This past year hasn't been the greatest for me in outward ways: I have been lagrely unemployed; my relationship with my fiance became so frazzed that he moved out and we don't know if we can repair it or not. I raided my 401K to make ends meet. But I have a lot of wonderful, important aspects of my life: a loving family, good health, great friends, animals that bring me great enjoyment. I chose to spend Thanksgving alone, and as I shared treats with my many critters, I realized all I had to be grateful for and how important it was to dwell on what I have rather than what I'm lacking. Yesterday, a friend of mine asked if he and his long-time girlfriend could come over and see my animals, since I'd gotten so many more since they were last over. I've known Rick for about 6 or 7 years; we kayak together and his skill and patience have really helped me to advance my skills and confidence over the years in a sport that can potentially be very dangerous at the level he paddles and to which I aspire. He was able to retire in his late 50's from a civil service type job with a decent pension and sensible, if not frugal living. Joanne is an animal lover;cats are her passion. She had actually seen the "Clarksburg Quackers" (last summer, somebody dumped 56 Pekin ducks at an intersection, where they wandered for 4 days until a BYCer picked them all up and found homes for them) and was moved that I adopted 3 of them. They appreciate my love for animals, and how I've educated myself so much on them in the last year and been willing to take on animals in need. So we were chatting inside about the animals, with me enthusiastically sharing enough poultry info and anecdotes for a lifetime. It was bitter cold and windy, so unfortunately we didn't get much quality time with the animals. But then Rick tells me that the reason they came over, aside from seeing me and the homestead, was because they wanted to give me a Christmas gift. He said every year they give money to whatever cause, but who knows where the money really goes. They thought since I had taken in birds that probably would have been doomed otherwise, and wasn't in a great way financially, that they would buy a bunch of food for my animals. So they took me to the feed store and bought me $200 worth of feed! I'm lousy about keeping track of how much animal feed I go through. I get my critters whatever they need and to me that's one of my mandatory expenses, no less than paying the electric bill. I will make sure they have food ahead of me (though I haven't gotten anywhere close to that) as they did not choose to be bred and kept in a way that makes them dependent on humans for food. I know others look at their animals from more of a business angle, and that's fine too, just not my way. But I'm sure all that food will last a good two months, since nobody's getting much foraging in during the winter. So how fabulous is that, that friends did that for me? It was sooo kind and it really does help. And I gotta say, my kayaking buddies have been some of the most generous people I've ever met, covering gas or lodging costs so that I can go boating with them. I'm always giving away, er,' foisting eggs on people, and some of my friends force bills into my hands, for the animals food they say, because they know I would not accept it otherwise. It makes me realize when you're lacking something, you feel that something is all important. For so many people it is money. I have one friend with gobs of money and wonderful family and a rewarding life with travel, adventure and achievement. But he has a nasty form of cancer. I'll take the hand I'm dealt thank you. I'm a firm believer in karma and my only hard and fast rule in life is The Golden Rule. I try generally to do the right thing just because it is right, but I have noticed that is does seem to come back on you. With my boating friends, I try to be aware of what's going on, like offering to carry someone's boat if they're not feeling well, or chase them and their gear down on the river if someone has a problem sometimes at risk to me, or to help teach and guide new boaters as I was helped (and still am by people like Rick). So there's my "anti-rant". There are a lot of really wonderful people in the world if you just open yourself up. On that note, in 1992, while I was struggling to finish college while working 3 part time jobs, somebody put under my door an anonymous money order made out to me (name spelled correctly, which most people botch) for $1000. To this day, I have no clue who it was. I hardly even knew anyone with that kind of money. But booooy, did that help. I was actually able to buy my books for the next semester AND eat something beside ramen noodles.