Giving Thanks…and Thanksgiving

Why, hello again Blog World! Too long, no write! What a whirlwind few months it’s been. Following my last post, we were endowed with the good fortune of being able to embark on yet another trip home, eagerly consuming most (Not all! We can never seem to get to all!) of the familiar places, faces and hugs that this family missed and needed! 

Upon our return to Chile, we blinked our eyes and our blessings suddenly multiplied when we welcomed family here for Christmas. Fast Forward one day after our heart-fulfilling time with them (more to come on that!) – and Tom commenced what would be a strenuous and exhausting couple months (…and continuing) working on a Plant Start Up…(7 days a week, 14+ hour days). And then of course, given our location in the world, with Christmas came summer (at long last!), and as summers go, we have been busy, busy, BUSY-enjoying as much time exploring all the beauty that this area of Chile offers.

And so, as a result, I have been failing MISERABLY at maintaining this blog. And so, first I apologize to my immediate family, for whom this blog is for, for having now to read a “journal” that officially isn’t so much a journal at all, but rather an after-thought account of swiftly fading memories; second to my loyal readers, all 5-10 of you, for keeping you waiting this long on our exciting life (ha!), and finally to myself—-girl, you’s got some work to do!

Forewarning: If all goes according to plan (which let’s be real, it probably won’t), you will be inundated with blog posts for the next couple weeks, as I will try to make every effort (not sure exactly how many actual efforts I’ve got in me…) to get this on track.

And so, for now, let the story of the Great Thanksgiving Visit of 2014 begin…

Really, what better time to go visit the country, the home, and the people who you are thankful for then at Thanksgiving? Shortly before we departed Chile, I overheard one of our friends here describing the United States Thanksgiving holiday to his family. It went something along the lines of this…

In the United States on a day they call ‘Thanksgiving’, the people all gather with their families to share good meals and to give thanks for all that they have in their lives.”

All that they have.

A statement so simple, so seemingly obvious, but so powerful. Because the way they look at it here, is that Americans do have a lot to be thankful for. I mean, we have a lot.

And so after listening to that description, I wanted to raise my hand in the air saying “See! We are grateful! We do appreciate what we have! We don’t take it for granted!”

At least, we didn’t initially on the hallmark of our holiday. But do we now? Do we really understand what all we have to be thankful for? Quite frankly, I’m not so sure. In the hustle and bustle of our busy lives, managing homes, kids and work from sunrise until well after the sun goes down, it can be quite easy to overlook and to take for granted the food, the homes, the cars, our good health, the world-class medical care, our top-notch, free, public education, and most importantly proximity to family and friends, (and of course this list goes on, and on, and on), that we are so blessed to have in the U.S.

And so that brief, simple description was a stark wake-up call screaming APPRECIATE!!! APPRECIATE ALL THAT YOU HAVE! GO HOME AND EMBRACE AND APPRECIATE! So, we did. We jumped on that plane, all 5 souls and our accompanying luggage, car seats, (a truckloads worth if you ask sweet Tom, who bears the brunt of the responsibility for all of the stuff I seem to think we need), and we glided with ease through the 7,000 or so miles home. Ha….with ease. But well worth it, in an effort to go give some serious thanks…

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And then, as if intentionally scheduled just to add to this big Thankfulness theme, Tom brought along 16 workers from the Plant here in Chile to train in Wisconsin (for the upcoming start-up). photo(18) Many, if not most of these people, had never even left their small town in Chile, much less the country. And so I watched with admiration over the weeks leading up as Tom selected who he thought would benefit from the experience, helped them obtain their passports, and got our big, crazy group on that plane! (Well, actually 4 planes in total, each way…) This was a business trip for them, but the excitement emanating from them about traveling to the United States was, to say the least, heartwarming and contagious. Tgiving20148

Particularly when we hit WISCONSIN, and they could see ALL. THE. SNOW. We weren’t off the airplane more than 2 minutes and they were rushing over to the nearest window facing the tarmac, airplanes everywhere and not really much of a view, but it had SNOW. They are blessed with the most unimaginable beauty at their doorstep here in Chile, but SNOW-that’s something! And so of course individual selfies in front of the SNOW were a must, and then I had to take a group shot. Like I said, the excitement was contagious! *Tom would later tell me that throughout the week, they would continue to express their amazement at the new buildings, the presence of fast food, the organization and cleanliness of that small city (roughly 20,000 people), and the lack of street dogs…again, little things we take for granted.  461

We landed near Wausau, Wisconsin to the wide-open arms of Boss and Ama—our tried and true airport greeters…complete with balloons, noise-makers, signs…just about everything to make weary travelers spark up and smile! We ventured to Wisconsin Rapids with the entire crew, as Tom was to work there the first full week with training and the kids and I were going to stay there that night and rest our weary heads. During the 28 hours of travel, airport greetings and ride to the hotel I can honestly say our energy was good, but the second our eyes zeroed in on those hotel beds, well, that was that.

