Thirty Years of Thanks

This year I celebrate my thirtieth Thanksgiving.  I thought it appropriate to take a trip in the way-back machine and call out thirty specific things, from recent history and the distant past, to be thankful for on this holiday.

  1. I am thankful for the doctors, nurses, and prayers that kept my heart beating on April 7, 1981 when I was born two months premature.  The doctors told my folks not to even name me, as I had zero chance for survival.  Yet, here I am.
  2. I am thankful for being raised by two wonderful, loving parents whose own thankfulness translated into a lifetime of love and care.  I am a true reflection of them, and knowing how many people care for me magnifies their success.
  3. I am thankful for old music.  I recall afternoons at home and trips to Grandma's full of Creedance, Harry Nilsson, Warren Zevon, Steppenwolf, and countless others.  It brings me joy to play old albums or see the old 8-track under my television, as it brings back waves of emotion that can be instantly replicated by opening my ears to that identical sound.
  4. I am thankful for Dad accepting the job to manage the first Price Mart grocery store in Tulsa, on Admiral just off Sheridan.  Taking that job moved us to Broken Arrow and the stability I grew up around.  Dad's subsequent promotions allowed us a comfortable living and many family vacations as well.
  5. I am thankful for the faithful canine companions that I've lived with and loved.  Sammy, Floyd, Lucy,  Penny.  I'm also thankful for my old cat, Atticus, who now enjoys a new family.  There is nothing like the love of a pet.
  6. I'm thankful for my childhood best friend, Jared, whose companionship was a constant in my formative years.  Spending the night at each other's houses, Nintendo, Boy Scouts, weekends at the lake with a bag full of little powdered donuts.
  7. I'm thankful for time at Grandpa Hardy and Grandma Gail's house in the country, near Pawhuska.  They lived in a converted schoolhouse on a few acres.  Fourth of July, Christmas, and other visits were so special to me.  The sounds of the countryside, the joy of exploration, and the warmth of the fireplace.
  8. I'm thankful for Saturday mornings at the office with Dad.  I got a young view into the working life and have fond memories of walking the stores afterwards.  For a while, they had a cooler with glass bottle Coke.  That was awesome!
  9. I'm thankful for being able to ride my bike all throughout my neighborhood without fear or concern.  I had friends on my block, and could ride to Jared's house without much difficulty.  Wolf Creek park wasn't far, either.  I can close my eyes and see the entire route.
  10. I'm thankful for my brother; without him, I would not have learned patience nearly as quickly or effectively.
  11. I'm thankful for Mom's open ear and honesty; it was that same openness that gave me the courage to call her up and get me out of troubling situations when I wanted no part of them.  She fielded my questions about religion and stoked my interest in reading.
  12. I'm thankful for Steve Ojas visiting my sixth grade class with his electronic flute and other musical gear; it was then I realized that electronic music had a strong appeal for me.  I remember nights of listening to MIDI music on my 60 mHz computer, feeling fulfilled when I found new files that were exceptionally well made.
  13. I'm thankful for Jared inviting me over one night to play this new PC game called Warcraft.  We built villages, fought orcs, and spent hours in front of that VGA screen.  Those sessions eventually gave way to Warcraft II, III, and eventually got me into World of Warcraft, which has given me so many hours of enjoyment, bonding, and even brought me face-to-face with new and cherished friends.
  14. I'm thankful for my first car, which I still miss.  Dad sold me his 1988 Merkur Scorpio for $1, a great deal at the time, but I sure made up for it in repairs over the years.  Leather seats, power moonroof, plentiful space, and it handled like a dream.  I wept when I drove it to the dealership to trade it in, even though it hadn't treated me super well.
  15. I'm thankful for open campus lunch when attending Tulsa Technology Center in 11th and 12th grade.  That core group of friends still exists, mostly intact, and when we get together it's just like old times.  The vibe cannot be replicated.
  16. I'm thankful for my first job at Price Mart, where I realized that the industry that put food on the table (literally) for my father and his father before him wasn't for me.  I learned a tremendous amount and it still affects the way I shop and treat employees at current stores.  I sure don't miss running carts, though.
