Give the Gift of Receiving

By: Jeanne Reynolds

christmas season

The closest I got to shopping on Black Friday was a quick trip to the grocery store. (Downside of Thanksgiving dinner at someone else’s home: You don’t have a fridge full of leftovers to enjoy the rest of the weekend.)

Actually I must be missing a girl gene because I hate, detest, loathe shopping. Especially this time of year. My ideal Christmas shopping is more like a military maneuver: a lightning-fast surgical strike that identifies the target, removes it as quickly as possible and gets out.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t love giving. There’s no better feeling than seeing the delight on someone’s face when they receive something they truly wanted, or maybe didn’t even know they wanted and are surprised and thrilled.

Being able to share that feeling is also a gift — one that requires us to allow others to give.

And that seems to be difficult for many of us. Yes, gals, I’m talking to you, and to moms in particular. Genetic or cultural, most women I know are wonderful givers and caretakers, but sometimes struggle being on the receiving end.

christmas season

Case in point: My mom is 84 and lives nearby for the first time since I was in high school (we’re talking decades here). She’s a widow with a limited income and I’m half of a DINK household, so it’s fun to be able to treat her to lunch or tickets to the theater once in a while. When she comes to my home, I enjoy cooking for her and doing all the things she spent so many years doing for us.

The problem is she often has trouble accepting these “gifts.” She says it’s too much trouble for me, or I’m surely too tired, or she must pay half. I’ve tried to explain how happy it makes me to be able to give back to her, but I guess she’ll never stop feeling like she should be taking care of us. While I appreciate the love behind that, it does take a little of the joy out of giving for me.

I’m probably no different. How many times have I insisted I could handle a task myself instead of accepting sincere offers of help, or only accepting an invitation if I pay my share or contribute in some way? So, in the spirit of removing the plank from my own eye first, here are some mantras with which I’ll coach myself this holiday season (and beyond):

  • Thank you, I’d love to!
  • That would be wonderful. Thank you so much!
  • I really appreciate your help.

It’s a blessing to be able to give to others. And that includes giving others the chance to be givers, too.

Merry Christmas from Lexington Medical Center

From our Every Woman Blog and Lexington Medical Center family to yours, Merry Christmas! This holiday season, we are grateful for our Every Woman Bloggers, who generously share their lives with us, and for you, our loyal readers. We hope your Christmas is filled with love and happiness!

Virtual Christmas Cards

By: Brady Evans Venables

Our whole lives have gone digital.  Televisions are so crisp that they are almost 3D. Lights are LED and are no longer incandescent. Our smartphones organize everything for us and more. We primarily communicate via Facebook, text, and email. Maybe by telephone if we have to 🙂

Christmas cardsYet, the holidays are the time of year when we all throw back to traditions of yesteryear – mailing greeting cards. Cards get pinned to the refrigerator or placed on the mantle. If you’ve had enough time, you may have searched Pinterest to create a unique holiday card holder.

As for us?  We don’t do Christmas cards. When we had our son, people started dropping comments about looking forward to cards. People would post comments on particularly cute pictures on Facebook saying, “This one is Christmas card material!” I love receiving cards; don’t get me wrong. But I just can’t think about getting cards printed in October or November to mail in December. Choosing the right photo, the right layout, the right stamp. Addressing the envelops! The cost!

So this year, I stayed true to the digital world we live in and used Animoto.com.  You basically type in the words you want, upload a few pictures, and you get a movie-quality video that you can email to your loved ones or post on social media. We’re just a few days out from Christmas and the rest of the holidays, but if you are feeling the urge to get a last-minute holiday greeting out, give Animoto a try!  Here’s ours.

‘Twas the Week Before Christmas

By: Chaunte McClure

‘Twas the week before Christmas and all through the house, not a sign of the holiday season and there better not be a mouse.

With two Christmas parties down and two to go, there’s no tree, no mistletoe, no candles, no wreath – nothing. And Christmas will be here next week!
I’ll get to it by the middle of this week although it’ll mean that my decorations will only be up for about two weeks. But it’s Christmas time and I have to do something, even if I only put a wreath on the front door. I did buy a poinsettia Thanksgiving weekend for the front porch. I always have good intentions, and sometimes good ideas, but procrastination with my school work this semester has left me at 10 days before Christmas unprepared for the holiday.

My tree has made it out of the attic but not out of the box. I decided to put candles in the
windows tonight but they weren’t where I thought they would be, so I gave up on that idea.

Christmas Tree DressOh dear! I should have done all this the day after Thanksgiving. No worries, it’ll get done before Christmas and maybe I’ll leave all my decorations up past New Year’s Day. And no, I don’t believe it’s bad luck to do so – just tradition in many households.

If you mastered the Christmas tree dress, it’s worth displaying beyond the New Year. They’re so chic and trendy. A big thumbs up to whomever came up with that idea. When I first saw pictures of them on social media last year, I thought it would be neat to try my hands at creating one. One of my Facebook friends mastered the dress tree. She decked it with poinsettias, a few ornaments and an accent bow. What a beauty! There are several tutorials on Pinterest and YouTube to help you create one of your own.

How early do you put up Christmas decorations? How late do you keep them up?

My Favorite Things: Holiday Edition

By: Leah Prescott

If you know me, you know I love LISTS. In fact, I plan to blog soon about my favorite method of life-planning called “notebook journaling” which is essentially creating and collecting lists and lists of lists! Since it is the holiday season, some of the items on this list will be perfect for gift giving; others will be helpful for making the New Year less stressful for your family!