We kicked off our first morning with a highly anticipated get together with two of Maddie’s best friends and our neighbors from Wisconsin Rapids. The vision of Maddie seeing Olivia and Navita, and vice verse, as they ran at each other full force, was a lot for my heart to handle after such a long trip, and ever so worth it. As is just their very caring nature, they came bearing peppermint flavored cupcakes and a piece of watermelon for our Grey Grey (egg allergy), and off they bounded to the pool. Their mother, Jennie, and I caught up to the lovely background music of their giggles and shrieks….far too long overdue.

photo(20)

But, as it seems with all our visits in these short trips, time was cut short and Jennie (God Bless Her) helped me load up the truck and the kids and I set off on the second leg of our journey for Austin, home of Home (for me).

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On the Road to Sara and Tim’s…it took leaving it for awhile to see the beauty in this…

And there, we ran full sprint into the warm embraces of Grandma Carrie, Auntie Sara, Uncle Tim, cousin Aiden, and Grandma Chi!

And of course, as with all of our get togethers, we shan’t waste time relaxing…oh no no…there is fun to be had! Such fun included:

Staying at Rara and Tim’s, catching up on both life and on all the SNOW we missed! (The kids were STARVING for it! Summer in Chile and all they want is the SNOW!)

Sledding behind the 4-wheeler;

Greyson riding (a.k.a. falling asleep) in a tractor with Uncle Tim on the farm;

A night at the Hotel, with swimming and visits from Grandma Chi and amazing, old friends (Megan! Missy! Angie! Jen!) and their beautiful children;

A muy rico meal at Grandma Chi’s, complete with good conversation and lots of hugs of course;

A visit to see Uncle Jeremy, complete with some fun at Red Robin satisfying our sadly starved appetite for hamburgers;

And a whole lotta love.

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466 Elaena and Grandma Elaine and Grandma Carrie!

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485 So great to see Megan, Angie, Missy and Jen

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 497Tgiving20147 And as is our way, a trip isn’t complete for our family, so it seems, without a visit to the Emergency Room.

Look mom, I can spin in circles…REALLY fast!”

This normally of course would keep me a little more focused on him, but…we were visiting.

Look mom, woooooo hoooo, I’m dizzy!”

THUD!

Just like that, Greyson kissed the corner of Sara and Tim’s wall with his noggin, resulting in a lot of blood, a mom on the verge of a nervous break-down, and a splendid ER visit.

Because seriously, if your kid was bleeding profusely from his head in a t-shirt and shorts, covered in blood, but you were 20 minutes from the ER, would you seriously waste PRECIOUS SECONDS OF HIS LIFE, on dressing him appropriately for below zero weather or cleaning him up? Of course not!? (Let’s just say I was the recipient of a few glances in the waiting room, and the attending nurse welcomed us with “I didn’t know it was a massacre!”).

But all is well that ends well. Grandma Carrie was working at the hospital and welcomed my screaming, scared child with big hugs while I navigated the check-in process, he received 4 staples, sans anesthesia, healed nicely, had them removed later in Green Bay.

SIDE NOTE: Funny story

Me: So why staples and not stitches?

Doctor who removed the Staples: Because we don’t worry about a scar on the head, it’s not likely to be seen.

Tom: (removing his winter hat and revealing his head) – “Ya think?”

Anyway, here’s hoping you never lose your hair Grey Grey!

And then just like the terrifying, painful, heart-wrenching pain of the buzzer in a fast-paced game of Taboo, we had to leave Austin. NO. FUN.

So, imagine if you will an animated map of a crazy train going from one location to the next–that was us…now off to Green Bay. The kids were eager to get some loving from Boss and Ama, I was able to see the magnificent work Donna did preparing for guests (she actually created a separate private sleeping area using streamers! Spectacular—so mad I don’t have a photo!), and then I literally dined (on one of Donna’s fantastic sandwiches) and dashed over to Rapids, to meet up with Tom and his company for a dinner after a successful week of training. And let’s be honest, we needed some sleep.

The next day, Tom and I met up with a whole lot of peeps we love for TEDDY’S 1ST BIRTHDAY PARTY! Yay! How amazing we could be there for that! The kids were all supremely entertained at a bounce house with countless games, while we grown-ups (ha!) were able to catch up with, hug, catch up with, and hug some more the Davis’, the Smith’s, the Madson’s, the McDonald’s, the Wall’s, the Tritt’s, more time with Auntie Sara, Tim and Aiden who drove up that day, and the amazing Sarah DiGregorio who flew all the way from Atlanta to spend one day and night with us.

