A Thanksgiving Inventory

With all the recent news, it is increasingly hard to not be frustrated. There are a plethora of wonderful things about our great nation, yet many promises left unfulfilled to so many.

It would be easy to go on an extended rant, but I won’t. No, instead I thought I would write about what I am thankful for.

Family …

I have an amazing wife. I am constantly inspired by her intellect and compassion. In a society where apathy has become the norm, she stands out. She gets behind issues she believes in and rallies other people to her cause.

She felt there “was a need to mitigate the leaky pipeline for women to ascend to executive roles and create opportunities for ambitious women to support and advance one another through cross-industry collaboration and friendship.” So, she created an organization to solve the problem. Now with more than 160 members (in less than a year!) representing a diverse cross section of Chicago women, the group is thriving.

She is an invaluable member of nonprofit boards, helps with political campaigns / get out the vote drives, and volunteers anywhere from five to 10 hours every week. If I’ve ever met someone who truly cares about all Chicagoans, it is her. She wants a better Chicago and believes it starts by being the best version of herself. I might not always want to join her in early morning volunteerism, but there is no doubt she makes me a better person.

I am also happy to report that I have some amazing awesome in-laws. Completely unprompted, the mother-in-law will stop over with a plate of homemade Filipino food and help me with cleaning / laundry. They help with our newly diabetic dog, making sure he gets the love and the care he needs when we are stuck at the office, or required to attend after-work events. They are fantastic gift givers, and I’ve come to love their family rituals around Christmas. My wife’s brother has a wicked sense of humor. My mother-in-law is easily the most generous and hard-working person I’ve ever met. My father-in-law serves as a reminder to stop complaining and get down to work.

Of course I am thankful for my family, too. A big hug to my mom, dad, brother, uncles, and cousins. We don’t always see eye to eye politically, but I know I’ll always have their support. They’ve even encouraged me to keep doing music, even though they aren’t exactly hip-hop fans. It was such a pleasure to watch two of my cousins get married this summer. They are about to start families of their own with kids who are hopefully as great as they are.

No Thanksgiving list is complete without a mention of our Schnoodle, George. Three years ago, we picked up a smelly, mangy dog from PAWS on Thanksgiving Day. He’s been our constant companion ever since. While everyone claims to have the best dog, ours actually might be. He is such a calming presence and puts everyone in a good mood.

Hobbies …

Now that I’ve started writing, I can see this list getting long in a hurry. I’m not going to touch on everything, because life is actually pretty great when I stop and think about it.

I love music. I cannot understand people who don’t listen to it, or simply use it as background noise. I don’t just listen to music, it accompanies wherever I go, whether it is connected through headphones, speakers, or is simply just in my head. It’s been deeply gratifying to work with a new producer, meet and collaborate with some amazing artists, and become such a prolific songwriter and beat maker. I’ve recorded 34 songs as of Nov. 24, and 2015 is shaping up to be equally productive. In addition to my own music, I have discovered a number of new artists, bands, and producers that I can add to my “can’t live without” list. I don’t know about you, but there is nothing like hearing a phenomenal new song for the first time.

I love writing. 2014 has also been a banner year for blogging. In addition to handful of posts I’ve written for Forward Chicago, I also write for Chicago Now and keep a personal site. Maybe there is a link between how much I’ve written in blogs and how many I songs I’ve written, but the creativity has felt almost endless. As a grant writer, my normal 9-to-5 writing is pretty rote and formulaic, so I need the ability to play around and write freeform. I’ve fallen off a bit lately, but I am still so excited by the Chicago Now blog, which follows me experiencing as many different religious traditions as possible within the course of a year. I started that project in September and will be continuing it throughout most of 2015.

I love photography. Granted I don’t currently have a working camera (that is a PRIORITY), but I still have taken some amazing shots over the course of the year. I shot Rib Fest once again, had the opportunity do a photo shoot for Sen. Dick Durbin, and got in some travel shots in Door County and Madison, Wisc. My work also got picked up and featured in Belt Magazine about East Chicago’s, town within a town, Marktown. I had a photo published in Que Pasa? magazine in 2011, but this is my first story credit in the continental U.S.

Looking back, I have a lot to be thankful for. 2014 was a pretty darn good year, and I hope 2015 can follow suit. Writing this down, I really do feel better. I encourage everyone to take serious inventory of all the things they are happy for. It will put so much in perspective.

Happy Thanksgiving to all, and thanks for reading!

About Matt A.

Matt A. is a Chicago-based freelance photographer living in the 47th Ward. An avid explorer of his city, Matt has been to all 77 community areas and documented the many sides of Chicago. Matt is also highly engaged in his community as is a member of Forward Chicago, One Million Degrees, Chicago Scholars, WITS, and the Chicago Gophers (UMN Alumni Group).

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