Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008: It’s as good a time as any…

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Well, yesterday was Thanksgiving, and international and economic crises aside, it couldn't have been a nicer day.  After a week of darkness & sleet & snow, everything brightened (both the weather and my spirits) and I enjoyed a lovely holiday with family.  (Shawn is a very good cook, and sent me home with a couple pounds of leftovers to boot!)  And of course her husband Jim was there, and my niece Sophia, beautiful and ornery as ever. 

(When I arrived and walked in the door, that angel ran right over, hugged me & said "Oh Uncle Doug, I've missed you..."  while Shawn and I exchanged some pretty emotional expressions.  That alone made my day.)

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Later while I was loading some files on my sister's computer, I went online to see what some of my 'internet pals' were up to, and I noticed that someone had started a 'Giving Thanks' discussion, with items both traditional and non. 

It seems like I've been caught up in such a variety of negative things lately (squabbles with other family members, dental problems, fears about the economy) that I've neglected to consider the things that are right in my life as well. 

So in no particular order, and certainly not including everything, here's a few items I am giving thanks for this Thanksgiving weekend:

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My job with UPMC Health Plan - It pays the bills (and then some)

While part of me resists sounding like a corporate shill, I want to be honest here--I like my job.  I work in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh, I feel I'm paid fair enough (in fact I just received a nice salary increase on Tuesday) and I'm treated both as a friend & professional (by my coworkers & manager).  I may grumble about my job from time to time, but I feel fortunate to be part of the UPMC organization.  (I've now begun my ninth year there too; it's a good fit.)

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Stephen King and his return to the short story (among other things)

While I haven't always been proud to admit it (now why is that?) I've always been a Stephen King groupie.  From the first novel of his I read in college ("The Dead Zone") to bewildering works like "Insomnia", I've never failed to get excited when I hear he has something new out there. 

And with this just released collection of short stories (both old and new), I am reminded once again why Stephen King is my favorite storyteller.   (It also includes a return of his 'Constant Reader' introduction; how I've missed these personal glimpses into this thoughtful man's life.)

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Jim, Shawn & Sophie (for including me in their holiday)

While of course I have more than one sibling (and I'm grateful for them too), it's my sister Shawn & her family who I'm giving thanks to here.  It's one thing to be loved, but when Shawn said "Doug please come, this won't be Thanksgiving unless you're here" (and I knew she meant it) then it becomes more than a feeling of gratitude, but a real sense of belonging. 

And for a single guy, that's often a nice thing to have.  

 

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Nifty Chinese inventions

Here's what I currently enjoy using:  penstyle & mini e-sticks, which produce a harmless vapor with apple, caramel or mint flavoring

I know I've written about these "e-cigs" before in the teepee, but it bears repeating: the Chinese saved my life with this little invention that mimics smoking (allowing you to 'puff' on flavored water vapor instead).  I've now gone 5 months without a cigarette (I'll never go back to smoking) and I still enjoy 'vaping' mist with these electronic gadgets.  (They're not for everyone, but for someone who was desperate to quit smoking & get their health back...this did the trick.)

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The truth may be out there but it's in here too (thanks to 'The X-Files' on DVD)

Scene: it's my day off, it's raining outside, I don't feel like reading and there's nothing good on TV.  And that's usually when I remember I own all 9 seasons of 'The X-Files', and I haven't seen most of the episodes since their original air-date.   I'm only up to Season 2 & I'm in no rush to get thru these excellent shows.  This series is in my Top 5 shows of all time, too.  617D5C2B848A9C67_4436_7[1]

 

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name...

I love these girls--and thanks to their diligence, ingenuity & hard work, they transformed a quiet little lunch counter into my favorite place to eat downtown.  Their shop was formerly owned by a quiet, polite Greek man who (after only being open a couple months) decided to move back to Greece.  Sarah (the tall one) and Gina (the spunky one) worked the counter.   I had become friends with them, & they told me they were planning to become partners and buy the place.   Uh huh.

Well, they surprised everyone when they did just that.  They jazzed up the menu & transformed the place into a lively, inexpensive little eatery. 

They know all their original customers by name (like me & my friend Karyn) and on a couple personal occasions, have helped me out (making hors d'oeuvres, cookies, even a cake) for special occasions at the office.   They also happen to make the best pita pizzas around!

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And last but not least, I'll always give thanks for my own little piece of the planet

It's corny but true: while it isn't much, there isn't a single morning that I awake & not feel real gratitude for my little teepee here in Pittsburgh. 

When I moved to this city in 1988 to go back to school, I had less than a hundred dollars to my name and didn't know a single person here.  (Of course I hoped to finish school, land a good job & get my own place, but until all of that actually happened...)  

Anyway, I promised myself I'd never forget where I came from or take for granted what I have once I got it.  And I never will.

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