Catch up…#2

Lately, I’ve been walking a lot more. Why you ask? Clearly you haven’t been paying attention to my Facebook feed. I did promise to talk more about it here though. So, here goes…

After my stint in the local Marian Hospital, I had a very soon appointment at UCLA, in the clinic. Well, the night before, I left too late, in my truck, with a bad alignment pulling to the right. It was dark, late, or actually early, and raining. Bad recipe all together. Complete failure on my part. Somewhere just into Goleta, which is basically the normal part of town, north of Santa Barbara, I woke to the righthand most guardrail. Yep, I fell asleep and had an accident. Basically, with the cruise set at 65, for the good MPG, I went from listening to music off my iPhone, to being jarred awake by my very first airbag deployment.

The most important things happened. NO ONE WAS HURT. Thank the Lord. That would have weighed on me more than I can imagine. My only injury was my pride and a little scratch on my right cheek. I hit the guardrail, and knocked down about 30 of the plastic markers that extend above it. Oh, and my entire right front wheel, suspension, and assembly came off. It was 30-40 feet behind me on the shoulder.

But it’s just stuff! No one was hurt. I immediately dialed 911, and reported what happened. They were able to locate me via the GPS on my phone, and a pair of CHP officers were there within minutes. The gases from the airbag weren’t too good to smell, and I had enough shoulder to get out, so I did.

Before I knew it, the CHP officers were there. They did their job well and professionally, checking me for possible DUI, or being under the influence, etc. They’re┬áadept enough to figure out sketchy situations quick, and determined that I was simply another dork who fell asleep and crashed. Quickly they picked up on my professional description of what happened, and asked what agency I worked for, and showed them my ID. It quickly turned into 3 brothers chatting it up until the tow truck arrived.

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Yeah, it’s totaled.

Because I was headed south to stay with my parents’ for the night, for the following day’s clinic appointment, I called them. They were worried, but I tried to calm them. They met us at the garage, where the truck was towed, in Goleta. Unfortunately, the sight of my completely whacked truck didn’t help, but they quickly agreed, at least I wasn’t hurt, nor was anyone else. And all of us us agree, it’s just stuff.

On the truck part, all is well. It was obviously totaled, I hoped and hoped, but knew it would be. Insurance is paying it off, and I was wise enough to get GAP insurance when I bought it, so there’s no money out of my pocket to replace it.

Now, back to the Leukemia Journey. I’m purposefully leaving out some stuff that is honestly, not for this audience. To say the least, I’ve been suffering from some cognitive issues that have manifested themselves in unhealthy ways. Ways that have at the very least put others on guard around me. I understand, and am seeking not just the Lord’s direction and Spirit on this one, but also depending on some really good Psychiatric and Psychological care. For those who have known me for a long time, this may be shocking, that I’m seeking this care, but I need it, and it is helping…a lot!

So, we headed down to UCLA for my clinic appointment. My cognitive stuff was clearly coming to a head, and for the lack of desire to parse out each step of the way, it was determined that I would be admitted to UCLA, for some extensive testing. Via the ER, I was admitted, and spent the first night in one of the semi-upgraded, non-ER bed rooms. By the next morning or so, I was “home” on 6 East. For about the next week, I underwent a level of testing and evaluation that I’ve yet to experience at my stays in UCLA. At first they looked at the possibility of a seizure disorder. Three and a half days later, of an EEG on my head, that was ruled out. I had lots of blood draws. I had a huge LP/Spinal Tap, taking a massive amount of fluid. All of this was tested for all sorts of things. I had consults with infections disease specialists, neurologists, psychiatrists, and many others of whose speciality I have no idea.

I felt like a patient on the tv show House.

Eventually they began ruling out many of the most scary and unique things. For those who know the intimate details of my extended family, they even tested and ruled out Parkinson’s and the various forms of dementia and Alzheimers.

As these possible explanations decreased to nothing but rejections of possibilities, we were left with the highest likelihood being some sort of cognitive psychologically influenced episode. I had considered this early on, but was letting them do all they could to find the result however they determined.

