Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks

My creative, reflective writing is a bit rusty after not having written for so long. Between my campaign early this year and all the technical writing I’ve had to do at my new job, I haven’t exactly had the time or opportunity to be either creative or reflective. So today, on Thanksgiving Day, I thought I’d start with something simple: sharing the many things for which I am thankful. (On that note, it bothers me that proper grammar requires that I write, “the many things for which I am thankful” instead of what sounds better and makes more sense to me, “the many things I am thankful for.” Oh well. Screw Strunk & White.)

First and foremost, I am deeply thankful for my best friend and the love of my life, my wife, Velma. I don’t know how she puts up with me, but she makes my life worth living. Not only is she beautiful and funny and smart (I know, they sound like meaningless clichés, but I mean every single word.), but she enjoys being silly and quirky with me, and values many of things that I value: a preference for family video nights over going out partying (wow, we’ve grown old), sleeping in, Sunday morning breakfasts, travelling, going to the movies, listening to Ella Fitzgerald and Lois Armstrong duets, fixing up our home, praying, loving, living. Things are far from perfect, but I appreciate how we’ve grown together and continue to grow together. She gives me room to grow, and I do my best to grow into the man that she deserves.

I am also thankful for what my wife and I have created, two wonderful kids (Yes, another cliché, but they are two of the most wonderful kids you could ask for, and if anyone disagrees with me, I’ll sock you a big one!) who bring so much joy, life, and laughter to our family. My daughter may be going through the annoying roller coast ups and downs of being a teenager, and I may constantly harass her about her grades, but she is a good person who still enjoys simple things like a good breakfast, shares much of my passion for drama, and gets along well with everyone, young and old, freaks, geeks, jocks and plastics. I am very proud of her. My son is a gamer (like me!) who loves to play, laugh, sing (he sings while taking a bath) and read (he loves to read, you hear!). He oscillates between being very silly to being very serious. However, even when he is super serious, he is super cute, and will always be mangi, even when he becomes an annoying teen ager like his sister.

I cannot believe that God has graced and trusted me with my wife and kids, and with one more in the oven. I am humbled by that. And I hope to always be the best man I can be for them.

Of course, I wouldn’t be the man I am today if it weren’t for my mother, who I am also thankful for. I am not always a good son and am sometimes rude to her (although she may tell you that I am often rude to her). I wish I could be a better son, and am trying. She deserves that. She is always there for me and my family, and she did a really good job of raising me and my brother and sister. She put up with a lot of crap, and did so for our good. She herself can be very silly and quirky, which I appreciate. And, like my wife, she too appreciates simple things: having her kids and grandkids over to her house for dinner, picking up the kids after school, watching a Lifetime movie. She took good care of me, and she takes good care of my kids. It’s my turn to take care of her.

Likewise, I am also thankful for my father, who passed away almost 12 years ago. Only a year before he passed away, I learned that he adopted me. And while he wasn’t always there (and even when he was there he was sometimes a violent jerk), he always treated me like his own son, and was very proud of me. I owe so much to him, and am thankful that I had the chance to reconnect with him before he passed away. I carry his name with pride and honor, as a lion warrior should.

In addition to reconnecting with my dad, in recent years, I have also had the chance to reconnect with my brother and sister. We were close growing up, but we grew apart in high school, especially when I went off to college. When I graduated and returned, we were like strangers living in the same house. That has slowly changed over time. Like my mom, they too take care of my kids, and I take care of their kids. We are now parents who want our kids to get along, just as we did when we were their age. My brother and sister help complete a family that lives to this day, perhaps a little more broken, a little more worn, and a little more jaded, but together nonetheless.

Aside from family, there are many other people I am thankful for.

I am thankful for Dave Kupferman. He is my soul mate. ‘Nuff said.

I am thankful for my best friend, Joe Taijeron, with whom I often disagree, but who balances out all my shortcomings and is trustworthy enough to point them out with a good measure of care and humor. I am a better person because of him. Plus, he enjoys Black Card status with my wife, which means that I can go out with him whenever we’d like.

Ed Buckingham is another good friend I am thankful for. Like Joe, he is honest in pointing out and balancing my shortcomings. Although Ed lacks Joe’s sense of care and humor, Ed has a good heart. My life is better because of him, and the world is a better place because of what he does.

