We know, it has been a tough year. But Thanksgiving requires us to be thankful. So we gave you, our readers, the option: Share with us what you are - or are not - appreciating. Here are some of your submissions:
A favorite saying in my large family (with seven siblings) is: "If there was no dysfunction, there would be no family!" Despite our crazy differences, I am grateful we all banded together to help our brother Jim as he faced the challenges of chemo and radiation. Jim is in the homestretch. The outlook is bright, and we expect that Jim will be around for a long time.
I turned 49 this year. Shouldn't I feel grown up by now? I really don't. But as my daughter grows older, I find myself questioning everything I do as I become aware of setting a good example. I want her to do what makes her happy, which I realize is often different from what makes me happy. A friend said she wished her kids could just live in the moment. I wish I could do that, too. As we celebrate this Thanksgiving, I am mindful of how precious time is, how quickly it passes, and how grateful I am to my daughter for keeping me on my toes.
Julie Reinke Hazzard
In the last year, my family has enjoyed skiing day trips to Spring Mountain; cultural events and meandering at Morris Arboretum; Art Splash and family studio days at the Philadelphia Museum of Art; Nightscape at Longwood Gardens; bike rides along the Wissahickon, through Valley Forge, and around Peace Valley; ice cream outings to Merrymead Farm; zinnia-picking at Maple Acres Farm - all within an hour of our home. The Philadelphia region is a wonderful place for people to live and grow, and, for that, I am thankful.
I am thankful I don't work in retail any longer. The Thanksgiving/Christmas season was always hectic, but at least we used to get a full day off. Opening time wasn't 5 a.m., and closing time wasn't 2 a.m. Greed and commercialism has reached a new level. Certainly, we can spare two days in consideration of the retail workers and their families.
Thanksgiving ponders blessings in disguise
And for one day shelve what I'm inclined to despise
The house is a mess, dog hair everywhere
Seven kids with good health, sure, what do I care?
One graduated college, an answer to a prayer
Has a job, we're broke, but blessed two more are there
Numerous activities with the taxi service I dread
But today I'm thankful that we are not dead
Constant nagging, reminders, rolling the eyes
Today I'm thankful for those beautiful smiles
And our 24th anniversary of the day we wed
Today we're grateful we can get out of bed.
I am thankful for every former boyfriend who misses me and realizes what they lost - now that it's too late; for my wonderful parents who raised a little "lady" who then decided that being a warrior was more fun and profitable; for life lessons in 60-plus years that have taught me I'm a survivor; and most important, for my precious daughter, Jordan Kurtz, who is smarter than I ever was, beautiful on the inside and out, and is the love of my life.
Arlene W. Leib
This year I am thankful that my brother, Kevin, is still alive. He was diagnosed with an enlarged heart in 2006 at the age of 35. Although managed these last nine years with medications and a defibrillator/pacemaker implant, in March, he was in end-stage heart failure. But thanks to the wonderful team at Jefferson Hospital, in early April, he had an artificial heart pump implanted, called an LVAD, that pumps blood throughout his body until a donor heart becomes available. Now, all we want for Christmas is a new heart.
I am thankful for the Philadelphia SPCA, which opened a satellite office in my Fishtown neighborhood. After my kitty, Sweetie, died from cancer in May, and we grieved, I went to visit the new office. On June 26, I left with a black cat named Jax, who has brought us nothing but joy.
It's time for cancer to go. This country should plunk the money into cancer research and forgo needless military expenditures and rebuilding infrastructure in Middle Eastern countries. Hell, forgo rebuilding our own infrastructure (neglected as it already is) and eradicate this horrible disease. Who doesn't know someone dealing with some aspect of cancer? We need a giant scientific and genetic "Manhattan Project," and it will get done.
I am thankful to reside close to Forbidden Drive in Fairmount Park (what a treat to run the trail during the change of seasons). I am grateful when cousin weddings become family reunions. I so appreciate friends who waited in 3½-hour "Pope Lines" with me. (We got in.)
"What a terrible year this has been," I thought the other day when something else went wrong. I started to think of all the "bad things" that had happened. Then I realized: For every thing about which I had stressed at the time, I was later thanking God they had all gone well. If my husband had not insisted on the doctor's giving him something better for his arthritis, he would not have found out he had more serious health problems. He has had a quadruple bypass, three aneurysms repaired, an angiogram, catheterizations, and other procedures. Several health issues were caught in time to stop any further damage. I realized this had not been a "terrible year," but a very blessed one.
