Posts Tagged holidays

Debt Takes a Holiday

IMG00074-20110131-1702Over the past several years I have had to find ever more inventive ways to become ever more frugal. Mind you, I have never been one to let money burn a hole in my pocket, but turning the heat down in the winter went to hardly ever turning it on; if only to avoid frozen pipes and the like. However, there does come a point when cutting back on spending begins to feel like a more extreme deprivation of little things that make one’s life worth living. When that point is reached, you really need to give yourself a little break and loosen the purse strings, if only for a short time.

As I have begun to regain my financial footing, the need to “live a little” has become not as worrisome as it was just last year. In fact, buying a few less basic items in the supermarket in exchange for some things that might cost more, but would greatly enhance mealtime were purchased more frequently. That being said, those occasions usually happened when I started entertaining again.

Being frugal to the point of excess might be acceptable when it is dinner for one, but to play host and expect others to also partake in your self-inflicted poverty would be considered absurd, especially when you extended an invitation to play host. Living on an island, as I do, you need to make the most of off island excursions and stock up at Trader Joe’s and other such stores; you just cannot find certain items on the rock.

Such was the case several times over the past year or so; every time I had an opportunity to fill my pantry with select morsels, I carefully did so. The fact that I happened to invite people over after that was no mere coincidence, rather thoughtfully planned. I must emphasize the planning aspect for the simple reason that my visiting guests are in fact visiting the island, so it adds a twist to playing host in that they are usually staying for longer than an evening, but rather an extended stay.

The ability to play host can make a simple meal into an event, given the proper perspective and vision. Many gatherings during the off season are potluck affairs here on Martha’s Vineyard. When guests are coming to visit from off island, they might bring a few items that travel well, but seldom do they bring “hot dish”. That leaves it to the host to prepare something decent, if not memorable. I have always taken a certain pride in being able to cook for my guests, but having a stocked pantry always makes the task a little easier.

There are few things in life that enrich one’s life more than good food and friends. The fact that it might take little extra money to make the meals and visits a little more memorable has, until quite recently, been sorely lacking in my life. The ability to turn a visit into a “holiday” for guests make the bleak days of winter a great deal more tolerable. If I can look past the debt I still owe for a few days to enjoy the company of friends, then I have, in fact, made it a holiday worth celebrating; essentially a holiday from debt.

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Anticipation

Here we are, scant hours before Christmas, and the anticipation is building. Like some reading of the lottery numbers for which you have bought a dozen tickets that you are sure has the winning combinations, every person waits for that special moment that we release all of the joy and love that we have spent hours preparing for. If only that moment could ever fulfill all of the expectations that we hope to realize; so seldom it does.

This is actually the time that I cherish most, the time before the actual event. If only we could have this energy for every day; without the gifts, without the bother of formalities, without the restrictions of a day that ends the joy. I rise every day hoping that the day that awaits me is better than the last. Now I know that is about as likely as every day being a holiday of some sort, but at least I hope and carry on with that in the back of my mind. I will always work to improve whatever I can, just so that I have made an effort to feel some sort of satisfaction of an accomplishment. I look forward to the challenge, in fact.

So it goes with every aspect of every life, we either look forward to or dread what awaits us; a new job, a new relationship, losing a job, ending a relationship. This time of the year concentrates the joy of various celebrations; Hanukkah, Kwanza, Christmas, Festivus. It also brings us the end of one year where we look back at the year that we leave behind and allows us to look forward to the year that awaits us. The cycle perpetuates with our formal calendar, even though they are simply a series of single days strung together to form that calendar.

How do we determine that these days are those that must be celebrated with so much build up and to what end? If we were to look back in time, we can see how these holidays have become some marketing ploy; from Hollywood with the shows and movies, from Madison Avenue with a never ending ad campaign, from the religious faction looking to guide the lives of their followers. There are aspects of these days that must be noted as being commendable, they almost will us to spend more time with friends and family. Without such wide acceptance and expectation for all of us to spend time this way, it is doubtful that any of us actually would, opting instead to go skiing or travel to a tropical climate, as we tend to do during any other vacation time.

But I digress, as I think that we should want to spend time with our friends and family and that this holiday season does tend to bring out the best intentions from almost everyone. What I wonder is why can’t we do so more often? I mean there was that informal “truce” in the First World War where the soldiers organized their own sharing of rations and actually had a friendly game of soccer between combatants. While it lasted only until the superiors back at headquarters found out, the fact remains that this time of year holds magic. Unfortunately, this spirit quickly wanes when the bills arrive in January. I can only hope that this spirit could extend throughout more of the year.

Until the people of the world can stop and consider the futility of their nefarious deeds giving them spiritual fulfillment, I will enjoy the feeling that I get from the impending festivities. The anticipation feels more real than the actual event; and it lasts many days or sometimes even weeks.

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Thanksgiving Sunday

This will be a Sunday morning creation. As I listen to jazz on the radio, sip tea from my favorite mug, and basically enjoy being in my house, I have to be thankful for a great many things. Besides feeling like I have finally gotten past whatever virus has been making me miserable for the past few days, I actually have a house to live in. While the next few months are going to be rather lean, I’ll just hunker down and make the best of it.

I usually feel most grateful after a migraine or ailment, as it drives home the fact that if that’s all I have to contend with, I have it pretty easy compared to some. I mean, consider the soldiers at war or those returning with injuries that turn their lives upside down. Yeah, that makes me think twice about complaining about a headache or cold that will last a few days, at most.

Taking stock in all that I have, not just the material things, I can be confident that I have family and friends that form a support network in dire times. You find out who your friends are in the bleakest of times. It was nearly four years ago that I found that out. I hope to never test that again, as I am still trying to get it all together.

My point in this post is that it is seldom that we all understand what it is that is most important to us. If we do understand what matters, we also need to express it. That is what the upcoming holidays are all about. Yes, I know that they have become a tool for the retail giant to ply their wares, but with all of the financial difficulties affecting us all, and the credit companies cutting lines and accounts, it might actually be better for us all in the long run. My family has already declared a “gift-free” holiday, as we are all struggling to get by.

So as the holidays bear down on us for the next two months, I suggest that we each find a few quiet moments to gather our collective thoughts as to what really matters. Sure it sounds corny, but I find that we often cannot see the forest through the trees. Let this brief post be that simple reminder that we all need from time to time.

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