Thanksgiving TurkeyThanksgiving is my favorite holiday and, true to the name, a time of reflection and gratitude.

While the holiday’s historic significance is the Pilgrim’s celebration of the first harvest in Plymouth Colony, my attachment stems from a tradition of family gathering and bountiful food. As I’ve grown older, the words of free-lance writer Robert Brault have become increasingly true:

Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.

You can hear my musings on Thanksgiving by playing this selection using the player (below).

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Music: Butterfly Dreams, David Modica, from

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The week’s list

This week’s tweets of gratitude:

Monday — I am grateful for the insight and inspiration of poetry, “arguing” with my daughter and wife about whose favorite poem is best.

Tuesday — After tonight’s school concert, I am grateful for public school music teachers, who introduce our children to the most accessible of arts and create beauty in song.

Wednesday — I am grateful for the men and women who leave their families to serve our country in distant and often dangerous lands.

Thursday — This morning I am thankful for this view: the sun rising from the Atlantic, Cape Cod almost touchable below. Imagining the Mayflower 389 years ago.

Friday — I am grateful for the opportunity to break bread with international colleagues and learn about their lives.

Saturday — I am grateful thatI will sleep in my own bed tonight, probably with the “pup” stretched out alongside my leg.

Today — I am grateful to have found a buyer for my grandfather’s home. This will close a long, long chapter of family history.

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Daily dose

Kristen Munson writes a blog called The Grateful Project, where each day she notes something in her life for which she is grateful. She explains how the blog came to be here, which includes this excerpt:

This action of pausing to consider what I am truly grateful for each day is an exercise I have repeated each day since. Because every day something happens to be thankful for. Every day. Even the days your heart winds up on the bottom of someone else’s shoes.

Kristen’s posts are short and often moving, especially when noting the ordinary. That’s the aha. We become desensitized to the ordinary, rather than seeing the extraordinary blessings.

I have much the same motivation as Kristen — if not her disciplined regularity. Gratitude is part of my spiritual practice, a means to keep centered and a principle for living a meaningful life.

Earlier this week, I saw the following on Kim Steele’s Facebook page, apparently a so-called trending topic:

Let’s see how many people can do this. Every day this month until Thanksgiving, think of one thing that you are thankful for and post it as your status. “Today I am thankful for…”

Inspired first by Kristen, then by Kim, I’ve adopted the practice, tweeting my expressions for the past several days.

Texas dawnTuesday — Today I am thankful for airplanes, enabling us to travel and see the world.

Wednesday — Today I am grateful for a run through the cool and quiet morning, rewarded by a stop at Starbucks.

Thursday — This morning I am thankful for my daughter Andrea, who is being inducted into the National Honor Society tonight.

Friday — I am grateful for the ability to see, to see color, to see the dawn of a new day. (Inspired by the photo.)

Later in the day — An extra dose of gratitude today: I made my connection in PHL with barely minutes to spare, yet enough to have dinner with my family.

Saturday — I am grateful for renewing friendships: life stories, shared memories, laughter and food. Creating new memories.

Let’s see how long I can keep this going…

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Finding gratitude amidst grief

Sunday — What a beautiful late fall afternoon, this first day of November. The leaves left on the trees – surprisingly quite a few – are now a burnt orange against a backdrop of blue sky and white wispy clouds. The car thermometer shows an unseasonably warm 60 degrees as I pull out of the driveway, the image of Grant raking leaves in the rear-view mirror.

No traffic delays the drive into Boston, no lines slow my passage through airport security, both benefits of flying Sunday afternoon, when most business travelers are home watching football. The downside is losing part of the weekend. How many weekends are in a life?

Today I feel a wistful sense of time.

I love to fly. I mean as a passenger, not a pilot. Despite the cramped seats, crowds, waiting, delays, and lack of hospitality, I can always rekindle a childlike amazement at this big metal bird sustaining itself at 39,000 feet and, even more, the ability to travel from one side of the country to the other in a mere 6 to 8 hours. When I lament that a flight is taking unbearably long, I try to recall that just 150 or so years ago, this journey lasted months and was fraught with dangers. During that era of covered wagons and railroads, no one could have imagined that we would crisscross the country in hours, barely paying attention to the awesome sight of the sprawling landscape below.

The experience of my generation is that normal is the norm, life is routine, often boring. Extreme sports and reality TV were invented to make it more exciting. We expect virtually no risk in our lives: no planes crash, the power doesn’t goes out, diseases are prevented, what illness invades our bodies is cured. When something out of the ordinary does occur, a commission or government agency determines the cause to prevent future occurrences.

So foreign the concept, I have to visualize that not that long ago, life was much harsher. Disease was common. It often killed people. Children died at or within a few years of birth. Mothers died giving birth. Longevity was more the exception than the norm.

I wonder how such uncertainty affected our forebear’s sense of gratitude. Could the experience of more frequent loss have instilled a deeper appreciation for the seemingly simple and basic gifts of life?

Tuesday — What is the relationship between grief and gratitude? I’ve been pondering that for several days now, since hearing tragic news. A mom, just 52, has a sudden stroke, leaving her husband and two teenage boys – the same age as my two children – with a lifetime void that’s hard to comprehend. The horror of their loss is visceral, a lump in my chest.

With no rational reason to explain why death happens nor to relieve the sadness, I wonder if there can be solace through gratitude. Gratitude for the days I am given, the people who love me, the glimpses of beauty that too easily fade into the background blur of the routine and the rush.

As the plane begins to descend into Boston, returning me from my cross-country journey, my gaze lingers on the sun splashed cloud peaks, the shadows forming below in the waning afternoon sun.

This is not routine I tell myself. It’s an incredible mystery and miracle. I have the privilege of being a witness, a participant.

After another routine landing and inconsequential drive home through evening traffic, my hugs are a bit more intentional.

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