living in excess and holiday reflections

There are a few reasons why this holiday reflection is coming perhaps a few days late.

  1. We didn’t say goodbye to our last wave of visiting family until Saturday, and there was absolutely no chance we were going to be able to sneak in a writing sesh before they departed.
  2. It wouldn’t be a true reflection if we didn’t decompress from it first, right? [We’ll just keep telling our procrastinating selves that.]
  3. We’re pretty sure that all of the New Years resolutions aren’t kicking in until today, the first Monday after the drop of the ball. So really, our timing couldn’t be timelier.

It’s true. Today is the day when the majority of us go back to the grind of work, errands, schedules, and the seeming monotony of the everyday. Today, real life returns.

We’ll be honest. We fought it with everything we had too.

Because after three weeks of hosting family and friends, we had almost become used to a life of pure excess.

The 12-plus people who passed through our door, the gallons of food and sugar we guzzled, the inordinate fluid ounce content of alcohol we consumed, the almost daily Costco and grocery store runs, the superlative number of drives to the airport—heck, the act of driving altogether—, the tripled loads of dishes and laundry, the showering of Christmas gifts, the consecutive late nights of board games around the table, and let’s not forget the constant attendance and practices surrounding the numerous Advent and Christmas Holy Days …

We were at once the source and recipients of extravagance the whole time.

[And that doesn’t even account for our indulgent Memory Lane tour to London and Belgium just a couple of weeks before.]

In the end, we think we’re mostly just impressed that we pulled it off. This was our first time hosting Christmas, and we did everything within [and beyond] our power, budget, and one-week timeline to make it happen.

It began first with our Christmas tree, which we cut down immediately after our epic snowshoeing hut trip to the Polar Star Inn, one of the 10th Mountain Division’s many huts in the Rockies.


Don’t let the pretty pictures fool you… 6.2 miles in snow shoes + a 2,000 foot elevation gain + a massive backpack + absolutely no training [save walking and eating our way through Europe at sea level] = the very end of Elizabeth’s physical, mental, and psychological limits. Smiling and taking pictures was way easier on the way down.

A few days later, my mom arrived to help us prep for our pending company. An entire weekend was devoted to shopping, wrapping, decorating, and baking all of the necessary Christmas goodies. We did an equivalent of a month’s work in just three days’ time, and it paid off. Before she arrived, we had maaaybe two presents under the tree. After she left, it was as if Santa had thrown up in our house.

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Needless to say, my mom is the reason why Christmas happened at all [as well as the instigator behind a few too many vodka sodas…]

Coinciding with her departure was our siblings’ arrival. First, Jason’s brother Michael flew in from Austin, followed by my brother Andrew and his girlfriend Diana from San Francisco. And with Jason’s sister, Natalie, right next door, we were all set for an unforgettable Colorado Sibling Christmas [with the notable exception of my younger brother, Alex, whose busy work schedule proved unconducive to holiday travel].

It was then that the inevitable melding of family traditions began to unfold: chocolate advent calendars, graham cracker toffee, hiding the pickle, buttered up mashed potatoes, and a Mexican food Christmas Eve dinner of mole enchiladas and saffron rice for the Wards; and Christmas Eve mass, Grandma Jane’s cinnamon rolls, card games of Rummy, someone busting out an oboe, and prime rib for Christmas Dinner for the Frels.

Add to that plenteous White Russians, evenings around the fire pit, countless games of Telephone Pictionary and Celebrity, an obligatory Star Wars viewing, and one of the most magical White Christmas snowfalls of our lives, and there was really nothing that could have deterred our fun together.

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There was something so freeing about Sibling Christmas. There was an obvious comfort that came with being in close proximity to our siblings, but there was also a recognition that we were now adults, appreciative and open to new, old, and even nonexistent traditions. It was a blank slate, and it was some of the best bonding time we’ve had with them in years.

After the festivities, we continued the celebrations with Natalie’s birthday on the 26th. Jason’s dad arrived that day and shared in the birthday presents, the gourmet mac-and-cheese lunch, and uber cool outing to Ophelia’s that night. He even stayed through New Years, prompting us to indulge in a few too many margaritas, another round of cinnamon rolls and homemade pizza, and even a day of skiing.

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We didn’t quite make it to the midnight toll of New Years, but we didn’t really care. We had home brew fermenting in the basement and the lingering joy of family in the air.

All that to say, life has been one big whirlwind — a revolving door of loved ones and a shoveling of splurge that we had somehow integrated into our lives. We were exhausted but happy, full of excess but in a way that reminded us that our cups, as they say, “runneth over.”

So while we are certainly eager to get back to the steady cadence of life — to get back on our bikes, eat a few more salads, store away our alcohol in the basement for at least a month, and see friends we have neglected for far too long — there is a mourning that has taken place with every departure. There is a sadness that has come with realizing that they don’t, in fact, live here. That our next interaction with them is sometime in the distance, not nearly soon enough.

So yes. People may warn against excess. It’s unhealthy, unrealistic, unrelenting, and unmanageable. [We may even need to undergo several hours of Netflix binges to overcome it.] But in our case, we can only hope that our 2016 is full of even more of it: that family and friends come pouring through the door, that our kitchen is never completely clean, that snow shoes and ski days happen even more frequently, and that international travel is just a part of our DNA.

That is, once we recover from it all first.

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