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That’s How the Light Gets In

Let the games begin, shall we?

I tried to tell myself I wouldn’t post too much holiday content before Black Friday, and to be honest, I haven’t. I know you’re thinking, “YES YOU HAVE, LIAR!” To be fair, though, that was sponsored content. I haven’t posted holiday content all on my own yet. That changes today. It needs to change today. The thing is, I’ve been bad at catching feels. All the world and the personal news filter in and out of my ears and my brain and my heart, and my processing skills aren’t always up to par. The hardest thing in the world we can do is to let people in and out of our hearts. I don’t think I’m that good at it.

And yet it happens despite my best efforts.

I’d love to tell you I’ve learned a thing or two about feeling, but the truth is that sometimes I feel too much. Or what I consider too much. Then it gets filtered into different places. It breaks into pieces, like glass shards. It seems to disappear.

Whenever I feel next to nothing, it’s only because I feel a lot.

I haven’t fully felt that Christmas spirit yet, but I’m about 75% there. And that’s probably 74% more than I felt last year so I’m rejoicing. Maybe you know the one I mean. It’s when a smell or a song or a Christmas light or a memory or a movie hits you so hard in the heart, that you could swear it’s snowing only on you and for you, the way it does when a new romantic couple kisses at the end of a Hallmark holiday movie. It can only be magic! Three years ago was the first time in my life that I spent an entire holiday season without getting hit by that feeling. Then it happened again last year. Not this time, I say.

Not on my watch.

I’m coaxing it out slowly and steadily. It’s already taken my breath away nearly full-force. We’ll be decorating this week and I have a lot of posts coming up. For now, here’s something fun. A few years ago, Dana from Kiss My List asked me holiday questions. It’s fun to bring them back and maybe inspire you to answer some yourself. On this blog or on your own or both!

1. First, finish this sentence: When I’m really old, I hope to look back on my life and know that I…

Well, that’s loaded! When my grandmother died earlier this year, I had an existential crisis about it. I felt so sad that someone who lived 100 years, without cancer, heart disease, or diabetes, & someone who lived life on her own terms and lived BIG still died. She just died. It wasn’t a movie death. It was quiet and heart-shattering. For her 100th birthday, one of the biggest realizations I had is that I want to live big, but in a different way than I thought when I was younger. I used to think it was all about glitz, glamour & money, but now I think that living big is living with big HEART, and living freely and getting out of the boxes that this world will try to shut you in. That’s it. I want to live on my own terms and with big HEART.

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2. What is your earliest holiday memory?

I can remember lighting Hanukkah candles, or maybe even unwrapping Christmas presents (both?) in my old house – my first house. We lived there until I was five, and it was in Rockaway, NJ on a hill. You could see the Twin Towers from my street.

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3. Tell me about a holiday tradition you remember from your childhood. Do you keep that tradition with Cassidy and the kids, or have you created a new one?

We haven’t created a new Christmas morning yet. We still do it with my parents and as many siblings as possible. We talk about it changing with the five of us kids all grown up and starting families, but the thought is too heart-breaking for me. As it’s always been and now, we all have a gigantic Christmas morning together. We were always allowed to open the stockings at 7:00am Then we all sit in a circle and open our presents, one at a time. Then we have a huge breakfast and a flank steak/homemade french fries dinner. Although in recent years, it’s gotten so time-consuming, that we have to break halfway through opening gifts to eat breakfast. Then we dive back in. It takes HOURS. It’s fantastic.

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4. Yes or no:

a. Eggnog – NO! Well, maybe. I haven’t had it in years. I don’t remember liking it, though.
b. Candy canes – Meh. Only if they’re fruit-flavored, and then still, I’d rather just eat fruit.
c. Fruit cake – I have never tried it! I imagine NO, though.
d. Latkes – Heck yeah! When well made, they’re exquisite. And your jacket will smell like oil for a week.

5. I know you like to watch holiday specials and movies. Tell me a few of your favorites: classics and new, cartoon and human. If you had to have one playing over and over for 24 hours straight, which would it be?

Hmm…! I tend not to like watching movies more than once. I suppose background noise is ok. I do love It’s a Wonderful Life, Love Actually and The Family Man. I think my favorite and the one to play for 24 hours straight is Scrooged.

