Celebrate Me Home

I’ve been feeling rather Grinchy about Christmas this year. Stuck in house limbo with balmy temperatures more suited to San Diego than 7000′ in Colorado with finals impending I just couldn’t muster my usual enthusiasm for Christmas music, twinkly lights, Christmas trees, presents and gift wrap.

Christmas 2011; Mullan, Idaho

And then suddenly, on Monday, I had a house deadline: an actual three day range in which I can expect to get my certificate of occupancy and move in. I briefly had a little tantrum and decided I wasn’t going to have a Christmas tree. I was going to do my best to move in and then I’d sort out Christmas later. There I sat, behind my usual pace on Christmas presents, threatening to basically skip Christmas traditions, and begrudge the entire trip to Tacoma to celebrate with my family.

Home for the holiday,
I believe I’ve missed each and every face,
Come on and play my music,
Let’s turn on every love light in the place.

Tuesday, I took a look at my list of gifts I had left to purchase. Somehow my icy feelings towards the holiday melted all at once. I started placeing orders on gifts that I’d been procrastinating on ordering, simply going for the gifts I knew I wanted to buy those people love. Somehow my list got longer as I reconsidered a couple people I wasn’t going to purchase for and I did it anyway. I know it’s in vogue to simplify and cut your list these days but that’s just not my style. 

As a kid, Christmas at my house was magical. My mom and dad went out of their way to make the holiday special for us as kids. There was a never ending string of traditions that lead us from our viewing of “It’s A Wonderful Life” late Thanksgiving night to doing a puzzle to the background of college football bowl games between Christmas and New Years. Throughout high school and college I never was ashamed of my absurd love for the joyousness of the Christmas holiday. In high school I wore giant gift bows on my head unapologetically. Once I even found a battery pack set of mini lights and wore them in my hair (OMG… with LEDs I might have to get on this again). In college, I introduced more than a few friends to the cannon of Christmas movies.

In my young adult life, however, things wavered. Even during the two Christmas I spent mobile, I decorated the van and camper. The sparkle had dimmed and I kind of started to think that I’d lost my love for the season.

It’s time I found myself
Totally surrounded in your circles
Whoa, my friends.

After making a list and checking it twice, I put it on my list for next week to go get a Christmas tree permit—damn it, a tree was going to be the first thing in the house after a bed. I’m nothing if not stubborn and I wasn’t going to let this be the first time I could have a tree and not do it.

As I’m sure all of the lovely people in my life can attest, my affect around questions about the house has been mellow and sinking. It occupies my thoughts a lot but I don’t really have control so I’ve just settled into a holding pattern. It feels disappointing to me and I just can’t decide whether I should show excitement for the people who are so excited for me or whether I should retreat to my safe non-emotional space. I always choose the latter.

Please, celebrate me home,
Give me a number
Please, celebrate me home

Tonight though, on the way home from my side hustle chocolate shop job, I decided to play some Christmas music. I went to the little amount of Christmas music on my phone. In a hurry to get home to Sprocket, I put it on shuffle and the first song was Kenny Loggins “Celebrate Me Home.”

My first solo Christmas tree, 2014

Immediately I froze. Tears welled in my eyes. Suddenly, it all seemed real. I was going to give myself the best present ever just before the holiday. I realized there could be little better than wrapping presents in the glow of Christmas lights on a tree cut at 12,000′ with the warmth of a woodstove warming me in my own home even before I get the rest of my possessions moved in the house.

Play me one more song
That I’ll always remember
And I can recall
Whenever I find myself too all alone
I can sing me home.

“Celebrate Me Home” was my dad’s favorite Christmas song. He would play it repeatedly. He would always take every opportunity to do just one extra Christmas thing but every single year, Christmas night he would remark, “Aren’t we so lucky to have so much family to spend Christmas with?”

Maybe it’s because Dad latched on to “Celebrate Me Home” while I was in college when I started traveling for the holiday, but “Celebrate Me Home” has always felt like the journey into the holiday to me and I’m just going to hold it as the anthem in my heart right now. My journey towards bringing myself home is coming to a close but it’s time to start really putting the pieces together of living my life. 

