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The great Christmas stocking debate returns

Okay, here’s the question of the day: Is the Christmas stocking important or irrelevant? This debate rages at our house each Christmas season. For me, the Christmas stocking is key when it comes to under-the-tree goodies. For Dennis, it’s completely unnecessary and incomprehensible. He says he didn’t get a Christmas stocking as a child, which I think might qualify as child abuse in some states. I, on the other hand, continue to get a stocking from my dad and step-mom. Granted, it doesn’t come in an actual stocking anymore; it’s in a Christmas gift bag. But my dad always hands it to me and says, “And here’s your stocking.” Read more

Preparing for a death, not a birth this Advent

I spent the past two days at my grandmother’s bedside, watching her die. We don’t know how long she has — minutes, hours, days, weeks? For anyone who’s been there, you know what I mean when I say it is both horrible and awe-inspiring to experience the dying process up close. When I said goodbye, I knew it was likely the last time I would see my grandmother alive since I don’t live close enough to pop in for regular visits. I whispered, “I love you,” as I hugged her, not expecting a response, but she whispered it right back to me. And so, as sad as it was, I will have that with me forever, that final exchange of love. Read more

Happy St. Nicholas Day. What’s in your shoe?

The shoes were placed by the front door with care last night. Okay, to be honest, the almost-17-year-old just left them there out of habit, but the two girls were all over it. They still love the Feast of St. Nicholas. Somehow it’s like the unofficial start of the season around this house. Read more

Skip the mall this year. Trust me, it can be done.

A lot of  my friends  and family members are already wrapping Christmas gifts, which I find truly astounding because I haven’t even started shopping. Haven’t bought a single gift. Haven’t even thought about buying a single gift. But I can tell you this, when I finally do start shopping it will not be at either of the local malls. I’m not a mall person, especially during the holiday season, and I like to support local businesses. So my goal every Christmas is to avoid the mall at all costs, to buy only within the confines of my own town, or, when absolutely necessary, online. I still have young kids, so some things have to come from the big guns and not from local artisans. Read more

The Advent Games: Catching Fire

If any of you were around these parts last year, you may remember that we started our Advent season not with a prayer but with a coin toss. Because that’s how we roll here at the Poust House. We can take four weeks of peace, joy, and love and turn it into an epic battle of wits, willpower, and outright manipulation. Katniss has got nothing on these kids. All they’re lacking is the bow and arrow. And so it begins again. Who knows what this Advent will bring, but nothing would surprise me. Read more

Slow down and savor the Advent season

Advent is less than one week away. How will you make it special? Here’s a little something to get you in the spirit, my Advent In Focus story, which is running in the current issue of OSV Newsweekly:

By Mary DeTurris Poust

By the time Advent officially begins, most of us have been bombarded by so much Christmas music and Christmas advertising and Christmas everything that we’re already sick of the season. In a world where the Christmas countdown begins sometime before Halloween, it’s easy to lose sight of the beauty of Advent, and to get so caught up in the material trappings that we can’t see the spiritual forest for the tinsel-covered trees. Read more

Creating calm amid the Christmas chaos

Chances are that right about now the Christmas season is getting the best of you. At least that’s how it’s going at my house. Just last night I suggested to my husband and kids — amid the fighting over who opens which door on the Advent calendar and who hangs which ornament on the Christmas tree — that maybe we should just pack it in and pretend there’s no Christmas this year, which is kind of missing the whole “reason for the season” in a pretty glaring way. So we tried to regroup and declare a do-over on the lead-up to Christmas. Read more

The perfect time to take a spiritual inventory

My most recent Life Lines column, running in Catholic New York and The Catholic Spirit this month: 

I don’t know about you, but I tend to approach my prayer life – my spiritual habits or “skills” – from an unrealistic place. While I easily recognize the need to practice or work out in order to keep up my basic guitar skills or my jogging endurance, I expect to settle down to prayer and reap immediate rewards with little or no effort. Or I allow myself to fall into a prayer rut that ends up leaving me on autopilot, until the words I say have about as much meaning and feeling behind them as reading a recipe out loud. Read more

Covert Advent operations: Can we sink any lower?

You may recall that last week’s kick-off to the Advent festivities at our house deteriorated into fighting, screaming, a coin toss, and, eventually, a declaration (by me) that all fun Advent activities would cease at once and until further notice. (We did keep up our Advent wreath practice before dinner each night, however.)

So this morning I asked Chiara if maybe she’d like to retrieve the wooden Advent calendar from the basement, along with the Playmobil Nativity set, and the little Advent Christmas tree. Her immediate reaction was a panicked, “NO!” That seemed curious, so I persisted. In a teary voice, she said that she didn’t want to take out the Advent activities because she was afraid there would be more fighting.

Hmmmm…Things were getting curiouser and curiouser. Read more