Along with the arrival of the holiday season comes a time to reflect on the past year; the joys and sorrows, accomplishments and disappointment, the changes.

For my family, 2016 brought plenty of all those things.

Our daughter and youngest child graduated from high school and left home to attend Texas Tech University, and after 26 years of marriage and three kids, The Husband and I became empty nesters.

Our oldest son DJ began his second year of medical school and our son Aaron began his senior year at Texas State University.

For Aaron, it’s been a particularly hard year. He lost two of his best friends in tragic accidents and the grief has been profound.

We have grown individually and as a family. There were lots of lessons to be learned in 2016, none more meaningful than the importance of family and friends.

The older I get the more emotional I seem to become. I suppose it has something to do with the fact that life seems to be whipping by me at speeds faster than I expected.

I hope with my increasing age comes more than just wrinkles and a need to drastically increase my workouts. I hope I am wiser, kinder, more thoughtful, empathetic and understanding.

Many of the things that once seemed important barely register in my mind these days. And as the holiday season begins to reveal itself, I am once again reminded of the many blessings I should be counting.

Like many of you, I will gather with family Thursday to celebrate Thanksgiving.

For the first time in five months, we will have all three kids under one roof for a few days.

That - along with their good health - is what I am most thankful for.

But there are other things, many of which we take for granted, that we should stop and consider this holiday season.

With an election behind us, we should forget all the ugliness and be thankful for a democracy where we get to choose our leaders. It is a beautiful thing, even if it doesn’t go the way we hoped.

As the days get shorter and the nights grow colder, I am thankful for a warm home, soft blankets, electricity and running water.

I am thankful for a job that allows me to tell the stories of this community while earning a nice living doing what I love.

I am thankful for the decision my husband and I made 26 years ago to make Texas our home.

We were just 20 years old when we packed our worldly belongings into a U-Haul and left California for a place where we didn't have a single friend.

Today we have more than we can count and I am thankful for each of them.

I am thankful for my mom who never stops caring for me and my family. I am thankful for my mother-in-law and father-in-law who raised a son who grew up to be a smart, loving, hardworking husband and terrific father.

I am thankful for my extended family - brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews and cousins - who never let me feel alone.

I am thankful for sunshine, laughter, good books, education, long dinners, forgiveness and unconditional love.

As we celebrate the season, I hope each of you have as much to be grateful for.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Sara Vanden Berge is the managing editor of the Empire-Tribune and Glen Rose Reporter. She can be reached at 254-965-3124. Follow her on Twitter @ETEditor.