Uneasy highway
Traveling where the Western winds can fly
Somebody tried to tell me
But the men forgot to tell me why

This was the thread I’d lost somewhere. I’d been surviving for so long that there was so little space for traditions and time to relish the beauty of the holiday season that I really just wasn’t fully appreciating it. Being far from family at the holidays had changed things but I am so lucky to have a place I love living like Ridgway and a family back in Washington still carrying on the traditions that I had always loved so much.

NYE 2014: The Night Was Dark but FULL of Sparkles

The familiar melody flooded me with feeling. Who am I to be a Scrooge? In the space of three weeks, I will celebrate my new home with myself, Sprocket and a Christmas tree. I’ll celebrate Christmas with my family in Washington then return to settle into the house and celebrate New Years with Ridgway. Then, to put the icing on the cake, I get to welcome my Ridgway family to my new home.

I gotta count on being gone,
Come on home, come on daddy,
Be what you want from me,
I’m this strong, I’ll be weak

Which all brings me here to this moment, I’ve got a honey whiskey spiked peppermint tea propped in the crook of one arm that I can’t reach because Sprocket’s head is propped on the other shoulder begrudgingly letting me type my feelings out here. I dug out the charger for my speaker so I could bathe the shed in Christmas music. The tears keep coming. I know the next weeks are going to be hard, sweet, stressful, exciting, and exhausting. 

Ruth XJ; Red Mountain Pass, 2016.

I can hardly picture what living in a house will actually feel like but I can see myself adapting Clark Grizwold to fit our situation: “Sprocket, we’re kicking off our fun old-fashioned family Christmas by heading up Red Mountain in our 4-wheel drive sleigh…” Back home, I’ll wrestle the tree into the stand, laughing about how small alpine tree trunks are, and trim it with lights, my grandmother’s Shiny Brite ornaments, and tinsel.

Please, celebrate me home,
Give me a number,
Please, celebrate me home
Play me one more song,
That I’ll always remember,
I can recall,
Whenever I feel too all alone,
I can make believe I’ve never been gone
I never* know where I belong
Sing me home.

Tree cutting snowshoe; Grand Mesa, 2015

*How lucky am I to have a place to belong? ♥

Lyrics of “Celebrate Me Home” by Kenny Loggins and Bob James

Tacoma: Christmas & #auntybeth Adventuring

Sprocket and I made the long haul from southwestern Colorado up to Washington for Christmas. The trip was fairly short to give me some time back in Colorado to unwind (and also to work!) once I got back. While I was there though there was lots of #auntybeth time with my nephew, some Pokemon hunting in downtown Tacoma, and a hike with Andrew (Junior and Will were sick and couldn’t come).

Andrew made sure to snuggle with Aunty Beth as much as possible:

He also tricked me into buying donuts. I tricked him into going inside to get them while I waited with Sprocket.

Then he tried to trick me into buying him a book the day after Christmas. He’s cute but #auntybeth is strong. He did steal my hat though.

Then we went hiking in Pack Forest. It was a little rainy, a little overcast, and really green. Just like winter hiking in Washington should be.

Sprocket did not dig Andrew wanting to lead the pack:

Here’s hoping that on my next trip home all three boys can come!

Christmas Tree 2016

I know this is belated but honestly, although I try to keep my personal photo files organized, this blog is actually better indexed and it’s easier to find things.

 

Because we’re lucky, we headed up Red Mountain Pass to find our tree just shy of 12,000′ above sea level. There had been some fresh snow and there was lots of powder around–we hadn’t been snowshoing much so Sprocket and I definitely felt the burn on our ramble around before we selected our tree.

I’ve learned my lesson in the past and was sure to 1) find a tree not too far from the road and to 2) find one uphill of the road. We succeeded this year unlike last year where I learned a quarter mile uphill is a long way if you’re alone and your dog is not willing to be a sled-tree dog.

Alpine trees just have the right look, their branches are strong: they’re the perfect Christmas tree. Don’t you agree?

Tacoma at Christmas: Sledding at Snoqualmie Pass

The day after Christmas, my sister and I decided to take all three of the boys up to Snoqualimie Pass to play in the snow. She said that Will and Kevin (the middle one and the little) didn’t really remember snow so we figured they’d like some sledding and playing in the fluffy white stuff.

