I said at the beginning of 2018 I wanted to share more on this blog than just recipes, and it’s taken me almost 11 months to really get that resolution started. Better late than never? So sorry foodie folks, it’s another personal post.
Every year, I have a little internal struggle around Thanksgiving. I love this holiday, and I love this time of year, and being a food blogger, it should be easy for me to sit down and write about Turkey Day. The problem is, the past few years, Thanksgiving hasn’t always been a huge event for me. Don’t get me wrong, I always cook a traditional meal with turkey, potatoes, stuffing, veggies and some kind of dessert, but military life gets a little bit in the way sometimes. I haven’t been able to sit down to a huge meal with my whole family in a while.
The turkey the past couple years has just been the breast. Sometimes one of the sides becomes a frugal after-thought, like a frozen bag of sweet corn. I have to cut recipes down to accommodate small groups… like when we first moved to California and didn’t know a lot of people yet. Or when it was just four of us navy wives, missing our spouses on deployment. Or last year, when it was only my husband and me, because (surprise) we were packing up to move again.
This year it’s a similar scenario. It’s our first Thanksgiving here in our Hawaii home, and I’m going a little bigger than I have been, but it’s still just going to be a couple friends and a low-key celebration. It’s still not a reason to practice really big recipes for a family feast and share here on my blog. But I don’t mind. It’s still one of my favorite days of the year.
Do I wish I could be with my family, or fill my house with dozens of friends? Of course. But it’s not in the cards, and Thanksgiving is not about wishing for what you can’t have. It’s about celebrating what you do have.
For the record, I think life in general is too short to be constantly complaining and thinking about how things could be better without working towards change. And this is coming from a gal who’s been diagnosed with anxiety and has panic attacks, one so bad this year, I was hospitalized. I’m only bringing up that tidbit to say I do understand that sometimes life is hard, or scary, or sad, but there’s something about the holidays that genuinely gives me hope and makes me want to appreciate the good things in life.
Here’s where it’s going to get a little mushy and/or serious. (“OK Lara, like the anxiety/live life to the fullest thing wasn’t mushy and serious…”)
Family is a word you hear a lot this time of year. I wanted to take some time and reflect on what that word has meant to me in my thirty-something years on this planet.
Let’s get the hard part out of the way… there are people out in the world I share blood & familial ties with, but they aren’t welcome in my heart or my home anymore. Yes, that sounds super harsh, but trust me, I tried many times to force those relationships to be something they are not. There’s only so many times you can be vulnerable and give second chances to someone before you realize that sometimes walking away is the healthiest and happiest route, even if it’s hard.
So for me, blood does not always equal family. Love equals family. Support equals family. Being able to be open, honest and your true self in front of someone equals family.
This post is not about being sad for the family members I don’t have in my life. I’ve moved on and know that I am better now. For the couple that have wronged me (mostly one, honestly), there are many more who have lifted me up, even if I don’t get to see and speak to them everyday. This is my chance to say thank you to them.
To my community theatre family that I grew up with: thank you. I spent the most awkward, formative years of life involved with a HUGE group of people who did nothing but encourage me to be myself, tell me I was beautiful when the kids at school told me otherwise, and taught me to celebrate all the little quirks and differences that make people special. I am so proud to have grown up surrounded by a community of people who never cared about gender, race, sexuality or anything superficial. They only cared about how you treated the people around you, and that everyone was able to be themselves. It shaped my philosophy and world view in the best way possible.
To my tight little group of girl friends who I have known since elementary school: thank you. Thank you for the sleep overs, the games, the dance parties and the stories we wrote. We weathered bullies and school yard anxieties and were there for each other if the guy we were crushing on passed us over at a dance. When we were together, we were able to be unabashedly silly. I know some of us drifted apart in high school and college, and we went down different paths, but I love that we found each other again. I am grateful for the way we support each other, and can still share stories, and at 30+ years old, we can still get down to some boy band jams when we need to. The reunions are few and far between sometimes, but it always feels like we are picking up right where we left off.
To my guys (and a couple girls), my high school friends who I ran around our hometown with like the lost boys: thank you. The memories we made are some of my favorites, from our parties that seemed to last all summer long, to our wintertime snowed-in adventures, to sharing music and deep thoughts in the parking lot of a 7-11 when there was nothing better to do. I don’t keep up with a lot of you these days, but I know some have found success, some have turned their lives around after falling on hard times, and sadly, some aren’t with us anymore. I still think of you and wish you the best.
