a bench with a view

a bench with a view

Monday, November 14, 2016

you may remember (or not)

That Christmas is not a favorite of mine. I would personally prefer not to celebrate it all and just skip to the new year without the fanfare. I've written about it before, but I'm too lazy to show the links of it. Lets just say that December has not been a kind month to my family. Its been filled with strife and a multitude of deaths (actually three deaths, but isn't that a multitude when those deaths were a father, a mother, and a beloved corgi?). December sucks for us. I'm sorry, it just sucks.

I can't find joy in Christmas for the past 10 years (at least). I want to feel joy but who can find it in what has gone on for several of those years in the past few years? I want to get excited about seeing Christmas decorations before the Thanksgiving holiday but for the most part I just want to wrap myself up in a cocoon and start the new year with fresh start, oblivious to what may or may not have occurred leading up to December 25th.

And then we have this year. Really, how could it have happened? It surely wasn't something I wanted to encounter or be involved in. I wanted to sweep the holidays under the rug. But I found myself with an 11 year old young lady, a step grand daughter, who loves Christmas and still believes in Santa. She joyfully announced the other day "its 45 days until Christmas." I wanted to scream "NO......" but I didn't. I said "that's great." 

I tried to match her enthusiasm. I said later on in the shopping adventure "we'll make cookies" to which she replied "gingerbread cookies, we'll leave some for Santa". I never made gingerbread cookies. I was thinking sugar cookies. If you have made gingerbread cookies, let me in on your secret. I really need to know how to accomplish this.

There is talk of stockings and such, talk of trees and such.

I just cannot do it. 

I really can't.

But yet I need to.

I need to keep the spirit of Christmas alive for her.

I need to put up a Christmas tree (Oh Lord, please no, I really don't want too, just show me that one that looks cool and doesn't cost a lot)

I need to fill those stockings that will be hung by the wall with care (no mantle in which to do so, but stockings will be hung).

I need to model Christmas of my youth here this year.

Frankly, I'm not sure I can do so.

Yet I must.

Help me and encourage me. Help me to see the joy of Christmas when really i want  to ignore it all.

Help me to see and model some Christmas joy.

I covet what you will share with me.


joeh said...

I think an 11 year old is just what you need to bring back the joy of Christmas.

baili said...

BEST line you wrote here that "you tried to match her enthusiasm "
see that reveals the hope and strength inside you that for sure you can do it .
i remained victim of such low feelings after the death of my parents for few years but believe me that it made my kids sad and low in their positive energy
their faded faces provoked me to shake myself and feel ALIVE once again because they are so precious and their smiles have returned since i start matching myself with their enthusiasm.
stay happy dear

Cathy said...

It doesn't have to be Christmas of 'your' youth - it needs to be Christmas of your little ones youth.
Take it slowly- pick up on what she suggests. Let her dress the tree. A small one, doesn't have to have all the bells and whistles.
If she is happy it's possible you will be also

I'm mostly known as 'MA' said...

A little child will lead you...so glad you have this young one in your life. The joy of Christmas is something I've never lost. I won't be decorating this year as hopefully I'll be packing up for a move, but still and all Christmas is the most wonderful time of year for me !

Bijoux said...

Just buy the Betty Crocker gingerbread cookie mix. They taste the same and very easy!

But I'm more concerned that you sound very depressed :(
If we lived closer, I would come over to listen. Praying for you.

Maria Zannini said...

It's tough when bad things happen around the holidays. For us, it seems to happen around Thanksgiving. For that reason, we're especially vigilant with loved ones.

But you said it best when you said you try to match her enthusiasm. That's the best way to start. Children are so perceptive. Don't let her catch your apprehension.

jack69 said...

Aw shucks sweetie, just sing the Hot Digiddy Dog song and work in Christmas! You attitude is easy to understand, BUT, but I would bet there was at least one good thing about December, think about it. It is cooler there for one thing. Do like us old folk, use a ceramic tree or one of the new color changing table top trees. They are actually mood changing.
Love ya and the best in your quest for a beautiful Christmas.....
Love, lots of love from Florida!

Pat Hatt said...

Sucks when bad things happen around a holiday indeed. But the main reason for such things as stockings and trees I find is for the kids. They aren't kids that long and giving them that joy is worth pushing through the not want to do it.

But since no kids in the family at the moment, we're pretty much skipping it this year, so I may not be the best one to help spread the cheer lol

Plowing Through Life (Martha) said...

