Friday, December 11, 2009

Like before. Except not. And better.

I am in love with felt right now. Felt, felt, felt. I made gingerbread men ornaments, retro-inspired ornaments (both courtesy of, where the patterns were free downloads), and now I'm getting ready to whip up some felt-y appliques for our otherwise plain Christmas stockings. I guess the felt obsession was born of the embroidery dabbling I've enjoyed this year. I love it. It's easy to work with. And with embroidery floss as part of the equation, it always looks cute.

I took today off from work. It was something I had planned to do a while ago, and man did I need it. I was busy taking care of loose ends left and right. I whipped up a coffee cake at 6:30 AM and brought some to a morning visit at Grandma's, hit the Post Office and finally mailed out a bunch of Christmas cards, went to the store for a few extra gifts--and where I managed to spend more time chatting with my mom on my cellphone than actually shopping (yep, I was THAT person), and once home hung out with three dogs happy to be warm inside this frigid day, ate a clementine and spaced out--are you still reading this?

And I wrapped.

I wrapped. A lot. I wrapped a lot of gifts. So much so that my iTunes Christmas Playlist of 85 songs played TWICE. Uh-huh.

The only thing missing right now is the tree. There is a fine line between getting your tree too early in the season and getting it too late. If I had a fake tree, it would have been up by now. But I favor fresh trees. Fresh cut trees. Fresh cut trees that my boys have a hand in sawing down in the midst of a lil' mom and pop New England tree farm.

The plan is to pick it out Sunday, no matter what the weather. We might have done it last weekend--maybe--if the kids hadn't been sick. But we keep it up until "little Christmas", on January 6. Three Kings Day. So we need our tree to actually live until then. The last few years, the tree has barely made it. Hence the delay this year. I'm okay with it. It makes the anticipation of Christmas a bit bigger somehow to have yet put up the tree. Everything else is up. Great-Grandma's ancient nativity set, the window candles, the wreath, the evergreen roping and white lights outside. The whole house is ready for a Yuletide rumble. But tonight, while the fire crackles, we've got nothing except the ghost of our tree, unsuspectingly and innocently rooted somewhere in Guilford or Clinton.

So Christmas is coming. I'm *really* looking forward to it this year in a way that I haven't in a long time. What's funny is that I never thought I wasn't excited about Christmas in recent years. I guess this year I'm just looking forward to it even more. It's simpler, this year. Fewer gifts (yes, I know I wrapped all afternoon, but still. I have a huge family.). Quality vs. quantity. No giving into chaotic commercialism. Home made ornaments. Lots of baking. A (home made) advent calendar that the kids LOVE opening each day ("Pick out a DVD to watch tonight!" "Special surprise breakfast!" "Make a Christmas craft!"). Thanks to Family Fun magazine for that idea.

But more than anything, I think I'm just finally having fun with it all in a loose, comfortable way. There is no quest for perfection. My house doesn't have to be "perfect" to host Christmas dinner, which I cannot wait to do! (Ordered the Christmas roast from the butcher today!) There is no concern about buying the "perfect" gift for anyone. Just buying a special gift out love seems to be enough. I don't know what changed, exactly, except my attitude. And I am more than okay with it.

The shopping is pretty much all done, save for one or two things. And now I get to enjoy the next two weeks of anticipation. I have plenty to keep me busy--obligations and appointments galore. But it's all good stuff. There are parties at the kids' school, tae kwon do class, and CCD. There is a Hanukkah dinner at the in-laws tomorrow night, a few hours after a luncheon for the CCD teachers.

And the tree. Sunday night the boys, Ian and I will put up our first Christmas tree since Ian and I were married in March. It will be just like last year--or the year before that. Except...better.


Sunday, December 6, 2009


I've just not been here lately. It's not that I haven't been writing--at least in my head. But I've been busier than usual, and enjoying it. Fully engaged in the here and now of my life. And at the end of the day, the last thing I've felt like doing is writing about my day and my experiences. At least lately. I love to write, to share. But after months of doing it even sometimes more than once a day, I can honestly say that I must have felt a need to just take a break from...thinking...about thinking. Or something like that.

Facebook. That's also taken a little bit of time away from me, because I let it. It also enables me to drop a few links and comments here and there that reflect whatever I'm thinking/feeling/interested in at the moment. It's like Blog Lite. Or even lighter than that. It's filled the gaps that might have otherwise been filled here. Maybe.

