Tag Archives: holidays

Hotel Lovefest to Ring in the Holidays

Now this could sound sexy and hot, but don’t forget I am a crazy over-scheduled working mom. My hotel fantasies consist of visions of a bed to myself, no one to tuck in, and room service dancing in my head. (This would cover  #22-24 on the “28 Gifts Every Mom Wants for the Holidays” that Stormy posted to our Facebook page. Stormy, I am still counting on you to deliver gift #28 in person before Christmas.)

Neither of the possible fantasies mentioned above happened. The reality of my recent hotel night was a lovefest of a completely different kind. There was a hotel involved, but the room was shared with my two sisters and the lovefest was filled with giggles, confidences and tears—the kind that only siblings (or girlfriends) can cram together in a just few hours.

The initial plan was for us all to escape our hectic lives and take a moment to really enjoy the holiday season. We would leisurely shop, have a delicious dinner, and retire to our room to watch “Love Actually” over a bottle of wine.

Then we’d wake up rested for breakfast and spend a full day helping each other cross off our holiday shopping lists. One comment that was continually repeated by each of us was how excited we were to be in a relaxing atmosphere with a time out from normal chores, family and work. We would be able to actually catch up on some much-needed rest.

Well, the first part of our outing went as planned, including heading up to the room at 9:30 p.m. We congratulated ourselves on being back in time to have our peaceful evening and not letting freedom con us into staying out and trying to enjoy the bar scene. It was while waiting for our room service that the evening plans took an unforeseen turn. Why not turn on a little music while we waited for our bottle of Pinot Grigio? A little Taylor Swift seemed harmless. But that was when the night took on a different course:

Yes, I know every word!

Yes, I know every word!

  • We danced and sang together. Current hits. ’80s rock. Country. (I did save them from hearing me belt out a heartfelt rendition of “Let It Go.”)
  • We decided to order a nightcap following our wine, which included a call to the bartender, instructing him on how to make our first drink. And, so we didn’t have to call again, to bring extra orders without ice. Can’t have the waiting drinks diluted!
  • We shared. Everything from giggling about bodily functions, memories that we each had different versions of, family dysfunction, to our secrets and fears.
  • We asked each other hard questions. Things we perceived or guessed by just knowing each other a little too well. Things no one else is brave enough to ask you.
  • An argument. What started as a heartfelt sharing, followed up by smart sisterly advice, turned into tears, hurt feelings and stubborn silence on both sides.
  • Ten minutes later a post-fight make up. Who besides a sister can you sit on and threaten disgusting things that will happen if they don’t give in and smile?
  • At some point a decision to sleep – last clock check was remembered at 2:30 a.m.

We woke up foggy headed but still laughing as we reminded each other of things we did and reminisced about our silly night. There was nothing any of us would change. We agreed even the fight added to the perfection of the night.

21 Reasons It's Awesome to have your Sister as Your Best Friend

21 Reasons It’s Awesome to have your Sister as Your Best Friend

So that sums up my hotel lovefest. How an evening of being completely uncensored and totally yourself can be so freeing. How much you love those people, deep to the core of you, with whom you can share that kind of night.

I left the Westin packed with unforgettable memories and true love.

 

The Ghost of Christmas Past

leethod_1351460522_Target-Lady

If the Crazy Target Lady doesn’t scare you straight, you’re beyond saving.

I have a confession to make: Christmas doesn’t really stress me out. That’s not particularly scandalous, but admitting this during the holiday season feels a bit like a betrayal to my hurried and harried sisterhood. Because, let’s face it: Many of the tasks that comprise “making the season bright” (e.g., baking, decorating, Christmas shopping, entertaining) often fall to the female gender.

I’m not trying to be sexist about gender roles. If we bring Christmas cookies or chocolate truffles to a holiday party, everyone knows the compliments go to my husband, the baker in the family. (Not surprisingly, I have trouble following directions.) But I think there’s some truth in my generalization.

What’s more, when it comes to holiday merrymaking, the motivations of men and women are often different. For example, a man going all Clark Griswold on his house is likely doing it because he gets a kick out of the results. But oftentimes his wife who is going from shop to shop trying to find gifts for teachers and distant in-laws is doing it more to fulfill an expectation than as a labor of love.

I used to be this woman until I realized it was sucking all the fun out of the holidays and really—once they stop being fun, what’s the point? Well, my spiritual side would argue that the point of Christmas is Christ. But I found that the whole religious aspect of Christmas was overshadowed by the incessant busyness and blatant commercialism, as well. Where were the moments of quiet reflection? Where was the magic?

