As another year winds down and the holidays draw near, I like to take a little time to pause and consider all the things for which I am thankful.

Most of all, I am thankful for the last year with my son. It never ceases to amaze me how much he changes and grows with each passing year, and this year has certainly been no exception. In the last 10 months or so, he's learned and done so much.

He caught his first fish, and my dad taught him how to paddle the canoe during his first trip "up country." He learned to ride his bicycle without training wheels, and has started helping me around the house quite a bit more than he used to when he was younger. As part of the double-edged sword which is being a parent, I can't wait to see what he will accomplish in the coming months, even though it's a little sad to watch him slowly grow up knowing someday he'll strike out on his own as a young man.

I am thankful for my family, especially my mom and dad, who help me take care of Shane during the week so that I can come to work here every day. They have both carved significant places in my son's life and heart just by being there for him each day. Dad teaches Shane useful skills, like how to stack wood, and mom is always there for Shane the second he gets off the school bus — usually with some awesome after school snack like oatmeal cookies.

I have also been blessed with a new family this year, having reconnected with an old boyfriend, Mark, who has now grown to become a big part of my life, as has his daughter, Tyana, and her infant son, Brian. Mark and his family have been quite unexpected yet welcomed additions to my world and I look forward to having many more years of building new memories with each of them.

I am very grateful to be a part of what I consider to be the best newspaper staff working in the state of Maine these days (alright, I am admittedly a little biased). We all have a great time here, even during the days when things aren't going so smoothly, and we occasionally celebrate our successes, birthdays and holidays with a group trip to a well-known local tavern. We often invite friends, relatives and significant others to come along for the ride, and no matter what transpires throughout the night it's a pretty sure bet we'll all have our share of laughs before the final beer glass is emptied.

That said, I apologize in advance to anyone in the community we might annoy with the foolishness that often erupts during these outings. We mean no harm, we only wish to spread the festivities around.

That reminds me. I am also thankful for those who can appreciate all the kinds of people (like us) who make the world go around, and try to keep people smiling in the process.

I am also appreciative for little things that happened throughout the year, seemingly random events that led to cherished memories for me. Like that time I ran into three friends and former co-workers, completely by chance, while on assignment at Common Ground Fair this year. It had been quite a few years since all of us had been in the same zip code, let alone the same exact location, and the accidental meeting gave me the chance to catch up with a dear friend, former Journal photographer Tina Shute.

I am sure there are many things I have left out, seeing how I have a limited amount of space I can use to express my thoughts in a given week. It doesn't mean those things are in any way less meaningful to me, and if anything, I feel that's a sure indicator that one has lived a very full life over the last year.

I believe I have. And for that, too, I am thankful.