The Holidays

LIV: Why Am I So Afraid Of My Favorite Season (The Holiday Season)?

I love the holidays so much.

But, I have such a fear of spending the holidays alone. I can’t tell you why I have this fear since every year (especially while in a relationship), I end up on my couch, drinking wine and watching Eloise At The Plaza or Les Miserables completely alone.

The hopeless romantic in me starts picturing it differently every year starting before Halloween, and here’s what the hopelessly romantic Bree creates:


Given that I normally travel during the holidays, I picture myself and my spouse in a different city where there’s a brisk chill and lots of layers.

We run out into the rain, or snow, to stock up on movie snacks, hot cocoa/tea and movies that can be enjoyed together in our matching PJs.

Of course the hotel that we’re staying at has an amazing view of some of the most beautiful Christmas lights you’ll ever see, so we have the curtains drawn on the big beautiful windows.

We cozy up on the couch nearest the window in our PJs and house shoes, cups in hand and just look gratefully into each others eyes. Happy to spend such an important day with each other… Feeling like, even if it isn’t so, we are everything that we need…

That night is full of laughs, warmth, cuddles, food and love… That’s what I imagine for the holidays.


But, let’s do an expectations vs. reality deal here! My expectation looks GREAT for the older, more settled in version of Bree (after elevating my circle, settling comfortably into a job that I love, and a bit of solo travel)!

My reality each year usually isn’t anything like this however. Even when I was in a relationship during the holiday season, my significant other was either overseas in the military (good excuse) or, for other exes, somewhere being selfish and cheating (not gonna lie). This could have easily created another reason why I fear my favorite season altogether (you know, it being a constant reminder of my life’s patterns...), but I digress…

Luckily for me, I usually get the chance to celebrate early with my family alongside my 4 brothers and sisters! Do you know how many cuddles you can get when you have that many siblings! 

So I may not have experienced my perfect ‘The Holiday’ Holiday, but I usually have a great one anyway, so bring on my favorite time of year!

  *Stock Image Used* 

XLIII: Washington D.C. - Can We Eat A Little?

One of my absolute favorite places in the world (so far), is Washington D.C. I love this place so much so that I make it a point to go there each year (time and money permitting). 

On this year's wonderful trip, I decided to invite my mom, who never travels, and my sister, who always travels. My main goal was to eat as much food as I could and to celebrate my 27th birthday. This was the perfect plan because everyone on the trip knew that I literally only went there to eat and see the city (two very easy things to do in D.C.).

So, when we finally got there, my first stop was:


Bojangles | Famous chicken n' Biscuits

This was our first stop, mainly because I was hyping this place up for about a month before we actually got to D.C. and secondly because of it's close proximity to our hotel. We were staying in the heart of Capitol Hill (literally a 5 minute walk to the Capitol) which was conveniently placed by Union Station. Union Station is a beautiful metro station filled with food (BOJANGLES!) and stores for shopping. 

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We ordered about $40.00 worth of food which came in a huge box (with a sweet tea). You literally cannot go wrong with either spicy chicken wings, or spicy chicken strips from Bojangles! Add a side of their perfectly seasoned fries, and red beans and rice and you've got a satisfying food coma. 

If you can't resist something sweet, then I highly recommend that you get one of their BoBiscuits (even though I missed out on this gem) or one of their delicious pies. 

Something else that we missed out on was requesting that they throw some Mumbo Sauce in with our order. My friend mentioned, over and over, that we find Mumbo Sauce while we were in Washington D.C. (the home of Mumbo Sauce), but it just kept slipping our minds due to all of the other excitement around us. 

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The next morning, we all got up, got dressed and asked for food recommendations! One place that everyone at our hotel (Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill - horrible service and you'll always get overcharged) couldn't stop raving about was Art & Soul. 

Luckily for us, this restaurant was located right across the street and all we had to do was take one hot and humid stroll over. 

Art and Soul

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This was basically a fancy twist on soul food. Now, normally, anytime someone attempts to "fancify" soul food, it's disgusting and offensive, but, Art & Soul was a pleasant surprise that I did not see coming. 

The ambiance inside of this restaurant was everything that you imagine for a swanky, upscale, D.C., socialite-type of restaurant. It had a clear and open floor plan, low hanging lights, a chic color scheme, and it was well furnished.

