Christmas Bucket List

I do quite well with lists and checking things off (and yes, sometimes checking it twice. Me and Santa, you know.). I decided to make a list for Christmas, things I want to make sure to do and see and experience, and to help me remember that many of the seemingly so important, frantic parts of the season are not for me. And that’s okay. This probably isn’t one of those lists that people will print out and share, or Pinterestize, or whatever, and that’s okay too. This is for me. And maybe you’ll get a good idea or two from it as well, and that would be a huge bonus.

Last year at this time I had *just* unpacked our moving truck in Arizona, but was back in Salt Lake for a few more weeks, then to Arizona for a few days, and then BACK to Utah for the holidays. I didn’t decorate. No tree, no lights, no holiday baking, just hanging up the lovely assortment of received Christmas cards. This year feels brand new and fresh in almost every way, I hope I can start a few new traditions, and also somehow remove the mental block of needing snow and fragrant piney trees and bitter cold weather for it to really be Christmas.

Harriet’s Christmas Bucket List:

  1. Find Christmas decorations…what closet/corner are they in!?
  2. Figure out tree situation & decorate (Should I get two trees?)(I’d LOVE two trees!)
  3. Lights up outside! (The first time for me!! A HOUSE with LIGHTS ON IT!)
  4. Luminarias on Christmas Eve (White bags and candles are ordered!)
  5. Christmas Card (family photo, order cards & stamps, address, send)
  6. Angel tree or other donation project for a needy family
  7. Make Christmas play list, play constantly: I just loaded my huge stack of CDs into iTunes!
  8. Pull out all Christmas movies: watch on repeat!
  9. Read Jesus’ birth story in all four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John
  10. Make gingerbread houses, one of my favorite family traditions
  11. Christmas cookies: gingersnaps & frosted sugar cookies
  12. Desert Botanical Gardens: Los Noches de Las Luminarias
  13. Go see some really great Christmas lights
  14. Church Christmas party, this is a Saturday morning breakfast. Brilliant!
  15. Christmas manicures (with these!!!!)
  16. Christmas orchestra concert at the kids’ elementary school
  17. Blue Eyes work holiday party
  18. Hang up all the Christmas cards!
  19. Wrap all the presents!!! (This is one of my favorite parts!)

What about you? What’s on your Christmas bucket list!? What are you trying to avoid over the next month?




Christmas Wish List: 2015

The last few (four) years Blue Eyes and I have mostly been apart for the holidays. We have been together on Christmas Day, but only 5 or 6 days each month during the holiday season, or less. That’s….not a lot of days. It makes for a lonely holiday season when you spend it primarily alone.

We are together this year. I mean, for all of last week at any rate. And this week. And next week. (And the week after that, repeat, the rest of the year.) It’s my Christmas wish from the last several years, finally coming true.

My love and I are together.

So, when your biggest, longest wish comes true it’s kind of difficult to figure out anything else to ask for. I truly feel like I have everyone and every thing I could possibly want.

It is enough; I am content.

(Also, when you have spent the last several weeks packing up and then unpacking all of your possessions, it makes the idea of adding MORE possessions to your house seem a little less necessary. Note to self for 2016: perhaps you can ride this minimalist-ish wave for a little while?)

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Every family has some kind of holiday tradition, I think. Whether that is Christmas or Hanukkah or Festivus or Football, I think most of us grew up with traditions and then added to or edited as we started to celebrate on our own. Before I got married my favorite and best Christmas tradition was me waking up in a quiet apartment on Christmas morning, listening to Christmas songs while I drank hot chocolate, curled up on the couch, reading Christmas stories and/or Luke 2. Extra bonus points if it was snowing. I would always go visit family for lunch and spend the day with them, but Christmas morning was mine.

Of course, when you marry into a family with a couple of half-grown kids you really cannot justify such a tradition on Christmas morning. So, presents and breakfast and noise and giggles and laughter are the order of the day. And when you move to a new state a few weeks before Christmas and are not actually spending the holidays in that state anyway…well, Christmas everything is reduced to a minimum.

I hung a wreath because I found it while I was moving.

We have a large poinsettia on the dining room table.

For the first time I am sent Christmas cards, more than 100 of them!

