Why I keep staring at my front door.

I love the holidays, but they aren’t easy for me. (I know, join the club.) But this year is the last time I’ll use my credit cards to make things merry and bright.

Not that ordering piles of presents doesn’t help — those laptops, iPods and especially the BMW (a little pick-me-up for moi) certainly infused cheer into Christmases past. But there are better ways to ramp up the holiday spirit.

Christmas didn’t used to make me sad, but it did wear me out. I’d race around trying to make everything perfect, from the presents to the poinsettias to finding the shining-est star to crown the Christmas tree.

The last Christmas Michael was alive, he said he didn’t understand why I ran myself ragged that way. He did the cooking in our house all year, and more than his share of everything else, but Christmas was my territory, and Mr. Why-buy-a-present-now-when-the-mall-is-open-on-Christmas-Eve wasn’t the biggest help. But that last Christmas morning, as the children screamed and laughed, digging through a pile of packages I needn’t have wrapped with such care, under tree branches dipping with ornaments from blown glass to construction paper and popcorn, as bacon was frying and a frittata I’d forgotten about was burning, and we hadn’t even gotten to the bulging stockings dangling from the mantle yet, which I worried might drop into fire if we didn’t speed it up, Michael put his arm around me, smiled, and said, “I get it now. Next year it’s my turn. I’ll do all the work.”

He would have done a great job, too, except for the procrastinating.

The next year, I had my neighbor Mitch take a photo for our Christmas card of the kids and me laughing in front of our Christmas tree, so everyone would think we were happy and stop feeling sorry for us. And truth be told, we were happy, all things considered.

The next year I took a picture of just the kids and the dog for the Christmas picture, figuring enough time had passed that instead of people saying, “Look how well they are doing, how nice,” they’d say, “Oh my, has Lynn put on a few pounds?”

Because, you know, the camera adds a few.

The year after that, I didn’t bother with a Christmas card at all. Friends were fretting about fresher tragedies by then, ones where the victim perhaps wasn’t fortunate enough to cheer herself up by buying a car.

I did still charge up a storm, though, because I could.

I have to get used to not doing that, though. There are better ways to mark the occasion.

Take my front door. I read an article about sprucing up your house’s entry, and the next day, I painted the door bright red and slapped a wreath on it. Naturally I didn’t do all the sanding that Joe in the hardware store recommended (do you not know me at all yet, Joe?), so it needed five coats of paint instead of two, but that door makes me smile every time I look at it, even with the pine needles stuck in the paint because God forbid I wait until it’s dry.

Life is good, and all it cost was a can of paint.

Bye.