In looking back, what I remember the most is leaving one hug to turn into the next hug, over, and over, and over…magic. After a fun birthday bash, the ladies were able to enjoy a night on the town while the gents congregated over at Chip and Katie’s. While I could certainly write books about each of these people and what they mean to us, words cannot convey the fullness in our hearts because of each and every one of these people—YOU ARE ALL A BLESSED GIFT TO US, AND WE THANK GOD FOR YOU EVERYDAY! Tgiving20146 Tgiving20145 Tgiving20144Tgiving20143

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Beer, babies, and balloons, (though not necessarily in that order!)

But as it goes, the evil Father Time continued to await in the background, tip-tapping his watch, and we had to say our goodbyes the next day to dear Sarah and to Rara, Tim and Aiden. (Cue the Booooooo-ing). Fortunately, we were able to spend more time with the McDonald’s, Madson’s, Smith’s, Tritt’s, Davis’s, and Maddie and I were even able to make a quick day trip down to visit the Wall’s and see their beautiful new house in Pewaukee! Tgiving20159

Our week in Green Bay included: More fun in the snow-of course; Pottery making;   Tgiving201411

Hours of laughter as we watched Ellie and Teddy become 2 peas in a pod, and the kids PLAY;

Catching up on U.S. Movies, including HAVING to buy FROZEN (we have NOTHING down here!);

Fast-food joint visits (there is also none of that!); 566

Visits at the Madson’s, the Smith’s beautiful new home, and the McDonald’s joined us for dinner;  Tgiving201410 Doctor visits for Greyson in Wausau (note-he and I drove through a 556terrrrrrifying snow storm/white out-still thanking God for carrying us home in that one);573569

Annual deer hunting for Tom and Boss (Gary landed a 7 pointer, Tom decided to pass on some does, but all is good as he’d been drooling for hunting…literally);

photo(19) A Christmas Show!;

558 Tgiving20149 A whole lotta love; and

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Piano lessons with Auntie Sarah DiGregorio

And as the Davis’ set sail for Ohio, 2 Thanksgivings (yum and double the thanks!).

568 I very SADLY missed lunch with Merri and Brianna, and we weren’t able to get over to the Cities–next time dear friends!! We miss all of you sooooo much!

And then of course, the hourglass keeps on pushing that darn sand through, despite all of my attempts to stall it, and we had to say our final goodbyes, with our sweet Boss and Ama bringing us to the airport in Wausau. Cue, tears.

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Smiling through the tears…

And so, I can safely say we made every waking second (and there are a lot of those with 3 kids) count, thanks sooooo much to the beautiful warm, caring and receiving hearts of our dear friends and family. I am not sure the smile left our faces for 2 straight weeks, (okay, maybe during the snowstorm, staples, and DEFINITELY when saying goodbyes).

It was a beautiful reminder, burning in our hearts, at how much we have to APPRECIATE, how THANKFUL we are for all that we have (in spite of the ever present news coverage and political drama about how terrible we have it), and the people in our lives.

For if there is one thing we have learned in living abroad, (without friends or family within driving distance), it is that the people who you grow up with, that see you grow, that have lives intertwined with yours, friends that are family and family that are friends, they are GEMS. They are priceless treasures…rare, unique, and of infinite, indescribable value. EVERY SECOND YOU HAVE WITH THEM IS TO BE APPRECIATED AND VALUED. And they are also lifelines, because most importantly, if we don’t have these people in our lives, we don’t have anything.

And so, we have vacationed to tropical locations and mountain hideaways. And they are all great, and even valuable and necessary. But without a doubt, these trips home to family and friends have left our hearts more full and happy and FAT then any other trip. Ever.

XOXO Laura

8 thoughts on “Giving Thanks…and Thanksgiving

  1. Oh Laura! I’ve missed your posts! We had such an amazing time with you all! It seems like a lifetime ago already you were here!! This experience is also benefiting all of US too in realizing how we can take close relationships for granted. We miss you every day!!! Love you all to the moon & back!!

  2. Wow! I love reading your stories and so miss you! I am so happy you and your family could get together and celebrate life. That’s what it’s all about! Can’t wait to read about your next adventure and hopefully we can meet up when your in town again. God bless you and your family!

  3. Your ability to connect with your readers comes down to how you make them feel – I love reliving all that you/we did through your lens, Laura! Time is the longest distance between two places – we are now focused on July!!

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