Monday, November 21, 2011


Yeah, I know, the title doesn't even make any sense.  But bear with me.

I was just reading the post of a fellow blogger.  She's the wife of a co-worker of mine, and she and her husband just brought home their 3-yr-old adopted son from the Ukraine.  Overall, it was an 11-month process, filled with mountains of paperwork and the terrible wait and uncertainty that must accompany any adoption.  In the end, they only wound up having to make two trips in order to "bust him out of the orphanage" as she puts it; he's healthy and they adore him.  And yet with all those blessings, she was having trouble putting into words a piece for her local paper about being thankful.

Gratitude, I've found, isn't an instinctive reaction to something given, or even earned: how many of you constantly have to remind your kids to say thanks after they receive something, anything, from a friend, grandparent, etc?  It can also be hard to say thank you and mean it. Just as most of us murmur "fine" when people ask how we are, regardless of how we're really doing at that point in time, we tend to say "thanks" almost as a reflex (after we finally learn to say it in the first place). 

The Thanksgiving holiday in America has become an excuse for gluttony, a day to celebrate football (Packers fans, you know who you are), the final deep breath before plunging into that ocean known as the Christmas (shopping) season.  It can be stressful, fun, crazy, or all (or none) of the above.  I love it, yes, mostly because we have a great dinner that can only be matched at Christmas (my husband's aunt makes a pumpkin pie that puts all other pies to shame), but also because it's one of the few times a year that everyone gets together. 
As our lives have gotten busier and more involved with other pursuits, even my husband's close-knit-but-not-in-your-face relatives don't get the chance to see each other as much as we might like.  We all bring something to save work for the person hosting the dinner, who gets the dubious honor of making the turkey(s), which is really the biggest job, but at least the host doesn't get stuck with making everything else too. 

One memorable year at my brother-in-law's house, he'd made two turkeys and had brined one.  It was so delicious that John didn't get any of it.  And I still recall that in my own family, Thanksgiving was pretty much the ONLY time of the year when we'd have mashed potatoes, my mother having deemed them "too much work" to eat on a regular basis.  (Nowadays, I cheat and don't peel them, so that never gets in my way.)  A few times we had those nasty fake mashed potatoes from a box, which are maybe the foulest thing you can put on any table.  In fact, when I was in college, I warned my mother that I'd sooner stay there for the holiday than endure that crap.

However, apart from all the goodies, and without getting too sentimental, I would like to offer a list of the things I am currently thankful for:

1. I'm thankful that I have a job.  It may not always be the ideal situation--my company decided that this Black Friday, all of us must assemble and work, so there went everyone's four-day weekend--but I have a great boss, fun co-workers, decent pay and good benefits.  Things could be worse.

2. I'm thankful to have a house.  Sure, it's a mess, but people live there.  Our rooms are too small, and it always looks like it's in a state of renovation/repair (okay, I made up that last bit about repair).  We have too much shit.  But at least it's a place for our shit, and it belongs to us (and the bank).  My kids have a place to come home to, and so do their friends; and that's worth so much more than what we paid for it.

3. I'm glad to have a wonderful partner.  Without bragging, please let me state that my husband is a great guy.  Yes, he drives me nuts with things that he does sometimes, but I'm sure I return the favor many times over.  I deal with his love of the Packers, and he deals with my love of fan fiction.  (Well, maybe not so much deal as not quite know for sure what I'm reading.)  In that spirit, we try our best to tolerate each others' quirks and not fight about them; if we do, we try to forgive and move on. 
Nobody's perfect, but his mom sure did a good job with him.

4. I'm thankful for both my families.  My own family, nutty as they can be, are a loud, affectionate bunch.  Till about a year ago, we were privileged to have my Nana at the helm.  We're very lucky to have known her for so many years.  My husband's family are equally nutty--and I say this with love in my heart.  Each of them is different from the others in their choice of spouse and raising of kids, but nobody, including my in-laws, judges anyone else.  Plus most of them, including my brother-in-law, are excellent cooks. 
And my kids blame me for making them insane...if only they knew.

5. I'm grateful for music.  What would my life be without music?  You may as well damn me to a lifetime without love of any kind.  The silence might be nice for awhile, but I think that it would wind up killing me ever so slowly.  How would I ever get along without that songs that have come to mean so much to me?  What would I do without the wonderful feeling that wells up in my chest whenever a current (or old) favorite starts up on my music player/radio/phone?  I don't even want to think about it.

6. Last but not least, I'm grateful for my friends.  The combination of busy lives and being so far from where I was raised means that I don't always get to see the other people I love: my friends, the family I've chosen to surround myself with.  I recall that back in sophomore year of college, I was so very grateful to my friends for helping me through a tough year that I bought them gifts, and pretty much shut my actual family out of the gift-giving.  (As you might guess, they were none too pleased.) 
Nowadays, many of my friendships were either born or nurtured on the internet.  Some of those friends have become close; I see them even less often than I do my own families, but their place in my heart is still secure.  It amazes me when I can tell someone I've never met that I love them, and mean it completely.  The level of support I've received has been amazing in many cases.  It's also good to know that I can keep in touch with those I've known for many years on the internet too...when we both have time.

So, thanks to all, including but not limited to: Shari, Deb, SanDee, Dannika and Colleen.  You make the adventure even more interesting.

Happy Thanksgiving.