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Crosstalk: It’s all a matter of perspective

At some point, women need to own their lives and quit martyring themselves to fulfill traditional roles that no longer work for them.

When the Thanksgiving feast began, women were not working a full-time job outside the home and running kids to and from school and activities. In addition, a lot of businesses today have early deadlines before a holiday so life at the office, or as a sales associate at a store, can be even more frantic.

It really doesn’t set a good tone for a festive event when the chief cook and bottlewasher is exhausted and mad at her husband and kids for not pitching in more, or at all.

Many times, women won’t change traditions even when they become drudgery, and the holidays become something to dread because of unreasonable expectations.

The outmoded thinking of many women is: If company comes to the house and it is not clean, it reflects badly on me. If I serve anything less than turkey or ham with all the fixings, I will be judged a failure in the kitchen.

I used to be one of the women who tried to do it all. I changed things after becoming so stressed and tired during one holiday preparation that I ordered my ex-husband and children to leave the house and give me a break.

Once I started to think outside the box, a world of possibilities opened. The boys and I made eggrolls for Christmas one year (they have a Pacific Islander heritage) and it was great fun to master the wrappers.

When Jesse joined the Marine Corps, we started the tradition of shooting ornaments off the tree (outside) with BB guns. I put cash and fun questions (like, “What is the one thing you don’t want your mom to know?”) in the bulbs and laid a plastic sheet on the ground to catch the shattered glass.

Eventually, smoking cigars became part of our tradition.

I no longer do the full traditional meal for any occasion. I work 10-12 hours a day and often on the weekends. So, down time is necessary to regroup, and I am not going to wear myself out “creating the magic.”

I would rather offer company a movie night with pizza and a beer than slave away in the kitchen.

Buying holiday pies and cookies might not make me a “proper” woman, but my feet don’t ache and I don’t have batter on the wall with a sink full of dirty dishes.

This year, I’m thinking to institute the Pajama Rule, and everyone invited to dine at my place will be required to show up in sleepy time finery.

I can almost hear women out there gasping with horror over my casual attitude, and saying that I should make more of an effort to show family and friends that I care.

Nope. I do nice things for the people I love all year round, and I think not turning into a raving lunatic during Thanksgiving and Christmas is a pretty nice gift to give anyone.

Bottom line: Every day we are here is one less day we are here, and we need to make them count. We need to sort through our traditions and savor the ones that bring us happiness and eliminate the ones that don’t.

My boys will not be home this year, so I am planning — weather permitting — to spend Christmas with Kevin, who is serving life in the penitentiary without the possibility of parole. We will laugh, eat junk out of a vending machine, and enjoy the moment.

I will be humbled once again by his zest for life despite his circumstances.

To be a martyr with no cause is to victimize yourself. Ladies: own your power, give yourself permission to be human.

– RaeLynn Ricarte

As I sit writing this Crosstalk the Monday before Thanksgiving, I’m reminded why my own holiday traditions are few and far between.

For one thing, except for Crosstalk, I don’t generally work on Mondays, but here I am at my desk: I simply have too much to do. Tuesday’s Chronicle goes out the door at 9 a.m. in the morning, Wednesday’s at 5 p.m., an entire day early.

A lot of staff members are taking time off for the holiday as well, so getting the newspaper out the door is even more challenging this year than usual

I’ve been holding down the holiday fort for years, since I don’t travel or have guests over.

Thanksgiving has to mostly take care of itself.

If its been a good enough year, I’ll buy a turkey, and if I’m not too exhausted when I get home, I’ll help my daughter prepare her favorites: Turkey with gravy and pumpkin pie.

Around noon I will drive to town and photograph the community Thanksgiving meal at St. Mary’s Academy.

It’s one of my favorite events.

When I first came to The Dalles, my parents visited on Thanksgiving and we went to the meal.

It was a great thing to sit and watch so many people, from all walks of life, enjoy dining together.

A rare thing, these days.

Almost every year, I also photograph the food being prepared by volunteers at the commercial kitchen at Columbia Gorge Community College.

Every year I see mostly the same people volunteering in the kitchen. I always ask the cooks how many turkeys are headed to the oven (42, or 915 pounds, baked a dozen at a time for 4 hours) and how many pounds of potatoes.

I was surprised to learn there were no fresh potatoes this year: After so many years of peeling hundreds of pounds of potatoes it was decided there just weren’t enough peelers to escape the drudgery aspect of the task.

Many of the same people volunteer to serve, as well. Not so many, I guess, as in the past.

Perhaps it’s easier to give money than to actually spend time and effort, or perhaps we simply haven’t passed on the traditions of volunteerism.

Yet the meal will go on, the community will shift and change, but only slowly.

I’ll enjoy the festivities on Thursday and show you what they were like on Friday in the Chronicle.

I’ve always believed that the vast majority of people are good people, given the opportunity. And The Dalles is no exception.

Indeed, I have found them to be more generous than many communities.

Like Thanksgiving, Christmas will be a mix of joy and difficulty.

I hope to enjoy the season.

There will certainly be plenty of opportunities.

Especially in The Dalles: Starlight Parade, Festival of Trees, Sing Your Own Messiah, downtown Christmas decoration, Cascade Singer and Gorge Orchestra Association concerts.

The E.L.F.F food drive, the winter coat drive at Cousin's Restaurant and Saloon, Christmas food boxes prepared by the Salvation Army and St. Vincent DePaul: The community is quick to go beyond commercial pomp and ceremony to focus on the heart of the holiday season.

Giving to those in need is a warm tradition in The Dalles, as is celebrating the season with music and events.

I suppose that is MY holiday tradition: to explore the season and pass on the good, the bad and the ugly to my readers.

Happy Holidays!

– Mark Gibson


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