Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Buy Hand for the Holidays Challenge

* This is cross-posted on all my sites. It seems I've been busier on them lately than here...

When I was a child, I was so excited by Christmas and gift giving. I loved finding what I thought was the 'perfect', gift within my limited means, to give people I loved. As consumerism has become rampant and it has gotten more and more difficult to find and give a meaningful gift I have been more and more unhappy with holiday shopping and gifting.

About 10 years ago I went through a financiallly rough year and gave hand-made toilettries for the holidays. Some people liked them more than others, but the desire to give and receive "consumables" not dust-catching gifts from the $20 and under or $10 and under tables so pervasive in the malls, has spread throughout my group of friends.

For many years now, this group of friends has exchanged gifts that you can't buy at the mall; and some years I've extended that and given hand-made gifts to family as well.

Sometime things that have been given are: concert/event tickets, home prepared meals, jar mixes, toilettries, jams and jellies, home canned salsa, pickles, hand made clothing, quilts, and much more.

Well, this year Deanna over at Crunchy Chicken has posted the Buy Hand for the Hollidays Challenge. The goal of the challenge is to have you do one or more of the following:
* hand-make your gifts
* buy your gifts that are handmade by someone else (like from Etsy or a local craftsperson)
* buy it used either at a thrift store, yard sale, Craigslist or Freecycle, etc.
* barter for your gifts

I'm going to attempt it as much as possible, and I invite you to do the same. To add your voice and officially join the challenge, just click the picture in my side bar.

I personally LOVE home made gifts, and I know my friends do as far, even though my kids do want all the "usual" stuff for the holidays, they also like receiving gifts that were made "just for them".

Let me know if you sign up for the challenge, or if this is something you already do.How do your friends/family receive these gifts? Happily or not?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Saying Good-bye to Uncle Ray

It's been a while since my last post...sorry about that. I'll try to catch up over the next few days.

Late-summer was a whirlwind of activity of all kinds, but one thing that made us stop and think was Uncle Ray Yaros, my husband's uncle.

When my husband and I met, both his parents had been gone for quite some time. So, when he introduced me to Uncle Ray and Aunt Eve, it had the same kind of weight as "meeting the parents". At the time, Uncle Ray was in his 70's but looked and acted far younger. He still had a 14' fishing boat that he took out on the bay to himself, he still had a decent sized garden and cooked regularly.
In 2003 Uncle Ray and Aunt Fran (his twin sister) turned 80. That was also the year Ronnie was born, Clark and I got married, and Clark's cousin (Uncle Ray's granddaughter) was married.
Then, between Christmas and New Year, Aunt Fran died, and soon after, Uncle Ray started his down-turn.
Over the course of the last 5 years he had several small strokes, falls, and generally a down-turn in his health and according to him, his quality of life.
We hadn't seen Uncle Ray and Aunt Eve regularly for a while, they had made it to Clark's 50th birthday party, but not Clark's niece Missy's wedding.

We got a call Memorial Weekend, that Uncle Ray had had another fall, and was in a rehab center recouperating and could we come visit. Of course, we did. We brought the feisty boys with their leapsters and a ton of photos and visited.

Uncle Ray was sad, depressed really. There was nothing wrong with his memory, he told me clearly how much turning 80 had been a terrible thing. Dispite having been able to witness granddaughters' graduations from college, weddings and two great-granddaughters' births. He was tired of living with the pain, and with the physical limitations.
It was not an overly optimistic visit, but neither was it overly pessimistic. We figured Uncle Ray would be home in time for his July birthday and we'd go have a nice dinner with him.
It didn't work out that way.

He did go home, but only briefly.

Clark called the house to wish him a happy birthday a day or so after the date. Aunt Eve told him that Uncle Ray was back in the hospital, so we decided to go for another visit.

What Aunt Eve left out, was that Uncle Ray was on a feeding tube and was mostly not with us anymore.

Clark and I don't want to overly sheild our boys from death. It is a part of life and it is good for them to understand it. But, I think we probably would have left them with a sitter for this visit, had we known. We did give our love to Uncle Ray; held his hand, spoke the words, smoothed his hair...
We did get a couple of moments of eyes opening and clearing as if in understanding.
We went home understanding that Aunt Eve was already alone. After 65 years. And just wanted the pain to be done for her lover, her friend, her life companion.
We lit 2 candles in the window every night for two weeks with clarysage, lavendar and rosemary. One for each of them....asking Bridgid to heal, to love, to embrace.

Uncle Ray passed from this realm on August 6. We said our goodbyes on August 9 & 10.

Ray Yaros - a good man, who lived a good life. 2 great-granddaughters, 2 granddaughters, 2 sons, 1 wife for 65 years, and an assortment of nieces and nephews. The last of his siblings to go (I think there were 5 or 6).

You will be missed, you will be remembered, by Clark and I of course, but even more importantly, by Ronnie and Evan.