I used to absolutely dread the "taking down of Christmas." And what I mean by the "taking down of Christmas" is the taking down of the decorations...every last ornament, garland, and twig of greenery that adorned my home. It always seemed so sad, as if I was rejecting Christmas and no longer showing my love for the season. I felt like I was divorcing the holiday once it was old and done with and had run its course. I would put it off at least until New Year's and then maybe even push the dreaded task to the second week of January so it would still feel celebratory on my anniversary. But, alas, it had to happen. The taking down is as much a part of Christmas as the putting up. Once I finally got around to psyching myself up and mentally preparing to part with the season I hold so dear, I could not get it down fast enough. As decorating for the holidays sometimes takes a slow, methodical approach, taking it all down is a sprint to get finished as fast as possible. Get those containers loaded up, sealed, and on their way to the attic or basement or wherever they hang out till next December. In my case, it's under the bed for lack of closet space (don't tell anyone!). But why I dreaded it so I don't know, because I remember feeling so clean, fresh, and uncluttered once I got the strength and the wherewithal and the utter gumption to get busy and get it done...ahhh, a slate wiped clean for new possibilities. For that very reason, I've learned over the years to embrace this time. So this year was different and all my Christmas decor is down now before January 1st, except for a couple of strings of tiny lights which will linger on my console and in my cloche on the dining room table to ease me through the long cold days of winter. Light is a must during winter time and those little lights make me so happy!
Now that the holidays are behind us and a new year is once again approaching, I like to take this time to purge not only the clutter that has filled my home over the six weeks leading up to Christmas, but also to purge emotionally as well. What clutter daily fills my heart and mind and takes up space there that I can get rid of and, by doing so, make my perspective just a little bit clearer and make room for something new? What attitudes and mindsets need to be thrown out and replaced with something clean and fresh and healthier? What goals and desires have I let fall by the wayside this past year and allowed to become faint memories instead of the distinct possibilities they were at the beginning of 2017? Every year in January I remind myself that a new year means new chances to do and be better, a time for new opportunities, and a time to embrace newly realized hopes and dreams and maybe even revisit some old ones. During the first month of the year I try to take plenty of time to reflect on the past while looking forward to the future, and to find solace in the quiet, purging days of winter. Purging is a perfect way to spend the month of January.
And then there's the renovation...the seemingly endless stacks of wood, tools, dust, and clutter of every imaginable kind, and the equally astounding to-do list on the horizon. At the onset of this job, we had hoped for a six to seven month timeframe but, boy, were we ambitious! Even though we are not where we'd like to be going into 2018, we are thankful for how far we've come and are still looking forward to a spring listing. I can't deny that at times recently I have been very discouraged. It feels as though we've had a good bit of back-tracking on this project. But renovating homes is an emotional roller coaster, to say the least. Sometimes you feel exhilarated; sometimes you feel like you're headed for a dangerous drop but it's too late to turn back and you have to hold on tight and plunge forward. And for some crazy reason, you keep doing it and it continues to fill that place where you entertain possibility and creativity and a little bit of living on the edge. But like the holidays, when a renovation project feels as though it's dragging on and on, it behooves us to take some time off, refresh our perspective, and look at things in a new light. That's exactly what we've done over the Christmas break, and I am excited about finishing up this project and moving on to the next one. Now that we have toasty heat to keep us going in this dead of winter, we can roll our sleeves up and get busy once more. We have a gorgeous soaking tub installed in the master bath and it sits atop some beautiful porcelain tile. The gas logs have been purchased for the fireplaces and are sitting on ready. The kitchen cabinets are waiting to be installed and the countertops will be finalized this week. I hope to have some pictures to share soon.
Every year I feel excited for a new beginning. There is something about new beginnings that gives us hope. And there is something about purging that makes us feel clean and refreshed. We have moved probably 10 times in the last 10 years, and sometimes it feels like my belongings are scattered from here to there and everywhere in between. We have an apartment filled with the necessities of everyday living, a storage unit filled with all the things we think we cannot yet part with, and quite a few items loaned out to family for safekeeping. Sometimes I find myself in the middle of a pity party, telling myself that one day my life will be organized and I will be able to account for everything I own and, better yet, have a place for each thing I possess and every one of those things in its designated place. But then I remember to count my blessings once more, to be thankful for the good ol' crazy here and now, and embrace the present and every new adventure that comes my way. And wherever we're hanging our hat at the moment, purging is one way that I can make every place I live feel more like home.
