Every year, on this day, families and friends gather to enjoy a traditional feast, and to be thankful for the people and things in their life that most other days they take for granted.
For me, personally, this has been a particularly difficult year. Since we all gathered together one year ago, Chicago experienced its worst blizzard in centuries, in the middle of which we lost power for three days.
As we huddled in the dark waiting for the heat to come back on, one of our dogs, Daisy, slipped from one of the six-foot snowdrifts in our driveway and fractured one of her rear legs. When doctors went to repair it, they discovered she had bone cancer. Although there was no guarantee Daisy would survive more than a couple of weeks or months, my wife and I decided to have the leg amputated.
Afterwards, Daisy, who my wife had rescued from a Wisconsin greyhound track, could barely stand, let alone run.
Those were dark days indeed.
A few months later, I was unexpectedly layed off from my job at a downtown restaurant. I suddenly found myself trying to find work in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. For the first time in my life, I had to swallow my pride and file for unemployment insurance.
And yet, despite all this, I’m more thankful this Thanksgiving than I have been perhaps any other.
It’s true what they say: Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. We’ve had a lot of hard times in the last year, but we’re still standing.
So this Thanksgiving, here’s some of the things I’m grateful for: Daisy’s recuperation brought our family together in a way that was unexpected and amazing. Cousins, sisters, grandmothers and nephews volunteered unasked to provide Daisy with the round-the-clock care she required. For weeks, Daisy lay on a dog bed in the middle of our living room as a houseful of people and voices and love revolved around her.
And now, nine months later, Daisy never fails to turn heads as she runs down our street on her three legs, as happy and full of life as she ever was.
While losing Jay Z was tough, we recently brought a new puppy, Bud, into our home. Less than a year old, Bud already weighs more than 70 pounds, only nobody told him he’s not still a little puppy. He richochets off the furniture and jumps up on guests in a way that would make Marmaduke blush. And although he’s often infuriating as he chews on every single thing in our house, we couldn’t love him more.
As far as work is concerned, losing my job forced me to follow through on my boasts that I would return to my writing career after 17 years in the restaurant business. I’ve tapped into my experience as a chef and manager to write this daily food blog for you fine people, and I’ve begun working on other writing projects as well.
When you love what you do, it is no longer work. I love writing about food as much if not more than I do cooking it, and I hope to keep doing it for the rest of my productive years.
Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!