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Pull Up A Chair


(Photo on the Isle of Grimsay, Scotland.)

I stumbled across the BBC's photoblog and prose blog compilations a while ago, and this photograph in particular just jumped out at me.  It has such lonely feel — the footprints stretching out across the barren expanse of snow, no person or even an animal to be seen anywhere. 

You can almost feel that sharp, painful cold in the air, the intake of breath when the wind starts up again and blows right through however many layers you've been able to put on before going outside.  You can hear the crunch of the dry snow under your boots just looking at the footprints.  And you can almost feel the joy of the person taking the photo, at getting this barren scenery in the shot, while at the same time feeling the ache of the lonliness of it as well.

The holiday season used to be a tough one for me.  I've mentioned before that we had a hard time getting to our miracle, and that The Peanut truly is a grace for us.  Prior to our run of luck that led to the birth of our lovely child, I had two miscarriages, two Christmases in a row, and I can tell you from personal experience that this is a sure way to numb and destroy any sort of joy for the season.   In fact, it's a pretty good way to build up a storehouse of dread, to be quite honest.

The year that I was pregnant, I refused to buy any baby clothes or furniture or anything at all whatsoever — I would not even allow any baby item in our house — until we got past Christmas, for fear that something would happen.  It was as though I held my breath through the several months beforehand just to be able to exhale at the end of Christmas Day.

So I know exactly what I'm talking about when I say that, for some folks, the holidays are not exactly a joyful season.  (Yes, that's an understatement.)

And perhaps, I thought, this might apply to some of our readers here, as well:  families aren't perfect, relationships sometimes crumble, sometimes we are facing a holiday without some special person (or pet..because they truly are family, too, at our house)…and it is tough to get into the mood for carols or feasting or whatever it is that you do this time of year.

And some folks don't even celebrate Christmahkwanzakah Festivus anyway.

I spent a chunk of last week putting together some stockings filled with toys and hats and mittens and all sorts of other fun things for kids that will be given out by the Salvation Army.  (I was actually sewing the stockings closed while we were all chatting with Amb. Joe Wilson this week — talk about multi-tasking!  The Peanut enjoyed being able to help kids out who might not have toys, even though it was very hard for her to not keep them all for herself.  I'm very proud of her for being able to learn that lesson early.)  I also put together a few more bundles for our local homeless Mission — they are overloaded this year, and a lot of folks are coming in with only the clothes on their backs.  It's a tough year this year.  Mr. ReddHedd gave a donation to a group called Nothing But Nets, which has had amazing success in combatting malaria with something as simple as mosquito netting — cutting the death rate for children in some areas in Africa in half for deaths from malaria.  (In half!  You can read even more about it here.)

But no matter how much good you do for others in need, or whatever else it is that you do as a diversion, you never really lose that ache when you are having one.  I can still remember the years when it was all I could do not to burst into tears every single time I saw a child.  Whatever the reason that things may or may not be rough for you this time of year, it can get stressful and exhausting and just plain overwhelming at times for everyone. 

Trust me, it is not just you.

So today, I thought we could just kick back and think of this as a time to relax, away from the insanity that others like to call "The Mall," and just talk amongst ourselves. 

How do you deal with family insanity this time of year?  What is the best way that you've ever found to make your budget stretch or to make merry without a whole lot of change jingling out of your pocket?  What is the thing that you do for yourself this time of year — self-care is a very important thing when you are bone weary and feeling drained and you still have to get up and start over again tomorrow or fight the crowds at Target to find that perfect gift for the picky person in your life or whatever it is that is stressing you out these days — so what have you done for yourself lately? 

Let's just chat for a little while, and relax among friends…pull up a chair…

(Thanks to RevDeb for the e-mail nugget idea that turned into this thread today.)

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com