Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Civil Discourse


Facebook. Twitter. Messenger. Civil discourse isn't so civil anymore. Here's how I imagine it going with several friends of mine. I freely apologize for using their names...

Anny: Did you see that peach pie recipe on FB? They used raisins. Ew! Raisins!

Amarinda: What's wrong with raisins? Maybe some people like raisins.

Jane: That's right! Raisins are just dried grapes. They're fruit!

Anny: But raisins...in peach pie. Gross. That's worse that apples and cranberries.

Cindy: I happen to like apples and cranberries and nuts.

Amarinda: Nuts? What kind of nuts?

Cindy: Uh, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts...

Amarinda: Huh. I'd rather eat mangoes. And pineapples.

Jane: Bananas are good.

Cindy: Apples. Apples and cheese.

Anny: Colby cheese.

Jane: Mozzarella. Maybe cheddar.

Amarinda: Why would you ruin good fruit with cheese? Don't rodents eat cheese?

Anny: Not if you keep it in the fridge. Besides, a good cat will take care of a rodent.

Jane: I'm allergic. I like dogs.

Cindy: Me, too. Dogs. BIG dogs.

Jane: Little dogs.

Amarinda: Chooks. Chooks are the best.

Jane: Well, I have to go feed the pony.

Amarinda: I have to go to work.

Cindy: I have to go write.

Anny: I have to go bake bread.

Helen: Frogs. Green frogs. And green grapes...

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Things I Don't Understand

Why do we call Wednesday 'hump' day? Why not Thursday which is exactly half way through the week? Or are we implying only work days count? And if so, what about all the folks that don't work? Is Wednesday their 'hump' day, too?

Why do the football players announce their name and what college they attended? Some of them are in their thirties, so how is that relevant? Do doctors say, "I'm Doctor So-and-so and I attended Johns Hopkins"? Or firemen say, "Hi, I'm Mike O'Hara and I attended MIT"? What's up with that? Am I the only one who finds it weird that grown men tell you what college they attended? Isn't their current performance more important than something they did way back when?

Why, oh, why do people click on the like icon on Facebook? Are they signaling they were there, like Kilroy? Is their time so valuable they can't take a moment to choose some other button, at the least? And what do they like? The cute kitten meme? Or whatever the poster had to say about it? What about the sad posts? Why do they like them? What if they were never there...and Facebook is clicking on the posts for them?

Does Facebook count how many likes we get on a certain posts? And why don't they list how many people stopped to read a post like they do on my 'author' page. Wouldn't that be more useful information that wondering if anyone read my post?

The other day I googled a bunch of stuff and almost immediately ads started showing up in the sidebars of my Facebook and Yahoo pages. All except...when I googled fast acting poisons and exotic ways to kill an enemy. So does that mean there are no products available? Or are the powers that be afraid someone will actually purchase their products?

Every Thursday the hunk and I go to Weight Watchers. The doors open at 5:30 PM. Sometimes we leave at five to five. Sometimes we leave at fifteen after. No matter when we leave, we arrive at 5:28. How does that work? Is there some Supreme Being watching me drive down to Weight Watchers?

Why does it take twice as long to dry the clothes as it does to wash them? Shouldn't it be like the same amount of time so you can keep the whole cycle going? Instead, you have wait...and wait...and wait with a full washer load for the dryer to finish.

What things do you wonder about?

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Anny's Commandments

The life of a writer is beset with trials and pitfalls. For the new writer, they are compounded by ideas about what a real writer does. So these are the rules I've devised for myself over the years I've been writing. As always, every writer has to devise their own.

For writers:
1. Write. Write. Write. There are a few--very few--writers who are disciplined, possibly even anal, who sit down and write a preset number of words every day. That's okay...for them. Then there are the rest of us who work full-time jobs out of the home, or are busy raising children/grandchildren, or are dealing with the devastating effects of medication, stress, and/or illness. For us, it's sometimes a struggle to set aside five minutes to write. So make it count. Whatever it is. It doesn't have to be a book. Write a letter to your mom or dad. Or your children. My father wrote to me once and I have that letter framed. Write a blog. Keep a journal. We write our truest thoughts in a journal. Write a grocery list. Just write. It stimulates the brain so it remembers what writing is all about.