To everyone who impacted my life at the Savannah College of Art & Design: thank you. No matter how much or how little we interacted, my times at SCAD were when I truly found myself and learned many lessons about the real world, relationships and adult friendships. I broke some hearts and had my heart broken and eventually found my soul mate. Some of you I luckily still talk to, if just in passing on social media. Some I see when we meet up at weddings or when we are in each other’s towns “on business” because we are all growing up. Some are on group messenger chats that have lasted years, and I get to talk to you all the time. I love seeing where everyone’s creativity has taken them and how much we all still support each other’s endeavors, and especially all the little families that have come from our years spent together in Savannah.
To my current Massachusetts friends, a lot of whom I met because of my job there: thank you. Some of you I worked with, some I got to know because of people I worked with, and some I knew long before and re-met (because of people I worked with, ha). Thank you all for helping me grow up while still having the time of my life. I’ll always cherish the standing open invite Friday parties at my house, backyard fiestas, taking over bars (especially on karaoke nights), and even the quieter hang sessions, on the couch, binging Netflix or just talking about life. I have known a lot of you for the least amount of time, but sometimes you feel like my oldest friends. The guys all became like brothers to me and the ladies, you accepted me into your lives and always made me feel like a true “gemstone”.
To everyone I’ve crossed paths with because of military life: thank you. While sometimes it takes me a little too long to warm up to new groups, I love that this community understands that it’s hard to move around and constantly say hello and goodbye to new friends. The strength of the people I have met in the navy, spouses included, never ceases to amaze me. A special shoutout to the ladies who stuck together during deployments and kept each other feeling positive and never, ever alone.
To my husband: thank you. For being my one, for being my best friend and partner, for never letting me doubt that you have my back, for teaching me to be spontaneous and seek adventure, for always holding my hand, and kissing me good night, and never forgetting to say “I love you” before hanging up the phone or leaving the house. You’re the best.
And of course, there’s my family. Thank you to my sister’s husband and her kids, for always being fun, and bold, and hilarious, and taking good care of her. It’s hard to imagine our family before you came along sometimes. Thank you to my in-laws who have become like second parents to me, my sister-in-law and her beautiful, growing family, and all the aunts, uncles, cousins & grandparents still with us on both sides, who are always a joy to be around and make things so fun. Thank you to those who aren’t with us anymore too, for many happy memories.
The biggest thank you goes to my mom and my sister. It absolutely sucks sometimes that I have missed so many holidays with you and the rest of the family these past few years, but you never make me feel guilty. It feels like both of you and your support got me to all those wonderful places to meet so many wonderful people, from the schools I went to, the theatre community I fell in love with and, yes, even my old job. You are proud of my husband and support our unpredictable, semi-nomadic life, and I’m so grateful for that. Thank you for being crazy (in the best way), and for always finding a way to have fun, and for being able to say everything we are thinking to each other with just a look sometimes. Thank you for being on my side, no matter what, and giving me the tools I needed to become a strong woman. And thank you for being strong women.
I love you all. Sometimes life gets weird and lonely, but man, I’m so lucky to have met so many fantastic people and seen so many amazing places. And on a lighter note, I’m lucky that I live in an age with technology that makes it easy to stay so connected. Facetime & Skype are lifesavers and I still have group texts going with a least a couple people from almost every group I mentioned above. So thanks, iPhone, even if you are spying on me!
This wasn’t the easiest thing to write, but being truly open and honest isn’t usually easy, even if it is coming from an optimistic place. I’m not always good at reaching out, and showing affections, so sometimes I am afraid to start. There’s always the fear that someone will want to rain on the parade, but I am reminding myself that to be a stronger person, sometimes you have to vulnerable and reach your hand out to others. Best case, you touch them and they reach back. Worst case, they turn away, and I’ve learned that that is their problem to work on, not mine.
I’m writing this on Thanksgiving eve, to be posted late tonight, not sure of what response I will find in the morning. My food prep is done, my wine glass is almost empty, and I’m ready to go to bed with a heart full of love and gratitude, and a mind that feels free and clear. Isn’t this what the holidays are supposed to be about?
I hope everyone can find their own bit of happiness this season, and that you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family, near or far.