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A little romance, a few laughs. It's all good.

Once upon a time, there lived a woman who attempted a particular quest every year. A quest to write fifty thousand words during the month of November. Many times she tried, but she always managed to come up short by the thirtieth day. This made her sad and angry. Sad because others managed to do it and she had failed. Angry because she felt she must have been born missing something, a spark of talent that makes a person achieve.


This year’s attempt at the quest began like the others. Her first day’s writing was a quick rundown of her shortcomings and how hard the goal was. By the end of the first week, she found herself far behind on the target word count.


However, this year she had done something a little different from previous ones. For a couple of months before the contest, she had been doing timed writings with prompts. Incorporating certain words or story scenarios, she attempted to write two thousand words a day. She often fell short but kept trying. And she discovered that the more she wrote without caring about how good the first draft was or searching for the perfect bon mot, the quicker her ideas began to flow. Writers block was becoming a memory. Practice didn’t make perfect, but the perfectionistic streak that always held her back started to dissipate and made it easier to write. Writing no longer felt like a chore.


And, lo and behold, the fifty thousand word dragon was slain on Day 29. And it was done without the usual panic she went through every previous November.


I plan to celebrate my achievement by purchasing a winner’s tee shirt. But the real prize is the reminder to me about something we were all taught in childhood. To succeed, we must practice. Very few people are naturally gifted at anything. There are those who have the right body shape for a particular sport or a facility for languages or a good ear for sounding out a tune. But it is the practice that makes someone a master. Or, in my case, a dragon slayer.

Today, we Americans gather friends and family to eat, laugh, share memories, and make new ones, while giving thanks for all our blessings.


But there are many who don’t look forward to this day. You may not have friends or family. You may not have a job or a permanent home. There may be days when you are hungry.


Or, perhaps, you do have these things, and more, but still feel an emptiness and wonder if this is all there is to life.


The pain can seem never-ending. What, you wonder, can you feel thankful for?


There is one thing that all of us can give thanks for on this day and every other day as well.


It is the blessing of life.


I am not religious and I am certainly no Pollyanna. But I do know that every day you wake up is something to feel thankful for. Because to be alive is to have opportunity, to have hope. Your life is not finished, therefore, your situation is not permanent.


Today is brand new, a blank slate where you make the decision about how to fill it. You may decide to fill it the exact same way as you did yesterday. You may decide to begin a one hundred and eighty degree change in your life. But the decision is available because you are alive for another day.


So give thanks—to your God or creator or consciousness—for being alive yet another day. And feel blessed because you are still here to choose how you’ll forge your future.


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Service workers at Chicago’s O’Hare airport intend to stage a walkout on Tuesday, November 29. Who else might strike during the holiday season?


******************


The roar could be heard throughout Santa’s Village.


“What? Are you blowing snow up my ass?” Kris Kringle yelled. “They choose now to go on a strike?”


“Now, Papa,” Mrs. Claus said in her soothing voice, “try not to let this upset you. You know your blood pressure—”


“Blood pressure. Those little trolls don’t care about my blood pressure.”


“Those, elves,” the union leader replied, in a clearly irritated voice, “are the lifeblood of your operation. If you didn’t have them making all these toys around the clock, where would you be? You wouldn’t even compare to the Easter Bunny.”


“And do the elves think they would be better off without me? I made them famous, loveable. If I hadn’t hired them, they would still be confused with leprechauns, pixies, and gnomes.”


“This isn’t getting us anywhere,” Mrs. Claus declared. “As the head of management, I would like to hear your demands.”


The elf pulled a sheet of paper from his vest and began to read.


“One: Instead of two fifteen minute breaks a day, we want three. Two: Better dental coverage. All the hot cocoa and peppermint sticks have caused a lot of tooth decay and cavities. Three: better working conditions. We want safety glasses, exercise breaks, head phones–”


“Head phones?” Saint Nick asked, “Whatever for?”


“The factory floor has been listening to the same Christmas mix tape for twenty-five years. A lot of the workers are sick of it. They are flexible on this, however. The other option is to play Country music.”


“Country instead of Christmas tunes,” Santa sighed. “Is that it?”


“Last demand,” the steward continued, “we want a raise of twenty percent, ten percent beginning this year with two percent yearly increases thereafter.


“You are out of your mind,” Santa roared once again. “Do you think I’m made of money? Who do you think pays for the material to make these toys and hauling them around the world once a year? Who do you think pays for the network of international spies giving us ‘naughty or nice’ updates? Me, that’s who. And I’m not made of money!”


The union leader regarded the Jolly Old Elf carefully and said, before quickly stepping back, “That’s not quite true, is it? What about all of your advertising contracts?”


Santa’s cheeks lost some of their rosiness as the elf continued.


“Coca Cola, Hallmark, Norelco, M&M’s to name a few. And how about that old Enzyte commercial?”


“That wasn’t me. Smiling Bob was just dressed like me.”


Then there are those appearances at the Hollywood Christmas and Macy’s Thanksgiving Parades not to mention others. Your account at The North Pole Bank must be overflowing with green. Or, rather, red and green,” the elf added with a little laugh at his pun.


Santa turned away and stomped to his desk. The room was quiet for several minutes. Mrs. Claus then began the negotiation. “We are prepared to offer you a sixteen percent raise, ten percent this year and two percent the years after that. That is firm.”


The elf thought for a minute and nodded.


“Christmas music is absolutely necessary on the factory floor,” Mrs. Claus said. “But I will personally put together some more holiday selections from recent years, especially Celine Deion and Mariah Carey. And Blake Shelton for the country fans. And we will give your workers more safety amenities.


“Now you know how medical and dental insurance has been since we adopted Obama care. But while we search for a better dental plan, why don’t we have some dentists come out to show the workers the proper way to care for teeth and a reminder to eat more healthy fruits and vegetables?”


The elf nodded. “Okay, but don’t ask Hermey. He’s a little too fond of his forceps and scalpels. It makes a lot of the other elves uncomfortable.”


Mrs. Claus asked, “As far as an extra work break a day, can you prove it won’t put us terribly behind? There’s no point in continuing this negotiation if this point results in Santa Claus missing the Christmas deadline.”


“I can present the data to you later this week.”


“Well, contingent upon that, I think we have a deal.”


The elf shook Mrs. Claus’ hand then went to Santa. Holding his hand out, he said, “No hard feelings, boss.”


Santa didn’t reply as he shook the elf’s hand.


“Good day to you both,” the elf said and left the office.


“Well,” Santa said, “We’ve averted a Christmas disaster, but at what price?”


“I think I’ll contact Jeff Bezos,” Mrs. Claus replied with a twinkle in her eye. “See what kind of deal Amazon can do for us in the future if we start getting most of the children’s toys through them instead of having the elves make them. It could save us some–what did the elf just call it?—ah, yes, red and green.”


Kris Kringle walked up to his wife and kissed her cheek. “Mama, you are brilliant. Let’s celebrate with some cookies and milk.”

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