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Why I'm Having A Merry Christmas

In the words of Maya Angelou, I'm singin' and swingin' and gettin' Merry like Christmas. I'm having a wonderful holiday season, and here's why:

I'm not doing anything I don't want to do.

First, let's talk about all the things I'm NOT doing or didn't do:

Drama. If something even vaguely hints at drama, I'm not going near it, no sirreee Bob. I've passed up some events and will continue to pass up events because the potential for drama is high.

Spending lots of money. I've focused on a few gifts for a few people -- my godchildren, my husband, BMNB, and a few others. My siblings and I drew names for a "Beg, Borrow or Steal Yankee Swap" for Christmas in which we're not allowed to spend money (more on that below). I bought office gifts on sale or at the Dollar Tree and stayed within my budget, which was very low. I have only one more gift to buy, and I will not have spent more than $100 on gifts when I'm done. I'm not buying gifts for folks who don't want gifts or complain about the gifts I give. This is a huge change from years ago, when I would spend hundreds on gifts. One time, I spent thousands. It took me a long time to realize it's not how much you spend, but how thoughtful the gift is, no matter how much it cost. One of the best gifts I've received this year? A jar of gourmet salsa made by one of our local high schools, Grant High School. With a bag of organic baked blue corn chips. Yum!

Cooking like a madwoman. My siblings and I are doing a potluck for Christmas. I'll make a small dinner for BMNB and myself just because he eats alot and likes to have something at home to munch on. But the days of my putting on a huge family meal and footing the bill for it are over.

Responding to last-minute requests to do anything. Okay, everybody knows when Christmas is, and it comes once a year like clockwork. So if folks can't get their act together to plan something and give advance notice, well, not my problem. Any last minute requests to do something, cook something, or bring something will be, in the words of my favorite financial guru Suze Orman, "DENIED."

Stressing out. I might get all my shopping done, might not. Oh well. Nobody ever died for lack of a gift, other than someone on the organ donor list. As long as my godchildren are taken care of, I'm good.

Doing everything myself. BMNB and I split the duties on lots of things -- he buys gifts for his side of the family, I buy for mine; he addresses and signs the Christmas cards for his side of the family, I take care of my side of the family. No woman should be the social secretary for her family all the time. Unless your husband's or your children's hands are broken, put them to work doing something, no matter how small.

Trying to be Jesus. I'm celebrating the birth of our Savior, but I'm not trying to be our Savior. This is especially difficult for me because, as my best friend tells me, I have somewhat of a Christ complex: I try to rescue people from bad situations no matter how responsible they are for being in those situations. This is especially hard for me when the decisions, or lack thereof, of parents have deleterious effects on their children. My oldest brother has given me wise counsel on this front which sounds kinda harsh but is true nonetheless: Some people need to suffer because it is through their suffering that they learn and grow. By interceding and rescuing them, I'm not doing them a favor because I'm short-circuiting their growth process, and it is this growth process that will lead them to better decisions in their own (and hopefully their children's) best interests. So, unless it's life or death, I seriously weigh my options before coming to the rescue of people, especially fools. If I do so, it's with the goal of teaching them to fish instead of giving them a fish, so to speak. As my best friend counsels me, "Don't forget how that Christ story ended." Word.

Now, to all the wonderful things I AM doing or will do:

Listening to and sharing Christmas CDs. I have a collection of Christmas CDs that ranges from Dolly Parton and Lou Rawls to Rosemary Clooney and Nat King Cole. I have a tradition of buying a new Christmas CD every year. This year I bought Michael McDonald's "This Christmas," and I'm so enjoying it! I've never heard as soulful a version of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" in my life. I brought all my Christmas CDs into the office right after Thanksgiving and offered to share them with my co-workers as long as I got them back by Christmas. This has proven extremely popular, and I would imagine a lot of my co-workers have filled the Ipods with musical Christmas cheer. I'll list my Christmas CD collection at the end of this entry. The most popular CD borrowed? Nat King Cole. Least? Barry Manilow, with no takers. Poor Barry.

Sending Christmas cards. This almost didn't happen, as I lost my Christmas card address list and didn't find it until Saturday morning. BMNB and I started sending out Christmas cards last year because so many people send us Christmas cards. We scrambled to get ours done and in the mail this weekend. We love sending them as much as we love receiving them. It's a nice way to let folks know you're thinking about them. However, I will be putting the address list on a flash drive so I won't have to scramble next year to find it.

Making baked goods for my neighbors. This is one thing I'm extremely proud of because it's long overdue. You see, I have really good neighbors in the old school sense of the word. My neighbors send BMNB and I plates of food (including, but not limited to, hot homemade doughnuts), mow our lawn, put away our garbage cans on trash day, give our dog dog treats, and they have given us trees and plants for our yard. Last year, they gave us Christmas cookies despite the fact that that we'd only been in the neighborhood for a little over a month. This year I said thanks with baked goods: A holiday sampler with dozens of Christmas cookies-- Kanella (a hazelnut cookie), Chocolate Decadence cookies, cream cheese cutout cookies (one dozen decorated, one dozen plain -- they're way better than shortbread and moister than sugar cookies), and a dozen and a half of cheese straws, courtesy of Paula Deen's recipe. It took me a day and a half straight to finish, but that pales in comparison to all the things they do for BMNB and me during the year. Thanks to the wonderful folks at Sunset Magazine for the Kanella and Chocolate Decadence cookie recipes featured in their December issue.

