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Category Archives: Holiday

The Homecoming

folger

Thanksgiving is the most unique of American days. It is a holiday celebrated primarily in the home and centered entirely upon food and family. And it is the latter that can become a wee bit problematic. Any venture that is steeped in expectation and sentimentality has an increased probability of going off the rails. When we add forced congeniality things can get messy indeed. People, related by blood or the law, who may not see or have any contact (perhaps by choice) throughout the year are sequestered in overheated, crowded, booze filled homes with carving knives. Even when there is no extended family, things may get testy. One of the frequently overlooked potential land mines is that of the returning college student.

Thanksgiving is often the first time a college student is coming home since the start of the semester. Parents and younger siblings most likely have been anticipating the return of the prodigal son or daughter. Parents and siblings have fantasized or actually planned outings and activities, hoping to make up for lost time. Even the parent who has been in constant communication with the college student may have his or her heart set on “really connecting” come the Thanksgiving holiday. And who knows it may go splendidly and put every sentimental holiday commercial to shame (Peter you’re home!) But for everyone else it might be helpful to keep the following in mind:

• College can be exhausting. Whether your student is working hard or playing hard, they most likely are pooped. Spending 24 hours, 7 days a week with thousands (if not tens of thousands) of people is hardly relaxing. Excessive sleeping should be expected (and you should establish that it is not happening at school and possibly an indication of something amiss.)

• A cranky or petulant student is perfectly normal as well. Remember they’ve spent the last 3 months (and your money) discovering that they now know everything. Do not be surprised if your cherub challenges Uncle Dave at the dinner table. Don’t shirk from challenging him/her right back either.

• Your student might also show signs of regression: fighting with younger siblings or being a thoughtless slob. This too is normal. Living amongst so many people and wearing an “I’m keeping up I know what’s going on” persona is taxing. Knowing they don’t have to be grown-up or fake being grown-up all the time is important. However they can let their guard down and clear their own plate at the same time.

• Having reasonable expectations of your student’s time is fine, but not if you spring it on them. If you expect them to spend the entire day (and night) of the holiday at home and socializing, do let them know ahead of time. What of the student who is bringing someone home? If you have expectations (which you are entitled to have) about sleeping arrangements or meal contributions, express them ahead of time. Nothing breeds disappointment more than silent expectations.

As with any event (particularly one involving family) the best approach is one of gratitude. Eliminating glossy images of perfection is prudent. Focusing on the gift of time and connectivity produces far more joy. Before you know it that student arriving on your doorstep with dirty laundry, a tinge of arrogance and little indication of appreciation will be hosting you at their own Thanksgiving. You will sit at their table as they tell their own family the stories of Thanksgiving’s past. And that is why we give thanks.

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2013 in Childhood, Holiday, Well-Being

 

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Wattle Twaddle

turkey

It’s two weeks until Thanksgiving! You know what that means? Any second now the talking heads and “experts” will rise up and moan and rail against retail. Suddenly the plight of the employee and the sanctity of family will take on grave importance. The siren song of the big box store will lure people away from the sacredness of their nuclear hearth! How dire it is to impose commercialism onto such a pure holiday! Never mind the millions of turkey and pilgrim tchotcke festooning tables and mantels. Disregard the families barcalounged in front of football games all. day. long. It is shopping that threatens to erode this holy Norman Rockwell day!

“People shouldn’t have to work on Thanksgiving”; the bobble talking heads will shout. I suppose we should close the hospitals, police force & diners as well. Lots of people work on Thanksgiving. Do we expect the secret service or any branch of the military to lay down their arms and hoist a drumstick? I’m not sure anyone would want pilots, gas station attendants or bus drivers to have the day off. It’s interesting that retail employees are often the concern during this sacred poultry time. Retail workers regularly work evenings and weekends and often quite erratic schedules. Depending upon the shop they can be forced to wear a uniform and carry a see-though bag containing their belongings (the assumption being that they steal.) Retail workers are often on their feet all day long, not allowed to use the same bathroom as the customers and not given their week’s work schedule until the last minute. Throughout most of the year their interests aren’t exactly a priority. Let us just assume the moaners/ranters are just grasping at (cheese) straws and spouting twaddle.

