Friday, December 25, 2020

Joy to the World

Thought for the day: Hang onto your hat, hang onto your hope, and wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day. [E.B. White]

Well, it's Christmas. Doesn't feel like it... but it is. The house is very quiet, making it easier to hear the ever-present high-pitched monotone ringing in my ears. Both cats sit close beside me, the feeling of their warm bodies a reassuring reminder that I'm not entirely alone. Oh, I could've gone to Alabama to spend the Holidays with my son and his family... but I wanted to stay home. Really. I'm hanging in there pretty doggone well since my husband died five month ago today, but I'm not ready for any raucous celebrations just yet. I seek solace in the quiet... the normal. Not much in the way of decorations here this year. Our same-old, same-old wreath hangs at the front door, and bright red poinsettias sit atop the shelf above the fireplace and on the coffee table in the sunroom. Also on that fireplace shelf are two candles that I've had forever... one of a jolly waving Santa, and the other a snowman with a huge smile. My kissing Santa and Mrs. Claus salt-and-pepper shakers sit up there, too... and one other cheerful snowman figure. Next to the TV is a seated fabric Santa that my mother made years ago, and the hooked rug my father made is in the sunroom. That's it, but don't you dare feel sorry for me. I didn't want all of the trappings this year. No cards, no gifts, no twinkling lights. Just a peaceful day with a minimum of tears. I'm not exactly pretending that it isn't Christmas, but I don't want to be reminded any more than I am every other day that Mike isn't here. 

It seems I'm not the only one who skipped sending cards this year. Mike and I used to get a kazillion cards, but this year, there's only been a trickle. Which is fine. Better than fine, actually, because that makes me feel less guilty about not sending any myself. But holy moley! I got cards from some of YOU. People I've never met face-to-face, but whom I've grown to love, nonetheless. Thank you. Thank you for caring. Thank you for spurring me to sit down to write this message to all of you. I know you care, and that means so much to me. I care about you, too. It's been a hard year for all of us, but today is a day for joy. For hope. Next year, we can celebrate, hopefully, but for today, let's embrace hope. Hope that each day will be a little better than the day before and that normal is right around the corner. Don't despair. We'll get there. You and me. All of us. We'll get there.

One tiny bit of normal is the following post, one I've shared almost every year since I started this blog. It's... a tradition. That's what you guys told me. So fine, let's go with that tradition. It seems I can do quite well without decorations and presents, but who knew? It appears I don't wanta do without Louise...

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Thought for the day: We don't stop laughing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop laughing.


No telling how many years this wreath has graced our front door.

We never made a huge production out of outdoor decorations, but every year, our kids made the same grand proclamation after we cruised our decorated-out-the-wazoo neighborhood on the way home from the candlelight service on Christmas Eve.

"The best one of all!" they'd lie as we pulled into our driveway.

Okay, so maybe they weren't really lying through their braces. Maybe anticipation of the hidden presents awaiting inside added a certain luster to their perception of our decorations.

Anyhow, I'd say decorating styles can pretty much be divvied into three categories: traditional, enlightening, and inflated. Us? We're traditionalThat means, except for an occasional new acquisition, I've pretty much used the same decorations every year. For a LOT of years. Like the ornaments that hung on my parents' tree when they were first married, some of which are now paper thin, and considerably faded with age. And a slew of decades-old goodies fashioned by our children with copious quantities of felt, glue and glitter, construction paper, walnut shells, clothespins, eyeglass lenses, and even a Mason jar lid. A black spider in a golden web and a huge decorated crab shell, both made by my sister-in-law. Boxes of tinsel painstakingly applied, strand by strand, and then painstakingly removed to store in a box for yet another year. Like I said, traditional. Well, to be more accurate, I suppose we've become more traditional cum lazy, because each year, I use less and less decorations, and some of them don't even make it down out of our attic anymore. This year, very few decorations found their way out of the storage boxes. (A RED tablecloth counts as a decoration, right???)

These carolers once belonged to my grandmother.


Everybody knows the enlightening type of decorator. They're the ones with so many lights blazing in their front yards, they risk causing a blackout across three states every time they turn 'em on. Very flashy. Sometimes, they even incorporate animation and music, too, and carloads of people stop by every night to ooh and aah over their winter wonderland. It isn't at all unusual for a competition of sorts to begin when multiple enlighteners live in close proximity. (Those neighborhoods can be seen from the space station.)


