A couple of years ago, I wrote a birthday post about the 33 things I wanted to accomplish before I turned 33. This year for my birthday (a little belated, albeit), I’d like to do the opposite. Rather than talk about 35 things I hope to have happen (they weren’t really goals as much as wishes), I want to share 35 things that are real and exist right now that have made my life pretty incredible, despite the fact that it doesn’t look exactly like I thought it would at this stage in the game. Plus, with all the gratitude that’s been going around FB, I must have caught some of the bug.

So on this, the last day of my birthday month, I’d like to share my list. And by “my list”, I don’t mean to imply that I carry this list around or started it a while ago or think about it constantly (at least not on the aggregate)…this is going to be the list of things I can think of while I’m sitting at my desk in my apartment in Tokyo on a Friday night after sending my dear friend off to the airport and could maybe use a little cheering up. So, here goes…
I am thankful for:
  1. My faith in God and Jesus Christ. This one thing probably gets me through most of the hard stuff I’ve had to get through in my life (and will continue to have to get through…because that’s life). My life is better because I have faith. Period. 
  2. My family. I’d like to believe that most people are thankful for their families, but I’m finding, in my old age, that I am pretty dang lucky. I adore my family. Seriously. Sure, we have our issues. And not everyone gets along all of the time. But I can honestly say I wouldn’t trade my family for any other family out there. I have awesome siblings and they’ve married pretty amazing people and those marriages have produce some incredible children. I think I could probably end my list right here and I’d feel like one of the luckiest girls in the world. 
  3. My mom. I’m not going to write about every one of my family members individually (although I could), because that would make this way too easy, and I know I’ve written A LOT about my mom over the years I’ve been blogging, but the fact is that I am who I am because of her influence, which has lasted years beyond how long she was here on this earth with me. And yes, my mom had some pretty serious issues, but besides just being a super-involved and incredibly inspiring person, she taught me hope and love. And if those had been the only things I had ever learned from her, that would be enough. They aren’t, but they would be. 
  4. My friends. For those of you that know me well, you know I’m not really a big group socializer. I max out at about eight people, unless I know all of the people really well, then more is fine. And while sometimes it makes me sad that I’m not that super-socializer who’s invited to everything and knows everyone and so on and so forth, the truth is, my lack of “superficial socializing” has led to more incredible friendships than one person probably deserves. Especially a person who has a family full of best friends. That said, I’ll take them all and keep them all. Recent events (the new friends I’ve made in Tokyo, my trip home, Kelly’s visit here) have brought to my attention, yet again, just how lucky I am. I have really good friends all over the world. Friends who get me and love me exactly the way I am, good, bad, and otherwise. Friends who inspire me to be better. Friends who are doing amazing things with their lives. Friends who can pick up right where we left off whether it’s been a week or a year or five. 
  5. My church. Different than my faith, I think of my church as the community of people and seriously, while I recognize that there are some crazies and zealots out there, overall, my church is pretty great and has made all the difference in this move to Japan.
  6. My “jack-of-all-trades” nature. It’s taken me a bit to come to terms with this one, but something about hitting my mid-thirties has made me just a little more aware of the best parts of my traits. Maybe because I’m looking for them. Once upon a time (okay, many upon a times), I wished that I had been more dedicated to (pick anything) soccer, swimming, baking, singing, dancing, psychoanalyzing, picture taking, cheerleading, cooking, sewing, scuba diving, running, cake decorating, reading, piano playing, language studying, traveling, writing, ice skating, flower arranging, and so on and so forth. But what I’ve come to realize (and be okay with now that I get it) is that, while I’ve never gotten really good at any of those things, I’m pretty good at a lot of them and I wouldn’t have wanted to sacrifice the time I spent doing any of them just to get really good at one or two. And while this may not have made me a superstar in anything, it has made me a really interesting person who has a lot to share and can find something in common with just about anyone and all of my time spent enjoying all of these hobbies has brought me some incredible friendships.
  7. Books.
