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12/15 Mi Town: Patty Taylor Dutcher

Some folks are organized and their gifts were wrapped weeks ago. Christmas cards were neatly stacked on the corner of the desk, ready for mailing Thanksgiving weekend. Other people are waiting for payday before they can begin shopping. And most of us fall somewhere in between.

In our house, sewing and craft projects are works in progress. Pets need to be cared for and meals need to be prepared. Some cards still need to be addressed and mailed. But somehow it will all come together just in time for family gatherings and good times to share with friends.

Whether Christmas plans include a splendid table set with our best china and crystal or a bowl of soup at the kitchen table, we want to make it a memorable season for those we love.

I've had a wonderful time sharing meat loaf with good friends, and a dreadful time at a well-appointed table where mean-spirited behavior was the norm. So much depends upon sharing the joy and meaning of the season, the happy smiles and grateful hearts.

At this time of year, bazillions of articles are written about how to "survive" the holidays and books appear on the shelves telling us how to manage to get through the days and weeks from Thanksgiving until New Year's Day. All this makes me wonder why one of the most joyous times of the year can create so much stress and chaos.

In MI Town, there's time to relax with friends and enjoy time with family without turning it into a major production. We can make a big bowl of punch and watch the kids string popcorn and cranberries for the Christmas tree. We can bake cookies, make candy and share it all with our friends and neighbors. We can brighten somebody else's day with a smile or a special compliment. If there isn't time for baking and cooking, our local stores have goodies available for every taste and budget.

This may be the first year your children are home from college. They'll be eager to share stories about classes and university life and their newly found independence. They may also want some quiet time to relax and see neighborhood friends and catch up on some much-needed sleep.

During this season, we need to take time away from all the busy activities to think about our families, friends and neighbors. It's a good time to count our blessings and to share what we can with those who have not had such a wonderful year. Our communities have a long history of taking care of our own, and what better time than now to show that we can -- and we will.

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