Evolution of Thankful

As I sat at the Thanksgiving table last night with my kids, my mom and friends I realized while the meaning behind Thanksgiving doesn’t change, we can (and I’d argue should be) aware of the evolution of thankful wrapped in the day.

Without going through my entire history – Risa and I were married a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving. After our honeymoon, we came home, ate turkey with our families and headed off for Dallas and what we expected to be the start of our lives together.

Before we got to celebrate a Thanksgiving in Dallas (or fly home for Thanksgiving), Risa was diagnosed with a brain tumor – and to the best of my recollection we were in our apartment with friends and co-workers that first year.  Risa had her first surgery shortly after that.  There was a lot we did not know about what was ahead of us – but in the evolution of thankful we were happy to be together and with people who cared.

By the time our second Thanksgiving in Dallas rolled around – Risa’s condition was mostly stabilized and we started a tradition I try to maintain today.  At the time I was still working in broadcast news and November is a tough month to get time off.  So we invited the migrant folks from the station for Thanksgiving.  These were the Dallas transplants who did not have family in Dallas.  Again, my hazy recollection is about 15 or 20 people in our relatively small apartment.  But we had a lot to be thankful for and the evolution of thankful had changed again.

Over time we moved back east, had kids, moved into a house.  All the while our Thanksgiving dinner has been a mix of small gatherings and larger “events” always open to pretty much anyone we come across.

Our second Thanksgiving in Boston was our first as parents, and the evolution of thankful had changed again as we had a healthy girl to share the day with.

By the time we added a second child we were back in metro New York and had a lot to be thankful for.  Our youngest was born about six weeks before Thanksgiving and despite the looming shadow of a brain tumor – to the outside world we were a young family and had a lot to be thankful for.

I can remember eight years ago, Risa’s last Thanksgiving in the house with us.  I can’t remember who else was here because I realized the evolution had occurred again, and while we were together as a family, I also realized that image would not last.  Although we had a lot to be thankful for I realized the next evolution would be bigger than a move halfway across the country.

So last night as I looked around the table – I saw the start of the next change.  For Thanksgiving 2018, I’ll have a college freshman coming home for a few days.  15.0 and I will have to figure out what our life at home will be like without her sister.  17.5 will have to figure out how to acclimate back in after her first four months away at school.  I’m sure we’ll be thankful – just another evolution of thankful to come.

I have a pretty good idea what I think the evolution will be after next year – but as I’ve learned you need to roll with the punches and be thankful for the evolution.

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Change v. Evolution

Stages in human evolutionA long time ago while sitting in an executive meeting with members of the “C” ring of a large company I heard an executive explain a 180-degree change in course by stating with a straight face, “My thoughts on that have evolved.”  That line has stuck with me for more than 10 years.  I’ve even used it.  This week though, I’ve been holding court in my head in an interesting case of Change v. Evolution.


One of the issues with this debate, the plaintiffs in the case are both me.

I like to think of myself as an evolved person.  As a single parent with two girls I have to be in touch with enough of my feelings to be able to talk to my girls.  Now that one is about to be a teen and the other is holding on to tween, the conversations are very different.  I think I am effective enough though to hold my own with both scenarios.

Then come other aspects of life-when I’m not at work and not at home and have to communicate.  That can be a challenge for me.  I even stopped to get some testimony on this theory today and my thoughts were validated.  I do struggle.  But I think I am better at those conversations now than I was when I was in college or when I was married.

To borrow from the executive mentioned at the beginning, my abilities in this arena have evolved.  When I looked up the difference between “evolution” and “change” it was an interesting read.

Via dictionary.com evolution is a process of gradual, peaceful, progressive change or development.  The same site says change is to make the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of (something) different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone

By my read, over the course of the (gulp) 23 years since college my ability to communicate has evolved in the truest sense of the word.  And I’d like to think the evolution will continue.    But change seems more immediate and less nuanced.  Yes, in this case life is better with change (and the change agent) that what it would be if left alone.

While man gradually stood through the course of evolution, change (and it’s agents) can be far tougher.  Think back to the change in our history on 9/11 or the Boston Marathon bombings.  It’s a sudden shock that alters the reality.

In my house, I try to bring on change through evolution-long and short-term evolution projects.  My kids deserve that, and frankly I can handle that.  Change in the house that comes on suddenly tends to disrupt our house and we’ve had enough of that.

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