The Art of De-Christmasing

Christmas has been buried at our house. The tree is at the end of the driveway, awaiting the hearse. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Christmas has been buried at our house. The tree is at the end of the driveway, awaiting the hearse. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Over the years my enthusiasm for full-blown Christmas displays has declined. This year was the simplest one yet. We did not have a big party as we have in years past. We put up a tree and decorated it with white lights and beloved ornaments, including a new one bearing the likeness of our new miniature dachshund. While we have at least a dozen cottages, mansions and stores in our porcelain Christmas village, and dozens more miniature people and street lamps, this year we just put out a few.

That made it very easy to de-Christmas this year. Yesterday my mom and I listened to Andrea Boccelli sing Christmas songs one last time as we took the ornaments off the tree. Then my husband and I dragged the tree out the back door like a dead body – think Scarlett and Melanie dragging the Yankee soldier – as it left a trail of dehydrated needles. It seems like a heartbeat ago that we were picking it out at the garden center — as always, debating the merits of balsam vs. frazer — and the kids were decorating it with ornaments that date back decades. Now it sits forlornly at the end of the driveway, stripped of its baubles like a bankrupt debutante, waiting for the Boy Scouts to pick it up Saturday. But I am ready for a fresh start.

The house has been cleaned top to bottom; the white candles, porcelain Santas and Christmas villages packed away in plastic tubs; and everything looks as fresh and pristine as the snow outside our windows. The hubbub of Christmas is over and the social calendar is clear until Super Bowl Sunday.

While I know better now than to make resolutions I can’t keep, this quiet time of year allows for some introspection. Here are some of the things I hope to do better in 2013.

  • Listen more, instead of chomping at the bit to jump in with my own observations.
  • Be less petty. Try to see the good in people. Be less cynical.
  • Eat better. I’m trying to recover from binging on holiday cookies and hors d’ oeuvres but it’s tough not to want hearty stews, casseroles, tuscan bread and noodle soups.
  • Make more time for friends and family who really need me. Be less self-centered and more tuned in to what others need.
  • Take piano lessons so that I can get out of my playing rut and reverse longstanding bad habits.
  • Resume Rosetta Stone sessions in Spanish
  • Write more often, and post more blogs
  • Enjoy the inspiring posts of my terrific blogging friends

Happy New Year to all my readers!!!

You Say You Want a Resolution? Start Taking Your Own Advice

Happy New Year to all of my readers! Please disregard the nagging nature of this headline. It’s directed not to you but to me. But if you have the bad habit of trying to get others to break the bad habits that you share with them (maybe unbeknownst even to you!) then please read on ☺

Yesterday we packed up all the Christmas stuff, stripped the tree of ornaments and dragged it outside, leaving a path of needles along the way. The house looks bare now, with the garland off the mantels and the Christmas village and electric candles packed away. All of the photos and knick-knacks that previously filled end tables and shelves had been put away to make way for the holiday décor; now I have to remember where I stashed them and contemplate which ones I want to put back.

New Years is traditionally a time to examine our longstanding habits and attitudes and decide which ones are worth keeping. The holidays, with their emphasis on family, kind deeds and merriment, are a welcome distraction from the work of introspection. But the now-empty mantels and shelves are a reminder that I can make a change if I really want it. The pictures that stood there throughout all of 2011 (indeed, I don’t think I’ve moved them since 2007) don’t have to go back to the same place. Lightning won’t strike if I move them to another place, update them or keep them in the closet.

So which habits and attitudes would I like to retire? I’ll tell you: the very same ones that I lecture my loved ones about all the time. Here are a few lectures that I have given others but should play back to myself.

“Make things happen for yourself.”
My daughter Rachel moved to California without knowing anyone, found roommates and a fulltime job, then another better job. And here I sit, worrying about whether I will ever write professionally again because the holidays were a slow time. Time to start brainstorming for ideas and to stop fretting about where I filed my Mojo.

“Get all your hardest work done when you are most alert.”
John has awoken at 5:45 a.m. to tackle the 7th grade algebra problems leftover from the night before. So why was I playing Words With Friends at 7 a.m. today?

“Eat something healthy if you want a snack, especially in late afternoon.”
It’s 4 p.m. Where are the pretzel nuggets?

“You’re incredibly smart, but try to remember to listen.”
Listening is integral to being a good spouse, parent or friend. Why can’t I do it that well? I sometimes pressure myself to dispense advice, when really just lending a friendly ear is enough.

“Get out of your comfort zone sometimes.”
This is especially hard for me since I like things to be somewhat predictable and tend to attempt something only if I am reasonably sure it plays to my strengths.

“Get some exercise outside and you’ll feel better.”
But only if the temperature is between 40 and 75.

“Be a friend and you will have friends.”
How many times do we sense that a friend needs companionship – which they often don’t ask for – and we are too busy or preoccupied to offer it?

“Believe in yourself.”
Sometimes following your inner voice is the most challenging task of all. Technology makes it easier to be confused by a growing barrage of updates, tweets and alerts from people who spend a lot of time making themselves look brilliant, witty and successful, even when they are not. You DO measure up.

One more resolution: be willing to make a big mess in order to do something creative! I tend to be anal in the kitchen, preparing everything in advance so that I can look effortlessly in control when my guests arrive. But on New Years Day our friend Linda brought the fixings for some deliciously messy “lumpia” (Indonesian egg rolls) to our home. We rolled them, laughing heartily at how bad my lumpia looked compared to others. Then we deep fried them and enjoyed them with Indonesian dressing. Worth every grease spatter!