Chronicles and Reflection of This Holiday Season

I’m dreaming of a 75-degree, rain-soaked Christmas. Where the weather is, indeed, frightful, but the family is delightful. A Christmas filled with laughter and love and home-cooked ham. Where the gifts are many, but the spirit is more. A busy, busy Christmas that can make you exhausted in only the best of ways. Far-away family returns for a meal and a swapping of gifts, and children come to you with big hugs and bigger hearts. In this Christmas, families and friends are united, the days are merry, and the homes are ever-bright with both Christmas lights and thankfulness.

This was my Christmas. But before we can get there, the rest of the season has to preface. Christmas isn’t just a day to me – it’s a whole, month-long holiday season (as I briefly mention here) that starts with overwhelming love and thankfulness.

Home is Where the Christmas Trees Are

John Mark and I had a long Christmas, starting with decorating our little home (which may explain why I’ve been so quiet the past couple of weeks). I think it’s important for couples to start their own traditions after they marry because traditions can help them bond even during the busiest and most stressful times if they keep it up – that goes for anyone! Our first new tradition (which I hope will stick) was to buy a live Christmas tree, even though our apartment would probably be considered too minuscule for most people to house one, but we determined to make it work.

So, after I had sufficiently decorated the rest of the apartment, we set a day to drive down the road to the little Christmas tree lot we kept passing. When that day came, we got in the car after he came home from work, went to buy Christmas lights, and then drove to that Christmas tree lot. This is something I’ve only done once, so it was exciting to be able to pick out a live tree to put in my apartment. (A real tree! In my house! I’ll never be over it). We picked out a tree within our price-range that looked perfectly symmetrical and perfectly green and perfectly perfect in every way, and we brought it home. As soon as the tree hit the tree stand in our apartment, I was opening boxes of lights and ornaments, completely ready to go. I was finished decorating it by that night, and could not have been more proud of our first tree. Something about the twinkling lights giving off the only light in the room makes my heart happy.

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A Surprise Birthday Party and Other Shenanigans

We have a couple of birthdays in the family thrown in right before and right after Christmas, so we always take time to celebrate those, as well. John Mark’s is one of them. His comes a week before Christmas, and I was determined to celebrate. My friends and I threw him a “reverse surprise party.” This was a last-minute, thrown-together, completely hilarious little party that I would definitely repeat. While John Mark was at a Bible study (in the home we would be having the party), my friend Bess and I went to a few stores. Read: way too many stores for our time slot. We picked up ice cream, cupcakes, candles, helium balloons, party horns, and sports-themed hats. While she drove us back to her house with a very sleepy, unhappy baby in the back seat, I assembled 29 candles in the ice cream (yes, the ice cream), which is his favorite – Blue Bell Cookies ‘n’ Cream. Bess and I got to the house completely flustered and we told her husband and another friend we were there, and that they needed to come outside. As we were all outside getting ready, John Mark was watching the baby inside the house. So we donned our party hats and horns, clumsily walked to the front door, gathered like carolers, and rang the doorbell. It took him a minute, but eventually he opened the door, and we immediately started singing “Happy Birthday” to a very embarrassed and thankful John Mark, after which we made him put on a hat and blow out his candles.

Later in the week we went home to spend some quality time with our families, celebrate his birthday another time, watch a dear friend graduate from nursing school, then we came back here for his actual birthday. (Oh, you thought that already happened? Nah). That Sunday we went to worship services as usual, and I made him a cake before he opened his present from me. Which, by the way, was all six of the Star Wars movies that are already out.

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Here we are with hats and our friends’ baby boy.
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John Mark with the cake I made him

And So Christmas Begins

The next week we planned for Christmas. I had already bought and wrapped most of the presents, so I just had to get ready to leave (more about that here) and, because we were going to be staying for over a week with our families, we had to make sure all of our overnight plans for the week of Christmas were in order. We had picked a day out of this week to spend Christmas as a couple – something extremely important to me. We opened our gifts to each other that Thursday night by the light of our tree, and planned to do stockings the next morning. When we got up the next morning we both opened our stockings, which was very much like an extra Christmas morning and children excitedly chattering about Santa’s arrival.

A few hours later we were on the road to home once again! We split the time as evenly as possible with our parents and stayed part of the week with both. Our family Christmases didn’t start until Christmas Eve, but we spent some relaxing time with his family for the first few days. Once Christmas Eve hit, we were hit head-on with that that crazy-busy Christmas I described way up at the beginning.

Where do I start?

It was an odd Christmas this year. Most of the week we (mostly just me because I’m nervous about bad weather upon hearing it might come) watched the weather because of tornado warnings and heavy, heavy rain. We spent Christmas Eve with John Mark’s dad’s side of the family. We gathered for a meal and gifts, the next day was Christmas morning -there were three different celebrations that day: Christmas morning with my side’s immediate family, then my mom’s side (described here – scarily accurate again this year), then back to John Mark’s parents’ house for his immediate family. The next day we met his mom’s side of the family for a lunch get-together, and then went back to my parents’ house for my dad’s side of the family. Not only was Saturday Christmas on my dad’s side, it was also his birthday! We had a two-in-one Christmas and birthday party that night. He has a selfless heart, so he never likes to pair his birthday with Christmas – he just wants to let the family open presents without the attention on him, but we always have a cake and presents for him anyway. Are you dizzy yet? Me, too. In a wonderful, beautiful way.