As of late, my legal case in reference to my disability, worker’s compensation, and ultimate retirement, of which the details I cannot address here, have become a GREAT source of frustration, anger, and even some pent up rage. With my GVHD flaring up, which started all this “2 steps back”, this winter, I have gone from a tiny dose of hydrocortisone back to a massive dose of prednisone. What does this mean. I was chill guy, almost off my steroid, and nearly done with my steroid-induced diabetes. Now, I’m massive dose of prednisone, with insides that feel like “Hulk Smash”!!! Combine that with the anger over my general retirement issues, and I believe that’s a recipe for instability. And my doctors at UCLA agreed fully.

But above it all, God has been good. I’ve not weathered it well, but he sustains men and continues to care for me and keep me moving forward with productivity and health. In my next post, I’m going to talk about some changes I’ve made as a result of some of the decisions my docs made for me. That part, I’ll finish with here.

So, at first, when they thought I had a seizure disorder, they’re bound to tell the DMV, even though they ruled it out days later. But that has ended up being no big deal, because the doctors have said 6 months ain’t gonna cut it anyway. I should expect more like 8 months. Such is life!

The great men around me, in my Gospel Community Group, immediately came to my side, and listened to my situation, and gave me the most sage and wonderful wisdom. They said, “Don’t replace the truck! You can’t drive, save the money.” It was a no-brainer for me. I took their wisdom, and let the insurance and GAP insurance simply take it away. Now, since I can’t drive, I have no truck payment, no car insurance to pay, and zero fuel costs. I just reclaimed a ton of money into my monthly budget!

More to follow in the next post…

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2017 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 2: WE ARE WHAT WE EAT

As a 2.5 year old bone marrow transplant recipient, there is something cathartic about making my own bone broth for use as a base in homemade Pho soup. I roasted this before crock potting it into a tasty bone broth. You are what you eat. ­čÖé

Cheers to the New Year!

At holiday times I often find myself being more nostalgic and family aware. I’m more gracious and loving. I consider those things that harken back to my childhood and the lovely memories. The sound of a grandfather clock takes me back to Christmas Evenings, with the greater Carpenter family lounging around my Mamaw and Papaw’s house, with gift exchanges and great food.

Any photo of many people holding real lit candles reminds me of gathering at my Mamaw and Papaw’s church to sing “Silent Night”.

Hearing “Oh Holy Night”, in any musical genre reminds me of Monique Donnelly ushering me into a wonderful time of worship.

This past Thanksgiving, I got on a crazy heritage kick. Some work had been done on Ancestry.com already by others, and with my downtime I was able to connect together a few standalone trees. The two biggest stories travel around from NYC, down through Virginia, Mississippi, ultimately in landing in Arkansas.

The other story remained in Scotland for quite a long time. There’s essenses of fleeing Oliver Cromwell, resettling in Holland then France, then returning to Scotland as Protestants. Whew!

Why did I say all that? Well, of course I discovered our family clan and the name remained in our line until my Dad’s grandmother, Susan Anderson. Many families can’t trace their heritage very far. I’m sad for them. There’s something deep and nostalgic about feeling connected to a long line of people whom I can identify. It’s fun to discover repeated names all the way back. There aren’t any Trevors or Deannas, but all four of our kids have repeated names back for generations.

Some of the coolest things I’ve learned are that we can trace back to 900 AD, in the Highlands of Scotland. Do you know who rebelled the Romans in about 211 BC? The highlanders of Scotland! FREEDOM! So I guess if we could trace back into the pagan Scots, we’d find my ancestors beating down British conqurorers. Argh, we helped do it again in the 1700’s on another continent! ­čÖé

How is this a Happy New Years post? I don’t know. Chemo brain, I ramble on and on. The truth is, folks and online friends who won’t read this have already hidden me anyway. As much as I’d love to create content that folks want to read, I lament that I bore others.

My point for all that truly is that where we’ve come from matters, but for different reasons. My parents fit a “traditional” model, with two kids who each got married youngish and had some kids. They raised us going to church, and the Lord saved us in spite of that. ­čÖé

My wife came from divorce and remarriage and some hard decisions as a teen. God saved her through her repentence and redeemed her through all that.

The Lord brought these two so very different people together, and we started our own legacy, standing on the shoulders of our different family histories. The past matters. But not more than the future!

