Thankfully Yours

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    For about a year after we moved into the house we live in now, I had a peculiar habit that to this day, no one in my family knows about. (Minds out of the gutter, please. Nothing illicit going on in suburbia.)

    Here’s what I did. While meandering out to the mailbox or to the end of the driveway to reclaim the empty recycling bins, I would pause and for more than a few seconds, just behold our house. My first thought was simply, I cannot believe this is where we live. Next, I’d say a little prayer of thanks to my father-in-law, a kind and loyal man, who sadly, I didn’t know very well, but whose passing and generosity had enabled the purchase of our dream home.

    EPSON MFP image
    I am thankful for Thanksgiving artwork, lovingly created by my baby turkey artist.

    This certainly wasn’t the first time I had experienced a profound sense of gratitude. I was emotionally and physically overwhelmed with thankfulness when the labor and delivery nurse at St. Mary’s placed our firstborn in my arms – and with our second, and again, with our third. I was genuinely appreciative when I got my first post-college job in the advertising department of Miller & Rhoads decades ago. And believe me, as the youngest of six children, I was eternally grateful when my mother finally bought me the Levi’s jeans I had been asking for (begging for, pleading for), instead of the store-brand specials my older siblings had no problem with at all whatsoever. Said none of them. Ever.

    If you haven’t seen it yet this year, you might remember the Thankfulness Challenge filling up your Facebook feed last November. This is when folks post their daily messages of thanks. Here at RFM, we also moved #RVAthanks around on Twitter to give the Richmond community another outlet for sharing their sentiments of thanksgiving.

    If you ask me, the good thing about these campaigns on social media was their lack of an extraordinary moment requirement. This was everyday stuff coming from real people. And there didn’t seem to be any attempts at judging or one-upping. For example, seeing a working-mom friend’s Facebook post that her little boy had gone a whole month without an ear infection was just as awesome as my high school friend’s thankfulness post that her family was skiing in Vail (again). Really.

    I have not participated in the Thankfulness Challege online, knowing full well that I have this wonderful space every month. I won’t deny, however, that it’s daunting for me to put into words what I’m thankful for. Because there’s a lot. Should I be deep? Or not so much? Should I stick to the basics? Or explore unknown territory? Should I stop pulling a Jim Webb (think Democratic presidential debate) and use this space to actually say something – or just complain about not having enough room to say it in? I’ll just go for it!

    First, I am thankful for hair that’s too frizzy and too straight, skin that does not tan, a sluggish metabolism, plantar fasciitis (also known as foot pain), teeth that are never going to be white no matter how many products we try, and zits. Everyone has a coping mechanism. Mine is the first-world problem. As in, every time I hear a heartbreaking story about a parent who has buried a child or a young person battling cancer or a refugee family with nowhere in the world to go, I think about my  problems and how incredibly blessed we are as a family, and I am hands-folded, pause-and-reflect thankful. Also, our yellow-ish teeth are cavity-free, so that’s something.

    Second, I am thankful I finally came to terms with the fact that I do not like cooking Thanksgiving dinner. Ultimately, this is what compelled our family to volunteer at the Community Thanksgiving Feast, hosted by the The Giving Heart at the Richmond Convention Center on Thanksgiving Day. After spending this holiday with a thousand strangers, being served by youth volunteers, and enjoying a dinner prepared by some of Richmond’s finest chefs, the pressure is completely off for our Friday follow-up feast.

    And finally, I am thankful for my career. I saw this on Facebook a while back: Working hard for something you don’t care about is called stress. Working hard for something you love is called passion. As a work-from-home writer, editor, mother, and wife, every day I get to work hard at something I love, surrounded by people I love. Not only am I passionate about RFM, I am also extremely thankful for it – and for every single one of you.

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    Karen Schwartzkopf
    Karen Schwartzkopf has her dream job as managing editor of RFM. Wife, mother, arts and sports lover, she lives and works in the West End with her family: husband Scott, who not coincidentally is RFM’s creative director, and their daughters—Sam, Robin, and Lindsey. You can read Karen’s take on parenting in the Editor’s Voice.