They were a little rambunctious on the ride up (Will’s face just says it all about his older brothers…) but they were super excited when we hit snowline just outside of North Bend.

Nephews

Kevin (aka Junior)’s excited face selfie:

Junior

I kind of sent the two older boys to the first pile of snow I saw and they promptly lost gloves and got buried in waste deep powder. Fortunately, Junior was wearing my GoPro and captured some of the carnage.

GoPro

Will and Aunty Beth

The sledding hill that was going on was a little bit intense. There was a giant bump in the middle that none of the adults appeared interested in addressing. Andrew and Junior both tried it a couple of times and then they were pretty done with it.

Digging

Andrew made friends with another little boy who had a shovel and he proceeded to spend the rest of his time in the snow making tunnels and forts.

Junior and Andrew

Will

Junior mostly belly crawled around in the powdery snow.

Brothers

Digging

Will wasn’t totally sure about this whole snow thing but eventually he figured out that being pulled around in the sled was kind of fun.

Aunty Beth and Will

Eating snow

Sledding

Junior

We left with a very tired crew of boys who wrapped up the fun with some “Mick and Donalds” and headed back to Tacoma!

Seahawks Cuddly Flannel Quilts

Now that the gift wrap has settled, I finally get to share these two quilts with you! I really wanted to make some gifts this year and once I made the first of these quilts I knew I wanted to make another. They’re so cozy that I almost had to keep one! I toyed with making true “lap” size quilts but since I’m tall enough that lap quilts just don’t do a lot for me I went with twin sized cozies!

Seahawks flannel quilt

Sometime laying them out was a little bit of a challenge. It really involved a lot of sweeping and herding Sprocket away: he was fairly certain the cozy rug thing was on the floor for him.

Quilt sandwich.The quilts are similar with the same fabrics, back and binding but the patterns are a little different as I played with what works best. I really do love the results!

Quilt #1:

Quilt 1

Quilt #2:

Seahawks Flannel Quilt

My sister gleefully took the quilt from the white elephant gift exchange and my aunt already had hers on their quilt rack when I visited on Sunday night. Enjoy during the playoffs you guys!

Tacoma at Christmas: Ice Skating

I landed in Seattle late on Tuesday night and got up on Wednesday morning and immediately launched into holiday festivities! My oldest nephew, Andrew, my mom, and I went to downtown Tacoma with my aunt and my cousin’s daughters. I had fun snapping photos of everyone (although a few turned out blurry they’re here anyway for fun), accepting my mom’s challenge to skate backwards, and scooping Andrew up off the ice.

Andrew ice skating

Eight year old boys will stick out their tongues in EVERY PHOTO if you’re not fast with the candid…

Andrew ice skating

Andrew missed the memo to wear pink:

Cousin ice skating

My mother, aka “Suzie Snowflake,” even got into the fun:

Mom and Beth

Aunty Beth and Andrew

After ice skating, we grabbed pizza at Elemental Pizza before heading home.

Cousins

364 Days To Go

I am lucky to have a large extended family that still gathers each and every Christmas. Christmas in Tacoma, for me, spans two full days. Christmas Eve kicks off with me heading to pick up oysters for our appetizers that night (I took over this role after my dad died) and then that afternoon and evening are spent at my mom’s mother’s house celebrating with Norwegian Christmas cookies, appetizers, board games, performances, a Santa visit, and more presents. The next morning, it’s time for Christmas morning. The past two years, Mom and I have done stockings and then my sister and her family have joined us for exchanging gifts. After that, the fun is still not over and it’s time to head to my dad’s brother’s house for the Lakin edition of Christmas: more food, cards (mostly 500!), and another gift exchange.

When I was growing up, we’d get home from our Christmas Day celebration and my dad would lay out all the presents on the couches in our living room: mine would be on one couch, Emily’s on the other, Mom’s and Dad’s under the tree. As a family we’d sit, exhaling a bit after the busy two days, and each and every year, Dad would remark, “We’re all so lucky to have such a loving family. I think this was the best Christmas ever.”

This song, Brad Paisley’s 364 Days To Go, always makes me think of this moment and more often than not, it makes me cry.

I’m so lucky to have such a loving family.

