Wednesday, November 14, 2007

My Christmas Mea Culpa

This is a pretty long post. (I am long-winded, aren't I?) If you want to read it, you might want to grab yourself a cup of coffee first! lol Here's a newsflash for everyone who knows me: I LOVE CHRISTMAS! I love it, love it, love it! I love the glitter, the sparkle, the sounds, the shopping, the food, the joy, the laughter, the music, the glow....I love it all. I can't get enough of it. But there's one thing I don't like anymore and that's all the work of putting all of our Christmas stuff up. And make no mistake about it. It. Is Work. Now I don't know about the rest of you, but for equals stress. And stress equals crankiness. And crankiness equals me arguing with anyone crazy enough to present me with a problem. That crazy person happened to be Randey this year. Randey really got into decorating the outside of the house this past year. He and the neighbor had a bit of a competition going on (although I think Paula may have gotten the best of him when she bought the Santa's Sleigh Landing Strip Lights. lol). After last Christmas, Randey went and bought more lights. A lot more lights. Great idea, right? Yeah. Except we live in a two story house on a lot that slopes rather sharply on the north side and we also only have 2 electrical outlets on the outside of the house. I don't care who you are, it's just too damn difficult to try and attach lights to the roof line of a two story house with nothing to stand on but a too-short ladder. And can we just stop and think a minute about the safety factor in trying to plug approximately 3500 lights into only 2 outlets? (And if you think I'm being sarcastic here, you should have heard me in person. I was shameful. Truly shameful.) Obviously, these two things...lack of a tall enough ladder and a shortage of electrical outlets, are a problem. Randey, in all his eagerness to get the lights up, didn't take the time to consider these problems. At any time. All year long. From the end of last Christmas until this past weekend, he never sought to obtain a taller ladder and/or scaffolding, nor did he ever call an electrician to see about installing a couple of extra breakers. Lucky for him, he had a very frustrated and overwhelmed wife (that'd be me) who was knee deep in interior Christmas decorations to point out to him just how poorly planned his lighting extravaganza mission was. Oh and I didn't just point it out...I pretty much hammered it in. Why you ask? Well...when my screeching reached a decibel level that has been known to break glass, I stopped and asked myself that same question. Why was I so ticked at him? The answer was very simple. I was overwhelmed with my part of the Christmas decorating and was taking it out on him. Randey's interest in outdoor decorating is fairly new but every year, I'm the one who decorates the inside of our home for Christmas. Randey and the kids would help get the Christmas stuff out of the garage or the attic or wherever it happened to be stored and then I would put it up. It's my fault that I'm the one who always did it. I was a perfectionist. The ornaments has to be put on "just so" and the ribbon garland had to drape, wind and curl at "just the right angles" and the lights had to be put on the tree and in the evergreen garland a certain way. Blah, blah, blah. (Although, in my defense on that one, I did ask Randey to put the lights on the tree one year with instructions to be sure and wrap the lights around and along the branches - you know, deep into the tree! He thought I meant wrap every twig on every branch. That little 6 1/2 foot tree had 1535 lights on it before he was done! lol You could have landed an airplane by it. In fact, it was so bright, we had to put flashers in because it hurt to look at the tree with all the lights on at the same time!). The kids did get to help put the hooks on the ornaments, etc. and, when they got older, they got to help put the ornaments on the tree. But there was never any doubt that the Christmas decorating was my bailiwick. Well, over the years...our collection of Christmas decorations has grown a little. Oh okay, so it's grown a lot. Like I said in a previous post, we have 43 boxes of stuff now. However, you have to understand that 2 of those boxes are outdoor stuff and about another 5 or 6 are the Christmas trees themselves. So see? That means we only have about 35 or 36 boxes of stuff. (Okay so that doesn't sound as reasonable when I see it in print as it did when I thought it in my head). But anyway, we now have so much stuff that it absolutely overwhelms me when I go to put it all up. A few years ago, I even went through it all and gave a good bit to Nick and Jodie (my son and his wife) but I just can't seem to help myself...I'm always getting more and more and more. I love seeing all the stuff up. I do. It warms my heart like you wouldn't believe. But it's just too much to do by myself. And there's no little kids, like Maddy, around to love it with me. Kaleb and Jacob like it, sure. But they don't like it enough to not see it as a chore when they're asked to help with it. So...where was I headed with this story...oh the middle of the knock down drag out that Randey and I were engaging in over what I thought was his severe lack of planning, I realized that we have one of these fights every year over something. You can almost set your calendar by it. Then I started questioning why we have this annual screamfest. And the answer is stress, I think. I'm so stressed out by my house being basically trashed for the week it takes me to put everything up that I'm almost certifiable. I mean geez, you know, it's more than just putting the Christmas stuff up. First you have to pack away your every day stuff...the knick-knacks, pillows, throws, etc., etc., etc. Then you have to clean everything in sight (and even some stuff that's out of sight!) and then you have to put up all the garland...garland over the windows, the shelves, the archways, the doors....garland everywhere (I love that. A room all decked out with twinkling evergreen garland. Ahhhhh. And this is why I have such a problem...I can't even explain why I'm not decorating every inch of my house this year without going on and on about how much I love seeing it done! I. Must. Seek. Therapy!) Then you have to rearrange your furniture to put the tree in a good spot and then you have to make sure you have all the electrical things evenly spaced out so you're not overloading any one circuit and then before you know it, you're overwhelmed!! Or at least, I am. So I stopped in the middle of decorating this year. I had gotten the garland up in the living room and the pre-lit tree put up (with the boys' help - see? they will help, just not for hours on end! lol), I got the ribbon garland wound around that tree, the village set up on the bookshelves and I got a few knick-knacks unpacked. But that's as far as I got before The Big Blowout. Afterwards, I decided that fighting every single year was a horrible way to "celebrate" the holidays. I'm crushed to think that my kids have had to hear this probably just about every Christmas season of their lives and that's what they remember! Not the glitter, the wonder, the joy...but their crazy, stressed out mother screaming like a fishwife at their father over something that really should have been "discussed", not fought over. So I stopped unpacking the Christmas stuff and sent everything back up to the attic. I've got my house back in order and I'm working really hard on thinking about the meaning of the season and not the "winter wonderland" I always want to create in our home. It's not the decorations that matter, it's the feelings we have for one another. Having said that, I have to admit that I miss the "stuff", though. I look at my snowman advent and I miss seeing all the other snowmen we've collected over the years. I see the big snowglobe Susan got me one year and I miss seeing all the other ones, too. I see my "Yule Burner Talking Log" my sister gave me for my birthday back in 1999 (?) and I miss the animated Dalmation named Dipstick that I bought in '97. I see my walls, laid bare in spots, and I miss the Christmas wall decorations that I put up year in and year out. But these are things I miss. I think I've been very selfish every year at Christmas and have decorated mainly for myself. As much as I miss seeing it all this year, I just can't bring myself to ask Randey and the boys to help me put it up. I'm sure they would do it, but I don't think they'd do it out of joy. They'd do it as a chore, I think. And that's not what the season is supposed to be about. They have chores enough without making Christmas one, too. So I'm learning to adjust to what is probably "normal" to everyone else. lol And if I could just look at our Christmas tree with it's "minimalistic" ornamentation without thinking "geez, that's the MOST unattractive tree we've ever, ever had", I'm sure this would go a lot easier for me! (I usually have so many ornaments on the tree that you can barely tell it is a tree underneath them all!)

