Happy Thanksgiving Weekend to all my Canadian Friends and Family!

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It’s been another tough year, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to write about Thanksgiving gratitude. Then I read over my past Thanksgiving posts and changed my mind. Because they’re just as relevant today as when I first wrote them, I’ve incorporated some of my thoughts from those posts into this one.

Thanksgiving is a time to spend with loved ones and, if we’re lucky, eat really yummy food. It’s also a time to give thanks for life’s blessings. Compared to so many places in the world, here in Canada, we have much to be grateful for. Thanksgiving will always hold a special place in my heart because I became a mother for the first time on Thanksgiving Day. There’s little in my life I’m more thankful for than the gift of my children.

As I look back at the past year, I see so much sadness, tragedy and anxiety, both personally and in the world, in general. I struggle to find gratitude, so instead I have to accept that sometimes bad things happen to good people for no comprehendible reason. Good things happen as well, and this is where I must seek gratefulness. Even though it’s sometimes hard to find life’s joy, it’s there, hidden in many little things, and I give thanks for that.

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I’m thankful my physical health continues to improve. I’m stronger and leaner and in less pain than I’ve been in a long time.

I’m thankful Hubby and I have had many Sunday Funday adventures this year, having great fun while exploring our beautiful outdoors.

Despite not getting to go to Alberta this year to celebrate Thanksgiving and his birthday with my oldest son and his family, I’m thankful to have family to share Thanksgiving with, and that Hubby once again cooked a delicious turkey dinner for us.

I’m thankful I’ve seen my kids more often this year, and that we were all able to spend a day together for the first time in three years.

I’m thankful I have two gorgeous, bright, healthy, affectionate little grandsons who love me very much, as I love them. And I’m especially thankful they came to visit me, not once, but twice, this year!

I’m thankful Hubby and I are able to look forward to the winter vacation we just booked.

I’m thankful that my aged little Roxy is still with us, and despite the health scare she just gave me, I’m thankful she’s slowly getting better and isn’t in too much pain.

Although I wish my mom didn’t have to take cancer treatments, I’m so thankful she isn’t experiencing many bad side effects.

I’m thankful that, although we’re far from wealthy, we don’t really want for much.

I’m thankful I have reasons to be thankful.

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Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I hope you too can find much to be thankful for in your lives.

Off To Enjoy Summer…

As I did last year, I’m putting my blog on summer hiatus until September.

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If I have anything exciting to share regarding my writing, I’ll pop in with an update. And if I’m feeling really energetic, I might post the occasional Sunday Funday photo.

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Have a wonderful, safe and happy summer. Wear sunscreen and hug your loved ones every chance you get.

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2015 – The Year of Challenges

2015 was definitely my year for overcoming challenges. Lots of challenges.

January started out incredibly. Hubby and I vacationed at the Sandos Caracol in the Riviera Maya, and it exceeded all my hopes. My blog posts with tons of photos start here. This is just a taste:

Mayan River

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We met adorable Coatis.

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A troop of spider monkeys live on the resort.

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They eat bananas just like we do.

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They also eat them like this.

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Avendia Juarez beach, Playa del Carmen.

1501-6 Avendia Juarez, Playa del Carmen

Tulum is gorgeous.

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I climbed Grupo Nohoch Mul at Coba. This is a shot from the top.

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The resort’s beach.

1501-10 Riviera Maya, Caribbean Sea

Swimming in Cenote Cristalino.

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Somehow, I acquired about six unwanted pounds over Christmas and while on vacation (thanks a lot, Piña Coladas). This gave me the push to begin exercising regularly, although I focused more on improving my cardio than losing weight. I started with a measly ten minutes on the recumbent bike at resistance one, about six days a week, with hopes of increasing both the duration and resistance over time.

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I visited my oldest son (DS1) and his family in February. Luckily, the Alberta winter was mild, and we were able to play outside in the sunshine.

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I watched my six-year-old grandson play hockey and take his turn in net. He thinks he might like playing goal. (Yikes!)

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My dad’s only living sibling turned 100 years old in February, and he’s doing wonderfully.

