Christmas, Joyful or Stressful?

Sprinkled Notes by Julie Seedorf © December 2018

Printed in the Albert Lea Tribune and the Courier Sentinel the week of December 6.

my angel 1

Copyright Julie Seedorf Creations

Each Christmas season, others remind me when I write my feel-good column about the holiday season that many people struggle with the holiday. I decided to be honest and share my issues so that it doesn’t feel as if I am not empathetic with seasonal depression.

 I loved the Christmas season from the time I was a child. My parents made sure the season was magical. Growing up visiting my dad and mom’s business put me in the mood with the holiday decorations, with the mood continuing as I attended the free Christmas movies at the theater, capping it off going to midnight mass with my mom at her church and Santa’s arrival early Christmas morning at my home. And I can’t forget visiting my Uncle Dominic’s Christmas tree lot in Mankato to pick out our tree.

As an adult, the fun and joy continued on as my own family grew. I loved decorating the Christmas tree with my children and then with my grandchildren when they were small. Putting up the tree and decorating my home was a family affair. Teaching my kids about the Christmas story and having them participate in the Christmas programs at church was also a highlight and one of the reasons I loved the season.

It is 2018 and times have changed. I no longer have that family here to help me get in the mood for the season. We used to do it when the family was here for Thanksgiving, but now with everyone being so busy, our time together is short if our family get-together even happens. It seems like a struggle to figure out a time to celebrate any holiday as a family.

Six or seven years ago I suffered from an illness and depression, and I did not put one single decoration up in my home. I didn’t even go to church that year. It was a dark time in my life.

The severe depression and illness, through a lot of work, have passed, and I again like the Christmas season, but with it still are feelings of sadness.  I miss the hubbub of children helping me with the tree and oohing and awing over Christmas decorations and remembering who made what. My husband isn’t one to get involved except to set up the actual tree. He will help if I twist his arm, but there is no excitement in the task. It just isn’t his thing. It is hard to be excited when you are alone in the feeling.

A couple of years ago, since we never had Christmas at our house anymore but at one of the kid’s homes, we gave our big tree to our son and his family. We now have a small tree that we leave decorated, put in the closet and haul out every year. I no longer cover every nook and cranny with Christmas bauble. But the already decorated tree isn’t the same.

This morning, as I was viewing pictures on Facebook of families decorating trees, I realized part of my sadness at Christmas is because I miss having someone to share the excitement of the season with me. I miss my kids and grandkids helping me with the fun points of making my house feel festive. The other part is me missing those family members who have died, meaning my mom and dad who always joined in the fun too.             

We are having Christmas back at our home this year, and I am looking forward to that. I have some decorations up, but they will be mellower. I know I am blessed to not have to spend Christmas alone, and I will have my family with me. The reasonable part of me says it is no big deal to have to decorate by myself and get ready for the hoopla. But yet there is the niggling feeling of missing days gone by — happy times with my mom and dad’s families and those with my children and grandchildren.

Last year, too, was a struggle for a different reason. My best friend, Jan, was in the last days of her life. I marveled at her peace and joy in the season. She taught me to count my blessings, but yet this year I feel sadness she isn’t here to share the season with me. She, too, loved Christmas. I will never look at an Old World Santa without thinking of her. She also loved the hospitality of the season, always hosting friends and family. And her voice — her beautiful voice — lifting in praise and worship at our church or when we were out caroling will never be forgotten. Joy shared with her, together as friends, kept me going. When I was in my depression, she lifted me up and encouraged me to live in the season of love.

I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. That is not the purpose of my sharing this. I have a choice. I know this from the past. I can leave this sadness to overwhelm me, or I can count my blessings and feel grateful. I will tell you, for me, it is work. It is hard work pulling out of the doldrums. I do know writing down what I am grateful for eventually turns into peace. But I also know there will be an occasional day when it won’t work, and I will have to accept the sadness but not let it carry me away. I know how to reach out if I can’t figure it out myself. Each person has to take care of themselves the way that works for them. But if you feel trapped, and can’t work your way to find a little joy in the season, please reach out to a friend, a pastor or a professional. Your life is worth living, and you deserve joy, peace and love that Christmas can bring. It is there if you reach for it.

