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Question of the Month: Wish List

by Susan Henderson on December 5, 2011

What’s on your holiday wish list?

You might accuse me of being a scrooge for saying this, but I’m not nuts about presents. Or holidays.

Everyone in my family works hard. The last thing I want to do is make holiday time feel like more work instead of vacation. I like our house without the clutter of decorations. And as for gifts, we already have everything we need.

I’ve always preferred the joy of the ordinary and the unplanned. Mr. H and I go on a date once a week while the boys are in music rehearsal, but these dates never involve flowers or expensive dinners or dressing up. We often go for a walk or a drive or find a little cafe that serves good soup. Sometimes we’ll wander up and down the aisles of Home Depot or hold ferrets at a pet store. But mostly, we’re just hanging out. Make it fancy or expensive or formal in any way, and it’s no longer fun.

So what’s on my wish list? Just time. Time to sit with my family in front of the fire, time for walks, time to read, time to bake something when we have a craving for it.

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In other news, I was interviewed recently by PubSlush. Interesting guy and interesting questions. And UP FROM THE BLUE was featured in both The Dallas Morning News and the UK’s Book Hugger this week (they gave it an awesome review)! And New Books Magazine in the UK said this: “Thoughtfully written…beautiful and utterly convincing – 5 stars.” Cool to get some coverage more than a year from its publication! Also, grateful to the Clattering Keys blog for recommending my book as a holiday gift. Check out the full list; I’m in very fine company.

And speaking of fine company, I was invited to contribute an essay to a pretty cool anthology I’ll say more about soon. Other authors who are in on this project include Joyce Maynard, Jackie Mitchard, Ann Hood, Pam Houston, and Elissa Schappell. Last thing… thanks to the marvelous Jessica Keener, my book is at The Authors Bookstore at Red Room. They have a very interesting sales policy that benefits the writer so please consider doing your holiday shopping with them!

If you’re free on Wednesday, December 7th, I’d love to see you at the Huntington Book Revue. I’ll be reading and signing books with the incredibly talented (and funny!) Alix Strauss. Should be a good time!

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Nathalie (@spacedlaw) December 5, 2011 at 11:46 am

I am totally with you on the presents and forced festivities thing (and so is my love). But no matter how hard we try to escape, we usually are caught up by our families expectancy. We still have fond memories of one winter in Holland when we were both sick and thus unable to travel and so spent two delightful weeks in our jammies, reading by the fireside while drinking tea. No hassle. BLISS.

Presents? We don’t need presents. We spend more time each year, trying to get rid of unwanted things we were given. But our no gift policy has never been adhered to (and that was one of the reasons why we got married in secret)…
Mind you I do LOVE to give gifts but not necessarily to the people who expect them from me.

So: Wishes? As I got busy with a very good job, I soon noticed that time was the commodity I was missing the most. I try to snatch a few hours here and there, whne the rythm at the office is a bit quieter but longer holidays take months of advance planning, massageing, and pleading. And the benefit of the holiday soon disappears as I have to catch up on all the actions I did not handle why I was away.
So a time machine would be a great thing to have (or rent for a while – it could be a community facility for all I care). Every now and then I am trying to get my engineers to work on that but they tell me they don’t have the time.

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Susan Henderson December 5, 2011 at 1:12 pm

I’m so glad I’m not alone in this. I think my issue is that it’s dictated by the calendar. If I want to bake something for a friend, or I find something that’s just perfect for them, I like to act on my impulse. But if someone says, this is the day you have to buy flowers for the person you love, it just feels fake and burdensome.

I just love your story of being sick and how it freed you to have a wonderful time off. You might want to include that in a story or a novel. Hope you get a time machine!

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Nathalie ( @spacedlaw ) December 5, 2011 at 6:28 pm

That’s how I end up buying presents all year (I tend to forget about them too, but that’s another story)

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Susan Henderson December 5, 2011 at 7:36 pm

I do the same. I finished my Christmas shopping in Africa this summer.

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Billy Bones December 5, 2011 at 1:01 pm
Billy Bones December 5, 2011 at 1:01 pm
Billy Bones December 5, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Oops, sorry for the double post.

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Susan Henderson December 5, 2011 at 1:13 pm

He’s kind of cute. Maybe I’ll invite him to my house for the holidays.

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billie hinton December 5, 2011 at 1:02 pm

Congrats on all your book and writing news!

My holiday wish is for two “empty” days a week. Things got busier for me in August and have stayed that way, and it’s been awhile since I had even one empty day in a week. My ideal is two. By empty I mean nothing scheduled – nowhere to be at any certain time. I do a lot on my empty days but it’s the lack of pressure that fuels the creativity and enjoyment.

