Tag Archives: traditions

Holiday Shopping vs. Holiday Spirit

You’ve heard it all before, right? Complaints about retailers who put up Christmas decorations by Halloween, the commercialization of a religious holiday, and the stress and exhaustion (and emptied checkbook) caused by hunting down “the perfect” holiday gifts.

I’m not sure how you handle it all, but I’ve tried different techniques to cope with the madness that is Christmas in America.

This is the time of year I inventory all the coats, boots, clothes, toys, and other gently used items in the house that would better benefit others in need. Not only is it freeing to purge the closets and drawers, but also it feels good to know that these donations will end up helping others less fortunate than me.

Another thing I’ve done in the past is ask my family not to send me gifts, but to take whatever money they might’ve spent on me and donate it to a charity (if they pick a charity of my choice, I match it). One year I was able to buy two new kitchen appliances for a shelter for abused women thanks to my family’s cooperation. I didn’t get a single gift, but it might be one of my favorite Christmases ever.

Thirdly, the older I get, the more I realize that the truly memorable things in my life revolve around things I’ve done rather than things I’ve owned. Therefore, now that my kids are teens, we’ve switched from buying “stuff” to buying a meaningful experience (a camp or lesson). Hopefully, later in life, they’ll appreciate that idea more than they do right now.

Finally, this year I also want my kids generate an idea of their own that is in the true spirit of giving (as opposed to “buying”). That reminds me, I need to check in with them to see if they’ve come up with something.

Care to share any special traditions you and your family have that showcase the real meaning of this holiday season?

xo–Jamie

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Attitude of Gratitude

I think it’s fair to say that November has been a tough month for most of us. Those of us who are upset by the election results are feeling afraid for the future of our nation and many of its people, while those who are celebrating the results are feeling attacked for exercising their rights. Everyone is pointing the finger at each other and spewing ugly, hateful words. I can’t recall a time in my lifetime where the country has seemed more divided and angry. I can’t speak for anyone else, but none of this puts me in the holiday spirit.

So, I’m taking a page out of my mother-in-law’s book. Since I’ve known her, she has engaged in a nighttime ritual designed to support a positive outlook. Once she’s in bed with the lights out, she reflects upon the day and every event that made her smile or feel grateful, then she settles on her favorite moment of the day and replays it in detail.

My mom's Thanksgiving table.

My mom’s Thanksgiving table.

With Thanksgiving upon us, I’m thinking this is something we might all try to do, even if just for one week. I don’t know that it will help (although my mother in-law is a pretty happy person), but it certainly can’t hurt.

To kick it off, I’m going to list a host of things I’m generally grateful for:

  • My family (the whole messy bunch that brings laughter and tears, as well as challenges and triumphs, into my life). We share an elastic bond of love and history that can’t be broken, no matter how badly it might get stretched at times.
  • My friends and colleagues, who are supportive, thoughtful, and intelligent people that teach me something new every day.
  • My agent and publishing team, who are helping me live out a childhood dream.
  • My “fans,” who read my work and write to me, sharing personal stories and well wishes.
  • My ancestors, who bravely came here from other countries hoping to give their progeny a better life. I hope they know that their sacrifices and courage were well-rewarded.
  • The majority of Americans, who stand together to fight for freedom, justice, and the equality of all, and who are resilient and passionately committed to the betterment of humanity.
  • God, for giving me a healthy mind and body, both of which I try not to waste.

Tonight I will follow my mother-in-law’s lead. I’ll reflect on my day and the specific moments that made me smile. I know waking up to the first snowfall (or dusting) this morning will be one. If the Steelers win today, that might be another. 🙂

I wish you all a very lovely Thanksgiving holiday, and hope that you will be surrounded by family and friends.

XO-Jamie

 

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Halloween: A Snapshot of Budding Character

They say you can tell a lot about a person from the way they handle themselves on the golf course. Does she cheat? Does she throw a fit when things aren’t going well? Does she understand the etiquette? However she plays that game is likely how she handles herself in life, at work, and so on. I think there is some truth to this particular saying, and I’m going to take it a step further.

60514268 - halloween: kids excited to trick or treat

60514268 – halloween: kids excited to trick or treat

You can tell a lot about a kid from watching her on Halloween. First, what costume did she pick? Is that little girl in a princess dress, or a football uniform? Next, does she look you in the eye, smile, and yell “trick or treat,” or does she keep her chin tucked and look back at her adoring mom or dad? Is she alone, with one friend or sibling, or running with a pack of kids? Does she ask “how many” she’s allowed, or just grab as much as her little hands can heft out of the bowl? Does she say “thank you?” or does she thrust her hands in there during someone else’s turn and grab a bunch before running away without ever once acknowledging you or the candy?