Opt Out, or At Least #OptOutside

I love Christmas. I love Christmas gifts When I was about eight years old, I’d start making my Christmas list right around Halloween and it included every single one of my family members—not just my parents and my sister but my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, and all my cousins. I know I made a wish list for myself but the focus of my holiday excitement was largely on giving gifts to people. My mom, in contrast to me, hates Christmas shopping. She taught me how to make gingerbread houses, the importance of hiding cords to make decorations look polished, and that it’s okay to proudly sing Christmas songs with a less than perfect singing voice. This leads her to procrastinate on her shopping and all of my best efforts to explain that waiting makes it worse have never helped. Perhaps that’s because I think my dad secretly liked going to the mall in the final days before Christmas; he was always adding silly Santa gifts for his siblings to the shopping list and used to take my sister and I out on a shopping trip specifically to pick things out for mom that included lunch.

Will with coat

 

In this way, living in a van was really hard for me. It wasn’t particularly feasible to be in the northwest for Christmas when the southwest was where the warm weather was. I didn’t have a shipping address and bowed out of family gift exchanges. Although I decorated the best I could, it wasn’t the same as having a Christmas tree and baking cookies, and checking all the nice people off my list one by one. I missed putting thought into the perfect gift for people.

But, despite the fact that I really do love Christmas shopping, I don’t shop on Black Friday. When I was growing up, Black Friday was for singing “Bringing in the Boxes” as I trekked back and forth between the house and the garage carrying box after box of Christmas decorations in. (As embarrassing as this sounds, I embraced it and even had a friend join me a year or two in high school and made her sing the song. Maryanne was such a good sport.) I spent most of the day outside with my dad learning “everything I know about exterior illumination.” In the evening, we’d decorate the pieces of our gingerbread houses. Getting up early for Black Friday sales to miss out on that fun? No way. Besides, we usually stayed up until midnight watching It’s A Wonderful Life as a family once we got back from Thanksgiving celebrations.

Honestly, usually, I’m close to done with my Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving. I like to spread out my spending and take the time to pick out really great things for my family and friends. (Ahem, Lakin family? I’m still waiting for a 4th of July name draw…) Since I’m not part of the Black Friday culture it’s always been easy to look at the stampedes and the rampant commercialism and think, “Really? That’s what our holidays are about?”

This week REI announced that they would be closing their stores on Black Friday. Employees (who are recieving paid vacation) and would-be customers are instead encouraged to spend time with their families and opt out of the buying frenzy hopefully by choosing to #OptOutside.

IMG_6524

This BLEW UP in the outdoor social media world. I couldn’t get on Facebook or Twitter without seeing #OptOutside. I joined the chorus, my plans already included exploring and being outside with Sprocket on Black Friday.*  And yesterday, the announcement came from Outdoor Research that they too would be closing its retail store and distribution centers the day after Thanksgiving piggybacking on REI’s announcement.

This warms my outside loving, anti-consumerism, gift giving heart. Because, let’s be real, most people aren’t hankering for a door buster on a cashmere sweater for Christmas. A generic gift determined by what’s on sale on Black Friday is unlikely to brighten anyone’s holiday. A simpler, less extravagant gift that builds on a hobby, passion, or dream of your loved one is much more likely to tell that person what you’re really say with the gift: “I care about you.”

Training for the New Alpinism

Choosing to shift from a mad buying frenzy on Black Friday to more reasoned, thoughtful gift-giving opens up time for being with your family. Maybe you’d like to spend that time decorating for Christmas like I did when I was growing up (or use it to go get a Christmas tree outside!). Maybe you’ll be like Sprocket and I this year exploring a new place. Maybe you’ll grab your partner or children or a cousin and get outside like my cousin and I did the day after Christmas last year or like Andrew and I did a couple of days later. Creating memories with your family gives you time to get to know them which makes for more satisfying gift giving (and receiving!).

Hiking with Andrew

How are you keeping up the holiday cheer by opting out (or at least controlling!) the amount of commercialism involved?

 

 

*Last year, I ran all over Connecticut and New York being outside before a wedding! Clearly this is normal for me…

Christmas In Tacoma

When my mom picked me up from the bus station, we headed over to my grandma’s where we helped her make final preparations for the Christmas Eve festivities. After a flurry of table leaf adding, chair moving, Christmas dish unearthing, and rullepolse eating, Mom and I headed home for a Christmas Eve Eve dinner. I pretty much ate yams and stuffing (known in our house as “dressing” to the confusion of my brother-in-law).

