How to have a great day.

I had a really great Christmas Day. In fact, it was nearly perfect. I say nearly perfect because it would have been perfect-perfect if we had seen more family. Or if we had snow. Or if Jesus had stopped by to do an Instagram Live from our house. But given the current conditions, I was happy to celebrate with my wife and 3 kids at home. For this category of celebration, I give my day a full 5 out of 5 Bethlehem stars.

Contributing Factors

This was an exciting holiday because it was the first Christmas in our new home. We moved into the house in September. It is the 5th house my wife Dawn and I have owned. And by Christmas Day not only did it feel like home, it felt like THE home we have been looking for the past 19 years. Which is a great reminder to keep looking for the places in life that make you feel most at home

The home was a great stage for a great day, but we still had to put on a great play. And we did. Our morning began with opening presents, like most Christmas Day celebrations. Then we enjoyed a donut and candy breakfast. We had coffee, cocoa and eggnog to help wash down the sugar with more sugar, Buddy Elf-style. I was a little afraid Wolford Brimley was going to show up to talk to me about diabetes.

Then came the most important part of what made yesterday so great. After breakfast, I asked Dawn, our kids Ava, Johann, Magnus a simple question:

‘What would we have to do today to make this a really great Christmas day?

The answers came quickly:

  • Play Games
  • Watch a Christmas movie
  • Take a nap
  • Enjoy some free time
  • Go for a family walk
  • Enjoy a nice family dinner (#HamNight)
  • Go for a drive to look at Christmas lights

We had a good list. So we ordered the events, baked in some flexibility for the napping and free time, and then we started knocking off the things on our Christmas list.

The Recipe For A Great Day

We had literally written a recipe for a great day. Then one by one, we stirred in each of the ingredients. We spent the day enjoying a few of our favorite things, like Julie Andrews. Only we weren’t wearing our curtains.

The day ended with a great Christmas dinner, followed by a Christmas lights drive, and a family movie. The day was fun, funny and relaxing. We laughed a lot, even for us. We created new memories. And there was a very satisfying and enjoyable feeling of recreational productivity. Which is the feeling of making the most of your free time.

The Bonus

As a fun Christmas bonus, I had friends and family members from across the country share that they had received the new book I just published with Ripples Media called What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? I received really exciting feedback and photos of my book in homes from New England to Los Angeles, and from Atlanta to Oregon. So far no one has asked for a refund.

I went to bed about 11:30 pm feeling as if I had had the greatest day. Because we had envisioned a great day, designed it, and brought it to life. We made the most of our free time and enjoyed it together. As result, we finished the day feeling both happy and accomplished.

The Thing I Didn’t Do

As an interesting aside, there is one traditional Christmas activity I didn’t do yesterday. I didn’t open any presents. Not one. Dawn and I usually exchange our gifts after the kids have opened all of theirs. But our plan for the perfect day didn’t include our gift exchange. Oops. And by the evening we agreed to push our present opening to tomorrow, like Little Orphan Annie.

The Greatest Gift

My wonderful giftless Christmas was a great reminder that time spent together, making memories, doing our favorite free things, is the greatest gift of all. Well, that and the birth of tiny little 8-pound baby Jesus, who came for our eternal salvation. But you put those two things together and you have one heck of a holiday gift pack.

Key Takeaway

A great holiday doesn’t happen on its own. You have to make it happen. The same holds true of any workday, schoolday, or Saturday. To make the most of your days plan them. Envision your perfect day, then bring it to life. Do this day after day, and you will live the life you imagined.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

**If you like this type of message you can find more stuff like this in my book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say?

My favorite Christmas tradition lasts the entire year.

My family has a sleigh full of Christmas traditions. Some are Christian traditions, like going to a candlelight Christmas Eve church service. Some are food related, like enjoying oyster stew, Honeybaked ham, pickled herring, Dawn-made biscotti, Egg Nog, and Glog. Apparently I’ll drink anything that ends with og.

