SwanShadow Gives Thanks — Episode 7: A New Hope

Thanksgiving 2010 marks the seventh consecutive year that I’ve written my annual A-to-Z list of people and things for which I’m giving thanks on this contemplative holiday.

As those of you who drop by here regularly know, 2010 has been a challenging year at Casa de Swan. KJ, my life partner of 29 years – my wife of 25 and a half years – passed away in July after a lengthy battle with breast cancer and degenerative liver disease. One might suppose that, in the wake of such a monumental tragedy, it would be more difficult than usual to find gratitude in my heart for the trivial accoutrements of life.

Truth to tell, however, I could write several dozen of these lists – the X’s, Q’s, and Z’s would get tough after a while – and not exhaust the limitless possibilities of thankfulness. If I’ve learned anything from recent experience, it’s not to take anything or anyone in my life for granted.

Before I delve into this year’s alphabetical progression, I’m going to take time for some special acknowledgments that belong on a list all to themselves.

I’m thankful for every moment of every day KJ and I were blessed to share together. Like all couples, we had glorious times and dark days, sunshine and struggle, soaring heights and devastating lows. Through it all, we never stopped loving each other. KJ’s quiet influence made me a better man, and a better human being. I would not be the me I am today without her. There’s a pretty fair argument to be made that I would not even be alive today without her. She has been the single most powerful presence in my life. She was my lover, my companion, my good right hand, and my very best and closest friend. I miss her terribly. I am grateful for all that she gave me, and I am especially grateful that she is now at peace.

I’m thankful for The Daughter, who, like her mother before her, makes me a better person just by being around me. KM has been a model of strength and perseverance throughout her mother’s illness, and in the aftermath of her death. She is everything any father could ask a daughter to be – kind, respectful, sweet, helpful, diligent in her studies, and quite often, wickedly funny. You would love her if you knew her, because everyone who knows her already does. She will graduate from university in May after just four years, even though her entire college career has been overshadowed by her mother’s failing health. You go, Supergirl — I am more proud of you than you will ever know.

I’m thankful for my parents-in-law, whose support and compassion has been invaluable in these haunted times. They have never stopped regarding me as their son, even though, technically speaking, the contractual connection between us no longer exists. This hard road would have been impassable without them sharing it with The Daughter and me. I will be forever grateful to them for all their help, encouragement, and love.

I’m thankful for the three communities of people whose fellowship has buoyed me over the tempest this year: my church family; my chorus family – the incomparable men of Voices in Harmony, and their significant others; and the family of Bay Area voice actors with whom I work and study at Voicetrax San Francisco. All of them have aided me in ways of which they are likely not even aware. I love them, every one.

And now, in keeping with our long-standing tradition, I’m also thankful for…

Abby, my personal assistant. Her typing is abysmal, her filing skills nonexistent, and she leaves her toys and chew bones strewn about the office, but she’s as warm and furry as any daily companion could ever be.

My BlackBerry Torch. It’s hard now to imagine how I functioned for so many years without a smartphone. It has made life easier and more organized in ways that I’d never have imagined – especially considering the fact that I rarely use the actual phone. The e-mail access, text messaging, GPS navigation, and instant updates from the Weather Channel and ESPN all pay for themselves ten times over.

Comic Art Fans, the home of my online art gallery and those of hundreds of other comic art collectors. The estimable Bill Cox has built, and continues to refine, an invaluable resource for participants in our hobby – and doesn’t even make us pay for the privilege of using it unless we choose to. (I do. Gladly.)

Dragon NaturallySpeaking, the nonpareil voice-recognition software by Nuance Communications. I’m now on my third iteration of Dragon, and the program just keeps getting better and better. It’s an incredible timesaver for clumsy typists like myself. In fact, I’m dictating this blog post with it.

The Eagles, one of my all-time favorite American rock bands. Do I ever get tired of listening to Hotel California? No, I do not. They stab it with their steely knives, but they just can’t kill the beast.

Faith. I always knew it was important. Until this year, I’m not sure I understood exactly how important.

My beloved San Francisco Giants, who this year won their first World Series championship in 52 seasons by the Bay. For diehard fans like The Daughter and myself, the joyous accomplishment of the Orange and Black couldn’t have come at a better time. Big-Time Timmy Jim, Shotgun, Buster, Huff Daddy, The Boss, BWeez, Pat the Bat, Magic Juan, J-Lo, Fast Freddy, Andres the Giant, MadBum, and the rest of the crew brought a ray of soul-cheering sunshine to a dismal summer.

The House Jacks, the original rock band without instruments. Their latest album, Level, flat-out kicks butt. (You can buy it on iTunes. And you should.) I’ll be seeing The Jacks live at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley on December 11, as an early birthday present to myself.

“Indian Food,” our household nickname for Stephen Curry, the Golden State Warriors’ premier point guard. We like our Indian Food hot and spicy, dishing the rock, and bombing away from outside the arc.

Jury duty, which may, I know, seem like an odd thing for which to be thankful. I haven’t written much about it for reasons that will become immediately obvious, but I served on a jury this year that convicted a man of murder. It was a harrowing month-long experience, and yet one that I am glad I underwent — and which I will never forget.

KJ. As previously noted, I can’t say enough how thankful I am for her life.

Ladybugs, KJ’s personal totem. The Daughter and I refer to the mausoleum where KJ is encrypted as the Ladybug House. She would have liked that.