Looking For Peace In This Crazy World

my mindPublished in the Albert Lea Tribune the week of January 2, 2016©Julie Seedorf

It’s the beginning of a New Year. I’m not quite sure what to do with it. If I pin my hopes too high on a new year I will most certainly be disappointed. If I stay stuck in my ways and try to hold on to the old year I might stay glued to a sticky life.

Last year I vowed, not a resolution, but an  idea to take the time to work on my health, write lots of books and work on finding peace within myself. I followed that idea for the first month and then I got caught up in the whirlwind of life and expectations.

Some of my friends worked on their bucket list. I don’t have one. My friend who lives out east, at the age of 70-something, experienced her first sky dive. She was exhilarated. I know sky diving out of an airplane will not be on my list anytime soon. I am very happy for my friend, but I have this thing about heights and falling, especially free falling without a net, and I don’t trust someone else to pull the cord. Left up to me, I fear I would be too frightened to think about pulling the cord to open the chute. I have no trust in me when I am wrapped up in fear.

Another friend was called for the reality show “Worst Cooks In America.” I will tell you a secret — although I claim I can’t cook — I would fail at winning worst cook because I wouldn’t make half the mistakes the worst cooks make because I find myself yelling at the television and cackling at their ineptness because they don’t know how to boil an egg. I actually can cook, I just don’t let people know, then they have low expectations and they don’t ask me to bring anything to a potluck. I won’t make a resolution for that.

Another one of my good friends made the New York Times best seller list and more. That’s not on my resolution list ether. I’m very happy for my friend, but I am realistic about my writing and don’t think Granny or Jezabelle could handle the notoriety. Maybe I don’t enter awards because I am insecure about my writing, and you have to enter to win. I’ll have to ponder that thought.

I asked some of my readers their expectations of themselves for 2017. Most replied they wanted to be a better person and to laugh more and enjoy life. I happen to think those that answered already are pretty good people, yet, they are going to try harder in 2017 to be honorable people. They actually hit the nail on the head for what I was hoping to do for 2017. I didn’t like the way I handled some challenges this year and hope to be a kinder, more patient person.

Looking back on 2016, I have a hard time believing things are going to change for the better in the New Year. I don’t remember a time in my life when I have felt the attitude of our nation to be one of rudeness and hate and disregard for others as I have seen this past year. The elections seem to have brought out an America I have never known, pitting friends against friends, leaving us to ask ourselves “Who are those guys? Did we really know some of our friends?”

As much as I have heard people lament and be happy the old year is gone because of the rhetoric, I fear we are only on the tip of the tide. 2017 may be no different.

I really do want to be a better person this year. I don’t want to get caught up in the sniping because I don’t like myself very much afterward. I could be silent and stay out of harms way and let it all happen around me, ignoring wrongs that may need righting. That might leave me unsettled too. There is a fine line between being silent for peace sake and being silent for fear of retribution.

I could try the “Eat, Pray, Love” thing. I like to eat, I love to pray and who doesn’t like love? I could call it eat, pray, exercise. After taking all that time off searching her life, the writer of “Eat, Pray, Love” did end up with a best-selling book and a new love, but as the years passed the love didn’t quite work out. I’d rather take my chance on exercise as the only emotions it involves are mine, and there is a good chance my romance with exercise won’t work out.

The new year is here. Perhaps I’ll become a poet, and in 100 years or so my poetry will become a trivia question. Maybe a goal for me would be to be one of the writers in residence on Amtrak. I can dream of a thousand goals and not care if I can accomplish one because they aren’t as important as having peace inside of myself. Will I find it this year? Will you?

Gratitude Partners? Find one?

sidewalkthankfulsplatsGood Morning. Today I have thoughts of gratitude and peace in my mind and heart, by that I mean contentment. It is hard when we are always reaching for tomorrow and then worry sets in. I have a speaking engagement today and I always hope what I have to say can touch someones life in a positive way. I do have a little bit of advice for you today. Each night before I go to bed, I and Andrea and Heather, better known as the author Barbara Jean, exchange messages of five things we are grateful for each day. I am grateful that these two women take the time to share with me as every night before I go to bed I am reminded that i have something to be grateful for though I must admit during trying times it is occasionally hard to see the grateful between the tears. So today I would encourage you to find someone you can exchange five things or more that you are grateful for each day, whether it be in person or by text. It can be someone you have never met but are close to on Facebook. Gratitude does makes a difference and if you do it, let us know if it changes your life.