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!

Road Trip: Changing It Up and Lessons Learned

During all of our previous trips, we have kept interstate travel to a minimum. The idea of towing in high-speed, bumper-to-bumper travel didn’t appeal to either of us. All of that changed with our recent trip; with as many miles as we were traveling, interstate was frequently the simplest way to get from Point A to Point B. Of course, interstate travel also meant that I didn’t do much driving on this time around.

This trip was a learning experience for us in many ways and one of the things we were learning was just how far we could comfortably travel in a day. The most we traveled in one day was 377 miles; we started the morning in Blountsville, Tennessee and stopped for the night in Williamsport, Maryland. Biggest lesson learned: 377 miles in one day is bit much. Going forward, somewhere between 250 and 300 miles a day will be our goal.

Most of the 377 miles mentioned above was spent crossing Virginia on I-81. If you are ever traveling the same route, I have two things to say: 1) Bless your heart and 2) I’m sorry. Virginia is a beautiful state and I would love to spend some time there NOT on the interstate. What makes this stretch so bad? First, it’s the trucks; there are semis everywhere. Second are the rest areas. Or maybe I should say, the lack of rest areas. Many of the rest areas in Virginia are Cars Only, which rules out anyone towing a travel trailer. The rest areas that do allow trucks (and therefore RVs/travel trailers) tend to be overflowing with semis. It was often easier to just keep driving than to find somewhere to stop and stretch our legs (or get away from the trucks) for a bit.

Sunset at the Unadilla / I-88 / Oneonta KOA in New York

Much to our surprise, the day we “only” drove 282 miles on mostly non-interstate roads was the day that really took the wind out of our sails. We started the morning in Unadilla, New York and stopped for the night in Lake Winnipesauki, New Hampshire. I was so looking forward to a day without being on the interstate but driving the back roads of Vermont with road work around every other curve was not a relaxing experience at all, LOL.

Another thing we learned is how much the condition of the roads impacts your travel. As native Georgians, most of our trips are in the Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, and South Carolina area and its a running joke with us how bad the roads are in South Carolina. Seriously, as soon as you cross the border into South Carolina, the roads become absolute garbage. (Unless you’re near Clemson University; those roads are pristine.🙄) However, the roads in the south aren’t exposed to the same weather extremes as those in the northern states. Not only do the northern roads take a beating from the weather but there is a shortened season for repairing that damage so there was roadwork absolutely everywhere. (One of our neighbors at a KOA in Maine used to pave roads in the state for a living and he said that they were required to have all road surface work completed by October 1st or October 15th depending on the location.) Also, after a day of taking a beating from the roads sometimes you go to bed and still feel like you’re being bounced around, LOL.

I try to think of each trip as an opportunity to learn. Our trip out west in 2019 taught us to take the weather at our destination into consideration when planning a trip. (Some areas actually have winter weather that lasts more than a couple of weeks. Who knew?😂) This trip we learned not to over-estimate how far we can comfortably travel in a day and also that other things such as road conditions or other unexpected delays may impact our plans and that that’s okay. We haven’t quite made the mental transition from traveling while working, which meant that we had a limited amount of time available before we had to be back at work, to traveling while retired which means that our schedule can be adjusted as needed. We’re working on it.

Until next time, take care and happy trails.