Tis the season. Yep. Uh huh. Sure is. THE season. The season of. . . what, exactly? To many, it’s the season of miles, points and Benjamins, all provided in abundance courtesy of guilt trip airlines, passive aggressive combat at the dinner table, and mastercard (December’s BFF- it’s everywhere you want to be). How. . . joyful. . .or something.

It also is the season of giving. And by giving, I actually mean GETTING, and I know you know what I mean. It seems that the emphasis of Christmas has shifted rather heavily to the receiving end of the deal as opposed to the true spirit of benevolence. As a whole, the commercialization of the holidays has encouraged us to view generosity as spending more, eating more, doing more, getting MORE. Bigger, better, faster, stronger, and

Why? Because more is better, size matters and our sense of urgency and competition trump patience and fortitude? Right?WRONG.

You picking up what I’m throwing down here?  I’m all about growth and change, exceeding goals and overall maximizing capacity. But not like this. Not as measured in material possessions, coated in the glitter and sparkle of December and quickly dulled in January’s austerity.  Transformation, humanity and goodwill are not demonstrated by how much money you spend, how many arguments you “win” and how outstanding your gift giving skills are. It is our actions, in the end, that determine our real contributions.

Why the soapbox, you may be wondering. This is hardly a novel concept. Agreed. It’s not. People have been saying this for years. I’ve acknowledged that for at least two decades, and yet I continued to overspend and overdo it. Year after year, maxed out credit card after maxed out credit card.  The difference for me, this time, is that it’s really hitting home. Big time. For the first time in a long time, I really understand that less is more. Really and truly.

As a family we have slowly been working to minimize our material belongings by downsizing our house, selling and donating possessions and spending our time and money on experiences as opposed to “stuff.” It has been awesome. Amazing. A “why didn’t I do this sooner” kind of deal.  Everytime I get rid of something I actually physically feel better, as if a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. It is incredibly freeing.  I’m not moving to a full “minimalist” kind of lifestyle by any means, I am way too fond of my wardrobe to go full board (my shoe collection is only rivaled by my bling; it’s close competition), but it is assuredly a move in the right direction to a more balanced life.

For example, when I went out to the garage to get our Christmas decorations out, I found ten giant rubbermaid tubs awaiting me. TEN, big enough to fit at least one child in, if not two, each. HOLY SHIT! Who needs TEN  tubs of indoor and outdoor decorations? Not me, that’s for damn sure. I used maybe two boxes for the whole house. The remaining eight are hanging in the garage awaiting donation to whomever the universe sees fit to offer them.

This is great progress, I might actually be able to see the back of the garage wall by springtime at this rate. Whoo hoo.

However, the most powerful lesson so far has come via the sincere innocence of my son and his unassuming naiveté. When I started asking what my children what they would like for Christmas, he replied with “I’m getting _____ for Christmas.” WAIT A DAMN MINUTE. You’re GETTING that for Christmas? REALLY? REAAAAALLLLLLYYYYY? Oh my. Oh, oh, oh my. If that’s not a wake-up call to do something about their perceptions about giving then I don’t know what is.

So, what do do? FIX IT, that’s what. Fix.It. I broke it, I will FIX IT!

How? Well, for starters, by continuing to demonstrate and model a “less is more” lifestyle, by showing gratitude and by continuing to give, often and in abundance, to others and to articulate this to my children. It’s time to preach and practice. To say and do, to believe and to act.

First up- Project “12 Days of Giving.” Post conversation with Rory I brainstormed ideas for how to tie this all in together in a fun and meaningful way. I want to use this month as a teachable moment and a launching point for encouraging sustainable altruism. With (all that) in mind, I landed on the 12 Days of Giving idea – which I thought, by the way, was original- until I went on Pinterest and found out that um, it’s not, and there are all kind of resources out there for this- SCORE!

So, putting my usual personal spin on it, I made a graph for each day (I know you are shocked by this, me graphing things, such unusual behavior, sticking things in boxes and categories and all. . .) so we can track our acts and use them as a motivation and reinforcement of the concept.

And speaking of, the concept itself is simple. Give one thing on the first day, two on the second, and so forth until we have twelve drummers drumming on the 25th. The premise is that we do our best to give authentically, to be genuine in our intentions and to give fully, no half-assed efforts.

Each day, for the twelve days leading up to Christmas we will practice the art of giving.
The giving of our time, our service, our devotion, our love, and sometimes, an actual tangible gift.

When I sat down with the kids and talked them through the idea they were totally down with it, giggling with excitement even. And, as they are sooooo their mother’s child, they didn’t just agree, they grabbed pens and paper to make lists with me and together we brainstormed ideas for how, what, and when we could give. Then we spent some quality family time together making our chart (see picture below).

For day one (which we did early, because they are at their dad’s for the weekend so my grand plan needed a little tweaking, standard), we chose to give the gift of appreciation. Each of us wrote a special note to a friend thanking them for being the wonderful person they are and all that they bring to our lives.  We wrote our letters last night and honestly, it gave me goosebumps to watch them. I teared up a little even (just a little, hallmark commercial level stuff). They were so eager to express their love to their friends, so legitimate in their feelings and willingness to share them; it was beautiful.

We have other great ideas for the rest of the days, little glitter bombs of happiness we will be dropping all around town. We will quite possibly do this, by the way, while rocking our most ridiculous Christmas swag, because what other month do you get to model sparkling knit fabulousness? Ugly Sweater party, here.we.come. #opportunity#knocking

I am very much looking forward to the lessons we will all learn, the love we have to share with others, and the goodness we will both create and experience as a result. In a month that could easily be overburdened, exhausting and a little depressing, we are choosing to bring light to others, to give beyond ourselves, and to spread the joy. I pray we will carry this lesson with us into the new year, and beyond.

Amen, Hallelujah, and Peace Out friends. Oh, and Merry, Merry, Merry Christmas.

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