Thanks so much for reading my thoughts during 2017. I'm happy someone wants to listen and I truly appreciate you riding along with me on this journey. Continue to follow us and our home renovations all through 2018 and beyond...I wish you a very Happy New Year, and some quiet winter days filled with the satisfaction of a good purge...
(To top off all the activities of the Christmas season, we have four birthdays in our family in December! This nana is about partied out!)
"I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year."
- Charles Dickens
By now in New York City
there's snow on the ground
And out in California the sunshine's fallin' down
Maybe down in Memphis
Graceland's all in lights...
and in Atlanta, Georgia
there's peace on earth tonight.
Christmas in Dixie
It's snowing in the pines...
(Christmas in Dixie by Alabama)
Well, we almost made it on that last one, but not quite. About a week ago Father Winter made an unusually early appearance in Georgia and we had some gorgeous snow in the pines. It hung on for a few days until the temps rose enough to turn the frozen confection into water once again, and all returned to normal.
I believe this is the closest we've come to a white Christmas since sometime in the nineties. One year during that decade we had a few snow flurries that totally excited the kids and drove them into the front yard with their tongues sticking out to catch a flake, but it left just about as fast as it came. Looking back on the many Christmases I've had, I can only remember one white Christmas growing up as a child in East Atlanta. And, ironically, I do not remember the fun we had building a snowman or how incredibly cold it was. The thing I do remember was that my dad still had to go to work and mama reminding him to be careful in the treacherous driving conditions. My dad, like a lot of good Southern folk, didn't ever have to drive in the snow like our northern neighbors, probably didn't slow down one iota, and had an accident. But the thing that sticks out in my mind about that incident was that he had a slice of chocolate cake in the front seat which was smashed in the accident when the passenger's seat flew forward on impact. That was back in the days when there were no seatbelts, no headrests, and no latches to secure seats; you just slung them forward and hopped on in! But I felt so sorry for my dad losing his cake, because we all know that homemade chocolate cake at the holidays is the best. Funny the details we remember.
Before the snow was even predicted this past week, I had made plans to travel with my bestie to her family's house in Blue Ridge for a couple of nights to take a breather and do a little Christmas shopping. Our trip was not affected however because, by the time we headed north, the roads were mostly clear. But that's not to say we didn't get to see some glorious scenery and, yes, a bit of snow in the pines. This is the first time I've ever had the privilege of being in Blue Ridge during Christmas time and it truly felt magical. What is it about snow that just seems to make the holidays more real? Here's where I think the magic we associate Christmas with comes from: THE MOVIES! You know I'm right! Every single Christmas movie ever recorded I think was filmed with tons of snow in the mountains or manufactured snow somewhere where it was 80 degrees on location. But we all know it's just not a Christmas movie without a huge snowfall being part of the story. And then if the characters get stranded in the snow, it's even more majestic. Because we all know that being stranded in the snow with the one you love has got to be the most romantic thing ever!
Even though it is pretty much unheard of in the south to celebrate a white Christmas, a girl can dream. We can dream of taking long hikes where our boots sink a foot into the ground and then heading back to an adorable Adirondack cabin for cocoa by the fire. We dream of a magic kiss under the mistletoe while Let it Snow plays softly in the background. We can dream of roasting marshmallows over the fire because it's too cold to go out. But then we realize we don't have any marshmallows and there is absolutely no way we can make it to the store in this nasty weather! That's when we southerners have to admit that a dusting of snow is about as magical as we want it to get. Stuck inside for days on end with no way to get out and possibly no electricity? Thanks, but no thanks. We'll leave that to our northern friends; they're used to maneuvering in snow boots and taking the subway everywhere and so many layers it's impossible to move. We'll just take our 70-degree Christmas Day, thank you very much. We'll turn down the heat, maybe even turn on the AC, and crank up the fireplace!
As the final days leading to Christmas are winding down, I hope that you are winding down as well. We are taking some much needed time off from the renovation project to enjoy family coming into town and the plethora of activities planned for the coming week. That's not to say that the hubs is staying completely away. He's promised to "just piddle" and complete small tasks because to ask him not to show up on the jobsite is like asking a kid not to go to a party. It's just not in his thinking. But things are coming along and we are looking forward to the beginning of a new year, where we'll put our work boots back on, take a deep invigorating breath of that crisp January air, and drive the renovation all the way to the finish line.
