And on this Christmas

I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.

—Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

At last, the shopping is over. The family is gathered. The presents are unwrapped. The meals are eaten. And, at close of day, we go our separate ways back into the world. Maybe this holiday we spend with someone we only see once per year. Or less.

But as we depart, let us be reminded that Christmas is more than a day, or a celebration, or presents, or feasting. That Christmas is the opening of our hearts to those we know and those we don’t.

When the bells strike midnight tonight, do not let the doors of the heart swing shut for another year. Be open to possibility. To love and family and friendship. Find compassion throughout the year in all you do, and live Christmas not just today, but every day.

Is Christmas ruined?

I overheard in a break room that “Working retail has ruined Christmas…” for the woman who said this. And that got me thinking. Is commercialism ruining Christmas?

Radio stations start playing Christmas music in November, or maybe even October. Do they do it to get the spirit going? No, they do it to catch radio listeners, and thus sell more ads.

Television, stores, nonprofits, and other businesses use Christmas to bring in or make more money. But what does that do to Christmas? Many of our cherished Christmas traditions were marketing campaigns during the holidays, including Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Montgomery Ward Department Store) and Santa’s Red Suit (Designed by Thomas Nast in Harper’s Weekly, but which was popularized by Haddon Sundblom’s Coca-Cola campaign).

Even Dicken’s A Christmas Carol created some traditions we still use today.

To answer the question of a ruining of Christmas, it must be understood what Christmas is. And that answer is so many things to different people.

So celebrate Christmas your way, and find moments to enjoy the season. It comes just once each year…

Last shopping weekend

Here we are, the last shopping weekend before Christmas. Are you done shopping?

Yesterday was what retailers call Super Saturday, the biggest single shopping day of the year.

“The last Saturday before Christmas has become the biggest shopping day of the year and we expect an impressive turnout.” – NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay

Nearly 150 million Americans are expected to shop this weekend. Now, I like stuff as much as the next person. I even did some shopping myself. But what’s the takeaway from all the spending and gifting?

Hopefully it’s that what’s important is family and loved ones, and not who’s the best shopper.

Thoughts on goal-setting

What do you do when you’ve lost sight of the peak? You reorient. That means asking questions about what is in your life. Everything. Yes, it helps if the goal is in place so that you can compare where you are to where you want to be.

But what if you don’t really have one? Or, it’s a more simplistic, immediate goal? Let’s say you can’t quite make yourself set a five- or ten-year plan.

So start small.

You want to get out of debt? Before you make that purchase, ask yourself, “Will this bring me closer to that goal?”

Unless it’s a business purchase to increase revenue or start a new venture, or some financial investment to increase returns, it’s a hard no. We know this. That’s why this goal in particular can be so difficult. You’d never buy anything!

(Obviously this won’t apply to monthly bills, or things like groceries. But make sure you have a budget and stick to it.)

One other issue that arises is when two goals seem to contradict each other. For instance, debt reduction vs. buying a new house. But if you remain focused on the steps, you can reduce your revolving debt – which will lead to a better rate on your mortgage.

And that’s all it is. A goal is a road-map. Stick to the map, achieve the goal. Then set a new one.

Purchases

I’ve been on something of a spending moratorium. (I’m feeling broke, though I don’t like using that word. It implies something is wrong with me, rather than my financial footing. So when I’m telling myself that I need more work; that I’m broke –  I’ll usually stop and say, “I feel like I don’t have enough money.”)

Anyway, it seems that all the money I’m making goes towards bills, which has been the case for the past couple of months. However, there are some purchases I’ve made that have been well worth the investment.

First, my Sony noise-canceling headphones. I bought them just over a year ago now. They have been used while traveling, in meditation, for walks and occasionally exercise, and when I’m working at home. They are a marvelous invention, and for years I said I didn’t need them. Now I’m so glad I have a pair.

A Patagonia Better Sweater Fleece Vest. I think I got this early in the year, maybe around February. It was just starting to get warmer, and in Florida, we don’t think about cooler weather all that much. But again, I’m so glad I have it. I wore it for much of my time Alaska this summer, and it just hit the sixties here last night. Besides, I’ll be up in Pennsylvania later this month as well.

And finally, another purchase I’m loving this year, my Parker ’51 Fountain pen. Now, I bought this at an antique store for $5, so it wasn’t really a splurge. But I cleaned it up, and it works perfectly. My morning journal entries are written with a Lamy AL-Star fountain pen, but everything else I use my Parker for. I carry it with me everywhere. Currently, I’m filling it with a Pilot Iroshizuku teal ink.

And over the past twelve months, these have been my most used items. I was gifted a pocketknife that I carry with me everywhere. So that gets used a lot as well. But these items bring me a lot of joy. Every time I look at them or use them, I’m so glad that I have them.

That is what purchases should be. Something that will bring you continued joy over the course of their lives. Otherwise, it could just become clutter. (Don’t worry, I have that too…)

Letting Go

As I progress in my blogging, I start to think I’ve used titles before. Like Letting Go. I search. I don’t find it. Maybe the search bar doesn’t work like I mean it to. Or I actually haven’t titled one Letting Go. I don’t know for sure.

Either way, I’ve been thinking about it a lot. Letting go. Of the past. Of stuff. Of the personal baggage that I hang on to. It’s little things.

This item went to the trash tonight:

coconut crow
Jamaican-made bird feeder from coconut.

I had purchased it from a street vendor in Jamaica – exactly which area I don’t recall. I was in Jamaica for a mission trip with my significant other. She and I are no longer together. I also have no relationship to speak of with any of the church members that went on the trip.

I think I paid $10. I could have gotten it for cheaper. But the words of a very persuasive priest came back to me.

“While talking with a parishioner,” he said in his homily, “she was bragging about how she had talked the seller down on some item she purchased on vacation.” [I believe it was in Mexico, but it could have been anywhere].

He proceeded to ask her, “Are you saying that you’re proud of taking away the money the this person needs to care for the family, put food on the table, and keep a roof over their heads?” This particular priest is an odd, joy-filled individual.

He then said, “I guess I shouldn’t go on vacation there. I’d be haggling the price up.”

So in looking at this strange coconut bird feeder, an authentic carved item from Jamaica, I couldn’t bring myself to haggle the price down.

But it no longer serves me. I took this picture of it to have the memory, but item itself has been let go.

Week’s Highlights

Some of the things that caught my interest this week.

  • Beetlejuice the Musical. Well, I seem to be heading to New York in September. It’s odd how things happen so quickly. But, I’ll be attending this musical while up there, and hopefully seeing a few more.
  • The Magic Flute by W.A. Mozart, with book by Emanuel Schikaneder & Carl Ludwig Giesecke. I was tuning in to the radio station I do my show for, and heard this piece from Die , where the baritone was singing “papagena, papagena, papagena.” I thought that I could sing the whole piece, so I borrowed the music from my friend and accompanist and began working on my German… which is atrocious.
  • Online shopping vs. in-person, with relation to adverse weather conditions. Did you know rainy days can increase online sales?
  • Newly-created interest in video games, as it pertains to my weekly recording sessions, has led me to some previously-unvisited corners of the internet. If you’re looking for free games to play, try this piece from Games Radar.