Open Letter, November 23rd, 2005
I’ve got a lot to be thankful for, and like most people, I tend to complain a lot instead.
Sunday I attended a devotional assembly in one of the local tabernacles, and the Mt. Timpanogas Temple President spoke. Most of what he said wasn’t necessarily germane to this discussion, but when speaking about his wife he said “when I count my blessings, I count you twice.”
What we are most thankful for should determine how we prioritize our lives. Eighteen months ago I was “thankful for my family,” but I didn’t yet understand how that needed to be reflected in my personal priorities. I THOUGHT I did, and maybe I was beginning to awaken to that understanding, but I really didn’t get it yet.
Fourteen months ago I left Novell. I was making a hair over six figures annually, I had been Employee of the Year, and was responsible for product direction in a $100-million business unit. I wasn’t quite at the top of my game anymore, but I was still a player, and I was thankful for the material blessings that brought. When I left, my income plummeted to right around zero, and I expected that what I was going to learn in the following months was an increased thankfulness for the simpler material blessings of food, clothing, and shelter.
As it turned out, what I gained instead was a powerful awareness of how grateful I am to God for the continued blessing of my family. I can’t begin to describe how wonderful it is to be able to spend time with my wife, and with this assortment of small people she and I have brought into the world. “Quality time” before leaving my day-job was taking one of the kids out for an evening with Daddy once a month. “Quality time” now is scooping up one or another of them and tussling on the carpet, playing a video game, or sharing a snack. Quality time is ALL the time.
Full-time cartooning hasn’t been a bed of roses, though. Or, if it has, then they’re the ones with the really hairy thorns. The hours are long as I struggle to find ways to bring in enough money to make ends meet. I’ll be honest — they DON’T meet. Sandra and I are assessing my cartooning career with terms like “burn rate,” because there are savings we’re living off of in order to pay all the bills. But when I left Novell, we only had three months’ worth of those bills in the bank. Here we are a year later, and we’ve only had to borrow money to pay bills once — and we paid that back a month later.
I’m thankful for that. I’m thankful for my corporate clients, whose business carried us for several months. I’m thankful for a windfall or two that Sandra tells me can carry us for several more. I’m thankful for the growing revenues from cartooning, even if they’re still only half-way paying my bills. I’m thankful for all of you readers, and your enthusiastic support. I know your pockets aren’t deep, and that certainly some of your pockets are as turned out and threadbare as my own. Thank you.
That said, all those material concerns are secondary at best. First and foremost I’m glad every day for the time I spend with my family. I eat breakfast with them. I drive them to school. I’m here when they come home. I’m here during homework time. We laugh together, we cry together, we play together, we quarrel with one another, and at the end of each day we all still know that we love each other. In the last year I’ve learned what it really means to be part of a family, instead of just sleeping in the same house with one.
They are mine, and I am theirs, and we are ours, and family is forever.
During this season of Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for the lessons I’ve learned about family, and I’m thankful that you, my readers, have made it possible for me to learn them. It’s my prayer that you’ll all be safe, warm, and well-fed, and that the twin blessings of gratitude and humility will be yours.