The Free Motion Quilting Project: Christmas Tree Magic

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Christmas Tree Magic

Our Christmas tree was a total bust this year. Josh made the call last night that it was too unstable to trust so we carefully took off the ornaments and lights, sucked the water out of the base, and threw the tree out the front door.

Christmas trees are really special to Josh and I. Josh loves the smell of pine which he says makes the air easier to breathe. I love a big Christmas tree for the magic it brings to the house. The combination of lights, ornaments, strings of beads, and bows always make our tree a festive knock out.

Christmas Tree Symbolism

I also love having a big, lush Christmas tree because I associate it with wholeness. In my family growing up, the very first year we didn't have a big tree was when we experienced a family catastrophe on Thanksgiving and we suddenly had a wrecked car, no money, and everyone was angry, sad, and upset.

We went out into the woods and cut down a spindly cedar tree that year. I remember really liking that tree, even though it was so dramatically different from all the Christmas trees we'd had in years past, probably because it so accurately illustrated how everyone was feeling: hollowed out, unable to take more weight, sad, on the verge of collapse. 

For this reason, Josh and I have always tried to find the tallest, fattest tree that will fit into our house. Even when we didn't have a truck and had to cram the tree into a tiny car, we always made the biggest tree somehow fit.

But this was the first year choosing the biggest tree came with consequences - it fell completely over, smashing ornaments and spreading a gallon of water over the floor. It honestly broke my heart.

Creating Change

My word for this year has been Create and I feel like this has been enormously helpful. Being creative has always given me a way to wrap my brain around challenging situations and process hard emotions.

Creating is a refuge for me as well, so when times have gotten tough I've been able to retreat and create something beautiful and, while it often didn't fix things completely, it did help me feel more in control over my situation.

Which is why after writing most of this post, I realized that I COULD NOT just leave that tree on the front steps. It wasn't working as it was, but what can I create from that tree that will work?

After James went to bed, Josh and I headed outside with a pair of loppers, handheld saw and headlamps and cut that once massive, heavy, lopsided tree in half. It's not going to be tipping over now!

We brought it back inside and decorated it once again, but I noticed immediately I had a very different attitude about it. The first time the tree fell, I got really angry. Like UniKitty angry.

I was so mad I didn't want to decorate it again. I didn't trust that tree not to ruin my day and smash more ornaments. I also didn't want to risk more water spilling on our delicate wood floors.

Bring back the Magic

Taking a saw to the tree and lopping it in half really fixed it for me. I felt in control again and since we began this transformation at night, it suddenly became a fun surprise for James in the morning. We even topped the little tree with his Elf on the Shelf to make it seem like the Elf did it for him:

In this way, I feel like we brought the magic back. James is 8 years old and definitely knows Santa isn't real and the Elf doesn't move on his own, but I think he will be surprised with the new, baby tree which actually looks even better than the first.

Now this tree really makes me happy! It's short and funny looking, but when I look down at it, I'm reminded of how important it is to create the change I want in my life and to keep moving forward.

Merry Christmas,

Leah Day


  1. James will look be it in the morning! The new tree is cute. Merry Christmas

  2. Your post provided many thoughts for me. How much I rely on the externals to provide what only can truly come from within. True heart joy is not dependent on my surroundings but how I view those realities and what value I choose to assign them.......too much value and THEY will determine my state. May you(all) know the true Joy that gives Peace! Hugs....Doreen

  3. Loved reading this post Leah! I hope James loved the tree when he saw it this morning. Great positive message. Merry Christmas!

  4. this is a thought provoking post, You and treadlemusic are confirmation of somethings
    God was saying to me this morning. At 67 you'd think I could remember this by now.
    Thank you both.
    Have blessed Christmas

  5. I had that problem with that style of tree stand, I drilled holes in the outside rim and screwed it to 2 x 4s that stick out in a big X the 2 x 4 s stick out at least 18 inches on each side of the stand
    maybe next year a big tree in that stand
    Merry Christmas

  6. I love your ability to turn negatives into positives, Leah. Reading your thoughts about things like this help me try to do the same. Merry Christmas!

  7. Out of the ashes...a tree grew. :) Love that you are so creative. The first 25/30 years of my life, cutting a cedar out of the woods was a joy. Not that they always looked perfect - they weren't - but they were all lovely. We ended up with trees that were HUGE - they look so small in the woods compared to the dining room! My Dad made a tree stand out of 2x4s and often - even then - he had to attach wires to the wall to make it safe!! (How did my Mom stand for nails being pounded into the woodwork/walls?) Need I say that our home may have been filled with love but it wasn't the most beautiful of homes. As handy as you are Leah, I'll bet you could make a larger/bigger/heavier tree stand out of wood. I'm sure you could even incorporate the old tree stand into it so you'd have the water receptacle and the bolts to stablize the tree. Just thinking... Merry Christmas is how you want to play it.

  8. Good on you for "making lemondade out of a lemon"! It shows that positive thinking will triumph every time - I love that you didn't let the tree go to waste and still have something to symbolise this magical time of year. I also love seeing/having a Christmas tree in all its glory, with the special memories attached of each decoration. Have a Merry Christmas!!

  9. Leah, the older I get (73 next Sun.) the more I realize how I shorten my life when I feel angry and I stop. I don't get angry anymore, I fix the problem. I love your work, BTW. Merry and Happy to you and yours.

  10. Perhaps your word for next year will be Empowerment. You took the problem, and you fixed it, and you made it better. We don't always have to take what life dishes out. Your new slimline tree is very pretty, manageable and best of all, THERE!

  11. For years after my husband and I met in '71, we always rescued the 'Charlie Brown' Christmas trees that Lowes sold for $2.00 His thinking was that we were saving money, but I liked the rescue idea. When the popcorn and cranberry chains were on, plus the few ornaments we had, those trees looked pretty good (we'd always turn the 'ugly' side to the back). In the 40 years since then, we've mostly used artificial 4 foot trees on a wooden box (makes them 6 feet tall!) and they always look beautiful (and no mess). I do miss the pine smell, though--and refuse to use air fresheners or spray pine smell (yuck!) Still, it's all about attitude, as you know--that, and family being lucky enough to be together and be well. All the best to you and your lovely family, Leah. Thank you for all you do for the quilting community and for our attitudes. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

    p.s. I LOVE your quilt box.


  12. One of my favorite posts, Leah! We are so lucky as artists, as we can turn the "oh (expletive)!" moment into "That's interesting. I didn't expect that. What can I do with this?". That's the essence of creativity and you embody creativity every day. Have a joyous new year!

  13. Well done, Merry Christmas to all xxx

  14. That has made my day Leah, reminds me that although you are incredibly creative with mad desirable skills , things can and do go wrong just like the rest of us . I'm also pleased that you didn't give up on the tree altogether and MADE it work for you and the family . So funny love hearing your story :) Happy new year lovely


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