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Mayan Christmas and happy New Year

If you are reading this, you are aware that we made it through the predicted end-of-the-world last Friday.
Some have argued that Mayans, whose civilization spanned across southern Mexico, Guatemala and Belize from 1000 B.C. to 1519 A.D., carved into their calendar the day the world would end as Dec. 21.
As the date approached, I debated whether I should stress over not having my shopping done or just max out my credit cards with frivolous spending. After all, there was the possibility of not having to pay them off and I could enjoy the items for a few days in the meantime.
There are many places I would love to see and many items still on my bucket list. In fact my bucket is large and overflowing with items.
For one, I haven’t hiked to the top of the Pinnacle Tower in Unicoi. I could purchase some hiking boots, some new hiking clothing, a new backpack full of snacks. I do need to shed a few pounds. On second thought, maybe I better work up to that hike. I did walk to the end of my driveway this morning to check the mailbox. A few more weeks and I’ll be good to go.
I would like to experience parachuting out of an airplane. I think it would be an amazing sensation. I have been practicing getting used to heights. I climbed to the top step of my ladder this summer to trim shrubbery. By spring I may try to look down from the top.
Seriously though, I would like to travel west. I have covered most of the east coast, from north to south. I have even traveled out of the country some. But now that the end of time on earth didn’t come, I may get this amazing world.
Although this December didn’t mark the end of the world, it does have some rarity to it. This year, December has five Saturdays, five Sundays and five Mondays. This supposedly only happens every 824 years.
There have been many rare moments and changes during my lifetime as well. As Christmas comes for 2012, I have a small wish list and it certainly differs from the lists of the past.
I usually know what is under the tree for me. It is just safer that way. I know it is something I wanted and therefore won’t have to stand in a long return line after the holiday to exchange it.
I think Christmas gifts in electronics have seen the greatest advancement over the years. We have gone from huge TVs with tubes, to thin flat screens. Who would ever have thought that computers would go from filling up an entire room to fitting in our pockets?
Over the years, I have received a record player, an eight-track player, a cassette player, a CD player and this year, one of my gifts is an updated iPod. My old iPod filled up after 2,000 plus songs.
I love music and always have. I am playing Christmas music now as I write this column. If I don’t have music on, I usually start tapping a beat out with my fingers against the desk without even realizing it.
This new iPod will supposedly hold 40,000 songs. The salesman told me he had been told you could leave it playing for a year and not have to repeat a song. That should take care of all of my favorite songs from my lifetime.
I also see this as a chance to take my CDs, while I still have something to play them on, and copy my favorite songs onto this new device. It is rare that I reach for a CD nowadays. Also carrying a car full of the discs is just too troublesome.
Every Christmas I am reminded of friends and family that are no longer with us. I would always get a card or a gift from many.
One such friend was the late attorney Robert Manuel. I needed his services several years back. From that time on we became good friends. We met often for lunch and each time it was a special treat for me to slow down and enjoy his company.
He told me of so many fascinating places he had traveled to and would help me plan trips as well. He was always so thorough with whatever he did, whether for the law office or the travel agency, which was a side business and pleasure of his.
For each trip I planned, he would give me detailed maps and notes of places to visit and places to eat. Often he would have me call to let him know I had arrived and what I thought of the place I was visiting.
For years Robert and I had exchanged gifts of cards, a box of candy or something simple at Christmas. The most valuable thing he ever gave me was his time. If there was a show on TV he thought I would enjoy, he would text me. If he hadn’t heard from me in awhile, he would e-mail to see if I was alright.
One of his passions was the solar system. He would often tell me of TV shows to watch on the topic. The last Christmas he was living, I got him a colorful, detailed book on the solar system. He gave me the gift of music.
He had a device similar to an iPod that he had downloaded many of his favorite songs onto. He would mention songs that meant a lot to him and what they reminded him of. I could relate to so many of them.
That last Christmas he gave me an identical device to his, downloaded with all the same music that he wanted to share with me. I still listen to those songs and relive my visits with him.
Good friends and family are some of the greatest gifts we have. I treasure those most.

From the Publisher's Desk
By: Keith Whitson