Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Different Ending (Part 5)

[This is Part 5 of a series of 6 (I think). Part 1 can be found here, Part 2 can be found here, Part 3 can be found here, and Part 4 can be found here. I fully realize that this is faaaaar more in-depth than most people care about, but I'm having a lot of fun going back over the past year and choosing photos and telling snippets of stories. I'm also realizing that some of these photos I uploaded to the computer and then never even looked at, so this is a good and much-needed chance to catch up and document our 2010. Thanks for bearing with me!]


When she flew home from Orlando it felt exactly like someone had flipped a switch from summer to fall. She loves fall. Fall colors, and turtlenecks and sweaters and knee-high boots and corduroy and tweed. But especially fall colors.

Driving in the rain one day, she saw her favorite license plate ever. She is somewhat of a license plate connoisseur and her previous favorite had held the record for many years, so this was kind of a big deal. She pulled out her handheld camera and snapped without looking, hoping for a decent shot.

She says this several times a trip when she has to drive any distance here in Northern Virginia. "OhmuhGahd goooooooooooo!"

She and her husband decided to give their German friends, Danny and Sophie, an American experience by taking them to a corn maze.

As it turns out, Danny and Sophie had already been to that exact corn maze a few weeks before, but they all had fun anyway.

Afterward they went wine drinking wine tasting at a local winery and had even more fun.

She celebrated Thanksgiving with her husband at Danny and Sophie's house, and they all ate way too much food and drank a little too much wine and beer.

They played Wii, she fell in love with a Snuggie, they played Loaded Questions, and they laughed A LOT.

A few weeks later they went to a Christmas Market hosted by the German Military (for whom Danny works). It was great and made them miss European Christmas Markets so very much.

She continued making jewelry-jewelry-jewelry just as fast as she could.

She came out with some new designs.

She fulfilled custom orders and made ready-made pieces for her show stock.

Stamped & oxidized, before polishing & finishing.

She purchased a table at a brand-new Christmas Bazaar hosted by a local private school. She was still fairly nervous since this was really her first season doing shows, but she did really, really well, and was so happy and proud of herself for all her hard work. She loved connecting with everyone who loved her work, and it made her heart glad.

She showed for the first time, too, at a very cool show called Chick's Picks, where Hillary turns her home into a very very cool store for three days at a time. Artists bring their work and Hillary sets it all up in her house like an amazing boutique and women come in droves to shop. Because this artist features custom work, she was asked to come and take custom orders for one of the three days. Her table was in a corner in the basement. She had a lot of fun talking to customers

and shopping. And even though she was in a corner in the basement, she did very well.

Between the custom orders from her shows and from Etsy, she was working between 14 and 17 hours per day, 7 days per week, for the first two weeks of December.

She was glad and grateful for the business, but she was tired.

With the last of her orders dropped at the post office on the way to the airport, she and her husband were once again traveling to--where else?--Oregon.

They flew Delta because they are idiots haven't learned their lesson are masochists had some miles they could put towards the tickets. It took them a long time, but eventually they made it to Oregon, where everything seemed better because her mom had made butter cookies.

But it wasn't time to relax, no, not for her, not by a long shot! She was hosting two days of Open House jewelry shows at her parents'! She got to see a lot of old friends and somehow, magically, people trickled in and trickled out so it was never crazy and never dead and she got to chat and fulfill custom orders while people waited. It was kind of perfect!

That night she went on a double-date with her husband and his cousin Brad and his wife Ingrid. They went out for Peruvian food for dinner, and then they went to see an awesome taping of Live Wire, a Portland live-audience radio show. It was a tremendous amount of fun and made her want to live in Portland because it is such a cool city.

Even though it was less than a week before Christmas, she was still fulfilling last-minute custom orders because she's a sucker she's super nice and loves her customers. She took over her parents' dining table [and kept waiting for her dad to throw a fit but he never did].

Somehow, she managed to write their Christmas letter [it was not as good as in previous years and she wanted to rewrite it as soon as she finished it, but instead she just hit print and stopped thinking about it, mostly, except it kind of still bugs her] and got it copied and folded and stuffed and stamped and dropped them all in the mail.

The next day she headed into Portland to meet up with her husband (who'd spent the previous few days with his family) and go to their favorite Portland places. They had lunch at Kells

and they shopped at the Portland Saturday Market's "Festival of the Last Minute," where she bought some gorgeous handmade glass beads. Then they headed up to the very best bookstore in the world, and then over to Deschutes Brewery. [She would very much like to hear you all attempt to pronounce Deschutes.]

Pretty soon it was time to go to the home of Jenny (her husband's cousin-ish), where there was a big family reunion of their generation of cousin-ishes (maybe second cousins? Third? Second-once-removed? She cannot recall, can never remember, will not ask again).

[It was very fun and everyone is very nice, but she is an introvert and at a certain point would have very much liked to go play Legos with the kids in the other room. She may or may not have spent ten minutes hiding out in the bathroom, tweeting with friends on her phone.]

