This blog is simply the story about my little life
with my sweet family that the Lord has blessed me with
and the day in, day out things that we do.
It basically is my online diary/photo album of our life.
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Friday, January 15, 2016

I struggled this Christmas season...

I am writing this long post basically as a form of therapy for myself. Please don't criticize me for not being thankful for all my blessings or knowing the true meaning of Christmas. I know that the real meaning of Christmas is to remember God's precious gift to us of eternal life through Jesus Christ. I also know that I am incredibly blessed with an amazing family and such great memories, but when a person gets down in the dumps, the feelings are real and I think we can all learn a thing or two when people are honest about it. 

I was down in the dumps.
A lot of my sad feelings came from this Christmas being so very different than any other due to the fact that life has changed so much. My parents have aged, my husband and I have aged, our kids have grown up and I no longer have my dear mom-in-law. I know I need to be grateful that I even have all the wonderful memories that I have. I am aware that not all people get to even experience some of the things I've experienced with my good husband, having children, having parents that were alive, healthy and around us while the kids were growing up and three are still with us, and also now being a grandma. I know these things are all wonderful blessings and I am so thankful for them all. I am just being real here and sharing my feelings about how it sometimes is hard going through transition.
This is a post that I put up on Facebook a few days after Christmas in regards to my feelings about Christmas this year: 

"I'm not gonna lie, Christmas was really different for us this year. It's quite an adjustment to have the kids all out of the house with some of them married spending time with their new families (which is actually really wonderful for them and we are truly happy for them). It is very easy to let my mind wander to days gone by when I heard the pitter patter of four sets of little feet running down the stairs to see what "santa" brought and to see the wonder in their eyes and the excitement in their smiles as they gave gifts to each other and to us. It's easy to remember the times of both sets of our parents young and active, anxiously arriving at our home to spoil their grandkids. Those days are long gone and I thought I was prepared. We did have a very nice Christmas, but there may or may not have been a few tears shed and may or may not have been a little melt down from a certain 50-something, blond mother of four. We are in transition and will eventually settle in to all of this. Overall, we have many, many blessings to count and we are truly thankful for all of the cherished moments we were blessed to experience this Christmas season. Here are a few pictures from our Christmas day. I hope that all of you had a wonderful day with your family."

Let me backtrack a little and start from the beginning.
I started the season just as I always do, with pumpkin pie for breakfast and good intentions for the season. I put away all the Thanksgiving decorations and started to decorate the house for Christmas. It seemed to have taken me forever to decorate the house. I was slow and lethargic, and was just not into it at all. I also felt disgusted with myself because I have so much Christmas stuff. It was extra hard because I was making tough decisions about getting rid of a lot of it. My goal was to throw out at least a third, which I did. I finally got it done and did enjoy seeing most of it up around our home. I really didn't feel much like decorating, but I had the foresight to invite three "couple" friends over the second weekend of December for a little party, so this helped motivate me because I really didn't feel like doing it at all.
So, back to our season. After I decorated the house, the next weekend Eric and I went out to a tree farm to get our tree.
I asked my husband if we could get our tree at a tree farm rather than from a tree lot at the gas station in town. It was fun as we walked around the farm, but I did get a little sad seeing all the happy families with their children around them. We were looking for the smallest possible tree that wasn't technically a tabletop tree. Yes, we are just ready to go smaller. We both actually considered not even getting a tree (especially me with the year that I've had), but we decided to get one.
 We picked a little 4 footer. It was so small my husband could carry it with one hand!
 We put it in a bucket full of rocks and filled it with water, and then put it on this little stool and it turned out really cute. I admit it though, the whole time I was decorating, I had a bad attitude. I didn't feel much in the spirit at all.
 I couldn't help but remember back to times like this when our whole family went out and got the biggest tree we could get.
Traditionally my husband and I go Christmas shopping together and go out to dinner. We did not do this this year and I really missed it. I love my husband, but I was really frustrated with him because he would not commit to our Christmas budget and he wanted me to wait. He had good reason because he's self employed and because of some hold ups with his company, the money wouldn't be coming in until January.
Time flew by and we were one weekend away from Christmas and we still had not gone shopping. I finally said to my husband that we need to get this done, let's just charge it and pay the bill off when the check comes in January. So that's what we did, but it took the fun out of it for me. I did rushed shopping without him.