So what's the lesson to be learned here? I'll tell you...don't just love the pageantry of the season yourself...teach your children to love the wonder of creating it with you! (Or maybe the lessen is even more basic than that...maybe you should just have fewer decorations than a crazy woman such as myself feels the need to collect. lol) Seriously though, I've managed to teach my children over the years that I love the atmosphere of sparkle and wonder. But I failed to teach them to. I wish I'd asked them to help way back when they would have thought it was fun and I particularly wish I had kept in mind that "perfect" is best left to God. Maybe then our decorating would have been a fun, family event instead of a time of stress and fighting. Live and learn, eh? (But I have really got to work more on that whole "learn your lesson while the lesson still counts" concept, you know it?) And I have really, really got to learn to love that fugly tree....

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  1. Oh Girlfriend...I could have written this one myself! I used to put up 7 large trees, not to mention a few smaller ones. Garland everywhere. And stuff everywhere...stuff here, stuff there, stuff everywhere. Loved it. Still do. But the stress and anger was there too. Now that it's just the two of us, I'm still decorating, but not like the crazy person I used to be. Well, maybe I'm still the crazy person, but I'm one who decorates less. LOL
    Great post.

    Now go take some photos and show us what you've done so far.

    I'll be busy shopping today, working on my Christmas stockings, etc. Then coming home for a little glass of wine to settled down so I won't whine. LOL


  2. You know, I just now noticed the Holly Background. It's beautiful. I agree that maybe you went a bit overboard TOO SOON, but maybe if you add a few things at a time instead of trying to get it all done in a day or two...let the boys help you for a few minutes at a time, not a few hours...this is like smoking, cold turkey is hard...don't deny yourself...I beg of you!
    Aunt Sandi

  3. Been. There. Setting up 9 trees, each with a "different" theme was madness, and add to that all of the extras and it becomes insanity! We have had so much sadness in our family this year and it has made EACH of us take stock in what is important. That said, will we still have all those trees? Yet to be seen, but I intend to be a bit more selective this year.

    And, please...don't just stop making this Christmas your kind of Christmas. Your heart must be happy for you to be happy....


