So, What Does Your Christmas Tree Say About You?

CrazyTree PicBefore I begin this post I feel compelled to offer an explanation as to why I have not posted in weeks.  In a nutshell, I needed to think…hard.  When I began this blog four months ago, I assured myself that I would post weekly, and I did, until November.  I derive great pleasure from blogging. Before writing I think about each post a lot.  I think about what I will write about while I drive, while I shower, as I’m falling asleep at night.. I love, love, love to think about my blog.  For me, the prewriting experience is almost as fun as the writing itself.  So what happened?  I needed to think about something else. I know.  Do I really need to allot specific times to think? Am I really incapable of thinking about more than one thing at a time? Yes. When it comes to important matters, yes. I guess I am intellectually limited in that way.  This poor brain is easily strained and, hence, incapable of multithinking.  So here I am.  I did what needed to be done. I thought about what needed to be thought about.  As a result, I made some relatively decent decisions in my life. Now me and my demented brain are back and ready to blog.  On with today’s order of business..Christmas trees!

Once upon a time, not too long ago, I had a very beautiful Christmas tree.  I always selected the most perfectly shaped tree, not too short, not too fat, without bare spots… It was always elegantly adorned with red and gold bulbs, nutcracker ornaments and miniature pointe shoes.  Of coarse, it goes without saying that it had white lights.  I loved my Christmas tree, selecting it, decorating it, until one day my dear husband informed me that I was a “Christmas Tree Nazi.” Of course I couldn’t have that, so I decided to change my rigid, unfun, unbending Christmas tree decorating ways and lighten up. But this was not easy.

You see, at the time we were pretty broke and struggling and living in the 500 square foot in-law apartment attached to my parents’ house. And it wasn’t just my husband and I. It was also Jack and eventually Allegra. Of course part of me was ashamed that we weren’t doing “better” in life, so, it was extremely important to me that from the outside we looked somewhat legitimate, despite the fact that we lived in an overcrowded one bedroom apartment furnished with my grandmother’s old furniture. Christmas provided me the opportunity to say,”That’s right. We’re broke. We live in my parent’s house. But I still have taste. I am an elegant lady. Look in my window! Look at my beautiful tree! Just imagine what I will do when I have money.” At night, when the neighbors passed on their way home, they would look at that stunning tree in my window and think “Ahhhh, there’s hope for that girl yet.”

Then Giorgio accused me of being an intolerant, control freak, and I knew he was right. I needed to make a change. So the following year, colored lights. And the year after that, colored blinking lights. And Jack and Giorgio were happy (Allegra was too little at the time to voice her opinion). And I learned not to give a damn. And then…I realized that I liked the colored (unblinking) lights. They reminded me of my grandparent’s tree. Growing up, I loved my grandparent’s house at Christmas time. Theirs was a tree you would NEVER find at the White House or picture in Elegant Home magazine. Theirs was a simple, middle America Christmas tree, adorned with cheap gold garland and silver tinsel, colored bulbs and popcorn balls. My Grandpa used to sit in his big easy chair next to the tree and literally throw tinsel at the poor thing. His favorite ornaments were the blue glitter bulbs, so my brother and I, who loved to help my grandparents decorate, always made sure that plenty of blue bulbs were visible from Grandpa’s chair. Sadly, I grew older and snotty and pretended like I didn’t like it.

So what do we have now that the four of us have moved into our own home? Well, I don’t want to fall back into my rigid, fun busting ways, so, we compromise. Downstairs we have a beautiful tree adorned with my nutcrackers and pointe shoes and the kids’ homemade ornaments. Yes, it still has colored lights. And upstairs…CRAZY TREE!!!!

Ahhhh…Crazy tree! It is a sight to behold. Its home is in our TV room and it is all things children love, and also all things that any adult, who isn’t in need of a lobotomy, finds completely insane. Crazy tree looks like something my grandfather would decorate, if he was on crack. Since words cannot express that which is Crazy Tree (except that if you stare at it for too long you feel like vomiting), I’ve posted a picture. The scary thing..we all really dig Crazy Tree.

I still love my beautiful, elegant white light adorned tree, but, right now, it’s not us. It can wait. And when Allegra grows old enough to pretend she doesn’t like colored lights any longer, I will be sad. Right now, downstairs I have a fun tree and upstairs-Crazy Tree, and, for now, we like it this way. It’s funny, but just as those lovely family portrait Christmas cards can be complete misrepresentations of who we are, so too can our Christmas trees. I mean, if I really wanted to let everyone know how the Nanni’s are doing this year, Giorgio and I would look like we’re on the verge of nervous breakdowns and the kids would be punching each other. Although we will continue to send dignified cards that are gross misrepresentations of ourselves, we will also continue to have Christmas trees that reflect who we are–child friendly (always), tasteful (sometimes) and, as reflected by Crazy Tree, insane (more than we want to admit). Merry Christmas!

Mrs. Nanni Makes a Home…With the Help of Her Blog

How about a picture? Curtains? Color?Anything?!!!

How about curtains? Color?Anything?!!!

I have read a few articles by writers who state that blogging has made them better people, and I get it. It really makes complete sense. At the end of the day I don’t want to read my blog and realize that I am nothing more than the member of the chorus in a Greek tragedy, recounting sad tales of my days and providing myself with the insights I could have used in real time rather than in hindsight. Worse yet, I don’t want to read my blog and realize I have been the protagonist in my own life, jacking things up for myself and everyone around me. While it’s one thing to employ self-effacement for humor and levity, it’s another thing to just be an ass. Soooo…what’s my point?