We also did something that I thought we'd never do; we didn't' shop for each other. He ordered a new giant American flag for our property and said that was his gift. I bought myself new clothes and that was my gift from him to me. I didn't like doing Christmas this way. At least we did buy stocking gifts for each other.

When I was at the mall shopping by myself I felt really lonely and got sad. I looked at all the happy families busy shopping and watching their children sit on Santa's lap. I just felt empty.
Being alone is a relatively new feeling for me. I grew up in a family of six, got married young and we quickly had four sons. I've always had family around me. Back when the kids were little when I went to town by myself, it was a nice reprieve from being with everyone all the time. I embraced it. But, now it's different.

I'm alone quite often and I'm normally fine with it, but I really noticed the loneliness when I was out shopping by myself. I was sad that things were so different. I was sad that even the mall is different and not very crowded, most likely due to on-line shopping. I was sad that almost all of the original stores in the mall are now gone. I was sad when the memories of having my four sons in tow with me at the mall. I was sad thinking about the old days meeting my mother or mother-in-law at the mall and having lunch.
I did, however, have a really fun day with my sister and her beautiful daughters. This was a wonderful shot in the arm and perhaps the beginning of a new tradition.

Sometimes I get sad that I didn't have daughters. All my years of raising my sons, only rarely did I wish I had a daughter, but now that they are grown and all out of the house, I realize that if I had a daughter, I probably wouldn't be as lonely. I am blessed with amazing daughter-in-laws, but I believe a mother/daughter relationship is different.
 We went to church throughout the Christmas season and this did help me.
 It was really fun to see the children's performance.
 But this too brought me sad feelings because it reminded me of this.....
 .....the old days when my children were in the Christmas performance. Ugh, what is wrong with me? I'm just a mess!
I made the decision to not do stockings for the whole family this year. The boys are all grown up now and it's just time. I was going to be that kind of grandma who had stockings for all the grandkids, but realized that it's a lot of work, costs a lot of money and that my sons and their families will have their own traditions with stockings. So, our fireplace went from this.....
and this (from our old house) to this......
...just two stockings are hung by the fire; one for Eric and one for me. We had one for Hayden, but I kept it put away until Christmas morning. I still stand by the decision, but it did make me sad. Just add it to the big pile of changes we've had. However, this is something we can always go back to if we decide to.
I went thrift store shopping with my grandson, which was so much fun. It's such a blessing to watch the wonderment in his eyes, but it also brings back memories of when my boys were so tiny. They just grow up so fast.
Ridley and I went to visit my parents to deliver candy and a poinsettia, but my father was too tired to get out of bed. This broke my heart and just added to my sadness. Not only am I so very sad and worried for both of my parents with them needing more care, but I was missing the good old days when they were younger and so strong and active.
 I miss these days of my boys helping me make goodies to take to our neighbors.
 And times like this of making cookies with my kids, my sisters and their kids.
Every year my boys made homemade birthday cards for baby Jesus and sometimes my sisters kids would join us. We had so much fun. I really do have so many wonderful, wonderful memories.
 I drove through town and looked at the lights, but it's not the same. The magic is gone. I remember driving around with the boys in the car. We would set a night of going into the big city to drive around and look at the lights and then get hot chocolate and a cinnamon-roll at a restaurant. We also had "kitty in the car" drives where we would drive around our little town and look at the lights with our cat, Sunny, in the van with us.
The last of our annual Christmas party with friends. December 2013.
For almost 10 yeas, we had an annual Christmas party with our friends from town. This was a big event that everyone looked forward to. We decided to quit having the party a couple of years ago because it was a lot of work, but I this year I realized that I missed those days a lot.
I went to a dinner and gift exchange that my girlfriends threw and it was fun, but the truth is inside I was down and felt like crying.
 I read my Bible and tried to focus on the true meaning of Christmas. I tried so hard to pull myself out of the pit I was in.
My son, Mackenzie, came to town from Colorado and he stayed with us. We met in town for a little shopping and had lunch along with sweet Ridley. I loved the special time with him, but I kept getting really sad about the divorce. I can't believe how hard it's been on me. It's been a year and a half since it all started and I just can't shake it.
I also came o realize that I was really, really missing my dear mother-in-law, Alice. She died on October 15, 2014 and it was the same time my son moved out of his home with his wife and son. I think because I was going through so much, I just went on autopilot and I really didn't grieve Alice. I believe I have been experiencing a delayed grief. I kept thinking about her and kept missing her so much. I was so weepy thinking about her and how she so loved Christmas. She enhanced my life so much and there were times during the month that I flat out bawled over her.
We had an early Christmas while Mackenzie was in town, which was really wonderful. All my sons and daughter-in-laws were there as well as my precious grandson. This night was very special and very fulfilling. I should have stopped here and called it good.
The next day Mackenzie left and went back to Denver. I felt so empty and sad.
On top of everything else, we still were dealing with fleas and had tried everything. We heard about diatomaceous earth, so decided to give it a try. We spread the powder all over our house and left it like this for two days. We realized later that made the mistake of putting down way too much and when I vacuumed it, it clogged up my vacuum after just a few runs over a small amount of carpet. I had to go outside and empty the canister every 5 minutes and it was a horrible mess. I felt like I just couldn't take any more.
Then, four days before Christmas, this happened......
....our neighbor's house caught fire. They had an RV parked in their carport and the something malfunctioned with the refrigerator which caused the fire. Praise God no one was hurt. It was just so devastating.  Their house is unlivable. They had so many people come forward to help and we did what we could to help them. I'm thankful they have good insurance and are able to get it all repaired.

