Sunday, November 4, 2012

With apologies to Letterman, here's my Thankfulness Top 10.

As I read all the "Days of Thankfulness" posts on Facebook, I'm sorry I didn't jump on the train soon enough. What's better than seeing family members and friends profess the things for which they're grateful? But it's Day Five now, and I'm behind the eight ball. So I'm going to combine all my thankfulness into this post. Hope I can do it justice.

1. I'm thankful, first, for health -- my own health and the health of my husband, children, stepchildren, extended family members and pets. Truly, if you have your health, anything is possible. So many people I know are dealing with serious health issues right now, and they are my heroes.

2. I'm thankful for my upbringing -- not only that I was raised to believe in the adage "to whom much is given, much is expected," but also because I was raised not to see color, religion or class. In a political age in which a photograph is circulating that advises "put(ting) the white back in the White House," I'm grateful that I was taught to embrace and learn from people of all colors and faiths. I also was taught that in our family business, the individuals running the machines were the ones I should bow down to, as they made it possible for me to live a comfortable life. I also learned, and saw in action, that those people deserved to be compensated well for the skills they possessed.

3. I am thankful for my husbands.  I am thankful to the first one because he's a good man with whom I became a parent. I am thankful to the current -- and last -- one because he, too, is a good man, and he makes me laugh harder than anyone ever has. He accepts me wholeheartedly, flaws and all, and he's also proud of my accomplishments and my passions, even when he secretly wishes I would watch something other than CNN or MSNBC. He's a loyal and diligent employee and a fair, caring manager. He gives his whole heart to his children and his grandchild. He loves and is grateful to and worries about his mother.  If he stops smoking, he'll be just about perfect.

4.  I am not only thankful for my children; I am in awe of them. Scott taught me to be a parent and continues to teach me; he graduated with two liberal-arts degrees and wants to make the world a better place, but he's not sure quite how he'll make that happen. He works on his music and his writing and supports himself by working in a restaurant -- I love that his Facebook profile lists his occupation as "poet at Hickory Park."  He's poor, but he's noble and satisfied. Caroline has been driven since she entered the world; she is a force to be reckoned with, and a marvel to behold. How many college seniors have jobs in their fields before they graduate? She does, and performs the work of at least a half-dozen other people in her off hours. She succeeds at everything she does -- yet she's a great champion for those who aren't quite as successful.  My children are compassionate, loving and forgiving. I am fortunate indeed.

5. I am thankful for my extended family. I was shaped by Teresa, who is my sister but essentially became my mother after we lost ours, and to her husband, Jon, who became another father to me.  He was the one who told me I could do anything, and I always knew he really believed that. Together, they gave me siblings to argue with, share experiences with, and love. I am thankful for Jon's parents, who were the only grandparents I really knew. I am thankful for my nephew Aidan, whose perseverance reminds me every day to try a little harder. And I am thankful for my late parents -- my mom, whose legacy taught me to love books and be a leader, and my dad, who taught me to work hard and speak my mind. Helping to care for him as he was dying was one of the defining experiences of my life. Finally, I am thankful for my former in-laws, whose generosity extends above and beyond a level anyone would expect.

6. I am thankful for the ability to learn from my mistakes. And believe me, there have been a couple of doozies. How grateful I am that they will never be repeated.

7. I am thankful that I am satisfied with enough. I will never be wealthy, but I have a warm house, plenty to eat, a car that (mostly) runs, and a good job that affords me plenty of opportunity. I am thankful that when it comes to material things, as long as I can fulfill my obligations and help my kids, that's really all I need.

8. I am thankful for my faith. I'm pretty quiet about it, but it's there, and it sustains me. I know that as I go about my business, I'm not alone. The writer Anne Lamott says it best: You can pray all the time, because it's easy. You just need to say, "Thank you, thank you, thank you." And I do.

9. I am thankful for the ability to express myself in writing. I am grateful for the editors and publishers who have taken chances on me over the years, and for the people who take the time to read the things I write. I'm also thankful for the writers who make it look so easy (that would be you, Jane Burns, Dan Finney, Michael Wellman, Sara Judson Brown, and so many others). I learn from you every day.

10. I am thankful for my birthday: In a couple of weeks, I'll be 50. Fifty! My mom never made it this far; neither did so many individuals who deserved these years more than I do. When I say the number out loud, it's not nearly as scary as I thought it would be. With any luck, the next decade will be the one in which I become a grandparent. No matter what happens, I'll have adventures, and I'll learn from them.

I'm thankful for so many other things -- fresh-squeezed orange juice from Hy-Vee. Crock pots.  Oreos.  Diet Mountain Dew, which really does taste almost as good as the real stuff. My dog. The ability to walk without pain.  And on and on.

As Thanksgiving grows closer, I wish you many, many things for which to be thankful, and for wide-open eyes to recognize those gifts and wide-open hearts to appreciate them. Think about it: What would be on your list?

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