Sunday, November 25, 2012

Who Gets the Tradition?

Before I was a single mom, I spent Thanksgiving gobbling up traditional trappings at an intimate gathering of...oh, about 70 people. Sometimes the gatherings were at someone's house; sometimes they were at a rented church hall. Marrying into this kind of holiday tradition was a change for me, but I tried my darnedest to fit right in. But as you know, if you've read any Roaring Moms posts at all, we have a Murphy's Law Life. What can go wrong, will go wrong.

There was the year I hosted the event at our Painted Lady Victorian Home. The only bathroom available to the hoards of family was upstairs, which was problematic enough. When the toilet boycotted and started spewing everything back up until it drained through the cracks in the ceiling and into the living room football lounge, that's when the real trouble started--and the guests left. Then there was the year I caught some nasty influenza virus literally the night before. Feeling it was too late to change venues and because it was potluck anyway, the hubby decided I could quarantine myself in the bedroom. You know, it might not have been too bad to lay in bed all day while someone else catered the meal and cleaned up, if I hadn't been on fire with fever and coughing up blood. It was awful!

Most Thanksgivings weren't so cursed. Just mine, of course. Nevertheless, chaotic, messy, noisy, crowded Thanksgivings have blessed my kids their entire lives. Their father and I deciding we would live in separate houses didn't need to change that for them.

For the past several years, my Thanksgivings have been comparatively smaller affairs--sometimes spent with my family, sometimes with my kids, sometimes with my friends, and once alone. That was fine too, because I treated myself to a big ol' stack of IHOP blueberry pancakes and no one was around to tell me that IHOP blueberry pancakes aren't Thanksgiving worthy. I've truly come to savor the small Thanksgiving. Our lives are chaotic, noisy, and messy on a daily basis. A quiet holiday that comes right after soccer and theatre season is quite welcome. There is nothing like a cozy fireplace, a cup of cocoa, the Macy's parade, a simple gathering, and a quiet day to pump me up for the Christmas season. At the end of it, I am honestly grateful that my children spent a crazy couple of hours with the cousins and battled Black Friday with that side of the family while I sat in my pajamas, stuffing my face. And I have never again had to plunge another toilet on Thanksgiving Day.

So regardless of what "the papers" that all divorced couples refer to like they are the third tablet to come down from Mt. Sinai say, the kids still get their chaotic Thanksgiving tradition with their cousins and aunts and uncles. And that's the way it should be. Through divorce, you might be able to split furniture and bank accounts evenly, but not traditions.

I hope any moms and dads from split families, blended families, and even dysfunctional families who might be reading this understand--you have your childhood holiday memories. It's time to make sure your kids get theirs. Whether that memory comes from a day with you or a with someone else who loves them shouldn't matter. Don't you want them to smile back on it for years to come? It's not the hours logged at one house that makes the memories. It's the laughter, the noise, the chaos, the cousins, the cozy cocoa, the quiet day. And maybe even the plunged toilets.

What are your most disastrous or most wonderful Thanksgiving memories?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

No Ding Dang Ding Dongs for Me!

Life Lessons from a Cupcake:

You won't see me scooping up dozens of Ding Dongs like those crazy Beany Baby ladies of the 1990's. I have a truly profound reason for it, too. It is simply this--Little Debbie's Snack Cakes rule! Not only are they undeniably better tasting, they are also half the price.

Actually, there's another reason I won't be hoarding the Ho-Ho's, and here's where the life lesson is learned.

All month, I've read everyone's Posts of Gratitude on Facebook. While they've been fun and sometimes inspiring to read, I wonder---(and here is where I will offend someone, I'm sure)--how many FB Posters are actually showing that gratitude. It's easy to say you are oh-so-grateful for your hardworking hubby or your wonderful wife. It's more difficult to live that sentiment. When was the last time you met him at the door with a beer and a kiss and the TV remote? When was the last time you actually let him enjoy the Big Game without chewing his ear about the latest  girly gossip or some emotional issue? When was the last time you offered to do the dishes because she slaved over the stove for hours? When was the last time you actually listened to her girly gossip and emotional issues? Living gratitude is a much different animal than posting gratitude.

So where do cupcakes enter in? Consider this, while you stand in line with your cartful of cupcakes--when was the last time you actually purchased a Ding Dong or a Twinkie? If the closing of the company hadn't made the news, would you have even noticed their absence? Before Brenda Lee Johnson of The Closer opened her drawer of cupcake comfort, most of us probably didn't even know if Ding Dongs were still in existence. Be honest, did you have to ask the grocery clerk which aisle housed the Ho-Ho's? Then, why are you mourning the loss of them now? The point is that's it's a little late to show your gratitude for the glorious chocolate covered delicacy. Perhaps if more of you had appreciated the Ding Dong all along, we wouldn't be losing it now. And perhaps, if those workers had appreciated having a job to go to every day...

It's true that what we focus on in life is what we get more of. Gratitude and ingratitude act like magnets. If you go to work complaining about what you don't have every day, you'll bring on more of it. If you go to work with appreciation for a job, you'll bring on more of that, too. People who are grateful for whatever good they can find prosper. They work harder. They find ways to improve. They don't expect hand-outs. They see what's good and multiply it.

What good are you multiplying? I appreciate the Little Debbie almost weekly. The Swiss Roll always has been my go-to comfort cupcake. The Oatmeal Creme Pie is for extra-stressed-out days, and the Nutty Bar is a party in a box. If they ever leave us, I will know it isn't due to MY lack of appreciation. So, stock up on your Twinkies, if you must. In the meantime, live your gratitude--in your work, in your family, in your life. You never know when the good stuff you thought would always be there, won't be.