Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Letter from Claverack 01 05 2017 God help us all…

January 6, 2017

For several nights now, I have attempted to write a letter.  A few sentences have dribbled out onto the digital page and then I abandon my effort, feeling unsatisfied, bereft of words. And hit delete.

When I spoke to my brother this morning, as we do most days, he, too, finds it difficult to think about, talk about or read about anything political.  He, too, feels bereft of thought and words.

Here I am in my cottage, Christmas bunting still glistening in the lights of my trees, the playlist, “Classical for Deep Thought” playing on my Echo.  And I am in deep thought.

A close relative of mine who voted for Trump has been forwarding me vicious articles on Hillary Clinton and the Obamas.  Going online, I seek to find out if there is any truth to these awful stories.  Most of it is balderdash concocted out of a single thread of reality.  “Unproven” is what Snopes says.

There seems no point in letting my relative know that it mostly or all  balderdash.  They don’t want to know.  This is their truth.

So, it is that for the last few nights, I have hidden out in the cottage where all things are good, listening to music, watching Netflix [just finished “Medici”].  I have been working on my consulting assignment for the Miller Center for the Presidency [oh, irony!] at the University of Virginia and diverting myself with helping some friends in California on the bible for a fictional series on which they are working.   It allows me to live another life.

Glancing at the evening headlines, I winced.  Republicans are working to defund Planned Parenthood.  Trump rebuts our spy agencies and doesn’t quite accept that Russia hacked us.  Certainly, not to help him.

And, oh my!  Putin’s popularity among Republicans is rising!  Why am I so not happy about that?

The Chinese are telling Trump to stop tweeting and that will probably only cause him to tweet more.

Trump has said that “torture works.”  Now that he is President Elect, human rights groups around the world are fearful that his remarks will embolden leaders who find torture a very reasonable way of getting their way.

It is just a discouraging world.

Republicans have been determined to unravel Obamacare since it was initiated.  They now will probably get their way.  My concern is that I haven’t seen any credible alternatives from them and, whatever you think of the flawed system that is the Affordable Care Act [aka Obamacare], there are far fewer uninsured than there have been.

Which also doesn’t much change the reality that while we spend more per capita on health care we are in the middle of pack in terms of health care results.

Look, Donald Trump is the President Elect.  I wish him well.

I am so concerned.  This Presidency feels as if it is going to upend the order we have come to accept for at least the last eighty years.  And that makes me concerned.

If it goes really bad, I hope my youthful activism will return and I will do my best to protest.  And I didn’t think at my age I would be asked for my youthful activism to return but it just might have to!

We will all have to see.  The roller coaster is leaving the station.

At least I have broken out of the paralysis of the last few days and written something.

We all care.  God bless America.  And God help us all.



Letter From Claverack 12 19 2016 What we need is a little Christmas…

December 20, 2016

A few hours ago, I asked Alexa to play the Holiday Station from Amazon Prime and Christmas carols have been floating through the house since then.  The lights are illuminating the creek and I have sat down, at last, to write a letter.  The last one was nine days ago, which is unusual for me.  Normally, I write every two or three days.

The frenzy of prepping for Christmas has given me ample excuses to not think about the world…

Two Christmas trees grace the cottage; one small real one, bedecked with as many ornaments as it bear and an artificial white tree, which has been my tradition for years now.

The first Christmas after my partner left, I went to the lot where we had purchased our trees and found myself paralyzed, not wanting to get out of the car and so I didn’t.  Decorating our trees had always been a big thing and I couldn’t imagine how to get through that Christmas.

So I did the unthinkable; I went to Walmart and bought a pre-lit white Christmas tree which was the silliest thing I could think of doing and it made my Christmas.  It was so silly, I laughed, which was what I needed to do that year.  And a personal tradition was born…

A white Christmas tree adorned with all the ornaments that matter.  There are a few from my mother, one White House ornament given to me by Buddy, who helped decorate the actual White House Christmas tree.  He is gone, lost to AIDS before anything could be done and I have the ornament he gave me and it has a place of pride every year.

There are the wonderful crystal ornaments Lionel and Pierre have given me the last few years, two Christopher Radko ornaments from when I was on the Board of Governors for the TV Academy, ornaments I purchased the first year I was working at Discovery – that was an animal themed Christmas.


In the last twenty-four hours, I have made 16 quiches.  It has been my tradition for the last some years to bake quiches for my friends and neighbors and there are still a few more to be made but I have made most of them and will spend some of tomorrow delivering them.

