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From The Chief Editor's Desk

It doesn't seem like enough time has elapsed for the holidays to be coming around again, but they literally are just right around the corner. I know we've been busy buying the kids their holiday gifts, as well as gifts for each other. We have had to pare down our holiday gift lists this year, mostly focusing on the kids. The grandparents have asked us to not buy them anything for the holidays, preferring to focus on the kids and just having everyone around to share some precious time during the holiday season.

This month features our annual holiday gift guide, highlighting things that we think might make good gifts for those on your holiday gift list. You'll find gift ideas from me, Meemaw, YouCanToo, and phorneker. All totalled, there are 34 gift ideas from four different perspectives. You are certain to find something fitting for those on your gift list (or for yourself) that fits into your budget. Item costs on the lists range from under $20 to around $500.

Since my wife and I both work in healthcare, one of us always seems to have to work on the holidays. Sickness never takes a holiday, so neither does the hospital staff. My wife had to work on Thanksgiving this year. In their ever greedier ways, many retailers around our parts open with "Black Friday" sales on Thanksgiving evening (even though Thanksgiving is on the fourth Thursday of every November). Personally, I will NEVER go to a "Black Friday" sale. I'd rather spend more and have to fight less to get the items I'm after. Fighting the crowds just isn't my cup of tea. Plus, it would probably trigger my temper to explosive levels, so it's probably best if I avoid the annual "circus" of Black Friday and Thanksgiving sales. Look for video on YouTube, you'll see what I mean. Just search for "2017 Black Friday" and watch how ridiculous some people behave just to save $50 ... or less. My idea of holiday shopping for the past 10+ years is to order everything online, and sit back and wait for UPS to deliver the stuff to my doorstep.

So, having spotted some items she wanted for the kids in a Wal-Mart sale that started on Thanksgiving evening, she managed to leave work about 45 minutes early so she could stop by a local Wal-Mart store on her way home. Wal-Mart was opening at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, which should allow my wife to get there in plenty of time, leaving work at 5:30 p.m. Now the parking lot for this particular Wal-Mart is acres in size. She spent over 30 minutes trying to just find a parking spot, because every single one was filled. She ended up parking in a neighboring restaurant's parking lot, and walking to Wal-Mart from there.

Upon arrival to Wal-Mart, she was shocked to find everyone behaving in a well-mannered way. No one was getting riled and ridiculous. Everyone was actually being rather courteous to one another. Well, almost everyone. One lady was verbally "venting" as she navigated through the sea of people. There always has to be at least one. But my wife didn't witness anyone fighting over merchandise, like you commonly see in the videos on YouTube or on the nightly news.

Amazingly, she found everything that was in the advertisement that she went there to get. Plus, she found a couple of other items on sale for really good prices for Lexi. And, she also got the grocery items she needed to pick up. When she called me from her cell phone that she was in line to check out, I asked her where she was in the store. She told me, "by the baby diapers." At that time, I told her that she'll spend at least 45 minutes in line, if not an hour. The baby diapers are at the BACK. OF. THE. STORE.

I have to give props to the people working at Wal-Mart. This obviously wasn't their first rodeo. They had a system in place, and it worked. Each "line" (queue for my UK friends) was merely a "feeder" line. At the front of the line was a Wal-Mart associate. Their job was to assign checkout registers to the people in the feeder line as they became available. Each associate was charged with directing people to between four and six checkout registers. As such, my wife spent less than 20 minutes in a "feeder line" that went all the way to the back of the store, before being able to pay for her items and hike back to her car ... parked in a neighboring restaurant's parking lot.

I truly thought we wouldn't see "mom" before 9 p.m., and I was making plans to feed the kids so they wouldn't have to wait that long for dinner. But, because she got through the checkout line at Wal-Mart so quickly, she was home before 8 p.m., and we were able to eat together, as a family.

I hate the "commercialization" of the holiday season as much as anyone. Many people get caught up on the sales and "excitement" of finding a bargain. Lost amongst all of the commercialization and bargains is the true meaning of the holiday season. For me, I tend to focus more on the spirit of goodwill, peace, harmony, and charity that typically follow the holiday season, much more so than the various religious aspects that are inextricably applied to the season.

As such, I hope each of you find a deeper meaning in the holiday season than just a bargain or good sale. I hope each of you are a force to spread goodwill, peace, harmony and charity to everyone around you.

Until next month, I bid you peace, happiness, serenity and prosperity.

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