Tag Archives: family

Tradition! Tradition!

And who does Mama teach to mend and tend and fix,
Preparing me to marry whoever Papa picks?

The daughter, the daughter! Tradition!
The daughter, the daughter! Tradition!

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In my family, “Tradition!” means seeing a high-quality stage performance every year with my mom and sister. When I was little, we’d see the short version of The Nutcracker Ballet at Christmas time. Over the years, our tradition changed from the long version of the Nutcracker to any Christmas play, to matinee performances of fine theater, to dinners at the Arizona Broadway Theater. This year, we doubled the traditional value of our girls’ night out and saw ABT’s performance of Fiddler on the Roof, a family favorite for three generations.

If you’ve never seen it, Fiddler on the Roof is the story of Jewish family in pre-revolution Russia. Reb Tevya, his wife, and his five daughters walk a fine line between the tension of a changing society under the czars and the centuries-old traditional order of Jewish life. Tevya’s oldest daughter breaks tradition by choosing her own husband. He allows it. His second daughter breaks tradition by not only choosing her own husband, but choosing a man who with progressive ideology. He blesses it. The third daughter crosses the line by eloping with a Russian Orthodox Christian soldier. Tevya is forced to decide whether his relationship with his daughters or tradition is most important.

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The story gives an interesting perspective on family, religion, and culture. The soundtrack is excellent! We still have my grandpa’s old record of the score.

What’s that? You say you’ve never seen it? What! Why are you still reading this? By all means, open a new browser window and reserve the movie at your nearest public library!

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You’re back? You reserved it? Wonderful! You won’t be disappointed. We certainly weren’t disappointed by the live performance. The characters seemed to have stepped right out of history or the screen of the movie version.

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The performance of Fiddler at ABT is going to be very hard to beat. However, I have a feeling that the next stage production that we see may be even better. Next on our playbill is Phantom of the Opera on Broadway in New York City. Stay tuned for a blog post on Phantom, coming soon to a 3rd Culture Wife blog near you.

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Christmas in the Caribbean

We had a white Christmas this year… A white sand beach Christmas, that is.


While most of our med school compadres went back to the States or Canada for Christmas, Ben and I opted to stay on the island. My parents and my sister flew in to spend a week on the island with us, and we had a blast! Going home to see family is awesome, but it was even better to have them come see us this time.


Being in a new place calls for new traditions, but it also shows you how important the old ones are. Sometimes you just need the smell of homemade cinnamon rolls for it to really feel like Christmas.

We ditched some of the traditional Christmassy things– no lights outside, a small paper tree rather than a real evergreen, no Christmas cookies.


We kept some of our traditions– my great grandma’s Christmas cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning, reading Luke 2 from the Bible before opening presents, observing advent, Christmas carols on Christmas Eve, putting our gifts in hilariously ridiculous prank gift boxes.


We did some things we’ve never done before– “wine” (sparkling cider) and cheese for lunch, a trip to the beach.


On Christmas morning, we woke up to the sound of a restless puppy wanting to go outside. Ben took her on a short walk, and I made cinnamon rolls for breakfast. My parents and sister, Kaylee, came over after their morning run and we read the Christmas story in the Bible and opened gifts. When the cinnamon rolls were ready, we had breakfast.

 After this, we drove across the island to Wilderness for a hike. Before long, we could see a storm rising from the sea near St. Barth’s, so we ran back down the hill and jumped in the car just in time! We drove home and had sparkling cider, cheese, and crackers for lunch  (we’re practically on a French diet).

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My mom and I finished making the rest of the cinnamon rolls and we all headed down to Mullet Bay Beach. I grew up in Arizona and Ben grew up in subsaharan Africa, so neither of us have had many white Christmases. The lack of snow here on our tropical island was nothing new for us, but going to the beach was. It’s a welcome change!

  
At the end of the day, tired but happy, we had dinner of smoked chicken, mashed potatoes and rolls. We took a stroll to the casino to see the Christmas village in the parking lot. Then we set up the laptop and enjoyed our family favorite Christmas movie– Christmas Do-Over– while our worn-out little puppy snoozed at our feet.

The best Christmas traditions, to me, are not the ones that have to do with red and green garland, music, or food. The best tradition to have at Christmas is simply to be with family. Whether the family around you is your parents and siblings, spouse and children or your closest friends, let’s be thankful for the loved ones that God has given us.

And We Have a Winner!

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Guess what came today!

That’s right– Caribbean Dream by Rachel Isadora. Last week, I announced a giveaway contest for this book. Today it’s time to announce this winner!

