Friday, November 29, 2013

She Gets It From Her Mama, Christmas Edition

Thanksgiving is over and you know what that means....everywhere you look, Christmas is going to be throwing up all over you. Commercials. Stores. Radio. People's reindeer cars. Coworker sweaters. School field trips. It doesn't stop. It's a complete and total bombardment of holiday paraphernalia and far-reaching correlations intended to either sell you or put you in some fake, guilt-induced state of pure bliss.

And do you know how I feel about all this?

H-to-tha-ell YES!

I am that annoying person who hears Christmas music before Thanksgiving and wants to skip right past the turkey. I am infatuated with snow and I love the cold. My idea of a vacation is a secluded cabin right smack-dab in the middle of Podunk, USA, between the elk herd migration trails and a widespead chain of snowy mountains. I crave the peace of a morning after snowfall....where the sound of cars and animals and people is completely muffled by pristine white powder, fluffy and cold, almost beckoning for footprints.

Toss in some colored lights and the opportunity to sing along with Harry Connick Jr and you've got yourself a Christmas-crazed woman with stars in her eyes and never enough mittens.

I must give credit where credit is due, however....if I'd been raised by pop culture, the reasons behind my love for the season would be quite different, and not in a good way. Lucky for me, I had a Christmas influence of another kind.

My mom raised my sister and I with very little money and even less time. She worked full time while going to school and raising her babies. She didn't date, didn't drink, didn't smoke. I have no idea how this is possible. I don't know how she stayed so strong, for so long, putting her kids first always always always.

Every year we'd hear the same thing: "Now girls, this Christmas isn't going to be as big as last year because, well, I can't afford a ton of presents this year..." and yet every year, I was awestruck by the sight of boxes wrapped in the funny pages practically overflowing from under our tree. She made it magical. wrapping new socks and undies, presents she purchased on sale months ahead of time. I remember my sister and I were recipients of The Salvation Army Angel Tree on more than one occasion. One Christmas we were lucky enough to be selected to Shop with a Cop.....but at the time I was "too cool" to be getting free stuff with a cop. My sister came home with a truckload of stuff she picked out - I'm talking BAGS of stuff - I regret not going to this day!

We were lucky girls and never once felt needy or deprived. Our house was always fully-loaded with Christmas cheer. Each year we'd put on the same holiday CDs and drag out our perfectly-packaged Christmas decorations. We had a nativity that sparkled like ice and ornaments made by our grandmothers. My mom would almost always get pissed off and tell us to go away when she was putting the lights on the tree and without fail, my sister I would end up underneath that tree once the lights were untangled and glowing. We'd look up through the branches and oooo and ahhh with color-filled appreciation.

When the snow fell my mom would bundle us up like the small kid from A Christmas Story, the one who couldn't put his arms down. We'd fly outside and she'd pull us around on sleds, flopping on the ground to make snow angels and more snow angels and even more snow angels. She'd take "the long way" home so we could stare out the foggy car windows, wiping circles into the glass, trying to see every last Christmas light on every last house on our street. She was never afraid to slow down for the really good ones...the huge, intense displays of gold and green and red and blue lights with moving deer and sleighs on the roof. The three of us would simultaneously chime, "WWWWOOOOOOOWWW!" and my mom would stop the car, right there in the middle of the road, and we'd all gaze at the house for a couple seconds before puttering to the next one.

She always took us to church so we could learn about Jesus and Mary and Joseph, Angel Gabriel and the Three Wise Men. Our church had the best Advent Fair and every now and then, she'd have time to bring us down on a weeknight so we could smother a pinecone in peanut butter and birdseed, or cookie-cut a gingerbread man made out of cinnamon-scented clay. We had new, fancy Christmas dresses every year and let me tell you, walking into a packed church on Christmas morning, with the alter completely lit up and bursting with garland, two huge Christmas trees on either side of our Savior, hundreds of poinsettias dotting the aisles, carols streaming from the mouths of hundreds....well, there was no other feeling like it in the world.

