Yes, it’s timely, but regardless, I’ve been thinking an awful lot lately about the things I’m grateful for. Maybe it’s the cold weather (it’s been hovering around 20* here lately and snowing), maybe it’s spending some extra time with the girls courtesy of snow days and canceled plans, maybe it’s disappointment at the way the election turned out and the cuts our state will be making, but I’m feeling extra thankful these days.

Sitting in my warm house, drinking cup after cup of hot cocoa and tea, it’s so easy to take for granted all that we have. To take for granted the ability to just wander into my pantry if I need a snack, to run my washer and dryer at will (and all day) and  bitch about it. At this time of year, I’m grateful that we can afford to keep our heat on whenever we like, that we can have a big spread of food for Thanksgiving, that we are able to get where we need to go (or have the luxury of staying home, if we can’t).

I’m sad for people who can barely afford to keep food on their tables, who work hard and still can’t make ends meet, who’ve worked hard, but circumstances suck and they’re left homeless. I’m sadder still that our state chose to cut, limit or not impose taxes that would help those people, and that food assistance for people in our state is currently on the chopping block (among other things I see as important).

This time of year in particular, I’m sad that there are children who won’t have gifts at the holidays because their parents have to choose between paying for heat, food and gas or toys. I’m bummed that the holidays (all of them) have lost meaning, and the ideas of togetherness, friends and family are no longer the ideal, but rather filling the space under the tree with more, more, MORE. That Black Friday has become a national holiday for Americans in debt to get into more debt buying more things they don’t need. Michael and I were thinking tonight, and neither of us could really remember what we got Ryan for the holidays last year. We know she got a bike from her Aunt and Uncle, and flashlights and tape from her Nonna and Papa, but we couldn’t remember what we’d gotten her. Still can’t.

Think back to your own childhood. What do you remember about the holidays? If I think back, really hard, what I remember most are the family things: my brother running down the hall shouting “It’s Christmas!! Santa came!!”, my parents making us wait until coffee had been poured, my dad making pancakes and bacon, watching White Christmas and singing along, lighting Hannukah candles and making leqvar cookies. But not the presents. And honestly, I can’t remember any gifts I got as a kid. Not that they weren’t cool, or awesome, or super fun to play with for a few weeks, but it didn’t last.

So, my tiny tirade about thankfulness has turned into a tiny tirade about commercialism…what of it?

My goal for this season is to continue with our attempts to limit the junk that comes in, and to try to make the season about experiences instead of stuff. I’m thankful (see, full circle) that Michael and I are in agreement about keeping the holidays simple and about the real stuff: family, friends, togetherness, warmth, food and love. To teach my girls about giving, not just receiving (funny thing is that I can usually remember what I’ve given or made for people, but not what I’ve gotten). To donate to families in need, to choose presents for children in need. One day, when the kids are older, we’ll volunteer, giving not just things but our time.

And today, I encourage you to be grateful for the small things, as well as the big ones. To attempt a holiday season with minimal commercialism and maximum celebration. How are you going to express your gratitude this year?