But what of the family?! Whose family exactly? Is there a family so functional and fun loving and their time together so sacred? Is this fictional (if not entirely creepy) family so enamored with each other yet powerless to resist the charms of a doorbuster sale? Many many people do not have a family or one with whom they’d like to be sequestered. To impose some ideal onto every single person is if not callous than surely annoying. Would anyone care if family members went to the movies (spending obscene amounts of money to sit in dark silence together?) What is it about shopping that rankles the pundits? Is it that the shopping in question is for Christmas? Is the melding of holidays the equivalent of “my corn is touching my sweet potatoes!!!!”? If that’s it I suggest they take on the Thanksgiving/Chanukah synchronized celebrating of 2013.

I suspect that at the core of the whining is that any kind of change can make people cranky. Thanksgiving is nothing else if not a holiday revered for its stasis. We eat the same exact foods every year (heaven help the host who changes the stuffing recipe!) We go to or watch the same parade or movies. We take the post-feast walk or nap. There’s nothing wrong with clinging fast to the comfort of tradition. But there are lots of people out there with lots of different needs and desires. The idea that there is only one way to do something is a bit offensive. There’s a reason we serve more than one kind of pie.

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2013 in Holiday, Well-Being

 

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Christmas Greetings!

holly

Dear Person for whom I have an address but don’t have anything to do with throughout the year,

Merry Christmas!!! It’s been a busy and fruitful year for our family and I’m simply bursting to share every minute detail. But first things first; you’ve undoubtedly noticed that I’ve dropped “Happy Holidays” in favor of the hopelessly old-fashioned “Merry Christmas.” You may be thinking to yourself; “Hmm, I had thought she was more PC than that!” And you’d be right! Don’t you worry; we’re still recycling, sending money to disaster victims and rescuing ferrets. But it’s been brought to my attention (thank you Rochelle!) that there is no tradition of sending Channukah Hannuka Chanukah letters. I don’t know much about Kwanza but plan to learn (hip hip hooray for New Year’s resolutions!) So I’ve returned to our “roots” and am sending a Christmas letter.

Since you last heard from us Lionel has retired! That’s right, after 40 dedicated years Lionel has left the exciting and demanding world of mergers and acquisitions. It was a rather sudden decision but the severance package and security escort were just too much to ignore. Three cheers for Lionel! He’d be sharing this with you himself but has plunged head first into an all-consuming reinvention. He still leaves everyday at 8:25 but now heads for the basement instead of the train station. It’s not clear what he actually does on the computer until 6:20 but he seems more relaxed than ever before. The transition was not an easy one of course as our darling daughter Candace had been calling the basement home. But with a little shuffling, a little ingenuity (ahem; that would be me) and a mid-sized camper in our driveway, everyone’s happy. I don’t mean to suggest the neighbors are pleased, but Candace and her daughter Toronto are snug as two bugs in a can. That’s right; Lionel and I are grandparents!!! Seeing as we’re not Facebook friends you’ve missed all the wonderful photos chronicling the miracle of our expanding family. For that reason I’ve embraced the true meaning of Christmas and paid for custom postage stamps. YES that’s our darling Toronto on your stamp! I bet that’s the first time Canada has been on a U.S. stamp! Treasure this gift and please don’t feel obligated to reciprocate. (Rest assured her head is much more rounded now. If you were a Facebook friend you would have seen that she was crowning for a considerably long time. Hooray for video!)

Older brother Brent is ecstatic at being an uncle. He and his roommate Gerald were by Candace’s side throughout it all. They even threw the shower! They have converted Gerald’s room into a nursery for when Candace comes to visit, which will happen as soon as that camper is up and running! In the meantime Brent is doing extraordinarily well. As you might remember from last year’s letter, Brent has taken a sabbatical from his studies. His father and I are thrilled; seven and a half years of graduate school seems more than enough. He’s one smart cookie our Brent is and it’s high time he had a break. He’s joined his roommate Gerald in the hospitality industry. In just one month he mastered the milk foam heart swirl. That’s our Brent!

