It was a quiet Thanksgiving here in our little apartment. I spent the morning drinking coffee and going through a massive amount of photos from the past six months, and the afternoon video chatting with family back in Michigan. I’ve definitely appreciated the space to breathe this week – we’ve spent so many of our breaks and even weekends out of town.

I’m not feeling particularly festive this year. It may be as small as the tragic combination of PMS and a bad haircut. (Not to be underestimated!) It may be the startled realization that it’s been over a year since we moved across the country, and that so little has changed (other than the steady trickle of bank accounts emptying into cross-country flights.) It may be that this Michigan girl still can’t reconcile the disconnect of a California Christmas, with snowflakes pinned to palm trees. More than that, it’s other contrasts: A colonizer’s holiday is celebrated in a country where having the wrong skin color can (still) be fatal. Messages of peace and goodwill decorate doors that are closed to refugees and to neighbors who worship the wrong way. People celebrate the holidays with death-defying consumerism, rushing into stores where employees can’t make a living wage but can be trampled to death.

Gratitude is important, however. It’s one small way to fight the discontent and greed and hate. I feel that I often write about gratitude, both here and elsewhere. For me, it’s the only antidote to the absolutely  human capacity for discontent.

This year I’m thankful:

  • for this still-new city, with its many beauties – both obvious and hidden
  • for my husband, who for eight years has been my adventure partner, and who more recently has become a very good cook
  • for that cat who we love despite it all
  • for friends both old and new, both near and far
  • for technology that allows us to connect with our loved ones even from far away
  • for new nephews and new sisters-in-law
  • for weddings and the chances to go to them, even from across the country
  • for my job and the chance to work hard for something I care about, with wonderful students, families, and staff
  • for the chances I’ve had to connect with others in a positive ways – my own students, exchange students, youth volunteers and children in Mexico
  • for the opportunities and the connections I’ve made via the Spanish language
  • for (oddly enough) the chance to participate in our justice system by serving on a jury
  • for health, freedom, food on the table, and a roof over my head
  • for photos to fill in the spaces when words fail me:

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Two of my favorite ladies, dancing at the Corner Brewery on New Year’s Eve.

Not a high quality photo, necessarily, but a good last memory of a vivid, vivid year.




Lights in the cold air.




Christmas – snow, lights, and family.




Wrapping presents.




Holidays in Ypsilanti are no longer complete without Krampus. Be good, kids.




Friendsgiving: Deep fried turkeys, cautionary tales, a piñata full of candy (and a few precious binder clips), a cute baby, the most amazing brussel sprouts ever, and lots of shouting.




I spent Thanksgiving with a combined group of parents, siblings, future in-laws, and distant voices on the phone.



El Día de los Muertos – a small portable altar remembering Frida Kahlo, in a cigar box that I carried around to my classes. I turned off the lights and let children speculate about the flickering light that came from inside the almost-closed lid.

We didn’t learn much Spanish today, partially because culture is important and partially because I am completely defeated and gave up on language teaching in favor of cultural theatrics and coloring calavera masks. We accidentally learned a lot today, however – about Frida, about other cultures, about the ways death has played a part in the lives of my students, and what they have done about it – and about people different from ourselves, and what we are going to do about it.

I was a good teacher today, but completely on accident. I needed that, though, because I have no effort left to put into being good at things – just a lot of things that seem to be falling apart.


We watched them being constructed all week, these large and flammable works of art constructed to be beautiful, or graceful, or socially relevant, or just comical. Tonight, the final night of Hogueras, they all go up in flames.

The official hoguera in the main square is always the first to burn. We watched in awe and occasionally fear as the flames climbed up above the rooftops and rained sparks down onto our heads… wonder and awe that would normally be quenched by fire codes back home.

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