Music Mondays – O Christmas Tree

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Our tree this year which fell in the middle of the night.

O Christmas Tree

I shared a while back on one of my podcasts that I read a book when I graduated from college, If Life is a Game, These Are the Rules; and the number one rule according to this book is that “there are no mistakes in life, only lessons.” As a 22-year-old recent college grad, this statement resonated with me; and I’ve found that 15 years later, it still does.

I’m constantly on the lookout for life lessons that come in big and small packages, and I got one of those just last week when we put up our Christmas tree. For those of you who have never lived with a real Christmas tree in your home, they are a sight to see, but they are also a pain in the ass. From the moment they first bring pine needles to your home until the sad day they leave even more on the way to the garbage pile, they require a great deal of care and maintenance; however, despite the work, I always feel as though the effort is worth it.

The Perfect Tree

Last week, my hubby, son and I made our annual trip to the local nursery to pick out our tree. After 13 years of tree shopping together, my hubby and I have the art of tree picking down to a science. It usually only takes us about 10-15 minutes to find the right addition to our home for the holidays; and this year was no different. Within a matter of minutes, we found our perfect tree, had it tied to our car and drove it home.

It’s a heavy tree and took some finagling to get situated in the stand, but after about 20 minutes we felt as though we achieved the right combination of balance and aesthetics. My hubby left not long after to pick his mother up from the airport, and while he was away, I couldn’t help but feel as though the tree was not quite right. As soon as he returned home, I asked him if the tree seemed off-balance, and he assured me that if the tree was going to fall, it would have fallen by this point.

Let the Decorating Begin!

Assured in his confidence, we began the annual tree decorating festivities filled with my favorite Christmas carols and a few bottles of champagne. We all love breaking out the ornaments every year and remembering when and why we purchased each one. When we started dating 13 years ago, our tree was mostly filled with generic holiday bulbs; however, over the years we have accumulated many ornaments of sentimental value so that most of our tree tells a story of our life together.

This year my mother-in-law and mother were both here for tree decorating and even they had special ornaments to place on the tree. Tree decorating night is truly one of my most favorite nights of the entire year; and this year did not disappoint. Once the tree was completed, we sat in front of the fire and admired our hard work for hours afterward. In fact, I even fell asleep on the sofa in front of the tree, and could have stayed there all night if my hubby didn’t awaken me. I joined him in bed and fell asleep with a warm and loving feeling in my heart.

The Not-so Perfect Tree

Not more than three hours later, my restful slumber was disturbed by a loud crash from the living room. I’m normally a hard sleeper; however, I leapt out of bed with a sense of dread that one of my worst nightmares had come true. Descending down the stairs in a panic, I saw with my very eyes that my nightmare became my reality; our beautiful Christmas tree was lying sideways on the living room floor.

Looking back, I wish I took a picture of the scene just to remember exactly how bad it was; however at the time, all my hubby and me could do was damage control. We immediately erected the tree again and tried to get it back to a standing position on it’s own. This time around, my hubby decided to tie the tree to the wall in addition to securing it at the bottom. Once the tree was secured, we began the process of cleaning up the water and collecting all of the ornaments. A number were shattered to pieces, but thankfully our most meaningful ornaments only had minor breaks and scratches.

Moving Forward

Once the ornament and water mess was cleaned, we moved the light pile to the side, sat there in a state of shock and determined that we would finish the clean up in the morning. Neither one of us slept well that night as we recounted the day’s events and wished that we made different choices. Even though we knew we couldn’t turn back the hands of time, it didn’t mean that we thought about it any less.

The next morning, my hubby woke up first and began the tortuous process of untangling the lights and restringing them. Afterward, we placed the ornaments back on the tree with a great deal less enthusiasm as we had the night before. By the time the tree was complete again, my son finally woke up having missed all of the drama.

Once the dust settled after this fiasco, it hit me that there were a number of lessons to be learned from this horrific story:

There Are No Mistakes: Only Lessons

Lesson 1: Surprises happen

No matter how prepared you think you are for life, surprises happen. My husband thought the tree was secured; however, it clearly wasn’t. It’s best to always have a contingency plan, no matter how secure you feel. We will be traveling in a few weeks, and we have already planned to take the sentimental ornaments off the tree and secure them while we’re gone.

Lesson 2: Anything can be fixed

At 2:30 in the morning when I was looking at broken ornaments and lights everywhere, I had no idea how we were going to fix the mess. However, one step at a time, we put things back together. When bad things happen financially, it’s easy to think that they can’t be fixed, but with time and a plan, you really can fix just about anything. Looking at our tree now, you would never know it was a pile of mess in the middle of the night.

Lesson 3: Teamwork is critical

I can’t even imagine how I would have fixed the tree if it weren’t for my hubby. Even with his help, it was difficult to reset the tree and get it standing again. Thanks to his patience with the lights and my skill with the ornaments, our tree was back together before my son woke up. It’s really important to engage someone in your life goals to not only keep you on track, but moving forward swiftly and efficiently.