I have loved the ones we’ve already received at our new house and hung them all up (with a very fancy string+command strip hooks situation, best idea ever).

I’ve been listening to Christmas music all day, loudly, because there are no coworkers nearby to irritate

I have finished my Christmas shopping, and most of the gifts are wrapped…but they are all in Utah still because I didn’t see any point in hauling them 700 miles south only to turn around and haul them back again for unwrapping.

But, no Christmas tree this year, no lights outside, no growing pile of presents. And honestly, it’s not terrible. I mean, I would love a really tall fragrant fir in the living room and twinkly lights in all the windows and piles of Christmas cookies and everything. But ultimately, that’s not what Christmas is actually about. It’s about love, Christ, spending time with family, and showing kindness and charity to others.

So, I’m reading the Bible and Christmas stories, researching charities and places to donate to help others, and enjoying a much simpler Christmas overall. I’m sure next year I’ll overcompensate with the biggest tree Arizona can offer, but for now, my poinsettia and Christmas tunes will do.

What are your Christmas/Hanukkah/Festivus traditions? Are you having a traditional holiday this year? Or are you doing something else?

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Christmas wishes, in no particular order

I finished my Christmas shopping (and wrapping) weeks ago and at the beginning of December I made the executive decision not to get a Christmas tree or even really decorate this year. I have a Trader Joe’s wreath on my door and a grocery store poinsettia on the table, and that’s it. I haven’t unwrapped ornaments, or put up twinkly lights, or hung stockings or carefully set out my Nativity carved from Botswana rosewood. I haven’t gone caroling or even listened to much Christmas music, and despite my best intentions, I didn’t send out Christmas cards. I haven’t been a complete Scrooge, in late October I made a spreadsheet of people to buy/make gifts for, an approximate budget, and a few ideas for each. By the end of November everything was purchased and after the first weekend in December it was wrapped and tagged. Out-of-state family will be receiving their boxes of goodies well before the holiday and my spreadsheet is satisfyingly highlighted in “complete” green. (My goal of having Christmas shopping complete by Thanksgiving was very nearly met, I was just a few days off.)

I’ve already bought myself a Christmas present (or three), but there are number of other things on my wish list that I’m hoping for on Christmas morning.

1. These swoony earrings, I’ve been looking for square diamond studs for ages to match my square wedding ring. I wear diamond studs every day, and these ones are so sleek and modern!


2. Canon Ultra-Wide Zoom Lens, 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6. I could probably buy camera equipment every year until I died, but with this lens addition I think I’ll be satisfied for a couple of years. I’ve got a macro lens, an awesome “every day” lens, and this would complete my little lens trifecta. At least, for a while.


3. A pretty, purpely original watercolor. I’ve been really loving lavender and soft purple lately, so much that I even pulled two dozen lavender paint chips to see about painting a wall in my apartment (it will probably be gray, not lavender, but this sweet little watercolor would certainly cheer up a fresh gray wall).


4. A delicious, emerald green, buttery leather purse. I’m not really one to switch purses every day or even every week, but I wear them out because I kind of give them a regular beating….and last spring’s purse (teal cross-body) is starting to show signs of…extra love.


5. John Steinbeck’s collection of letters. Steinbeck is perhaps my favorite author, and I’m sure that after reading his (probably patriarchal bullshit) letters I’ll change my opinion of him as a man, but maintain that he has unrivaled expertise in character development.


6. Gorgeous gold flatware from West Elm. Do you know how impossible it is to find lovely gold flatware? I’m not super in to mixing metals, and finding sets with gold spoon and fork ends is tricky, and finding ones that aren’t suffocating in filigree and carved florals and vines has proven, well, difficult.


7. A couple of days of relaxation and quiet with Mr. Blue Eyes. This one is a sure thing, but I’m so looking forward to turning off work and responsibilities for a long, luxurious weekend hanging out with my sweetheart.


I hope you have a wonderful Christmas full of lots of love, laughter, and surprises.

