We had planned a little getaway with the kids in Regina, kind of a pre-Christmas family time at the cool waterslide hotel, and then the flu arrived, nasty and vicious, and we cancelled. And it was fine, we were okay with it, but then Lyndon phoned me yesterday from the road and said he was going to be staying in Moose Jaw at our old, familiar Days Inn hotel, and did we want to join him for a couple of nights?

Yes, we did.

Carter was still a little sickish. Not bad, just that final, heavy feeling kind of day when you still don’t have much appetite. But he was game, so we packed up and zoomed into town and … here we are.

We feel quite at home here. We’ve stayed here with Lyndon so often and the staff knows us and it’s great. I was happy to see they’ve replaced the old toaster that took forever to burn your bagel with one of those industrial kinds where you load your bread or whatever on a little track and in a few seconds, presto, your toasts slips out the bottom, perfectly browned.

I have to say, though, the Christmas decorating leaves a bit to be desired. Take the breakfast room, for example. A tired, old tree in one corner with a few bedraggled balls hanging on its branches. A sad-looking Santa in a wicker sleigh on top of the television. And a child’s place mat, boasting a penguin in a Santa hat wishing us all a Happy Holiday stickytacked to the wall.

Like, come on, let’s make a little effort, people. It’s five days till Christmas and this is the best you can do?

I’ve been loving the Christmas pictures I’ve seen friends posting on facebook. Bonnie’s family stockings (handmade, I’ll bet) hanging over the fireplace, LaWanda’s beautiful family celebrating in front of their tree, Trina’s handmade chocolates that make me drool just thinking about them.  And they’re lovely photos, but what makes them so special is the effort that went into them, the works of love that these moms have offered  their families. It’s beautiful. It’s Christmas.

I’m not saying Christmas needs to be expensive or that homes need to be designer-perfect to portray the Christmas spirit. Goodness knows mine isn’t. I am saying that what makes Christmas special is the love that can be seen in so many small ways. Ways you just don’t experience at a hotel.

If you need a little inspiration, or if, like me, you just like looking at other people’s pretty homes, check out the 2011 Christmas Tour of  Homes at  The Nesting Place.

And remember, it’s not about perfection, or competition, or expense. It’s about being love.