Friday, January 7, 2011

Christmas, the Musical! (Or, How I Learned to Work with My Inner Grinch)

The Pens are thrilled to welcome guest blogger Jami Alden! Jami Alden is the author of sexy romantic suspense. Her next book, BEG FOR MERCY
will be available in June from Grand Central Press. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her socially well adjusted alpha male husband, her sons, and a german shepherd who patiently listens to dialog and help her work out plot points. You can find out more about Jami and her books at,, or by following her on Twitter @jamialden.

When I was little the holidays were an awesome time, full of tree decorating, cookie making, and most importantly, vacation from school.

It wasn't until I was older – my late twenties, in fact, that I realized what a freaking production Christmas is. By that time, I'd handled Thanksgiving on my own for several years – I had the turkey, the mashed potatoes, the gravy, the whole package down to a science, and had even managed to get the entire meal, appropriately hot or cool to the table more or less on schedule.

Then, a few years after my husband and I got married, we hosted Christmas for the first time. My in laws (including husband's 7 siblings) were flying in and staying through the new year. I scoured the stores for gifts for the whole group and had them wrapped and ready to go well before the big day. Excited at the prospect of “our” first Christmas, my husband and I went out in search of a tree. Only problem: no lights, no ornaments, no nothing.

No problem! I dutifully went to Target and got enough stuff to deck two trees worth.

Then, tree appropriately twinkling, I looked around the rest of our little rented house and realized... it was bare.

Now, in my house we jokingly refer to my mom as “Patty Christmas.” Every year, she not only does the tree, she also swaps out all the towels for holiday themed linens and gets out all the Christmas themed drinkware. From December 1 – 31st, from your first sip of coffee to your last sip of wine, you are reminded 'tis the season. There are red velvet bows on nearly every doorknob and a faux pine garland winding up the staircase.

My house, in comparison, was sparse, minimalistic even. It wouldn't do. So, having no job or children at the time, I put aside my not yet off the ground writing career and did another wave of Christmas shopping. Candlesticks, towels, glassware, candles, vases in the shape of Santa's boots. I was set. No way Christmas would ever get me down again.

Fast forward 5 years. Let me tell you, nothing brings out my inner grinch like a crushing deadline. Add in 2 kids ages 2 and 5 months, about a thousand people to shop for a and a husband who worked 80 hours a week, and I was ready to cancel Christmas.

We managed to get a tree. It stood in its stand for a week while I circled it resentfully. “I am so not in the mood to decorate you.”

“This sucks!” I muttered. “It's all a bunch of BS and it's not like I don't have enough going on. F the tree. The kids won't give a crap, and they'll break the ornaments anyway.”

Someone must have been listening. Because one Saturday in December while I was out, no doubt doing something very self indulgent like going to Trader Joe's ALL BY MYSELF, some little Christmas Elves came to visit.

When I returned, the tree was decorated. The little holiday knick knacks were strewn around the house. Holy crap, who knew Christmas could happen in our house without me?

The little twinge of guilt I felt at having been such a scrooge disappeared in the wave of love and gratitude for my husband, for seeing that I needed a little help getting into the Christmas spirit, for taking a bunch of stuff off my plate, and doing it all without acting like it was a big deal or a burden or an imposition.

My own Alpha Christmas Elf :)

Do you ever need help getting into the Holiday spirit? Who are your helpers? Are you sad to season end or, like me, do you feel like you'll need the next 12 months to gear up for the next one?


Unknown said...

I *love* setting up Christmas. I have the hand towels, floor mats, wreaths, bells on the doors, we have 5 trees in varying, fun, fun. I *hate* putting it all away. Luckily my alpha elf doesn't mind :)

Juliet Blackwell said...

This is great. The "F the tree" sentiment has often reared its ugly head at my house, as well, until I get over myself and remember why I enjoy the season.
TOO depressing putting it all away, though! Sweeping up needles, carting out the tree. That's the part I could do without.
Thanks for coming onto the Pens today!!!

Jami Alden said...

Hi Lisa and Juliet! ugh, i totally forgot about the cleanup. I usually have a moment christmas morning when it looks like a wrapping paper factory vomited in my living room where I start to freak out. then I take a deep breath, tell myself it's okay to let the chaos reign until the 27th or so, and that we don't have to tackle the tree takedown until after New Year's.

Gigi Pandian said...

I hear ya, Jami: I'm all about doing festive things that require only minimal effort -- no tree for us, but I decorate our mantle and bookshelves with lights and select ornaments that give the spirit of the season without the massive tree effort :)

Rachael Herron said...

Aaaaaaw. F the tree indeed. I'm all about waiting for the spirit until I realize the spirit in me is all I'm gonna get - better make it work. Lovely post. :)

Adrienne Bell said...

That is so sweet. I just want to give your husband a big ol' hug for doing that for you. It's amazing what I have found can happen without me. Dishes *can* get done. Laundry *can* get folded...maybe not the momma approved way, but folded none the less.

Thanks for the wonderful post Jami. We love having you here.

Jami Alden said...

Gigi, I wish I could go minimal, but the kids require a tree.
Rachael - waiting for the spirit is like waiting for the muse to show up before i start writing. If I wait, NOTHING will get done.
Adrienne- yeah, he's pretty awesome. Because he works so much, most of the time domestic stuff lands in my lap, but he can sense when I'm getting overwhelmed and picks up the slack without asking. Now that's romantic!