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HOMEGROWN HOLLYWOOD: Life as a couple means sacrifices, adventures

I love going home for the holidays.

Knowing that I get to go home for a week of nonstop eating, family time and snow keeps me sane during the warm Los Angeles winter.

This year, something horrible happened. I fell in love with a man who loves his family as much as I love mine.

I tried to ignore the fact that if Jason and I wanted to be together during the holidays, we would need to split our time between each family. Jason would bring it up, and I would change the subject. He would suggest nailing down dates, and I would suggest we go out to dinner.

Of course, I knew millions of people share the holidays each year, but my heart ached at the thought. I could not imagine missing James Bond marathons with my dad, Christmas baking with my mom and eye-rolling with my brother. Christmas with my family seemed sacred, almost untouchable. The one time of year I commit -- no matter what is going on in my life -- to be there for the people I love.

So after a lot of heated conversations and compromises, Jason and I decided to first visit my family in North Dakota and then fly to his family in Arizona on Christmas Day.

I know. I know that I am lucky to be able to see my family for the holidays, no matter how long. I understand that a lot of people don't even get that much. But to me, it marked the first time in 30 years I wouldn't be home on Christmas Day.

I pushed this feeling aside and tried to enjoy my time at home.

When we arrived at my aunt and uncle's, it was 23 degrees below zero outside, but inside the house was full of warmth and laughter.

There were new babies to hold, hugs from my grandmother, showing Jason his first ice house, and of course a lot of lefse.

But before you could say "lutefisk," we were standing in line at the airport waiting to board a plane for Tucson.

I tried to remind myself, as I watched my parents drive away, that Jason's family is just as important to him, that it would be selfish to make him feel bad. But despite the forced smile and the multiple "I'm fines" the tears still came.

I composed myself on the plane, assured Jason I was excited, and walked into the warm sun of Tucson, where his family greeted us with smiles and Christmas dinner.

I watched J with his family that night, how happy they were to have him there, and I felt a little better.

At dinner, I sat by Jason's 93-year-old great-aunt, Adeline. She looked at me for a long time, as if she could see what I was thinking, then she patted my hand and invited me over for pie and coffee.

A few days later, I was sitting in her living room, with the pie cooling in the kitchen as we talked about her life.

Her father died when she was 7, and Jason's grandfather had helped raise her. She had married the love of her life, and they spent more than 50 years together, living around the world. She spent some Christmases far away from her family and some close. Her children are scattered around the country, and she doesn't get to see them every holiday.

When I commented that she had had a very exciting life she looked at me and took my hand.

"I'll tell you, there was a time in my life that I was so happy. It was so wonderful that I was running scared. Because I didn't feel that anyone was entitled to that kind of life, that happiness that I was having. ... I was talking to my granddaughter and she was so concerned that I was going to be alone for Christmas, and I said, 'Honey, you don't have to be concerned. I've had the most beautiful life that anybody could possibly have. It was full of adventures.'"

She squeezed my arm.

"Now, let's go have some pie."

It was exactly what I needed. Not just the pie, but the reminder that living a life of change can be exciting, that choosing someone and committing to them sometimes means sacrifices, but it can also mean wild happiness.

The next day as Jason and I flew back to Los Angeles I thought about everything Adeline had said. I thought about the quality time Jason and I had with both families, and it suddenly didn't seem like I was giving anything up. In fact, it felt like I was adding something.

Something that's full of adventures.

Runck, who grew up in Wimbledon, N.D., is a writer and actor living in Los Angeles.