Coping With the Holiday Season

Thought's From The Softer Side:

by Fran Browne

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Even though Andy and I have been away from friends and family for almost two years, our retirement life in Costa Rica is thriving.  Don't get me wrong, I miss my family, especially during the holiday season.  Thanksgiving has always is one of my favorite holidays.  When we lived in the States, I always had a huge crowd gathering around multiple dinner tables, devouring turkey and celebrating our lives together. 

It did not matter whether we lived in Dayton, Ohio, Coral Springs, Florida, Boston Massachusetts, or Charlotte, North Carolina, family and friends would make their way to our house to spend several days, eating, drinking and just general messing around.  

There were even a few years where our house played host to 20 people, all living under one roof!  All available rooms were full with sleeping bags, air mattresses and pillows of every size and shape.  Bodies were everywhere.  We also started a traditional when we were in Charlotte; everybody would wake up extra early and participate in a 5K Turkey Trot.  Even though Andy would have to listen to me bitch about the mess from all those bodies and the cooking, it was the one holiday that we were all together and I really loved it!

Last year I knew I would be sad so we organized an “orphaned gringo” turkey day celebration in San Ramon.  It was open to all the expats who wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving with other orphaned expats.  We all had a lot of fun.  Everyone brought a covered dish to share and we brought the turkey.  A great time was had by one and all but most importantly, it took my mind off the fact that I was missing my family dearly.


This year we live at the beach and had no Thanksgiving plans. Instead of doing something on my favorite family holiday, we decided to do nothing.  This was a mistake.  We did talk about cooking a turkey dinner for two.  But since the price of a bird was so outrageous, we talked ourselves into roasting a chicken.  Thanksgiving dinner for two might be nice for a newly married couple but it sucks for old farts like us.  And making a beer can chicken with stuffing was not really a holiday meal although my homemade apple pie was awesome. 

Initially, I pretended that the day was OK but the next day as Andy and I were taking our morning walk on the beach; we both agreed that Thanksgiving 2010 was a complete failure and will not be repeated. 

We really did have plenty of options…we could have visited our friends back in San Ramon; we could have organized a Expat Orphans Turkey Dinner here at the beach; we could have gotten off our butts and availed ourselves of any number of commercial Thanksgiving Day celebrations.  But instead, we chose to stay home.  That’s why we had a sucky time and we were 100% to blame. 

For me, Thanksgiving is not about the food.  Rather, it’s about spending time with friends, especially when family is 3000 miles away.  Guaranteed, Thanksgiving 2011 will be very different.

With Christmas just around the corner, will I get depressed?  No way!  We are working with friends to throw a Christmas party for the local elementary school.  What better way to spend the holiday than to put a smile on the face of little kids.  I am also busy baking treats for many of our local friends who work so hard around our home. And I almost forgot; we also booked a Christmas Eve sunset boat cruise.  Open bar, lots of food and good friends.  Sounds like a plan.

The valuable lesson that I learned this year is that you need to be proactive on the days that you know are special.  Your family did not move away to a foreign country, you did.


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