Redecorating the tree

I redecorated the tree this week. When the kids were little I would re-position ornaments sometimes but I've never pulled the whole thing apart to start again.

The tree went up on December 2nd, my birthday. I usually like to wait till the second weekend in December for tree decorating. To space out the holiday happenings, and also because we keep our tree up sometimes past the New Year.

But this year I grabbed for something I knew would bring festivity to the day, for the kids' sake, and my own. A bright spot in what was otherwise a difficult birthday, arriving (unbeknownst to it) in the middle of a deconstruction zone.

So we put up the tree to save the day, or something like that. And it served its purpose, bringing joy and Christmas spirit.

On a much happier day this week, as I was photographing the tree and the snowy day, the special beauty of December, I realized I really didn't like how the tree was decorated. It didn't feel right to me. Some of the ornaments were placed wrong, but mostly I just didn't feel good about it. It was put up in pain, and now I wanted to fix it in joy.

So I did.

I pulled it all down. On the table, next to the suspended Settlers of Catan game, I sorted all the ornaments according to type; shiny stars, glass balls, painted folksy wooden creations, wire and sea glass, etc. I re-strung the lights on the lower branches, which our newest family member Pippin had dislodged. (Pippin was neutered early this week which has toned down his tree-jumping, fellow cat-attacking antics.)

Then I redecorated. Laurent and Brienne were playing outside in the snow and Celine was sewing.

It was just me and the tree, like the years before children, except that nearly all the ornaments now (I have a few from pre-child and even pre-married life) speak of our family history in some way. Years of handmade ornaments, gifted ornaments, Baby's First Christmas, and even the sparkly purple balls purchased last year from the dollar store to decorate for Brienne's birthday, have a story to tell.

Some of the heavy ornaments didn't make it back on the tree, the branches not strong enough to support them. I found other perches and places for the most beautiful ones, but some I put back in the ornament box. They're not needed this year.

No feelings were hurt in the redecorating of the tree. I didn't think they would be.

The things that capture my kids imaginations and their expressions of creativity are increasingly different than my own. Favorite TV shows, the progression through Baldur's Gate (poor Laurent, no one wants to listen anymore), fashion, makeup, hairstyles, reading tech RSS feeds, sewing costumes, painting trees - their uniqueness from each other challenges us as parents in meeting their needs but also grants me freedom because the tree, well, that's mine. And no one else needs it to be just so, but me.

Living in a northern climate, winter speaks to me of tradition, responsibility, and hunkering down for the long haul. A necessary confinement. A curbing of summer's free spiritedness (and gasp, potential out-of-control irresponsibility) enforced by snow and cold.

But this year I feel freedom in the air.

Who knew that redecorating the tree, and being ok with redecorating the tree (no recrimination about what kind of control-freak mother takes down the decorations and replaces them to her liking) would bring me so much satisfaction. Satisfaction in who I am, a person who likes to arrange the tree. just. so.

There is a return this season, winter of all seasons, to loving me. Accepting me, my limitations and preferences. Accepting me, my strengths and ways of operating.

It's subtle and significant. It's relishing (and instagramming) my skill in creating and managing an equitable kitchen schedule for four (on weekends, five) cooks. It's wearing my favorite colors, favorite textures, while knitting more. It's watching shows that make me laugh and reading books that make me think. It's new backcountry alpine touring ski bindings and boots, replacing the telemark I struggled and struggled to learn (no more struggle where I should be having fun).

And it's singing Love Has Come with Amy Grant's A Christmas Album (the digital version of my first cassette tape, a gift for my 10th birthday) while redecorating the Christmas tree.

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  • Hilaree

    Hilaree on Dec. 13, 2014, 3:42 p.m.

