4 Minutes That Changed My Life Forever II, a Thoughtful Thanksgiving

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Teaching Kids About Money

For those of you that have not read about the loss of our dear son Isaac, I encourage you to read it as this post is based largely off of that one. We lost Isaac on November 10th and wondered how life would go on. My wife’s birthday was just four days later and as hard as it was we had to celebrate it. It was part of the grieving process and looking back it helped us take a healthy hiatus from our heartache. Not to say that we wanted to move on, but we still had to do the normal things that life is about. But, then came Thanksgiving two short weeks later.

With What Just Happened Can I Be Thankful?

Losing a child, as far as I have experienced in life, is one of the most difficult things if not the hardest thing that a parent can experience. There can be such mixed emotions and feelings of powerlessness that it can be difficult to be thankful for much of anything. I’ll be honest, that it was both a difficult Thanksgiving as well as a sweet one. Part of me felt like I had nothing to be thankful for; after all, I had just lost my son. But the other part knew all too well that I had plenty to be thankful for. I had a beautiful wife (and still do) and a wonderful daughter. Once I was able to look beyond myself I saw that I had many, many things to be thankful for. It was difficult to go through the motions of the day, but was an important part of the grieving process that helped us heal just a little more. But, soon after that day, we were left wondering how to move forward.

Why I Love Thanksgiving

Now that we’re four years removed from Isaac’s death, I can distance myself a bit and just see how blessed of a man I am. Very shortly after we lost Isaac my wife got pregnant again! We weren’t by any means trying to replace him, but it was a natural decision as we both wanted to have a decent sized family. We had some elevated fear going into this pregnancy, but thankfully the Trisomy 18 is not hereditary and happens at conception so it was out of our control. To our joy, we had a beautifully healthy boy…Perry! He’s all boy and if given the chance will willingly be Buzz Lightyear for a day. Two years after (this past February) we added another boy…JP and now have our decent sized family. Each year now as Thanksgiving comes up I reflect on just how blessed I am. I get to think back again at how much I have been given and that we have been brought to the edge and back. My wife and I have three wonderful little hooligans (pictured above) and have all that we could ask for. No we’re not rich in cash, but we’re rich in so many other ways that matters so much more than money.

What Are You Giving Thanks For?

One thing I’ve learned over the years, and especially the last four, is how important it is to give thanks every day and not just on Thanksgiving. That can be easier said than done, but in the craziness of each day I find it truly rewarding to give thanks. After the slightest bit of reflection I can see that there’s so much to be thankful for. I have a beautiful family, a home to live in, a job that I love, clothes on my back, a warm bed to sleep in at night, and food in our kitchen, and so many other countless things. My question to you, my reader, is what are you giving thanks for? Can you find things that you can be thankful for each day? I find that life is much sweeter when you can find those things and can enjoy them to their fullest.


Thank you all who’ve read my emotional ramblings this past week. I am not an emotional person by nature, so it’s a bit uncomfortable for me. I’ll return to my more practical things here soon. What Thanksgiving plans do you have? Do you enjoy Thanksgiving?


Photo courtesy of: Nicole Schmoll

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John is the founder of Frugal Rules, a dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry whose writing has been featured in Forbes, CNBC, Yahoo Finance and more.

Passionate about helping people learn from his mistakes, John shares financial tools and tips to help you enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. One of his favorite tools is Personal Capital , which he used to plan for retirement and keep track of his finances in less than 15 minutes each month.

Another one of John's passions is helping people save $80 per month by axing their expensive cable subscriptions and replacing them with more affordable ones, like Hulu with Live TV.


  • Holly@ClubThrifty says:

    Thanks for sharig, John. If you can’t share your feelings here, then where? It’s your blog!!!

    I love Thanksgiving….mostly because of the yummy food and family get togethers!

    • John says:

      Not a problem Holly, happy to do so. I know it’s my blog, but being emotional is not my forte. But, then again, since it’s my blog I get to set the rules. πŸ™‚

  • Mandy @MoneyMasterMom says:

    I’m abundantly thankful for my three healthy children, a wonderful husband, a beautiful house that has become a home, and a world full of diversity (makes travelling way more fun.)

    I like the emotion John, but then I’m a girl… haha Happy Thanksgiving

    • John says:

      Thanks Mandy. I have to say that it’s not natural to me. But, as you know, being a parent is quite like nothing other in this world.

  • Michelle says:

    Great post πŸ™‚ I am thankful for a lot of things, and am very much looking for to Thanksgiving.

