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Thanksgiving is a time to take a step back and focus on what we're thankful for...

Image by TheCulinaryGeek/Flickr.


... and for some of us, it's also a time to get super anxious about introducing our same-sex significant other to our families.

My wife, Sam, and I were dating for a few years before we started spending holidays together. She would join me at lesser holidays with my family: Easter — because she's Jewish — birthdays, and impromptu BBQs. She was my "college friend" or "roommate," depending on who was asking. We always laughed about how ridiculous it was. We thought my extended family mustknow we're a couple.

The author and her wife, Sam, on Long Island, Christmas 2013. Photo courtesy of Laura Leigh Abby.

Eventually, after I came out to my parents, I let them reveal the truth to my family at their own speed, which worked for me for a few reasons. Waiting made it clear that this wasn't a phase and Sam wasn't going anywhere. And because aunts, uncles, and cousins already knew Sam, I knew their opinions of her wouldn't be based just on our romantic relationship. By the time Sam and I were ready to share holidays, everyone knew we were a couple, and aunts had stopped asking me during Christmas dinner whether I'd met a nice boy.

Which isn't to say it was easy. Like so many others who want to come out to their families, I was concerned about upsetting the family dynamic.

Last Christmas, my friend Clark was nervous about bringing his boyfriend, Andrew, to spend the holidays with his dad's family. The couple had celebrated with Clark's mom in the past, but Clark's dad's family includes a medley of football coaches, Army rangers, and state troopers. He was worried there might be some awkward moments.

Andrew (left) and Clark. Photo courtesy of the couple.

"I knew they were all nice guys, and they understood I was gay, but I had never introduced them to a boyfriend," Clark told me on the phone. But he ended up being reminded of how much he has to be thankful for. "I quickly realized how socially aware, smart, and progressive my family is. Bringing Andrew to spend the holiday with them let me see their true selves and appreciate the people they are."

Travis, 29, remembers going to his dad's house for Thanksgiving when he was 18. "I had come out to my mom, but not to my dad yet," he told me via email.


Travis and his moms. Photo courtesy of Travis Cronin.

"Halfway through dinner, he looked at me and said, 'So I finally got Facebook and saw on your page that you're interested in men.' I turned beet red and before I could really respond, my dad said, 'Well I'm sure you already know, but I love you,' and gave me a hug. All the anxiety rushed out of my body."

Whether coming out happens over time, unintentionally, or is a well-planned holiday announcement, Clark's and Travis' stories reveal that family can truly amaze us with their empathy and devotion.

It's a feeling I know well: The first year that Sam and I decided to alternate holidays, I spent Christmas at her mom's house in Florida. What we didn't know was that it would be her mom's last Christmas. The next year, Sam wasn't just mourning; she was also worrying about how her younger brother would spend the holiday. That's when my mom stepped in. "He'll come here," she insisted.

Just like that, I was brimming with gratitude for my wonderful, big-hearted family. That holiday, a new tradition was born: Now, every other year, when we drive out to Long Island to spend Christmas with my family, Sam's brother comes, too.

GIF from "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."

Of course, families aren't always so supportive.

Kaitlyn, 27, comes from a religious Baptist family. She told me via email that when her parents found out she was gay — on her mother's birthday — her father gave his blessing, but her mother was upset. She wouldn't look at or speak to her. As Kaitlyn recalls, her mother said, "I want to forget this day ever happened."

For many who are considering coming out on special occasions or holidays, this can be a real fear: that not only might your family reject you, but that you'll ruin the festivities, too.

In Kaitlyn's case, time helped heal those wounds.

It's been almost 10 years since she came out, and she says her mother has come a long way since then. "This past year, she has completely changed," says Kaitlyn. "She truly believes not only in gay rights, but transgender rights, too."

Image by Brett Sayer/Flickr.

It's important to come out to your family when it feels right to you.

If your timeline doesn't include holiday declarations, you should trust your instincts and go at your own speed.

Maybe this means coming out slowly and individually to your family. Maybe this means first bringing your significant other as a friend. Whatever you decide, know that we all deserve to be surrounded by people who love and support us. If your family isn't able to do that, reach out to friends who can.

Here's to a happy, healthy holiday with the partners (and pies) of our choosing.

Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

Noe Hernandez and Maria Carrillo, the owners of Noel Barber Shop in Anaheim, California.

Jordyn Poulter was the youngest member of the U.S. women’s volleyball team, which took home the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics last year. She was named the best setter at the Tokyo games and has been a member of the team since 2018.

Unfortunately, according to a report from ABC 7 News, her gold medal was stolen from her car in a parking garage in Anaheim, California, on May 25.

It was taken along with her passport, which she kept in her glove compartment. While storing a gold medal in your car probably isn’t the best idea, she did it to keep it by her side while fulfilling the hectic schedule of an Olympian.

"We live this crazy life of living so many different places. So many of us play overseas, then go home, then come out here and train,” Poulter said, according to ABC 7. "So I keep the medal on me (to show) friends and family I haven't seen in a while, or just people in the community who want to see the medal. Everyone feels connected to it when they meet an Olympian, and it's such a cool thing to share with people."

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Hold on, Frankie! Mama's coming!

How do you explain motherhood in a nutshell? Thanks to Cait Oakley, who stopped a preying bald eagle from capturing her pet goose as she breastfed her daughter, we have it summed up in one gloriously hilarious TikTok.

The now viral video shows the family’s pet goose, Frankie, frantically squawking as it gets dragged off the porch by a bald eagle—likely another mom taking care of her own kiddos.

Wearing nothing but her husband’s boxers while holding on to her newborn, Willow, Oakley dashes out of the house and successfully comes to Frankie's rescue while yelling “hey, hey hey!”

The video’s caption revealed that the Oakleys had already lost three chickens due to hungry birds of prey, so nothing was going to stop “Mama bear” from protecting “sweet Frankie.” Not even a breastfeeding session.

Oakley told TODAY Parents, “It was just a split second reaction ...There was nowhere to put Willow down at that point.” Sometimes being a mom means feeding your child and saving your pet all at the same time.

As for how she feels about running around topless in her underwear on camera, Oakley declared, “I could have been naked and I’m like, ‘whatever, I’m feeding my baby.’”

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