So, on top of all my other issues going on, I felt really bad about myself for feeling down when here my neighbors lost everything. I tried to give myself a pep talk, but still couldn't shake it.

Any way, I wasn't quite sure what to do about Christmas Eve. Mackenzie is back in Colorado, Brittany and Ridley went back east to be with her mother, Cameron and Megan were going to spend it with her family and Grayson and Rachelle spent it with Rachelle's family. I know this is normal and we must take turns, but it's hard. We just had Hayden with us this year.
Traditionally, we spent it with my side of the family. My parents and my sisters and their families would either go to Mom and Dad's house or one of us girl's homes.
We always had a big delicious meal together. I miss the days when my kitchen was full like this.
Mom and Dad were so young and healthy and drove out by themselves and always had boxes full of gifts they purchased and homemade goodies that my mother baked.
It was a tradition that the kids put on a Christmas performance of some kind. Here's Cameron, Whitney, Jessica and Hayden singing while Cameron plays the snare drum.
Here's Mackenzie, Cameron and Grayson reciting Christmas poems they wrote.
Daddy used to read the Bible story of baby baby Jesus's birth to all the kids.
Then we opened gifts all together. This was a big year and our boys got a new drum set from Eric and I and they "opened" it in front of the family.
Often times we exchanged homemade gifts, which was so much fun.
Of course, everyone has grown and these days are gone. We are all so blessed by how all these precious children grew to be such wonderful adults.

Sadly, there's a rift between a couple of people in the family, so we are never all together like this anymore, which grieves me deeply. I am praying God will restore that relationship and we will be all together again.

