Creating New Thanksgiving Traditions

Creating Thanksgiving TraditionsAs we approach the Thanksgiving holiday social media is a constant feed of traditional foods, stories of family tradition dating back to ‘as long as I can remember’, and reminders of open spaces at our tables. As a proud Jewish American family, Thanksgiving figured prominently when I was growing up. It was a time for family and close friends to gather at my grandparent’s house. And there were always new faces ever year, young people who were away from home. Strangers, one would say. But in my grandparent’s home, no one was a stranger. These were my Thanksgiving traditions.

There was no separate kids’ table. Everyone sat together. Formal dining table next to however many folding tables and chairs were needed. The good china and crystal gleamed on the table, for kids and adults alike. The kitchen table was overflowing with desserts of all types. Traditional Pumpkin Pie, check. Sweet Potato Pie, got that too. Cookies, there was a wide assortment. Candies and chocolates, both store-bought and homemade were carefully displayed on beautiful trays. My  grandma was an entertainment goddess. Didn’t matter if there were 10 or 300 (her biggest Passover Seder had over 300!), she made it look so effortless and made everyone feel welcome.

My grandma passed away in 2013. She was in the hospital on Thanksgiving of that year. I had begun prepping the night before, not knowing my grandmother wasn’t feeling well. On Thanksgiving morning, as I was organizing my cooking schedule I got a call telling me my grandma was in the hospital. You don’t simply drop a list-full of food and hope it magically is prepared when you return. Honestly, I don’t even know what we did for Thanksgiving dinner that year. All I remember is being at the hospital, talking to doctors about final plans, making decisions I didn’t want to make, and hoping that I wouldn’t be saying my final good-byes that day.

Thanksgiving 2014 came along, not quite a year after my Bubbe died. I wasn’t in the mood to make a big dinner and spend my entire day in the kitchen. There wasn’t going to be a house full of people. Maybe years ago, but not that year. There would be 5 of us because Grandpa Tommy was not close enough to join our family gatherings.

Long ago, when it was just CycleGuy and me, we decided to have Thanksgiving dinner at a local resort. It was more of a way not to hurt anyone’s feelings because back then, in our early 20s, we were a young couple and had been invited to various homes for the holiday. Rather than having to choose, we had dinner by ourselves then made the rounds to our friends’ homes to laugh, have dessert, play games, and, of course watch sports on TV.

In 2014, I felt like the tradition of a big family gathering wasn’t much of a tradition. I would spend two days cooking and many more cleaning, for what would be a fancy, but still not-too-long dinner. BabyGirl didn’t have expectations of any specific experience. For her, really, it was just another day. Her traditions were more connected to the morning hike with her dad and an evening of playing games and eating dessert. It didn’t help that my last Thanksgiving memory was filled with beeping machines and the smell of industrial cleaners.

CycleGuy suggested we go out for Thanksgiving. I can’t even tell you if anyone had invited us over, because I don’t remember. Thanksgiving 2014 was the first year my whole family was gone. No grandparents, no mom, no uncle. Of course I had CycleGuy and BabyGirl, AuntZoni and Grandpa Tommy. But if all the family you grew up with is gone, you understand. I hope you don’t, though.

This year we’re going out for Thanksgiving. It’s become our tradition. I make a few things, those favorites you want as leftovers. But instead of spending days in the kitchen we spend time together. There is the annual Daddy/Daughter hike, followed by the cajoling to practice violin. (Music moms, you know my pain!) We talk, we look at ads, we watch parades on TV. I cook and bake at leisure, knowing that dinner is going to be ready when we are.

I was talking with a friend, recently, about Thanksgiving traditions and mentioned that I wonder if our going out to dinner will leave BabyGirl feeling empty when she’s away at college and friends talk about their family Thanksgiving traditions. Will she feel like she missed out on a house full of people eating, talking, laughing? Will she feel like her experience of getting dressed up and going to a resort make her not fit in? I started wondering about the traditions I’m creating for her. My friend didn’t really offer much, other than to say that traditions are what you make of them. Some people’s big family Thanksgiving isn’t really a fond memory. A tradition. A memory. But not necessarily good.

I have great memories of Thanksgiving at my grandparent’s house. But those are my memories. It’s not for me to recreate those. It’s more about creating experiences around Thanksgiving, no matter what they are, that fill BabyGirl with joy, love, happiness, appreciation, and gratitude. And if going out for dinner on Thanksgiving does that, then there’s nothing wrong with creating this new tradition.

May your table be filled with your favorite foods and surrounded by your favorite people. However you celebrate, I wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving!

If you’d like to share how you celebrate, I’d love to know!


10 Things I Am Thankful For

On this Thanksgiving, I wish you and your family a day of joy and gratitude. While we have all faced challenges in some way, each of us came to this day with infinite possibilities for being grateful. But rather than be overwhelmed by all the wonderful things and people and experiences we can be grateful for, think of just a few to remind yourself how truly fortunate you are to be where you are today. And while today’s Thanksgiving celebration is for Americans, gratitude sees no geographic boundaries. Each of us can find at least one thing for which we are grateful today. I share with you a list of things I am grateful for, and I hope it helps you to see how rich our lives are despite the challenges we manage daily.