We were seated at a high table near the bar (so my friend could watch sports, I mean, enjoy being in my presence), and one thing that stuck out to me was the fact that there was a huge, beautiful floor-to-ceiling mirror with silver sparkly trim to our right. In the reflection was nothing but us four and the beautiful restaurant behind us. It was a beautiful sight to eat brunch to...

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Now let’s get to the food. 

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I ordered cheesy grits with ham and bacon. This was a perfectly savory breakfast that was surely to stick to the arteries!

My friend got delicious lemon pancakes with mixed berries cooked into them. Now, the lemon flavored pancakes were good enough alone but with the mixed berries... it was simply amazing! If I get the chance to go back to Art & Soul, that will be my next meal. 


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Shake Shack

Next up, well after a nail shop, a farmers market and a very pleasant visit to Loc Luv, we went looking for a quick bite. What better place to grab a quick bite than Shake Shack?!

If you have ever been to the East Coast and haven't tried Shake Shack then you're totally missing out. It would have to be the best burger and fries combo that you can get. I ate it a total of 2 times in about 3 total days while in the food hub (Washington D.C.), so trust me when I say that this food is good. 


RPM Italian

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This was probably the best meal I've ever had.

No, I am not over-exaggerating! If you've ever been to Washington D.C. and had RPM Italian, then you'll agree, it's some of the best food you've eaten. Even a dish as simple as spaghetti is delicious! 

This location is definitely a more upscale one, but they are still willing to serve you as you are. Trust me, I rolled up to this restaurant on my long board with my friend, dying from the humidity of D.C. and they were perfectly fine with treating us as if we were dressed in our finest. 

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The atmosphere was absolutely marvelous. We saw everything from: casual long-boarders on a mission for good food and a romantic evening to couples celebrating anniversaries, to co-workers in desperate need of a drink after work. 

I more than enjoyed myself throughout this whole dinner. I enjoyed the company that I kept and I especially enjoyed the food. RPM provided me with a dining experience that I will, surely, never forget.

Here's what we ordered:

Truffled Garlic Bread circa 1963

Spaghetti & Meatball

Sautéed Broccolini

&

The Seafood Pasta Special

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And, for dessert, we had:

Vanilla Gelato

Delicious Beignets

Together forever  - Tati | Terry | Brianna J. 

Together forever - Tati | Terry | Brianna J. 

*Stock Images Used Throughout This Post*

A Little Christmas Fun For Everyone?

Happy Christmas to all!

Because I am so against flooding social media during the holidays instead of flooding your family members with love, I've decided to keep this week's post fun, short, and sweet.

This week, I am posting 25 questions that the ladies of Let's Be Breef will answer simply and honestly. I have placed a letter next to each question so that the readers know who is responding to what. (B) is for Brianna J., (A) is for Anete, and (N) is for Nicole. So, try not to judge us for whatever happens next: 

1. What is your favorite past time? (N)

Reading

2. What is your favorite color? (A)

Red, with purple as a close second. 

3. Whales or Llamas? (N)

Whales.

4. Favorite Movie? (B)

Peter Pan, Wolverine, & Les Miserables. I cannot pick just one. 

5. If you could be any animal, what would you be? (N)

Cheetah

6. Favorite movie snack? (A)

Popcorn, of course!

7. Make-up "must have(s)"? (A)

Mascara and lipstick. Even on a plain-face day, they bring life into your look. 

8. What is your shoe size? (B)

Huge. Just kidding, but not really! I wear a 10 in Nine West heels (my go to heels), and a 9.5 in Vans, Nikes, and Timberlands. Those are basically the only shoes that I wear, so I have no clue about my sizing with other shoe types. 

9. Vogue or Elle? (N)

Neither. 

10. Favorite clothing brand? (B)

Worthington at JC Penney's, Old Navy, and Zara. 

11. Guilty Pleasure? (A)

Reading smutty romance novels.

12. Marriage and kids vs. Single and career? (N)

Marriage and kids.

13. Big house vs. little house? (A)

Somewhere in the middle, but more on the little side. I want my house to feel like a home, not a museum. 

14. Future son and daughter names? (B)

Jazale Lynn ___ & Joel Kylo Kendricks ___.

15. Hard wood floors or carpet? (N)

Hardwood floors.

