Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy 2012

We had a good Christmas.  Not our best, but pretty good.  The boys were sick, so we were all very tired and a little grumpy, but I am thankful we were able to celebrate together.  I know holidays can be stressful and that we sometimes aren't able to celebrate the way we would want, but I hope everyone had some good times and made some good memories and got at least one gift that was pretty great (or that you got gift receipts or gift cards and can end up with something pretty great).

2011 was kind of a strange year. I'm not going to do a recap of it, nor am I going to outline all my hopes and dreams for 2012.  I think I'll just try to leave it as it was and take the next it as it comes.  It would be great if there were less war, less hate, less discord, less hunger, and less sadness and if there were more peace, more respect, more love, more generosity, more opportunity, and more compassion.  For the most part, these seem to be pipe dreams, but I hope we will all do what we can to discourage the former things and contribute to the latter.

That said, I'll wish everyone a wonderful New Year's Eve with people you care about and a very happy and prosperous New Year!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Tinsel

Although Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, I have always loved Christmas.  Not just the presents, but the decorations and the music and the lights and the traditions.  All of it.  I loved getting to stay up late when I was little to watch Christmas movies.  I loved candlelight service at church, when I got to hold a real, lit candle.  I loved playing with my sisters and moving around the figurines of the old nativity set my parents had.  I loved lying on the floor under the Christmas tree and looking up at the lights and the ornaments.  And, of course, I loved the anticipation of Christmas morning.

Wednesday we had a family movie night and watched Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer.  When the song "Silver and Gold" came on, Ryan asked me if we ever put tinsel on our tree growing up.  My parents never had tinsel, but it reminded me of a memory I hadn't thought about in a long time: trimming the tree with my sisters at our grandparents' house.

We spent a lot of time at their house growing up, as my mother often helped my grandpa (or "Pap" as all the grand-kids called him) care for my grandma. Even when Mom wasn't there helping, my sisters and I slept over regularly, sharing the pull-out bed of the hideous orange and yellow floral sofa.  We would wear Pap's t-shirts as nightgowns and he would sing to us old hymns like "When the Roll is Called Up Yonder" and "Old Rugged Cross" as he tucked us in.

It was always fun to stay over, but we especially looked forward to December when we got to help decorate their tree.  We would follow him down the narrow steps to the basement, and help gather the pieces of the world's first artificial tree to drag back up the stairs.  Okay, so it wasn't the actual first artificial tree, but probably close to it.  It smelled a little musty from its home in the basement and you could see the twisted, metal wire of the pieces showing between the matted "needles."  Once assembled, it had a strange, alien quality, with the unwieldy branches curling up at strange angles.

None of that mattered to us.  We loved digging through the ornament boxes and hanging up the strange shaped glass Santa faces or birds with colorful feathers.  Best of all, we were allowed to put colored lights on it.  But not just colored lights.  The ones that blinked!  It was only white lights and sentimental ornaments at our house, so this was quite a treat.  And they let us use tinsel.  I think more of it probably ended up on the floor and in our hair and static-clinging to our clothes than where it actually belonged, but we loved playing with it and adding it to the tree.  How pretty it looked reflecting the colored lights!

Regardless of how tacky this all seems to me as I'm writing it, in my mind's eye I can still see how beautiful and magical it was to us at the time.  I loved driving up to their house and seeing that tree blinking in the front window.  I'm sure we loved rearranging the ornaments every time we went over.  But my favorite part was snuggling up on the couch bed with my sisters and falling asleep in that tree's beautiful glow.

Merry Christmas everyone.  I hope your celebrations are full of love and laughter and cherished memories.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

At Least

I am not one of those ├╝ber-positive people.  I am a realist.  I'm not always trying to look on the bright side, nor do I think it is necessary to try in vain to find a silver lining in a situation that, quite frankly, sucks.  Sometimes things are crappy.  That is part of life.  I think that acknowledging this fact can help us appreciate the truly great things in life.  There are wonderful experiences out there.  I don't think we need to cheapen them by pretending that bad things are actually good.  Just let things be what they are and try to deal with them in the best way you can.

I also don't think it is very helpful to try to make oneself feel better by comparing situations with those even less fortunate or going through an even worse situation.  I know I've blogged about that before, but today I think it's worth repeating.  The people I know who are in really bad situations or who are going through a really tough time?  I feel terrible for them and would give almost anything to make things better for them.  I'm not going to try to use their pain to make myself feel better.  That is just sad.

Why all this rambling?  Well, today we officially became a one car family.  The eleven-year-old car we've used as our commuter car has finally broken down to the point that we cannot justify sinking any more money into it.  We've put about $1000 into it in the past six months, $600 of that this week.  The shop put in the new fuel pump and all the stuff attached to the new fuel pump, started it up, and the head gasket blew.  SUCK.

We cannot afford to buy a new car this month or even next month.  Sadly we are not one of those families who has $30k stashed away to just go out and get another car.  So, the boys and I are going to be pretty much stranded at home for the next however many weekends, until we can come up with what we need to get another car.  Ryan needs our other vehicle for taking Owen to-and-from school Monday through Wednesday, I need to get to the office on Wednesday and Thursday, and Ryan has to drive to work Friday through Sunday.  Clearly we have some logistic issues to work out.

So, there you have it.  Frustrating week.  Bad news right before Christmas.  No, this is nothing like the worst thing that could happen.  I can think of at least four families I know personally who right at this moment are dealing with much worse.  But I'm not going to pretend this isn't a major frustration.  I'm not going to pretend we haven't been stressed about it or aren't hating that we are going to have to go to the shop and fork over $600 for a car that doesn't even run.  But you know what?  This is life. 

At least this didn't happen in the summer.  At least the weather over the next few months is going to be crap and I'm not going to want to take the boys anywhere on the weekend anyway.  At least I have family close enough who would be able to help me out if I really get into a major jam.  It's not a silver lining, but I'm a realist and you'll have to settle for an "at least."