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Holidays Can Hold

The holidays have all blurred by and January has opened up a new year.
I wanted to try to remember, pause or reflect on what filled up our holidays, but I never stopped while they sped on.
Too many things to keep track of.  All of the special events, family gatherings, and traditions that splatter the end of November through December calendar.
It seems like so many people have had a hard year.
I seemed to have heard it everywhere and from people I hadn't expected.  So many problems.  So many obstacles.  So many question marks.
The reasons are numerous and varied, but I haven't known too many people that hailed 2016 as a sunshine soaked year.
It just seemed like an arduous year that had to be plodded and waded through with periodic times of refreshment or load lightening here and there.  For the most part, it's not one I would ever wish to repeat.
As Thanksgiving approached and Christmas unfolded, I found that the holidays can hold.
When life has been rough and worn you raw and you don't exactly know what to do next the holidays have a way of letting you know what to do next. They can be your compass for the last six weeks of the year.
Granted, holidays can heighten the hurt, but sometime they can help you walk forward when you don't know what to feel or think, you just have to keep walking.
Sometimes the holidays can help hold you.
This season felt a bit awkward.  What to do? It hadn't exactly been a joyous and festive year.  How would we treat the holidays?
Thankfully we returned back to the rhythms of the season and they swept us along in their fast moving current.  It helped.
I remember right before Thanksgiving when my husband and I were trying to inject ourselves with some hope we decided we would definitely be doing our Friends-giving again this year.
I'm so glad we did.  Our house was brimming over with friends of all kinds and the food was excellent.  After the fire pit was doused and all the dishes washed and the last guest left  late in the night, we smiled sleepily.
I felt held that  November night by Hope.  Good things had happened in past Thanksgivings and they happened at this Thanksgiving. The holiday helped hold us.

Happy Thanksgiving :) 

Frog legs made a Friends -giving appearance
(Some say they were good)  

Keith frying his turkey 

When I try to think of all of the Christmas activities that happen between school-church- and a large family I can't recall all of them clearly.
I just know we were busy.
I remember shivering outside of a local Christmas Tree  lighting listening to my girls singing loudly, their school choir encircling the sidewalk.

Despite our less than enthusiastic feelings about Christmas this year, my husband and I knew we had to get a tree.  Eventually.  I'm never too excited about it, but I don't think either of us really wanted one this year. Our kids kept begging and reminding us that there were officially only two weeks until Christmas and still no tree. And why? What plausible explanation did we have to offer them? Sooo,
we brought the tree home on a weeknight.  (We didn't do any home work.) and spent the night letting the kids decorate the tree, eat holiday-ish food, and watch Christmas movies.
The kids were fully delighted. As we swept up pine needles and watched the tacky tinsel shimmer in the multi colored lights I knew we needed these moments.  Especially now.

Even the most simple of past holiday traditions reeled us back into each other.  Oldest girl asked me as soon as December started when I would be serving our regular Christmas ice cream sundaes? (This began when she was much younger and is literally just ice cream with red and green candy.) I smiled. She had remembered this simple small thing.  We had to start having them of course.  We've eaten too much ice cream this past month.

We did have to attempt at Christmas cookie baking.  Despite our first two batches landing solidly in the trash we finally produced some things that oldest girl accepted as worthy of plating.  She teared up at the first round.  That is a tradition that is only for the joy of the kids.  No one was going to be gifted with those cookies and more joy was spent eating the dough and decorating them. :)

I heard my husband's usual chuckle at my confused wrapping attempts. Package wrapping isn't my skill set and we have always laughed at how appalling they are.  He quickly took over.  I gladly yield all present wrapping to him.
That familiar exchange brought small smiles.
Even in the silences between us the holidays held.
The Saturday we spent a whole day solely looking for special things for our kids reminded us of what was important and right with our life.  Our four precious children.

We experienced much graceful generosity and that is always humbling.  It's never deserved. Ever. But it happened nonetheless.

The simple task of having to go look for presents for family members and friends brought a familiar joy.  I loved looking for things that might make someone smile and feel thought of.  The whole task was one of my favorite days of the season.  I have always loved giving gifts and it meant something even more to me this year.  I came home that day quite tired, but full in heart.

The four days of Christmas gift exchanging and feasting at all of our combined families were all familiar and special times of the past.
We watched our girls wear their matching Christmas dresses to their great grandmother's Christmas party. So many great grandkids tearing into presents and cardboard bits and tissue paper littering her floor as the kids played with all of their new toys.
Briefly for a few fleeting seconds my mind went back to eleven years on that night.  Keith had proposed to me after leaving that party.  Now I had four of my own kids there.
Sometimes the holidays bring back a flood of special memories that otherwise lay dormant in our mind and force us to recollect on generous moments and perhaps re-collect some sweetness, some things that once were.
Christmas Eve with the Kids 

Seafood Feast Christmas Night 

Christmas was special this year because we were at church.  Even though I spent the service chasing my one year old around the perimeter of the building I noticed everyone's happy faces and watched Christmas joy spread smiles wide and sparkle eyes.
Our last stop on Christmas night was the most delicious.  It wasn't a typical ham or turkey.
My mom and sister decided to live on the edge a bit and have a seafood themed meal.
There was fish, shrimp five ways, lobster tails, and crab legs.  Among many other side dishes and the usual roast beef for anyone not willing to try the seafood.
I have not been that full in a very long time.  We just kept eating.
I watched my husband masterfully crack open the crab legs and show my mom what to do.
It was a fun twist on Christmas food and definitely my favorite.

I'm thankful the holidays are over.  I'm thankful that January is here and 2016 is forever history.  I wouldn't want to repeat much of it.  But I'm thankful that the holidays can hold us together and give us the next steps, the familiar traditions to walk through when we don't quite feel it or know what to do.
Two days before Christmas I remember putting kids' jackets on and picking up a load of presents to take out the door to a family function.  I had two covered dishes in my hands and my husbands' were loaded down with gifts.  I decided to cut through the loud and said quietly looking him right in the eyes, "I love Christmas because it was always a special time for our family.  It was our best time.  We have always done Christmas well. We have always made it special."  My eyes swum with tears and I watched his mist over. Over a decade of past Christmases fast flying in my mind's eye.
Sometimes the holidays hold.  Hold you and hold up in front of you what is most important.
Whether the holidays were hard to navigate because of pain and loss or a welcome distraction from pain and loss, or if 2016 was wonderful and you are spilling over with New Year Hope....
I'm so glad its a new year.
Welcome 2017.


  1. Hi Somer,
    So good to read your words here and I LOVED this little peek into your family holiday! Your girls are so precious and that big baby boy is so adorable - -what a treat to make holidays with them!

    I'm not sure about the frog legs as part of your friends-giving dinner, though :( although that seems a good use of frogs!

    I'm encouraged by your words because you came through a difficult still standing, with your hope intact. I think that in itself is a beautiful blessing and I'm joining you in being grateful for a new year. I heartily second your words of welcome to 2017! Love to you! xo

  2. Yay! You made it through the holidays. More people than we know can't wait til January 2nd rolls around and they can breathe again.

    I hope 2017 brings your joy and gladness of heart, Summer ...


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