16. Dream destination? (B)

Anywhere, I just like to take in new surroundings, new people and new things.

17. What podcast are you currently obsessed with? (A)

I'm not really a podcast person, but "Serial" was a good one. 

18. What book are you currently reading? (N)

The Bible. 

19. Best movie this year? (B)

The Greatest Showman, hands down. 

20. Song/playlist of the year? (B)

21. Favorite TV show? (B)

Living Single, I am pretty sure that I am Maxinne Shaw.

22. Michael Jackson or Prince? (B)

Both, I win.

23.  If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? (A)

My penchant for overthinking everything and second-guessing my decisions.

24. What do you want for Christmas? (B)

To eat, smile, and spend time with family. 

25. Favorite Star Wars Movie? (B)

Episode Two - Attack of the Clones


Thank you so much for reading and Happy Holidays to you all!

The Greatest Showman (Review)

With such a great film, it is difficult to decide where to start. This movie was flawlessly done, from the cinematography down to the imagery and the costumes, this movie exudes excellence! Because it is so difficult to find a starting point, I suppose we can start with the beginning:

Opening

There's something about that classic 20th Century Fox Films Fanfare at the beginning of the movies that just tells me that I will thoroughly enjoy what's to come...

We open the official movie with the upbeat opening number "The Greatest Show". The image of Hugh Jackman posing with his back to the screen, long lapels, and a cane in a beautiful red coat. This creates an intense feeling of anticipation. The audience of show-goers ready to be handed happiness by none other than P.T. Barnum himself! All of this, a day dream, of course, of young P.T. Barnum staring into a shop window at the beautiful three-piece suit and top coat that he would one day wear.

The costume design by Ellen Mirojnick for this movie was insanely brilliant. The long lapels, double breasted coats, undone bowties and thick threading of every trench coat, pea coat and three piece suit fit flawlessly with the old-timey feel of the movie. 

One of my absolute favorite costumes of this movie belonged to young Charity Barnum while in boarding school. It was a Tiffany blue school girl uniform with a black neck-tie and white accents. 

Every costume and outfit was clearly thought out to match the character's back story. From Lettie Lutz's décolleté, dark satin purple dress to Phillip Carlyle's torso-hugging pure white button-up shirts with a perfectly laid white bowtie, undone of course. Mirojnick considered it all, and it shows. 

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This Is me

This powerful cry, better yet, scream could bring tears to the toughest person in the movie theater. 

This number was a testament to those who have ever been looked down upon or treated negatively for the things that made them different. 

Every time I hear this song, I can imagine the cast walking through the grand room of the theater with the upscale show-goers staring at them in disgust. Lettie leads her fellow showmen with her voice and her confidence which, in turn, creates confidence in them as they all stomp past those that do not understand them. The power of this scene is euphoric. I feel its power every time I hear this song. Keala Settle is a powerhouse and I hope she continues to create magnetic bliss with her voice the way she has in this film. 

Themes

You can tell how great a film is by how well they can tie many themes into one storyline. This film was full of meaningful themes. Some that I did not even catch until my second viewing, and many that I probably still have not caught. 

This film covers racism, classism, discrimination, love, humanity, and so much more. Each theme subtly tied into the other. The forbidden love shared by Anne Wheeler and Phillip Carlyle dealt specifically with racism, classism and insecurities. It was beautifully shown in the eyes of Zac Efron and Zendaya in scene after scene. 

We even learned a lesson or two from the theater critic himself, James Gordon Bennett played by Paul Sparks, but I won't spoil that story for you.

Dancing

Every dance number was memorable! When does this happen? NEVER. 

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Ashley Wallen of Queensland, Australia has created musical magic once again

The up-to-date dance moves in this film were insanely brilliant and memorable. From Anne Wheeler's hair pat in the final number to the footwork in "This Is Me", Wallen created modern musical gold.

Each number had fast paced footwork that hit every beat of the music. The intensity and energy of the characters in conjunction with it was vibrant, to say the least. I can never listen to "From Now On" without at a minimum giving it a solid shimmy (I owe this much!). 

