My friend, Bev, asks if I ever use my photos for Christmas cards. Yeah, this was ours two years ago when my sweet Hen was with us. He would sit in front of the fire like this for some time, and I always wondered what he was thinking. Okay, so I know it may have just been "Oooh, my nose is toasty" but I like how he looks like he's waiting for Santa. Geesh, I've been on a missing-Hen kick this week--his sweet pink nose, his two different colored eyes, his gentle kiss on my nose. It is hard to believe he is gone. And it's hard to believe how things change in a year's time.
This Christmas is a tough one--for everyone. There isn't anyone I know of that isn't scared about their future, worried about their investments or lack-thereof, and afraid to spend this Christmas. Yeah, I know it is supposed to help the economy, but I'm tired of being the one who is supposed to bolster the cash flow. I don't have much extra and what I have I want to hang onto for a uncertain near future. There are major cut-backs this holiday season, and I don't really care anymore if it does affect the world economy--I cannot spend what I don't have, like it or not. I don't imagine the country will be handing me a bailout when the COBRA payments start killing my savings account.
One of the very first things to go was the Christmas cards. I love to send these each year, touching base with all of those folks I don't see regularly anymore--past co-workers, college friends, out-of-state relatives, friends who aren't in our loop anymore. I miss sorting through the photos, picking out just the right ones and creating something fun on Snapfish or Shutterfly. I love sending them and getting ones in return, taping them on the door to look at and amaze at how the children have grown. I will miss that this year--but the cost of the cards and the ridiculous stamp costs have just grown out of control and it is one luxury that has to fall by the wayside. I still feel bad about it, but $100 is $100 that can be in the savings account in case we need it for COBRA costs come January.
Presents will have to be cut down and trimmed to just the main list this year. There aren't going to be frivolous gifts for the office pals or perimeters anymore. The kids are priority, then family members and close friends. Then the thank-God-for-you-gifts like the bus driver who picks my kid up in front of the house at some ungodly hour, the one teacher who actually cares about teaching my kid, and maybe the mailman, the newspaper delivery dude (who kinda sucks), and the UPS man--which is mostly bribery in disguise. I used to feel more obligated to the perimeters, but there is no room for that this year. No more Secret Santas at the office, no more "little-somethings" for folks--this is serious cutback time at the Kautz house.
One of my bookmarked blogs, by Jo, talks of being grateful for what we have. Yeah, I'm with you on that one. Gees, we're lucky when you get down to it. I, too, can walk through the Walmart and see way too many others who appear to have less than me, and it doesn't go unnoticed. My cart is usually full and there are items in there that would be luxuries to someone else--monkey chow for Joe and the kids, plug-in air fresheners that keep the kitchen smelling nice, shower gel that smells like flowers, a bag or two of chips, and lip gloss. All these things will have to go if Joe loses his job, and so I take a little moment to reflect on that when I'm tossing them in for what may be the last time. But, we'll still have a house, heat, internet, and nice clothes to wear which may be a whole lot more than some.
It is hard to believe that last year at this time I didn't think twice about spending. I bought way too many Christmas cards, expensive gifts for the kids, and little things for everyone we knew. We had a pond full of frogs sleeping the winter away, our much-loved fish, Freddy, in the house tank with her pallies Aloysia and Sharkbait, and Henry sleeping in the family room window in the warm sunshine. They are all gone now--a heartbreaking year to say the least. I would never have imagined such loss in our home, but I am grateful for what we do have.
I pray that things change in the coming year, that we all find peace inside of our hearts and wallets. May we sleep well at night and not worry about an unsure future. May we all have jobs that provide us the money needed to keep our families and homes afloat and health insurance that won't deplete our savings. I hope we realize how lucky we are to have a place to rest our weary heads and heat to keep us warm, even if we have to crank it down a LOT. And may we, like Hobbes, who at the moment is finding complete joy in wrestling a Kleenex, find joy in the simpler things in life.