December – It’s a Wrap!

A little skim of ice on the lake and blue skies for Xmas morning

A little skim of ice on the lake and blue skies for Xmas morning

This month was all about Christmas for my workplace and for my nearby relatives. Even Rom wanted to amp it up more than usual. I tend to get overwhelmed by Christmas stuff and I try to keep it lower-key. Sometimes I wish Christmas was at the end of January when the cold weather is in full force – it would be more of a break from the deep winter then. But worse for travel. There are lots of ways to downsize Christmas – don’t celebrate, decline invitations, stop gift exchanges, or get ready really early and then relax.

Here’s how mine worked out: We visited Link in Toronto in November, so we brought gifts along. It was very strange not to continue buying “just one more thing” all throughout December! I also delivered all the annual Christmas ornaments that Link selected over the years, and Link had their first real Christmas tree away from home. Link organized a Christmas celebration in their new place for six friends, giving them a “home away from home” for the holidays. Some of them stayed for extended visits. I was impressed with all the preparations Link did. Some of their queer friends are not welcomed by their families and are very stressed at this time of year.

I completed the rest of my gift shopping in 4 sessions, none before the first of December. One of them included a nice lunch out with my mom and sister. I used to buy multiple gifts for each person so I was always trying to make a carefully curated selection of presents. Now I just buy one gift for each person. I have had no complaints about the level of thoughtfulness, and it is much easier on me! My parents, in particular, are tired of getting new “stuff” and can’t think of anything they want or need. I tried to respect their wishes by buying less and by NOT trying to express all my appreciation for them monetarily in one day. I was also pleased to buy some gifts that were locally made. I had two work events, a big catered one, and the other for our local office (it was a potluck at someone’s house). Rom and I have our own annual tradition: Rom emigrated to Canada one December, so every year at this time we go to an extravagant buffet lunch to celebrate another year in Canada together.

Our tree

Our tree

I used to have some outdoor lights to decorate the house – not the kind that you hang along the eaves, but shaped as stars or snowflakes. Over time they have failed and I replaced them with stars that go on the window sills indoors, facing out. The only other decorating we do is having a Christmas tree. I like the smell and the wintriness of it, and I had collected (or been given) tree ornaments for decades. I like taking them out and looking at them every year, and I like knowing that Link will do the same now.

I don’t do any cooking or baking specific to Christmas. At work we shared chocolate and treats for an entire month. It really gets out of hand! I decided to take a week off from treats just prior to Christmas, in keeping with the tradition of Advent, albeit briefer. By the time Christmas Eve rolled around, I was able to enjoy it all without feeling glutted. I couldn’t have resisted the temptation for the whole month before the big day, though. The rest of our holiday food was generously provided by my extended family – my parents host full meals on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (yes, voluntarily) AND send us home with all the traditional baking. My sister has us over for eggnog lattes and cinnamon buns and sends us home with homemade chocolates and fudge. What a life!

I had a social dilemma in December. Tell me what you would have done! I have been going swimming once or twice a week for the past two months. Early in December, one of the other lane swimmers introduced herself and said a group of the regular swimmers would be going out to breakfast that Saturday, and did I want to come? The swimmers all come and go from the pool at different times each morning and I had not met any of them personally. I said, maybe another time? and was then told, “We only do this once a year!” So I said yes I would, and then my new acquaintance said, “Well, I might not be there!” I was a bit stumped because how would I even recognize the swimmers at the restaurant when they were full dressed and not wearing caps and goggles? So I showed up with great trepidation, expecting to have to barge into a group of friends and explain how I came to be there. Or maybe approach the wrong group! Fortunately, the person who invited me did attend, she introduced me to everyone, and made me feel very welcome. Whew! So now I have a crew of swim buddies.

The sad remains of the snow on Christmas day

The sad remains of the snow on Christmas day

Otherwise I have enjoyed the gym this month as usual, even though I have to leave a little earlier to scrape the windows of my car. We had snow several times in early December, but a big rainstorm on the 24th washed it all away, giving us one of our frequent green/brown Christmases. Since then we’ve had another big rainstorm and there is no snow predicted for at least a week: very unusual, now that the New Year is here!