                                         We're more like the house on the right these days:



And then, there's the inflatedThis is a fairly recent category. I sure don't remember seeing this sort of display when I was a kid. Nowadays, you can purchase just about any character you can think of ... inflate it ... and stick it on your front lawn. And if you can't find a particular character, for the right price, you can probably have someone make one for you. Then, all those characters can weave and bob all over your yard.











Now then, to the point of today's post. Time for a tale about a Christmas inflatable of an entirely different ilk. This story originated in 1999, and was alleged to be the winning entry to a Louisville Sentinel contest about the wildest Christmas dinner. Turns out, no such newspaper ever existed, and the writer remains unknown, but the story lives on, thanks to the good ol' Internet. (WARNING: Better put your drink down before you read it.) Now here, after a bit of minor editing on my part, is that story:





As a joke, my brother Jay used to hang a pair of pantyhose over his fireplace every Christmas Eve. He said the only thing he wanted was for Santa to fill them, but what they say about Santa checking his list twice must be true, because every Christmas morning, the other stockings would all be bulging with treats, but Jay's poor pitiful pantyhose were always left dangling as empty as ever.

So one year, I decided to make his dream come true. I put on sunglasses, a fake nose, and a ski cap, and went in search of an inflatable love doll.

Know what? They don't sell those things at Wal-Mart. I had to go to an adult bookstore. By the way, if you've never been in an X-rated store before, two words: don't go. You'll only confuse yourself. I was there for an hour saying things like, "What does this do?" "You're kidding me!" and  "Who would buy that?" 

So anyway, I finally made it to the inflatable doll section. I wanted to buy a standard, uncomplicated doll that could also substitute as a passenger in my truck so I could use the car pool lane, but finding what I wanted was difficult. Love dolls come in many different models. The top of the line, according to the side of the box, could do things I'd only seen in a book on animal husbandry, but I settled for the bottom of the price scale: Lovable Louise. To call her a doll required a huge leap of imagination.

On Christmas Eve, with the help of a bicycle pump, Louise came to life. My sister-in-law was in on the plan, and she let me in during the wee morning hours. Long after Santa had come and gone, I filled Jay's pantyhose with Louise's pliant legs and bottom. I also ate some cookies and drank what remained of a glass of milk on a nearby tray. Then I went home and giggled for a couple of hours.

The next morning, my brother called to say that Santa had been to his house and left a present that had made him VERY happy, but his poor dog was very confused. She would bark, start to walk away, then come back and bark some more. We agreed that Louise should remain in her pantyhose so the rest of the family could admire her when they came over for the traditional Christmas dinner.

My grandmother noticed Louise the moment she walked in the door. "What the hell is that?" she asked.

My brother quickly explained, "It's a doll."

"Who would play with something like that?" she snapped.

 I had several candidates in mind, but kept my mouth shut.

"Where are her clothes?" she continued.

"Boy, that turkey sure smells nice, Gran," Jay said, trying to steer her into the dining room.

 But Granny was relentless. "Why doesn't she have any teeth?"

Again, I could have answered, but why risk it? It was Christmas, and nobody wanted to spend it in the back of an ambulance saying, "Hang on, Granny, hang on!"

My grandfather, a delightful old man with poor eyesight, sidled up to me, waggled his eyebrows, and said, "Hey, who's the naked gal by the fireplace?"

I told him she was Jay's friend, and a few minutes later, noticed Grandpa standing by the mantel, talking to Louise. And not just talking. He was actually flirting. It was then we realized this might be Grandpa's last Christmas at home.

The dinner went well. We made the usual small talk about who had died, who was dying, and who should be killed, when suddenly Louise made a noise that sounded a lot like my father in the bathroom every morning. Then she lurched from the pantyhose, flew around the room twice, and fell in a heap in front of the sofa. The cat screamed. I passed cranberry sauce through my nose, and Grandpa ran across the room, fell to his knees, and began administering mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. My brother fell back over his chair and wet his pants, and Granny threw down her napkin and stomped outside to sit in the car.

It was indeed a Christmas to treasure and remember. Later in my brother's garage, we conducted a thorough examination to decide the cause of Louise's demise. We discovered that she'd suffered from an acute case of hot ember to the back of her right thigh. Fortunately, thanks to a wonder drug called duct tape, we restored her to perfect health.

After that, Louise went on to star in several bachelor party movies, and I'm pretty sure Grandpa still calls her whenever he can sneak out of the house.

