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November 08, 2007

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Matt Singley

New traditions come with our new life in Southern California.

Today we are wearing shorts and flip flops all day, and for dinner it's going to be a Double Double at In-N-Out. It's not the snow-filled days of Christmas back home in Portland, but it's kind of nice getting a tan after opening gifts. :)

Kacey

My messy Christmas wasn’t nearly as humorous, nor does it foster happy ‘remember when’ memories like some others I've read here. Looking back I see that it was more of an opportunity than anything else.

Three years ago I lost my brother on the day after Thanksgiving. It was a very difficult time for my entire family and nobody could seem to muster up either the physical or emotional energy to enjoy the season.

My kids desperately wanted me to do all of the usual holiday activities. Cut the tree, decorate the tree, bake, sing, etc, but I just didn't have it in me. My joy was missing and I couldn’t seem to find it anywhere.

So...after having the tree sit in the living room for nearly two weeks with nary a light or bulb to its name, they finally convinced me to at least put the lights on the tree. I must have sat on the floor for an hour with a strand of lights in hand just staring at the tree. It truly was a struggle to get this job done. Finally, after what seemed like days, I finished stringing the lights and turned the decorating over to the kids. They had a great time and were grateful to finally have a trimmed tree to enjoy. We sat in the living room, lit only by those twinkling tree lights, and sipped hot cocoa that night.

The next evening the kids dragged me into the living room to repeat the cocoa and togetherness of the previous night. They were so patient with me. They could see how sad I was, but I couldn't see how much it was affecting them.

Andria put on a favorite Christmas CD and Dylan turned on the tree lights. They really were perfect...all white and glowing against the red and silver bulbs. Suddenly there was a small spark and the lights around the center of the tree went out...and stayed out. We promptly unplugged the tree from the wall. I refused to replace the lights…I was convinced that they went out for a reason. It suited my holiday funk to have a lightless tree.

Christmas came and went. The New Year began…still I cried.
One Sunday morning I sat at the back of the church doing just that…crying as I had for several weeks. You see, I wasn’t a Christian yet. I’d been seeking answers, trying to make sense of death and life. I don’t know what it was about that day…the worship, the message, or maybe it was there all along and the difference was within me. I looked up to the front of the room at the same acoustic tiles that I'd seen there on previous Sundays. The ones that I'd thought were so out of place...so unattractive. Something shifted in my subconscious and I saw what had always been there.
In the shadows and textures of the four tiles on each side of the sanctuary was the outline of a perfect cross. I’m not sure why I hadn’t noticed them before.
I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior that day. January 9, 2005.
Looking back on that messy Christmas I realize that Jesus was there with me the whole time! He was working through my kids, friends, strangers and even acoustic tiles to show me something more, something better!

Christmas is once again a time of joy and I find that it lives in my heart. I wear it on my sleeve for all to see!

Jane

Well, Christmas 1980 was a really wonderful one. We had bought a new house that year and had managed to introduce ourselves to the neighborhood in a very memorable way! My mom and step dad were recently divorced and we sold our home in the country to move to the city. My Granparents were dealing with my Grandfather's early onset of Alzheimer's so we all decieded it would be great to move in together. Our house was a very large, very beautiful home that has a lot of history in that neighborhood (picture weddings taking place there) and the neighbors were curious about the "new people". One morning at about 6 am I was lying on the backporch in my brother's makeshift bedroom since there were six of us there were not enough bedrooms. I heard the backdoor open and I thought it was my brother, so I yelled at him to not bring his friend in with him as I was not dressed yet. Well, all of the sudden the long nose of a gun came around the corner at me, followed by over two dozen police officers storming the house! They were in every room, rounding the whole family up in no time flat. My mom figured out what happened before the rest of us did. So when she went outside with the officers I looked out the window and saw grandpa standing on the streetcorner across the street, in his boxer shorts, coat and hat, staring at our home and all of the activity, wondering what was going on over there?! Poor Grandpa, with the Alzheimer's taking over his brain, had gone to the neighbor's and told them our family was being held at gunpoint by a robber! The neighbors had not met us yet, so of course they believed him! Needless to say we were all relieved to have an opportunity to introduce Grandpa to the neighbors all at once so this would never happen again!!

