Carving out a simple new Thanksgiving tradition

Being an extravert and a lifelong fan of food, Thanksgiving ranks at the top of my favorite holidays. As a child I remember getting excited each time the door bell rang on Thanksgiving, basking in the tantalizing smells that wafted throughout our home (or of the home that we were in), and relishing the constant stream of chatter and laughter coming from the kitchen.

As the years went by Thanksgiving also meant wearing stretchy pants so that I could over-indulge well past the point of comfort. Eating massive amounts of food and thinking it was okay—because, well, Thanksgiving. The unintended consequence? For me Thanksgiving became more about careless eating—sprinkled with a little gratitude, than about anything else. This is the part of Thanksgiving that I plan on parting with. 

My husband Randy and I’ve lived in our little Colorado home for 12 years—and have yet to eat a Thanksgiving meal here. Neither one of us have family in town but we’ve always been fortunate to share the day surrounded by good friends. Because we’ve had our plates so full this Fall I didn’t actively seek out Friendsgiving invitations. For a people person, this feels foreign, yet oddly freeing.

I believe white space is where magic happens. And this year I have white space. So I’m taking the opportunity to create a new tradition with my family—Randy, our two grade schoolers Cole and Will Riley, and me—where we open our minds to bigger possibilities than we see in our day-to-day. 

Oh we’ll still eat of course. We’ve decided on a simple, yet flavorful menu that meets our desires for salty, sweet, and savory. Everyone choose a favorite dish. I choose Turkey, Randy a sweet potato bake, Will Riley wants pomegranates and Cole is asking for green peas, but told me he's fine if I add them to a larger green salad. It’s going to be a beautiful rainbow of color that’s easy to create and clean-up.

Because of the simplicity of our menu, I’ll have ample energy to focus on our new tradition. One where we carve out time to explore our possibilities, get a little uncomfortable, and deepen our connections between our heads, our hearts and one another. Kind of like treating ourselves to a retreat, read why everyone should do this here. What do I hope to achieve? That Thanksgiving becomes a day where we amplify the intensity of our intentions rather than the amount of food we eat. We’ll still express gratitude for all that we have—but I also want us to look forward and ask the question “what if?”

Sitting around the table, we’ll start by sharing what were most grateful for. This is familiar territory because we already do this each evening before dinner. Frequent answers from our boys are soccer, my basketball cards and names of certain friends. Occasionally there’s a momma’s dinner. All lovely to hear, but I’m going to gently push for more. We’ll discuss what we want our family legacy to be. Love? Health? Adventure? We’ll talk about the things we’d like to experience in 2019. We’ll go beyond vacations and share how we want to nourish ourselves throughout the year, the ways in which we want to relax, how we can get in more movement, all areas in which we have a voice. Each person will have multiple turns. There’ll be no wrong answers.

Once we’ve cleared away the dinner plates, we’re going to take the answers to those questions and create a family vision board. This vision is not just a day-dream or a fantasy. It’s the sensations, the feelings, the images that represent the way we want to live life when we’re living our best lives possible. The table will be covered in magazine pictures, markers, stickers, all kinds of creative inspiration. We’ll each find images and words to support our ideas. We’ll come up with a family mantra, and a team name. It’ll be a day of listening, asking, imagining and creating.

We need this so much more than a meal that's going to put us into a food coma. There are times when we’re divided, walls are up, and we’re not turning toward each other for comfort. We’re taking for granted the good right in front of us. Instead of working toward different end points, this vision board exercise will help us point all 4 of our ships, big and small, in the same direction. And in the end it’ll be easier to be faithful to our dreams because we’ll have vocalized those dreams. Faithful to our voices because we’ll have found common ground—ground that everyone want’s to rally around.

It’s a lot to ask for out of one day. And there might be complaints. My family might decide that they’re done before I feel we’re done. But they also might love it! Regardless, it’s worth taking a shot and whatever we end up with will be perfect. 

Maybe instead of saving years of calendars that keep me stuck in my past, I’ll finally throw those out and save our annual vision boards that motivate us into a brighter and better future. 

Life unfolds in small moments peppered by big moments.

On Thanksgiving, I’m sure there’ll be some football watching by Randy, Cole and Will Riley. Just as I’m sure I’ll be in another room taking multiple pictures of our vision board creation and excitedly sharing them on social media. But that’s us. My family, my team. We still have to do the hard work, but that’s what it’s all about. We must individually unfold but we’re stronger, together. We’re co-creating new memories, under one roof. Our roof. And for all that, I’m grateful. 

Now—I’d like to hear, what’s on your Thanksgiving day menu?