#30DaysofThanks . . .

Well . . . it is November. That means the holiday season is in full swing, a majority of the leaves are off the trees, the suddenly-cool temperatures have become simply the temperatures and it is time to hunker back in to a reflective and appreciative mood. While the HOT thing on social media this November seems to be giraffe avatars, Bitstrips, and "liking" statuses that detail death of family members - there is still a small percentage of people who chose to spend a few minutes each day this month to express gratefulness for something in their life.

Good news? I have loads to be thankful for. Bad news? I didn't have a blog post in mind so, again this year, here is my list in one concentrated blast.

1) My Daughter - The kid abides. The kid challenges. The kid pushes and pulls. The kid hugs like a world champion and has the earnestness women five times her age might seek. I don't know what is nature and what is nurture but she has my number and I love her for that.

2) Rhetoric - I've been engaging my brain, words, strategy, and passions more and more lately. I'm thankful that I have friends who are smarter, wordier, more strategic, and more passionate than me. It helps keep me on my toes.

3) My Ex-Wife - I can't say enough good stuff about a woman who took me on a decade ago and is still, in many ways, by my side today. We'll always share a child but - more importantly - I think we'll always share a love and respect that got lost for a long time and that we're both happy to see back in our dynamic.

4) My Family - Every Sunday I rattle off a ten sentence note to my parents, brothers, and sisters-in-law. Most weeks that is the entirety of the communication I have with them. It is an improvement over the frequency and quality of communication in years prior but I love them and I appreciate that they read those notes and leave me alone with only sharing what I want to.

5) Running - I did not expect running to give me all it did this year. It was distraction and focus, start and stop, the bridge from where I was to where I am, and the greatest opportunity I've found in a long time to just think and be alone. That I've lost weight, become stronger, and learned about myself along the miles is just bonus.

6) Google+ - News, content, opinions, links, interesting people and brands . . . and not a single religious or political rant, picture of someone's lunch, or sharing of death and destruction at home. THANK YOU for being the social network for those of us who aren't looking to overshare/socialize with our network.

7) Music - From my earliest memories of things that I love, music has always been there. In this age of digital files and music streaming, I can spend $8/month and have access to just about every song I could ever possibly want to get at. The teenage version of me is envious, the geriatric overwhelmed. But the current me is very, very happy.

8) My Friends - I say this all the time but it is true . . . I'm not an easy person. I'm prickly and delicate and grumpy and gregarious. I am lucky to have a group of friends that are either as "all of the above" as me or just willing to accept me - or both. I am very appreciative for that, especially as I start carving out this new era/phase of my life.

9) Sweater Weather - I mean seriously . . . there is NO better time for a schlubby man than sweater weather. Pile on the layers and enjoy the camouflage . . . at least until there is a better option for staying warm.

10) Closure - I've had a lot of things come to a close in the last year. Not all of them happy, certainly not all of them sad. I've said goodbye to cars, jobs, marriages, homes, friendships, and professional and personal obligations but I've opened new chapters in my life for just about every one I've closed out. I'm thankful to have a new set of things to obsess over.

11) Literacy - Books. Blogs. Websites. E-newsletters. Magazines. Handwritten notes. The fact that I can read and write is something I will never appreciate as much as I should but I can at least throw it in the middle third of things I am grateful for.

12) Losing Weight - A LOT of weight gained. A LOT to lose again. It is started. It will continue. Bathing suit season is one of the many reasons I might want to get my body back in order.

13) Women - I love the maternal side of the human beast. Not in a creepy, oedipean way but in the sense that I am much more comfortable and "at home" with women than men and I am grateful to have lots of wonderful women to ask for advice, and help. That they give hugs, smell amazing, and are bright and engaging is just a bonus . . . and only slightly creepy.

14) Art - Remember that plastic bag blowing around in American Beauty? It is like that - only not as "on the nose" in why I love art. It is the conversation, the impression, the evocation, the debate. I often wish I were a creative person but I'm generally just as happy not putting my heart and soul out there for people to judge and or put a monetary value on.

