1. What has seemed in the past like obligations no longer does. Our kids are grown and gone and they all live in a state that isn't Arizona. We no longer have any little kid grandchildren. When we were first without children at Christmas I was sad. I remember one year I put up a live tree with all the memory-infused ornaments, listening to my ancient favorite seasonal music. When I finished, I stood back to look at the tree and started to cry. It was all over! I removed all the decorations and asked my husband Art to take the tree outside. It sat in its pot until spring and got planted in our yard, where it has grown tall and now nearly obstructs the driveway in our easement.
2. This year I sent no Christmas cards. I've kind of been easing up on them in recent years, sending actual cards only to people I don't see during the year or friends not on Facebook. In this time of constant communication, most everyone knows what we've been doing. If I were to write a Christmas letter it would mostly be a copy and paste from my 2018 blog posts.
3. This year I sent no gifts, not even gift cards to my grandchildren. I rarely see them, and most of them are in their late teens, and when I do send something I rarely know whether they were ever received. I expect that - it's different from when I was a kid, back before fire - but it makes me less inclined to spend the time and money.
4. We're not going to Washington for Christmas. We considered it, but Art doesn't want to mess with the Seattle airport, plus we have a tenant this year in our house.
5. My good friend Joan sent us an Advent devotional. She's a progressive Catholic and I'm a Unitarian Universalist, so the readings were lovely and appropriate for us, and each day, if I remember, I read it aloud to Art.
6. One of the things we've done this year is prepare a box for the food bank, which we'll deliver tomorrow. I found a list of things to put in the box each day, and Art was good about shopping for everything. It often happens that I come up with the idea and he does the work!
7. For the last five Saturday evenings Art and I have volunteered at a refugee shelter sponsored by a Methodist church across town. The people at the shelter have left their homes - mostly in Honduras or Guatemala - because their lives are in danger. ICE interviews them and identifies them as people eligible to apply for asylum in the US. They then make plans to travel to a family or friend who has agreed to sponsor them. The sponsor sends money for the family to take a bus from Tucson to the home of the sponsor - Florida, South Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Washington, California, Colorado, or wherever. The family stays at the shelter for one to three days until the bus tickets can be purchased. While they are with us, they're welcomed and fed and clothed. When they leave, they're given food to take with them on their bus trip.
8. For a week or two I collected reusable grocery bags to fill with food for the refugees' onward journeys. I put out a request on my winter community's Facebook page and, as usual, the response was generous. People went through their pantries, or stopped by Trader Joe's or WalMart, or ordered on Amazon. My Do Your Part colleague sent 35 bags made by refugees in Greece that didn't have our logo on them. I'd guess my community and friends gave 150 bags for the travelers to use. That feels good.
9. This morning my handbell group played at the nondenominational church service at our winter home. For our last piece, "Were You There," we were joined by the choir. It was lovely - spiritual - and I was grateful to have a way to express myself in music. I was a liturgical musician for a dozen years or so before my divorce, so today brought back very good memories.
10. I decided at the beginning of Advent to make an effort not to work on Sundays. For me that means the accounting work I do for Do Your Part, or personal paperwork. At first it was hard, but in the last couple of weeks I've actually looked forward to it. I have nearly all day to read, or blog, or nap, or "whatever"!
Tomorrow we're going to the home of new friends to play a card game - we haven't done that in ages, but we like the people and I think it will be fun. Tomorrow night we'll open the door for the Alanon meeting in case some family or friend of an alcoholic is feeling especially bad and wants to hang out with us. On Christmas Day we're having two friends over for dinner. That sounds just about right.
Here's hoping that your Advent, if you observe it, or your holiday season has been reasonably satisfactory and stress free. Merry Christmas!