2. At a certain point, writers finding sharing their work irresistible. If you just want to share, that's fine. But if you're looking for a critique of your work, be prepared to accept what you get. I will tell you a secret. 99% of the folks who read your work will never, ever tell you whether or not they liked it, hated it, or didn't even finish it and that is because they don't want to hurt your feelings and they don't want to lie and say they never read past the first chapter. So. Choose a person whose opinion you truly value, be up front about what you want from them, and ask them to be honest with you. When they are, pay attention to every word. Otherwise, you're just stealing their time.

3. Write only what engages your passion, your heart, your soul. No one--I say, no one can please everyone else. Hell, no one can please 1% of the reading population. Really. So you don't write for anyone else but yourself. Write the book you'll be happy reading over...and over...and over. And for those writers who say they never read their own work? Why not?

4. Set your own ruler. Don't base your expectations on what anyone else does. If you were a painter you wouldn't only paint Van Goghs or Rembrandts. Write your story. That's the only one that matters.

For Editors/Critiquers/Beta readers:
1. Don't whitewash the work I've struggled to produce. If it's crap, then say so--and tell me specifics. I can't fix what I can't see. And if it's reached you with problems, that's because I can't see them. Because I never share any work until I've edited it to death.

2. Having said that, don't change my work. Use tracking to mark the iffy sections and then make a note in the margins..."What the hell were you thinking???" I can't learn if you do all the work.

For Friends/Fellow Authors looking for someone to read their stuff...
1. Expect me to be brutally honest. If there's something I should know before reading your work, tell me. A fellow author who I admire very much once asked me to read her story. I commented that I was somewhat disappointed with the story as it was fluff without much substance and I knew she was capable of much more. What she failed to tell me was this: Her life had gone to hell and she just needed some fluff in her life. I wish she had said that. I really do. Instead, she withdrew from me and didn't 'speak' to me for more than a year.

2. Never, ever, ever slough off my comments about spelling and vocabulary. We, the writers are the last bastion for civilized discourse. If you don't know the difference between hostel and hostile, look it up!

For the Readers/Reviewers:
1. Here's what I ask you to remember. There's a real person behind the writing. There are many, many ways to say the book wasn't my best without shredding my soul.

2. And take responsibility for actually looking at the blurb. If it says the story is short...then it is. If it states there is sex, then believe it instead of acting shocked. If it's science fiction or fantasy, don't get all bent out of shape because it isn't contemporary or historical.

So, there ya are. My personal rules about writing. What are yours?

Monday, January 9, 2017

Ponders for Second Week January

Recently, during a conversation with my Dad, he said, "I believe this will be the last election in our country." I thought surely not. But, now...yeah now, I suspect he might be right. I never thought to see it all roll out like this. I never thought to see my fellow citizens so concerned with their one or two issues that they would throw out the entire country's future, but there ya are. It's happened. Here's the roundup for this week of our fabulous congress...

The federal week in review:
1. Trump fires all Obama-appointed Ambassadors and Special Envoys, ordering them out by inauguration day.
2. House brings back the Holman rule allowing them to reduce an individual civil service, SES positions, or political appointee's salary to $1, effectively firing them by amendment to any piece of legislation. We now know why they wanted names and positions of people in Energy and State.
3. Senate schedules 6 simultaneous hearings on cabinet nominees and triple-books those hearings with Trump's first press conference in months and an ACA budget vote, effectively preventing any concentrated coverage or protest.
4. House GOP expressly forbids the Congressional Budget Office from reporting or tracking ANY costs related to the repeal of the ACA.
5. Trump continues to throw the intelligence community under the bus to protect Putin, despite the growing mountain of evidence that the Russians deliberately interfered in our election.
6. Trump breaks a central campaign promise to make Mexico pay for the wall by asking Congress (in other words, us, the taxpayers) to pay for it.
7. Trump threatens Toyota over a new plant that was never coming to the US nor will take jobs out of the US.
8. House passes the REINS act, giving them veto power over any rules enacted by any federal agency or department--for example, FDA or EPA bans a drug or pesticide, Congress can overrule based on lobbyists not science. Don't like that endangered species designation, Congress kills it.