  4. Well - I can't say I've been there. I'm the decorating challenged person here. There have been several Christmases where I have only put up a tree with half of my tree decorations. One year we put up lights on the outside of the house along the porch railing (not this house, our house in SD). Those lights stayed up for 4 years. It was great - we had Christmas lights shining during all the major holidays - Independence day...Labor Day...). Another year my daughter wanted to put the fake snow stuff up on the window - so she wrote out Merry Christmas with some angels or something. It stayed up until me moved out. My neighbor kept teasing me about having it up - I just told him I was prepared early for christmas. Maybe you should leave a few decorations up yearly - or just live in a Christmas house year around - that would be pretty cool...

    At any rate - I think it is important that we all remember the reason for celebrating Christmas - the birth of our precious Lord and Savior. Mary didn't do much decorating for that first Christmas, so anything you put up will be fine.

  5. What I love about you is the way you point out the problem (stressed out mom has been a big problem for me) in such a fun way that I can receive it. I hear ya! It'll be a little simpler this year, but it will be okay. (I'm down to just 20 something boxes from about the same number that you have...if I don't count the ones in the basement. Nothing in the basement ever counts.)

  6. Your "notes to self" are really helpful~ I think it might be funner this year if I can prioritize what I reallyreally want out, and what can stay in the garage!
    I'm also seriously contemplating putting 1535 lights on my tree ~ and then just putting it down in the corner of the basement, swaddled under a protective sheet and still standing in one piece, for the rest of the tree....! Because the disassembling and the future reassembling is a major part of the not-fun aspect of Christmas, for us!

  7. Kari, you're sounding as stressed as I am right now...I need to become awol from my job, hop on a plane (make that boat) and come over to help you decorate.Together we would have fun!!! If only!!!

  8. Good Post Kari! It's not fun for anyone if it becomes a chore. I only have one box of Christmas stuff and a few snowmen and a nativity set. Though I did get a couple of Santas from Julie at Nunnies Attic. Anyway you need to come up here and and go with me and get a pedicure. Cures just about anything! All kidding aside this is a good post and honest.

  9. Wow! That sounds so much like our Christmas decorating! It is Stressful! I'll try to remember your philosophy and get to enjoying the holiday.

  10. Kari
    I love Christmas but get stressed about all the planning.Love the background on the blog. I am now going to do something little for Christmas every day.That way hopefully I will be ready in time and not loosing my cool.

  11. Kari,

    The more I read your blog, the more I think you and I are twins separated at birth!

    I am telling you that I totally see myself in this entire post!

    I am also the only one that decorates because I am a perfectionist. My kids are now grown (21 & 19) and each have their own trees this year in their bedrooms which they will be decorating but I do everything else.

    I must say that the decorations are one of my absolute favorite things about Christmas time. I LOVE seeing how everyone decorates.

    I actually belong to several Christmas groups that help you start getting things ready earlier so that you don't stress as much about it the closer that it gets to Christmas.

    Those groups are:

    They are all wonderful, and have lots of great ideas. They have helped me so much. There is no way I could do it all in just a few days, so I tend to spread it out over several weeks.

    Believe me, there have been times where I thought why do I even bother? Nobody seems to care one way or the other if I do all of this. BUT, in the last couple of years, my son has become just as obsessed with it as I am now. He plans on having two trees in his room next year, and he is always telling me that I will have to come and decorate his house when he moves out.

    Keep your chin up girlie! And maybe you can pull a couple of boxes back out each week until you fill that tree up, and unpack all of your pretties!

  12. Finally - I can see your blog. It's beautiful BTW. Honey I know what you mean. And my Scrooge of a husband doesn't like putting the Christmas decorations up in November. Well tough ta-tas I say. Just bring down the boxes and I'll put it up. You do the outside, I'll do the inside. Let's call the whole thing ON!


  13. It's me again. I came back to tell you I liked your banner and I like the new background. You need to add some Christmas music and you're all set.

  14. Shameful Kari... just shameful!
    Every year I say I am downsizing~ this year for sure.

  15. Kari, it will be different for me this year also. Each child helped with tree and lights. I have worked night and day killing myself.This year they all have their own houses and Brian hates even getting it down. I am like you I have villages.I collected Santas forever. Gingerbread houses and had to do a tree with it. A chef tree and on and on. I decided this year I am going to look at each piece and ask if I love and have to keep it. I need to down size.
    I also like you when I get tired and stressed everything and body around me suffer.Then I could give a crap less if the tree gets turned on and then we stay mad at each other a week. How many days do I enjoy it before I head out of town and come home and kill my self taking it down?

  16. I'm from the same school of thought as you gal--there is no too much Christmas! We usually begin the squabble as I hand the boxes down to Gy, with him saying (with each and every freaking one), "Don't we have enough down--Is this the last one" and my blood pressure boils!!!