Janet

The first Christmas dinner my husband and I had in our new home was going to be great. The previous year had been spent at his mom's where we had shown up at noon to see the uncooked turkey still on top of the stove, potatoes to be peeled, and side dishes to be prepared. We thought we were going to eat at noon, but come to find out, we were told to come over at noon to help her make the dinner. About 6 hours later, as my brother in law carefully stirred the broth and giblets for the gravy, he reached for some flour, poured it in, and found it had bugs in it! My sister in law and I then went to Food 4 Less, late into the evening, on Christmas day, looking for one last jar, can, or packet of turkey gravy. I told my husband "never again". So, back to the story. We were expecting a large group of people, and had baked a ham the day before, and were now cooking the turkey in the oven. My husband was peeling potatoes in the sink, and against my advice decided to use the garbage disposal to get rid of the peels. I had placed foil over the ham, and was warming it on the grill-top of our stove. I didn't realize that some grease and fat that was touching the foil was now running down the side and onto the hot grill. I hear my husband say "um, do we have a plunger?", and look over to see him up to his elbows in water, as the sink is plugged, then look back to the stove to see the grill catch on fire. Well, yes, we did have a plunger, and after a handful of flour (no bugs this time), our fire was out. Sooo much better than the year before!

Cori (representing the Fisher's)

Okay, so this may be cheating as it's a Thanksgiving story and not a Christmas story but... after many family brainstorm sessions as to what to write on this blog, this was the big winner! I hope I do it justice!

When I was in my early high school years, Thanksgiving was hosted by my Aunt Vickey and Uncle Jim, who live in Beaverton. At the time, the family vehicle was a (terrible) brown caravan. So, come that fateful Thanksgiving day, my family (mom, dad, Sarah (sister), and myself) and dear Grandpa and Grandma loaded up and headed west, pumpkin pies in tow.

Now at this time, Grandma was in early alzheimer's stages and was nearly blind from glaucoma. Grandpa was in early stages of parkinson's, but full of spunk! They were quite the pair!

Okay... so the actual holiday goes well... the turkey/ham was delicious, we all ate too much, of course, and left late in the evening. Now, IT GETS MESSY...

On our way home, dad is driving along on a very busy 217 when-while going over a bridge- the right front tire POPS off! No warning. Nothing. Just flies off and begins to roll down the road. Dad is amazing and manages to steer the (terrible) caravan to a safe center lane. Grandma is panicking, having no idea what was happening. (It was pretty scary.) I am sure Sarah and I were being dramatic as well.

And then Grandpa decides to jump OUT OF THE van (once it was fully stopped) and GOES AFTER the runaway tire. (The image of Grandpa running after the tire admist the holiday traffic as the tire rolled and rolled into the oblivion... is one of those crazy memories I will never forget!)

We get Grandpa back sans tire. Its gone forever. Everything is in chaos, it feels like. Then to our amazement, someone pulls up behind us! Yeah! We will call him "The Samaritan." He has a flat tire as well. (Makes you wonder what was on the road!!)

Dad and The Samaritan survey the situation together, and begin to make plans to get things worked out. By then, my Uncle Jim (who thank God for cell phones back then) arrives to get the ladies (and grandpa). Against speeding cars, we assist grandma (very slowly, very small cautious steps as she was NOT enjoying this excitement!) to my Uncle's car which was really not big enough for the troupe of us, but we managed somehow!

Then police show up. No big deal, right? We all assume its to assist the double tire blow outs. We leave, safe, on our merry way back home.

