Domestic-less bliss

I think it’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Even with the stress and the crunch for time, I love the holidays. The sparkle of lights in Sacramento’s arctic air, the gatherings of family and friends, the joy in making something for the people who mean the most to me.

Too bad I’m really, really bad at that last part.

The December holidays are magical—but they also bring out a nagging sensation that I’m lacking in one particular area of life.

Martha Stewart I am not.

It’s not for a lack of trying. It’s not for a lack of want.

Somehow, this makes me feel as though I’m caught in the war for domestic bliss. On one side, there’s my mother who raised me to know that for anything I could spend hours doing there also existed a store-bought option designed to give me back precious hours of my time and, most important, my sanity. As a single mom raising three kids, it’s kind of easy to understand her rationale.

On the other side of the battleground, however, exists a faction of women who seem to revel in all the ways they simplify their lives by doing more.

They cook meals from scratch, can their own food, sew their own clothes and live to repurpose “found” objects into sweet little accessories. The wire innards plucked from an old transistor radio can be transformed into a trendy steampunk necklace. The feathers from that poor dead bluebird in the gutter make for cunning little earrings and—wait don’t throw away that shopping bag! Its rope handle will make the most darling shabby chic bracelet.

It’s more eco-friendly and economical, they say. It feels good to be so hands-on, they insist.

If only I could be one of them.

True confession: I can’t knit, I can’t sew and any time I try to get crafty it seems to end up in an unholy mess of blood, sweat and frustrated tears.

Before my parents divorced and my mother had more time on her hands, she sewed all my clothes and bravely tried to teach me the same when I was just 7—an endeavor that ended with a comically asymmetrical “quilt” and, if I remember correctly, a temper tantrum.

The more things change, the more they infuriatingly stay the same.

Last year, in a fit of an industry and, apparently, an effort to relive horrible memories, I bought a sewing machine and signed up for a class. The teacher—a grandmotherly type with bifocals and pockets full of thread—had little patience for the clumsy likes of me and I lasted exactly one-and-a-half sessions before I threw in my piece of thin, white muslin and called it a day.

Afterward, my mother offered to sit down with me and show me how my sewing machine works—she must love me very, very much.

I’d like to eventually take her up on that offer, but in the meantime, I’m forcing myself to come to grips with reality.

My inner Martha Stewart is too busy, too impatient and, let’s just be honest here, wildly lacking in coordination and talent.

And yet I still revel in the holiday DIY ethos. When I have the time, I enjoy cooking big meals, and I absolutely love baking, even if my sugar cookie cutouts look like a failed first-grade art project and my husband is on cupcake-frosting duty.

One year, I made crude handcrafted gift tags; another year I attempted homemade peppermint bark, wrapped festively in candy cane-colored tissue. The results were more than a little messy, but tasty, nonetheless.

This year, I may just stick to a mix CD of my favorite holiday songs—simple, with not much room for inelegant destruction.

Because it’s the thought that counts, right?