As I rolled my delicious cheeseball made up of pimentos, sharp cheddar cheese, cream cheese and spices around my large bowl of chopped pecans, I suddenly had a moment of sadness wash over me.

Mama Starbucks recipe: 2 8 oz bars cream cheese, 1 small jar of pimentos – drained, 1/2 cup minced onion, pepper, salt, 1 16 oz bag of shredded sharp cheddar cheese (mix all ingredients) and roll in chopped pecans – serve!

You see, my mother-in-law, or Mama Starbuck as I have deemed her, had introduced me to this cheeseball seven years ago. I remember being in her home for the first time and feeling the familiarity that this cheeseball would play an integral part of our family traditions for years to come. And how it did.

It was there in the middle of the night when I was a new mom, nursing my colicky baby girl. It was there in the late mornings when the coffee had been drank and the cinnamon buns gone, but I was still hungry. It was there in the early evenings before dinner. And the inevitable post-dinner snack with the Cranberry Prosecco from Trader Joe’s. We would gather around the cheeseball – myself, my mother-in-law, and my sister-in-law taking hunks of cheese that were larger than the Socialables crackers that we ate with it. We would talk and laugh and go through memories of holidays past.

We spent seven years of holidays together as our family grew to include Mackenzie, Marshall, Gunner, and Greyson; the 2 sets of Irish twins that my sister-in-law and I bore the family within the span of 6 years. And we always spent every holiday the same. In the cozy house sunroom or living room or front porch, being together – watching the kids play (or most likely squabbling over some random toy)….and the adults meandering around looking for another bite of delicious food or scrolling through the holiday sales on our phones.

This past year we moved to Mississippi and everyone in our two families have made an effort to continue communicating through Facetime and sporadic and brief visits. But, the loss of being so far away from them has truly hit me in the last few weeks. Of realizing that this Thanksgiving and Christmas we are truly just the small little family that is ours, instead of the extended Starbuck village that we hail from.

Marshall (who is looking behind me) spent his first Christmas with Nana and Papa T.

It is said that you never appreciate something until it is gone, and it cannot be truer than that in this case. My husband has never NOT celebrated a holiday with his family – something that didn’t cross my mind until I sat here typing away on this very blog post. So when I told him I was booking reservations for the four of us for Thanksgiving Brunch at a hotel in Jackson, MS, no wonder why he turned somber. 33 years of holidays with his family puts my 7 years spent to complete shame.

2017 – Bryan and I outside of his family home in Pilot Mountain, NC

I think about the military families that are separated through out months and years of life and holidays. And the working families that have to work the shifts that everyone else may get off because of financial need. And it never really occurred to me how their hearts ache or how sad it makes them to be apart of traditions and the familiarity of loved ones until I was right there with them.

I am grateful to my husbands’ family for enveloping me into their traditions and embraced me as one of their own. And I already miss them terribly as I contemplate who will help me eat the other half of the cheeseball this Thanksgiving (because of course, I must make it).

If you are spending the holidays without your loved ones, I want you to know that I see you.  I may not have seen you for a long time, but I see you now and I am sending you a sincere and warm hug.  I pray that you find a place that gives you solace and contentment and that you make a new tradition that can be passed on for years to come and that you can take with you to share with others.

Not home for the holidays? That’s o.k…..they are really in our hearts anyway.


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