  17. I'm thankful for my first trip to Italy in tenth grade with classmates.  Although I felt lonely and isolated at the time, the experience of being in another country lit a pilot light that would grow tremendously in a little over a decade's time.
  18. I'm thankful for my first girlfriend, Aubrey, for I learned a great deal.  We went to prom together, graduated together, and got our first apartment together.  Although things didn't end on the best note, the experience started to build a confidence in me that I had never had before.
  19. I'm thankful for Dad calling me into the living room at night, when I was doing something way more important like SimCity or building Lego constructions, and showing me his favorite scenes from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly or Escape from New York, sharing his love for movies that I soon embodied and took to the next level.  Although at the time I impatiently watched whatever he wanted to show me, they reside in my memory with great fondness.
  20. I'm thankful for my time in Topeka, KS and the poor treatment at the Blockbuster Video stores there.  It was that treatment that got me looking into other employment, finding Teletech, and earning enough money in a call center job to move back home to Broken Arrow.
  21. I'm thankful for Carla and her friend (whose name still escapes me) in Topeka, coworkers for a time, who called out that I wearing clothes based on grocery products was lame and I needed to find my own style.  That call-out helped me grow into my own person in that regard and I think of that conversation often.
  22. I'm thankful for Cingular Wireless, the job that morphed into a seven year pillar of my life and through which I met so many of my friends.  I grew into a leader in that organization and learned a lot about organizing and planning, which makes me successful in my job today.  I also got to experience the wireless industry and it stood up and came into it's own as the powerhouse it is today.
  23. I'm thankful for my ex-wife, Indi.  Our time together brought me into adulthood as I know it.  She taught me so much about independence and individuality.  We shared everything together for seven years and, though it wasn't meant to be forever, I don't regret our time together in the slightest.  She even got me to try a few vegetables.
  24. I'm thankful for the strength and emotional stability to be a source of strength when my parents divorced.  It was wholly unexpected and I was glad that I could be there for my parents when they'd been there for me through so much.  
  25. I'm thankful for midnight movies.  There's nothing like sitting in a crowded theater with dozens and dozens of fellow uber-fans:  cheering, laughing, and crying together.  The conversations after-the-fact with those that came with and the bond of social enjoyment.
  26. I'm thankful for the process of writing.  I've kept a blog or journal or SOMETHING for many years now and it's helped me shape the way I communicate.  It's how I deal with emotion and give a picture into my mind.  I think a thoughtful and well-written letter can be one of the greatest gifts you can give someone.
  27. I am thankful for the inspiration to pick up a camera and consciously find my creative vision.  I get more enjoyment out of photography than any other hobby I've ever had and I have pictures on my walls that always fill me with pride and vivid memory.  Sharing my work with others is deeply fulfilling.
  28. I am thankful for the courage and inspiration to sell my world and set off to experience the world of others.  My trip abroad was so monumentally enriching that it's impossible to dilute down to a bullet point.  Suffice to say it helped me understand myself better and get a better view of my fellow man.
  29. I am thankful for the strength and discipline to get through the process of my father's untimely death and relative chaos afterwards.  It fell to me to settle everything, and though it was stressful it got me through some of the rough times.  Without the strong foundation that Dad himself helped build for me, I would've just completely fallen apart.
  30. I am thankful for my rich network of friends and family.  Without you all, I could not have weathered the past year of loss and reflection with as much grace or vulnerability.  I am the most blessed guy in the world and all I have to do is look at the contact list in my phone to see why.


