The Holiday No One Talks About

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It’s start of the holiday season, and just coming off of the bazillion Thanksgiving posts from grateful people, we are now inundated with posts of people’s decorated Christmas trees.

I, for one, boycott decorating for Christmas until the first weekend in December. I say “boycott” with love and affection because I just can’t enjoy one holiday by rushing into another. And truthfully, I still haven’t put away all my dishes from Thanksgiving yet, so I’m not ready to make another mess in my home without cleaning up from the one I already have right in front of me.

And besides, there’s still ONE more unnamed holiday event that I need to get through before putting up the tree and lights. Mother Nature sponsors this magnificent occasion, and yet it doesn’t get a special date on the calendar. Instead, we recognize this as an entire SEASON of colorful joy, known simply as FALL, or more delicately, as AUTUMN. And the crowning event of the Autumnal Season is that glorious holiday, Leaf Raking.img_0429

Now, I know what your thinking. How is leaf raking a holiday? Well, naturally, fellow New Englander, it IS a holiday since we go through the same stresses of holiday cheer and angst for raking leaves as we do for celebrating any other date on the calendar.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

First, there is the anticipation of the event. As the weeks roll from September to October to November, we anticipate the joy of fall, the changing of the leaves, and the cooler temperatures. Much like any other special event, I look forward to fall to temper my days and my wardrobe. Fall makes me realize what a great life we do have in New England and how lucky I am to be surrounded by maple and oak trees. Waiting for the hallmark leaf-raking event is like waiting for that suprise gift at Christmas or my birthday. It’s just looming in my future, an ever-present invisible force in my life that continues to create more excitement and wonder as the days draw cooler and darkness falls sooner. When  the leaves start to signal their arrival by gracefully floating to the ground in my yard, I know that the holiday is soon approaching . The only difference between the gift receiving events and the leaf-raking holiday is that not one tree ever thanks me for my leaf raking skills, and I don’t thank the trees for their bountiful yearly gifts, either.

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This year, the leaf raking celebration took on an added element: wood stacking from a felled tree. Oh, joy!

Next comes the actual pre-planning of when to rake so the town can collect the leaves. Just like any other celebration, leaf raking requires preparation, and in order for it to be a wonderfully remembered event, all the little details need to be attended to before the big day. Between Mother Nature and the local paper, I can determine when our leaves will be picked up, and then I can begin to plan when to start to rake. (Luckily, we don’t have to bag our leaves where we live…that would add another whole layer of planning!)  Raking before rain or snow hits is extremely important. Nothing breaks the blissful leaf raking spirit than soggy leaves that have been left too long to create mold on the underlying grass. Personally, I like to savor this holiday, much like you savor a delicious piece of chocolate or dessert, and do a little raking at a time.  My husband, on the other hand, likes to wait until all the leaves have fallen before participating.  But this type of thinking leads to wet leaves, colder temperatures, and generally a longer celebration. Every once in a while, praying for strong winds to blow some of the leaves out of my own yard and into the neighbor’s crosses my mind when planning for the upcoming leaf raking day. But this type of prayer always back fires.  Mother Nature somehow works it out with God to make the wind blow the neighbor’s leaves back into my yard, so I strongly advise not wasting your prayers on this self-serving invocation.

Then comes the actual day of leaf raking. Hallelujah! We’ve been waiting and waiting with our rakes in hand for this sacred day for months!  Dressed in our fall raking clothes, hats, and gloves, I want to get the holiday festivities underway as soon as possible, much to my football-loving husband’s disappointment. He’d rather stay inside and watch the 500 football games on television instead extracting the million or so leaves that we have out from under every bush and hasta plant, between the fence, and under the patio furniture. img_0424

It’s usually on a Saturday morning when we celebrate leaf raking together, and if we’re lucky, it is a sunny one. Gathering up the holiday tools like the tarp, the blower, rakes, and electrical cord isn’t too much of a hassle, but it is at this point where celebrating this joyous event takes a drastic turn for the worse. No matter how much planning or work that is done in advance, there is always anger and bitterness that comes instead of rejoicing in Mother Nature’s leaf raking ceremony.

On the days when the leaves are dry and brittle, it is pleasurable to rake if my husband and I show up with the right attitude. But adding one little change to the environment, like a whipping wind for instance, our attitude shifts very quickly, giving just the right spark to light our short fuses. I hear Mother Nature’s silent laugh as the wind continues to howl, causing the tarp not to want to be placed on the ground and the leaves to exit quickly from where they were placed. Of course, this stressful situtation forces us to speak to each other in flamboyant language, bringing unexpected color and excited gestures to the experience. These words cause a rift to rise between us, completely changing the festive tone of the event from delight to dread.

img_0430Aside from the wind whipping issue, our own ideas of how to appreciate this particular holiday to its fullest potential often cloud our pleasure. Take this common scenario: my husband wants to lug the leaf-filled tarp one way, and I want to go another way and I wonder aloud in a sharp and fiery tone, “Why are you going that way?”  This ignites some anger and makes my husband, the lead person on the tarp, to walk faster, thus pulling the tarp in such a manner that I lose my grip on the tarp. Leaves tumble out, creating another pile needing to be raked and extending the anger jamboree.

