Laura Haley-McNeil

12/25/16, Ahh!

Hello, Everyone!

Merry Christmas! Does it seem quiet to you? It does to me, too. At long last all the rushing around and shopping and wrapping and visiting and baking has ended – for this year. There was more shopping for me to do this year. My nieces and nephews have started their own families, and I love nothing more than buying stocking stuffers for wee ones. The excitement in their faces when they open that gift is priceless. I can hear their little hearts pounding as they tear away the bow and wrapping paper. Can you tell I get almost as much enjoyment out of it as they do?

Reminders will float in through the rest of this year and into next year of things my family and friends didn’t quite finish. Namely Christmas cards and newsletters. Gone are the days when everything had to be finished before December 25th. Most everyone works outside the home these days, or has an in home business. There just isn’t time to finish everything before the holiday. My mother was an artist and would create a Christmas scene and paste photos of our faces on the drawings. She was very talented and her drawings showed a great sense of humor. After she was satisfied with the finished mockup, she’d take it to the printer and have the picture copied into postcards which she mailed to everyone on our family Christmas list. After we left home, she and Dad would send Christmas cards with an American Indian theme.

Because our friends and relatives are so busy with family and work, we still receive Christmas cards after the holiday, which makes sense to me. There’s too many obligations to finish before Christmas. Sometimes, we receive family newsletters around Easter. Then there’s always the industrious newsletter writer who packs in the events of the year in a rhyme. Newsletters, no matter what the format, are always enjoyable to read. I love catching up on what’s been happening in everyone’s life. Many of the card senders I haven’t seen in years, and am not sure when, or if, I will again. It’s always nice when they take the time to let me know what’s going on in their lives. Some card senders even handwrite their newsletter. Reading the beautiful script really confirms the season for me.

For the holiday weekend, my office was closed on Friday and will be closed Monday. When I left work Thursday, it was a mad dash to pack the car with ski clothes, and gifts and groceries, my crochet bag and my laptop in case I have a few moments to work on my next book, and drive to the mountains to spend the weekend with other family members. Traffic is a challenge, as most people have a four day weekend and want to spend it in the mountains which have received several good snowfalls. When we arrived, my sister and her family, including her the foreign exchange student, were already at the condo with a fire burning and had hot chocolate simmering on the stove. The order of pizzas was soon to arrive. We spent the evening laughing and talking and playing Trivial Pursuit and trying to decide how early we wanted to rise the next morning. With the mountains packed with vacationers, skiing on a Friday is like skiing on the weekend. The lines are long. The slopes are crowded, but it does give us a chance to rest between runs.

We’re spending the weekend skiing. After my stay in the hospital, my family thought I was overexerting myself, but I feel fine. I’m not a fanatical skier where I have to be the first one down the hill and barrel down the side of the cliffs. It’s too beautiful up here not to admire the views. These majestic mountains are God’s gift to Colorado.

The weekend also gives us time to reminisce about Christmases past when our mother would cook all week and lay out a scrumptious smorgasbord and all the neighbors and friends and relatives would come to share Christmas wishes and wish our mother a happy birthday. She was always so excited to have visitors and share memories and sing Christmas carols and enjoy the grandchildren. My mother loved people and they loved her.

I am fortunate to have fond memories of Christmas. My wish is that you have fond memories, too, and that you are spending the holiday with those you love or doing what you love to do. Some of you like to travel or spend time helping others and for that you have my sincere admiration. There are many hurting people in this world. If you are one of those who likes to reach out to others, I pray that someone is reaching out to you as you give of yourself.

Christmas can be stressful and not always meet our expectations. If you’ve experienced a downside during the holidays, I pray you have memories that pull you through this trying time and that the future holds wonderful holiday experiences for Christmases to come. Nothing stays the same. Our lives are in constant motion. If you are experiencing some sadness, please know that the possibility of a brighter holiday awaits in the future.

I have much to be grateful for. My parents worked hard to make sure we six children had as much as they could afford. They made Christmas special for us even with limited finances. This past year has been wonderful for me and I have you to thank for it. I appreciate your emails and letters and tweets and Facebook posts. After working all day and going home in the evening to write, I hope that I’m writing something that touches someone. Your affirmation is the greatest gift I could ever expect. That you take the time to write means so much to me. I know everyone is busy, but when you take a moment just to say thanks it means the world to me. I would write even if no one read my books, but when you take the time to share your feelings with me, I’m truly blessed. Thanks for doing that.

As the year ends, I am truly grateful for the meaning of the season. God loves us so much, he gave us his only begotten Son. Despite the madness of the season, the emotional highs and lows, there is a special meaning to this time of year. I understand that we all have different beliefs and that these change too. Whatever your beliefs, religious or secular, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a holiday season filled with love.