6. I’m only asking this because your kids don’t read your blog. Do you remember when you found out the truth about Santa? Share if it’s not too traumatic.

Yes, and it’s funny because I was in the Hebrew School parking lot! I was about ten or 11 and I don’t remember it being traumatic – just honest. It’s about the spirit of the holiday anyway. It’s real and it’s spectacular.

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7. Describe what your Christmas day will look like this year. Assume you are not snowed in!

It will hopefully look a lot like what I described in question #3! I guess I got ahead of myself.

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8. Was there a gift that you REALLY wanted as a child that you didn’t get? How did you handle it? James has jokingly asked for an ATV; is Scarlet asking for something over the top?

Scarlet’s requests are all doable so far. I can’t remember anything specific that I repeatedly wanted and didn’t get. I’m certain I wanted a trip somewhere to meet Tim Curry, and why didn’t I get that one??? (Problem solved August 2017)

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9. How do I take a decent photo of a fully lit menorah or Christmas tree?

Ha! Well what are you using? I think a phone camera takes a nice one. With a dSLR, use a tripod! If you don’t have one, you can create a makeshift one by just using a table or whatnot. Use manual settings – a wide aperture but enough to get in the whole tree or menorah (read: not 1.4). Smaller numbers are better because of more light, but of course, not too much. That shouldn’t be a problem because you’re probably in a low light scenario with the tree, at least. I like a shutter speed of 250 or so to prevent hand shake blur, but hey, if you are using a tripod or a makeshift one, that shouldn’t be as big of a problem.

Am I confusing you enough yet? It really depends on so many factors..

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10. My last question is always a “Would You Rather?” So, would you rather have a nose that glows like Rudolph or pointy ears like an elf?

ha! Definitely pointy ears. Have you seen my hair? It’s thick and it covers my ears, hence why I never wear earrings. I don’t really love my nose (or even like it) so I wouldn’t want to draw more attention to it.

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Has it hit you yet?

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  1. You better taste that next fruit cake you see, because there are actually only 12 fruitcakes in the entire world! They just get passed around from home to home.

    I can’t ever remember learning that there is no Santa Claus. Maybe that’s because this old friend of mine who looked very Santa like used to put his finger by the side of his nose, and would disappear for a few days every Christmas.

    My favorite move has been Miracle on 34th Street. Their will never be another Natalie Wood. The Gift of the Magi is pretty special too. Never liked It’s a Wonderful Life much.

    Pointy ears, two words, Mister Spock 🙂

  2. Totally has hit me. But then again being at Disney earlier this week with all decorated for Christmas with Christmas music playing all day and night long, I got the fever a bit earlier than usual this year, because of that. But still I am totally all in for Christmas now and just can’t wait 🙂

  3. Loved reading about all your traditions! We started a new one this year in that we put our tree up today. We never put one up before December so this is a first and so far – I like it! Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving Tamara!

  4. Beautiful lead up to the Holiday season, Tamara. I’m doing the same up here. Just getting some decorations out and dreaming a little for that old “Christmas feeling”. The tree smell will always take me back to childhood Christmas. When I was five, I asked Santa for a red wagon. I was so excited about it! Unfortunately on Christmas morning, I got a Mrs. Beasley doll. I was pretty devastated. 🙂 Beautiful photos here as usual, Tamara!

  5. Spending Christmas with your parents and all your siblings and their kids sounds like a lot of fun. I’ve never tried fruitcake but the older I get the more I want to try it.

  6. I love this! So many fun things, memories and tidbits here!

    I like egg nog (but only in little doses). Couldn’t care less for candy canes and fruit cake has no right to be called “cake” – I hate the stuff. LOL

    I love your photos – such a beautiful family.

    Wishing you a lovely week.

    PS – I’m extra excited for Christmas! Whoop!

  7. Christmas has hit us big time here. We’re all about decorating and getting into the spirit. Can you believe that I’ve been playing Christmas music for the past week. It doesn’t get any better than that if you ask me.

  8. I loved #1 the most. Surprised? I’m sure! lol

    This is such a fun read, especially during this time of year! I hope Dana sees this!

    I think it’s the most incredible gift to have a family that is so deeply connected like yours. Tamara, you are so blessed.

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