Thursday, November 15, 2007

At The Holiday Starting Gate

I almost titled this post "Keeping Up Appearances", and I was also tempted to call it "I Told You The Housing Market Was Going to Get Ugly!" I guess there's just a lot on my mind, like sick children, missing school (as in not showing-up, not pining for school,) battling bitter depression about not having a house of our own, and the confounding task of balancing a simplified life with having the best holidays ever!

Now, some of you may think I shouldn't let it all hang out... the dirty laundry, the raw truth about life's challenges and frustrations, but I look at it as therapy and as a public service. I can voice all of my fears, doubts, insecurities and pettiness and then just accept that life is like that... messy and hard sometimes, then I can move on. And maybe there's another person out there, a tired mom, a disappointed, cranky, disillusioned person that just wants to know that it's OKay to feel down, to feel overwhelmed... let's face it, most of us will not achieve the Good Houskeeping Blue Ribbon for Fantastically Perfect Holiday Decorating, Baking, Caroling, Hosting and General Beauty and Hygiene. So, maybe my truth will help someone else feel amused, less isolated, or encouraged to keep trying.

First, I should admit I put the pressure on myself. I want the Beautiful Holiday Home, with snow in the yard and gingerbread coming out of the oven... it will never snow here! And keeping the whole house really clean, all the time, is almost as unlikely as building snowmen in our yard. I think it's safe to say I will not get around to sewing 6 stockings and making aprons for each of my friends. I doubt we will have a birthday party for Maria. And good grief... have you tried shopping China-free? It's nearly impossible, which is great from a money saving point, but I do not feel as though I am achieving one bit in a Save the Planet kind of way... it feels so futile.

Idealistic Me wants Homemade Holidays. I tried to save money and be a clever, artistic-homemaker-super-mom by making a pattern, so I could sew this beautiful apron, which is a delightful interpretation of this apron. My apron is wonky, weird, wrong and a waste of time and effort. "Not Martha" is already taken for a blog name, but truthfully, as far as Domestic Divas go, I am the Anti-Martha... the Sloppy Mom... the flying by the seat of my pants mom, laughing all the way mom with four coughing, hungry, bright and wonderful kids.

So, yes I threw the apron in a heap and kicked it, but I won't leave it there. Sometime this week I am going to pick it up and attack the waistband with my seam ripper (where is the seam ripper?) and I'll try again. It will never be as lovely as I imagine it could be... so, what's the point? I don't know... maybe it has something to do with never giving up, never surrendering. Maybe it's accepting mediocrity, with a knowing grin. Idealistic Me needs to be reminded that magazine covers are a beautiful illusion, a carefully crafted moment created by many skilled and paid hands, and that very few people ever accomplish everything without neglecting something else.

There is so much I hope to achieve and wish I could accomplish. There is so much I admire and... (dare I say?) envy. If I continue to focus on every ad and every craft article, and every suggestion that Christmas is better with new carpets and coordinated holiday outfits, I will no doubt feel crushed and defeated. I already have a mounting sense of dread about the holiday obstacle course and rush that is ahead, which is sad. So, I am going to improvise and remind myself to make a new focus... I want to eliminate fantasy visions. I want to witness the genuine moments, to embrace the joy in the mess, to celebrate life regardless of wonky seams and eggnog from a carton.

(Big cheers for Anna Maria Horner and her live appearance on The Martha Stewart Show! She shared a beautiful way to use fabric and paint, and she Kept it Real... admitting she has no time to make her bed! She hardly needs to be remembered for her remark about not making her bed, but I sure do appreciate her candor and humor.)