I think it’s important to understand where we’ve come from. When the Lord stepped in and began redeeming your family, it can create a legacy if that’s traced farther back. Yet if God saved you first in your family, now you’re blessed with creating a legacy for generations to come.

Yet, we should not focus on the past, yet focus on where the Lord is taking you and your family. Create a heritage that your ancesters will look back on with gratefulness and joy.

God has taken Deanna and I through so much, not just this leukemia journey, but through our whole marriage. Through sickness and health means something now. My wife has BEEN Jesus to me many times. She has served me well, and taken the burden of both parents for quite a while. It’s now my turn to heal and return to my position of husband and father, and I believe that 2016 will be my year. We’ve been going to counseling, and it’s been the greatest tool the Holy Spirit has been using to open our eyes and begin to sanctify us. Praise God for this new element in our lives!

Cheers to the New Year. May you be a blessing to all. Happy New Year.

╬á╬Ě╬│╬▒╬»╬Ż╬Á¤ä╬Á ╬╝╬Á ¤ä╬┐ ╬ś╬Á¤î
(Go with God.)

Inspiring book, in two ways 

My pastor picked up this inspirational book that he knew would impact me. It’s a photo journal of the journey of a man who used to don the stage with great attention, Dieter Zander. I actually met him at a conference I attended in Chicago many years ago. He stood out from the rest of the crowd. He had insight and spiritual leadership that transcended the programs and simple inspirational preaching offered by the others. He was clearly a part of the Church’s future. I even had a chance to meet him. Years later I heard he left Chicago to plant a church in San Francisco. I kinda wanted to be a part of that. Not long after, Deanna and I helped plant a church in Ventura, CA.

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Fast forward to today. The short is that he had a stroke, and all the stage work is gone. It appears that he cannot speak, and he has embraced a new kind of life on mission. A friend gave him a camera, and like my journey, he grew as he realized it’s a storytelling device. His artistry surpasses my own, but I am motivated by his art. I’ve been trying alternate projects in recent weeks for this very reason. Storehouse is a site/app that is helping me learn how to tell a story with my images, with minimal captions. It’s much like this book, called A Stroke of Grace. Below are a few shots of the book, the most compelling pages to me.

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The full paged photo is of Dieter. The story it tells is remarkable. I know this story. It is my story. I’m brought to tears over it. Dieter, I’m inspired and ministered to by you. Thank you for submitting to the Lord and continuing your ministry of discipleship.

 

I use affiliate links and ads on this site. But this article has zero profit links for me.

So much to be thankful for today, and always!

I personally have so much to be thankful for these days. I want to tell you all about it, later in this post.

But first I want to share with you why Thanksgiving as a holiday is special to me. Some believe that the early Americans who kinda created this so-very-American holiday, may have borrowed the notion from the traditional Jewish festival called Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles. What? Never heard of that?

Well, first, the early setters were Puritans, and as such quite Reformed or Calvinistic in their doctrine. For them, the idea that the Church was in essence the New Israel, meant that there was a respect and understanding about much of the traditional Jewish holidays, etc.

The Feast of Tabernacles, (Sukkot from now on) is basically a celebration of God delivering  Israel from persecution at the hands of Egypt. It happens during the fall harvest, as our Thanksgiving happens at the end of the fall harvest.

The Puritans had fled persecution in England, and ended up spending about a decade in Holland, which was considered a safe haven from religious persecution, at that time. So their relocation to the New World was in face a kind of Exodus-like experience for them. It makes sense that they’d seek a similar way to commemorate their Exodus, the way the Hebrews┬ádid.

In time, the Jews began to see Sukkot as a celebration of God’s provision and steadfast love. The Puritan settlers were celebrating the same.

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who alone does great wonders,
for his steadfast love endures forever;”

(Psalm 136:1-4 ESV)

There is so much more I could write about this topic, but if you don’t get it now, you’ll only be bored by more information.

God loves us. His sovereignty over all of creation can be seen all around. Celebrate that today! His grace abounds, and I celebrate that much more these days than ever before.

I’m thankful that the Lord has sustained me so well the past 16 months. He’s used so many of you to help us financially and prayerfully, and that has been such a blessing.

