We’re only four days away from Christmas. But this year it’s weird. Normally my husband and I are busy, scrambling to finish Christmas cards or wrap gifts, or get the last few for the people who are impossible to get gifts for (we make some of the gifts, so I didn’t want to just say buy) or decorating our tree, worrying about Christmas lights… you know the normal holiday routine. But this year, we’re not doing any of that, and part of me is kind of sad, and the other part kind of glad (sorry I suddenly felt like doing a rhyme thing, I’m over it now).
We haven’t suddenly gone Scrooge or Bah Humbug, but circumstances as they are – none of these things were feasible and/or appropriate. So let’s start with the gifts. I take pride in giving gifts, because I put so much thought into everything we get someone, my husband is either amazed, or annoyed. For me, it really is the thought that counts, and I have done everything from comical scavenger hunts complete with fake gifts that are interactive (and with a live audience!) for someone who loves games (I think this was better than the actual gift) or just thinking of how to put the most personal touch on something not-too-personal. And I love making gifts when we can.
Last year we made stockings for Roy’s (my husband’s) family because they were spending Christmas out in Colorado. So they didn’t bring their stockings, which made it practical, but stockings are also a big deal to Roy’s mom, because it was a special thing that her mother, Rachel, did for her kids, and she is no longer with us. So we bought patches and then designed the stockings, customizing it with special places and hobbies for that person and then gave them out Christmas Eve, full of chocolates, coffee and other personal stocking stuffers (a tea bag holder, a sleep mask, other candies, and so forth). But here is the thing about “making” presents for other people… it is usually (as in almost always) more expensive than buying something for them instead. Obviously we could color a picture or do something quick and easy, but it wouldn’t be personal or for that person so much as – we did something, see… and besides, we’re not cute children, so not sure that how that would go over. 😛
For us, the whole reason we’re not doing presents this year is simple: we just can’t afford to. As someone who has always been frugal, and never had it easy (my first job was when I was ten, I was emancipated as a minor because of a crazy, abusive family – I have worked my whole life, and usually worked to make something work) but this is the first year I’m just not doing anything. And that kind of sucks. I mean I really get a thrill out of giving someone a gift – I love giving way more than I love getting. And this year I don’t get to give. We told people we weren’t doing gifts this year, because I would feel so guilty if we didn’t get something for someone, but they got us something. Maybe it sounds strange, but I just can’t get something, without giving something back. It’s not about pride, but it just feels inherently wrong and ungracious.
Roy’s mom still wants to get us something and as much as I hate people just asking for money for the holidays – that’s where we’re at. I don’t want a book or some other thing, because needs trump wants, every single time. Still, I have a feeling we’ll end up getting something small for Roy’s parents and grandmother, like favorite candies or something, but we’re just not there. 2014 was a really hard year: financially, personally (for both of us), medically and with our house… and things just added up. Financial blows started in January, and they just keep coming. From paycheck issues (where HR entered the wrong amount and the pay rate is $21,000 less than it should be, and they keep saying they’ll fix it in writing, but as of now they owe you more than $6,000 in back pay) or the “joys” of being a homeowner like a leaky water main, that cost us an extra $1,000 in water utilities, and they’re still figuring out the credit to give back to us, or the cost of repairing said problem. You get it – this year sucked. And hopefully, next year will be better.
Right now we’re at that point where savings is low courtesy of all of this year’s hoopla and until that paycheck/pay rate is fixed, we aren’t bringing in enough to cover everything (we would be more than fine at the correct pay rate mind you) so we keep having to dip into that savings and we’re just trying to stay afloat until things turn around, and hopefully nothing else breaks down. But then our stove, which has been on the fritz for over a year (we planned to get a new one when the first financial blow of 2014 derailed those plans) now not only refuses to turn on or suddenly has a power failure, but also doesn’t have temperature control half of the time, so you set it for 350 degrees and within ten minutes it’s over 500 degrees and whatever you were making is toast – literally black shards… And stove/ovens are so cheap… So no gifts for us, or from us. And if Roy’s parents are insistent, I hope they understand, money or a stove are the only things on our list.
And the tree, well we are going to Florida for the holidays to be with Roy’s family, so it seemed like an unnecessary expense to buy a tree when we would not be home the last ten days of the month, including Christmas itself, to enjoy it. If things were better financially, maybe, but with things as they are it just didn’t make sense. And we put up Christmas lights, we have a nice assortment of Christmas decorations, nothing over-the-top, but a few reindeer and snowflake lights for our tree out front, and a snowman (all light decorations, no blow-ups) but when we went to set everything up we discovered the outlet that controlled these lights wouldn’t work. We’ve had Roy’s dad (they came in down for the ten days before we leave for Florida, because Roy’s brother who also lives here will not be going to Florida for the holidays) look at it and all we know is something is wrong with our circuit breaker. We still can’t locate the exact issue, so no lights. We’re a mostly dark house (we can run minimal garage lights from another outlet, but we can’t use it for anything else) surrounded by people who go all out, just like we want to.
As far as Christmas cards, we’re doing them, but everything else has been so crazed from work stuff, to health stuff, to personal issues (my brother is in the hospital, Roy’s best friend’s sister died last week) the days just kind of crept up on us, so people will most likely receive our cards the day after Christmas. But hey, better late than never.
It’s strange not cooking and baking, and hosting, and having decorations at home, or a tree, or planning surprises or gifts for others, and loving their reactions when they open their gifts… I’m not necessarily used to going without any of these things, for a long time anyway, and especially not all at once. And I miss it, and at the same time, it is so much easier. We don’t have to lug a tree or worry about the animals knocking it over or figure out the timer for our Christmas decorations (every year it’s a process) or go to the mall or price hunt online for what we’re set out to get people, we don’t have to go to stores, we don’t have to buy wrapping paper and then worry about our lack of gift wrapping skills (I am very creative and artistic, I can do a lot of crafty things, but I can’t wrap something nicely to save my life) or get the house ready or slave in the kitchen for 36 hours, or make up recipes (I am big on this, at least one new dessert of my own design every year, last year it was a Christmas castle cake – snickerdoodle cookie and gingerbread were the flavors of the different layers, and we also do our own recipes on regular food like prime rib, or a spin on some kind of side like fruit stuffing from scratch).
This year, it’s just so easy. So while I miss everything we’re not doing this year, and it feels weird not doing it, the holidays seem lighter, there is no pressure, there is no hurry, and I don’t have to do a damn thing. And that is kind of nice (at least I think this almost half of the time, for someone who is compared to the energizer bunny and very Type-A, I like to think this can be true to me too, and sometimes it is, just not all the time, like it is for my husband).
I just keep reminding myself of how good we have it compared to so many other people. Roy’s family has always been comfortable, but my life was full of being stuck on survive and taking care of myself since I was barely a teenager. I have a house, a man I love, my own business; I’m going to be okay. And my husband has his family, I’m hoping me, the house and his new job going for him, so we’re going to be okay. I know this. Some people are dealing with loss or their financial struggles make ours look like a paper cut, so I am still thankful for where we are, what we have, and I just hope that next year will be better.
But this is not about this year, or being thankful or things being difficult, or at least it didn’t start out that way. This is about getting ready for Christmas. We’re with loved ones and we have each other and while that sounds incredibly sappy, it’s true. So getting ready for Christmas has been very different this year, it’s been a season where I feel we haven’t been getting in the season (or at least we don’t appear to be), but honestly that’s okay. Because we’re still going to have a wonderful Christmas and (fingers crossed!) a very Happy New Year!