Monday, December 29, 2014

Celebrating All Over the Place

Christmas is a busy time in most homes but in ours it’s a nonstop party.  Not really but there is never a shortage of things to celebrate.

On December 17th Addie turned 3!  She is really coming into her own too which is both amazing and annoying.  It is fun to be a fly on the wall with her and TC, TC is quickly learning that Addie isn’t the pushover little sister that she has been the past three years.  In the past TC could trade Addie all the toys in the playroom for a ball of lint.  Addie didn’t care that she got screwed she just knew that her sister gave her such a beautiful, perfect, amazing ball of lint!  TC still tries with the ridiculous trades but now Addie is smart enough to say no (but maybe not always smart enough not to hit her sister over the head with whatever toy was wanted – it’s a work in progress).  As a three year old I think she will do well, I really think this will be a great year for her, not for any reason in particular but having been observing her closely over the last three years I can see that she’s ready to pounce…on what I don’t know but I am sure she will do it with loads of giggles and possibly a finger in her nose.
The just out of bed birthday strut.
Next came Christmas and that was wonderful.  Christmas Eve at the in-laws…I could do without that but you do what you have to do I suppose but it was all worth for 6AM on Christmas morning.  Sitting on the floor watching the two most beautiful girls squeal with delight over a new pack of undies and they totally lose their minds when they biggest Christmas wishes were granted.   
Notice how TC is digging in and Addie is admiring the gift?
 As TC opened her Hobbit Lego set she kept saying “I told you I would get it Mom, I knew I would get it…it has Smaug, I told you! I got it!”   

And Addie trembling as she slowly opened a doll house almost as big as herself; it was enough to melt my cold cold heart.

On December 26th Will and I celebrated 9 years of marriage.  We celebrated by not doing anything at all, it was perfect.  The morning after he came down from bed and gave me a high five, “9 years and one day, we did it.” And that was about it.  I can’t help but think about where we were a year ago, I can’t believe we were able to pull ourselves out of a pit so deep that we couldn’t see daylight.  While things aren't always perfect and he’s still not back to his old self I can say with confidence that we are happy.  If I may quote Sex and the City (and I may because it’s my blog) “every day, not all day every day but every day” we are happy every day. 

This week we will usher in a New Year, I am so excited to see what is in store for us in 2015.  I hope you all had a wonderful holiday, I truly do and I want to thank you again for all of your support these last few years, here and on twitter and all over.  Even when I was feeling so utterly alone I knew I wasn’t and that got me through so much.  Thank you.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Ghost of Christmas Past

Don’t you hate when happy memories turn into painful reminders?  I know I am not alone in struggling through the holidays, there are ghosts everywhere.  

Christmas 1986
It seemed like everything changed in one year, the last “normal” Christmas my family had was 1999.  By 2000 my dad was sick and while no one wanted to say it, the prospect of it being his last Christmas (it was) found its way into everything

Growing up Christmas was always the same, the 23rd would be full of cleaning and baking, that night the beans would be set out to soak for the homemade baked beans and last minute preparations would be made.  The 24th would be cooking, cooking, cooking!  Chicken wings, a lasagna, a ham, a turkey…everything.  We would head to church for the early service then it would be back to our house for our annual party.  Having 4 brothers and sisters made for a packed house to begin with but by the time it was time to head back to All Saint’s Episcopal for the 11PM service it seemed that half of the town had passed through our doors. 

Church was always great too, something about the smell of the candles blending with the smell of the wooden pews…I don’t think I will ever smell that again.  The choir would sing all the same songs, the organ the loudest it has been all year and one voice in the choir a little louder than the others (Amanda, you know who I am talking about!) and we would head home with “Joy To The World” still ringing in our ears. 

Well, my dad is long gone, that house is long gone, and as it often happens, the church has gone through so many changes that while I may remember the building the faces inside would be foreign.  I know this is all part of growing up but I feel like other people got to space these things out.  My dad died, we sold the house and a leadership change in the church one right after the other.  There wasn’t much time to recover from one change before the next one happened.

Every Christmas I think about a big bellied man with a distinctive beard.  Someone who embodied everything that Christmas was about: faith, love, family.  My dad was better than Santa.  Even when we had nothing we had everything.  Each Christmas Eve he would put the star on the advent Christmas tree and read “The Night Before Christmas”.  My dad was Christmas.  While I really love celebrating with the girls and each year it gets more and more exciting with them there is still a hole in my heart that will never be filled. 

