Domo Arigato–Thank you, Sisters in Oki & Beyond

I’ve been challenged by a fellow blogger, the lovely Jaci at Happiness Backpack, to blog about what I’m thankful for.

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Last November, I shrugged off doing the “Today I’m thankful for. . .” posts on Facebook every day leading up to Thanksgiving.

Although it’s a great idea, I just don’t like to do what everyone else is doing, just ‘cuz everyone else is doing it. I need my own reasons, in my own time.

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It wasn’t because I had nothing to be grateful for. In fact, knowing that my hubby would soon deploy for the first time to the desert–that’s military slang for the Middle East–made me appreciate even the most mundane moments of life.

And also think random thoughts like, "This'll be the last load of laundry of his I'll wash and fold, for months."

And also think random thoughts like, “This’ll be the last of his laundry I’ll wash and fold, for months.”

I’m grateful that B came back safely in the spring. And that I got to spend Christmas and New Year’s with my family back home in the U.S. while he was gone.

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Sister (and best friend!) holding our baby second cousin, our mama, and me. (Dad’s on the recliner in the corner, taking a well-deserved rest from all the hard work he does!)

Even though B’s commitment to the military meant we were separated during the holidays, which was really difficult at times, I am SO SO very grateful for the life I live here in Okinawa, that was only made possible by him being in the military.

Nearly all the things I dreamed of doing in Okinawa before we came here, have come true.

I got to be on the radio (AFN Okinawa) and host some radio shows! And was given an awesome DJ “handle”: “Melissa the Production Goddess”!

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I currently get paid to write articles for an online/print magazine–on trying different restaurants and sight seeing–two of my favorite things to do!

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I also get paid to teach English part time while learning about Japanese and Okinawan culture from my students! And, there are NO papers to grade! WooHOO!

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I’m even starting to do some graphic design for the magazine I write for!

I’m both grateful for and amazed at all of these opportunities, many times over. For the people who decided to “give me a chance” to pursue these loves of mine.

But, something even bigger, and more special, happened when I moved here. Something I wanted more than all that, but didn’t realize it at the time.

What I wanted, what any gal wants, when moving to a brand-spanking-new place, and especially a completely-foreign-and somewhat-intimidating place. . .

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. . . is to make some really good friends.

CLOSE friends. Friends who can have heart-to-hearts–those deep, meaningful conversations. Friends who’ll let you vent and won’t judge or tell all your business with a dash of Haterade. Friends who don’t mind you being totally yourself, and in fact LOVE your ridiculous, sarcastic personality.

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I’m very cautious about whom I become friends with, for all the typical reasons. And that precaution has served me well, and helped me avoid too much cuh-RAZY throughout the years.

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My expectations were so low as far as making *good* friends in Okinawa, that I ended up stocking up on drawing and sewing supplies, and figured I’d spend my days sketching on the beach, or locked away in my craft room, sewing purses and skirts.

Even knit purses with zippers and fabric lining and pockets sewn in!

I did end up knitting some purses for friends, with zippers and fabric lining and pockets sewn in!

I guess I might’ve been okay with that. Fortunately, I was blessed from the very start of moving to Okinawa, to meet a handful of girlfriends in Oki who have become my second family. So my post is actually dedicated to WHO I’m thankful for, not WHAT.

"WHO aRe you. . . thankful for?"

“WHO aRe you. . . thankful for?”

We live in a culture where it’s so much easier to criticize each other (though usually not to each other’s faces–don’t think I’m completely immune to this, either). We also have such high expectations of what we’re supposed to look and be like, that we give in to negative self-talk. We magnify the flaws we see, that no one else even notices.

 

Like that viral Dove sketch artist commercial, it’s rare to find a woman who’s confident and comfortable in her skin. We focus so much on what we think is lacking, that we can’t see ourselves as the beautiful souls we really are.

 

But our friends do.

 

So let me do the honor of being a mirror to your loveliness, friends.  Because I’m grateful for you.

 

There’s Amy, my bubbly sponsor and first friend on island (and birthday twin!). I nicknamed her “The Social Network” (she seems to know EVERYBODY, and if she doesn’t know you, she WILL). Amy is the most friendly, inclusive, helpful person I know. She wasn’t even phased when I rolled my eyes at her for suggesting we do a 31 bags party on our shared 31st birthday.

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Now THAT’S friendship.

There’s dear Amber, whom I’ve had countless heart-to-hearts with, about our dreams in life and for our businesses, the latest personal development books we’ve read, our relationships, and more. Amber is my shopping (Seoul, baby!) and pedicure buddy. She’s also honest, caring, and loyal. And her family is legit family–I walk into her house without ringing the doorbell. Like family.

You've been made irrelevant.

You’ve been made irrelevant.

There’s southern belle Olivia, who’s sassy and compassionate and generous with her time and talent, too. She’s also focused on what she wants, a good listener, artistic, and REALLY good at games–a competitor after my own heart.

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And then there’s Yesenia, who’s kind of like a younger sister-from-another-mister, who’s no-BS real, fun, smart and super-motivated, who’s sweet but also stronger-than-duct tape. Yesenia’s also my go-to sushi date, whenever I’m craving sushi (which is often!).

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And there’s spunky, fun-loving Melissa H., who cracks me up and who never fails to call-it-like-she-sees it, which I love. We’re on the same page with most things. She has recommended several books I’ve enjoyed. I think I could handle being stationed in her home state of freeze-your-bum-off Alaska if it meant she was there to hang out with.

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There’s Bri, who’s so strong that at 7 months pregnant she climbed a mountain, and played volleyball a week before giving birth, and probably could’ve swum across the English Channel if given the chance. She has no censor and is therefore funny as well as easy going, and a good mom, to her baby and her dalmatian.

Step aside, Wonder Woman.

Step aside, Wonder Woman.

And all my dragon boat sisters, including Emily, who’s from Illinois, like me, and is a whole lot of fun to talk to and hang out with.

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And there are so many other beautiful, real women, on and off island, who have crossed paths with me, who are my extended family. I’d feel like I were rattling off an Oscar acceptance speech if I named all of you wonderful ladies, but I hope that you know that you, too, are special to me.

To all my sisters-from-other-misters, I like you. I REALLY do. You can’t deny that fact:

Seriously though, I appreciate you, all the gorgeousness and fun and “real-ness” you’ve brought into my life, and into the world. I’m thankful for the laughter and joy and advice and shoulders-to-cry-on, and for really being there in practical ways, too, like picking me up from the airport and dog sitting and car pooling.

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 And I’m grateful that I could be there for you, too, to help out, listen, give advice when needed, to ugly cry on, to give you a ride, or to entertain you and/or your kids. It’s been a pleasure.