Friday, January 30, 2015

Signs of the Times

Thought for the day:  Words are but the signs of ideas.  [Samuel Johnson]

This past weekend, Smarticus and I took advantage of the gorgeous weather by visiting Jones Bridge Park to enjoy a walk through the woods and beside the Chattahoochee River. Like a dimwit, I forgot my camera, but my brother took this picture at the park the last time he was there. Talk about a gnarly tree, right? And we had a...  narly time.

We didn't have the park to ourselves, but it wasn't too crowded, either. Unless you count the Canadian geese. Lots of them around. (Yes, before you ask, I DID ask to see their IDs, so I'm sure they were from Canada...) It was a hoot watching how some of the geese interacted.  It looked like one gal was giving her mate a serious chewing-out; he kept trying to power swim away from her, but she stayed right on his butt with her wings flapping, giving him what for. Loudly. You didn't have to understand the language to know he was in deep doodoo. There were two mallards in the mix, too, who tried to blend in. There was also a heron, who didn't try to blend it at all. He was more interested in staying close to one of the fly fishermen, who was standing in the (cold!) water in his waders, leisurely whipping his line back and forth. The heron was watching the guy's every move like a beagle watching someone eat a burger, so I think maybe he was hoping for some too-small-to-keep trout getting tossed his way. In spite of seeing more fishermen in the (cold!) water than usual, we didn't see anyone catch anything. No problem. They all seemed to be content with catching the experience and a few rays. (Sun, that is, no mantas around here.)

[morguefile image]

We crossed paths with one fella walking a pit bull. Smarticus said, "Pretty boy!" You know, just trying to be nice. We didn't like offer the powerful-looking dog a taste of our hands or anything.

The guy... not the dog... the guy snarled, "She's a GIRL!"

Smarticus apologized, but Mr. Surly didn't even crack a smile. After we walked a ways away, I told Smarticus in a breathy voice, "You shoulda told him, I was talking to YOU!"

Yeah, we crack ourselves up.

Something else we noticed at the park. There were signs warning people to pooper scoop after their dogs. There were also signs warning of the dangers of rapidly rising water when the dam did its thing,  signs saying no alcoholic beverages were allowed, and others showing where to place hot coals after BBQing. But we didn't see a single sign saying anything about no smoking, much to our surprise. Also, nothing about no nudity, or no fornication. Um, not that we were looking to do any of those things. I mean, it WAS a little chilly.

But here's the thing. There was a sign citing an ordinance against making annoying noises. Which, the sign assured us, would be enforced.

Huh? How exactly, does one define an annoying noise? Someone singing or whistling off-key? A barking dog? A toddler pitching a tantrum? Loud stomach rumblings? Persistent toots and brrrrps of flatulence? (Since the sign didn't say anything about a ban on offensive odors, I presume flatulence in the silent but deadly category would be okay.) What kind of noise do you think should be banned from a park?


Okay, how about some other signs we didn't see at the park, not that it would have mattered. Remember? This flake forgot her camera...

Gray hairs are signs of wisdom if you hold your tongue; speak and they are but hairs, as in the young. [Rabindranath Tagore]

(RATS! As if I'm ever gonna hold my tongue...)

I've done numerous posts in the past featuring some reeeeeeally funny signs. If you want to take a peek at some of them, just click on the funny signs tag in the sidebar.

In the meantime, how about some of these funnies:
  • On a septic tank:   We're #1 in the #2 business.  
  • Over a gynecologist's office:   Dr. Jones, at your cervix.     
  • At a proctologist's door:   To expedite your visit, please back in.
  • On a plumber's truck:   We repair what your husband fixed.
  • On another plumber's truck:   Don't sleep with a drip. Call your plumber.
  • On an electrician's truck:  Let us remove your shorts.
  • On a dry cleaner's window:   Grime doesn't pay.
  • On a maternity room door:   Push. Push. Push.
  • On a taxidermist's window:  We know our stuff.    
  • On a music shop window:   Gone Chopin. Be Bach in a minuet.
  • Outside a muffler shop:   No appointment necessary. We hear you coming.
  • In front of a funeral parlor:   Drive carefully. We'll wait.
  • At a propane filling station:   Tank heaven for little grills.                                                                                                                                   

So what's your sign? You know, the funniest sign you've ever seen? For me, the laundromat near our dormitory had a sign in its window, saying, Grime doesn't pay. And then, there's this one:


(In case you can't make it out, the sign at the back of this pooper scooper truck says, YESTERDAY'S MEALS ON WHEELS.) Hey, I guess any job can have a funny side with the right outlook.

