Category Archives: Thanksgiving

The Empty Seats at the Table

turkey

Last year, our Thanksgiving was a small affair. Small as in the four of us. Schedules and sickness prevented either side of our family from spending the holiday with us.

Instead of bucking tradition, Mike and I did everything we would’ve done had we actually hosted a feast for everyone. We cooked a big turkey on the rotisserie and made gravy from the drippings, and we prepared side dishes, including mashed potatoes, roasted sweet potatoes, and Brussels sprouts. I put out a few cheeses and dips, and we watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on television. The kids went for a swim, rode bikes, and played video games. The difference came when it was time to eat. Setting the dining room table seemed silly, so we ate dinner in front of the television.

Everything was fine. The food was fine. The kids were fine. The clean up was fine, but I was not fine. For years, our parents had been the center of our holiday rituals and traditions, and as we ate our Thanksgiving dinner with plates in our laps while browsing the DVR, I realized that framework was fleeting. We had always been supporting actors in a Thanksgiving play starring the elders of our family, and their absence, whether it was temporary or not, made me feel lost and alone. My husband and kids surrounded me, but all I could see were the empty seats at the table.

“We’re not doing this next year if it’s just the four of us,” I told Mike as I loaded the dishwasher for the third time. “We have to make new traditions.”

I wanted a fresh start.

A year later, I’m shopping for sunscreen instead of sweet potatoes because instead of setting the table for Thanksgiving at home, we’re setting sail on a family cruise. It’s the fresh start I wanted, but it doesn’t feel exactly how I thought it would.

I should have known that avoiding a traditional Thanksgiving wouldn’t make the empty seats at the table any less empty. I should’ve known that I’d pack those empty seats and take them with me just as I carry their weight in my heart at home. I should’ve known that all of my Thanksgiving memories and expectations would serve as an impossible comparison no matter the locale.

As I rummage through drawers and closets looking for everything we need to pack for our getaway, I’m also searching for gratitude – for the rituals and traditions our parents have lovingly passed down to us, for the opportunity we have to make new ones with our kids, for the seats that won’t be empty this year, and, most of all, for the beloved memories of the seats that will never be filled again.

Wishing you love, peace, and gratitude this holiday season.

Happy (Early) Thanksgiving.

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Filed under family, Thanksgiving

The Holiday Mash-Up I’m Grateful Will NOT Happen This Year

Now that Halloween is over, our carved pumpkins have expired, Target’s Holiday Shop is half stocked, Ritz’s seasonal snowflake-shaped crackers are on the shelves, Amazon.com has sent an email announcing their countdown to Black Friday, and Whole Food’s holiday ordering table is ready to go, I feel like it’s an ideal time to talk about gratitude.

I’m grateful that I had another essay published on Mamalode last week and that the average temperature in South Florida is finally 82 instead of 92 degrees. I’m grateful for Daylight Saving Time, because even though the early sunset is jarring, I really appreciate the light at 6:00am. I’m grateful the boys are doing well in school despite their morning protests. I’m grateful for “The Good Wife” and SkinnyPop (always), and I’m grateful that Thanksgiving, my most favorite holiday of the year, is just around the corner.

I’m especially grateful that Thanksgiving is coming alone this year. Alone as in without Hanukkah. No offense to Hanukkah here. It’s a holiday I enjoy immensely. It’s just that I don’t want to shred potatoes for latkes, brine a turkey, and watch Santa Claus float down Sixth Avenue at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade at the same time. It’s confusing!

In fact, let’s take a moment to rejoice in that fact that the once-in-a-lifetime experience of Thanksgivukkah won’t rear its ugly “turkey wearing a yarmulke” head again this year. I’m not saying that the “chistoric chybrid challaday” wasn’t interesting or unique, but like many interesting or unique experiences, such as the luau dinner show at Disney’s Polynesian Resort or a walk on a long pier with a toddler who won’t hold your hand, once is enough. Let’s just say I’m grateful that the next time Thanksgivukkah happens will be in 2070, at which point I’ll most likely be dead.

Here are few other reasons I’m grateful Thanksgivukkah is safely in the rearview mirror:

1. I didn’t have to start my holiday shopping before I finished buying school supplies.

2. Art projects, including but not limited to the turkey with a menorah tail or the menorah shaped like a turkey (i.e. the menurkey) are officially relics of the past.

Thanksgivukkah

3. There’s no pressure to replicated homemade, turkey-shaped challah (i.e. the challurkey) as seen on Pinterest or fill a turkey piñata with gelt, because, let’s face it, nothing says Thanksgiving or Hanukkah like a piñata.

4. I’ll never hear “Gobble Tov!” again. What does that even mean? Mazel tov is a Jewish phrase to express congratulations. The only appropriate reason to say “Gobble Tov!” is if you or someone you know actually made a challurkey, and I find that hard to believe.

5. I don’t have to pretend to be excited to cook fusion recipes, like Maneschewitz-brined roast turkey and sweet potato noodle kugel. Who the hell likes Maneschewitz or kugel anyway?

6. Thanksgivukkah is a bitch to spell. Thanksgivvukah? Thanksgivukah? Thanksgivaka? Thanksgivekkah? Thankswhogivesacrap!

There is one holiday mash-up that I really like. As a Mama who celebrates Hanukkah and Christmas with my kids, Chrismukkah, or “Chorus mullah” as my AutoCorrect prefers, causes a fantastic gift-giving overlap.  In other words, when one night of Hanukkah and Christmas share the same day, I can kill two birds with one stone present, which results in another very happy, merry, and cost-effective reason to be grateful.

