…is celebrating not only with family (who I of course love spending the holidays with, regardless), but with my “extended” family…my friends.

I was lamenting to my sister Jess the other day that this year, more than any other, I feel the closest with my friends than ever, and have a very specific set of whom I’d call my best friends. The friends I can count on two hands (or less) that I always enjoy spending time with, laughing with, sharing moments with, and sharing (and supporting) during the tough times too.

Friendships are hard. Let’s face it.

They take some work to define, some time to establish trust, and friendships are truly a commitment you need to honor. But, it goes both ways. It shouldn’t change when you get married, or meet a new significant other. Of course, friendships can adapt to changing forces in your life, but they shouldn’t be neglected, just like any relationship. But I’m proud to stand behind my friendships, as I value them so much. They are an extension of my family, truly. And I think that adds so much to life, doesn’t it?

I’m so thankful for my friends – you know who you are (I hope!) – and you’ve been my rocks, my support, my humor, and so much of my life this year. And I am so looking forward to ringing in the New Year with almost all of you (and those that cannot make it, you’ll be there in spirit!), because 2011 is going to knock the socks off 2010, I can feel it. For all of us. I just know it.

Friendship…‘if you want to cry, I’ll be your shoulder, if you want a hug, I’ll be your pillow, but anytime you need a friend, I’ll just be me.’

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Well friends, I must say, I had an amazing Thanksgiving and feel so thankful to have so much goodness in my life. It was a blur of a day, but a beautiful one at that.

First up? Wild Turkey Run in Salem and it was frigid.As in 30 degrees and major wind chills. And the entire route was by the water. As in, smack dab next to it. Needless to say, I couldn’t feel my ears, I couldn’t feel half of my face (the side facing the wind) or my legs. But I made it. I passed sections that were part of the Wicked Half marathon route, and it brought back flashbacks (some good, some bad!) and had a really tough side cramp. But Doctor Boy stuck by me the entire time and made sure I was okay. It felt awesome to share this with him, a race I’ve done for a few years now on Thanksgiving. One of the many things I love about him is being able to share in things that mean a lot to me (and vice versa) like running, and races (from time to time!). Thankful.

Next? I headed up to Maine to spend the day with my grandparents (who I thank God for every day that they are in such great health) and my mom. It was a quiet, small gathering, as my sisters were with their in-laws (we’ll all be together for Christmas though, which is exciting!), but it was wonderful to have so much one on one time with them. They genuinely care about my life, they wanted to hear all about Doctor Boy, and they are just the best. Thankful.

From there? I headed back home and to Doctor Boy’s parents’ house for dessert. I was slightly nervous as his uncle and brother and sister-in-law were there too and I wanted it to be good and fun and natural and not awkward. And it was! I was welcomed by his father who said “there she is! come in! come in!” which for some reason, made me smile and feel so happy. My heart swelled. I felt welcomedThankful.

Waking up this morning, Doctor Boy said my coming last night meant the world to him. He was so happy and said he can tell his family really likes me. That meant the world to me. I don’t think he is “used to” having someone in his life that wants to spend time with him and his family (perhaps his ex didn’t…), so when he says these things, I am still surprised, because of course I want to share these times with him. Isn’t that what love is all about? Thankful.

It’s been a great holiday so far, and as I sit here looking at the new Christmas tree I got today (and of course couldn’t wait to put it up!), I’m feeling thankful and excited for the holidays to come.

Christmas Eve is so different than last – in ways I’ve already described, but in a few others as well.

First, it will just be different given my Nonna is no longer with us. Christmas Eve tradition of past has always, always, meant dinner at Nonna’s, with lots of Italian goodies, from spidini, to lasagna, to meatballs…the WORKS! She was the “matriarch” of sorts for my dad’s side of the family, and her home was the holiday epicenter. This year, everyone’s basically going their own ways, and part of me wonders if that’s because it’s easier to do that, then to face that it IS different, and will never be the same. But, she’s in my heart, I can feel her all around me, and I know she’s looking down on each of us (my sisters, my family etc) and wanting us to be happy, not sad, because that is what the holidays are for – happiness and family. I also replay last Christmas Eve in my head, from the words she spoke to me that I’ll never forget. Now, it makes me beam with pride and memories.

