Remembering what’s important

Our beloved Casey: Reindeer Dog

Just three days before Christmas, everything is about peace and love and family and the true meaning of this holiday that has become so commercialized and in many instances, has lost its true meaning. Over the years, my family has slowly moved from all the traditional pieces of celebrating Christmas: we stopped putting out the manger display, we don’t go to church, and we don’t go all out on the decorations anymore.

Even though there are a few traditions that I miss (seeing A Christmas Carol every year at the Playhouse, going to Louisiana to do a gift exchange with my mom’s family), being home for the two weeks at the end of the year with my family has begun to take on a significance in a new way that I cherish and value so much more than eggnog and playing Christmas music throughout the house.

It’s things like the entire family sitting squeezing together on a loveseat in front of the tv day after day, drinking our coffee, playing on our iPads, watching Law & Order, and giving some TLC to the dogs. It’s things like all of us making gelato together, going through old boxes of memories and photographs as my parents pack for California, and taking a walk around the neighborhood in the freezing cold together.

To us, Christmas has become less about the trimmings and the presents (although we still give them of course!) and the madness that comes with the holidays, and really has become more about what it was meant for — to show each other love and support, to be there for each other as family and friends. We’re excited for Mom’s new job, and the move across the country, we’re cherishing what may be our last year or so with Harrison as he grows older, and enjoying a rascal of a puppy that has brought us so much joy since Casey’s passing. We’re looking for new opportunities together, and reminding each other of what’s important – to love, be loved, and to be happy and healthy, doing what we love, and not letting others dictate our lives.

And of course, making sure we get a big ol’ Honey Baked ham for Christmas dinner!

Stumped on what to give this year? Try these ideas.


Photo credit: daveynin via Flickr

Ah, holiday shopping. Whether you have 10 people to buy for, or one, it’s never quite as easy as you expect it to be. For all the items that are plug and play on your Amazon list or in and out of the store, there are just as many that leave you clueless, running around town from store to store, begging your mom or sister for more ideas as each idea becomes a bust.

But in the end, we all know that it’s not the hottest Wii game or the fashionable scarf or the Target gift card that makes us happiest. The gifts that truly come from the heart mean the most. I’ve tried to put together a little list of ideas here that might help you check off your “shopping” for that special someone. Let me know what you think and then add your own in the comments!

  • For the person that loves to cook/bake: put together a set of recipe cards of your favorite meals for him/her to try, and make samples of a couple of them.
  • For the coffee/tea lover: put your photo on one of those personalized mugs
  • For the writer: design custom stationary or a notebook template
  • For the traveler: make a top 10 list of places you’ve visited that they MUST see
  • For the volunteer: set up a volunteer “date” with him or her, doing something you’d both enjoy (Bonding + giving back all in one!)
  • For the book lover: make homemade bookmarks with quotes, photos, etc. (I did this for my Dad – a big win)
  • For the gardener: plant some herbs in a window box and gift them
  • For the sports fan: Do they like basbeall? Set up a batting cages visit. Racing? Visit the local go-karting place together for a spin.
  • For the photographer: get one of their shots matted and framed for their wall
  • For the outdoorsy one: schedule a day to go rock-climbing, canoeing or hiking together at a new place.

Happy holidays!

These things are the wonderful things…

…we’ll remember all through our lives.

First, Casey's turn...

So goes a verse in the Carpenters’ Christmas classic, “Sleigh Ride.” This song will be playing while my parents and I drag up the big plastic containers with red and green lids from the basement that snugly hold our universe of Christmas decorations. We’ll pick and choose from the bins which knicknacks we want to place around the house and which ones we don’t feel like dealing with, and slowly begin to unwrap each of the dozens of ornaments from their boxes and paper towel wrappings and bubble wrap. We’ll marvel over the ornaments that have made it 20 years or more, over the handmade pieces I created in school as a child, and the still wonderful, potent smell from the clove ball all these years later.

Harrison will circle around us, sniffing everything. We’ll remember when Casey used to try to distract us with a toy. Dad will come at the very end, to hang his favorite ornaments and to lift me on his shoulders to place the angel on top of the tree. Then we’ll switch on the string of lights… and all will be well and wonderful in the world.

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