My kitchen is not quite a catastrophe…

All of this is part of my life and a welcome distraction.

Today, Donald Trump’s election to the Presidency was ratified by the Electoral College, a fact I am still having a hard time getting my head around, which is why I seem to especially devoted to the Food Section of the New York Times.

At least twelve are dead as a result of lorry crashing into a Christmas market in Berlin.

The Russian Ambassador to Turkey was shot dead today in Ankara.

Aleppo is a catastrophe we grieve but seem to have no way to respond to and I still wonder about the boy in the photograph from months ago.  He will haunt me to the day I die.  Is he safe?

It seems I may never rest until I know and I may never know but I keep seeing that photo…

And as Christmas approaches, I am so grateful to be here, in the cottage, decorated as best I could for this most wonderful holiday, listening to Christmas music…

The world is always in trouble and it will continue to be that way.  And I will work to find ways to feel like I am helping the world not be in as much trouble as it is.  Maybe I will succeed, a little bit…




Letter From Claverack 12 10 2016 The rollercoaster has left the station…

December 11, 2016

Here I am at the cottage; the floodlights are lighting the creek and I have been putting together my Christmas presents so I can ship them out on Monday.  My skills at wrapping are negligible and have been forever so the invention of gift bags has been a Godsend.  Right now, I am at a dead stop as I have used up all the bags I purchased yesterday and still have presents to go.  So, tomorrow morning I will be up and out early to get more.

It’s complicated this year as the people with whom I traditionally have shared Christmas are scattered and my living room is now littered with segregated piles.  This gets shipped to New Mexico, this goes to Boston, this goes to New York, this goes to Minneapolis…

Monday morning, I need to show up when the UPS Store opens to get this all off and I will get it done.

And in the midst of all of that, I seem to have been abandoned by young Nick, who has been my partner in crime since he was fifteen.  I am not sure what I have done but he has decided to jettison me from his life.  Speculation is useless and I now need to accept he no longer finds me a person of consequence.

I am on my own.  Today, I went out and started to make my Christmas come together.  Not quite sure how it will all be but it will be.

Just as it will be that Donald Trump is going to be President of these United States.

When I am looking at the New York Times I find myself gravitating to the Food Section, obsessively saving recipes.  My solace is in cooking these days, thinking of meals I will serve, planning table settings, decorating.

It is all diversion.  We will see how all of this plays out.  As I have said to many people: the next four years are going to be experiential.  He will be a different kind of President.

We will see how that plays out.

And now it is Christmas and I am sitting listening to Christmas Carols and, I must admit, sipping what I think is a much-deserved martini.

As I sit here, I am looking around my little cottage and am so grateful I am here, able to look out at the creek, illuminated by floodlights, and to listen to Christmas Carols on my Echo, sit wrapped in the warmth of my home and know that I will be engaged over the next four years as part of the loyal opposition.

We’re in for a wild ride.  The rollercoaster has left the station.  Hang on and let’s see what happens…


Letter From New York 12 23 2015 Peering through the fog…

December 23, 2015

It is relatively early in the morning and I am on the train, heading to New York City, where I will board a train to DC where I will board a train to Martinsburg, WV where I will be picked up by my friends Sarah and Jim Malone for the Holidays in Shepherdstown.

As I move south, rushing now between Rhinecliff and Poughkeepsie, the fog is so dense, it is impossible to see the Hudson River to my right.  It provides an eerie atmosphere to the morning, so warm that a light jacket is all one needs.  It is supposed to be seventy in Claverack on Christmas Eve.

Yesterday, I celebrated Christmas twice.  Once with young Nick, his partner Beth, and their three year old daughter, Alicia.   It gave me great smiles and bright eyes to see a three year old devour Christmas.  Earlier I gave her a “communicator” that allows her to talk with Santa Claus each day from December 1 to Christmas.  Nick and Beth tell me she is having a blast.

Then I cooked “Christmas” dinner for Lionel, Pierre and myself, mushroom soup, salad, a roast pork loin, mashed sweet potatoes and asparagus with a butter garlic sauce.  We had no room for dessert.

All day yesterday, I pretty much ignored the world, living in the solitude of the cottage, listening to Christmas carols and prepping for dinner.  The exception was at the gym, on the treadmill where I listened to the sad story of the young woman accused in the car rampage in Las Vegas.  A troubled youth who turned her life around and then…Las Vegas.  People are attempting to understand.

