A Throwaway Tradition

Traditions are important to me, holiday traditions especially so. One of the first times I remember being impacted by a change to tradition was as a child. When I was young, my mama made Stollen, a German bread, every Christmas as a nod to our German ancestry. The year she announced that she wasn’t going to make it anymore, I was crushed. It wasn’t so much that I missed the bread; I didn’t. Honestly, I didn’t even like Stollen. What I missed was losing something that was always there, or at least had been as long as I could remember. It took until I became an adult to realize that yes, traditions are important, but flexibility with those traditions is also important. A tradition that is too rigid to change is a tradition that becomes a chore instead of a joy. My mama realized this, hence her decision to no longer make Stollen.

After our oldest son’s first Christmas, Kenn and I created what would become one of the first holiday traditions for our small family. After spending that Christmas on the road running from one family’s house to another and not having any time to enjoy the day or each other we decided that our future Christmases would be spent at home; if our parents wanted to see us on Christmas day, they could come to us. (We all lived within 20 miles or so of each other; it’s not like we were expecting anyone to fly across the country.) That tradition has remained in effect all of these years. Now that our sons are grown and one has a family of his own, that tradition may change. If/when it does, we will go with the flow.

One of the first changes I made to one of our own traditions involved our Christmas tree. I had had a love/hate relationship with Christmas trees for a long time. I loved the finished result but my perfectionist tendencies when it came to getting the lights and garland “just so” tended to turn me into a Grinch. Add to the mix cats who live (and love) to knock ornaments off the tree and rearrange the garland daily and some days having a tree was just exhausting. Once the kids were no longer interested in helping decorate the tree, I really wasn’t enthusiastic about going through the steps anymore. Things kind of came to a head in 2016, the year my daddy died. There was a lot of “life” and loss that year and I just didn’t have it in me to deal with a Christmas tree. Kenn disagreed which was fine. I told him we could have a tree but he would be responsible for all of it: the lights, garland, decorations and re-decorating it daily. Eventually I got Kenn to understand that my lack of desire to have a tree had nothing to do with grief (even though that was more than enough), it was more the culmination of years of stress. Yes, the grief was probably the final straw but it wasn’t the ultimate cause of my lack of interest. So, in 2016, we purchased a pallet tree. No garland, lights, or decorations required. Instead, I hung the Christmas cards we received from the strings on the tree.

Our 2016 pallet tree

In 2017, we purchased a 4 foot, pre-lit tree and haven’t looked back. I love our small tree and have no desire to ever go back to a larger one.

Our current tree. It makes me happy.

However, one of our traditions is designed to change every year and then to get thrown away. You see, I love plates for every occasion but have no interest in spending money on dishes that only get used once a year; I also have no interest in finding storage for them. However, I have found a way to indulge my love: Hobby Lobby always has a wonderful selection of seasonal paper plates. So, every Thanksgiving and Christmas I indulge in a new set of plates and napkins. Not only do I get to enjoy a different design every year but we get to enjoy gathering with our family without the worry of having to run the dishwasher constantly.

Our 2021 Thanksgiving plates
Our 2021 Christmas plates

So, what’s the point of this post? It’s just a friendly reminder to not let yourself get locked into traditions that no longer have the meaning they once did. It’s okay to change things up. Do what makes you happy – even if you throw it away afterward.😉

Until next time, take care, happy trails, and Merry Christmas!

Learning to Be Retired

I have now officially been retired for two years. Kenn retired a few months after I did so he has been retired for about a year and a half. I can honestly say that the decision to retire was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. When I told Kenn about my plans to retire he looked at me and said in all seriousness, “I don’t think you’re going to be very good at being retired.” Really? My response was “I am going to be awesome at being retired.” I am pleased to announce that I was correct. I have indeed been awesome at being retired.

I wore this “retiree” costume for my last Halloween in the office pre-retirement

Awesomeness aside, retirement does come with some adjustments. We were used to getting paid every two weeks. We now get paid once a month so that took some adjusting, but it wasn’t as hard as I expected it to be. Full-time retirement was a bit too much for Kenn so he got a part-time job with the local branch of the US Department of Agriculture. It’s pretty much the perfect retirement job. He works two or three days a week and gets to drive tractors and other heavy equipment. (Insert Tim Allen Home Improvement noises here.) The best thing about his job is that it’s flexible. If we want to hit the road for a few weeks with our travel trailer, we can.

This past weekend, I had an epiphany. Our normal method of travel has been to get in the car/truck and get where we need to go with little to no dawdling/side trips. When we were working this was a necessity; we needed to reach our destination to make the most of the time that we had. However, now that we’re retired, we still travel the same way. What’s up with that? We talk about side trips but don’t take them. Why not? We just haven’t changed that long ingrained mindset yet. Last weekend, we had a short visit with our grandson and then hit the road on Monday to take him back home to South Carolina. The trip followed our “normal” routine; the only stops were brief ones for snacks or restroom breaks. (Honestly, being able to help out with our grandson is one of the main reasons I wanted to retire. I was a happy Grammie to be able to make this trip and make things easier for our kids.) We stayed in SC overnight and returned home on Tuesday.

We got up Tuesday morning, checked out of the hotel, had a leisurely breakfast, and headed home. Instead of our usual stop at a convenience store or truck stop, Kenn pulled in at a small nursery and we spent a pleasant 30-45 minutes looking at plants and visiting with the cat and the elderly man relaxing in rocking chairs on the porch. When we got back in the truck (with several new plants) I was absolutely blown away at how relaxing that simple stop was. We made another stop in one of the small towns we always say we’re going to visit. None of the antique-y stores were open since they are only open on weekends but we did a little sightseeing and agreed to make a return visit sometime soon. Hats off to Kenn for breaking us out of our routine and helping us start what I hope will become our “new normal’. I’m looking forward to seeing what this new way of thinking about travel brings.

Until next time, happy trails!