We have Christmas movie and Christmas music traditions. We always have advent calendars. We send Christmas cards. And we have an Elf On The Shelf named Jingle Polar, who I will be happy not to see again for another 11 months. #LeastFavoriteTradition

The Best Tradition

My favorite Christmas tradition, besides going to the candlelight church service, is our ornament tradition. When my family travels, we look for Christmas ornaments from the places we visit. It makes for fun and focused souvenir shopping while we travel. And it makes gift shop owners happy. But that’s not the best part.

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The Best Part

The best part is when we put up our Christmas tree. Because when we decorate our tree we pull out all of the ornaments from all of the places we have traveled over the years. So tree trimming becomes a look back at all the fun we have had. Like Clark Griswold watching his old home movies in the attic.

As we unpack each ornament we reminisce about our adventures together as a family. We talk about the cities, states, parks, museums, friends and family we want to see again. We talk about the sink that fell from the counter in the hotel room (Hilton, New York). And the time we got pulled over by the cops for speeding, but the cop really liked Dad’s funny t-shirt and let us go without a ticket (Forks, Washington).

A Few Examples

The first time we visited New Orleans as a family.

I know this was from a trip to Disney World. I don’t remember exactly which year it was.

From Philadelphia. Does anyone else see an ass crack here?

From Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. The sister city to Victor, British Columbia, Canada.

From our first trip to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. It inspired me to want to build an aquarium in my shed.

From The Getty Center art museum in Los Angeles. Where we also found the book, ‘Why is art full of naked people?’

The main thing in Maine is lobster.

From the Daniel’s Summit Lodge in Utah, where I used to spend 2 to 3 weeks each year shooting snowmobiles with my friends at Ski-Doo. And drinking beverages from a mug bigger than my leg.

From the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. But you probably didn’t need me to tell you that.

From our first family trip to St. Louis. Fun fact: I proposed to Dawn under the Arch, right on the word ‘TO’.

From the trip Dawn and I took to London for her 40th birthday. Although, since we saw London and we saw France, I thought we could have just hung up a pair of underpants.

From our last trip to New York City, when our friend Audrey Lowder took us all to the top of the Empire State Building. We also bought her an ornament that day to thank her, and serve as a reminder of our day together.

From our trip this spring to Austin, where we got to spend time with our next door neighbors from Dublin, Ohio, Phil, Christy and Regan Turner, and a zillion bats.

Key Takeaway

When fully decorated, our tree tells the stories of our travels, our time together and the high points of each year. It is like a pine-scented memory lane, lit up and displayed in our home for a month. It is a wonderful reminder of how lucky we are, how blessed we have been, and how much adventure has filled our lives. It makes it easy for us to tie the great things in our life to our religious beliefs and the tenants of Christianity. It makes me feel like I am wining at life. And I can’t wait to see what new ornaments we hang next year.

Merry Christmas

A follow up on my Christmas Card post.

Last week I wrote about how Social Media is Killing The Christmas Card. But the Christmas card and its non-religious cousin, the holiday card, are not dead quite yet. I know this because yesterday my wife Dawn and I finished creating our Christmas cards.

Dawn had the Christmas message on the front of the card covered, but she asked me to add a Happy New Year message to the back. I wrote a bunch of options, but we could only use one. So…

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We had a little trouble taking our Christmas card picture this year becuase the old Hilton Head Hairdryer was blowing on high.

Here are the 6 rejected messages:

1. Happy New Year! This card is proof that you and the Albrechts are friends, family or both. Carry this card with you to gain access to exclusive establishments, including grocery stores, shopping malls and public libraries.

2. Happy New Year! Now that you’ve opened the envelope and read both sides of the Christmas card, it is ok to pitch it in the garbage. We understand. That’s what we are doing with yours.

3. Happy New Year! May we all rejoice in knowing that the US Postal Service has survived another year.

4. Happy New Year! Yes, we know where you live. And it would be helpful if you kept your curtains open a little wider so we can see what you are doing in there.

5. Happy New Year! We all survived another trip around the sun. We hope you don’t fall off the ride next year.

6. Happy New Year! May it be better than the depressing collection of days you muddled through this year.

Key Takeaway

Everyone should have a blog. Because it gives you a place to share the messages and pictures that you couldn’t put on your real Christmas card.