Sure, it’s nice – getting a week between Christmas and New Year’s off as a freebie vacation week. That week is one of the many benefits of working in higher ed.
Except when you’re sick.
It hit us the weekend before Christmas: a scratch throat, a groggy unease, and sinus pain that felt like continual just-before-you-sneeze agony. Then, from Christmas day to just this week, a persistent sickness. It didn’t ruin the holidays, but it certainly wasn’t fun.
Maybe it’s a good thing I had that week off. But there are better ways to spend a vacation than homebound misery.
So I took the usual Christmas morning photos of the kids opening presents. Other than that, and despite some big photo plans I had, I just didn’t get much done. Instead, I’ll share some pre-Christmas fun in the playroom with the kids.
Before the snow fell. Before the presents showed up under the tree. Before the misery.
Every year, I give a simple gift to my side of the family: a calendar of full-page photos from the previous year, showing all the kids in the family doing their thing. Easter, summer, Halloween, birthdays – it’s all in there.
And every year, the calendars are a hit.
I’ve been giving photo calendars since before I had kids of my own – probably five years or longer – and there’s no gift that makes a splash like they do. My family tears them open, thumbs through the photos, and remembers the year that was. You’d think they’d get old (“Another calendar? C’mon, Dave.”), but they don’t.
What keeps them fresh? We keep adding family members. That means new birthdays get added to the calendar portion, and new photos of new people appear up top. I added a kiddo to this year (Riley, in April). Family variety, in photo form.
“Sometimes I’ll take out the photos and frame them,” someone told me this year. What a nice thought: an 11×16″ photo worthy of a hanging on the wall for longer than a month.
I often feel like I’m taking the easy gift route for Christmas, giving away family photos year after year. But you know, they’re never not appreciated. I think it’s the variety thing, but I also think it’s because no one prints photos anymore, so any picture of a grandkid that one can hold is a true gift.
We can share our photo talents so easily starting with the ones we love.
I’m lucky to work in higher education, where the week between Christmas and the new year are seen as an automatic holiday. This year, I took a few extra days before Christmas off, meaning a lot of time at home with the family.
What did we do? Not much. A bit of repair work on my car, some house showings, a couple of sick kids to contend with, and the busy back-and-forth of family holiday time. I was able to dig into a few photo books – Alex Webb’s The Suffering of Light was a nice Christmas gift – and think about my creative work for 2017.
But mostly, it was just what I had hoped for: quiet time, doing quiet things.
Every year for Christmas my wife makes these great molasses cookies – a ton of them, with homemade frosting.
We take a day and decorate them in our favorite themes and characters, and then we share with friends and family over the holidays. It’s a great little family tradition.
I’ve missed working on video stuff so much since leaving Albion that I grabbed my Canon 6D, a 50mm lens, and took some video and photos. It was fun to edit footage and make a little film again. The process is one of those flow state situations, and I do miss it.
In photography, think about photo projects or series as opposed to single images. So many of us simply capture little snippets of video of family, friends, and outings. With all the (free!) tools at our disposal, it’d be fun to see more people put in the effort to making video stories, not just clips.
One: I take the last day I’m at work and clean my office. Dust, vacuum, straighten up – I’m going to be gone for a few days, so it’s good to get it tidy. This is a great thing to do right before a vacation, too. That way, when you get back, everything’s in ship shape.
Two: I take a break from social media. This year, it will be an even bigger break than I’ve been playing with the past few months.
The holidays, and this first part of winter, are a quiet time. I like quiet music, quiet weather (snow!), quiet nights at home watching movies and basking in the warm glow of Christmas lights. Peace and quiet.
Twitter and Instagram and everything else are noise, so they’re not allowed. Not for a week or two. Instead, I spend time with family and make things and share in the season with friends and family.
This is a good practice during vacations, too. Save all your photo sharing until you’re back home, and have had time to process your time away.
Soon, I bet you’ll look forward to these habits. Time away does us all some good.
Last year, we didn’t get to Gwinn’s until darkness covered the tree lot. We picked a Christmas tree that felt right. And it was so cold.
This year was different. The temperatures were in the 40s, thanks to a very mild autumn, so we let the kids run through the rows of evergreens, tiring themselves in the cool air. We played tag, and chased each other in the trees.
Then we got the tree home – a short-needle variety, very soft – and did the real work: putting up the ornaments and lights. The kids were so tired from running at the tree farm that they were ready for bed early. That was fine with us.
As we plugged in the lights, we felt official. Ready for the holidays. All that’s missing in are the cookies.
Quiet times around these parts. I’m lucky that I get the week between Christmas and New Year’s off from work. This year, it was lots of festivities with the family, quality time with the kiddos, and taking it easy.
Lots of projects in the coming year. Hope you had a great holiday, too.