Amy Culver - The Queen of Lean
December 14, 2011    

Traditions

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Amy Culver
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Traditions

I have been thinking a lot about traditions this year.  Which ones I keep out of habit, which ones I have to do (or at least think I have to do), and which ones are really important. 

I have been thinking a lot about traditions this year. Which ones I keep out of habit, which ones I have to do (or at least think I have to do), and which ones are really important. 

I am reminded of a story I once heard. A mother was cooking a roast and her young daughter asked her why she cut the ends off. She said: "I don't know, that's just what my mother always did." Now curious, she called her own mother and asked the same question and got the same answer: "I don't know, that's just what my mother always did." Well, great-grandma was still around and available to ask, so the ladies asked her the same question and her answer was quite profound. She said: "Because that's the only way the roast would fit into the pan."

It's a story that makes you think. How many things do we do simply because we have always done them? 

I know that every January, I seem to collapse for a couple of weeks out of exhaustion - an exhaustion that comes mostly from trying to satisfy all of the season's expectations and fulfill all of the traditions. Well, this year, I have made some changes. I have taken stock of our many traditions, some older than I am, and some that grew out of my own way of doing things. I have let go of a few, and am breathing a bit easier because of it. I am also finding many blessings in the fact that the extra time has allowed me to be more available for last-minute opportunities. I have reduced my usual stress level, am not craving food so much, and am definitely enjoying the season much more than I usually do.

One thing I am letting go of is some of my usual baking. Yes, most of what I bake goes to other homes, but they are homes that will be, just like ours, full of goodies from yet other homes. I will do some baking because I enjoy it, but only for that reason. My husband likes to take a few goodies to work in the week before Christmas, so we decided I would make some fudge for him to take. And it will be all gone and out of my house the day after it is made. That is a very good thing. I am going to make only one kind of cookie, not the usual 3 or 4 different kinds. We will get plenty of different types from friends to sample. And I just bet that they will all taste much better if we are not already sugar-saturated from sampling our own many wares.

Did you know that the "tradition" of overeating at this time of year comes from lifestyle situations that do not apply anymore? In the days before refrigeration and central heating, it was necessary to feast and gain weight in the colder months. People had to add fat to their diet to help insulate them against the weather. The food that was stored up before winter was also getting a little old by Christmas, so they often had a big feast in the middle of the wintertime to eat it before it went bad. We don't have to do that anymore. When we do, all that happens is that we gain a lot of weight that is NOT going to get worked off because we have to plow the fields in the springtime! Perhaps the tradition of stuffing yourself on fat-laden goodies is one to contemplate and rethink this year.

On the other hand, there are some traditions that I hold very dear and they get more precious as the years go by. I have hosted Thanksgiving at my home since we moved into it, about 17 years. That first year, I asked my brother-in-law (Bill) to carve the turkey, and it's been his job ever since. I know he enjoys it and I plan for it, remembering to make a nice space for him to do his work. 

This year was very special. My sister-in-law called on Thanksgiving morning and told me they would be late. All was fine, but Bill had been in the hospital with some heart trouble the night before. Not good news to hear the morning of a holiday, but he was home, doing well, and they would be there, just a bit late. When they arrived, Bill told me that he had gone on YouTube that day and learned the "correct" way to carve a turkey. It seems, he told me, he had been doing it "wrong" all these years. Well, we sure had never noticed any problems with the way he carved the turkey, but I will always remember this year, when he showed me just how much he enjoyed that particular tradition, especially as I watched him teach his two sons how to carve a turkey the "correct" way. You see, that is a corner I now know that I cannot cut, we must always have a full turkey, because Bill has a job he cherishes and I will always love watching him do.

Some traditions have reasons and special places in our hearts. Others we do out of a sense of obligation or habit. What I am learning is that if I cut out some of the obligatory or habitual ones, I am left with so much more time to enjoy and appreciate the important ones.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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