Nov 27, 2009
By Shoshana Hebshi
Photo © 2009 Stan Brewer
By Shoshana Hebshi
It’s a cliché nowadays to say, “The holidays are hard.” I never put much stock in that until I moved to Iowa.
Not only am I dealing with extreme weather in the months of November and December, but I am far removed from long-time friends, family and the familiarity of home.
My husband, twin sons and I moved to Des Moines three-and-a-half years ago so my husband could attend medical school. At the time I thought of it only as an adventure, not as a life-altering experience. But aren’t all adventures ultimately just that?
I quickly learned that being removed from my comfort zone (culturally, geographically and temperature-wise) was indeed a shock to my system.
Now, on Thanksgiving, I have time to reflect on what I am thankful for and what has changed over the course of the last three years. Here’s a list of my Top 10 Things to be Thankful for on Thanksgiving.
1. Being warm. I now enjoy being warm far more than I ever had before moving to Iowa. When the temperature dips below 50 degrees, I get chilled to the bone easily. I blame it on my genetics and being raised in San Diego.
2. Proximity to family. As soon as I left for college, I spent much of my time at least 350 miles away from my family. It didn’t seem to matter. I was exploring the world, spreading my wings, venturing out on my own. Now, being two and five time zones away from my immediate family members, I feel very grateful when I do get to spend time with them, and I try to make the most of it.
3. Building community. Moving to Iowa not only transplanted me to another state, but it immersed me in a different culture. I have found the importance of seeking out other like-minded people here and nurturing those relationships.
4. The goodness of good neighbors. Our next-door neighbors here in Des Moines have taught me a lot about generosity, kindness and what it means to be a good neighbor. In California cities, where I spent the majority of my life, you may not even know your neighbors’ first names. Here, I have learned the importance of good neighborly relations and building strong neighborhoods.
5. The importance of sunshine. Everyone seems to think of California as a sun-drenched state, where it never rains, is never cold, and definitely never snows. That’s not true, but it’s a far stretch from the continually changing weather in Iowa. I have grown a fierce appreciation for the sun and its benefits—especially when it’s cold outside.
6. National and international travel. While moving to Iowa is my first time living for a long period of time outside California, I am thankful for my many experiences traveling to dozens of foreign countries and other states in the Union. These experiences and the people I met along the way have helped shape me and made me a more tolerant person, aware of the differences and similarities among all of us humans.
7. Growing one’s own food. Living in Iowa has opened my eyes to the possibilities of small-scale farming and growing my own food. There is such a vibrant community here of young people who respect food quality and its origin. Now I will always be growing at least a portion of our vegetables and herbs depending on our available space. If I have little space, I now know of the benefits of community gardens.
8. A healthy family. With my husband in medical school, we have been inadvertently exposed to medical crises that strike every day throughout Iowa. I feel incredibly lucky to have two healthy twin boys who continue to grow and thrive every day.
9. Affordable cost of living. Because Iowa is a reasonably priced place to live, I was able to spend the first three years here not working and staying home with my boys and getting my master’s at Iowa State. We have been able to live a more flexible life here and spend more time together as a family.
10. Technology. It took me a while to embrace the latest adoptions, but now I can’t imagine living without video chatting with far-away family and friends, text messaging, blogging and Facebook. These help me stay connected to those whom my family and I cannot be in touch with in person.
Shoshana Hebshi is also thankful for being able to go back to California for a month until the New Year. Outsider on the Inside will be taking a hiatus until early January.