Holiday Res[e]t

We are now deep into the Christmas season, and quite frankly as far as planning goes, I’m very behind. Christmas day is a mere week away, and I’m just now wrapping presents for my daughter, trying to figure out what to buy the rest of my family, and Christmas dinner??? That menu hasn’t even started evolving in my mind. But it will be fine. It always gets done. Always.

 I’m normally not this far behind, but this year has been the year of exceptions. Yes, we have a 14 month old busy baby girl, but her enthusiasm for disorder is not my excuse.
No, we did Thanksgiving away, and I still don’t know if I’ve quite returned yet.
Thanksgiving weekend typically sets me up for the month of December. It is the castoff into the epic Big Three Holiday Season that sends us spiraling out of control with menus, shopping, and Christmas parties. It is the kickoff celebration into festive insanity.
And we completely skipped it this year.
Earlier this year, I could feel the dread of the madness coming, and I told Samuel I wanted to completely buck tradition and go away for Thanksgiving. Let me be clear, I love the traditional Thanksgiving. I love family. I love cooking. I love the food. But after a while, it all blurs together. Tradition after all is doing the same thing, the same way, each year, and it’s a wonderful thing. But sometimes all the sameness is overwhelming and a bit demanding.
My husband, my daughter, and I flew from our vacation in Hawaii on a red eye into Seattle, Washington on Thanksgiving morning instead of returning home to North Carolina. We checked into our hotel and took a nap around the time we would normally be getting up and rushing to either start cooking or getting dressed to head to family.
A few hours later we woke up completely relaxed, too relaxed for a family who just flew on a red eye and got only a few hours of sleep. But we woke up with no pressure, something rare on a holiday as an adult. I realized it was the first holiday in a long time, maybe since I was a child, when I wasn’t responsible for something going wrong.
And it simply felt amazing.
My husband couldn’t ruin the turkey. I didn’t have to worry if side dishes were hot enough. We didn’t have to drive anywhere. And I especially didn’t have to worry about a massive pile of dirty dishes. Instead I actually got to watch the Thanksgiving parade on tv instead of scurrying around cooking something or other. And we got to play with our daughter in the hotel pool and watch her squeal with delight when we threw her around in the water. It was pure delight. I met other families in the hotel who were doing the same thing. They decided like us that they weren’t doing the traditional Thanksgiving this year, and it was the most relaxed group of people I’ve ever been around on a holiday. We all had dinner reservations for later, so the most vexing thing any of us had to do was drag ourselves out of the jacuzzi and shower in time to walk to dinner.
Thanksgiving Dinner at Cutter’s downtown Seattle, Washington
Trio of delicious Pumpkin Desserts that I didn’t have to worry about making! 
It was a completely new and bewildering feeling for a girl like me who obsesses over a gourmet menu for every holiday meal. And I’m not going to lie, I liked it.
The feeling has stayed with me since that glorious Thursday a few weeks ago, thus my Christmas planning has been completely sidelined. But I’m not worried about it because worrying about the holidays is not on my agenda this year.
 I’ve found as an adult that instead of owning the holidays and enjoying every part of them, the holidays have been owning and controlling me. Now that I have a daughter, I don’t want to be a stressed mess every year because small things aren’t coming together as planned. Between instagram, Pinterest, Food Network, and every magazine that comes in the mail, the expectations of what the holidays are supposed to be has gotten out of control. The pressure for the perfect gift, the perfect menu, the perfect day has sucked away all the joy from the actual holiday. And I’ve had enough.
What is the purpose of all of this?
I’m learning that if I have to worry about something over the holidays, it’s probably not the right thing to be focusing on anyway. The holidays are supposed to be about family, traditions, thankfulness, food, quality time, reflection and celebrations of Jesus’ birth. But in the chaos of it all to make each year bigger and better than it was before, I’ve gotten away from this. And in talking to other people, I think a lot of us have gotten away from this.
The reset over Thanksgiving forced me to take a step back and think about how I want the holidays to look for my family of three longterm. It showed me that every year can be a little bit different, and it will be ok. Tradition doesn’t have to be met every year. And the pressure of taking that off the table makes me look forward to it in the years we decide to do it. I want to simply enjoy the holidays again. I want to allow time for the wonder in my daughter’s eyes. I want to cherish her delight in the season, and that means I can’t be stressed about little things from November until January 1st. So what if I don’t make the best menu of all time, or throw the best party, or decorate my entire house, or bake 10 dozen cookies, or a 3 layer cake? As long as I’m with her and watching her eyes light up at a dancing Rudolph the reindeer, I’ve had my holiday moment.

