Design, design, birthday, design.

What a full week it has been. Last weekend John and I spent our first night in Nongkhai since we returned to Thailand. It was so good to get away. In typical John fashion, we started the day early and packed a lot in. We left the Garden by 6am, so John could have several hours of good light for photography.

After hours of bike-riding and walking, with breaks of course (of sticky rice treats!), he headed out for a run while I searched for a birthday gift for him. We ate a simple, inexpensive but delicious lunch of fried rice (I must learn to cook this well before I leave!), and then headed out to get massages from my favorite Thai massage therapist in Nongkhai. Alas, she was all booked up, so we decided to run our errands instead. Our attempt to buy John new running shoes was a no-go, since they had no sizes large enough. We found a few other items and treated ourselves to the newest item at Dairy Queen: mint chocolate chip mini-blizzards (because, as you may remember, everything is much more appropriate in portion-size here).

We headed back so I could get a massage, with the plan being that John would get a massage the next day. It was such a good massage and much overdue, that I thought the massage lasted for an hour and a half instead of an hour!

For dinner, we walked through the Saturday night market and picked up a smattering for dinner and then headed back to the guesthouse to eat outside, share a beer, and play a game of Carcassonne. With the treat of wifi, we watched youtube videos until we went to bed early.

Side note: we never had time for John's massage in the morning with our other time restraints - yet another example of my husband's generosity.

Flash forward to the work week, during which Hands of Hope launched its annual design workshop. Oh how busy it is. Lauren and I worked through our holiday on Monday by preparing our own designs ahead of time. I somehow managed to fine-tune one group of my designs while helping a myriad of the producers with theirs. The past three days have been a regular call of "Susan!" "Susan!" "Susan!" at Hands of Hope. It was the same for Antonia. Lauren was busy working on her more complex designs.

We managed to take a break to celebrate John's birthday with everyone at Hands of Hope. At home, he enjoyed banana oatmeal pancakes (one of my regular meals here) for breakfast and omelets and fries (yes, fries!). What a treat. And it was so nice of him to cook our omelets on his birthday. We watched a movie with Lauren for our community night/celebration - a gift from Antonia - called Romero, about Archbishop Oscar Romero who fought for justice in El Salvador and was assassinated. I had seen it before, and I would definitely recommend it. We ended the night with a conversation about social justice, again quite appropriate for John.

The next day was back to the design workshop, and I'm so proud of the producers. Everyone worked hard and collaborated really well. We still have more work to do. The workshop is really only the beginning of fine-tuning and completing the new collection every year.

Although I'm really tired as I begin overnight duty, there is a sense of accomplishment and satiation. I'm so grateful to be on this journey of life with John. His quiet tenacity and quest for knowledge, along with his generous, thoughtful, and playful nature, are (usually!) a joy to be around. And he keeps me on my toes.

Now, to continue to find the balance in the midst of preparation for Christmas... I didn't even have a chance to share much about my multiple practice sessions with the patients for their upcoming performance at the big Christmas party here. Tune in next week for more.