Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Merry Merry

So this is Christmas
Festive, bustling, sparkling, busy Christmas.

And what have you done?
I hope you have found joy, peace, and merriment during this special season. Phone calls, face time, hugs, prayers- reaching out to the ones who mean the most to you any way you can.

Another year over
I hope you have laughed, stretched, grown, played, and acheived in the last 12 months. I hope there were enough successes to give you confidence and enough misses to keep you motivated in the year ahead.

And a new one just begun
Filled with new possibilities, new achievements waiting to be realized, and whole bunch of unknowns you can't even begin to anticipate. Embrace them, learn from them, grow, and help people along the way.

And so this is Christmas
So far from the last December 25th in so many ways, and yet it seems to have snuck up on us while we were so busy living.

I hope you have fun
May there be surprises, warmth, happy memories, and joy in your holiday. Whether it is beautiful music at midnight mass, the glow of candles on your mantle, something you never expected to find in your stocking, or a story that had almost slipped your mind until someone brought it up, I hope your holiday gives you many occasions to smile wide.

The near and the dear one
Side by side or miles apart, the ones we love most are always close at heart. Hug the ones you can, love the ones you can't, and hug someone else just for good measure.

The old and the young
You can't stop time- whether we feel a year older or not, there is solid proof that time marches on and the circle of life never ends. We celebrate this year with gaping holes where we lost loved ones once stood, dimming lights where shining figures are undeniably weaker than they were just a year ago. But cannot feel wholly consumed by those losses, because we turn our heads and there is new life- new partners, new babies, new presence that wasn't there this time last year. They don't fill the same spaces or make up for the ones we miss, but they are a very present, very real reminder in this season of hope that God's plan is not short-sighted.

A very Merry Christmas
No matter what day or time your celebration happens, no matter if you're with co-workers, family, or pets, remember why we celebrate, how much we have to be thankful for, and how powerful one kind gesture to another human being can be.

And a Happy New Year
In addition to a larger bank account and a smaller pants size, I hope 2014 brings you new friends, new challenges, new faith, and new joy.

Let's Hope it's a good one
We know in our hearts that the newest iproduct, next promotion, or latest Lululemon tights aren't the silver bullets that will suddenly make us organized, respected, and fit. If Santa was generous enough to put those things under our trees, let us be thankful enough to make honest, whole-hearted efforts to emulate we want to see in our lives.

Without any fear

Wishing you and your loved ones peace, happiness, good health, and good cheer
today, tomorrow, and all of next year.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Balsam, Sugar, and Twinkly Lights

Chances are, you've met me/seen my Facebook feed, and are at least mildly aware of my passion for Christmas. I love it. In the giddy “Look at all the lights!” way. I genuinely think a Christmas tree is one of the most beautiful sights in the world. I stick my head in our tree daily to inhale its wonderfulness. I love the stories, the memories, and the sentiments that are shared at the holidays. Yes, there is a tendency for everything to get a little nutty with holiday parties all around, Christmas lists that start in October and don’t seem to get any shorter, and the inevitable holiday travel plans. But there is also this understanding that it is the holidays. 

Everyone is open to helping out. Causes and people that go unacknowledged year round are adopted, appreciated, celebrated. No matter what holiday we celebrate, we can all share a common knowledge of the same limited playlist of holiday songs that play on repeat for the month of December, and I’m not sure if there is a soul out there who doesn't appreciate a good frosted sugar cookie.

Christmas time is special because it brings all our emotions to the surface. 
The excitement: What surprises are in store for me? Our inner 6 year-olds rejoice.
The anxiety: My father is impossible to shop for. I don't want to waste money, but I can't show up empty-handed.
The joy: Cards and letters from friends we rarely see. Holiday parties and family gatherings, reuniting and reminiscing about the past year.

The frustration: If I spend 30 more seconds looking for a parking spot, I am going to park this thing on the curb and let Rudolph worry about my bumper. 

The sugar. I don't care who you are. You like Christmas cookies. And Christmas treats. 
Your pants. Harsh reminder that Christmas cookies are not grapes. 

The warm fuzzies: Hanging ornaments from when you were growing up, remembering when a particular nutcracker was received or who used to love that crooked tree topper. 

The chills: Hearing Charlie Brown and his friends sing Hark the Herald Angels Sing. Turning off your lights and admiring the glow of your Christmas tree. 