So. Y'all keep on being entertained and distracted and amused by Mr. Trump's tweets. Keep ignoring the steps the congress is taking to remove your rights and liberties. Keep posting your tweets about celebrities and unimportant movies/tv shows/etc. while our country dies. Maybe I'll be back next week. Or...maybe not. In the meantime, I suggest y'all re-read 1984. Or watch Running Man. Maybe you'll pick up a hint or two.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Ponders

I spend a lot of time contemplating odds and ends. I suspect most people do. Of course, pondering stuff serves no purpose if you don't communicate or share your thoughts with others. That's something we don't seem to do much of anymore. We don't read. We don't talk. We walk around with electronic devices, trusting the keepers of the truth to tell us what we need to know instead of seeking out the truth ourselves.

I wonder if I'm the only one to speculate about what the President-elect is hiding/covering up by sending out all his wild tweets. No one is THAT stupid. Therefore, there is something he and his team don't want us to pay attention to...so there's the wild diversions of idiocy. What are we missing while we're huffing and puffing with indignation? Yeah...that. Diversionary tactics are as old as the hills, but we're too busy looking at the shiny to see the shadows.

I wonder if I'm to only one to see the 'media' is entertainment news. If you listen very carefully, you'll note there's only one--or rarely, two--actual news stories. The rest is fluff and filler. The average news story is approximately two minutes. How much information can be disseminated in two minutes? And why do the news readers (no they're NOT journalists) all smile? It's creepy, you know? What is there to smile about? Their salaries, maybe?

My great uncle Bill didn't get past 5th or 6th grade, yet he was one of the most educated, thoughtful men I ever met. He read everything. Everything. He was a sheep rancher in west Texas but he knew what was going on in Washington, D.C. because he read. Does anyone read anymore? You do know we are the authors of our own downfall, right? Ask the next ten people you meet if they can tell you what the first ten amendments to our Constitution are about. I bet most of them don't even know we HAVE amendments. Some of them think the Constitution is the same thing as the Declaration of Independence.

I believe our lackadaisical attitude has been carefully engineered. Seriously. I mean, how can you account for the rise of the Kardashian/Duck Dynasty/Alien Mystery/Alaskan Bush People? Who, in their right minds consider these programs entertainment? Yet, someone approved them. Someone promoted them. And someone out there keeps generating stranger and stranger program content. That's not some accidental occurrence. It's a deliberate campaign to deaden our brain cells.

The rise of Twitter/Facebook/whatever has far more to do with the spread of racism/misogyny/ignorance/gender bashing/religion than anything else. Where else can you go to communicate with other people who believe the same things you do--or don't? There is power in numbers as we found out in the last election. There is power in organization and communication. And guess what? You don't have to have a brain to use Twitter or Facebook. You don't even have to be literate. All you have to do is click on 'share'. That's right. Click.

Here's what I think. Just because you can legally do it...whatever 'it' is...doesn't mean you SHOULD do it. Maybe, just maybe there should be an occasional thought or two, first.



Thursday, December 29, 2016

Christmas Child

My last Christmas post for 2016...

Christmas 2003. It was a busy, busy year. In June we moved from New York to Maryland because the house hunk was transferred. Moving is always stressful, but this time it was particularly so because we lived in our last home for nineteen years. So much stuff. So much stuff to sort and get rid of or throw out! Then in mid-September Hurricane Isabel roared into Maryland. Fortunately, we were not near the flooding, though one of the trees behind our building ended up on our balcony.

Our younger daughter was pregnant, due in late December. We made arrangements to stay with our oldest son. Our daughter and her boyfriend were staying in a small room so Christmas was celebrated at our son's apartment. No baby. It appeared that the baby was in no hurry to arrive. We made arrangements to wait the baby out, but by December 29th, we were running out of our medications and reluctantly made the decision to go home the next day. That afternoon our daughter called, "Don't go yet! I've started labor!"

In a little while, her boyfriend called. "She wants you to be here when the baby's born." So we hopped in the car and made the forty-five minute drive across the Hudson River to the hospital. When we arrived, he was waiting for us and ushered us up to the maternity floor.
She didn’t quite make it for Christmas, but on December 29th close to midnight, the househunk and I were with my daughter and her boyfriend, present when Daisha Monet made her entrance. 

Witnessing the miracle of a new baby never gets old. The precious gift of a new life—especially at Christmas—is a reminder of the real reason we celebrate Christmas.

She's thirteen this year. Happy Birthday, baby!!!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve Tacos

We have tacos every Christmas Eve. Why? As a remembrance of friendship above and beyond the usual. In this vignette, I tell the story.


