Giving Thanks

One of my best thanksgiving memories is from 2003, back when I was still living my old student lifestyle.

To be completely honest, I wasn’t really a student at that point in my life. But the only real difference between 2003 and 2000 was that I was teaching classes rather than taking them. My habits, hobbies, and income hadn’t really changed from my student days, and I still felt like a student at heart.

A couple days before the real Thanksgiving, my friend Ian said to me: “We should get people together and have Thanksgiving tonight.”

“My stove doesn’t work,” I said. “And I don’t know how to make stuffing.”

He shook his head. “No. We should all go to the store and buy some kind of food we’re thankful for. Then we get together and share it.”

And that’s what we did. That night we ate taco dip and poppin fresh biscuits. We had fried mushrooms and shrimp and mountain dew. We had nutty bars and ice cream and a bunch of other things I can’t even remember.

We gathered round, ate these wonderful things, enjoyed each other’s company, and watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Times have changed since then. These days, most of my friend have left town. I miss them terribly, but I have a different sort of family now. More specifically, I have a baby.

I’m going to post up a picture of him. Because it’s my blog and I can do whatever I want.

Apparently megalomania is genetic.

Today I’m taking a break from copyediting and posting more Worldbuilders books. That means I have time to do one of my favorite things. I get to have lunch with Sarah and Oot at the Olympic.

The Olympic is a restaurant I’ve been eating at for years. Sarah and I had one of our first dates there. And she tells me that once, years before we met, she watched me from a nearby booth, eavesdropping, lust simmering in her innocent young heart.

These days going to the Olympic is fun for me because I get to feed little Oot.

For months I had nothing to do with this. Sarah breastfeeds, and because she’s stay-at-home Oot can get a snack pretty much whenever he wants, straight from the tap. But now he’s over a year old, and while he still loves the boob, he’s eating solid foods too.

I order the chicken soup and give him parts of it. A noodle. A little chicken. A bit of celery. A little piece of carrot that’s soft enough for me to cut up with my spoon.

Oot investigates these things. He pokes them with a finger, then crams them into his mouth. It is not unlike the way his daddy eats, though his daddy tries to be more genteel in public.

I have a lot to be thankful for. My first book has met with stupefying success. I have an understanding editor who has given me the time to turn my second book into something I can be proud of. My work is being translated into thirty languages. I have awards. I have money in the bank.

But none of that makes me as happy as lunch with Oot. I give him a piece of lettuce from my sandwich. A piece of tomato that I bite in half for him. A little bit of turkey. He moves them around on his little plastic mat, then pokes them happily into his drooly little baby maw.

I was a fan of Heifer International long before I ever considered having a kid. I donated money. I got weepy when I read Beatrice’s Goat.  I gave goats and chickens and sheep as Christmas presents.

But now that I have a baby, it’s something else entirely. I can’t imagine how I would feel if I couldn’t get enough food for my baby.

Actually, that’s not true. I have a very good imagination. I can imagine exactly what it would be like to not have enough food for my baby. It’s a horrifying feeling. It’s a huge feeling. When I think about not being able to feed my baby, my mind brushes up against the edge of something very big and dark in my head. Like nighttime swimmer who feels something firmly bump against his foot.

They say any civilization is three meals away from barbarism. And now, having a child, I believe it’s true. If I couldn’t get Oot the food he needed, I think I would do monstrous things. Barring that, I think some part of me would break and never, ever be right again. Not ever.

Still at the Olympic, I give Oot my whole deli pickle mostly out of curiosity. He pokes it, then picks the whole thing up and bites off the end. He makes an indescribable face. Then he takes another bite. At first it looks like he’s going to eat the whole thing. Then he holds it out to me, and I take a bite. I made a face and he laughs. He takes another bite, then holds it out for me again.

I am very lucky. I think this all the time. I have a warm house. I have a healthy baby. Not only do I have food for him, but we have food enough so that eating it can be a form of play.

This is why I started Worldbuilders.