Lesson 4: Judgment does nothing

My hubby definitely kicked himself for not securing the tree when I first mentioned it to him, and I easily could have thrown him under the bus and said “I told you so;” however, that kind of behavior would get us nowhere. Sometimes in a relationship, one person messes up financially and if they feel remorse and regret, you should refrain from making them feel worse. As long as they are committed to solving the problem, remember to not keep score on the failures.

Lesson 5: Life goes on

No matter how bad things seem at times, the reality is that life always goes on. It may not go on exactly how you want it to and you may have to make adjustments; however, it always goes on. Our tree is standing again, we are continuing to prepare for the holidays and we are anxiously awaiting our holiday celebrations.

Have you ever experience a holiday disaster? Do you prefer fake or real Christmas trees? What’s your favorite holiday tradition?

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Shannon is a financial planner who left a “traditional” financial services firm to start her own company, The Financial Gym, because she felt traditional financial services firms did not have the tools or resources to help people in their 20s and 30s who are starting out and trying to build assets while also managing debt. She realized that the key to long-term personal financial success is a commitment to financial fitness and making smart financial choices. Through her blog, Financially Blonde, her book, Train Your Way To Financial Fitness, her podcast, Martinis and Your Money and The Financial Gym, Shannon is committed to making financial fitness fun, easy and accessible for everyone.

17 COMMENTS

  1. We’ve had a tree fall once or twice over the years, never fun. I’ve had to tie it to the wall too. We prefer real trees, but agree the pine needles hang around long after the tree is gone. 🙂 While decorating our tree we’ll put on our favorite holiday music or movies. Doesn’t feel like Christmas this year with the incredible warm weather we are having.

  2. I LOVE real trees! So glad to see that you do, too! 🙂 I haven’t had too many holiday disasters, but as I get older and I’m not married with kids yet, the holidays are much different than they used to be! Not as big of a deal, which is okay, too. 🙂

  3. Oh, so sorry to hear that Shannon! Hopefully y’all were able to save most of the ornaments. The closest we came to a disaster was two dogs we used to own (my in-laws have them now) somehow got into a box of chocolate, ate it and created an absolute mess of the tree and the townhouse we were living in. Thankfully they were ok but they certainly made a mess of things. We bought a fake tree several years ago, but there is something lost in the practicalness of a fake tree.

  4. When things like this happen to me I’m really upset at the time. So I can relate to your husband’s feelings. Later on I find myself looking back on the incident and laughing about it. This sounds like one of those things that will become Christmas family lore in years to come. 🙂

  5. Oh man that sound would have scared the crap out of me! I totally agree with the lessons that came from this experience. One thing I still need to get better about is not berating myself for making a mistake. I can really beat myself up. But what good does that do? I think it’s still leftover baggage from when my dad used to yell at me for not understanding homework. Long story. Anyway, glad you got things cleaned up OK and I can’t believe Will did not wake up!

  6. The only time I’ve ever heard a crash in the night was when I was in college and though someone had broken into the house I lived in. I called 911 and it turns out, it was my neighbor who was drunk and breaking bottles against the fence. He got a nice ride downtown because he was alone with his kids. I felt like a jerk, but who is out at 3AM breaking things against the fence?

    I just knew this story had a cat involved. I’m glad to hear he was blameless for the whole mess!

  7. Haha this actually reminds me of a time when I was very impatient with our real Christmas tree. For whatever reason it was nearly impossible to fasten the tree to the bottom and I ended up cussing and swearing at how stupid the tree holder was! Looking back I’m embarrassed that I let my anger ruin what should have been a fun moment.

  8. Wow, suddenly I’m very glad to have never had a real tree. Growing up, I always kind of envied them — my dad was Jewish, so I only got a small tree. But now that I’m an adult, I can’t bring myself to a) pay for one every year or b) clean up after one. And then I married a man who has severe allergies, so the question became moot anyway.

    Glad the ornaments (or, apparently, the important ones) stayed intact.

  9. Oh Shannon, I’m so sorry but I’m glad that your most precious ornaments are still okay. Our tree has not fallen down, knock on wood, but I know how much it would scare me too. We love decorating our tree together too. The girls love hearing about the ornaments and typically buy an ornament for them every year that they will take with them when they leave home.

  10. D’oh! I probably would have fallen out of bed from the shock of that sound! 🙂 But thank goodness you were able to get it all cleaned up and keep a positive attitude about it — props for that! I can’t think of any holiday disasters for us, but we’ve had just about every other kind of disaster, so it’s just a matter of time until we get some yuletide messes happening. 🙂

  11. Powerful lessons here, Shannon! Not all lessons can be solved quickly, but when something happens I try hard to think “Will I still be freaking out about this 30 days from now?” The answer is almost always a resounding “no”, at which point I let it go, clean up the mess and move on.

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