I think I should begin with this. It is a fact that I am domestically challenged. In my adult life, I have yet to make a house a home in the physical sense. For me, experience transcends the material. Following this logic, as long as there is deep love and joy and excitement, some sense of joie de vivre, then the actual setting where life takes place has been relatively unimportant. My thought has been if you take away the happiness of experience then you hold to the setting, the material, for some sort satisfaction. My reasoning, however is deeply flawed.

While I keep a clean home, it is stark. I have simply been too busy living life with my family to give it much attention. When we first moved into our house I had grand decorating plans. I had the children’s rooms freshly painted. I bought beautiful comfortors with matching curtains. I even hung the curtains, until I took them down to have our windows replaced. Now they sit in a closet, almost forgotten because I have been too busy living life.

The question is, have I been living my life or have I been consumed by my life? It’s not as though I’m always happy. I worry…A LOT. I am stressed…A LOT. I work all the time. I am tired. It really would be so nice to have a warm and inviting place to rest at the end of the day. But I didn’t give this much thought until last week.

Giorgio and I were sitting in the kitchen when our Jack came in with a catalog from some home furnishing company. It was their winter issue and in it were pictures of homes beautifully decorated for Christmas. Jack loves Christmas and winter and snow. He loves to look at Norman Rockwell’s painting of main street Stockbridge at Christmastime. He loves images of Sundblom’s Santa sitting by a roaring fire and paintings of villages during winter with their white steepled churches and homes with illuminated windows that leave the viewer to imagine the cheer and warmth and fragrance that is within. While Jack was sitting in the kitchen showing us his catalog, his eyes filled up. When asked “why” he responded, “It’s just so beautiful.” This is the moment that I realized that setting really does matter.

Of course setting matters. Yes you can perform a play in a black box theater, but the brilliance of that is that each audience member gets to set it as they like, as his imagination deem best. I feel that my Jack and Allegra lack for nothing other than a setting. Jack craves warmth and coziness, and I am sure Allegra does as well. Yes, they have all they could possibly need and more, toys and books and clothes and joyful experiences and the great love of parents who have placed them at the center of their universe. But they don’t have a beautiful setting for which to settle their memories. As time marches forward and memories become more and more distant from the actual experiences those feelings they had as children will need to be paired with images just as powerful in order to survive their battle against time and old age. More importantly, they need the experience of a warm and inviting home now because they deserve it. We all do. Home is not just an abstraction. It is physical; it is material, and as such, it should be beautiful. I know. I know. Most everyone else figured this our ages ago.

So this brings me back to my initial point. How will I use this blog to make me a better person? Each month I will post pictures of the progress I make as I attempt to transform the Nanni house into a home…in the physical sense. I don’ want to just make a joke out of my lack of domestic prowess; although, it does provide some pretty decent comedic material. I don’t want to look back and regret that I never paid attention to the setting of our life together as a family. Here goes. Wish me luck.

Why Am I Doing This?

So, this is my maiden voyage into the blogosphere. For years, I have contemplated blogging, but, since I have been so busy raising my little people, I felt that I could not justify committing the time to such a pursuit.  I mean writing, especially about myself and my ideas, seemed too self-indulgent, too narcissistic.  Now, I in no way believe that this is a healthy way think. Do we need to justify everything we do?  Of course not.  Are we not entitled to engage in pursuits that give us pleasure and fulfillment? Of course we are.  It’s just that at the time, I was not so enlightened, at least when it came to viewing myself.   Then two things happened. I had an epiphany during a conversation with my husband, and, at about the same time, I picked up a book I had owned for years and never looked at and finally decided to read the first chapter.

The aforementioned conversation with my husband was not unlike the conversations he and I have almost every day.  Don’t expect it to be anything mind-blowing .  I can’t even recall exactly what we were talking about.  All I remember is that he and I were sharing what we both believed were some pretty good ideas when I thought to myself, “Too bad we probably won’t remember any of this in a few days.  These great ideas will disappear as if they were never thought, never uttered.” I know. This is not a terribly deep or intellectual thought, and yet, for me, it was very profound.  It came to me. This is why I want to write. I want to preserve my ideas.  Whether they be smart or silly or simply a reflection of where I am at a certain period in my life, I want to make them real, to give them some weight, some validity, to write them down.  In fifty years, if my mind starts to go, I want some proof of my intellectual and emotional existence.  I don’t want to be left with a withered body and the memories that others have of the me that once was. 

Shortly after I had my mini epiphany about why I should write, a teacher friend of mine came to the house for a visit.  We were sitting in my living room when she spotted The Art of Teaching Writing by Lucy McCormick Calkins stacked up in one of my many book piles.  She asked if she could take a look at it, flipped through the pages and left it on my coffee table.  Now I have owned this book for years.  I purchased it over a decade ago when I was in graduate school, and for some reason, never found the time to read it.  That evening I read the first chapter and was struck.  In it Calkins states

…as human beings, we write to communicate, plan, petition, remember, announce, list, imagine…but above all, we write to hold our lives in our hands and make something of them.  There is no plot line in the bewildering complexity of our lives but that which we make for ourselves.  Writing allows us to turn the chaos into something beautiful, to frame selected moments, to uncover and celebrate the organizing patterns of our existence.* (8)

That, my friends, said it all.  Through her writing, Calkins articulated my thoughts, and thus gave them substance and validity. 

 Reading those few lines written by Calkins inspired me to proceed.  To write.  To write to be heard in a world where so few truly listen.  I write to make my existence, my experience my thoughts real.  I write to freeze time and preserve the beautiful moments I share with my children.  I write to make meaning out of what sometimes appears meaningless and see the beauty in things that otherwise may go unnoticed or unappreciated.  I write because my time on this earth, all our time, is finite and I want to notice and enjoy and preserve all that I can while I am here. 

*Calkins, Lucy McCormick. The Art of Teaching Writing. Portsmouth: Heinemann, 1994. Print.