No photo today!
Seriously, nobody reading this blog would want to see how tired I look, or how disrupted my home and office are at this moment: the Christmas Countdown organizing plan began on Sunday.
Hello, Countdown Chaos! It's as much a holiday tradition in our house as Trick-or-Treat--but not nearly so much fun.
Each and every year, the first few days of the Countdown are .... chaotic. No matter how carefully I prepare the site, tweak the server or think through bottlenecks, it's only when the online traffic comes pouring through the door do I find all the problems on the tech side.
This year has been no different. Menus went missing, modules were in conflict, caches got corrupted and the poor database has had hiccups for 24 hours now.
It's meant long hard frustrating days behind the scenes. Up at 4 a.m., working until 8 p.m., and worrying all the time about "How is the server holding up? What are these logged errors? How can I fix everything with the site so busy?"
It's at about this point every year that I start to ask, "Why do I DO this?"
I mean, really--nobody else does.
Or at least, not for free.
Oh, there are other sites out there, but most use a different model. For example, one such site offers their holiday program for the low, low price of $55--and it all goes away after 10 weeks! Others sell e-books and print-your-own forms sets for prices ranging from $20 to $45--and that's before you shell out for printer ink and paper. Yikes!
That's not to mention what I think of as the members of the Hall of Shame: wannabe sites that short-cut the hard work of building a web site by offering our resources in a way that benefits them and gives our site no credit.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery? Enough! I'm flattered already!
Each year about this time, running low on sleep, brains and patience, comes the point where the chaos gets to me, and I have to pick myself up and remind myself of the reasons why this site exists.
Really, it's about you. About the thousands of families who have, for the past 12 years, put these ideas into practice to get organized for the holiday season. Along the way, you have moved toward celebrating a more thoughtful, values-centered holiday. You've replaced stress with success, tracked your progress year by year, and shared your insights and ideas with our larger community.
Why do I do this? Because running this site is a calling, a ministry.
When I get the Countdown Blues, I think ahead to the emails I'll receive after Christmas, telling me what a difference this site, these ideas and this work has made to your family celebration.
This year, more than ever, I want this site to stand as a resource for a creating a holiday celebration that is bountiful and joyous--but that is NOT focused on money, on buying, on going into debt. I want to offer fun and easy ways to give and to celebrate--no matter what strains your pocketbook may be facing in tough economic times.
Could I charge for this site? Well, the competitors do--but I believe that what we do here is too important to lock out those families who may need us most.
And I want to find ways to free families from the stress that is too often an unwanted companion to the season. To help them give themselves permission to do less and enjoy it more. To help families prepare for the holidays in good time, so that time pressure doesn't cramp the seasonal spirit--even though the paradox of this ministry is that I find myself scampering due to the demands of keeping the site online, and my own husband and children wince when I use the word "Countdown".
Especially in these first few days, when there are a world of bugs, wrinkles and site issues to be straightened out, and never enough time to find and fix them all.
I know you'll bear with me, and with Webmaster-in-training Ryan, as we work within our limits during these days. Because we don't ask you to pay, we don't have funds to pay the professionals--so we're it. We do our best, but I know you'll forgive us if errors crop up, if the site slows down, if we have a surge that takes us offline for a time.
More than that, I know that we'll all get past these days of Countdown Chaos, and more quickly than ever this year.
And I know that on Christmas morning, I will be thinking of you all, feeling yet again that it has been a worthy effort and that the rewards are sweet.
But could you maybe put a bug in Santa's ear that a nap might be very welcome this afternoon?