Deck the halls, now make it disappear

MAYBE IT’S JUST ME, but lately, I get as excited to undecorate after Christmas as I am to decorate right after Thanksgiving. Oh, there have been years where I could barely stand the thought of dragging the “big Santas” up from the storage room, but once I unbox them, I’m always happy I did. And this year, in my new place, they hold a place of prominence I didn’t have in my last house:

My Santas, displayed atop the peninsula that holds the gas fireplace.

A few years ago, I was feeling grouchy in December, and came *thisclose* to just not digging out the Big Santas. Why get them out, I thought, when in three weeks I will have to spend another half-hour putting them away? So I told my kids, and they said, WHAT?? YOU HAVE TO GET THEM OUT!! So I did.

When I was a kid, my mom mandated that the Christmas tree come down on New Year’s Day. Ornaments repacked, gifts put away, all traces of the holiday gone. I remember dreading the chore. It meant the Christmas fun was over, and January’s bleakness had arrived.

Mom? I get it now.

This year’s tree is my first-ever artificial tree. It holds many of our favorite ornaments, collected over the years. It also features two new Christopher Radko ornaments that Seth got for me, since I made sure Curt got the three we had before, to hang on his own tree. I was moved to tears that Seth remembered the name and shopped to find a good deal, and selected two he thought I’d like – a Santa, and a church.

See that red thing on the left? It’s a fancy Christmas tree storage bag. With wheels.

As much as I loved this tree, and as much as I’m dreading going down to the garage to get the storage boxes and lugging them up all 30 steps, then back down again, I’m ready for Christmas to be over. It was a really nice holiday this year, but it punctuated the end of a challenging year – not personally, but for the country. The “WTF IS HAPPENING” vibe persists, at least where I live, and the feeling of watching a slow-motion train wreck and being powerless to stop it wears on even the hardiest soul. I am looking forward to a new year, even if the fresh start is symbolic.

I have always differentiated between Christmas decorations and winter ones. As such, I think I’ll leave this display up for a while:

Silver and red: They aren’t just for Christmas.

And yes, that *is* an as-yet-unpacked moving box that has has there since March, thanks for noticing! But after the tree is stowed away, I’m unpacking that box and placing its contents on that cart to the right. For now, anyway. Until I think of a better idea.

As I write this, there are guys outside with leaf blowers, removing the dusting of snow that fell overnight from the sidewalks out front. I am grateful to be inside, next to my warm gas fireplace, which now works (thanks, Steve!), instead of blowing snow off of my driveway and front walk, which is what I’d have been doing a year ago. The joys of homeownership were many, but so were the annoyances, and snow removal was one of them. In this season of my life, I am grateful for what I had before and even more grateful for what I have today. I have a sense that I am exactly where I need to be at this moment.

Come at me, 2018. I’m ready for you.

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Vince Guaraldi Trio Charlie Brown Christmas Album Cover

This right here is my favorite thing. I’ve probably listened to the whole album ten times since Thanksgiving. It would be great holiday jazz even if it didn’t make me think of the Christmas special.

There are so many good clips from “A Charlie Brown Christmas” but the one I love the most is this:

Kids, ask your parents about how when they were your age, this “special” would air once during the weeks leading up to Christmas, where “special” means something other than regularly scheduled programming, and “air” means that we had to check the TV listings in the newspaper (the what?) to find out which day and time it would be shown, and on which network, and we had to watch it at exactly that time because there was no DVR or streaming or on-demand or YouTube in the olden days of yore.

I tried making my boys watch this a few years ago. I was so excited to share it with them. They thought it was dumb. And maybe it doesn’t hold up all that well. I’m willing to admit that my hypernostalgic feelings compromise my ability to view it objectively. But you can’t take this away from me.

When I was young, the Peanuts gang was as much a part of our family as the Brady Bunch was. We read the daily comics, we ordered the Peanuts cartoon books from the Scholastic Book Club, and we eagerly awaited the airing of the holiday cartoon specials. They were a cultural phenomenon almost without equal.

Anyway: If you haven’t listened to the album yet, there’s no need to drop the needle on vinyl – you can stream it! Here’s a link to it on Amazon Prime Music – free to listen if you have Prime. It’s also on Spotify, but I can’t figure out how to put a link to it here. Which could be related to my hypernostalgic feeling about some crudely-drawn cartoon from the 1970s.

Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!


In the genes

YESTERDAY, I began the process of genetic testing to assess my risk of several kinds of cancer. Thanks to medical research, it is possible to have your blood analyzed to determine whether or not you carry a gene that predisposes you to developing cancer. Knowledge is power, and if there’s anything I can do to prevent cancer, I want to know.

Diseases aren’t the only things that can be passed down through genes. I think there are other traits, too, that can be inherited.

Last night, I was talking to my mom and mentioned the testing. Then, the subject of French onion soup came up (as one would expect). I had made some for my mom last time she visited, and she talked again about how good it was. I replied, well, it could have been better, because the cheese didn’t melt the whole way through.

I set a high standard for myself, and if the things I make don’t turn out exactly as I want them to, I’m critical. To a fault, I’ve been told. But I come by it naturally: My Grandma Losch was the same way. As Mom tells it, she’d make a pie that was so delicious it brought tears to your eyes, but she’d usually offer it up with a disclaimer, such as, the meringue is a little weepy. As if that mattered.

I do it too. Perhaps it’s genetic.

And if being a self-critical cook is a genetic trait, so might be the inclination to get crafty. I learned crewel embroidery, needlepoint, and counted cross stitch from my mom. My Grandma Sara always had a needlepoint project in process. And if I’m not remembering Grandma Losch in her kitchen, where she spent a lot of time, I’m picturing her rocking in her rocking chair, her hands busily crocheting something.

So naturally, when I found myself in Michael’s on Sunday, I gravitated towards the yarn, and when I saw a bulky, fluffy skein, variegated in the exact colors of my living room rug, I knew I needed to transform that yarn into a throw blanket. I purchased four skeins and started crocheting last night.


Sometimes, the idea of a craft project ends up being more exciting than the reality. (Which partly explains the popularity of Pinterest.) Alas, I have not been a consistent finisher of projects. I get super-excited to start, but I don’t always have the self-discipline to complete. When I moved earlier this year, I tossed more than a few incomplete projects, not only admitting defeat to myself but also freeing myself to begin anew.

Could “failure to complete” also be a genetic trait? I believe so, and as proof, I submit a discovery made when going through Grandma Sara’s house after she died. I opened a dresser drawer that contained several incomplete needlepoint projects! I had an AHA! moment right there: I come by it naturally! My own grandma had trouble finishing! This explains so much about me!

I don’t know if Grandma Losch ever failed to complete a project she started. I am, however, determined to finish my blanket project. Crocheting in front of the TV makes me feel less like I’m wasting time than if I sat idly on the sofa. Plus, there’s a certain cool factor when you tuck in for a nap with a blanket you made.


If you compliment me on my completed blanket (and in writing that, I’m making myself accountable here), I’m almost guaranteed to point out its flaws. Please know, it is in my genes to do so. But do feel free to politely tell me to knock it off and just accept the compliment.

Even more than the genes they handed down, I’m feeling grateful for having had parents and grandparents who took the time to share things with me that, all these years later, still reside in my soul. These are truly priceless gifts.