I’m thankful for the amazing wife I have! She could not be any more perfectly made to be my companion. In the midst of our suffering, she rises to the occasion time and time again. She has modeled for our children the most holy example of fulfilling her vow to care for me in sickness.

I’m thankful for my kids! Each of them has grown in ways that only God-ordained suffering can induce. They’ve grown together, looking out for each other more. And they’ve grown up in their understandings of being responsible and contributing to the household. Just a week or so back, our 12 year old boy texts Deanna asking, “Don’t the trash cans need to go out tonight? Should I put them out?” So blessed!

I’m thankful for all my extended family, including in-laws, who have stepped up to take our kids at unannounced times, with a smile and no complaints. My own sister has done┬áthis at quite inconvenient times, with no whining.

I’m thankful for our larger group of friends, most from our local church community, and many from my online community, whom I’ve never met in person. We’ve had sizable checks arrive out of nowhere, at just the right time. We’ve had small and large donations arrive to our PayPal account all through the past 16 months, each time a wonderful blessing. Deanna has had folks walk up and hand her a gas gift card, just when we had a long trip to UCLA coming up. At our most needy times, an army of folks from church made us dinners, saving Deanna time to do other important things for me and the kids. One friend even made us 5 or 6 freezer meals that only needed to be dumped into the Crockpot, to be a delicious meal.

No doubt, God has designed those things to happen at just the right time, and all these nice people were willing and able to give when they were called upon. Thank y’all so much!

I’m thankful for my medical team at UCLA, Dr. Gary Schiller and NP Karolina Faysman. They have been with me every step of the way. I first met Dr. Schiller the weekend I was admitted to UCLA, last year, after having been diagnosed on the Friday prior. He is wonderfully straight forward and always clear and understandable. From my scientist/physician, I need that. And Karolina is always patient and considerate in how she helps Deanna and I understand each stage, setback, and treatment.

And of course, I’m thankful for what is now an anonymous 28 year old woman, who was willing to donate some bone marrow to a man she’d never met or known. ­čÖé

Secret Date Night

Over the course of a few weeks, I began to notice that my wife was in great need of a date. Not just a night out, but a genuine, get-dressed-up-all-pretty date. So, I did what every self-respecting geek does; I sought input from the internets.┬áI knew that I wanted to take her out to eat and then to attend some activity. I knew that I wanted to probably head up towards San Luis Obispo. I knew that we’d need a sitter, for our 4 rambunctious kids.

The sitter part was easy. I contacted one of our regulars and set it up.

The next part was actually kinda cool. I wrote a new┬á“Note” on Facebook. (link to the actual note) However it was important that Deanna NOT stumble upon this note. So I customized the privacy settings for just that note. (Notice the accompanying screenshots) I wrote a brief request for ideas and tagged a wide variety of my Facebook friends. Within a few hours I had a good amount of input and was narrowing down a couple of ideas. Matt, knowing our propensity for good brew pubs, recommended Creekside Brewing Company. The meal was covered.

Eric then recommended the San Luis Obispo Little Theater. I had never heard of it, but I’ve attended a few “little” theaters over the years. I like the small atmosphere, and that most seats are good seats. Eric didn’t just recommend the theater, he┬árecommended┬átheir current run, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, by W.┬áShakespeare. I’ve seen it several times and it’s one of┬áShakespeare’s┬áfew plays that I like. I like the sarcasm and wit. So, it was decided!

GMap-browser
I also knew that I could use this evening’s activities to test out a feature of Google Maps that I’ve been wanting to do right. I’ve wanted to plan out a custom Google Map, using the My Maps feature, with a few locations. Then loading up the custom map, on my Android-powered Nexus One, I could use the built-in Navigation feature to drive or walk from each place to the next. This whole┬áexperiment┬áis intended to help me be ready for our 12th Anniversary trip to San Francisco next month. I’m slowly gathering input from several sources for intended destinations whilst on that trip. My goal is to use the custom Google Map on my Nexus One to guide us to all the places we want to hit. I’m even going to color code the destinations with a priority. That way if we find that we’re running out of time one day, we can easily skip something. Or we could add something not on that day’s plan, if we find a little extra time.

