The Christmas Presents I Remember

Yesterday morning, Anna and I stopped by our local post office. While Anna munched on crackers and thumbed through a display of bubble mailers, I addressed several flat-rate envelopes and stuck the last of our Christmas presents for family and friends inside. I felt two emotions at the same time—hope, that everyone would like what I’d picked out for them; and relief, that my Christmas shopping and boxing was now (literally!) wrapped up.

For all its festiveness, the end of the year can be a stressful time. Arranging get-togethers and travel plans with loved ones. Finishing work projects. And buying presents. Always…buying…presents.

To be honest, I love picking out presents for people. I especially love doing this for my daughters. Stanton and I are so looking forward to Friday morning, when the girls will open our Christmas presents for them before we drive to my mom and dad’s house in Pennsylvania.

I think Grace will love the blue watch we got her—actually, I know she will, because she told me that’s what she wanted: “a blue watch.” And I can picture Anna’s eyes lighting up when she opens her box of dress-up headpieces. And I picture…ripped wrapping paper on the hardwood floor; hot chocolate with marshmallows in mugs on the coffee table; and staying in our pajamas longer than we ever would on a normal Friday morning.

I thought back to my own childhood. I tried to remember, what were some of my favorite Christmas presents? I thought harder…

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What came to mind, instantly—and as clearly as if it had just happened—was my parents’ living room. There was ripped wrapping paper there, too. And my Dad with a big Hefty bag, cleaning up.

I remembered my Dad.

And my Mom. In my memory, my Mom was sitting on the couch, holding a cup of coffee because she’d been up until 2 a.m. wrapping all the presents and baking the last of our Christmas cookies. Although I didn’t know it at the time.

Kids never know, until much later, all the things their moms and dads did for them.

My Dad and my Mom.

My brothers and sister, too—I remembered them. We were all there together. Later that day, my grandparents would come over…and other family and friends…and we’d celebrate Christmas all day long.

I remembered all those things very clearly.

Not one single Christmas present, however, is a clear memory. (Sorry, Mom and Dad!)

Kids never know, until much later, all the things their moms and dads did for them.

Christmas presents are fun—the giving and the getting. They’re especially fun for kids. It’s unfortunate, though, that some of the things related to the fun and festivity of this season can be stressful.

So if you’re feeling stressed right now, friends…if you still haven’t addressed all your Christmas cards (me neither!)…or wrapped your kids’ presents…or crossed off some lingering end-of-year to-do’s…take a breath. Take a moment.

Remember.

What the people you love will remember…is YOU. That you were there.

That you cared.

They love YOU.

Merry Christmas, all. 🙂

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

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Glitter, Tea and the UPS Guy: This Is Christmas

My desk is covered in specks of greeting-card glitter. Every evening for the past week, I’ve been writing out Christmas cards, a handful at a time, in the cozy corner space where I usually work on my magazine articles, blog posts and short stories. Maybe I’ll have everything mailed before the middle of next week—maybe.

As I scroll though my list of addresses, the names of family members and friends evoke memories of times, places and seasons in my life. Jenna, my sister—Pennsylvania, our childhood; and now New York, our new, shared home turf. Rick and Sara, college friends—Virginia. Steve and Dulce, San Antonio, the first years of our marriage. Every name a memory, and a gratitude I feel for love and friendship that stand the tests of time and space.

This year, I scooped up several boxes of Christmas cards during a buy-one-get-one-free sale at Hallmark. Stanton and I are still patiently waiting for my e-books to top Amazon’s bestseller lists; until then, we won’t say no to a bargain. 😉

Every name a memory, and a gratitude I feel for love and friendship that stand the tests of time and space.

Last week, I lost my voice—a cold going around, friends here guessed. I usually end each day with a cup of tea (accompanied by a piece of dark chocolate). Last week, I drank more tea than usual.

I fell in love with tea three Decembers ago, when Stanton and I escaped for a post-Christmas weekend getaway at a country bed-and-breakfast. The B&B hosted an afternoon tea time featuring Mighty Leaf, a richly flavorful whole-leaf tea. My go-to brands these days are Tazo and Yogi, which are satisfying without being budget-breaking.

That weekend at the B&B was when I felt first a tug in my heart to consider a little sibling for Grace, who was about 2½ at the time. The first year of parenthood had been hard for me, and for Stanton too. We fumbled with questions about how our new roles as “Mom” and “Dad” related to our relationship with each other, and our careers. And we struggled with issues that affect many first-time parents, from sleep to money to depression (OK, that was just me).

