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Michiana Chronicles writers bring portraits of our life and times to the 88.1 WVPE airwaves every Friday at 7:45 am during Morning Edition and over the noon hour at 12:30 pm during Here and Now. Michiana Chronicles was first broadcast in October 2001. Contact the writers through their individual e-mails and thanks for listening!

Michiana Chronicles: Blue Christmas

Heather Curlee Novak

I wish I could find the words to write novels. I love reading them so much! My writing skillset lies in short bites of life instead of ongoing plot twists and the heroine getting her man. This Holiday season I’m searching for the words to help my friends, family and myself. This year as I’m wrapping gifts and baking, I am not as cheerful as usual. I understand the concept of the phrase “Blue Christmas” differently, personally. I find myself with dear friends in hard places that will impact their holiday joy. My friend battling cancer for the fourth ugly year. The family man who was in a tragic car accident and is now confined to a wheelchair. Their Christmases will still happen but could be shaded blue.

I find my own family feeling uncertain and sad as my dear Mother in Love struggles to recover from Covid and a host of health issues. I sit with her and reassure her that she has built an incredible family legacy. Yes, I will make your nutroll. Yes, we know you love us. She speaks of letters she wants to write to each of us, and I listen. We bring milkshakes and cute grandchildren and tabletop trees. We rearrange our traditions to avoid the undecorated house this year. The grandkids grumble, seeing only their perspective in the moment. Minutes later, they create beauty for Baba and bake and craft and pray for her health. We are afraid of losing her. She is afraid of leaving us, or of not leaving and being stuck in a body she cannot use. This colors the traditions for each of us a sorrowful blue.

My friend who cheerfully spends most of her time in chemotherapy or recovering from it still manages to smile. She offered to bring me anything I might want or need when I shared I was getting sick. I asked what thoughts she might have about Blue Christmas, about how she finds light even in darkness. She said “I try, like every day, to make the most out of what time I have here. It makes you realize life is too short. Put up the decorations, the tree, even if you don’t have ornaments on it yet! Do what brings you the most joy.” She said remembering their holiday traditions and sharing stories of the past helps bring laughter and joy even in sad times.

The family man who has had a lot taken from him this year still has a smile for his cute wife or video game advice for his growing boys. He weighs in on household life and makes sure his wife gets out of the house for weekly game nights and events to refresh her. He plays online games with his friends and allows all the people who love and enjoy him to move into his personal pain and space to build ramps, paint rooms, change out carpet for wheelchair friendly laminate. He wears his Star Wars shirts and snuggles his wife. I see all of this from a distance, and I am humbled. My time with his wife is mostly lighthearted. Despite her own family chaos, she is quick to offer help to all of us. Their faith in God is strong. If I asked her how she is keeping her holiday cheer this year, she would likely say something about her boys. She wants to give them a happy Christmas. Other people are her focus, even though her precious mom died only weeks after her husband’s accident. She feels her pain fully, acknowledges the suck and then looks around to see what she can do now. What new story she can tell?

I think those are the words we need here: the way to keep holiday cheer sprinkled through a Blue Christmas is to take care of yourself. Acknowledge pain, fear or sorrow and find the small things to lift even our heavy spirits. Then, turn to others, help someone, anyone, else. I have looked for ways to do this for my own Blue Christmas. Visiting folks and bringing gifts. Extra snuggles with my daughters. Making plans (and with an impending blizzard, contingency plans!). I asked my family what is most important so we can hit at least the high points. I’ve been making many gifts with soft yarns, a crochet hook and my hands.

Heather Curlee Novak

Some of us experiencing a Blue Christmas may just sit at home in a ball of blankets on the couch and that is 100% right in the moment. If this is you Dear One, consider sitting upright for only a moment, and lighting a candle for yourself. Even when we feel sorrow and darkness, there is always a tiny light. Sometimes we just must spark it ourselves. Please do.

Music: "Blue Christmas" by Elvis Presley

Heather Novak's professional history includes sales and customer service training and troubleshooting for businesses, but she loves motivational speaking best. Heather leads church events for youth, singles and women, has spoken for Chicago Apartment Association and many organizations throughout Indiana. Nowadays Heather is just another stay at home wild mama trying to loose some weight, keep some sanity and enjoy her life. She is being raised by two little girls named Portia and Libby and is indulged by a guy named John who was gracious enough to marry her. Heather blogs about F Words: Feisty Faith, Fumbling Family, Fairly Healthy Food, Failed Fashion and Fabulous Friendships. You can find her at