Farewell, holiday funk!

When you are aware of all that has been given to you, in your lifetime and the past few days, it is hard not to be humbled, and pleased to give back.” — Anne Lamott, from Help, Thanks, Wow

Wonder of wonders, I’ve made it halfway through December without suffering the pre-Christmas blues.

Which is no easy feat for someone who typically breaks into tears when she hears “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” on the radio. I’ve written about my seasonal depression in previous columns and posts, so I won’t list all the reasons for it here.

Besides, Christmas blues are hardly uncommon these days. Television commercials promoting holiday excess and family unity seem downright cruel to anyone enduring the loss of a job or a loved one. Meanwhile, the pressures to overspend, overeat, and make merry can feel as weighty as the chains wrapped around Jacob Marleys ghost.

“The discordance between our expectations of happiness and the emotional realities of the holidays is a major reason for the high incidence of depression at this time of year,” notes Dr. Andrew Weil in his latest wellness guide, Spontaneous Happiness. 

Every year, my husband, Doug, offers nearly the same advice: “Lower your holiday expectations.” But more than anything, I’ve discovered that getting over myself — and honoring the true meaning of holiday giving — is the sure cure for my annual “fa-la-la” funk.

For several hours, I felt that same little rush of hope and goodness I feel every time I stuff an extra bill into one of the Salvation Army’s red kettles at the grocery or the post office.”

For starters, Doug and I decided, early on, that we’d volunteer several hours to a local cause or organization we support.

Since Doug is on the board of South Oakland County’s Boys & Girls Club, we both signed up to help the Club with one of their annual holiday projects last Saturday — filling 300 boxes of food for local families and seniors.

The work wasn’t too strenuous — at not least the part I did — but the rhythm of building and packing cartons in an assembly line with fellow volunteers refueled my sense of community as well as my sagging Christmas spirit.

Whenever I get involved in a project like this, somehow I end up meeting a person who senses I need this type of wake-up call.

While packing cartons for the Christmas food drive, for instance, I chatted with another volunteer who told me she “grew up at the Club” during a rough childhood. She shared parts of her life story as we loaded our cartons with juice, rice, and cereal. “The Boys & Girls Club saved my life — and that’s why I’m working here with everyone today,” she told me.

And so, for several festive hours last Saturday, I felt that same little rush of hope and goodness I feel every time I stuff an extra bill into one of the Salvation Army’s red kettles at the supermarket or the post office. And I understood, once again, that this was the holiday spirit I couldn’t purchase at the malls.

Of course, I’ll continue to send donations to causes that speak to my heart, and, when time allows, I’ll make a few of my own gifts. But over the next couple of weeks I’ll be looking for other opportunities to roll up my sleeves and work for Christmas charity. In the meantime, I just might break into a chorus of “Deck the Halls.”

______________

For additional tips on handling holiday depression, stress, and emotional overload, check out this helpful article by Dr. Robert Saieg. (Special thanks to my friend Ruth for sharing the link on Facebook.)

— Top photo: original greeting card collage by Cindy La Ferle —

Home for the holidays

Proceeds from the holiday sales of my book, Writing Home, are donated annually to organizations serving the homeless.  Since the book’s first printing in 2005, I’ve had the honor of donating several hundred dollars from book sales and speaker fees to both the Welcome Inn and South Oakland Shelter, here in metro Detroit.

Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart.”  ~Washington Irving

I do this every year because “home” always tops my gratitude list. I’m blessed to live in a wonderful old house in the middle of a neighborhood and community I love. And that, in a nutshell, is what the stories in Writing Home are all about. Yet here in this same community of established neighborhoods and solid vintage homes, there’s a homeless population that’s been hit twice as hard by Detroit’s long-suffering economy. Like others in my neighborhood, I want to help.

Now in its 2nd printing and available on Kindle, copies of Writing Home can be purchased on Amazon.com for less than $20 and mailed in time for holiday giving. And you can feel good about the fact that $5 of your holiday purchase will benefit someone in need (not the author or publisher). If you live in Oakland County, look for the book at the Yellow Door Art Market in Berkley or at the Royal Oak Historical Museum.

Thank you for your support this year. From my home to yours, I wish you a heart filled with gratitude for all that you have.— Cindy La Ferle

Shameless annual pitch

The willingness to share does not make one charitable; it makes one free.  ~Robert Brault

At a holiday book signing last week, I met another author who enjoys all aspects of publishing a book — except for self-promotion. We chatted about the hard realities of keeping our books on store shelves and Amazon.com; about how exhausting it can be to get out there and hustle.

As much as we like to meet our readers, writers tend to be more comfortable recording our thoughts quietly at home. That said, we can’t sell books if we hide behind a desk or a laptop.

So, here’s my shameless annual holiday plug for Writing Home. For every new copy sold between now and January 1st, I will donate $5 to the Welcome Inn, a day shelter serving the homeless in my community from mid December until mid March. The Inn offers case management services, a cereal breakfast, hot lunch, showers, laundry, online computers, clothing, and a variety of other services. With southeast Michigan’s economy at an all-time low, things are even tougher for people without homes and jobs, not to mention organizations like the Welcome Inn.

I’ve been donating my Writing Home profits every holiday season because “home” has always topped my gratitude list — and I want to give back to my community. I’ve been blessed, all my life, to live in wonderful homes with an incredibly supportive family, surrounded by caring neighbors. Which is, pretty much, what the stories in Writing Home are all about.

If you’re looking for something under $20 for the reader on your gift list, please consider visiting Amazon.com and buying a new copy of my book. (Link provided above.) In Oakland County, stop by the Yellow Door Art Market, where you’ll find my book as well as other gift items made by professional Michigan artists.

From my home to yours, I am wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving — and many blessings to count.

–Holiday photo by Cindy La Ferle-

 

Banishing the Grinch

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.  What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store?  What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?” — Dr. Seuss

On Thursday I posted a link to a piece about dealing with grief and loss at holiday time. This week, on Royal Oak Patch, I share a few responses from Facebook friends who answered my question: “What do you like least about Christmas?” I also offer an antidote to the Christmas blues that haunt so many of us this season. Please click here to read it. Next week, I’ll be writing about my year as a background extra in TV and film projects, so there is a break from Yuletide commentary! –CL