Coffee Chat: Post Holiday Chatter
Come In! I've already slipped beyond the holiday and have been dwelling in the New Year. Oh I don't mean that I've stopped enjoying or failed to appreciate the spirit of the season, but simply that with our family Christmas already attended to, and John and I having exchanged small gifts early in December, it's been all over for us for quite a while. So I slipped ahead a bit and have been looking at the year to be and thinking of what I'd change in my home, in myself, in my finances over what I did this past year.
John has mentioned about three dozen times how much he liked our tree this year. I thought it a little plain and homespun but he was really complimentary. I'm so happy that it all pleased him. I think it was the simplicity of it all. It was not fussy looking and didn't require hours of fiddling about...well at least not that he saw, lol. I don't think he's any idea at all how much work went into getting things to look so simple because he was only home for small portions of the decorating time. I'd meant to do a bit more as we got nearer Christmas. I hadn't planned to leave it just as it was. In the end? It was fine. I didn't like the dining table. At. All. I've ideas about next year. Those are written down already, planning ahead.
Part of that thinking is about what I want to change in my life. And this is part of it: I want to celebrate the special days. The biggest disappointment bar none of this year? The lack of anything at all to celebrate our twentieth wedding anniversary. Not even a special meal. I cried buckets when we went to bed that night and it was NOT John's fault. I decided we'd not do anything, I didn't plan for the day. When he asked what I'd like to do I said, "Nothing. After all we're going on vacation in a few days." I felt we oughtn't indulge. Just like I decided we really ought not do anything for my 50th birthday. Regrets in my life generally tend to be over the things I wanted, really wanted, to do and then didn't because I felt somehow that I didn't deserve them, or hadn't ought to want them. Had we not had money to do those things, well, it would have been different. While we would likely have withdrawn money from a sub account or savings to celebrate either occasion, we wouldn't have gone broke doing it. I used money as an excuse for why we shouldn't...shame on me!
Here's the deal: there are few days in this life that are special. I've spent most of my life foregoing celebrations and fun for myself. I'm not a person who wants a big fancy five star meal and diamonds and all that stuff. I've cheated myself out of a lot of those special days. I'm going to start enjoying them. It isn't silly or trite. I want to enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas even if it is the day after or the day before or the first week in December when I finally get to celebrate. I want to celebrate Valentine's and my birthday and our anniversary and to do something extra on those days, if it's just a little fancier homemade dinner or as simple as a picnic on a day trip. I want to celebrate the BIG things, too like my next landmark birthday (not sure what that would be after 50, lol) or 25th wedding anniversary. I am most definitely DONE with ignoring landmark days and holidays. I'm going to celebrate, enjoy, acknowledge these special times.
While it's one of my resolutions for next year, I've already started this year with our nice little Thanksgiving meal, provided Hanukkah treats each of the eight nights and a traditional Roast and Yorkshire Pudding dinner for our delayed Christmas Day feast. And yes, cookies, though it was just the two of us, because to me Christmas isn't quite right without homemade cookies. I didn't go all out. This year I kept it simple and made the most scrumptious, fully sugared, sugar cookies I've ever made. I'm glad I did all these things! Some resolutions are just too good to wait until the New Year to start.
I'll go a bit further on the failure to do. I have sat many a day waiting for my husband to want to do the same things I'd like to do. I've waited at the beach for him to want to go out and walk on the sand and play in the surf. I've waited for him to want to go thrifting, even though I know he loathes shopping. I've waited for him many days and because I waited I never did much of anything. I think all this thinking really started back during our vacation when I wanted to walk down to the creek. John didn't want to. For one thing it was wooded area and despite the little meandering path, it did look a bit snaky...and then there was the steepness of the incline. He quite rightly felt it would be too hard upon me. I would normally have succumbed but I was in that miserable state this past spring, misery partly due to the fact I'd foregone the acknowledgement of our 20th anniversary that week! And it seemed to me I was, birdlike, beating my wings against a cage I couldn't get out of. In my favor was the fact that while I can still struggle at times with a gimpy sort of walk, I had been much improved over the past three years with increased stamina and less pain and a far more normal stance more often than at anytime since he'd known me. It seemed to me that I had two choices at that moment. I could stay in my cage or I could fly right out the open door. I decided upon the open door. I got up and walked down that steep, muddy, snaky incline and made it to the creek and wondered how on earth I was going to drag my heavy bottom back up it! lol But I wandered about on the creek bank and finally sat down on a bench nearby to admire the view and suddenly John was with me.