Another reason why Christmas Eve (and day) will be different? My sisters and I haven’t spoken to my dad since early October, just before our birthday. We’ve never had the strongest relationship with him, and tend to get into fights (usually, almost always, driven by him, not us!) over something stupid and then don’t talk for months at a whack. Well, it’s that time of year again, apparently, and we haven’t talked to him for quite some time. It’s dissapointing that silly arguments can elevate into vicious fighting, and I wish it weren’t the case, but I’m sticking tight with my sisters and we’ll enjoy the holidays together, with the rest of our family (note – we’ve never been nearly as close to him as to our mom, since they divorced when we were quite young, so I hope this post doesn’t come across as crass or heartless, because it’s not meant to…it’s just the way our relationship has always been with him, lots of ups and downs.)

Despite these differences, I’m hopeful, content, and at peace with the state of my life and my family at this moment, and am heading into the holidays feeling victorious. To all of you – enjoy, have fun, and most importantly, eat, drink, and be merry!!

The holidays are coming upon us quite quickly, and as I sit here, staring outside at the snow (secretly VERY happy I don’t have to battle a snowblower or attempt shoveling – the benefits of NOT being a homeowner this year far outweighs the benefits for me, this year!!), I can’t help but think about how different I feel this year vs. last.

Now, I know I’ve talked about it a bit already, leading into Thanksgiving, but I think it’s worth mentioning again because of any holiday, Christmas is by far, the time of year when you most want to be happy and enjoy the company of family and friends. Last year, I tried to make the most of it, and I have some very poignant memories of last year that I will never, ever forget, so I can’t for a second say that the holidays last year weren’t memorable or happy in any way.

For example – probably one of the moments most permanently engrained in my memory and my heart, is spending some amazing moments with my Nonna (Italian for grandmother) on Christmas Eve (little did I know that the next day, she would have a heart attack (that would lead to her passing the following May). She had some powerful, yet simple words for me on being strong, feeling loved, and knowing that I would come out of this happier and even more loved by family and eventually, someone special. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, and I know Christmas Eve/Christmas will be hard without her around. But I am thankful that I was able to spend that time with her last year – if the “situation” had not occurred, I would have been with my in-laws, and I never would have shared the most poignant memory with my Nonna ever. So for that, I am glad.

Now that I’ve sufficiently made myself cry (mostly happy tears, but a few sad ones, for Nonna), I look forward to the weeks ahead, spent with family and friends. This weekend, I spent a wonderful day with my sisters and my mom for my mom’s birthday. It was an excellent day, and I really enjoyed spending all day with my sisters and mom, since we don’t get to do that too often alone. It felt like the official kick-off to the holidays!

Next up? “Crashing” my sister’s place on Christmas Eve for her annual celebration with her in-laws (who have “adopted” me as their daughter-in-law, too…they’re amazing!). Christmas with my grandparents in Maine (who just celebrated their 60th anniversary – they are one of a kind, and truly stand the test of time), and a New Year’s Eve party that is sure to be memorable, fun, and filled with food and wine.

What more could a girl ask for?! (sure, a kiss on New Year’s would be nice, but as boy #9 will be away, I’ll settle for kisses on the cheek from friends!!)

Wow. I am SO excited for the holidays – Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s – and it is starting to hit me how happy I really am, and really optimistic about 2010. 2009 was a year of growth and renewal for me, but it had its fair share of ups and downs, obviously, as well. So, while last year the holidays were tough for me, as my emotions were so raw and I was just so sad, given how new the pending divorce was, at the time, this year, I am so excited to spend time with family and friends.

I was talking to my sister Jen about the holidays last night, and was sharing how happy I am going into the holidays, and thinking back to last Thanksgiving, when she made a really selfless decision for ME, to come spend Thanksgiving with me and my grandparents, while my brother-in-law went alone to his family’s Thanksgiving dinner. It meant the world to me, and to this day, I am so grateful she did that for me, because I don’t think I could have gotten through the day without her.

So, looking at this Thanksgiving, and the holidays in general, I’m happy to also have the freedom to go whereever I want (rather than in years past, have to split time with my now-ex in-laws in CT., and my own family), when I want. It feels good to be able to do that, and get the most out of the holidays this year in particular. I have a lot to be thankful for, and will use some of this week’s posts to talk about all that I’m thankful for.

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On a side note, I’m also looking forward to Thanksgiving as I am running my first 5-miler race with my sister Jess and my brother-in-law. Last year, I remember watching them run it and wonder how they do it, as I had never run a step before, let alone run. I love a good workout but running was always my stumbling point. I started running in February and have worked my way up to a handful of 5Ks, and am looking forward to conquering a longer 5-mile run! I’ve been doing it weekly, leading into it, so I think – and hope – I am ready!