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Having energy to spare for the holidays

Have you heard about “The Festival of the Last Minute?” It’s part of the Portland Saturday Market and in previous years it would have called my name. I’ve always scurried to find that perfect something for that forgotten somebody — usually in the last few days and sometimes even hours before Christmas gift exchanges begin. 

But this year seems different. I do not remember being quite as prepared for the holiday gifting and entertaining. Maybe it comes with aging?  I have certainly been through enough of this kind of festivity throughout my life to be well practiced at it.

In decorating our home, I decided “more is less.” In wrapping packages, I used Amazon point-and-click gifting approaches or bought locally — and early — and used a UPS to mail packages. The lines were short and the tracking system impressive.

 I purchased and gave simple but original presents that spoke to my heart. For example, a wonderful DVD titled “The Story of the Weeping Camel” went to our son and his girls. They have a tradition of “family movies” at this time of year. And I sent the same DVD to my brother in Hood River and my sister and her family in Atlanta. They both like movies with subtitles and unexpected story lines. I’ve decided in the future when I find a great gift I’ll think about how many people I know who might enjoy it and buy in quantity.

 I made “Hawegian” cookies for lots of folks we know — in honor of my Maui-born son-in-law and his all-Norwegian wife — who also happens to be my daughter. It basically involves adding pineapple juice to your favorite holiday cookie recipe. I am sure there are limits to doing that — but so far not many.

 We put up a tree — but we placed it on the patio outside our biggest window and only white lights on it: quietly festive. My husband hooked up a remote so the tree’s lights automatically come on in the late afternoon. Yesterday it blinked into action, almost as if to smile at me, as I sat idly by a roaring fire sipping tea — with almost every item on my to-do list crossed off. 

This year, I decided to keep it simple and do things when I had the “energy available.” For me, the aging process means I have peaks and valleys of available energy. Experts say “adapt” your individual zest to the action needed. If you’re feeling physically (or mentally) low-key, it’s not the moment to decorate 12-dozen reindeer cookies. But if you did decorate 12-dozen reindeer cookies, I am very impressed.  Hope your energy level was sky-high and you enjoyed every minute of it. Hallelujah for you!

Maybe that’s what is happening. I am finding more of life’s hallelujahs. I know I delighted in the smile on the face of the Salvation Army bell-ringer who was singing "Joy to the World" with such gusto. I stuffed all the bills I had in my purse in his red metal container.

You too? Hallelujah.

Sharon Johnson is a retired Oregon State University associate professor emeritus. Reach her at Sharon@hmj.com.