Have a super weekend, y'all. Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

I share the opinion of those of broader vision, who see in the signs of the time hope of humanity for peace.  [Frank B. Kellogg]

Oh yeah, a final reminder. Two signed copies of Hot Flashes and Cold Lemonade will be given away on February 2 through a Goodreads giveaway. Interested? Just click on that handy-dandy badge in the sidebar. (Sorry, only open to entrants from Canada, Great Britain and the U.S. this time around.)

Got time for a fun video? Remember this song by the Five Man Electrical Band? 

Friday, January 23, 2015

In the Eye of the Beholder

Thought for the day:  The light which shines in the eye is really the light of the heart.


Our grown kids are not only the proverbial apples of our eyes, but it tickles me to no end that our three little acorns didn't fall too far from this nutty old tree.


Especially our daughter, who I'm gonna call Sunshine. That little nut has the same quirky sense of humor and love for whimsy that I do. She proved it once again this past weekend with the stuff she and her hubby brought me. Wanta see some of it?

This is one side of the box from my new (ta-DA!) Pink Freud- The Mug. (How cool is that?) Another side says, Alter your consciousness and your subconscious with every sip, and yet another says, The Dark Side of the Moon merely represents the repression of your libinal discontents. 

Here's the mug. The other side shows a continuation of the rainbow strip, along with the words PINK FREUD.

Oh, and get this. On the bottom? It says, For better results, use other side. 


To go with the mug, she gave me an assortment of herbal teas. The loose kind. Hence, she also gave me Mr. Tea, AKA Fred. 

Here's a shot of good ol' Fred chilling inside the mug. Isn't he adorable? He makes a mighty fine cup of tea, too.

There were several other delightfully non-PC and hilarious presents, all of which had us laughing uproariously, but that's enough of that.You get the idea. Now, I wanta change the subject from that particular sunshiny apple of my eye, and talk about EYES...

If you could, would you change your eye color? I ask because my eyes are gonna be changing color, and I'm not too sure how I feel about it.

At least, on the plus side, both eyes should be turning the SAME color. Hopefully.

See, I have glaucoma in both eyes, and the eye drops the doc prescribed cause some expected side effects. They're likely to make my eyelashes longer and darker. (Oh darn! And I was soooo attached to my stumpy blonde ones...) and they're also gonna darken my irises.

This pic is pretty close to my current eye color. (Only mine don't look that angry.) Green. Not a gorgeous emerald green like my friend Caryl has. More of an olive drab. But I like the color just fine. I'm used to it. After all these years, it's gonna be kinda weird to see different-looking eyes peering back at me from the mirror.

But um, here's the rub... will changing my eye color change... ME?
I mean, holy cow, check out this description of green-eyed people I found. Sounds like ME!

When my eyes get darker, and more of a murky muddy brown, will I suddenly... hate the ocean? Stop loving to make people laugh? Lose an appreciation for the fun stuff Sunshine brought over this past weekend?


On the other hand, I also read that iridologists (If you can believe it, they're honest-to-goodness researchers who actually study the relationship between iris color and personality!) say that dark-eyed people are better at fast-paced sports, react faster, and have quicker reflexes than light-eyed people. Hot damn. Maybe I won't be such a klutz anymore...

Remember that old song? What's kinda funny is in Hot Flashes and Cold Lemonade, one of the characters says, Aw, you're full of it! Keep it up, and it' s gonna turn your blue eyes brown, girl.

I had absolutely NO IDEA I was writing about myself.

Hey, I'm just messing with ya. I know a change in eye color won't change the real me. It's positive attitude time. For one thing, Sunshine has beautiful dark brown eyes, and her personality is a LOT like mine. No green eyes required. And even if Smarticus misses my old eye color, as he says, Beauty is in the eye of the beer-holder. (As long as he has his kinda mug nearby, he'll think my new eye color looks just fine.) And me?  Whatever color eyes I end up with, I'll still be looking at the world through rose-colored glasses.

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

If a guy remembers the color of your eyes after your first date, you must have small boobs.