  8. Inexpensive and accessible communications technology. For so very many reasons, but probably most of all for keeping me in touch and up-to-date with the people I love, wherever they (or I) may be. When I was 14 and living overseas for the first time, sans family, I spent a lot of time on the phone and it cost a lot of money (as my dad will tell you any time one brings up my exchange student days. Such is not the case today. I am able to keep in touch with family and friends any time and any place for the price of my smart phone service, a few apps, and a monthly-unlimited-calls-to-the-U.S. Skype subscription. It’s pretty amazing. 
  9. My brain combined with the opportunity I was given to receive great education throughout my life. Once upon a time I think I would have traded my smarts for a skinny body and a great metabolism. (Sure, some people have both, but we’re not talking about them right now…) Not anymore. My brain has afforded me some pretty great experiences. I was able to get into a good college, finish my bachelor’s degree, excel in my esthetics career, return to grad school with a scholarship, and now have this amazing job that landed me first in NYC and now Tokyo. Pretty amazing. 
  10. My health. 
  11. Modern conveniences. Indoor plumbing, electricity, refrigeration, heating, planes, trains, automobiles, digital cameras, computers, external hard-drives, cell phones, wireless internet, MS Excel (yes, totally gets its own shout-out these days), washers and dryers, and so on and so forth. Life in the developed world is ridiculously easy these days. If only we could all be a little more thankful for that.
  12. Music. 
  13. My birth in the U.S. of A. Seriously, I know there are a lot of people who aren’t super happy with the outcome of the recent election (myself included), but I’m still grateful to have been born and raised in a country that operates as a republic and where we have a say in who is elected and where abiding by the law is not just for those who don’t have enough money to buy their way around the it (well, assuming I’m ignoring Chicago…I jest kind of).
  14. Deodorant. (And all of the other modern toiletries that keep people clean and fresh.)
  15. Bras. Yeah, I totally just said that.
  16. My five senses, including perfect eyesight. I know it will go eventually, but it’s still here today.
  17. Bleach. Specifically of the hair highlighting variety. I am better as a blonde. 
  18. Modern medicine including, but not limited to, ibuprofen, bupropion, Tums, levothyroxine, Retin-A, and Botox. 
  19. Sleep.
  20. A cheerful disposition, even when I don’t get enough of #19. 
  21. An adventurous palate. Living in Japan would be pretty rough without it. 
  22. Salt. Sure, it’s on my mind right now because I just had one of the most amazing meals and sea salt was the main seasoning, but really…can you imagine a world without salt? 
  23. The accessibility I have always had to fresh food and water and that I’ve never wondered how I was going to get either of them. 
  24. My ability to provide for myself in a way which affords me a pretty amazing lifestyle. 
  25. Clean sheets.
  26. Sunshine…especially when it’s accompanied by a nice stretch of sand and a large body of water.
  27. My birth into a country and generation where, as a woman, I am able to do just about everything a man can do. (I still haven’t mastered peeing while standing up, although I filled a few years of childhood with attempts, but there’s still time.)
  28. My overactive tear ducts. I know that some people would be irritated if they cried as easily as I do, but I like it. Whether I’m really happy, really sad, or just really touched…the tear ducts start working. Thankfully, at work, they manage to control themselves relatively well.
  29. Shoes.
  30. Mascara. Well, makeup in general, but if I could only choose one item, it would be mascara. As a fair haired, fair skinned, fair eyed girl, mascara is the most important cosmetic tool I have. And not just any mascara, but specifically the waterproof kind. (see #28)
  31. Ice cream.
  32. Kisses. Whether it be a kiss on the cheek from one of my nieces or nephews, or the kind that happens at the end of a really good date (or a mediocre one when you just need to get a piece), kisses are pretty awesome in all their varieties. 
  33. Entertainment. For me this includes plays, musicals, movies, T.V., concerts, and 49er football.
  34. Laughter.
  35. Diet Coke.
  36. And an extra one for good measure. Lastly, I am grateful for a life that I have never put on hold  despite the fact that I haven’t gotten everything I wanted exactly when I wanted it (or at all, in some cases).

back in the us of a (part 2 – utah)

With my trip back to the States, I felt like I needed to make a quick trip up to Utah to see my grandma, so I decided to spend 23 hours in the state. I’m so glad I did. I got in Monday night. Sarah picked me up and we headed to her new house. I was so excited to see it, but more excited to catch up with my bestie. It had been way too long. We stayed up way too late talking, so getting up the next morning was slightly painful, but with so little time, there wasn’t any to waste.

