Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Giving Thanks

Each year, US citizens around the globe gather to share in a meal, sometimes some football, and enjoy the company. Those in military service, stationed outside of the US, as well as those in the US but unable to make a cross-country trek to see their families, gather together as an adoptive family, brothers and sisters in arms. Through these gatherings, many traditional customs from various nuclear families blend. They form new customs and traditions. Similar happens when people marry and families join together. But the military blending occurs annually.

This gives those who have served some special insights into Thanksgiving traditions.

There is usually something fowl, as in a turkey, duck, large chicken, or combination of the three.

There is cranberry something or other. Many times it's a cranberry flavored, can-shaped Jello mold.

There is wine, be it real or non-alcoholic (sparkling grape juice is a holiday staple for deployed soldiers).

There is food. There is family. There is camaraderie. And there is thanks. It's something that is seldom missing from the gatherings, that turn-taking announcements people make of what they are thankful for. It comes as part of the toast and/or blessing.

I'd like to share a small list of things I am grateful for this year. This is not all-inclusive. Like many people, I have much. Any omissions are not due to a lack of gratitude, but a lack of time and space to include them.

First, I am thankful for the garden I planted with my wife and daughter. It provided us with quality time together. It provided us with fun, wonder, and excitement. It also provided us with fresh produce over the past 8 or so months, from herbs, stevia, various peppers, tomatoes, to some lovely flowers on the eggplant.

I am thankful for the meals I have cooked using the fresh items from our garden. I am also thankful for those prepared with store-bought food. I am thankful for those eaten at restaurants. I am thankful for these not only for sustenance but for the time at the tables with my wife and daughter and any other friends and family who have joined us.

I am thankful for my house. My wife, daughter, and I have all worked to make it a home. It is not the best, but it suits us. It's our home, our living room, our home-office, our dining room, our bedrooms, etc.

I am thankful for our dog. He has provided us entertainment, exercise, companionship, and somebody upon whom to blame for the dirt tracked into the house. He plays with and protects my daughter. He playfully helps wake up my wife in the morning, sometimes.

I am thankful for our cat. He also entertains. He comforts my wife at the end of a bad day. He wakes me up before dawn, making sure I am up in time to help my wife and daughter prepare for their days.

I am thankful for our snake. I am sure his mere presence serves as a warding of sorts against rodents.

I am thankful for my parents. Both have done so much to help me become the man I am. My father has always been there, my sage adviser and stern critic. He has also been a boon traveling companion, photography instructor, wood-shop teacher, and moral compass. My mother has been an emotional sounding board and that one person I can count on to help me when I fall just short of making a goal required to help others.

I am thankful for my brother and my step-brother and their families. They keep me grounded in what is important and have set good examples for me to draw upon as I embark on this new life as a husband and father.

I am thankful for my sister and her family. She has grown into an insightful and intelligent woman and a wonderful conversationalist. It's also nice to have a member of my family living in the same state.

I am thankful for my wife for all she has done, does, and aspires to do. Her youth and drive keep me going when I feel like throwing in the towel. I am thankful for the expanded family she gave me, starting with our daughter (my step-daughter), and continuing through my new brother and sister, mother-in-law, and father-in-law. They are all great people with big hearts that opened up to me. All who know me know I can be pretty closed-off, so it means all that much more. Also, my wife puts up with me. I know I am not easy to live with.

I'm thankful for my daughter. She isn't mine by blood, but a gift from the wonderful woman I duped into marrying me. The reasons can go on for pages, just as they could with my wife. Any parent worth their salt understands this.

I am thankful for the Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and even Airmen who guard and protect this great nation. I am thankful for those who served before me, starting with those who fought to bring this country into being. We owe them more than we could ever repay, and can only repay by continuing our traditional respect for the natural individual rights of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. I am thankful for those with whom I served. We shared blood, sweat, tears, joy, sorrow, anguish, horror, victory, and laughter. It is because of them that I am still here today.

I am thankful to my ancestors, who continue to live through me. They set the foundation for all I am and all I will become.

I am thankful to the spirits of nature, the warmth of the sun, the flowers in spring, the fruits of autumn, the warmth-bringing wood and fur and feather they provide us for the winter.

I am thankful for the gods and goddesses, the powers that be, g-d and the angels, however you may address them. There have been so many times I barely escaped death. But I wasn't done yet. They were looking out for me and helped me survive and thrive. They guided my decisions, insuring I enjoyed the rewards I earned and felt the weight of the consequences of poor decisions, helping me to learn.

I am thankful I am alive and woke up today and each day before. Each day has been a gift, a blessing, and an opportunity.

And I thank you for taking the time to read this.

Happy Thanksgiving.