By the way– I bought this book. I didn’t receive it as an incentive for the giveaway. I just like the book and thought you might like it, too!

On Tuesday, I’m going to give it and a couple other similar books to the local kids I tutor for their little league library. I’m looking forward to reading it with them.

And now, without further ado, congratulations to our winner….

…..Octavia Carpenter!

Be looking in your mailbox for your copy of this book!

***

This book isn’t the only thing that arrived on the island of Saint Maarten today.

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At 2:43 pm, this Delta flight soared over Sunset Beach and touched down on Dutch Caribbean soil. I watched it taxi from my friend’s house on the hill and strained my eyes to see the passengers exiting the plane. Finally I saw them… my mom, my dad and my sister! I’m so excited to spend the next week with them here. Tune in soon to hear about our Caribbean Christmas adventures!

Tropical Thanksgiving

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Happy Thanksgiving weekend from the Johnsons! This was my first Thanksgiving outside the United States. Here’s how we celebrated it, expat-style.

Since Thanksgiving is strictly a U.S. holiday, nobody on Sint Maarten got the day off work or school. We weren’t too bothered by this; two of Ben’s classes have ended, so he only had to be at school for three hours. We spent the extra two hours in the morning catching some waves at the beach.

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Waves at Mullet Bay

 

Usually, we run in a Turkey Trot (Thanksgiving 5K) on Thanksgiving morning. I have to admit that I felt a little guilty for not running on our family’s annual race day! Between my  bad knees, the humidity, and the lack of Thanksgiving festivities, though, I was definitely happy to “settle” for boogie boarding to earn my extra Thanksgiving dinner calories.

Another tradition that I missed was the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Instead of that, I watched Phineas and Ferb in Spanish while Ben was in lab. Maybe I’ll be able to catch some parade clips on YouTube later.

The one traditional thing that I definitely did for Thanksgiving was cook! It was a little lonely to be in the kitchen by myself– usually, my mom, dad, sister, and I all work together to make Thanksgiving dinner. This year, we went to a Thanksgiving potluck with our church group, AUC’s Christian Medical and Dental Association. I made bread rolls and pumpkin pie. I didn’t have a pie pan, so Ben put a sign next to my casserole-dish pie that said ” πr2 .” I don’t know if anyone got it, but we thought it was funny.

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Pumpkin Spice Latte Pie

 

Since there were three other people also making pumpkin pie (Thanksgiving calls for a LOT of pie, people!), I decided to make pumpkin spiced latte pie with chocolate swirls. You’re welcome, Starbucks lovers!

Check back Tuesday for the chocolate pumpkin spiced latte pie recipe on my new weekly segment, Foodie Tuesdays!

I actually got to enjoy three Thanksgiving dinners! It would have been four, but I missed the one put on my the AUC spouses organization because we rented a car that day and needed to get all our shopping done.

The first Thanksgiving dinner I had was the Saturday before Thanksgiving. My friend Stacy invited us to share in their holiday celebrations with their visiting family. She and her future mother-in-law made a delicious, home-cooked, Southern-style feast!

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Thanksgiving Lunch at AUC

 

The second Thanksgiving meal I had was at lunch on Thanksgiving Day. American University of the Caribbean doesn’t give students the day off school, but they do give a free lunch with turkey, potatoes and all the traditional fixings!

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Thanksgiving Potluck with CMDA

 

The last Thanksgiving feast we had was the potluck with CMDA. There were about 30 people there– friends, neighbors, classmates, and people we’ve never seen before. There was a row of tables filled with aromatic dishes, and more dessert than anyone could handle. Yum! CMDA president Blake carved the turkey, Ben carved the ham, we said a prayer of thanks, and then we all sat down to enjoy the meal and the beautiful ocean view from the porch.

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I was thrilled to see these little guys at the potluck.

 

When we got home later, we Skyped my parents. Even though we missed them, my sister,who was in Wyoming for the holiday, and Ben’s family who are in various parts of the world, it was good to be able to talk to family and share a part of day with them, even if we could not share a meal.

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Ben carving up the ham

 

What an amazing sunset. What a great day. We have so much to be thankful for: food, friends, family, video chat and email, the kids and coaches on the baseball team, our island paradise, school, church, and so much more… most of all, the saving grace of God. He is so good to us, and has blessed us more than we could ever imagine.