I think that you already have the perfect guide for this, Betty. That sweet child! Children, with their hearts open wide, their innocence, their joyful spirits, are the ones that oftentimes help us move forward. Let her lead the way and share the joy and excitement she feels. Some of that magic may just find its way into your own heart! It can be quite contagious.

Intense Guy said...

Youngsters - like a trip to the maternity ward - remind us of the beauty of new, uncaring, innocent life. And that rubs off on us.

I hope you make an effort to bring the cheer of the season to this little one. It will rub off you.

Ann Bennett said...

I'm glad you got an 11 year old to make it through the holidays. I am not a fan of Christmas either. I have too many in my family that get depressed during the holidays. It's hard to deal with. Plus, we have had some great losses in December too.

However, my sister comes back from rehab from her stroke at the end of the month. I plan to decorate this year for the first time in a home I live in as an adult. We are going to make the best of it.

Joanne Noragon said...

Do what the little one says.

Mac n' Janet said...

Of course you can do it, your Mother would be very disappointed if you didn't. My Father died on my anniversary and as sad as that made and makes me I still love my anniversary. Life goes on, we carry the good memories alive by celebrating the joy.

salemslot9 said...

good comments

I'm Scrooge, too
we're going to Native American casino
they add beautiful Christmas touches
to their array of tribal artifacts
at home
we bring out small tree
hang a string of lights in window
give gifts to close family

pray on it
3:*> <---Rudolph is sad, too

Danielle L Zecher said...

Maybe she's exactly what you need.

I know anniversaries of bad things can really dampen celebrations (I'm already dreading my birthday next year since it's the same month we lost Emma and Cookie in). Sometimes something happy is a good distraction though.

I LOVE the holidays, but I had a little bit of a hard time getting excited about them this year. It has just been a really bad year, and I feel like I've spent more of it crying (or at least wanting to) than celebrating. That being said, I think there's something to be said about the old adage of "fake it til you make it". My sister is unusually excited about Christmas this year. She's finally in a place big enough to host Christmas, and has been making plans since August. I didn't want to crush her plans so I faked enthusiasm for a while. As it's getting closer, I'm actually becoming happier about it, and not just going through the motions. Maybe paste on the smile and fake the enthusiasm for your grand daughter's plans and hopefully you'll start to feel it for real.

I think it also helps to do something nice for someone else. It probably sounds a little dramatic, but being allowed to make Thanksgiving dinner for the hospice house here has been a lifeline for me. It has given me something to look forward to. It distracts me from my own issues, and it's something I can feel good about doing for someone else. I feel like it's getting the holidays off to a good start, and maybe wrapping the year up on a happier note. Maybe you and your grand daughter can do something together for someone else? That could become your yearly tradition. Animal rescue groups always need supplies (food, toys, bedding, cleaning supplies, etc.). Maybe you could donate something in honor/memory of Koda. Or maybe you and your grand daughter could go shopping together for something for an angel tree kid. She'd have the inside scoop on what an 11 year old might like. Or maybe y'all could take some of the cookies you bake to a nursing home, fire department, hospice house, etc. What are her interests? If you can find a project she will love her enthusiasm might rub off on you. Those are just some ideas off the top of my head.

Maybe you can also focus on being in a new place, and kind of having a clean slate for Christmas. We're trying to kind of change things up this year, and I think it will help. This might be a good year for new traditions that don't have bad memories attached to them.

My sister makes amazing gingersnaps. I'll try to get the recipe from her and send it to you.

I hope you're able to find some joy, and that Christmas won't be too hard on you.

Joanne said...

Very sorry that December is associated with sadness. That has to be very hard. But....rather than dwell on the past, perhaps let these kids guide you to a new present and future. Make new traditions with them. You don't want them to hate December. And it's okay to mention the bad time and say it makes you sad, but then turn it around and let them pick a favorite carol to sing. I bet that tugs at the heart strings.
Hang in there and give those kids a big hug

SweetMarie said...

you can do it for the children. :) funny how things work out sometimes. also, have you thought about working with a local shelter or rescue group to help foster dogs or pups? it's a wonderful thing to do...help save lives. :)
we're starting a small family business so we can help local animal rescue groups. :)

yaya said...

Maybe take her to see the Nutcracker ballet or perhaps a church does a beautiful Christmas Eve service with lovely music. Let her help you find that spirit. Or as they say, fake it till you make it. Prayers for you!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

My secret to gingerbread cookies is to buy the premade refrigerated dough.
If you pretend to enjoy the holiday, you might actually find it's not all pretend. Children can reflect their joy onto those around them. I hope you can capture some of it.

Paula Kaye said...

