This morning, I needed a little bit of a break from the debate chatter on the news and on Facebook, so I decided to do a little catching up here and there in blogdom while the girls read and played and wrote out their own versions of "recipes" (that's about all of the creativity I can get out of Jamie some days, so I run with it). While I was trying to avoid a few anti-homeschooling articles that I came across, I stumbled upon Homeschoolin' Mama's 31 Days of Thanks blogfest ... and it hit me like a year-old fruitcake. There are THIRTY days until Thanksgiving. One month! YIKES! Ya know, no matter how well-planned I try to make my calendar out to be, no matter how on-top of things I seem, November still sneaks up on me EVERY year. Thanksgiving isn't the scary part of the holidays for most people. No, most of us have our anxiety attacks over the chaos that ensues the day after the grand feast, and for the four weeks (give or take) that follow. And yes, every single one of us has said, probably at least once every other year that we are definitely not "doing that again". But we do. Every year.
I would love, love, LOVE to find a way to break this crazy cycle. I'm sure the mystery of a stress-free holiday lies right up there with curing the common cold, though. Everybody knows that the best medicine is prevention.
Oh well. I guess sometimes the best we can do is to try to refocus our minds before the chaos hits us and hope to goodness that something 'clicks' in our brain to keep us from getting caught up in the insanity. I suppose that's one of the beauties of Thanksgiving. What ridiculous irony that the lead-in to the most stressful month on the calendar is a day set aside to give thanks for the blessings we are going to obsess over and pitch hissy fits about for weeks to come?
This year at our house is an odd one. For the first time, both of our older children will be absent--one in a foreign country with a rifle by his side, the other with her husband and baby boy in their new home hundreds of miles away from ours. Our daughter-in-law is here in town near us, but this is no "normal" holiday season for her either. If there is anything I remember vividly from my days as an Army wife, it's that deployments change everything. Nonetheless, we still have five little ones at home who are looking forward to the excitement of the holidays, so we will do what we have done in years past--we will make the best of what we have. That brings me to the entire point of this blog post. I am going to try to spend this next thirty days focusing on my gratitude. NOT just for the obvious stuff, like health, children, material prosperity, a full pantry, etc.; no--I want to redirect my own thoughts to being grateful for something that normally gets under my skin. It's said that if you can do something for thirty days, it becomes a habit. Maybe I can prevent at least some of the holiday crazies by reprogramming myself? We shall see.
Probably foremost on many peoples' minds right now, especially with the election coming up in just two weeks and so much being repeated to nauseating degrees all over the media is the subject of our economy. Let's be honest for a minute--I don't know of anyone who is "better off" than they were four years ago. Shoot, I don't know many people who are better off than they were LAST year. Most people I know are struggling just to keep their head above water, or to be able to afford to put gas in the car. Extras are not exactly forthcoming. We ourselves had planned on taking a family vacation this year finally, since the girls have never been on one that didn't involve going to visit someone, but things are just not working out. We *hope* to be able to have our heads above water to be able to afford it sometime next year, but that seems like decades away right now. So what all is to be grateful for in this mess?
Perspective is a biggie, as is being forced to REALLY take stock in what is important to us. Our kids will not have thousands of dollars of toys under the tree this year. They never really do, but this year is definitely going to be lean. There is just no wiggle room in the budget for frivolity. But you know what? That is actually a good thing. It is forcing us to really examine what we do and why we do it with regard to just about every detail of life. And when we examine it, when we take a really good, hard look at the life we are living now, we have realized just how good we have it. We aren't just blessed; we are RICH. What's almost pathetic is that I have sat down and thought about what we would buy for our girls "if money were no object" and there really isn't much I have come up with that they don't already have! No, our children don't have a TV in their room ... but then again, neither do we. There is only one TV in the entire house, and in all honesty I would love to disconnect the DirecTV from it so we aren't saddled with the bill OR the temptation to watch too much garbage. No, our girls don't have iStuff. And they won't, either, as long as we can help it. No, there aren't many designer labels in the mountain of clothing that fills the girls' bedroom. I don't see the point. They are all well-dressed (when they want to bother matching their clothes, that is), and the heaps of laundry are testament to just how well-clothed they are. What do you "get" for the child who has everything (that their parents will allow)? So what's the point of fretting over outdoing what we did for them last year?
This economy, and the financial strain everyone seems to be under, has made us realize that we just can't give our children the one thing we wish we could. At least not until the economy starts looking up. I wish we could have their grandparents closer so they could be a bigger part of their lives. Now that Pete and I are grandparents we are realizing all the more just how much our older kids missed out on. We are grateful that all of their grandparents are still around--we just want to do a better job as we can of being around them.