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My third published book, Dare to Risk All, was released on March 11th. Buy link

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I spent much of March and April researching a trip to Vancouver Island for our June vacation. I’d wanted to go there for years and was quite excited to start planning.

On Easter Sunday, Hubby and I hiked Bear Creek Canyon Trail. Lovely views, a few challenging elevations, with plenty of flatter grades to catch my breath.

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My old bike was big and heavy, and difficult to handle, so I bought a new one in April. It’s built for a shorty like me. And it’s cute too.

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Last Christmas, I gave Hubby theatre tickets, and we eagerly anticipated seeing Addams Family in April. Then, unbelievably, we both totally forgot to go! Thankfully, they let us reschedule. We didn’t forget a second time, and it was an excellent performance.

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My second novel, It’s Complicated, received a glowing 5 star review from InD’Tale Magazine earlier in the year, making it eligible for the 2015 RONE Awards. The public voting round started mid-April, so I spent a stressful week begging family and friends to vote.

That same week, Dare to Risk All’s shipment of paperbacks arrived. I don’t think seeing one of my books in print will ever get old.

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My bookshelf is still rather skinny, but I’ve added to it every year.

1504-6 My books

By the middle of April, I’d lost four of my extra six pounds, and managed to up my bike riding to half an hour, still at resistance one.

To close the month, BIL bravely drove my mom, two of my sisters, a niece and me to Washington for the weekend. We met up with another niece at the Tulalip Casino. I’m not much on casinos, but it was fun to have an outing with my family.

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At this point, you’re probably saying “Where’s the challenges? Life sounds pretty good.” And that’s because May hadn’t hit yet.

At a pit-stop on our way to see DS1 and his family at the beginning of May, our little Roxy fell off a picnic table and broke her leg. She was such a brave girl, but it was quite the ordeal for both of us.

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Despite that traumatic aspect of the trip, we had a lovely time with our grandkids. We visited Bowness Park, an old childhood favourite of mine. Nothing like a big pile of rocks to entertain little boys.

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I also attended my youngest grandson’s Mother’s Day celebration at his preschool. It was pretty special for both of us and I appreciated DIL1 offering to let me go in her place.

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As always, the scenery to and from Alberta was spectacular.

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I bought Hubby April Wine tickets for his birthday and we were so excited to go (didn’t forget this one!), but it ended up being a bit of a letdown. I loved April Wine’s music back in the 70’s and 80’s, and eagerly anticipated hearing it live. There were lots of long guitar riffs and several drum solos, but very few songs we recognized from their early days.

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Last year, our youngest son (DS3) directed and produced his own movie in South Africa. Lord Jones is Dead completed post production mid-May, and Hubby and I got a private screening. We were so impressed with its professional quality, and Hubby likened it to Monty Python.

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Around the middle of May, we realized we needed to cancel our Vancouver Island trip. Even though Roxy doesn’t actually walk when we hike, the rigorous trip would’ve been too much for her with a casted leg. Talk about disappointment! Then a few days later, Hubby was miraculously able to book a rare week off in August. The trip was back on, several days shorter than originally planned, but I wasn’t complaining.

On the May long weekend, our ancient A/C unit decided to permanently retire. Naturally, the weather was unseasonable warm, and we had company. Worse part was, we couldn’t get a new unit installed for six weeks.

I was notified on May 29th that It’s Complicated had garnered enough votes to make it to the judge’s round of the RONE Awards. My family and friends had come through for me yet again!

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Outside commitments kept me extremely busy most of the spring and summer, forcing me too put my writing and many other aspects of my personal life on hold. I was also at the beck and call of my invalid dog, who couldn’t even get herself a drink of water. With our house constantly overheated, I had to come up with ways of keeping her cool, including sharing my popsicles.

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Hubby and I took a day of R&R at nearby Beaver Lake at the beginning of June. It’s a lovely spot, and we hope to return one day with our kayak.

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Family and friends came from near and far to honour my mom with a weekend of celebrations for her 90th birthday in June. She’s certainly a well-loved lady.

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Our new A/C unit was installed on July 2nd, and we focused on how cool the house finally was, rather than the expensive bill we had to pay.

