Tis the season.  Shopping, wrapping, baking, eating, hanging the Christmas lights, wreaths and boughs; chop down the tree, decorate the tree, order the Christmas cards, address the Christmas cards; gifts for the neighbors, gifts for the co-workers, gifts for the kids' school teachers, gifts for the kids, something special for the hubbie, don't forget the in-laws and the stocking stuffers; parties and more parties, letters to Santa, visits to Santa, church pot luck, charity events, cousin gift exchange, family get-togethers, toy drives, tickets to the Nutcracker, tickets to the Messiah, the kids' winter concerts, White Christmas and Holiday Inn and The Christmas Story ("you'll shoot your eye out kid") and so very much more.  All so good (especially the baking and eating part, in my humble opinion.)  But all of this goodness can lead to a lot of other not-so-much-goodness--like extra stress, extra bills, extra migraines, extra busyness, and extra tired at bed time!

Several years ago I determined to pare down the perfection of my ideal Christmas vision and focus on what is the very most important to me and my family.  And since then I've come a long way.  Our outdoor lights may or may not go up (usually not, in perfect honesty.) Our Christmas cards may or may not go out (if not, our warm wishes to you are simply put on hold until next year when I may or may not try again.)  And our holiday events will be kept simple and to a minimum and will include what's most important to us--a celebration of the nativity story, Christmas caroling to some of our favorite "grandpas and grandmas," and meaningful family time.

Even the gift giving--as warm and fuzzy as it is--can easily be REDUCED (my children do not need more than a couple gifts under the tree!  They just don't!) and SIMPLIFIED (thank you on-line shopping.)  And although I've never lived up to my annual mantra of "this year I'm going to get my shopping done by the end of November," I am starting earlier and stressing less.  This year my siblings and I decided that we really don't need to exchange gifts with each other in order to feel connected. (Stressing out about what to get my young, hip sisters-in-law isn't really helping me feel connected anyway, is it?)   Furthermore, (confession time) someone I love is actually receiving a used coat from me this year.  Before you decide I'm horribly tacky let me just say in my defense that #1 It really is the perfect black coat.  #2  I know she loves it!  #3   It fit my budget perfectly.  and #4 It makes me happy that she will have it.

And isn't that what a gift is all about?  Making someone happy?  I think we all have this desire to give good things--especially at this time of year.  As we abound in all the goodness of the season, our awareness of those suffering sadness and stress is heightened and our desire to give increased.  Maybe, like the Grinch, all of our hearts grow a few sizes this time of year!  So here's my plug (you knew it was coming):  We have a meaningful (and simple!) way to give to those who are hurting this Christmas season.  The families we are helping are spending their first holiday season without their baby or their son or daughter or parents.   In the spirit of giving, please consider visiting our shop to see how you can help.

Happy giving!