10 Things I Am Thankful For

1. CycleGuy – for over 20 years he’s been my best friend and confidant, and he loves me despite my shortcomings

2. BabyGirl – she is an amazing daughter who can make me laugh in so many ways

3. My girlfriends – whether online or in real life, the relationships I have with so many wonderful, talented, passionate, driven and genuinely kind women enrich my life daily

4. My grandma – at 91 she is in her sunset years, but despite the challenges she faces she’s always a sweet voice willing to talk, listen or share

5. The Internet – because without it I wouldn’t have the ability to connect, share and engage with so many people, nor would I be able to laugh or cry or sigh at the many different articles, songs or stories that are shared each day. It connects me to a world so much bigger than I could ever imagine.

6. Lauren Crider – she is a talented executive recruiter who worked tirelessly for 6+ months to bring CycleGuy home to a position that is a terrific match for his many gifts

7. Good Health – despite needing to lose a few pounds, wear ‘reading glasses’, and overlook the graying hair I am thankful that I am in good health and I am able to continue to find ways to improve my health and take care of myself

8. The Sun – even though in the summer it’s blaring hot, I love seeing the sun and it’s bright, shiny happy glow that warms me even on cold days.

9. My education – since it’s something no one can ever take away from me. I believe that education is an ongoing experience and as long as I am learning, I’m living!

10. Life – May seem hokey, but I’m thankful that I am alive so I can enjoy the many gifts I am given each day. Even though there are times I’m given crappy gifts, I have always had the wherewithal to know what to do. I’m also fortunate to have friends and family who love and support me even though I don’t always feel worthy. And with each day I have a new opportunity to try again to find every joy hidden in the day.

So, as hokey and dorky as these are they are really just a sampling of all the things I am grateful for each day. I wish you and your family a safe and wonderful holiday and I thank you for reading my blog, commenting, and supporting me as I not only find all my somedays but encourage you to find yours too!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Image: Simon Howden /


Mamavation Monday: Bring in ‘da Food, Bring in ‘da Funk

For may of us who struggle with our weight, this week is very stressful. For me, cooking a huge meal for the people I love is awesome. I enjoy showing those I love and care about how much they mean to me, and creating a special meal of Thanks Giving is one way to do that. At the same time, though, there is anxiety about seeing all. that. food!

It starts in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. Food shopping, food prep, baking, chopping, organizing, and making sure there are plenty of hor d’oeuvres in addition to the plethora of main dishes, sides, salads and desserts for the big meal. Oh, and let’s not forget that we actually need to eat on those days leading up to Thanksgiving, lest we pass out long before the turkey-coma sets in on Thursday.

Making Thanksgiving dinner is one way many of us actually exert our control over the day. We use all the knowledge we have to plan a menu that incorporates skim milk instead of heavy cream or full-fat milk, we sauté in heart-healthy olive oil instead of butter, we make sure there are plenty of veggies and that the desert options include something we can partake in even after a full meal. But the realty is that sometimes we throw our hands up and convince ourselves that one meal with butter, extra helpings of sweet potato casserole (never mind that the nutritional value went out the window when we added the 5 eggs, 1/2 cup of white sugar and brown sugar and the pecan streusel topping) and bread and dressing and that cheesy-broccoli-rice bake that everyone loves (in which there really wasn’t much broccoli hurt in the making of it) won’t really hurt.

But it does. We think about this week and what it will mean for us, constantly. We ‘eat right’ on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday and don’t lick the bowl on the cheesecake and brownies and fudge and cookies – until about 9pm Wednesday evening when panic sets in. How are we going to get it all done? Maybe no one will like our sugar-free casserole or our fat-free mashed potatoes. Maybe we should taste them ‘just to be sure’. And darn it, they do kinda suck. Ugh! It’s just one done. One day won’t hurt! So off to make more food, to make sure everyone knows how much we love them. And the butter. Need more butter!

So let’s step back a moment. We cook for our families almost every day. They know we love them. And yes, Thanksgiving Day is special. It’s a day set aside to make sure that those around us, and even ourselves, know how grateful we are that they are part of our lives. And that, my friends, is our motivation. Being healthy ensures we are around. Active. Involved. Part of their lives. Enjoying ours.

Thanksgiving began as a feast, as was customary when welcoming guests. Just as today, we create special meals when we welcome guests. But unlike then, we didn’t trudge miles nor did we hunt and gather our own food (although, grocery stores this time of year can be treacherous). Our Thanksgiving day consists of doing nothing but eating, hanging out and watching TV. Sure, there may a walk, a hike or a workout in there. But, in general, it’s food, food and more food.

Just writing this stresses me out. I want to be here for my friends and family for years to come. Overflowing table of food or not, remembering the importance of this Thanksgiving Day is key to maintaining focus an truly enjoying the reason for the day. It’s not about the food. Never has been. Never will be. It’s about the people in our lives who love us, who care about us and who want us here for years to come.

This year, I’m still not sure what I’d going to do for Thanksgiving. I have a huge Turkey already defrosting that no one wants to eat. I just came back from a terrific vacation and don’t feel like going to the store. I am grateful that I have the choice not to make a feast if I so choose. And I’m grateful that I have the willpower (even if it is weak some times) to say not to foods I really don’t want or know I really shouldn’t have.

We all look forward to Thanksgiving to be around people we love and care about, to be thankful for the many gifts we have been given so far this year. If the day was more about the people and less about the food, would it stress you out as much?

Photo Credit: Public Domain

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