Archive for December, 2018

o christmas tree…

Friday, December 28th, 2018

As Christmas for our family winds to an exhausting yet happy close, I sit in my living room admiring our tree. This year, it is smaller than in years past but it is no less beautiful. I look at it loaded with lights and ornaments and am reminded of all that they represent. We have handmade ornaments from the girls through the years, some that we got as wedding gifts, ornaments handed down by our parents and grandparents…a random smattering of the Donovan 5 Family History. Lovely.

Our trip to commandeer the family tree was a little pitiful this year. We went to the scout lot but their selection was short in supply and even shorter in stature (we are always happy to support the scouts so don’t start down that road). We made the best of it, soldiering on as we do and to be honest, I am glad for our less than perfect tree. It serves as a reminder that life is what you make of it, good or bad. We brought our tree home and dressed it up. Lovely again.

As we have lived all over creation we have had several different kinds of tree acquisition experiences. The big box home improvement store parking lot, a typical “tree lot” just down the street, a local farm where you cut your own, etc. One year in Florida, it had been raining for days so the tree stood in the driveway until the rain stopped and the tree dried out. In New York, the tree trunk was coated with ice so we had to wait for that to melt before we could put on lights and decorate.
The first big step in our family tree journey was the discovery that 4/5 of us are allergic to pine trees. Every year of my childhood, we would traipse into the woods and cut a huge scrub pine for our tree. I thought it was the prettiest kind so that’s what we sought out in the beginning of our marriage. It is also available as a cut-your-own option in Alabama. We found a sweet tree farm just outside of Birmingham called Beavers Tree Farm and began the tradition of taking our children to cut down the family tree. We moved to Franklin, TN and tested out a few tree farms but were not able to find a favorite spot. Regardless, the fourth year in a row that Robert and the children were sick at Christmas, it occurred to us that maybe pine wasn’t our friend. Thereby began the Frasier Fir Era. This is what Robert grew up with and he was very pleased that we made the switch.

Since Frasier Firs prefer colder temperatures, we had to give up the cut-your-own ideal for a while and hit the tree lots. Then we moved to New York. Our second Christmas in New York, we discovered Granger’s Tree Farm in Mexico, NY. There was a good amount of snow on the ground so we suited up and headed to Mexico. A short drive later, we would encounter the best tree expedition one could ever imagine. We boarded an old wagon and rode through the farm out to fields of Frasier Firs, just waiting to be chosen. We were given a measuring pole, a saw and a sled. The girls pulled each other in the sled and we singled out our living room centerpiece. The tree got a ride on the sled as the snow began to fall. After another turn on the wagon we had hot chocolate and fed baby goats in the barn. Writing it down now, it sounds so juvenile and simplistic. Let me assure you that it was nothing short of magical. All of the parts fell into place. One thing about heavy snow is the quiet. The snow acts as a giant quilt blocking out any extra noise. So much so that you can hear the fat flakes land. There is only the crunch of boots and occasional giggle or sigh. Riding on the wagon through the blanketed farm was so peaceful and calming. It was reminiscent of the candlelight service we attend every Christmas Eve. In that moment, all was right with us. No worries, fears or cares. Just being in the moment. Together. We talk about it every Christmas. It will never be recreated or re-experienced. An extraordinary gift.

We waited 3 days for the ice to melt off the trunk of our beautiful tree. It was worth every second.

If you haven’t packed up your decorations, take a moment…a quiet moment…and soak it all in.

I hope you had a Merry Christmas. Peace to you all for 2019.


home by another way…

Sunday, December 9th, 2018

When I was in high school, I had the privilege of attending a week long camp in the mountains of North Carolina with my youth group each summer. There was a different theme each year and it was a moving experience every time. One of the years, the theme was “home by another way”. It made for a cool logo and a neat t-shirt that I wore for decades. I got a lot from that week but I have to admit that the deeper meanings of that theme were not apparent to me until many years later.

I lived in the same house until I was a senior in high school. My father had the same job my whole life. I went to the same church. My parents did a great job of exposing me to diverse people – different skin colors, varying religious and cultural beliefs, political opinion, socio-economic background, etc…, but my home routine was static. No complaint, just fact.

I assumed that my adult life would be the same.

I can hear you all laughing…..

Robert and I have been married 21 years. We have moved 10 times across 5 states. Ten doesn’t sound like a big number. Trust me when I tell you that it is. Keep in mind that 7 of those moves were with 3 children in tow. By the 6th time I relaxed a little and knew that things would fall into place but it is still an incredible amount of work. Every. Single. Time.

Each move was with reason and purpose. We weren’t flitting about the countryside in a van singing and planting wildflowers along the way or anything. Every move was a deliberate and thoughtful step in the right direction. I knew this but I also had this nagging feeling that we were scarring our children for life.

During all of our adventures, our girls were exposed to many different life situations. Sub zero winters with feet upon feet of snow on the ground for months. Communities with great wealth where many parents didn’t have to work at all. Traffic. Beach life with sand on your toes all year. A town with one stop light. Blue collar communities where all members of the family worked to make ends meet. We were at the top of the socio-economic ladder in some places and much closer to the floor in others. We moved during the summer, in the middle of spring, over winter break, in the middle of fall…we have done every possible combination. I just knew that my children would require years of therapy for being hauled around on a journey they didn’t ask to go on.

What I discovered instead is that I am the mother of some awesome children. Our daughters told their “new kid” stories and eased into place. Granted it wasn’t always seamless. There were a few stumbles but that’s life, isn’t it? Life isn’t about always getting your way. Life isn’t always fair. It just isn’t. (If your life has always been easy and fair, I don’t know if we can be friends.) Our girls learned from all of that. They walk into rooms full of new people with confidence. They know how to find a friend in a room of strangers. They are happy just being themselves. It makes me weak with pride. I chalk it all up to the fact that the bond among our family of 5 is as strong as an ox. When you are new in town, you have to find strength and courage in the one place where it is a guarantee…at home. Being that strength for your sisters and even for your parents makes you stronger. Somehow my girls became fearless, appreciative and empathetic. Most of the time anyway…

We moved back home 3 1/2 years ago. It was time and we were ready. We were greeted by family and friends with open arms of love and gratitude. It was a wonderful thing to experience.

Looking back, I wouldn’t change much at all. I certainly wouldn’t take back any of our moves. We have at least one friend-for-life from each place we have lived. Treasures.

If you have never been on an adventure with your family – and I’m not talking about a week out of town – I’m talking about a real departure from your comfort zone…a place where you can only rely on each other…the kind of adventure that brings inside jokes and laughter through tears…you should try it. You can always come home, you just might come home by another way.