Happy Holidays


After the craziness of the last few weeks, we finally made it back home. It’s funny, I can’t ever really relax until we leave. I need to create some mental space for myself by physically leaving. My Dad was like that, too.

I stuck my kids on the ski team up here. Not permanently, just for the couple of weeks we’re visiting. Pax’s assigned ski coach turned out to be my old cross-country running coach (“Why’s your son so good at skiing?? I know he didn’t get it from YOU…”) and Raines’ coach was my beloved 7th-grade science teacher.

My sense of connection, of belonging is strong here. Mike and I have become accustomed to being an island in a sea of strangers, slowly creating our own little communities, year over year over year. But when I’m home…a community with history is here.

“We were talking ’bout your Dad the other day….” is the start of countless conversations. “Oh, I was tellin’ your boys here some stories….” And when my sister and I walk in — virtually anywhere — together, “It’s those Ostwald girls!” Or “Here come those Ostwald women!” if my mom is with us.

Pax is fascinated by my ‘other name’. Ostwald. “Why do you use that name here, Mom? And why did you even CHANGE your NAME??”

These are good questions. I gloss over the last one since I’m not quite sure myself (Young? In love? Our patriarchal society?) and answer the first. “It’s just…it’s who I am, Baby. That name is just a part of me.”

Mike smirks. “Well kids, that name also gets your mother out of speeding tickets…” he mutters under his breath. I shoot him a look. Don’t let Dad hear that. He only knew about one of them.

My Dad is everywhere here. He’s on Washington Street as I walk past the old shoe store he’d always take me to to buy new shoes. We’d get cherry sours from Donkers after that. He’s at Thil’s fishhouse where he’d glare at me for pinching my nose against the smell. He was at the ski hill, laughing as he snuck me out of my group. “We don’t need lessons — I just got ’em for the passes. Figure it out!” (This likely explains why I was never a good skier, Coach Jack.)

Dad was at the top of Whitman hill, in his Sorels and jeans, trying to convince me that we can both fit on a sled without crashing. (Spoiler: we can’t.) He’s there whenever I hear someone telling a snowblower story, and he’s in the car at night, driving around to look at the lights.

Dad always did love Christmas.

My Mom dreamed about him the other night. She had been frantically trying to get ready for all of us to be here, baking cookies, running errands (which makes me think that the idyllic childhood holiday I described here was much crazier in reality)…and decided to lie down for a quick nap. While she drifted off, she heard my Dad say, clear as a bell: “Settle down, Teene.”

God, that sounds like him.

We’re trying to take Dad’s advice. We’re settling down, settling in. Mike and I cooked dinner in last night, and played board games with the boys. Mom has gotten all of the cookies baked (“Now I’m settling down, I promise! Oh wait — I just need…”) so the boys are going to decorate some cookies with her, checking off one of my self-imposed ‘holiday fun’ checkboxes.

But there’s no escaping the Dad-sized hole in my chest. January will mark two years since he passed. Mike keeps telling me to “embrace your feelings, Babe. It’s OK to feel sad,” and I know he’s right. And yet. I find the sheer size of my emotions terrifying. It’s a very deep well (passed on from Dad’s mom to Dad to me to…)

And then Pax rushes into the bedroom all “I AM UP, WORLD TAKE NOTE,” and hugs me with the ferocity of an Ostwald, and Raines walks by with my Dad’s walk and I inexplicably feel the need to leap on them both and wrestle them down because I am my father’s daughter. Here, especially, I am an Ostwald.

Currently reading. If any of you fellow sci-fi nerds need a good book to cozy up with…Scotti recently got me into the Children of Blood and Bone series by Tomi Adeyemi, and it’s good. There are a few instances where plot-lines are resolved a little too quickly, and it has its fair share of angsty characters (like all good teen fiction), but overall totally worth a read. Next up? The Bear and the Nightingale. As always, would love more recommendations.

