If there is one thing I have learned this year, it is this: Just because I have been doing something the same way for so long, that doesn’t mean I must always do it that way. No, there has to be room for trying something new. For growth and learning. For “thinking outside the box.” Something happened a few days before Christmas that made me realize that maybe the same old method of Christmas shopping for my kids just isn’t a good system to rely on anymore.
What we usually do when Christmas shopping for the kids is I get them a few things earlier in the month – usually on Cyber Monday, since I prefer to shop online, but I also did something different in that regard this year. But, yeah, I usually get them a few things. Then, later on in December, my husband buys the rest of their Christmas gifts. (It’s pretty cool that we take turns with it!) But this year, he wanted the kids to have a more “memorable” Christmas. He suggested I buy them one “big” gift and he’ll get a couple of other “big” gifts too. No little gifts like pajamas or books or stuff like that. He wanted it to be different this year. So I agreed to it and bought the kids their most-asked-for (AKA "the items they’ve been bugging me to get them all year") gifts, along with a stocking stuffer. Little did we know that this Christmas was definitely going to be a memorable one, and that was NOT going to be based on the gifts they found under the tree!
Let’s stop for a minute to cover how my Christmas shopping experience went. And let me first say that I’m a bargain hunter! If I can score a good deal on an expensive item, then I’m all over that!
First, I waited for the right day. Since most of the shopping I was planning to do was online, I waited for Cyber Monday to shop for Christmas. It was worth the wait: Not only was an item marked down 50% but I also got FREE SHIPPING -- a perk many online retailers were providing on Cyber Monday.
I also comparison shopped. One way to find the best deals on the items I was planning to buy was by comparison shopping. I check prices on an item at different stores. I also kept an eye out for any coupons or "bonus savings" being offered on an item. For one Christmas present I bought, I noticed a site was offering it at a 20% discount price. I checked a store where I could buy it locally and it was being sold at full price BUT if I bought the item through the store's website (Barnes & Noble), it was on sale for 50% off! That's a nice slice of awesome!
Another thing is I didn't settle. There was one item I wanted to buy for my son this year that was something I was NOT ready to forget about. It was really bugging me to get this thing for him. The problem is, I had a hard time finding it at a price I could afford. Although it's an old item, ordering it from Amazon or Barnes & Noble meant getting a shipping cost that was MORE than the item price! Not cool! I didn't want to pay an arm and a leg for shipping. I was willing to pay a reasonable price but not pay more for shipping than the product price! So I kept looking. I decided to hit local stores. Unfortunately, none of them had it. BUT, when I went to Target.com, I was able to buy this item from the website. Awesome Thing #1: It was at a discount price. Awesome Thing #2: Ordering from the site meant FREE SHIPPING! Yay! If I drove to another town to get this item from a Target store, it would cost more than the price on the website. But ordering it from the site meant a lower price AND free shipping! I was stoked to come across this and it was definitely worth the extra time it took to find a deal that I was happy with.
Okay, now, back to what happened a few days before Christmas.
Gee, I thought getting hit by the cable company was bad! We got hit by another company with an even larger bill to pay…three days before Christmas. We could NOT get an extension on this bill. We were forced to pay it. And the amount that we paid was almost all of the money we had for our kids’ Christmas presents as well as groceries for next week. So we were looking at not being able to get the kids anything else for Christmas. They had 1 present from Mom and Dad under their tree (along with a gift they got each other, as well as gifts from family friends).
This was really depressing. I was SO upset! That stupid company ruined my kids’ Christmas!
I shared about this on Facebook. I had felt so down and out about it that I even said I had lost faith in the spirit of helping others. I mean, why would people DO that? They were right up there with people who break into houses on Christmas Eve and steal all the presents! They were right up there with the Grinch!
I have some AMAZING friends and relatives who took the time to offer support and some suggestions on Facebook on how to turn this thing around. A lot of people I know have been in just such a situation before and they shared some really helpful information on how to handle this. My kids have never been in this situation. There was always more than one Christmas gift from Mom and Dad under the tree. So I didn’t know how to handle it. How to talk to them about it or what to do to make our Christmas happy despite this setback. I mean, even with 7 kids, my parents STILL managed to get us all more than one Christmas present every Christmas! I remember that some years, we even had a family sponsor us and get us all gifts for Christmas! Heck, a whole fire department did, one year! And when Jennifer and I were on our own and I was struggling to put food on the table, I still got her more than one Christmas present that year, because I worked as a babysitter and cleaning a friend’s house! This kinda situation was completely new for me. It wasn’t new for my husband – he comes from a family of 6 kids and he’s been there – but I really didn’t know what to do. So all of those comments and messages from people REALLY helped a lot. I soon had a plan on things we could do to make the day bright all the same.
