oops is the best part: what’s your holitude?

It’s that time of year when I want to change my ringtone from Default to Deck The Halls, or, more accurately, to my favorite holiday song of all-time (sorry Santa Baby): Silver Bells.  It’s the season of holiday party invites, leaving glitter on hands, and “What will I wear, what will fit?” on the minds of dysfunctional dieters.  More than anything, for me it’s about capturing and creating new memories—tradition mingled with new moments. Yet with such lofty aspirations for stirring up warmth in a blowy season of delights and winter weather warnings, there’s still the nitty-gritty, pull-up-your-sleeves-and-get-to-work of it all. It’s why there’s Maker’s Mark. It’s why people have tree-trimming parties. It’s ding-a-ling, ring-a-ding exhausting.

jingle balls

Our tree is up. Fat. Glorious. Crooked. I’m dreading stringing white twinkle lights by myself. Even with Elf or Miracle on 34th Street, or even Baby Mama playing in the background, it would be easier with help. Help this year will be a step stool and espresso. Though I think I’m learning the best way to light a tree is to, in fact, be lit. I should bribe friends with homemade cookies and bourbon-spiked hot cocoa. If I lived in New York, it wouldn’t be hard to find takers, but here in Austin, all my friends have families of their own, with children to be tucked in, husbands to be put away, menorah’s, uncles, and trees to be lit. No amount of caroling, cookies, or copious amounts of hooch-laced creme will lure anyone into elf mode. Dulce would never think of it as work. “Trim Stephanie’s tree,” would be added to her calendar without irony, beside a smiling emoticon.

I wish my tree had more of a color theme. Like if you’re going to go with white, pink, and green, a preppy tree, then go for it, full stop. I should use my print & cut personal die cutter machine and start creating alligators and blue whale ornaments. For trim, pom-poms. You know who has the best tree? Thomas Pink. I think it’s all frosted sugar cookies of boxer shorts, ties, and shirts. Not the most sentimental of trees, but oh, how very cheeky. It doesn’t really matter, of course, especially now that the sugarplums’ eyes will be aglow when they see ballerinas and glittered airplanes hanging from green branches.

Last year I remember researching techniques on how to add lights to a tree, and it took me hours: the research, and the actual stringing. Each branch was to be lit from the inside out, not nearly as easy as a circular motion around the entire tree. Hanging mirrored silver balls deep in, as close to the trunk as I could reach, to give the perception of depth, was a grinch and a half. A well-lit tree should look like it’s lit from the inside, like candles in a pumpkin, a bloom of light, as if it has its own pulse.

As much as I love the idea of shoulds, this year it just isn’t about should. I need to remind myself that anything worth doing is worth savoring. So, if it means doing a nip here, taking a drink there, stopping to snap a photo while the food gets cold just because I enjoy photography even more than eating on time, then that’s the way it’s going down. Because when everything goes wrong is what really makes the memories, it’s those sidelines and “wrong” turns that we remember most, not the shoulds, the expected, and the well executed. Oops is the very best part of life.


5 YEARS AGO: Self-Love



  1. I think the concept of “oops” often being one of the best moments in life is right on.

    the idea of oops in not executing a perfectly dressed tree as an example of that?

    not exactly. I think that example trivializes a really profound concept.

  2. Did you see Shakira sing “Santa Baby” at the Rockefeller tree lighting? Your post reminded me of it; I found it quite good
    Ok, a link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8E4A9CRadU

    And I definitely hear you about friends being less available to just come over and have fun as we get older, kids or not. It’s unfortunate, as great as family is… I hate when you have to start designating friend time, when people start calling it “girls’ night”. It’s definitely one of those things we take for granted when we’re younger, busy searching for everything else

  3. I am obsessed with a perfectly lit tree. Last year, 7 strings of lights I believe. Its just so beautiful when it glows from inside out that I always wait a few days before adding the ornaments, its so pretty on its own. My advice- start at the top and go all the way down working on getting the lights inside. Then start at the top again and come down with lights on the outside. Plently of breaks inbetween to sip something.
    Lights aside I am learning to not only accept but welcome what to me are the unshoulds. I too love a theme or matching tree but my boyfriend came with a box of the most mismatched ornaments, footballs, and computers, and handmade from childhood… and I watched him hand them in all the “wrong” places and it was just as it should be.

