45 Things to be Thankful for this Thanksgiving – A Post in Three Parts

Today is Thanksgiving in Canada.  To be honest, I have been feeling a little down over the past few weeks.  One thing I find that helps me gain some perspective is gratitude.  No matter what may be happening around me, being mindful of the good keeps me focused on what truly matters in my life.  This Thanksgiving, I want to share some of the things I am thankful for.  And since this is a blog entitled Forty Five Things, it only makes sense that I should focus on 45 things. However, as I want to give this list the attention it deserves, I am going to divide it into three posts.  As I look over the past year, there is much to be thankful for.  And if you will indulge me, I am going to get a little vulnerable in this post.  It is my hope that this list may inspire you today, to take some time to focus on what you are thankful for.  Ready?  Here we go. 

Part 1 

 1.  Health 

Over the past nine months or so, I have been working through a series of health concerns.  Thankfully, we have wonderful doctors and a system that allows us to access the care we need.  I found a concerning lump in my right breast in February.  I was able to be quickly assessed and was referred to the Breast Care Centre at St. Joseph’s in London.  There, I was able to get a mammogram and ultrasound, and was seen by some wonderful doctors.  I am happy to report that while there is a series of “suspicious” islands of fibrous tissue and cysts, for now there is nothing to immediately be concerned about and my follow up images have shown no change.  I also had some abnormal liver enzyme levels and a slightly enlarged liver, but again, nothing that requires any intervention.

In April I went to my family doctor to discuss some joint pain I was experiencing in all of my left side joints.  X-rays showed a bone tumour in my left fibula.  This one, unfortunately, is not like the breast and liver concerns.  I have had x-rays, an MRI and a CT scan and they show that “Tina” (my tumour) is growing.  It is causing me a lot of pain each day, and keeps me up at night.  I will be having surgery to remove the tumour and a section of bone.  I will share more about my bone tumour experience as I get more information.  What I am very grateful for, however, is that I live in London, where we have a top-notch hospital and a wonderful Cancer-Care Program.  My family doctor referred me to the best Sarcoma specialist and orthopedic surgeon and I know I am in good hands. 

So, this sort of sounds like a run-down of all the things I am NOT thankful for, right?  And while it is true that I would prefer not to have had to deal with these things, I truly am thankful.  I am thankful for our health care system.  I am thankful for the doctors who are helping me.  And mostly, I am thankful for a body that has more right with it than wrong.  Whenever we have health related issues, it is easy to focus on the pain or the loss of ability.  Throughout this journey, I am trying to remember that my body is amazing.  It has the ability to heal, to adapt, and it truly is amazing.  My health is good, despite the recent challenges.  That is something to be thankful for. 

2. Home 

Today I am sitting on my very comfortable sofa, in my warm house.  Last night we welcomed my parents and my aunt and uncle into our home for dinner.  I am so very thankful for this house.  Nancee and I moved here ten years ago and it has been our place of comfort and safety, the place where our children became our children and the place I love to be more than anywhere else. 

For a few months, I left this home.  In the summer I was struggling to deal with some things and I just couldn’t deal with them here.

I moved out for three months and while I do not regret that move, for I grew more in that time than I ever thought possible, it was not my home.  I missed the love and laughter in my home.  I missed the energy of the space.  I even missed cleaning the house.  Now that I am back home, I can truly say that I am grateful for this house.  It is amazing how our spaces become so much a part of who we are.  If you have a safe place to call home, that is definitely something to be thankful for. 

3.  Partner 

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Having someone to share your life with is a blessing often taken for granted.  I know I took it for granted.  My wife and I have been together for twenty years and this past week we celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary. Our life together is not perfect.  We have had a year which pushed us to the point of separation. But I am so thankful that she and I did not give up.  We used the time and the space to figure some things out.  I am proud of how we handled it.  I am amazed at her strength and the grace she showed me.  I am thankful for the counselling we chose to do together.  And now that we are back together, happy, and far more willing and able to communicate our needs and feelings, I am thankful for her willingness to take the risk with me. Nancee, I am so thankful that you are my person, my partner in this messy and amazing life.  