The next day, Roxy got her cast off. The vet had concerns about the way the bones had healed and she didn’t put weight on that leg for the longest time, but we did physio with her every day, including some adorable hydro-therapy in the bathtub, and she slowly made a complete recovery.

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The only difference we can see is that the leg keeps getting hairier and hairier (weird, right?) and the healed joint is bigger than it used to be.

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Hubby and I explored the charms of Brandt’s Creek one balmy July afternoon.

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I flew to Alberta at the end of July to celebrate my grandson’s birthday. We played in the Elbow River, an activity I did as a teenager.

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We spent a very entertaining and informative day in Drumheller at the Royal Tyrrell Museum and viewing the hoodoos.

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And we capped the weekend off by attending a Stampeders football game. I hadn’t been to one in over forty years, so it was quite nostalgic for me, and my team won!

1507-59 Calgary Stampeders VS Montreal Allouettes

At the beginning of August, The Wild Rose Press contracted another of my books for publication. It’s titled Visual Effects and I’m guessing (hoping) it’ll be out next spring.

Because of the busyness of my summer, we only got out kayaking once, ambitiously paddling from Sutherland Bay to Paul’s Tomb and back.

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By August, I had lost twelve pounds. I was still riding the bike for half an hour several days a week, but every time I tried going to resistance two, my knee would act up. Wearing a rather cumbersome brace has helped to stabilize the knee.

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Back in May, I discovered Roxy had a rotten tooth. The vet wouldn’t pull it without a multitude of tests first, so we hoped it’d just fall out on its own. When I had the vet check it again mid-August, it practically fell out in his hand. I told Hubby how it only cost $30, adding that I deserved some good karma for all the hard work I’d been doing. I don’t usually talk that way, and I should’ve kept my mouth shut, because only minutes later, I had a freak accident, which resulted in a severe injury to my foot. So much for good karma!

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Lots of bruising a couple of days later.

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To make matters worse, this injury happened mere days before our Vancouver Island trip. With serious nerve and tendon damage, I wasn’t supposed to walk on it, but I did anyway, determined not to let it ruin our wonderful trip. I shared many vacation tales and photos here. These are just a few of the highlights.

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1508-17 Schooner Cove Trail, Pacific Rim Park

Florencia Bay beach

1508-18 Florencia Bay beach, Pacific Rim Park

Lighthouse Loop

1508-19 Lighthouse Loop, Wild Pacific Trail, Ucluelet

Big Beach, Ucluelet

1508-20 Big Beach, Ucluelet

On the last day of August, I received the sad, if not completely unexpected, news that one of my publishers, Secret Cravings, was closing its doors, effectively orphaning two of my books. I immediately started revamping the books to submit somewhere else, and my other publisher also offered to look at them, but to date I’ve made no decisions on what to do.

I was probably the happiest mom on the planet when my brown-eyed boy (DS2) told me in September that he and DIL2 were moving back home after eight long years living in eastern Canada!!

It’s Complicated didn’t place at the RONE Awards ceremony in September. Because the book was no longer for sale, and I’d already won the award for Show No Weakness, I was content to have finaled.

Hubby and I checked out Kuiper’s Peak at the end of September. Although the trail itself was short and uninspiring, the views of Okanagan Lake were exceptional.

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We made our annual trek to Alberta for Thanksgiving and once again were blessed with lovely weather. DS1 got us tickets to a Stamps football game, and although my team lost, it was a fine night and we enjoyed ourselves.

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DIL1 drove us to Bowden where I experienced the fun of a Corn Maze for the first time.

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We celebrated both DS1 and DIL1’s birthdays while there.

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The landscape on the trip home was alive with glorious fall colours.

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By mid-October, my foot had healed enough for me to resume my bike riding regime. I had concerns about not having pedaled for two months, but I was able to quickly ramp up to a half hour at resistance two.

DIL2 treated me to a Bare Naked Ladies concert in October. Alan Doyle (formerly of Great Big Sea) was the opening act and, wow, what a great night of music. And such fun to share it with my DIL.

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The return of DS2 and DIL2 means Daisy’s back too. Daisy and I kinda love each other, and she certainly hasn’t forgotten me.

