A rather odd “thankful” list…

I can tell you about a million things I’m thankful for in the US. And that was before I moved to Uganda. Now that list has grown by leaps and bounds. You think you have a lot to be thankful for  in America, but you truly have no idea until you’ve lived without it.

Today is Thanksgiving. While families across the US, including mine, get together for turkey, football and fellowship, I am heading to school. It will be just another day here in Uganda, a place the pilgrims apparently didn’t stop at on their journey to America.

My “What I’m Thankful for” list this year is unlike any other I have ever had. I’m skipping over the obvious things (God, family, friends, etc.) since those things clearly hold true no matter where I live. But here it is, what I’m thankful for in 2013 as I celebrate Thanksgiving while living in Uganda:

Samosa Day at the school snack barIMG_20130905_101345
Forget turkey and stuffing. Every Thursday the most delicious and delectable treat to ever enter the world is served at the school snack bar, “The Watering Hole.” Thursday is samosa day, I always eat two and skip lunch with hopes that I can get another one after school. Samosas are kind of like egg rolls in triangle form. And they are a party in my mouth.

Bootleg DVDs
It gets dark here at around 6 o’clock. There isn’t much to do after dark, considering it isn’t always safe. So what is there to do once papers have been graded and lessons planned? We don’t have a television, but we do have laptops. And thanks to the many, many vendors who sell bootleg DVDs in Kampala, we have access to every movie and television series ever made for approximately $1 each.

My students
While I loved my students in America, they were a major stressor in my life more often than not. Here, my students brighten my day. They are the reason I look forward to Monday mornings. They make me want to be a better teacher and a better person. They inspire me like no students ever have.

IMG_4562Palm Trees
I’ve always been obsessed with palm trees. Even though for the past five or so years I’ve spent Christmas in Florida, you would think I was seeing palm trees for the first time. I take pictures of nearly ever palm tree I see in Florida. In Uganda, they are everywhere, and the fact that I wake up to a view of palm trees each morning is simply a gift from God.

My WGM family
I may not have my biological family here, but this Thanksgiving I’m thankful for my World Gospel Mission family. We are getting together tonight for Thanksgiving dinner, having a turkey and everything! So thankful for their Christian wisdom, guidance, and friendship.

New friends
Nope, they don’t know all about my family. They don’t know the heartaches of my past. They don’t even know my favorite foods or movies or where I like to shop. They haven’t been around for any longer than four months, but I am so incredibly grateful for my new friends. Be it from Uganda, America, Canada, or anywhere else in the world, I thank God on a daily basis for the people He has put in my life as I continue this journey in Africa.

The new “little people” in my lifeIMG_4520
I hate not being Aunt Natalie, but Uganda has provided me with so many opportunities to love on little people, whether they are Ugandan or American. From Florence and Gideon (our day guard’s children) to my friend’s children, I have plenty of little people who bring joy to my life each and every day.

A year ago I didn’t even know what Stoney was, and now I can’t imagine life without it. There’s IMG_20130904_175739 (2)nothing better than an ice cold Stoney on a hot day. The delicious ginger-flavored drink is now one of my favorites.

I don’t know where I’ll be a year from now. Perhaps I’ll be having another Thanksgiving-less November in Uganda, or maybe I’ll be back in the US celebrating with my family. Only God knows, but either way, there will always be plenty to be thankful for. God has shown me that year after year, no matter where I am.

“Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving,
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
For the Lord is a great God
And a great King above all gods.”
Psalm 95:2-3

My list is better…

Askmen.com released its list of “99 Most Desireable Women.” The ladies are as follows:

1. Jennifer Lawrence
2. Mila Kunis
3. Kate Upton
4. Rihanna
5. Emma Stone
6. Miranda Kerr
7. Kristen Stewart
8. Jessica Gomes
9. Jessica Pare
10. Michelle Jenneke

There are three women on the list I’ve never even heard of. And seeing Rihanna and Kristen Stewart on the list just makes me sick to my stomach. Ugh!

I decided to make my own list. No, I’m not playing for the other team now. I still love the Channing Tatums and Denzel Washingtons of the world, but we all know that women can find other women attractive and it not be “weird.”

Here’s MY list of the most beautiful and desirable women:

SOURCE: www.awomensclub.com
SOURCE: http://www.awomensclub.com

1. Blake Lively – My girl crush. I love everything about Blake Lively. When I found out that she and Ryan  Reynolds got married, my first thought was, “He’s so lucky.” No seriously. Blake is physically everything I want to be, and I think she is hands down the most beautiful woman on the planet.


2. Paula Patton – Why don’t more guys love her? She’s so stunning and seems very classy to me, and I think she’s amazing.