4. Children 

Ah, my kiddos.  They make me laugh.  They drive me crazy.  They say things that make me think and show me how to live in the moment.  My son recently turned 13 and can be a defiant teenager one minute, and the next is lying next to me as I tuck him into bed, telling me all about his day, his fears and asking his big questions.  I love that he still wants to hold my hand, but finds my dancing “so embarrassing.”  I love seeing him act so grown up in his cadet uniform, and listening to him giggle while playing with Lego.  He is growing up so fast and I feel such pride in the young man he is becoming, while I am sad that the little boy I met in 2013 is slipping away. 

My wonderful daughter is 9 years old (though she reminds me that her birthday is the next one in our family and she will be 10) and in August of this year she got really sick. She contracted a virus that essentially shut down her bowels.  Nancee and I had her to the Emergency Department multiple times and each time were told she just had a virus.  Well, that virus attacked her colon and the final straw came one night when she was up vomiting, and was in and out of consciousness.  The paramedics who showed up at our home were amazing and comforted our poor girl.  We are so thankful to report that after a week in the hospital, she was released and now you would never know she was ever that sick. 

Be thankful for your kids, and all the kids who are in your life, even if they aren’t your own.  They have so much to teach us about resilience and strength and compassion and love.  My kids are healthy today, playing and laughing and growing up way too fast.  What an honour to be witness to that. 

5.  Pets 

No long story here.  Just an acknowledgement that I am thankful for the pets who have been in my life.  We currently have two basset/beagle mix dogs, and one very fluffy kitty.  We have loved and lost many four-legged family members over the years and it is never not painful.  So while they are with us, lets be thankful for their unconditional love, their silly antics and the comfort they bring just by being present. Walter and Winston, thank you for your goofiness and for your intuitive nature. And Pickles (the cat), even though you tend to be a loner, I am determined that this will be the year you become more social.  

6.  Work 

It is such a great privilege for me to get up every morning and do meaningful and fulfilling work.  Not only do I have the joy of watching young people grow from kids into young adults, but I also have the distinct pleasure of working with some of the most dedicated teachers and support staff anywhere.  I am so thankful that I do the work I do as a Principal. I am so thankful to work for the Thames Valley District School Board, to lead a team of educators, to be an integral part of the learning and growth for hundreds of students.  Whatever work you do, I hope you find meaning in it.  You make a difference.   

7.  Faith 

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In a world where connection is often seen as weakness and busyness is glorified, it is so refreshing to find a place where we can find rest and hope and where we can find community.  For me, this place is my faith community of Riverside United Church.  In times of chaos, my faith teaches me that God will show me purpose.  In times of suffering, my faith teaches me that pain and sorrow and struggle are part of the human experience and that while God does not create suffering, my faith gives me the tools and the love of others to get through it. I am thankful that every week I am able to gather with others who understand the value of community and connection, to worship together, to love one another, to care for our families and our kids together.  Riverside is a faith community where all people, no matter where their journey has taken them, can find a place of acceptance and love.   

8.  Parents 

As adults we sometimes forget to stop and be thankful for our parents.  Today, I am thankful for mine.  Not only did they give me life, my parents sacrificed and gave all they could to give me the life I enjoy today.  My parents were not, and are not, perfect.  Just as I am not a perfect parent.  But perfection is highly over rated and I am thankful that my parents continue to love me and support me and are proud of me.  I am grateful to be your daughter. 

9.  Love 

Do you have love in your life?  I do.  Sometimes I fail to see it or feel it, but I know I am loved.  And I love…I love deeply.  Whether you have love of a partner or children or family or friends, love is a gift.  Cherish it.  Let it strengthen you.  And to show love to another is such a privilege.  The media shows us that the world is filled with hate and fear.  And love is the perfect antidote for hate.  Imagine a world with more kindness and goodness.  Want to make that world a reality?  I do.  So I am going to add more love to the world.  And I am thankful to those in my life who give and receive love. 

10.  Weekends 

After a very challenging week, I feel so much gratitude for weekends.  How wonderful that there are two days in a row to rest, to complete projects, to sleep in (something I actually never do) and to hang out with my little family.  However you spend your weekends, I hope you take the time today to be thankful that they exist.  Weekends are a reminder to us that we need time and we need change in our routines.  For me, weekends mean hockey games, yard work or home projects, chilling on the couch, guests for dinner, naps and time for play.  I absolutely love the pace of the week, and I find my work to be very rewarding.  But weekends are my time to remember why I do the work I do.  It is time to put my family first and to enjoy the more relaxed pace.  How do you spend your weekends? 

