Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | November 21, 2006

Counting blessings big and small

“I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose.” ~ Woody Allen

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and it’s not just about the copious mashed potatoes and gravy, although I am quite appreciative of those.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because I believe that gratitude and appreciation for our blessings – as opposed to a sense of entitlement – are the keys to happiness and humility.

So here, in no particular order, from the silly to the sublime, are just a few of my blessings this Thanksgiving:

• I’m thankful for the furry, four-legged fitness machine named Sparky who joined our family this month.

I’m an exercise-phobe. The only way I get any physical activity is to tie it to my to-do list. Thus, when heavy gardening or deep cleaning need to be done, I get exercise. When they’re not necessary, I turn into a couch potato.

Thanks to Sparky, a daily walk is now on my to-do list. In addition to the canine companionship he brings to our family, Sparky the cockapoo is also making me healthier.

• I’m thankful that checks and balances were restored to our federal government as a result of the mid-term elections.

With a razor-thin Democratic majority in the United States Senate and a more comfortable margin in the House of Representatives, the executive branch has finally lost its rubber stamp.

Whether you’re a Republican concerned with ballooning deficits, a Democrat concerned about the war, or an Independent concerned about preserving our civil liberties, a few years of divided government is good for our democracy.

• I’m thankful for the Bay Area climate. The balmy weather we had this weekend – in mid-November! – reminds me that we really do live in spectacular area.

I’m still picking cherry tomatoes and raspberries – in mid-November! – while keeping an anticipatory eye on the lemons and oranges ripening on my citrus trees.

We don’t have stifling humidity, tornados, blizzards, giant bugs, or oppressive heat. We do have wonderful ocean breezes, we sometimes have lovely morning fog that burns off to reveal stunning blue skies. We have the occasional earthquake and landslide, granted, but they serve to underscore the natural beauty that surrounds us.

The only downside I can find is that if I ever decide to extract the equity from my home, I’ll have to move to some other part of the country whose climate just won’t compare.

• I’m thankful for the technology that allows me to telecommute. Not only that, I’m thankful that I work for a company and in a job that allow me to take advantage of it.

I’m a Type A personality, so sitting in stop-and-go traffic is a recipe for high blood pressure. Aside from adopting a dog who requires a daily walk, replacing my 45- to 60-minute rush-hour commute with a 30-second trip downstairs has been the best thing I can do for my health.

Calling into meetings, electronically transferring files, virtual presentations, all of these make it possible for me to avoid that frustrating drive and be home when my kids get home from school. That technology also allows me to spend time building a trusting relationship with a dog that has separation anxiety.

I had no idea when I started working at CompuServe’s customer service department 21 years ago (and boy, does that calculation make me feel old) how important the technology I was supporting would be in my life. Text-only displays and 300 baud modems seem quaint now, but they were once cutting edge and they led us to the technological wonders we take for granted today.

I often ask “What would we do without the Internet?” For me, the Internet and the technologies that support it and that it has spawned incalculably improve my quality of life.

• I’m thankful that no one in my family camped out for a PlayStation 3.

The days-long lines, the boorish and criminal behavior, the obscenely inflated resale prices, and the complete lack of perspective are the antithesis of Thanksgiving. If folks who are so desperate to buy a PlayStation would consider, just for a moment, the plight of soldiers and civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq, the suffering of hungry and homeless people around the world, the genocide in Darfur, then the importance of nabbing an overpriced, underproduced video game system would wither and shrink.

Take a moment to count your blessings big and small, and have a happy Thanksgiving.

“Gratitude is the mother of all virtues.” ~ Roman philosopher Cato

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