Two and a half years later, though, our family life had settled into a good rhythm. We agreed that another family member would be wonderful, if it was meant to be.

It was, and it is. I am so thankful, especially during this time of the year.

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Like other moms I know, I’d rather do almost anything other than shop in a store with my kids. (“Mom, can I have this?” “Mom, I want that!” “Waaaahhh!”)

Thus, I did the majority of my Christmas shopping online this year. Amazon is a perennial favorite, of course. I also found great gifts (and sales!) at the Eddie Bauer, Pottery Barn Kids and Williams-Sonoma websites.

Our local UPS deliveryman is starting to feel like a friend, he’s been bringing packages to our front door so much lately.

The only downside to all my online Christmas shopping: The girls want to open the packages now.

“Not all the presents inside are for you,” I tried to tell them.

“We don’t care,” Grace sweetly replied. “We are so curious.”

“Geor! Geor!” exclaimed Anna. (Curious George, her point of reference.)

Glitter, tea and the UPS guy: This is my Christmas, friends.

Tell me about yours.

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

11 Types of People You See at Airports

Post-Thanksgiving, I was standing in line at the Dunkin’ Donuts in the San Antonio airport. It was about 5 a.m. on a weekday morning, and the long line comprised mainly holiday travelers like me.

A yuppie-looking couple (he was wearing the latest North Face jacket; her hair was blown out and stunningly styled at, yes, 5 a.m.) near me was debating whether or not they should continue waiting for their order.

“I mean, how long does it take to make a breakfast sandwich, really?” she asked him.

He seriously considered her question, then shook his head in defeat. “We’ve been waiting a while now.”

She tapped a stacked-heeled foot against the floor. “We may just need to take a hit on ten dollars. Our flight’s already boarding—I just heard the announcement.”

“Yep, I guess so…”

I exchanged glances with the older, sleepy gentleman in front of me. I just want some coffee, our eyes communicated to each other.

The couple power-walked over to their gate, while my Dunkin’ Donuts line inched closer to the register.

In that moment, I realized there are some reliable “types” of people you see at airports. Here are 11 of them.

1. The Couple Still Getting to Know Each Other. Like my yuppie friends above. I have a theory, based on zero scientific evidence and years of people-watching, that the fewer complete sentences couples speak to each other at 5 a.m., the better they know each other.

2. The People Who Just Want Coffee. In their un-caffeinated state, they aren’t interested in deep questions like, “How long does it take to make a breakfast sandwich?” They don’t want to make small talk with the other people in the Dunkin’ Donuts line. They are about 15 minutes away from a caffeine headache. All.they.want.is.coffee.

I have a theory, based on zero scientific evidence and years of people-watching, that the fewer complete sentences couples speak to each other at 5 a.m., the better they know each other.

3. The People Still Wearing Pajamas. On the other extreme of The Couple Still Getting to Know Each Other, The People Still Wearing Pajamas could not be bothered to put on clothes at 5 a.m., let alone comb their hair. This type literally rolled out of bed and arrived at the airport.

During my most recent travels, I saw two children wearing pajamas—one at the Chicago airport (a plaid flannel set), the other in Albany (theme: Disney princesses). OK: They’re kids; they’re tired; I get it. But adults? Come on now, folks. Why not change into some clean (yet still comfortable) “activewear”?

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4. First-Time Parents Flying With Their Child for the First Time. I feel for these folks, because I was them once. This type of airport traveler is laden down with baby gear: car seat; stroller; baby carrier in case the baby isn’t feeling the car seat/stroller combo that day; packed-to-the-max diaper bag; sometimes a Boppy pillow. Often, I let them know I’ve been there, done that and assure them everything will be OK (after I’ve had some coffee, of course).

5. Parents Traveling for the 100th Time With Their Kids. The more-seasoned moms and dads bring two main things with them: an iPad and a party size bag of something crunchy (Veggie Stix is a popular choice).

6. The Pet-Obsessed. At Baggage Claim in Albany, I watched a middle-aged woman speak lovingly to her tiny dog, who looked comfortable in his faux-fur-padded pet carrier. Another lady, with her own canine in tow, stopped to ask Lady No. 1 how her dog had done.

“Oh, he always does well,” she replied. “We have a house in Boca, and we fly back and forth all the time.” Her husband joined them, his arms full of luggage, and she greeted him by snapping something like, “What took you so long?”

