Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

This is a bit belated - I started it, and then didn't finish before all family got here for the festivities. But better late than never, eh?

Here's hoping you all had a Happy Thanksgiving. It's a good exercise to occasionally thing about the things we're thankful for, so here's a few of the things I'm particularly thankful for:
  • My Family - I somehow managed to marry well above my station (the Unknown Wife is far better a person than I deserve, with the exception of her poor taste in spouses), I have a nine year-old daughter who still thinks her dad is pretty cool (I figure I still have another year on that score), and a very good-natured 8 month old baby boy (yeah, I'm too old for this stuff, but it's still pretty cool).
  • My Job - I love being a professor (well, at least most of the time). I spend my workday with smart people, I get to learn interesting things about topics of my choice (they call it research), and teaching is pretty fun. And they pay me well and give me lots of time off.
  • Where I live - I live in a beautiful area, in a nice neighborhood, in a relatively new house less than two miles from my office, and both my and the Unknown Wife's family are within two hours' drive (in fact, they were here for Thanksgiving Dinner), and we visited my mom last weekend.
  • My health - while I have a few things that'll eventually need fixing, I'm basically healthy. And I live in a time where replacement parts are getting better, more available, and cheaper all the time.
  • My church - As evangelical born-again Christians, having a good church to attend is very important to us. We are fortunate enough to have a great one - a good preacher, good worship (our worship band kicks some serious hiney), and people who get involved in each others' lives in good ways.
  • My country - the USA has problems (after all, it's populated and run by people, and people are inherently messed up). But over all, I think it's the most amazing place in the world. We're an incredibly wealthy country, with more freedom (still) than any place else, and there's always opportunity for those willing to take advantage of it.
  • The times we live in - The advances in almost any field over my lifetime astound me. We can now cure things that would have been a death sentence thirty years ago: to give you just a few examples, the Unknown Son wouldn't have lasted a year back in 1980 (instead, we got an additional five years), AIDS has become a manageable disease, and they can do heart surgery on babies in the mother's womb. As far as technology, I'm old enough to recall the original Star Trek in the 70s. Now we all have our own "communicators" (cell phones), I don't know anyone (including my students) without a microwave and color TV, and I'm posting a message that will be read by people all over the world on a machine that's many thousands of times more powerful than the computer that was used in the original space program.
As regular readers know, it's been a Hell of a year (and I do mean "Hell"), what with the Unknown Son losing his battle with cancer in June. But even with that, there are things to be thankful about. When he was diagnosed, it looked like he wouldn't last a year, as the cancer was both aggressive and resistant to treatment. But we had another five years with him, and got to see him grow into an amazing ten-year old boy. And we got to see his excitement at his new baby brother (and to see him relate to him for two months). In fact, here's a picture (it's the desktop background on my computer):

One of my favorite blogs (the Aleph Blog) is run by David Merkel, a CFA charter holder, portfolio manager and fellow Christian with eight kids. He just put up his own Thanksgiving post, and in it he mentions Job - the one book of the Bible that there never seem sot be a good time to read: when you're happy, it can bring you down, and when you're down, it can be even worse.

For those of you who aren't "people of the Book", it's about a wealthy, happy, and religious man who God allows Satan to test by taking everything from him - his wealth, his family, and even his health.

At the end, Job decides two things - that God is beyond his understanding, and that he'll still praise him regardless of his circumstances. So at the end of the day, being thankful is a choice. I've noticed that there are people who are generally happy and thankful, and those who aren't. More often than not, when I ask the happy ones why, the only common answer is that they simply choose to be happy.

In any event, it's time for a late breakfast, and then off to work.