At the end of a year, I like to look back, count my blessings and give thanks for whatever the new year may bring.
The older I get, the more I think the only real difference we can make in life is to be grateful. It's simple, but not always easy.
For my family, perhaps like yours, this year has been one of change. It began in that most dreaded of ways, with the loss of a loved one. In February, we buried my husband's father, a man who'd convinced me, with the beauty of his character, that I'd be smart to marry his son.
A few days after his memorial service, I flew to South Carolina to speak to preschool teachers in the Spartanburg County First Steps program. I told them there is no finer calling, no work more important than the role they play in helping children get a good start in life. And I smiled to see them nod in agreement.
A week later, hours ahead of a snowstorm, I arrived in Redkey, Ind., to meet the children of Redkey Elementary, along with their parents and teachers. We talked about reading and writing and life, traded stories and hugs, and parted friends.
In March, I stayed home and did laundry. Then I spent Easter in California with my kids.
My youngest and his wife brought their 10-month-old to visit us in Las Vegas for the Fourth of July, leaving me with one of my happiest memories: sitting at a window watching fireworks and rocking my grandson, while his parents and my husband swam in the pool.
In August, I flew to Charlotte, N.C., to meet the members of Turning Pages Book Club, most of whom were, or had been at one time, homeless.
They had just read a book I wrote about home and family, from growing up in the South to raising my children in California. We talked for an hour, sharing stories, asking questions, finding common ground. Given a chance, we might have talked for days.
In September, my husband and I were rewarded for all our years as parents with the arrival of two grandbabies: a girl, born to his son and his girlfriend, and one day later, a boy, born to my daughter and her husband.
My sister came out from South Carolina for Thanksgiving, stayed two weeks, and we never ran out of people to talk about.
December was packed, as it should be, with visits to and from family and friends. Now I'm looking at a new calendar with pages yet to be filled.
A few nights ago, we went to see "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." Fearing it might be sold out, my husband bought tickets in advance on line. When we got to the theater, he dropped me in front and handed me his wallet.
"You might need my credit card to get the tickets," he said. "I'll park and meet you inside."
Minutes later, when we were watching previews, I reached in my pocket to get his wallet. To my horror, it wasn't there.
For a moment, I thought about my life, how good it had been and how it was about to change.
"I'm going to the restroom," I whispered. Then I sprinted to the kiosk where I'd printed the tickets. No wallet. I dumped out my purse. No wallet. I took off my coat and turned the pockets inside out. No wallet anywhere.
Finally, I went to the ticket window. "Did anybody by any chance turn in a wallet?"
The ticket person called the manager. A long minute later, the manager showed up smiling with my husband's wallet.
I kissed him. Someone had found it on the floor and turned it in with cash and credit cards intact. No, he said, they didn't leave a name or number.
I told you that story to tell you this: If you think about the year ahead and wonder what it may bring, don't worry. Be hopeful.
Things don't always go from bad to worse. Stories don't always end badly. Some people still do the right thing. And for that, I am truly thankful.
(Sharon Randall can be contacted at P.O. Box 777394, Henderson NV 89077 or at www.sharonrandall.com.)