As I settle in to my first full week back in harness at work, a lot of people are asking each other “Well, how were your holidays?”
My answer is invariably “good”. Too often at this time of year, things are rush, rush, rush. Despite the fact that little business actually gets done at this time of year, someone in my management chain decides that a milestone must be met before the year ends. That creates a scenario where all the rushing to complete the perfunctory tasks for Christmas at home must compete with a deadline at work that could often be more realistically set for mid-to-late January (when it often gets hit anyway.)
That did not happen this year. The fact that I am transitioning between two projects coupled with the fact that I have not gotten feedback that is blocking progress on a couple issues means that stress and urgency levels at work were lower as Christmas and the New Year approached. As a child, Christmas is a thing that happens to you. You cannot help but take it in, and you often wish that it doesn’t happen to you fast enough. Christmas is a process for adults, making it happen for others. If you don’t have time to step back and observe that process, it just races past and is something to be survived, not enjoyed. The extra space in my schedule this year allowed me some enjoyment.
The season was not without irritations. I wrote at the beginning of December that my weight was up and that I would need to be dedicated through the end of the year. My spirit did not fail me in that, but my body did. I developed soreness in my hips, especially on my right, that was aggravated by the motion of the elliptical trainer I primarily used to work out. It seemed obvious that exhaustion and repetition were straining, not training. The equally obvious response was to rest, worries about additional holiday weight gain be damned. Weeks on, that approach proved effective; I am not able to push myself to the high level I ideally want to burn calories, but I can work out (more moderately) without damaging myself and start the process of getting back in better shape. I’m now probably about 8-9 pounds above my current weight loss target, but I feel like the worst is behind me.
A key system in the house also decided to fail just as the year ended. I’ve noticed for the last 2 years or so that the thermostat would just not turn the heat on sometimes. In the past, I usually was able to reset the thing or change the batteries and it would start working again with enough fiddling. We keep the house cooler at night and the heat went off in the evening of December 30th. It did not come back on the following morning, December 31st. Fortunately, I got a replacement thermostat a year or two ago. I put off installing it because I was generally able to get the old one working. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was a grump for a little while until I got the new one installed and discovered that it worked. After that, it was all good and I could relax.
Christmas itself followed our regular pattern: Mass on Christmas Eve and dinner with family on Christmas Day. We went to church with the Missus’ Dad not far from the apartment where he lives, about 15 miles away. They roll up the sidewalks at about 7pm up there on Christmas Eve, as we discovered last year when it was nigh on impossible to find a place to eat after Vigil Mass that starts at 6pm. We took that lesson to heart and got a couple pizzas before Mass started, and reheated them at my father-in-law’s apartment. As I said to the Missus as we drove home, it went very easy.
The Peanut cleaned up on Christmas morning. He got 4-5 boxes full of stuff from Santa that were taller than he is when stood up on their longest sides. He got a tricycle, another vehicle called a Plasma Car, a Little People car track, two different tee ball sets, and large, complicated-to-assemble marble track. He was surprisingly easy going about all this loot. The Missus’ Dad joined us for the Great Unwrapping, and didn’t arrive until after 9:30am. The Peanut was perfectly fine about waiting to open gifts. That fact that made the Missus somewhat question his maternity, for whom an unopened gift can be a taunt that repeatedly whispers “open me… open me… open me” as soon as it is seen.
Once the Great Unwrapping completed, I made brunch with buttermilk pancakes, bacon, sausage, and mimosas made with some prosecco.
Dinner on Christmas Day took Julia Child as its inspiration. It was Steak Au Poivre, garlic mashed potatoes, glazed carrots, and a salad, much of the recipes coming from Mastering The Art Of French Cooking. It wasn’t tremendously high stakes cooking, but left me feeling fatigued at the end of the day anyway. It all came out pretty well, even if I hadn’t made the steak or the potatoes in the better part of ten years.
We were joined by the Missus’ Cousin T. and her family for dinner. We don’t get to see enough of the extended family at holiday times, and it was nice for them join us. I did fail my guests in one small respect: the Missus recalled that T. had some food allergies, and believed that they were wheat-related. That turned out be wrong. T. has problems with dairy, and here I am cooking French-inflected food with tons of butter. Oh well. We still had a good time and T. found enough to eat. Live and learn.
I spent the three days after Christmas not doing too much of anything in particular, except eating leftovers. After that, went to work the first two days of the following week, and then was off until the first Monday of the New Year.
If Christmas was the holiday where I felt like I was rushing around to create the day for others, New Years was gloriously lazy. I got some takeout Chinese food from a restaurant whose chief virtue is the short drive from our house and was in bed by 10:30pm on New Year’s Eve. The following was fend for yourself breakfast, and a holiday party at the house of friends that afternoon.
I watched bits Steven Spielberg’s film Lincoln over the break. In it, Abraham Lincoln speaks of a dream where he is speeding on a ship toward an unknown shore. I feel like I was on that ship for much of the year, what with the Peanut’s problems with talking, the associated issues with medical insurance, and the back and forth at work the culminated in some layoffs back in October and put the project I worked on for nearly two years in mothballs. The speed of that ship began to slow as the holidays approached for reasons I mentioned above. By that first weekend of 2015, that ship finally stopped and I felt centered in myself for the first time since I don’t know when.
I’ll take an end of year like that anytime.
ps. For all my fretting about ornaments this year, we only damaged one and that was my fault. I tried to reach behind the tree to clean a piece of dirty train track in the back and knocked this Santa loose from his hook. He rolled over my shoulder, down my arm, and hit the floor just beyond the round area rug that generally protects our ornaments.