Christmas 1981. We lived in Houston, Texas, far from our families. My dad called to tell the hunk he needed to come home. His father was very ill. We could not afford for everyone to go and our daughters were both in bed with the flu. We decided he would take our sons with him (mostly because I knew he would have to make frequent stops if they were along). When they arrived in Chicago, my parents planned to take the boys to Indiana to stay with them.

I was fine until Christmas Eve. Then the loneliness engulfed me. My friends were all busy with their extended family gatherings. My extended family lived far away. My daughters were sleeping the holidays away, too sick to care if they had gifts or not. I was feeling underprivileged and deprived as I stood at my kitchen counter eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

The telephone rang. My friend, Linda, inquired about my plans for the evening. I admitted that I didn't have much planned except a shower and bed. She told me to get my purse and coat ready. Lester, her husband, was already on the way over to pick up my girls and me. We were invited to her home for the evening. I protested that the girls were sick. She pointed out they could sleep at her house as well as mine.

When Lester arrived, we wrapped the girls in blankets and carried them out to the car. The trip to their home was only a couple blocks away so the girls slept through the journey and were soon cozily asleep in bed. We spent the evening quietly, playing board games, eating tacos, and singing along with Handel’s Messiah. It was a lovely peaceful evening. Just after midnight, Lester drove us home.

On Christmas Eve our family has tacos as a remembrance of that Christmas Eve spent with loving, compassionate friends. Of all of my friends, they were the ones who saw my need and acted.

A miracle.


Anny

As a footnote... in 2011 I found Linda on Facebook and we've reconnected. Isn't life grand?

Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas Mouse

It was two days before Christmas and Herald, the Christmas Mouse was too tired to move. When humans started the Christmas Shopping Season, they didn't think about how hazardous all those busy shoppers were for the mice. Why, a mouse could barely scurry across the wide hallways in the mall without someone stepping on his tail--or worse! It was up to Herald to take care of all the tiny mouselets while their harried parents shopped.
Some of the mouse children didn't want to stay in the nursery. Some pulled on Herald's tail because they wanted to shop with their Mamas. There were fifteen children from the Snow family and they all wanted something to eat! Little Angela Tree sucked her paws and bawled for her Mama.
Herald ran from child to child, wiping whiskers, offering cheese crumbs and toys, and refereeing arguments between the two oldest boys in the Star family, Twinkle and Shiny. Herald desperately wanted a few minutes of quiet.
Then he heard a beautiful sound drift through the nursery door. It was the sound of someone singing. One by one the mouse children grew silent. As the singing grew louder, the mouselets all gathered on the rug in the center of the room and they sat down in small groups, listening carefully to the music. Soon Herald realized that some of them were humming the melody.
In the still, quiet nursery, Herald crept to the door and peeked out into the corridor. A young human woman sat on a bench in the center of the mall, singing all alone. People were smiling and stopping to listen. Cranky children who had been crying, grew quiet and leaned against their weary parents as the young woman continued to sing. Slowly, peace fell over the mall to the strains of a Christmas song. Then Herald recognized the music. She was singing the Christmas Lullaby--Silent Night.
Herald turned to look at the mouse children and saw that they were all asleep. Twinkle Star was even snoring!
Softly, Herald crept out to the young woman and stood near her foot with his whiskers twitching and his beady little eyes shining, listening to the beautiful song. And then, wonder of wonders, she bent and offered him a perch on her fingers. It seemed to him that she even perhaps invited him to sing with her.
Suddenly, Herald wasn't so tired. He opened his tiny mouth and began to sing. And as he sang with all his heart, the Christmas Spirit swelled within him so much that when the song was finished, he roared out, "Merry Christmas Everybody!"
Copyright Anny Cook 2007

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Christmas Mouse

It was two days before Christmas and Herald, the Christmas Mouse was too tired to move. When humans started the Christmas Shopping Season, they didn't think about how hazardous all those busy shoppers were for the mice. Why, a mouse could barely scurry across the wide hallways in the mall without someone stepping on his tail--or worse! It was up to Herald to take care of all the tiny mouselets while their harried parents shopped.

Some of the mouse children didn't want to stay in the nursery. Some pulled on Herald's tail because they wanted to shop with their Mamas. There were fifteen children from the Snow family and they all wanted something to eat! Little Angela Tree sucked her paws and bawled for her Mama.