I’ve always loved how just a simple meal can bring about the happiest of conversations and the best memories. It’s rarely about the food when we get together for holidays; it’s about the hearts and souls coming together to share love and light during a special time of year. We had family of all ages, and we enjoyed every bit of it. All of us different, but all united in purpose and love. I couldn’t help but sit back and be thankful for overwhelming amount of family we have. The word “overwhelming” takes on a different meaning when you change your mindset. So many people complain about how busy their holidays are because of how much family they have to see and how busy they’re going to be. Those things are true! I understand the stress. But once you realize that all of the “overwhelming” family is there out of love, you’ll think of it a little bit differently. I tried to take on a slowed down mindset and applied some of these principles even during the busiest of days because it’s the best kind of stress. It’s the kind that’s only harmful if you let it be harmful. I chose to sit back, soak it in, and let it be.

From Thanksgiving to Christmas, birthdays to holidays, it was beautifully busy. Now, it’s time to turn over a new leaf, and I wouldn’t have had the year end any other way.

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Merry Christmas and a happy new year from us to you!

 

 

 

It’s Probably Because of Nonnie

Here I am around five years old.

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It was cookie day at Nonnie’s. Every year, the week of Christmas, all of the grandchildren gathered at our grandparents’ house to bake cookies…or I should say, Christmas cookies. 🙂 We had fun rolling out the dough and tossing red and green sprinkles over the tops of sugar cookies. I don’t know about everyone else, but this was one of my very favorite parts of the holidays.

I mean, look at that face. I’m ready to completely plow you over if you come near my sprinkles or Christmas tree cookies. Not to mention, those red and green overalls and pigtails with matching ponytail holders (notice the white one has a gold star attached to it). I couldn’t get any more serious about baking if I tried.

I always say that my love for (read: obsession with) Christmas came from my Nonnie’s festiveness.

If you don’t know Nonnie, she’s a very small woman who has a big personality and an even bigger heart. She always manages to look fabulous – even if she’s wearing pajamas and a robe, shuffling around in her slippers. I think she even wore her slippers to my engagement party. Any less fabulous? I think not. Hats are her thing – if you sit behind her at church, you might need to scoot over because her hats are straight out of fashion magazines. Her wit is sharper than anyone else’s I know, so if you think she’s being serious, you’re probably wrong. She makes the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had and can make ice cream sandwiches into a sneaky whipped cream covered dessert casserole and no one will ever know it. She wears long sleeves in the summer because she’s always cold, and needless to say, she rocks that look. She eats ice cream or oatmeal almost every day, and you’ll never leave her house empty-handed.

And Nonnie loves Christmas.

Usually, by the beginning of December, holiday cheer is starting to envelop her house. She fills almost every room with Christmas trees, wreaths, candles, reindeer, little Christmas villages, bows, and Santas. When I say filled, I mean exactly that. Her table is decked out with Christmas china and German blown-glass trees. You know “Deck the Halls”? I think it was written about her house.

When I lived at home, my brother and I used to help her decorate her tree. By decorate, I mean “hang the ornaments evenly on every branch so that they dangle perfectly, reflect each tiny lightbulb with all of their might, and fill the inner depths of the tree with all the joy you have. And then place the Santa on top.”  There’s never a naked branch to be found or a bare spot under the tree. It looks like a Hallmark Christmas card that pictures don’t do justice. Let me give you a visual from an old phone camera:

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Now, she doesn’t stop with extraordinary tree decorating. Oh, no. It doesn’t stop there. Nonnie probably has 100 collectible Santas lined across tabletops all over the house. If you visit her at Christmas-time and comment on her Santas, she will, without a doubt, show you the first Santa she ever had. This is the one that’s fading to orange and looks more loved than all the others. She’ll press a button and make battery-powered Santas sing and dance to Christmas songs, and she’ll sing and dance right along with him – probably one of the most adorable things I’ve ever seen, continuing right on to Christmas day, when she never fails to wear a giant, glittery gift bow on her head, looking like a flapper in the 20’s. Remember what I said about her fabulous style?

She means business.
She means business.

And all of this comes in a whirlwhind the day after Thanksgiving. She turns on 96.9, the local radio station back home, and she gets excited. She knows the words to all of the songs and isn’t ashamed to sing or make us sing too (especially “The 12 Days of Christmas,” which used to be a terrifying, put-you-on-the-spot Christmas day tradition for the family). Since last Christmas, Nonnie has had a little dog. This year I don’t doubt sweaters will be involved – quite possibly even bells.

Most importantly, Nonnie loves to give and she loves her family. Her generous, hospitable spirit is probably what makes Christmas so wonderful for her. Even to this day, she makes Christmas goodies and takes them to her neighbors. Not a Christmas goes by (or a regular day for that matter) that she doesn’t think about someone else.

Two years ago, Christmas day
Two years ago, Christmas day

So, yeah, it’s November 6th. “It’s not even Thanksgiving yet,” says everyone. But I’m gonna listen to the Michael Buble Christmas album, watch those Christmas movies, and I’m gonna get excited.

It’s probably because of Nonnie.