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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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May Old Acquaintance Be Forgot

The eye of the holiday hurricane has almost passed and the residual New Year storm is right behind. New Year’s Eve, a holiday only second to Valentine’s Day for its ability to make people feel badly. Even if you choose to eschew the societal pressure to have the best night ever!, you may very well still succumb to the resolutions.

I am all for self-improvement and living with intention, but I am baffled by the resolutions. The fact that that may be made while drunk doesn’t disturb me. Some of my best moments of resolve have come when having gone just a bit too far. No, what bothers me is the time of year of this universal resolving. Come January 1st, we enter into the longest, darkest, bleakest stretch of the calendar. Not counting Valentine’s Day (see above) we get no break in the mundanity until spring (birthdays of political leaders notwithstanding.) An informal survey indicates that the majority of resolutions involve physical improvement. Yet our bodies and minds cry out for carbohydrates and alcohol this time of year. Layering of clothes offer no incentive to tone, and darkness does not invite activity. Our relationships with our screens becomes borderline obsessive (there is a reason television programming peaks during the colder months.)

Come mid-January, the bills and regrets start to appear. A fiscal resolution would be appropriate this time of year. And fear not, six weeks along, when resolve tends to lag; it’s tax season! Your accountant can take on the cheering role of a personal trainer. But short of resolving to not spend more than I have or to increase savings, I shy from New Year’s resolutions.

I tried it once. In my twenties I resolved to not have any regrets. Ah, youth. How charming, how utterly near-sighted and self-involved. Sweet. With the determination of a four-star general, I went forth and conquered.  Regrets? No. Creating a version of my best self? Not exactly. But what a great learning opportunity. I discovered that New Year’s resolutions were not entirely for me. I also discovered that behavior change works best (for me) when aimed outward. Resolving to; experience more generosity of spirit, seek out those who need a kind word or smile, offer help to strangers, all help to create a personal world in which I’d like to live. The very fact that I engage in this resolution year after year after year, does nothing to support the efficacy of resolutions. But just like physical fitness, spiritual fitness does have muscle memory.

As I struggle to stay awake on my couch, nursing a glass of bubbly, I will wish to you kindness. May you experience kindness towards yourself (eat the chocolate!) and kindness towards others this new year.

Happy New Year

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2011 in Cultural Critique, Holiday

 

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Haul Out The Holly

The stash of Halloween candy has dwindled to the anemic lollipops and generic hard candies.  “Find gloves and scarves” is written on to-do-lists, and soups and root vegetables have been welcomed back into the home.  This can only mean one thing: it’s time to start the frenzy we politely call “the Holidays.”  Full disclaimer: I’m not sure who invented the colloquialism and I’m not entirely sure how encompassing it is.  I think it is the categorization of; Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year celebrations.  Like vegetarianism, the category seems pliable enough to fit the individual’s needs.  “Christmas” can be traded for “solstice” or “Chanukah” or “Kwanza.”  Which, as you can well imagine, does not help my confusion.  But no time for such concerns.  Veterans Day is almost upon us.  We must move and move fast.

Retail displays taunt us with their readiness as do television advertisements.  “You are already behind, you may never catch up!!!”  Even philanthropy (indisputably the very best product of the “season”) has jumped the gun.   The first New York Times Neediest Cases has appeared this week (originating 100 years ago on December 15th.)  I don’t think it’s anyone’s imagination that the frenzy starts earlier and earlier every year.  If only we treated our impending retirement needs in this manner!

I am no Grinch.  Really.  I love Thanksgiving; a holiday of food, family, friends, parade and pie.  I love how the world gets decorated for Christmas and everyone seems genuinely giddy.  I adore the classic movies of the “season.” My November and December would not be complete without visits from Natalie Wood (“I believe, I believe, it’s silly, but I believe”), Jimmy Stewart (“Attaboy Clarence”), the Heat Miser, Rudolph and yes, The Grinch.  I also love an excuse to dress a little fancy and feel grateful for invitations which allow me to do so.  I simply love the festivities, but not, definitely not, the frenzy.

The frenzy is responsible for people incurring consumer debt, often for gifts not needed or wanted.  At times, the consumer debt is so disproportionate to the household income, it takes almost a year to recover (and start all over again.)  Gift cards (their own evil web of exploitation) are purchased in huge amounts (evidently cash is offensive but an Old Navy gift card is not.)  Big box retailers are doing their part during these tough economic times and offering lay-away.  For a fee, you can have the retailer maintain possession of an item as you make regular payments (cement shoes are optional.)  The financial burden aside, the emotional toll this frenzy takes is absurd.  It is often the women in our culture who are lured into this vortex.  Decorating, baking, greeting cards, photos, shopping, wrapping, delivering, cooking, entertaining, usually (but not always) defaults to the woman in the household.  I am reminded of my friend’s mother-in-law, whom after hosting her very large family (yet again) one Christmas, plopped down on the couch with a large alcoholic beverage and proclaimed; ‘It’s Christmas for me too you know.”  Of course, she’s also the woman who gave my friend a Christmas theme sweater for her (summer) birthday explaining; “It’s for the holidays!”  Victim or perpetrator?  You decide.

So I will hold my head high as I resist the siren song of holiday frenzy.  I will affix my festively adorned blinders and grab all the joy of this season that is there for the taking.  I will walk past the shops, admiring their windows.  I will peruse the magazine layouts and shiny catalogs (because darn it, they’re pretty.)  I will pour sherry and pass chocolates at our family’s annual reading of David Sedaris’s Holidays On Ice as Johnny Mathis plays. And I will wish the same for you.  Happy Holidays!

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2011 in Cultural Critique, Holiday

 

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