As Thanksgiving approaches, it’s time to make a new gratitude list

Thursday is, of course, Thanksgiving, which means we’re supposed to take a break from our hectic lives, sit down and show some gratitude.To be honest, Thanksgiving for us at the Tribune is more of a “take-a-deep-breath-because-holy-crap-we-made-it-through-the-process-of-putting-out-three-papers-in-three-days-and-didn’t-kill-anyone.”And as I write this on Monday morning, I’m more than a little nervous because I haven’t really been a part of the above-stated process since 2013.In 2014, my step-daughter took her own life the week before Thanksgiving, and a year ago, I spent part of this Thanksgiving week in a Mason City hospital battling migraines.But this year, I’m here, and I’m already nervous about what the next three days hold in store for us at the Tribune.Still, I’ve preached over the years — both to you who read this dribble each week and my own kids — that there’s nothing more “cleansing,” even in times of trouble, than putting together a good gratitude list.Wise friends of mine taught me this lesson years ago when I first stumbled into sobriety, and, at least for me, it has worked.So in honor of Thanksgiving 2016, here’s my latest gratitude list — some serious, some not-so-serious:• I’m thankful that the last day for leaf pickup was this past Friday because anything that didn’t fall before Thursday is going to wait until spring.I spent much of last week on “vacation,” and there’s a reason for those quote marks. Each day, I spent several hours in the yard. I raked. I bagged. I raked some more. I bagged some more.By Thursday afternoon, my back was screaming, “Enough.” Out came the mower, and two tanks of gas later, I had learned the valuable lesson of mulching.• I’m thankful I sat down and watched — and I’m really not exaggerating that much here — 12 hours of football on Saturday.Hey, I watched Iowa State score 66 points, and that’s a sentence I never ever thought I’d pen.• I’m thankful that the election is over, although to be honest, this item on the gratitude list deserves an asterisk.The bottom line is we in America need to work on “letting go.” Democrats couldn’t when George Bush won; Republican’s couldn’t when Barack Obama won and democrats can’t now after Donald Trump won.Still, I haven’t seen a political ad on television in two weeks. And that’s something worth a spot on this year’s gratitude list.• I’m thankful for this past football season — both as a reporter and as a father.• I’m also thankful that neither of the Fenske Boys — Josh or Noah — inherited a shred of their father’s athleticism.• I’m thankful for good memories. I doubt that Nov. 20 is ever going to be a day I want to go through again, for it was the day that we found out that Sam had died.But on Sunday, Noah and I visited her gravesite and left two of her favorite items — Dr. Pepper and mustard — near her stone.I think both of us were fighting back tears, but then, Noah smiled and recounted some of the “arguments” he had with his step-sisters. I did the same as I told Noah about the day Sam told me I “failed as a father” because my oldest daughter knew absolutely nothing about football.And the lesson we both learned, or maybe re-learned would be a better way of putting it, is that it’s important to recall the life lived much more than the death.• I’m thankful that the Vikings won a game yesterday because seriously, after the last four weeks, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to write a sentence that included “Vikings won” until 2017.• I’m thankful that winter sports started Monday and really kick into high gear next week. The drives may not always be great, but the one advantage the upcoming season has is that the temperature inside gyms is always nice and toasty.• I’m thankful for “arts kids” because they give so much to our community.From Bethany Zenk, a true musical superstar who just wrapped up her third straight All-State concert, to the cast of “The Trial of the Wicked Witch” to the upcoming holiday concert “series,” these kids really show another wonderful side of New Hampton.• I’m thankful for Trinity Lutheran Church.Now, before Pastor Kevin Frey goes off on me because my church attendance lately has been, at best, spotty, let me explain.On Thursday, the church will host its annual Thanksgiving dinner, and that means I’m off the hook when it comes to cooking the bird.And for the two young men who live with me, that very well may be the topper for their own gratitude lists.So to all of you, I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving, and if you’re stuffed from dinner and tired of football, take a little time to make your own gratitude list. For 20-plus years, those lists have worked wonders for me.

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