Oops, I almost forgot. In case you're interested, there's another giveaway for autographed copies of Hot Flashes and Cold Lemonade happening on Goodreads right now. (US and Canada, only) To enter,  just click on the handy-dandy badge in the sidebar. Good luck!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Keeping Count

Thought for the day:  Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.  [Oprah Winfrey]

[courtesy of Morguefile]
Remember the simple innocence of childhood friendships? For me, part of those good old days entailed decorating a shoe box with lopsided construction paper hearts every Valentine's Day, cutting a big slit in the lid, and then sitting it on my school desk to collect cards from the other kids in my class. You know, back in the days when everybody was everybody else's ♪ tra-la ♫ best friend. 

Yeah, right.

It would have been really nice if it had worked that way. Truth is, not all kids got their shoe boxes stuffed full of cards. Some were ridiculed and shunned on the playground... and then horribly humiliated on Valentine's Day by how few cards made it into their boxes. That must have hurt. Kids crave a sense of belonging and self-worth, and for better or worse, they get a lot of that from how the other kids treat them. How many ♪ tra-la ♫ friends they have... or think they have... is terribly important to them.

You think that's why some people are so keen to amass a ton of ♪ tra-la ♫ friends on Facebook? I wonder. 

[image courtesy of Morguefile]

Now, don't get me wrong. I like making new friends as much as the next person. I'm one of those weirdos who strikes up conversations with complete strangers all the time. (Hey! Strangers are just friends we haven't met yet, right?) But I don't make ♪ tra-la ♫ friends indiscriminately on social media. Just because I always gave Valentine's Day cards to every kid in my class doesn't mean I have to say yes to everyone who approaches me on social media. 

Like that weirdo who said his hobby was collecting women. (Um, no thank you, I think I'll pass...) Or the despicable guy who slept with our friend's wife back in the sixties when he was deployed overseas with the military. (Did that guy really think I'd forgotten how much pain he caused...?) 

Are you a fan of Facebook? I must admit, I post on there from time to time... mostly punny stuff, things that tickle my funny bone, or info that I find particularly interesting. Can't say that I've ever announced to the world that I just ate a bowl of cereal for breakfast, or that I'm currently driving on I-85, though. (Who cares???) And I also like other posts from time to time, too. Again, it's mosty punny stuff, things that tickle my funny bone, or info that I find particularly interesting. But I, um, don't click like on my own posts. To me, that'd be like high-fiving myself. 

But how about today's kids? Being popular on social media is really important to them, and they all want the status of having BIG NUMBERS, so I don't know how much they discriminate. They want lots of friends, lots of likes. Being un-friended is a big deal, like a humiliating slap in the face. For youngsters, the whole experience can be wrapped in drama, and sometimes, in genuine tragedy. 

Life is an awful, ugly place to not have a friend.  [Sarah Dessen]

Author Medeia Sharif is well aware of how important social media are to young people these days, and it rightfully plays a vital role in her latest book. And guess what? You don't have to wait six months or more to read her new book, because it is being released... (ta DA!)


Here's a little blurb to whet your appetite:

52 LIKES by Medeia Sharif
Cover Reveal, Evernight Teen, 2015

After a brutal rape and near-murder, Valerie wants to get past feelings of victimhood from both the assault and her history of being bullied. She’s plagued by not knowing the identity of her rapist and by the nasty rumors in school about that night. Valerie follows clues from ghostly entities, past victims of the rapist-murderer, contacting her through a social media site—why do all of their eerie photos have 52 likes under them? Their messages are leading her to the mystery man, although he’ll put up a fight to remain hidden.

Find Medeia – YA and MG Author

Blog   |   Twitter   |   Goodreads   |   Instagram   |   Amazon

Sounds good, doesn't it? It IS good. The lovely Medeia was kind enough to send me a copy last week. This is what I posted about the book on Goodreads:

What can I say about this book? I LIKED it; I reeeeally liked it. I think it's gonna hit a big fat bull's eye with its target teenaged market, but it's a book well worth reading for us (ahem) more mature folks, as well. 