Currently reading: Mike. If any of you straight-up nerds need a good book to cozy up with…Mike is into The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect. It’s all about understanding causality and how it’s going to revolutionize artificial intelligence. I’ve only half-listened to his description, but HE’S REALLY EXCITED YOU GUYS.

Currently reading: the boys. They’re all graphic novels, all day long over here. If you need a new recommendation…Pax is obsessed with the 5 Worlds series, and Raines loves Teen Titans: Raven (with insanely gorgeous illustrations by Gabriel Picolo).

Currently playing. The four of us spent hours last night playing Time Stories. It’s a cross between D&D role-playing and a strategy co-op game like Pandemic or Forbidden Island and Escape the Room. It’s SO fun and addictive. The downside is that once you’ve finished the game, it’s done…but there are a ton of expansion packs with new scenarios. Apparently, you should do the expansion packs in order because there’s a larger story at play. And I’m not at all worried about not getting our money’s worth. We made two complete runs last night, it took four hours, and not only have we not completed the mission….we haven’t even explored all of the areas. The only word of caution is that the theme is a little scary. You’re basically in an insane asylum, and it’s creepy.

NYE outfit plans. I’m going to add this stunning necklace to a t-shirt and call it a day. It combines max sparkle with a cool, vintage vibe and I LOVE IT. If it’s not on sale right now, I suspect it will be after Christmas….

Universal sizing, universally chic. That seriously cool wrap puffer we all freaked out over (last year) has been restocked at Universal Standard, a company known for its inclusive sizing. Even better? It’s on super sale.

“Boots so hard to get on…it’ll strain your marriage!” If you haven’t yet seen SNL’s holiday clothing ad…OMG I’M DYING.

John Legend saves Christmas. He and Natasha Rothwell (an SNL writer) re-wrote the lyrics to Baby It’s Cold Outside to make them a little less creepy. Legend recorded the new version with Kelly Clarkson and it’s so good. Like a breath of fresh air. I’m confused by the recent backlash…but then again, I’ve always been partial to, uh, caring men who listen. Dad taught me that.

Wishing all of you love, light, and a way to “settle down” — even if it’s just for a little bit.




  1. Thank you for this. This is the first Christmas without my mom and I thought I’d gotten through the season-and today- pretty well until tonight when it all hit me. And it hit hard.

  2. Happy Holidays! I lost my Dad 10 years ago and I still always miss him the most at this time of year. He was Mr. Christmas. Thank you for this wonderful article. I normally don’t go home for Christmas but maybe we will next year. The feeling of everything knowing who is are once in a while is nice.
    On the reading front, if you love a good sci-fi book. This one is great. City of Light (Outcast Novel Book 1)
    by Keri Arthur. Personally I love a good series.

  3. I feel your sadness in this post. My Mom died 3 years ago and the holidays somehow changed to a time of year I cherish…to something I just try to get through. Sounds like you are surrounded by lots of love which certainly helps. Love and light to you Shana!

  4. So sorry you lost your dad. He was a great guy. This post made me so nostalgic for Marquette and sledding at Whitman hill. I miss home too. It’s hard when you live far away and are working to create new communities and traditions.

  5. I’m just getting around to finishing reading this post and it is beautifully written, as always. I am still adjusting to holidays without my dad. It’s not fun. Good luck to all of you with it. Also, on a much lighter note…I got the Universal Standard puffer coat as soon as it went on sale (after stalking it for a year!) and I love it! It’s so so good!!! Happy holidays to you and yours!

  6. Love this post, as usual! I have a book recommendation for you. It’s The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon. It’s SUPER long (like 30 hours on audio long), but it’s gorgeous. Strong characters and romance and amazing, expansive, inclusive world-building. It’s adult, but has all the hallmarks of YA that I love. It’s what I wanted to find for so many years in traditional fantasy but never did, so I went to YA instead, where women rule. also IT HAS DRAGONS.

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