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Life with Liz: Narrowing down the must-do list

Somehow, it is already Thanksgiving, and the holiday season is upon us. It’s time for my yearly exercise in gratitude, and if I was not feeling it much last year, I’m feeling it even less this year. I do know there is much to be thankful for: the kids are in good physical health and seem to be continuing to do well in school and their activities, so in my book that signals relatively good mental health as well. Keeping them moving in that direction is always my main priority.

This year has had some health challenges from my torn meniscus to my deteriorating corneas. Feeling like I’m falling apart makes me grateful for the health that I do have, and that I’ve mostly been able to recover from both these mishaps. It has been a grim reminder, though, that it’s pretty much all downhill from here, and even after a long, slow recovery, things are never going to be quite as good as they used to be. I guess I can be grateful that they weren’t more serious and have served as a little bit of a wake-up call that I need to consider taking better care of myself going forward.

I am grateful that A successfully passed his driver’s test and has (so far) proved to be a safe and competent driver. While it is nerve-wracking at times, especially right now when he’s driving home late from practices and rehearsals, and the deer are doing what deer do, it has decreased the number of times I have to drive to the school daily and allowed me to return to a more regular work schedule.

G will be turning 16 in a few weeks, and we get to repeat this process all over again, and while it will be great to have three licensed drivers in the house, now I will have to be two times as nervous when they’re both out driving.

I am grateful that a side effect of A driving all three of them to school and to after-school activities has forced them to get along better. A’s newfound freedom translates to a little more freedom for both G and E, and no one is allowed in the car if there is fighting. So, while they still have plenty of reasons to pick at each other, they’ve had to learn to stifle those urges or risk losing car privilege. They’ve also gotten better at being on time and communicating with each other. Of course, there have been times when they’ve pulled in the driveway and the yelling begins as soon as the car door opens, but all in all, the fighting has decreased significantly. Whether or not they realize it, they’re starting to treat each other more as humans and less as annoying siblings.

I am grateful that A’s senior year is going well. A few bouts of senioritis have crept in, but he’s managed to fend them off and keep his nose to the grindstone. He is excited about his prospects for next year, and although the application process has been grueling, he’s moving forward with his college plans.

I’m grateful that G seems to be learning from observing his older brother, and while he may not have a good idea what he does want to do in the future, he has learned some things that he doesn’t want to do. I’m not particularly grateful that E is looking forward to the day when both boys are off at school and she is the queen of the roost, but I haven’t burst her bubble yet, reminding her that three people’s chores are going to end up being hers alone.

I am so grateful for my other two boys, Dunc and Hens. We’ve made so much progress this past year. I finally feel that both dogs are legitimately happy with their lives. I’m grateful that I don’t feel like I’m wasting them anymore. I can challenge them and keep them busy enough that they’re not being destructive or bored.

I’ve learned to trust Duncan, and he’s starting to return the feeling. I am grateful that when I leave the house, they both jump up at the door to watch me leave, and when I come home, they are both beyond happy to see me. It may not sound like much, but it took Dunc a long time to pay any attention to me at all, let alone affection.

I’m grateful that my sphere has shrunk considerably. My main priority is the kids, my second priority is the dogs, and beyond that, I have just stopped caring that much. Over the years, I remember many people telling me “not to sweat the small stuff.” And then, of course, the caveat that “it’s all small stuff.” I think back to “that day” all the time. That morning, my list of things to do was long. So was Steve’s. And, in a split second, not one of those things mattered anymore. It may be a little macabre, but most days, I create my to do list, and then ask myself, “how much of this really matters?” The answer is usually not too much.

People and activities and things that used to consume hours upon hours of my time just don’t anymore. I’m never quite sure if it’s healthy that I have my priorities in order or unhealthy in that I’ve just lost interest in a lot of things that used to matter to me. Either way, I’m no longer the person that does it all and for the first time in my life, I’m OK with that.

Our holiday will look nothing like it used to, and for that, I am also grateful. The kids, the dogs, and I will have a few days of downtime to rest and regroup. G will most likely spend a lot of time in a tree stand. E will convince me that we need to do some kind of shopping. A will most likely disappear with friends for a good chunk of time.

Some things will be a little bit like they used to be, but most things will not. I’m grateful that we had as many happy, traditional holidays as we did, and that we have so many good memories, but I am also grateful that I no longer have to expend energy to keep up with that tradition by myself.

Whatever tradition you’re keeping up with or starting over with, I hope you have a truly peaceful and happy Thanksgiving, and that your holiday season is exactly how you want it to be.

Liz Pinkey is a contributing columnist who appears weekly in the Times News.