At this time of year, it seems like 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 weeks from Thanksgiving until New Year’s Day. It doesn’t help to see the Facebook pictures of perfectly decorated cookies and professionally baked cakes that are supposed to be so easy to create in your home kitchen, while wrapping perfect packages and serving a gourmet dinner to your family. All this makes me wonder why one of the most joyous times of the year creates so much stress and chaos, and why we let it happen to us, and the people we love can get lost in the madness.

Let’s take 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 have the kids string popcorn and cranberries for the Christmas tree. We can bake cookies and make candy and share it with our friends and neighbors, and brighten somebody else’s day with a smile or a special compliment. If there isn’t time for baking and cooking — along with everything else — our local stores have goodies available for every taste and budget. How about a bouquet of fresh flowers to brighten a room, or scented candles to place on a fireplace mantel where little hands or dog’s tails can’t reach them?

If you haven’t finished with Christmas shopping and have that friend or family member who has everything, a gift card to one of MI Town’s restaurants would give them the opportunity to enjoy a cup of coffee with friends or an evening out during those cold and dark days following the holidays.

We’ll be saying “goodbye” to 2016 within the next couple weeks and, for some, it cannot happen soon enough. This past year has brought bad weather events, floods and fires, family tragedies for some, and a very contentious election season that never seems to end. It has also given us sunshine and happy memories at the beaches, outdoor movies and concerts in the parks, new babies, beautiful flowers and bountiful gardens. The new addition to the Monmouth Senior Center is nearly completed and we are looking forward to the upcoming open house.

As we reflect on the end of the year, I’d like to wish Monmouth’s outgoing Mayor John Oberst good wishes and “thank you,” and for working closely with Independence Mayor John McArdle, who will continue to be there for his community. Thank you as well to Mark Fancey for being the absolute definition of the man who gets things done — and done well.

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