Advent 2020

I’ve always wanted to do more for Advent than I usually do, which you might find strange for an atheist. But my parents are retired ministers, we’ve generally been at least the Easter/Christmas crowd before then, and so Advent is a thing.

I miss the Advent hymns at church the most. Or perhaps it would be more honest to say I only miss the Advent hymns. I guess I kind of miss some of the other hymns, especially when you’ve got an organist that plays at a decent pace instead of a dirge. But when Christmas rolls around and I get morose (because that tends to happen to me around the holidays because of stress, I think), it’s because I never made time to get to the Advent services at the local church denomination when I grew up in.

Of course, this year church is not an option, and that actually relieves a bit of the guilt of not having made it to services. I have options, as I’m certain there are oodles upon oodles of Advent hymns on YouTube available for listening. Some churches will be doing online services, and I could make an effort to catch some of those. But I digress.

One of the things I’ve wanted to do for Advent (aside from attending church services to get my hymn fix) is to write a series of short stories, or perhaps even novellas, for Advent. In the style of the A-Z Blog challenge, my initial intent was to write A to Z titles around holiday themes. I even had a list at one point for topics, or maybe titles. I was going to have them ready to be gifts, and I really wanted to find a way to deliver them each gift wrapped individually. The idea was that each book would be opened on the correct day, and you’d have a story or book to read each day of Advent.

That hasn’t happened yet, and may not happen at all as I’ve explained it so far. We’ll see how far I get in future years when I have the mental and emotional energy to write again.

But something I had never thought to try before this year that I have managed to pull off was to create an Advent calendar type of gift series for the kids. I got the idea when watching someone do an unboxing of a high-end cosmetic Advent calendar. I liked that it wasn’t just 24 days of the same thing, but a variety of samples of the brand’s cosmetics and perfumes. So I went to Amazon to see if they had stuff like that, but of course when you look for that kind of thing you end up with 24 (or if you’re unlucky, 12) of the same theme. Twenty-four lego toys, or 12 different Minecraft minis, or 24 stickers, that kind of thing.

So I quickly stopped searching on Amazon. I ended up buying at a variety of different stores snacks, small toys, fidgety things, and a couple inexpensive gifts. I got a couple different gift bags I can write on, and a variety of tissue so I can change things up every week or so.

Thus far, it’s been a hit. A package of movie theater candy one day, a $5 bill the next, then a different kind of candy, maybe a chocolate covered marshmallow Santa, a fidgety Rubik’s cube kind of thing, and so on. Other ideas that didn’t quite make it were mini notebooks (I couldn’t find them in time), actual books, and gag gifts.

I even wrote out a calendar so I know what goes in each day, so I always have a good variety from day to day. And on Christmas Eve, because both kids have always wanted to open a gift before Christmas (we usually do all our gift exchanges on Christmas morning/day), I have an actual gift to wrap so they can get that achievement ticked off their life list.

I’m pleased with myself for all I’ve managed to pull together for this month. With the help of my husband and eldest child, we have lights and two small (nearly) cat-friendly trees in the living room. I’ve got our Christmas shopping done, and I’m just waiting on a couple of gifts that will arrive in the next couple of days. I plan to wrap next weekend (I had thought to do it today, but I only want to do it once, so I’ll wait until everything arrives).

I’m stringing as much holiday joy as I can out of this otherwise craptacular year.

And, as difficult as this is for someone who loves streaks, it’s all thanks to giving up on NaNoWriMo.

Yep. I’ve won every year since 2003, and this year it became very, very clear that I was putting myself through an incredible amount of stress and emotional suffering to get something written during November. I’ve known that this is a thing for some time, actually. NaNo stopped being fun for me my last year as Municipal Liaison several years ago, and when I made the difficult decision to step down, it was because it was too stressful to run on my own. I thought just giving that up would help, but it didn’t. It kind of got worse, with added guilt for wanting desperately to give up on an event that had previously brought me so much joy.

It’s been a rough year, but in spite of that, this is the most prepared I’ve been for the holidays yet. And even though I usually pull through November with a good in-process story to finish up by the new year, I’m so grateful I put the streak aside and just focused on myself and my family. The intent is to hopefully keep up that particular streak so that when next year’s shenanigans roll around, I’m more prepared to deal with them than I was this year’s.


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