Goodbye, Christmas and 2018

I was enjoying our Christmas tree in the dark of early morning, thinking that it’s a lot like me right now:  getting old, a little crooked, but still standing.  That tree has been with us since our first year of marriage, and stood in six different living rooms in six different towns.  It still seems to be ready for a few more Christmases.

I’m not entirely sure I’m ready for a few more Christmases like this last one.  It ended up as an article published at No Sidebar; you can read it here.

I’ll be enjoying our tree for a few more days.  I’ve left behind the must clean out Christmas by New Year’s! that I grew up with….especially once I realized it’s a lot easier to enjoy the Christmas pretties once the chaos of the season is over!

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Christmas, slightly excessive

We’ve been watching The Great Christmas Light Fight on television this season.  It reminded me of this post, which I had to share again.

Originally published December 24, 2013:

Last night we drove around neighborhoods to look at Christmas lights, something the kids ask to do every year. Over our five years in this house we’ve discovered a few good streets, a few great streets, and what my children refer to as “the inflatable house.” (Every time they say it, I have visions of a puffy home floating in the sky above their neighbors.) This is the place that has dozens upon dozens of inflatables in their yard, on their roof, in their driveway, and–the crowning glory–a perpetual DVD loop of the movie Happy Feet projected on the front of their house. You can actually get out and walk through their yard, though the weather has been so bad when we’ve gone we’ve never braved it.

In our last house, we lived next door to a couple who really decorated for Christmas. While they weren’t quite the place that people drove for miles to see each year, they did have a yard full of goodies. When my oldest was a toddler, he would plant himself at the dining room window, peering out across our dark lawn to all the lights next door; at that point, their light-up train (with “moving” wheels!) was a special draw. Once, when my older daughter was around two, I stood in the driveway with both my kiddos and watched them set up for awhile.

As I stood looking at their display I counted no fewer than twenty-one light-up objects in their yard, ranging from elves, polar bears, reindeer, and a toy soldier, to the aforementioned train. Also in this total count were inflatables, including a snow globe with actual blowing “snow.” Not included in this count were the dozens of strings of lights; some of which, as we watched, they were hanging in a tree.

The wife was standing on the ground, watching her husband perched atop a ladder; lights in one hand, pole in another. He was focused, working with great intensity on creating glowing perfection. She would occasionally call up helpful comments and observations. My absolute favorite (note: for full effect, this must be said with a slight southern drawl):

“Now, Rick, make sure none of the bulbs are burnt out…that’s just tacky.”

Years later, it still makes me laugh.

Unplugging

It was around Halloween that I realized what I was doing.

Each time I’d see a little uplifting reminder float by on my Facebook feed….

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I’d always finish it with, “….but you could get off your phone and do some of it.”

Because truly, sometimes it’s not an unreasonable to-do list or the busyness of a certain season.  Sometimes, it’s just me being lazy.

I finally decided to do something about it.

The first baby-step was to deleting the two real estate apps off my phone.  We have no intention of moving, and if a house pops up for sale “that I’ve always wondered what it looks like inside,” I can get on the computer.  No more mindlessly scrolling through houses and suddenly realizing an hour has gone by:  check.

The next step was scheduling an email check into my morning routine…on my laptop.  I suddenly had a new goal of not being on my phone in the early morning, at all.  Was that even possible?  All I knew was that I didn’t want my four-year-old to grow up seeing me glued to my phone…..and I wanted to see my four-year-old grow up.

Next up:  not faithfully keeping up with reading blogs.  No more daily check-ins (though occasionally reading is definitely still happening).  It occurred to me recently that I’m not trying to build a brand, launch a product, sell an item or make a name…..so why on earth do I feel a strange sense of obligation to keep up with this?  No more.

The last step was deleting the Facebook app.  I’d already made a decision, after an exceptionally good Halloween, that I wanted to take another break from Facebook; I wanted to enjoy the holiday season we were having instead of constantly being bombarded with other ideas and wondering if we should be doing things differently. This fall and winter have been so different from last year, as my son continues to climb out of depression.  I want to enjoy it!  I want to savor this time, not compare it to someone else’s holiday–or not even be truly present for it in the first place.  Bye-bye, FB.

My mom and I had a conversation not that long ago about how technology has gone from a blessing to a nuisance.  While I don’t want to get rid of the internet, I think the line that got crossed awhile back–that “smartphone” line–has turned something wonderful into something awful.  I can objectively see the benefits of the internet.  Right now, it’s hard for me to see the good in a smartphone.

