Why we're thankful: Residents remember Thanksgiving

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On Thursday, somewhere between stuffing the Thanksgiving turkey and sleeping it off on the sofa, we will pause and give thanks for our bounty of food, family, friends -- and all that holds meaning in our lives.

We asked some East residents to reflect on this year's joys and struggles and to share what they are most grateful for this holiday.

"My family was able to buy our first house this year. We were looking for two years and couldn't find anything within our price range. I remember praying: 'God, I surrender. Help us find something.'

"Shortly after, the mother of my daughter's boyfriend's friend got an out-of-state job promotion and sold her house to us before putting it on the market. It was such a blessing. Moving there gave my family a fresh start."

-- Jillyn Jackson, North Huntingdon

"At the end of February, the day after I got my tax refund, I was at a gas station and bought several $10 scratch-off lottery tickets. They were losers, and I was ready to walk out when the cashier tossed a 'lucky' quarter on the counter and suggested I try once more. On this ticket I won $777. I was able to pay off that month's bills and even some for March."

-- Brian Pandolph, Irwin

"I found out I'm going to be a grandmother for the first time. My daughter-in-law is due in February. She and my son are so suited for each other ... I'm thankful because their joy is my joy."

-- Cathy Keegan, Sutersville

"I adopted a brand new crazy kitten, Rosylin, who's now 7 months old. I found her in June on the side of the road when she was just 4 weeks old. ... I'm thankful she came into my life because she makes me laugh, and some days it takes a lot to make me laugh."

-- Cathey Means, Jeannette

"My niece, Gasia Thomas, 13, who lives in my hometown of Cleveland, was finally able to go home from the hospital in June. I'm so thankful for that. On Nov. 1, 2012, after Hurricane Sandy caused damage and knocked down power lines in her area, she went outside to play and wound up touching a live wire. She was critically injured ... and had countless surgeries. While she was unconscious, I told her, 'If you wake up, I'll take you anywhere in the world.' I'm just waiting for her to decide where."

-- Carl Lewis, Rankin

"I got a job as a store cashier in September after being unemployed for years. It's made such a huge difference in the lives of me and my daughter. ... I want to go to school to be a writer, and now I'm able to put money away to work towards that goal."

-- Haley Gentry, Braddock

"I was asked to be a godmother to my great niece's baby girl. It meant a lot because there are so many others she could have chosen. Having that connection is special, and I'm thankful to be a part of something that will affect the rest of her life."

-- Ashley Clever, McKeesport

"My mother lost her job in October 2012, and she finally got another one a few weeks ago. We struggled for a year. I had to get a job instead of going to college. My mom's work is a big relief for us ... our life is starting to turn around."

-- Kelia Riddell, North Huntingdon

"In January, my husband, Barry Martin, was in the hospital for two weeks with congestive heart failure and pneumonia. It was touch-and-go for a while, but he recovered. ... I'm thankful he made it because we've been married for 58 years and have a great-granddaughter. We want to be a part of her life as long as we can."

-- Dorothy Martin, North Braddock

"I'm thankful for the Sept. 30 birth and survival of my son, William Albert IV, who we call Liam. He contracted chorioamnionitis, a condition in pregnant women where the membranes that surround the fetus and amniotic fluid are infected by bacteria. We only got to hold him for a half-hour before they took him to ICU; he was there for over a week. But my wife, Leslie, is fine and Liam is healthy."

-- William Bake, Swissvale

"In January, my kitten got out and went up a neighbor's steps; when I went to get it, I slipped on ice and broke a bone in my knee. I was off work all February and March. I'm still recovering, but I'm much better.

"But back then, so many people helped me out. A lady who comes in to play the lottery at the store I work at gave me $100 when she heard I had no income for those two months. Neighbors paid one month's rent. People called often to check on me. I was really overwhelmed by the generosity and support."

-- Jack Couch, Wilmerding

"I left a job I was miserable at, a manager at a corporate restaurant. Now, I'm bartending and back to school for nursing. It was a tough decision because I had amazing benefits, a retirement plan and everything. But I chose to be happy. I'm thankful that I'm doing what I want in my life."

-- Eileen Wing, Monroeville

"My son, Jorden, graduated in May with honors from Norwin High School. ... He worked hard and was accepted into the engineering program at the University of Pittsburgh. My husband, Tim, and I are thankful that we were blessed with such a smart and talented young man."

-- Sherri Hill, North Huntingdon

"My son's 23-year-old girlfriend died on March 12 after fighting a 2½-year battle with leukemia, and my son and I were having a lot of trouble grieving. Friends of theirs at Bard College in New York planned a delayed memorial for Sept. 15. During the gap, my son and I were still unable to fully feel the loss. It was the memorial service that allowed us to accept and move forward. It was the most extraordinary experience on so many levels."

-- Diane Law, Churchill

"I got pregnant this year, which is a miracle. I had medical issues, but I changed my lifestyle and lost weight. I'm due April 24 and am so thankful that I get the opportunity to be a mother and bring a new life into the world."

-- Jessica Bihary, Pitcairn

"My dad turned 89 on Sept. 21, and my mother turned 85 on April 5. My mother is a cancer survivor and on dialysis. I feel extremely blessed to still have them as a very influential part of my life."

-- James Thompson III, Murrysville

"My wife paid off one of her student loans in October, which freed up a few hundred dollars per month for other expenses. I'm thankful because this will assist us in supporting our growing family. My wife just found out she's pregnant."

-- Brad Minnigh, Wilkinsburg

"I'm thankful my family adopted a new doggie, Bridgette, from Action for Animals. It's awesome to rescue an adult dog that has been at the shelter for a while; she knows the ropes and is really compliant. My wife and I have five kids, so we have lots of hands that pet her tummy."

-- Alex Graziani, Greensburg

"I got a new job at a convenience store in April. I used to work in retail, but it didn't have enough hours. This job came as a blessing. It happened a week after my birthday and as soon as I got a new car. Before that, I was really penny-pinching."

-- Reshay Giles, North Versailles

"I re-established a lifelong friendship this year. A very good friend stopped talking to me last year ... in September, he came to my workplace and apologized. It was a really big thing for me. We went back to our 20-year friendship and picked up right where we left off. My having the ability to forgive and his being a big enough person to face the conflict and apologize was a big blessing to me."

-- Nichole Demos, Plum

As told to freelance writer Kathy Samudovsky: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com

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