Guilt-free Holidays or Let it Go

Holidays – Christmas in my case – are tricky times. I’ve been thinking of all the ways it has changed in my life from my childhood Christmases and Christmases as an adult.

As a child we had many Christmas traditions. My mother was very, very particular about how the tree was decorated. We had to smooth out every single icicle before we put it on the tree and only so much could lap over and it had to be symmetrical. I’m not sure I could call it fun, but I did enjoy the tradition of it. Presents were wrapped and put under the tree and we were allowed to shake them and try to discern what was in the pretty wrapping. Both my parents had beautiful voices and sang in high school and college choirs as well as in church so we would go to certain friends houses and sing carols at their doors as well as giving them a little box of goodies. Joy to the World was a favorite and we always ended with We Wish you a Merry Christmas. I truly loved doing that.

We also dressed to the nines in fancy Christmasy clothes. I can’t begin to tell you how much I don’t miss that. For years going to church all decked out on Eve was a big thing. I really loved it until it became so stressful because of our kiddo’s needs and for slowly we quit and now I’m so glad we don’t have to dress up and go anywhere on Eve. We just stay put and hang together. We’re starting a new tradition this year and the kiddos are wearing PJ’s and parents whatever they find comfortable. I’m super in love with this idea.

As I began my own family we tried to develop our own traditions. It was a struggle from the beginning. Daddy-O worked various shifts and we had to adjust based on his work schedule. He was rarely given the holiday off unless it just happened to fall on his usual day off. We tried to stick to the one present opening on the Eve and then stockings and the rest on the AM but after a few times when Daddy-O would miss one or the other because of work we gave up on the schedule and just celebrated according to when he was home.

After our last 4 kiddos joined our family we had to adjust again. Having wrapped presents under the tree just didn’t work. Just yesterday Callie found some presents I had wrapped and obsessed for at least 30 min. about them until we quickly took them to a locked closet. She finally gave it up. A little bump in her cannabis helped as well.

This will be our third Christmas without Shannon and really our fifth where we are still trying to find new traditions. The two years before her death we spent significant time in the hospital shortly before Christmas and stuff I had planned just couldn’t be done and our girl was still recovering from pneumonia one year and surgery another year. I doubt if any parent can say Christmas is the same after the death of a child.

I think the purpose of this blog is to remind me – you are allowed to say bah-humbug without guilt. If these traditional holiday trappings don’t particularly give you joy that doesn’t mean you are lacking. Find your own way as I am trying to do. Make it simple so it doesn’t stress you out. Don’t feel guilty about not keeping up with traditions that don’t matter to you anymore. I felt huge guilt about not caring about our tree until several of my kiddos sort of shrugged about it’s importance. It’s up and I like the lights, but the decorating etc. doesn’t fill me up. Spending time with my people does. Find what matters to you and put your energy towards that.

I wish you a Merry Christmas or Happy Holiday and to all a guilt-free time with those you love.

Fresh Air and Sunshine

Girlie needed to wash her bedding today top to bottom. She sleeps with several fleece blankets, a comforter and a very special quilt. 

When her sister Shannon started palliative care at home one of the lovely things they brought were beautiful handmade quilts for each family member. Although most of them have been passed on or weren’t used, Girlie is attached to hers. 

Quilts have had a special place in our hearts and home since Shannon joined our family as every time she was hospitalized or had a procedure at the hospital a special new blanket or quilt would be neatly folded at the bottom of her hospital bed. Generally the only bright splash of color in an otherwise fairly colorless environment. 

Years ago when we frequently flew on vacations due to Daddy-O’s job which provided extremely cheap flights one of our guessing games was always – what color will our rental car be? When we became frequent flyers at the hospital instead, we played a similar game about what Shannie’s new blanket would look like or what color it would be. Shannie was non-verbal but I think she enjoyed the conversation as it helped keep her mind busy on her way to the hospital and in emergency situations it helped us find a way to divert her attention. 

Girlie’s quilt really needed a good washing but it’s beginning to fall apart and she’s not ready to put it away or give it up. As she is close to it, it makes¬† her feel close to her sister. I’ve tentatively begun to learn to quilt. Likely it makes me feel close to my girls as quilts were a constant on her bed those last few years. So, I get it.¬†

We took the quilt outside and put it over the porch railing in the cold air and sunshine to give it a fresh smell. Fresh air and sunshine makes everything better and that’ll do for now and for now is all we need to think about.