An American Thanksgiving in New Zealand

Over the years, Noel and I haven’t really celebrated American Thanksgiving.  I mean, we did go to an American’s friend’s house for dinner a few years in a row, but we usually were too busy with work or life in general to be bothered roasting a turkey and doing all the bits and pieces.

Our idea of Thanksgiving was making a non-traditional meal like pizza or go to Burger King.  As Thanksgiving isn’t a holiday here, we also don’t get the Friday off to recover.

This year, we decided to go ahead with it.  We bought a small turkey, which we’ll have with mashed potatoes, peas, and corn, finished off by apple pie.  It’s not anything too terribly fancy, but it’s a start.

Having had what can only be described as two years from hell, full of earthquakes and upheavals, illness and injuries, changes and rebuilding, moving work several times, and Jenah’s passing, it sometimes is hard to see what there is to give thanks for.  I try to be a glass half-full kinda guy, so here are ten of the many things I am thankful for this Thanksgiving.

  1. I am thankful to God for giving me all the days in my life so far and all the days to come.  He has given me the ability to love, to think rationally, to laugh, to cry, to show strength at the darkest of hours, to have all my facilities and my good health, and to enjoy life; I thank Him for this and for the talents He has given me.  He or His emissaries were watching over us in all the earthquakes, some of which were terrifyingly violent and killed others.  We were guided out of the darkness and into the light.
  2. I am thankful to my family and friends for loving me through my rough patches and happy days.  I realise I haven’t been the easiest person to be around in the last few years, bobbing between overwhelmingly passionate about some things I have no control over and underwhelmingly passive about other things I do have control over.
  3. I am thankful to Noel for standing by me through thick and thin.  His strength throughout the quakes, in stark contrast to my collapsing bravado, helped me get through it.  We make a great team, working through the quakes to relocate, renovate, and rebuild the school over several months.
  4. I am thankful to my work colleagues for circling the wagons after the quakes struck to make sure the school continued in one form or another.  Our strength as a team repelled all the naysayers and kept our students learning as best they could with the resources available.  Together, we rebuilt, and it was so wonderful to finally be back under one roof in January 2012.
  5. I am thankful for all those people who stood by the school in our darkest hours and as we rebuilt.  I am thankful for all those experts and skilled tradesmen and people (including the Prime Minister, John Key!) who helped us rebuild and recover in their own way.  It’s easier to work together as a team than to pull something down.
  6. I am thankful for the opportunities I’ve been presented in my life.  Sometimes I’m at the right place at the right time, and sometimes it’s just sheer determination and elbow grease and hard work that gets me to where I need to be.
  7. I am thankful I’m able to travel back to the US to see my friends and family once a year.  This was extremely important this year because I needed to “ground” myself again, and what better place to do it than the place where you came from?
  8. I am thankful to have such loving and wonderful pets.  I don’t know what we did to deserve them in our lives, but we try to give all the love and care we can.  Even though Jenah passed this year, I am thankful she was a part of our lives for nearly 16 years.  Had the SPCA worker not pointed her out to us that fateful day in November 1996, our paths may have never crossed, and she would have had a much shorter life.  I pray Jenah is at peace and happy now, frolicking in Heaven’s meadows with Celeste, Fay, Nyota, Midnight, Cody, and Cindy.
  9. I am thankful for Christmas trees and Christmas lights.  They cheer me up to no end, and I can sit there and stare at them in wonder for hours.
  10. I am thankful I live in a wonderful country with strong safety nets to rescue those people worse off than us.  Kiwis are wonderfully friendly, open-minded, tolerant people, and, while the country has its problems, New Zealand is a pretty good place to live.

If you celebrate Thanksgiving where you live, I hope you and your loved ones enjoy your special day together.  Use it to think back on all the blessings you had in the last year, to reflect on what went right, to thank whatever deity you believe in, and to marvel in the special bonds we all form in this funny old thing called life.

Kia ora / be well from Aotearoa New Zealand.

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