I am thankful for airplanes. Airplanes that criss-cross the continent and allow all the appendages of my family to convene in on semi-central location. We flew from Atlanta, from North Carolina, and from British Columbia to descend upon Arizona — that’s only about twenty-six hours of flying among the five travelers (round trip) instead of the daaaays of driving or monnnnths of wagon training.
I am thankful for nieces. I have reveled in the benefits of marrying into John’s ten nieces and nephews, but there is something utterly glorious about the squishy, smiley, saucy, slobbery goodness of MY VERY OWN NIECE! Probably because I remember when my brother was the baby of the family, and now I get to watch him baby his own family. Speaking of cute: brother-as-dad is adorable. Believe it. Heart-stopping, hand-clapping adorable. So is mom-as-Grandma and dad-as-Grandpa. Basically, it’s all adorable. And especially Ella. Ella is especially adorable.
I am thankful for Arizona. I am sunburnt, dehydrated, and sandblasted; but I am happy. My Vitamin D quota has been solidly filled to overflowing and my heart is soothed by the desert sun and heat. I stare down onto the already-forming clouds between me and the earth 36,000 feet below me, look forward to seeing snow in just a few minutes, and cherish the warm bake of sun on my face while it lasts.
I am thankful for the Grand Canyon. Photos will never, ever, ever do it justice. I will resign myself to that reality and hope to someday return. Would you believe I almost didn’t get off the shuttle bus as it approached “Sunset Point” exactly at sunset? Yup, I thought it was going to be a dud of a sunset, so almost bypassed the opportunity. Instead, I ditched my heels in the middle of the rocks, scampered back and forth across the ledge running on adrenaline and stockinged feet, trying desperately to calm my visual overload adrenaline rush enough to tell my camera what to do. I’m surprised any of those photos turned out; I was so busy gasping in awe, giggling with glee, and shaking in delight I could barely take the pictures.
I am thankful for San Diego. I started my Thanksgiving vacation with two whirlwind days biking eighteen miles (!!!!), hiking a mini mountain, watching a beach sunset, cruising in the convertible, and playing with kittens. My Aunt and Uncle were kind enough to host us, give us the grand tour, and teach me how to my Grandpa Pancakes just in time to start some Christmas traditions in memory of my Grandpa.
I am thankful for Sedona ATV Rentals. An unplanned splurge, it turned into one of the most flamboyantly bonding experiences of the whole trip. There’s nothing quite like cleaning red dirt out of your ears to weld a stronger family bond. Or maybe it was the whole rinse-a-layer-of-dirt-off-in-the-grocery-store-bathroom thing that forged the bond. Either way, that’s a story we’ll laugh about for years!
I am thankful for birthdays. Flowers and balloons and streamers and signs greeted me on birthday morn’. Ice cream cake AND homemade ice cream made for succulent desserts in the desert (or is it deserts in the dessert?). My mom knew what I wanted for birthday dinner without my even asking. Ella smiled and cuddled with me all day long in her six month ooey gooey goodnes. And, ultimately, getting another year older felt a whole lot sweeter surrounded by so much love and friendship.
I am thankful for sister time. And especially thankful for the gracious Laura at Gigi’s Bridal in Tucson, AZ who made Joanna’s first girls-go-wedding-dress-shopping a rousing success. We ooohed and aaahed, we gasped in awe, we giggled over everything and anything, and we relished together this one step of baby sister’s wedding planning. I am so thankful for the privilege of watching baby sister step into her first wedding dress EVER. For shedding many a tear over the reality that little sister is engaged and will eventually step into her last wedding dress ever. For the proven reality that I’m getting old — if lil sis is getting married, if lil bro has a kid, and if I am hitting a “milestone” birthday, then my parents are obviously ancient.
I am thankful for long, strenuous hikes with my Dad and for the health to tackle mountains and bike along oceans. An eighteen mile bike ride, a 2 mile hike, and a 2.2 mile hike, a 2.5 mile hike, a 3 mile hike, and a FIVE mile hike all in a ten day vacation! (And I think I’m forgetting a hike or two.) All so full of scenic views, carefree memories, pain-free exertion, and health-proving, stamina-increasing, revelry.
I am thankful for family. And – especially – for the past ten days that our scattered lives could coordinate into one kinda crazy, very fun, moderately disjointed, and utterly memorable family vacation in Arizona. Our Thanksgiving dinner was Mexican food while watching a football game. Our caravan of cars stopped at every scenic overlook along the way, turning an easy roadtrip into an all day expedition. Our decision-making skills were handicapped by that beautiful desire to balance personal priorities with selfless aspirations. But every day, every moment, we reveled in togetherness, in that six month old who stole our hearts and the spotlight in one fell swoop, and in those big Arizona skies that smiled on our thankful vacation.