Funny faces with Aunty Beth

Middle Nephew was unsure of what to think of gjetost cheese. His dad basically made this exact face as did Littlest Nephew (but he warmed up more quickly and I didn’t get a photo!).

Not so sure about gjetost

Christmas Eve morning I took over my dad’s “run all over Tacoma and procure all the seafood” duties. I even got to snap a selfie with this massive inflatable crab. What seafood store would be complete without one?

Northern Fish Co. Inflatable crab

At home, Mom had been busy making kringle (which doesn’t seem to bake well at altitude, I failed at an attempt earlier in the month):

Kringle

I had a snack of rullepolse and Norvegia cheese. I’ve always been all about the rullepolse and gjetost but when my brother-in-law suggested this combination I had to try it. Kevin, this is simply the best:

Rullepolse and Norvegia cheese

Nons’ house for Christmas Eve was full of all the fun traditions. There was plenty of Catch Phrase played and Times to Remember (Um. Hasboro, when you bought Milton Bradley, you were supposed to make an updated version of this for my family. How about a 1965-2014 version? Thank you very much. Love, the Rahm-Lakin-Gillis family.)

Christmas Eve game time

Santa made his annual appearance to the delight of all:

Santa time

Will (Littlest Nephew) wasn’t so sure what to make of the big guy with the beard but Santa brought presents so he warmed up pretty quickly.

Unsure about the present giving bearded man

Santa visit 2014, Christmas Eve

And for good measure, a Christmas Eve selfie:

Christmas Eve Selfie

Christmas morning, my sister and Kevin managed to hustle their boys out of the house before 10am. I was impressed. Clearly there had been promises of more presents on the way though, Junior (Middle Nephew) could hardly wait for coffee to be poured before tearing into this pile of presents. I had lots of help opening gifts this year.

Holy pile of presents

Cheese ball

Planes

Christmas presents

Then it was on to Christmas Day festivities with my dad’s side of the family. Uncle Mo, as always, was an entertaining elf with assistance from Izzy and Emily.

Christmas Elf Uncle Mo

After dinner and presents, we had two tables of 500 going on. I chose to be partners with my sister since I figured she’d give me the least hard time for being out of practice on the strategy. I’m not a card game fan but I love this funky euchre/hearts like game.

500

It was so so much fun to see everyone! I’m so lucky to have big extended families on both my mom and my dad’s side that are so supportive and loving. Thank you everyone for an awesome Christmas!

Seattle Wanderings

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve spent any time in Seattle. I meant to go up and spend time walking around downtown enjoying the holiday season in the stores and Pike Place. Instead, I did a whole bunch of walking. It was awesome:

Lake Union Trail

Fremont: Center of the Universe

Aurora Bridge

Ship Canal

You know how people that just get you make your life? Yeah.

Selfie time

And then when their roommates bring you coffee in bed?

Coffee in bed

The next morning, the walking continued:

Green Lake, Seattle

I met another fabulous internet friends: Mike of Mike Off The Map. We definitely had a conversation that went like this:

B: “Have you heard about the Bells traverse?”
M: “Yeah, I’ve heard it’s pretty sketchy.”
B: “…”
M: “I’m down…let’s do it!”

I love hanging out with people like this. Move to Colorado anytime Mike. Or stay in Seattle and adventure with me whenever I’m here.

Coffee with @MikeOffTheMap

I also think I’m part elf and love love love making Christmas surprises happen. I located rullapolse (Norwegian pressed lamb) and my family has been missing it at Christmas for the last two years. I had to throw in a couple of Norwegian cheeses for the gastronomic pleasure of all (well mostly me) as well. My 88 year-old grandmother let out the MOST gleeful Christmas scream of the year (seriously, beat ALL the kids, hands down). Made my Christmas.

Gjetost and rullepolse.

Ballard Ship Canal Bridge

I kept on with the walking and wandered south from Ballard to downtown to catch the bus back to Tacoma. 12 miles of walking hither and thither + friends + Christmas Elfing = totally successful trip.