We'd sit together at night, reading stories, having milk and cookies while watching The Muppet Christmas Carol, later listening to the sweet sound of my mom singing Silent Night before bed. Sounds like a storybook, ya? That was the magic of my mother. She could pull joy and special out of thin air.

Simple, sometimes irritated, always beautiful holiday memories. I want the same for my kids.

I get a thrill out of Christmas because of the way it makes me feel. Between nostalgia, more time at home with the kids, high hopes for snow, and absolute, heartbreaking joy when I hear the girls say "woooooow!" ......I'm pretty much a wintertime fanatic.

Happy Day After Thanksgiving, everyone. I hope you each have a wonderful, colorful night.

~ Jen

Friday, November 22, 2013

Stressgiving to Thanksgiving Week 4: Take it Easy on the Turkey

Almost there! Thanksgiving is next week. Are you ready?

Now, when you read my post title, you probably think I'm going to chat today about eating turkey, or cooking turkey, or, if you've read my grass-fed tirade, how to purchase a turkey.

This is not the case.

Today's post is all about taking it easy on the turkey - turkey being the safe, kind word I'll use to describe the crappy, insensitive person you're bound to encounter at some point or another during your holiday. It could be a stranger at the gas station who's soooooo important they just MUST cut in front of you and steal the only remaining gas pump in sight. It could be someone criticizing your cooking or cleaning or wardrobe. It could be a toddler who really just can't stand the thought of you touching her. It could be a sibling, uncle, daughter or spouse. Somewhere, somehow, you will run into someone who says the wrong thing, at the wrong time, with the wrong audience.....someone who doesn't think before they speak, or consider the implications of their actions, or generally acts like a royal turkey.

And I'm here to tell you......

I can't stand those turkeys.

I've been cussed out for not moving my (apparently large) butt out of the way while strapping my child into her car seat in the grocery store parking lot. I've had someone plow past me with their bags and laptop cases on the train on Christmas Eve and not even pause on their way to steal my seat. I've had family members tear me down over the holiday ham because of my weight. Quips about my profession, my kids, my marriage, my body, my choice of know what I'm talking about. There's always something that sticks out in your mind - something you could have gone without. Something that really threatened to jack up your holiday. Always a turkey to be found.

Well, after thinking long and hard about how I can decrease my sensitivity to said turkeys, I've devised a plan.

You see, I can't stand those turkeys......but I've also been that turkey. I've been the lady screaming at people to move out of her way because she really wants to get where she is going. I've threatened people under my breath with more expletives than a TuPac album. I'm the daughter who whined to her mom about making sure there was enough for leftovers because Mommmmmmmmy I really want them so bad! I've said snappy things, done stupid things, and lost my temper on more holidays than I can count. I could've been crowned the Queen of Turkeys on multiple occasions, each for their own very, precise reason.

Sometimes I acted crazy because I was sad. Sometimes because I missed someone or something. Sometimes I spoke without thinking because I was too exhausted to remember how to think. Sometimes I truly just felt like being a brat. But more often than not, I acted like a total turkey because I was struggling with something. I'm not inherently least I don't think I am? (heh heh heh).....

I don't purposely mess up someone's day or jack up their meal. I certainly didn't intend for my whining to cause my poor Mama to go on a Tupperware-purchasing spree and buy more food than she can probably afford. I was just being a turkey. Not thinking. Acting like my brain isn't capable of empathy and understanding and insight. All those things that slip away when I'm two seconds from really losing it and doing everything in my power to just keep it cool.

So my plan is this. When I encounter a turkey this Thanksgiving, instead of devouring it with judgement and annoyance and outright rage at the injustice of a bad attitude during the holidays, I will picture myself in the turkey' (Turkey shoes?).

I will take myself back to a time where I snapped at someone I cared about.

Or made an offensive comment.

Or dismissed someone's feelings for my own benefit.

I will think back to how I felt when I realized what I was doing. The shame, the irritation with myself, the clean-up and attempts to resolve the consequences of my bad behavior.