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             Merry Christmas! May all your dreams... no matter how inflated...  come true.

                           Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

                                                                As for 2020?



50 comments:

  1. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and your family! :-)

    Greetings from London.

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  2. Quiet and peaceful sounds pretty good to me. I really, really hope that you are enjoying it.
    And huge thanks to you for posting your 'traditional post'. I loved it - as I always do.
    Still holding you in my heart.

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    1. Yes, quiet and peaceful is exactly what I want. It seems like the stuff I've had to do over these past five months has been non-stop pressure, so it feels good just to take a deep breath and chill.

      Thank you, sweet Sue. I hold you in my heart, too. Take care.

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  3. staying home, I understand. Just a weird year. Some decorations here (yes, Ray does crazy amounts of lights), but no tree - that just seemed forlorn without the crowd gathered around. Glad you have some traditions and you shared the Louise story as always - we can always use a laugh. Big virtual hug my friend. All the best from Texas (we are trying to be the germiest state, but CA keeps beating us)

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    1. Yeah, you're right. Hunkering down at home is what most of us did for Christmas this year, I reckon. (I hope.)

      A big virtual hug right back atcha. Thank you so much for the card... no, for the cards. Your support this year has been over-the-top terrific. I really appreciate you and look forward to the day when we might share that bench and a glass of wine. TX and CA are over-achievers when it comes to the number of Covid cases, but GA is coming on strong. (sigh) But this, too, shall pass, my friend. Be careful.

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  4. Is Louise a true story? That was so funny. Nice to see that when things are quiet and still you're able to share some fun.

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    1. I'd say the Louise story is more on the funny side than it is on the side of truth. :)

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  5. hhh cool pictures, great post I like it a lot

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    1. Thanks. :) Happy New Year! (Um, not that I'm rushing it, or anything...)

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  6. Sending cards the. old way is almost dead now.
    Merry Christmas.

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    1. True, sending Christmas cards is nothing like it used to be, but the practice won't die completely until I do. :)

      Take care, and happy new year!

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  7. Just hangin' in there for a quiet Christmas sounds like a plan this year! The memories will always be there, but hopefully the pain will pass in time. Take care, and here's hoping for a better 2021.

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    1. I kinda think just hangin' in there for a quiet Christmas was the plan for most of us. It was a little sad, but not stressful. And we made it through...!

      Yes, definitely a better year in 2021... that's what the whole world is aching to see. You take care, too.

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  8. Dear Susan, thanks for the fun-filled story. Christmas was quiet here. I believe you, Cowboy and I had birthdays this month, so Happy That also. I love you. --Geo.

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    1. Dear Geo, I hope you and Norma enjoyed the quiet... and each other. Happy belated That to you, too. I hope you had a good birthday. I told my kids to ignore mine this year, but they didn't listen, so I guess I got a year older, after all. :)

      I love you, too, dude. Your kind heart and clever mind make the blogosphere a better place.

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  9. Can you believe I didn't remember Louise until I started reading?
    I didn't send out cards either this year, except to my older sister. I put out my snowglobes and the Vintage Santa, a bit of tinsel here and there, just because it was in the same box as Santa. That was it, no fancy cooking even. A nice quiet day.

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    1. Oh, good! I'm glad you forgot about Louise. It's more fun that way. :)

      It seems that a quiet understated Christmas was fairly common in all parts of the world this year. But NEXT year... (Maybe. Um, I may actually stick with the quiet and understated version...)

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  10. Thanks for this wonderful post, I am still laughing! I hope the new year will be a better one for you and for us all! Take care, stay safe, hugs, Valerie

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    1. Super! As long as this post keeps making people laugh, it justifies posting it every year. :)

      Yes, I think we ALL crave a better safer year next year. Happy new year, dear lady. Hugs back atcha.

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  11. Love the Louise story, it gets better every year :-) Glad you were able to have the quiet you need; winter is good for stillness and the new normal needn't be rushed. Let it grow! Not having the right sort of patience to sit and write cards I should like to find out what sort of temperate zone tree/other flora you admire? Legal paperwork still dragging on currently but by this spring we should have our land, I will plant something in your honour xx

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    1. Thanks. I reckon as long as people continue to enjoy the Louise story, it'll continue to be a regular fixture.