For this movie, and so many more, Wallen should go down in history as one of the best choreographers to ever do it. This may just be my opinion, but when I go see a movie over and over (paying full price, mind you) just to get down the choreography so that I can properly dance to it at home, I think that is the impact that many choreographers strive for when they create a number. He managed to do this with every dance number in the film. Never have I been so inspired to figure out how to move these two left feet of mine! 

 

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Let's discuss Bay Area's own, Zendaya as Anne Wheeler:   I initially had  no  idea that Zendaya could sing. I believe she came to the Disney Channel when I was already bitter about no longer having my Boy Meets World, my Even Stevens, and my Lizzie McGuire's. When I downloaded The Greatest Showman soundtrack about a week or two prior to the movie's release and listened to "Rewrite The Stars" I remember Tweeting how sad I was to have missed out on her talents for  this  long.   Anne Wheeler's character is this tough and beautiful African American woman who performs alongside her brother W.D. Wheeler as trapeze acts. What immediately caught my attention was the fact that they did not do what typical movies do, which is, take the clearly beautiful woman and make her the clearly beautiful woman (same with Keala Settle). They hardened her, gave her a tougher and less graceful walk, they made her a more rigid but insecure character. I could see parts of myself in this character which is what made her so relatable and also made the movie that much more magical for me.    Also, we cannot discuss "Rewrite the Stars" without at least commenting on her amazing body and her intense and believable connection with Zac Efron's character, Phillip Carlyle. These two together are musical genius. Their eyes meeting is magic, it's breathtaking. I could blame that on Zac Efron's great acting or on Zendaya's perfection, but whatever the cause may be their love is believable.   Finally, I am not sure if Zendaya just loves butterflies or not but, her butterfly dress while at the theater in the movie and also the Moschino dress that she wore on opening night of The Greatest Showman were stunning. I am oddly, and probably irrationally, afraid of butterflies, but, seeing her in these beautiful dresses with her perfectly made-up face just makes me want a pet butterfly (I'll name him Carlyle).   Moving on, because I could talk about her for hours. 

Let's discuss Bay Area's own, Zendaya as Anne Wheeler: 

I initially had no idea that Zendaya could sing. I believe she came to the Disney Channel when I was already bitter about no longer having my Boy Meets World, my Even Stevens, and my Lizzie McGuire's. When I downloaded The Greatest Showman soundtrack about a week or two prior to the movie's release and listened to "Rewrite The Stars" I remember Tweeting how sad I was to have missed out on her talents for this long. 

Anne Wheeler's character is this tough and beautiful African American woman who performs alongside her brother W.D. Wheeler as trapeze acts. What immediately caught my attention was the fact that they did not do what typical movies do, which is, take the clearly beautiful woman and make her the clearly beautiful woman (same with Keala Settle). They hardened her, gave her a tougher and less graceful walk, they made her a more rigid but insecure character. I could see parts of myself in this character which is what made her so relatable and also made the movie that much more magical for me.  

Also, we cannot discuss "Rewrite the Stars" without at least commenting on her amazing body and her intense and believable connection with Zac Efron's character, Phillip Carlyle. These two together are musical genius. Their eyes meeting is magic, it's breathtaking. I could blame that on Zac Efron's great acting or on Zendaya's perfection, but whatever the cause may be their love is believable. 

Finally, I am not sure if Zendaya just loves butterflies or not but, her butterfly dress while at the theater in the movie and also the Moschino dress that she wore on opening night of The Greatest Showman were stunning. I am oddly, and probably irrationally, afraid of butterflies, but, seeing her in these beautiful dresses with her perfectly made-up face just makes me want a pet butterfly (I'll name him Carlyle). 

Moving on, because I could talk about her for hours. 

Rebecca Ferguson & Loren Allred

"Never Enough" was performed by Jenny Lind when P.T. Barnum brought her to America based on her reputation. He had planned their national takeover but when it came, it hit him like a ton of bricks. All of the fame came to be based on one song, "Never Enough".

This song, sung by Loren Allred, is another one of this movie's powerhouse songs. It was very unexpected as it was not one of the heavily advertised numbers, but it was one of the movie's best kept secrets. 

The emotions that went through me each time I watched this movie, this scene in particular, were vast in variety. We can start with the chills that you get when watching the flawless lip-syncing by Rebecca Ferguson and we can finish with the angelic voice of Loren Allred. This number will make every hair on your body stand on end and bring tears to your eyes. It did for me.   