When I started making serious money off my first book, it was nice. I paid off my credit card. I earned enough so I could get a mortgage on a house. But other than ordering a slightly better brand of frozen burrito, my lifestyle hasn’t changed that much. It’s nice to be able to order Chinese takeout whenever I want. But really, money hasn’t made me noticeably happier.

Matching donations through Worldbuilders makes me happy. It’s my new hobby. I look forward to it all year long.

Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes I see the donation thermometer jump up by a thousand dollars and I flinch a bit.

Then I remember that 120 dollars buys a family a goat. I think about children drinking milk. Not just one morning. Every morning. I think about children eating eggs. I think about mothers and fathers selling the extra milk and wool and eggs to buy things they need to have a better life.

And then I’m happy.

After we finish up at the Olympic, I run some errands. At Shopko, I see a little bath set. It’s got a little comb, and some bubble stuff, and a yellow sponge duck.

Oot loves ducks. It’s one of his favorite words. We could play with this in the bathtub.

And I almost buy it before I realize how stupid this is. We have combs at home. We have stuff that makes bubbles. I would be paying twenty bucks for a bunch of plastic packaging and a sponge duck. For twenty bucks, I could get a flock of chicks from Heifer.

And once I think of it in these terms, it’s easy not to buy this useless piece of crass commercial shit. Oot is deliriously happy playing with a cardboard tube or one of the rubber ducks that we already have in the house. He doesn’t need this.

When I get home from errands, the first thing I do is check the donation totals. I’m really hoping we can get the thermometer up to 130,000 dollars again this year. Maybe more. It would be great if we could beat last year’s total.

The thermometer has gone up another 500 bucks. That’s good. That’s another $250 I’ll be kicking into the pot. That’s six goats and a bunch of chickens.

That’s a lot to be thankful for.

Have a good turkey day everyone,

pat

P.S. Just in case you want to wander over to the Worldbuilders donation page, here’s the link…

This entry was posted in day in the life, Heifer International, musings, my student days, Oot, SarahBy Pat31 Responses

31 Comments

  1. noregsson
    Posted November 25, 2010 at 6:29 PM | Permalink

    Not only a great author, but a great father, and a great person. I can say these things because I’ve read your book, I’ve read your blog, and I’ve been inspired by it all. You’ve made the world a little bit more beautiful in my eyes, and I thank you for that.

  2. Posted November 25, 2010 at 6:43 PM | Permalink

    The way you write is greatly inspiring. It’s the biggest reason I read your blog. Sure it’s very entertaining, but that’s just the icing on a complex cake.

  3. Posted November 25, 2010 at 6:44 PM | Permalink

    great blog as always. thanks for sharing. by the way, the megalomaniac Oot picture is the greatest baby picture ive ever seen. and i dont even like babies.

    happy holidays friend.

    • Yoni
      Posted November 25, 2010 at 10:48 PM | Permalink

      @garitd

      “i dont even like babies.”

      Who doesn’t like babies? Monsters … that’s who. Almost as bad as people who don’t punctuate “dont” properly and people who answer their own rhetorical questions.

      • Posted November 26, 2010 at 2:20 AM | Permalink

        Nah. I get it. I never really dug on babies until I had one myself….

  4. wolfeyez77
    Posted November 25, 2010 at 6:49 PM | Permalink

    Being a new father (almost 3 weeks now), I found this entry very touching, and extremely relatable. Thank you for the examples, of how much even $20 could help out a family in need – Your example of the rubber duckies and sharing lunch with your son are images that I’ll carry, and look forward to. I intend to make a small contribution as well. Happy Thanks giving all.

  5. llyralei
    Posted November 25, 2010 at 6:49 PM | Permalink

    You, sir, are an inspiration. Happy Thanksgiving to my favourite author and his family. <3

  6. Posted November 25, 2010 at 6:49 PM | Permalink

    This reminds me a little bit of an experience I’ve had the last couple of years. For most of our relationship, my husband and I both had full-time jobs and little-to-no credit card debt, which meant that, come Christmas, we could afford to get all kinds of awesome stuff for our friends: beautiful gift books, craft supplies, electronics, what have you. Not that we bought stuff just for the sake of buying them stuff – we just loved getting things for people that we knew they’d greatly enjoy and that they’d never get for themselves.

