This post is authored by Ally Kaplan, from the E&I, Inc team.
It never fails; every day at this time of year, I hear the excited exclamations from my 13 year old “I am so excited for Christmas!”. She is so much like her momma, full of nostalgia and wonder!
My childhood memories live strong in my mind and heart, permeated with the excitement of the holidays. I loved them all. It is still pure magic as the seasons change into fall, then winter, and knowing it brings an urge to nest and spread joy to all the people I love. She catches the same bug every year, and I smile when I start to get all the decorating and baking requests. This year my sweet teen seems incredibly excited! She wants to go all out, and I have no plans of holding her back. We went shopping for our Fall and Halloween decor earlier in the season, and now we have plans to have our Winter Wonderland pop up in every single room of the house. I forewarned my husband to look the other way when the receipts start collecting, but even he is all for a maxed-out holiday feel this year. I can’t wait to hand down decorations to my kids and their kids one day; my home is decorated with my own mothers’ ornaments. It always intensifies the nostalgia by uncountable measures. We are usually so busy planning our winter vacation down south and setting aside funds for over-indulging ourselves on a warm break from the bitter cold of Minnesota that our efforts on holiday decor are minimal at best. I don’t know if we will make the trip to warm ourselves up this year with everything going on in the world, but darn it if our home isn’t going to feel like the department store in Elf after he got a hold of it.
~ I just like smiling, smiling’s my favorite ~ Buddy the Elf
Mostly this year, I want to focus on setting some deep traditions in our home, so our kids can carry something forward to their own families. They can share stories and memories with their children, something both my husband and myself wish we had more to give our children. So in the coming weeks, we shall handwrite cards and letters, bake even more treats than we already do this time of year, and focus on quality time. Our daughter is planning a Holiday party with her girlfriends, and it will be so much fun to have these girls over year after year and watch them grow into beautiful, strong women. I plan to spoil them with fancy dishes, fresh flowers, decadent menus, and music. I’m not sure who is more excited. We have talked about doing Secret Santa gifts with our friends and family, it doesn’t have to be big, but a surprise always brings a smile to people’s faces.
Giving: although we have yet to get the process figured out before it is too late, an idea that has been incredibly close to my sister, brother-in-law, and our hearts is adopting families during what should be their most magical time of the year; we have to make it happen this year. In our own home, we donate money to the local food shelf while checking out our groceries, if we are shopping for our own family, there is always room for someone else, and it’s a good reminder of how fortunate we are. Donating time to causes that make a difference in our communities is another way to give back if finances are something you cannot part with, but I encourage you to share what you can. Our children can not even fathom what some of their schoolmates go through daily, nor do they realize there are food shelves and community resources needed for people who do not have enough. Sure they see the images portrayed in movies and stories, but for them to see it with their own eyes and feel it with their own heart is different. We have struggled with introducing this to our children; how do we allow the experience but not cause so much stress that they can not even grow from it. I’m sure you read that and think, what do I mean? It’s a growth experience’. There are some things I have struggled with within my own life; I imagine my children in similar situations given their strong empathic personality traits.
I am a nurse. As you may imagine, our profession, like so many, remains challenged beyond measure, day in and out. 2020 changed not only the world, but it begs the more important question, what is life? I have witnessed scenes in the emergency room that have ruined me for weeks; images and conversations stuck in my head, unbearable and unfathomable. I can feel their pain and anguish as these patients battle a relentless foe; for any who may doubt, Covid is real. Their pain stays with me, swirling in my thoughts and keeping me from sleep. Some say it’s a strength; I say it’s a recipe for PTSD. I wish I could call it a gift. The process of introducing a spirit of volunteerism and social awareness has happened in years past but without action. This year I want to brainstorm ideas that my children can feel comfortable learning. There is great understanding that my childhood provided hardships, as we struggled to make ends meet, but I know it made me a better person.
Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.
~ Dalai Lama
In my youth, there were times when food was scarce, and the heat was a privilege. Of course, at the time, I thought this was how everyone lived, and it almost felt like an adventure being stuck to one room with a space heater and running back and forth to the kitchen for whatever we could find to eat. As I aged and started to have sleepovers and played at friends’ homes, I realized this wasn’t normal, and I could feel how the parents just knew. Their parents asked od my home life in innocent ways, and I could feel their struggle of allowing their kids to be around me and was all too aware when they weren’t. Times also got better as I aged, and many of what we struggled with before became a bad memory. We had enough, and that was all we needed. When I was able to work as a teenager, I often had to help the household out and hand over money for groceries and heating bills. I think every of us kids can tell this same story; it was never a burden or made me bitter. I felt so proud to be able to buy groceries and help out my parents. I know this is why we choose to live the way we do in our own homes.
Although I am a spiritual person, I do not claim a religion or a faith, but I am fond of reading different excerpts taken from different beliefs. The Christian bible has a passage that talks about being in this world but not of this world, and I am almost sure I have read something similar in Judaism and Buddhism. When I heard the passage for the first time, I wanted to scream it to the world, so I did the next best thing, I Facebook’d it. I have viewed my time here on earth spiritually, and although we have lost our way a time or two, we always learn from those mistakes and right our paths. Losing my parents at such a young age has intensified this drive for more time with my loved ones. I realized very young the greatest gift we have on this tiny insignificant blue dot in time. It’s another reason we choose to live as simply as possible; we want to have as much time at home with our kids and each other as possible.
The trouble is, you think you have time. ~Buddha
We are not wealthy or fancy by any means, but we do make more than most. We chose to live far below our standards, and I mean far. Our conscious choice allows us the freedom of knowing that should something happen to one of us; the other could carry on without any burden. I have always been the odd duck of the family; I thrifted LONG before it was cool and chose to keep my needs small and wants minimal. I know my siblings look at me and scratch their heads in wonder, ever the eclectic one. I am proud to have walked my path with different ideas.
When our story is finished our greatest regrets shouldn’t be that we didn’t spend enough time loving each other or spent our years separated from the ones we love. In our end, all that matters are the people we love. The trinkets, boxes, and sparkly things we work so hard for will not be what we cherish in the end; it will be the memories made with others. We have learned this lesson the hard way in our family; life is all too fragile and can change in a moment. Making more time has always been our priority; how we achieve that is minimalism. Yes, the M-word, but the lesson within it is immeasurable. As a child, I can’t remember the presents I opened year after year – except for a few. As a child, I remember preparing our home, helping with the food, and watching our loved ones walk through the door during our holiday celebrations. I remember the games we played, the conversations we had, and all the “things.”
It was pure magic.
Fast forward to today, and my home, which came to me amidst a winding road filled with bumps and potholes. I brought some baggage to our relationship; however, my husband stood by me while I healed and found my way. He is my equal in almost every sense. I am so grateful he didn’t run the other way, as he picked up the pieces of me and chose to take the time to put me back together. Time is a beautiful thing, it allowed us to grow together, and for 18 years, we have walked this venture together.
Bind my wandering heart to thee ~ Psalm 119:10
That magic from my childhood is what I am hoping to create within my own family, but better! The holidays bring nostalgia, which will allow me the foundation for traditions that I pray, my children will repeat. I also have earnest hope for you, our readers here on Edsel & Iris, Inc., to remember what matters most, which is you spending time with those you love. Things are just that, things. Material things can never replace a feeling of togetherness and love. As you balance the wants -with the needs during this holiday season, remember you hold the pen to this chapter of your life.
Authored on 11/26/21.