I'm a lover of words, coffee and tequila. Lucky to be living my happily ever after as a wife and mom to two sweet kiddos and one crazy dog.

Oh Christmas Tree

It took us only a few minutes to pick out our Christmas tree this year. 
We spotted it, displayed on the lot, and told the volunteer that we wanted one that “looked sort of like that”. Within minutes, that exact tree was loaded into the small blue pickup truck of the most ancient veterans hall volunteer (his name was Ed and he was completely adorable) and we were being followed home by our Christmas tree, in stunned silence. Grace had only just started to complain about being cold and I had braced myself for the incessant circling of the lot, examining the same handful of trees over and over and over to find the PERFECT one—this is the procedure for Christmas tree procurement that has been engrained in me since childhood.

It is a beautiful tree. It is round and full and entirely too fat for our living room. I dutifully untangled all the strings of lights and tested each of them, except for one (which was, of course, the string which lay directly in the middle of the tree and stubbornly refused to light). I worked up a sweat trying to wind the lights around just so, my short t-rex arms putting me at a distinct disadvantage for the task. I heard a rare and twisting hint of annoyance in Shawn’s voice as we positioned, and then re-positioned lights and I stepped back many times to decide if it looked okay.

I snapped at Grace when she accidently broke a silly plastic Big Bird ornament that I was given on Christmas morning when I was probably just her age. I muttered under my breath as I moved all of her ornaments to where I wanted them, hovered over her incessantly with each new one she picked up. I was playing the requisite Christmas music with our fireplace turned on and had to use every bit of self control not to sigh loudly (I settled on a pointed eye roll that went entirely unnoticed) when I realized that football was on the TV--muted at least, out of respect for my inflexible idea of holiday tradition.

As it turns out, I mostly decorated the entire tree all by myself. By the end I was exhausted, with my hand kneading the small of my back and rivulets of sweat trickling down my neck. Grace was off pouting or playing by herself and Shawn was positioned on the couch, pretending not to watch the muted football games. Not exactly the magical Hallmark holiday moment I had envisioned.

But as I stared at the tree, lights spaced just so, ornaments dating back to my childhood and Grace’s infancy twinkling back at me, my eyes began to fill with tears. It had suddenly and sneakily occurred to me that this was the very first real Christmas tree we had gotten since it had just been Grace and I.

In the years before, it just hadn’t made sense to go through the hoopla of getting a real tree. Mostly, I didn’t want to shoulder the expense for something I was going to just drag out onto the curb after a few weeks. And although I’m sure if I had asked I would’ve gotten plenty of offers for help- I didn’t have the requisite muscles or an appropriate vehicle to bring a real tree home with. And asking for help wasn't exactly a strength of mine. I wanted to do it all. All by myself. 

So we settled for a hand-me-down artificial tree, our very own Charlie Brown version. It was missing branches and required an absurd amount of string, tacks and Christmas magic to stay upright. I decorated it alone, put it away alone and most often left it sitting in the corner of our living room well into January. But, it was ours. 

There is value in the process. The path that led us through, from our sad sweet fake tree to this comically rotund one which is currently distributing pine needles all over our living room floor. The annoyance of being so particular that I needed my tree to be just so, frustration at re-doing a 5 year old's haphazard decorations-- only to step back and be physically overwhelmed by the beauty of the end result. 

The last few Christmases have been as wonderful, as deliriously exhausting but this one- this one is different somehow. It is bittersweet- the first without the steadfast and solid presence of my grandfather, but with so many new memories to grasp hold of and cherish. 2014 has been like this for me, the gnawing ache of loss jockeying for a position next to unspeakable amounts of happiness. 

This year, I fell in love so seamlessly and effortlessly that it actually surprised me when the realization hit that it had happened. Standing watching Grace's first t-ball practice, an event that I was told Shawn wouldn't make it to (but in true-to-him fashion he arrived before me and was keeping my mom company when I got there)- a simple kiss on the top of my head and suddenly and certainly, I knew. Without my consent and without much thought- I was done for. 

I left a job where I had made wonderful friendships and relationships with children and parents that I still miss terribly. I jumped with both feet out of my comfort zone and into a job that challenges my mind and my heart every single day. 

I made a wonderfully terrifying choice to move and in doing so merge G & I's lives with Shawn's, trusting my heart and my gut, learning to share and to accept help and to realize that I don't actually have to do everything on my own. I've watched the two of them fall even more in love with each other as a result and that is the greatest gift I could have imagined receiving. I didn't think it was possible for me to have someone in my life who would love her as much as I do, as intrinsically and as right down to my marrow but- surprised again. With every kitchen dance party, with every minute spent reviewing homework or rehearsing corny play-on-word jokes to tell me…just like the Grinch, my heart grows two whole sizes and often feels like it just might explode.

As some of my relationships have shifted and even almost fallen apart, I have been blessed with a whole slew of new and re-newed relationships- with my family, with friends. The loss of my grandfather was the most difficult thing I have ever been faced with, but it has left me with many gifts and as ridiculous as it may sound, I hold him responsible for a great deal of my current happiness. 

So this year,  I'm going to try my hardest to remember to enjoy the process-- even when it's infuriating or seems bleak or pointless. Because I've learned you just may be surprised at exactly where you end up.

Happy 6th Birthday Gracie girl...

Growing Pains