Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving - Yes, You Can Enjoy It!

Thanksgiving is almost here.  For some, that means roasting the biggest turkey you can find, watching a parade or two and certainly, cheering for the Detroit Lions football team (and pretending to feel surprised when they lose - again)!

Including the above, the rest of our family tradition is fairly simple when it comes to this day.  All we ask for is to have our family together and to pause for a moment to remember how lucky we are to have each other and to 'just say no'.

Having only one simple, but meaningful, objective has helped to drastically reduce our family stress load.

We came to that conclusion on the first Thanksgiving post diagnosis for our youngest daughter.  After experiencing a year full of emotional (and physical) ups and downs, the last thing we wanted to do was experience Grandma's Carmel Pie. 

So we did what had been doing all year and decided to run away. 

We took our kids to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. Waking up at the crack of dawn, we packed our bags and took a train ride into the city.  Once we arrived, we navigated the girls through the throngs of people and somehow landed in an amazing viewing location.  It was perfect for seeing the massive balloon floats winding down the street.  The day was a one-of-a-kind magical moment for all of us (and thankfully, type 1 diabetes behaved). 

After the parade ended, we quickly realized that we would be dining in the city as transportation back out was impossible to find. The only restaurant (we could find anyway) that was available without reservations was a little Greek place near our parade viewing spot .  With blood sugars dropping, we couldn't afford to be picky and we decided to take a chance on it.

Now let me tell you something about Greek food.  It is carb-friendly and kid- friendly all at once.  Greek salads, hummous and olives are plentiful and absolutely delicious.  Lamb meat in a gyro packed with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and tzatiki yogurt sauce is divine and very forgiving on blood sugars.  Saganaki, fried cheese, is so delicious that you may wish that you were Greek! 

It wasn't a turkey but it was AMAZING and frankly, the best holiday food that I have ever tasted.

And the greatest part of our adventure?  It wasn't served with guilt or pity. 

You know the kind... Grandma bakes a pie and expects everyone to eat not just one, but two slices.  Uncle Steve brings his famous (or infamous) dip with beer bread, crackers and rolls while demanding that every must try it.  Or Aunt Sally is upset to see that there will be leftovers because surely that is an indication that the food was not perfect. 

While that kind of guilt stinks (especially since we have been taught to be well-mannered children), the worst moments are the ones where people try to hush the food by erroneously thinking that people living with type 1 diabetes can't eat it, so therefore, it should be hidden.  Oh those poor, poor, poor souls with type 1 diabetes. 

Quick, hide Grandma's Carmel Pie!  Oh, and did you see that child with a cookie?... I didn't think she could have that.  Here honey, let me give you a (carb loaded) banana instead. 

Yep.  Those people are the holiday food police.  Misinformed but well intentioned and yet, so very forceful.

So what do you do to keep Thanksgiving from turning into a dreaded holiday?

Having that moment away in New York gave us the much needed clarity on how to handle those holiday meals.  We realized that we needed an objective for ourselves:

To have our family together and to pause for a moment to reflect on how lucky we are to have each other and to learn that saying, "No thank you" is alright.  

That's it.

We can't change the way our family thinks of food and celebrations but we could learn to use our voice and to say no when we have had enough.  Maybe it is one slice of pie or maybe it isn't any.... but it doesn't matter about the food, it just matters that we are there together, remembering how lucky we are to have each other.  People around us will get over it.  Maybe not all at once but eventually.  And even if it never happens, at some point, they will become less vocal.  Because happiness is a powerful tool and as long as other people see that we are truly happy, they will have less to be concerned with.

And the best part of this is that our kids have grown up guilt-free.  We have taught them that spending time with the people they love is really what the celebration is for - not the food.  Whether at Thanksgiving, birthday parties or while on vacation, the time spent with the ones you love, making memories is what is most important.

Not Grandma's Carmel Pie.

Happy Thanksgiving from Naturally Sweet Sisters!

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