Hugh Jackman & Zac Efron

Finally, I want to discuss our two musical veterans. I will start by saying that I love these two together. Not just because they are both handsome with amazing voices, but also because they are both passionate about every project that they do. 

Hugh Jackman literally becomes each and every character that he plays. Two out of three of my favorite movies have Hugh Jackman in them and he is completely transformed in each movie. That type of versatility in one person, one creator, one actor -- is timeless. 

What also stood out for me, since Les Miserables is another favorite movie of mine, was the fact that Hugh Jackman sounds differently in each film. His vocal range and ability is stunning, to say the least. Along with that, his acting is always exactly as it should be. He is P.T. Barnum through and through just like he is Logan and he is Jean Valjean. 

Zac Efron, you have come a long way from your Summerland days, but that is how I knew you best. When I saw Efron make the move to the Disney Channel and into musicals, I was nothing short of shocked. I fell into the High School Musical craze just like everyone else and have probably watched that movie a million times. Efron went on to make more films aligned with his age, but, in making his return to musicals this year, he leaves everyone questioning why he ever left.

Phillip Carlyle, a well-to-do and handsome young man becomes partners with P.T. Barnum and his circus. Carlyle shocked me the most because he turned out to be the complete opposite of who you would have expected him to be. His heart was as big and beautiful as his eyes throughout this movie and if you are able to watch this movie and not fall in love with Zac Efron doing musicals then you can knock me down with a feather because I believe he was born for this. 


I find it difficult to put this movie into few words (as you can see). And I have so much more to say on it, but I'd rather you see for yourselves. 

 If you wait to see it, you will regret having waited. If you rush to see it, you will see it time and time again. You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you will be happy.

The noblest act is that of making others happy.
— P.T. Barnum

Because I was interested in the man behind the film, I purchased and began to read the autobiography of P.T. Barnum. 

Read with me and let's all discuss: 

VI: What My Thanksgiving Will Look Like... ?

FAMILY

Imagine this:

The kids are attempting to cook, the turkey is raw, the cranberry sauce has touched the ground multiple times and cream of mushroom soup is going into things that cream of mushroom soup does not belong in. Just kidding, that’s an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.  During the Holidays, all of the “feel-good” shows and movies are in heavy syndication and running on all of my favorite networks all day long. My Thanksgivings are shaped and moulded by the shows and movies that I finally get to sit down with family and watch around the Holidays. All I have to do is grab a blanket, snuggle up next to whoever is taking a break from cooking at that moment and indulge.

If I’m next to my uncle, then I’m either watching Star Wars or The Peanuts; if I am next to my aunt then I am either watching The Nanny, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, or something on the Lifetime Network; if I am sitting next to my mom then we are definitely watching Martin talk about his Mama’s biscuits; if I am next to my sister (who doesn’t let me get too close) then we are watching the Macy’s Day Parade while she plans out her Black Friday Attack; and if I’m sitting next to my dad or grandpa then I am watching football, Walker Texas Ranger, Andy Griffith or old Westerns.

Oddly enough, the television is the way that I remember the Holidays the most. We are all basically gathered around the television with loved ones up until it is time to gather around the dinner table with loved ones. Thanksgiving for my family happens in two parts: the first part is with my father’s family (usually at my grandparents house) and the second part happens with my mom’s family (now at my cousin’s house). The flavors of the day are insane. I go from eating dressing, ham, yams, greens, turkey, fried chicken, and pie at one house with these flavors to eating the exact same things at another house with completely different flavors. How they do it is pure magic (Black Girl Magic), and all I want to do is learn so that I can, one day, host the Thanksgiving festivities.

LOVE

As I got older, my Thanksgivings were spent sharing a lounge chair made for one while watching television, eating Chinese food, laughing until we cried, and drifting in-and-out of sleep until we got the phone call that the food was ready. At that point, we’d get up and hit as many houses as possible just so that we could fill our bellies, laugh with family we hadn’t seen in months, play board games/video games, and then leave just to end up right back in that lounge chair. No matter how I spend my Thanksgivings, there are two things that are always a constant, family around the television and love.

As someone who is as anti-love as they come, something about the Holidays always lights the little love-flame in my heart. Nice gestures are in the air, giving feels good and manners have their rebirth around the Holidays. I am enchanted by it all. The colors and smells of the Holidays add a warmth in my heart that even Summer can't emulate. 