I will think all these things and I will look the turkey right in the eye and I will push a ridiculous, wild smile out of my face. I will smile and wish them a happy holiday and pray it sticks....because in most instances, people who say and do hurtful, insensitive things are doing so because of their own issues, their own problems, which are undeniably seven times as destructive as the comments they are spewing at you.

Turkeys have it worse. So take it easy on them. Take it easy on the turkey.


Friday, November 15, 2013

Stressgiving to Thanksgiving Week 3: No More Surprises

We've all been there.

The house, after hours of screaming at the kids and alternating between rum and water, is finally clean. The table, after daydreaming over Pinterest and stocking up on clearance WalMart decor in January, is perfectly set. The guests, after rearranging times and places and potluck responsibilities, have all confirmed their attendance. You've put on makeup and your kids are wearing full, complete, clean outfits.

And then. It happens.


the weather chucks a few feet of snow on the roads.
the power goes out. It comes back on. It goes back out. It comes back on. For now.
the dog pukes up his dinner and then, after returning from his backyard banishment, tracks mud all over the house.
the cat walks in the sink full of turkey gizzards and then walks all over the table and plates.
the kid poops in the toilet seconds before the first guest arrives.
the toilet clogs seconds after the first guest arrives.
the sweater you painstakingly chose for the night lands itself in a bowl full of gravy.
the fire alarms start screaming because the oven sucks like that.
the guest in charge of vegetables forgets to bring a dish.
the best goblet ever meets its doom on the kitchen floor.
the kids decide now would be a good time to really want Mommy.
the turkey is burned on the outside and raw on the inside.
the words "food poisoning" are mentioned.
the kids' table becomes a moving food truck, complete with a ride-along mini-chef.
the dog pees out of excitement or fear, at this point who cares.

All of your best-laid plans, annihilated by lovely, wonderful surprises.

It happens so frequently, I find myself actually planning for the worst. How awful is that. From the get-go, I plan not only the cleaning schedule, meal, and seating arrangements, but also what to do when the cleaning schedule fails, the food falls apart, and the seating arrangements end in huffy family members....

I essentially expect myself to do double-duty. Twice the work. Plan for best-case and then plan for the surprises. How exhausting is that? I know some of you do the same thing. It's exhausting....and frankly, ridiculous.

So here's my thought. Enough with the double-planning. No more nail-biting, last-minute trips to the store, or freaking out about the amount of food to prepare, or worrying about who sits where or what guests bring or don't bring. You can't control surprises any more than you can control people. Shit happens, as do crappy attitudes and flaky mindsets.

The point is to be happy. Everyone, including the host, deserves to be happy. This means learning how to roll with the punches. This means relinquishing control. This means letting go. This means learning to embrace the unexpected. All things I. Am. Terrible. At.

....which is why I think the Good Lord gave me a few surprises this week....each of them unexpected, but oh-so incredible.

1. It was Veteran's Day and I left work early to spend it with Aaron. I started my long trek home and the snow began to fall.
Gut reaction:
Well isn't this just great. Of course it would unseasonably snow on the one day I want to get home early. 
No More Surprises:
It was gorgeous. The snow didn't impact my commute in the least and by the time I got home, Aaron and I literally got to sit there and stare at the snow fall. It was the best afternoon I can remember.

2. My kid came home from school and had a huge, fat, overflowing take-home folder.
Gut reaction:
Dammit. That's a TON of homework and I really don't feel like dealing with it. 
No More Surprises: 
The kids in Anya's class had written a stack of letters to me and Aaron for Veteran's Day. It was so beautiful I literally cried. Not the panicky, weird cry of a woman in need of rum, but the sweet, astounded cry of someone who's just been swept off her feet.

3. I had the remarkable opportunity to get in bed before 11PM and within moments of grabbing my latest edition of Better Homes and Gardens, I felt the annoying prods of cat paws on my stomach.
Gut reaction: 
Great. Now she's going to come barge into my magazine, or sit on my head, or somehow shoot her hair into my eyeball like a projectile missile of pain. 
No More Surprises:
She curled up behind my magazine, with her head poking out, and purred. She was warm and fluffy and perfectly behaved. Not a single hair flew into my eye.