Now he might well have done it from a sense of duty and I think he did. And I am grateful as well because there were a couple of prickly sort of moments going uphill when I couldn't have made it had it not lended me a hand to get up a steep step or a wonky bit of ground. But I also felt a great sense of accomplishment. It had taken me nearly 25 years to return to a physical health I'd had at around 30. So part of my resolution this year is to stop waiting for someone to go along with me when I want to do things. I will walk on the beach and play in the surf. I will go thrifting instead of putting it off because I feel John should go along. I will take time out to be a little more independent and a little less couple focused and most of all stop resenting that my husband, who is good as gold in most every matter, doesn't share my interest in doing those things!
The blog will change too. You can see in the banner that the focus of this blog is now dedicated to retirement days. When Katie was at home, still a child you see, I had the whole 'Mom' focused thing going on...And after she left and I struggled so hard against the Penny Ann Poundwise persona and decided to drop that, I found myself lost all over again. But here this year, I realized I still have a strong frugal backing, just with a different focus, as well as the whole just past mid-life (in fact if not in actual years) phase of life. Gradually over the past year I've built an audience of women who are pretty much wearing the same sort of shoes I am at present. I know this because you've all been so kind to tell me so by joining or commenting upon what you've read here. So this is the new century in my home and yours and we might as well embrace this part of life too, right?
I've also discovered that I have time on my hands. Well why not make good with it? I'm young enough to learn a few tricks yet, and to store up some knowledge other than what I put into storage a long long time ago. This year I plan a little course of study, a sort of self taught homeschooling of self if you get my drift. I plan to teach myself how to do some new things, and to read new subject matter and to educate/re-educate myself a bit. I want to study a bit of history and a bit of geography and whatever else strikes my fancy. Having been educated once, I can now have the leisure of pursuing my interests and choosing my own subjects to study. I have at hand books a plenty, the world wide web and libraries plus an inquiring mind. I can't think of anything more fun than LEARNING!
I am seriously contemplating how I can make myself a part of my community. With John working elsewhere and his weird work schedule being social has always been difficult. I'm not thinking of volunteering. No, no. I did my tour of duty with school parenting (Helping Hands and reading program volunteering and Girl Scouts) as well as a long stint in the Jaycees (president of the county chapter was my next to last role in that group and at some point I held every office available). No, I've done my volunteering and I don't care to go back to that. But there are other things: attending a local church a couple times of month perhaps, going to the community events, joining up with a few clubs maybe. I confess I am shy and people always always laugh out loud when I share that but I am. And only those of you who are shy and have had to fight hard to overcome it know just how it is. I am also an introvert. It never does do for me to get too unbalanced in staying home/being gone too much. I have to strive hard to strike the balance just so or I end up whiny and weepy and anxious and dragging out the horrid old measuring sticks that I use to compare myself unfavorably to every single person or situation. So I am going to try hard to find my balance being social enough to be part of my community in some small way and remain the homebody that I am, too.
I want to take care of myself better. Being a homebody I tend to go a tad too long (sometimes more than a tad and clean down to dowdy) between haircuts and colors, and I ignore the state of my hands and feet and let my house clothes get pretty dismal before I finally realize it and toss them into the rag bag. So a little more attention to the beauty part of my routine.