The pet-obsessed: Consistently patient with the four-footed among us.

The more-seasoned moms and dads bring two main things with them: an iPad and a party size bag of something crunchy (Veggie Stix is a popular choice).

7. College Students Returning to School After Break. Like The People Still Wearing Pajamas, College Students Returning to School After Break more often than not also opt for sleepwear rather than “awake-wear.” A noticeable difference, however, between these two groups: The coeds bring books with titles like “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” and “Environmental Communication and the Public Sphere” onboard as their carry-ons.

8. Business Travelers. Business travelers can get a bad rap for being self-absorbed—in their phones, in their 24/7 work, in their airport VIP lounges. What I appreciate about them, though, is that they are used to traveling. Thus, they take up minimal time and space navigating through the security lines. They often come prepared with noise-canceling headphones, which means they don’t glare at your kids when little Emma and Aiden have their inevitable meltdowns. Unlike…

9. School Sports Teams. The letterman jackets, the athletic-striped sweatpants, the selfies featuring team-logoed caps and the starting lineup flashing the “hang ten” sign—school sports teams in airports tend to make themselves comfortable, and make a bit of noise.

10. Grandparents Who Just Visited With Their Grandkids. You overhear these older folks talking about how wonderful it was to see “all the kids.” Their heads almost touch as they lean over together, scrolling through pictures on their phones (and, sometimes, clicking through their actual cameras). They’ve been together a long time—weathered life’s ups and downs—and aren’t bothered by long fast-food lines or Baggage Claim delays. They just saw their family, and they’re HAPPY.

11. Soldiers Returning Home. Every once in a while, I’m privileged to witness a uniformed military man or woman reuniting with their family. The look in their eyes—the gratitude, the joy—the all-encompassing embraces that follow. Even the least sentimental among us, I think, feel a twinge in our hearts when we see such a sight—soldiers returning home.

They just saw their family, and they’re HAPPY.

There you have it, friends: my 11 types of airport travelers. Which ones did I miss?

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

A More Joyful Holiday Season: 5 Tips

The holidays can be stressful, and I’m no stranger to this stress. This holiday season, though, I’m hoping to be less stressed and more joyful. I’ll be carrying these five inspirations with me through the end of the year. I hope they’re helpful to you too. Peace and joy, friends.

1. Stay in the present. When families, friends and colleagues get together, it can be tempting to revisit long-ago conversations that may be best left to memory, or completely forgotten. All you have, for sure, is today—this day. Be present in it, and make the best of it.

2. Believe the best of people. We often reconnect with folks we haven’t seen in a while between Thanksgiving and the New Year. Maybe they don’t do things the way we do them (for example, suggesting dinner at 8 p.m., which is a little late for our usual schedule). Keep in mind, though, that no one’s trying to make your day difficult. They’re simply trying.

3. Take a deep breath, especially before traveling. I love visiting family during the holidays. I opposite-of-love getting on a plane with my small children to do it. Words to travel by: Keep calm and carry-on on.

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4. Make your holiday motto “everything in moderation.” From RSVP-ing yes to parties, to baking (and sampling) desserts, to buying presents, strike a just-right balance. Don’t overextend yourself.

5. Count your blessings. The people we love can drive us crazy sometimes. But how lucky are we to have this problem, the problem of loved ones, when some folks don’t have anybody. Remember to say “thank you.”

Photo credit: StockSnap.io

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s e-books, available on Amazon.com. Writing at its most heartfelt.

Decluttering: Good for the Soul

Do you ever open your closest door…or peek into the kitchen “junk drawer” (every kitchen has one, right?)…or try to park your car in the garage, only to discover it doesn’t comfortably fit because of all the bikes and strollers and golf clubs and inflatable pool toys—do you ever do these things and feel burdened by the stuff of your life?

I do.

And I don’t even have that much stuff, relatively. But like a lot of Americans, I have more than enough. My family and I have plenty.

This time of the year, the Thanksgiving season, makes me especially conscious of our many material comforts. It prompts me to pass along the things we don’t use anymore, or all that much, to those who have an immediate need for them. It also encourages me to declutter before the end of the year, so that I can start the New Year feeling refreshed.

Decluttering

Decluttering. Psychologists have written about how it reduces stress. Health benefits abound, both mental and physical. Decluttering does a soul good.

Do you feel like decluttering a bit? Here are some tips to get you started, friends.