Rant over.

Hey, remember….?

You know those holidays that end up being the extra-memorable ones?  Not necessarily for a good reason (though it can be).

Remember that Christmas that you got exactly what you wanted, and announced “Mama!  Dreams really do come true!”?

Remember that Halloween when you dressed up as bacon and totally stole the show?

Our Fourth of July “remember,” up until now, has been remember the year boy threw up that hot dog at midnight?  (Totally my fault–I insisted he get some protein in him before he gorged himself on desserts.  I guess the desserts might have had something to do with it, too.)

We nearly had a new one:  Remember the Fourth of July we got locked out of the house?

It started weeks ago, with me driving home from the Mazda dealership after having some recall work done.  About halfway home on the peaceful, quiet, kid-free drive, I realized with a jolt that the garage door opener wasn’t where it usually sat.  I wasn’t worried yet–just figured they’d thrown it in the glove compartment or cubby between the seats.

Nope.  Once I got home (and had my husband open the garage door) I did a thorough search.  It was officially nowhere.  Nowhere.

I called the dealership, and after some conferring amongst themselves, they came to the conclusion that it had probably fallen into the center console.  It was, literally, IN my car, unreachable until we took it back in so they could retrieve it.  Did I want to schedule an appointment?

Ahem.  No.  The car left town the next day, and the opener was unnecessary, while I trucked my kids around in my husband’s car.  Home a few days and then he left again–with a different kid–and again, the opener wasn’t even missed.

Then the car did come home to stay, and we developed a kind of do-si-do dance when leaving the house:  open both doors, drive my car out one, have a passenger put down my door while leaving out the other, then using my husband’s garage door opener to close his door.  Ridiculous, right?  But we did it for days, since I hadn’t yet gotten the car in.

Then it’s the Fourth of July.  The lawn chairs are loaded, treats are loaded, the kids are loaded, and we’re finally ready to drive to fireworks.  My husband pulls the car out and my son offers to put down the garage door–he enjoys showing off his mad skills at avoiding the trigger that makes the door bounce back up.  So instead of having the second door open, he simply runs out the first (as it rolls down threateningly, Indiana Jones boulder-style).

And then we realize we don’t have the other garage door opener.

Nor do we have any keys to the house (because, after all, who carries keys to the house?  We always go in the garage.).  Ugh.

My husband and I discuss our possibilities (admittedly few).  Are we going to break a window?  We’re not calling a locksmith after hours AND on a holiday.  Call my parents?  Not on the Fourth–they’re busy with friends.

Now what?

My husband and son took a tour around the house, testing windows (yep, they’re locked) and trying to establish which would be easiest to break and get someone into (we discovered those aren’t necessarily the same thing).  I hugged my 11-year-old, who was tearing up at the disaster the night was turning into, and encouraged the youngest to go catch fireflies while we waited.  Did I mention ugh?

The guys came back with information I pretty much knew already:  that this really wasn’t going to be pretty.  I was sitting sideways in the passenger side of my car with the door open, overwhelmingly frustrated, knowing that it was so ridiculous that the stupid opener was right here and yet wasn’t.

Then my frustration turned to irritation (it’s right here, for crying out loud!) and I remembered that the panel under the glove compartment was kind of loose from the work they’d done.  So I yanked it off all the way and did a quick scan.  Not there.

Then–as a testament to how completely fed up I really was–I felt around the edges of the trim on the center console and found an spot to grab on, and ripped the panel off the console, Mama-Hulk style.  (I think the kids were slightly horrified at this point.  My husband knew exactly what was going on.)

Inside the console was an abyss of wires and darkness, but the flashlight on my phone revealed exactly what I came for:  there was the garage door opener.  Disaster averted.  Evening back on track.  And now we didn’t have to go back to the dealership.  😉

There was a very loud victory dance in the driveway–the kids really were horrified at that.  But we turned the memory from “Remember the Fourth when we got locked out?” to “Remember the Fourth when Mom ripped her car apart?”  I’ll take it.

 

Why I left Facebook

Last Thanksgiving I decided I was pulling the plug on Facebook for awhile.  The holidays were underway and I thought, for my own sanity’s sake, that I didn’t really want to see all the picture-perfect photos of everyone’s picture-perfect celebrations when there were still occasional days in our house where my child’s depression won, and everyone would fall apart, like a domino run, one after the other.  Obviously, the election played a part in my decision, too, but at the time my choice was less politically motivated and more out of self-care.  I had enough on my plate without having my nose rubbed in everyone else’s apparent happiness.  Our days were improving, and I wanted to enjoy that to the fullest, instead of getting pulled into the comparison trap.