Then there was a long exegesis of the Middle East with Wolf Blitzer, the CNN perennial, and a Congressman and retired General, that left me feeling depressed.

The Congressman predicted that we will be engaged there for decades and the retired General opined our efforts are inadequate.  The Congressman wants more bombing, forget the civilians.  They are the necessary sacrifices to move the needle.  It underscored for me that “W” let the genie out of the bottle and he’s never going back in.

The Afghans have the best army they have had in years but corruption in Kabul is keeping them from getting bullets.

The Iraqis are fighting to retake Ramadi and have sent more troops in to help in the effort to hand IS its biggest defeat in two years.

The Donald keeps marching forward in the polls, up to 39% at this point, twice Ted Cruz’s standing and, according to recent polls, the Republicans are beginning to accept that Trump will be their standard bearer.  What?  Is this really happening?  Can’t I change the channel?

I lightened my mood a bit by reading the wild adventures of Madame Claude, arguably the most famous brothel owner in Paris’ history.  Her clients included most of the great names of the ’60’s and ’70’s.  She died in France at the venerable age of 92. 

The fog is still thick as we begin the last leg into New York, having just pulled out of Croton Harmon.  There are forty minutes left before we hit the city.  At noon I will board an Acela for the next leg.

Behind me there is a woman who has been on the phone now, non-stop, for well over an hour.  Occasionally when she needs to do something, she puts her caller on speakerphone.  I didn’t realize anyone talks on the phone that way anymore just like I can’t believe the Republican Party is thinking Trump is the hope for 2016.

Letter From New York 12 21 2015 Car rampage and a Miss Universe Gaffe

December 21, 2015

It is Monday morning and Christmas is four days away.  It is noon and I am sitting at the dining room table looking out at a grey world.  Across the creek, barren trees are swaying in the gusting wind.

My friends, Lionel and Pierre, arrived at their home across the street late last night and we had breakfast together this morning, scrambled eggs, bacon and toast while carols played in the background.

While we breakfasted news came flashing across our devices that some dozens had been injured and one killed in Las Vegas when a woman plowed her car into a crowd on the sidewalk outside the Paris Hotel and Casino.  With a toddler at her side the woman repeatedly plowed into the crowd. 

The police said it appeared intentional but not an act of terrorism.  The three year old with her was not harmed and the woman was taken into custody after doing her damage and then leaving the scene, parking some blocks away.

The 1996 Oldsmobile had Oregon plates and the woman had reportedly recently moved to Nevada.

How?  Why?

Lindsey Graham has suspended his presidential campaign. Not so long ago he complained that he couldn’t believe that Trump had so outdistanced him in the polls.  Obama has stated that Trump is “exploiting” anger and fear among working class men to propel his candidacy.  Yes, I think that’s true.

Also true is that Blatter and Platini, the two most powerful men in world soccer, have been banned from the sport for eight years for ethics violations. 

Near Bagram, Afghanistan, six NATO soldiers including some Americans, have been killed by a Taliban suicide bomber who plowed his motorcycle into a NATO/Afghan foot patrol.

Donald Trump sold the Miss Universe Pageant.  It was held in Las Vegas last night not far from where the car rampage occurred.  In a ghastly gaffe, Steve Harvey, the host, announced Miss Columbia was the winner when it was actually Miss Philippines.  Miss Columbia was first runner-up. 

You can imagine what the Twitterverse was like!  Lots of jokes about where was Trump when you needed him?

In other entertainment news, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” has broken all box office records for a weekend opening, topping “Jurassic World.”  538 million dollars worldwide.  The Force has opened our pocketbooks.

Space X, Elon Musk’s space company, is launching from Cape Canaveral a payload of 11 satellites for Orbcomm, a communications company.  All eyes will be on what happens after the launch, to see if the rocket can land safely on land.  It would be the first time a rocket carrying an orbital payload will have done that.

Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’ space company, successfully launched and landed a test rocket last month.

Space is becoming the last frontier for billionaires, out to make even greater fortunes by making space more accessible.

It reminds me a bit of the 19th century’s railroad millionaires, battling it out to conquer the continent with their rail lines.

Shortly, Lionel and I are going grocery shopping for dinner, having our friend Matthew Morse over.  I have a few more packages to bag and need to start packing for my Christmas trip.  It is a funny sort of day for a funny sort of beginning to winter.  It will be in the 50’s this week in the Hudson Valley.