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Missing Friends Back Home

People are a liability. You can replace homes, you can replace cars, you can replace clothes and electronics and stuff, but you can’t replace people. People are a liability because having relationships hurts. If you have relationships, you will have pain. Maybe they will hurt you, maybe you will hurt them, maybe you will hurt just because they hurt. Maybe it will hurt because you have to say goodbye.

Saying goodbye hurts.

I said a lot of goodbyes this year. After graduation in May, the class exodus to old homes and new jobs commenced. I started to miss people I didn’t even know I liked that much. Then, the month before we moved, we helped close friends move to Arkansas, Nevada, and Northern Arizona. We said goodbye to friends and family going to dozens of location around the country and around the globe.

And then we left.

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The weeks before we left were a blur. We said goodbyes, gave hugs, and shared tears until my heart felt numb. We said goodbye at the airport to my family, and I bawled in the terminal once we were finally through security and waiting for the plane.

The thing about people is that you can’t replace them. You can make new friends, but they hold a new place in your heart. They don’t fill the place of the old friends. I wish I could take all my old friends and all my new friends and all my family and move them to this little island. One thing that stinks about moving around is that no matter where you go, you always miss somebody.
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The first few weeks we were here, I felt like we were on vacation, so it wasn’t too hard to be away from people I know. When school started up and I started to spend more time alone, I started to feel the absence of familiarity. I feel bad, but I have to admit that I kind of resented my neighbors for not being my old neighbors. I missed having neighbors knock on our door randomly throughout the week to say hi or share a DVD or ask for prayer. I really started to miss people. I missed my family. I missed our Bible study group. I missed our church. I missed everyone from work. I missed friends from school. I missed everybody. I still do. Sometimes, part of me wants to just go back to Arizona. But I also know that things aren’t the same there now. New people live in our apartment complex, new people work at my old job, new people go to my old college, and so many people who used to be there are gone.

I try to live by the adage, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” I compile pictures from past seasons of life and smile when I look at them. And then I look around and thank God for the wonderful things I have in this season. In a year and a half, when we leave, I’m going to feel the same pains of goodbye about this place. And thus goes life– goodbyes and good memories.

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Ben is used to goodbyes, and they don’t faze him as much as they faze me. That’s part of being a Third Culture Kid. You get used to saying goodbye. Ben has made five international moves and probably said goodbye to more people than I’ve ever met. All I can say is thank goodness for modern technology. I used to hate Facebook until I married into a family with members in five different countries. Now, I’m glad to have a way to see pictures of my nieces and nephews and find out what’s going on in my family members’ lives. It kills me that I’m not there to watch the kids grow up. But I’m glad I can still be a little bit involved from where I am. Als0, I’m convinced that video chat is the best invention of the century. In the last week, we were able to Skype into both my parents’ birthday celebrations, and it was almost as good as being there (despite the awkward delay when trying to sing “Happy Birthday”). I can’t imagine how it must have been for people when mail went overseas by boat only. It makes my day when I get an email or a Facebook message from a friend back home.

I’m learning how to stay in touch. Historically, neither Ben nor myself have been too awesome at this. Ben literally has no time to do it himself these days, but I’m trying to get better at it. I even wrote nineteen post cards a couple weeks ago. They probably won’t get anywhere for a couple of months, but hey. I’m also getting better at initiating and answering emails. I’ve only Skyped a few people, but I have a lot more I want to talk to. Also, my phone works here (joy of joys!) so I can even get phone calls! Our friend Bizi moved from the Southwest to the East Coast two years ago. He still posts Facebook pictures of friends from our college days to let us know he’s thinking about us. I love that. If any of you, dear readers, have ideas on how to keep connected with people, please let me know in the comments!

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Burned into my memory is the last goodbye we said to friends. We had a game night at Bernie and Jessica’s apartment a couple days before we left. As we were leaving, our friend Marcus stood outside the apartment and waved to us with a sad smile. We were just about to turn around and walk away, when Bernie popped out of the door with a giant smile and way too much energy for 11:00 pm–

“Bye, guys! See you in Heaven!”

Marcus slapped him. “Shut up!”

We had to laugh. It was funny, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that Bernie’s really on to something. I really hope we see him again before we die, but no matter what, we know that between Believers in Christ, there is no “Goodbye forever.” It’s always just “goodbye for now.”

It makes me think of a Michael W. Smith song that has become close to my heart.

Because friends are friends forever,

If the Lord’s the lord of them,

And a friend will not say never,

Cause the welcome will not end.

Though it’s hard to let you go,

Still the Father says we know

That a lifetime’s not too long to live as friends.

A lifetime’s not too long to be friends. Stay in touch with us, guys. We miss you and love you.