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What Are You Thankful for This Year?

Real Simple readers express their gratitude for the things that matter most.

Texas with couples illoChristopher Silas Neal

My career as a filmmaker is finally taking off. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t think making movies sounded like fun. But I didn’t take the idea seriously until I studied film as an undergraduate at Hollins University, in Roanoke, Virginia. Recently a script I wrote, Catching Up—based on true stories from my childhood, when I would visit my dad at work (he was a guard at the county jail)—has received a few awards and nominations and provided the jump-start I needed. Whenever I reach the end of a project and I have a film to show for it, I feel so fulfilled.
Mary Ratliff
Reston, Virginia

A neighborhood dinner once a week. The first dinner took place when my fiancé and I realized that the couple who lived next door to us were suffering financially and could probably use a free meal. These dinners now involve 10 to 12 people, and we rotate from apartment to apartment, bringing together adults and children from different parts of the country. Over the past six months, we have gone from a group of strangers who happen to live near one another to the best support system I’ve ever had. The last dinner was at our house. We had to work around my gluten allergy, a milk allergy, and diabetes. We have all learned to use different ingredients than we’re accustomed to and have done our best to make people feel welcome and taken care of in our homes.
Kate Saccone
Orlando, Florida

A trip to the Basque country, in northern Spain. In the summer of 2009, my husband and I hosted a teenage girl from the region as part of a student exchange program. Her father is an avid cyclist, like my husband, and after her homestay he invited us to visit their family for three weeks the following June during La Pyreneenne, a popular cycling event. My husband was kept busy on his bike, while I was able to take in the vibrant culture and food. One of the most incredible meals of the trip took place at the local gastronomic society. Until recently, only men were allowed in these “foodie” clubs. Now women are welcome, but not in the kitchen. The mouthwatering steaks, rich cheeses, and ripe fruits that we enjoyed over this languorous lunch are forever etched in my mind.
Rita Koch
Upland, Indiana

My husband and I bought a pontoon boat early this summer. My husband fishes off of it, and I just relax with a book. We plan to take the boat out until the first week of October, which will hopefully be late enough to see the leaves changing color from the water.
Becky Neibarger
Muskegon, Michigan

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