I find myself looking at my calendar and my eyes scan for the empty blocks! And I should say, the things that are scheduled are by and large “good” things – so it isn’t that I don’t like what’s happening on those days – it’s just the “scheduled” part of it.

I guess I could pare this down to: kairos, in place of chronos. 🙂

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Susan Henderson December 5, 2011 at 1:16 pm

Oh, me, too! A day where I don’t have to drive anyone anywhere at a certain time and no fix-it man or music teacher is due at my house. And there are no calls to return and no issues that need resolving. That would be heaven!

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Lee December 5, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Is it a cop-out to say that I don’t wish for anything? Is that like telling my wife or son not to get me anything for Christmas? It’s not that I have everything that I want or need, but those objects of necessity always find a way into my life when I can actually use them, and not store them.
On the other hand, I am excited about Christmas just because I like to watch my son get more and more excited as the “big day” draws near, and I enjoy hearing him and his best friend try to explain the true meaning of Christmas like this: “Jesus was born to give us light so that we could find the Christmas pickle and open presents.”
Me, slowly nodding, “Interesting. So what do you think of Easter and all those missing eggs?”
My son says, “Can we just enjoy Christmas a little while longer?”
Maybe I wish for that level of clarity in my own life?

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Susan Henderson December 5, 2011 at 3:18 pm

You’re so right. If you really need something, that’s when you find a way to get it. We only give one present at Christmas, but my list always looks so unromantic: computer ink cartridges, or could we get a replacement lamp shade for the one that’s ripped?

But yeah, seeing Christmas through the eyes of young kids… something else entirely. Magic. And do you really do the Christmas pickle on the tree? We have friends that always have a pickle on the tree and I never thought to ask them why. So… why? What’s the tradition?

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Lee December 5, 2011 at 3:27 pm

It’s an old German tradition that whoever finds the pickle hidden in the tree gets to open the first gift.
I think it’s nice because even though the tradition is about presents, it causes you to shift your focus to the beauty and ornamentation of the tree.
Delayed gratification.
Couldn’t we all use more of that? 😉

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Susan Henderson December 5, 2011 at 7:36 pm

I like that. Why a pickle, I wonder?

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Sheri A. (Sheri in Reho) December 14, 2011 at 10:10 pm

What’s on my wish list for the holidays is something very selfish–for things to be as they were. See, for many years, I have spent holidays with my two best friends, who are like my family. They were a couple for 20+ years and then just roommates out of financial need for another 15. This summer/fall, one of them started seeing someone very seriously. Instead of Thanksgiving around my best friends’ table as always, I had dinner out with the remaining friend., who was horribly sad. I see the same thing happening for Christmas and it breaks my heart. I know it’s not fair to expect things to always be the same. But I’m finding it difficult to convince my heart of that.

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Susan Henderson December 15, 2011 at 1:48 am

How heartbreaking! I wonder if you two can start a brand new tradition? Although just as I’m thinking of cool and healing ideas to try, I’m thinking, you can’t hurry sorrow and it just may be a part of this year. It must feel like a death of sorts.

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Sheri A. (Sheri in Reho) December 15, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Yes, it does. I think this year is going to have to be a mix of feeling those feelings, as hurtful and sad as they may be, and trying to carry on and do the best we can to make it enjoyable. On the upside, I just got an email from the attached one wanting to get together the Friday before Christmas, so that is truly a blessing. 🙂

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Susan Henderson December 18, 2011 at 6:47 pm

Looks like everyone’s trying their best… which is a sign of true friendship. Can’t beat that. xo

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Irene Grady December 20, 2011 at 9:05 am

Just finsihed UP FROM THE BLUE …. WOW!, Great first book, congratulations, I loved it.

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Susan Henderson December 20, 2011 at 12:39 pm

Irene, Thank you! I appreciate this so so much.

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Billy Bones December 27, 2011 at 5:56 pm

Hope all that time on your wish list found its way to you.

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Susan Henderson December 28, 2011 at 1:47 pm

It was just what we wanted a needed. Everyone slowed down, we had a fire and a simple spaghetti dinner with a salad. We got rid of the pool table just before Christmas–sometimes presents are about the removal of unused stuff in the house more than getting stuff. We read all our Christmas letters out loud–we always save them for one big read. And then the big hit, present-wise, was that my 16-year-old found an ancient Atari game at a thrift store, rewired it so it would work again, and all the neighborhood teenagers have been in our basement ever since playing old school games with giant pixels.

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Billy Bones December 28, 2011 at 5:28 pm

That sounds delightful, especially the Atari game. There is an air-hockey table in Mr. Lincoln’s basement that will soon meet your pool table in the afterlife.

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Susan Henderson December 28, 2011 at 7:36 pm

It was a much too cumbersome folding table. Now there’s twice as much room for the band!

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