Thursday, December 30, 2010

How Did You Do Christmas?

So my last post was a list of some of the ways we do Christmas. And I have to say, for one more year, all that stuff pretty much held true. I had plenty of egg nog. I had my favorite things to eat. I heard all my favorite songs. I ate my favorite foods. And I definitely got the gift I most wanted!

The one thing that turned out to be different? My wife wasn't so hard to buy for this year! And I'll admit, some of that was because she gave me some great ideas on her "wish list". And we even did some shopping together where she purchased some things and I put them under the tree. But I also came up with a fair number of surprises for her - all of which were greatly appreciated.

And it has been a holiday season filled with laughter. Having all three kids in the house, hanging out together, playing games, watching lots of movies - we've just had a lot of fun together. That's not to say three siblings in the house don't bicker a bit. God help me, they do. But it hasn't been too bad. And we've had a lot of fun with them.

It has also been a most relaxing time. This is a year where we've not visited nor been visited by any family. They are all in very different parts of the country this year. So our holiday has been quite, restful, peaceful. No rushing about making sure everything is clean. No preparing extra-special meals for "company". No worries about sleeping in late, going to bed early, taking afternoon naps, or any other aspect of scheduling. So that has been very nice.

All in all, a very good holiday.

And tomorrow evening, just our family and Son1's new girlfriend to ring in the new year. We've got our favorite New Year's Eve foods planned. We'll play some games. Watch a movie. And kiss when the clock strikes midnight.

Here's hoping your holiday and your new year are the best ever!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

How do YOU do Christmas?

My blog friend Mrs. Chili over at The Blue Door posted a meme on Monday about the holidays. And as I read her responses, I couldn't help but reflect on traditions around the holidays. We all have so many. And so many of us have the SAME traditions. And yet, we each tweak them just a bit to fit our own personal likes and the needs of our families. Comparing and contrasting seemed like fun. So you can check our her thoughts on the holidays and then see what I had to say on the same topics...

1. Real tree or Artificial?  Believe it or not, we have one of each. The real tree is in the family room and covered with all our favorite old ornaments and kid crafts, etc. And all our colored lights. And that is the tree the presents go underneath. But some years we also put up an artificial tree in the living room with white lights and more formal ornaments. This year...just the real one.
2. Do you like decorating the tree? Parts of it. I always have to put the tree in the stand and get the lights on ahead of time. I don’t love that part. But the ornaments are all done with the whole family and that part is fun.
3. When do you put up the tree? It varies...usually around the second weekend of December. This year, I put the tree in the stand and put on the lights tonight. We'll all put on the ornaments tomorrow evening.
4. When do you take the tree down?  Usually about a week after New Year’s.
5. Do you like eggnog? Oh I do! Most of the folks in my family do not, so when we buy it, I know I’m only sharing with Son1, so that means a lot for me.
6. Ever broken a present right after opening it? I don’t think so.
7 . Hardest person to buy for? My wife. And it is my fault. I put too much pressure on myself to get the perfect gift every time.
8. Easiest person to buy for? Our daughter. She always provides us with a color-coded list with appropriate hyperlinks to web sites, reviews, etc.
9. Do you have a nativity scene? We do.
10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail. But we have been narrowing our list of who gets them every year. What a chore to do that whole process.
11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? Underwear. From my mom. And not when I was a kid.
12. Favorite Christmas Movie? It’s A Wonderful Life. I predictable.
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? As soon as possible after Black Friday is over and those folks go home.
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Honestly, not that I can remember.
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Thing. Singular. Then I would have to pick my wife’s rouladen. We have that for our Christmas dinner every year. I love it.
16. Have you ever actually eaten fruit cake? Sure. Often as a kid. Not so often as an adult. See, I really do learn as I grow!
17. Favorite Christmas song? Again with the singular! I’m pretty sure I can’t narrow it down to one song so I won’t even try. I’ll just say that I love Christmas music. I love the traditional songs such as Oh Holy Night and White Christmas. Plus I love some of the new stuff by The Roaches, Sara McLaughlin, and others. And I’m warning you, I love to sing along...which isn’t always a pretty thing.
18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? We’ve been at home for the holidays for a long time now.
19. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer?  Absolutely.
20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Angel on the real tree. When we use the artificial tree, a big red bow.
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Both. It works like this. When our kids were very young (in fact, when there was only “kid” without the “s”) we started letting them open one small give on Christmas Eve. We were trying to take the edge off cause he/they would be so excited about the whole thing we were afraid they were going to explode. So one gift the night before.....that we selected cause we wanted to make sure it was a small one....and then all the rest Christmas morning. That tradition is still continued today. And even though two of them are in their 20’s, they would get quite pouty if there was no Christmas Eve gift opening.
22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year?  People who just like to complain about things related to the holidays. Yes, there is more traffic and stores are busy. Relax. We’ll all get home for Christmas.
23. Favorite ornament theme or color? Oh that’s a tough one. If you were there as we decorated the tree, you would think about half of them are my favorites. I grab one to hang up and suddenly start reminiscing about when we bought it or what I remember about it. But if I have to choose a theme or color...I would have to say I love our more crafty/country style ornaments. The colored balls are fun...but I like the wooden ornaments best.
24. Favorite Christmas dinner? That rouladen I mentioned earlier with mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls, a good veggie. And a nice piece of pie for dessert.
25. What do you want for Christmas this year? Easy question! I’m am totally wanting to upgrade to an iPhone.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Things Happen That Surprise Me

My wife and I have been having a series of serious talks over the past week. Nothing serious about "us"...just exploring some topics that we both care deeply about. Some of it relates to our processing of grief, some to our spirituality, some to our beliefs about the relationship between pleasure and happiness. As we've gone through these discussions this week, we've both had some "ah ha" moments where we learned new things, came upon a new idea, or gained new perspective from the other.

But we did finish our last conversation late last night with still some questions remaining unanswered and some feelings still lingering without resolution.

Then we went to church this morning. It was a day where our minister had swapped pulpits with another minister in the state - he was at their church and she was at ours. And with a visiting minister, we walked in without any idea what the sermon would be about - no title on the web page, no summary in the monthly newsletter.

As she talked, we were both struck repeatedly by how the things she said related to our conversations. Over and over. We couldn't wait till we got out to the car to just look at each other and go "oh my god!" Several things said summarized some of our thoughts perfectly. Some of what she said expanded our ideas. And some of it gave us new ideas and thoughts that just helped pull it all together.

Coincidence? Synchronicity? Fate? Dumb luck?

I have no idea what really makes things like that happen. But when it does, I can feel myself reacting to the surprise and the pure joy of being in the moment with that kind of experience.