Dad stays back to get the (terrible) caravan situation worked out and wait for the tow. All of a sudden, mulitple police cars appear. The sirens are roaring. The road is blocked off. Its all very, very "like in the movies." The police come over to my dad and yell (very harshly) to him to get into the van NOW and STAY in the van. Dad obeys, but not without noticing a line of policemen lined up all aiming their guns at The Samaritan.

Come to find out... The Samaritan (who really been so helpful) was no Samaritan at all. He was on his big getaway! The car with the flat tire was stolen! He was a crook! And he was soooo not happy about being caught! Oh the irony! that he would pull over behind us, with his own flat tire, with the cops literally coming right to him.

It may not have been a messy Christmas, but it was certainly one messy Thanksgiving trip home! I can imagine for The Samaritan it was a messy night for him too!

Great Communicator

A few years ago we were invited to a Christmas party at the home of a successful attorney. My husband knew most everyone there, but I did not.

It happened that it was also the birthday of one of the partners, and after racking my brain for a small-talk subject, I had a brainstorm. "So," I asked brightly, "where's the farthest place from home that you ever spent your birthday?" He and his wife exchanged a thoughtful look and then he said, "I guess it was when I went to California
a few years ago to have brain tumor surgery."

The party recovered from this messy moment, but I never quite did.

Cindy Moore

Things have a tendency to be a rather hectic during the holiday season every year but three years ago was particularly so. We were super busy with school activities and concerts, holiday work parties, gift buying, etc., not to mention the ALC Christmas program, in which I was singing, No, I had decided that Dec would be the ideal time to replace the carpet in the entire upstairs of our house. Wouldn't it be grand to have lovely new carpet for the holidays? So, in mid-December we had to move everything upstairs to downstairs, where we climbed over and around it for what seemed like a week. I was barely coping anyway, but what finally tipped me over the edge was when my grandma called and asked me if I could take her dog, Dixie, to have her toenails cut that day! My daughter found me in a crumpled heap crying while sitting in the middle of all the stuff piled up in our living room. It was not my finest hour. Lesson learned? Replace carpet in August.

Elisabeth

In 2002, I was a Southern girl in love and so excited to have her first Christmas as a married woman. At the time, we lived in Los Angeles and I had the hardest time getting my Christmas spirit. LA is a far cry from North Carolina. And somehow palm trees strung with lights didn't evoke a cold, wintry, Christmas feeling. As Christmas day came closer I began to feel more and more panicked. All my life, I had Christmas with my small family of five. We each had our own favorite traditions and everything was done to make each person feel like it's a special day. We even opened presents one at a time to make sure everyone saw what each person had thoughtfully picked out for each other. As I asked my husband about how his family celebrates Christmas I began to get very worried. His family included lots of extended family members and the whole clan gets together to celebrate. On Christmas day, we had to wake up very early to open presents from my family, so we could squeeze in a chance to call them (time difference!) And my husband didn't feel so well (throwing up in the bathroom). We then drove across LA to spend the day with his family where everyone congregated, talked over each other, ripped into presents (all at the same time) while shouting and running around like hooligans. This madhouse experience did not feel like the special day, Christmas was to me. I felt so alone and far away from my family and like I wasn't even celebrating Christmas. My poor husband had no idea what was wrong with me. It felt like a very messy Christmas indeed! Thankfully, I learned to evolve my expectations of Christmas. Flexibility is a good thing!

Sherri Pine

Ok here it goes. Our first Christmas as a married couple I thought I would be sneaky and try to find out what my new husband got for me. To my surprise I found a wrapped laundry basket and big, furry tiger slippers. I was not happy about my new presents to be. I thought about giving them away before Christmas but that wouldn't be nice. So I waited until the big morning and tried to act surprised. He didn't fall for it. Brian puts so much thought into the gifts he buys for me now. I do believe this was one of those lessons that showed us the true meaning of giving.