**Tangent over.**

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So I built the custom Google Map. I only had 2 destinations, so I added a possible Starbucks, for the caffeinated drive home.┬áI made sure to label each “pin”, so it would be easy to use on the mobile phone. I even checked the walking directions on the desktop Google Maps, to make sure we could walk from one to the other. Want to see how the same map looks on my Nexus One? Just about the same! Love it!

In order to see your saved maps, from Google’s My Maps, on your Android-powered phone, go to the Maps app, click the “menu” button, choose “layers”, then the “more layers” button. Now you’re given a list. At the top should be “My Maps”. Once you’ve saved your map on the browser version of Google Maps, it should appear in the next list after it loads. Wallah!

GMap-List-N1Selecting the little button on the lower left of the screen, below the distance legend, will give you a list of the locations. Selecting any one of those will give you Google’s detailed description of that destination. Very cool!

The date was planned, the tickets were purchased, and all was well with the world. I told her that day, that after some activities at church, we’d be going out. She would need to get ready and dress nice. Oh, BTW, she HATES SURPRISES! Which is of course a contributing reason for planning one.

Nonetheless, we got ready and headed out. Everything was awesome!

The food was great at Creekside Brewing, and so was the beer. We started with a sampler of their own brewed beer. That’s always how I like to do things, to get a good idea of what’s good and not. We both ended up ordering a pint of Monach Lite Blond Ale, and it was tasty! I tend to order darker colored beers most of the time. But on this evening, the Blond Ale was calling out to me.

I had the Creekside Slider Burgers (Three mini angus beef burgers topped with grilled sweet onions, double smoked bacon, roma tomato and horseradish mayonnaise.) and they rocked my world! Very tasty indeed! When were done, we walked along the Mission Park creek. It extends from the Old Mission San Luis Obispo, for a city block, connecting the park to the handful of top notch businesses that border the creek, with Creekside Brewing at the end. After arriving at the Old Mission, we traversed two blocks to the SLO Little Theater. We had plenty of time to pick up our tickets at will call, and wander inside. The little city theater is a nice little facility. They were selling some refreshments, and coffee was available to all in attendance.

We had just enough time to find our seats and finger through the program. I didn’t feel rushed, nor bored. Just perfect.

I’m not much of a theater/play reviewer. I acted on and off through high school and college. I’ve been in musicals and traditional plays.

This production was presented by the Academy of Creative Theatre (ACT) which “has been providing students year-around theatrical training for the past 12 years. They are dedicated to inspiring young performers and technicians in a lively, nurturing and fun environment.” (link) This meant that the whole cast was completely young people. In some circumstances, that would be a bummer. In this, it wasn’t. The cast was great, especially the girl who played Puck. She rocked! A few of the cast members over-acted a bit, but that’s to be expected with young people. Over all, they did a fantastic job!

We had a great time on our date. The kids were cared for well. We ate wonderfully. We were supremely entertained.

Oh, and we got some coffee for the trip home!

I was explored!

Today I was wandering around Flickr, adding tags to my photos. I saw someone who had been Explored, and they had celebrated in their description. That got me thinking, “How does one know when they’ve been explored?” So I did what any geek would do, I googled it.

I found this.

Guess what?! I was explored, last August. Below is that photo. What do you think? Is it my best photo ever? I don’t think so. But, I’m grateful anyway. Here’s the page where you can find my explored photo.

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I think I’ll celebrate with a new 45!

Smith & Wesson M&P 40C

I woke to a fire hydrant of news about the US Supreme Court’s ruling on the 2nd Amendment case before them. You have no idea how excited I became as I read the reports coming in stating the renewed clarity about our continued rights.

In case you didn’t know, the Supreme Court has never clearly ruled on the basic reality that we, as individuals, have the right to purchase, own, and possess firearms. Back in the 70’s the city of Washington, DC passed a law that forbade the ownership of handguns, and increased the limitations on rifles and shotguns. Their reasoning was to help fight crime on the streets. Recently, an armed security guard wanted to purchase and possess a handgun, for personal protection. The city denied his request, and he sued.

The case made its way to the top court, and they ruled today. Yippy!

Now if they’d just enforce existing laws, and quit pandering to the dirt-bag criminals, maybe we’d see a drop in crime.

Digg it!

At The Getty, with The Princess

A week back, I really wanted to hit The Getty Center with my daughter, The Princess. We lost our shot, and so I rescheduled for this week.