Last night I saw a little bit of all of these things. I admit, I get discouraged when I see discourteous children. I wonder how a kid gets to that point, too? Didn’t her parents teach her good manners? I know there’s a whole “anti-sharing” culture out there (schools that cater to that, too, by allowing kids to “save” toys from others even when they aren’t playing with it), so maybe that’s to blame.

A “me first” attitude is a huge turn-off to me, in kids and adults. It seems parents who are against sharing seem to think that, when another kid asks for a turn, then if their kid is expected to share, it is teaching that other kid that they get what they want whenever they want it. That seems to be a really twisted form of logic in my opinion. If anything, teaching your kids they never need to share (even if it is community property, like in a classroom or playground), is teaching YOUR kids that their needs always come first. ICK!!

Sharing is good for everyone. It teaches us to be part of a community. To realize that, if we’re lucky enough to have “more,” we can use that power to help others who have less. Giving is kind, and most people actually feel GOOD when they make someone else happy. Learning that the world doesn’t revolve around you and your needs is also a good thing (which I think sharing promotes rather than destroys). And people who share are much more likely to make friends easily and socialize better than kids who clutch everything for themselves.

What’s your take on all of this?

XO-Jamie

 

“Promposals:” A Good Thing or Not?

It’s that time of year again: Prom season!

Some things haven’t changed throughout the decades, like mothers and daughters going shopping for the perfect dress and shoes. Of course, gone are the flouncy princess dresses of yore. I still remember my purple silk-organza gown, with its ruffled, off-the-shoulder neckline, fondly. It looked perfect with my Eighties-style big hair, I swear! Sadly, all the pictures are at my mom’s, so I can’t share.

Other things have changed a lot, most notably the latest trend: the Promposal. Teen boys (for the most part) across the nation nervously planning some way to wow their prospective dates with an Instagram or YouTube-worthy plan.

I can’t decide whether or not I think these Promposals are a good or bad thing.

They range from the sweet:

 

To the touching/tear-jerker:

 

To the painfully awkward:

 

My initial response to the hoopla is that it is a result of the reality-TV / selfie-obsessed generation that’s been trained to believe every second of every day needs to be larger-than-life and recorded for posterity. That side of this craze isn’t healthy. Not only does it create a tremendous amount of pressure on kids to come up with bigger and better ideas, but it’s also proven that chronic social media focus is actually causing depression…but that’s a topic for another post.

On the other hand, and particularly when watching some of the cuter Promposals that go well, I have to admit that I love watching creative kids who are willing to make themselves vulnerable in such a public way. There’s something courageous and inspiring about it.

And maybe these bigger milestones deserve to be recorded. Honestly, I can’t remember how my boyfriend asked me to Prom. We’d been dating all year, so it’s possible he never formally asked at all. We just assumed we’d be going!

So what’s your take on the Promposal: yay or nay?

XOXO-Jamie

 

Party Time

My favorite childhood memories of Christmas have nothing to do with presents and Santa, and everything to do with the parties. I grew up on the same street with three sets of cousins and one set of grandparents (all on my Italian father’s side of the family). My mother’s family all lived within five miles (and she had 100 cousins, so I’m talking about a lot of people). FullSizeRenderFullSizeRender

Beginning mid-day Christmas Eve day and continuing through Christmas night, the holiday was one endless party trail as we traveled to several houses, played with cousins, ate too many cookies, and sat down to a few good meals. All the grown-ups were too busy drinking and visiting to pay much attention to us kids, so we enjoyed unbridled freedom, which is probably why the memories are so good!

Really bad selfie!

Really bad selfie!

Now I live in Connecticut, away from most of my family. However, ironically, one of those cousins from the old ‘hood lives in my town, as does my best friend from high school, so I can recreate a little bit a of that family feeling for my kids. For a few years, I’ve hosted a small get-together on December 23rd. This year, we decided to open it up a bit and invite about ten families. I had so much fun (as did the kids), next year I’m determined to make it even bigger. The only downside is, as a grown-up, I’m stuck with the clean-up, too. But it is well worth it.

Mom and my Hubby

Mom and my Hubby

Hope you enjoy the few photos (that’s my mom dressed like a Nutcracker) of our little event. Do you have or attend holiday parties, or do you prefer to keep things quiet?

MERRY CHRISTMAS, and best wishes for a happy, healthy new year.

PS  My newsletter will be going out in early January, so if you want a sneak peek at Worth the Trouble, a chance to win an early review copy, and to vote on the charity I’ll be donating some of the sales proceeds to, please make sure you are signed up. It’s a two-step process, so make sure to respond to the verification email!

XO-Jamie