Monday, February 3, 2014

Why I Didn't Send Out Christmas Cards


Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life - well, valuable, but small - and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven't been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn't it be the other way around? I don't really want an answer. I just want to send this cosmic question out into the void. So good night, dear void.            -Kathleen Kelly, You've Got Mail


I meant to this year, I really did. It was going to be my first Christmas card ever. I even had professional family portraits taken (for the first time since we got married) at the beginning of November. After all, we have an adorable child now, and isn't that basically a prerequisite for sending Christmas cards?



I should have just ordered those photo prints that have "Merry and Bright" swirled on them and been done with it. But I love the parade of festive cards that arrive every December, especially those stuffed with newsy updates, and I started thinking about our hypothetical newsletter. I know (most) Christmas cards aren't meant to come off as "braggy," but they're basically a way to neatly sum up accomplishments and major life happenings for the year. And for the first time in my married life, I just didn't have anything to say for myself. 



That's a rather mournful way to look at it, but here are some headlines from the cards we could have sent in years past:

2008: Got Married! Jay's second year of dental school! Lindsay starts grad school!
2009: Still in grad school! Fun weekend trips all over Texas!
2010: Lindsay graduates with MA, starts full-time job! Jay in fourth year of dental school!
2011: Jay graduates dental school, starts residency! Lindsay working full time! Expecting first child! Jay runs marathon!
2012: Kate is born! Jay finishes residency! We move from Texas to Las Vegas! Jay starts full-time job!



Now, I'm not knocking 2013. It was a lovely year. Jay switched jobs last January which made our lives about one thousand times better. Kate charmed me so completely from month to month that I wondered how I could possibly enjoy her more, and then the next month she went and did it again. There were many, many days last year that I melted into the couch in quivering awe of my happiness and the goodness of my life.



I did have a couple of significant accomplishments last year; namely, I ran a half marathon and completed a pieced, hand quilted, queen-size quilt for our bed. Those, for me, were not small feats, and I am proud of them. But what to say of the rest of it, of the minutiae that filled my days? The lazy mornings, too much internet, small interactions with Kate, striving to overcome myself and learn to be a homemaker even though it's like trying to fit the pieces of ten jigsaw puzzles into one seamless picture?



Playing with Kate, being organized, keeping things clean, sticking to a self-imposed schedule, cooking daily dinners... These are all things that don't come naturally to me. I think I spent the first part of the year mentally playing connect-the-dots with the Cheerios scattered across my floor and fighting down panic as the rising tide of my inadequacy overcame me. It wasn't as much of an issue in 2012 when Kate was born: I spent most of that year just trying to keep my head above water and find the pieces of myself that were lost somewhere in the ocean of motherhood. But in 2013 I felt like myself again (or a version of myself, at least), and I realized my need to do more than back float in just-getting-by mode. 



So I made an effort. I worked to establish a routine (dishes and kitchen in the morning, laundry on Mondays, pick up the downstairs daily, start dinner around 5:00, have a list of meals so I wouldn't feel overwhelmed by indecision every day). I kept the house clean(er). I independently made a legitimate dinner around four nights a week. There were always clean clothes (even if they weren't always folded). 



A few months ago, Jay said to me, "Don't take this the wrong way, but what changed? The house looks good most of the time now, and you consistently have dinner ready when I get home." 



I didn't know how to answer him except to try to explain that I was tired of having a "job" that I was less-than-mediocre at. I felt like my domesticity report card was full of C's. I was that guy at the office who knew he wasn't hacking it and shouldered a millstone of dread and inadequacy everyday. I couldn't live like that anymore.



I am still far from a paragon of homemaking virtue. I still struggle knowing how to play with Kate. I still have to force myself to make dinner. I still have a less-than-spotless house. I still often feel like I'm wearing a job description that is loose and baggy in some places and tight and restrictive in others.



But I'm working on it. 



And even though I didn't send out Christmas cards in 2013, and on the surface it doesn't look like I accomplished much, it was a year of grace, a rich season of growth and becoming. 



I only hope I'll be able to say the same for 2014.


 {All photos taken by Amy Rhodes Photography. Final edits by me because I'm a vibrance-obsessed control freak. Also, these pictures are a lie: sweet Kate was a monster the entire session. She wanted to play with the ducks and run amok and hold anyone's hand [Jay's, the photographer's] but mine. There was much whining and frustration and a few suppressed tears on my end. If any of my smiles look like they're fraying at the edges, that's why. How we ended up with ANY pictures where one of the three of us wasn't screaming (okay, just me or Kate) is a miracle and a credit to our photographer!}



20 comments:

  1. i LOVE this post. i LOVE these pictures. and i LOVE Lindsay!

    I have had to develop a schedule for me since working at home. It is much harder than a schedule being outlined for me I've decided...I am still working on it. Thanks for the inspiration :)

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    1. Katie, you are an inspiration to me! I love your sense of responsibility and your ability to self-start, even when it's hard. Love you!