  • Pauline says:

    I am not half as thankful as I should be, but when having a crappy day, I always try to find three positive things. Today is a good day, I am thankful for a beautiful sunrise, bed sheets that fit after waking up against the mattress for the first few days, and my hands stopped hurting (after painting the wall they were all scratched and burning). Not celebrating thanksgiving but this year I am thankful for my family, a wonderful little niece and a beautiful new home.

    • John says:

      That’s a great perspective to have Pauline. It’s sometimes easier said than done. But, when I realize that I am so blessed and that many others don’t have what we have it brings me back to reality and the importance of being thankful.

      On a side note, I bet you get to see awesome sunrises in Guatemala! πŸ™‚

  • Jason @ WSL says:

    I love that JP is rockin’ the K-State outfit. Sorry about the loss this weekend…it was brutal. I was really pulling for them for they just didn’t bring it and Baylor was ready.

    My wife works Thanksgiving day, so I’m going over to my dad’s to spend some time with my little sisters, brother, and my step mom. It should be a good relaxing day with some food and football. I’d also share the same thoughts in regards to what I’m thankful for although I’d add that I’m thankful I live in the US and also for my Savior.

    Enjoy Thanksgiving (wait…I’m sure I’ll be back tomorrow)! πŸ™‚

    • John says:

      He usually is Jason, especially if Daddy dresses him! πŸ™‚ That loss sucked and it stung for a while. Hopefully we can bring it against Texas and close out the season with the Big 12 trophy.

      Sorry to hear that your wife has to work on Thanksgiving, but it sounds like you have a good day planned. I am immensely thankful for the things you listed as well.

  • Jennifer Lynn @ Broke-Ass Mommy says:

    You are far richer than any king, John. You and your lovely family have a great Thanksgiving this week.

  • Gillian @ Money After Graduation says:

    So sorry for your loss. You are very blessed to have a wonderful family. I am thankful for my family and loved ones, and to have the basic living essentials available in North America.

    • John says:

      Thanks Gillian. I really am blessed and thankful for it. I agree that we’re so blessed to be able to live in North America and have a lot of things that so much of the rest of the world does not.

  • DC @ Young Adult Money says:

    John – always appreciate the personal posts, you have an incredible story. I am thankful for my family and friends. I am also very thankful for health care, my job, and my house. Thanksgiving can be an emotional time for a lot of people, for good reason – there’s a lot to be thankful for!

    • John says:

      Thanks DC! Those are very good reasons to be thankful. It does not take long to see that we all have much to be thankful for.

  • Grayson @ Debt RoundUp says:

    Another good story John. I thankful for being around family during the holidays. While I enjoy the food, I really enjoy the company of family. There is nothing better than catching up with your family and enjoying some relaxation. I hope you have a good Thanksgiving.

    • John says:

      Thanks Grayson. I feel the same way, it’s great to spend that extended time with those who are important to you. You have a Happy Thanksgiving as well.

  • Roger @ The Chicago Financial Planner says:

    Wow as the father of three this post and the prior one about your son were very moving. I am thankful each day for our three ages 19, 22( as of tomorrow), and 24. I’m thankful that all of us will be under the same roof for the holiday. I’m especially thankful that our oldest will be home from LA we don’t see her nearly enough.

    While I know it doesn’t make up for the loss of your son, you are blessed with three beautiful children and I’m sure they are a source of joy in your life. As I look back on all my years as a parent I can’t remotely recall one day where I wasn’t thankful for each one of my kids.

    • John says:

      Thanks Roger. That’s awesome you get to spend the holiday with all of your kids. My Dad always told me how fast time would go when you get older, and I am seeing that come to fruition now.

      I would completely agree that I am blessed. We have three great kids and Isaac is still a part of our family that we talk about on a regular basis.

  • TB at BlueCollarWorkman says:

    I plan to spend thanksgiving with my family, being thankful for having them and eating lots of food and watching football. That’s my big plan. Like your story points out, you dont’ know how long you have people or what will happen tomorrow let alone next week, so I’ll be thankful for everyone I have this year and stuff my face with turkey while I’m at it.

  • Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter says:

    We always spend time with family doing the simple things like play games, going for walks, and just talking. It is the people in our life that we cherish the most. I always try to remember that on the days that I seem to lose site. Working in the cancer field I too am reminded of how precious life and time is.

    • John says:

      I bet that you are reminded of that daily Miss T. We like to do some of the same things and really just enjoy each others company.

