Life is beautiful when you can share it with those you love. Grateful doesn’t begin to describe how I feel, being able to collaborate with my best friends, giving them a platform to express their thoughts. When I began mapping out my posts, I knew I wanted Alex writing for Thanksgiving week – her relationship with her family is surely to be inspiring for all. Her and her parents have always welcomed everyone with open arms and if you need a reminder to appreciate those closest to you (or even if you don’t), keep reading.

Hey y’all,

My name is Alexandria Ritter, I’m 29 and was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona – Arcadia, to be exact.

By most standards, my childhood would not be considered normal. My parents were only dating when my mom got pregnant with me and my dad wasn’t working at the time. As would be expected, they debated on whether to keep me, as my dad didn’t have any income and they weren’t married, which was important to my parents at the time. My grandmother, Janet, stepped in, telling my mom, “you will have this baby and we’ll do anything we can to help you.” And she did – my mom, Lorraine, ended up moving in with her parents for her entire pregnancy. Later, my mom would tell me she knew my dad would be a good father because of how close he was with his entire family… and she was right – he was, and still is to this day.

I have to say though; the first seven years were far from perfect. I remember my parents fighting a lot; they were young when they had me, and they would have my sister two and a half years later. They were trying to balance parenting, effectively communicating, and keeping their romance alive, which I’m sure was no easy feat. My mom also started incorporating organic foods at a young age, which I sort of resented growing up. I would get made fun of all the time for my healthy lunch and I’d ask why I couldn’t have pizza rolls or soda… of course, as a child, all you want to do is fit in with your peers. Looking back, though, I couldn’t be more grateful my parents pushed such healthy habits on us, as I know how hard it can be to change something you’ve become accustomed to all your life.

As for our other habits – we would go on family vacations every summer; my grandmother and step grandfather had a time share we would frequent (so 90’s), plus we’d go to Hawaii, Yellowstone, New England… the list goes on. I actually remember my favorite trip being the one we would take to Hatch, New Mexico every year. We would caravan down there with my dad’s entire side of the family to go pick chilies at 4am, have incredible music sessions sat night (which caused the cops to be called – noise complaint), run around the state fair, and eat the best food New Mexico had to offer. Afterwards, on Labor Day, we’d drive back to my uncle’s house and have a huge roasting party – we’d roast, peel, bag – repeat. It was a lot of work (I know, on Labor Day, no less), but I wouldn’t have had it any other way – those memories, with so many of us, will stay with me forever.

My entire family is still very close to this day. We gather every Easter and Thanksgiving and have an annual celebration of life dinner that my grandmother holds for my late grandfather in December. There’s always tons of food brought for any holiday, nothing is out of a can – everything is homemade. So you must bring your A-game, which I actually always look forward to. After we chat and eat, it’s time

for music – it seems almost everyone is musically inclined, but if not, or if we have friends joining, there are always plenty of maracas to go around. This lasts well into the night and is something I cherish so deeply.

A mutual friend, Nathan, introduced me and my husband, Zach; he immediately fit perfectly into my life – getting along with my family like he’d been there for years. Zach is from Green Bay, Wisconsin and grew up with his dad and brother (his mom passed when he was twelve); they weren’t that close, which more easily allowed him to gravitate towards mine. It fills my heart just thinking about how much love is shared amongst everyone.

Once we bought a house, in the summer of 2016, I knew I wanted the torch passed, to be the one hosting parties and family gatherings. I was determined to furnish exactly how I’d envisioned, turning our house into a home so we could host our first Thanksgiving – how adult!? I was nervous and excited by the thought… would the tablescape come out as I’d planned? Would we be able to comfortably fit 21 people into our house? Do we have enough of… everything? I would have little bursts of anxiety and a few dashes of stress for the four weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, but once the day finally arrived, I felt I could breathe. My family were able to appreciate seeing Zach and I in our element and were so supportive of our efforts. The only real blunder was with our oven – my mom and Grandma Jan kept turning it off on accident, so dinner was delayed about an hour, which no one minded – drinks were flowing, as was conversation. If you ever plan on spending the holiday with the Ritter’s, never come hungry… we always drink for a solid two hours before it’s meal time.

As I sit back and reflect on what I’m grateful for, I smile, thinking of all the love I’m surrounded by. I’m a hairdresser and the conversations tend to be very similar leading up to holiday gatherings… clients complaining about their husbands or dreading being with their whole family. I understand I may have gotten lucky, as you can’t choose your family, but when we go into situations with a positive state of mind, the outcome also tends to be positive, so make the effort to appreciate your family so you can look forward to conversations around the dinner table, or at the very least, buy some maracas for everyone.

Thank you, Devon, for letting me express my gratitude for my family – I’m truly honored.

Alex Ritter

Instagram: @Coffee_With_A_Question Thanksgiving week poll results:

In general, do you see your family every year for Thanksgiving? 70% said yes

If you could have one person, alive or dead, join your family on Thanksgiving, who would it be? Lot of people responded saying they wanted their grandparent, a few said mom, Pocahontas was a great answer, and one said Mindy Kaling (that was me…)

Favorite Thanksgiving food? tons of people answered STUFFING?!, a few sweet potato casseroles, lots of mashed potatoes, a few answered turkey, and only a couple answered pie??? I made the best pumpkin pie – family members were actually shocked with how good it was… sick flex, Devon… sick flex.

What do you do with leftover Thanksgiving food? 78% said eat them for the rest of the week, 16% said disperse amongst family members, and 6% said bring to a shelter.

How do you Black Friday? 60% said online only, 33% said they don’t shop, 4% said they go Thanksgiving night, and 3% said they endure the mall madness.

View my ‘Thanksgiving’ story for the final two.