Thursday is Thanksgiving and if all goes as planned, I will be spending the day in a warm home enjoying a traditional turkey dinner with our large family and engaging in competitive card games while eating pie.

That’s how the Vanden Berges roll on turkey day.

But before the festivities begin, I might shed a tear or five because we are experiencing a Thanksgiving Day first - a holiday without our boys.

This year medical school prevented our oldest son D.J. from making it home and our second son Aaron has a grownup job that will keep him in Austin. 

But there is good news. Our daughter Brooke will be in from Texas Tech and that means pedicures and Christmas shopping is on the agenda after we recover from our pumpkin pie-induced coma.

And those tears? Well they seem to come easy these days. I blame it on the holidays. The Husband blames it on that menopause thingy.

Either way it’s hard to argue that the older I get the more emotional I become. I suppose it has something to do with the fact that life seems to be whipping by me at speeds faster than I expected. 

I hope with my increasing age comes more than just wrinkles and a need to drastically increase my workouts. I hope I am wiser, kinder, more thoughtful, empathetic and understanding. 

Many of the things that once seemed important barely register in my mind these days. And as the holiday season begins to reveal itself, I am once again reminded of the many blessings I should be counting.

Like many of you, family is first on my list. 

I am thankful for 27 years of marriage that has experienced extreme highs and a few lows. Marriage isn’t always easy, and I am blessed with a husband who was willing to weather those storms with me. Today we are empty nesters and enjoying the beauty and opportunity for travel this new season has afforded us.

I am thankful for my three kids who I love more than I can ever express. Becoming their mother has been my greatest gift.

I am thankful for a job I love and the opportunity to tell the stories of this community while earning a nice living. I am thankful for a team of coworkers who share my love of journalism and work hard every single day. 

I am thankful to live in a country that allows me the right to work, vote, worship and love whoever I choose. I am so thankful to be an American.

As the days get shorter and the nights grow colder, I am thankful for a warm home, soft blankets, electricity and running water. 

I am thankful for my friendships.

The Husband and I were just 20 years old when we packed all of our worldly belongings into a U-Haul and left California for Texas where we didn't have a single friend. 

Today we have a close group of friends that make life so much fun. I am thankful for each of them. 

I am thankful that I was raised by loving parents who taught me the importance of education and loved me unconditionally. My father is no longer with us, but I still feel his influence daily. 

I am thankful for my mother-in-law and father-in-law who raised a son who grew up to be a smart, loving, hardworking husband and terrific father.

I am thankful for my extended family - brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews and cousins - who never let me feel alone. Everyone should have such a tribe. 

I am thankful for sunshine, laughter, good books, long dinners and second chances. 

They make life beautiful. 

As we celebrate the season, I hope each of you have as much to be thankful for. 

Happy Thanksgiving.

Sara Vanden Berge is the managing editor of the Empire-Tribune and Glen Rose Reporter. She can be reached at 254-965-3124. Follow her on Twitter @ETEditor.