  • Kim@Eyesonthedollar says:

    Thanks for sharing. If you can’t be emotional around the holidays, you’re wound too tight. I am thankful for my family and all that we have and that we are free to do or not do pretty much whatever we want without persecution.

  • Christopher @ This that and the MBA says:

    I am very thankful for my wife and kids….they are the world to me and without them i would be nothing… i reflect on thanksgiving i am thankful for living in the united states and having the opportunity presented to me….as with so many other countries in the world we live in a place where we can go outside and not have to worry about an attack or see somoen carrying a gun on the street

  • Mo' Money Mo' Houses says:

    Thanks for sharing. I definitely know what you mean about trying to give thanks everyday, not just on the holiday. Everyone really does have a lot to be thankful for and it’s important to keep that in perspective and never forget it.

  • Justin@thefrugalpath says:

    Thank you for sharing John. I am most thankful for my family. Especially my wife, niece and nephew. It’s amazing how the laugh of a child or smile of an infant can make everything that is bad go away.

  • Canadianbudgetbinder says:

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family. One thing that really caught me in your post is about giving thanks every day not just on Thanksgiving. There are days I wake up in the morning and I kid you not I’m thankful for waking up and being alive. At any point anything could happen to anyone and our life is just that precious. Don’t sweat the small stuff in life and come to terms with the big stuff, smile and move on. Memories good or bad will always have a place in our hearts, our lives but enjoy every day and be thankful for what we are blessed with. Cheers John…. Mr.CBB

    • John says:

      Thanks Mr. CBB. I could not have said it better myself. Sweating the small stuff will unfortunately just give you a lot of heartache.

  • Savvy Scot says:

    No we’re not rich in cash, but we’re rich in so many other ways that matters so much more than money.

    Nailed it in one. You are a very lucky man and your kids look awesome! Although we don’t celebrate thanksgiving in the UK, I take the opportunity to reconnect with people around me and remind them how grateful I am.

  • Budget & the Beach says:

    Beautiful family! I think the hardest thing is to find thanks when you’re going through a lot of turmoil. I feel the same way in my own situation. I know it could be worse, and I know I have the opportunity to come out of it, hopefully in once piece. πŸ™‚

    • John says:

      Thanks TL! I completely agree. It can be difficult to be thankful when you’re going through turmoil. That said though, I’ve also found that it can be a great time to see just how blessed you are. Trust me, I know it’s not easy, but it can be done. I’ve found through those experiences that the best thing to do is to take the focus off of myself and put it on others. That usually allows me to see just how much I have been blessed. I hope that makes sense. πŸ™‚

  • Veronica @ Pelican on Money says:

    A beautiful post John! Your hooligans are so adorable πŸ™‚ I used to think money would make me happy, but eventually realized money doesn’t do anything besides making bills go away. What really matters is our family and friends. Looks like you have a very deep understanding and appreciation of this and I’m happy for you.

    • John says:

      Thanks Veronica! They can be, when they’re not trying to bring the house down that is. πŸ™‚ I was there one time to as well, but money is not the end all be all. I am a very blessed man and for that I am thankful.

  • James @ Free in Ten Years says:

    Just wanted to say thank you for this post and your previous post about Isaac, they have been very moving. We all have a lot to be thankful for. For me, my beautiful partner keeps me going when life sucks.

    • John says:

      Not a problem James, glad to do so. Yes, so many of us have been blessed in so many ways. Having someone to go through life with definitely is tops on the list.

  • K.K. @ Living Debt Free Rocks! says:

    Another wonderful post John and you have beautiful children. Although my husband left for Thailand this morning and we won’t be able to celebrate Thanksgiving together tomorrrow I am so thankful that he was able to take this work opportunity and I am really proud of him. I am thankful for all the good and the bad that life brings for I am wiser for it and better able to handle when to going gets rough. Family and friends are priceless, my career is a blessing. Life is beautiful.

  • Jason Clayton | frugal habits says:

    Thanks for sharing John. Your story on Monday about the loss of your son, Isaac, was very sad and touching. I have never lost a child, so I can only understand it from the outside looking in – but I’m certain it changes you forever. Thank you for sharing your emotions and thoughts on such a hard part of your life.

  • Catherine says:

    Gah I though I had commented on this, another great post πŸ™‚ You have a beautiful family and it’s great that you recognize the beauty in it despite the turmoil you’ve been through. Happy Thanksgiving weekend!

    • John says:

      No problem Catherine, I do it all the time. πŸ™‚ Thanks as well for your kind words, I think turmoil has a great way of showing how blessed you really are. You have a great weekend as well.

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