In order to come up with a more unique Christmas blog post, I went ahead and found some open-ended Christmas questions. I gave one copy to Matt to complete, I completed my own. We did not share our answers. It was pretty cool to see the overlap. That, and how obvious it is to tell which of us is the engineer and which of us the therapist. I hope you all have reading and hopefully you feel like you have gotten to know us just a little bit better.
- What’s the best thing that’s happened to you since last Christmas?
Being able to go to Busch Gardens was really enjoyable. I haven’t been there in years, and the opportunity to go almost never presents itself. This time, we were driving between Virginia and North Carolina for a number of different destinations, and Busch Gardens was an opportune ending.
I realized how many people care about me. This year has been pretty rough, but so many people have come through for me in ways that I would never have guessed.
In February I dislocated and broke my arm. Many of my coworkers came to assist me. Some of them saw some of my clients. Others brought me food. And still others came and helped walk our dogs. When I came back to work, I even had some people volunteer to write my clinical notes for me!
After I completed physical therapy, Matt and I had our consultation with the adoption agency and received the sobering news that we would have to come up with an astronomical amount of money to start the adoption process. Matt watched my face change from deflated to determined and by the next day we had a GoFundMe page.
Our friends and family donated close to $2,000 in a single month. Other volunteered space to hold fundraisers, other attended those fundraisers, and still others have jumped into the rabbit hole of my bag-making endeavor. We have had friends volunteer to help make bags at these Bitch And Stitch sessions that last about six hours each. Their only payment: my bubbling personality paired with some bubbly drinks. And then there are all the people who have started to purchase bags.
Many others have been there to hear me vent about how difficult it can be to find support online. Others have volunteered connections with adoptees to speak with. And still others have provided wonderful and needed distractions.
In terms of events, I was really glad to have gotten to visit our friends Megan and Silas who live in North Carolina not once, but twice. That was really special. I also got to see Alanis Morissette play her Jagged Little Pill album LIVE! That was a bucket list item I thought could never happen. I cried.
- What was your best Christmas ever? Why?
Probably the first Christmas I brought Ryan to Pennsylvania. He got to see the picturesque and incredible Christmas morning that my parents create every year: pastries, coffee, and the tree overflowing with gifts (so much that there was little room for the people in the room).
It is so hard to choose a favorite, but I can name one that I remember particularly well. That was the Christmas of 2016, when Matt’s family came to our house for Christmas. I decorated more than usual. The tree was fully dressed, twinkle lights in windows, garland hanging, and pictures of snowflakes tacked on the walls. I had gone out and found center pieces and candles for the dining room table.
The day that they arrived, we took them out for Afghan food, which is the first time they had ever had any. It was great watching their faces as they ordered food. The anxiety creeping across their faces as they tried to pronounce each syllable and the uncertainty about what they had just ordered. This was followed by surprise contentment, and bliss as they enjoyed every moment of their meal.
We then later took them out to the Korean bakery. They got to try red bean for the first time, and watch Matt order his favorite bing soo. They also got to witness what a toilet looks like when it is dressed to look like Hello Kitty.
It was also great to watch them bond with our dogs. Nora seemed to love bonding with Jan (Matt’s mom) and Shadow was all over Rick (Matt’s dad). I was really nervous Nora and Shadow’s assertive friendliness would be too much, but it was great to see that it was so well received.
- What’s the most meaningful Christmas gift you’ve ever received?
Getting the Final Fantasy art books was pretty amazing. I’ve always been a big fan of the game series, and the original concept artwork is beautiful. Ryan got me the boxed set of all of the artwork, and I still browse the books for inspiration on occasion.
I have two answers for this. The first was my dog Zack. He was a black lab that my parents bought us when I was in the fourth grade. I named him Zack after my Saved by the Bell crush (even though I liked Slater better, but I already named a guinea pig named after him). I tried to cover the whole crush thing by saying that he was named after the Power Ranger, who also dressed in black.
The second answer is all the gift creature comfort gifts that Matt buys me. He knows that I am not likely to buy myself things that I would really enjoy. One year he bought me two pairs of really comfy sweatpants and another year he bought me clog-slippers that had rubber treads and lined with wool. They were perfect. They kept my feet warm, were easy to slip on, and allowed me to walk the dogs without having to switch footwear. The fact that Matt thinks about my comfort in those practical ways is incredibly meaningful to me.
