Julie Thorson

There is a special sense of home during this time of year. It’s funny how something as simple as decorating can bring a flood of emotion to light.

Like many of you, my home decorating for the holidays takes on a type of ritual. I’m sure, like most of you, that ritual involves memories and sharing memories with those we love.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving is the unofficial day of decorating in our home. It’s also the day we cut down our tree and add to the collection of four (that’s right: four!) other artificial trees we display.

There was a moment this year, though, when decorating took on a higher meaning. My daughter, who is now a sophomore in college, participated in the decorating experience in a way that felt different. I’m sure she didn’t find it as reflective as I did, but explaining to her why certain decorations meant so much to me was pure joy. To hear her explain why certain decorations were meaningful to her made some things come full circle in a way I wasn’t expecting.

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The author and her daughter, preparing decorations for the season.

The decorations that mean the most aren’t expensive. The latch hook stocking my grandfather made, or the plastic hickory-dickory-dock mistletoe that hung in my grandmother’s home didn’t cost anything, but the feelings and memories associated with them are priceless. They fill our house with warmth and a deep appreciation for the past and present. The sense of wonder and love is a feeling I wish for each of you during this holiday season.

In our field, recreating that warmth is needed. It should happen naturally, but does it always? I am so happy and proud that I work in a place where it’s felt. Decorations are abundant, they are beautiful and personal, and memories are attached. As I walk our campus during this time of the year, I feel that same sense of love and appreciation.  

Like your communities, there are stories connected to these decorations. Each tree has its own personality and I smile when I think of the residents who were either involved in hanging the decorations or directing the placement of ornaments. Making the decorations with residents also takes on a special meaning. They aren’t just crafting but the share experience is a way to show a shared purpose in continuing to make our place a home.

In a few weeks, residents and employees will gather around a grand piano and share carols that take us all back to a time of innocence and admiration. I am certain these feelings can only be felt through shared experiences.

We will exchange gifts in this home and smile during the act of giving. It truly is a time where home takes on a special meaning. Every year, this season goes by in a flash. As leaders it is our responsibility to consider home in a sacred way, not just during the holidays but all year long.

From my family to yours, I wish for you moments where time stops, where we share memories, embrace the present and feel excited about the future!

Julie Thorson’s “Living Leadership” blog was named the 2016 “Best New Department” Bronze Award winner by the American Society of Health Publication Editors. Most recently, she was the 2018 recipient of the LeadingAge Dr. Herbert Shore Outstanding Mentor of the Year award. The president and CEO of Friendship Haven, a life plan community in Fort Dodge, IA, Thorson is a coach’s daughter at heart. A former part-time nursing home social worker, she is a licensed nursing home administrator and has been a participant in LeadingAge’s Leadership Academy.