My Holiday List ...all points revokable and amendable:
1. homemade fruitcake
2. homemade tamales... maybe just a few
3. Christmas music... every day
4. Christmas cards... however many I can manage
5. lights on the house... not likely
6. driving around, looking at everyone else's lights... definitely!
7. A Christmas Eve party with candlelight, caroling and a cocktail bar
8. Us, singing carols in our pajamas... a little off-key, a little out of synch... my favorite
9. A tree and trimmings... most likely
10. Our traditional gingerbread house-hot glue gathering... daunting prospect, but always worthwhile
11. Sharing our blessings... very important
12. Ice skating... challenging endeavor
13. Travel... get real!
14. See the Rose Parade... you've waited 41 years, another year won't matter
15. Remembering the reason for the season and keeping it forefront in my heart and thoughts... imperative, not revokable
16. Relax... could save a life
17., 18., 19. and 20. Expect the unexpected and roll with it

Just Keeping it Real.


nikkipolani said...

The apron in your link is just gorgeous, Natalie. It makes me want to clear a path to the sewing machine and try it. Was there a pattern? Well, nevermind. I don't do well with patterns anyway. I can't wait to see your version.

Andylynne said...

I love the materiel you chose for that apron, and when ever you pick it up again it will be there waiting, willing to be changed or shaped any way you want to. If you don't like it now then hey, it will still be wonderful fabric. You can do what ever you want with it at that point. That pattern is adorable and I can see why you would want to make one.
As far as Martha goes, I have a video of her from back in the 80s from a PBS special, not exactly the poslished business woman of today. I love Martha, but lets face it. The real world of Moms & kids dreams, and disasters is soooooo much more rewarding. You brighten the world around you, your blog is a ray of sunshine. Even if the reality of the day isn't all peaches and cream. You have pointed out that we have so much to be thankful for. As far as shopping china free.... Did you buy Maria those adorale 80 dollar tennies. The ONLY ones to be found, that seem to be made in Italy and not in China. If not then hey, hug your kids, kiss your DH and at some point get back to your beautiful Apron:)

Missy said...

Oh Natalie, you described so well that overwhelming need to be perfect at Christmas feeling so many of us have. You are so right to... "witness the genuine moments, to embrace the joy in the mess, to celebrate life regardless of wonky seams and eggnog from a carton."

I personally LOVE eggnog from a carton.

Tracy said...

LOVE what's going on with the apron! You sell yourself short, Natalie! I love your flying by the seat of your pants way! Martha Perfection doesn't interest me much. Maintaining unreasonable, unreachable, unaffordable standards can make a girl depressed. No Martha here, never will be. But I'm ok with that. I've been worried about not being able to recreate the traditional Norwegian Christmas with a few American touches thrown in. This year I just want somethings simple, some good food, famil and fun. I'm working making some cards & gifts. There is so much to be joyful and grateful for. Perfectly clean houses don't last long ;o) But hugs, family time and gifts from the heart do. I think we all feel more than a little overwhelmed by Christmas. By keeping real, we'' enjoy it so much more and remember it more years to come! Happy weekend to you all ((HUGS))

Tami @ Lemon Tree Tales said...

I vote for just simply enjoying time with your delightful family. Twenty years from now, will everyone remember that you had a super neat home, or will they fondly reflect on nights spent laughing at singing whole-heartedly off-tune? Beyond having clean kitchens and bathrooms (for basic sanitary reasons), the rest is all just for looks. Instead of wishing that you had new carpet, or new decorations, smile and work on that pretty apron I see in your pictures.

Besides, can someone tell me why there must be new decorations every year? Isn't there something nice about having the same familiar items to denote that it's a special time of year? Seems to me that we've let the retailers have too much power in our daily lives now.

AH, I can tell that I'm rambling too much .. must be the cold talking. I'm gonna rest now.

Cheer up Natalie, you're a great mom and crafter! :-)

Natalie said...

You guys are so awesome.
Cheers to you!

Julie said...

Your fabric choices for the apron are simply gorgeous. Fix it and show it to us, but I'm sure you are just being hard on yourself.

And if you keep #15 at the forefront, the rest of your list will fall into place.

village mama said...

I love your list, especially 'relax, could save a life'. Hilarious, it's definitely written by a parent ;-)

Great blog!