Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Let the Holidays Begin!

     For the first time EVER, the presents are bought and wrapped, the house is decorated, and the cards are sent… and there's still a week until Christmas. Maybe this monumental accomplishment is what prompted me to clean out my purse yesterday. Either that, or I was suddenly possessed by demonic forces beyond my control.

     I once read an article claiming that a woman's purse is one of the germiest items you can touch. When you think about the surfaces it has encountered, like shopping carts, public restrooms, restaurants, store counters, chairs that have been sat on, and floors that have been walked on, it's amazing that we women haven't all perished from the Great Purse Plague of the Twenty-first Century.

     A friend gave me my beautiful, leather designer bag a few years ago for my birthday. I'm not one to change purses with seasons or outfits or occasions. No. I intend to use this lovely bag every day for the remainder of my life and bequeath it to my daughter. So, wouldn't you think I would have set up a regular cleaning schedule for said bag?

     Yesterday's second mistake was to pour the contents of my purse onto the bed. Honestly, I didn't know I even owned 24 pens. Could my pen-hoarding habit be the reason my husband has stuck tiny name labels to all his writing utensils?

     In addition to more pens and pencils than one could use in a lifetime, out poured a trove of other treasures. I made a list in case I should decide to hold a yard sale:
  • Coupons that expired as far back as 2010;
  • Punch-cards from coffee shops and ice cream parlors that are no longer in business; 
  • $6.23 in loose change; 
  • 3 furry cough drops and a few unidentifiable pills;
  • Receipts from places like St. Augustine where we vacationed in 2014; 
  • The sunglasses that have been missing since we vacationed in St. Augustine; 
  • A wallet stuffed with more of those worthless punch-cards, plus a dollar bill and myriad credit cards in rainbow colors;
  • A set of car keys;
  • A spare set of car keys, in case I should misplace my purse. Oops;
  • A filthy cosmetic bag filled with filthy makeup brushes and containers;
  • An earring whose mate I threw out months earlier, positive I'd never see this one again.
  • A pile of sand that could keep a small child entertained for hours.    
     Now it was time to wash my purse inside-and-out with disinfecting soap and warm water. This led to my third mistake. I retrieved a clean, white washrag from the linen closet and wiped every nasty surface of my handbag and every article I intended to return to its bottomless abyss. With the deed accomplished... let's just say, that washrag went in the trash can, not the hamper.

My purse and I are ready. Let the holidays begin!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Holiday Perfection

Are you suffering from the contagious disease known as holiday perfection? Yes, I thought so. Much like the flu, this dreaded infection returns every year to ruin our celebrations. Also, like the flu, there are so many strains that it can't be completely eradicated even with an innoculation of "Come on. Really? Christmas was just yesterday!"

Holiday perfection is pervasive and starts with general malaise. We feel it coming as soon as the retail stores display their Christmas decorations in October. Suddenly, our mystique-radar springs into action, telling us--especially us women--that it is up to us to create the perfect holiday for our loved ones.

We must choose the perfect gift for each person in our life and wrap it with glittery paper and a perfectly formed bow. Then, we must place it under the perfectly decorated, perfectly shaped tree in our perfectly adorned (and scented) home that rivals any house in the Better Homes and Gardens Christmas edition. Oh, and don't forget to select the perfect Pandora station to pipe beautiful Christmas music throughout your perfectly decorated rooms.

Of course, our children must each have a new, festive outfit in which to visit Santa, so we can take that perfect holiday photograph. We must plan and execute a perfect dinner, using the good china that must be washed by hand because of the platinum trim we thought was "just perfect" when we registered for our wedding pattern. Fortunately, the table and the mantle are still decorated from that perfect Christmas party we hosted for our work colleagues two days after Thanksgiving.

We must not forget to bake perfect Christmas cookies to give to our friends and neighbors, who, of course, are accomplishing all of these tasks more perfectly than we are, while working full-time, raising children, taking care of pets, keeping a spotless house, volunteering, and taking extra Yoga and Pilates classes to keep up with the extra calories from their perfect holiday celebrations.

Is it any wonder we wear out our imperfect-selves before December 25th and collapse into a coma on December 26th? I blaim the retail industry for fueling this vial contagion that strikes us every winter, starting the day after Halloween.
So, what can we do to fight against holiday perfection? I have three words of advice for all of us, myself included, who fall victim to this insidious ailment year after year: get. over. it! The mystique is not real. All those magazine celebrities that promise to help you create a perfect holiday meal/aura/outfit/mantle/hairdo/wreath? They have a staff! They are not one person trying to be all things to all people. Furthermore, they don't care about you and your exhaustion. They care about selling you a magical image and a lot of stuff.

When did we forget that Jesus, the King of Kings, was born in a plain old stable (a cave, actually), surrounded by smelly animals? There were no decorations, no sparkling trees, or cookies baking in the oven. And the gifts were for Him, not for each other. It is His birthday we celebrate, not ours. As royalty, Jesus could have chosen a life of ease and comfort, instead He chose to live in poverty and simplicity.

Only Christ's incarnation can fill the emptiness of our imperfect hearts, and heal the disease of holiday perfection. We need not over-achieve to receive His love. It is a free gift to all who accept it. Merry Christmas!