Thanksgiving Traditions.

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Many years ago, I had my own craft business. One of the things I sold were some wooden pieces which I painted to look like a turkey head and five colored feathers. These pieces all had pointed wooden dowels attached to the end of them so they could stick into a real pumpkin. Every year at Halloween I buy a pumpkin to use on Thanksgiving day. (I’ve found that for some reason, pumpkins aren’t available in the stores after Halloween.) I search for the perfect pumpkin. I needs to be round, but with one flat side so it doesn’t role all over the porch. On Thanksgiving day, Bob and I assemble the “Turkey Pumpkin” and put it out to greet our guests. My grandchildren love that it’s waiting there when they arrive. It’s a tradition.

Thanksgiving is upon us and it’s, what I consider, the official start of the holiday season. With the holidays, comes the celebration of many family traditions. I love the holidays and our family has lots of traditions. And, even though my children are grown with families of their own, many of those traditions are being carried on with their own families.

Besides my Turkey Pumpkin, our family traditions for Thanksgiving are very simple…involving the food we eat, the decorations I put out, the thanks we give…even the dishes we use. Traditions don’t have to be complicated. But, they are very important because CHILDREN LOVE TRADITIONS. I believe traditions instill in them a sense of belonging to something bigger than just themselves and it gives them a comfort of knowing what they can count on. Traditions can pass on family values. And, they can create lasting memories.

It’s never too late to start a tradition. So, if you are hosting Thanksgiving for the first time or if you just want to add something extra to your day, here are a few ideas of activities which could become a future family tradition. Just know that you don’t have to do things exactly as I describe them. Feel free to expand on an idea, tweak it a little, and, most importantly, make it your own

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I think giving thanks is one of the most important traditions one can instill in children. At the dinner table, go around and have everyone state what they are thankful for that year. Or, have everyone write their thanks on a piece of paper. Put it all in a hat and have people guess who wrote what.

Another thing you can do is document everyone’s thanks for the year. My daughter-in-law started something a few years back with their children which is a such great idea. She bought a plain, white cotton tablecloth. (You can also use a white, queen or king-sized sheet.) Every year, each person in the family says what they are thankful for. It’s written on the tablecloth and dated. The children are little now so Mommy writes for them, but the idea is that they will write their own thanks as they get older. This Thanksgiving tablecloth is put out every year. The children already like to look back and see what was written in the year’s past.

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Another take on this same idea would be to purchase a blank journal. (Barne’s and Nobel has a ton of these). Every year, set aside a few pages for people to write in their thanks. And, the pages don’t have to be exclusive to written words. Trace handprints of each child or a footprint of a new baby. Have children collect some fall leaves and stick them in the pages. Add a picture of everyone. The ideas are boundless.

You can also reincarnate some old family traditions. As families grow up and move away to begin new lives, frequently the same people are no longer getting together. But, that doesn’t mean traditions can’t continue. Think back to your childhood and remember how things were done. Was there a particular ‘ethnic’ food that was served? Did your mother always decorate with the construction paper turkey you crafted in kindergarden? Did all the children help with a particular dish? These are all things you can incorporate into your day to introduce, yet continue, a family tradition.

Another suggestion would be to plan an activity. It can be as simple watching football together and choosing sides on which team is going to win. You can have prizes for those who picked the winning team. If you don’t like football, there is always the Westminster Dog Championship which is aired every Thanksgiving. Have everyone pick a favorite dog that they are rooting for Or, set up a Yahtzee competition or a game of Twister. Whoever wins is the champion until the next year.

How about a game of touch football while the turkey is finishing baking? This helps get people active and help burn off some of the calories of the impending big meal. Or, the family can go for a short walk after dinner to try and wake up.

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After dinner is finished and the kitchen is cleaned up, have everyone sit down and watch a special movie. We love the  ”A  Charlie Brown Thanksgiving”. “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “White Christmas”, and “The Christmas Story” are all great movies to get in the mood for Christmas. My daughter’s family watches “Elf” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas”. “The Blind Side” is a wonderful story of family and what it means…and it’s also about football.

You can also make it a tradition to serve other people. There are lots of places where you can donate food and even help serve a Thanksgiving meal to those less fortunate than you and your family.

