Renee Winick mug

Renee Winick

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and I’m so excited to celebrate the holiday. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the day that’s all about gratitude lands smack dab in between the birthdays of my husband and my kids. This time of year reminds us to be grateful for all that we’ve been given. For me, that list starts and ends with my family; but there are countless other blessings that fill in the spaces in between.

Blessings come in several different forms. Many are easy to spot, but some are hidden inside what might otherwise be seen as the mundane or difficult parts of life. The trick to uncovering these secret gems is to open your eyes, mind, and heart to the beauty found in the ordinary.

As an example, I love my reading glasses. Not because of the fashion statement they make or their uncanny ability to continually become lost. I’m thankful for them because they allow me to read those, “Mom, guess what!” texts that I get from my daughter and the silly birthday cards that I get from my son. Because of my “cheaters,” I can read the recipes that I use to feed my family and the books that were suggested by my friends. They bring me joy in surprising ways.

What doesn’t normally bring me joy is when I put on a pair of jeans that, for some reason, fit a bit tighter than I remember. My fluctuating waistline can be tough on my ego; but it’s a wonderful reminder that I have enough in my fridge and pantry (sometimes, more than enough). It also keeps me motivated to regularly move my body and be more mindful about what I feed myself and my family. Who would’ve guessed that a pair of uncomfortably snug jeans is actually the perfect tool to help keep me healthy. Amazing!

I’m also amazed at the stack of bills that find their way to our mailbox every month. It’s easy to look at them as nothing but bad news; but they give me a chance, at least once a month, to appreciate all we have. They’re proof that our home is warm in the winter and cool in the summer, that we are safe and comfortable. Just like those tight jeans, they also remind me that the pendulum swings both ways. Eventually, I will need to pay for those big dinners, fun nights out, and last-minute splurges—literally and figuratively.

When planning all those dinners and nights out, I’m pretty old school. I may occasionally jot down plans on my phone, but I consistently write every daily detail in my trusty desk calendar. Looking at my jam-packed calendar can sometimes make me feel overwhelmed, but it also gives me reasons to smile.

A full calendar means that I’ve got a lot going on. Sure, some of the things that take up my time are those everyday tasks like dentist appointments and oil changes. However, it’s a pretty safe bet that I’ll also get the chance to marvel at my kids’ talents, enjoy dinner with a dear friend, or join in a family celebration. Isn’t there a saying that says a full calendar means a full life? If not, there should be!

Within every full life, there will be dark days. It may sound disingenuous, but I am thankful for the tragedies and trials that my family and I have faced. There have been moments in my life that have brought me to my knees. But I got up and walked away from those days as a stronger and wiser version of myself. With that newly acquired strength and wisdom, I can now help others who find themselves facing similar struggles. For that, I am humbled and grateful.

We all know that the Thanksgiving holiday is about showing gratitude for our blessings. While it’s easy to be thankful when everything is going well, we need to remember the gifts hidden inside even the toughest (or dullest) moments. Opening yourself up to unconditional gratitude will be the gift you’re thankful for all year long.

Renee Winick has lived in Prior Lake for nearly two decades, where she resides with her husband and twin son and daughter.