I still logged in once each morning to clean up notifications and to check the “Your Memories on Facebook” page.  As a homeschooling mama, I belong to a ridiculous number of groups, who are always hosting a ridiculous number of events; I did feel the need to check in occasionally there.  And as someone who tends to use FB to chronicle the fairly mundane day-to-day life taking place under our roof, the memories were wonderful to look through and laugh at and sometimes share with the kids (and to remind myself that happiness wasn’t always this tenuous).

No news feed.  No sorting by most recent.  No so-and-so liked this or so-and-so shared this or random ads for….why would you think I’d want an ad for this?

Can I tell you something?  It’s been really pleasant.

Fast-forward to now, about three months later.  As I’m reading in Psalms, I come across verse 14 in Psalm 34:  “Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.”  I stopped to really consider those words, and it occurred to me that they summed up what had been happening over this past accumulation of weeks.

Depart from evil.  No, I’m not saying Facebook is evil.  But the feelings that get stirred up in me, from the political posts or the comments or the “shares” that haven’t been fact-checked; or the envy that crops up when I see someone else doing or getting something wonderful…..those feelings can be pretty ugly.  And I’ve been gradually leaving those behind.

Do good.  Guess what?  When you aren’t sitting and scrolling through your news feed constantly, you can get more done.  Add that to how much better I feel since I’ve left, and more of what is “getting done” is full of good.  (Please also note:  “getting done,” with a three-year-old in the house, sometimes looks like “playing kitty dollhouse.” That’s allowed.  I’m not talking about business productivity here.)

Seek peace and pursue it.  That’s exactly why I left in the first place.  Facebook did nothing to help my peace.  All it did, in various ways, was stir up stress and anxiousness in me.  It’s not in the business of creating peace; that’s not its job.  (Now, that’s an interesting question: what exactly is its job?)  Turning away from it has helped increase my peace dramatically, and allowed me to pursue things that contribute to peace even more.

Let’s be honest….now more than ever we are a people in need of peace.

 

 

Merry Christmas!

We sing the songs every year. We know them all by heart. But do we ever really think about the words anymore?

God and sinners reconciled.

The glories of His righteousness and wonders of his love.

The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.

Let every heart prepare him room.

I add to that words I discovered today:

…he came from heaven to earth that he might send us from earth to heaven. –W. Dyer, from a selection in The 25 Days of Christmas

May these words be real to you today!

…and Christmas, slightly excessive

Last night we drove around neighborhoods to look at Christmas lights, something the kids ask to do every year. Over our five years in this house we’ve discovered a few good streets, a few great streets, and what my children refer to as “the inflatable house.” (Every time they say it, I have visions of a puffy home floating in the sky above their neighbors.) This is the place that has dozens upon dozens of inflatables in their yard, on their roof, in their driveway, and–the crowning glory–a perpetual DVD loop of the movie Happy Feet projected on the front of their house. You can actually get out and walk through their yard, though the weather has been so bad when we’ve gone we’ve never braved it.

In our last house, we lived next door to a couple who really decorated for Christmas. While they weren’t quite the place that people drove for miles to see each year, they did have a yard full of goodies. When my oldest was a toddler, he would plant himself at the dining room window, peering out across our dark lawn to all the lights next door; at that point, their light-up train (with “moving” wheels!) was a special draw. Once, when my older daughter was around two, I stood in the driveway with both my kiddos and watched them set up for awhile.

As I stood looking at their display I counted no fewer than twenty-one light-up objects in their yard, ranging from elves, polar bears, reindeer, and a toy soldier, to the aforementioned train. Also in this total count were inflatables, including a snow globe with actual blowing “snow.” Not included in this count were the dozens of strings of lights; some of which, as we watched, they were hanging in a tree.

The wife was standing on the ground, watching her husband perched atop a ladder; lights in one hand, pole in another. He was focused, working with great intensity on creating glowing perfection. She would occasionally call up helpful comments and observations. My absolute favorite (note: for full effect, this must be said with a slight southern drawl):

“Now, Rick, make sure none of the bulbs are burnt out…that’s just tacky.”

Years later, it still makes me laugh.