Memories – I have so many precious ones to treasure. With God’s blessings and a fair wind, perhaps I’ll make many more before this trip reaches its terminus.

Nigiri sushi. Man, that stuff is tasty. My favorite bites: tako, ebi, unagi, hamachi, and the ineffable toro.

Old school. That’s how I like my music. That’s how I live my life. Get off my lawn, you punk kids.

The Princess Bride, one of my best-loved motion pictures of all time. It has taken on a new meaning recently, ever since I came face to face with the real-life Dread Pirate Roberts. I’ll be your Westley any time, Buttercup. Just watch out for that six-fingered man. And, never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line.

Quail. Cute little birds they are, and yet, they deserve to be persecuted. I’m just looking for a few good recipes.

Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill. Their Taco Tuesdays, when you can score all the fish tacos you can wolf down for $1.25 each, are among the greatest fast food bargains on the planet. Not to mention, delicious.

Supergirl – which, in addition to being my pet name for The Daughter, is also the nom de guerre of one of my favorite superheroines. I crossed an item off my bucket list this year by meeting Helen Slater, the actress who played Supergirl in the 1984 movie, and getting her autograph on the 50th issue of this current Supergirl run, to which she contributed a story. She’s every bit as lovely in person as she is on screen.

Throat Coat, the herbal tea from Traditional Medicinals that is the best friend of voice-using professionals everywhere.

The universe. Standing under a clear night sky never fails to remind me exactly how small and fragile I am. “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, hat is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?” (Psalm 8:3-4).

Voice acting. It took me more than 45 years, but I am at long last becoming what I really want to be when I grow up.

Writing. Where would I be without the mystery and beauty of language? Words truly are my greatest passion. (Well, one of my greatest passions, anyway. Ahem…)

The X factor — that is to say, the unknown. I don’t know what the future holds for me. Whatever it is, I’ll face it head-on. And, knowing me, with a witty quip or three.

Yelp, the ultimate do-it-yourself review site. I’ve lost count of the number of great restaurants – not to mention other businesses – I’ve discovered using this helpful tool. As is the case with Wikipedia, one has to take what’s written on Yelp with a grain of salt, because anyone and his Dutch uncle can get on and write whatever they please. Still, used with discernment, it’s an incredible resource.

Andrew Zimmern, the globetrotting chef and culinary adventurer who hosts Bizarre Foods on the Travel Channel. You’d never catch me eating half the items that Andrew is called upon to sample, but I always enjoy journeying vicariously with him to the exotic places he goes, and seeing the amazing array of comestibles enjoyed by people of various cultures around the world.

Last, but by no means least, I am eternally grateful for you, friend reader. May you and the people you love experience the true joy of Thanksgiving this holiday. Please understand that no matter how challenging your life circumstances may seem, you have much for which to be thankful, if you just stop and look around.

Peace to you. And pass the mashed potatoes.

Explore posts in the same categories: Aimless Riffing, Listology, SwanStuff, Thanksgiving

8 Comments on “SwanShadow Gives Thanks — Episode 7: A New Hope”

  1. Damon Says:

    The Eagles, yes!! My favorite is “One of these nights.” And yes, at various times in my life I’ve come across the daughter of the devil himself, and angel in white, and woman who’s a little of both.

  2. Sank Says:

    Reading your work over the years has been one of favorite things to do. Though we’ve never actually met I feel a little like you’re a part of the family. The things we have in common; Giants, Warriors and comics, (which BTW, Mrs S wants to talk to you some time about rekindling my comic love, something about a bill???)
    Like family I’ve enjoyed celebrating the good and have held you in my thoughts in during the bad. I’m thankful that I have this spot in cyberspace to read and I’ve got a pal somewhere out there somewhere.
    Happy Thanksgiving my friend.

    • SwanShadow Says:

      Sank: I feel the same way about you, my friend. One of these days, we’ll raise a glass together in person to celebrate our friendship.

      My fondest Thanksgiving wishes to you and yours.

  3. I’d wish you a Happy Thanksgiving, although the Pilgrims wouldn’t have approved (of the adjective or me).

    I, too am grateful for “The Princess Bride” because it inspired me with an apt self-description: “I am Wallace Shawn trapped in Mandy Patinkin’s body.”

    Happy Holiday, my friend.


    • SwanShadow Says:

      Eugene: I don’t believe those old Pilgrims would have been any fonder of me than of you, my friend. The only difference is that you might have been able to pass. 🙂

      And I love your Princess Bride-inspired self-description, although I believe that Messrs. Shawn and Patinkin suffer in comparison with you.

      My best holiday wishes to you and your bride.

  4. Donna Says:

    You know I’m thankful for you. And you know that I love you more than just for your appreciation of the Eagles! I am biased as you know. I regard them as the best rock and roll band ever to grace the face of planet Earth!

    • SwanShadow Says:

      Donna: I’m eternally grateful for you as well, my dear friend.

      You’ll be pleased to know that one of the books I read this year — in fact, I finished it and several others during my jury service — was Heaven and Hell, Don Felder’s memoir about his career as an Eagle. It’s not all that well written — he should have hired a better ghost — and I found a fair bit of it whiny and self-serving. But it’s definitely an interesting (albeit one-sided) look inside your favorite band. You should check it out if you get a chance.

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