I am thankful for:
My Daughter Sarah. I hate gushing about kids, but Sarah makes it hard not to. She has a strong will, an incredible work ethic and a huge heart. She is an amazing student, way better than I ever was, through no doing of her parents. Why is that? I don't know, but I am thankful.
My Son Ben. Ben has a huge heart too. He never balks when we ask him to "serve" for church or the homeless shelter. He is more of a "B" student, like I was, and there's nothing wrong with that. He has taught me that while friends are important, everyone needs alone time too. Even the socialites. Thankful for him.
My In-Laws. They say when you marry someone you marry their family. I lucked out in that respect. I don't see them but a few times a year, but I love having in-laws that are healthy, well adjusted and accepting of me and my kids. They love me unconditionally and that is a great comfort.
My Mom. She raised seven of us kids and through it all she always managed to stay level headed, active in the community and "there" for our kids and the rest of her grandchildren. She taught me to plow through adversity and to love and respect family as the treasure it is.
My Dad. He gave me this life and through his influences on Tom, he instilled a love of all things outdoors. I'm told he loved his kids more than anything and I believe it. He taught me the importance of being there for my kids and paying forward the love of all things outdoors. He also taught me that life can deal the unexpected and we need to appreciate the now, because tomorrow is just a chance.
My Brother Tom. He taught me the love of fishing, camping, canoeing and all things outdoors. (Hunting, not so much, but that's a story for later.) He shaped my sense of humor more than anyone, I think. He taught me what it means to be a man in my dad's absence.
My Sister Pat. She was the in-situ "mom" when our mom was at work. In some respects she was forced to grow up faster than she should have been because of this. She taught me that everyone needs to help in a family. I remember he "training" me how to properly do dishes and wipe counters down amongst the other household chores. Life skills.
My Sister Linda. Though I never knew her, I am thankful she was a part of my mom and older siblings' lives for the short time she was. I often wonder if I'd be the same person I am if she was still around. I wonder about her personality, what her family would have been like.
My Sister Jane. She is the one who shaped my view of the importance of keeping the family together through thick and thin. I remember when I moved to Milwaukee and she asked "So, when are you moving back to Minnesota, Jim?" I said it may never happen. I think her reply was something like "Well, that sucks." That's how important family was to her. She still hosts many holidays and though she's often in the background, it's apparent that nothing makes her happier than seeing family together.
My Brother Rob. Rob taught me the importance of living in the moment. He taught me that friends are sometimes as important as family. He was the one I was most comfortable being around for extended periods, in part because he loved to laugh. He taught me to not take myself too seriously. I miss him more than anything.
My Brother Paul. Paul taught me the importance of just a little bit of recklessness in my life. His perspective is that life is too short to stay between the lines for the duration. Live on the edge, enough to get your blood going, but not enough to get in trouble. He gave me the love of rock and roll and life as something to be lived with vigor.
My Friends. You know who you are. I'm the world's toughest friend to keep. I don't solicit get-togethers, I don't answer phone calls, and much prefer texts or emails. NONE of that means I don't appreciate you and that you're stubborn enough to stick by me. I'm happiest alone, but as my wife will attest, when I'm around my friends, I enjoy EVERY moment of it. Thank you for all you are to me.
And so, that's it. I'm thankful for friends, family and people that glide into and out of my life. You are beautiful and I can't imagine life without you in it.