The missing: Missing people. Of course we miss our favorite people more at the holidays- they're supposed to be there. You're supposed to spend your holidays with the people you love the most. It feels mixed-up, out of order, and so disappointing when you realize they aren't there.

The awe: Not only for your redneck neighbor who spends more on their December power bill than they do on a year's worth of chicken, but for the speed with which we have arrived back at the holidays. How much we've done in a year, how much has changed, how quickly we've run out of time to do all those things we were going to do this year.

I've got it all. I've been giving goofy grins to our Fraser fir for weeks. I've baked (we can wait another 12 months for that to happen again), hosted friends for cookies, mailed out dozens of cards, cried for a solid 4 hours when one more forgotten pin number put me over the edge. I have wrapped gifts, attended work holiday parties, given passing thought to all the exercise I will do next year, and hung stockings with care. Even through my sugar haze, as I flow from excited to anxious to happy to weepy to sleepy, I haven't lost sight of what makes me most happy, in December and the rest of the year. My people. People that I make plans to see, people I'm delighted to run into, and people I had no idea I would ever end up enjoying. Sometimes (well, this time of year) I just want to wrap them up in Christmas lights, put a bow on their heads, and let them feel the lovely warmth of the holiday spirit. 

I know that's weird. But it's how I feel.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Listy McFit-it-in

I’m a planner. I make lists and plans and have so many ideas about all of the things I want to accomplish. I’m of the opinion that I do not have as much time as I’d like to accomplish all of these things, so my best chance is to maximize every single day and get as much done as possible. It’s hard for me to rest when I know the ‘to do’ list looming just around the corner (specifically, in the kitchen sink). It’s hard to feel calm and in the moment when I know that about 482,000 moments from now (that’s like 5 days, right?) our accountant is going to need to see some very specific documentation.

I firmly believe that yes, I can work, workout, go to church, see friends, keep a neat (clean?) house, eat real food that isn’t bad for me, be there for my family, spend time with friends, devote time to the organizations that mean something to me, be involved, have quality down time, and a reasonable amount of sleep all in the same week. Sometimes that’s pushing it. But if I’m smart, I make my lists, look at my calendar, I can do things like run at 5:30 am. Bake cookies a week ahead and freeze them. Go to the post office during lunch. Update QuickBooks during a Christmas special. Count hard boiled eggs and green smoothies as real food. Deem a ponytail acceptable for work and devote am shower time to a round of laundry and last night’s dishes. Errands/house chores with family count as quality time.

If I can make time for the things I need get to do, I can certainly find time for the thing I want to do. Despite all the lovely articles, advice, and highly scientific evidence about the importance of taking care of yourself and making yourself happy first, the rest of the world does not always seem to be of the same mindset. Everyone, no matter how giving, self-less, compassionate, or wonderful, cares about their own agenda. My boss wants my work done. Done well and done early, even better if I did a little extra for good measure. The committee I sit on wants emails answered, great ideas, and passionate energy to recruit people, speakers, and sponsorship. God wants me to do good and be grateful- to care for my loved ones, my neighbors, and my community. My pants want me to cut back on the toast and work lunches. My dentist wants me to cut back on the Swedish fish. Buster wants to be fed and have access to squirrels, preferably in an area where he does not have to get his paws wet. Dominion and American Express want me to pay on time. Or late, with a fee.

I don’t want to use the things that are a given as excuses to why I can’t accomplish the things I want for my life. I suspect it only gets harder when there are actual children (as opposed to four-legged children) needing to be watched/fed/raised. If I don’t figure out balancing my responsibilities with my aspirations now, I don’t like my odds later on.

So if the universe could just get on board, people could adapt to my schedule (Post Office hours later than 5pm? 10 hour work days to give us 3 day weekends every week? DO THINGS WHEN YOU SAY YOU’RE GOING TO DO THEM) that would be great. Until then, I’m asking Santa for lots of yoga to work on my flexibility and appreciation for being in the moment and being at peace with the world around me.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Oops, I did it Again

So remember how it was kind of a big deal for us to host Thanksgiving last month? I may or may not (I did) declare that we must have an open house over the holidays. Calendars were consulted, an evite was sent out, and we’re having a Christmas cookie exchange this week. Less than two weeks after our last clean the house and arrange the furniture to accommodate as many people as possible flurry. I anticipate this being less dramatic. I mean, no one needs a fork for cookies and there’s no 20-lb turkey to fool with. Right? Our biggest conundrum, other than me learning the proper way to serve eggnog (Is it supposed to stay chilled the whole time? Keep it in the fridge? Spike it? Are there really eggs in there?) is how we can display the electric trains in a way that they are safe from harm’s way.