Christmas isn't my favorite time of the year either. But I always decorate for my grandkids because they love it. Now, they are older and I let them do most of it. The girls get quite into the tree. And before I know it I am in the mood. I am so glad you are trying for this little girl. She needs it more than ever. And soon you will have a little boy who will be showing you what Christmas looks like through the eyes of a tiny tyke. We'll get through this together!!

Mevely317 said...

Christmas - with all its expectations and obligations - is wearying, indeed. Factor in adult step-children who behave like spoiled brats ... missing my mom, my Caraleigh and my son (not necessarily in that order!) ... and you've got the makings of a real b****. (Have I depressed you more, yet?)

Probably my LEAST favorite part of the holiday is decorating a tree. I refused last year, and wouldn't you know the universe has gotten even with me. I've been dubbed to "do" the tree at our workplace lobby now. A case of the stomach flu sounds actually preferable!

Bring on the wine opener!

Megan Whitson Lee said...

It sounds like this young lady may have been sent directly from the Lord to you for this purpose. He wants you to receive joy-- all year of course-- but especially now, during the time that you have been hurt so deeply. Yes, I see stockings, gingerbread, and all of those things that you mentioned. Make it a great Christmas for her, for you, and for your family. I will be praying for you.

Stephanie@Fairday's Blog said...

As a teacher I have had to work many hard days at work when all I wanted to do was burst into tears (9/11 being one of them). What I have learned is that if anything can get us in the spirit of things and take our minds off the bad- it is children. They get so excited and trying to put forth a happier face really does make one feel a bit happier inside. So- I think the trick will be enjoying everything with an 11 year old.

Gingerbread cookies are a bit of pain (in my experience)- but they do smell wonderful. Maybe make one batch of "special" gingerbread cookies (because recipes don't make a lot from what I recall). Then make sugar cookies that can be decorated with all different festive colors. Some red, some green, some red and green.

If you must decorate a tree maybe put on Santa hats, holiday music, make some hot chocolate (maybe in yours a touch of Bailey's and start a tradition that the kids (or kid) do most of the decorating. I know my nephews love helping my mom every year to decorate her tree. She makes a big deal how the tree needs a "kid's" touch to be special enough for the holidays. She starts off helping, leaves the rest to them while she gets the hot cocoa ready and then joins them at the end.

I am sending you hugs and hoping the holidays are better than you expect.

Denise said...

One year at my annual all-girls Christmas holiday party I had some napkins that said " put your big girl panties on and deal with it" . Christmas 1980, I have a three-year-old. I have a two-year-old and my baby is due December 27 . On December 24 my father dropped dead of a heart attack. We deal with it, we go on with the holidays for our families and the love that we share with them. I'm sorry you feel so depressed about this but maybe your grandchild is just what you need to put the love and faith back into your heart

Chatty Crone said...

I understand what you are saying - if it wasn't for kids I probably wouldn't decorate either - but oh what a difference it makes with kids. Look out of her eyes and put on your rose colored glasses! lol

Liz A. said...

I was going to say you're totally okay with skipping Christmas. But... Why don't you take the best parts to celebrate with her? What doesn't make your skin crawl with regards to Christmas? Is there someplace that puts up pretty lights?

I know I hate Christmas music. (I worked in retail for 11 Christmas seasons. With Christmas music blaring the whole time. Completely burned out.) But, there are still things I enjoy that eliminate the music.

What's the one thing that you do love about Christmas? Focus on that.

Victoria Zigler said...

Firstly, I'm sorry you're struggling to find your holiday spirit. I understand why it's difficult... Losing loved ones is tough enough, but losing them so close to the holidays must be a lot worse. The holidays make me miss Kero even more than I already do, and it was mid August when I lost him.

I think having an enthusiastic 11 year old who still believes in Santa will help. Let her enthusiasm for the holidays guide you; continue to try and match her enthusiasm as you have done already. Focus on seeing the holidays through her eyes, and keeping the magic alive for her. You can do it... I know you can! Make cookies, decorate a tree, go see your nearest Santa, and do it all while listening to Christmas music.

Regarding the cookies: buy a small gingerbread mix to make the gingerbread cookies she requested, and then make some homemade sugar cookies. She'll be happy to do both (especially if you suggest you leave one of each for Santa) and cookie making time will last longer. Plus, you can never have too many cookies.

Regarding the tree: it doesn't have to be a big and fancy one. Decorate it with her, and that will mean more than the most enormous and beautifully decorated tree in the universe, because you did it together.

<a href="http://ziglernews.blogspot.com</a>

Victoria Zigler said...