  4. I know you grew up with a non-Jewish mother.. so I understand the celebration of both holidays – Hanukkah and Christmas.. but, how do you explain it to your children??

    I only ask as I am seriously considering converting to Judaism but am unsure about the giving up Christmas thing.. I know that’s the whole point of converting, but when you’ve spent 27 years of your life celebrating it.. it seems to become a part of you, a tradition that has many beautiful memories.. how on earth do you give something like that up? I know a lot of Jewish people who celebrate both (when they were raised by two Jewish parents), and was wonderng why that is.. Just curious, as I’m so confused about this.

    P.S. Post pictures of your tree Stephanie :P I know I can only speak for me, but I’d love to see it and how you decorate your house.. Oh, and the 3 year olds too ;) They’re growing up so fast!! Did you have a party for them on their special day or are you waiting for this weekend?

    1. I am so glad you asked this! I wanted to ask the very same thing! I am actually about half way through my conversion to Judaism and this will be my last Christmas. I know I will miss it but I don’t feel right about going through the entire conversion process but still celebrating another religion’s traditions. Good luck to you whatever path you choose!

      1. I see your point and that’s what I’m having a deep conflict with and what prevents me from moving forward..

        As far as giving up Christmas, you may want to check out fellow poster Marlee’s comment – She converted to Judaism and she and her family celebrate the non-religious traditions of Christmas. Although I realize that isn’t for everybody, but it works for them and that’s great.

        I would still love to hear how Stephanie separates the two with Lucas and Abigail, as she’s raising them in a Jewish home, sending them to Jewish pre-school, etc. I am just curious as to how she explains it, should I find myself in a similar situation someday with my own children (I don’t have any yet and am not married)

  5. Our tree is a random assortment of the old-school type of colored lights and single ornaments, none of which match, that have been collected over many, many years. Some are antique glass. Some were made by little hands in preschool. Some were gifs. Some were from our own childhoods. And somehow, every year, the tree is gorgeous. You don’t need to overthink it.

  6. I’m also curious about how you celebrate Christmas with Jewish kids. Would you be willing to write about that? I only ask because my boyfriend is Jewish and would like to have Jewish children. I fear that I would feel left out. We have a Christmas tree and he celebrates Christmas with my family. Maybe this is more of a question for your mom, since she was the one with the Christian background in your family and had Jewish children. How did you decide to keep your Christmas tradition alive?

  7. Hi LolaD,

    I too converted to Judaism – when I was pregnant with baby number four! When we got married, my husband’s parents asked that we raise the kids Jewish. I was on board with that, and though it took me some time to study/convert, we did raise the kids Jewish starting right at the beginning with my oldest son’s bris. After my conversion, we all went in the mikveh.

    OK. So. Christmas. I can’t give it up. And my Jewish husband loves it too. So, we decided that we wouldn’t give it up. So, we are a Jewish home that each December embraces the non-religious side of Christmas – tree, presents on Christmas morning, stockings, cookies…

    I know many will say we’re confusing our kids (11, 10, 5 and 3), but so far so good. They don’t seem confused at all, and are happy with our family traditions.

    Good luck on your conversion!

    1. Thank you so much for your good wishes Marlee!! I really appreciate it.

      I really like your idea of celebrating both, and leaving out the religious side of Christmas.. the only thing is, if I ever do get married, I would have to have my husband (Jewish or not) in agreement with me!

  8. This year will be a christmas of firsts for me and my family. For the first time in mij life I will not be spending it with my own family. I will be in Australia with my boyfriend’s family. We lost his mother recently en she planned this whole trip for us. We willen find it difficult, stopping to savor every moment we feel is special, but we really must. Sometimes its difficult to realize that these moments in life need so much thought. It should be a given, to enjoy all those moments given to you. But in times were friends and family are busier than ever we should make time…. for each and for our selves.

    So on the 11th of december I will surpise my mum and dad with a christmas dinner, just because i think that is a moment worth savoring!

    1. Hi Marjolein,

      I hope you enjoy your Christmas in Australia – I am a North American living down under and the summer heat can feel more like July 4th than Christmas, but it’s all about getting in the spirit of things. Remember, summer Xmas is normal for your boyfriend’s family if they are Aussies!

      Also, it’s a lovely idea to have a holiday dinner with your parents – enjoy!

  9. “Though I think I’m learning the best way to light a tree is to, in fact, be lit.”
    I love this line :)

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