I know Pinterest has some wonderful, creative, exciting ideas for every holiday, but traditions don’t have to be difficult or fancy. For some people, just getting dinner on the table is enough of a task. However, having family traditions add something to the day so consider adding them to your Thanksgiving celebration. And, considering that Thanksgiving is almost over…keep this all in mind for next year!!

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A Perfect Life? Think again.

Many people look at my life and think it’s perfect.  And, don’t get me wrong…my husband and I have a wonderful life.  God has blessed us abundantly, particularly financially.  Bob retired three years ago at the age of 59 after working for the government for 40 years.  I retired the end of 2012 at the age of 62.  While I thought I might get a part-time job, there hasn’t been a need and I’m really enjoying my time off.  We love our time together.  While I did have a bout with thyroid cancer two years ago, I am now cancer-free and we are both in pretty good health.  And, our biggest blessing of all…we have eight beautiful, wonderful grandchildren…all healthy!!

ImageBob and I are also living in our dream home, which is more than we ever imagined was possible in our lives.  Both of us came from extremely modest beginnings.  Bob’s parents grew up in the projects of Detroit.  When his grandfather was able to build a home for the family, this was an unbelievable chance to advance.  The house was humble and tiny…but it was theirs.  In Bob’s family, just graduating from high school was an enormous achievement.

My background wasn’t much different.   I grew up a block from the Bradley Street Dump in Sun Valley.  It may not have exactly been the ‘wrong side of the tracks’ but it was definitely the poorer side of the tracks.  Our house would have been the one that most neighbors hated as my father didn’t believe in doing yard work or fixing up the house.  He was too busy with his own personal interests to spend any time on his family’s home.  When my mother re-married and we moved into an apartment in Panorama City, it was a move up for us.

Bob and I have come so far from where we started and we are so thankful for the blessings we’ve had in our lives.  But, contrary to those who think otherwise, our life isn’t perfect.

ImageRecently, our lives went through a major upheaval.  The circumstances and events were destructive and far-reaching…and devastating.  I was totally thrown for a loop.  I spent many nights unable to sleep, crying silently and praying.  In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, it tells us to pray unceasingly.  I definitely prayed unceasingly as I’ve never prayed before. 

In fact, I actually prayed that if God couldn’t bring healing, forgiveness, and restoration, I asked Him to take me home.  I just couldn’t imagine living through the pain of it all.  Heaven just seemed so desirable to me.  And, I wasn’t even the person most impacted by what had happened.

ImageSome people knew what was going on in our lives, but many people didn’t have a clue.   Bob and I felt incredibly isolated, particularly from our church family.  A few people did reach out to us and we asked that they give us time.  But I’m so grateful for them for at least contacting us to let us know they were praying for us. My best girlfriend was definitely there for me.  However, many people never contacted us and it was very lonely. 

There was one friend who has experienced her own personal trials having been widowed way too young.  Yet, in spite of her own troubles, her posts on Facebook are always of a spiritually, uplifting nature.  While she and I haven’t spoken directly, her posts were like water to my parched soul. 

ImageI’m really embarrassed by my crisis of faith because as time has passed, God has been faithful.  My prayers for healing, forgiveness, and restoration are being answered.  These things took time.  And, it wasn’t my timing.  It was all done in God’s timing.  And God’s timing is always perfect.  Today, I am feeling incredibly hopeful.  Things aren’t perfect, but they are getting better every single day.

ImageI’m not sharing all of this to get sympathy or bare my soul, but, as a reminder that we don’t always know what’s going on in people’s lives.  People who are going through their own personal torments and demons surround all of us.  Yet, we are probably mostly unaware.  Sometimes it’s an individual choice to keep problems hidden, but sometimes it’s because we are so caught up in our own lives that we just aren’t paying attention.

Couples that seem like they are rock solid to the outside world may be living separate lives behind closed doors.  People we know to be terrific parents may have a child who is bulimic or who is battling addiction.  The National Alliance of Mental Illness reports that one in four adults experiences mental illness in a given year.   And certainly many people are struggling to pay their bills.  I think all of us probably know someone who has lost or is in danger of losing his or her job.