Christmas is such a wonderful time of year to reflect on our lives. Lionel and I never would’ve dreamed of all the twists and turns life has brought us. We are so humbled by Brent’s creativity and lack of materialism. We are so fortunate to have our daughter and her daughter in our driveway. All of these blessing do come at some cost however. Since Lionel is focused on his Internet pursuits it’s up to me to lend a helping hand. What are mothers for?! You may remember that I’m simply a whiz at organizing? Well guess what? It’s time to share my gifts with the world. Starting in 2014 I will be offering closet organizing/life coaching/college essay tutoring for a very reasonable price. For just $75 an hour I will put you (and/or your friend’s, colleague’s, family’s) life in order. I’ve enclosed 10 cards for “Lucinda’s Getting Your Life Write” and am happy to send more.

Wishing you and whomever you care about a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. And may we resolve this year to get our lives write!!!

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2013 in Holiday

 

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Let Your Heart Be Light*

charlie brown

The days are getting noticeably shorter and carbohydrate cravings are growing stronger. By mid-October there’s no denying that there’s a change a coming. The first scattering of little costumed people and dogs have appeared (either going to pre-Halloween celebrations or having trick-or-treating dry runs.) By this weekend the streets will be alive with all manner of elaborate costume. Children will take on the mantle of popular movie, cartoon and video game characters. Young (and not so young) women will dress as slutty; nurses, waitresses, devils and angels. It will all build to the crescendo that is the Village Halloween Parade, an event that celebrates wit, witticism, irony and drag. And then ladies and gentlemen the party really gets started.

Before the last candy corn has been eaten (or tossed) it will be time for “the holidays.” As you pull the fake cobwebs down from your walls you will be implored (by television, radio, podcast, website, magazine, and newspaper) to perfect your turkey. Every year the “experts” come out to tell us the failsafe way to remedy our annual poultry failings. Personally I have never known any Thanksgiving that hinged upon the perfection of the bird. There is way too much family drama (not too mention side dishes) to really focus on grading the turkey. Besides, isn’t gravy’s job to democratize and flavor? But never us mind, the airwaves will blast with brining, frying, boning promises. Tips for new and exciting ways to invent old favorites will appear. As if Thanksgiving is a cocktail party not a holiday celebrating tradition and very specific foods. Let’s face it the only help any of us need, short of an invitation to someone else’s house, is the Butterball hotline. Those little holiday angels make up for every bad customer service phone bank everywhere. We love you Butterball!

While all this media “filler” (or should we call it “stuffing?”) occurs, the rumbling of the real “holidays” train can be heard. The “holidays” as we now seem to call Christmas, begin to be feverishly pitched earlier and earlier, but still subscribes to a certain; Thanksgiving first, etiquette. At 11:58 AM EST Thanksgiving Day, Santa Claus heads into Herald Square signaling that it is now polite to discuss his special day. (By the way, if there is any confusion over the overt euphemism of “the holidays” pay close attention this year. Chanukah will be over on December 5th yet dollars to donuts the talking heads will still be referring to last minute “holiday” shopping and “holiday” gift ideas until December 24th.) There is actually much to be said of this time of year. People’s spirits (outside of shopping malls and large toy stores) are lifted and light. Everything looks prettier as Christmas wreaths and trees pop up in even the most secular of locations. If you’re lucky, invitations and chances to dress up increase and there may even be presents.

