Saturday, December 27, 2014

Our First Married Christmas!

The holidays, regardless of which ones you celebrate are about family, traditions, and appreciation. On August 9th of this year, I was married to Kate and welcomed with open arms to their family. One of the best days of my life, and the beginning of a brand new journey.

Very frequently in the following months to your wedding you are asked, "how is married life?". My response is always, "it is not much different than engaged life. If anything, Kate feels quite different because she has to change her name in 90 different places..." 

I may have oversimplified a little. A whole lot has changed. My life has gotten better in many ways.

This past week I participated in my first holiday season being married. It was full of new experiences mixed with the old traditions and turned out to be quite a time. So, did it all go well or was it a scene out of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation?

Here are just a few things that were different this holiday:

  1. I had the opportunity to be in a new "family photo".
  2. Traveled more then ever (13 hours; Boston>South Jersey>Catskill, NY>Central MA>Boston)
  3. Spent actual Christmas with Kate's family (the infamous "taking turns" with the holiday)
  4. Experienced new "Wilson traditions"
  5. Brought "Wolf traditions" to the Wilson's. 
  6. Was able to open present with our wonderful dog Bipsy!
  7. Was able to see and spend time with more family then ever before.
  8. Received a ton of gift cards
  9. Woke up the latest I have ever woken up to unwrap presents (9am opposed to 6am)
  10. Gave out more "holiday thank you hugs" than ever before.
  11. Was warmly welcomed to spend part of the holidays in 5 different homes.
  12. Increased my New England sports gear by 300% on Christmas day (thanks Ellen!)

Based on these 12 things, I think it went pretty amazing. It really drove home the value of family, relationships, and our need for connection. Still, no matter how great this all feels the reality is also in the challenge of adapting to your new normal and change. The change in how you used to celebrate holidays and the people you spent it with.

I would be lying if I were to say it was easy to leave my family on Christmas Eve and not spend Christmas and my sister's birthday with her for the first time in my life. I can finally understand the challenges newly married couples face when it comes to the "splitting" the holidays. This really tests the true the essence of marriage; support, flexibility, and compromise. Compromising does not mean giving up something you enjoy (although that may happen), it means to get through something and reach an agreement with your partner that has its own intrinsic benefits. During this specific change for me, the support from both families was amazing, completely appreciated, and ultimately made our first married Christmas a successful one. 

I can't thank Dave and Ellen enough for welcoming me into their family in such a genuine way, while also thanking my parents for being so supportive in some of the changes that marriage brings your way as well.

Change is a complicated matter when it comes to humans, they either really love it or hate it. If it requires effort, they hate it. If it provides pleasure, they love it. If there is no perceived problem, there is no big change. Sometimes you don't know what direction to head in, or it doesn't excite you to make changes. Once you are able to see that every ounce of effort is worth the change you are making, it is a no brainer. The value of change and growth is overwhelming and the support is monumental. 

Kate and I are now able to look at each other, give a firm high-five,
and say that we have successfully had our first married Holidays! 


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Gift Giving: The Stress, The Effort, The Season of Giving

The holiday season is typically filled with so many positive feelings. For some though, the thought of their "dysfunctional family" getting together, having to buy gifts, sign cards, wrap presents, and potentionally travel many miles seems like an absolute nightmare.

I understand where they are coming from with the whole wrapping of the gifts piece, not my strength and never will be, I have accepted this reality of mine and my sisters have driven home the point many times. Understandably, the holidays can be a stressful time. For this reason I want to provide you with a small piece of advice while taking on one aspect of the holidays, gift giving. 

How the hell are you supposed to know exactly what to get your wife, children, significant other, or any family member for that matter when they either provide you with a "60 item list" or say "it's the thought that counts". Either scenario leaves you in a precarious spot of wondering, stressing, and wishing someone else could do this for you. Fear not though!

 I am hear to give you some advice on how to make gift giving a little easier for you this holiday.

First, remember what you are doing in the first place. You are giving! A selfless act that is done for somebody else without the expectation of reciprocation. Remind yourself that the overall act of giving a gift is positive, selfless, and appreciated one (although sometimes it may not seem that way!). 

Here are a couple rules to follow (some from personal experience and others just rules)

1. Put effort into your card and wrapping.
This point is even more true when gifting for females. They care just as much about what's in the card and the efforts put into wrapping as they do the present. Stay honest and genuine with your words.

2. Stay within your means.
Listen, I understand you may be a "people pleaser" or the whole nature of the holidays has put you in a generous mood, but set a budget and stay to it. Sometimes this can be a fun challenge for a couple. My wife and I for the holidays cap it off at $100, which for some may be a lot and for others not, but regardless it forces you to get creative while keeping that urge to overspend in check.

3. Gifts aren't everything.
Believe it or not your material things that you own (house, car, electronics..etc) can only account for 10% of your happiness. The other 90% is how you react to these things. People, including you, place the meaning in the gifts, the words you share in your card, and the time you choose to spend with loved ones. Choose wisely, communicate genuinely, and stay in the moment. 

Well, you may still be stressed moving forward into the holiday, but before giving up on it, try at least one of the pieces of advice out for size. Works for me, and for many other people. Join the population of individuals that actually look forward to this season of giving and drown out (at least temporarily) your inner Scrooge.