      I am THRILLED for you about the land deal. I know how long you've been searching for the perfect spot. I love all kinds of flora... black-eyed Susans would be appropriate, eh? HA But I reeeeeally love lilacs. We had a big beautiful bush in our yard when we lived in Maryland, but they don't do as well here in Georgia. (And what a sweet gesture! Thank you.) XX

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    2. A lilac bush sounds delicious, and good for pollinators :-) It's on my planting list xx

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  12. Yes, the story is now blogger tradition! :)

    We did things lighter this year. It's the first year without my mom. I looked through some pictures to remind me how it was just a year ago, prayed a little (but huge) prayer of thanks that I got to be with her those last weeks (in a 'normal' situation I wouldn't have been able to be there) and went on about my day. Appreciative and a little sad but still moving forward. Happy Holiday Season to you.

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    1. HA. Yeah, it sure looks that way. :)

      I'm afraid this Christmas didn't look anything like Christmases past for any of us, and I hope next Christmas is a lot more joyous than this one for all of us. Losing a mom is never easy, but I'm glad you were able to be with her for her last few weeks. Nobody can ever take that away from you. Take care, and happy new year, dear lady!

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  13. Oh m'gosh, Louise's story never fails to crack me up! And your closing adieu to 2020? Priceless!
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts with those of us who care. Really, we do. Here's to a better and brighter New Year!

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    1. That's good. We can never get too much "cracking up." :)

      Thank you. I care about you, too. We've built a pretty doggone terrific community with a bunch of pretty doggone terrific people, dontcha think? Yes! Bigger and brighter works for me for the new year. And healthier, too. Lots healthier. (Out, damned virus!) Happy New Year to you and yours.

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  14. Thank you for this lovely post, Susan. Yeah, it's been a quiet Christmas for us too. Only a few tears shed--when I heard the overture to the old Rudolf TV special, of all things! Here's to a brighter 2021.

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    1. Um, well I dunno if it's "lovely," but you're welcome. I'm glad you liked it.

      Sorry about the tears, but as long as there are still more smiles than tears, we're doing okay. Yes, here's to a happy and healthy 2021! Take care.

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  15. Hi Susan. What you wrote about going to buy a blow-up doll reminded me of the time Leah and I went to stay on Cape Cod. We went to Provincetown at the Eastern tip of the Cape and we wondered into (what we thought was) a novelty gift shop. What we didn't know at the time was that Provincetown is the Gay Capitol of the East Coast. All of those fancy 'candles' hanging down (thousands of 'em) were every variety of shape and colour you could imagine of dildos! We made an embarrassed exit and left!
    London is in a pretty tight lockdown at the moment and we realised that many of our friends were, like us, without their families but they were totally alone. Thankfully through Facebook and Zoom we can keep in touch.
    I wish you all the best for a much better 2021!
    By the way, I think Christmas trees look much more attractive with just old-fashioned tinsel and less is more...
    CLICK HERE for Bazza’s never knowingly novaturient Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

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    1. Hi-ya. Thanks for the laugh. I would've loved to have been a fly on the wall to see the expressions on your faces when you found yourselves adrift in a hanging sea of dildos. Talk about priceless!

      I know you guys are on lockdown because of that new more infectious mutation. Scary stuff. Take care of yourselves, and I hope you're gonna roll up you sleeves when the vaccine is offered. As for me? I'm ready to get that shot as soon as possible. ("Out, damned virus!")

      I wish you and yours a happy healthy new year. And one that's boringly "normal." (Although we may never think of those "normal" things as boring again...)

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  16. I'm glad that you had a quiet, peaceful, reflective Christmas. The greatest gift is the sustenance, perspective, and strength that you draw from yourself. All the usual holiday hoopla seems unnecessary and futile at times.

    There were December birthdays shared by three very special people - - Susan, Geo, and - - heck, I forget the name of the other person. I think he's a neurotic musician....(*smile* inserted here)

    Take care, Susan. I'm sending all my best wishes and warmest thoughts this holiday season.
    I love the beautiful cardinal in your header photo!

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    1. Thanks. I'm actually grateful for the way the day played out. Your comment about the experience, and the need for the experience, is spot on. (Anybody ever tell you you're a real smartie, cowboy? You ARE. And beautifully empathetic. That's why you're such a terrific poet.)

      I hope you had a good birthday, Jon. Sorry I didn't contact you on our big day. I'll do better next year. :)

      Take care, and Happy New Year!!! (Or at least, let's aim for a Not-so-Miserable New Year...)