Nev and I headed to breakfast at Magleby’s Fresh (because that’s what we do) and then I headed to my old stomping grounds to have a chat with the head of the OB/HR track in my MBA program. I don’t think I’d actually been back to the Tanner Building since I graduated and it was kind of strange. Two and a half years later, I’m living half-way around the world doing exactly what I was hoping to do while sitting in my International HR class. It was great to catch up!

I then met Sarah for lunch at Noodles. Yes, I said Noodles. Then what is the picture J Dawgs about? Well, when you only have 23 hours in a state that has so many of your favorite restaurants, sometimes you have to get your Hobbit on and have second lunch. We split a dawg. Totally worth it.

And then we went shopping. Well, I went shopping and Sarah helped me pick things out. She is a great shopping coach (that’s what I’m calling her) and I found some fantastic stuff. Blog post of the new outfits is coming.

When we finished, our food had settled just enough that we were able to make a quick stop at The Cocoa Bean where they have my most favorite cupcakes ever. Yes. Ever. I like them better than Sprinkles or Magnolia or Crumbs or Baked by Melissa. Which makes me kind of sad only because the name of their place and their logo both make me want to vomit. Seriously. And who has a dot-net website anymore. I digress. Best. Cupcakes. Ever. (In my opinion…)

And that was it for my time in P-town. It was time to head up to SLC to have dinner at Pei-Wei with my grandma and my cousins. I got to enjoy the drive up chatting about Japan with my grandma and here all of these stories I had never heard before about her time in Yokohama. She also gave me my birthday present: an book on ikebana. Specifically one of her old books on ikebana. Along with some cash to take an ikebana class and a promise to leave me her ikebana containers when she dies. (Do you hear that cousins? They are mine. 🙂

And then we met up with my darling cousins and I got to meet the newest addition to the Goesch clan, my cousin’s equally darling new husband. They started dating after I left Utah and we’d just never connected.

And then it was back to the airport and back to Arizona for a few days with a lot less going on before I had to head back to Japan.

back in the u.s. of a. (part 1 – birthday weekend)

This post is waaaay overdue (and mostly my own journal entry), but better late than never. On the second of November, I headed back to the United States for a long visit. As part of my current assignment I get one home-leave trip. And as November 1st marked my halfway point in my current assignment and my friend Susan was getting married on the 3rd and my birthday was on the 4th, it just seemed like the perfect time to visit. So, I got on a plane and went back in time (well, according to clocks and dates) which was pretty awesome. I arrive in Arizona two hours before I’d left Tokyo.

And my first stop after landing in Arizona (while still at the airport)? Paradise Bakery. Mostly for a Diet Coke, but since I was already there…I got a cookie, too. The Japanese do a lot of things really well in the food department, but cookies is not one of them. It turns out that this was a very good decision as I ended up having to wait a while in the rental car line.

While I was waiting in line, and watching a number of things transpire, I came to the conclusion that Americans (I’m generalizing here) are rude, demanding, and incredibly impatient. And I was kind of embarrassed for all of us. The good news was there were no Japanese around to witness it. So, I just sat there pleasantly waiting because clearly the two women waiting for help were having very bad days. Or at least I want to assume that wasn’t their regular behavior.

When I finally got up to the counter, I was as nice as I could be, feeling extremely sorry for the agent who had just been berated. And apparently he appreciated my patience and overall pleasant demeanor (yeah, me) because I was rewarded with an awesome upgrade at no additional charge. Thank you Hertz. I was already excited to drive, but this just made it that much more enjoyable.

And then I headed to my sister’s.

One of the hard things about this trip home versus other trips when I’ve been coming from New York is that I want to see people and play, but I also have to get things done. I’m used to coming into town and just being able to have fun and play with my nieces and nephews and chill. Not the same when you are coming from the other side of the world. I wanted to see as many friends as possible. (Something about being on the other side of the world makes you feel more motivated to see people because I’m not sure when I’ll be back again.) I had my friend’s wedding to go to. I had my birthday to celebrate. And then I had a gazillion errands to run and things to get done.

