Goodbye, 2016. Hello, 2017.

I recently emptied out the blessings jar my friend had given me last year. It was a thoughtful gesture on her part, but I’m not one for this kind of sentiment, so the things I was “thankful” for probably aren’t the norm. Here’s a prime example: “I’m glad I know to say specifically instead of pacifically.” Psst… that drives me crazy. Or: “Thankful I don’t work in a chicken plant.” So true. There is a plant about five miles up the road from where I live, and anytime I drive near it, I’m greeted with a pungent bouquet. Plus, I like meat and working there would most likely steer me in the direction of becoming a vegetarian, which wouldn’t be much fun since I live in BBQ country. I also delved into politics: “Thankful I don’t live in North Korea.” (I was obsessed with watching North Korea documentaries.) So, as you can see, I was a bit tongue in cheek. A few were more sentimental, but I won’t share those. They’re private.

2016 has come to an end. For many, it’s a time of celebration. From what I’ve read on social media, you’d think this was the worst year of many people’s lives. A year is a year is a year. Personally, celebrity deaths don’t affect me, and politics are politics. They’re never changing. Guess what? I don’t care where you stand politically, what your religious beliefs are, and what your personal sexual preference is, I still like you!

If I had to reflect on this year and say what I’m truly thankful for, it’d be that I live in a country where I have the freedom to write what I want to write. I love to write – it’s fulfilling, it’s cathartic, it’s something I need to do, not just want to do. Having people like you read my books and then share your love for them is what keeps me going. Writers write to be heard and to be read. Knowing that there are people like you who are reading the things I’ve written and have been touched by my words means so much to me.

Sometimes, we (all of us, pointing to you, too, don’t try and cower out of here) don’t take the time to sit back and think of our true blessings. I know I sure don’t. Just the other day, I was griping about there being nothing to eat in the house and my husband said, “We have money to buy all kinds of food at the grocery store and you’re complaining?” It was one of those aha moments, where you realize you’re being a jerk or a tool or some adjective in that category. He was right. How can I complain about not having any food to eat when there are so many who are starving? Rarely, do we look at what we have right in front of us.

This past summer, my husband and I fulfilled our long-time dream of going out west and seeing Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, and Rocky Mountain National Park. It was a trip of a lifetime, and one I’m truly thankful to have gone on. When I was in Yellowstone, I was deprived of the internet (which was surprisingly refreshing) and chai tea (which wasn’t so good – gotta have my caffeine). I didn’t have tea for days. Thankfully, while were traipsing around the park,  we found a restaurant (because there are several in the park, believe it or not) that served chai tea. Yes! That tea was one of the best cups I’ve had in my life. No joke. It’s because I’d been deprived of it and having it again made me truly appreciate its taste and flavor. I didn’t gulp it down. I took my time with it, truly relished in tasting nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, pepper, and of course, honey. (Winnie the Pooh and I are besties. I love honey and tea isn’t tea without it). In a society where everything is “Gimme, Gimme, Gimme and Instant, Instant, Instant!” it’s not often that we find ourselves unable to have something we want at our disposal. That was a teachable moment for me: stay present-minded and be thankful for what I have when I have it.

Okay, not trying to sound all Zen Guru on you. I am human and have lots of flaws. I guess I’m just hoping you’ll read this post and realize that you are blessed and have lots of things to be thankful for.

Wishing you a happy, healthy and blessed year to come!  Thanks for reading what I’ve written.