The next day she went wine tasting to many wineries with some of her husband's family.

The following day was a mostly quiet day at her in-laws' home, and she spent it catching up online and recharging and making earrings from some of the handmade beads she just bought at Saturday Market.

She decided she liked them so much that she called the artist (they had exchanged information) and set up a time to come buy more beads the next day, on Christmas Eve morning! She bought a lot more beads and hopes the glass artist sets up her online wholesale site like she's intending.

Then they went over to her parents' house for their annual Christmas Eve party. Somehow she managed to not take a single photo of the gathering! But she enjoyed her parents' homemade clam chowder, and the barbecued salmon that her dad caught and cleaned and cooked, and all of the other yummy treats her family enjoys every year on Christmas Eve. [It never feels like Christmas Eve to her without homemade clam chowder.] And she visited with cousins, and met her cousin's fiancé, and hung out with her favorite aunt (who used to live in Northern Virginia and now lives in Oregon), and missed her sister's family (who can almost never come home at Christmas because she's a nurse and her husband's a pastor).

Later that evening after everyone else left, her family exchanged presents. Her husband gave her a very cool fisheye lens, so of course she had to test it out right away.

Those are her purple-pajama'd knees at the bottom of the photo.

Then, like most photography buffs who get a new lens, she over-used it on everything, including breakfast the next morning. This breakfast is called Froobles, and it is a family thing and tradition and kind of weird but also awesome. She had it every Christmas and every Easter (and some other times, too) when she was growing up, and having it on Christmas morning at her parents' house makes her happy in a place deep inside, in a tucked-away spot in her heart reserved for reliving family traditions.

After breakfast they got ready and headed over to her husband's aunt and uncle's house for their big family gathering. She was put in charge of the salad.

She kind of loves this photo.

Everyone ate and then she took a photo of the table because they wanted to see how wide-angle the lens was.

After lunch everyone plays games until dinner, and after dinner everyone plays more games. Mexican Train is very popular. [She feels it necessary to say that they did not make up the name.]

As is Pinochle. She tries to make sure she's not standing around when they are trying to put together a game. [She's not very good and they are serious about their games; she doesn't like to let her partner down.]

While the grownups are playing games, all of the kiddos hang out and run around and play in the middle of the floor.

At some point, all of the middle generation of cousins and significant others might actually be in the same place at the same time, and everyone is rounded up for the annual group photo. Getting everyone to look at the same camera at the same time is like herding cats; she supposes that they are all actually in the photo is miracle enough.

The gaming continues and continues. This year they played a card game one of the cousins invented, and it was totally fun. Then she took advantage of the family sauna, and then showered and changed into pajamas and slippers (since her luggage was in the car). Properly buzzed and relaxed, her introvert self fell asleep in a back bedroom. She was woken up around midnight to drive home to her in-laws' house, where she exchanged gifts with her husband's parents and sister in a semi-zombie-like state.

The next morning when she woke up and got ready to head over to another aunt's house for their annual Ladies' Tea, she realized that she left all of her jewelry and her only shoes in the changing room outside the sauna. Whoooooops. Luckily that aunt hadn't left her house yet and brought everything with her to the Tea. In the meantime, she wore her slippers.

The Ladies' Tea was lovely, as it always is. They ate delicious fancy cheese and pear sandwiches, and cranberry scones with lemon curd, and curried chicken and pasta salad, and drank fancy teas, and sampled fancy desserts.

They all exchanged small gifts, and chatted & chatted & chatted. It's always a highlight of Christmastime.

The next day she re-packed suitcases, and packed boxes full of whatever didn't fit (which was a lot) and mailed them to herself, because it was time to leave home (where she's from) and fly home (where she lives).

They had quite an adventure getting home because, after all, they did fly Delta which might possibly be run by the devil's minions. She will not recount it here, but suffice it to say that 1) by the time they arrived home they had a collection of twenty-six different boarding passes (not all used, of course) to get them back and forth across the country, and 2) the priority mail box she shipped herself almost beat them home. [And then they signed up for a different credit card rewards program because they are just done-done-done with Delta.]

When she arrived home she did what she usually does after a Christmas in Oregon. She slipped into hibernation/recharge mode, and once she had quiet and time to think, she lamented and beat herself up for her fierce introversion, which becomes a problem sooner or later every Christmas. She laments that she is physically-mentally-emotionally-psychologically unable to keep up with the scheduling demands and socializing and huge groups of people, but she is a people pleaser and her very extroverted husband loves it, so she tries and sooner or later her brain is totally overwhelmed and can't take one more thing, and she snaps.

She does not like to snap, but it happens, and then she is embarrassed and frustrated and she doesn't know how to stop the cycle. She imagines what people think of her when they see her snap, and she wants to fold in on herself. Sometimes she get angry, because she tries to plan ahead, she makes requests for her needs (and they are needs, not wants) to be accommodated, to leave at a certain time... but in the thrill of the party it's "one more game" or "one more drink" or "ten more minutes" (which turns into hours). So she feels neglected and dismissed and misunderstood and angry.

