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It’s all too much, you know. For many of us, the holiday season has become something to dread. Expectations weigh us down; all those gifts to buy, events to attend, special foods to prepare, and decisions about who to invite, or where we are obligated to go, even if we prefer to stay home and nap. My recycle box is overflowing with catalogs and flyers encouraging me to buy things nobody needs and never knew they wanted. Kids are reminded to write to Santa, and family members post their wish lists.  Really?  A wish list? That’s like asking your spouse if he or she loves you. It isn’t a gift if you have to ask for it. When will the stress and strain stop?

When we get the courage to be honest, and call these customs by their right name. Insanity.

This could be the year. Finances in ranch country are stretched to the limit. 2019 has been a year of floods, blizzards, crops that couldn’t be planted, or sometimes harvested, and for cattle folks, pregnancy rates tanked. After the blizzard of 1949, ranchers in my community didn’t talk about how many cattle they lost. We had the same scenario last spring, and again this fall. Somebody who is asked how the pregging went will just shake their heads and mumble, “Not great.” You can listen to the sale reports and find out how poorly the neighbor’s cattle sold, if you really care, but if you have calves to sell you won’t ask, because you don’t want someone to return the query. We’re all hanging on by the skin of our teeth, but the same storm of requests from charities for holiday donations awaits every time the phone rings, and every mail day. And we feel guilty for not helping out, let alone being able to buy our kids the presents every ad tells them they should want.

Our excuse for extravagance is always that we want our kids to have it better than we did, but better has nothing to do with dollars and “Stuff.” It’s about love, learning to be content with what we have, and sharing a bit of that with others. Besides, with a few exceptions, most of us never had it that bad. The best gift we can give the youngsters is the ability to appreciate people, be of service, and enjoy the simple things we so often overlook.

Let’s start some new holiday traditions, beginning with downsizing the gift list and adhering to what we can afford. Simple homemade gifts are always more meaningful than what’s in stores. Home canned produce, cocoa mix, a crocheted scarf, even a drop in visit with a plate of cookies are ways to let someone know you value them. If you aren’t a gardener, handy with a needle, or hate to cook, make your own gift cards. A year’s worth of cleaning the kitchen after supper, doing errands on weekends, or shoveling walks can show your creativity and caring better than a pretty package. 

I hope you all had a blessed Thanksgiving. We spent it with good friends, and got an early Christmas gift as we departed. Unknown to us, our hostess had sneaked out and started our pickup to warm it up. A simple gift, but much appreciated, and the warmth we enjoyed on the way home didn’t all come from the heater.

Keep it simple this season. Somebody might like it.

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