There’s always a lot to be thankful for …

Seemingly in the blinking of an eye, school started, football came and went, the World Series suddenly is over, the stores are selling Christmas decorations, Minnesota has already had a blizzard, and it's Thanksgiving time. This life is passing me by all too quickly!

Somebody on Facebook this past year said the following, and I thought it sounded like something I had said:  "There's always a lot to be thankful for it you take the time to look for it.  For example, I'm sitting here thinking how nice it is that wrinkles don't hurt."

Every Thanksgiving season for a dozen years or more, I've compiled a far-too-lengthy list of this life's blessings, and so far at least, somebody has always printed it for public consumption.  Perhaps I'm pressing my luck, but let's try it one more time.  After a year of new experiences, new adventures and new friends – yet fortunately a lot of old ones, too – here are some of the things that make me smile and for which I'm grateful at Thanksgiving and throughout the year:

Four kids who were delightful teen-agers and who have grown up to be equally delightful, responsible adults … three unspeakably wonderful grandchildren – Olivia, Dylan and Audrey – with No. 4 on the way in the spring … warm pumpkin pie topped with Cool Whip … the train whistles as the freights rumble through town below the bluffs … deviled eggs … Doc Farber's statue clad in red for D-Days … Michael W. Smith's Christmas CDs … Friday noon programs at the Shrine to Music Museum. The view of the river valley and the Nebraska bluffs from West Main … pumpkin bread … "Touch 'em all, Jason Kubel" (or any other Twin who hits one out) … the rush of seeing a car bearing a license plate from home … graduation receptions … the talented young men and women of the USD music department who warmly welcome me into their midst every day … "I'll Be Home for Christmas" and the memories it evokes … hot chocolate … bookstores … holiday parades … the scent of rain in the air.

Shuffling through leaves in the fall while walking across campus … the supermarket people we get to know on a first-name basis … a morning cup of coffee and a copy of USA Today at the MUC … crossword puzzles … the Summit League basketball tournaments … the national champion Duke Blue Devils … the bells, whip cracks and horse whinnies of "Sleigh Ride" … the people one meets at dog parks … the sun-illuminated top of Harney Peak even though it's already dark down below.

South Dakota where, no matter where you go, you can find somebody who knows somebody you know … Old Main … sweet potatoes smothered in marshmallows … a checkbook error in my favor … fudge … re-runs of the old Carol Burnett shows ("I'm so glad we had this time together …") … semifinal night at a state basketball tournament … a phone call from one of the kids to reassure me they arrived there safely … Handel's "Messiah" … Charlie Coyote … summer baseball evenings at Prentis Park.

Octobers like the one we had this year … those who serve in our military, especially those who are in harm's way daily … the first glimpse of the roof of the DakotaDome while heading down I-29 … a surprise e-mail from someone with whom I've been out of touch for too long … The Sound of USD marching band … a hike to the top of Spirit Mound … the Twin Cities … the music of "Les Miserables" … the hometown paper in the mailbox … a Tom & Jerry on a frosty holiday morning … the Christmas trees in the Capitol Rotunda.

The nervous energy of a vocal student as his or her recital time approaches … Sunday mornings from early quiet time in the church to powerful hymns and messages during the service to coffee, goodies and conversation afterward … Facebook … peanut butter and jelly sandwiches … Wrigley Field and the Cubs, pathetic though they may be … Garrison Keillor and "Prairie Home Companion" … the sun streaming through stained-glass windows … wind chimes … my white shepherd Oliver, who probably doesn't miss me as much as I miss him.

The buffalo stampede in Custer State Park … the USD jazz bands … the first sight of the lights of Pierre from 15 miles out … turkey pot pies … the sense of family that envelops the Vermillion Community Theatre cast each summer … hot apple cider … "Sunday Morning" with Charles Osgood … the College World Series … the spectacle of the state track meet … Josh Groban's "You Raise Me Up" … green lights on Cherry Street all the way through the campus … the Paradise Fears guys.

The exhilaration of football game day at USD from tailgating and the band's arrival to the pre-game show and the team's entrance … brownies … the first blooming flowers in the spring … making music in one of David Holdhusen's USD choirs … South Dakota sunsets … riding the train downtown to a Twins or Vikings game … rhubarb in any form … families together at a Christmas Eve service … my daily hour with the USD opera class … a penny on the sidewalk … hot dogs hot off a grill … pipe organs.

And that's only a start! As you count your own blessings, one by one, here's a toast to a blessed Thanksgiving to you and yours!

"I am thankful for small mercies. I compared notes with one of my friends who expects everything of the universe and is disappointed when anything is less than the best, and I found I begin at the other extreme, expecting nothing, and am always full of thanks for moderate goods." — Ralph Waldo Emerson

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