Another Thanksgiving

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Being a U.S. citizen living in Canada with my Mexican husband means that our months overflow with holidays.

Last month, I celebrated Thanksgiving with the rest of Canada. Today I follow on social media the United States as it progresses from Turkey Trotting-Macy’s Day Parade viewing-baking-asking for cooking help on Facebook-traveling-eating-filtering Instagram posts-watching movies-watching football-eating-resting-drinking to sleeping. On Saturday, husband and I will have our own Thanksgiving dinner since we are going to his office’s winter holiday party tonight.

I love that my current life provides these opportunities to learn about and experience new national and cultural holidays. It also requires me to coherently explain U.S. holidays and their customs to my inquisitive husband.

I still am looking for a good rationale to justify marshmallows on Thanksgiving sweet potatoes other than they are sweet and gooey.

Though it’s a regular day in Canada, my cultural DNA motivates me to think about the many people and things I am grateful for this past year, and two activities come to mind.

I relied on writing (personal and professional) and running to keep me strong and optimistic while adjusting to this new life of freelance writing, marriage, and immigration. I am grateful for how the two activities combined into a single tonic for my mind and body that often felt queasy from all of the changes.

I also am grateful for how running lets me be a better writer or at least provides the excuse to take a break. Nick Ripatrazone beautifully writes about the link between writing and running in his recent piece for The Atlantic. It’s a terrific, encouraging read with many profiles of and quotes by authors who run. The piece itself is like a long run along Vancouver’s seawall with sudden, stunning views:

“Through running, writers deepen their ability to focus on a single, engrossing task and enter a new state of mind entirely—word after word, mile after mile.”

“Why do writers so often love to run? Running affords the freedom of distance, coupled with the literary appeal of solitude. There’s a meditative cadence to the union of measured breaths and metered strides.”

-Nick Ripatrazone, Why Writers Run

I am grateful to celebrate Thanksgiving every day I open my laptop and pull on my running shoes.

My Aunt Is A Kiwi

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My aunt Linda arrives in New Zealand today for a two-week trip with a high-school friend.

Linda has always been a role model. She received a Ph.D. in political science from a major research and had a successful 38-year career as a professor at another university. During her tenure, my aunt established the university’s women’s study program; served as department chairman and associate provost; and educated more than 5,000 students.

Linda’s willingness to travel is one of the many things I admire about her. Growing up, I loved hearing about the foods ate and towns visited while in Germany, England, and France. She and her son/my cousin spent a summer vacation driving around Nova Scotia. She was present at the end of East Germany and the reunification of Germany. Linda has gone on an African safari, cruised the Egyptian Nile, and ate paella in Spain.

The photo below is of a mural in the town square of San Jose del Cabo in Mexico where  she and I spent a week together last year.

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According to Linda, she has visited 24 countries and yet never seems to take them for granted. The numerous trips have given her a respectful perspective towards the places visited, applying  her academic research skills to understand the cultures, peoples, and politics of the new places.

I think I understand that. Growing up in Chattanooga, Tennessee, though decades apart, we were motivated to cross borders to experience something new.

When international travel was impossible for me, I was happy to see the United States, feeling more secure in my cross-country adventures knowing Linda had just spent a month across the Atlantic. In college, I chose internships in Atlanta, Washington, DC, Chicago, and New York City. I endured two years in chilly Boston and then drove across the top of this country to the freshness of Seattle where I lived for 16 years. My career there with a regional nonprofit kept my travel tank full by traveling throughout the Northwest.  Now I am living just three hours north in Vancouver, BC, with plans to use this as the base for international travel with my husband.

Linda travels the world and brings the invaluable gift of inspiration back.  We chat on the phone (or all too infrequently in person) about her trips. Her journeys travel through my eyes and ears, up to my brain, down to my heart, and makes my feet move forward. I can’t wait to hear about this trip.

What Terry Fox Knew

I ran by the Terry Fox Plaza in front of BC Place last Sunday.

Terry Fox Plaza

Terry Fox Plaza

The memorial for the Canadian hero consists of four bronze sculptures representing the iconic image of Terry, curly hair and simple shoes, running with a thin prosthetic leg towards you, approaching you along a road.

Sunday was the 35th anniversary of his starting the Marathon of Hope, a cross-country run from Newfoundland to Vancouver he planned to raise awareness about cancer. An earlier diagnosis of cancer in Terry resulted in the amputation of his right leg.

The experience also resulted in his personal commitment to instill hope in others living with cancer by doing something incredible, such as running across Canada. At the age of 21, he ran 5,373 kilometres (3,339 miles) before the cancer returned, forcing him to end the Marathon of Hope after five months. The story of Terry continues to inspire people today, and the foundation set up in his honor has raised over $650 million dollars for cancer research and generates an unlimited amount of global awareness about cancer.

“I’m not a dreamer, and I’m not saying this will initiate any kind of definitive answer or cure to cancer, but I believe in miracles. I have to.” Terry Fox

I ran by the memorial for appreciation and inspiration.  Terry started his Marathon in 1980 without the aid of an ipod or GU — while recovering from cancer and running with a basic prosthetic leg. He ran without the benefit of the information we easily have now about proper gear, hydration, and training for an endurance run. I wonder if any one then knew how such an effort would impact his body.

I wonder if not knowing all of that made it easier for Terry to go forward with the run.

In my current world of launching a freelance writing service while trying to stay healthy, it’s easy to either be complacent with the advantages of this moment or ridiculously freaked out about the risks. It’s easy to obsess about my running plan or be despondent when my Garmin drops its reception on 12th Avenue.

It’s easy to read one more blog about freelance writers writing as freelancers for freelance writers wanting to be freelance writers. It’s easy to find a podcast proclaiming the latest myths, truths, to-dos, things to avoid, secrets, common sense, thought leaders, and accidental entrepreneurs about launching a small business.

It’s easy to not move forward with too much information.

I then run past Terry Fox’s memorial facing towards his final destination of Stanley Park, and immediately feel that my moments without gratitude ignore opportunities, my moments with hope create more opportunities, and my moments of not knowing bring me the most satisfaction.