But not before we enjoy a cup of cocoa, watching Christmas movies and the beautiful snow scenes they're sure to include, and a kiss by the fire to welcome 2018.
Merry Christmas to all...May your blessings be many!
"Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful."
- Norman Vincent Peale
Despite a few mishaps these past couple of weeks, like ending the week with a pretty good backache, the sniffles from a winter cold, the hubs taking a six-foot dive from a ladder (he's okay), and a still-lingering hole in the living room floor at the job site, it's been a pretty good couple of weeks overall! The Christmas season has officially been ushered in with tree-lightings in small neighboring towns, parades, markets, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday. There have been more television Christmas specials already than I can count and I have watched no less than 10 cheesy Hallmark Christmas movies in the evenings with the hubs. I'm not so sure he's REALLY watching because he's usually working on his computer pretending not to be listening or next to me on the couch snoozing by the first commercial break. But, in spite of their cheesiness and the fact that they all have pretty much the same plot and ending, I still watch them and I still love them because they confirm that fuzzy Christmas feeling in my heart -- romance and good tidings -- and it's hard to find anything wrong with that! We also got to spend Thanksgiving weekend with our son and his family in Tampa, so that is always a highlight! A weekend with my two oldest grandchildren is always a lot of fun and their energy confirms the sneaky suspicion that I am indeed getting older. Just face it, Nana, you're getting older. Ugh. Unlike tiny ones such as my daughter's, my son's children are 9 and 14, and are tackling a whole new boatload of pre-teen and teen challenges...like advanced school work, social issues and conflicts, and downright serious questions about life. Their daily challenges don't so much step on Nana's toes like the little ones, but on Nana's heart big-time. I am so glad I am no longer a teenager or trying to rear a teenager! Those are tough years when you have to learn to deal with such things as disappointment and rejection and cynicism. But they are always glad to see us and we are always blessed by getting to hunker down with them for a few days. Good, good times and good, good kiddos. I am so proud of them.
Despite the job site looking like a warzone -- a very small warzone but a warzone nonetheless -- there has been some actual progress made in the last couple of weeks. The living room/dining room ceiling around the fireplace has been opened up to install wiring for electricity and lighting since the beginning of time it seems, so this week was the week it FINALLY got closed up, new bead board installed where the old was un-salvageable, and two lovely faux beams built and now adorning the dining room ceiling. In other words, the ceilings in that part of the house are closed, yippee! Big ol' support beams have been installed in three different places to correct unsupported ceilings (one actually sagging) and give the roof the reinforcement it so desperately needed. I say desperate, but this house is a tank! Despite some structural issues that "novice-renovators" (for lack of a better word) left unattended and have been there for years, the structure is now properly secured and will probably still be standing strong in another 125 years, I have no doubt. That mature old-growth wood is the hardest wood we've ever encountered!
Also in the last couple of weeks, the entire exterior of the house has been completely painted and landscaping (at least for now) has been completed. Or little holly shrubs are thriving and we have beautiful tender green grass sprouting up everywhere! Today the trim on the exterior is being painted and the gutters are going up as well, one beautiful downspout at a time. We have begun hanging shutters as well and had an impromptu shutter-making day recently using the old wood torn out from inside the house where drywall will be hung in its place. And did I mention we have a completed working half bath with toilet and sink? Oh, right, I did mention that...about a million times. Can you tell my excitement for that has not waned one little bit? And for about the hundredth time, we once again have what I call a wooded wonderland on the job site, as the various wood -- old and new -- insists on taking up a decent part of the real estate, in spite of the hubby's efforts to keep it controlled. All it takes is one day of some type of wood working (like making shutters or constructing faux beams) to once again have countless piles of wood trying to take up our walking space and enough sawdust to fill a silo. He says he needs an increase in his pay to cover his role of wood management. He's so funny. I'd like a raise too.
But payday is still a ways away for us. In spite of small victories, there is still much to be done before listing this home on the market. But we try to revel in those victories, however small they might be, and try not to let it get us down when we have setbacks. Because we all know, house renovation is not for the faint of heart, the scaredy cats, or those who don't like a challenge or getting mud on their feet.
It's for the brave and the strong and the down-and-dirty. And that's who we are...
..at least most of the time.
"We all naturally want to become successful... we also want to take shortcuts. And it's easy to do so, but you can never take away the effort of hard work and discipline and sacrifice."
Posted by CC
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