My parents have aged a lot and their health has declined to the point where it is very difficult to get them to our home. I really wanted to have them come to our home for Christmas dinner, but after having them all here for Thanksgiving, I realized how difficult it was to transport them and I decided to set up a little party on Christmas Eve at their assisted living facility instead.
I reserved the "Coca-Cola" room at the facility and my sister, Kelli, and I met there with some of our kids, our parents and some of my Dad's siblings, Aunt Josephine, Aunt Helen and Uncle George. We ordered pizza and brought soda and had chocolate candies for dessert. We exchanged gifts too. It was fun, but just so, so different and I was sad.
Our son, Hayden, was our only child who was able to join us and I was happy he came. He drove down from college and was planning on coming home with us. I was planning on doing our tradition of watching a Christmas Story, having eggnog and letting him open two gifts, one being PJs and the other a book. Well, as we were saying goodbye to my folks, Hayden told us that he realized he forgot his box of gifts for the family at his apartment and he had to drive back home, which is 45 minutes away. This was very disappointing and by the time Hayden got home, my husband was in already in bed and Hayden didn't want to watch the movie. We ended up having words about another issue and it was just yucky.
I miss Christmas Eve's like this. My house was full. I had purpose. I was fulfilled. I was the queen with my king and all our princes.
I miss Christmas eves with images of my four sweethearts in front of the tree in their jammies and their new books.
I have so many memories of wonderful times with these four darling boys.
I miss having Christmas mornings with a big tree with tons of presents and full stockings hanging by the fire.
Eric and I would turn the music up loud and go upstairs telling the boys that Santa came (although we taught them that Santa was not real).
This was one of the bests Christmases when Mackenzie and Brittany were married and spent the night. We all had matching pajamas.
It was so much fun.
There was always so much activity and we had so much fun when they were all home. It was loud and happy, happy, happy.
This Christmas I tried to keep the traditions so that Hayden would still feel special, but even he felt like it just wasn't the same.
We lit the fire, had Christmas music on, had coffee in Christmas mugs and watched each other open gifts. It was just so quiet and so different.
Our family tradition was my husband always made a huge breakfast with french toast, bacon and eggs.
When you are living these moments, there's part of you that thinks that these times will just go on and on, even though you know they will end.
It was so much fun.
This year, we had the traditional big breakfast with music playing, ate on Christmas plates and drank from Christmas cups, but it was just Eric, Hayden and I. It was fun and special, but so different and quiet.

 I love this boy so much and part of me got really sad that he is here left alone with us instead of having a huge family Christmas morning like his brothers all got when they were 22.
For years, after we opened gifts and had breakfast, the living room looked like this. A huge mess of residual wrappings and all the new gifts that were opened.
I always had to get everyone in gear and clean the kitchen and then I started in on getting the ham in the oven to prepare for my husband's family to come over. The house was just so happy and everyone was in a good mood, playing with their new "toys".
We always spent Christmas day with Eric's family.
Here we are with Eric's grandma Alberta.
The boys did performances with their cousins, Monique and Preston. Here they're doing a play about the birth of Jesus.
Sometimes we celebrated at Jim and Alice's. She always made such a big fuss and decorated her table so beautifully. She taught me so much about entertaining and making every event special and fun.
We always had appetizers first and then opened gifts.
We always played games afterwards and then had dessert.
Again, I miss so much having my kitchen full with our family.
A few years ago we played Twister! That's my father-in-law playing!
Here we're playing a rowdy guessing game.
Alice loved Christmas and I really, really, miss her.
I was deeply grieving her this year.
Me trying to smile with my gifts I purchased myself, but inside I was crying.
So that's my story. These are my brutally honest thoughts and feelings about how my Christmas season was this year. It basically was a recipe for disaster as all of these life events came together at once. Oh, I forgot to mention one more tiny thing (really, maybe not so tiny), I am post menopause and more than likely have some kind of hormonal issue. Regardless of all of these things, I am not proud that I let things get the best of me. I'm ashamed that I can't be more grateful to the Lord for all my blessings and find my peace and joy just in Him, not my circumstances.

My question to myself is what must I do to avoid this in the future? I DO NOT want a repeat performance. I do not want to look like the girl in the photo above where I'm holding a Christmas gift up and smiling, but inside I'm bawling, feeling sorry for myself and even feeling a little hopeless thinking, "What's the point?".

So now what do I do? Well, I'm not sure, but I made a plan of action:
1. First of all, I have declared that this will not happen again next year! I am putting my trust in the Lord. I have prayed about this and I believe He will help me to not have a repeat performance. He is the one who truly comforts me and gives me joy. I feel like the past several years I have been through a lot and I have leaned more upon the Lord. I am thankful for the hard times because it does bring me closer to Him. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
2. Accept all of these changes. Yes, things change, people grow old, but there's also blessing with that, there's also new life! I love the serenity prayer and will do my best to apply it:

"God, please grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference."
3. Have no expectations! I have learned that I get disappointed when I expect things to go a certain way or people to behave a certain way and then things turn out differently. I need to just let go. There are no guarantees in life. Life can throw us all kinds of curve balls and I cannot count on anything. Just roll with it!
4. Give up some of the traditions. Traditions are fun and they become part of the secure foundations of our lives, but there is a time when we must let them go. 
5. Along with giving up some of the old traditions, start new ones! Well, keep some of the things I love that still work, tweaking some of the old ones that don't work the same way anymore and then also start new traditions, as well as pick back up some of the things we stopped doing like having our annual party with friends.