This upcoming Thanksgiving, I am most thankful for love, taste-testing the food, education, family, friends, creative minds and life. I am excited to spend my Thanksgiving with my loved ones eating all of the pies that I requested throughout the year, laughing, and watching television.

So to all I say, Let's Be Breef, but, most of all, Let's Be Thankful!


What Does My Thanksgiving Look Like?

Anete Millers

As a child, I always remembered waking up to a crisp autumn morning, with the heater providing a welcome solace from the outside November chill. The delectable smells of a Thanksgiving feast emanated from our home’s little kitchen, and when I settled into the living room, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade would be on TV while my mom prepared the turkey. For me, Thanksgiving has always been about one thing—family.

This is the time of year where our boisterous worlds quiet down a bit and life slows its pace. Hallmark movies and Christmas music start to make their entrance, and baking cookies and treats becomes a common pastime.

As the years go by, and my brothers and my sister get older, we begin to lead our separate lives. This sometimes creates a disconnect between the feelings of closeness we shared in our younger years. The holidays provide my heart with a chance to recover, not just from the stresses of everyday life, but from the emotions created by the slow, natural separation of family. When everyone is together again, it’s as if things never changed. I cling tightly to those feelings of warmth and familiarity, because as we age, the opportunity to experience them grows scarce.

The beauty of this holiday is in its simplicity. Most of us focus only on one thing—relishing our time with the ones we love most. Even when I was a teenager working in retail, I would make it a priority to enjoy Thanksgiving with my family. The following day (the much-dreaded Black Friday), I would be called to duty, but the holiday itself was always about old-fashioned enjoyment—having dinner and watching movies with my mom, my grandma, and my siblings, while sharing laughter and memories. Until my dad passed away in 2000, spending quality time with him was also a significant part of our holidays.

My mom always put a clever Latvian twist on her dishes, but for the most part dinner would consist of the usual Thanksgiving staples—a perfectly juicy, seasoned turkey (and sometimes ham), potatoes, gravy, stuffing, corn pudding, vegetables, and desserts like pumpkin pie and cobbler. The scents—spicy, sweet, savory—would swirl in perfect harmony and waft throughout the kitchen and living space while the kids helped set the table. Then, we would all come together, our mouths watering in anticipation for the meal sitting in front of us.

I look forward to this time of year because I get to take a mental breather and focus on the present, enjoying the company of the people I hold closest to my heart. I can sit on the couch and talk to my grandma for hours about random stories of her childhood, I can catch up with my siblings and see what is going on in their lives, and I can spend time with my mom, who is my best friend in so many wonderful ways. Not every family has the blessing of being so close for the holidays, so I always keep in mind that this is a time of gratitude—for everything and everyone we hold dear.

To our readers, I wish you a happy, safe, and beautiful Thanksgiving.


My Holiday!

Nicole Parker

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and I find these are the most joyous times of the year. The majority of the year is spent in a daze because of personal endeavors. The demands of this life continuously draw us away from the things and people who are most important. We’re forever in motion – racing, trudging towards the intangible notion of success to the point that we have little time for fellowship with family. Thankfully, this holiday has become a tradition where families come together. I know for my own family, each year it’s a miniature reunion that is usually held at my Aunt’s in Sacramento, California. Family from across the U.S. comes to her home and we revel in what has essentially turned into a homecoming of sorts.

The women usually share in the task of cooking the Thanksgiving meal while the men handle the laborious odds and ends. We each play our specific roles – be it baking a cake, basting the turkey, grabbing last minute items from the grocery store, cleaning, or setting up the rented tables and chairs, it all comes together through collaborated efforts. A house filled with people, the aroma of an assortment of soul foods, and the combination of laughter and holiday music put a stamp of peace on my heart this same time every year. Rejoining with distant cousins, aunts, nieces, nephews and even old friends who’ve become family is what makes Thanksgiving a day of jubilation. Card and domino games, dance contests, delectable desserts, and photos with our grandparents that forever capture a moment in time with their lineage make all the efforts put into making Thanksgiving happen worth it.

As the holiday approaches, I wish ALL of you a Happy Thanksgiving and pray that you all find time to spend it with the ones you love!