Friday started with getting my hair chopped and face injected with Botox. (Yes, you read that right. And I am not ashamed to admit it. And for those of you who think I look too young for Botox…that’s the point. I’ve been doing it off and on for a while and it’s working beautifully.)

Just after the cut and injections. Happy birthday to me!

Friday night the family headed to Kona Grill for dinner and we had so much fun! Seriously, I love my family. And my dad was even there as he’d been in town for a board meeting before I got there, so he just stayed. It was great!

And then, after we got home from dinner, came the obligatory muddy buddies. My sister keeps a pantry like my mom, so there are always muddy buddy ingredii (yeah, that’s not a word, but it’s what we say) on hand. These are probably my most favorite treat ever.

Saturday morning started with my niece’s soccer game. One of my favorite things about being an aunt is when I get to be around for my nieces and nephews “stuff”, be it soccer games or choir performances. I just love getting to see them develop and grow and accomplish. And Saturday morning was no different. And my niece was so excited to have me there. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see my other niece and nephew play in their games as I had a wedding to attended.

After heading home and changing, I headed to the LDS temple in Mesa to see my darling friend marry the love of her life. I was so happy to have been able to be there for it. It was this great reminder that waiting for the right person is totally worth it. And, seeing as how I was about to turn “old” the next day and being single makes that a little more depressing every year, getting that reminder was just what I needed.

And then I rushed home for my birthday party with friends. Unfortunately, this is the only photo I got from the party. But it’s an important one. My sweet and thoughtful friend, Jenn, brought me four of my favorite cookies all the way from New York. If you’re ever in New York, you must try Levain.

So, I’m not really one to throw myself a birthday party, but it was such a great reason to get so many of my friends together from various parts of my life. Arizona has my friends from my past life there, my very best friend from my mission, and now a number of really good friends from grad school. It was so fun to see people I hadn’t seen for a while (some, not since I graduated from my MBA program almost two and half years ago).

And then Sunday, my actual birthday, was my big family party including almost everyone in my immediate family (it was a little far for my younger brother and his family to come), my aunt and a number of my cousins, and part of my sister-in-law’s family…who are basically family. It was so fun! My brother-in-law kindly spent his afternoon making my favorite wings in the smoker, my sister made my favorite cake (yellow box and chocolate Betty Crocker frosting…I know, high class) and fruit dip, and I made my famous guacamole (at least famous with my family…I rarely make it for anyone else) and we just had a great time eating and laughing and catching up. It was the best gift my sister (and dad, who funded it) could have given me!

And my sweet aunt and cousins gave me this gift card which was just the right amount to support my DC habit while in the States.

And thus ends my birthday weekend. Up next? My whirlwind trip to Utah.

my birthday – japan style

I have lots of blogging to catch up on. A trip to the states, lots of birthday celebrating, etc, etc. But this weekend, instead of doing that, I was busy getting my karaoke on and relaxing after a really stressful week at work. So, for now, I’m going to give you this little gem from my first birthday dinner with my friends here in Japan. I have to thank Chelsea for encouraging me to go ahead and let them do the whole singing thing. So. Worth. It.

a princess cake

When I was in fifth grade, I took my first cake decorating class. My mom was quite the baker, so I had been decorating under her tutelage for a while, but fifth grade was my first formal class. Through the years, I would occasionally use my skills, but then while living in Utah before grad school, I decided to take another class. Since then, I’ve done very little decorating of cakes…that is until last weekend when I took on a serious challenge: a princess cake for my niece’s fourth birthday.

My sis-in-law asked me if I would do it a few weeks out and then sent me an instructional YouTube video (that my niece watched several times…her job was quality control and she was serious about it). I watched it once and then we just went for it. And here’s what the process looked like:

I feel pretty good about the whole thing. My favorite part, by far, was my niece repeating to me parts of the video verbatim because seriously, is there anything cuter than a new 4 year old saying things like, “put a nice dollop on the top and then you’ll want to take an offset spatula…” Adorable!