(Sorry. I just couldn't bring myself to go the Sly and the Family Stone route in my spelling.)
Yes, friends, it's Thanksgiving -- or nearly so -- a day when we are to stuff our faces full of coma-inducing food, plot our shopping strategies, and take some time to reflect on life's graces. It is the accepted cliche that we should be prepared to identify all for which we give thanks.
Lest I come across as too cynical or flippant here, let me just say that Thanksgiving is honestly my favorite holiday of the year. I love to cook and for the past several years, I've really enjoyed holing up in my kitchen to put together a feast. I love the foods that are associated with Thanksgiving -- turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing. I love that it's a holiday where there is no gift-giving (or receiving) stress, that it really is just about the food and the thanks ... and the shopping the next day.
So for what am I thankful this year?
1. Having a Job: As I read more and more stories about people struggling in the face of double-digit unemployment rates, I am grateful that I not only have a job with a pretty high level of security (between tenure and seniority, I'm in very good shape), but I also have a job that I love. It challenges me in new ways every day. I love working with my students and sharing my love of literature with them, even if they're not always as receptive as I'd like. I am also thankful to work with some pretty great people. I have a nice group of friends at work who make me laugh, support me when I need it, let me vent when I need it, and are generally just great people. I look forward to lunch if only to spend 25 minutes or so visiting with them.
2. My Sister: It's been a tough year. My mom's death in May (on Mother's Day) was a blow that left me dealing with a lot of grief and regret. The fact of the matter is that my mom and I had a fractured relationship in the months leading up to her death and while I take some comfort in the fact that our last couple conversations with each other were positive ones, I still struggle with remembering the shouting matches and the hurtful words that we hurled at each other before that. What has gotten me through all of that, though, is my little sister. She is a pretty awesome person. Yes, there are times when we drive each other crazy, but there is no way I could have survived the month of May without her by my side. She's been my rock, even though I know it hasn't always been easy for her to be.
3. My Friends: On a similar note, I would include my friends in that. When my mom died, my friends flew to my side and held me up emotionally. My best friend Danielle came all the way from Ohio and played the Mel -- making sure things were taken care of, giving comfort, bringing booze. My friend Gary sat with me and my sis in the waiting room outside of the ICU the morning my mom died, showing up at 6:00am to sit with us. I would throw into this mix, too, my students who sent me encouraging notes, came to the visitation, and rallied around me when I came back. Talk about blessings!
As tough as this year has been, I have a hard time labeling it as a bad year. Life is about ups and downs, good and bad. With all that I have for which to be thankful, how can I think of this year as bad? The bad stuff played an important role in helping to illuminate all the good, and so I give thanks for the bad stuff, too. I've faced trials, and I've survived. Who could ask for anything more? (Oh, and a Wii. I'd like one of those, please.)