People have asked me afterwards how I felt about skipping the traditional Thanksgiving day almost as if they’re looking for regret on my part. Nope. No regret. It was one of the best things I did for my family of three this holiday season. It won’t happen every year. In fact, I am actually looking forward to a traditional Thanksgiving in 2018, but Thanksgiving 2017 won’t be the last holiday that we just drop everything and disappear to another part of the world for a holiday reset. I love traditions, but sometimes we need to escape them to once again realize what those traditions actually mean. Sometimes we simply need to go off wandering.

It’s in the wandering where you can find what really matters to you and your loved ones during the holiday season.

May you find many joyful and peaceful moments together this holiday season.
Isla playing in the Teddy Bear Suite at our hotel, the Fairmont Olympic, on Thanksgiving Day

A Walk Through Fire


We inched closer.

Because there was nothing stopping us beyond our better judgment. There were no guards, no rails, no signs for directions for viewing the active lava flow. This was the wild. What we did was up to our discretion, our safety.

My heart leapt with excitement. The hot lava oozed all around us, destroying and creating at the same time. The island of Hawai’i has lost many lives and homes to the four volcanoes that make up this beautiful island. The story of the volcanoes is an ongoing thread through their history. The volcanoes make the island. The volcanoes destroy the island. The people who live here revere it. And understandably so. Before I witnessed the flow, I would hear people talk of the volcanoes with respect. After viewing the active flow, I see why. You have to respect something this powerful in nature. It’s God’s creation, still at work. It’s His creation, still creating. It’s humbling and awe-inspiring.


When we had planned our trip to the Big Island of Hawai’i, we hadn’t planned on visiting Kalapana, the sight of the active lave flow, but a chance encounter with a French Canadian hiker on Mauna Kea sent us on the adventure. From Kalapana, we rented bikes from one of the many vendors and we rode three miles along the coast to get as close to the active flow as we could. It was a bumpy ride, past tiny homes and shacks built on the existing lava fields. On one side of their home, the Pacific ocean looms; on the other side, there’s an active volcano.  It’s a desolate place to build one’s home, and I wondered who decided to set up camp here. Artists trying to escape the world? Scientists? Daredevils? It’s a life sandwiched between water and fire.

At the road block, we parked our bikes and turned away from the ocean,  it was an estimated 1.5 mile hike to where the lava was flowing. We strapped our daughter onto my husband’s back, and we took off toward the volcano. The cooled black lava, cracked and bristled beneath our feet. It reminded my husband and I of the ribbon candy you see at Christmas time, but a much more sinister version. The color of licorice, but the consistency of rock in some places, and ash in the other, it was unlike anything I had ever encountered before. Some places were firmer than others. My husband yelled back to watch where I stepped for fear of slipping through the many layers of the ash. Some places chipped with the slightest pressure. It was both an exhilarating but exhausting hike. You could only move so fast over the vast lava field. The trek was uneven over ribbons and ribbons of cooled lava flow. Cracks in the earth would suddenly be in front of us, mounds of lava built up on either side. We carefully picked our path closer to where the flow was coming from. It was desolate but beautiful at the same time. The closer we got, the hotter the air grew.

And the ground.

The ground itself felt like it was on fire. My feet grew warm inside of my shoes slowly like a frog in boiling water.

Steam rose up through vents in the ground, and we knew we were getting closer.

The smell of sulfur told us that we had arrived. The black field was now broken up by silver streams of fresher lava flow not yet cooled and speckled with blazing lava in the cracks.

We couldn’t believe what we saw. Despite being told what we would see, it’s a different feeling seeing it in person, experiencing the heat and the steam a mere few feet away from you. All around us, the air crackled like a fireplace. And suddenly, it started to rain. The hot ground sizzled as the raindrops met it.

Fire and water meeting yet again.

We inched closer to see the ground ooze forth with the red and orange flames, and suddenly another explorer yelped. The ground beneath us cracked. I looked down and realized that lava flowed under the crack beneath my feet. I jumped back farther away, realizing that my exhilaration for this moment couldn’t completely override my sense for safety. I wasn’t Frodo trying to destroy the ring of power at Mt. Doom in the Lord of the Rings. I was simply a witness to this power.

Standing there staring at the lava, with all of my senses alight, I soaked everything in as best as I could. These were the moments, we travelled for.