But I think God had another idea. And I think I have God to thank for what happened because, on that night, when I was feeling so low about all of this, I did what I usually do during my darkest times: I prayed. As I prayed, I acknowledged that Christmas is not all about gifts. And I understood that this was a good opportunity for my kids to appreciate that Christmas is so much more than about getting presents. But I said, you know, it would still be nice if they had more than one gift from Mom and Dad. And I just gave the whole mess over to God. I asked Him for help and guidance and just the strength to get through this.
After that, I felt a little better. One thing I kept thinking about that night, though, was the movie A Christmas Carol. The version with Patrick Stewart is my favorite, and it’s the one we own. I remembered in that movie how the Cratchit family enjoyed Christmas despite having nothing. The savvy Mrs. Cratchit still managed to get the family a goose for their Christmas dinner, and we at least had a nice ham for our Christmas dinner. The family was all together for Christmas and WE were all together for Christmas. The family sat together on Christmas Day feeling blessed to have each other and appreciating the little things. And we would do that, too! And at least the kids still got to make and decorate gingerbread men just like they do every Christmas. And we also had a Christmas breakfast of cinnamon rolls to look forward to with our usual movie of A Christmas Story. So some of the usual traditions were with us despite the lack of gifts.
But then something pretty awesome happened. And I’m starting to think that my saying “yes” to this very first thing is what allowed the other awesome things to come our way.
One of my fellow GSP authors saw my Facebook post and contacted me. He wanted to be a “secret Santa” and give us an Amazon gift certificate so we could get the kids another gift. At first, I was not sure about accepting his gift. Usually, I have this whole “We can take care of ourselves and we don’t NEED any help!” kinda attitude. I’m all for being self- sufficient! And, anyway, I didn’t post that on Facebook hoping someone would step up and help us out. I needed ideas on what to do! But I had a strong feeling that I should accept his gift. He wanted to do something nice for our kids. And I didn’t want to hurt his feelings by turning him away. So I accepted the gift from him and his wife. I used it to get the kids yet another thing they had on their Christmas list. (Thanks, Paul and Dorothy!)
And I think that by being open to someone’s kindness and generosity, it allowed for the other things to happen, too.
One of my sisters also heard about what happened. She knew I was really upset. So she and my sister-in-law (her partner) sent us a gift basket. I was so surprised when I opened the door and saw the delivery lady there with that gift. At first, I thought they had the wrong house! I even looked at the label, saw my name, and said, “That’s me.” Wow! I was really touched. The gift basket was filled with goodies, too. Turns out Jen knew about the surprise and made sure I was at the door to receive it. What a lovely gesture! I was so touched, I had tears in my eyes. (Thanks, Millie and Allison!)
Then we got another surprise gift. Soon enough, there was someone else at our door: One of my daughter’s best friends. She had a Christmas gift for my daughter – and a family gift for us, too! How nice! I was surprised and also very touched. I ran outside and, despite the rain, went to my friend who was in her car and hugged her, thanking her for the gift and wishing them all a Merry Christmas. (Thanks, Kim!)
Then another awesome thing happened, too. My husband was able to sell something and he now had a good amount of money available to buy our kids another Christmas present! He actually got them each 2 other gifts. And he was able to get me something, too! (I had already bought his gift earlier in the month.) So I was very happy that happened and what wonderful timing for it, too! Lots of stores were having sales on Christmas Eve, which made it lots easier for him to get stuff. (Thanks, Mr. Buyer!)
So Christmas was saved for us, after all. I consider this to be our “Christmas miracle.” It was certainly a time when my prayer was answered and we learned just how much we are loved by certain people in our lives. This has helped us to appreciate our friends and family all the more and be very grateful for when we are blessed in such an amazing way. I certainly feel that these things happened for a reason and I know that the true value of these blessings should be cherished and remembered. In the past, I have helped other families who have struggled with Christmas, and it was nice to be on the receiving end of that help this year. People really came through for us and we are grateful to them all. I am also grateful to another family friend who stopped by on Christmas Day with more gifts!
As to changes to our routine, I have decided to move forward in shopping for Christmas all year long, and not just in December. That way, we can avoid financial hits like we had this year. (I guess I shouldn’t be surprised we had TWO financial hits in December this year. This year has been awful!) Also, I am DEFINITELY going to make sure we have a savings account next year. As it is, we have no savings! But next year is THE year we create our savings so we can have something to fall back on in the event of another financial disruption.
This year’s Christmas was amazing and we were definitely blessed. I hope that by next Christmas, I can spread that sort of feeling to another family, too. Because it’s a great feeling!