- What was the most appreciated Christmas gift you’ve ever given?
Two pairs of sweatpants. Ryan likes fuzzy, soft, comfortable clothes, and his prior pair was losing its softness. So I got him the fuzziest sweatpants I could find.
I honestly don’t know, but I would like to think that it was the bed-tents, flashlights, and books that I bought my nephews. Although, I think they really preferred the killer whale sleeping bag (one of my nephews LOVES orcas), and mini-sized portable couch that I purchased them another year. Either way they, they were the most appreciative kids I have ever seen in my life.
- What was your favorite Christmas tradition as a child?
Either going to my grandmother’s house on Christmas eve (and getting a slice or five of her cheese roll), or going to my aunt Pam’s Christmas eve party.
This is hands down the easiest question to answer. It would be Christmas Eve when my grandmother, grandfather, and uncle would come to our house to spend the night. Dad and I would make sugar cookies that I would later dunk in tea while watching Babes in Toyland, the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Before going to bed I would peruse The Santa Claus Book by Aiden Perkes. My favorite part was looking at the different types of elves that existed at the North Pole. We would leave cookies out for Santa and carrots out for the reindeer.
The next morning, we would wake up and exchange gifts. My dad would make breakfast. After breakfast we would visit my Mom’s side of the family. We would take bets on how many times Uncle Jimmy would say the S-word and which movies Aunt Bette would have bought for us. I would sneak away with my cousin Nicole to reveal family skeletons. After that, we would visit my Dad’s side of the family, where I would eat way too much of Aunt Kim’s peanut butter fudge and marvel at Aunt Karen’s ability to stay hospitable and sane while all of my cousins run around her house (my Dad comes from a family of five and many of them have children of their own).
- What is your favorite Christmas tradition now?
The pre-Christmas movie marathon. Beginning with ridiculous things like Die Hard and Krampus and ending with the more-heartwarming stuff like Muppet Christmas Carol (which is probably my favorite Christmas movie).
Right now, I think we are in a transition. After my grandmother died (she was the matriarch of the family) and my brothers moved to Colorado, Matt and I have been sort of adrift. My parents visit my brothers and my nephews. My in-laws have been having a number of various medical issues, so they can’t always join us at our house. It can often be difficult to find a dog-sitter over the holidays so visiting them can be hard logistically.
If I am completely honest, I get rather sad this time of year. When putting up the Christmas tree, I noticed that all of my ornaments were purchased (except for one that was made by a close friend to honor our first year of marriage- really sweet). We have no school picture glued on a piece of felt cutout from an outline of a child’s hand. We have no shepherd’s crook made from a pipe cleaner and decorated in faceted purple and clear plastic beads from Sunday School. We have no popsicle stick photo frames decorated with pompoms and glitter. The tree has no real memories hanging from it (other than one ornament that a friend made for us to commemorate our marriage, and this year I did purchase a purse ornament to mark the beginning of our adoption fundraising process). It can make things feel a little shallow (hence the purchase of the aforementioned purse ornament). Having those homemade ornaments and the ability to look back with fond memories is something that I look forward to for the future.
I did purchase a new ornament to commemorate our first year in trying to be parents. It’s a clutch purse in honor of all the hard work our friends and ourselves have put into creating bags and fundraising events to raise money for adoption. So maybe I inadvertently started a new tradition? (It probably has to happen more than once to call it a tradition right?)
In the meantime, I watch Christmas action or horror movies (Die Hard, Batman Returns, Krampus, Santa’s Slay, A Christmas Horror Story) and movies that try to lighten the mood, either with nostalgia or comedy (Bridgett Jones’ Diary, Babes in Toyland, Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Elf, Home Alone). I am also grateful for our friend Bobby who comes over every year (he is Muslim, and has said he appreciates having predictability in his December 25th plans) and this year, it sounds like our friend Christina will be joining us (I am sensing a board game and movie marathon in our near future).
I guess this blog post has gone full circle. We have fabulous friends!