SOURCE: InStyle.com
SOURCE: InStyle.com

3. Jennifer Aniston – Duh. Near perfection. She’s in her 40’s and looks better than most women I know in their 20’s.

SOURCE: www.airtan.com
SOURCE: http://www.airtan.com

4. Kim Kardashian – Say what you want about her otherwise, but when it comes to looks, Kim is one of the most strikingly beautiful women to ever walk the earth. She looks so exotic, and as a blonde-haired, blue-eyed white girl, I am super jealous!

SOURCE: www.fanpop.com
SOURCE: http://www.fanpop.com

5. Halle Berry – Who else can have a rockin’ body at that age, super short hair, and still be drop-dead gorgeous?

SOURCE: www.digitalspy.com
SOURCE: http://www.digitalspy.com

6. Natalie Portman – Aside from Black Swan, she always looks gorgeous.

SOURCE: www.parade.com
SOURCE: http://www.parade.com

7. Emily Maynard -My guilty pleasure: The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. Emily is so insanely beautiful that it makes me sick. She seemed down-to-earth on her season of The Bachelorette, but tabloids say she’s awful. Either way, she’s super pretty.

SOURCE: www.celebrityhaircolorguide.com
SOURCE: http://www.celebrityhaircolorguide.com

8. Minka Kelly – I’m envious of anyone with brown eyes. Hers are lovely.

SOURCE: www.topnews.in
SOURCE: http://www.topnews.in

9. Jessica Alba – Who doesn’t love Jessica Alba? My favorite movie of hers is Honey. And I love the direction her life has taken with her company “Honest.” Beautiful girl with a good heart.

SOURCE: www.amny.com
SOURCE: http://www.amny.com

10. Audrey Hepburn – I was going to keep this list to living celebrities only, but I can’t help but have Audrey on the list. Class. Sophistication. And she spent the final years of her life helping others around the world through UNICEF. What’s more beautiful than that?

A Penguin Riding a Peppermint…

Some people like big, perfectly decorated and color-coordinated Christmas trees. I don’t disagree, those trees are beautiful, but what I love is the type of Christmas tree that I grew up with. No rhyme or reason, no color coordination, and no “theme” other than “a bunch of random ornaments from throughout the years.”

I used to love decorating the tree with my mom and dad. We’d pull out our favorite ornaments from over the years and almost always add a new one or two to the collection. Since I left college, I’ve taken over the decorating of the tree, and I still get excited when I pull out my favorite ornaments. Most of them wouldn’t do well in the stores. Most are old, some are falling apart, and I think one is even molding. But for me, Christmas ornaments aren’t about the glitz and the glam- they are about that happy feeling I get just seeing them on the tree.

IMG_20121130_200915My Favorite
I didn’t even remember where this one came from, but my mom says it was from my babysitter who lived next door. For as long as I can remember decorating the tree, this has been my favorite ornament. I love penguins, and the fact that he’s riding a peppermint is super cute to me. This is always the first ornament I put on the tree, and it always goes towards the top.


IMG_20121130_200955Handmade Ornaments
They look pretty rugged, but I love the ornaments I made in preschool and IMG_20121130_201038elementary school. I don’t know what the moon is made of- it is almost like a cookie. The candy cane I painted when I was two is another favorite, and I adore the dove I painted. What makes it especially unique is the bright yellow piece of yarn it hangs from. Sure it would look classier hanging from a hook or a silver ribbon of some kind, but it’s the yellow yarn I remember most. I’ll never change that.

Grandma’s OrnamentsIMG_20121130_201007
What’s super cool about my little pre-lit tree is the fact that it was my grandma’s tree when she lived in assisted living. I also got a few of her ornaments after she passed away. My favorite is this clear bulb filled with snow and a piece of paper that says her name, “Rita.” I’m brought to tears when I put it on the tree, as I miss her so much that it hurts.

IMG_20121130_200430This year my other grandma was put into the nursing home. Just today my dad brought me a box of ornaments from my grandma’s attic. I’m so excited to add them to my collection, and I know they will always make me think of my grandma.


IMG_20121130_200903Ornaments Around the Globe
Within the past five years, I’ve started buying ornaments as mementos of my trips. When I was ina Niger, Africa in 2009, there were no ornaments to purchase. Not only is it a Muslim country, but it’s not a tourist destination. However, I did find a few keychains to buy, and I use one as an ornament.

On that same trip, I purchased an ornament on our long layover in Paris. Another one of my favorite ornaments from my travels is the one from Cozumel. I can’t wait to get an ornament in Zambia this summer!

New Ornaments
My parents know that I love me a cute moose. So when they went on an Alaskan IMG_20121130_201217cruise this past fall, they had lots of opportunities to get me something with a moose on it. Sure enough, I ended up with a moose ornament, and this handmade clay ornament is one of my new favorites!

My tree and ornaments may not be worth a lot of money, but I don’t care. You really couldn’t put a price on the memories and the sentimental value they have in my heart.