This year, I've made my home into a cozy Christmas wonderland on a budget $0. Yes, zero. One big, round O. Like a holiday wreath. Like Santa's belt. Like the halo on Baby Jesus. PIN THAT, SUCKAZ.
You see, I'm attempting to take the magical, glittering high road between grinchy-stinginess and greedy consumerism. I'm seeking that sweet spot where whimsy and the true meaning of the holidays come together. In that spirit, my goal is to maximize the magic of the season while cutting the crap.
This merry season begins just after the holiday weekend when we gave thanks for what we already have. Thanskgiving also kicks off a season of gleeful excess, and in many ways, I'm fine with that. I'm fine with eating rich foods on special occasions, buying and doing frivolous things just to spread joy during a dreary month, and the decorating/fashion look that Dolce and Gabbana describe as "more is more." I'm pretty sure that feasting and glitter-bombing are seasonally appropriate behaviors that are deeply embedded in human nature. There is a season for everything, and right now 'tis the season for shiny, sprinkle-covered excess.
But there's fun excess, and then there's gross excess. Vosges chocolates made with fair trade, fresh, organic ingredients, wrapped purple satin ribbons, is the good kind; trampling Walmart employees to death over a TV sale is what makes the world hate America.
My idea of "big spending" this year is spending loads of time having fun with my little Nux Gallica, who is almost three years old now! I'll be spending lots of time, though very little money, on trimming the upcycled tree with inherited ornaments, baking and frosting homemade cookies, pulling out the old Christmas mugs to fill with spiced cider and hot cocoa, and singing Christmas carols by the fireside.
One of the upsides of our culture's obscene culture of excess is that if you try, you can get literally buried in free Christmas cheer. If you find yourself in the odd position of having no Christmas decorations, just ask relatives and friends for hand-me-downs via a Facebook post. Boom, watch out. Or get down like Macklemore and visit the thrift shop. (While you're at it, play Santa and haul in a giant bag of all the obnoxious battery-powered things your relatives bought for your kids last year. Ahh, doesn't that feel good?)
If you're crafty, skip the overpriced, new craft supplies, but do pull out last year's holiday cards and wrapping paper, or gather natural/biodegradable materials like evergreen boughs, red-twig dogwood branches, pine cones, gingerbread, pomegranates, oranges, and cloves, and create some soulful, traditional crafts with the whole family.
I love the ancient tradition of bringing evergreens indoors. I haven't been in an especially crafty mood since giving birth, but I love bringing all my potted plants indoors in the fall and filling up the inside of my house with greenery. It makes everything feel peaceful and serene--of course, this is only true if your children will not dump them over or eat the dirt--and it even improves the indoor air quality. Live plants inside the home really take down the stress level during a hectic time of year.
Here are a few shots of my budget-zero Christmas season living room so far. I haven't pulled all the old decorations out of storage yet--Nux will want to help me finish up!
I'll admit that I am not putting up a live Christmas tree this year (unless you count my lightly decorated Norfolk island pine). Each year, we are adding something a little more magical to the Christmas decor at our home, which fills Nux with excitement. When she was a mobile and adventurous baby, we simply put up a giant window cling of a Christmas tree on the living room window and piled the presents beneath it. She thought that was pretty neat. The next year, we set a sparkly, two-foot-tall tree decoration on a table and put the presents under that. This year, Nux is about to come home from preschool to find a life-sized, lit tree visible from the front door!
The hand-me-down tree is one of those pre-lit types, and only half of the lights come on. It's too old to even find replacement bulbs. But of course, I was able to find odd strands of colorful lights to plug together and fill in the gaps. It has the spirit of a Charlie Brown tree, but it actually looks just fine. And soon, we'll be covering it from stem to star with a massive collection of rocking horse ornaments that DaddyMan collected with his parents when he was a little boy.
Holiday decorating with small children in the house requires a special attitude to be joyful. It's much safer to use old items--they're layered with history and memories, and there's less stress about things getting broken or worn out. Holiday decorating in adults-only homes and venues is different. It can be nice to create unique looks with limited color palettes--say, all-white or blue and silver--but decorating for a family with children is all about the cliches. Children don't care about the latest fashions in home design. The more gaudy and colorful, the better. A home with small children is no place for new, expensive knick-knacks.
Besides, the family Christmas home look needs to be ready to incorporate all the merry mess of the big day--crumples of bright wrapping paper, sticky bows on everything, ribbons, glitter, and toys scattered everywhere. There is one season of the year when this kind of chaos is appropriate, and there is one season in your child's life when this time of year will be at the height of its magic. Enjoy it while it lasts.
Across the millennia and around the globe, people celebrate holidays near the winter solstice with stories and songs of hope, lights in the darkness, symbols of new life, family, and the bounty of the earth preserved inside the home. Babies and children are the most precious symbols of hope for the future. So to make the most of the season, we're going to spend lots of time with our little Nux. We'll deck the halls, make merry, and spread the cheer. We'll give and receive gifts thoughtfully--gifts that have real meaning and add true value to our lives--and we'll save our sanity and our wallets by making such a big deal out of the things that really matter that we don't miss any of that other stuff.
Come back on the first Friday of each month for more thoughts from a Middle Path Mother.
Friday, December 6, 2013
Sunday, November 3, 2013
Spoiler alerts: Rosemary wakes up from her nap! Wannabe heroes arrive from all parts of the world to smash the curses of Vepres! Divergent prophecies compete for fulfillment while sexually frustrated characters also compete for... fulfillment!
I applied for an award that I did not win (and had very slim chances of winning), but my greatest fear has been averted: that upon receiving my rejection letter, I would feel so discouraged that I would fall out of love with my project. On the contrary, the rejection (and the anticipation of the rejection for a long while beforehand) got me thinking hard about all the weak spots in my current work and how I can strengthen them. Great ideas for story and character development continue to jump out and tickle me at the most inopportune times, such as in the shower or while sleeping.
And I love it! I'm feeling refreshed and ready to write on, with the sharp advice of my writing group, the thoughtful musings of my favorite blogger-buddies, the inspiration of raw life experiences, and the love of my husband and daughter behind me.
This month, I feel like there's nothing I can't do. I know the odds are against novice writers. I know I have a lot to learn. I know the path to my dreams is long and fraught with perils. But that's what makes it so beautiful and exciting.
I want to raise my daughter to be smart, savvy, and practical, but also to believe in her dreams and nurture her creative spirit and draw resilience from adversity. So I'm setting the example of living my dream of spinning complex, juicy, luscious stories while balancing my time with those real-life experiences and relationships that are the fuel of creative fire.
I am serious about this fun--the fun of enjoying the people I love and the fun of doing what I love to do. Really, what else is there?
Colleagues of the writersphere, what recharges your batteries and makes you feel like you would do this forever, no matter the measure of outward success? How has rejection or failure made you stronger in your creative work?
Saturday, October 5, 2013
This fall, I'm recommitting to my lapsed meditation practice and seeking ways to divert a few more precious hours each month to my novel. The Magic Nutshell is going into a dormant phase until I have something noteworthy to share about my novel's progress or my writing group. Middle Path Mother and all other posts are now on hold. I hope to return soon enough, full of maternal wisdom and the nutty magic of storytelling. See you later!
Posted by Jeannie Miernik at 7:50 AM