I'm well aware my initial reactions are often trigger-happy, exaggerated representations of the panic I feel when I don't have control of a situation. It could be something as huge as a promotion-worthy project at work or it could be something as tiny as cat versus magazine. No matter the topic, I find myself jumping to worst-case scenarios more frequently than best-case scenarios. It's a flaw of mine....and I need to work on it. What better time than the holidays!

No more surprises, only opportunities. Opportunities to make it the most memorable, most crazy, most innovative, most creative holiday there's ever been.

The weather chucks a few feet of snow on the roads? Tell everyone to stay home and go outside to make a snowman.
The power goes out. It comes back on. It goes back out. It comes back on. For now? Candles = sexy.
The dog pukes up his dinner and then, after returning from his backyard banishment, tracks mud all over the house? Great excuse to use your dusty Swiffer Wet Jet because let's face it, your cleaning spree didn't include actually washing the floors. 
The cat walks in the sink full of turkey gizzards and then walks all over the table and plates? Mismatched, country-chic table linens and platters are so in right now. 
The kid poops in the toilet seconds before the first guest arrives? Hey hey! The kid is pooping in the toilet!
The toilet clogs seconds after the first guest arrives? Better now than during dinner!
The sweater you painstakingly chose for the night lands itself in a bowl full of gravy? Chance to give your man a sneak-peak at some skin while you change clothes :) I know I'm not the only one who loves those nights following a house full of people where the two of you simultaneously remember how delicious it is to be the only ones actually living there!
The fire alarms start screaming because the oven sucks like that? Hey hey! The fire alarms work!
The guest in charge of vegetables forgets to bring a dish? Who likes vegetables anyways. 
The best goblet ever meets its doom on the kitchen floor? Another chance to do the deep-cleaning you undoubtedly skipped while trying to make the whole house somewhat presentable.
The kids decide now would be a good time to really want Mommy? Take two minutes to enjoy your kids. You will soon be begging them to come home for the holidays.
The turkey is burned on the outside and raw on the inside? Microwaves are glorious boxes of delicious innovation. 
The words "food poisoning" are mentioned? Sounds like someone just volunteered to cook the turkey next year! SCORE!
The kids' table becomes a moving food truck, complete with a ride-along mini-chef? A child's memories inspire their dreams. Keep them safe, but for the sake of childhood bliss, let 'em keep on rollin'.
The dog pees out of excitement or fear, at this point who cares? You do, because as much as your dog annoys you, he is your wubby bubs and he should get the chance to enjoy the holiday, too. Treats all around.

Jump to best-case with me. I want to know...

What are the worst surprises you've encountered during the holidays?


Friday, November 8, 2013

Stressgiving to Thanksgiving Week 2: Arming Yourself Against Crappy Holiday Drivers, Including Myself

Ahhhhhh Thanksgiving travel. One of the most frustrating aspects of Thanksgiving. Everyone jams onto the roads, tailgating, crawling, swerving......some attempting to get there as fast as possible, some attempting to just get there safely, and some just not attempting at all. I mean really. Some of those holiday drivers might as well be sleeping. Or driving with no head. The Headless Hyundai.

You've got the manly men, veering in and out with pointless precision and driving down your friendly neighborhood street like it's a tollway. You've got youngins with permits trying to look cool in their mom's minivan, bumpin to jams on stock speakers and leaning to the right as much as they can. And then you've got the old ladies with round, poofy orbs of hair, barely peeking over their dashboards, drifting around like the road is made of ice and monsters and all the bad things ever created, ever.

I think that last group scares me the most.....I can see a manly man's blackened taillights coming from miles away and the young kids almost always have a parent in their passenger seat. But the oldies? You never know what you're getting with them. It's like a demonic box a chocolates. Will she be a Fast-Breaker? How about a Brake-for-Absolutely-No-Freaking-Reason? An Uber-Slow Poke? The Speedy Starter? The Simultaneous Head/Car Turner, who glances to the right and therefore, steers to the right? God forbid you're following the worst of all - the Combo Oldie. She can whip out a lane drift, fast-break into an imaginary accident, and then take off before you even realize what just happened.

