I’m spending my first Autumn (although it feels like Winter) back in Washington since my move to the Kingdom of Wonder, my beloved Cambodia.

There are moments that feel familiar: the slight crunch of frosted blades of grass under foot, the bright cold I feel creep into my bones as I start my car in the morning, the scent of fireplaces and pine needles and candles alight. Last year, we hosted Thanksgiving with a little roast chicken from Lucky and mashed potatoes delivered from KFC in our lovely light, airy home with close friends where outside it was sweltering heat  and we had the air conditioning cranked up high enough to require a sweater. This year, I got to be with my second family- The Millers- and it was incredibly special to sit amongst them at a table bursting with delectables.

Giving thanks, regardless of what you have or where you are, can be difficult, particularly in times of drought. What I’ve learned this year is to be grateful for the people who are not only a part of my life, but allow me to be a part of theirs. For events, times, and memories that remain untainted by selfishness or thoughtlessness. For still moments set aside for my thoughts and me, alone to reflect and to dig deep. For having friends near and far who support me, who put me in their direct vision instead of periphery. For times of past that were long forgotten, but pulled from the recesses of my mind that fill me with warmth.

I am grateful for what my parents taught me. Rather than shirk from fear or confrontation to face it head on, regardless of how painful it may be. I am thankful for their mercy and grace that they extended to me time and time again and pushed me to do the same for others. I am beyond appreciative to have borne witness to their love and commitment to each other over 32 years until death parted them; I saw something very rare in a world where fidelity can be erased with the ease of a signature.

Here I write in my cozy little apartment eating Bagel Bites, the sunlight streaming in with the heater on high, and bundled in my plush throw and I am grateful. Nothing is perfect and I am grateful for it all because from things bitter or flawed, I grow and I learn- and this time next year I will have these times to enlighten me.

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