New things I'd like to try next Christmas:
a. Going out to dinner and then to Christmas Eve candlelight service with my husband.
b. Volunteer at my parents living facility to minister to the elderly.
c.  Drive around and look at Christmas lights with my hubby after our shopping and date night.
d. Find new Christmas day dinner (by the time our kids come over, they've already had a big ham dinner).

Things I'd like to keep doing:
a. Baking and doing crafts with daughter-in-laws and incorporate Ridley next year and in the future all my grandchildren.
b. Shop with my sister Kathi and her girls! Invite our sister, Kelli, too!
c. Get a small tree again. Maybe we could plan to go out with our kids next year?
d. Host a big Christmas party for our friends again.
e. Play a big rowdy card game with the kids after we eat dinner and open gifts.
f. Have small dinner party with small group of friends.
g. Next year my husband and I need to make sure and shop for one another and surprise one another!
6. I need to take back a little control of the things I can control. Set some boundaries with what I am willing or not willing to do (things such as shopping, budget, etc.).
7. Help others. Take meals to folks, volunteer, help at church, buy gifts for kids who's names are on the angel tree, etc.
8. Count my blessings and be grateful.
9. Stop living in the past.
10. Stay focused on the true meaning of Christmas.
11. Trust in the Lord.

"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee." Isaiah 26:3

"I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in Him." Psalm 40:1-3

Thank you for listening to me work through this. I know God is so good and He causes all things to work together for His good. Next year will be better!


Randi Jo :) said...

Oh Sharon - I teared up so many times. I know God will walk you through this and give you strength and perspective and peace ---- whatever insights and lessons He gives you please pass it on!!! Because I know I'll need it someday. Hugs to you .

Erin said...

Life just goes so fast.

JUlie K said...

I'm so glad you decided to post again. I don't know you and actually don't remember how I came upon your blog, but I have enjoyed reading your posts. I am about the same age as you and going through many of the same life changes as you, and it is hard. I have 5 children- the twins left for their first year of college, a daughter lives across the country, and my sons have drifted away. Our holidays have changed too. We're trying to start new traditions, they can be fun too. It sounds like you have a good plan for next Christmas, I hope it's better for you. I think it's important to reach out to our friends at this stage, they're going through the same things, and actually girlfriend time can be really fun! I also think you should try to keep up the big holiday party with friends , I bet they miss you having it, it's a great way to stay in touch with everyone and make memories. I don't mean to tell you what to do, please don't take this the wrong way, I just feel bad for you, and thought I'd offer a few thoughts. It will get better!

Anonymous said...

Dearest Sharon,
After reading this post I just wanted to give you a great big hug. I must also say I love your honesty. It is hard to be a Christian and struggle with depression. The guilt can be over whelming. My circumstances may be different from yours but I can relate to what you are going through. I want to encourage you and let you now that you are not alone. I will lift you name up in prayer to Him that knows your name and loves you.

Willa Eklund said...

Sharon, I know what you are going through. You might remember me as Grandma Willa with 3 sons who are married and 7 wonderful grandchildren.

I have gone through what you are going through and I am still going through it. All the wonderful memories and then the fiasco of trying to nail down a date for family to get together and its not always possible.

Every holiday I feel the same way, wondering who will come. Then on Christmas Day since our children celebrate with their other side of the family, my husband and I are alone. I know I should be thankful for what I have (we do celebrate Christmas Eve with them) but like you, I miss the days of the big family celebrations. My parents have gone on to be with the Lord and they were such a major part of our holidays.