Another common issue is that my husband walks faster than me, so I can’t keep up, and I literally have to run with the tarp in hand to the curb without tripping. As you can imagine, I do trip, and more colorful words ensue between the two of us as leaves continue to tumble out of the tarp.

Pace also impacts our raking. Typically, my husband rakes more quickly and thoroughly than I do. And because of this, we are often in competition with each other to get the leaves done our own way. I’d rather take lighter trips with the tarp to the curb whereas my husband would rather fill it so it weighs as much as a blue whale and then drag me behind, tripping and cursing.  Clearly, our pace and viewpoints are no match for the glory in leaf raking.

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Then the blower or rakes get misplaced, seemingly miles away from the actual leaves, making it more tiresome to retrieve these items after each turn-over of the tarp. Or one wants to use the blower instead of the rake, or both of us want the blower, and the other is putting the tarp too far away from the leaf pile or heaven forbid, ON TOP OF some leaves! The emotions overflow for hours during this holiday affair, and we are both are thankful once the nightmare of leaf raking is finally over.

The tools are slowly returned to the garage, and the merriment is over until next year. The yard still has leaves that have been missed and will have to wait until spring, because by this point, I don’t really care if every leaf hasn’t made it to the curb. I just want to sit down and watch the 5o0 football games we missed.

I just love the holidays, don’t you?

Yours in HOLIDAY adventures,

TWL

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Holiday Chaos Conquered in 5 Ways

When you are living with a chronic illness, even every day tasks require pre-planning and thought…and just that thought ALONE can send one running back under the covers.

Here are 5 ways to make managing the holidays a bit easier and hopefully more enjoyable.

DIVIDE AND CONQUER

After having a bickering weekend recently, fueled only by my OWN issues with worrying about getting housework done, I started defining small weekly tasks on my calendar, like laundry, ordering groceries (see SHOP SMARTER below), dusting and vacuuming, and bathrooms.  Each night is designated for ONE task so that my weekend isn’t consumed by cleaning.  Tuesdays I’m not home until 7 pm, so that night I give myself a break from a chore, but the rest of the week is planned out.  AND FOR ME, IT ACTUALLY WORKED! Sunday was indeed a day of rest, so I am sticking to my pre-planning habit through the holidays.

img_0357DELEGATE

I like to be in control of things in my home, but found that I need to get better at doling out tasks for my family members to do to help around the house so I’m not feeling like the sole worker bee.   My husband is great with cooking for me–he’s the grill master, for sure,  so he will grill up meat for me over the weekend for my lunches for the upcoming week. And he’s learned how to make my tea, so he’ll put a pot on for me if he sees the kettle out. And my ten-year old can easily vacuum the stairs with a hand vac and organize the couch pillows if I let her know.

There’s nothing wrong with asking for help and sharing the load–many hands make light work, right?


SHOP SMARTER, NOT HARDER

I discovered that I could order my groceries online several years ago, and this has been quite the weekly lifesaver!  I can either have them delivered or pick them up, depending on which store I shop at.  I mostly order non-perishables and things like milk and eggs; meat and veggies we get elsewhere.  But truly, this is the BEST WAY to get my grocery shopping done without having to fight aisle antics, crying children, and blinking lights that signal coupon issues at the checkout.

I also shop for many of my holiday gifts online and have them delivered to me at work. It’s wonderful since I can get my goodies without having to worry about them being left on the front porch in the bad weather.  I can also squirrel things away from my husband and daughter.

Shopping smarter can really pay off in terms of your sanity.  Two years ago, I went out on Black Friday to a local chain store near my home.  The line to pay literally went down to the back of the store, and as much as I wanted the few items I selected, they didn’t warrant me standing in line for hours. So,  I snapped a few photos of the items and their UPC codes on my phone, then went home and ordered them online.   I received the same deals –and with free shipping–without having to wait in line!

That was a magical moment!

SANTA’S LIST ISN’T JUST FOR HIMimg_0356

We have a very large extended family, and add in the kindly neighbor, the classroom teacher, the dance teacher, the bus driver… it’s plain to see, the holidays can become very expensive very quickly!

I create a holiday table in Word on my computer each year, and I don’t necessarily delineate dollar amounts per person–that seems a little too Scrooge for me– but I do itemize who I’m giving to and try to get some shopping done early prior to December so I’m not scrambling for money or gifts.

Since I do this each year, I can look back to see what I’ve given and not repeat the same gift.  I also try to avoid the same candle/mug/tie gift.

Truly,  who really needs another Santa mug or holiday tie?

 

SHOP OUTSIDE OF THE BOXimg_0359

This year, if I do venture out of my home to shop,  I’m going local to shop to support ‘the little guy or gal’. I’ve got plans to go to a local book sale at a library near the town I grew up in over the Thanksgiving weekend.  They held a similar event over the summer, and I found some wonderful reading treasures there for myself.  I’m going to try it out and see how many family members I can surprise with a literary gift this year.  It shouldn’t break the bank, and I’m glad to be supporting library events instead of a CEO’s wallet.

I’m also going to gift the gift of my time this year.  My sisters and I are planning on getting together with our kids over the winter break and do something together instead of the usual present in a box that never gets seen again.  I’d rather create some memories that will leave a lasting impression.

Isn’t that what the holidays are about anyway?

Yours in HOLIDAY Lyme Adventures,

TWL