On my 50th, 50 Reasons to be Grateful

Reaching the half-century mark today seems an appropriate time to reflect on some of the reasons I have to be grateful in life.

To make it simple, I’ll go with 50 reasons, though I make no promise these are the most important. Having gone to Target earlier this week to pick up two items, only to need to walk aisles to remember one of them, I’m sure I’m leaving many people, places and events off that belong. In no particular order, I am grateful for:

  1. Suffering no long-term injuries and making at least one shot in each game while playing two-on-two basketball last night with my son, daughter and a very talented college basketball player. My son was not as grateful to be stuck with me as his teammate.
  2. Gelato in Italy.
  3. Doing a substantial amount of my writing and taking long walks at the Morton Arboretum and in other forest preserves and outdoor settings. I also appreciate the ability to support the Arboretum on its Advisory Board.
  4. The literally hundreds of accidents in life narrowly averted, including last Saturday when a gray convertible tried to run me off the highway while doing what must have been more than 100 miles an hour. I’ll leave the letters out, but Illinois plate ending in 9619, this is directed at you.
  5. Mike and Dave, with whom I’ve shared more than a few rounds of misguided adventures, and who, more importantly, have been good friends for the past 35 years.
  6. Colleagues, staff and mentors whose hard work, enthusiasm and creativity contributed to my corporate career and ability to retire early. There are literally hundreds of standouts.
  7. Congressman Terry Bruce, who gave me opportunities in my 20s that changed my life, and the many extraordinary people I worked with in his office.
  8. The police in St. Charles, Illinois, who exercised restraint with their weapons 32 years ago when they thought that our teenage plastic toy war games were an armed theater robbery and only weeks later that our retrieval of golf balls from the Fox River included a burglary stop because we walked through someone’s yard. A special shout out to everyone who sang “Happy Birthday” to me in the St. Charles jail as I turned 18 while the police were figuring out that nobody had actual weapons.
  9. Even the truly awful bosses I’ve had, who taught me much about how I did not want to behave.
  10. Aurelio’s Pizza, and my wife for making it a family tradition.
  11. People open to having fact-based discussions on political issues without severing friendships.
  12. A large family with all six brothers and sisters enjoying the time we have together, and the many nieces and nephews who make family gatherings surprising and fun.
  13. Apple fritters at Fleckenstein’s Bakery in Mokena.
  14. All of the teachers and coaches who molded me, and all of the coaches and teachers who molded our children, with a particular thank you to Stu Mansfield who taught me that only my best was good enough.
  15. Childhood camping at Woodhaven Lakes.
  16. Unrelated adults who helped me grow up. Deacon Stan and his wife Gay, Jim and Sharon, Ken and Betty, and so many more.
  17. All of the remarkable people who are no longer with us, but whose lives have touched me. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, classmates, Dad, Mindy, Shorty, Deacon Stan and too many more to list here.
  18. Writers who’ve educated my mind and influenced my thinking.
  19. Giving life a chance, even when I felt ready to give up.
  20. Shannon’s dog Snoop, who pawed my head at 5:15 this morning to demand to be taken on a walk. He barely made it outside before making it clear why he needed to be outside. Glad I brought a bag. I think it’s his way of saying Happy Birthday.
  21. The opportunity to see beautiful places, particularly when work paid for the visit.
  22. The Daily Illini, and all the remarkable people I met working there.
  23. New Orleans food. Café du Monde. K-Paul’s. Commander’s Palace. I could go on, but it would make me hungry.
  24. Tennis (playing) and soccer (watching) with Eric.
  25. Outdoor sports my wife will do with me, particularly whitewater rafting, tubing and ziplining, none of which require leg movement.
  26. The men and women who have protected our country, particularly those who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice. It’s a shame the abuse so many have taken, from those who targeted the soldiers during Vietnam to those prioritizing bonuses over patient care at the VA.
  27. All of the remarkable friends and family who have helped me with my books.
  28. Oktoberfest in Munich with my brothers and a friend. Hefeweizen.
  29. Skydiving and other extreme living with my daughter Shannon.
  30. My son Matt’s humorous jabs from nowhere, which contribute endless laughter to family discussions.
  31. My parents, whose love and lessons still guide and provide strength. Even though 18 years have passed since Dad was able to state his lessons, I still hear him when I’m making a crucial decision.
  32. Mom’s strawberry-rhubarb pie and apple crisp.
  33. Any day that includes street paella and hiking in Montserrat.
  34. Carol for giving me my first kiss behind the bingo sign at St. Matthew’s School in second grade.
  35. In-laws who accepted me with none of the challenges I hear some suffer from the families they marry into.
  36. The opportunity for reflection as I walked the prison grounds on Robben Island and thought about the life of prisoner 46664.
  37. Everyone who forgave me when I failed them. There are so many.
  38. Hot showers. Having lived even for short times in places with no hot water expanded my appreciation for this simple pleasure.
  39. Whoever invented eyeglasses, Ben Franklin for inventing bifocals, and whoever created the progressives my old eyes need to enjoy all of the beauty on earth.
  40. My wife Cathy for catching up last night on her commitment to cook one meal every four years. If she stays back on schedule, I only need to wait 30 months until my next home-cooked meal that I don’t prepare.
  41. Eddie Murphy and every great comedian who followed in bringing laughter to days that needed it.
  42. People who’ve helped me find my greater purpose in life.
  43. The founders of our nation. Despite some critical flaws, the Constitution and Bill of Rights established principles of governance the world had not seen, and which enrich my life today.
  44. Twenty-six years of marriage and the wisdom to help us through the next chapters in our lives.
  45. Our extra kids who’ve joined us in our home at various times. Each has enriched our family.
  46. My Mom for her decision to ignore medical advice and have me anyway. I wasn’t always sure she made a good decision, but I have no doubt now that I’m grateful for the decision she made.
  47. The Chicago Bulls, Blackhawks and Bears, for giving me reason to enjoy sports despite being a born and bred Cubs fans.
  48. Words in anger swallowed rather than said.
  49. Seven layer dip and seven layer cookies.
  50. Lucky breaks, often following years of hard work.

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