Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Giving Thanks

It's been almost a week and a half since we celebrated Thanksgiving here in Lux. It is somewhat of a strange holiday to celebrate here given that it is solely an American holiday and not a recognized event in Europe. Our kids still go to school like any normal day, which can seem quite disorienting when you have friends across the pond talking up the travel, the food, the football, etc., leaving you celebrating somewhat vicariously through the web or on Facebook. The parade is taped or watched in the evening, same with football, and the meal is generally postponed until the weekend.

This year we chose to celebrate Thanksgiving while most were charging the stores in search of Black Friday deals. With the boys in school, I could spend the day timing the meal and preparing the house for our guests. We invited several of Joe's work colleagues - the ones who are single with no kids - and  a couple of friends from Australia/New Zealand that we have had the pleasure of getting to know these last few months. The evening was lovely and everyone indulged in a true Southern meal - deep fried Cajun turkey, cornbread stuffing, cranberry relish, sweet potato casserole, etc. Although cooking is really not "my thing," I do enjoy cooking for friends and having the opportunity to bring folks together who might not otherwise have had an option to celebrate. Holidays, I have learned, can often be a somewhat lonely time of year when you are separated from your family, so friends are a wonderful alternative to closing that gap. You are quickly reminded that they become your family away from home in so many ways.

Now that the flurry of cooking is done and we are marching are way towards Christmas, I finally have the time and inclination to sit back and really consider what all I am truly thankful for. Actually, I have been tossing around these thoughts for awhile now (inspired by several of my friends who posted their "thankful thoughts" by day on Facebook throughout November), but I haven't quite had the motivation to just sit down and write. However, catching a nasty cold has slowed me down a bit today, so, despite the sneezing and coughing, I can be thankful that my body is letting me know to give life a rest. So, here goes my list.

I am truly grateful for:

  • My friends. Near and far, new and old, they are my lifeline to sanity and keep me grounded to what is really important in life. So many of my friends have had a tough time this year, whether it was a scary medical diagnosis, a death in the family, or natural disaster. They have weathered the storms and have shown such dignity and strength that I can't help but be in awe of their perseverance. They truly inspire me.
  • My family. While my friends help ground me, my family gives me the stability and strength to spread my wings and try things I might not otherwise try and travel to places I might not otherwise venture to. They provide me with a place where, no matter what, I can depend on their unconditional support and love.
  • My health. Okay - I'll be honest here - I will always wish to be thinner, taller, younger, etc. (don't we all?) And though I know I can always improve my diet, my exercise, and my stress levels, I will always strive to live life to the fullest and make memories along the way. As I reach the age where friends are being diagnosed with life threatening illnesses or losing friends and relatives to old age or chronic health problems, I become more aware of the need to prioritize myself so that I can continue to enjoy life and be the best mom/wife/friend I can be. I really can't complain if the saddest day of my year was last week when I had to finally break down and order reading glasses. I know - break out the violins. Somehow, I have always linked this to getting old and for some odd reason it struck me like a rude slap in the face. Perhaps I will get over it when the glasses come in and I can finally read a damn restaurant menu in "romantic lighting." *sigh*
  • God. I know this is always a tricky topic. I am not an overly religious person on the surface, and I am not an avid church goer. I am, however, moved beyond words when God makes his presence known to me with life's littlest details. He has definitely carried me through the worst moments of my life, and I firmly believe that He holds my hand on a daily basis when life just seems to throw me curve balls, one after another. While my friends and family give me strength, God gives me direction and guidance. 
I could probably go on, but this short little list sums things up pretty well for me. I truly feel blessed that I have so much to be thankful for. In many ways, this move to a new country, a new culture, a new life, has enabled me to see everything in such a new perspective. I often get the question "What is the biggest difference between living in the US and living in Europe?" My answer usually is - life moves slower here. I often felt like I was on a treadmill in the States - constantly rushed and pressured to reach "super mom" status by over-committing and over-working. I still feel that way at times here (old habits die hard), but you do learn to appreciate what you have and worry less about what you don't. Tonight, I am reminded to take life a little slower - watch a Christmas movie with the boys, fix some homemade soup, enjoy a cup of tea, and be thankful for those friends who know how to cheer you up when you are out of sorts or down with a cold... even if they have to let you know via Facebook :)