My Convertible Life

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas Traditions: Front Porch Pumpkins

Christmas traditions can be wonderful, conjuring up memories of happy times together with friends and family. They can also be stressful, piling up into to-do list items a mile long. The key to the successful tradition is to find the right ratio of enjoyment to effort.

Using that scale, my most favorite tradition is the Christmas Pumpkin. It requires almost no effort on my part -- all I have to do is not carve my Halloween pumpkins and leave them on the front porch until December -- and I get unending joy every time I look at my house.

What's a Christmas pumpkin, you ask? And how you can you get some with so little work? Well, you start by living across the street from Ms. Marty. Because the truth is that the Christmas pumpkins actually take a great deal of effort -- it's just that she's the one who makes it all happen.

It started with felt in 2009, when I accidentally left my pumpkins on the porch past Thanksgiving.
And then there were lights in 2010.
In 2011, she took it up a notch with this little crowd. Their song sheets are for "Silent Night," in case you can't tell.
2012 arrived all tied up in ribbons and bows.
 And just when we couldn't imagine what could happen for 2013...
Seriously, y'all -- that's eight tiny pumpkin reindeer led by a pumpkin Rudolph and pulling a pumpkin Santa's sleigh and his bag of toys. That one we had to bring inside to display on the table because it's just too cute. (And yes, the middle-schooler in me laughs every time my kids say "Look at the HO on the front steps!")

So, to recap, in case you want to implement this tradition at home:
  • Step 1: Move across the street from Marty.
  • Step 2: Buy an assortment of pumpkins for Halloween. Do not buy them too early and do not carve them.
  • Step 3: Wait patiently.
  • Step 4: Enjoy the brilliance. Be careful not to puncture any of the pumpkins.

Monday, December 9, 2013


Today is my 41st birthday.

I started the day with friends at our neighborhood boot camp at 5:45 a.m. in a cold misty rain. This seems crazy, I know. But it's actually a good thing.

Going to boot camp, especially when it's cold and/or raining, makes me feel like a badass. Like I'm tougher than I thought I was. Like if I can do burpees and diamond push-ups and kickboxing crunches outside in the dark when it's almost cold enough to snow, then I can probably handle whatever else is coming at me today.

This is what I learned in my year of being 40: Every life needs a little badassery* in it.

Ordinary life can be a big heap of mundane scheduled into a whole lot of routine. Some of that ordinary can be wonderful -- my daughter's small hand in mine on the way into school, my son's wiggly eye brow when he tells a joke, my husband's secret code text telling me he's on the way home. Some moments, the every day is  total chaos -- too many practices, games, meetings, lists, demands and errands colliding into a pile. There are so many things I simply cannot do or cannot do well that the stress of it all makes me buckle.

But I'm finding that if I can carve out some part of my life to feel like a badass -- even just here and there -- it all seems closer to possible.

I've never actually been much of a badass. I tend to be the person who follows the path, does what's expected, takes the easy option. But over the past 40 years, some of my best experiences were those that caused me to summon up some extra courage and at least pretend like I had a little badass alter ego.

These days, I'm not likely to get my belly button pierced or live overseas for a year, so I have to look to smaller spaces to find my badassery. More often than not, it's boot camp -- or whatever alternate workout opportunity my boot camp friends lure me into. Like aerial boot camp, for example.

It started, as most crazy ideas do these days, with a Living Social deal. Some of you may remember the last time I purchased an online deal for a class. It involved a pole. There was only one class. There are, mercifully, no photos.

This time, there are pictures -- and they make me (perhaps unreasonably) proud.

I should explain that the "aerial" portion of aerial boot camp for beginners involves trying to climb heavy streamer-like silks that are hanging from the very tall ceilings. You start by gripping both silks in our hands, then wrapping one leg around the silks and looping it over that foot. Pulling your body up with your arms, you lift your other foot and trap the silks against the bottom foot and inch your hands higher up the silks. After unwrapping your bottom foot, you pull your legs up, loop your foot back in, pinch again with the other foot, and continue on up the silks.

That description makes no sense when I write down, but trust me it's even harder to actually do it.

The first class, I didn't get much higher than this:

The second class, I barely made it off the ground.

But the third class? Well, this photo was taken when I was on my way back down. From the top. As in, touched-the-metal-ring-connecting-the-silks-to-the-ceiling top.
By the time I got back to the floor, my heart was pounding, arms and legs were shaking, and hands were burning. But damn, I felt like a badass.

And if I can do that? Well, then I can sure as hell handle 41. 

*For real, y'all, that sounds like a made-up word, but it is in the Oxford now so I'm using it.