Dear Readers Nov. 20, 2008

Here’s to happiness and good cheer.

It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is next week. In spite of the turn in the weather -- much colder than I like it -- I still can’t get my arms around the fact that the holidays are here.

I think what is missing is that great feeling of happiness and good cheer that always accompanies the holiday season. I am praying that itis just too early and that the feelings of goodwill, good times and good news will swoop down on us and envelop us in the warmth of the season.

Aren’t you tired of gloom? Not that there isn’t plenty to be gloomy about. The economy isn’t good. Several personal friends and family have lost their jobs. The forecast is for a retail selling season that looks more red than black. Charities are scrambling to make goals or readjusting to cope with the shortfall.

And, businesses like mine, are in the final stages of fine-tuning budgets and gazing into our crystal balls to see what next year will bring.

I’m always grouchy, unavailable and stressed during budget time. First of all, I don’t like numbers. I’m a word person. I’m an idea person. I’m a creative machine who can squeeze sunshine out of thunderheads. I majored in journalism to get away from college math. So, budget time and I don’t get along in the best of economies. Add in that shortfalls in revenues mean I can’t do the things I want to do -- everything has a price tag -- and you get a formula for grumpiness.

Usually, however, it’s over by the first of November and the sights, sounds and anticipation of the holidays comes drifting in, allowing me to forget all about the next year’s budget until -- well, next year.

This year, however, the budgets are done and some pretty exciting decisions made (I’ll tell you next week all about that!), but the holiday spirit just doesn’t seem to be invading. I think it’s time to be pro-active. There are some holiday jump-starters on the horizon, so I want you, my friends and Blount Today readers, to throw away your worries and celebrate this great season of goodwill and happiness.

Because we all obviously need a little help this year, here are some heartfelt suggestions to help you get your holiday spirit roaring through you in no time at all:

n Count your blessings for Thanksgiving. Write them down and fold each blessing into the napkin at each dinner plate on Thanksgiving Day, no matter whether it’s paper or cloth.

n Phone-a-friend. Pick someone you haven’t heard from in a while -- a cousin who always makes you smile, a college or high school friend you keep missing, or an office colleague you would love to have dinner with under the conditions that no one mentions work.

n Take a child to the movies, to see Santa, to breakfast or just to the mall. Time with children during this season is an instant picker-upper.

n Spend a little money and do something Christmassy. Our own Appalachian Ballet will present The Nutcracker on Dec. 6-7. Junior Service League is hosting a Breakfast With Santa on Dec. 6 to raise money for Toys for Blount County. Fantasy of Trees is Nov. 26-30 in Knoxville, but it is worth a trip across the county line and there are Blount County groups who always participate.

n Enjoy the “Freebies” that this county offers to really get in the holiday mood. Blount Today helps sponsor Hometown Christmas in Blount County, Maryville and Alcoa every year, and there are four great events coming up (See Community Events on page 17). The music, hot chocolate and beautiful trees can’t help but push through the blahhs.

I am going to take my own advice, starting today. There is too much good in this country, too many blessings to be thankful for and too much hope on the horizon to let another week pass without celebrating those things and pushing worry aside.

And, if none of that is enough, turn to Luke, Chapter 2, a little early this year. That should do it.

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