Being creative. My siblings and I are doing a "Beg, Borrow or Steal Yankee Swap" gift exchange. Here's how it works: 1) Draw names. 2) You can't spend money on the gift -- you have to give something you already own, or beg, borrow or steal to get it. 3) The gift can't have a value of more than $10. 4) At Christmas, we'll draw numbers to decide the order in which we open gifts, starting with the person who draws number 1 opening the gift brought for him or her first. 5) Anyone can make anyone else with a lower number "swap" gifts with them until all the gifts are opened. This has really forced me and my siblings to be creative about our gift giving -- thinking about stuff we already have that our recipients might want or paying special attention to the things our recipients like. I've even advised that the gifts need not be tactile -- they can be gift certificates for services, like "2 hours of closet organizing" or "mowing the lawn" or "washing and vacuuming your car." Plus, I've had to confer with some of my siblings on what their recipients might want. It's been really fun, and I'm looking forward to the gifts being opened to see how creative we can all be on the cheap. Again, it's not about the money, it's about the thoughtfulness of the gift.

Enjoying Christmas shows. BMNB and I watched Oprah's special on Christmas at the White House and had a ball. We caught the tail end of "A Charlie Brown Christmas," and, miffed that I missed it, I decided that I would buy it on DVD so that I can play it every year. The Christmas show that nearly brought me to tears? Paula Deen's Christmas on the Food Network. That lady sure knows how to live! Although it aired a year ago, it was still timely in its focus on good and easy dishes, gathering of family, and love. Paula says that their family gift giving really isn't about stuff because they have just about everything they want. It nearly brought me to tears when Paula opened her gift from her husband Mike: A card stating that he was taking her to Paris so that she could "eat, laugh, and have fun." The gift was special because, at the time, Paula Deen had never been "across the pond." Imagine that! One of America's top chefs, and she'd never been to Paris! It wasn't the cost of the gift, but the pure thoughtfulness of it and how it touched her heart that nearly brought me to tears. Now that's a meaningful Christmas.

Enjoying outdoor Christmas decorations. If there were an Olympics for outdoor Christmas decoration, my neighbors would medal. Now, BMNB ain't trying to climb a ladder to put up lights he'd have to take down thirty days later, so that means that I enjoy outdoor Christmas decorations, and the creativity that goes into them, all the more. I've even taken photos of some of them. Yeah, I'm corny that way, but who cares?

Put up my Christmas tree. Yes, it's fake, and yes, I didn't change the theme and color scheme from last year (silver and blue winter wonderland), but I like it and it pleases me. Plus, I didn't have to spend any money.

Getting myself at least one gift. I bought myself a gift certificate for yoga classes in my neighborhood. I'm also giving myself non-tangible gifts for the coming year: Better health through exercise and cooking; organizing and painting my home office; traveling with BMNB on weekend getaways every other month; and giving myself time to finish projects near and dear to me. I'll also be spending more on self-beautification -- hair and nails -- with a concomitant reduction in our food budget. I'll let BMNB make up the difference. Hey, he makes more than I do and he wasn't furloughed. He likes it when I spend money on myself. No, he really does.

Saving. I suck at saving. My idea of saving has been, whatever's left at the end of the month, well, that's saving. No more. As my oldest brother has encouraged me to do since I got out of law school, I will indeed start "paying myself first."

Giving to charity. I've given food to our work food drive and will give more. One of my friends has as a signature in her email, "If you continually give, you will continually have." So true.

Being thankful. I'm so very thankful for the little (and not so little) things. I'm thankful that I have a wonderful family, a most excellent husband who has my back, great co-workers, a home of my own that no landlord can kick me out of, a dog that is, well, still kinda healthy although mentally ill (it's a long story), wonderful baristas at my local Starbucks, a great book club with fabulous women members, and shoes I can still fit no matter how big I get. I'm also thankful for our Savior.

Remembering the reason for the season. Need I say more?

My Christmas wish? That every child born be greeted with the same anticipation and joy as Jesus was on Christmas Day. Doesn't every child deserve that?

Merry Christmas,

Black Woman Blogging

Black Woman Blogging's Christmas CD Collection:

Handel's Messiah -- A Souful Celebration (Assorted Artists) -- This is my favorite Christmas CD.

Dolly Parton, Home for Christmas

Boyz II Men, Christmas Interpretations

Lou Rawls, A Merry Little Christmas

Nat King Cole, Christmas Favorites

Bebe Winans, My Christmas Prayer

Sleigh Full of Songs (Assorted Artists)

Jazz to the World: A Christmas Collection (Assorted Artists, 1995)

Yolanda Adams, Christmas with Yolanda Adams

Barry Manilow, Because It's Christmas

Whitney Houston, The Preacher's Wife Soundtrack

Crystal Gayle, Crystal Gayle Christmas

Holiday Sounds of the Season 2001

Christina Aguilera, My Kind of Christmas

Bebe and Cece Winans, First Christmas

Dave Koz, December Makes Me Feel This Way

Barbra Streisand, A Christmas Album

Vanessa Williams, Star Bright

Rosemary Clooney, Classic Holiday Treasures

Vince Guaraldi, A Charlie Brown Christmas (I can't seem to find this one, but I know I have it)

Michael McDonald, This Christmas


Tarisai Kanyepi said…
enjoyed reading this...

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