I had the unfortunate pleasure of following one such lady on my way home from work yesterday. She was in front of me on a four-lane, kinda just puttsin' around, speeding up, then slowing down, then speeding up, then slowing to an incredible 15 miles under the speed limit (40mph). We approached an intersection with a left-hand turn lane and I remember screaming THANK THE LORD IN HEAVEN ALMIGHTY REDEEMER as her left turn signal started to flash.

The intersection was crowded with traffic and as soon as I spouted my dramatic praise to Jesus, I knew I had celebrated too soon. The left turn lane was clogged and sure enough, the oldie in front of me began to brake and swerve around like a crazy person. Slowly, slowly, she started to ease over into the left turn lane, slamming on the brakes one minute and easing over an inch or two the next. About 2/3 of her vehicle was still in my lane and I made a break for it. I checked my rear view, glanced back at her rear end, and swerved around her.


What the...? ???  ****thump thump thump**** racing heart and panic

I hit my brakes, looked at the old lady, now on my left side. Her car looked ok, I didn't hit her...what the heck was that noise??......ohhhhhhhh........I stared into my rear view and found a guy in a BMW, screaming what was obviously the f-word.

Man's Beautiful Black Beamer, Bent

I hadn't checked my blind spot and sure enough, I'd swerved right into the driving space of another vehicle.

It was a perfect addition to a perfectly terrible week. Work was insane, my new business needed way more attention than I had to give, and I was exhausted.

I had been on my way to a girlfriend's house to get my hair cut. Thought it might break me out of my funk a little. Was planning on giving her a little extra cash for a new blow dryer from her beauty supply store. My current blow dryer sparks when I fire 'er up. Talk about ampin up the volume.

You know what else blows sparks.....A tire. A tire when it crashes into the curb after trying to avoid a Jen who just couldn't keep her temper and her patience.

Didn't take long for my mental state to dip pretty low on the "Yay Life!" scale.

I remember thinking about Christmas and how I still needed to get presents...and not those "only if you can" presents for your siblings and, I still need to get presents for my kids. Here I was thinking I could afford a new freakin blow dryer. Pshhhh. Chyea rite Jen, ya jerk. Captain Swerves-A-Lot's hair STAYS crazy, didn't anyone tell you?

I got home two hours later. Plenty of time to drive in my own loathing and really let it seep in.

She was just a little old lady, trying to get around. What if the kids had been in the car? That guy's BMW is going to cost a billion dollars to repair. Guess you're goin' broke, Jen. No Christmas. No blow dryer. No clothes without holes in them. No house. You're done. Toast. Better grab a nice cardboard box and start coloring on some windows.

I felt about 20 pounds heavier when I finally climbed out of my car. I had to walk around to the passenger side to get into the house. I closed my eyes to avoid looking at it and walked into the trash can, jostling the lid open just a little bit and enveloping myself in a cloud of putrid poo smell.

Great. Now I smell like I feel.

I opened the door, walked into the house. Aaron set down the spoon he was using to stir our dinner and came over to me, expertly avoiding the baby, dog, high chair, and three pairs of shoes. He reached out and scooped me up, squeezing me tight, telling me it was ok. I'm ok. It's all O.K.

As we parted my youngest came running over, screaming MAMAMAMAMAMAMAMAMA over and over. The dog was circling behind me, his whole butt wiggling back and forth. My big girl, quietly waiting for the chaos to calm, looked at me with her very best and most precious, "Poor Mama," face.

Aaron headed back to the stove and said:

We're all ok and that's all that matters.

Yes, I breathed. Yes. We are all ok. Thank God for that. It's ok. 

