many guests would ignore the “until 9pm” part of the open house invitation. But with the open house a thing of the past, I am looking forward to sharing my gratitude in a way that ties me to generations past and fills my soul for the present. That will be my present to myself.

Outdoor lights? Off the list.

Writing a thought article in December? Off the list. I’ll re-engage in January!

I reserve the right to continue to remove things from the list. Simple is better. Relaxing is better. Stressed is not better.

I will end this missive by thanking all of you, who take time to stay on top of what we are doing, and to read my thought articles. I wish you the joy of taking things off the list that you think you need to do. I wish you the wonder of spare time by not filling every minute as we rush towards the end of the year. And I implore you to enjoy who you are, love those you are with, and find happiness in what you have because we truly are rich in this life.