P.S. children's holiday movies may help you get in the mood too. Especially ones like "Santa Claus - The Movie" and "Prancer" and those kinds of things.


Zigler News

Susan Kane said...

December is a rough month for us as well. Too convoluted to talk and explain. But my heart drops as the days come closer.

Jo said...

The people you lost would hate to think you lost Christmas because of them. Your beloved Corgi would be sad too I think. I hope the 11 year old will help you to bring back the joy of Christmas. I have to tell you that even at my age, I still believe in Santa Clause and love this time of the year so I do hope you can learn to enjoy it once again.

Lowcarb team member said...

Let the child(ren) guide you ...
See it through their eyes ...

I'm sure it will all come together ok.

All the best Jan

Debby@Just Breathe said...

I totally understand when you have been hit hard in December but there is nothing like the heart of a child to bring you back. You know that I love Christmas and I just realized something while typing this. I didn't want to celebrate Christmas because Amber/Dylan were not going to be here but now I see that I have to or I will possibly lose the spirit within me forever. You can do this!!! Love, Debby

Bobbi and Gracie said...

Boy can I relate to how you are feeling about Christmas! Three Christmas's ago we were just on the other side of burying my 50 year old niece who died suddenly right before Thanksgiving. It was a sad time. Two Christmas's ago my favorite brother was dying of lung cancer and it was the most heart wrenching of times. We put up the Christmas village, decorated as always, got out the karaoke, laughed, cried, enjoyed, and savored life with the grand-angels. Immediately afterwards I focused on making lots of vegetable soup (my bros fave) and chocolate chip cupcakes (also his fave) and making trips to Hanover to be with my brother during his last days. A month later, he was gone. And then there was my favorite and closest sister Lindy. Always wanting to be the center of attention, she greeted us all as we gathered around her on Christmas day and we joked and laughed and enjoyed life as always... knowing full well she was dying of renal failure and this would likely be her last Christmas. Three days later I said goodbye to her, watching as she took her last breath on this, her most favorite of holidays. So boy do I get what you are feeling, Betty!! When time came to turn the clocks back I got this empty, sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. What will it be this year? Well, my son goes to JHH in Baltimore for major surgery on Thursday of this week so please, keep him in your prayers. I am holding on! Trusting God! Praying for faith when I feel that trust fading!! We had talked about not putting up the Christmas village or the train this year. Not going all out like before. Just... skating through and getting by. But. I will do it. We will do it. I'm like you. I really can't. But I need to. The show must go on and memories will be made and the time will come when our kids and grandkids will be strong... because we were. And I will go to Church on Christmas eve and the candlelight service will be exactly what I need. It seals the deal, so to speak. Sorry I wrote a book, but you did touch a nerve... LOL! (But seriously, Christmas stuff out before Thanksgiving is just ridiculous if you ask me// Ok. I'm done my rant. ;-)

Bobbi and Gracie said...

Oh, I forgot to mention. It was last year for my sister.. :-(

Saleslady371 said...

Funny you should write this. I thought just today about last year when I dreaded my old tree and could only think of a real live one. Husband said no, always does. I prayed and asked God to help me. He changed my attitude! I won't tell you the rest, it's a good story though!!!!! Surprise me. Good luck with the gingerbread recipe...maybe Martha Stewart or the Pioneer Woman might be able to help?

Kat said...

Ha! I hear ya. Christmas is just so hectic and exhausting. It is not supposed to be like that. That's not the point. Add in the deaths that you have experienced at that time and I can see why you aren't happy about it.

I remember when I was a kid my mom would dread Christmas. All the decorating, baking, shopping, wrapping. I thought she was nuts. By the time I was in high school she didn't even want to put up the tree anymore so my dad and I did most of it. I thought she was the biggest scrooge in all the land. Now I get it. I was the last of SIX children. She had been doing about 25 years of major Christmases by the time I was in high school. She was EXHAUSTED. I get it now. And now it seems that even more is expected of moms during the holidays. All the school plays, and class parties, and Christmas concerts at school, and shopping for the teachers, and the principal, and the secret santas, ON TOP of all the normal stuff. AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!

It's enough to make you crazy.



When the house is all quiet and snow is gently falling down outside my window, and the Christmas tree lights are the only lights on, I get it. I remember how magical it can all be. When my kids come home from school and their eyes bug out at seeing the house all decorated for Christmas it is worth it. Seeing them feel magic makes it worth it.

But be gentle with yourself. Go easy. Get a table top prelit tree so you don't have so much to set up. Pick a handful of your favorite ornaments and put those on the tree. Make cookies but maybe buy premade dough. Make it easy on yourself.