Jeff B

So several years back my family was heading back to Indiana to spend Christmas with my grandparents. We checked in for our flight only to learn that our flight left 3 hours earlier and no one notified us of the change. So we flew to St. Louis and stayed over night. Our morning flight was postponed for several hours due to mechanical problems. When we arrived in Indiana our luggage was missing (including all of the Christmas presents). We wore the same clothes for 2 days. Our luggage arrived on Christmas day but they never found the boxes of Christmas presents or my guitar. When returning home our airline was overbooked so they offered us a flight voucher and booked us on another airline coming home. However, this airline was overbooked as well and because we were not their original passengers we were not a priority. So we were delayed by 8 hours in the airport. We received a 2nd flight voucher and first class travel. The first leg of the trip had bad weather and I nearly got sick and lost lunch on the plane. The 2nd flight into Portland went much smoother and we actually got our luggage. I came home having the opportunity to fly first class twice, was fed and housed in a hotel by the airlines, received two free tickets anywhere in the US on the airlines, and got a new guitar. It was one Messy Christmas trip to Indiana.

Rachel

We are a family of five that includes three boys. We have a tradition of searching for and cutting down the perfect Christmas tree every year. Well, several years ago -- back before it was customary for every tree farm to provide you with a saw -- we forgot to bring our own sawing device. What makes this story even more silly is that my husband has been in the tree/landscaping business for three generations and has many cutting tools readily available. Anyway, we were far away enough from home that it would have been very inconvenient to go back for a saw. We had been out for several hours looking for a tree and about this time we were a tired and grumpy crew. Fortuanately for us my husband had his trusty Leatherman with him...yep, he sweated and sawed and grumbled, and cut down that darn tree with his Leatherman! Did I mention it was a large tree? It was cut down with love -- it was the perfect tree!

Dennis

Many years ago while admiring the size and beauty of the Quick Family Christmas tree; I noticed a very large present wedged behind the tree that wasn’t there the night before. Upon further inspection I discovered that this giant gift was for… me! My curiosity kicked into high gear. What heavy gift could possibly come in a box 2 X 2 X 4? Then it hit me. My wife had bought me a keyboard! I couldn’t contain my excitement. I was elated with the thought that my wife actually bought me a synthesizer. My head was swimming with excitement at the thought of such an extravagant (and perfect) gift. I had visions of spending countless hours playing music on my brand new keyboard. On Christmas Eve, I intentionally saved the best present for last. With nervous expectation I dragged the heavy box out from behind the tree. With everyone in the room watching, I paused and whispered a heart felt thank you to my wife and proceeded to unveil the best Christmas gift ever. I pulled a large section of the wrapping paper off and my mind was having a difficult time remembering the brand name or the unfamiliar logo of the musical instrument. I think I read the word Craftsman on the box. While my mind was still racing to catch up I continued to pull the remaining paper from the… garage door opener? The reality of the moment hit me like a sudden hammer to my cranium. I didn’t have the time (or the brains) to conceal my disappointment. My shock and sudden let-down was so obvious to everyone that I didn’t have a chance to recover. The only thing I could do was stare at the box in a trance-like state and say…”oh… a garage door opener.” My wife left the room crying. Needless to say, the recovery of that Christmas took several years of apologies and marriage counseling. After the return of the gift to Sears, the Quick family was sentenced to opening and closing their garage doors manually for the next ten years. With each slam of our large doors, I was reminded of the Christmas gift that closed a chapter of my childlike wonder of the holiday.

Tamara Cunningham

Our messy little Christmas started the first week in December 1992 with the words that every mother loves to hear at holiday time, "Mom, I don't feel so well." After a couple of days of feeling puny, Colin came down with a raging case of chickenpox. They were everywhere. Instead of shopping and visits to Santa, I spent time running to Safeway for calamine lotion, Aveeno and Children's Liquid Tylenol. Every evening I waited anxiously for Mark to come home from work so I could escape the sick house and go out Christmas shopping. A couple of weeks later, just as Colin was getting back on his feet and the last of the chickenpox was disappearing my son Curtis came to me with the words that every mother loves to hear at holiday time, "Mom, I don't feel so well." Yep--chickenpox.

