Monday, November 29, 2010

on presence and presents and fabulous

We made it in and out of Iowa for Thanksgiving without much hassle. It was a sad day for half the group--2 of Mr. D's siblings lost fathers-in-law in the last 4 months, the pain was still pretty fresh for those families. I'm used to this holiday being about my in-laws, but each year my husband says, just before everyone heads in to load their plates, "Where's the meat? When do we eat?" which is exactly what my grandfather said after grace before every single meal. I don't know if he understands how much I appreciate it when he quotes my grandfather.

The day after, my sister-in-law and one niece and my mother-in-law loaded into an SUV headed for the nearest shopping mall. I was glad to escape back to Wisconsin, my hands free of shopping bags.

In a side note, my MIL had one of those plug in fragrance diffusers you get at Bath & Body Works. It fell out of the wall and leaked faux vanilla scented oil all over our shoes. Consequently, my laundry room reeks of this smell, which is NOT intended to be inhaled by anyone with asthma. Oy. I cannot imagine what my MIL's kitchen smells like with that seeped into the floor.

So now it is the end of Thanksgiving, the start of Christmas. My FABULOUS bloggy friend Anne Marie over at Na-Da Farm Life summed up my feelings about the holiday very nicely in her blog today. Actually, I summed up my feelings about it pretty well, too, over at Eco Women today. I don't want to be caught up in the "buy-get-spend-shop-greed-consume" aspect of Christmas. I want to be present in the holiday, enjoying all the sounds, tastes, sights and smells. I want to sled down snow-covered hills with my sons and feel the cold on my cheeks and their arms wrapped around my neck. I want to hear my kids giggle while we watch Elf together, crunching popcorn and drinking cider. I want to smell the tree in our living room and see how many ornaments my kids can cram onto the lowest branches. I want to spend my holiday season making memories instead of going out to get stuff. I want Christmas presence--of mind, body and spirit.

But that doesn't mean I won't give presents. I just want the presents I give to be good ones, thoughtful ones, quality ones. I'm not buying someone a sweater marked 50% off just because I found a good deal. I want to give lovely things.

Anne Marie is addicted to lovely things, and her taste runs simple like mine does. For November's FABULOUS, I'm giving away the item of choice from the Na-Da Farm Etsy shop to one lucky winner. How can you win? Each comment in the comment box is an entry to win November's FABULOUS. Check out Anne Marie's blog and breathe in the serenity of nature, family, hand crafted and vintage. (And there are horses.)

Spill it, reader. Are you making your Christmas simpler, celebrating more with experiences than with stuff this year?


  1. I have scaled down who I am gifting to and who I am sending cards to..

  2. We are saying no to the traditional hustle and bustle this year and celebrating in a different way. I have long dreamed of a different kind of Christmas -- an escape, if you will. Having had young children afoot for over two decades, it has been sort of hard to dispense with tradition so we embraced it, and we will again. But now that our children are older and we do not yet have grandchildren, we are seizing the day! We have purchased a few simple but meaningful gifts for our adult children. Our youngest isn't expecting you-know-who to come down the you-know-what with a bag of toys, so we are all on board with spending our time and money on a long vacation, leaving behind the usual flurry of activity and expense for something adventurous.

  3. Oh to stay present in the season...I'm finding it really hard to feel it just yet...maybe if we decorate...

    A couple friends went to Anne Marie's "barn" sale---lovely, simply lovely!

  4. I try not to make it about the "stuff" too. But the little ones do love the stuff.

  5. Our gift giving is as scaled down as we can get it -- just our parents, nieces and nephews, the kids' teachers, a few close friends, and of course our children and ourselves. We lost one parent this year, but added two nephews, which is both sad and joyous.

    As you know, I made a point to get my shopping done before Thanksgiving, so now I don't have to worry about that. Instead, my girls and I are planning a gingerbread house extravaganza a few weeks from now and we're busily making notes and shopping lists of supplies. We're also going to the Nutcracker for the first time, taking a holiday lights tour, and adding a couple other fun experiences to our holiday traditions.

  6. Ugh. As somebody with asthma and a special hatred of all home-fragrance products, my sympathies go out to you over the vanilla difuser goo.

    As for Christmas? I'm right there with you. In the last few years, my family has gone from "Santa Barfed In Here" to one gift for each person and a focus on good deeds and charitable giving. It makes my heart glad.

  7. I am so glad you had a lovely Thanksgiving. :)

    I can't believe how early people started celebrating Christmas this year. My whole neighborhood has been decorated for over a week now. I JUST took my scarecrow and pumpkins down today, cuz ya know, we just celebrated THANKSGIVING!!!! AHHHH!!!

    Sometimes the madness of it all drives me crazy. It has been so commercialized. Ugh.

