So Thankful

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Wiinter Squash

I just wanted to take a moment to wish my American readers a Happy Thanksgiving, and to express some of the things I am grateful for this year.

This is the fifth Thanksgiving we have spent overseas since our move to Europe in 2010, and it’s the first one that I have been able to look forward to without feeling intense melancholy. The first four Novembers, we didn’t have the option of flying back home to be with family, and that was so hard. Last year, we finally were able to spend it with family in the USA, that was wonderful. And this year, although we could have gone home again, we chose to stay here and plan our visit home for another time of year. Being able to choose has made all of the difference, and I am feeling intense gratitude for that today.

Tomorrow, we are going to invite a Spanish family over to share our meal with us. They have never had an American Thanksgiving dinner, so I am looking forward to introducing them to my favorite food traditions! I am dry brining my turkey this year, which I will roast, and we will have my Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Coconut Milk, Oranges & Ginger, as well as Mushroom & Leek Stuffing, Green Beans (simply prepared), Fresh Cranberry Relish, and definitely Pumpkin Pie, and maybe an Apple Pie, too. (I just tested this grain-free pie crust recipe, and it’s really good! I now see lots of pies in my future!) I’m guessing that everything besides the turkey, green beans and apple pie will seem a bit strange to them! And the idea of piling food on your plate is also weird here– dishes are usually served one or two at a time, and not all mixed on your plate. We’re looking forward to sharing a bottle of our Elderberry Wine we made in England, which will also be pretty different!

Anyway, I am so thankful for friends to invite over. We are meeting new people all of the time (both American and Spanish) and our lives feel so full and satisfying right now. I have a lot of (fulfilling, energizing) work, which makes expat life easier in many ways– we know we can go back “home” to visit when we need to; we have choices. Jeff and I have continued with our dance lessons and are really loving learning to dance. We’re at the point now that we can actually dance together, and spend a lot of time dancing in our living room, as well as going out to dance with other people! The main dances we are doing are salsa, bachata, rumba, and most recently, kizomba.

Amelia is happy here in Spain, and doing really well at her school. We spontaneously took her out for a steak dinner last week after her parent-teacher conference because we were so happy and proud of her progress at school. On the academic side of things, it had been a rough start, and she had to make the big decision to apply herself. That was challenging for everyone, but her teacher is amazed and super impressed with how far she has come in just a few months. We are, too! I love the culture for children here in Spain, and am so happy for Amelia.

Here are just a few little stories from Amelia’s school in the last two weeks:

1. I recently asked Amelia who she has been hanging out with at recess. She told me “No one, really.” “No one?” I asked, a little concerned.

“Well, not ONE person. We all just hang out together in groups. That way, no one is left out. I like it.”

Me too.

2. I asked Amelia if there was any drama going on at school with her classmates. She told me that she didn’t think so. Then a few minutes later, she remembered. “Oh, yes there WAS drama today at school!”

Then she told me how a boy had brought a lizard to school in a jar, and she and another kid were freaking out because it didn’t look like there were any holes in the lid for the lizard to get air. (It turns out that there were.) Then they thought the lizard was dead, and then they opened the jar and it jumped out and ran away!

Just the kind of drama I hope most kids get to enjoy at school.

3. Today she told me that the teacher played some really sad music for the class. “It was so sad, it made me FEEL sad. And so did the other kids. And then I started crying, and then some of the other children ALSO started crying. Even the kids who don’t cry very much.”

So, to recap: we’re working, we’re dancing, we’re thriving. We have friends and interesting things to do in a place I have always dreamed of living. And all of these are on top of having all of our physical needs met in abundance. How do I begin to express my gratitude for all of this? Especially during a time when I am so aware of the fragility of life, and the uncertainty and desperation that many others are facing every day. We are so thankful, for so much. And I just needed to take a moment to express it.

Also, I am thankful for you. Thank you for joining us on our expat journey, and for the emails, notes, comments, words of encouragement, jokes (on my birthday), photos of your kids on Halloween, and all of the other ways that you reach out and share life with me through the year. It genuinely makes my life better, and I really appreciate you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

P.S. My digital cookbook is 50% off right now (just for this holiday weekend) with the code BLACKFRIDAY15. Enjoy!


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2 Responses to So Thankful

  1. Gwen Larsen November 22, 2016 at 7:18 pm #

    I’ve read your posts since 2010, when we moved to England for 2 years. And since have lived in Kuwait, Oman and Singapore. (and 4 countries before our kids were all grown up, so they’ve been ex-pats, too, like your Amelia) Your ex-pat experiences and unique, healthy cooking tips are part of the fun: also enjoy your photography. So I’ve shared your site today with my married daughter, a teacher who expects their first child in March, God willing. All 3 of our children married “foreigners” so they consider themselves Global Patriots, not Americans. And we have reunions both here in California & on our little Costa Rican farm. Ciao and have a Thank-full day of giving thanks to our Creator!

    • ariana December 16, 2016 at 10:24 am #

      Thank you for this note, Gwen! I always love connecting with others who have chosen to do things a little differently and can understand the joys and challenges of expat family life!

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