Without a doubt, November is my favorite month because of Thanksgiving. I think about how often I drive to work in the morning, the brilliant red sun rising. Sometimes I am so spoiled by that sight that I fail to pause for a moment to give thanks. I love November because we actually stop to give thanks for all of our blessings.

Since childhood, I have realized the blessing of my family. From sharing laughter and the dayís events at the dinner table to riding our bicycles to our grandparentsí house every day, my eight brothers and sisters and I have treasured each other throughout our lives. Sometimes 11 personalities (including my parents) under one roof could get tough, so I am also grateful for the gift of forgiveness that is a blessing in any relationship.

I am grateful for my brothers- and sisters-in-law, too. I always tease them that, unlike us, they had a choice to join such a large family, but I know weíre blessed that they did. Thanks to them, I have 22 nieces and nephews who are certainly the joy of my life. They bring laughter, hope and such incredible love into my life.

My mom is a blessing I canít imagine living without. She exudes strength and faith and loves me without question. She has suffered through such difficult life experiences but has never let them make her bitter or broken. I often pray I can be half as strong and as faithful as my mom.

Every day of my life, I miss my dad, my sister, Ann, my brother, Tim, and my grandparents, but I must admit at Thanksgiving the pain seems to grow deeper. Memories of our Thanksgiving dinners together make me long to spend just one more day with them, though I know Iíd want another and another. I remind myself, though, how blessed I am to have had such love, and Iím grateful that I have the faith that allows me to believe I will indeed see them again one day.

I donít know what Iíd do without the blessing of my friends. When Iím with them, I know I can be myself. My friends from Peoria and the friends I have met since I moved to the Valley have surrounded me with love and support through lifeís most difficult challenges and lifeís greatest joys.

I am grateful to my students, past and present, for reminding me why I decided to become a teacher and for recognizing that I take my job of preparing them for the future seriously. Although they bring me some immense challenges, they also bring me infinite joy. My studentsí parents who still know what it takes to be a great parent and who arenít afraid to do it are also true blessings in my life.

Each day as I stand with my students to say the Pledge of Allegiance, I am reminded of the blessing of countless men and women who have answered the call to serve our country, making it possible for me to write this column and for so many Americans to enjoy a delicious feast Thanksgiving Day.

For about nine months, my column did not appear in print. This Thanksgiving, I am extremely grateful to Dennis Wade, regional vice president of ACM South Texas Publications, and to Brad Nibert, editor for the Valley Town Crier, for giving me the opportunity to return to print. You have no idea what a blessing your support and encouragement have been.

I am grateful for my comfortable home, my Camry, the birds that land in my backyard, my job and the life I have been given.

And I am blessed by all of you who read this column and all who take a minute to send me an email. Thank you for allowing me to come into your homes each week to share with you the educational issues important to our children.

I love November and I love Thanksgiving. And I am grateful that I am so blessed.

Chris Ardis is in her 27th year of teaching, 26 of those with McAllen ISD. Visit her web site at www.chrisardis.com for education news and to read articles by McAllen Mayor Richard Cortez, Shelley Bryant, Edna Posada, Dr. Ben Aguilar and Lorena Castillo.