She wonders if it will ever be different, or if it will always be this way. She feels frustrated and sad, and she wants Christmas to be wonderful and relaxing and not stressful. She wonders if this is delusional, if anyone experiences a not-stressful Christmas. She feels ridiculous and ashamed that she is loved by so many people that it is too many (or just too many all at once) for her and she feels selfish for needing and wanting to be loved in a different way. She vows to do things differently next year, to take care of herself better, although she's not sure how; she knows something's gotta give but she doesn't know what.

She tries to cut herself some slack and accept herself the way she is. She sinks happily, lovingly, deeper into her annual much-needed, post-Christmas hibernation.

At some point in early January she turns on the CD player in her bathroom as she steps into the shower, and Christmas music--leftover from before her trip--starts to play. She realizes, suddenly in a tidal wave that hits her smack in the face and rains down hard over her, that in her busy-ness, her preparing so many gifts of jewelry for other people to give, her checking Christmas things off her never-ending To Do lists, her working whenever she was awake and never taking a minute to stop and breathe, she never once felt the Christmas Spirit, not for a moment. She cries in the shower, and she makes a vow.

Somehow, somehow, somehow, next Christmas, things will be different.


August said...

Oh I feel you! For different reasons (I'm the extrovert- usually, husband wants to stay home) but because of family Drama I start dreading Christmas in October. We had one really great Christmas, 2009, but only after major fights and drama and I don't want to have to do that every single October in order to have a nice December you know? I have seriously considered holing my family up in a cabin in the woods and enjoying Christmas alone, just us, because it would be oh so nice.

{{ Hugs }}

kellie said...

Next Christmas will be different... I know it! :) Love you, glad you're "catching up" here. xoxo

Tristina said...

Oh I am such the introvert. I am so happy to just stay on the floor and play with Olivia at family gatherings. People ask how I can stay at home all day long with Olivia and, yeah, it's lonely, but I'm so shy and so inward that it's easy and effortless.

So don't feel guilty, love, you do what you need to do when you need to do it. Maybe next Christmas, schedule in some one on one time with someone. Surely there is someone in your in-laws' family who is also maybe more quiet than the rest? Maybe you two can go for a walk or go get a pedicure or something.

But you may have to schedule your recharge time. And do that. Don't feel guilty and get your husband on board with it so he can back you up when you aren't there. It helps - it really does.

love you, lady, and I'm LOVING this series!

Ingrid said...

Every year I vow Christmas will be different, but I hate to admit that one of my favorite years was sort of the one we were all snowed in! Al-anon says that you can't control what people do, only how you feel about it, but man I want to control what people DO!
What I decided this year is that my little family unit is going to become Spanish. I mean, we are not spanish, but we are going to start exchanging presents among ourselves on Epiphany....Jan 6th. I'm way overwhelmed by the all at once in December thing. It's too fast for me. And too packed into two sort of loaded days.
But be kind to yourself. I had a great time hanging out with you in the sauna, a great time visiting with you on our special date night---so you're not letting anyone down here. You can just be you and I will accept you. Want me to sign something?

Cameron said...

Ingrid! I totally forgot to add in our date night although I'd meant to, so I went in and added a couple of lines about it. That was one of my favorite nights that we were home! xoxo

Anonymous said...

D-shoots! That's how you pronounce it. Am I right? Am I right? We used to stop at a little diner off the highway when going to see my grandparents in Bend, OR.

I love reading your stories. Details in all. They're insight into you and you are pretty amazing!

Skip'sMKGirl said...

I love so much about this, including the photo of the kids spread out on the floor with the adults playing games...but I especially LOVE reading the words from your heart again. Thank you for sharing again Bella!

Chiara said...

honey at times I swear we are twins. I am an introvert as is G too. I love you and can't wait to give you a hug when I get to see you.

libby @ ninesandquines said...

I, too, have promised that next Christmas will be different - I think we will go out of town and not be around the huge family. I have the same problem...need space, hate the noise, chaos, crowded rooms, etc...and that's with my own family! You are not alone!

Trishia said...

Great post! I don't get to spend Christmas with any of my own family. They all live in Maine, but Rich manages to make Christmas special for me here. I miss seeing my son at Christmas the most. I'm thinking maybe next Christmas we will surprise my family and just appear Christmas Eve day at my mom's when everyone is opening their presents at her house (family tradition).

Wisconsin Girl said...

Love your words and how you express yourself as I can so often relate, being an introvert myself. I often make requests ahead of time and it rarely goes that way and then I get upset and feel like an idiot. Ugh! I love what Ingrid said about not being able to control what others do, only how you feel about it. I've been told this before and I'm trying to let it sink in. I've had some issues with my in-laws...letting what they say get to me in ways that I shouldn't. Anyway...I'm rambling. Thanks so much again for your open honesty. So many can relate. Sounds like a very special Christmas, despite the hecticness of it all.