My First Christmas

I had envisioned a perfect, beautiful, Home-and-Gardens-Hallmark-style Christmas for my first Christmas in over a decade. But life happens and sometimes it's better to enjoy things the way they turn out instead of trying to force them into some picture perfect, unrealistic situation.

I had wanted the house decorated perfectly, I wanted to help with cooking and baking, I wanted the perfect Christmas music playing, I wanted to house spotless and I wanted it all done early so that I could sit back and enjoy it as long as possible. But the thing is, I am a "Spoonie" and live with chronic illness, plus things have been unimaginably turned upside down and inside out....then Christmas Eve, I was diagnosed with strep and an infection.

The house was decorated nicely but not as nice as I imagined or what I could have done. There are still moving boxes full of stuff, stacked in corners waiting for the time when we can finally buy the necessary furniture. Not all the tubs of Christmas decorations or wrapping paper got put away. I didn't get to do a fabulous tablescape and the house generally stayed in a state of natural disaster from it all, along with the fact that, well...we live here.

But my first Christmas was happening one way or another, whether it was how I wanted it or not. In the end though, the greatest thing about it is....I was free to celebrate it....whatever or however it ended up being. Came it did in all it's splendor, chaos, joy, heartache, disappointment and love.

This Christmas I got to get back to the things I once loved and enjoyed. One of the things I missed most, while I was in the cult, was Christmas ornaments! Nothing related to Christmas was allowed. But I have always been a sucker for ornaments because they're cute, pretty little things that sometimes are their own little worlds and fun miniatures of adorable life-sized houses or critters and such.

Each Christmas season, I'd sneak over to the ornament racks, double checking that nobody from the cult was around and then proceed to dreamily look at each and every single one. Sometimes I'd even be brave enough to reach out and touch one, especially if it wasn't particularly "Christmasy" and therefore less evil. On occasion, I'd buy one, if it was a squirrel or deer or something found in nature that could easily be passed of as a nic-nac year-round. I'd get home and cut the string off so there was no hint that it was ever an evil, pagan bobble.

But this year, I'm free of that cult and it's my first real Christmas as an adult. It dawned on me that I no longer have to gaze in secret in the holiday isles of stores but I could freely, openly and joyously take in every single Christmas decoration and even BUY whatever I wanted. I also didn't have an ornament collection since I was sucked into the cult at the age of 19.

So shopping I went! Surprisingly I didn't just grab everything I could like some starving person. I wanted meaningful things that were true to me and how I wanted to represent MY Christmas. Nature is a huge aspect of my life and the basis of many works of art I create. I've been drawn to the Nordic cultures, their designs, their long snowy winters, deep dark pine forests and fellow appreciation for the natural world. I scanned and studied the isles of racks of hundreds of ornaments, carefully choosing ones that reflected what would become my personal Christmas style: deer, birds, owls, all made of wood or white ceramic. I found some lace ornaments and cream paper snowflakes along with a couple of vintage ornaments. My brother (who has Down Syndrome) found a silver Cinderella carriage and insisted I get it because he remembered how much I loved Disney princesses when I was little. I found an cute manatee ornament which reminded me of the time when my childhood dream came true back in 2018 when I got to swim with manatees in the Crystal River of Florida. I was also gifted an oyster and mermaid that were all part of the same collection as the manatee - Old World Christmas.

Since I'm naturally creative, I couldn't let my first Christmas pass me by without DIYing decorations. I went for a simple, vintage rustic designs to reflect memories of Christmas past and the humility that I was reminded of this year by making it through tremendously heartbreaking and dangerous situations. I'm a huge history lover and thought of how my situation is similar to those who faced hard times during the holidays at big moments in history, when things had to be more simple but more appreciated and often home-made. I collected pine cones and tied lace bows to their tops. I gathered up seed balls from a sweet gum tree and spray painted them gold. With small sticks I made rustic little stars and I found filigree embossed paper which I made into seahorses and cranes with pearl accents.

The room I moved into at Mom's house is quite small so decorating it is similar to how van-lifers or people living in tiny houses decorated their spaces. That idea is fun for me because I've been wanting to living in a darling little tiny house for years but my space is just a bedroom and the novelty isn't quite there. But the need to decorate minimally with the challenge of limited space is still there. Recently I've been addicted to Instagram queens like Jonna Jinton and Lavenlay who are both from Sweden - the land of ice and snow...real life Narnia. Their Yule/Christmas traditions are beautiful, meaningful and are slightly different from what I was brought up with and I completely love them so I went with a slight Nordic theme in my room. I bought a sweet little tree that's maybe just a smidge over a foot tall. All the other ornaments, that couldn't fit on the tiny tree, I hung on lines of twine on my walls. From the little door on my dresser, I placed two mini stockings and the space around the tree, on top of the dresser, is packed full of little gifts, cards and two glass deer. I was gifted a few vintage Christmas post cards from the 1910's, which I displayed between the keys of my vintage typewriter. On my bedroom door, I hung a rustic style wreath (that isn't really a wreath at all - it's a basket) to welcome people into my space.

I had decorated the rest of the house in a traditional/vintage theme with over flowing greenery on the mantle of holly and cedar bows stuffed with mini gifts, lights, gold accents and a string of wooden red and white beads.

Christmas Eve was similar to the typical Christmases with my family from my childhood - Christmas movie marathon (hosted by my brother), reading our favorite Christmas books from childhood, sitting in the living room, enjoying the ambient glow of colorful lights. Right before I went to bed, I turned off all the lights and paused in the living room in the dark stillness looking at the tree and mantle all lit up, taking it all in, realizing that for 13 years it was as if time had got stuck, like I had disappeared....but now I'm back, time has resumed, I have my freedom and there I was, standing the afterglow and warmth of Christmas Eve.

My mom pulled of an amazing smorgasbord of food for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day breakfast, Christmas dinner and even loads of cookies and snacks.

CHRISTMAS EVE DINER: Steak Shrimp Creamy Cheddar Potato Soup with Bacon Soup Candy Cane Bruschetta

Cranberry Brie Bites Pumpkin Bread Chocolate Peppermint cookies Almond cookies Cheese Plate Christmas Cherry cookies Crostini and Crackers Scottish Shortbread cookies Mixed nuts

CHRISTMAS BREAKFAST: Overnight Brunch Bake Cheese Danish Pumpkin Bread Fresh Pineapple

CHRISTMAS FEAST: Turkey Stuffing Mashed Potatoes Sweet Potato Casserole Asparagus Roasted Beets Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie

Our family (who has the farm in Elkin, NC) came down for Christmas dinner. Have I mentioned yet how excited we are that they're having a baby girl?! We've loved being here for every step along the way. Baby girl...we can't to meet you in just a couple of months!

Next up for firsts will be New Years! I'm completely loving this first year of freedom! It feels like all the windows and doors opened at the same time!

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