This holiday was challenging.

My husband lost three family members in the past six months and celebrating while you and the people you love are hurting is difficult. Yet, we have grandchildren and they are our joy. We planned much of our holiday around them and their happiness and excitement infused everything we did with gold.

One entire weekend was dedicated to just to them. They spent the night and helped us decorate our tree and the house, and did a large portion of our holiday baking. The next morning, we took them to run their first 5k, the HoHo Run. So. Much. Fun.

The next weekend, in spite of my husband’s last minute reservations and anxiety, (grief affects one at the oddest times and in many different ways), we threw a large open house cocktail party that turned out beautifully. As with all parties of that magnitude, I was kept busy serving, cleaning, feeding and chatting. The upside is that you get to see everyone without having to drive. The downside is that you get to speak deeply to no one.

The third December weekend, my husband and I had a staycation downtown. My birthday is the 22nd and our anniversary is the 27th, so we often combine them. He had bought me a Hibernal Writing workshop at the Corporeal Writing studio and we rented a room at a fancy hotel close by. We ended up having two glorious meals with friends, an early morning breakfast at a charming, eclectic 24 hour diner called The Roxy and I attended a craft-changing two day workshop. An ominous storm front had moved in and we didn’t get to walk around and enjoy the holiday decorations much, but it was a transformative weekend in many ways. Our impromptu Solstice/Yule celebration was lifted to a higher plane by a saxophonist playing jazzy Christmas carols just below. We threw open the windows in spite of the cold and the rain and listened to the music echoing through the city streets as the solstice candle burned down. Lovely.

Since my son married, we share the holidays and the grandchildren with his in-laws, so our big family festivities take place on Christmas Eve. This year, my son and I tackled a giant prime rib and it was perfect. Watching my grandchildren open gift was a joyous experience. Spending time with my grown children is equally joyous. I try to be a thoughtful gift giver-I don’t buy people things just to buy as consumerism is destructive-so it was rewarding to see how many of the presents I chose hit the mark. Christmas Eve was delightful, exuberant, riotous fun.

Christmas, by comparison, was blissfully quiet. I made blood orange mimosas, bacon and orange cranberry french toast for breakfast, followed by a long nap. Afterwards, we then read and played games until dinner when I made an amazing prime rib hash that was consumed with an unexpected bottle of red wine sent to us by a cousin. My husband and I intended to celebrate the solar eclipse with a bonfire, but were far too tired. Oh, and mom and I watched The Bishop’s Wife. How did I miss that one??? It was delicious in an old timey, Cary Grant kind of way.

For all intents and purposes, the holidays are over for us, as our New Year’s Eve and Day celebrations are generally quiet. As always, I ate and drank far too much and slept too little. And as always, I end the holidays with a sense of gratitude and an awareness of my own privilege. The amount of money and time spent on creating a magical holiday season is out of reach for so many people and I try to balance my privilege with extra giving and awareness. For instance, I participated in Settler Saturday, a twitter hashtag where you can give directly to Native Americans in need. I think of it as reparations. I also uplifted Native American authors by giving their picture and middle grade books to my nieces and nephews. For me, being aware of my privilege means nothing if I don’t do something about it. One of my intentions this next year is to take more opportunities to elevate the voices of people who have been historically marginalized, but there will be more on that next blog.

So in spite of all the challenges and the grief, we were able to create a joyous holiday season for ourselves and our family. My hope and wish is that everyone who reads this had a lovely and peaceful season as well, no matter what holiday you celebrate.