DSC_9362A View of the Grand Canal: Santa Maria della Salute and the Doana from Camp Santa Maria ZobenigoDSC_9263Architecture at The Getty

Yesterday, we drove down to the parking structure, adjacent to the 405 freeway, just down the hill from The Getty. If you don’t know about The Getty Center, it’s possibly one of the best and largest collections of art in the Southern California region. It opened a few years ago to some huge fanfare and has been busy ever since.

You have to pay $8 for parking, but getting into the museum is free. Yeah, free!

I actually wanted to take public transportation all the way down there. Unfortunately, public trans in LA is a joke. There are several different organizations operating different parts of the system. So, we’d have to get on a borrowed seat on the Amtrak train out of Camarillo. Technically we’d be traveling the Metrolink. However, they don’t have enough trains, or something, and they rent seats on Amtrak. Then we’d connect with LA’s MTA for a bus to the Sepulveda/Getty drop-off. Here’s the catch. It’s $18, per person, one way. So, the two of us would be paying $72! That’s more than two tanks of gas in my little commuter Scion. We opted to drive. If urban communities want to help people contribute to helping the congestion, they need to be cheaper than driving. Even with today’s high gas prices, it’s a joke to think that I’d choose a 2 hour trip down and then 2 hours back, for more money.

OK, back to The Getty.

The Princess and I had a great time. We arrived around 11am and headed straight to the first building. We basically wandered from one to the next, covering every inch of each building. In one of the paintings exhibits, the have this really nice room with several large pieces on the walls and a couple of sculptures. They are all very typical museum pieces. Then, in the middle of the room they have several tables and drawing easels set up. The point is for anyone to wander up and sketch your own interpretation of the art on display. There were many people of varying ages that wandered in and out as we were there.

Will you hold still!Well, The Princess is a very good artist. So we took the time so that she could sketch something of her own. She sat down at the table and looked around for a bit. Then she sorta grunted an “OK, I’m ready.” She leaned down and began to draw. It took me a few minutes to realize what she had chosen as her focus. She was drawing a young woman a few feet from her, who was in turn drawing one of the large paintings. It really was surprising to me. I was even a little emotional as I considered what she was doing. I wondered how many accomplished artists would have considered to draw someone drawing.

I could not pass this chance up, so I shot off a few frames. As you can see, she did a splendid job.

We took a break for a late lunch and then continued into the Photography exhibit. It was there that I discovered that they want to show you photographs, but don’t really like photographers.

Don't take pictures in here!Let me clarify. No one really gives me a hard time. I don’t let them. Also, the average security guard is intellectually scared off when you start using 3 or more syllable words. I engaged him with a short diatribe about copyright, and derivative works. He didn’t follow. I allowed him to leave, and I shot my one and only rule-breaking-shot. “This one’s for Thomas Hawk,” I thought to myself.

It's too bright!When we finished there, we decided to head home. We didn’t have time for the beautiful gardens, nor much more than one quick stop to enjoy the view. I promised her we’d return once more. Possibly for a group photowalk, this summer.

Above all, I had a great time with my daughter, enjoying some beautiful artwork and taking picture together. She’s a lot of fun. Oh yeah, BTW, that was her school day.

Thankfulness

The Carpenter kids


You know, Thanksgiving is a lot of things to a lot of people. For many it’s about getting to relax with the family and eat, eat, eat. For others it’s about seeing “the game”. Of course there are others who don’t share our interest in Thanksgiving; foreigners & sometimes native Americans. Well, I’m not interested in the age old arguing over who was here first, blah, blah.

I’m interested in taking this American holiday at face value and being thankful for what the Lord has done for me.

So, I’m thankful for:

  • being saved, by grace, through Christ’s death and resurrection. I’m thankful that I don’t have to “do” things to earn it, since there’s no way possible that I can.
  • being cared for by my Lord, who supplies for my needs, etc.
  • having a great wife who cares for me, working to manage and care for our children.
  • being blessed with 4 healthy children.
  • having a job that is dependable and fruitful enough to allow me to provide for the needs of my family.
  • having an extended family that, for the most part, cares for us and prays for our welfare.

What are you thankful for?