5 Holiday Traditions in Memory of a Loved One

15 Dec

Sue Shirley Cooking Kitchen HolidayThe holidays are an emotional time, full of joy, thankfulness, wonder … and, yes, often the resurgence of grief.

It’s okay to feel sorrow amid all the merriment. As a matter of fact, you can take the fuel of that emotion and use it to propel you toward something constructive for you and your kids: a  positive way to remember the person that you’re missing.

Included below are a few of my family’s favorite traditions in honor of Sue and Shirley. You certainly don’t have to do all of them, but maybe one will resonate and become a treasured annual remembrance for you and family.

5 Holiday Traditions in Memory of a Loved One

1. Day of Honor

Every December we take our daughter to a holiday play because that’s what Grandma Suzy used to do with each of her grandchildren. By continuing this tradition, we fill a missing piece for all of us, while offering a happy way for our daughter to learn about her grandma as a person (what she did, how she lived, and what she valued).

Sue Szaba Holiday Tradition Nutcracker

Is there something your relative did every holiday? What about an activity they enjoyed or a place they always liked to go? You can try anything from a full day outing to a weekend trip to a simple movie night with his or her favorite film and foods.

2. Memory Gifts

Save a few items cherished by the deceased and give them to your child at milestone holidays or birthdays.

Similarly, you could gift something especially reminiscent of your loved one: a meaningful book, a CD of favorite music, a candy he or she couldn’t pass up, or tickets to a special activity or place.Sue Szaba London Book Christmas Present


This is a fantastic way to help kids build a relationship with their lost loved one by passing on meaningful memories, heirlooms, traditions, and stories.

3. Treasure Box

Grief counselors stress the importance of keeping physical reminders of the deceased for kids to revisit. Fill a pretty box with pictures and things he or she cherished, wrote, or made. Include a favorite present, add a treasured ornament, or even write down a story about a special holiday you shared together.

Set aside time each year (whether at the holidays or another meaningful occasion) to open the box and look through it together. If you’ve included a special ornament, take this opportunity to hang it on the tree. Or make a picture puzzle, and put it together when you open the box.


Christmas Shirley

4. Holiday Photo Album

Fill half a photo album with pictures of holidays enjoyed with the loved one. Then add pictures of similar new memories made with your child, year to year, focusing on traditions passed on from then to now.

Did you make a paper advent chain with your mom when you were little? Did you go ice skating with your brother? Did you always decorate cookies with your grandma? Did you spend hours stringing popcorn kernels with your favorite uncle?

Have fun doing those things anew and take pictures to add to your book.


The continuity and stories behind those experiences will help your family feel more connected to those memories and people past.

5. Memory Book

We have a Twas the Night Before Christmas book recorded with Sue’s voice. Each Decemeber, we bring it out and enjoy it at many a bedtime. You could do the same with a scrapbook, photo album, or even a favorite cookbook lovingly scribbled and ear marked with your loved one’s go-to holiday recipes.

Have more ideas? Please share them in the comments below.

Angela Szaba Christmas

Building a Beta Reader Dream Team

8 Dec

Stock Photo of Children Discovering ReadingIn this week’s installment of book progress: building a beta reader dream team.

What is a beta reader? A person who reads a book before publication and offers feedback. Although beta readers can be professional editors or writers, they don’t need to be. More importantly…


I see youPick someone who is: 

1. Interested in your project, whether as a friend, spouse, cause supporter, beneficiary, mentor, teacher, etc.

2. Brutally honest. You don’t need “yes men” who will pat you on the back and withhold valid critique. You need people you can trust to rip your manuscript to shreds, if need be. If they don’t do the ripping, I can guarantee you that less supportive readers will.  Continue reading

“Free Seattle,” New Travel Partnership, + Category Pages

26 Nov

Szaba Book PileNine months ago, I teased that I’d be revamping my site to better focus on my human and book babies. Nothing much has happened on that front. Until now.

I guess I was just feeling idle with only taking care of two kids, the holidays, three family trips, two books, a new blog partnership, and a potential new illustrator.

Or maybe once you start doing, even if it’s wrong, it creates a self-motivating snowball effect.

Whatever the case, I have two big announcements to share: 

Continue reading

Do Something, Even If It’s Wrong

17 Nov

Smiley 70s Sue with ChuckMy husband introduced me to this phrase. His step-father (that’s him to the left) used to tell him, “Do something, even if it’s wrong.” And that confounded him as a kid.

As ridiculous as it might seem at first (of course, you shouldn’t do horrible mean things just for the sake of doing them–that would make you an awful human being), the advice has a sort of sage-like brilliance.

Most of us come to discover, over a lifetime of trial and error, that you can’t wait for the stars to align perfectly to pursue your goals. If you ever actually want to reach those goals, you need to take matters into your own hands. And maybe your hands are messy. Or too full. Or you feel like you have no clue what you’re doing. Or sometimes you even wonder what’s the point anyway…

But the goal keeps coming back. It lingers, prodding you with unsuspected nudges, until finally you relent. “Okay, fine. I’ll just do something already!”

Case in point…
Continue reading

The Terrible, Horrible, So Good, Very Awesome Day

3 Nov

Von First SwingHow many of you parents out there can relate to this terrible, horrible, so good, very awesome day? Continue reading

Knowing When to Give Up

27 Oct

Halloween Costume Parenting Pony Twilight Sparkle

I may be reserved and nice, but I’m also surprisingly stubborn. As in, so stubborn that my husband once joked I could have a C-section without anesthetics, if I got it in my head to do so.

Stubborn plus parenting doesn’t always mix, let me tell ya.

It’s been a bumpy road, but I’m slowing learning the art of knowing when to give up—and that it’s not always a bad thing.

Case in point…

For those of you who’ve been following my escapades for a while now (if so—thank you!), you know that my daughter’s Halloween costumes have been kind of a big deal.

It started when Szaba was a mere four months old. My mother-in-law, Sue, was coming to visit. Her cancer had taken a turn for the worse, and I wanted something to cheer us both up. So I asked Sue to come up with Szaba’s costume.

I only had one rule: something aspirational, no princess girly nonsense.

Sue came through in spades with an incredible Amelia Earhart costume.

There was only one problem. Continue reading

3 Things You Can Do TODAY to Fight Breast Cancer

20 Oct

Minnesota 3 Day Supporters 2011Did you know that one in eight women will battle breast cancer?

I’d venture to say that every person reading this has had their life touched by it. I’ve lost a grandma to it, a mother-in-law, and this year, nearly a friend.

Isn’t it time we took down this killer for good?

Your life—or your sister’s, daughter’s, friend’s, or mom’s—depends on it.

Here are 3 things you can do TODAY to fight breast cancer.

Continue reading


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