Rom and I both had 4 days off for Christmas and Boxing Day, and this weekend is a long one for New Year’s Day, so it’s been very relaxing. We went to the theatre to see Star Wars: Rogue One, the only movie we’ve been out to see all year! We had a conversation of how they brought back the character played by Peter Cushing, which became more eerie after we heard about the death of Carrie Fisher (see this article about “digital reanimation.“) I had read her book Postcards from the Edge when it came out, and the book was really distinctive for its time: I think more recent authors like Lena Dunham and Michelle Tea probably owe their style of humour and candour to the kind of writing that Carrie Fisher began.

I rarely watch movies at home these days, but this month I watched three: first, the 3-hour miniseries of The Casual Vacancy, based on the book by J.K. Rowling. I have to say I didn’t like the book. It took me a while to work out that it was supposed to be a satire! It was really quite misanthropic and was especially harsh on teenagers. But I developed a curiosity about how it was filmed. The mini-series made it come alive! I was very impressed by it. I was completely taken by some characters who were not very sympathetic in the book, but were surprisingly well-rounded in the series. The villains were truly scummy and, sadly, realistic. I would highly recommend it. The performances by Abigail Lawrie as Crystal and by Julia McKenzie as the contemptible Mrs. Mollison were outstanding. I also (finally) watched Me Without You, after having read the book earlier this year. Once again I think they did a good job of it. And I never like the movie when I’ve read the book! I loved seeing Emilia Clarke in a role other than Daenerys. I found the print Lou/Louisa to be rather lifeless (and the author attempted to explain her way-of-being with a tragic story from her past). The on-screen Lou was much more believable. The medical and ethical aspects of the book were featured less in the movie but the points were still made. A winner! The third movie was Withnail and I, a supposed cult classic I had never seen. Now you will see that I spent the holidays watching three grim movies and I loved every minute of it 🙂 Withnail and I was a nihilistic buddy film about roommates in Camden who were out-of-work actors, desperately poor and rarely clean or sober. It is surely not for everyone, but a good bet if you like films such as Trainspotting or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas! I enjoyed it, but won’t be doing the accompanying drinking game any time soon.

This month I read two more books on my Just-for-Me Book Club list, Riddley Walker and We Were Liars. Reviews coming soon!

I love the New Year. Despite not going out late at night, I think it is my favourite holiday. All those new beginnings. A Happy 2017 to all! It can only get better, right?

PS – Thanks to all the nice folks who checked my home page for new posts over the past two weeks. Lots more in the near future!

19 comments

  1. Merry Christmas, Happy Boxing Day, and Happy New Year!

    You were a lot braver than I would have been, going to breakfast with strangers like that. I would have chickened out. Good for you!

  2. A belated Merry Christmas, and best wishes for a happy and prosperous New Year!

    Looking forward to your next book reviews too.

  3. Fiona

    Happy New Year, Dar! Wishing you (and Rom & Link) ongoing happiness and fulfilment in 2017!

    It would be very hard not having Link there for Christmas but I hope that was mitigated by knowing they did such a generous thing to host for others. Christmas would be a wretched and even dangerous time of year for anyone not welcome in their own family.

    I always love seeing your Christmas Tree. I’ve never had a ‘real’ tree (ours is plastic.) Some friends have them here but the heat often causes them to look very sad and wilted by Christmas Day.

    That is funny about the swim meet-up! I think I would have tried to make excuses thinking, “Oh no! Another commitment at this time of year!” Do you enjoy having that ongoing connection now? I would be a bit worried that it could become intrusive, with other events or even invitations to swim events!

    • Hi Fiona, Last year was Link’s first Christmas not at home, and although I do mind, it would be selfish of me to wish Link away from their loved ones in TO. I was proud of Link for organizing a good celebration for everyone there. We visited in November and will likely travel again in April so it doesn’t seem so far off.

      I did hesitate to go to the swim breakfast in mid-December when I was busier than usual, but we are the early-bird bunch, at the pool as soon as it opens, so of course the breakfast was early too, and I still had the whole day ahead of me. Since I was told up front it was only an annual event, I wasn’t worried about too many invitations. Overall, I have a lot of free time and I could use more social occasions! It is nice just being chatty when we meet on the pool deck, or coming and going from the sports centre.

  4. EcoCatLady

    Happy New Year! Glad you had such a nice holiday season.

    You are soooo much braver than I am to go to the meet up of swimmers. It’s so odd… I often strike up conversations with complete strangers and that doesn’t make me at all uncomfortable, but the idea of going to a social event with people I don’t know that well fills me with fear and loathing. I think it’s the fear of not being able to escape if and when I want to that gets to me. But I’m so happy for you that you’ve made a new group of friends.