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A Merry Little Christmas

This is my 30th Christmas and in most ways it is very much like any other: gingerbread houses, decorating two Christmas trees, holiday music, baking, decorating, planning, shopping for, and wrapping gifts for loved ones, putting white twinkle lights in the window, Christmas concerts and parties with friends and family. I seem to be a lot more cry-y this year than ever before, and while there are a couple of big, legitimate reasons for that, it is still unsettling. Last weekend Blue Eyes and I went to a large Christmas concert spectacular in our city with a symphony and a choir and world-renowned headline opera singer. When she sang “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and I started sobbing. As in, uncontrollable tears streaming down my face, difficult to breathe kind of sobs. Since then, every single mention of this song—even just typing out the title—brings tears to my eyes all over again.

(Hi, I’m a wreck. How are you?)

This year has been really, really hard. Blue Eyes has been working out-of-town for about 49 of the 52 weeks in 2013 (and 2012) (and 2011), there have only been 2 or 3 times the entire year where I saw him for more than three days in a row. We’ve had some pretty intense family drama that has taken a lot of time, money, and emotional reserve to try to deal with; we didn’t have any of those things in spades going in, nor any real idea that it could get so bad. I don’t think I want to get in to it all right now, but when a seasoned judge with salt-and-pepper hair says “You know, I’ve been doing this for a long time and this is the most contentious case I have seen in years!” and instead of feeling surprise you feel validated…it is a pretty ugly mess, really…also, the fact that we ended up in court and/or with court officials to discuss and try to iron out these issues no less than FOUR TIMES this year should help frame that a bit. Anyway, so we’ve had long-distance marriage struggles, and family drama to a spectacular degree, and job stress and money worries and emotional upheaval and turmoil and medical issues on top of it all. 2013 has probably been the most difficult year of my life, I am only too happy to see it out the door.

But, before the New Year rolls around, there is the little thing called Christmas.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Let your heart be light. From now on,
our troubles will be out of sight

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Make the Yule-tide gay, from now on,
our troubles will be miles away.

This seems like such an impossible dream right now: a light heart, troubles out of sight and miles away. My heart has been heavy for far too long and my troubles have been front and center, mucking about with my regular routine. A whole day without the stress of those two things seems…impossible. Unthinkable. Unimaginable. A lifetime of it is like trying to comprehend the Universe, or quantum mechanics. I just…I don’t have the ability to process that kind of future scenario, neither in my brain or my heart, despite desperately wishing that dream-life will come true. Thankfully, Blue Eyes will be home for the holidays, he’ll be here for almost 2 weeks and that will be the most I’ve seen of him in a row for, literally, years.

Here we are as in olden days,
Happy golden days of yore.
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more.

More than ever, I think, I cherish my friendships and support groups—my people—because they have taken such a strong stand beside me this year. My wonderful friends—the ones inside my computer and the ones inside my living room—have laughed with me, cried with me, raged on my behalf, kept me company and involved me in projects and purpose to keep me occupied with something healthier than more of my own wallowing. If I could give a gold star and a magical unicorn to each one I would; a Christmas card just doesn’t seem to suffice. More than any other time I can recall, I am hoping that my dear friends and loved ones also have a wonderful holiday; I am praying they have lighter hearts and fewer troubles.

Through the years we all will be together, if the Fates allow.
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

I truly hope that next year will be better, and the year after that will bring us more happiness to Blue Eyes and me. “Next year will be better!” is on constant repeat in my brain and my heart. I dream about his work responsibilities changing to be closer to home, I fantasize about having dinner with him every night, brushing our teeth together and crowding the mirror before snuggling into his shoulder to finish whatever chapter I started that day while he races motorcycles (or tractors, or go-carts, or whatever) on his iPad. Hell, I even am looking forward to cleaning the beard trimmings (that he seems incapable of noticing) out of the bathroom sink on a daily basis!

Yes, next year will be better. I don’t think I’m running away from or trying to ignore The Ugly that has taken root in our lives, but as I have very little control over the outcomes all I can do is wait it out. Sure, I could probably figure out how to change my attitude so that The Ugly no longer bothers me, but it would most likely require illegal doses of mood enhancing and/or altering drugs, and I don’t think that is any better or healthier than hunkering down and waiting for spring. So, for now, I will listen to Judy Garland sing about having a Merry Little Christmas and bawl my eyes out–again–wishing with all my heart that things will be better soon.

For the record this post has taken 11 tissues to write, each soaked to a soggy mess.

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Music for “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” composed by Hugh Martin, lyrics by Ralph Blane; find the story behind “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” here (or there, rather).