If you spend enough time on Facebook, you’ve probably seen people this month participating in the 30 Days of Thanks. Every day in Novemeber, participants post something they’re thankful for. It’s a lovely idea, although I freely admit some of the statuses have made me laugh and roll my eyes. I saw one post where a woman stated she was thankful for hair and that she did not have to worry about male pattern baldness. (Admit it, you find that particular bit of thanksgiving a bit funny too, don’t you?)
I did not participate in the 30 Days of Thanks, and I won’t bore you with a list of 30 things. But I do want to take today to mention four things I am thankful for (hardly a comprehensive list). I hope everybody has a few moments in the insanity of cooking, family gatherings, and football to think of a few things in your life that you’re grateful for.

1) My family.

It’s a standard answer that you hear a lot, but that doesn’t make it less true. I like to say that my family is abnormally normal. I didn’t realize this until I went to college, but every year I take the time to appreciate how close my family is. For example, I have never seen my parents fight. Disagree, yes, but never have they had an angry confrontation where I could see it. So I am thankful for their example, and that they taught me that disagreements can be handled in a calm, rational manner without the need to resort to shouting or insults. They also taught me that there are men who willingly do dishes and laundry. Go, Dad!

2) The internet.

No, I’m not saying that just to be funny, I really am thankful for the internet. I remember being taught to use a card catalogue in the library in elementary school. I remember using it once or twice in middle school. And I remember how much easier it was to do research when the card catalogue was moved online. As somebody who aspires to at least passible accuracy in her writing, I cannot understate how wonderful it is to have access to so much information with a few keystrokes.

And it’s not just research. I have made some great friends online. Email, chatrooms, skype, google hangouts, facebook and all the other ways the internet has come up with to help people meet or to stay connected with old friends, I am thankful for them all!

3) It’s the 21st century

There are so many facets to this particular bit of thanks, but I’ll only touch on a few. Mobility is one. I live over 800 miles from the rest of my family, yet I can get there in a few hours. Medicine is another. Enough research into Regency medicine will make anybody grateful for the scientific approach to medicine we have these days.

The biggest part of this bit of thankfulness, however, is due to the amazing societal advancements in gender equality. (Don’t ask me how it came about, cause I don’t remember, but sexism has been a hot-button topic for me since I was about 6 and is still a pet peeve of mine.) I was encouraged to further my education, and nobody batted an eye when I chose a career in science. Women can own property, and I am thankful to own my condo. I am thankful to live in a time where, if a man beats his wife, he has committed a crime not exercised a completely acceptable form of discipline over his ‘property’. I am thankful to live in a time where my value as a human being is determined by more than my ability to cook, clean, and bear children (I’m passible at the first, hate doing the second, and have yet to meet a man that has tempted me to attempt the third). I have the final word on what happens to my body, and I am thankful for that as well.

There is still plenty of room for further progress. Subtle biases in perceptions of men and women result in men being judged more competent than women on the basis of identical applications. (Here is a rundown of that article in less technical terms for a quicker read.) When women do get hired, they often get paid less for the same work. And there are a few difficulties in the other direction as well. For example paternity leave is not as accepted in the workplace as is maternity leave. But there is no denying that much progress has been made. I hope the trend continues.

4) Jane Austen and Jane Austen Fanfiction.

Did you think I was going to forget? Not likely. Jane Austen’s novels have been a comfort and a source of inspiration since I first read Pride and Prejudice eight years ago. I have gotten countless hours of entertainment out of her stories and the many what-if scenarios created my other authors. And that’s to say nothing of the community surrounding her works. What started out as a diversion from graduate school has grown into a full-blown obsession, complete with mutually-obsessed friends. (Hi gals! You know who you are!) Rarely does a day go by without spending some time with Jane or fellow Janites, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.