I'd become so wrapped up in the stress of my week I'd forgotten the basics. It's not about a silly car accident, which will be a blip on the memory radar 50 years from now. It's not about Christmas presents, I've always tried to give my kiddos experiences over stuff anyways. It's not about feeling overwhelmed or impatient or caught up.....nope. When push comes to shove and you strip away all that chaos and insanity of everyday running, it really is about love and life and all of the simple things.

It's impossible to live in this heightened state of awareness all the time.....and to do so would diminish the power of reaching rock-bottom epiphanies. I'll continue to stress about the car...but in the moments following Aaron's statement, I felt all that guilt, all that self-loathing, roll off like raindrops on an umbrella. It was a beautiful feeling, regardless of how fleeting it was.

Let yourself get stressed. Heck, you can even let yourself get burned out. If nothing else, it will likely culminate in some sort of mental breakdown and you'll be forced back to the basics...where terrible old lady drivers and bad decisions mean nothing compared to the simple, straightforward, gut-wrenching beauty in front of you.

When you feel your knuckles tighten on the wheel and your fury rise to critical boiling point levels, remember why you are driving. Remember where you are going. Picture each old lady as your grandma and look out for lane-swerving Jens in silver Chevy Malibus. Save the stress-induced, eye-opening breakdowns for dinnertime. Much cheaper that way :)


Friday, November 1, 2013

Stressgiving to Thanksgiving Week 1: Sharing Sucks

This is Week 1 of my November "Stressgiving to Thanksgiving" series. Each week, I'll be dedicating my posts to finding the "thanks" in Thanksgiving again.

No, this isn't going to be one of those guilt-inducing, you-should-be-more-grateful blog series. I will not be filling my posts with ways to host a better dinner or somehow transform your table into a Norman Rockwell scene. This month, I'll be focusing on my flaw-filled perception of Thanksgiving - and week by week, I'll detail how I'm working to hopefully gosh dang willing quiet the incessant attacks of Sir Stress-A-Lot.

Halloween ended about 14 hours ago and already, I see thousands of  headlines jumping out at me~

Stress-Free Thanksgiving for Whole Family
How to Prepare a Feast They'll Never Forget
Cozy, Creative, and Comfortable Thanksgiving Tablescapes
Craft Your Own Turkey Tablecloths, Runners, Napkins, and More

Where's the resources for those of us who just want to make it through the day in one piece? Those of us with multiple houses to visit, work schedules to coordinate, and aging family members to consider? Where can I find out how to keep my sanity when yet another family argument breaks out over dinner rolls? How in the world do I stop setting the bar at the seemingly-glorious experiences I see in the magazines?

To answer these questions, I guess I have to start at the beginning.

When I was a little girl, my mom, sister, and I would all head to my Grandma Bonnie's house at the same time, every year. Dinner would be on the table by 4PM, dessert approximately 45 minutes later. We'd sit in egg-shaped, 60's-mod dinner chairs and talk quietly, my Grandpa Ray and Great Grandma livening the conversation with their colorful personalities and my Grandma Bonnie fluttering around and pushing people to eat more of this, more of that. My Grandpa Bill would read a prayer off a notecard. I'd answer questions about my grades at school, what I wanted to be when I grew up, and how I was liking the weather. We'd spend at least ten minutes talking about the it tasted, how it was cooked, how much it weighed, where it was purchased. It was small, useless chitter-chatter but it was my family and I looked forward to it every year.

Flash forward a little bit. My Great Grandma, our lovely, 1st-generation Norwegian ball of energy and joy, has passed. My Grandpa Ray, while still feisty, is starting to wear the signs of old age like a heavy blanket. Our family is very small and when he too is taken to heaven, our table seems to lose its light. My Grandma Bonnie and Grandpa Bill continue to host Thanksgiving and soon, I have a baby with me at the table. She's hope and new life and love.

A few short months after that first Thanksgiving with my wee one, Aaron, Anya, and I move to Germany. You'd think the holidays would be sad and depressing while you're away from home, but you know what? They were surprisingly enjoyable. I learned how to cook, and bake, and make Thanksgiving crafts to decorate the home. It was nice to sleep in and not leave the home all day. I missed my family dearly, but I also really enjoyed having that time to ourselves. I didn't have to share a thing about the day with anyone - we did exactly how we pleased, wearing PJ's until noon, picking out our favorite foods and desserts, putting our baby down on time and drinking wine together in front of the TV. It was very relaxing, the Thanksgivings we didn't need to share.