    Hi sweet Renee,

    Oh, the loveliness of deeply becoming yourself.  And, the profound courage.  After two years of my unexplained illness, the death of my abusive mother this summer, and several more deaths since then, I now sit absolutely grounded with another illness that won't go away.  What to do, what to do.  I'm choosing hibernation, reading, art-making, writing and facing my homeschooled children and marriage head on, hoping to God for clarity.  Sounds like you are allowing Him to meet you in this beautiful unraveling and learning.  I love how growth is noticeable in the details and allowances, like your experience with the tree.  I too am learning about the wonder of limitations and needs, and embracing them.  I'll be praying for you.  Let me know if you want an email partner for this journey.  I'm game.  :)


    • renee

      renee on Dec. 13, 2014, 4:38 p.m.

      By chance are you joining Heather's Hibernate course in the new year? I'll be there :)


      • Hilaree

        Hilaree on Dec. 14, 2014, 12:18 a.m.

        I'm not, although it looks fantastic.  Sometimes formal forums and courses like that overwhelm me, even if they're technically informal!  :)  You'll be a blessing to the participants, for sure.  Much love and peace in the New Year!


  • Nicole Cipriano

    Nicole Cipriano on Dec. 13, 2014, 3:55 p.m.

    Can't seem to add new comments to Thursday's post, so I'll add them here.  Somehow I'd missed Thursday's post in the busyness of the end of my work week, but I am glad I got to savor it, and this one, on a Saturday morning instead of a work morning!  Thank you, thank you, thank you, for your writing - it always goes straight to my soul somehow.  I think it is because I feel so similar so often but I am not a writer, I cannot express it like you can.  I have so many changes I am seeking to make happen in the next few months, and I feel like your present writing is reminding me that it won't all be a smooth road, and also it is reminding me how grateful I am for Jeff's and my marriage, that we're in this all together.  I, too, am struggling with anxiety and a bit of depression, and that is why I need to make some life changes, and reading your journey is always so validating, motivating, and nurturing.  Glad you are well into the healing part of your "project home and healing", and I wish you a fabulous, joyful Christmas season - enjoy that redecorated tree (we still don't have one!  It is usually up by now!)


  • jodie

    jodie on Dec. 13, 2014, 4:26 p.m.

    Are your children selling their bird cards?


    • renee

      renee on Dec. 13, 2014, 4:36 p.m.

      Sorry Jodie but they wrapped up shop, so to speak. They advertised them on Facebook in late November, had a bunch of takers and shipped out those orders. I thought they would want to advertise on FIMBY also, but they ran out of time, supplies and interest to do so (ah, the freedoms of childhood!) 


  • Marianna

    Marianna on Dec. 13, 2014, 7:48 p.m.

    Oh, Renee. This resonated with me in so many ways. I, too, am trying to re-embrace me, who I am, what are my values and likes and interests. I just completed The Desire Map by Danielle Laporte. It was quite instructive. At the same time I'm reading Boundaries by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend. So much to think about. Like so many women, I've struggled with feeling selfish for meeting my needs (like having Christmas trees decorated just so), feelings further compounded by societal messages, and this book has really opened my eyes to what's truly selfish and what's embracing you for who you are. Highly recommend! Last, but not least, I too have a gaming son whom no one wants to listen to anymore!! Tell Laurent he's not alone :) 


  • Jess

    Jess on Dec. 14, 2014, 9:53 a.m.

    You are a brthday twin with my middle child.  :)   Happy belated birthday.  I hope you are finding peace this season.  

    Is L still selling his work (notecards)? 


  • kyndale

    kyndale on Dec. 15, 2014, 2:08 a.m.

    the practice of trying to love myself and accept myself goes on daily.  having children helps.  i see how unique and beautiful and tender each one of them is.  it hurts that i don't have a mother or father that loves me unconditionally.  in fact, i'm pretty sure they hate me, for being me.  but it's not their fault.  they don't know how to love.  that's why i love my kids so fiercely.  i don't want them to know how it feels to not be loved by the people that should love them the most.  love yourself renee.  god made you perfectly.  you are perfect, even if you feel broken. 


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