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Rum pa pum pum.

This year's holiday seasons were undoubtedly the worst that I've experienced.

A long list of contributing factors all lead to this holiday catastrophe, but ranking #1, as with most of my disasters, would be my own expectations.  But before we get there, here are some of the others:

#4 - It rained.  No snow for weeks, no snow to come, no miraculous white powder to cover the grime of the city outside...  In Seattle, rain is par for the course.  In Moscow, snow is that uniting winter element invoking laughter from children, brightening the city, even causing occasional smiles from the babushki.  No snow, no winter.  No winter, no Christmas.

#16 - No tree.  They didn't sell Christmas trees at our metro stop this year.  Getting a tree from a different place in town would have required a lot of work and a lot of money, both of which weren't willingly relegated by Dan or myself this year.  We did joke about cutting down a tree from a nearby courtyard, but it turns out that procuring an axe is actually much more difficult in Russia than Roskolnikov leads one to believe.  It may even be harder than getting the actual Christmas tree.

#8 - Fondue that didn't melt, then melted too much, then separated completely.  This year I so excitedly birthed the idea of a brand new Culbertson family tradition:  cheese and chocolate fondue on Christmas night.  What could taste better?  As it turns out, a lot of things.  As with most holiday meals, this one was yet another that went wrong at the very last minute.  It felt like a real life 90's sitcom.  Trying to create that perfect meal experience for some dear friends on Christmas day?  It turns out that it's really only funny when people on tv are experiencing the holiday cooking shenanigans we all know to dread.  Rather than making my peace with bad fondue, I feverishly tried to salvage what I could of the separated cheese and burned chocolate, pouring senseless hours into a failed project.  Maybe next year...

#6 - Lots of people.  Little Space.  This is constantly a problem for me here.  I love to include everybody.  I so desperately want everyone to feel like they have a place and a home away from home where they're loved, appreciated, and valued, especially over the holidays which can be a trying time for the ex-pat community.  As I'm learning, my apartment does not always have to be that home.  In fact, the more people that squeeze in this two-bedroom space, the less does anybody actually feel comfortable and "at home."  This year, I learned:  more gatherings, fewer people at each, or ask somebody else to host ;)

#12 - Puddles, puddles everywhere.  This may go without saying, but beginning to potty train over the holidays does not always contribute to that special atmosphere referred to in #6...

#2 - We were in Moscow.  Family was in the States.  This needs no explanation.

#1 - Me.  I imagined sitting around our kitchen table, a steamy crock-pot of delicious fondue cheese and wine simmering away as we shared special memories, laughed, and sang our favorite carols together.  I imagined venturing outside for some ice-skating or broomball, snowballs, snowmen, or some kind of snow-filled frolic together to make the fondue even more warm and inviting.  I imagined Anna and Peter listening sleepily to Christmas carols after a full day of friends, food, and celebrating.  I... I... I...  I had expectations.  I had hopes.  I didn't have a chance.

It's hard to admit that the biggest opponent to creating this special day was myself.  But that's just how it goes some holidays.  We learn our limits, our priorities, and which recipes not to use by our failures.  I'm glad that we tried.  I'm glad that my friends are gracious to endure (even smiling) a difficult day.  I'm glad that I know better now.

So here's to next year.

Another year, another try.

And hopefully less of me and more of Christ's mass.


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