A Happier Holiday

Christmas is less than four weeks away, and I say bring it on! Last year, December and its approaching holiday became a frantic, frenzied and fumbled collection of days. I felt an incredible amount of (self-induced) pressure to get IT all done-the decorating, the cards, the shopping, the baking. By the time the actual blessed day arrived, I had canceled my family plans, and spent the holiday unshowered, in my pj’s, on the verge of a breakdown. Nice! Determined not to end up straight-jacketed at the funny farm this year, I have carefully eased into my to-do list and re-evaluated my priorities. When a writing mood struck a few weeks ago, I seized the moment and crafted my holiday letter. Check! Last weekend, a friend kindly obliged and snapped a family photo for the holiday card. Check! This past week, I took advantage of my vacation time and decked the halls AND the tree. Check times two! This leaves only the shopping ( a fairly short list that includes gift cards), and the baking.  Completely do-able!

Surprisingly, I am feeling very little stress as the countdown begins. I remain hopeful that this year will be different after all. It is quite possible that when the calendar flips to the 25th, I will be ready to engage and participate, all showered and dressed.  There really just might be a Santa Claus!

Hold On

I waited until I was 37 and 1/2 years old to become a mother. In the twelve or so years prior to earning this new title,  I had worked the corporate cubicle with its long, salaried hours, and played along in many office games. I was now ready to begin this second chapter of my life, the one as stay-at-home mother and wife. If you know me personally, or have read earlier blog posts, you know that I have been widowed for over nine years, and have been working part-time for over four years. (I  have been fortunate to have a supplemental income which affords me the 25-hour work week.) In the past year or so, it has become increasingly difficult to get by on my somewhat “fixed ” income. The teenager in my house has become more expensive-tennis and private music lessons, clothing from the MALL (not Target or Old Navy), and the myriad of techno-gadgets from cell phones to iPods to video gaming. Also, household expenses continue to go up, up up while the amount of dollars coming in remains rather stagnant.

For the past nine years, I have been holding on. I have tried to live the life I had envisioned before cancer came a knockin and stole my spouse and son’s father. I found a job (and a boss) that allowed me to show up for work after my son was safely on the morning school bus, and leave in time to get that same boy off  the afternoon bus. I also have an entire day off in THE MIDDLE OF THE WEEK so that I can volunteer at his school, and get some errands and chores out of the way so that weekends are freed up for family time. My grip on the this life is slipping. I am not sure how much longer I can hold onto this schedule and pay scale. I am fully aware that afore-mentioned teenager will only become more expensive, not less.  In less than three years, I will have a teen that drives, which means insurance, gas, car, yada, yada, yada. I am s-l-o-w-l-y warming myself up to the idea that I may have to return to full-time work, something I promised myself years ago that I would never do again. (I always knew that I would work, just not 40 hours a week!)

So, like the words in the R.E.M. song, “Everybody Hurts”,  I will hold on for as long as I can, even if it just by my pinkie.