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  17. “I seek solace in the quiet... the normal” is a beautiful statement. Let your mind relax and spend time on yourself. People understand; we all go thru grief differently. It is the most personal time in our lives and it belongs to us to sort out. I am glad you are doing OK, as that is a state of being that I know well. Take care, dear Susan. You are a terrific, strong lady.

    I love the story of Louise.

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    1. Generally, I like music playing, but I've learned that from time to time, my soul revels in the quiet. No TV, no music, no nuttin. In the same way that clearing out the incredible clutter of Mike's things makes it oddly easier to breathe, so too does the quiet soothe me in a different way. It calms me, and God knows, we all need those moments of calm. I'm actually better than OK. I'm closer to okayest, like it says on my tee shirt, which proclaims me to be the "world's okayest pool player". I hope YOU are actually okayest, too, sweet lady.

      Thank you so much for the Christmas card. And the tea! I'm drinking a cup of it now as I type this message, and it's delicious! I like to imagine us sharing a cup around the kitchen table. :)

      I shouldn't have to, but I'll state the obvious, nonetheless. You are a terrific, strong lady, too. I am soooooo grateful we met through the wonders of blogging. Happy New Year, eh? It's gonna be better. Really.

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  18. So nice to see you here, Susan. I've missed you. Penelope snores next to me, and Franklin is wiggling on his bed, chasing rabbits in his dreams. Years ago, my mom sent me two candles that she had out every Christmas while I was growing up. I moved here, stored them in the attic with the rest of the decorations, and they melted!

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. Hi-ya, Janie. Thanks. It's good to be seen. Kinda. (I'm glad you can't reeeeeally see me, although I did finally take a shower and wash my hair this morning. The cats were threatening to stage an intervention...)

      Well, crap. I'm sorry your candles melted. Such is the story of living in Florida...

      Happy New Year, kiddo!

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  19. I've been gone a long time and missed so much. I'm so sorry to read of your husband's passing. Life it seems is a story of trials, best approached by making an alternative narrative of our own, moulding our own thoughts, hopes, inspirations onto a harsh reality and making it tolerable. You do that so wonderfully well. All the very best to you for 2021.

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    1. Wow! Talk about a blast from the past! Welcome back. It's good to hear from you again. And look at you... you haven't changed a BIT! HA! (Thanks for using the same photo... I knew who you were as soon as I saw it.)

      Thanks for jumping back into the ol' blogosphere again. It'll be great catching up. Take care, and Happy New Year!

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  20. Hi Susan - gosh it's the 28th ... still slow but sure I'm here! Love your story ... and your sad, but contented pragmatism at coping this year ... and if people don't fuss us - it all makes life easier on our loss. I'm just glad it passed peacefully.

    I love that story ... always makes me giggle ... and fun to imagine. I haven't posted about Christmas and probably won't ... all well though - it's quiet time for most of us.

    Great to see you round and about again ... and here's to an easier 2021 ... with hugs - Hilary

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    1. Hi-ya, Hilary! Thanks. Yes, I'm slowly finding my balance again, and having a quiet peaceful day was just what the doctor ordered. So to speak.

      Yes, indeedy, I'll gladly raise my cup on high to toast to an easier and better 2021. For everybody. Hugs back atcha. Take care, and be safe.

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  21. Happy to hear you're doing okay overall, Susan. Thank you for this reminder - "hang onto your hope." It's an attitude I plan to carry into the new year. :)

    All the best to you in 2021, Susan!

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    1. Yep, I think we all need to hang onto hope. (As in, I HOPE next year is a heckuva lot better than THIS one...)

      All the best to you, too. Happy New Year!

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  22. Good that you are doing okay and sometimes just enjoying some quiet time is the way to be indeed.

    Have to keep the traditional post alive indeed.

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    1. Thanks. Yes, I'm doing okayest, and the quiet helps center me, if ya know what I mean. No distractions and quite peaceful.

      I reckon so. As long as I'm still blogging, I'll share the "tradition." Take care, and happy new year!

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  23. Glad you're hanging on to your hope and yes, Louis is a hoot! If I'd read that story the first time with anything in my mouth it would've gone all over my screen!

    Happy New Year :)

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  24. Blessings and happy new year. Peace love, understanding and health to you and yours.

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  25. Beautiful post Susan. Wishing you a Happy New Year!

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