One January, as I was taking down ornaments and swearing to myself that I’d “do it differently next year,” I composed a letter to myself. I’ve always loved “A Christmas Carol” and watching the musical “Scrooge” is a family holiday tradition, so let’s call this missive a “Message from the Ghost of Christmas Past.” The note starts like this:

Every year you do the same thing, Stormy. So this is a letter from your post-holiday, wiser self. I hope you will heed her message.

Then it has seven bullets of advice, addressing topics like:

  • Cookies – “We are never at a loss for cookies at any holiday gathering. Three types…are plenty.”
  • Gifts – “Buy little hostess gifts when you see them. They always come in handy. Keep track of what you get the kids so you don’t buy too much.”
  • Christmas Cards – “Keep it simple. Don’t feel compelled to send to people you aren’t connected to…and don’t worry about the ‘but they sent us one’ game.”
  • Traditions – “These are what make the holidays fun…Make Christmas about events and not things. Smaller gatherings are fun and meaningful.”

These are merely excerpts—my actual instructions to myself were more detailed and specific. I printed out my message and packed it away with my Christmas decorations where it was promptly forgotten until the following December.

The next year, when I pulled out my garlands and stockings the weekend after Thanksgiving, I spotted the note from Christmas Past and decided to heed my own advice. After all, if you can’t believe yourself, who can you trust?

That season, I took a low-key approach to the holidays and was pleasantly surprised. I was relaxed. Nobody died when I decided to skip sending Christmas cards that year. And we still enjoyed all of our favorite traditions. What a revelation! I felt like I owed a debt of thanks to my stressed self. 

Since then, my Christmas preparations have varied somewhat—some years I make more of an effort, some years less. But whatever I do, I do it for the joy of it and not because it’s an expectation. This flexibility has been critical this year as my mom’s surgery and recovery has consumed a good portion of the free time that my siblings and I would have to spend on holiday preparations.

By now my low-key approach to the holidays has become second nature. Yet, I still keep the note to remind me of my frazzled, younger years. There are some advantages to growing older and as Scrooge himself can attest, it’s never too late to master the fine art of keeping Christmas.

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!” 
                    ― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

An Argument for Whimsy

Those who don’t know me well would be surprised to find I have a whimsical side. Hidden from all but close friends and family, this quirky trait only emerges on rare occasions. This past summer, when I was feeling uncharacteristically lighthearted after a couple of medical scares proved to be benign, I created a little elf home in the large pine tree in my backyard. Signified by a little wooden door draped in moss with a little stone path and—the piece de resistance—a little Weber grill (with real charcoal ash in the bottom: Stormy knows the devil’s in the details).

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

We were hosting a graduation party for my youngest, and I thought my great-nieces and -nephews would find it intriguing. I showed it to a few of them at the party, and they marveled over the tiny door and what might be inside the tree.

Fast forward to late fall. I took a day off work to tackle some neglected yard work and was clearing an overgrown mess of dead weeds from my garden when I happened upon my elf home. The grill was knocked over and the path had broken in two. I considered bringing in the grill, to keep it from rusting or getting lost in the mounds of snow imminent in a Minnesota winter, but instead I set the grill upright, carefully pressed the two halves of the walkway together and left it in place. The next day, I was hosting a small family party that would feature chili and a bonfire, and I didn’t want any of the kids who had seen the elf’s home to wonder what became of him.

“Every girl needs a bit of whimsy to remind her that life is a game and it’s all about having fun.” 
― Candace HavensTake it Like a Vamp

The next night I had forgotten about the elf and was talking with my sisters when my great-nephews ran into the house buzzing with excitement, “Do you have a flashlight? We found a little grill! And a little door!” asked Caleb. His cousin, Sean Ryan was jumping up and down with unconstrained enthusiasm, while his older sister looked on with skepticism.

“Oh,” I responded nonchalantly, “you must be talking about the elf’s home. Don’t harass him too much. He likes to be left alone,” I warned as I handed Caleb a flashlight.

The boys ran out the door to investigate. Later, Caleb’s sister came in to report that, “I don’t believe an elf really lives there, but the boys sure do!”

I think the thing that made their encounter so magical was that they discovered the elf’s home themselves—literally stumbled upon it in the dark. No adult had led them to it, pointing out the details carefully constructed to help support the illusion. Therefore it must be real, right?

“Those who shun the whimsy of things will experience rigor mortis before death.”
― Tom Robbins

The kids’ reaction reminded me of some things I’d forgotten during a very busy year: 1) Creating joy is a very productive way to spend one’s time. 2) You may discover magic when you least expect it, and 3) It’s more fun to believe. This is a timely reminder given that we’re entering what is generally regarded as the most magical season of all—because my “very busy year” doesn’t show any signs of letting up. So, I’ll make sure to appreciate the little pockets of whimsy to be found amidst the holiday hustle and bustle. Heck, maybe I’ll even create a little myself. Does anyone know where I can find a teeny tiny wreath? 🙂