Monday, December 15, 2014

Season of Giving Back: Community Service

A little holiday fun with my very willing husband.   Who
doesn't love National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation!?!
It’s so easy to get caught up in the holiday moment. You can get lost in all the myriad of tasks you need to do and the places you need to go; decorating, finding or putting up a tree, gift shopping, wrapping presents, baking, festivals, family dinners, and work parties. If you have younger children, it also involves school concerts and parties, even a visit to Santa as well. At times, it can be truly overwhelming being stretched so thin. As some of our Broads of a Feather readers know, I worked in retail management once upon a time. Back then, I’d have to work those extended holiday mall hours and deal with some pretty rude customers who waited until the last minute to shop for gifts. They couldn’t understand why we no longer had the size or color they wanted when they were in a month earlier. Blamed us instead of accepting their failure to purchase the item when it was in stock. I’d come home late, after closing out registers and cleaning up a trashed store, totally keyed up from the day, and crack open a bottle of wine to relax. It was the only way to come down enough to go to bed—only to get up early to open the store and start it all over again. It was rather difficult maintaining a positive Christmas spirit while working in retail. I did my best for the sake of my children. When I took my early retirement to be a stay-at-home with my youngest, I decided to make up for my years of poor enthusiasm. I went from Bah-humbug Mom to Martha Stewart Saves Christmas Mom. And my girls loved it!
Family favorites: making cinnamon ornaments, watching Elf, and Christmas tree shopping! 

I’m having a difficult time getting into the Christmas mood this year. I’ve really tried, but to no avail. Money is beyond tight and my family and I have had to cut back on our Christmas shopping list. Those closest to us are getting mostly homemade gifts. Others, we’ve had to explain to them that we are unable to do our normal gift exchange with them. At least this year. I guess I’ve allowed our financial shortcomings to influence my mood this season. We’ve decorated our house inside and out. The atmosphere screams Christmas, but we’re still lacking the holiday spirit. My oldest told me she hates Christmas and my husband admitted to me today that he is feeling completely blah. We’ve attended a Christmas parade, the Near Westside’s Homes for the Holidays tours, bought our tree, and went to see The Nutcracker and Junie B. Jingle Bells Batman Smells with complimentary tickets. In all honesty, we should be having the “Hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap danced with Danny f*cking Kaye!” like in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. We should be thankful. I know it. As my husband likes to remind us, we have heat, an income, a roof over our heads, groceries, our health, and our family. And that’s what really matters when it comes down to it all.
This year, Kenzie put together a gingerbread house kit and did a lovely job! Last year, Sydney made Christmas "crackers" for everyone to open before dinner. One of my favorite ornaments--a gift from our friend Jamie! IMAGINE - John Lennon
I guess my funk stems from the fact that I miss simpler times. Christmas has changed so much. Yes, I embrace technology as much as the next person. But I miss how things used to be and I think that's taken a bigger toll on my mood this year than a lack of funds. On-line shopping. Corporate retail that's made mom and pop stores extinct. Stores open on Thanksgiving!! What the hell is up with that?!? I remember when it was hard to find a gas station open on Thanksgiving. I know because I always had to leave my parents' house, shortly after our family dinner, for my four-hour drive back to Southeastern PA. That was so I could be up early to work on Black Friday. I had to fill my car's tank up after arriving in my parents' town on Wednesday evening. One year I forgot  and had to wait until I was on the Turnpike to refuel at the Hickory Run Service Plaza. I think I cruised in on vapors that time. I know I was white-knuckling it for the last five miles. My gas light began flashing!! It had never flashed before. Do you remember giving and receiving homemade gifts? Neighbors visited and brought baked goodies with them. Community folks went around caroling. That never happens anymore. We have flash mobs in crowded malls which takes the personal touch out of it. Caroling allows you to visit home-bound elderly folks and brightening their evening with some Christmas cheer. My grandparents loved receiving carolers! I just wish we could restore some of our old holiday traditions. The commercialism KILLS me. 
Lesley and Sydney waving to cars during their donation drive. Best friends since kindergarten. Our friend, Caitlin, dropping off supplies and Dunkin' Donuts beverages for the girls. Yay, Cait!!! It was a damp and chilly day. 
 A little of my faith was restored this past weekend when my daughter and her best friend fulfilled the requirements of their mandated senior project. Since they are both animal lovers, they put together a donation drive for our local Humane Society. They advertised it using Facebook. On Sunday, they set up outside of our house to accept supplies and monetary donations. They decided not to solicit outside of a store like beggars, guilting folks into donating. They wanted people to stop because they wanted to help. For six hours, they held signs and waved to cars. It was something to pass the time as they waited for items to be dropped off. Complete strangers stopped to put money into their donation jar. They raised $106.00 that way. Friends and family mailed checks to support their project. Many dropped off supplies and others made arrangements to drop things off throughout the week. Even one of their teachers from middle school has used her Facebook page to spread word about their donation drive. We’re meeting on Wednesday to collect from her. I love the fact that my daughter is doing something to give back to the community. Supporting a cause she feels strongly about. She told me it’s a well known fact that many students fake their way through their senior projects and that they don’t get caught because there are too many kids for the school to personally verify the validity of their projects. It’s a shame really. Community service is very rewarding. The only cost for the girls was to pay for poster board, a thick Sharpie, and their time. I’m so proud of them for doing something to make a difference. Something all of our youth should aim to do. Adults, too.

My goal was to make our Monday blog post deadline this week. I may just squeak by this time! I hope each and every one of our readers are enjoying the holiday season. I wish you all the Happiest of New Years, too!! To steal a line from my favorite elf, Buddy, “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear!”

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