    Best wishes for 2017! 🙂

  5. Hi Dar, and a very happy new year to you too.
    Thanks also to you for your always interesting and usually thought-provoking blog posts.
    As for your social dilemma, I suspect I’d probably have responded as you did, with some nervousness as I don’t usually feel comfortable meeting groups of new people (exacerbated by some hearing loss which means I sometime mishear or misunderstand what’s going on).

    • Hi Deborah, You make a good point about social gatherings. I am more aware of differences and disabilities than I have been in the past, and I try to keep in mind that someone new I meet could have a hidden disability. In fact, I was told that one of the swimmers is blind – they navigate the locker room and pool spaces so easily, I would never have guessed!

  6. I am so amazed about all the preparations that Link had to do to make sure that their queer friends could enjoy the holidays. A while back I did a christmas lunch for ‘All the Lost Souls’ which was really what we referred to ourselves as non-national consultants that found ourselves, once again, alone in a foreign land at Christmas time. Unfortunately didn’t get to do that this year but Its really heart warming to know there are people out there still thinking of those who don’t get to enjoy a family Christmas

    Hmm… swimming buddies.. definitely a dilemma, I don’t know that I could ever agree to such an offer.. the social anxiety would be overwhelming.. or so I imagine. I’ve been going to the same gym for 2 years and I see the same faces but I could never imagine starting up a conversation or meeting up outside the safe confines of the gym. Perhaps I need to try that this year 🙂

    Thanks for a wonderful post and happy new year,

    PK

  7. happy 2017 to you. x I am not sure I would have been brave enough to go outwith swim buddies, it’s as much as I can do to go to a gathering where I know everyone. x

  8. Margie in Toronto

    Happy New Year to you and your followers. It was a white Christmas here in Toronto for the first time in years! I did a Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas breakfast for two groups of friends and then went to another friend’s home for Christmas dinner. It was a month full of lunches and dinners out – all lovely but my jeans are now snug and I’ve had to reach for the “Tums” on more than one occasion so my tummy will be glad to get back to normal.
    I enjoy decorating but living in a smaller apt. means that I have had to scale things down – which has’ been a bad thing at all!
    I think I would have gone to the Swimming Group event. Years ago I would have said NO – with lots of excuses – but since then I’ve found that saying YES to these sorts of invites has provided huge dividends and has led to many new friendships – so good for you!
    No big New Years resolutions this year – just a list of small projects that I intend to work through so that at the end of the year I can have a real sense of accomplishment without adding pressure or creating more stress for myself.
    Haven’t been out to any movies as yet but since I have discovered Netflix have to say I’ve got lots of options over the next few months – mostly catching up on films I missed the first time round! I have been enjoying a lot of Poirot this past week – I just love the fashion of that time period and all the art deco buildings and settings – just set the right mood for me at this time of year.
    Glad to see you are back – hope you enjoyed a good break!

    • Hi Margie, Happy 2017! Your Christmas sounds lovely. I am looking forward to normal food again now too. I am finding that most women I know who are over 50/empty nesters/semi-retired etc. are actively looking for new activities and friends now that their lifestyles have changed. I am definitely in that boat now. I meet a lot of women who are not working (for pay) and have a lot more leisure time than me, but are just as busy! Rom is doing a trial month of Netflix and I plan to watch The Crown!

  9. Margie in Toronto

    That should have been = “Not a bad thing at all” as regards scaling down the decorating!

  10. Happy new year. Enjoy the goal setting!

    I say yes to invites. Although relationships take more than one breakfast to start and develop, you may meet someone you connect among the swimmers.

    My mother and I do not exchange gifts at Christmas anymore. Postage is too expensive and we have too much stuff. Rather, when I visit, we buy each other something we like. I ask for biscuits from my mother for Christmas but they don’t post so unless I visit, I don’t get them. She makes the most amazing Christmas biscuits!!! I would like to start but Christmas coincides with my busiest time at work – the end of the school year. So it is all I can do to get the decorations up.

    • I don’t know how anyone manages Christmas in Australia with the end of the school year at the same time! That would be overwhelming, and doubly so for you. It is good just to know the swimmers’ names and to be able to chat as we come and go from the pool. Hope you have time to relax now!

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