When we returned to the states a few years later, we were greeted by the arms and kisses of those we'd missed for years. It was a sparkling, glorious feeling and when I noticed a few new laugh lines around my mother's beautiful blue eyes, I realized just how much I'd missed while living overseas. My family was getting older. Age and time didn't stop and wait for me and I'd missed so much. I couldn't wait to get to the holidays.

And then came the sharing.

I had a new job and two extended families to juggle. Gone were the days of sitting around the house in our PJs and doing exactly as we pleased. There was an unspoken expectation...whether I placed it upon myself or had it placed upon me by my family is irrelevant. I felt pressure - enormous pressure - to make everyone happy....and often, at the expense of my own comfort and convenience. I'm not saying it wasn't worth it.....I'm saying it was hard. The contrast between our German Thanksgiving and American Thanksgiving was inescapable.

As I type this, three years after that homecoming, I am still surprised by how much things have changed. My Grandma Bonnie, bless her heart, became exhausted by the time dinner was served. I knew it was her last year hosting when she served on paper plates. To my Grandma, this was the equivalent of throwing up the white flag. I surrender. Too tired. Too much. Done. It was the end of dinners in the egg chairs, little feet on the brown, marbled carpet, and scanning the yard for the deer that frequented Grandpa Bill's garden.

My mom's first Thanksgiving was last year and...It. Was. Awesome. She had the most adorable setup, with beautiful placecards and a huge turkey and a special high chair for my newest addition. It was a delicious meal and for the most part, a drama-free day. I remember, though, agreeing to stop by my in-laws afterwards for pie. I felt bad for missing dinner with them and absolutely could not say no. So with a six year old and a six-month old, we made the 90 minute drive from my mom's house to my in-laws. I remember exhaustion. I was happy to see everyone, but it was shadowed by fatigue, two tired kids who'd been around people they rarely saw all day, and a deep longing for my home, my comfort, my PJs.

So here comes my huge, giant, Stressgiving admission.

The desire to please has bubbled into resentment. Call it selfishness, call it realism, call it whatever you like. When I think "Thanksgiving," I think impossible choices. Who will be eating with who? Can we fit in two dinners? What if my long-lost dad wants to get together? Can we make everyone happy and walk away with our minds intact?

The answer, simply, is no. I will miss out on someone's dinner. I will have to share a portion of what should be a peaceful day driving on the road with a bunch of non-commuters... people who fire up the old Lincoln three times a year, Thanksgiving being one of those times. I will fail to make everyone happy....and I will fail to make myself happy if I continue to base my joy on the approval and acceptance of others.

This is my life. I share it closely with my husband and my kids. What's best for them is what's best for me....and this year..... it will have to be what's best for everyone else. I can't let the fear of losing my extended family, both literally and figuratively, deteriorate what could be a most joyous day. So onward I go, with a commitment to alternate the holiday with my mom and my in-laws. My in-laws are heading to another town so we're going to double-down and go to my mom's again this year. Next year we'll be with Aaron's side of the family.

This is the normal way to go about it, right? Why was this so hard for me to figure out?

My family was 100% supportive when I explained our decision to alternate holidays.....another fear of mine *poof* dissolved to dust. I really am surrounded by love. What was this horrible argument I concocted in my head?

I guess the bottom line is, sharing sucks....but only when you're trying to share with everyone. There's a delicate balance to doing what's right for you and doing what's right for everyone else. A give-and-take. A compromise. The whole objective of the day is to bathe in ceaseless gratuity and thankfulness for all the blessings we've been given. And I've been given so, so many.

So as you're working out your dinner plans for the 28th, remember your happiness is important. Don't try to do it all. Don't agree to things that are guaranteed to leave you exhausted. Find a compromise, a balance, and stick with it.