For some however, it’s mostly frenzy. Even if you don’t work as a Christmas elf, chances are your workload dramatically increases before “the holidays.” Deadlines and meetings get squished into that après Thanksgiving, pre-getting the hell out of town, period. People (and by people we mean mostly women) who feel it’s their responsibility to create the holiday, don’t necessarily bask in the sights and sounds of the season. There are many people whose activity or responsibilities don’t seasonally increase, but their loneliness or sadness does. Even those not mired in loss or illness, may find this time of year triggering a short-term discrete melancholy. Memories can be haunting as can unfulfilled dreams. Whether we’re leading the holiday charge or feeling the parade is passing us by, it’s important to keep in touch with how we’re feeling. For people who love nothing more than a 4-page to-do list and arms filled with shopping bags, there’s not much internal checking in that needs to occur this time of year. But those little Santa’s helpers are in a great position to check-in on those around them. Everyone knows someone who’s suffered a loss or is naturally fragile. This time of year provides ample opportunity to reach out. Issue invitations or drop by with small gifts or treats. All that matters is that you connect. For those who have a hard time, know your triggers. Step away from the television, especially when It’s A Wonderful Life comes on. Stay away from places that feel overwhelming or lonely. Do less that you don’t enjoy and more that you do. Plan lovely things for yourself. Is there a book you’ve been meaning to read, a place you’d like to visit, a food you’d like to try? Now is the time to plan gifts for yourself. It may seem as if the whole world is trimming a perfect tree, clinking egg nog glasses and singing carols. But the truth of the matter is that very few people actually live in a fantasy world. Most of us struggle in one way or another, and knowing that can be a great comfort.

The best we can do, this time or anytime of year, is to not get ahead of ourselves. Christmas and the New Year are four days of celebration two months away. There are over 60 days worth celebrating until then.

*Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (1943) – Ralph Blane & Hugh Martin

 

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Make Someone Happy*

making hearts

Ah Valentine’s Day, the mercifully timed holiday to break up the dark dreary winter months. It is a holiday filled with red & pink hearts, candy and flowers. It is also a holiday rife with the opportunity to make people feel sad or hurt. Its ability to singe is utterly democratic. Children don’t receive enough classroom cards, teenagers don’t receive carnations or cupcakes at school, and grown people find themselves questioning (or despairing over) their relationship status. Of course there are many who receive the flowers, candy, jewelry, attention and are greatly relieved. Overall, a lot of people spend February 14th unconsciously holding their breath.

It would be easy (and sane) to cite the fact that Valentine’s Day is an enormous economic creation for the greeting card, flower, restaurant, and candy business. We could bah humbug our way through, mumbling mood bolstering ‘commercialism’ and ‘suckers’ affirmations. But what if we tackled it from the other end? What if instead of risking disappointment we went back to our construction paper roots? Remember the days of safety scissors and oak tag? There was a delicious pride in creating a reasonably shaped heart. Colored tissue and white paper doilies were used in excess; the results often resembling a powder room gone wrong. The creation(s) were steeped with love (and spilled glue) as they were most likely made for a parent or grandparent. There was an unbridled anticipation that caused many child to thrust the (slightly sweaty) valentine into the recipient’s hand before the 14th. The adult would coo and swoon and the child would feel five feet tall. It wasn’t until later in the week or childhood, that Valentine expectation and disappointment were introduced.

So let’s all take a collective leap back in time. Let’s spend this next week creating something for others. Gifts of homemade baked goods are always divine, but they’re not everyone’s bailiwick. Perhaps there’s an old photo you could frame? Maybe you have a favorite poem you could write on a beautiful piece of stationery (with proper citation of course.) Is there a friend (or acquaintance) who could use a respite? Bringing them coffee, taking them out, or watching their child/loved one is a wonderful gift. If you are one of those lucky creative types, break out the glitter (it’s not just for Saturday night you know) and make some gorgeous bespoke cards.

Yes, it is positively dreamy to receive lovely gifts that make us feel understood and appreciated. Who doesn’t want to be swept up in a sea of romance and a soaring soundtrack? Love is one of the greatest gifts of life. Whether we are the recipient or the giver (or ideally both) love simply makes sense of life. Acts of love make life fun. So make someone happy this Valentine’s Day, and you will be happy too.

*”Make someone happy, make just one someone happy, and you will be happy, too.” Jule Styne (1960)

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2013 in Holiday, Well-Being

 

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