How’s Your Christmas?

How bad is your Christmas season?

Have you spent all your money? Were you not able to get the perfect gift you wanted for someone special? Are you completely exhausted from all the shopping, cooking, baking, wrapping, decorating, holiday greetings, and gay happy meetings? Have you already started to gain those extra pounds, and it’s not even Christmas yet? Are you already beginning to dread January when the decorations come down, the credit card bills roll in, and the weight has to come off your hips somehow?

Christmas, and the holiday season in general, is not always a happy time. There are real, legitimate stressors that come with the season. Each of us is guilty of a time when we slapped on a smiling face and endured some event, dinner, party, gift, etc. that we didn’t really want to deal with. Just how bad is it really?

I know one mom whose daughter was killed in a tragic car accident just a few weeks ago. She was so excited about celebrating Christmas with her daughter this year. How bad is your Christmas?

One dear friend is walking through just the second Christmas without her husband of nearly 50 years. A young mom of three sons is also facing her second Christmas without her husband. Just how bad is your Christmas?

A new wife is spending her first Christmas alone. Her husband of just seven months is deployed and is serving in the Middle East. How hard is this season for you?

A former business owner, who was highly respected in his field, is in jail this year. He was guilty of the crime and has accepted his punishment, but he has lost his business, his prestige, influence, and many of his friends. So, how bad is your Christmas season?

His wife has spent this time determining how to pay the mortgage, how to eat, who she can trust, and which family members should not be told about the situation. How tough is it at your house?

One sweet mother of four children has recently been diagnosed with a mental illness that includes symptoms of severe and inexplicable anxiety. The lovely Christmas holidays her family has come to appreciate in the past are now impossible for her to replicate. She cannot endure sitting in a room of people during the Christmas programs her children are in at school. She cannot have a lot of people in her home for a party. Christmas shopping at the stores and a cup of coffee with a friend are out of the question now. How difficult is your situation?

One fellow MoM* lost her Marine last week. He had a heart attack. He was the picture of health (He was a Marine!) and was on his way home to see her. How bad is your Christmas now?

This sounds so depressing, and I apologize, dear reader. My intention was not to make my readers feel guilty. I truly hope you are celebrating the best Christmas season you’ve ever had! Along the way, I encourage you to be sensitive to people around you.

As people are grieving, they go through different phases, or steps, of the process (grief is a process). While you may not understand where they are in the journey, try to be sensitive to their needs. This can really be as simple as catching her sitting in a quiet corner at a party, rather than visiting with friends. Walking over with a warm cup of cider and an encouraging word would be appropriate. If you see her trying to escape before the tears start flowing, helping her with her coat and bag would be very helpful. Sometimes just taking his hand and giving it a squeeze is enough to let a friend know that you care about him. A wink at a friend across the room can speak a thousand words of comfort and encouragement.

Nearly everyone I know has admitted to having to endure, rather than enjoy, something at Christmas. Some of us have had to do more than endure, but have had to bear, the Christmas season. Keep your eyes open. Sometimes, they may just need a smile and hug to help them get through the day. Hugs and smiles make great Christmas gifts.

 

~Temerity Dowell

 

*Mother of a Marine

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Milestones

I saw a video taken a few days ago of a friend’s baby taking his first steps. Oh, how exciting it was to see! I remember that time for my two sons. My daycare provider for my older son was careful to never mention seeing any firsts while I was at work. She always let me believe that I had seen the first crawl, the first step, and even found the first tooth first. I enjoyed and celebrated every one of those milestones when my sons were young.

As they got older, the milestones were still coming, but I didn’t notice them as much. There was the first time they each caught a fish, the first time they dressed in a baseball uniform and played their first game, the first time they read a written word, and so many more. After another decade, we reached the milestones that keep mamas on their knees in prayer: the first time they get behind the wheel of a car, the first time they pull out of the driveway by themselves, and the first time they are out on a date.

A word to the moms and dads who have children younger than mine: the milestones don’t end with high school, or even college, graduation. I thought they would. After graduating from boot camp last month, my Marine is at a school. This year will mark the first time he has been away from home at Christmas.

Meanwhile, I have to make it through a milestone, too: the same one my son is. It’s the first time I will not see my baby for Christmas. I have no doubt that he will be fine; my Marine is a strong young man. His mama? Not so much. Yet this, like other milestones, had to come at some point.

Marking the milestones of life is not for the weak-hearted, though it seems that way at first. It is simple to rejoice when a baby takes a first step, or uses a baby spoon by himself. It’s exciting to see your child read a book or ride his bicycle for the first time. Then you arrive at the keep-you-on-your-knees-in-prayer milestones that help make you stronger. Those are the ones that prepare you for the more difficult milestones when your children reach adulthood.