1510-22 With Daisy

Remember the bit about the A/C unit breaking down in May? Well, our ten-year-old furnace bit the big one in November. We could’ve had it repaired—if we wanted to wait four to six weeks for the parts. In November? Uh, no. So after ten chilly furnace-less days, we had the latest and greatest (and hugely expensive) one installed. Fingers crossed it lasts longer than its crappy predecessor.

The book cover for my new release, Visual Effects, was finalized mid-November. I’m quite happy with it, and I’ll do a cover reveal as soon as I get my release date.

It was a pleasure to celebrate DIL2’s birthday with her this year.

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We also had the privilege of attending her call ceremony in December. Such an accomplished young lady!

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We hung memory ornaments for my dad and MIL at the local cemetery. My MIL loved Christmas, and I believe she’d be pleased.

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Like our past several Christmases, this year wasn’t traditional. We spent part of Christmas Eve with lots of little ones at my niece’s beautiful home, where Santa made an appearance, and DS2 and 3 got a visit in with their grandma.

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Christmas day was very quiet, just Hubby and DS3 to open a few presents with. Later, DIL2 hosted a lovely dinner at her parents’ place.

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We cooked our turkey dinner on the Sunday after Christmas and had some family over to share it with us.

1512-25 Belated Christmas dinner

Traditional Christmas or not, it meant so much to me to have more than one special present under my tree.

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2015 wasn’t my best year and, while it certainly wasn’t my worst either, I’m glad it’s in the rear-view mirror. I look forward to what 2016 holds.

Let’s Make It A Happy and Loving New Year!

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As 2015 comes to a close, I find myself filled with equal parts hope and disillusionment. It’s sad to admit I’m not really liking our world right now. So much hate, intolerance. Violence. And I’m not just talking about the terrorists. I worry things will only get worse before, or even if, they get better. That leaves me disillusioned and disappointed.

But there’s also a part of me that my dad used to call a ‘bleeding heart’, and this bleeding heart has hope. Hope that there are more good people in the world than bad people. That love can and will triumph over hate. I continue to hold firmly to my faith in humanity with two tightly clenched fists.

So, how about in 2016 we all try a little harder? To be more tolerant, less easily offended. More patient and giving and loving. To look for the good in others, even if they don’t share our beliefs. Let’s be kinder! Just imagine the possibilities.

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To quote the lyrics of the legendary John Lennon:

Imagine there’s no countries. It isn’t hard to do. Nothing to kill or die for. And no religion too. Imagine all the people, living life in peace… You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.

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I wish for you comfort on difficult days,

Smiles when sadness intrudes…

Rainbows to follow clouds,

Laughter to kiss your lips,

Sunsets to warm your heart,

Gentle hugs when spirits sag,

Friendships to brighten your being,

Beauty for eyes to see,

Confidence for when you doubt,

Courage to know yourself,

Patience to accept the truth,

And love to complete your life.

~Unknown author

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Happy New Year to all. May 2016 be the best year ever, full of peace, happiness and good health.

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Christmas Card List

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Christmas Card List

I have a list of folks I know, all written in a book and every year when Christmas comes, I go and take a look.

And that is when I realize that these names are a part not of the book they’re written in, but of my heart.

For each name stands for someone who has crossed my path sometime, and in that meeting they’ve become the rhythm in each rhyme.

And while this sounds fantastic for me to make this claim, I really feel that I’m composed of each remembered name.

And while you may not be aware of any special “link”, just meeting you has changed my life a lot more than you think.

For once I’ve met someone, the years cannot erase the memory of a pleasant word or a friendly face.

So never think my Christmas cards are just a mere routine of names upon a Christmas list, forgotten in between.

For when I send a Christmas card that’s addressed to you, it’s because you’re on the list of folks I’m indebted to.

For I am but the total of the many folks I’ve met, and you happen to be one of those I prefer not to forget.

Whether I have known you for many years or just a few, in some way you have had a part in shaping things I do.

So every year when Christmas comes, I realize anew, the best gifts life can offer is meeting folks like you.

May the Spirit of Christmas that forever endures leave its richest blessings in the hearts of you and yours.