It will be a white Christmas only in our minds.

Letter From New York 12 27 14 Christmas is winding down…

December 27, 2014

For the first time in a week, there is music on in the house that isn’t Christmas carols. Pandora is playing simple classical music from the Romantic Period. It is a nice break.

Earlier today I went off and had brunch at my friend Paul’s home over in East Chatham with his daughter and her fiancé. Good food, good conversation. Karen and Andrew went out on their quads and Paul and I reminisced. We’ve now known each other through twelve years and have a shared history; he has been a wonderful friend. We used to have a standing date for Saturday nights at the Dot until he began to spend less time up in Columbia County. His home is for sale here, part of his divorce settlement and should he buy another house it will be probably in New Jersey, closer to his daughter and her family.

They had been at my party last night and all of us were having a slow day. It was a good party and I was exhausted by the end of it, having been cooking and cleaning for three straight days – all of it pretty good, if I say so myself. The Christmas roast was not perfect but most of it was pretty darn good.

I have found myself very contemplative the last three days. It has been a joyous Christmas with good friends and I found myself also wanting more companionship than I have had recently. The cottage is a lovely place and I found myself wanting to share it over Christmas with someone. Perhaps it is a passing mood or an openness to something new in my life in the new year.

On some levels I am sorry to see 2014 go; it had some splendid times, like my train trip to Los Angeles with my friend Nick Stuart for the installation of our friend Eric as pastor at a church in Santa Monica, not far from where I had once lived. And though I sometimes want to stop the flow of time, I can’t. Each day slips away into the next, ferrying us into the future.

Perhaps some of my nostalgia is that I am also apprehensive about what will come in 2015. It is mostly a blank slate and I am getting itchy to be engaged again. It will be interesting to find out what it will be.

There will be no New Year’s resolutions. I will do my best to keep faithful to the ongoing resolutions of my life.

Keeping the news mostly at bay, I have celebrated the joys of living on earth, beautiful landscapes and good friends and have not let the news of the riven world disturb me much these days. I will pay more attention in the morning I am sure but in this little space that is “Christmas” I have attempted to focus on the joyful little things that make live sweet and wonderful.

Two thousand years or so ago, a man named Jesus was born and he changed history and created one of the great movements of all time. It has spawned great generosity and sad wars. But those were the men who came after him that did those things. He preached peace and forgiveness, which I am doing my best to remember this time of year.

Letter From New York 12 25 14 A wonderful Christmas…

December 26, 2014

It is Christmas Day, a morning that came almost spring like in Claverack with temperatures in the mid-50’s. I woke this morning with a list of things to do as I am cooking again. Before ten this morning, I had a roast in the oven [foolproof, says the recipe] and was making asparagus soup.

At 11:30, Nick, his partner, Beth, and their lovely daughter, Alicia, aged three, arrived for our exchange of Christmas presents. They presented me with a new tablecloth and new flannel sheets for my bed, both things I needed. They were presented with a series of gifts and I learned Beth likes perfume. I gave her some and she was ecstatic. Note to self: perfume for Beth at Christmas. Nick liked the L.L. Bean fishing vest I gave him, as he is an avid fisherman as well as the wireless speaker for his phone, which he can use in the shop when he is working.

Alicia loved her Bunny Rabbit and named him Happy Rabbit and she liked her “Frozen” comforter. The names of the characters elude me but Alicia knows and that’s all that matters.

When they left to go on to another grandparent’s home, I finished the asparagus soup and made acorn squash with butter and nutmeg. I boiled some baby new potatoes. When all was said and done, the roast was a little dry. The soup was terrific as was the squash. All in all, it was a fine Christmas Day feast, finished with pumpkin pie and French Press coffee.

A moment ago, Larry texted me they were safely home, and had had another wonderful Christmas. And it was a wonderful Christmas.

And I hope you had a wonderful Christmas.

Out there, the world is doing whatever the world is doing. I am not paying attention tonight. It is quiet and peaceful and, I think, safe here and I am rejoicing in that peace and safety because not everyone has that.

There’s not much I can change in the world but if I can add a moment of peacefulness to that world, I will. It is Christmas. Let us take the spirit of Christmas into the world every month of the year and make the world a better place.