The Value of Friendship

I was driving to get lunch tonight and a Beatles song shuffled on my iPod that I hadn't heard before.  Actually, that's not true; last year, my best friends Nikki and Brad bought me The Beatles Stereo Box Set.  When I got all that music loaded onto my computer, I listened through the entire Beatles catalog for the first time.  I feel like that needs a little backstory.

Some time ago (not a long time ago; three years maybe?) I was driving and one of the local radio stations was doing a B-Side playlist; playing an uninterrupted B-Side of an old album.  I could tell it was the Beatles, but I didn't recognize the song.  I picked up my cell and called Nikki.  She is a big time Beatlemaniac and it never occurred to me to call anyone else.  I told her I wanted to know the name of a song because I hadn't heard it before; she was incredulous to discover it was 'Golden Slumbers' from the back of Abbey Road.  "You haven't heard all of ABBEY ROAD?!  WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU?" she immediately chastised me.  A sit-down listen through (on vinyl, as would be expected) was scheduled soon after.  This gift was the cap on that tale.  So, to bring us back to the beginning, a Beatles song came on my iPod I didn't remember.  It got me to thinking about my friends.

I met Nikki first, back when I was working at Cingular Wireless as a Technical Support representative.  We had a floor walking program at the time where I answered questions from Customer Service representatives.  We hit it off pretty quickly, having similar interests and senses of humor.  She schooled me in music, helped me with my sense of style, introduced me to the world of Harry Potter, encouraged me to be more confident, and has been there to listen to me at my whiniest.  She joined us in Japan during the world trip, too.

Brad was on tour at the time I met Nikki; when I finally got to meet him he had dreadlocks if you can believe it.  I wish I had a picture of that.  Brad played keyboards and backing vocals in a local band called 'All Too Familiar' and I followed him as he moved to The Commission and, finally, his own band Baron Von Swagger.  We have spent many nights playing video games and drinking beer long into the wee hours of the night.  Brad has introduced me to multiple bands that I'd never have heard of otherwise and introduced me to The West Wing.  We can sit and have nerdy Star Trek conversations or talk about the nature of God.  Brad is happiest when he is serving others, and takes pride in taking care of his friends.  We've road tripped to California, Atlanta, and Chicago together.

They are the kind of people that give before thinking of themselves.  I know I can call at any time, day or night, and if I say I need them they'll be there.  I sat on the tailgate of my truck outside their apartment as I realized my marriage was over.  When Dad passed, they were there for me too.  We laugh, we joke, we cry, we challenge each other, we turn to each other for comfort.  There is a strong bond of trust that comes with friendships of this caliber.  I don't know if they know how highly I think of them.  Well, they will now.

Life gets full quickly.  There are times when we get busy and I'll go weeks without seeing them; Nikki especially with her school/work schedule.  But like Beatles tunes, when they turn back up, there isn't a missed beat.  There's a feeling of synchronicity and enjoyment that is just built-in.  I hope everyone has a friend or friends that they are on this wavelength with.  They've gotten me through some pretty dark times.

Love you guys.


As Of Late

It's been a while since I've written.  I have felt the dull tendrils of grief slowly rising and wrapping around me, preparing me for an inevitable night of catharsis.  Until then, it seems little things set me off and put me into sad type moods.  It hasn't been anything overwhelming, just slight tugs at my normally constant smile.  It's not like things have been blah.  Far from it, actually.

I had a wonderful time in California with my friends last month.  I went out for Blizzcon in Anaheim and even stuck around to visit Disneyland.  It had been fifteen years or so since I last visited a Disney park and the nostalgia was palpable.  Visiting as an adult was quite different, and I was even talked into riding the Matterhorn and Space Mountain.  I'm not a roller coaster fan.  It's a testament to the persuasiveness of my companions that I buckled.  It wasn't too bad, to their credit.

It's hard to believe that we're already about a week into November.  I predict the next few months will be difficult to navigate, emotionally.  Just one year ago Indi and I split for good.  December 7 will be one year since my grandmother passed, and of course January is the big one.  The holiday season, and winter in general, is traditionally worse on depression and that kind of thing.  As I noticed the leaves changing and grass going dormant, I was reminded of the many trips I took to Pawhuska last winter to settle Dad's estate.  Highway 11 holds many pleasant memories of going to Grandma's house and visiting family, but now it also holds the memories of funerals and lawyers.  Such is life.

My camera took its last picture at Disney.  The lens mechanism failed and it's pretty expensive to repair.  I've been looking at getting a new one and I can't see any reason not to get the newest version of my old Canon G10.  It took great pictures and was very good to me in many countries.  Taking pictures is a therapeutic activity for me and I need to get back out and capture moments.  It brings me peace.  The newest incarnation of the Canon has an easier time with indoor pictures, too.  Thank goodness for that; it was my biggest complaint on the old model.  So much noise!

How strange is it that my brother is moving into a house with his fiance?  When did that kid grow up?  I think it's a ruse.