    Then we moved across the country, and (thanks to many, many unforeseen expenses) racked up a fair amount of debt doing so. And while my husband has a fantastic job that he likes quite a bit, the economy’s a little different in this section of the US, and I’ve only been able to find part-time work at best. So while we’re progressing on paying off the debt, bit by bit, it’s not going very quickly, which has put our Christmas-present plans on hold, as well as many of the major expenditures we were planning for ourselves.

    But you know what? Last year, we sent out plain ol’ Christmas cards with personalized notes to our friends, and not a one of them demanded to know what had happened to their camera/Absolute Sandman/concert tickets that year. Instead we got thanks, and inquiries as to how we were holding up (it was just after the move), and gifts from those who could afford it and were stubborn enough to ignore our “no gifts, please” for that year. And this year, thanks to generosity from family, we’re much farther along in chipping away at our debt, and even though I haven’t been able to find full-time work, I’ve got a job I like much better than my full-time gigs in the past and have even, for the first time, had the time and confidence to participate in NaNoWriMo. And I’ve had several friends tell me they’re particularly looking forward to our Christmas card this year, despite the fact that there will likely be no gift attached to them.

    It’s wonderful to have bounty and be able to share with the people one cares for. But it’s even more wonderful to have friends who care about you more than they do about the commercial gain you might bring them. And I am so thankful that my husband and I are still able to make ends meet, even if it means doing with a little less – there are so many out there, even in our own country, who are far worse off.

  7. Baldsilver
    Posted November 25, 2010 at 6:51 PM | Permalink

    that was a nice blog. We do have lots to be thankful for. But on a side note, mate, your kid has three fingers, i think he’s stewie griffin brought into this world. Try and see if he speaks with an english accent. Then…you know.

  8. saphillips
    Posted November 25, 2010 at 6:54 PM | Permalink

    Don’t change.

  9. evilsynx
    Posted November 25, 2010 at 7:01 PM | Permalink

    Maybe I’m confused, not sure, but I just read your post and was inspired and donated to Heifer… After I donated through your link, I went to their site, and they asked me to sign up so of course I tried to do that, but on the sign up form, they asked me for another donation… it kinda threw me for a loop. I wound up leaving the donation text box empty, but that just felt wrong. :(

    • Posted November 26, 2010 at 12:58 AM | Permalink

      The Worldbuilders team page and the main Heifer website are two different websites. They’re run by the same place, but they’re still separate.

      I think that might be what caused the confusion.

  10. thechessqueen
    Posted November 25, 2010 at 7:07 PM | Permalink

    I’ll admit it, that post made me laugh out loud and then cry a little towards the end.
    Thanks for being so damn awesome Pat. :)

    Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

  11. Ward
    Posted November 25, 2010 at 7:12 PM | Permalink

    i’ve been following your blog for some time and while i know what heifer stands for i never really donated, because i can’t spare the money, being a “poor” student from belgium, but know i love your blog and espacially this entry (epic baby picture). But know when the moment comes that i have money to spare a part will certainly end up at heifer.

  12. jaimo
    Posted November 25, 2010 at 7:21 PM | Permalink

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  13. SunTzu
    Posted November 25, 2010 at 7:23 PM | Permalink

    You *do* know that goats dont lay eggs right? Just checking ;)

    Keep up the good work!

  14. Malana
    Posted November 25, 2010 at 7:48 PM | Permalink

    For the past ten years or so, my paternal Grandmother made donations to Heifer International rather than buying gifts for her children and grandchildren (the youngest grands got gifts until they were old enough to understand what the donations meant). It was a charity that Ema really believed in, and I was always happy to know that what money she could spare was going to something really worthy, rather than to some material object I would probably enjoy, but certainly didn’t need.

