Giving thanks for the simple, the complex and a wonderful life

From the whimsical to the sublime, it’s time – time to be thankful, time to let the “angry birds” in one’s life melt away in the oven, or, better yet on the BBQ grill. I’m thankful for …

My late mother, Ellen Blaine Derry, who gave so much of herself and lived with gusto, graciousness and generosity – all from her heart.

Middle daughter Cayla and her forthcoming December graduation from nursing school. Two down, one to go, all on the way to self sufficiency and meaningful jobs. There’s no substitute.

For my job as editor. Never boring, sometimes exhausting, filled with responsibility and importance in this beautiful little corner of the world I call home. 

My wife, Miss Jenny, who has a spirit and strength that can move mountains, a joyous soul like my mother and a smile and laugh that lights up my world. 

Miss Jenny’s parents, Lorens and Pat. They taught me the best birthday song ever – a Danish serenade that starts with “Hanskeleva, Hanskeleva …” It’s the kind of feel-good toast you could sing in an Irish pub with a Guiness hoisted skyward. But there’s so much more than that. They have a core strength found in relishing the simple joys of life – like a hike or a camp meal – that lead to happiness. That lesson has spilled onto the entire family. When daughter Cayla is making makes Pat’s cinnamon bread recipe, now known as Cayla bread, at Christmas, I know it’s so.

My Italian grandparents, Ang and Garm, who made the sauce that we make now. Nothing like the one, the only spaghetti bolognese.

Daughter Shannon and her husband Steve, who are really working hard at two demanding jobs while raising our young grandchildren, Jackson Sawyer and Tyler Grace.  The kids are growing up before our eyes, and Christmas is always better with the young twinkling eyes around. Our lives are blessed because they live close to home.

Jim Harbaugh as coach of the San Francisco 49ers. What a difference a good coach and leader makes for the faithful congregation. It’s fun to be a fan again.

Notre Dame at No. 1 in the nation. It’s been a long, long time (1988) since my father and I went to Arizona to watch QB Tony Rice lead the Fighting Irish to the national championship. Most of the Derry clan rooted for the Irish while I was growing up and the passion touched me. A miniature version of “Play Like a Champion Today,” ND’s famous sign in the tunnel that every player touches on their way out to the field sits right under my computer monitor. Many moons ago, I found my father a perfect Christmas gift. A business took old radio recordings of Notre Dame and expertly inserted people into the game. My Dad ran in in the backfield with Notre Dame’s Johnny Lujack, the 1947 Heismann Trophy winner. It was magic watching him as he listened to a fantasy fulfilled. Dad coached the Army base football team at Ft. Hood, TX alongside his good pal, Pat Malley,  who became a local legend as coach of the Santa Clara University football team for so many years. My late uncle, James Francis Derry, who always had time for a game of H-O-R-S-E on the basketball court with his whippersnapper nephew, co-captained the Broncos as QB in 1959.

My hounds, Roxy the Sweet and Rocco the Magnificent. They take me on daily treks and greet me with wild enthusiasm, whether I deserve it that day or not.

Oregon State University, where daughter Mariah is in attendance. It’s an absolutely wonderful place for a young student to grow up and blossom. Her teammates on the women’s rugby squad have been a blessing and if I had more children, I’d take them to Corvallis, OR, show them a perfect college campus, let them meet a whole bunch of really nice people and hope that they would choose to join the Beaver nation.

The pig. It’s wooden. Miss Jenny gave him to her parents as a gift made, I think, at an FFA woodshop class. They gave the cutting board back to us. We use it every day and it makes us smile. A few years ago we were in a Williams Sonoma store and, lo and behold, there was a cutting board pig for a lot of money and we both had a hardy laugh. Who knew?

Gilroy’s generosity. It never ceases to amaze me what a great heart this town has. Warts and all we’re pretty darn lucky. Happy Thanksgiving.

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