Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Thing About Christmas

It's really important to me. Like, really, really Important. Yes, the Christ child and so on, but also Presents, Decorations, Music, Lights, a Chill in the air, and of course, a lot of Food (subcategories: Baking and Hot Beverages). You call it Commercialism, Materialism. Yep. I love it. Shiny, Pretty Christmas makes me happy in a way few other commercial and materialistic endeavors can.

I'm ashamed to announce that this photo contains the sum total of my Christmas decor this year: two measly strands of Christmas lights I dug out of the closet. One blinks, one burns steady. (And that's two measly strands of lights more than last year's sum decorative total.)

I decorated my dorm room freshman year of college. Sophomore year, I got a little two foot tall tree, two strands of lights (see exhibit above), and some Walmart glass ornaments. I made paper snowflakes, for Pete's sake.

My fellow sister missionaries and I spruced up our places during our time in Portugal. Packages came to facilitate this. So what's with my bum attitude these last few years? In no specific order:

Travel, for one. My parents are missionaries in another state, so Christmas by default must come to them. They are gracious and fly us all out for the occasion, but I find myself loathe to put up decorations in our apartment if I'm going to be gone from December 19 on.

Practicality, for another. I have a deaf, senile, partially blind animal whom I love but who every day proves that his peripheral vision is waning and his general lack of concern for anything in his environment is increasing. He's in a very obnoxious trampling phase (and has always loved to throw himself down on whatever is on the floor for an impromptu nap... bye bye presents). I also have a baby who rolls but doesn't know how to control said roll and has already managed to bump and bruise his way around our tiny living room. I'm not sure that a tree would be the friendliest addition to his life. Also, he loves to rip, scratch, and destroy, so presents under the tree are a precarious proposal as well.

Space. Two adults, a baby, and a dog, plus gear, in 750 square feet is getting a bit tight. We'd have to get rid of something to fit a tree.

Weather. I love living in Texas. San Antonio's been good to us. But 80 degrees and sunny is inappropriate December weather, unless one is in Cabo. Moving on.

Money. But of course. I've stopped working since Charlie's arrival, Mike is in the thick of PhD applications (Who needs $100+ at University X, Y, or Z to read an application? Someone does.), and while we are grateful for his TA position at UTSA, it doesn't exactly pay the big bucks. A Christmas tree with all the trimmings is a little out of the budget. I know there are little cheap trees out there, but I want a Real Live Tree, you know?

A word on trees: my husband drew a lovely little Christmas tree on a pad of paper to hang with some tape on the living room wall. So we did technically have a tree this year. It was the sweetest present he's given me in a while. And Mike gives wonderful, thoughtful gifts, too. I started to cry when I saw the drawing. I was brushing my teeth at the time. I drooled toothpaste everywhere.

My husband also decided to make a new tradition with me. I'm an Earrings Woman. The sweet boy bought me some bodacious Christmas ornament earrings this year. They are sparkly and I love the idea of getting a new pair each year.

Come to think of it, Mike does more for me than I do for myself when it comes to keeping the Christmas flame alive. He stood outside with me and held the baby at [a ridiculous hour that I'm too embarrassed to actually reveal] and humored me with suggestions as I put up the Lemon's Great Christmas Light Display of 2012.

So why did I develop this snobbish attachment to a Just-So Christmas?

Perhaps because I grew up in New England, where the notion of a White Christmas was spawned. (Or was it the Midwest? I'm not sure who's at fault.) I also grew up very aware of Martha's yearly yuletide decoration suggestions/mandates. Now in a world of pretty blogs run by women who must do drugs or something to make their homes so lovely and have a van full of kids and run their Etsy shops and so on and so forth, it's easy for me to despair and throw myself dramatically on the couch and stare at my baby and wonder how I could've fumbled so badly on his first Christmas.

Then I look over the top of the computer screen situated on a counter in my parents' kitchen, as my husband reads with a cup of oatmeal on the floor beside the Christmas tree my mom and sister threw up last minute this week. I smile that we're some place cool enough to merit oatmeal in the morning. Charlie plays with my sister's computer cord and tries to get it in his mouth, then rolls over to the window to look outside at the bright green grass. (No White Christmas for this cute little teething baby.) I'm happy that he could be with his aunts and that they love him so much.

I feel lucky to be with someone who tolerates my obsession with Christmas, and my depression when it doesn't look like Christmas at all in our apartment. My sweet husband who has agreed to two long trips in California in as many months with our delightful but noisy and sometimes fussy baby. And spending two Christmases in a row with my family. I'm blessed.

