Perks of (Our) Thanksgiving Abroad

22 November 2018
So we’ve now had our third Thanksgiving overseas and, over the past week, we’ve spent a lot of time reminiscing about our Thanksgiving celebrations on American soil. We missed extended family visiting from all over the country, late night board games, constantly bumping into people in the kitchen, catching up with stories and laughter, and eating a variety of dishes lovingly made by those we’ve known forever. Both our families even got caught in a blizzard in Kansas City this year! It would have been nice to be snowed in, baking cookies, and prepping our hearts and homes for the advent and Christmas seasons. And while it is really something special to celebrate with other Americans in our country of origin, we came up with a few perks of celebrating Thanksgiving abroad! In random order… 🙂
We had so much fun inviting friends over and sharing one of our favorite holidays. Thanksgiving has always been huge in my family; one year in Kansas City we had 70 people! While this year’s event was a more intimate gathering at 13, we really enjoyed sharing what the holiday is really about. We didn’t whitewash the history for our guests and you won’t find puritan hats and indian feathers here at our house, but we were able to discuss the story of white settlers arriving to a new land and encountering indigenous peoples and what that must have been like. We each shared what we’re thankful for (the best part, really) and I just want to say how thankful I am for each person who came and ate with us!
Borrowing from a Friend’s Garden
I’m grateful to have friends in our neighborhood who are willing to share! I rode my bike to two different friends’ houses, one who shared rosemary sprigs (for the stuffing) and the other who let us borrow springform pans (for the cheesecake). One perk of celebrating on the southern hemisphere is that it’s springtime and nice enough for neighbours to have beautiful gardens growing, and the weather’s nice enough for me to ride my bike over for sharing!
Shops Aren’t Closed
It’s not a national holiday here so no one has the day off work. While this made our dinner start a bit later than normal (we waited for friends to arrive home from work), we were able to run to the shops last minute and grab a few things we’d missed on our first (and second) supermarket run(s)!
Homemade Pistachio Pudding
Speaking of supermarkets, we were able to find most of the usually hard-to-find-abroad ingredients like pumpkin, cranberries, and marshmallows, but one ingredient remained elusive…pistachio pudding mix. John’s family always has watergate salad at their Thanksgiving meal, you know the green stuff with fruit, cool whip, and marshmallows? Usually it’s made with Jell-O Pistachio Pudding mix but we couldn’t find any. This led to John making pistachio pudding from scratch, he literally shelled and ground his own pistachios! The pudding was delicious by itself, but we mixed most of it with homemade whipped cream, fruit and marshmallows for a less-sweet but super delicious watergate salad. A new (more involved) tradition I think!
An Opportunity to Practice Scruffy Hospitality
We’ve always enjoyed having people over to our house, but we’re not fancy hosts. Don’t be surprised if you have to get your own glass of water when you’re invited over here! For Thanksgiving this year we set up two big tables in our living room and, while it probably would’ve looked nice with tablecloths, we don’t have any! So our table was graced with crayon marks, mismatched plates and cutlery, different sizes of jars for drinks, paper towels instead of cloth napkins, stuffed animals all in a row, and the “save your forks!” announcement when we got out the desserts. Having friends over is more important than making sure the house looks perfect before they arrive.
We have so much to be thankful for, and here’s to next year’s feast!
Blessings <3

My Sense of Adventure

13 November 2018
My mom sent me a message and said she’s zip-lining through the Redwoods this afternoon. She and my dad are celebrating their anniversary in style! Just two months ago, she zip lined over Niagara Falls and, when I was 16, our whole family zip-lined through the rainforest in Costa Rica.
People often tell me I’m adventurous and ask where I got it from. I realize it’s both of my parents’ sense of adventure that has rubbed off on me in different ways. Both my mom and my dad love to travel and they are the main reason I have visited so many places, and why our family’s favorite foods are not your average American cheeseburger! My mom is so brave. She tells stories of leaving her hometown after university to start afresh in New York City. You hear stories like this a lot, of people making their way to the Big Apple to start a new life, but my mom had a $20 bill in her pocket, an old car, and a whole lot of determination. Later she met my dad at a church event and, while he was playing his guitar by the pool, someone dared her to go ask him out… so she did! They ended up getting married, living there for 12 years, and my sister and I were both born there.
Besides zip-lining, my mom loves a good thrill. She was always the one riding rollercoasters with us as kids and, now that I’m an adult who doesn’t ride them, I realize she must have really loved that adrenaline rush! I remember her going down waterslides, jumping off diving boards, snorkeling, and swimming with dolphins. She was always up for a road trip for my various dance competitions in Pike’s Peak, Seattle, Salt Lake City, and other cool places. She has shown her love and support by coming to visit me when I lived in Haiti, Northern Ireland, and New Zealand, doing adventurous stuff along the way.
My dad’s style of adventure is less thrill-seeking and more pilgrim-on-a-journey. Growing up in Texas, my dad loved taking trips to Mexico with his buddies and I’ve heard stories of sunburns, spicy foods, and once eating an entire bag of mini-limes! As a teenager, he set out to make his faith his own and as he tells it, ended up walking around Montana and spending time discovering who God is. Even on business trips, we’d be staying in fancy hotels where the conferences were held, but he would lament that we weren’t out in the community with the local people. He’s reflective and smart which led him to the adventures of Law School at NYU and Seminary at Princeton. He started his own law practice and nobody knows immigration law like he does!
When I was 8 years old I traveled abroad for the first time when we visited family living in Asia. As a shy, sensitive, and introverted child, I don’t know that I would have been prepared for this trip, except that my parents took it in stride, setting a good example for me by sampling all the new foods, observing the music and language, and taking us to see exciting sites. If you know me now, you know I haven’t stopped traveling since, thanks to them. Together we visited over half the U.S. states on road trips, and also Mexico and Costa Rica during my years at home. They have instilled in me a joy of seeing the world and noticing the good parts of all life’s circumstances.
This all goes way beyond a simple sense of adventure. My parents take chances on people and offer grace and love to everyone they encounter. Memories of my childhood are filled with various people living at our house, people who needed some space between transitions, or people who didn’t have homes at all. I know sometimes it was frustrating for them, but mostly we saw generosity, hospitality, love and support lived out in an accessible way. They’ve always volunteered at church and for local community groups, advocating for those whose voices are not being heard. They are humble and kind, and make you feel safe when you’re with them.
I smiled when I received that message from my mom today. I’m happy to see that their sense of adventure has not been lost now that they’re officially empty-nesters, and I’m happy to see that their signature grace, humility, love, hospitality, and kindness has only grown over the years. I want to be like them when I grow up. Happy 36th anniversary mom and dad, and happy birthday mom! You really are the best.


Mom and Dad on their honeymoon in Mazatlán, Mexico <3