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  2. "I still often feel like I'm wearing a job description that is loose and baggy in some places and tight and restrictive in others." I love that, and it's so true. There are times as a mother when I look around and sometimes think "ummmm...this isn't how I pictured it" and there are other times I think "wow, this is so much better than I imagined it." Motherhood is most definitely a journey and I'm grateful for the growth that comes along with it. And I love your family pictures. :)

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  3. Thanks for sharing this. You saved on postage, and I think this is the best "Christmas Letter" that I have ever read. (And for the people like me, who are not in contact any more, the single sentence updates of the past 5 years was a brilliant bit of information that would have taken me 7 hours to write up)

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    1. FYI, that post was from Sarah (Zimmer) Marcus. I realized it just said Sarah, and I'm sure you know plenty of those. ;)

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    2. Thank you, Sarah--that means a lot. I get updates on you every once in awhile from your mom--I hope you are doing well in CA!

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    3. We are just plugging along and living life. I'm job hunting and Josh is pushing through his second quarter of Grad School. Someday I hope to have an amazing 5 sentences of life! Hopefully those sentences will contain similar items to yours. Got a job. Husband finishes school. Husband starts residency. Husband starts practice. Maybe throw in a kid for kicks, or just to be like you. ;) But really, we are surviving, and trying to enjoy life. I am loving California, though.

      See how much we learn through these posts? I thought your fam was still in Texas.

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    4. I love the Bay Area--my mom is from San Jose, and we used to live there and in SF. We would go visit every summer. Hang in there--school does eventually end. Good luck on the job hunt--being unemployed-looking-for-work is my least favorite occupation :).

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  4. Love this post and love that I know you!

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    1. Skinner, I think of you every time I see hot air balloons (there were dozens in Mesquite as we drove through a couple weeks ago), pandas, and gingerbread men. Let us know if you're ever in Vegas again!

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  5. Lindsay, this is why I love and miss you! We see eye to eye on so many things, but you put them so much more eloquently than I could. I have always struggled keeping my house clean, and the daily-ness of motherhood can be so, so hard. I make a healthy, yummy dinner, only to have to do the dishes and do it all over again the next day! I struggle to sweep up cereal off of my floor and clean up my house, and then the kids undo my cleaning in 5 minutes flat and James decides to put dozens of fluorescent circle stickers all over the walls and furniture!! I am working on it and getting into better habits and making tiny baby steps. You are an inspiration! And I agree, this is the best Christmas letter ever! We miss you guys so much - hope we can visit one of these days and play games! By the way, Kate is ADORABLE!!!

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    1. Jenny, I love your creativity as a mom, the fun projects and learning activities you do with your kids, the amazing things you make for your family, the delicious dinners you serve--your talents are so multi-faceted. When you look at all of that, it makes having a messy house seem like a very small thing, doesn't it?

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    2. Aww, you just made my day. You are so right, a clean house isn't all that matters :) Thanks for putting it into perspective!

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  6. Lindsay thanks for your comment on Segullah. I love how you used Kathleen Kelly's quote on your post! I was worried no one would get my reference. That makes us instant kindred spirits. You have a gorgeous fam!

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    1. Thank you, Jennie! I love Segullah, and I love You've Got Mail, so we are kindred spirits, indeed!

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  7. That quote is lovely, I need to re-watch that movie. These photos are lovely, I know I've seen them before, but the color takes my breath away. So nice job, and I post-edit photos of me taken by professionals, too. I think that's a sign that you're a photographer, which I believe you are :)

    Christmas cards are just plain hard. You know how I feel about them. It was pulling teeth to have the courage to send mine out this year. I love receiving them, though, and decided that it was better to send than not to. If it made my grandma happy that's all that really mattered. One thing I've come to learn is that some years are "bigger" than others (moves, graduations, new jobs, marriage, children...) other years are more quiet. Usually, at least its been my experience that quiet years are ways God is preparing us for louder ones ;)

    It's so interesting to me because I perceive you as someone who has homemaking down. And planning meals is a pain for everyone myself included so bravo on trying to make that an effort.

    Love you so much, so glad I know you.

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    1. I love that you send Christmas cards! I always love receiving them. I totally agree about loud vs quiet years; I am working hard to enjoy my life right now because I know it's only a matter of time before things get shaken up again.

      I am NOT a natural homemaker. I wish I were, but I keep reminding myself I have strengths in other areas. So excited for you to have kids so you can school us all in how it's done ;).

      Love you!

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  8. Lindsay-- I clicked over here after reading your beautiful comment on Segullah. I loved this post. You have a beautiful soul and an incredible eye for color!

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    1. Thank you, Michelle! I love Segullah, and your post was a very timely one for me. I clicked to your blog, and your family and your home are beautiful!

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