You Don’t Have to Love Christmas {And other truths about December}

tangled xmas lights

It’s the most… complicated time of the year. For plenty of people I know, Christmas time, the holidays, New Year’s… They can be a tidal wave of emotion, reflection, regret and just plain sadness.

The toughest things I’ve ever been through have almost all happened in the month of December. A baby on the 23rd when I was just the tiny age of 19. The loss of my first husband in a car accident on December 28th when we were both just 26. (Only to bury him on New Year’s Eve. If you’re really feeling festive, you can read more about that here  or here. ) And then the final undoing of my second marriage on the darkest Christmas Eve in my history, when we finally could not un-ring the bell.

And all of this among a few other losses and if-onlys and what-ifs.

But enough about me.  There is a pressure to love December and Christmas and all things holly jolly like no other time of year.  You can say you hate summer or the 4th of July or Labor Day, but what kind of a jerk doesn’t like Christmas?  There’s a shame attached to it that’s unmistakable.  Months in advance we’re impressed with how we’re supposed to feel about the holidays. There’s an anticipation that begins around Halloween and doesn’t relent until the final carol has been sung. You’re supposed to be happy. You’re supposed to feel joy. You’re supposed to feel lighthearted and whimsical and ready to party and celebrate and exchange food and gifts and time and affection. So when you don’t feel all these things, the only reasonable conclusion is that there must be something wrong with you.


But the truth is, holiday depression is a real thing and more people feel this way than are willing to admit. For so many, the dramatic emphasis on love, cheer and goodwill only reflects the lack of it in their own lives. Any other time of year, we know how to deal–but December’s over the top expectations have us staring a little too hard and long at all the spaces in our lives that fall short and feel empty.

Just think of the Grinch or Ebenezer Scrooge– both infamous for their dislike of December 25th.  (Although  truthfully, the Grinch never really hated Christmas. He hated people, which is fair.)

If you want cold hard facts, one North American survey reports that 45% of Americans dread the holiday season.  Ouch. Pass the eggnog.

Here’s the good news: December is just another month. The end of one year and the beginning of a new one bringing brand new chances and opportunities for peace and happiness. And although it seems to loom for weeks, Christmas is only one single day. If it turns out to be a good one, hooray for you! But if it ends up going off the rails, clock out early, crawl into bed and wake up renewed on the 26th and move on with your life.

You don’t have to love December. You don’t have to love Christmas. You don’t have to be or do or feel a certain way. About anything. Ever. It doesn’t make you a bad person, a sad person, or a less-than person. It makes you a real person.  And there’s nothing better than being real about yourself, where you’re truly at in life and how things are actually going. If you’re not feeling strong enough to celebrate and socialize, don’t feel bad about telling the people around you, “Thanks, but I’m just not up for that right now.” With no apologies. On the flip side, sometimes getting out of your own head and being with people is exactly what you need if your sadness has you turned a little too far internally.

But the best part? You get to choose.

This is my happiest December in decades. For the first time in a long time, I don’t feel the heaviness I’m usually carrying this time of year. I’m wildly in love with someone who pursues my happiness like it’s his job.  I feel peaceful and grateful and actually, a little bit Christmas-y. But I never forget about my friends who are not. And I still don’t love December or Christmas. Accepting that and not judging myself for it has been, well, a gift.

Cheers to January, friends. We’re almost there.


Because People-Love


Every single day I’m reminded how beautiful my life really is. But every single day I’m also reminded how hard life can be. And hard times feel even harder during the holidays. My dear friend, Sister Johnice at the Response to Love Center in Buffalo, NY helps take care of people during hard times. And honestly? It’s so easy to make a difference. Way too easy to sit back and do nothing. This time of year wipes out the food pantry at the center. And when clients do come in, many of them have no winter gloves. Over the next few weeks I’ll be collecting canned food and winter gloves for adults.

If you’re a Buffalo local, would you consider adding to my Canned Food & Winter Gloves Collection? I’d love to have you join me.

Wondering how I got connected to the RTLC? Diapers. It was through Diapers. Read more here…

It’s the Little Things that Make a Wonderful Life


“What if you woke up one day and it turned out your whole life was only a dream?”

My older daughter Casey shared this quote with me the other day. She read it somewhere recently and it really spoke to her.

As she and I went back and forth about the craziness of this concept and how it would feel and what it would be like, what struck me the most was this: She said she’d be devastated. Because– and I quote, “I have a pretty damn good life.”


I was not expecting that.