The appeal for teens? The author zeroes in on what it's like to be a teenager in today's world, so kids will definitely be able to relate to the behavior and language of this book's characters. I must admit, I was a little taken aback at the first f-bomb I encountered, but hey! I suppose that IS the way some kids talk nowadays, whether we old effs (as in fogies) like it or not. Social media plays a vital role in this story, which is certainly something kids will understand. What's more, the potential danger of using social media recklessly is also a vital part of the story. Young people's eyes may roll or glaze over when we try to "warn" them about those dangers, but this book, while engrossing them in the story, allows them to reach that conclusion on their own. It teaches a very important lesson without waving an annoying know-it-all finger in their faces. (We ALL hate that, right?) Plus, there's the story itself. Rape and murder, pain and cruelty, and the meaning of true friendship... it's all in there. Oh, and how about some paranormal stuff, too, to stir the pot up even more? Yep, I think this is a book a lot of teens will love. Personally, I plan to buy it for my two teenaged granddaughters.

And for us older folks? It's absolutely eye-opening to see how cruel kids can be to each other. No wonder some kids hate to go to school. I had no idea...

Plus, there's the story. It's captivating, whether you're fourteen, forty, or (ahem) even older. I'd give it four and a half very enthusiastic stars, rounded up to five. Many thanks to the author for sending me a copy for review prior to publication. The rest of you can get YOUR copy on January 16th!


Um yeah, that's TODAY! 

Have a terrific weekend, y'all. Maybe we'll cross paths on Facebook this weekend. There's a real good chance I'll be having breakfast... and will be riding on I-85. Just in case you wanted to know...

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

Friday, January 9, 2015

Imagination Plus Talent Equals Success

Thought for the day:  You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus. [Mark Twain]

It doesn't require much imagination to appreciate what an overabundance of imagination our feline friends have. Ever watch 'em stare at a wall? For hours? What do they see...? Or how about when they gaze mesmerized at the ceiling? (Just to make us look up, I suspect.) And then there's the times they suddenly jump up and tear out of the room at top speed, as if they're off on some important mission.

Yep, no doubt about it. A cat's imagination can provide us with great entertainment. Come to think of it, I could say the same thing about writers with great imaginations, too. Imaginative writers who can create a whole new world and transport us there with their words truly have a gift. (And they never jump on your head or lick your face in the middle of the night, either. At least, none of the writers I know do...)

Like this gal. Dianne Salerni. She's a writer with a great nose for a story. That's what led her to research and write two YA historical novels, We Hear the Dead, about the early days of spiritualism, and The Caged Graves, about a couple of, um... caged graves.  A couple of real caged graves she spotted in a Pennsylvania cemetery. It took a lot of digging (HA) to ferret out as many facts as she could for both of those books, and a good deal of imagination to flesh out the bare bones of history to create books as good as those two. But her next book took her imagination to the next level. (Kinda like going from staring at the wall to looking into the future...)

The first book in her imagination-out-the-wazoo MG series the Eighth Day came out last year. Reeeeally good.

And NOW... (ta DA!) the second book in this series is gonna be released on January 27, just a couple short weeks away. I may not be in the MG category... heck, some of my GRANDKIDS are even beyond that... but I WILL be reading this book. Know why? Because good is good, and Dianne's books are... good. And did I mention? Very imaginative.

And now, I'm very pleased to say that the lovely Dianne has agreed to answer some very nosy questions I asked her recently. Hey! Inquiring minds want to know!

So here we go, for your entertainment:

ME:  So how did it go down, Dianne? Were you just sitting back in your easy chair one evening, sipping an adult beverage, and listening to an old Beatles album when they started singing Eight Days a Week, and a light bulb suddenly went off in your head? I mean, what inspired you to come up with such a super cool idea as a secret eighth day of the week?

DIANNE: The idea of a secret day came from a family joke. Whenever my daughters asked my husband when they could do something (go to the beach or to an amusement park, for example) and he didn’t have an answer handy, he’d say, “We’ll do it on Grunsday!”  One night, as this joke was being played out over dinner conversation, I wondered out loud, “What if there really was a Grunsday, but only a few people knew about it?” My family loved the idea, but after that initial thought, it took about 18 months for me to come up with a plot to go along with the premise and start writing.

ME:  It must be fun to write continuing tales about characters you know and love, but how difficult is it to strike a balance, such that you include enough background information to draw and keep the interest of new readers, without annoying your return readers who want to get on with the new story without too much back-pedaling and re-hashing? In other words, is it your goal for each book to stand on its own, or are you primarily trying to develop a returning fan base of readers who will eagerly await each new installment? Yeah, I know... BOTH! (And I hope you get both.)