11.  Books 

To me, there is nothing quite like getting lost in a book. 

Whether a personal development book, a book about leadership for work or a fascinating memoir or novel, reading has always been a love of mine.  Recently I have discovered the joy of audiobooks and I am almost always listening to one when I drive to or from work.  Having a 45 minute commute has to have some benefits, right?  This year I am determined to keep better track of the books I am reading, and to share more about what I am reading on the blog and with my friends.  I am thankful for the ability to read, for the time to read and to listen to books, and for the many amazing writers who share their thoughts and stories with the world. What are you reading right now?  I would love some suggestions. 

12.  Therapy 

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This may seem like a strange thing to be thankful for today, but I really am thankful for therapy and for the people who hold space in a therapy room for others to share and process their thoughts and feelings.  It is no secret that I see a therapist regularly.  Therapy gives me the opportunity to speak about strong feelings, to share my truth, to work through thoughts that keep me up at night.  Often, just talking about big emotions or about things that feel overwhelming, takes away some of the power of those feelings and thoughts.  Other times, talking allows me to work through different scenarios for how I might proceed in a certain situation.  And sometimes it is just a safe place to express myself – to cry, to joke about things that scare me and then to really talk about the fear, to get angry, to reflect on how I have wronged someone.  Just as my physical health is something I am thankful for, even as I work through some struggles, my mental health is something I am thankful for, even as I have had some big challenges in this arena.  My therapist has challenged my black and white thinking and reminds me that on the other side of struggle lies the solution, lies peace, lies whatever we are searching for.  There are some inspiring therapists with an online presence, but there is nothing like meeting with someone face to face.  I am thankful today for Ashley at Soulful Wellness Counselling.  Check out her Facebook page where she often shares thoughtful videos, challenges us to see ourselves in a new light, motivates all the mamas out there and reminds us to seek out support when we need it.  You can also follow her on Instagram at @ashley.the.therapist 

13.  Holidays 

Just as weekends are an opportunity to change our pace, holidays give us a scheduled time to remember that our lives are more than just the Monday to Friday grind.  Today being Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the opportunity to remember what I am thankful for, and while I know I should be more mindful of these things every day, I am not always so mindful.  So I am thankful for an extra reminder.  Also, holidays give us the chance to gather with people who matter to us, to practice our values, to slow down and to see the world through the eyes of others.  I am going to be way more aware this year of how others see the various holidays.  How do my children experience the same holidays I have been experiencing for 46 years?  What can I learn from them? 

14.  Life 

This is a tough one to write about.  I have a beautiful life.  I have a wonderful family, a job I love, friends, community, money in the bank.  I have enough of everything I need.  And yet, I have not always been thankful for my life.  There have been dark moments when I have questioned whether I should keep living this life.  And there have been amazing people who have stepped in and pulled me out of that dark hole so I could see the light of life again.  I am thankful for my life.  I am thankful for those who remind me that life is a gift.  I am thankful to be re-learning that my life has meaning and that my life makes a difference.  If you are struggling to know that your life matters, that you make a difference or if you question whether you can hold on another day, know that you are not alone.  Reach out.  Find someone who will walk with you, who will help you find your light again.  Find someone who can hold on for you when you don’t think you can anymore.  Your life is a gift – not just to you, but to those who love you, and to many who don’t even know you yet.  I am thankful for my life, and I am thankful for yours. 

15.  Aging 

Really?  Thankful for aging?  Yes.  I am forty-six now and I am thankful for each birthday that passes.  Why?  Well, it isn’t that I am thankful for more grey hair or aching joints.  I am thankful for the wisdom that comes with every year.  I am thankful for the people I have met and loved and who love me back.  I am thankful for the experiences of joy, the pain of loss, the growth of my family.  I am grateful for friends who have become family over a lifetime.  As I grow older, I appreciate more.  I value different things.  I wouldn’t change the aging experience for anything.  Although, if I could have my 26 year old body back with my 46 year old mind, soul and heart, I wouldn’t complain.  

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And there you have it.  The first installment of 45 Things to be Thankful for.  This week I will share two more installments.  I hope you have had a wonderful Thanksgiving Weekend.  May we all be just a little more grateful.  Gratitude changes us.  It makes us more aware of goodness.  And I believe that will make us all just a little kinder. 

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