Now, we are facing Easter and we are trying to get the family together. It might not be possible. But, if it isn't, we plan on driving to the beach and spending the day. I think its important to have a plan B in mind so that the days are not impossibly bleak.

I miss my dear Mama everyday (she has only been gone a little over 2 years). We did everything together. She was my best friend. So with no siblings and no daughters and I am a quiet person who doesn't make close friends easily (even though everyone is warm and says they love me, lol.)

So, just know that you aren't alone. You are proactive and have lists at hand to change things. We are always changing - the Lord is by our side and we are becoming more like Jesus as we face trials.

I have gone through depression and I am on a small amount of antidepressants. It does help and especially so when I was going through empty nest, then all the weddings and new grandbabies, menopause, my elderly parents failing and finally going home to be with Jesus. But be especially good to yourself when these times hit.

I can't say its always easy. There are always times when all the good memories hit and its not the same. It sounds like you and I are cut on the same cloth. Being Moms and having a happy, Godly family is our life. Even through life's disappointments such as one not following after the Lord like I think they should. God is always with us and will never forsake us.

Oh, I am sorry I have gone on. I will think about you and pray for you.

Kathi said...

Dearest Sharon, I read your whole blog post and lived it with you. I am so sorry for the deep hurts you have experienced. Just so you know, I turned off all sounds before reading this, but I did turn on Mackenzie and Brittany's "Voice to Spirit," music on the side of your blog. I listened to them while I read your whole post. I teared up many times. I wonder if our parents and in-laws experienced the same feelings, but did not express them to us or to anyone else. I know of no books out there, which tell us that the 50s are the bleak years, the lonely and empty years, but I think that it is true. We are empty nesters. Nothing really prepares us. Not only are our children leaving the nest, but so are our dear mother-in-laws, and parents. This is a time of deep sorrow. Praise God for all the Ridleys out there. God is so good to give sweet grand babies to us. I do not mean to under-mind the sorrow part of life; for that is so painful. I really like it that you have a plan for next year. You are so wise to do this, Sharon. I will keep you in my prayers. I especially want the Lord to bring a miracle in your family and another one that involves mine too. God is HUGE, as you once told me. I believe this. I am grieving as I write this, because so many songs are playing with "Voice to Spirit" in the background. I love you, Dear Sister. Kathi

Lynne said...

Sharon...look at your list for next year and just try re-numbering it in order of importance. Leave #1 where it is, and then put 9-2 (in that order) next. You have covered it all, my friend and you have 9 more months to do it! Change is hard, and I have always been, like you, a girl who loves the traditions. Unlike you, I only have one son, so our holidays were always spent at my in-laws or my parents. When my mother-in-law died it was the worst thing ever to happen to our little family. 8 years later my dad new feelings, plans and ways to deal yet again. Several years later my Mom remarried and went 350 miles away, and we only got to see her 3-4 times a year with one being in August for Mom's birthday cookout celebration at my home. We (5 siblings and families) have all stayed in the same area, and we also chose a day 2 weeks before Christmas each year for Mom and her husband to get together with everyone at my house for "Family Christmas" Loud, fun..yes sometimes a bit of not so much fun as well, but still together. August 2015 and December 2015 were Mom's last 2 visits back 'home' She passed away totally unexepectedly in Feb...ironically 38 years to the day after my mother-in-law passed. This will be a year of really hard to accept changes for me...Easter, Mother's Day. Mom's birthday, my birthday and Christmas where I will be the unofficial matriarch of the family. I just wanted you to know that your list will not only be a guide for you, but I will be attempting to follow along and get through the many firsts this year will bring for me as well. Stay strong, Sharon, and know you are being supported by many who will never meet you but care! Lynne

Farrah said...


Judy said...

Hi Sharon,
First off I want to say I'm happy to see you posting again.
I can totally relate to what you wrote here. This year we put up a small tree and didn't buy each other any gifts. I wish we had done stockings for each other tho. One thing that has kept me going at Christmas time is that each year I've been doing something different, each one hasn't been the same for the past few years. I keep thinking of what Laura Ingalls said in one of the T.V shows something like..."Christmas is never the same". I have embraced that for my life and it seems to help.
Keeping you in my prayers.

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