DIANNE: It’s not impossible to read these books out of order, but readers will probably enjoy the series a lot more if they start with Book 1. The re-hashing thing gave me some trouble when I started drafting Book 2, but I thought I had a clever way to do it. In chapter one, I introduced a new POV character, 12-year-old Dorian Ambrose who, as a member of the nefarious Dulac clan, watches his father interrogate a prisoner about the events that occurred in the climax of Book 1. Doing the recap as a prisoner interrogation? Brilliant, right? My beta readers hated me starting the book this way. HATED IT. But they couldn’t articulate a reason why it didn’t work for them, so I ignored them and sent it to my editor anyway. My editor, being truly brilliant, explained why this didn’t work as an opening. If readers didn’t remember who the Dulacs were and what threat they posed to our heroes, the tension and significance of the scene would be lost. She convinced me that I needed to start the book with my protagonist, Jax, and make sure the reader was re-acquainted with all the characters before throwing the villains at them. She was right, of course, and I wrote a new first chapter that hopefully will serve as that quick re-hash and still keep the reader interested.
The prisoner interrogation comes in chapter two. ;)

ME:  Do you already have a long list of plot ideas for future installments, or do you prefer to operate with more of a one-book-at-a-time mentality?

DIANNE: When HarperCollins signed me for a 3-book contract (with two more optioned books), my editor asked me to plan a 5-book story arc that could end on Book 3 if they decided not to pick up the options.  At that point, I planned out a premise for each of the 5 books.  But I didn’t develop a plot for each one until it was time to write it.

ME:  Are any of your beta readers youngsters? If so, is their input helpful?

DIANNE: My youngest daughter served as the #1 reader for The Eighth Day when I was writing the first draft. (I recall printing out my latest chapter one day, walking into the next room to pick up the pages and discovering they were already gone. She’d been standing next to the printer to collect them as they came out!) Of course, she was 12 back then. Now that she’s 14, she’s far too busy with her social life to read Mom’s work!  However, I still had other young beta readers. Lenny Lee, blogger extraordinaire, read the first and second books, and of course I had my fifth grade students.  Their feedback was immeasurably helpful! I will miss them now that I’m retired.

ME:  I'm way outside the parameters of the target age for your books, but I thoroughly enjoy them. I don't know if that's because you do such a good job tapping into the imagination of my inner child, or if it's something else. I mean, the most successful animated children's films also incorporate some language and humor directed at an adult audience. Is any of that in play in your books? Do you consciously try to appeal to an adult audience, as well?

DIANNE: I do try to appeal to adults, especially by adding a self-aware wink and a nod here and there. A number of adult readers commented that they enjoyed how Jax, the first time he experiences the un-populated eighth day, assumes it’s the zombie apocalypse and stocks up on survival gear just like he’s seen people do on TV. Jax asks his guardian if they (the people who experience the eighth day) are human, and Riley answers: “Of course we’re human! What kind of bad science fiction movies have you been watching?” When Jax learns about his connection to people in Arthurian legends, he does what any of us would do: Googles his famous ancestor – only to find out he was “kind of a jerk.” And anyone who has ever lived with a teenage boy has mentioned to me how much they laughed at Jax and Riley blaming each other for why they were constantly running out of groceries. I guess it’s no coincidence that these are some of my favorite parts of the book too. I’m also way outside the target age!

ME:  What's next for you? Is your focus going to be on writing more Eighth Day books, or do you have another series or more stand-alone books on the horizon?

DIANNE: I recently revised a YA historical mystery that I wrote several years ago and also wrote a brand new kids’ science fiction adventure. Both of these will go to my agent for consideration, and I hope she’ll decide they’re worthy of submission to publishers. In the spring of 2105 I’ll need to expand the premise I have for the optioned Eighth Day books into something resembling a synopsis to submit for consideration.
I also have a few more ideas germinating (2 Middle Grade and 1 Young Adult) that might need that 18-month germination period before they blossom into full plots ready to be drafted.
Publication of any of these books is not guaranteed. Even with two prior YA historicals and this 3-book fantasy series under my belt, every work I write has to go through the same submission process as my first book. Sometimes, the answer will be “no.” All I can do is write as many as I can and hope that some of them get a big “YES!”

