Grab the tissue. I'm all nostalgic because of holidays.

We are inching ever closer to my favorite holiday of the year. Yes. Thanksgiving. Of course, that’s my favorite holiday. It’s the only holiday that’s entirely focused on FOOD. And, yeah, giving thanks. I mean, I love Christmas and all that, and Fourth of July, and Easter can have a pretty good brunch and all…but Thanksgiving? Come on. It’s brilliant.

Holidays always make me a little nostalgic too. I start to look back on my life and then I look forward and then sideways and then I get dizzy and then I get all emotional and start crying at holiday commercials and I’m all “Oh, he gave her a puppy!” It’s kind of pathetic. This year is no different. I already feel the tear ducts kicking in.

This year, though, all I have to do is look back one year ago and it’s enough to make my throat get all choked up and those tears don’t even threaten anymore, they just start flowing. Not with sadness, though. Ohhhh, no. It’s joy. Simple, uncomplicated joy.

A year ago, I was still newly separated from my husband and questioning how on earth I thought I could be a single mom. What had possessed me to break up our marriage and our family? I was at a little apartment (that cost a lot) in East Grand Rapids. I was a few months in to my contract with teaching at Kendall, and I was facing the first holiday without having my kids with me all the time. And, let’s be honest here, I was really lonely.

Last Thanksgiving my friends Brendan and George invited my mom and me and the kids over to their place. It was so nice to be included in a family. One of the things that was so hard when I separated was that fracturing of the family. My ex (a year ago) had met and was committed to the woman who is now his wife, so their holiday season was a first for him in building a new kind of family. And I couldn’t compete with that. I was barely hanging on with working full time, writing, trying to get published, and trying to keep my emotions together.

We survived Thanksgiving. It wasn’t as painful as I thought and it helped sharing it with friends. And then the rest of the holiday happened. Last December, I broke my foot, on the day we got our Christmas tree and I was so proud for hauling it in myself. Sometimes I still cry over the moment when I was on the ground and my two kids were trying to help me get up, and I had the realization that I physically couldn’t move, and I couldn’t take care of them, and I tried not to cry in front of them. That Christmas I asked my ex to take the kids, because I knew with the cast and all, that I couldn’t drive them around to look at lights. I couldn’t get presents under the tree. I couldn’t carry them to their rooms if they fell asleep. My mom was there to help me, but it was a holiday season that I spent feeling entirely alone, literally broken, and barely able to keep my head above water financially.

What a difference a year makes.

This year, I am in my new house, my dream house, with a beautiful backyard and the kids have their own rooms and we have two spirited/demonic cats. My sister and brother in law and her kids are joining us for Thanksgiving. My mom will be here, as will Kealoha, who every day I love a little bit more. He makes me feel…cherished. Cheesy, maybe, but it’s true. And it’s funny to me that I’ve known him for so long, but only now have I really been able to see him. And…I’ve got my books out there and I’m finally getting some acknowledgement for all the hard work through some interviews coming up in local papers. To top it off, Kendall is looking at possibly renewing my contract for another year.

Last year I didn’t feel like I could offer my kids anything. I questioned all my choices…and worse than feeling like a bad mom, I felt like a bad person. That’s all changed. I have a confidence I never suspected was even possible. And somehow, through sheer determination and maybe because I had no other choice, I have built a future for me and my kids. It’s more than a future, really. It’s a family. My house, both literal and metaphorical, is filled with friends and family and laughter and good food…and…yes…hope.

See? See what holidays do to me? They make me go crazy emotional. What can I say? I have a lot to be grateful for. I don’t know. This year, well, it’s enough to make a slightly dramatic, overemotional, 37-year-old writer/woman/mom believe that there really is a little bit of magic left in the world.

And if there’s magic left in the world, maybe, just maybe Bigfoot exists too, and that makes me really happy.