Karen W

My 'messiest Christmas' memory is not all that long ago - just a couple dozen years or so... Finding just the 'right' tree to adorn our small house, was a major event. First it was finding just the perfect tree; then struggling to get it in our small car, once home to get it snuggly in the tree stand and standing STRAIGHT (sometimes a major feat in it's self); with the 'flat' side to the wall and then the decorating would begin. Chuck, my husband, always did the lights and then it was 'my baby'. I had collected many, many, many craft decorations over the years so decorating took several hours.

We,too, purchased our tree from the Boy Scout lots as Chuck and the boys had all three grown up in Scouting. Well, this one year, after all the major hoopla with lights and decorations, we had a most beautiful tree ever. Much satisfied with ourselves, off to bed we went. We always enjoyed the tree with lights on in the mornings as well as evenings. So the next morning the first thing I did upon coming downstairs, was to plug in the lights. Well, before long the carpet was COVERED with tiny spiders!!!! Yep,the cozy spider home had exploded! Needless to say, the tree ended up outside. After UNdecorating it, spraying it and just leaving it for a couple days, we started the whole process all over again. What an experience. After that, our trees spent a couple days in the garage before making their entrance into the living room.

Don M.

It was the first Christmas for Melanie and me. We wanted everyone to come over to our house, as all new married couples would! Melanie had started setting up all the tables with her favorite snacks, and I prepared the turkey. What happened next was out of the movies. The weather changed from Cool Weather to Freezing rain. We had some guest already at our house. We all figured that we would buckle down and ride out the storm. Then the power went out and the turkey was half way cooked. We ended up opening gifts and had all the snacks for our first Christmas dinner. To those who say Oregon Christmases are always wet, be careful of what you ask for!

Josh

The messiest Christmas I ever experienced happened back in 1998. My family got together for our traditional Christmas eve dinner of Fondue at Grandmas house.
As we sat down to begin to eat we heard a slight bang sound. We did not think to much of it because we thought someone had just come in the door and shut it behind them. About ten seconds later my brother leaned back and looked in the kitchen to see flames rising from the oven to the ceiling. He yelled "Fire" and everyone made a bolt for the back door. The oil that was heating on the stove burst into flame when condensation from the lid hit the oil. My brother and I ran into the kitchen, he grabbed a towel and then proceeded to grab the pot by the handle. The pot was completely engulfed in flame as he ran to the front door to throw it out. When he opened the door he went to throw the pot not realizing that the metal screen door was there and was shut.
The pot bounced off the screen spilling the oil back onto my brothers arm and hand. The rest of that Christmas was spent in the burn unit of the hospital as my brother underwent skin grafts to repair the third degree burns to his hand and arm. Needless to say Fondue is no longer a Christmas eve dinner tradition in the Galgan family.

Jennifer B

Christmas 1990 was supposed to be our most special yet. Christmas is, after all, a time for family to gather and after years of heartbreak and trying, we were finally just that: a real family!

I spent most of the pre-season shopping for the perfect holiday dress for Erin who was 6 months old at the time. I finally settled on a beautiful red velvet dress. I covered all the details and bought a matching hair band, delicate lacey socks, and a pair of black patent leather shoes! Our cards went out early that year, with a JC Penney photo in each one, of Erin wearing her holiday outfit.

Christmas morning had me selfishly feeling resentful that we had to pack up and head to my in-laws for the day. “Why can’t it just be the 3 of us?!” I whined to Brett. “It’s Erin’s first Christmas!”. I’m ashamed to admit it but when it came to my in-laws my perspective on “family” wasn’t as global back then.