Yesterday we had the new annual family Christmas at my stepmother’s (and her husband’s) house.  It was great to see everyone and watch the kids open gifts and pig out on cookies but I left with such a heavy heart.  My dad would have loved this (well not my stepmother’s husband, that would have been awkward) but he never got the chance.  My kids will never know him; they will have a totally different relationship with Christmas.  All I can do is tell them about how great of a man he was, keep him alive in that way, but man, it’s hard.

This will be the 14th Christmas without my dad and to someone who has never lost a parent or someone close it may seem a bit extreme for me to still be so heartbroken after all this time but one never truly gets over something like that and special days just magnify the pain you carry with your daily.  If you do know someone who has suffered such a loss, especially in the time since last Christmas, please make it a point to reach out.  Let them know that you are there for them and that you are keeping them and their loved one in your thoughts.  Be sure they know that their pain doesn’t make you uncomfortable, they don’t have to hide.  Speak their loved ones name freely, there is nothing worse than feeling like everyone has forgotten.

Christmas is still a happy time for me, as it is for most people who are still grieving, but there are moments of tears and pain but that’s OK.  I am not ruining my holidays by being sad,  I am honoring my father by remembering.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

(N)o Christmas Tree, (N)o Christmas Tree...

2014 will be remembered in our home for many reasons, most of them good but Christmas 2014, well this will forever be the year of the second Christmas tree.

Insert Tree here (take this morning)
 After getting a late start on things last year and having a black cloud darkened holidays in 2013 I was excited to get a jump on Christmas this year.  The Saturday after Thanksgiving we loaded into the car and headed out in search of the perfect tree.  It took some convincing to get Will to even join us so I wasn’t going to push the issue and insist on a live tree farm but I’ve had precut down trees in the past and never had a problem so I didn’t even give it a second thought. 

It wasn’t really that grand an event: I found the height I wanted, looked to bald spots, gave the dude $50, he cut the stump down and Will tied it to the roof.  Less than 10 minutes later we were home.  We did all the things years of live tree having Christmases have taught us, used boiling water, added a little Sprite…screwed it in and we thought we were good.  If the way the house smelled was any indication we were bound to have a wonderful Christmas, the smell of pine smacked you in the face the moment you walked in.

Fast-forward…the girls and I decorated….fast-forward again…one morning I went to water our beautiful tree before work when suddenly it toppled over.  All I remember is screaming “it’s falling!” and heading a loud crash and glass breaking.  Then next thing you know I’m covered in pine needles and tears.  I thought that was the worst thing that would happen to that poor tree, but I was wrong.

Last night, a week before Christmas, the tree was thrown out.  It never took any water, ever.  The few needles left on the tree were now brown and brittle.  It was a fire hazard just standing there in the girls’ playroom.  I’ve been asked if I think the fall broke the tree.  Yes.  Yes, the fall 100% broke the tree; it must have sustained a concussion and forgot how to drink…we will never know what killed our tree (we declined the autopsy) but we knew there was no way we were letting the girls open gifts under a bare tree trunk so 2014 will be the year that we had to buy a second Christmas tree.  

Tuesday, December 16, 2014



The anxiety of being only two out of 68,000 sent him to dry heave in the bathroom.

The inability to regulate his body temperature sent him shopping in Christmas crowds for the perfect cold weather gear.

The knowledge of loud PA music and musket shots prompted him to find ear protection.

Being by my side when I finally saw my first Patriots game at Gillette Stadium made all of his extra preparation worth it.    

He double checked my layers, my gloves my hat.  He made sure we had a ride there and back to avoid traffic.  When walking by parking lots he put himself between me and oncoming cars so I wouldn’t be the one to be hit if someone wasn’t paying attention.  In a crowd he grabbed my hand and took charge making sure we stayed together, showing no signs of anxiety being around so many people.

Every big play made on the field brought his eyes to me, he didn’t miss a moment of my excitement.  A blocked field goal for a touchdown, me; interception, me; Brady scrambling for a first down, me.  Was I warm enough?  Had I had enough hot chocolate?  Did I want to take a picture?  Everything in his power to make my day perfect he did.

No he didn’t feel guilty.  He didn’t think he owed me something because I got such amazing tickets from work.  We hadn’t fought over something stupid that he was trying to make up for he was just happy to see me happy.

He is not the same man I married and he isn’t cured in fact, it is taking him a few days to recover from using all of that strength and self-control on Sunday.  For an afternoon I came first.  Not to the kids, not to my cat, not at work but when it was just me and my husband it wasn’t about TBIs or PTSD or anything other than the two of us enjoying an afternoon of football and being together. 

Last year I didn’t know if he even liked me, this year there is no question that he loves me, really truly lay-him-self-down-in-traffic-for-me loves me.  How about that?