I was not expecting that, given our family history– her father’s death when she was just a baby, my recent divorce and all of the preceding circumstances, and some of her own personal struggles in the past– I just wasn’t expecting to hear that she loves her life so much.

On sleepless nights, I spend a fair amount of time thinking about everything I haven’t been able to give my kids (read: an intact happy family) and the variety of loss they’ve experienced in their lives. I think as parents, especially, we tend to think it’s all much more complicated than it really is. And although at times my kids do feel the rough edges of brokenness rub up against them, it’s not how they define themselves or how they view their lives as a whole. There are tons of little things that give them so much happiness and make them feel loved.

And as it turns out, it’s the little things that make life wonderful, even when the very big things don’t measure up.

My daughter’s remark got me thinking. There are really only a few things any us of need to feel like it’s a pretty wonderful life after all. And the more people I talk to, the more I’m convinced that especially during the Christmas season, we cannot be reminded of this enough.

So what exactly makes the short list?  

Love that makes us feel secure

Feeling accepted for who we really are

A passion that lights us up

Lots of laughter

Being surrounded by people who genuinely like us

These are the things that make a wonderful life. It isn’t about creating an atmosphere of perfection. We never could anyway. It’s about tons of love, grace, and laughter. It’s about really connecting with each other. It’s about pursuing things that speak to our souls and set our hearts on fire. It’s about friends that feel like family and family that feels like friends.

George Bailey would’ve lassoed the moon for Mary. But even that was too much.

Mary toasted her friends simply by wishing them this~

“Bread. That this house may never know hunger.

Salt. That life may always have flavor.”

To which George added, “And wine! That joy and prosperity may reign forever!”

And in the end, it’s the bread, salt, and wine of life. The little things that make it wonderful, even when the big things may not be perfect.

Cheers to the little things~

And cheers to a truly wonderful life.


A Kindness Countdown to Christmas

Somehow I’m always a week or two late with this post– but not this year! Thanks to Snovember and all of those days we were trapped inside, The Kindness Countdown to Christmas is happening right on time! I asked my girls if they were up for this again and got a resounding YES! We hope you decide to join us for what ends up being a very fun and thoughtful way to count down the Christmas season.

Every year I have such mixed emotions about the holidays. Of course I want to enjoy them with my kids and family and friends, but sometimes there’s a sticky gap between expectation and experience. The busyness and exhaustion of the season and all that it requires gets all jumbled up with the ghosts of Christmas past, loss and grief (December was the month I lost my first husband…and then buried him on New Year’s Eve), stress over broken and tricky relationships…and the holidays can feel like The Hot Mess Express. Bleh. Skip to January. PLEASE?

And I regret this. I hate it, actually. Because in the deepest parts of my heart and soul,   Christmas is all about the birth of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Advent, the 25 days leading up to the celebration of the birth of Christ, represents the darkening of winter and the whole world as it awaits a savior. A yearning. A recognizing of the ache for something more that what this life has to offer. And then He came. On a glorious star-filled night. And nothing would ever be the same. Including my life. Surely, this is a reason to celebrate, rather than dread.

So. A few years ago I stumbled upon a simple, fun and creative way to help nurture more happiness during December. I will forever wish I had thought of this myself, but imitation is the sincerest form of flattery… so it’s on! 25 Random Acts of Christmas Kindness. Yep. Everyday in December, the girls and I perform a random act of kindness accompanied by a card that says, “You’ve been RACK’ed”. The card has an explanation of what we are doing and why. The sentiments are small–so far they’ve included candy, fun trinkets (think Target dollar aisle) and $5 Tim Horton’s gift cards, paying for the car behind us in a drive-thru, doing little favors and chores for neighbors…But the return for us has been priceless. It feels good to give, but it feels even better to see how happy it makes the other person. Kindness. Just. Feels. Good.

In a season when children (and adults) spend a lot of time thinking about their own wish lists, intentionally planning a daily way to think of others is now a precious pause we take. I know there will be days we accidentally forget, but that means we get to do it twice the next day. And right from the start of this, my kids caught the concept: Kindness matters. Even teeny tiny acts of kindness matter. And what if the people we surprise decide to do it too?  Now we’re part of a kindness chain. And what if we do it every day, instead of just at Christmas time? Then what? Could we change our little part of the world with our little random acts of Christmas kindness? Well actually, I think we can.

And in reality, we ARE part of a kindness chain. It started with a baby born 2000 years ago. In the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, may my exhaustion come from kindness. I will gladly work full-time to keep that spirit alive in my heart and in my family.

It’s perfect timing to participate! Click here to find the link for free printable cards.