1. Start small. Focus. Planning to declutter your entire home in a Saturday afternoon can cause even more stress than your overflowing garage does.

But giving yourself 20 minutes to sort through your pantry and toss out everything that’s expired—that’s a focused, doable goal. You’ll feel successful when you accomplish it. Not to mention energized to tackle the next focused project.

2. Organize. Put everything in its “home”—for example, jackets hanging in closets instead of on the backs of the dining room chairs (ahem, my house!) and random puzzle pieces collected together rather than scattered across the coffee table (my house, too). You can find organizing solutions everywhere from Pier 1 (baskets, bookcases, trunks) to The Container Store.

3. Donate or discard anything you haven’t worn or used or played with in the past year or so. (This also presents the perfect opportunity to gift the nearest Goodwill donation station with the clothes you’d rather not see your husband wear anymore! 🙂 )

One possible exception: Baby clothes or gear for future family members. But even then, you probably don’t need to hang on to everything. For example, clothes can fade and lose their shape after an extended time in storage. Consider sharing some of your surplus with someone who may have an immediate need for it.

4. Make physical memories digital. I have a cardboard box that’s stuffed with magazines I’ve written for, dating back to about 2005. My goal for the upcoming New Year is to scan each article that features my byline, create a PDF portfolio of all the articles, and then recycle the 10 years’ worth of paper I’ve been holding on to.

You can do something similar with old newspaper clippings, sentimental photos, and your kids’ preschool arts and crafts. Check out this blog post, “Digitizing Your Kid’s Art.”

5. Be mindful when you bring new things into your decluttered space. ‘Tis the season for catalogs galore, all touting don’t-pass-them-up holiday sales. More often than not, I toss these in the recycling bin before they can make it into our newly organized home.

One more resource: Scroll through this “Amazingly Awesome Pre-Holidays Declutter Guide.” Happy decluttering, friends! And happy holidays, too.

Photo credit: Gratisography

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s e-books, available on Amazon.com. Writing at its most heartfelt.

 

Holiday Illumination at the JW Marriott San Antonio

Who doesn’t love taking in the sparkle and splendor of Christmas lights this time of the year? From your neighborhood’s décor to the River Walk spectacular, illumination sightseeing options abound in San Antonio.

A friend recommended that my hubby, Little G, and I check out the Holiday Illumination at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa. So we did, last night. The whole experience is remarkable.

The Holiday Illumination runs nightly through December 31, from 6:30 to 10 p.m. Cost is complimentary.

And now, for some pictures …

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My favorite part of the Holiday Illumination was the gingerbread house display, which greets you as you enter the lobby. Isn’t this festive creation just incredible?

 

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The resort’s staff put 500 pounds of sugar, 250 pounds of fondant, and similarly striking foodie figures to use in constructing all the gingerbread houses.

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Predictably, Little G’s favorite gingerbread house featured the Frozen cast. 🙂 Olaf’s everywhere these days!

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The outdoor winter wonderland of lights takes place on the resort’s Crooked Branch Patio. I love how the colors twinkle across the water here.

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Behind this tree is a red sleigh attached to a sparkling reindeer—the perfect photo op for you and your loved ones. Enjoy, friends!

A Last-Minute, Stress-Free DIY Christmas Gift Idea

9_Only one week before Christmas. Are you ready, friends? Or might you be in need of a last-minute gift or two?

If so, I can help!

One of my favorite gifts to give is a loaf (or mini loaf) of homemade bread, paired with tea or coffee in a holiday-themed gift bag. It’s heartfelt, thoughtful, and useful. And best of all, it lends itself perfectly to minimal stress at the last minute.

What You Need

For the homemade bread

For the accompanying tea/coffee

  • Tea: Check out this article to get ideas on teas that pair well with different kinds of bread. This blog post from Great Harvest Bread Co. offers up additional suggestions, too. Hint: Everyone seems to agree that the flavors of pumpkin bread and chai complement one another perfectly.
  • Coffee: The website Coffeeinated features this article about coffee pairings and foods, including breads. According to this article, try pumpkin and banana bread with Colombian or Costa Rican roasts.

For the packaging

  • Aluminum foil, to wrap around the bread
  • Wrapping paper, to wrap around next (I’m using this brown craft paper this year, for a rustic effect.)
  • Ribbon
  • Tissue paper
  • Holiday-themed gift bag

And that’s it! Heartfelt, thoughtful, useful. Happy Holidays, friends. 🙂