In 1995 I embarked on a journey that has been the most monumental adventure of my life.
Sandy and I traveled to Las Vegas to get married.
Well, that is not entirely true. Sandy, Carolyn, and I traveled to Las Vegas to become a family.
Sandy had been married before, and she and her ex-husband had given birth to Carolyn. When I met Sandy, Carolyn was four years old and I fell in love with her just as much as I fell in love with Sandy.
I traveled to Vegas not just to marry Sandy, but rather to formally begin our life together as a family.
It would take another year to formally adopt Carolyn (don’t get me started on the bureaucratic complexities of that), but the day Sandy, Carolyn, and I stood before the Nevada state-ordained minister at the Rio Hotel Chapel and Buffet for our prepaid 15-minute ceremony, the die was cast. Alea iacta est. Yep… I had traveled across the Rubicon and now I was a married man and a father.
It was the greatest decision I have ever made.
A couple of years later Chaney decided to fight her way out of Sandy’s womb and we became a foursome.
The trajectory of my life, our lives, has been radically unpredictable. This is somewhat consistent with Sandy’s ability to pivot and reorient to changed circumstances on a moment’s notice. For me, I generally do not enjoy that gift she has. I am blessed I have a partner like that. She is something I am thankful for.
That is essentially the theme of this blog.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving 2022, and it has been a helluva last few years. There is much to gripe about. That is the divine right of each of us after being expelled from Eden. God might have told us to wander and toil, but He never told us we have no right to bitch about it. But all situations are subject to interpretation, and we choose our reactions to those situations. Pure hedonism comes with as much of a cost as extreme deprivation, and we must acknowledge our conditions and decide how we will respond to them. I suppose the key is to be the one making the decision of our response, as opposed to allowing others to dictate our emotions.
Marcus Aurelius has largely been seen as the master of ancient stoicism, though he was not the one who developed the philosophy. That honor goes to Zeno of Citium, but Marcus certainly made it hip, and definitely made it, at least initially, accessible to modern readers through his work, Meditations.
Giving thanks is, in a sense, the ultimate in self-sovereignty. We state with firm convictions we are grateful for “things”, “stuff”, “conditions”, whatever… regardless of what trials and tribulations lurk over our shoulders. We are the ones who set the conditions of our attitudes, we are the ones who decide how we are going to feel. The egoism is staggering I suppose…we are so powerful as individuals (or at least we posit this ideal) that in the face of staggering losses, we give thanks for the ability to play the game in the first place.
Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday and, to a large extent, typifies a uniquely American ideal: positivity in the face of adversity. We are so brash, so arrogant, that we smile in the face of insurmountable odds, and give thanks for the demitasse cappuccino we sip with pinky raised as the enemy charges our position.
We are the quintessential badasses, and it is time we acknowledge that, revel in it, and embrace it… but that is probably the subject matter for another blog.
Throughout the year we engage in this “choice of attitude”, but once a year we formally recognize it. Thanksgiving is a time for us to formally reflect on our psychological orientation. It is also a time for cranberry sauce (I prefer the canned gelatin stuff), turkey, of course, and family.
This year for me is a bit different and absolutely wonderful.
Carolyn, as most of your know, lives in London with her partner, Alan. They flew to America to be with us for the holiday. Chaney has also traveled from West Point to be with us. Carolyn has a birthday coming up in February and Chaney just turned 21. The most logical place to embrace the spirit of the holiday is, of course… Las Vegas.
This Thanksgiving dinner will be spent at the Venetian Hotel and Casino. This is fitting on so many levels. We are together as a family in the city that started out this whole adventure. I finally get to gamble (and drink) with all of my girls, and we have seriously “upgraded” from the Rio to the Venetian.
Our country is at a major inflection point, and I fear the majority of Americans have little knowledge of the majesty of the Constitution, or couldn’t care less about it. Fascism, Authoritarianism, Collectivism, and even Totalitarianism, compete for favor among a people who should know that individual liberty should be the singular goal for government.
Chinese hegemony threatens to go from a regional influence to a global one, and, of course, there is that whole nasty aspect of Russian aggression in Ukraine. Inflation is still with us, and will be with us for quite some time, and I am sure that some pathogen in some lab somewhere is going to be leaked at an opportune time in the future.
With all these barbarians at the gates, I will be the one sitting with my wife and my daughters at the blackjack table in Vegas, placing my bets, cheering my wins, and laughing off my losses. I will be happy, as only a husband and father can be.
I have so much to be thankful for.