Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Merry Grinch-Mas!

I have such a lot I can write about this Christmas season, but that title up there is a good summation of it. Don’t gasp in horror at what I am about to say because I am going to be brutally honest. This is not starting out to be a “dance in the rain” kind of post, but it will turn into one, I promise.

Here goes…

Deep in my heart, I am sort of a Grinch. 

Okay, I'll try again, because brutally honest that was NOT.

I’m not “sort of” a Grinch.

I AM a Grinch.

I do know why I feel Grinchy this time of year, but that is not the point of this post. Don’t get me wrong, I typically go all out to give my kids and everyone else a fun Christmas, and no one here in the Carlson house has any idea of the Grinchy-ness that settles over me like a cold mound of dirty, wet snow before it is even Thanksgiving.  

Every single Christmas season, I dig deep into my Santa bag of tricks and do whatever I possibly can to transform 4040 CC Drive into a winter wonderland of decked out halls and everything jolly. I string lights and greenery and bows. I bedeck the tree with every ornament I have bought for the kids in 27 years along with every goofy ornament they ever created in elementary school. I untangle thousands (or what seems like thousands) of strands of messed up, knotted up, tangled up lights (thanks to the way my husband packs them away), and I weave them through fake green garlands on my staircase and around door frames and mirrors. I wrap them around bushes with frozen fingers while Christmas music blasts from the boom box plugged in on the porch. I ignore my fear of heights and climb onto the roof to hang wreaths tied with big red velvet bows to the windows of my house on giant suction cups.

 I listen to Christmas music on my way to work and watch oodles of cheesy Hallmark movies. I always look for ways to do a few kind acts. I brave the checkout lines at Walmart multiple times to replace burned out strands of lights. I spend more money than I even really know stocking up on butter and sugar and baking chips and Chex cereal and so many other necessities so that I can whip up everyone’s favorite treats.

I don’t ever want my Grinchy self to dampen anyone else’s holiday spirit, so I do fa la la la la la to the maximum. I exhaust myself trying to make Christmas magic. And it usually works. I may force myself to decorate and have myself a merry little Christmas, but once I am finished, the warmth of glowing lights do eventually end up bringing Christmas cheer to my heart.

This season, I was feeling especially gloomy and Grinchy. I’ve had a difficult year with my job and a few other things, and I really gave some thought to only putting up the tree and stockings and not unpacking any other decorations. I just did not have the energy to do anything more. I changed my mind when I thought about the kids all coming home; I know there will soon be a time when they won’t all be able to be here for Christmas, so I decided to put my grouchy-ness aside and at least pretend that I was feeling some Christmas joy. I thought about my kids sometime in the future saying, “Remember that year that mom was a crab and didn’t decorate?” I even did something I’ve not done before—I decorated before Thanksgiving since we were going to be away for Thanksgiving weekend. But, my heart wasn’t really in it, and I wasn’t very successful at shaking off my surly mood like I typically am. Sadly, the Grinchy feelings lingered on. 

One weekend morning three weeks before Christmas, something I saw on Pinterest inspired me, and I decided to embrace my inner furry green guy and have a Grinch-theme dinner on Christmas Eve. Within an hour, I had an entire Grinch party planned. After talking it over with the kids and finding out their work schedules, I set a date of Thursday the 21st for our Grinch themed dinner. As I dealt with all the craziness that my job is in December, planning this Grinch dinner became the highlight of my days. I spent much of my spare time searching for new ideas on Pinterest, and I am pretty sure my co workers grew tired of hearing me talking about it and showing them photos of what I found.

But, planning this crazy party kept me going, lifted my spirits, and grew my heart. Then, two weeks before Christmas, we got some awful and upsetting financial news, and I wanted to scrap the whole thing. I wondered how I could keep planning a fun party, and I truly felt like the Grinch, more than ever. I wanted to rip down my decorations, stuff them back into their boxes and bags and tell the kids, “NO presents this year!” I wanted to cry boo hoo and cancel Christmas.

But, I didn’t.

I kept on planning my shindig. Because what better time to plan a Grinch party than when you are feeling super-duper sour and growly??

I had a vacation day the second week in December, and I spent it shopping for everything I needed for our Grinch feast at the grocery store. I went to Michael's and Joann’s and bought supplies to decorate and make photo props. I named the food and made little table tents using Grinch digital clip art I purchased from an Etsy shop. The kids arrived home from college, and they were excited about our Grinch party. I was too. I finally started to feel the niggling beginnings of Christmas spirit, even if it was inspired by my gloomy grouchy mood. 

As if I wasn’t dealing with enough already, the weekend before Christmas, I started coughing my lungs out. I plowed on, went to work for two days, felt like total crap and finally, I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with bronchitis two days before my Grinch party. That night, Justin asked me if I was going to cancel the Grinch party, and I told him, “Hell, NO!” By that point, the only way I would have cancelled it would be if I were dead or in the hospital because that is how much I was looking forward to it. 

Thankfully, (and completely unlike me!) for once, I had been extremely organized, and most everything was finished except the actual making of the food. 

Thankfully, the only Grinch party guests were my husband, kids and Justin’s girlfriend, so it was easier to pull off than it would have been if it had been a real party with a bunch of people. It meant I didn’t have to worry about the messy state of my house. 

And thankfully, the day of the Grinch dinner, I was feeling pretty good. 

