Last Weekend Before Christmas

OK it is not really the last weekend before Christmas, but if you hope to ship anything it is the last weekend before Christmas. It is.

This is where the rubber meets the road.   Time for procrastinating is over.   Time for a reality check is due; what can be done for Christmas and what can’t be done.       The family of years ago with everyone living within a couple of  hours of their parents is long gone.   We are now scattered to the four corners of the continent and even a few have settled across the pond.  It is no longer possible for everyone to descent on the old home place for the holidays.   We no longer meet up with family members we love to see and a few we would rather skip seeing.    If you are not going to be home for the holidays it is now time things ready to ship.

This long distance family has been a boon for the commercialization of the holiday.   When you lived near your family it seemed that you saw them often enough, that if you wanted to give a gift, you knew what your family member would appreciate or need.    Your family knew more about your business than you wanted, but there was a quiet understanding when times were tough that your gift may not be as expensive or extravagant as you wished, but it came from the heart. Instead today we feel we must spend to show our love and that we are thinking of family.   That shipped gift without your face, well it has to make up for something.   So we tend to overspend and send gifts we aren’t really sure are right.   Some how we think anything less would not say I love you.

I wrote this because I am struggling with the reality that I am not going to do any  Christmas baking this year. I usually bake dozens of cookies or all sorts and sizes.  I am that person you hate to get behind at the post office.   It is I who lines up with 25 or so priority mail boxes to ship to family and friends all around the country this last shipping Monday before the holiday.   Those boxes are lovingly packed to the brim with just enough for each family member to have one or two of each kind.      Cookies are my love in a box,and some how not doing it seems like I don’t care enough to make time.   Though my  logical brain understands the circumstances this year,  my heart feels some of that Lutheran guilt.

Today I thought for a couple of minutes about running to town and buying 25 made in Montana  goodie food boxes and shipping them apologizing for it not being homemade.   Then something kicked in, those that know will understand.   Those that would not have understood, should not have been on my list anyway.  I have made peace with this decision.   I have also promised myself that this year, when they least expect it, I plan to mail those on my Christmas cookie list some love in a box.     Not because it is a holiday, their birthday or some significant day, but because I thought of them and wanted them to know someone in Montana loves them.

It feels a little weird, but I know it is alright.   The presence of a gift or not does not change how I feel about them.   Those who we love know that.

Remember to Print and Share You Photos

Everybody clicks today, but do they share?

Today there is a new accessibility to photography.   Even the dumbest cell phone can take some kind of photo.  Which is great because so many more family moments are getting captured.   Unfortunately in this digital age very few of these snapshots are getting saved in a means that will likely survive time.   Before the digital age the only way to know what you took was to have your film processed.   For most of John Q Public that also included printing your photos.

I have boxes of photos taken before the digital age.  There are many that my husband and I have taken.  My mother had tons of photos she took and she has gone through them as well, labeling them, and sharing them with the kids.    Before that  grandparents had photos they saved and passed on.   By the very act of printing photos they were preserved.   Someone has to look at them and consciously pitch them in the trash.   It increases the odds they will survive.

In this age of digital photography we tend to share photos by asking people to look at the back of our phones.     That for most photographers is as far as it goes.   If you are a little higher up on  preservation, you are moving photos from your phone or camera to a computer.    Being a tech-weenie I can not tell you how many times folks have called me and said I lost my pictures or music.    Most folks never back things up, so history is lost in many cases.   In a perfect world that stuff on your computer gets backed up to a  local external hard drive and some cloud based place.

Even if you are preserving your digital photos on the cloud odds are when you are gone no one is going to look through them determining what to save and keep.   Odds are when you are gone so is your digital photo history and the significance of them.

Five years ago a social acquaintance at a mutual friends birthday party showed me the answer to preserving memories.   Print your digital photos and share them.    This acquaintance was there with her digital camera recording the friend’s party.   Two weeks later in the mail I got a snapshot of my husband and I walking hand in hand she had taken, with a post-it on it that said “We don’t often get pictures take by others. Enjoy!”  This picture still sits on our bedroom dresser, it was a great moment she caught, because we seldom are folks who PDA even as simple as hand holding.  It is a rare moment saved.

I can’t tell you how many times at gatherings someone has asked to take our picture.   We are dressed up and think yeah this would be a good photo and yet we never see it.    We have all been there.  Today many photos are shared on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Flickr and other online social media.    It is there for the day and then as more stuff comes in it is lost in the shuffle.   I recently saw a family snapshot taken by a waitress in a restaurant of friend’s family.   It was an amazing photo of the whole family.    Hope they print a couple and share all of them together smiling deserves to be looked at a year from now.

How can you do this print and share?   I suggest:   If you have a color printer it may be as simple as that.   I personally like sending them to a local pharmacy or discount store and having them printed “traditional.”   Whatever works best for you.   Bring a smile to some one’s face.   Be an unexpected bright spot.   Be the only thing in the mailbox besides bills.     Who knows someone might pay it forward and you will receive the same?  Preserve and share some memories this holiday season as you gather with family and friends.

Thankful For My Brothers

BrotherPeople are writing about all the things that they are thankful for this holiday season.  One of the things I am  thankful for is my brothers.    I have a whole assortment of them each different and special.   One is older, three are younger.  They are all sorts: one regular, one step and two halfs.    They have been friends, confidants, rivals, protectors, pests, public embarrassments, tattle tales, but always there.   You four know who you are.    I am glad you are part of my family by blood or by marriage.