ImageVery few of us have a perfect life…certainly not I.  But, I’m glad God had a better plan than ‘calling me home’.  Going through this recent experience has reminded me that I shouldn’t judge anyone.   Nor should I presume to know or understand what they are going through in their life.

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Should Your Husband Be Your Best Friend?

Just a quick apology for the break in my blog posts.  First, we went on a much needed vacation.  If I was more experienced at blogging, I would have had a couple of articles in the queue…but I’m new to this.  Then, I actually was working on two different articles…and the app I use to write them on my iPad crashed.  This deleted all my work and I just couldn’t get started again.  But…I’m back.  So…onto the topic at hand.

ImageI am not embarrassed to say that my husband is my best friend.  I’m not talking about the warm, fuzzy, “you complete me” kind of sentiment.  I don’t personally feel that anyone, except Jesus Christ, can complete anyone.  But, I am talking about a safe, comfortable, peace of mind relationship where there is shared history, shared experiences, and simple pleasure in each others company.  I’m talking about that safe place and that loved place.

According to an article I recently read by Cynthia Hanson, having your spouse as your best friend is ‘unhealthy’.  “Friendship is a huge part of marriage, but expecting your spouse to be your everything is unrealistic and can strain the relationship,” says psychotherapist Joyce Marter, CEO of Urban Balance LLC, a counseling group practice in Chicago. “Women need and deserve multiple people in our lives who love us and offer us support, whether it’s for a crisis like a serious illness or a daily drama with a nasty coworker. It’s not fair or wise to rely on your husband for all your friendship needs.”

Couples who are enmeshed in each other’s lives tend to be boring. “It’s a setup for too much dependency and isolation from other sources of support,” Marter explains. Far better is to enjoy what she calls a “healthy separation,” where spouses have different friends, work and hobbies that make them interesting and whole. You’ll bring more to the marriage party if you have a life and experiences outside of your relationship.

In addition, men and women process emotions and life…and relationships differently.  Marter feels that we need people of our same gender to relate to, outside our marriage.  And, she also says that our having best friends outside our marriage is healthy for our children.  It exposes them to different people with different personalities.  And it helps them understand that there people outside of family that care about them.

I don’t disagree with these ideas at all, but I think this article is missing the point.  First of all, I don’t think there should be a limit on ‘best friends’.  I, for one, have had multiple best friends in my life.  I’ve had best friends in various stages of my life.  I remember telling my own children that they shouldn’t expect to keep in touch with their high school friends once they graduated because that was unrealistic.  My kids couldn’t imagine it at the time, but now understand what I was talking about.  (Of course…that was before Facebook which has allowed us to reconnect with people with whom we went to preschool.)

I’ve had my best work friends.  I’ve had best church friends.  There are a few couples who are our best couple friends.  And, of course there are those family members who are your best friends.   And…last, but never least, I’ve had a best girlfriend.  I’ve actually had two…one of my youth and now one for my ‘golden years’.

 

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All these friends have shared different aspects of my life and have been there for various stages of my life.  But, the one constant best friend has been my husband, Bobby. 

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It seems like we have always been friends.  In fact, we were close friends before we began a romantic relationship.  We were friends in high school.  But, I married someone else.  And, having been married before to someone who wasn’t my friend, I was hesitant to begin a romantic relationship if it meant risking our friendship.  I’m sure glad I took the risk. 

Bobby and I recently celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary.  And, what we have realized in our 35 years of marriage is that, while we do have different interests, we just enjoy being together.  Which is a good thing since we both recently retired and are together all the time.  And, isn’t it most couple’s goal to grow old together?  How dreadful would it be to reach this stage of life and not spend it with your best friend? I’ve known couples who didn’t nurture the friendship aspect of their marriage.  They either ended up divorced, or living under the same roof…but leading separate, lonely lives.

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Which takes me back to the purpose of this writing.  Yes, your life shouldn’t revolve around your spouse to the exclusion of all else.  And other people should be included in your circle of friends.  But, with all the changes and stages you will experience over the years, the one constant will be your spouse.  At least, that should be the goal.  So, for me, there is nothing ‘unhealthy’ about being a best friend with your spouse.  In fact, I think it is the sign of a healthy marriage.