    When she passed away a few years ago, I decided that my Christmas’s gifts to my Dad would now be making donations to Heifer in his mother’s honor. When I heard about Worldbuilder’s I was over joyed. One of the biggest things that my grandmother instilled in me was a love of books. As a child I spent at least one afternoon a week with her for years, and reading with her was always a big part of it. As I grew up and went of to college, one of the first things she’d ask when I’d see her was what I’d been reading lately. I wish so badly that I could tell her about the amazing thing you’ve built here.

    I haven’t made my donation yet this year (still figuring out my budget) but I just wanted to say thank you for generating so much interest for such a worthy cause.

  15. worldtraveler
    Posted November 25, 2010 at 7:55 PM | Permalink

    I think this is my favorite post of yours to date. I’m thankful for Heifer International, Worldbuilders, your awesomeness, and the wonderful comments left by your fans.

    All of this makes me hopeful for this little planet of ours.

  16. maine character
    Posted November 25, 2010 at 8:30 PM | Permalink

    You, sir, are a class act.

  17. bremon
    Posted November 25, 2010 at 9:36 PM | Permalink

    1. You’re awesome
    2. Oot’s adorable, especially when megalomaniacal
    3. Wise Man’s Fear is four months away!
    4. i donated…even though i’m now a starving (freezing) student
    5. Happy Thanksgiving!

  18. azick375
    Posted November 25, 2010 at 9:46 PM | Permalink

    I also have a new baby this year and found myself in tears when you talked about the feeling you would have if you could not give your little guy all the food he needed. I can imagine this feeling and it makes me sick to my stomach. I am going to go donate money right now because I am thankful this Thanksgiving to have the means to be able to help out someone else who might not be able to give their child all they want to be able to.

  19. Albender
    Posted November 26, 2010 at 5:04 AM | Permalink

    Ok I am sold. I am going to donate next week when I get paid at the end of the month, even I have to drop off some extra cash as I live in Spain.

    I have a little girl named Emma. Born August 1st 2010.
    I know how you feel because it’s exactly how I feel.

    In fact, hell, let’s admit it, I am a Pat Rothfuss-wannabe!
    Oh well…
    Keep the good job.
    Albert

  20. TimAZ
    Posted November 26, 2010 at 7:07 AM | Permalink

    This is a beautiful post. You’re inspiring a lot of people like me to think a bit more and do a bit more. It’s cool to know that one of your favorite authors is actually a pretty decent human being too.

  21. Rashonda
    Posted November 26, 2010 at 4:42 PM | Permalink

    My friends and I are all broke, but we somehow still manage to get gifts for each other. This year, I am convincing them all to donate to this instead. Yeah….the donations may only be 10-15 bucks a piece but drops in the bucket matter.

    Thank you. You rock it Sir, you totally rock it.

  22. Tashandtwo
    Posted November 26, 2010 at 4:51 PM | Permalink

    I love moments like that with my kids, though i have always regretted not writing them down. Oot is a very cute chappy.

    Enjoy your Thanksgiving!

    *as an aside you may want to check that the name to the end of the pictures’ embiggening link is one you wanted to be displayed (i can’t tell if its a place name or not) – or feel free to ignore me :)

  23. Posted November 26, 2010 at 5:24 PM | Permalink

    Pat, not only are you totally awesome, but your maniacally-gesturing son has inspired me to get off my lazy butt and start throwing money at cows.

    Seeing as I don’t have an Ootlet of my own, it makes sense to vicariously look after others’.

    You both rock!

  24. Dryft
    Posted November 26, 2010 at 11:05 PM | Permalink

    That is, by far, one of the best shots of a child I’ve ever seen. A truly happy baby.

  25. Jaku
    Posted November 30, 2010 at 12:21 PM | Permalink

    Oot: “Behold my power! Soon, very soon, I will reign over this household!” Hope y’all had a great one, Mr. Rothfuss.

  26. chat
    Posted February 26, 2012 at 3:22 AM | Permalink

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