15) Judaism/Hebrew - My evolution is at no point more complicated, intricate, or open for critique from those who have endured me for years than my decision to formally convert and join the tribe of G-d's chosen people. As I calmly say to those who question - if religion is a crutch, this one is the perfect height and got in my armpit at exactly the right time. I'm perfectly at peace in my faith and values.

16) Work - Six months without any work will make you appreciative for anything but I got lucky in getting hired in to an environment with a million opportunities, dozens of great people, a boss that just sort of lets me do my thing and has my back while I do, and an opportunity to re-establish myself professionally in a way that should pay dividends for the rest of my career (and I want to have a long, long career).

17) Board Games - Pick a few dates, let's find one that works for both of us. I'll provide the board game and some appetizers - you bring your beverage of choice (or let me know what it is and I'll pick it up). We'll chat, we'll laugh, and I'll hopefully at least end the evening in a tie.

18) Alone Time - As I type this it is 2:19 PM CT. I'm in my pajamas. My laundry is going. There is an episode of The Killing playing on my Roku. I've got a mug of tea in front of me. I'm otherwise alone in my thoughts and energies. Perfection. I'll have my child back tomorrow and be happy to have her but, for now, no complaints.

19) Tea - I read the other day that the stigma of American tea drinkers (apparently we were once thought to be snobs) has faded to the point where no one really cares if you drink coffee, tea, or half and half from the carton. This is progress, people. And a mug of hot tea or glass of iced tea is the reward we reap.

20) Gus - My guinea pig. My guy. You wouldn't understand.

21) The Real World - No. NOT the MTV show (is that still even a thing? I mean MTV and/or The Real World?) but the physical planet we live on and the culture and space we share. I am spending less and less time online all the time and it is wonderful to say that. There are amazing people out there - just look up long enough to see them.

22) Food - I've never had a good, healthy relationship with food. I've spent most of this year trying to correct that and I'm starting to feel like we at least respect each other. I would like to eventually be friends. Time will tell.

23) KMUW-FM - I love my public radio. It loves me. And THANK YOU (again) to everyone that took part in #DonaSean. We blew it out of the water. We'll go again in the Spring.

24) Storytelling - This is my newest obsession (that is probably the same one I've always had) . . . stories and the people that tell them. In words (written or spoken), notes and lyrics, pictures, video, or a combination of all of the above. The art of telling a good, long story is being lost. We have to fight this trend. We have to keep telling stories. GOOD ones. NEW ones.

25) This, this, and this - Just click on each "this" - you'll either get it or you won't.

26) Distractions - I may or may not (I do, sadly) have a touch (or overwhelming case of) ADD so I typically do not celebrate the people and things that pull my attention in directions I don't control but I've been fortunate, of late, to have a few things and opportunities that have been just the right amount of "confusing" and "ill-advised" to make them interesting. I'll get focused again any minute now . . . what was I saying?

27) Strong Sense of Self - Call it ego, super ego, id, hubris, narcissism, or whatever else you like . . . I like me. I'm not backing down from me. I will continue to admit that I'm not perfect and that I don't know it all but if the last year and a half has taught me anything it is that I can and will survive things and I make okay decisions even when the deck is stacked against me.

28) People Watching - Can I tell you a secret? You are all hilarious and fascinating. I could sit and watch you for hours - sadly your lunch breaks are only one hour and I have a tendency to stare vs. glance anyway. But, seriously, keep it up people in public who think they are either in private or surrounded by people too buried in their own lives and phones to notice you. I am watching and enjoying.

29) Challenges - As much as this list might seem and feel like some sort of "victory lap" over things that have plagued me lately - it is not. Challenges live on. I have lots of big and little things that are on my "to do" list and I am taking on new challenges by choice and by force. This is all good news - it means I'm still growing.

30) A Million Other Things - I mean, c'mon.

How much have I (not) changed in a year? Here is my list from last year.