Herald ran from child to child, wiping whiskers, offering cheese crumbs and toys, and refereeing arguments between the two oldest boys in the Star family, Twinkle and Shiny. Herald desperately wanted a few minutes of quiet.

Then he heard a beautiful sound drift through the nursery door. It was the sound of someone singing. One by one the mouse children grew silent. As the singing grew louder, the mouselets all gathered on the rug in the center of the room and they sat down in small groups, listening carefully to the music. Soon Herald realized that some of them were humming the melody.

In the still, quiet nursery, Herald crept to the door and peeked out into the corridor. A young human woman sat on a bench in the center of the mall, singing all alone. People were smiling and stopping to listen. Cranky children who had been crying, grew quiet and leaned against their weary parents as the young woman continued to sing. Slowly, peace fell over the mall to the strains of a Christmas song. Then Herald recognized the music. She was singing the Christmas Lullaby--Silent Night.

Herald turned to look at the mouse children and saw that they were all asleep. Twinkle Star was even snoring!

Softly, Herald crept out to the young woman and stood near her foot with his whiskers twitching and his beady little eyes shining, listening to the beautiful song. And then, wonder of wonders, she bent and offered him a perch on her fingers. It seemed to him that she even perhaps invited him to sing with her.

Suddenly, Herald wasn't so tired. He opened his tiny mouth and began to sing. And as he sang with all his heart, the Christmas Spirit swelled within him so that when the song was finished, he roared out, "Merry Christmas Everybody! And a Happy New Year!"

©2007 Anny Cook

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Christmas Miracle


The end of that year was an incredibly turbulent time. In November on my fourteenth birthday, President Kennedy was assassinated. It was in the beginning years of the Vietnam War. The Cuban Missile crisis was not long before that. Uncertainty was everywhere. So herewith, the story of Christmas 1963.


Christmas 1963. That was the year that Christmas wasn’t going to bring even one gift…we thought. It was a poor financial year. I didn’t exactly know that we were poor. We had plenty to eat. We had clean, warm clothes. We had a warm, sheltering apartment in Chicago that my stepmother, Maxine, worked hard to make a haven for us.

Now that I am a parent and grandparent I realize how difficult it must have been for her to sit us down a few weeks before Christmas and explain that there wasn’t any money for gifts. If all the money she had managed to save was pooled, we could have a special Christmas dinner. Back then there were no such things as food banks or church assistance.

Soberly, we considered the dilemma, and then one by one, we agreed that a special dinner was the best use for the money we had. Once that was settled, we put it behind us and life went on.

Then, a couple weeks before Christmas, Mum told all of us to hurry home immediately after school, as there would be a surprise. Friends of the family planned to bring each of us a gift and wished to be present when we opened them. So on this day, I slung my books into my locker at school and rushed home. Pounding up the stairs to our second floor apartment, I eagerly flung open the door—and froze in my tracks.

Every level surface in both the dining and living rooms was covered with gifts. Piles of beautifully, lovingly decorated boxes with bows and trinkets. A tree twinkled merrily in the corner. The melodies of familiar Christmas carols filled the air. Unexpectedly, Christmas had come to our home.

As I stood in the open doorway, I could not imagine what had happened. Certainly, we didn't get rich overnight. I shut the door before walking around the rooms gently touching the lovely boxes. Mum, more excited than I had ever seen her, urged me to look in the kitchen where two boxes of groceries, a ten-pound ham, fifty pounds of potatoes, and a five pound box of chocolates sat on the table. A special Christmas dinner indeed!

In a little while, when my brothers came home from school and my dad arrived from work, we opened the gifts. Of all the Christmases in my life, this is the one I can remember every single thing I received--not because I was a greedy kid, but because they were all gifts of sacrifice from strangers.

Our family friends were a minister and his wife with a church in Indiana. One of their church families approached them, seeking a family that wasn’t going to have any gifts for Christmas. The parents and children of this church family voted to give up their Christmas gifts so that a family, unknown to them, would have a special Christmas.

The minister and his wife undertook the responsibility of obtaining clothing sizes and special needs, plus transportation and delivery of the gifts. And they delivered our heartfelt thank you letter to the anonymous family.

As Christmas grows closer, whether we are rich or poor, I look back on that Christmas and know that we are blessed because we are together. Every year I remember the blessing of being loved unconditionally by strangers.