Gail C. Parker
For the first half of my life, I knew nothing about art. Then, I learned to appreciate the talents of painters. For the last four years, however, I have discovered that I can make my own art, so I want to thank my mosaic teachers. Discovering a new skill in retirement has been exciting, although in the process, I have commandeered my dining room, putting mosaics on everything in my house, except the dog. And she has been looking nervous lately.
Something showed up in your mammogram. A week later, I was in the hospital for a lumpectomy, and several days after that, I experienced a staph infection at the surgery site that put me down for a month. It was also a time when I saw the value of my life reflected in the faces of the family and friends who offered massive love and support. The response was overwhelming and life-affirming. Today, I am zero stage. . . . I am grateful.
When I taught second grade, one full semester in social studies was learning about Native Americans and their reverence and respect for the Earth. Since we "Americans" stole their land, why not emulate their deep respect and reverence? We could all practice random acts of kindness by throwing litter and trash into proper receptacles. Let us make and keep "America the beautiful" beautiful again.
Theresa M. Coleman
The fowl time of year is due, and this year was certainly foul for me and my family; however, I really am looking forward to the holidays.
You see, I live with cancer. Lots of it. It was this past spring that I got diagnosis No. 8 - extranodal marginal zone lymphoma, or MALT. But, thanks to Fox Chase Cancer docs, I virtually flew through two doses of radiation and six months of chemo and feel great. I plan to say prayers of Thanksgiving and eat the turkey wing with relish.
Thanksgiving should always be a blessing for those of us lucky enough to be living in the U.S. Whether this year has been wonderful or distressing, consider the rest of the world. War-torn areas, illness with no medical care, lack of education, and starvation are the norm elsewhere. We should be thankful every day of the year.
I am thankful for my wife's telling me six years ago that it was time for me to get a colonoscopy. I hit the "over-50" number, and after numerous requests from her, I did it. Polyps found and removed one year, return of them a year later, early stages of colon cancer found and removed. This year, I'm cancer-free after my latest test. Thankful? You bet your butt - pun intended.
I am very thankful for the health of my wife and sons and the opportunities they've had this year. My younger son is traveling the world on a gap year. My wife and I visited him in Cape Town, and my older son is visiting him in Vietnam during his Thanksgiving break. My older son also has a job offer when he graduates from Penn State this coming spring.
I am so very grateful for all the support I received going through chemotherapy treatments. In March, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and, of course, was in shock and still am in some ways.
My superhero sister Mariann took care of me during my times of recuperation. I am especially grateful for her. I received so many cards, emails, and texts from family and friends that it made me cry (happy tears) to think that so many people love me.
I am blessed with a loving family and good health. When I go to bed at night and think of the refugees, I am thankful for: a roof over my head, a warm bed, a stomach that is not empty. What more could I ask for?
Ayn M. Krebs
My brother is in a very exclusive group of people. Out of the 630,000 transplants completed in the last 28 years, he is one of 0.13 percent who underwent a full multivisceral transplant. This means his liver, pancreas, stomach, duodenum, biliary system, and small intestinal tract were replaced from a single donor. My brother, his wife, and five children have endured a more than four-year battle. Hopefully, he will finally be on his way to recovery.
As we reflect on the last 11 months, I can say this has been a unique year. I am most grateful for my husband and his courage to take a new position at work. I have a new position also - and I have been able to focus on our family. I'm grateful for the support of my children. I'm grateful for family, and my baby brother having a new position where people have to listen to him now.
I love Thanksgiving. Almost everybody has something to be thankful for. The only thing that ruins the day for me is knowing that more than 40 million turkeys are killed. How can we be happy when sentient creatures suffer because of us? I'll make my late mother's sweet potato recipe, but some traditions need to change. I'll eat my tofurky.
I'm thankful for mermaids - not the Disney kind. My "Mermaids" are a group of women who do water aerobics together. We are, for the most part, of a certain age and share similar life experiences, helping each other to deal with the future while enjoying the present. We share wisdom and talents. Need the name of a good doctor, a restaurant, great book, or a movie? Ask a Mermaid. Want to learn bridge, mah-jongg, poker? Ask a Mermaid. So, here's to the "ladies who lunch" - a lot. But more than that, here's to shoulders to cry on and hugs to give and laughing - a lot - which is truly the best medicine.