In keeping with the tradition of Thanksgiving, I've been thinking about the past year and the many blessings in my life.
The list, I find, is long. But I've whittled it down to a few important memories for which I'll be giving thanks Thursday.
Of course, they all revolve around my family.
Here they are in no particular order.
A cherished memory of 2013 - one I'll keep until I'm toothless and nodding off, face-first, into my oatmeal - is drifting across Stockade Lake in Custer State Park, S.D., with my 14-year-old son, Ben, in a canoe. (I wrote about the vacation in a travel story available at gazette.com.)
Ben and I spent a glorious week in the park, sleeping in a bare cabin, cooking over a fire, hiking, fishing, watching wildlife and canoeing.
I let Ben set our agenda each day, and it turned out to be one of my best vacations ever.
The highlight, for me, was in the canoe.
On our first day, we encountered geese on the water. That was cool. But on the second day, we were cruising along when we heard a duck quacking in the cattails and reeds near the shore.
We shifted the canoe into stealth mode (we'd been at ramming speed) and floated quietly toward the sound. We were thrilled to see a mallard leading a string of tiny ducklings through the reeds, each making squeaky little quacking noises.
It was like a scene from a Disney movie as the ducklings played follow the leader. One would swim up to a rock, hop on it, waddle across it and hop back into the water. Every duckling behind would follow the same path. Plop. Plop. Plop.
It was so cute. And I'm particularly happy I was able to share it with Ben.
Another enduring memory is watching my 24-year-old daughter, Anna, lead a group of children on a private tour of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., where she works.
There, amid the organized chaos that is Disney World, Anna was taking these children on a scavenger hunt through the Magic Kingdom from Fantasyland to Tomorrowland and beyond.
I was so proud as she worked hard to entertain the children, and their parents, despite all the distractions swirling around us.
It was hot. (It was August in Florida.)
It was crowded. (Like I had to tell you that.)
It was loud. (I've always called it Meltdown Land.)
And yet here was Anna leading a string of young children laughing and skipping through Frontierland, oblivious to everything else and eager to solve the next clue.
For some reason, it continues to be a revelation to me that my little girl has grown up. And I'm proud to say she is an impressive woman who has carved out a life and career without a whole lot of help.
I just wish she wasn't 2,000 miles away. As a result, I rarely see Anna. So the time we spend together is precious. And I'll long remember the scavenger hunt.
I am a wanna-be athlete and sports fan, so another highlight of my year came Sept. 13 when my son, Peter, started in goal for the Mountain Lions of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.
When Peter, now 20, was just a little ankle-biter, I signed him up to play soccer. But I never dreamed a decade later he'd get a scholarship to play in college. Yet here he was in the starting lineup in his second game as a redshirt freshman.
Peter and I have shared a journey through youth, high school and now college sports that I would not have missed. Sports have shaped him. He has learned about teamwork and dedication and winning and losing. He has achieved great success and faced adversity and emerged stronger than ever.
It has had a huge impact on me, too. I've met amazing people - coaches and other parents - who have enriched my life.
But as proud as I've been of him on the field, I'm more proud of the man he is becoming. Especially the way he treats Ben. Throughout high school, his little brother wanted to tag along everywhere. And it was a source of friction and frustration, at times.
Not anymore. This summer, I saw a lasting bond develop between the brothers, and it gives me comfort. I won't always be around to have their backs, but now I believe they'll have each other's, and that means a lot.
Finally, I will be giving thanks for Cary, my wife.
We've shared many moments this year: standing hand in hand on the Mount Cutler trail in Cheyenne Canyon, overlooking Seven Falls; Cary hugging a tree near a waterfall on a hike above Green Mountain Falls; cruising the backroads of Park County in search of our fantasy vacation home.
But the highlight came recently watching her triumphantly reading her front-page story in The Gazette about FEMA giving thousands of dollars in grants to area homeless for losses in the September floods. (You can read it, too, at gazette.com.)
The story was her first since her return to newspaper reporting after a seven-year absence to run her own business.
I believe she was meant to tell stories, and it was awesome to see her, in all her glory back where she belongs, on the front page.
No doubt, many of you are reflecting as well. Please share with me the reasons you are giving thanks this holiday. I'll share a few of them in an upcoming column.
Heck, I've got so much to give thanks for, I might need an extra holiday!
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