“At least I’ll get to show off Erin’s beautiful outfit” I sat thinking and sulking during the 45 minute drive to Dayton. Suddenly, my attention was diverted from myself to my crying daughter in the back seat. Brett pulled off the side of the road as I made a mommy dive into the back seat to see what the matter was. Weeks of shopping and searching for the perfect outfit passed before my eyes as I watched, in horror, Erin throwing up all over her outfit while leaking *ahem* other fluids out the other end. Moments later (to our relief!) she was cooing and smiling as if to say “Merry Christmas Mommy, do you like your gift?!” There would be no salvaging her outfit for the day.

We pulled in to my in-laws driveway about 2 hours late with a bag of soggy clothes and Erin wearing a terry cloth, yellow sleeper. At least I got a picture beforehand.

dorine

Every year since they were born, my kids have sat on Santa's lap and had their picture taken. Me being the sentimental fool that I am, I assumed it would always be that way. One evening we were at Clackamas Town Center, with virtually no line to see Santa when much to my chagrin Emily, almost 17 and JD, almost 13 protested for the first time about being too old for this. I thought my life was over. How could I live with no 2005, “kids on Santa's lap” picture?
When my how could you look and guilt-filled rebuke didn’t impact them the way I hoped, I finally said, just forget it and with tears in my eyes, ran out to the car, my slightly embarrassed family following a few steps behind.
After a lengthy discussion in the car as to why this was so important to me and that's all I wanted for Christmas, Emily finally said, come on JD, let's just go get it done.
By the time they got back to where Santa was, the line to see him was about a block long...ha ha.
I wonder if they will need counseling for their Santa scar?

Jen Proehl

Well Dave told you his version, now it's time for the rest of the story...the next day while Dave was at work that sweet, fresh pine smell inspired me to decorate our hard-earned tree. I had just climbed up the ladder when "POOF!" a nest of baby spiders hatched and exploded in my face. I have a lot of strong feelings about spiders, none of them good. So poor Dave came home to a very frazzled wife and that sweet smell of RAID!
Aahh, what fun memories!

mel

Well, I don't really remember any particularly messy or miserable Christmases...But I'm sure as kids, Nat (my sister) and I created plenty of messes for our parents.
One instance I can remember: Nat and I were probably 6 and 9. It was a few weeks before Christmas. The tree had finally been decorated and all the shopping had been done. The gifts were wrapped and piled at the foot of the tree.

We were told repeatedly NOT to touch them.

At that time, our mom worked nights as a phone operator. She would usually take the morning to get some much needed shut-eye while nat and I usually watched cartoons. However, this particular morning, we were incredibly anxious to open our Christmas gifts. So we schemed a way to open them early.

We decided to go ask mom.

We knew the best way to get a "yes" out of her was to ask while she was deep in her slumber. And sure enough we got our sleepy "yes."

Nat and I jetted off before mom realized what had been asked. We unwrapped our gifts and spoiled our Christmas surprises. Needless to say, mom woke up, dad came home, and we were in a world of trouble. :)

Dave Proehl

You think that getting your first tree as a married couple would be a great experience. For Jen and I it was a nightmare. I insisted on going to a Boy Scout tree lot (I worked for the Scouts back then), but it was a rainy, miserable night. We stood in the mud in the rain looking at ugly trees, and finally settled on the tree we wanted.
With both of us standing in the pouring rain, I quickly tried to figure out how to tie the tree to the roof of car. I rolled down the windows to put the rope through (much to Jen's dismay that water would get in) and closed the doors. After 5 minutes of cinching and tying, we tried to get into the car, but alas the doors were tied shut, too. We had to take the tree off the car and do it all again.
Wet, frustrated, muddy and grumpy - we drove about four blocks and heard a SLAM in the back seat. I hit the brakes and pulled over to see what happened.
Well, I had a VCR in the back seat, and in all the hustle to get the tree on the car, the power cord had fallen outside and got caught under the tire, causing it to slam against the inside door.
Needless to say, that particular evening fell a few bars short of my expectation of romance and joy we'd find around our first Christmas tree as a couple.

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