Family traditions

What family traditions do you have and share?

There was a time when one of our family traditions was that I wrote a lengthy newsy letter to include in Christmas cards that I mailed. I’m not sure when or why I stopped the practise. It wasn’t just that I stopped mailing cards. For a while I sent my annual family newsletter via email.

Holiday cards

My mom used to do so as well only she called hers “Holiday cards”. They never made it in the mail in time for Christmas.

We’d run through the past year chronicling the highlights. We’d share the highlghts of each family members’ adventures and misadventures.

This year in an effort to connect better with loved ones I decided to revive one of the family traditions. Only I chose to go back even further to the days when we hand-wrote most of our correspondence. Rather than send the same family newsletter to each recipient, we wrote a personal note to each.

Snail mail

I wanted to include a short hand-written note with each card. After about 4 cards I had to mail them off as is, in order for the rest to arrive on time.

If I were to revive the whole tradition I’d write a newsletter about our bi-annual family New Year’s Eve party (kid-focused); my oldest’s learning to drive and her new-to-her car; my youngest’s move to the much bigger English high school, but remaining in French (immersion instead of francophone); how the girls continue to perform: signing in music productions; and their busy schedules with dance and part-time jobs; they’ve added tutoring to the repertoire this year. And I’d share how lucky we’ve been to have a new member of our family since summer of last year; and how his family includes us all and makes us feel like part of their family.

For the first time in years I planned a vacation (without kids) and had a great travel companion to come with me. My youngest did some of her own traveling this summer, flying unaccompanied for the first time and spent two weeks away from home.

It’s really been a pretty fantastic year!

What family traditions mean the most to you?


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Finding our new normal

The grieving process has so many aspects to it. We grieve the loss of our loved one. We grieve the loss of our future as we envisioned it. We grieve the loss of our daily normal life as we knew it.

For those of us directly effected by that normal daily life it can be the most challenging, emotional, exhausting part of grief.

When my ex-husband and I split up 6 years ago this was most definitely true for me and our girlies.

When we lost my 59 year old grandmother suddenly to liver disease 25 years ago, this was certainly true for my grandfather.

Since losing my 59 year old mother after a short illness with cancer 4 weeks ago, this is absolutely true for my father.

Nothing prepares us for the grief or loss in such circumstances. It is raw. It is ever present. It comes in waves. And it overcomes us.

There are no tried and true answers. There is no remedy for grief. Time is the ultimate healer. Yet, I do try to assist this process along.

Holidays and special occasions bring with them added intensity to feelings. Some of our traditions and rituals bring great comfort with the wash of happy memories that come with them. Others bring an unanticipated painful flood of raw grief.

It’s not possible to stop the hurting, nor is it healthy to try to do so. However, I have found that creating new memories and traditions that will be associated with them have brought comfort. The things that I have found most challenging to face, I tried to change in some way. Letting someone new take it on, or doing it in a new way, and creating a joyful association with the new rituals that will continue with our new normal.

The firsts are always the toughest. This will be our first Christmas without my mom. We will all be gathered in my home, which became the new tradition after my girlies and I moved back to Nova Scotia. Every Christmas that I have them home with me, we host and the girls get to sleep in their own beds before waking up to the spoils of Santa’s mid-night visit. Christmases without my children are very different, and intentionally so.

This year I will prepare mom’s Christmas brunch on the eve. We’ve asked my grandfather to provide a soup for Christmas Eve that he hasn’t cooked for us since he remarried. Mom won’t be here to overfill the stockings with her little extras that could fill a stocking each on their own. I decided to take care of everyone’s stockings myself rather than try to recruit help when no one is in the spirit. And this year my sister, dad & I will prepare the feast without mom’s singing to keep us inspired.

There are gifts under the tree from mom. These will be emotional and special in her all-to-obvious absence. It’s also far too reminiscent of a Christmas long ago, when the three of us kids unwrapped some very special knits that mom’s mom had completed, right down to the wrappings before she became ill herself.

