The Author

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I am a high school English teacher, and mother of two charming little ones of my own. I teach in a high poverty urban charter school, while I live in a typical American suburb that has frequently been rated one of the safest cities in the country. It is a paradox I struggle with constantly, but it is my life.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Simple Christmas

I haven't blogged much the past few months.  I've been busy enjoying life, which just feels great.

One of my main goals for 2013 was to get back on stage, since I haven't been in a show since before I had kids.  I worked hard at learning to dance, going to sometimes multiple dance classes a week, losing some weight and getting back in shape, polishing my audition skills, and it finally paid off. I got cast in a show.  :-)  It doesn't open until February, so I guess depending on how you look at it, I'm not really "back on stage" until 2014, but I'm part of a cast, and a really awesome one, so I'm very excited.  :-) 

So, I wanted to take this picture at the Venetian with the commedia character, Arlequina, but I seriously love that this guy in the background photo bombed it. Really kinda funny.
I had a delightful thirtieth birthday, which I mostly celebrated in Vegas because we went to celebrate my grandmother's 85th birthday. We got an amazing inside deal on orchestra seats at Rock of Ages, which seriously was one of the best shows I've ever seen.  Nothing makes my heart smile like live theatre. It was a delightful way to end a really great decade of my life.

Today, Christmas, felt like a fitting time to hop back on my blog. I feel remarkably good about how this Christmas went. After last Christmas, I found myself frustrated with how much stuff was all over my house and how much we had gone into debt buying Christmas presents, and I just longed for simplicity. I vowed not to let go of that desire. We worked hard at simplicity this year, clearing out closets, getting rid of excess, paying off debt, and focusing on the important things in life -- family time, memories, and pursuing our passions and dreams.  We spent money carefully -- investing more in things like acting camp for Vinny and dance classes for me and Tiana. As Christmas approached this fall, Marc and I had some serious discussions about not letting Christmas pull us back down to the overwhelming materialism or deeper into debt.  So we sent out Christmas cards early and put a message on the back, at the risk of offending some who love shopping, asking our friends and family members to forgo exchanging gifts with us this year. Most people reacted really well and respected our wishes.  Marc and I kind of held our breath and braced ourselves for awkward exchanges where we knew we would feel guilty when some people bought us gifts anyway.  You know what... it really wasn't an issue.  Sure, a few coworkers and family members bought us gifts anyway, but they understood where we were coming from, and it really wasn't that awkward.  

Tried something unique w/our Christmas card this year. If you didn't get one, it means I don't have your address.  I have more cards though, so tell me.  :-)
With my family, we did a secret santa gift exchange where we drew names and promised to stick to our wish lists, so we each got a big meaningful gift we really wanted. We did exchange gifts with Marc's immediate family, but we asked them to please help us keep it limited and keep the number of gifts down for us and our kids. We bought a few simple meaningful gifts, and they did the same for us. One of my favorite gifts is a necklace I got from my sister-in-law.  It's from a company called Noonday, and it is made from shrapnel found in war torn Africa, made into jewelry by HIV positive African women. It provides them employment and the proceeds help provide their children with an education. It is also really beautiful.  

We even really kept it simple for the kids. As hard as it was to really limit the gifts for the kids, we did it.  Vinny got two gifts from Santa -- a "Minecraft" beanie handmade by a local artist and another Minecraft toy -- and two gifts from us, a Cats DVD and tickets to see the show in a few months when it is at a professional theatre a couple of hours away. Tiana only got a few small toys as well.  We got the kids a giant cardboard house to share.  AWESOME decision. We are so lucky that they get along so well and they have enjoyed coloring it together all day.

Vinny also got a very special gift.  When I was 7 years old, I was really into New Kids on the Block, and somehow my dad found a friend of a friend who knew someone who knew someone.... who got me an autographed picture of all the NKOTB guys. So....a while back I emailed one of Vinny's favorite professional Broadway actors asking for an autograph to give him for Christmas.  What he did was even better.  He got the entire cast to record video messages for Vinny, encouraging him to follow his dreams of becoming a Broadway director some day.  We made the file into a DVD, and when Vinny opened it this morning, he was in shock.  Frankly, so was I. Best. Christmas. Gift. Ever. He will never, ever forget this Christmas.
Tonight, as we were going to bed, I commented, "We are all so lucky," and Vinny says, "Yes, but I am the luckiest of all, because I got the most special gift!"
You might think that Christmas without hours of gifts and piles of toys would not be the same. It wasn't the same.  There are no piles of gifts sitting by my kids' doors until I figure out what to do with them.  There is not stuff all over my house. There are no bags of things I want to return because they don't fit or just aren't right. My kids' rooms are clean. The few things they got were beautiful toys they love and clothes they are excited to have, which are already put away.  The credit card bill will not take us months to pay off.

The little princesses dancing
This was a beautiful Christmas. We had a wonderful time with Marc's family. I was so touched that my Cajun mother-in-law even made a special pot of meatless gumbo, just for me. My sister-in-law helped Vinny put his new toys and clothes away in his room and helped his reorganize his puppet theatre, which was actually a wonderful gift in itself. The candlelight service at church yesterday was very special. Today, I hosted Christmas dinner and really just had a very special time with a few special family members. Hospitality is my gift. I love hosting.  It makes me feel good to have everyone's favorite wine and treats and share my favorite recipes with my loved ones. It was quieter than usual, but it was delightful. By 6:30 this evening, we were all in our jammies, wrapped in blankets, watching Christmas movies together.

This year, I love Christmas.  I wish Christmas could be like this every year. Less stuff. More happiness. 

Now, I'm off work for several weeks and excited to catch up with family and friends, so if you have some free time, please text me!  

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