SnowballIndoor Snowball Fight – We are lightening our toy purchases this year for Christmas, but my friend introduced us to these and they are absolutely fabulous. Too light to cause any harm, but somehow heavy enough to really fly through the air, these truly are the closest thing you can imagine to a real, friendly snowball fight. Kids of all ages will enjoy!

Marpac Sound Machines  We are a family that values sleep highly. We make it a point to keep regular bedtime routines for our kids, and when traveling we drag all of our sleep routine items along with us. That includes our Marpac Sound Machines. We are all addicted to the soothing white noise and a calm environment for sleep; and now I don’t have to lug a box fan around everywhere!

Chick-fil-A Cow Calendar –This calendar is a fun (and funny) gift that comes with an offer card to scan each month at the restaurant. Offers include free drinks, fries and nuggets, along with lots of mystery offers. We eat at Chick-fil-A at least once a month so this is a no-brainer. 2016 Calendars are sold out online, but should be available at your local restaurant.

Natural Calm – Since my family has started taking this supplement every day, we’ve had a significant improvement in stomach complaints and anxiety. The inexpensive supplement we use is available on Amazon.

HGTV’s Fixer Upper – I know I’m late to the party, but this show recently came to Netflix streaming and my girls and I are really enjoying it. It’s completely family friendly, which isn’t always the case for other shows in the genre, and moves quickly enough to interest all of us. Now I want to purchase a ramshackle old mansion with the understanding that Chip and Joanna will completely renovate it prior to our moving in.

Instant Pot – I have blogged about this before, but it deserves another mention. I still love it and use it constantly. In fact, I used it twice just today; I hardboiled some eggs for deviled eggs and I made a pot of chili. With 7 functions in 1, this machine should eliminate several other appliances; in fact, it’s like you’re giving multiple gifts at once. The newest version is even blue-tooth enabled!

I considered making this list longer, but I was really trying to stick with things we truly love and recommend. (You can always take a look at last year’s list here for more of my all time favorites.) This has been a year of simplifying for our family, so perhaps my shorter list reflects that. I hope you have a very blessed Christmas Season and a Happy New Year!

Don’t Miss the Midlands’ Largest Drive Through Light Show!

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

For me, it just isn’t Christmas until I’ve seen Holiday Lights on the River at Saluda Shoals Park at least once. This year, I’ve already been twice, and I may end up there again. It’s
that delightful!

Holiday Lights On The River

With a million lights sparkling through more than 400 themes, there are a variety of displays, including the Dazzling Dancing Forest, the Twelve Days of Christmas, a Victorian Village, Old Man Winter and much more. My personal favorite is the holiday train, featuring a special car for naughty kids like me.

You can customize your Holiday Lights experience – stroll through the Winter Wonderland Walking Trail, enjoy the lights in the warmth of your car or bundle up and take a Winter Wonder Ride. This year, I did the November 23rd Sleigh Bell Stroll through the Park, which provided an up-close-and-personal look at each display, as well as fabulous photo ops!

Each evening features a variety of family-friendly activities, including a Red-Nose Express Hayride, the Saluda Shoals Choo-Choo Ride, and of course, visits with Santa!

Holiday Lights is open every evening from 6-10 p.m. now through December 31. If you haven’t been, make plans to visit this year. Or, if you’ve been in the past, it’s time to make Holiday Lights an annual tradition. You’ll love it!

The 12 Days of Christmas….Books

By: Leah Prescott

It’s no secret that we love books in my family. However, if it’s possible, we might love Christmas even more. We love decorating for Christmas, pulling out all the family heirlooms, baking holiday cookies, and singing carols. But when we lug the heavy suitcase full of Christmas books from the attic, all the hustle and bustle seems to fade away. We are all in rapt attention, mesmerized by the same stories told year after year.

Christmas Books

Here are some of my family’s favorite Christmas books, in no particular order. Some of them may be familiar, but we have a few unusual choices that you might also enjoy:

  • The Golden Christmas Tree by Jan Wahl – A sweet folk tale with beautiful illustrations.
  • Walt Disney’s Santa’s Toy Shop by Al Dempster – Vintage Disney charm that reminds me of my grandmother.
  • The Candymaker’s Gift by David & Helen Haidle – The legend of the candy cane as it tells the Christ story.
  • The Pine Tree Parable by Liz Curtis Higgs – We just have a small board book, but the story of sacrifice is a beautiful one.
  • The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams – A longer story for little readers, but this classic can’t be overlooked.
  • The Puppy Who Wanted a Boy by Jane Thayer – This is a year-long favorite for my dog-loving kiddos.
  • Christmas in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder – This is part of the My First Little House book series, which is one of my favorite picture book series of all time. Beautiful illustrations play perfect tribute to the beloved original series.
  • Fancy Nancy Splendiferous Christmas by Jane O’Connor – Sparkle, glitter, and a meaningful lesson…literary perfection!
  • Olive, the Other Reindeer by J. Otto Seibold – Just plain Christmasy cute with flaps, scents and pop-ups!
  • Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry – Charming vintage illustrations with an adorable story about animals sharing Christmas.
  • Lassie, a Christmas Story by Earl Hamner – Another echo from my childhood, this book is reminiscent of the 1950s show with a spiritual lesson as the cherry on top.
  • God Gave Us Christmas by Lisa Tawn Bergren – Mama polar bear tells baby polar bear all about the first Christmas in a gentle way. I love that this book includes mention of Santa (without breaking the magic), but more importantly points to the manger.

Christmas books

In my mind, you can never have too many Christmas books, so you can bet I’ll pick up more this year, even though our house is bursting at its seems. I’ll be watching Amazon’s list of best-selling Christmas books for children and paying frequent visits to my favorite thrift stores, where I often find them for 10 or 25 cents each!

Merry reading this holiday season!