Rose Cuison-Villazor continues to be a great friend who inspires me with her accomplishments. I don’t know how she juggles being a professor, a writer, a mother, and a friend. I hope one day to be as phenomenal as she is.

Jill Rickabaugh has always pushed me to be me by being her. She may chronicle life in still photographs, but her art moves with more life than many people who live dead lives.

Shelby Brown is brilliant and ridonkulous and facing many of the same life challenges that I face. His experiences resonate with my own. I hope one day we both find what we’re looking for.

Ed Propst is a good family man whose soul is afire against injustice and who puts his money where his mouth is. I hope one day to have as much courage and conviction as he does. If we all did, this world would be a better place.

Tina Sablan also more courage and conviction than I do, and probably than all of us combined. Although I disagree with some (or most) of her tactics, I do not question her motives. As with Ed, if we all had her courage and conviction, this world would be a better place.

Zaldy Dandan is an astute, honest, and practical observer of our times. While I may never forgive him for converting from the left to the right (even though I’m well on way in the same direction), I appreciate the blend of candor and empathy he brings to our civic discourse. If only more pundits and politicians would do the same.

Former CNMI Governor Juan Nekai Babauta had enough faith in me (and, I admit, my political pull) to want me to run with him for Governor and Lieutenant Governor. For all his imperfections, he is a good man who cares deeply for our islands. I am still humbled that he would see me fit to run with him to serve our islands.

Over the past 13 years, I have had the privilege of teaching, coaching, advising, and mentoring hundreds of students. I am thankful for them and for the opportunity to help them, at least in some way, in their life journeys. I hope I have served them well.

I am especially thankful for Mount Carmel School's Theatre Club, which has given me the opportunity to help create beautiful shows and share my passion for the performing arts with cast, crew, and audience members alike.

Beyond people, I am also thankful for great art. Many people are thankful for health and life, but to me, what good is a body if the soul is sick? Art breathes life into the soul. Paintings, movies, literature, and music help bring meaning to my life by illuminating different perspectives on the meaning of life. So, in no particular order, and by no means exhaustive, here are works of art and artists I am thankful for.

Movies: Rouge, Bleu, Blanc, The Bicycle Thief, Star Wars, Fight Club, Seven, The Fifth Element, Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, The Dark Knight, Wall-E, Cars, Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Waking Life, Grosse Pointe Blank, Say Anything, Singles, Jerry Maguire, Meet the Robinsons, Big Fish, Scent of a Woman, and Love Actually.

Story-tellers: William Shakespeare, Pixar, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Cameron Crowe, James Cameron, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, Luc Besson, Quentin Tarantino, Al Pacino, J. K Rowling, Sam Raimi, Tim Burton, Steven Soderbergh, and Bill Watterson.

Books: Frankenstein, Brave New World, This Side of Paradise, Heart of Darkness, Jane Eyre, Hamlet, Invisible Man, Nick Hornby novels, Tom Perrotta novels, The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns, and The Elegance of the Hedgehog.

Musicians: The Killers, My Chemical Romance, Chemical Brothers, Beethoven, Preisner, U2, Metallica, Peter Gabriel, Chopin, Beastie Boys, Blink 182, Angels and Airwaves, Coldplay, Sugar, Bob Marley, Sarah Brightman, Green Day, Smashing Pumpkins, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Sarah Brightman, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Charlie Parker, Frank Sinatra, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Ben Webster, Stephane Grappelli, Thievery Corporation, Portishead, The Jesus And Mary Chain, Digable Planets, New Order, Amy Winehouse, Run DMC, UB40, Bob Mould, Airborne Toxic Event, The Flobots, and Jay-z.

TV shows: Battlestar Galactica, Heroes, House, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Attack Of The Show, Star Wars: Clone Wars, The Daily Show, and 24.

I could probably go further, and there are people, places, and things I’ve undoubtedly missed, but I’m already close to 2,000 words, which is more than most people would read anyway. I’m sure I’ll continue this list next year. If I’m lucky, I’ll run over 3,000 words the next time.

Happy Thanksgiving! Give thanks, and thank those who give.

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