Kids Make You Old

stick-familyOr maybe it is not having them keeps you young.  So much of life is measured by milestones but you don’t much think about them.  Unless that is, you skipped a bunch of aging milestones because you had no children.

Mr. Ranger Sir and I had no children.  We have missed all those milestones that parents measure life against, graduations, marriages, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  All those moments when you reflected and said “Holy Cow, where did the time go?”  or  “Our kids can’t be that old already.”  We never had a full nest to experience an empty nest.

We have had  different milestones.   We think about where did we live  or what job did one of us have when that happened.   But none of those are related to our age.  My brothers regardless of their age or birth order are all older than me.   They have had so many of life’s milestones I haven’t.   Their children have made them old in more ways than one.

Now we are starting to look at external aging milestones.   We have been planning for retirement for years, but it now on the horizon.   It is a milestone we can’t avoid and it will say yes we are getting older – kids or not.

And It Starts All Over Again

Congress is back with some new people  and lots of the same old folks.   It appears that we can expect more of the same from them.   They are worse than children on a playground.  They have decided before they ever started they are not going to work together.    Unfortunately there is  no mother who will come out and tell them all to play together and expect it to happen.  Children will begrudging play together and maybe enjoy it a little as well.    No,  these folks in Congress seem to be driven by the big money that financed their campaigns not the people who elected them.

People don’t always agree with their friends, family, co-workers or neighbors.   Heck it may be even more than disagree, we may just plain not like some folks.   Yet somehow we all manage to work together at our employer, get together for family gatherings, and co-exist in our neighborhoods.   It frustrates me that our leaders may not have even come from the same society as the public who elected them.    To me, it appears they don’t understand that on the ground we all manage to work and live together.   In our workplace, neighborhoods and families we all know that there will be give and take; some of it just what we wished for and some painful.  Wouldn’t it be nice if our leaders would remember what it is like in the real world for the folks back home?   That was my Pollyanna moment.

 

Kiddie Table

My Montana family that we spend the holidays with is all grown up.   What that means is there is no longer a kiddie table at Thanksgiving.  That is a huge milestone for  the kids.   It is a bigger deal than getting your driver’s license because that does not automatically move you to the adult table.  There is some secret magical criteria that only moms get to see that tells them when their youngsters are ready to graduate from that table reserved for all the kids.

When I was a kid growing up the kiddie table was made up of my cousins, my brothers and me.   My grandma’s house was a tight fit and I can remember years where if  it was not too cold out that the kids would relegated to the picnic table in the back yard.   If it was too cold for that we would be sent to the front room as not to disturb the men watching football on TV. I did not get to move from the kiddie table until I had moved away from home.  I wonder what that says about me?

The kiddie table was a great bonding time for the cousins.   We did not all live close to one another so we only saw each other at major holidays.   We quickly found old bonds and made new ones.   We did things that you could only do at the kids table, tell jokes, burb, laugh until Kool-Aid came out your nose, and try and one up your cousin.  You could be loud, not worry about proper manners, play with your food and con someone in to eating that stuff that your mom put on your plate you hated.   There were lots of things that you only  could experience at the kiddie table.

I on the other hand have never had children.  Not being a Mom I did not understand how you decided who was sent to the kiddie table and who went to the regular table.   When it came time for me to start hosting Thanksgiving I took the easy way out, one table.   I put the kids and adults all at the same table.  They were all mixed up, no kids end or segregation.   In retrospect I never gave a thought about a second table and if it would have it more comfortable for my guests.   Did the kids find the conversation boring?   Did adults not get to relax because they were worried about if their child would behave?   I wonder if I was doing a disservice to the kids who joined us as they did not get to chat up a storm and be goofy as my cousins and I once were.  Or was I giving them a boost by including them in the adult world?  Someday I will ask my nieces, nephews and the friends they brought with them to our house for Thanksgiving dinner, was the lack of kiddie table good or bad move on my part?    Maybe the fact they brought their friends with them Thanksgiving at our home says it all.   Maybe it wasn’t normal, but was worth sharing with your friends; good eats and good times.

 

Brothers

Sometimes being a brother is even better than being a superhero.  ~Marc Brown

I have always known there was nothing like the love of brothers and sisters.  Growing up my brothers and I have fought like cats and dogs, yet I knew they always had my back.  We have left the nest, got jobs, had families and gone our own way.  One brother has traveled the world and another lives in the town we grew up in.  My youngest brother still has one in high school, while the oldest is working on grand kids.   Life has taken each of us on a different course, yet when we get together there is still that connection.  A good safe connection; that knowledge that time doesn’t diminish bonds.  As strongly as I feel that bond with my brothers, my cousins are living that bond.

My brothers and me

My cousin has an illness that is requiring a bone marrow transplant.   She has two brothers, one a close match and one a perfect match.   Her perfect match brother is giving his sister the gift of life, some of his bone marrow.  That is love.  He has his sister’s back in a way no one else could.    My cousin will spend the next 28 days in the hospital.  She is undergoing chemotherapy getting ready to receive the marrow and all that goes with it.  I pray for her and a speedy recovery.   I also pray for her brother who has stepped up to share with his sister in her greatest time of need a piece of himself.