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Together and Apart: Navigating the Heart of the Holidays

Courage, Grace and Acceptance

Isolation is on the mind this holiday season, as most people opt out of family gatherings and opt in to safety and precautions for the ones they love. It seems almost contradictory to show your love by keeping distant. Sometimes when things are taken away, it emphasizes how important they are to you. The years I was thousands of miles away, I rarely had opportunity to get back home for the holidays, or even share it with family nearby, but I did relish in my family of friends. To me, family comes in all sizes, packages and places. As an adult, I’ve been able to increase my awareness of the role I play within my family network, to choose to embrace each moment with love, compassion and healing – and find the small things I can do to add positivity.

Yet still, the holidays are filled with a notion of physical presence, something we will all on some level be missing this year, especially when so many loved ones have passed away. So how do we be there without being there? How do we take back the season and make it one full of love and joy? This month I’ve been thinking about what makes a family and what makes a holiday wonderful. Some physical elements include food, laughter, stories, laziness, games, and cold weather. Time to get creative! Here’s some ideas on adapting these for 2020:


  • Send a care package of favorite treats, as several stores ship far and wide. I was able to ship my favorite local Los Angeles chocolate from Chokolatta to Green Bay. (Photo courtesy of Chokolatta, chokolatta.biz)

  • Family baking day where everyone makes cookies at their own homes and sends pictures to each other along the way.

  • What a great time to start sharing those old family recipes – talking about you, grandma’s lasagna.


  • Every morning my cousin sends a link with a funny animal video just to get us to greet our day with a smile. It works!

  • In missing live theater, virtual shows create an opportunity for new experiences. I was able to share my beloved Santasia with my grandfather this week. Despite poor internet connection, we had a great time watching and laughing the night away. (Photo courtesy of Santasia, santasia.com)

  • Fill your home with pictures or cardboard cutouts of each family member. After all, grandma always sits in the rocking chair.


  • Phone calls can easily turn into long sessions of sharing stories from the past.

  • Even holiday cards I received in the mail had little stories about the year or about shared times together.

  • What is the oldest story being told in your family? The one I can think of is a relative who wanted to take her favorite tree with her as she immigrated from Prague to Ellis Island, traveling the whole way with the root of the tree stuffed in her bra.


  • Send care packages to aid in relaxation, such as slippers, blankets, pillows, one of those pinchy grabber things…

  • The other day, my grandmother and I dragged each other on pillows from one room to the other because we were too lazy to get up. We laughed so hard that it was actually then hard to get up!


  • Making a holiday bingo sheet where everyone has to find each item within their own area. Check out how to customize it at My Free Bingo Cards. (Photo courtesy of My Free Bingo Cards, myfreebingocards.com)

  • Secret Santa phone calls. Everyone gets a name, you can use an auto generator like Elfster.com, then using *67 to conceal your phone number, call your designated person and tell them of a fun time you’ve shared with them. You can even alter your voice so they have to guess who their Santa is.

Cold Weather

  • Ice cube igloo contest anyone? (Photo courtesy of Play At Home Mom, playathomemomllc.com)

  • Put on as many sweaters as you can, take a picture and send to family to convince them you’re having the coldest holiday.

  • Lastly, nothing like reading a book by the fire. Grab a new book (maybe THNAT), slip notes in it and send it off to a loved one. I did this with a coloring book where I colored some parts of the pages and shipped it off to be colored by a loved one - a way for us to do a coloring book together!

Sure, it’s going to feel different and slightly more depressing because it’s such a big change, but it’s not forever. Life is what we make it, and nothing says we can’t still have good times being together from afar. Holidays are a chance to express our hearts and our gratitude, and to remind ourselves that the roots of our love bind us through thick and thin. Whether near or far, there’s always a way to connect and to initiate positive changes wherever we go.


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