I like to think of myself as a fairly positive person.
I have my share of anxiety, those glass-completely-empty moments when the kids are sick, projects are due, bills are overdue and — just to top it off — squirrels eat their way into our garage.
But overall, I try to approach life with humor. Once I stress sufficiently over some problem (and vent to whoever happens to be nearby), I chalk it up to experience, laugh about it and move on.
Lately, that’s been a little tough. The onslaught of bad news has a lot of us feeling a bit ... beaten down.
Stranger danger, child abuse, scandals, even child suicide. And those are just headlines from the past few weeks.
On the personal side, I’ve seen friends and family battered by heartbreaking illness and sudden death, or struggling to make ends meet even as talk of a new recession looms.
November is a bleak month, when daylight vanishes quickly and bad news seems to multiply.
So what is there to be thankful for this year? The adults who allegedly covered up a horrifying open secret at Penn State? The child who, for whatever reason, felt so hopeless that she took her own life? The long lines at the food banks and soup kitchens and homeless shelters?
There are things, of course. Big things, like family, our children, our jobs, the freedom to choose our passion.
But this year, I decided to dig a little deeper and focus on the small things that have helped carry us through the dark days.
For starters: I’m thankful for the kind sources who gently point out the need for a correction by first flattering my stellar writing and then saying, “If it comes up again, my name is not Bill, it’s Melinda....” Far preferable to a nasty email questioning my IQ.
I am also thankful for (in no particular order):
— Children who don’t love Snickers and leave their Halloween leftovers to me.
— The doctor who looks my mom in the eye and talks to her, rather than pretending she can’t see, hear or understand anything.
— The friend who wrapped me in a hug and knew what to say when I had a health scare.
— The privilege of interviewing people like Tricia Hays Evans, Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish and Ned and Lizie Goldwasser.
— The daughter who found my wedding/engagement rings after they’d been missing for two weeks (in contrast to the son I cherish who can’t find the ID card sitting on his desk).
— Siblings who take fantastic care of my mom while I worry from afar (and don’t help nearly enough).
— Supervisors who never ask “Where are you going now?” when I once again fly out of the newsroom to collect a child (or five).
— Peanut butter fudge snowstorms, Dove bars, Kit-Kats — really, any chocolate product.
— Live Christmas trees.
— A husband who understands my job and likes doing dishes (and scraping wallpaper, for some reason).
— People who make me laugh.
— Drivers who understand I’m tailing them only because I’m late picking somebody up (again).
— The Schwann’s man.
— The clerk who waits patiently while I fret over paint-color choices: Simply white or dove? Arctic blue or bird’s nest? Bittersweet chocolate or black? (Insert eye roll by spouse/children/friends).
— Friends online and IRL who make me think more deeply about my own beliefs.
— Teachers who take the time to notice, even in a small way, something about my children, letting me know they are more than a test score.
— My daughter’s cheery, optimistic nature and my son’s silly moments, which make it (almost) impossible for me to be cranky.
— My husband’s sense of humor, which makes it hard to stay cranky (I’m sensing a theme here).
— Photographs that bring me back to the days when my children were young and our world was so much smaller. Sometimes they take my breath away.
And in the “not thankful” column:
— Cat allergies.
— November rain.
— Anonymous comments.
There, that helps. I’m sure you have your own list. Do it. And be thankful.
What are the small moments you appreciate this year? I'm actually thankful for comments, so leave one below!
News-Gazette staff writer Julie Wurth blogs about family issues and covers the University of Illinois for the News-Gazette. You can contact her at 351-5226, firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter.com/jawurth.
Photo: This wild turkey is definitely thankful to be alive. News-Gazette archive photo