I look forward to Christmas 2013. I don't know where we'll be. Maybe somewhere with seasons?! Mike and I have committed to a stay-at-home Christmas next year, full of Santa and trees and music blasting through the house and way too much baking and generally an excess of sugar. It's going to be magical.

But it's done me good to have a few non-Christmases. It's hard to argue with focusing on the most important things.

Monday, December 3, 2012

We Went to Lubbock

Ostensibly, we went to attend the 2012 Western Literature Association Conference, hosted by Texas Tech. I contemplated taking photos of Mike while he presented, but I decided not to be That Woman who embarrasses her family for the sake of the blog. Also, I was feeding Charlie. So no photos of the conference. Sorry.

Anyway, a conference within driving distance meant Charlie and I could tag along with Mike. Wonderful friends let us stay with them for free (thank you, Shipleys!), and UTSA covered our other travel expenses, so it was a great mini-vacation and family history research opportunity.

I'm working on writing about our trip and posting photos pertaining to Mike's family history on our family history blog, Some Lemon Family History. So if you're interested in that sort of information (i.e., you're related to us somehow), go ahead and check that out.

For the rest of you, our trip in photos:

A grove of I'm not sure what. But it was lovely.
Hill Country is so gorgeous, one of my favorite regions of Texas.
The first sighting of cotton.  The Lubbock area is the largest contiguous
region of cotton production in the world. Says Wikipedia.
Switching drivers in Coleman, TX.
I'm sorry, this is the quittingest store name I've ever seen.
I insisted the superhero enthusiasts hop out for a picture.
The George Simms and Pauline Sanders Lemon home in Lubbock. Just a block from Texas Tech.
Mike's great-aunt Cherry informed us it used to be white with blue shutters.
Former site of the Pioneer Cookie Co., which Mike's great-grandfather founded at least as early as 1947.
We're not sure how old the building is, or if it's the same building that housed the cookie company.
Half the building is empty, and half is an upscale home fabric and trim store.
According to Nancy, one of the owners of All About Looks, the building was a car garage in a previous life.
Neat wall art next to the cookie factory site.
This neighborhood of Lubbock is called the Depot District. Apparently it's got a hoppin' nightlife scene.
On Saturday, the final day of the conference, we took off to Floydada, about 40 minutes north of Lubbock.
These are bales of cotton the size of shipping containers. And a lot of dust. It is WINDY in the panhandle.
Mike and Charlie at the Charles and Annie Sanders grave site.
We liked the name Charles regardless, but I love that Charlie's fourth great-grandfather was also a Charlie.
Then from Floydada we drove around Lubbock to Slaton, which sits about 20 minutes southeast of Lubbock.
Charles and Annie's son, H.G., and his wife, Edith (Mike's second great- and Charlie's third great-grandparents),
raised their kids here. More signs of life in Slaton than in Floydada, but not by much.
Slaton's famous bakery. We got shortbread cookies shaped like cows, a bag of gingersnaps, and two pumpkin donuts.
H.G. was a grocer in Slaton. We're not sure where his store would have been.
The address we have for the grocery store corresponds roughly with the back half of this building.
A sketch of Edith Courtney Sanders, Mike's second great-grandmother, hanging in her home in Slaton.
Edith's daughter-in-law (Mike's second great-aunt Jo) still lives there.
I hope to get back to Slaton for some high-res scans of the family photos.
The home is full of gorgeous details original to the home.
A photo of H.G. (left) and Charlie (right) Sanders.
Charlie is dead-end in our research. He did not want to talk about his upbringing.
We don't know where he was born, the names of his parents, or if he had any siblings.
Mike's grandfather wondered if Charlie, born in 1863, was a Civil War orphan.
By sheer coincidence, the Shipleys attend church in the same building Mike's grandparents did
when they first joined the LDS Church in the 1950s.
I tried hard to get a good shot of the wind turbines. They really do stretch as far as the eye can see out there.
Heading home. Perhaps grimacing at an oncoming tumbleweed.
We narrowly avoided several small ones, but a large one (probably about 4 feet tall) hit us head on.
No photos, but I must mention the Crafthouse. The Shipleys treated us to dinner there. It was my first exposure to gastropub fare. I loved the deep-fried soft-boiled eggs and the Coke glazed pork tenderloin with apple fennel slaw and butternut squash puree. We had ice cream at the Arrogant Texan. Also spot-on. What can I say, our hosts had excellent taste!