Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Any fans of "Fiddler on the Roof" out there?  Remember the song Tevye sings, about "Tradition?"  It absolutely amazes me how steeped in tradition the holidays become.  As you may or may not know, our lives have changed quite dramatically over the past six years or so.  And no, this isn't a "feel sorry for me" post.  Just a fact.  In September of 2007, we were unsuccessful in fostering to adopt a baby girl.  Our dog of 14 years passed about in July of 2008.  My mom passed away after a short illness in September of 2008.  My sister died in January 2009 after a 14 year battle with breast cancer -- it metastasized to her brain and took her within a matter of months.  My mother-in-law passed away in June of 2010 after a 5 year battle with colon cancer.  And then, my brother-in-law passed away unexpectedly in May of this year in a motorcycle accident.  He had been out of prison only seven months.  Each of these illnesses and deaths has taken a little bit of tradition from the holidays -- especially Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Those seem to be the hardest, no matter the loss.  Maybe it's just me.  

For instance, this year Thanksgiving hit me really hard.  It had been "tradition" the past several years before my mom's death for her to come visit us the week of Thanksgiving, and for us to hit the "Black Friday" sales and get her Christmas shopping done in one fell swoop.  See, she had come to dread the "traditions" of Christmas, buying and wrapping gifts, decorating, baking, all the things we usually look forward to, as her health began to decline.  Her coming at Thanksgiving was twofold -- it was fun to spend the holidays with her, and we took some of the stress out of her life.  After she died, my MIL and FIL started coming down and doing the same thing -- boy, could my MIL shop!!  (She took after her mom!)  So they were here in 2009 and 2010 -- and even though she needed a scooter last year, she still shopped her way through Black Friday!  And of course, we always had "traditional" foods at Thanksgiving -- the turkey, of course (and I confess, I have never cooked one by myself.  Never.  You aren't misreading.) and the "dirty rice," and the lefse, and the green bean casserole, and the glorified rice.  Mmmmm . . makes your mouth water just thinking about it!  But, I discovered this year that tradition had become my enemy. My FIL came down, and we invited a friend over, and I found I was paralyzed with fear -- fear of cooking the turkey wrong, of not being able to make the gravy, of disappointing my family.  So, we began what might become a new tradition -- eating Thanksgiving dinner out.  (Well, maybe not.   I missed all the homecooked food -- I may get brave and try it next year!  But it sure was nice not to have to cook all day, and not to have tons of dishes to wash!)

My point here, is not to whine about our losses, but to point out that "tradition" doesn't have to be set in stone.  My husband and I have been married 18 years -- when we got married, we started some of our own traditions.  As we don't have children, some of those may be a little different, but they work for us.  And with Christmas coming, it will be hard again this year to see the changes in tradition as we try to help our nieces and nephews celebrate their first Christmas without their dad; yet, at the same time, it will be fun to see our niece and nephew start traditions with their sweet little one-year-old.  It will be good to be with family for Christmas.  It will be good to see my sister's son, whom I haven't seen since last Christmas.  I'm excited to make a December Daily, and hope that will become a tradition.  And, I think I am more equipped this go 'round, to both begin and enjoy new traditions that I can start with the loved ones around me -- traditions that may fade out after a few years, or traditions that may last (like my sister's biscotti!) until the next generation leaves the nest and begins their own families -- and their own traditions. 

Until next time,



  1. I think traditions should only exist as long as they are fun for all. Once people get caught up in revisiting traditions that make them sad or upset there is no point. I think it's cool that you just went out to eat.

    We had this tradition that began several years ago. We'd kept eating Christmas Eve dinner at this awful Chinese buffet. The tradition was really precious to my brother Ben. The rest of us just went along and were grossed out. Finally, last year (Ben wasn't around)we decided to reinvent the tradition and order in Chinese from a restaurant we liked. It was much better!

  2. Thanks for sharing your heartfelt memories and thoughts. You can do the turkey thing! It's not as hard as you are dreading. I'm here for you next year. :)

  3. Kate, you've had even more loss than I realized. You've really figured out the beauty and the pain of traditions. There is comfort in a tradition, weird or ordinary. When those traditions involved loved ones who are now gone, it can make the pain of their absence all the more excrutiating. My heart goes out to you.

    As for the turkey, that was a big fear to me at one time as well. As it turns out, it is a simple thing to cook. If you make most of the other things ahead of time it makes it all easier. We have Tofurky now, as Maria and Eric are vegans. It is even easier yet! My struggle is with lefse. I dread making it as I am never quite satisfied with my efforts. I blame it on being Irish rather than Norwegian! I keep trying, though.

    I am looking forward to seeing you at Christmas!

  4. Hi Kate,
    I'm so sorry to learn that you and your family have been through such tremendous loss in such a short period of time. Life can be so not fair sometimes, and I know what you mean by it just hitting you out of the blue, after so much time has passed, that you miss your loved ones especially during this time of year. My dad has been gone for 18 years now, and I can still feel the loss as though it happened yesterday--especially during the holidays.

    It's interesting that traditions help to ground us in the past--by giving us a sense of what used to be which in turn helps us make sense of our present and move us towards our future. And yet...there are points in our lives where we've just got to make room for the new. My husband and I are at that point now that we are empty nesters after having moved so far away from what we've known all of our lives. It isn't easy to let the past go, but it is good to create room for new joys, especially when we're helping others find their own brand of happiness like you are doing with your nieces and nephews.

    You know the old saying, "That which does not kill us makes us stronger." I applaud you for having such a positive attitude about the challenges you have faced. We could all learn a thing or to about keeping our chins up in the face of adversity. Thanks for the reminder today.

    Happy holidays!

  5. Hi Kate, found your blog from Cath at MFW. You certainly have had a rough couple of years, I am sorry for all you have endured. I am starting some new traditions of my own this year. I lost my husband to Cancer on April 26th and each "First" Birthday, Anniversary and Holiday has been so very difficult. I am re-inventing all of the past "traditions" in my life and trying not to be so heartbroken and sad. Wishing you peace and love of your family and friends, Kate.

  6. The first Christmas after the passing of our sweet 20yr. old daughter Desi, we went out for brunch with our other children and one granddaughter at a restaurant we were lucky to find open. We spent some time with them then came home, just the two of us. That night I had a PB&J and hubby had a bowl of soup. It was "OK". Biggest lesson learned through heartache (and now passing of my parents, brother, hubby's dad and brother), do what "you need to do to go through the Holidays", don't let anyone tell you or make you feel that you "should" do it a certain way. God is so GOOD! Hang on to Him always and He will see you through to much and many brighter days!