I'd like to say that my primary concern with setting them up on the floor was the number of guests we’ll have and the fact that we will have some small children around, but the reality of the situation is that I am a complete klutz. Like, the person who trips over a large electric box 8 times before declaring it must be moved. (Fact.) Those of you who have never experienced life with a lover of antiques/precious things may not fully appreciate the level of reverence with which said items are to be treated. Clumsiness- unintentional though it may be- is not reverent and does not indicate full appreciation for the glory of these carefully-crafted, hard to replace, old enough that it’s considered ‘normal’ for them to spark while they’re running pieces of history.

Maybe one day we’ll live in a place where an entire room can be devoted to “things that shall not be touched”. I will feel safer, knowing that there is a designated area into which I do not step foot, dramatically reducing the likelihood of me stepping on/bumping into/leaving water marks on these delicate creatures. We will wind the (really cool) train tracks around the legs of furniture crafted before my grandparents were old enough to stand and I will watch from the doorway, feeling happy and safe.

We do not live in that place today. Hence, our nearly as good as giving it its own room solution of setting up the trains on the dining room table. Let’s be real, we’ve eaten off a coffee table many times. Let’s be more real, I’m perfectly content to eat standing up in the kitchen. (My mother hangs her head.) The new arrangement puts the couch in the dining room, which is a disastrous decorating debacle. (Pale gray couch. Red & tan rug. Red/blue/tan curtains. Black and white dog who feels the world is finally as it should be- his throne perfectly placed below the window, allowing him to monitor all backyard squirrel activity. We have a comical collection of furniture in the bedroom that includes two very clashing dressers, one kitchen table, one very old drop-leaf table, a very old cabinet (plantation desk?), and a bed so high off the ground Buster needs a running start. (I need a step-ladder and learned the hilariously awkward way that I cannot, in fact, ‘jump into bed’.)

So when you come over, please know that I do not think any of these combinations “go together”, I fully acknowledge the impracticality of an electric train around the perimeter of your dining room table. But it’s Christmas folks. Indulge me.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


Success! Thanksgiving for fourteen cooked, served, and parceled out as leftovers. We didn’t run out of forks, Seth did a fantastic job with the turkey, and his mom showed up in plenty of time to assist with the gravy. All lumps were avoided. It was a heart full kind of weekend. We had family and friends around the table. Everyone brought something, everyone had stories to share. My wonderful brothers did just about every dish that came through the kitchen, and there were no brussel sprouts left after dinner.
I get a little shy when people are in front of me, so there was no grand invocation of thanks before our meal. If I had, here’s what I would have said THANK YOU for:

Thank you for family, for friends, and a place to call home.
Thank you for warmth, health, and the strength to get through hard things.
Thank you for the people who lift us up every day, the people who make us laugh, and the people who bring us joy in so many ways.
Thank you for good food, good friends, and the good table which brings them together.
Thank you for jobs and independence.
Thank you for the sun that brightens our days and the pets that brighten our lives.
Thank you for the many happy memories of loved ones present and parted.
We cherish times like these holidays when we all come together to remember, reminisce, and reflect.
Thank you for the wonderful people at this table, in my life, and in my heart.

I said it all in my head a few times. Out loud, I just told everyone to dig in. And they did. Now I have a confounding amount of leftover gravy, mashed potatoes, and mashed sweet potatoes in my fridge. I know Pinterest is full of ideas for all that stuff, but I’m over it. I just want to move on and reclaim that space in my fridge. Is that wrong?

This is Buster, exhausted from the demands of being cute and vigilant for any dropped food all day long. We picked up a Christmas toy for him while we were out shopping- apparently he’s on board with the whole “Christmas starts the day after Thanksgiving” thing because he scouted it out immediately and there was nothing we could do but watch him demolish that little Christmas fox. We tucked him up like this as a joke- he hadn’t moved an hour later.

I doubt that picture moves any of your hearts the way it moves mine, but I am so crazy about that goofy little dog. I may have taken adavantage of a little Cyber Monday action to order him a sweater. He gets cold. He looks great in red. Don't judge me.