This year I celebrated Thanksgiving at my brother and sister-in-law’s place. It was fabulous. This was their first time to host a family holiday, and they were gracious hosts. Not only did they have my whole family descend, but family friends from South Africa living in the US of A for the first time also joined us.

The final count was 10 people spending three nights at their place, and a total of 15 for Thanksgiving dinner; all in their spacious 2 bedroom apartment. One grand sleepover and it worked. The sleeping arrangements were: 2 people on each of the 2 futons in the living room, 2 people on a blow-up mattress in the dining room, 2 people in the spare bedroom, and Chris & Esther in their room.

As we cooked good meal after good meal, Esther said that she felt as if she was doing nothing and should help out more. Nonsense. We were each able to do what we are good at—some of us cooking, some playing with children, some cleaning up. She was laid back enough to let people take over her home. We each have our gift, and when we work together, it is good. Today I am thankful for such times, for family and friends that make such times possible.

to live

This afternoon as I spent time writing at a cafe. Writing for me; writing to work through thoughts hovering below the surface. The sun has now set, and it has been a good time to think, to reflect. The past months have rushed by disappearing almost before they began as my time was filled from waking to sleeping with the motions of research, writing, and trying to live. Now I am almost done and am working to remember what it is like to simply be, to let the mind and body slow to a healthy pace. It is good.

Today I spent time mulling over the future, thinking about my wants, my likes, and my desires. If you were to walk up to me today and ask what I was going to do next, what my goals and aspirations are, I could answer you clearly and concisely. I created goals that society approves of—they hard for many people in the Midwest to understand because they are, in their simple concept, so foreign and different from their daily lives, but they can appreciate them as goals.

One day I even created five and ten year life plans. They are good plans. But, if I am completely honest, I will not be disappointed if I do not walk the road of these plans. Today, as I thought about my wants, my dreams, I realized that they have nothing to do with these goals. Rather, they have everything to living life to its fullest.

I have imagined so many things for my life, so many different avenues that I could walk down; each is beautiful in its own way. What these avenues hold in common is this: I want to live. I want to continue to learn. I want to give of my abilities and knowledge. I want rich friendships and a home to share. These are hard ideas for many people to grasp as there is no seven step plan that will enable me to reach these goals, no five or ten your plan to be created. It means that I do not know what the future will look like What I do know is that it will be rich.

Today I am excited about the future, about the richness of life that this unknown is sure to be.

surprise symphony

This evening I got a phone call that there was a ticket to this evening’s symphony that was mine if I wanted it. Last week I had looked at program for this evening, though about going, but had not pursued it any further. The phone call came at 6pm, the symphony to start at 7:30pm. Somehow I managed to get the ticket, make it home, change into decent clothing, grab a quick bite to eat, and make it to my seat with time to spare.

I made it to my seat. Not just any seat, but a center 3rd row seat. It is from this seat that I listened with full attention to:

Brahms – Tragic Overture
Mozart – Concert for Flute & Harp
Beethoven – Symphony No. 5 in C minor

It was wonderful. I am trying to think of the perfect way to describe the evening and I am at a loss. Before I knew it two hours had slipped through my fingers and as I stood up with the crowd to give the performers a standing ovation I could not help but smile.

I do not know why the person who bought the ticket could not go or why exactly it ended up in my hand. All I know is that it was a perfect surprise and I was blessed.

no hotels?

This past week I got to enjoy the company of friends in Denver—I was traveling there for a conference, and got to spend three nights at their house. I spent the days at the conference, and the evenings were spent with friends. This meant we shared meals and conversations. I got to go to dinner with them, several of their colleagues, and 12 Japanese medical personnel that were visiting for the week. On Halloween, my last night, I got to help Mimi host the same group of people (nearly 20) for dinner. For the Japanese, it was their first Halloween, and everyone loved helping answer the door to hand out candy and take a few pictures too!

One of my many conversations with Mimi during our visit centered on hospitality and opening one’s home to friends and strangers alike. Mimi spoke of Salt, a town in Jordan, where there are no hotels. The people of Salt saw no need for hotels as their houses were open to all passing through. If your car broke down, and it would take a day to fix it, you were welcome to stay. How incredible it would be to live in such a place! It is a simple thing—giving someone a place to lay their head, a meal to fill their stomach, and conversation to fill the air and the heart.

I have stayed on floors, in beds, on couches, and in rooms with young children. Every time I have been thankful for a home to lay my head and grateful for new memories made with friends. I have no idea what the future holds, but I hope that it includes being able to provide a place for friends, old and new, to share a meal, to rest their heads, and to create memories.