ME:  Anything else you'd like to share with us?

DIANNE: Just that I’m ridiculously excited for this release. The Inquisitor’s Mark was probably my favorite book to write in the series so far – and my favorite scenes involve a chase through the Central Park Zoo, a garbage chute and a fire escape ladder, and a monster under a luxury Manhattan apartment building!
Plot Summary for The Inquisitor’s Mark:
After the all-out Eighth Day war in Mexico, Jax, Riley, and Evangeline have gone into hiding. There are still rogue Transitioners and evil Kin lords who want to use Riley, a descendant of King Arthur, and Evangeline, a powerful wizard with bloodlines to Merlin, to get control over the Eighth Day.

So when Finn Ambrose, a mysterious stranger, contacts Jax claiming to be his uncle, Jax’s defenses go up—especially when Finn tells Jax that he’s holding Jax’s best friend, Billy, hostage. To rescue Billy and keep Riley and Evangeline out of the fray, Jax sneaks off to New York City on his own. But once there, he discovers a surprising truth: Finn is his uncle and Jax is closely related to the Dulacs—a notoriously corrupt and dangerous Transitioner clan who want Riley dead and Evangeline as their prisoner. And family or not, these people will stop at nothing to get what they want.

Thanks, Dianne. I hope you sell a bazillion copies, and kids are lined up outside the book stores to get a copy.

Wow, I'm ridiculously excited about Dianne's new release, too. She isn't just a terrific writer; she's a terrific person. With a great imagination. (Did I happen to mention that?) And now... I hope you're excited about her books, too. 

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

Things are definitely looking up. [Morguefile}
P.S. While I have you looking up, how about looking into a nest... an eagle's nest... with two adorable babies in it? This eagle cam is set up in the Fort Myers. Florida area. Really cool

Friday, January 2, 2015

It's Clean Slate Time

Thought for the day:  Cheers to a new year and another chance to get it right.  Oprah Winfrey

Janus  [Wikipedia]
This is the time of year I usually get a little two-faced. Like Janus, I find myself looking both backward and forward each time a new year begins. There's a certain sadness in closing the book on another year. A sense of loss for the people who've passed from our lives, nostalgia for joyous events now over and done with, and perhaps even a touch of regret for decisions made and opportunities missed. But, you know what? It's a BRAND NEW YEAR, people! It's okay to think about the past year, or even about all our past years, but let's not forget to look forward, too. If we spend too much time staring into the rear view mirror, how can we possibly appreciate the wide open road in front of us, and all the beautiful sights along the way?  Sure, we're all a year older, but doggone it, we're STILL Born to Be Wild. (sorta)

Okay, so we're not as young and fresh-faced as we used to be. Big whoop. We all have a brand new, soft-as-a-baby's-butt year ahead of us, and the possibilities are endless. We're all been given a clean slate, and it's up to us to grab the chalk and start scribbling.

I suppose the notion of a clean slate explains the age-old tradition of starting each new year with a long list of resolutions, and a determination to get it right. As Mark Twain said, Now is the time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.

Do you make resolutions? Not me. The only resolution I make is not to make any resolutions. I mean, why set myself up for failure? This would be me: Dear Lord, so far this year, I've done really well. I haven't overeatensaid anything stupid, forgotten anything important, skipped my daily exercise, or forgotten to floss. I'm very thankful for that, but in a few minutes, I have to actually get out of bed, and from then on, I'm probably gonna need a lot of help.

Oscar Wilde said, Good resolutions are simply checks that men draw on a bank where they have no account. And, well, golly, I sure don't want to do that, now, do I? Better to make plans or set goals, but for me? Never, never, never call it a resolution.

[Morguefile image]

An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in; a pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.  Bill Vaughn

Whether you consider yourself an optimist or pessimist, 2014 is kaput. It's a clear case of in one year and out the other. Perhaps the champagne bottle is empty, and the candles extinguished, but there will be other bottles, and hope can always light the way, if you let it.

And, you know what? If you think about it, what lies behind us doesn't really matter all that much, and neither does what lies before us. When you get right down to it, the most important thing is what lies within us.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!! [Morguefile image]

In the new year, may your right hand be stretched out in friendship, but never in want.

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