Letter From New York 12 24 14 Free to celebrate Christmas…

December 24, 2014

It is Christmas Eve. To me, Christmas was all about Christmas Eve. It was the night when I was a child that my godparents and their brood arrived at the house and we opened presents, had a great dinner. They departed and then we opened the rest of our treasure trove of presents. And then, when I was old enough, we headed off to Midnight Mass at our parish church.

I’ve fond memories of those Christmases and so I always associate Christmas with Christmas Eve, not Christmas Day. On Christmas Day, we opened what Santa had left us, which wasn’t much. I always knew the big presents came from my parents. It didn’t bother me that much when I found out Santa wasn’t real.

I’ve been up since early this morning, cooking and prepping. I’m having my friends Lionel and Pierre, Larry and Alicia. We’ll gather at six for cocktails and then dinner and then they will head off to their respective Christmas services while I clean up and prep for tomorrow as I am cooking Christmas Day, too. And I’m giving a cocktail party on Friday night. And then, whoosh, it will all be gone.

All day I’ve been in a good mood, listening to jazzy Christmas Carols and cooking pumpkin soup and prepping sweet potatoes. The ham is in and cooking away and there is a wonderful smell to the house as you come in. In a few minutes, Lionel and Pierre will arrive and we will exchange presents and then Pierre is off to sing at the Catholic Church. Later, they will both sing at the Episcopal Church.

Tomorrow, in the morning, young Nick and his partner, Beth, and their child, Alicia, will come over. It’s a bit like extended family and their presents are nestled beneath the tree and it will be exciting to watch the almost three-year-old Alicia open her gifts. She is into “Frozen” [what three year old is not this year?] so I got her a “Frozen” comforter for her bed as well as a stuffed animal that needs a home and someone to love it and an ornament for their tree with her name engraved on it. It’s fun to shop for a wide-eyed little girl. It’s really the only opportunity I have to do it.

It is a grey, rainy day and, actually, quite warm. The temperature scraped fifty degrees this afternoon. It wouldn’t have surprised me if this were the kind of weather Joseph and Mary might have trudged through on their way to obey the order of Caesar Augustus to be counted. I’m not sure what the weather is like in Bethlehem this time of year so I did what anyone does when they want an answer to a question. I googled it. In Bethlehem it is fifty-five degrees and clear.

So not that much different, except we’re having rain.

Thousands are gathered there tonight for Mass. In Rome, Pope Francis prepares to say his Midnight Mass after giving his Curia a scathing review this week and while he calls for attention to the thousands of Christians displaced because of ISIS.

Christians are now, once again, probably the most persecuted of religions. They, and other minorities have had to flee their homes, where they have lived since New Testament times, because of the campaigns waged on them by the Islamic State.

In Africa, Christians are living in fear of Boko Haram, which is setting about to create its own Islamic State in Nigeria.

It is strange to think of Christians as being persecuted but that’s the fact of the matter. In some parts of the world where they are a minority, they are being relentlessly pursued.

It is a sobering thought as I return to my festive cooking. Everything at dinner will need to go like clock work because all my guests need to be leaving for their Christmas celebrations. And they are free to do that.

Letter From New York 12 21 14 Io, Saturnalia!

December 21, 2014

There was a light dusting of snow when I woke this morning, just enough to return a little Christmas magic to the countryside. It was a usual morning for me, coffee and the NY Times and some household chores. Right now I am doing a load of napkins in the washing machine so I have an ample supply for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners.

Things have been organized to go to the cleaners including a couple of tablecloths that need pressing to bring them up to Holiday snuff. Recipes are scattered across the dining room table to put together the shopping lists for the next few days. Everything is humming along.

Household cleaning is scheduled for Tuesday and the marathon of quiche making will happen later today and tomorrow. Marcel, Lionel and Pierre’s poodle, is sleeping on the settee by the front door, quietly waiting for them to come back from church. Jazz versions of Christmas carols play on Pandora.

It’s a pretty good day at the cottage, a soft, sleepy sort of day.

While wanting to shut the world out this morning, I didn’t do it. The NY Times beckoned to me too much and I curled in bed with coffee and my iPad to read the major stories of the day.

They’re not very Christmasy.

A man who had posted on social media that he was out to kill some policemen gunned down two police officers in Brooklyn in an execution style killing. He had just shot his girlfriend in the stomach, who will live. He headed to New York from Maryland and had committed the murders by the time the warnings came to be watching for him had arrived. He said they were retribution for the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. He then committed suicide in a subway station.

