Thankful for

These friends.

When I think of the things for which I’m grateful, they rank up at the top. Among the many blessings this summer brought, a quick weekend with these girls (and one more who is not in this photo) was one of the best.

We became friends in high school, when in eleventh grade I moved to Tuscaloosa and started at this tiny, podunk (sorry but it’s true!), private school. Two quick years there, and nearly 12 (!!!!) years after graduating, I still love them dearly. It remains one of life’s greatest blessings that such a short stint could grant me such precious friends.

Sometimes I think it’s harder to make friends, or at least to make deep friends quickly, as I grow older. Perhaps because my cup is fuller, perhaps because my heart is more guarded, perhaps because my time is more limited. Perhaps it’s because I place such value on constancy, a quality which can only be proven with the passage of time.

I do know that, although I’m not the best at staying in daily touch, when I see these friends I simultaneously feel 16 and 29. The memories of silly, girlish laughter exist side-by-side with the realities of the struggles life has since brought. We jump from ancient jokes about zit cream to the struggles of raising twins and searching for jobs…. and it all, somehow, fits.

Thankful today for a moment, this summer, and for these specific friends.

 


A Feeling of Grace

Thanksgiving.

It doesn’t feel like it, much, this year. It’s dreary, befitting November, but there’s no chill in the air. We’ve finally made plans, decided who will make sweet potato casserole and who is in charge of the yeast rolls and what time we should eat. Turkey is de-frosting in the fridge: for the first time, Michael and I–and when I say “we” I actually mean “he”–will be baking our own instead of ordering from the Hilton. (That’s what happens when our only source for pre-baked turkey raises their prices to $200 USD–on the low end!)

In the language here, Thanksgiving could be translated as “sense-of-grace-holiday.” I certainly need that sense of grace, of gratitude, every day. For me, living overseas is not unusually hard. In a lot of ways, I find that my heart thrives here,  my sense of adventure sated, my desire for the unique and unusual met around every corner. But while I love Asia and am thankful to live here, so often that thankfulness slips beneath the surface, covered by layers of frustration over delays and inconveniences and a missing, a yearning, for our American home.

So here’s a small list, a teaspoonful of things I’m grateful for about my life, wonderful and imperfect as it is.

I’m thankful for those tiny oranges we don’t have in the States but which are sold on every street corner here. Sweet and tangy, quick to peel, the perfect mid-afternoon snack.

I’m thankful for chubby Asian babies, bundled till their arms stick out from their side at 45 degree angles, like Randy Parker in A Christmas Story. They’re adorable and precious and I love seeing them waddle around our apartment complex.

I’m thankful for my tiny space heater, which keeps me cozy and cuddled up on my couch.

I’m thankful that our local xiaomaibu (small store) stocks fresh milk in addition to the ultra-pasteurized boxed kind which lines most of the shelves.

I’m thankful for a community who loves and cares for me.

I’m thankful for Skype, which makes calls and communication with the States a hundred times easier than it was only five years ago.

I’m thankful for the subway which is soon to open (rumor has it next week!) near our home and will make transportation around this massive city much more convenient.

I’m thankful that we’ve only lost water once this semester, for a few hours, and we’ve not been without electricity at all. I’m also hopeful that this is not an aberration but a pattern that will continue throughout the year!


Gangnam

I can take no credit for this video, but I can tell you that it was taken in our city. My friend, Kelsey, stumbled upon this while downtown a week or so ago and it’s genuinely AH-MAZ-ING. I had to copy her and put this up for all to see.


Note: although you can’t tell in this video, there were hundreds of people following this little girl. Every evening, men and women gather all around the city, in downtown areas and dim suburban corners, for daily group dancing. The spot where Kelsey videoed this lovely is one of the most popular and most crowded dancing sites in the city, and a local friend told me there are regularly up to a thousand people dancing together in this square.

 


O Happy Day

I’m late observing, but this guy just had a big day. He’s 29! (He prefers to say “Twenty-NIIIIINE!” like Schmidt says on New Girl. Anyway.)

Last Friday was the day, and we celebrated in style. It started off in the morning when some friends graciously offered to make birthday breakfast for Michael (and me, too!). We walked in the door to a “Happy Birthday” serenade and just the right amount of extra help in blowing out that pesky birthday candle.

That evening, we went all out for sushi with friends at our favorite place. (Side note: I honestly cannot believe that we have a favorite sushi place out here! It blows my mind that we can even find sushi in this part of town but sure enough, we have it and it is yuuuuum.)


And then we came back home for caramel cake and more laughter with friends.

You must know that I didn’t make the cake: I supervised while my Asian friend did. And it was her very first time to ever bake a cake of any sort, not to mention caramel. Y’all, it was delicious and although it was just a tad lopsided, it is WAAAAYYYY better looking than any caramel cake I’ve ever made. Annnnd it tasted amazing! That -ish is hard to make!

(Below is what my first caramel cake looked like. I’m either really bad or my friend is just that good. Or maybe both.)

 

Michael and I were both super-impressed with this labor of love, and so grateful to my sweet friend for helping out.

Mushy moment: I’m so thankful for my kind, giving, and funny husband. Michael is the best and I’m so thankful to have gotten to celebrate another birthday with him. Happy 29!