    But I can't help myself. Yes I know the true meaning of the season, and yes, I celebrate that, and yes, I want my kids to enjoy the season too, but jiminy cricket, Kari, I want my STUFF!!!

    Hey the comment about Boomer--how could I not snicker a bit--for crying out loud, a bipolar cat??? A cat on anti anxiety meds??? Only I could score that one!!!!

  17. You know I have to correct you on one thing in there. You did teach your children to love the glitter and glam because Nick gets all excited every year after I put it out. He says a house without it at Christmas time is bare. So maybe they didn't participate in the whole puttting it up part but they do love it just like you. I will admit I have that problem too. I want things to be put up my way. It is a bad thing, but it happens. I am sure most women have that problem so don't be so down on yourself. Maybe over the next few weeks you could get down a few more boxes. Just take it easy and it will be okay.

  18. I usually get stressed when I'm putting up the Christmas stuff too. No one helps me - no one even offers to do anything to help. But then when it's done - all by me - someone will criticize something I've done. Either the tree doesn't look right or something else is out of place. A couple of years ago, I got so disgusted, I just threw some lights on our silk ficus tree and called it a day.

    I have the absolute worst family when it comes to helping out. And if I'm going to get stressed doing it all by myself, I'm just not going to do it.

    No matter what I do at Christmas - decorating, cooking, presents - no one is ever satisfied. It just takes the fun out of the whole season. Each year I tell myself I'm not going to get hurt, but each year I do.

    And each year I tell myself that this year will be different.

  19. Hi Kari, I was delighted to have you at my blog and hope you'll visit often. Excellent post you've written here and I can so relate. Every year I have at least one meltdown. And my sweet husband, for the life of him, can't figure out why. There's no way I could do everything in one weekend so I just do a little at a time. Oh and I realized there's no reason for a tree in every room. That's something the decorator magazines taught us. This year there's just one tree going up that I call the "family tree" because it has so many funky and funny ornaments that are family treasures and a small white and gold tree in the den. That's it.

  20. Way to go Kari! When you first told us how many boxes you had I couldn't imagine. Then later I was still pondering it and thought, GEEZE thats actually like moving every year! It's such a huge undertaking. Just tuck a few things in here and there and ENJOY it! I get stressed too when the boxes are everywhere but I really really try to keep it to a minimum! I know you will enjoy the season!

  21. Now Kari, don't you know all this is caused because you're DEPRESSED??? hehe Sorry, I couldn't resist that! lol I so understand where you're coming from with this you I used to decorate every inch of my house inside and out ALONE and I just can't do it anymore. I've decided that this year I will still decorate but on a much smaller scale. I refuse to get stressed out this year!!! xox

  22. Don't stress Kari - maybe you can add a little here & there without going totally overboard? I've always encouraged the children to help decorate the tree (with a bit or rearranging after bedtime when they were younger) & now they like to do it to - last year for the first time I sat back & watched them do it!
    Of course my daughter rearranged the decorations my son put's hereditary!

  23. I think you are just that doctor said. *Sue is now hiding under the desk to avoid Kari's thrown shoe* Argh but I get stressed over such things these days. I used to do so much decorating and now I do less but I still worry about getting it all done. I actually have dreams every year...dreams that it is December 24th and I forgot to decorate, send cards, buy gifts, bake or even grocery shop. I wake up in a cold sweat! Somehow it always comes together and we all enjoy it so I refuse to stress...okay. I refuse to stress about stressing!

    Oh, Kari?? Do you LIKE Christmas?? I am not sure...I can't remember. It must be the depression I have. Or menopause. Or depression about menopause. Or bad doctors.


  24. First, the wall circuits of your house can take quite a bit of Christmas light load. The thing limit on Christmas lights is the fuse the build into the plugs. When you chain too many together, one o the fuses usually blows. Power strips and extension cords work well to solve that problem.
    Lastly, for a number of years, after my parents were divorced, my family didn't put up anything for Christmas. My mother never got into it. However, my friend's mom created an aircraft naviagation beacon out of her home. And she had to enlist the help of her sons and their friends. When I was in high school, there was only one son left in the house and he and I were best friends. We usually dreaded all the work. Everything had to be exactly one way. It could never be different. I tink allowing us to have some creative contribution to the process would have helped in our participation. But where I'm really trying to go is, my friend decorates the hell out of his house now. So you may be planting a Christmas decorating seed in your children that will one day manifest itself when they're married with kids.
    I spent over 10 years with almost no Christmas decorating (no tree even). Then, about 5 years ago, I got to decorate for myself and my own family. Do it for your enjoyment and your satisfaction. Don't do it for everyone else's. And next year, you can put those things out that you missed htis year. Maybe not all of them. But you'll learn what it is that makes you happiest to see this time of year.


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