My First Thanksgiving with Family in 5 Years

As I sit in the Raleigh-Durham International Airport, waiting to board my flight to Austin, Texas, I can’t find words to describe what I am feeling. What I’m feeling is a combination of eagerness, joy and grief. Eagerness to see my family, joy as I think about holding and playing with my nieces, and grief as I think about how I spent my last five Thanksgivings creating a family environment for girls aging out of foster care and how I won’t have that this year. 

2015 was the last Thanksgiving I spent with my family and 2016 was the first Thanksgiving I spent with Zoie’s Place creating a new family with the young women aging out of foster care. For the last five years, I have spent Thanksgiving and Christmas with 30 young women who either didn’t have family to visit during the holidays, or choose instead to spend their holiday at Zoie’s Place, a housing program for homeless youth. 

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed introducing them to my family traditions such as playing board games and going to the movie theatre post Thanksgiving meal nap. I challenged my girls to learn how to cook some of the traditional Thanksgiving day meals, and learned from some of them as they cooked things I am not familiar eating on Thanksgiving. I have loved creating memories with the Zoie’s Place girls over the years, but I have also missed spending my favorite holiday with my immediate family. 

In the Art of Extreme Self-Care: 12 Practical and Inspiring Ways to Love Yourself More, author Cherly Richardson purposefully title’s chapter 1 End the Legacy of Deprivation. When you’re walking through a season of overwork, a demanding and arduous job, a burdensome on-call schedule, or exhausting seasons of busyness can deprive us of things we love and need. In this chapter, the author encourages her readers to spend thirty days taking note of things they feel deprived of through journaling. While grief is one of the emotions I am feeling about not being able to spend Thanksgiving the way I have spent it for the last five years, I’m looking forward to getting back one of the things I wrote on my list of things I was feeling deprived of– quality time with my family.

Overwork and burnout will not deprive me of quality time with my family this year. This year, I will engage once again in silly family traditions. I will stand outside next to Kasey in the backyard for the annual sibling picture against the cabana railing (minus one sibling who lives in Tennessee). I will laugh hysterically when my brother gives silly clues that sometimes only make sense in his own mind while we play Taboo. I will fight with my sister Brooke over who gets to make the cheese ball, hoping this year is the year she lets me finally win the fight. I will pretend to care about football for my dad as we watch the Cowboys play the Raiders, because I’m so thankful he made it back safely from his deployment to Kuwait. And I will make sure my mom stops cooking long enough to take a shower and get dressed before the guests arrive. 

If you’re in a season of busyness and overwhelm and you feel like you can’t get your head above water, take a minute to write down what was once in your life that is missing now. What are you feeling deprived of? Are you deprived of quality time with the people you love? Are you deprived of sleep or true rest? Write those things down and pick one thing you can take back. 

Happy Thanksgiving, friends. 

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