Kim Jung-un, the North Korean dictator, is threatening us. I’m not sure exactly what he’s threatening us with but he is threatening us. He’s not happy the United States doesn’t want to take him up on the offer of a joint investigation of the Sony hack. So he is threatening us with mighty mischief.

So, the world is still a pretty bleak place out there but Christmas is arriving and thoughts of the Holiday fill the world. Thank goodness!

“Io Saturnalia!” used to be the greeting that filled Roman streets during the weeklong festival they celebrated in the middle of winter, starting around December 17th. They exchanged presents and ate and drank to excess. Sound familiar? Christians co-opted the festival in the 4th Century AD, turning it in to Christmas. Since some Christian historians believe that Christ was actually born in the spring, early Christians moved the date up to coincide with the popular Saturnalia.

Our Puritan forefathers didn’t celebrate Christmas. Apparently you could get in a lot of trouble with them if you had any parties around December 25th. It was a very naughty thing to do.

But the Puritans couldn’t hold down a good party; Christmas became legalized in the 1680’s and America was off and running in making this Holiday uniquely its own. It was a frenzy of gift giving, not to everyone’s appreciation. People were lamenting the commercialization of Christmas back in 1904. People have been lamenting that ever since.

This year I have pulled back some and focused on a few good friends and relatives. I make quiches for other friends and my neighbors. It feels good to be simpler this year. It feels good to be giving presents from my kitchen.

There was, of course, splurging on a few people. For them, I managed, I think, to find things for them that would both be useful and, hopefully, treasured in years to come.

I’d like to think my Christmas gifts would speak to the recipients in years to come, fostering enjoyment and recollection even when I am not present in person.

Letter From New York 12 14 14 A grey and gloomy day on the road to Christmas

December 14, 2014

The light is beginning to fade here in the Hudson Valley; it has been a painfully grey day. Not once has been there a burst of sunlight to shatter the exterior bleakness. Christmas carols are playing and they sound dirge-like against this shadowy day. It has been a day to cuddle inside and to read, reflect and do interior things.

I am having friends for dinner so started the day making fresh asparagus soup and prepping things for dinner. When I finish writing this, I will move on to the kitchen and start the meal.

Today, I also started doing Christmas cards, a few, adding personal notes to folks I have not seen for a long time and for who Christmas is seemingly our sole touch point.

A Climate Treaty has been signed in Lima though it seems that while all agree few are enthused. Scientists, I read, feel it falls far short of the actions needed to curtail climate change while some nations feel it costs them too much.

Cheney, to no one’s great surprise, is highly critical of the Senate “Torture” Report. Jeb Bush is giving some indications he is considering a 2016 run for the Presidency. Certainly Rick Perry is prepping for the race. He’s getting some coaching and has declared that the run for the Presidency is NOT an IQ test.

The good news/bad news story of oil continues. It slipped beneath $60.00 a barrel, which caused prices up here to drop to under $3.00 a gallon but which also shaved 350 points off the Dow on Friday, making for a scary Wall Street ride.

Some folks are saying it could go down to $40.00 a barrel, which would be very bad for the shale oil industry in North Dakota. It only makes money at about $60.00 a barrel. There are those who speculate that the Saudis are letting the price of a barrel of oil fall so as to get rid of the pesky shale oil producers here in America. After years of declining crude production in the US, the shale oil boom has made us something like the third largest oil producer in the world.

It’s certainly causing some hurt for Mr. Putin; Russia depends on its oil sales. The ruble has been crashing. Must seem like a grey day to him as well. Put Venezuela in that camp as well, hurting badly with the fall in prices. Same with Nigeria. Same with a few other countries, too.

Regardless of what is happening in the oil realm, all over the world we are moving toward Christmas.

It seems some Americans are eschewing an expensive Christmas and moving back toward simpler times with less extravagant celebrations of the Holiday. It will be interesting to see how this holiday shopping season works out in the end. Up? Down? We’ll know the figures right after Christmas.

On this grey day, Newtown is marking the second anniversary of the Sandy Hook shootings with a private ceremony and quiet reflection. It is a town where the wounds have yet to heal and may never heal.

In another gruesome story, hundreds attended the funeral of Jessica Chambers, a Mississippi teenager who was doused with an accelerant and burned alive on the side of a road.

The mind boggles at the act while the heart revolts at the cruelty.

A reward fund has risen to $11,000 for information leading to her killer.

It is stories like that which darken my day and make me feel as grey and gloomy as the weather.