–Author unknown

Like this unknown author, I too still send out Christmas cards. Each year my list gets a little shorter; it’s so much easier to stay in touch on social media. But there’s nothing like a personal note to say, “I’m thinking about you and wish you the best”, especially to those I have no other contact with, so I plan to continue this tradition for years to come.

To all my family and friends, and to everyone who visits my blog throughout the year, have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, however you celebrate the season. And may 2016 be your best year yet.

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Thanksgiving Gratitude

Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian family and friends. Thanksgiving is a time to spend with loved ones and, if we’re lucky, eat really yummy food. It’s also a time to give thanks for life’s blessings. Compared to so many places in the world, here in Canada, we have much to be grateful for. I personally am thankful to be able to spend this day with my firstborn son, to not only celebrate Thanksgiving, but also his birthday. And I’m thankful for the presence of my hubby, daughter-in-law and grandsons. Family time is precious, and I’m grateful to have these loved ones around me.

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As I look back at all of the little knocks life’s given me lately, I can choose to feel overwhelmed or I can find the positive in the situations. Today I want to look for the positives, because no matter what, there’s always something to feel grateful for.

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At the beginning of May, my wee dog broke her leg while we were traveling. I felt terrible for her pain and everything she had to go through during her twelve-week recovery. It was also a major inconvenience for me, as well as a hit to our finances. I’m thankful she made a complete recovery and doesn’t even walk with a limp now. She’s an old girl, and it could’ve been so much worse.

Also in May, our ancient AC unit decided to retire permanently. We live in a hot climate, and in the following six weeks, our house reached unbearable temperatures. This was especially tough on my little Roxy, who couldn’t even get a drink of water by herself. I’m thankful we could afford to buy a new AC, and we were able to get it installed before the worst of the summer heat hit us.

For several months, during the spring and summer, I did little else besides help my mom with her move from her condo into an independent living community. Most of my other activities were put on hold while I worked long hours at her place. I’m so very thankful for the time I spent with her, sorting through her possessions together, talking about her past, listening to her stories. Just being with her. And I’m also thankful I was in a position to make the transition to a better lifestyle as painlessly as possible for her.

Because of Roxy’s broken leg, we had to cancel our much-anticipated vacation to Vancouver Island in June. I had done so much planning and preparing for this trip, it was a real disappointment to cancel it. I’m grateful that Hubby was able to get an unexpected week of vacation in August and we could reschedule our trip, even if we had to shorten it.

Two days before we left on that trip, I injured my foot in a freak accident. The injury looked horrendous, and both my doctor and the X-ray tech thought the foot was badly broken and I should’ve been in terrible pain. I’m beyond grateful that it wasn’t broken, and because of damage to a nerve, the pain was much less severe than it might have otherwise been. Despite continuing to deal with nerve pain issues seven weeks after the injury, I’m still thankful that while on the trip I was able to walk and hike, albeit at a slower pace and for shorter durations. Bottom line, our vacation wasn’t ruined.

At the end of August, I learned that the publisher of my first two books was closing its doors, leaving my books orphans. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to have my books published, and I’m also hopeful that they will find a new home and, in the process, be discovered by new readers.

A couple of weeks ago, I did a post that touched on having my comment deleted from someone else’s Facebook post. As a result of my blog post, this young woman unfriended me, sent me a toxic and misinformed message, then blocked me from responding to her. (You suggested I blog about it, so here it is, dear. I hope you enjoyed your “I’m so gonna un-friend you” wine, and it made you feel better.) This situation made me sad, not because I’m no longer her friend on Facebook, but because nowadays people seem so quick to find offense and overreact negatively. I had to dig a little deeper to find the reason to be grateful for this experience, and this is what I’ve come up with. I’m grateful that I’m secure enough with who I am that I don’t need to continuously seek approval from others for my own self-worth. I’m grateful that I have people in my life who love me, and not only do they love me, they like me too. These are the people I want around me. Anything else is just white-noise, and I can always turn down the volume.

It’s so easy to be grateful about this next one. My brown-eyed boy and daughter-in-law will soon be home, and I can’t wait to see them.

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Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I hope you too can find much to be thankful for in your lives.