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My long-time readers know that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. It’s not just the food, family, and football, but also the opportunity to reflect on all the blessings in our lives. Please indulge me as I do that in a rather public way.

There’s so much to thank God for, isn’t there? He has given me so many gifts. When I’m writing every week, I think about how much I enjoy writing and how easily ideas come as I type most of the time. God gave me the basis of this talent and enjoyment and has allowed me outlets to use it, both here and with my novels. I maintain that everyone should write, even if it’s just a diary entry; it’s a great way to cleanse the soul.

God also gave me a talent for music and ways to express that too. I’m so thankful my parents encouraged me with the piano and the trumpet growing up and never let me stop playing. I get such pleasure from playing in the Litomyscellaneous polka band a couple times a year and even just messing around on the piano at home. I’m thankful for the swell of singing around me in church and the ability to contribute my voice to it.

I’m thankful for the opportunity I received here at NRHEG twenty years ago and the people who helped nurture and guide me to where I am today as a teacher. I’m glad I have the chance to turn around and pay that back to younger staff, both as teachers and coaches. Working here has opened so many doors for which I’m thankful including coaching, announcing, and friendships I cherish.

Of course, working here helped me meet my wife Michelle, a native of Ellendale. I’m so thankful that my cousin Marlys knew Michelle’s mom in college and helped set us up. My thankfulness knows no bounds for the tremendous life Michelle and I have carved out together, especially our children, Jayna and Anton. I’m very thankful that my children have been relatively healthy and stayed mostly safe over the years. I’m also glad they are motivated kids who work hard in school to strive for the best.

I’m even thankful for our cat, Chewbacca. I never would have dreamed that I would enjoy having a cat in the house, but when he comes to meet me at the door every day after work, it’s nice to see that friendly, furry face, even if he really just wants me to turn on a water faucet from which to drink!

I’m thankful that my family gets along. It’s easy when we get together with my parents, my grandma, and my sisters and their families to feel comfortable. I know some families end up dealing with plenty of drama, but we all like each other and truly enjoy the opportunities when we’re all together, which is too rare.

I’m very thankful for Michelle’s family as well. There are no stereotypical in-law jokes from this guy! Having her mom just up in Owatonna has been great, and every time the Spinlers get together is a blessing and not to be missed. These are times where I sometimes find myself just sitting and listening, which must seem strange to those who know me, but I’m always thoroughly entertained, and well fed!

There are so many great books I get the opportunity to read, and I love that I can’t get enough of them. I’ve been trying to think of the best book I’ve read this year for my second annual best-of column at the end of December, and it’ll be a tough decision. Again, I know not everyone enjoys reading, but I’m grateful that I have this love, which has given me so many hours of pleasure.

I also know not everyone enjoys sports, but I’m thankful that these competitions have been a huge part of my life. Some of my best memories are from sporting events such as the 1991 World Series and the back-to-back state championships for NRHEG Lady Panther basketball. Sure, I know I’m doomed to be disappointed while watching the Vikings, but it’s the thrill of the moment and the hope for a favorable outcome that keeps me coming back year after year.

Thank you for humoring me by reading this list of thanks. I hope you get the chance to reflect on all the great things in your lives this week and to find all the positives amidst a world of hard knocks. Thank you also for continuing to read this column every week and for your continued support. It’s something I’m thankful for on a weekly basis.

Word of the Week: This week’s word is sternutate, which means to sneeze, as in, “After sternutating, he was thankful when everyone chimed in, ‘God bless you!’” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!

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