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Getting through the holidays
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This is turning out to be one of the tougher holidays for a lot of Americans. The economy continues to be a problem as we nervously wait to see if we’ll go over a fiscal cliff, and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., has cast a pall over the holiday spirit.

I struggled to come up with this week’s column. I was so upset about what happened in Connecticut, that I spent a lot of time bookmarking dozens of articles about the issues of gun control and mental health in this country. I wanted so hard to come up with a balanced, well thought-out, passionate but rational column that would seek to find a compromise on gun control as well as be a call to treat those with mental health issues with more compassion while providing them more access to treatment.

I haven’t read a single one of those articles yet. Not only have I not had the time, but I think I overwhelmed myself with the sheer number of articles I marked for reading.

I may still get through them and I may still write that column, but -- as my wife so rightly pointed out to me the other day -- this column is coming out on Christmas Eve. Whether you are Christian or not, I think we can all agree that today is not the right time to get in to such depressing topics.

The holidays are a mixed bag for me. I grew up Jewish. Long after my parents divorced and my mother remarried, she became a Lutheran minister (she’s now retired). When my father remarried, he married a Baptist. So did I.

Here in South Carolina, we don’t celebrate Hanukkah unless my father happens to be down from Maryland. I sometimes think that he, one of my sisters in New York and her daughters, and some cousins elsewhere in the country are the only practicing Jews left in the family.

On the other side of the fence, so to speak, my wife and I hadn’t even put up a Christmas tree at the time I wrote this column late last week. Perhaps we will have by the time you read this. I think we’ve become a bit apathetic, likely due to the bustling about in getting the boys off to school each day and the hours we spend doing our respective jobs.

Besides, aren’t you holiday-ed out after hearing seasonal music from as far back as before Halloween? (You know, that really does drive me nuts -- do the big box stores really have to play holiday music in October??)

I’ll also profess that part of our mood might be reflection that we did most of our shopping online this year. That was sort of a necessity because of what we were purchasing. Without giving anything away, let’s just say there are some items that can’t be bought locally or that weren’t available at local stores when we went to look.

Luckily, I was able to purchase two gifts right here in Camden. One was a gift certificate to a local business; the other was ... well, actually, it’s for me.

I’ve mentioned my love of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time fantasy novels. The 14th (!!) and last of them, A Memory of Light, comes out Jan. 8. It’s the third of the books to come out posthumously, co-written by fellow fantasy scribe Brandon Sanderson.

I ordered the book ahead of time from Books on Broad on a weekend where they were having a 20 percent off sale, and they graciously are allowing me to apply that discount for when the book comes in. I’ve been spending weeks rereading the series (currently I’m in the middle of book nine) and I can’t wait to get my hands on the last one.

My father did come down this weekend for a quick visit. We exchanged gifts, he spent some extra time with the boys and then left this morning to begin making the rounds to his other grandchildren in Virginia and Delaware. Tomorrow, we’re heading to Columbia to have Christmas supper with my mother and another of my sisters.

As I mentioned, I’m writing this prior to Christmas Eve -- prior to the weekend, actually -- so, I don’t know what else we might have been able to do. One of my hopes is that my dad’s extra time with the boys allowed me to take my wife to see that latest Bond thriller, Skyfall. Or, perhaps, all the boys (including myself) might have gone to see The Hobbit.

That reminds me, part of our holiday season has been spent reading The Hobbit. Years ago, I obtained an oversized, annotated edition of the story. I’ve read the first couple of chapters already and hope to have my older son try his hand at reading Tolkien’s prose.

Of course, even after tomorrow, the holidays aren’t quite over yet. Assuming we’re all still here following the supposedly cataclysmic events of Dec. 22, 2012 (you did here that the world was ending, didn’t you?), we still have the dawning of a New Year to greet us.

Next week’s column will fall on New Year’s Eve. It will be my annual person or group of the year column where I single out an individual or organization for the year.

After that, I suppose I could kick off the new year with a column about what I’m looking forward to in 2013.

Then, maybe, I might have the wherewithal to write a coherent column addressing the issues that have arisen from the Sandy Hook shooting.

Maybe, by then, I’ll have the heart to write about such things and present them in a way that won’t come across as the rabid ravings of a distraught lunatic -- the conversation about those things deserves better.

But, first, we have to get through the holidays and enter the new year and I truly do wish you...

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!