I’m a sucker for the Christmas season. Always have been. Don’t know if it’s the deluded optimism the holiday thrusts upon us, or just a strange affinity for otherwise maudlin songs dressed up as cheerful seasonal chestnuts. I mean, let’s be honest, at any other time of year, who would actually listen wistfully to a yawner like “The Little Drummer Boy”?
Whatever it is, I have always ensured that my family gets into the holiday spirit, starting with finding the perfect Christmas tree.
When I was a kid, the search for the ultimate yuletide tree took us to the nearest gas station: hardly a romantic venue from which to choose the centerpiece of our holiday decor. We’d pile into the station wagon for the three-block drive to Buck’s Esso station, spill out onto the oil-slicked parking lot, mull over three or four already-netted spruce trees, and then dad would haggle down the price. End of story.
Ah, so I was determined to rewrite that tradition with my own family. Early in my marriage, we decided the most festive tree-acquisition could only be achieved by cutting down our own (plus you get the added benefit of the needles actually staying on the tree all month rather than littering the floor). Because we lived in citified Northern Virginia, the cachet of escaping to the “country”–i.e. the closest remaining patch of farmland untainted by greedy developers–only added to the allure.
But one year, I found myself almost wishing for the chance to just pop down to the local gas station to buy a tree…
That year, my husband and our three children, all under the age of four, trekked to the Clifton Christmas Tree Farm, where awaiting us were candy canes, hot chocolate, homemade wreaths and the typical abundance of forced holiday cheer that we craved.
I had whipped my kids into a tree-chopping frenzy, and so they took their task quite seriously. For forty minutes, we foraged throughout the whopping half-acre “farm” until we found the perfect tree: seven feet of holiday splendor, as wide as it was tall, perfect to fill our cathedral-ceiling’ed living room and flood us with the Christmas spirit.
The kids took turns on the ground with the saw while my husband supervised the chopping honors. Their excitement was palpable. We dragged the tree back to the cashier stand where the farmer’s son coiled the netting around our white pine. The kids stood by, sucking on candy canes, sipping hot cider and petting the farmer’s dog, who’d recently wandered over. I was just about to retrieve the car to load on the tree, when Fido lifted his leg.
“Noooooo!” I shouted in what seemed like a frame-by-frame slow motion, as a steady stream was released onto our perfect tree.
For a moment we stood stupefied, not knowing what to do. But we weren’t about to keep a tree covered in dog wee, so we grabbed the kids’ hands to head back into the wilds to hunt for a replacement one.
Until our kids let us know in no uncertain terms, that this tree was the one, the only. They threw themselves on the ground, flailing and crying, thrashing and moaning, like something from a Greek tragedy. They wanted their special tree, and nothing else would suffice.
Their wails did not subside until we relented, and agreed to load up the tainted tree.
The farmer found a makeshift bucket, filled it from a nearby stream and doused the offending urine from the tree. We loaded it onto the roof of the car, and went home.
I have admit, I sort of detached emotionally from the tree that year. Couldn’t quite get over the psychological hurdle of having a tree the dog peed on in my living room. Somehow it clashed with the whole festive notion.
But for my kids, the tree was just about perfect, despite its incumbent flaws. And maybe that’s exactly why I like the holidays so much: because at this time of year, we’re all a little more likely to forgive the small things in order to see the bigger picture.
Here’s this year’s tree–note the nativity scene underneath it is Mary and Joseph (and Rudolph) made from toilet paper rolls, baby Jesus is a clothespin. My son made them in pre-school ;-).
I have mixed feelings about resolutions. I mean when it gets down to it, they seem like a self-flagellating set-up for failure (by the way, I was going to post a picture of self-flagellation just for a laugh, but all the pictures I found were absolutely gross!). As if something miraculous happens at the stroke of midnight that means all of a sudden you’re going to eliminate sugar while binging on kale, exercise two hours a day, write masterpieces and publish them at a rate of one per month, master the fine art of marketing, and oh, while you’re at it, make world peace a reality.
Yeah, I’ll get right on that.
I know some folks who are serious goal-setters, with annotated bucket lists (I really do not love the whole bucket list concept—it feels really trite to me), but if it works for them, good on ’em. I know one gal who is a bucket lister-extraordinaire: somewhere hovering around # 70 was this bold ambition: go to medical school. Well, last spring, at the age of 54, she completed her undergraduate degree, and now, at age 55, is enrolled in medical school. I can’t tell you how impressive I think this is–I mean, damn, what an undertaking. While the rest of us are lamenting hot flashes and praying to God for an early retirement, she has undertaken a whopping commitment that will have her busting her ass (and never sleeping, though maybe she’s maximizing the downsides to hot flashing all night)) well into her 60’s—and that’s before she even ends her training. WOW! That is A-MAZING to me. That said, she’s left teenaged kids home with her husband, which is something I could never do. Although what a cool example to set for your kids. But then again, you only have your kids with you for such a short period, it would break my heart to leave them behind like that. But that’s just me.
Okay so on to my resolutions. I do have writing goals that I am determined to achieve, and I do believe it helps to write them down, not only to just have it there in black and white, but to help you see it and remind yourself of it and even, if you’re lucky, tick off some of those achievements when they occur (usually a few years later).
Now’s time for you to laugh. I just took a look at my 2016 Goals for Writing (which I’d forgotten to look at since I wrote it a month ago). Top of the list?
- Organize my life
Well, crap. So far, not so good on that one. Believe me, if/when I achieve this one, I’ll let y’all know.
the rest are in no particular order, and I’d just like you all to light a candle or two on my behalf if you have it in your heart that maybe I can get through these this year:
2. Master Facebook ads (i.e. listen to, then apply my 50-hour tutorial on FB ads)
3. Build mailing list
4. Write lots more books (haha, don’t ya like how I didn’t write a number. Though I’ve got 5 slated to publish and in my fantasies I’d write at least 3 more. Operative word being “fantasies”. Perhaps this is how I maximize that failure to sleep that menopause imposes on us at this age.
5. Have books made into audio books (this will be when the money starts falling from trees, or when I master Facebook ads, whichever comes first)
6. Have books translated into German (see #5 as far as realistic goal)
7. Make bestsellers lists.
So there you have it. I have my work cut out for me. And as I scramble to meet my deadline with a book to my editor by January 30, again, I will put it out there that I wouldn’t turn it down if you all wanted to light a candle for me to actually get it all together.
And if I don’t? Well, there’s always 2017…
Oh hey! I accomplished something I forgot to write down. It was really an overlap from 2015 but it happened, so yay me: I overhauled my website, and it just got finalized last week. Feel free to check it out and tell me what you think! https://www.jennygardiner.net (now wish me luck with maintaining it, technophobe that I am…).
While you’re over there, I’ve got an awesome free book for you if you sign up for my newsletter: Something in the Heir, book 1 of my It’s Reigning Men series! Sign up here http://eepurl.com/baaewn and you’ll be first to hear about deals and giveaways.