Processing gratitude

By Chuck Sigars | Nov 21, 2012

Last Christmas, my daughter came to the conclusion that here in the 21st century, it was dumb that her father still did not have a food processor. I’m sure she imagined many hours of me slaving over a cutting board, chopping and dicing like a peasant, occasionally losing fingers, etc.

My daughter has an active imagination.

But I love the food processor she gave me, and why not? It chops stuff. It grates cheese. If I leave it on long enough, it will turn anything into toothpaste, just in case.

And it makes excellent peanut butter, which I discovered the other day after reading an article online. It seems the best way to make your own natural, nutritious and chemical-free peanut butter is to put a bunch of peanuts in a food processor and wait for a toothpaste-like consistency. This took about five minutes, and everybody likes it.

Note: Leaving the shells on produces something else. Word to the wise.

I’m grateful for my food processor, then. And for my lovely daughter, who worries about her dad chopping something he shouldn’t. And for the Internet, which has lots of household hints.

Gratitude, it seems to me, is a tricky thing. We all profess it at one time or another, in one way or another, but it’s an emotion that implies an object as well as needing a preposition. I’m grateful for the rain, but who’s responsible for that?

Note: I’m not all that grateful for the rain. Not at the moment, anyway. But I digress.

You might be inclined to thank God for everything and just let it go at that, but it doesn’t help people who don’t believe, and also? It always makes me picture a harried Creator of the Universe, overwhelmed with prayers for lottery tickets and good parking spaces.

And once you thank God for finding your keys, you might be inclined to start asking for help with your morning commute, and trust me: This is opening up a whole can of theological worms.

For my purposes, then, considering that this is Thanksgiving week and I’m not qualified to address theology questions, or worms for that matter, I’m going to keep gratitude general. But also specific, by which I mean me.

My father-in-law passed away suddenly a couple of weeks ago, and so the three of us here had to get to Texas fairly quickly. And while I’m not thankful for the prices I had to pay, I surprised myself by being grateful that we can cover so many miles so quickly, compared to just a century ago.

I’m grateful for efficient airlines (they were for us, anyway), hotel rooms with reasonable rates, even at the last minute, and courteous car rental employees at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, who got us into a nice car and onto the Texas highways quickly and smoothly.

Also, I cannot begin to tell you how grateful I am for GPS. Very grateful. I could be writing this column from Oklahoma right now. Enormously grateful.

I’m also grateful to friends and family who sent us, like, a million cards. In a tough week, it was a gift to read notes from people who cared.

And how about being grateful for neighbors who picked up that mail when we were gone? We’re fortunate to have good neighbors in any situation, always willing to look out for signs of trouble, lend a ladder, mention it when a taillight has burned out and not mention it when I haven’t mowed my lawn in a while. I’m grateful for my neighbors, absolutely.

If you’ve ever suffered an acute bout of dumbness and turned off all the heat in your house before leaving town, coincident with a cold snap across western Washington that dropped temperatures into the 20s, you can probably understand how I can be grateful for the concept of layering, not to mention well-insulated pipes.

And heat, of course, which showed up approximately 24 hours after I got back. Thus the layering.

Since this all started on Election Day, I sort of missed that excitement, but I remain grateful for democracy, and for those of you who practice it.

I remain always grateful to readers, who send me fun, warm and chatty emails, sharing your stories and thoughts. You make writing for this community a joy.

And I remain grateful for joy.

Joy is also a tricky emotion, inexplicable, irrational even. It tends to go missing when we need it most, and to show up at peculiar times, but it will be part of my Thanksgiving, you betcha.

It can moderate grief, shift our gaze from sadness toward long lives led well, give us a taste of the possible, and lead us through November, which can use all the joy it can get.

I wish you joy, then, this Thanksgiving, along with gratitude. I wish you warm homes, good neighbors, strong families of all kinds, and awareness that we can choose our leaders, if not our fates.

So insulate those pipes, don’t forget to vote next time, keep the heat on a little, maybe say grace just in case, and seriously: Leave the shells off. You’ll be grateful you did.

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