    But then, the kid in me gets excited, and I decorate my house, play some Christmas music and I'm there. :) But not until DECEMBER. ;)

    Yep. Definitely a simpler Christmas this year.

  8. My Christmas Season is already simpler than ever. My daughter and I didn't do Black Friday this year - first year ever. We stayed home and enjoyed the piece of quiet the day brought. ;)

    Plus, we didn't rush up to get the tree - like we always do the day after Thanksgiving. We'll be going and probably getting two - just not in such a hurry. Still, the holiday has begun. :)

  9. I loved your thankful lists!!

    And I'm definitely going to try to simplify this year. I wish we had snow so that we could do snowball fights and sledding and all that good stuff. Instead we'll have be content with Christmas movie nights, decorating the tree together, and baking cookies.

  10. Vanilla - ugh. The only worse artificial smell - for me - is peach. Congrats on your escape from black Friday – I can’t imagine worse entertainment!

  11. Christmas preparations are fairly low-key around here, since we go to visit my family. I don't do much decorating. We don't put up a Christmas tree. But we also celebrate Hanukkah, which starts in a few days. So... Yikes!

  12. I never really went nuts with gifts at Christmas. Sort of ironic becuase I grew up with tons of gifts covering the living room floor every year. Of all that stuff I can probably only name about 5 or 6 gifts I remember reciving in 18 years.

  13. Our Christmas will be (out of necessity) much simpler this year. I've never really gone overboard and always, always, always buy gifts that I put a lot of thought and effort into. I will remember bits and pieces of "gee, I'd like to have something like that" and store it away until it's time to shop for gifts and then pull out those memories. I usually (almost 100% of the time) get comments back about how thoughtful and appropriate my gift was.

    I thoroughly enjoy being able to give to others and just delight in watching them open what I've given to them.

    Amy, Rex, and Isaiah are going to Rex's parents for Christmas so it will just be Ron, Keith, and I. Ron can't get into anyone's house (not wheelchair accessible) so we'll be staying home. That's OK. Just having the time off and spending it with my loved ones will be great.

    My biggest wish is that I could see my WA grandkids this holiday. I have a brand new grandson that I haven't seen yet.

  14. Yes, I try more and more each year to scale back, reduce stress and enjoy the moments more.
    My best Christmases were ones where we traveled and didn't exchange gifts at all. One year in Scotland, one in Austria. When my kids are older, I'd love to take more trips to celebrate.
    Until then, we'll bake cookies and decorate the house and watch Rudolph :)

  15. I have two teenagers who prefer quality over problem's my little one who still believes and doesn't realize the Wii games actually cost "Santa" a lot...but don't look like much when they are piled under the tree. as for me...I truly just want what I ask for every year....peace on earth!

  16. You might be interested in this site:

    We are trying to be a bit simpler this year, to focus on family and faith.

  17. I have found that the children getting older simplifies things--though it doesn't make them cheaper. Each of our kids is gettibg one big thing that is in a way experience-related--a snowboard, an e-reader, a plane ticket home and a Letterman's jacket.

    Once your kids start leaving home, Christmas really is very much about having every one back together. I was watching "The Family Stone" last night and I realized that I related so much to the Diane Keaton matriarch character--it was a little spooky, actually--'cause she's old and I'm not!

  18. My two older boys are getting two VERY EXPENSIVE plane tickets to go and see loved that takes care of them! Youngest will get a stocking because Santa is still real here. But even so, we started downsizing a few years ago and we are happy to have more visitors, less presents and a ton of homemade fudge to give away!

  19. oh no....i probably would have had to throw my shoes out...or at least air them out in the garage for a few weeks....i can't do the smelly thing either. no asthama for me, but my sensitivity level for things like that is through the roof.....

  20. I decorate like a mad woman: the garlands and velvet bows and lights are enough to make ya puke.


    But I don't spend a lot on the presents and never have -- and even then everything is cash. I have to admit though that this year I'm thinking of buying my only son (25 yo) a weekend ski package at Lutsen over here in MN. He works more than full time, plays in a band on the weekend (often in WI, btw!) and has a fantastic girlfriend. The Boy has his own money, so maybe I can buy him a little time away?


  21. With just me, The Cat, and The Bird, it doesn't get much simpler...

    Uh, btw SARAH, you in the "Education Industry", GIFT is a noun, so perhaps you could scale down the list of who you are GIVING GIFTS to, this year, in lieu of making midgets of all your friends. My GIFT to you is proper NOUN / VERB usage. Happy Holidays! *ha ha ha.

  22. I would love to have an all handmade Christmas gift exchange in our family, but I am afraid I am the only one...

    I am doing it anyway. Ha!

  23. I definitely agree with the gift philosophy. No junky things under our tree! In fact, I don't do wrapping paper. I get creative with other ways to wrap with recyclable paper or reusable (or reused) wrappings. The family hasn't quite bought into it yet...


Spill it, reader.