Birgit said...

It is so difficult to let the Christmas spirit in when so much negativity happened around this time for you. Sometimes, one has to force oneself to bring back a bit of cheer. I believe there is always a reason, so maybe having these 2 who love Christmas so, will heal your hurt soul a bit. You will always see Christmas around you unless you travel to a country that does not celebrate it (my friend went to Thailand). My mom lost her 1 year old brother Dec 12th, her mom on Dec 29, her dad on Dec 30 and her brother Dec. 25th. I didn't know my young uncle but I knew the others and Opa lived with my mom. I didn't have my Katie with me, the home I grew up in was lost and so was my dad but somehow, I willed myself to keep Christmas going. It was hard but I learned from my mom...who gave me Christmas every year:)

Robert Bennett said...

I will say this: I have a very love/hate relationship with Christmas.

For a while, I developed a deep loathing for the holiday. My mom died on Dec 23rd. It ANNIHILATED the Holiday and made it almost unbearable to get through. But, later on, it became my wife and I's anniversary. For over a decade I've grown to looking forward to it again.

The holidays have special meanings to every person. I've realized the day itself isn't much to me (the idea of sitting around in pajamas isn't that appealing) but it's the concept. Good will. Kindness. Charity. Cold (not something I get much of in California). All of these, coupled with the love of my wife is what makes it worth enjoying. I remember my mother as well, but I've learned not to let my own loss poison me.

Alicia said...

My mother has always said "There is no sadness with a child in the house". It's true. Children are life and rejuvenation. They keep us young and they force us to go on living. The fact that you know that you need to do this is what will get you through it. And the joy on her face will be well worth it.

Jerralea said...

I think God sent you an 11 year old for a reason ... to bring joy back to your life!

After all, the wee one will be coming along too and wanting to celebrate Christmas.

It DOESN'T have to be like the ones you experienced in the past. Now is the time you can make new memories that will become your traditions. Ditch the ones you didn't like and try something new!

Elizabeth said...

I've seen some good answers already in the comments above. I've had some ups and downs with Christmas over the years, but I still find joy in it. Just focus on the meaning behind Christmas- the birth of Jesus. You could share the story of the nativity with your step-granddaughter. I know some people at my church who make a "Happy Birthday Jesus" cake, if you wanted to do something a bit different. Just pray about it, I'll keep you in my prayers as well, and I'm sure God will help you through this season.

Linda From Wisconsin said...

I have been thinking about your post since the first time i read it a few days ago. I just read the amazing suggestion many of your friends have written. Following the death of our four year old many years ago, it was difficult to find the excitement for Christmas. We were forced to continue for our younger son.

We all look at the "perfect" family we see in pictures, in the movies, and on tv, and wonder what is wrong with us. For myself, I know I put too much pressure to make the perfect holiday for my family and friends.

A couple of years ago I found the Ann Voskamp book, "The Greatest Gift." Each day is a short passage helping us to keep the focus, to celebrate Christ! There is also a version for families, "Unwrapping The Greatest Gift." I highly recommend them. Please search out her website to find your joy in celebrating our Christ of Christmas.

Nick Wilford said...

I'm so sorry to hear this isn't a good time of year for you. It's hard for us too; we lost Andrew in November, three years ago, and that first Christmas was unreal. He used to get so excited. But it's the kids that get you through it. They still have that joy in life despite everything. I hope your granddaughter makes this a wonderful holiday!

Mary Degli Esposti said...

I'm a holiday grump of late, but the 11 year old. Hmmm. She's the one helping you, Betty. Ya know, they have gingerbread house kits for about $20-25. I think, from the writing in this post, you'll soon be dropping the "step." You have a granddaughter who loves Christmas, & soon, I think you will too.

Secret Agent Woman said...

I have had sad Christmases in times of loss (the first after my divorce particularly stands out), but was faced with children who needed me to celebrate. And I did. I sat them down and asked which traditions were most important to them and which would they not mind scuttling. And then used that as my guide.

Debby said...

Okay, so now I know what "it" is.

I can relate. I too used to hate Christmas and every holiday. It started in 2003 when my 25 yr old son died unexpectedly. My dad died in 2007, Mom committed suicide in 2008 and my best friend died unexpectedly in 2011. I went through what they call Complicated grief.

But the good news is, it has lifted. Granted it took just about 10 years...I still get weepy over my son; when I pull out Christmas decorations. And yes, Grief sucks!

I pray that you will find your way OUT of the grief you are still in. Maybe this 11 yr old, is Gods answer.