Saturday, December 24, 2011

My "small" holiday gratitude list

Now, of course I’m thankful for my family and friends and sooooooooooooooooo much more this holiday season, but since this is my “small stuff” blog, this Top 10 list is all about the smaller things that might not be so obvious.   

1. My messy home - I've recently had a profound epiphany that a messy home with children is directly relational to their well-being.  If they are sick or sad or overly scheduled, then the rooms are tidy and barely disheveled.  When they are healthy and happy and free of too many obligations, they are more creative, silly, exuberant, and playful.  Translation = messy.  

My first instinct is to cringe and want it cleaned up, but consciously force myself to listen to the giggles, admire their latest creations, and then look the other way (a hot cup of tea and a book helps).  The rooms will eventually be cleaned and organized, but my kids only have so much time to be free and have fun.

Same thing with other messes around the house, like dirty plates and wine glasses from a joyful holiday party, flour and sugar filled counters and floors from baking yummy cookies, a table full of paint filled paint brushes and dirty water and crumpled up paper towels from holiday craft-filled afternoon, and wrapping paper scraps from either wrapping gifts or opening them. 

Embracing the mess means embracing the joy.

2. Calories count during the holiday, but in a much different way -  I normally (mostly) eat with health and maintaining my weight in mind.  I am good at exercising will-power when it comes to food, and regularly think about getting enough fiber, greens, vitamins, protein, good oils, and just enough but not too many calories. 


In my mind, the holidays are like going on vacation.  It’s a time to let go and eat with wild abandon, savoring the local flavors and delicacies or catching up over a glorious meal with friends or family that I’m visiting. 
I think about the extra weight I will probably gain from the baked goods that people give me and the ones I bake, or the hearty comfort food that I crave, or the lack of exercise from all of the extra lounging around or the extra glasses of wine and champagne, and eating more than I normally would at a gathering because IT’S JUST SO GOOD and SO GOOD FOR THE SOUL!

Worth it!
Good things come in small packages.
3. My new Santas collected during the year – I’ve never been one to collect things, but, if I do, I like to keep it at a minimum, like my small collection of sea glass I keep in a pretty vase in my cabinet or my beloved Santas that I take out only once a year and display on my mantel (well, now it’s spilling out a bit into other places, but that’s okay).  I especially love my Santas because I can unwrap them every December, admire them for about a month (while praying there isn’t an earthquake), then carefully wrap them up and store them away until next year.

I love unwrapping each one and reminiscing where or who I got it from – it’s like a taking a trip back in time and recalling fond memories.  I only get my Santas from vacations or visiting new places or from a friend, so each one is special. 

Additions to my collection this year:

Victoria Tim Burton-esque Santa
I found this one during a visit to beautiful Victoria, B.C. this past October for a most marvelous wedding of some dear friends.  I picked it because of the face and how it’s rather Tim Burton-esque.
Estate Santa
This one was given to me by my incredibly thoughtful friend, Emiko, who saw this at a family friend’s estate sale and bought it to give to me.

Ho ho ho how I love my Santas!

4. Cheesy holiday movies – For maximum cheesy goodness, I just can’t get enough of Hallmark Channel and Lifetime holiday movies.  They ooze with clichés, predictability, long forgotten actors, and sweet magical moments…and I get such a kick out of them.  Some are not very good at all (that’s why I record a bunch of them to increase the odds of finding a good one) and some are definite stand outs (like Fallen Angel with Gary Sinise)

Why I love them:
-          People get second chances.  Maybe they were cranky, crappy, too busy, selfish, disconnected, screwed up, lonely, or resentful, but in almost every single movie are given an opportunity or motivation (however contrived it may seem) to mend their ways for the better.
-          Often there are characters that only see the good in people no matter what and help them get a second chance.  They remind me of the special people that I know who are like angels on earth.
-          There is always hope no matter how impossible the situation may seem.
-          Loads of magical moments and happy endings, even if you have to wait until the last five minutes to finally get the reward. 
-          My mom loves them, too, and it’s fun to share our favorites.
-          Those two hour nuggets of guilty pleasure time help get me into the holiday spirit.

5. People are generally in better moods – Sure, there are a lot of cranky people out there who have obviously not watched enough Hallmark Channel holiday movies, but more people I come across are infused with the holiday spirit than not.  People just seem to smile more, speak kinder and more sincerely to each other, are more generous, have more positive attitudes, and feel more festive.  It’s beautifully infectious and beyond welcome.

6. The smells of the season - Pine needles, egg nog, Vicks (winter colds), apple cider spices, wood burning in the fireplace, gingerbread cookies, New Years Day popovers fresh out of the oven, roasted anything, especially turkey

7. The sounds of the season – Jingle bells, favorite holiday movies and songs (bonus if sung by carolers), people in good moods saying cheerful holiday greetings, the four little feet running to the living to open presents on Christmas morning, the squeals of joy as they open the presents, the mail carrier delivering holiday cards, champagne cork popping

8. The highs and the lows and the highs and the lows and the highs and the lows… – Without fail, I always start off December feeling rather blue.  I’m not sure why, but a few days in, and I have to remind myself that for whatever reason this is what I go through every year.  My mood lifts and I feel better for a while, then something else will get me down a bit (like feeling sad about what I’m missing out on), only to come out of it by reminding myself and being grateful for what I do have.  

It’s just a roller coaster ride of emotions all month like no other, like everything is amplified and exaggerated.  It’s an emotional cycle that I know most people go through, some with much lower lows and higher highs than mine.  But, with all that turmoil, comes a genuine and deeper appreciation for the good. 

9. Spending blissfully excessive time in pajamas, watching movies, baking (see #1,2,4 above), plus a healthy dose of napping is practically a requirement - ah, come on, sooo self explanatory. 

10. Time to reflect. A time to bring in the new. - The media bombards us with top lists of the important news events of the year, whether it be the top stories, best/worst dressed, top grossing films, top trends, noteworthy passings, and it goes on and on until the new year.  That’s when the whole calories don’t count thing (see #2) comes into play and the weight loss diet gym membership ads make us suddenly feel guilty about all of those calories.  Yay!

While many of those lists are interesting, I also find myself taking my own personal inventory, well, except for getting on the scale (that will have to wait until January).

What did I do to grow this year?  Did I do anything new?  Any important revelations?   Bad choices?  What would I do differently next time?  Trips I took this year (many!) and trips I want to take next year (not many – will still be paying off trips from 2011!)?   Friends I want to see more?  What can I do to find more happiness and be a better person?

Lots of question marks that are both easy to answer and challenging.  Life has a funny way of always changing and evolving, particularly when I think I have it all figured out and know what I'm doing.

At least almost all of those ten things on my thankful holiday list pretty much stay the same year to year.  I absolutely LOVE traditions and the few things I do have control over.  So comforting.  So worth looking forward to.  So me.


  1. And you said it was a simple quick post?!? Beautiful, absolutely beautiful, and a true glimpse into the way you see the joy in things so many of us overlook. A lovely reminder of how to find the "small" stuff and how much we really do have, if we just take the time to see it and appreciate it. Thanks for the very thoughtful reminder - and for helping to making my holiday (and my life) so rich.

  2. Very well put, Daria! I really enjoyed this post and agree with you on #'s 1-10! :)