The party was a huge success. The kids were all impressed, and to be honest, I was pretty darn impressed with myself for pulling it off. We ate a bunch of delicious food with names like Who Hash, Roast Beast, Garlic in Your Soul Rolls and Grinch Nipples. I made red and green striped Jello shots for the kids. After dinner, we watched the Jim Carey version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” (I wanted to watch the original version I loved as a kid, but the Jim Carey movie was free on Netflix).
I’m thrilled it was a hit, and I am already planning for a bigger and better party next year. I am pretty sure a Grinch party will be our new treasured family tradition. Everyone that I told about it and shared photos with afterwards told me they want to be invited next year. 😊
Now comes a dump of a bunch of photos from our Grinch-mas party. 

This silly party truly saved my Christmas this year, and I realized something important that night after everyone was in bed. The mess was cleaned up, and I was unwinding in the quiet of my house, the only lights coming from the Christmas tree. In a crazy season of high expectations for perfection and happiness, I was reminded that it really is the simple things after all that make Christmas, or any other time of the year, joyous and fun. Did focusing on my Grinch celebration make the crappy things I have been dealing with go away? No! It most definitely did not. 

Was it worth the effort it took for me to force myself to make the best of life as it is at this very moment? Yes! 

This Christmas season was not what I expected back in November when I had to force myself to haul the boxes of decorations out of the basement. I ended up feeling an abundance of Christmas spirit and joy when I was expecting to feel nothing even close to that. 

 I’m glad that on that Sunday morning a few weeks ago that I decided that instead of fighting my inner Grinch, I would embrace him. And now that it is time to take the lights and garland and bows down and pack them away for another year, I know that I am going to miss them when they are gone.

And I know I am really going to miss this guy. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

I'm in Denial

I'm in denial that summer is not almost over!

I have really been thoroughly enjoying these final days of summer, and every time I see a yellowing tree, I want to scream, “No, no NO!! I am not ready for summer to go!”

I usually welcome fall with arms outstretched to the clear blue sky and a feeling of, “Ahhhhh! A break from sweating!” But, summer this year was slow to arrive, and once it did, it flew by so fast, and I am not ready for it to end. It’s like summer arrived, I blinked, and then poof!  It is now almost gone. It doesn’t help my mood that a hard winter is predicted for our area, and we all know how I feel about winter.
While I am denying the end of summer is near, I am doing my best to soak up and enjoy every last green leaf, vibrant flower, warm breeze, and taste of summer produce I possibly can. 

 *One of the first things I do each year as the calendar page turns to September is buy myself a bouquet of sunflowers from Schnucks. That happy little vase of sunshine-y loveliness is well worth the $10 it costs. When one bundle fades away, I buy another and another, right up until it’s time to decorate for Christmas. Sunflowers have been one of my favorite flowers for a long time, even before I knew that they are named what they are because they turn on their stems each day to face the sun. A vase of them on my kitchen table reminds me to be like a sunflower always look for the sunshine.

*Speaking of sunflowers, two weeks ago, I visited a 40-acre sunflower farm with two old friends. I have never seen anything like it, and I took so many photos. They don’t come close to showing how impressive this field was. It was hard to get good photos because of the time of day we were there, but wow. So beautiful. 

Afterwards, we quenched our thirst at a winery down the road.

Adirnondack chairs. A pond overlooking the vineyards. A delicious glass of wine. Old friends. A late summer Saturday afternoon.


*I have been making myself go for long walks a few times each week. My weight loss seems to have stalled, causing me to have to add in some exercise rather than get frustrated and give up. Thankfully, I have a couple of quiet, pleasant walking spots I stop at before I get home. Once I am home, the game is over, I am lazy, and my best intentions are given up on. So, I have been taking walking clothes and shoes with me to work, changing at the office, and then getting my daily exercise in before I go home. I tradeoff between Creve Coeur Lake and the river front in St. Charles, depending on my mood. Either place works because I find being near the water so relaxing, even if I am walking fast and sweating. If I have a choice of bodies of water, I prefer the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico over the Missouri River, but I am grateful for what I have near me—lake or river. Some days, I am tempted to blow it all off and go home instead, (and some days, I do just that!). Work has been stressful lately, and on the days that I don’t give in to my desire to be lazy, I always enjoy my walk and feel revived once I get home. The scenery does help! When I go to the lake, there are always flocks of ducks and a couple of high school crew teams practicing. 

*End of summer means my girl’s birthday as summer transitions to fall. 22 years ago, expecting a baby girl, I envisioned birthday cakes with flowers and pink frosting. And I made those cakes for a few years. However, she is partial to pie, so every year, she requests and apple pie. Her birthday is today, but she is spending it with friends on a float trip, so she came home last weekend just so I could make her birthday pie. It made my heart do a little pitter patter to know that birthday tradition is still important to her. 

*Yesterday, I had the opportunity to go to a luncheon fundraiser that my boss had tickets to but was unable to attend. Thankfully, a coworker whose company I greatly enjoy went with me, and I really can’t think of a more perfect way to have spent the last day of summer. Just LOOK at this place! (How can I have lived here for 27 years and never gone to this wonderfully picturesque place that is less than 20 miles from my home? HOW?? 

Very puzzling. But, without a doubt, I will be making more visits to Wine Country Gardens!
It was a blazing hot day (in the high 90s with gross humidity that made it feel more like mid-July than late September), lunch was outside, and we sweated like crazy and fanned ourselves with flimsy pieces of paper, but I didn’t care. We drank wine, chatted and laughed with the other ladies at our table, and had a delightful afternoon that was a decadent break from the same old work crap.  

Days like yesterday make me wish that days like yesterday happened more often.
And days like yesterday make me wish it wasn’t the end of September with winter right around the corner.