I don't make weight loss goals anymore. I fnd them depressing and I tend to be horrid to myself if I fail and I always fail Last year I decided to change one thing. I added in a raw vegetable salad 5-7 days a week. It's been a great boon to my overall digestive health, as well as having helped me cut down on portions overall because I felt more satisfied with meals. I often made myself eat my salad which I might otherwise have skipped when I really wanted a second portion of something. Well the results came in midway of the year when I dropped a few pounds, just a very few, but enough that tight pants fit loosely.
This year I'd like to keep a close eye on sugar consumption. I did rather well at one time and then I slipped and slipped again. Well, it's time I got my feet planted and stopped slipping. Granny never turned down a sweet but she never ever ate them endlessly either. A small treat perhaps when she'd worked hard outdoors and a single serving of dessert after her big meal of the day. It seems quite reasonable to me.
I also want to breathe better. I tend to be a very shallow breath sort of person. I've read for years how much improved health and mental alertness and sleeping can be if we'd only breathe a little more oxygen in. I'm going to practice trying to do that, being more conscious, breathing more deeply. And finally I want to spend time outdoors every single day unless there is a deluge of rain or it is icy, neither of which occurs often in the South. I want to be outdoors working on the landscaping or just strolling about the yard for a bit of time most days simply because I believe that natural Vitamin D will do a world more good than all the pills of Vitamin D one might take. Studies have shown that being outdoors rach day will reset the algorithms of the body to naturally sleep better...and honey I am at an age where a good night's rest is something I seriously need!
I don't have big plans for the house this year. There are things I'd like to do of course, but availability of money and time and goods to do those things are necessary and not assured at present. My goal is to just make sure that each area is all it might be in comfort. I've vowed to purchase a new recliner this year for John and to put new screens up at the windows. I will work (starting this next week!) on the landscaping just up around the house and try to make it all as neat and pretty as I can using what I have and can get free or very nearly so. Mulch isn't expensive and I've saved newspapers and cardboard to use as weed matting and I've plenty of pots and containers that I can fix to suit my needs. I've promised myself pansies in autumn and daffodils in spring and morning glories to clamber over the porch railing and roses. Somehow I mean to have a patch of cosmos and zinnia. Nothing costly you see but all quite manageable even without a windfall of money.
Those are my resolutions thus far and probably about as far as I'll go. They are not complicated or goal oriented but I think they are meaningful to me at this stage of my life. Celebrate the big things and the special days, take better care of myself, try to be more socially balanced and learn something new or improve my mind in some way while making my home cozy and pretty. I save my goal making for a month to month list. It's easier to keep track of my intents and I'm a whole lot less likely to wake up Dec 24 and say "Oh crud! I was supposed to do these things this year and here I've wasted a whole year...how much can I get done in the next 7 days?"
I promised myself this whole week to plan ahead. Not just to make resolutions but to work on the 2015 budget, to think over how I do things in my day to day routines and determine what needs to be changed, to plan my goals for each month, to plan the spending I hope to do this year, etc. Planning is important otherwise you just drift from one day to the next. I don't like drifting. I've been forced to drift a few times and I tried hard to enjoy it but after a bit it is just plain frustrating. I made sure, by the way, to ask God to help me plan. I don't want to make my plans and then have him snort with laughter and blow them all away!
Now that next year is done with, let me share our holiday.
I can't say this holiday season was perfect. Truth is, it was hard. My children all spent holidays elsewhere. John worked. I put on a good face and went through it all with peace, but I ached for missing my family, my husband. It didn't lessen the feeling that Christmas was truly here. I found it twice, both times in a church service, the two as different from the other as they could possibly be. The first was a small town church with old fashioned notions and ways and it reminded me deeply of my childhood church in it's way. I was blown away and I mean that by the number of truly talented individuals in that music service. I would venture to say well over half the congregation participated. It was sweet and old fashioned with hymn type carols I hadn't heard in years upon and yet they came right back to me. Songs like Beautiful Star of Bethlehem made me homesick for a part of my life that is long gone!
After that service we went had dinner with our friends at the local Mennonite Restaurant. To those who don't live locally it's better known as Yoder's Deutsch Haus to anyone who doesn't live in that area, but it's just The Mennonite Restaurant to all the local folks. It brought back a lot of memories to be there too, back in my old home place where I lived for 20 years...Hard to think I've been living here nearly 20 years now!
