Christmas at the Door
Hello friends. I’ve been quiet, I know. I feel like a lot is going on and nothing is going on all at the same time. So here is some of that lot of nothing that I’ve been up to and thinking about for the past little while. Illustrated with phone pics which are grainy and blurry but I haven’t picked up my real camera for weeks. More on that later. Creamie is getting better (for now) and she got a flu shot which I REALLY hope helps her stay healthier this winter. She is so excited for Christmas she can hardly stand it. She saw Santa at the church party. She wants to watch The Grinch and sing Jingle Bells every single day. I am excited about Christmas too. And all it took was one huge (to me) act of genuine goodness, kindness and love. Let me tell you a story, which is hard for me to tell, so if you feel the need/desire to comment, please be kind.
I’ve mentioned over the past few months that Scott got a new job, is now working crazy hours and is gone a lot more than he was. What I haven’t so much mentioned is anything about his old job. He and a few partners owned a civil engineering firm. It was a wonderful opportunity for a while, but after the housing bubble burst here in the USA things changed. (Civil Engineering is designing subdivisions, roadways, pipelines, sewer systems, etc. All things that are in about as much demand as new subdivisions. Which lately has been zero.) Their firm layed off a lot of employees just a few months after Creamie was born in 2009. That allowed them to keep the company open and still give a few people work on a contract basis, but still save a lot of money in taxes and medical insurance premiums. They had some good projects. We were surviving. Barely. But making it more or less.
Things went along for better or worse for two years. We always felt like we were still doing what we were supposed to be doing. We still felt like we were on the right path. They were working hard. Constantly trying out new projects and areas. Solar, Hydro-power, all sorts of awesome new things. They always had a few good projects in the works the kept us all afloat. And then this past spring things changed drastically. Work was scarcer, clients had gone bankrupt or disappeared leaving us with piles of open invoices. Lots of interest in the new kinds of projects, but no money to fund them. And everything was hanging (and still is) on one last big project that has been pushed back and postponed for one reason or another for the past 3 years. (On December 19th cross your fingers for us, we are getting closer to seeing this one become a reality, just a few more hoops to jump… I hope.) By the beginning of summer we knew we had to look for something else. Now. Things quickly got worse at work. Then worse again. Who knows how many paychecks we have skipped over the past few years, but this spring and summer were particularly bad. For the first time ever we knew we had to find something else immediately. Scott applied for jobs. Lots of jobs. Applied for jobs for 8 hours a day. And we heard nothing. I cried a lot. I ate a lot of Oreos. Standard coping mechanisms.
And then the first of August he finally got an interview. One interview. He aced it. He was hired out of 140 applicants and 11 interviewees in a unanimous board decision. It was not a moment too soon. (And perhaps a few moments later than I would have preferred.) But the Lord works in mysterious ways and looking back we can see that He prepared us for this opportunity for a long time. Anyway, his new job is awesome. His coworkers are awesome. He loves his work. We have great benefits. Good insurance, with zero out of pocket premium for us. I have dental insurance for the first time in my life. I might get my wisdom teeth out next year! (Yep, all four are hanging out in there hurting and driving me nuts everytime I brush my teeth.) But the best part? He goes to work every week and they pay him for that. Like, hand out paychecks on Fridays and stuff. But wait, get this, the money is magically already in the bank. They just stick it right in your account. It is amazing. And then two weeks later They. Do. It. Again. And then again. It’s a beautiful system. Really, an amazingly beautiful system.
Anyway, that was four months ago. And things are better. So so much better. But there are still those three-ish years of missed paychecks and bankrupt/dirty-rotten-no-good-corrupt clients to deal with. And it will take time to be out from under all of that. This Christmas was looking to be really lean. Leaner than any other we’ve had in our almost 8 years. I have enough craft supplies and fabric that Creamie would never know the difference. She is all set to wake up to a child’s dreamland of handmade toys on Christmas morning. And Scott and I were OK deciding to forgo gifts this year. We have each other, we have a warm home, food to eat and clothes to wear. We have a good job and a lot of faith that all things will eventually work out for our good in the end. But I knew that there wasn’t any extra money this Christmas. None, not even for little things. We got slapped with a $300 HOA fee from our less than awesome condo board a few weeks ago and it had to be paid. (Everyone under our HOA board jurisdiction had to pay it. It’s not because we didn’t clean up our patio or had weird crap hung in the windows or anything.) And there went Christmas. To the HOA board. Lame.
I don’t care about the presents, neither does Scott. What I really want for Christmas is a whole weekend to work in my craft room and sew and make pie. And like I said, there is enough fabric stacked up in my house that Creamie will have the best handmade Christmas a girl could hope to have. But what it really meant was that there was no money for a tree this year. Not even a little one. I arrived at this conclusion the day before Thanksgiving. It was horrible. I cried. And cried. And then I opened the pantry and made seventeen pies. I am not joking. I tried to pretend it didn’t matter, but by that weekend I was sobbing. A lot. At the smallest thing I’d tear up again.
Creamie has been asking for a Christmas tree since we took it down last Christmas. That girl has a memory like a steel trap, nothing slips through that little mind of hers. We looked into a few cut your own tree lots, because they are usually a little less expensive. And we looked into a few programs to cut a tree from government land, but all the permits were all sold out already. I even looked at fake trees at thrift stores, but they are almost as much as a cut your own lot. And I had pretty much come to the conclusion that there would be no Christmas tree with popcorn garland and gingerbread boys in my living room this year. I thought maybe on Christmas Eve I could convince my favorite tree lot guy (we get our trees from him every year, and have since I was a girl) to let me have whatever he had left and we could decorate it then. And it would be fine. And Creamie would love it. But I would have felt like Christmas was missing at my house for the whole of December. And that made my heart sick and it made me cry.
And then a small miracle happened. One that restores my faith in people, faith in Christmas, faith in love and goodwill toward men. Friday afternoon there was a loud knock on my door. REALLY loud. And the doorbell at the same time. I looked out the peephole (because that is what you do when someone pounds on your door) and there was a miracle on the porch. A big green miracle that brought tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat. Our Christmas was at the door. We have been doorbell ditched with a huge beautiful Christmas tree.
We had to snip off the top to fit it in the house it was so tall. Creamie saw it and freaked out, screaming in pure joy. I just stood there and said a silent prayer of thanks. Even thinking about it now it makes me cry. We pulled out the Christmas things. I opened box after box. I tested lights and mixed up gingerbread boys and made popcorn. We spent Saturday, Sunday and Monday stringing popcorn and baking cookies into gingerbread ornaments and hanging candy canes and jinglebells on our big beautiful tree. First thing out of Creamie’s mouth every morning is “Can I do some more Christmas things on the tree?”
It takes up a whole corner of the room, and it looks like it is on fire what with the 1600 lights on it. (I could have used 700 or so more. I didn’t do any lights on the bottom half on the side facing the wall.) And everysingle time I look at it I am reminded of how good some people really are. And how if we pay attention to the feelings and nudges we have we can work miracles in other people’s lives. I am so grateful for this small miracle in mine. I know it is “just a Christmas tree.” But more than that it is a reminder to me of new life. Of hope. Of love. That no matter how hard or crazy or crappy things are right now, that it will change. We will get through it. If pine trees can survive the harsh cold winters year after year and stay beautiful and alive surely I can do this right now. Things really are going to work out. Somehow. Things are going to be “OK”, whatever that means. Christmas is here in our little house. And thanks to the kindness of our Christmas Angel it is in my heart too.