It’s Monday before Christmas for us, and the house is a swirl of pre-holiday chaos. Presents have been arriving via mail, and small towers of randomly sized boxes are leaning precariously in the corners. The gift wrapping station has taken over the dining room table, the quilting cutting mat barely fitting among the bows and tubes of holiday wrapping paper. Sparkly bows occasionally find their way to the pets somehow, and cute pictures are snapped before the little beasts shrug them off.
The day is cold and grey. Rain is sifting from the sky, painting gloom on the Texas landscape. Sometimes it picks up and drums a soft beat on the chimney in the study, reminding us that we need to replace the chimney cap. The grass is lush and green, about the only time it is that green in Hill Country, the sky is an ominous blue grey, and the whole place looks like the setting for a Northern UK crime drama.
The dreary weather has been nipping at the old bulldog, and every morning she faithfully assumes her post by the fireplace in hopes of a fire being started. Today is too warm for a fire, so she decided to join me in the study. Tubby is asleep on the couch, snug and warm in a blanket.
Nykie has finally settled down as well, but first she trailed me through the house as I took holiday pictures for this post, and the iPhone unerringly focused on her in every shot as if to say, “Yes, yes, the tree is nice, but have you noticed this cute black dog?”
This year we bought a new tree.
The last 6 weeks have been a long marathon of focused writing and release preparations, punctuated by an occasional splash of anxiety over the merchandise store and the unexpected curveballs life is so fond of throwing. On the day after Thanksgiving, I stopped editing for a moment to take a much needed breath and realized I was dreading putting the tree up. Dragging the 7 sections from the shed, wrestling with scratchy plastic branches, trying to fit them together, then trying to stab the top into it somehow while perched on a ladder… None of it seemed appealing. And decorating it required so much climbing.
I was actually dreading Christmas, my favorite holiday. It turned out that Gordon was in the same boat. We looked at each other, and one of us said, “Why don’t we get something more manageable?” And so we did.
It is a Balsam Hill tree, prelit with soft white and frosted. We put it together in about 10 minutes with no fuss. Then it waited for a few days, until I finally pushed away the books and files, and announced that I would decorate it if it was the last thing I would do that day. Gordon brewed some decaff coffee, and we hung up the decorations together, sipping our coffee and sorting through the glass birds and glittering icicles looking for the best ones. It only took half an hour and was over too soon.
The old tree, a 12 foot monster, is spending this Christmas in a storage shed, waiting to be donated. It still looks great even after 5 years of use, so my hope is, this new one will last as long and will be worth the investment.
This year the holiday decorating inside our house brings me comfort. I notice all of it, the little funny pigs, the deer with glitter horns, the tree, the outside lights Gordon and I put up – that will be a story for tomorrow – it all adds up to wrap me up in this kind of warmth. It wasn’t that way last year or a year before. Was it this way before pandemic? I don’t remember.
The two releases close together generate a lot of stress. In 90 minutes, we have a zoom with GA regarding Kate Daniels adaptations. The store is a constant source of worry right now, because not being able to review each item as it is printed tips all of my micromanaging sensors. I hope and pray that everything is printed correctly. As I write this, Natanya is asking me for the background image so she can design the wrap-around cover for the print edition of Magic Tides. The list of tasks that need to be done is hanging somewhere in the air above my head: answer emails, implement edits, get the list of ARC reviewers for Magic Tides, finish wrapping, buy a holiday roast, purchase last minute gifts…
At night I settle on the couch to cross-stitch and watch a little TV. I’ve stumbled on Drink Master completion on Netflix, and I really like it, even though I’m not much of a drinker. Yesterday I watched an episode featuring a very accomplished pastry chef. The contestants had to create a dessert-inspired cocktail, and one of the judges stated that it wasn’t something mixologists are typically comfortable with.
The chef smiled and said, “Isn’t that what life is all about? Being comfortable with being uncomfortable?”
It’s so true. Getting through high school, going to college or starting a new training course, opening a new business, releasing a new book, showing your painting to someone else, speaking in front of an audience, moving to a new house, starting a merchandise store, all of it makes us uncomfortable. We have to become comfortable with being uncomfortable to accomplish anything, because things are always difficult and anxiety-inducing at the start. Life is about coming to terms with that discomfort and pushing through. Whether the new adventure turns out to be a mistake doesn’t matter. At least we all tried.
And that’s my random thought for today. Mod R is very insistent that I let you know Sweep of the Heart is now available for preorder on Audible. I have to go now to put out some admin fires. I hope your Monday is warm and happy.
PS Mod R: We are checking on the Audible price, please wait a bit on the preorder until we can confirm. Thank you!