Dag. It's time to be thankful again!

It's snowing! Hurrah! Check with me in, say, two months when the winter cold will have been relentless and the sight of fluffy stuff floating down from the sky will be mind-numbingly cliche - but for now, it's glorious. I feel giddy like a school girl at the year's first sign of the white stuff, filled with holiday feelings and general excitement. It helps that today feels like a holiday or a school day, with Chris' class cancelled and people scattering hither and yon for the Thanksgiving holiday. I'm typing this curled up on our couch, warm mug of coffee in one hand, a down lap blankie over me, a warm cat at my side. It doesn't get much better than this.

I will say that I have been persistently annoyed this week at how real life keeps encroaching on this fellowship. Laundry keeps not doing itself, the bathroom isn't magically clean all the time and the fridge does not contain a self-renewing supply of groceries. It throws a real wrench in the magical other-world feeling of the fellowship when you're petulantly reduced to cleaning out the microwave. Reality blows. But reality in a college town can be very odd, my friends. I have yet to pass a day sans something truly odd and noteworthy. For example, last Sunday Chris and I left a small but cozy brunch at Wallace House to take a stroll in the truly lovely Arboretum. On our way, we passed two male students, one carrying a quart of egg nog and the other carrying a red plastic cup with a squirrel's tail sticking out of it. Let your imagination run riot as to where they were heading and to what end.

Then, a couple of nights ago, we were returning from a drive over to Trader Joe's and spotted a woman out for her evening run - decked out like a Christmas tree. She had a string of lights around her (which must have been running on a battery pack), garland and ornaments swaying as she took each step. I can only suppose it was a lost bet, but Chris prefers to think she's just spreading holiday cheer.

Did I mention it's fun here?

It seems things have been more scattershot the last week or so, but we were convinced by Lisa to return to Wallace House late Sunday afternoon to bear witness to the weekly tango lessons some fellows have been taking in anticipation of our trip to Argentina. Watching the instructors glide across the floor, making an unbelievably complex communication seem effortless is quite breath-taking.

I greatly admire the fellows attempting tango, which is highly revered in Argentina. (At one point, a fellow said, "It's just a dance" to which the instructor quickly pointed out, "It's not just a dance to them. It's who they are. It's their identity.) Every motion, it seems, means something, is redolant with intent. It requires a tremendous amount of trust in one's partner - and in the dance itself. From a viewer's stand point, it reminded me of yoga in that there's really so much going on - mentally and physically - in what looks like a relatively simple affair.

I can't wait to see them all in action!

Last night was another Wallace House affair. First, was a presentation on China which I missed in order to work on an essay I'm trying to rewrite for submission to an anthology. (It's slow going, in case you didn't pick up on that - but it's due soon.) Chris dropped me off instead at the Espresso Royale on South State, which Jamie Butters has dubbed the Branch Office. He was heading on to Wallace House, so I hopped out of the car at the corner of William and South State.

What I had forgotten before I did so was that a few moments before, my hands dry from the winter air already, I had removed my wedding band and (stupidly) placed it in my lap while I applied moisturizer. Thus, when I sprang forth from the car, my wedding ring went flying out into the ether. Of course, I didn't realize this until about an hour later when, typing away at my lap top, I glanced down and realized I wasn't wearing my ring. And, like in the movies, it came rushing back to me exactly what had happened.

Panicked, I hopped up from my cozy arm chair and abandoned my wee pot of tea and headed back to the corner where, in the light of dusk, I side-stepped traffic to scour the road. I looked in the middle, I searched the gutters. I found cigarette butts, hair bands, a lost hat - but no wedding ring. After a while, I gave up, succumbed to tears and made the cold trudge toward Wallace House.

Some people might have been afraid that their husband would kill them. I don't have this problem, since I'm married to the most forgiving and understanding man on the face of the planet. Still, it would almost have been easier if he was angry at me. Instead, I was left to just be angry at myself, which is a much worse mental scenario.

I still managed to have fun during the presentations, despite being preoccupied with my own idiocy. Fara Warner told us about her life leading up to the fellowship, including some useful bits of advice about writing a book. Then John Bacon took the stand and delivered an (expectedly) funny, self-deprecating and (surprisingly) heartfelt version of his life story.

It's unbelievably moving to hear a journalist (who is more accomplished than he likes to let on), say in all sincerity that being around the fellows this year is an amazing experience for him and that it has already been the best year of his life. I'm telling you, I suspect if you gave this crowd half a chance, they'd weep with appreciation of this opportunity with little provocation. And quite right, too.

Dinner was courtesy of Vindu Goel, his friend Vickie Elmer and the delightful Gail Gibson. They whipped up a feast of American comfort foods, including a gorgeous squash soup, garlic mashed potatoes, chipotle mac 'n cheese, green beans and meatloaf. The meal was rounded out with apple crisp a la mode, which I was too full to sample.

We then adjourned to the living room and somehow got to sharing the tales of how the wedded among us were proposed to. Rainey's sage involved great detail, right down to the chocolate-chip pumpkin pancakes with caramel sauce and whipped cream. Mine was short and funny, with Chris (as always) willingly playing the bad guy. After much coaxing, we convinced Luis Vinker to share the story of his betrothal which turned out to be a hilarious tale about how Argentina winning the world cup completely got in the way of his wedding and honeymoon plans. (Or, perhaps, more accurately, vice versa.)

Then everyone started scattering to prepare for their various journeys home for the holiday - although quite a fair number of stragglers will be joining Lisa for a Thanksgiving feast at Wallace House, many of them foreigners experiencing this particular American event for the first time. On the way home, Chris convinced me to stop at the intersection of William and South State and take one last look for the ring.

It seemed pointless, of course, in the dark with just a hint of light from the street lamps. But light is a funny thing and there was something about where we were standing and the way that it hit the side of my wedding band, which was lying out in the middle of the lane, waiting to be discovered. It had been roughed up a bit, looking as though someone with steel teeth had chewed on one of the edges for a while, but it was there. And now it's back on my finger, where it belongs. Pretty amazing, no?

And so I'm especially thankful for that small miracle as we head into the holiday weekend. I've got a lot to be thankful for, but it's all the little things in my life that make me feel truly blessed. This year has made me even more grateful than usual and I owe a lot of that to Thomas Kamilindi, who - although he probably doesn't know it - taught me in a way I'd never learned before that I am blessed beyond my comprehension. I'm grateful for having a roof over my head and food in the refrigerator and that I can live my daily life largely without fear.

I'm grateful for all the wonderful friends and family Chris and I have. Old ones back home in St. Louis who, as we were reminded recently, are with us even when we're far from them. And amazing new ones we've known only two months but love dearly already. I don't think anyone truly needs a fellowship experience to feel gratitude but, damn, it helps.

Tomorrow morning, Chris and I head off for a regrettably short trip to Ames, Iowa for Thanksgiving at his mother's house. We'll be joined by his sister Amy, who I haven't seen in years, and his brother Joel and his wife Kathleen, who are expecting our new little niece, Genevieve. It'll be a whirlwind trip, with us returning on Friday and while I wish the airlines made it more affordable and easier for us to stay longer, what an amazing luxury - to be able to board a plane and visit family for even the shortest of time. Blessed, I tell you. We're blessed.