We went to Christmas Eve services at the very, very large church we've been attending this year. It's a modern church in many ways, but it's sound in it's teaching. I am sure some would debate that when I share what that night's service was like.
This church has embraced the more theatrical side in presenting worship. So the program opened with special scenes from classic Christmas films from modern day back to the '30's, then an old radio was featured on the film while the audio was snippets of old classic Christmas songs. The worship team came out dressed in thirties style clothing and began playing a sort of bluegrass version of Christmas carols. After the speaker came up to brief us on the program for the evening and gave an opening prayer, they showed a few more brief excerpts from old familiar Christmas films, and then sang the sort of songs we delighted in as children: Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. Then they broke into the traditional Christmas hymns. It was all like a progressive turning back of time.
The pastor spoke about the real meaning of Christmas. The ultimate turning back of time to that far away land where God came to earth as an infant child...And when the pastor was done and we'd said the final prayers we walked out into the lobby and found snow falling softly from the ceiling where the snowflakes were hung. The look of wonder on faces, old and young, big and small, was terribly sweet to behold. It was in a word, magical. And I say this even though just this past week I'd read diatribes about Christmas..
I've heard it all. Christmas is a pagan holiday and trees are druid idols and Santa is a lie that negates the truth of God later in life and modern traditions have no place with religious traditions and religious traditions are what is wrong with the old fashioned church and spiritualism is what is wrong with the modern day church and blah blah blah blah blah blah....Frankly I am sick and tired of hearing it all.
You want to know what I think? You either have a relationship with God, and I mean a relationship one where you talk to him and take time to listen to what he has to say, or you don't. And whether or not you have Santa deliver gifts on Christmas Eve or put up a Christmas tree, or you light a Hannukiah or you say Bah Humbug and do none of those things, unless you have that personal relationship, it's all pretty pointless. Forget all the junk and opinions of this one and that. It's really all about knowing who God is and knowing that He is Lord of All, King of Kings and Saviour and Friend.
I told John as we left church that evening, having been in some of the places we've been over the last few years and heard the myriad of theories about how we approach this season, it's very refreshing to have a pastor secure enough in his message that he is fully able to realize the importance of relationship and how it ties into those innocent childhood days of remembered Christmases, as well.
When we started home I thought the evening over and over again and watched all along the road for houses that were lit up with holiday lights and decorations which brought back more of that childhood wonder of the holidays. The ultimate joy was coming down the highway towards home. A man just at the edge of town works tirelessly for weeks setting up his yard, running extension cords and more. He lit the house for the first time Christmas Eve. It is a wonderland of light and awesome as can be. The evening left me with a deep sense of all in my world being right and just as it ought to be.
And that was my Christmas.
John went to work Christmas morning early. I had really nice parts to the day thereafter (talking to children and grandchildren on the phone and seeing my great nieces) and I had low moments missing my family and wishing others weren't so intent on creating hurts and heartaches. I did pretty well overall I think coming to tears only a few times. Once when speaking with my oldest granddaughter Josie, who told me "I really really really miss you ALOT, Gramma," after we'd discussed a Valentine's Day dance and her dress and her current reading material and agreed that we liked the same sort of books; once when her mother and I were winding up the phone call and acknowledged how much we miss one another; once when my daughter in law Bess called and chatted happily to me and told me how much she loved me as she ended the call and once when John texted me from work that he missed me. I walked about the house and looked at the decorations and felt a real sense of sadness that over this week they would all be put away and the rooms woul look less festive. And yet, I confess, I was torn because I also felt a sense of relief that routine and order would once again be the rule of the days in my home.
And here we are back full circle where we started at the end of this year, almost the beginning of this next...A good place to end our coffee chat this week, agreed?
I say this sincerely to each of you. I hope that I can be a part of your New Year ahead. I hope that your prosper in all areas of your life in the coming year. See you next year!