Name five things that were unexpected in your life that you are now grateful for.
My husband: When I moved to Nome, AK, I was set on staying for a year, maybe two and then going to seminary, from grace to grace. My prior dating experience said to me that I was probably not a person who would get married. It wasn't about standards, but that I just didn't seem to meet a guy who could keep up with me, much less occasionally set the pace. One night in October 2002, a guy spoke to a friend of mine in the Anchor Tavern in Nome and I turned around on my bar stool to join the conversation. Four days later, I ran into the same guy when he was flying Senator Ted Stevens to the island of Little Diomede and I was going along as a reporter. We ran into each other again at my house Halloween party and then off and on until he asked me out on 2 January 2003. And I guess we've never looked back. But I never saw it coming.
My son: Yes, I know how it happened, but we weren't trying. We weren't surprised at the situation, so much as the timing, but we were excited about Beloved Son from the moment we knew. (Overwhelmed, but excited.) Now I couldn't imagine life without this giggling surge of energy, tracking me around the house with stories to read, throwing things (spoons! shoes! the dog's bowl!) into flower pots. (We keep the door to the bathroom CLOSED!) He's into everything and he thinks it's all hysterical. Everything is new and everything (almost) is fun. And I'm very grateful for his enthusiasm and love.
XX, my autism intervention client: When I started at a 4-year school, I chose one that did a specific method of autism intervention, focusing on basic skills, repetition and positive reinforcement. I loved the work, but it was very, very frustrating. Since I do not have a child with special needs, it is difficult to imagine the day in and day out stress of that situation. Thus I am not judging the mother of this client when it seemed like she was undermining our progress. We would work to get him to use a spoon, she'd let him eat with his hands. We were working on "putting away", she wanted to work on opening Christmas presents. As sympathetic as I tried to be, I felt frustrated. I remember leaving after a session and having a clear vision of only being able to do this kind of work for 7 or 8 years before being too tired, frustrated and burned out from the struggle to teach and to match goals. Releasing my vision of myself as Special Needs Therapist Extraordinaire made room for me to muse about my interest in religion and the recent appearance of the phrase "discernment" in conversations I was having. I hope that client and his family reached some of their goals and that they are all doing well. They taught me that it is possible to love something, but realize it's not for you.
Medical technology: You don't always know you appreciate it until you need it. My father survived a surgery and healing of a broken neck. My son and I did not die when he became lodged in my pelvis. I'm glad we live in this day and age. I was grateful at the time. I'm far more grateful now.
My best friend: We met working at a summer camp in NC in the summer of 2001. We connected, but I don't think either of us had any concept of how much more deeply we would go. Nine and a half years later, we're still supporting each other. We're planning a big event for ourselves next year- a milestone birthday for both of us and our ten-year anniversary. Break-ups, deaths, moves, job changes, graduations, pets, birth, deployments... this friend has always been there. I think the thing that I appreciate about this relationship is that we know how much work we've put into it. Sometimes people make it seem like a friendship is effortless, but I think any close relationship takes work. We've had to learn how to be honest with one another, how to speak up for what we need, to remember connections that bring the past into the future's light. My first memory of her is during camp orientation, I see her sitting in a chair, telling us how to pronounce WIS-consin and finger- knitting. We've come a long way, though I know she'd still run me over to get to Justin Timberlake. ;)