Did you enjoy Thankgivukkah? Which two holidays would you like to mash up?

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Filed under gratitude, Hanukkah, list, Thanksgiving

Circus (And A Giveaway!)

Perhaps you’ve heard the term Thanksgivukkah?  Or Christmukkah?  How about Thanksgivukkahbirthmas?  Yeah, this time of year, we have Hanukkah, Thanksgiving, Dylan’s birthday, and Christmas.

When I was pregnant with Dylan, my actual due date was December 24th.  When he came early on December 6th, I thought, Phew, I dodged the Christmas baby bullet!  I was an idiot.  When you have a family that celebrates Hanukkah and Christmas, any birthday between Thanksgiving and the New Year is a holiday baby.

We hosted a successful Thanksgiving dinner at our house (cooked with a lot of love and just as much butter), and we’ve lit the menorah seven lovely nights so far.  We also bought our first real Christmas tree, and it smells amazing!   So far so good for this most busy stressful anxious wonderful time of the year, right?

Next up is Dylan’s 7th birthday party bonanza at the ice skating rink this weekend and a blizzard themed bingo night at Dylan’s school next week for which I am the event co-chair.  There are way too many items on my to do list for these events, but it will all get done, right?  After the birthday and bingo bashes, we’ll plow ahead to Christmas and the New Year, but smack in the middle of it all, there’s the itty-bitty dilemma of the basal cell carnimona on my face.  Carcinoma is another word for cancer.  On my face.

Remember the bandage?

bandage

Well, the biopsy came back malignant.  It’s basal cell carcinoma, and according to my dermatologist, it’s “infiltrated” (i.e. deep).  It’s not melanoma.  In other words, it’s not going to kill me.  But it’s still cancer.  Deep.  On my face.

Cancer on my face for Christmas. (You shouldn’t have.)

Cancer looks for me, I swear.  It seeks me out, which is why I go to a team of doctors regularly and why I have thyroid ultrasounds that reveal concerning nodules and colonoscopies that reveal precancerous polyps and annual skin checks that uncover “infiltrated” basal cell carnimoma.  I’m sensitive, yes, but I’m also the girl who once got pregnant and ended up with cancer in her uterus instead.

This too shall pass, but in the meantime, it feels like a kidney stone.

December is a wonderful time of the year, especially when I see the joy on my boys’ faces when the Christmas tree is lit up and when they light the Hanukkah menorah candles all by themselves.  But December is also busy and dark and expensive and endless.

The holiday cards need to go out and teacher gifts need to be purchased and the birthday cake (for the ice rink party) needs to be picked up and the cookie cake (for the school party) needs to be ordered and the cake plates and napkins and forks need to be bought and the inflatable hockey stick party favors must be inflated and the blizzard bingo decorations need to be delivered and the winter music needs to be downloaded and the menorahs eventually need to be put away and the Christmas presents need to be bought and wrapped and hid and the house needs to be cleaned up and out because Terminix finally gave us a date in January to finally tent the house to finally get rid of the termites scheming to swarm again in the spring.

And Harry.  My Bo Berry is still gone and I still listen for him when my keys jingle at the front door and I still think of him when I stumble upon a leftover hamburger in the refrigerator and I still get sympathy cards (and bills) from the doctors who treated him and his remains are ready to be picked up and I have no idea what to do with them or where to put them or how or if to tell the kids about them because how do you explain remains to children?

And the cancer on my face.  I have basal cell carcinoma and it’s deep and I need to have Mohs surgery and a plastic surgeon needs to close the wound and there will be a scar and the thing is that I’m still having a hard time with Everything.

I feel buckets and buckets of gratitude under all of It.  Underneath Everything.  I promise, I do.  Like when Dylan winks at me (thanks to Kevin McCallister from Home Alone) and when Riley gets so mad but laughs hysterically when I accuse him of having a monkey in his belly (he does!).  There’s a truth, too.  Cancer doesn’t look for me.  I know this.  I’m not that special.  And, of course, the lesson.  Go to the doctor, Mamas!  Take care of yourselves!  But right now life feels like a freakin’ circus.

Speaking of which…awkward segue in 3-2-1…the circus is coming to town.  Seriously.  Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s Built To Amaze! show rolls into Miami in January, and I’m giving one lucky winner four tickets to the show on Saturday, January 11, 2014 at 3pm at the American Airlines Arena in Miami, FL.

Color Hi-res Logo

Ringling Ringmaster

See, I told you it would be an awkward segue.  Nonetheless, I’m excited about this giveaway because free stuff is fun, I’ve never taken my kids to the circus, and I think it will be hilarious to take the kiddos to the big top when there’s circus tent covering my entire house.

All you have to do to enter to win the tickets is leave a comment here on the blog telling me why you like the circus and/or if you’re afraid of clowns like I am (damn Poltergeist!).  You can also comment on the circus that is currently my life, but please clarify if you also want to enter to win the circus tickets.

Do not enter if you cannot arrange your own transportation and/or lodging.  Winner will receive circus tickets ONLY.   

The deadline to enter is midnight on Friday, December 13th.  After that, I will pick a winner at random. 

Good luck!  Ha!  Get it?  Unlucky Friday the 13th?  Ha! 

(Seriously.  Good luck.) 

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Filed under anxiety, boys, cancer, Christmas, circus, colonoscopy, gratitude, Hanukkah, holidays, Thanksgiving, thyroid