A few years ago, someone who is much older and wiser than me advised me to prepare for those milestones. I took her advice and soon afterward, I started a new hobby.  Last year I ran for a public office. I have increased my work schedule, and developed some new skills. Being in a quiet house is still quite foreign, but it is tolerable when I think about a dance lesson that evening or a political meeting I must attend. I’m no longer identified as my sons’ mom. I’m my own person.

The milestones don’t get easier; they get harder. This doesn’t mean that they are a sad experience. It means that there will be even greater rewards. To date, the best prize of all has come in seeing my children grow to become independent adults. I can’t imagine it getting any better than that, but my sons and I are not finished reaching all the milestones. The best may be yet to come….

 

~Temerity Dowell

8 Tips to Find a Gift for your Wife

Attention men:

With the Christmas season approaching quickly, I thought it might be helpful for you to have some gift giving tips that will keep the holiday cheer intact. Your number one priority is your spouse. There are some hard and fast rules that will insure that on Christmas night you are sleeping in your nice warm bed rather than under the Christmas tree with the dogs. Feel free to print out this list and refer to it often.

  1. You must give your wife a gift. Amazingly, some husbands are unaware of this. While they contribute to their wife’s well-being, finances, safety, and life-long security, some men feel that an actual gift is unnecessary. This is WRONG! Even a small gift with a lot of thought can go a long way with your spouse, but not giving a gift at all is a fatal mistake. You must give your wife a gift.
  2. The gift you get your wife must be thoughtful. Running to the box store the Saturday before Christmas and purchasing whatever is on sale is not thoughtful. She could do that herself. Therefore, start THINKING today about the gift you will give your wife. Preparation is not just a good idea, it is a necessity! Regardless of how much you choose to spend, or not spend, this gift must be thoughtful.
  3. If you have been a thoughtful husband all along, then you will know your wife’s “love language.” This will help you greatly in determining what gift would be the most thoughtful one for your spouse. A shiny bauble will work for some women, but will be completely inappropriate for others.*
  4. While you are thinking about your very thoughtful gift, do a mental review through some conversations you’ve had with your wife in the last 6 months. Most likely, she has told you what she would like to get. The problem is that you probably did not hear her when she said it and equate it to a gift-giving opportunity. Examples:
  • Three months ago, your wife complained that there were several books that needed to be picked up from the bedroom floor, kitchen table, or sofa, but they are still sitting there three months later. Don’t wonder why any longer; just go buy your wife a nice bookshelf.
  • Remember when she pointed out that new Asian restaurant in town that employed a great chef? Get a gift certificate, hire a babysitter, go to the florist to pick up a corsage for her, and take her on a date.
  1. Check your wife’s Facebook, or other social media, status. If she has posted 15 photos on Instagram of different decorating ideas for the living room, perhaps a trip to the local home furnishings store is in order.
  2. Do NOT, do NOT, do NOT give your wife any household appliance UNLESS she has asked specifically for it. One year, I got a vacuum cleaner for Christmas. No kidding. Household appliances, unless they are specific and she has asked you for it, are not gifts. They are a part of your household. Christmas is the wrong time to buy vacuum cleaners, irons, washer/dryer sets, etc. However, that great pasta maker that she has looked at half a dozen times could be perfect.
  3. If your wife has asked for something more than once and you fail to give it to her, you are an idiot who deserves to sleep under the tree with the dogs. When she asks, or playfully hints, at a specific perfume for three weeks, you had better get her at least a medium sized bottle of it along with the gift set that contains body gel and lotion in that fragrance. She would probably not have had to hint at it so much if you had paid attention last summer when she said she liked it. Be thoughtful and go get it.
  4. Your gift does not necessarily have to involve money. Women are smart. They know when the bank account is low (ok, well, except for me since I can’t balance a checkbook and my financial advisor knows I stink at this), mouths and tummies have to be fed, and mortgages have to be paid. So your wife may have suggested the idea of putting in a new flower bed last summer. Yet in the busy-ness, it just didn’t get done. So a great gift for your wife may be to mark off the place she wants the flower bed to be located, till the soil, purchase appropriate border material (often cheaper in the off season or clearance sales), and add the recommended fertilizers to prepare the soil for next spring (the local garden center can help with this). While you’re at the garden center, pick up a small gift card that your wife can use next spring to buy some seeds or flowers for the new bed. Such a gift will be remembered for months to come.

You’re welcome.

 

~Temerity Dowell

 

*Go here to learn more about Dr. Gary Chapman and the five love languages: http://www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage/communication-and-conflict/learn-to-speak-your-spouses-love-language/understanding-the-five-love-languages