A miracle.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Long Road Home

Every year I reprint a few of the Christmas memories I've shared from the past. This is from Christmas 1989. May all those traveling this Christmas be safe...

Christmas 1989. “Please come if you can. Uncle Charles has terminal cancer and probably won’t be with us next Christmas.”

For many years in my family, holidays (Christmas and Thanksgiving) have been alternated with the in-laws. This year was not a our family Christmas, but the family was trying to get together anyway. It wasn’t a great year for us. My husband was on disability from an accident at work. I was on unemployment because my company, Waldenbooks, had moved their warehouse operation from New York to Tennessee. The boys, recently graduated from high school, were out of work, since they had also been employed there. Jobs were scarce with 700 unemployed warehouse workers suddenly in the job market. I was attending school as a dislocated worker, hoping to obtain the skills for a new job.

“Please come.” Our car was shot. There was barely enough for a gift for each of the kids. Friends had provided Christmas dinner components for us. The trip from New York to Indiana was out of the question. Reluctantly, I called my parents with the news.

The kids asked us if we could talk for a few minutes. “Suppose we give up our present money…would we have enough gas money to get there?” one of them asked.
My younger son offered to change the oil and do a quick check up on the car. The older one pointed out that we could take turns driving. The car had very little heat…but my older daughter suggested that we could take extra blankets.

Slowly, one objection at a time, they showed us that we could make the trip. I called my parents in LaPorte, Indiana and suggested that they make some extra beds.

We traveled to LaPorte, stopping only for restrooms and coffee. Our car was a tight squeeze for five small people. We had six large people. The kids said that was a good thing as we all stayed warmer that way. Meals were sandwiches eaten in the car. In Ohio, we ran into snow. The car heater didn’t work well enough to defrost the windows so they began to freeze over. There were frequent stops to clear them, but we made it. After eighteen hours on the road we arrived in LaPorte. There was close to a foot of snow on the ground.

It was a great Christmas, rendered more poignant because of Uncle Charles’ illness. There were more family members there than at anytime before or since. Two came from Guam. Others came from all over the United States. Close to 70 people sat down for Christmas dinner. Afterwards there were games, carols, and visiting.

A couple of days later the trip home was longer with a blizzard to contend with. In Pennsylvania, the snow was so heavy that it melted on the headlights, creating a sheet of ice that coated them. We stopped frequently to clear them just so we had light. Cars were sliding off the road. It was night. Plows couldn’t keep up with the storm. The rest areas were closed. We had no money to stay anywhere so we kept moving. Twenty-six hours later, we arrived safely home.

Anyone who has traveled with teenagers knows that it’s impossible to travel far without petty squabbles and picking. However, our entire trip, bad weather, extremely uncomfortable conditions, with limited money, there wasn’t a cross word from anyone.

A miracle. Several, in fact.

anny
© 2007 Anny Cook

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Christmas Blessings

Every Christmas.  Over the last few days I've read several social media posts and statuses where adults are mourning their lack of Christmas (gifts, lights, tree, decorations, etc.) They're not mentioning the lack for their children's sake. No...they're speaking up for their own lack.

Since this is something I can speak about from vast experience, I had to have my say. For the last innumerable Christmases (not to mention birthdays, Mother's Day, etc., etc.) I could count all my gifts on one hand. Some years I didn't need even a finger to count. And yet, I feel blessed.

I have four reasonably healthy children with their attachments, one healthy husband, two still independent parents, and three healthy siblings with all the attachments--spouses, children, grandchildren. Speaking of grandchildren, I also have five brilliant, healthy ones of my own.

None of them live anywhere near us. But I love them and I am blessed by their very existence.

I have shelter. I have food. I have everything I need to be comfortable, plus some to spare. It was not always so. There were years when I wondered how we would feed our children, but that is not the case this year. And so I am blessed.

I have a closet full of decorations for the holidays. This year I chose not to haul them out. But even if that closet was empty, it wouldn't leave me less blessed. Christmas isn't about decorations or carols or gifts. It's about love.

For those of you feeling loneliness or depression, my heart goes out to you because you are devoid of the greatest of gifts--love. Love for yourself. Love for another. Love for your neighbor. If you have any of those, you are blessed.

Light a candle and give thanks.

anny