Yet, it will be the first Christmas in six years that dad will have all of his children under the same roof as he. The first ever that all of his children and grandchildren will be. It will be the first that we are all together with my grandfather (mom’s dad) and wife, and my uncle (mom’s brother), just like the many Christmases after we lost Nanny.

Family drawing together to guide one another through a difficult and bittersweet time. Drawing upon the children for the joyful spirit that most of us aren’t naturally inclined to this year, we’ll make it so for the girlies.

A birthday worth remembering

There is something about traditions that add much depth to life. When I move into a new home it always feels more like home, after we’ve celebrated major holidays and events. We have special traditions that usually accompany said events. Birthdays aren’t always celebrated the same way. We have children’s parties that have to be unique every time. But we have some traditions we generally keep up. Gift opening as a family, birthday cake, a nice meal out. Of course most of these traditions I take on the tasks of making them happen, for everyone else.

When my own birthday rolls around I always feel a little disappointed that those things aren’t done the same for me. Silly. It truly is silly. I try not to feel that way, but in it creeps. I don’t wish to sound ungrateful, my family always make me feel special and loved on my birthday, and I had a wonderful day this year once again.  It just didn’t feel like it was starting out that way.

On this birthday morning, after a fun house party hosted by me the night before, no one greeted me with birthday wishes, nor was there a nice breakfast. In fact, I spent the morning cleaning up from the house party, with no assistance, then the plan to go out for brunch (meeting friends-from-away) got nixed because of a cranky kid. And, even though the brunch had nothing to do with plans for my birthday, I had been looking forward to having brunch at Cora’s on my birthday. And when their bonus dad put the kibosh on that I thought to myself: “well. happy birthday to me… :(”

I was letting myself sulk, and getting crabby for no reason. So I decided that while everyone else was busy with their own things and couldn’t seem to come together long enough even for me to open my gifts that I would just open the one from my parents, by myself.

Then it was time to stop being crabby and enjoy my day.

What always puts me in better spirits on my birthday? My own tradition of decorating for Christmas. I put on the Christmas music, haul out the boxes and start decorating. It kicks off the festive season, and is a nice way for me to spend some time with me.

My cranky girly helped me, once she got up from her imposed rest, while her sister and bonus dad were out running errands. When they returned I finally got to open my gifts. A book I’d requested (Maeve Binchy’s latest), aromatherapy oil and hand crème (for my ridiculously dry hands) from The Body Shop, and a spare battery for my camera (my daughter didn’t think that was a very fun gift, but I’m thrilled to have it!) They helped me with the outdoor decorations, and the cranky girly went to dance class.

I never want to cook my own birthday supper. Ian cooked.  And I was very happy not to cook and clean. And then came the cake…

Oh! A birthday just isn’t a birthday without cake! I’ve even made my own birthday cake a few times in the past, for various reasons, but it’s just not the same if you have to make your own cake.

Since I’ve given up on the limiting wheat-free diet (I felt little, if any, real improvements without it all this time) I got to enjoy a real cake for my birthday. It was an amazing carrot cake from GlenEagle Bakery in Bedford. I LOVE carrot cake. (A previous year I had an amazing chocolate birthday cake from the same bakery).

From Drop Box

I don’t know why I set myself up with crazy expectations, nor do I understand why my mind seems to always expect something it’s not going to get. Why would it even make sense for other people to try to replicate what I do for them? And honestly, I don’t even care if I have some of those things.

All in all it was a wonderful day.  I am so lucky to have such a great man who cares so much about me, and two wonderful girlies who adore me.

What’s really important and essential to my birthday traditions? Attention from those who care about me, time spent together as a family, a few gifts that make me feel treasured (and my family are always so good at that!), and of course Kenny Rogers singing “Favourite Things” and Boney M singing “Feliz Navidad” while I pull out the ornaments and remember all the people who gave me these festive gifts for birthdays and Christmases in the past. 🙂

Is there something you do to make your own birthday a special day regardless of what others do for you?