It's also enabled me to reconnect with more people than I ever thought possible. I like that about Facebook. I like being able to volley some wit with old friends from my childhood--people I might have likely lost touch with completely if not for the magical interweb. I like staying in touch with friends from my formative summer days at the beach club, assorted classmates from my years at a Catholic girls' high school, and a smattering of current and former co-workers from as long as 20 years ago.

What I dislike about Facebook is that it reinforces the cliquey-ness of some people and groups of "friends". It's inevitable, I guess. And while it hurts no one, it serves to remind me that I have been a clique-less person most of my life, excepting a small group of friends from downtown New Haven that were My Own during the latter years of high school.

Mostly, I was--and am--a bit of a social floater. I have had Renee by my side through most of life, of course. She's my oldest, closest friend. After 25 years of close friendship, it's safe to say she's more of a sister than anything. And I have had several friends with whom I shared interests--and if not interests, then backgrounds, or aspirations, or other commonalities. But I have never, ever had a tight group of, say, a half dozen or so friends who do most *everything* together. I know they exist--those groups of close friends. Like the show "Friends", only somehow more annoying.

Kidding. Kind of.

It's not totally annoying. It's just mystifying to me. After my divorce from my first husband (or "wasband", a term I heard recently and LOVE), I lost several friends who were never really *mine* to begin with. They were his, and I had them by proxy for several years. But I never really fit in with that crowd. And in some ways, though I miss certain individuals, I don't miss feeling like an outsider in a group of people I saw on a regular basis.

With any romantic relationship, there is tricky peripheral friendship terrain to navigate. With Ian, my new and improved husband, I've encountered a new tight-knit group of friends with whom I feel more welcome, but at times still very much an outsider. I knew some of them pretty well prior to dating Ian, but it's different now that we're married. I can safely say they are people I would WANT to be friends with, regardless of the fact that I am married to "one of them". But still...for me...something's missing from the group. I guess it's my own acceptance that I am now part of it.

Because I find groups limiting. (Groups are one step away from mobs. And mob mentalities scare me.) Instead, I have close friends hidden in all kinds of pockets, corners, and shady nooks. I have one or two good friends from college with whom I still keep in touch. One or two good childhood friends that I like to keep tabs on. There are high school friends who are delight to meet up with on occasion. And there are SEVERAL former colleagues with whom I could very easily get a beer tomorrow and pick up RIGHT where we left off, even if it was years ago. I have many, many random friends from around town, most of whom have moved, but with whom I have some kind of strong connection. I have managed to keep in touch with a couple of ex-boyfriends for almost two decades. And I there are many parents of my children's friends with whom I have been delighted to forge new friendships.

What--or who?--remains of that strong group of downtown New Haven friends I had during high school? Unsurprisingly: Just me and Renee.

I could probably spend a fair amount of time and money on my therapist trying to determine why I don't like to be labeled in with a bunch of friends. Or why I wish I was labeled in with a bunch of friends. Or both, cuz it truly is a little bit of both. I'm sure my years in Catholic girls high school during the Heathers era did enough damage in the cattiness department to frighten me away from obligatory camaraderie of any sort. It could also explain why for YEARS my closest friends were men. I had sort of had enough of women's bullshit after four years at Sacred Heart Academy. It took about ten years to recover.

So maybe I really want to be part of tight group, and instead hide it under the guise of being too cool for that. But tonight, as I sat at home watching the Polar Express with Sick Child #1 and Recovering Child #2, it occurred to me that if I had--and kept--the same group of friends pretty static for the past 20 years, HOW ON EARTH WOULD I HAVE GROWN? (This is not to imply that others in tight groups haven't grown. I just know me--and experience in many forms is key if I want to occasionally be reminded to pull my head outta my ass.) And if I constantly sought out people with the same interests as me, again, how on earth would I have grown?? While commonalities and shared interests are helpful, and usually the cause of budding friendships, it's the people with whom I have shared ideology but varied--even opposite--interests and hobbies that have really blown open my world. That's how I grow.

But that's just me.

So tonight the boys and I huddled together with a Christmas movie and ate Christmas cookies (AS IF my ass needs them). Munching away, I lamented the fact that the household illness du jour kept 3/4 of our family from attending the Christmas season dinner that most of Ian's close group of friends attended. Ian was there representing our little family team. And I missed being with them all. I supposed a few of them might have wondered where we were. I like to think so. But if they didn't, that wouldn't have surprised me. Or even hurt me. Ultimately, I was content to be right where I was. I've been here all along.