I've been blessed with the ability to travel quite a bit in my personal and professional life. My mind is also a strange place to be. These are the random rumblings from my point of view regarding the different places I go.
Question: When you take two sick people and lock them up in a house with two healthy people for a few days, what do you get? Two more extremely sickly unhappy people, that's what! This is how I seem to have come down with my current case of cooties/Ebola/Avian flu/SARS/whatever. And while at this point it has pretty much run its course, the last few days have been truly delightful. And by delightful I mean dreadfully wretched. Nothing I like more than having my skin turn the color of an eggshell, not be able to breathe through my nose and have extended coughing and hacking fits. O, the fun never stops. And the last little bit is holding on for dear life, regardless of how many near-lethal combinations of OTC drugs I ingest. I pump enough meds in me to see the future and converse in Aramaic with the purple spiders climbing the walls but still can't get rid of a little congestion. sigh.
Anyways, to attempt to drive this thing into the ground, I decided to take a rare sick day and do nothing for a while. And sleeping in was lovely and all but after a while I got really really bored. I'm not one of those people who can just sleep all day. I need to be doing something, anything or I start to get a little nuts. But since standing up was not an extended option and I didn't want to barrel roll my way through the house to get from Point A to Point B, I was a little limited in my potential activities.
Luckily, I happen to have an extensive DVD collection. And in that collection is one movie that I have always just absolutely loved: The Sound of Music. Odd, I know. Not that it's an odd movie by any means, just probably what most people would think of as an odd choice for me. But I always liked watching it when I was little and still love to do so now. When I was younger, if I was in a rush I would just pop in the second tape so I could see Maria and the Captain get together and then outwit the Nazis. Sound of Music Cliff Notes! Sound of Music for the ADHD! Hurrah! I actually have two different super-DVD versions of it because each one had newimprovedneverbeforeseen extras that I had to have.
So since I was going to be bed-ridden for a while, I decided to pop the movie in since 1. it's like a film version of chicken noodle soup for me—kind of a visual comfort food and 2. it's a super long movie and would help eat up some serious time in an otherwise long and dull day. Usually I go on mental screensaver when watching, just kind of enjoying the images flashing by while not really processing anything. But, perhaps because of my drugged-out state, I happened to really tune in to one particular section and realized for the first time that it was complete and utter bullshit. An affront to my sensibilities. An inaccurate assumption of logic. And an odd choice for a Christmas song to boot.
That's right, I am talking about "My Favorite Things." Realizing this was like being re-born. A completely new level of consciousness was achieved with this discovery. And perhaps something in the chemical cocktail swirling through my bloodstream had something to do with my next reaction. Cue the rage. "This is complete crap!" I shouted to my little football-shaped cat, Tsukoshi, as I threw up my hands in exasperation. "This is completely ridiculous! Who on earth has these kinds of favorite things? This is the stupidest list I've ever heard of! It's like a second-grader's list of best friends! Too long and completely random! It's like a stream-of-consciousness list of minutiae!" Tsukoshi carefully considered my argument, yawned in disgust at the banality of it all, rolled over and turned her back on the whole business. Either that or she just completely ignored me and went back to sleep after my shouting and flailing around woke her up. But I choose to believe that she was in complete agreement with my assessment of the situation.
This song is now the bane of my existence and as I have become born-again as a result of my new higher consciousness, I believe it is my duty to inform the unsuspecting public of the truth behind the lies. Let's examine this bit of tripe line for line, shall we?
Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
If I am looking at raindrops on roses then that means that I am stuck outside in the rain. Never pleasant. It gets in your shoes, soaks your socks, ruins your hair, and is generally not a fun experience. So right off the bat we are a bust with raindrops on roses. Unless they have been painted on a black velvet background and cheaply framed. The only thing that beats it then is a sweaty jump-suited Elvis or a rearing unicorn with a rainbow at its back although they are all clearly better than a clown with a tear running down its painted cheek. I do so love the black velvet genre. Nothing is nearly as deliciously tacky. As far as whiskers on kittens goes, in my experience they are typically being used to wake me up at 3am because my nocturnal fuzzball has decided that she need some attention, stat! So really, I'm not particularly fond of either of these things and they definitely do not qualify as a favorite thing of mine or, I suspect, anyone else.
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Seriously, people. Function does not equal favorite. I'm beginning to think that Maria was a bit addled. She may have been spending a little too much time with the lonely goatherd, if you know what I mean.
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
Good lord, I've barely begun and already I'm ready to climb the walls with how stupid this whole thing is. I mean, really? Really? Maybe I'm just a product of the media's brainwashing, but if I saw a brown paper package tied up with string I'd want to call the Bomb Squad, not mince around in my nightgown gibbering about a bad wrapping job.
Cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudels Door bells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles
It seems to me that the bar has been set just a touch low. Maybe Maria was just really easy to please. Simple mind, simple pleasures, something like that. Has anyone here ever been just tickled pink over a door bell? If so, I'm taking you off my friend list. On a separate note, who even eats schnitzel with noodles? In all my time in Germany and Austria I've never seen it served this way. And if your apple strudel is really crisp I would think that it had been sitting out too long and was stale. I also imagine that a cream colored pony would be akin to having a white car—shows all the dirt in the world. So it certainly wouldn't be cream colored for long. This woman is getting on my nerves more and more with each passing line….
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
Other than the fact that I know what the Latin name is for geese (Branda Canadensis), the only thing that I think about whenever any bird flies over my head is that I hope it's not going to poop on me. That stuff is murder to get out of your hair! And yes, I know it's random that I know the Latin name. No, I don't know how I know it's just one of those random things that sticks in your head forever, like the lyrics to the Muppet Show. Still, not a favorite thing however poetically she phrases it.
Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Again, not really something that should be on your list of All-Time Faves unless you're from 1943. Or a pedophile. Either way.
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes Silver white winters that melt into Springs
Snowflakes that stay on my eyelashes would be annoying in the extreme. You'd have to keep fluttering your eyes, trying to get them off and people might think you're having a fit. And snowflakes on your nose will melt and make your nose all runny and probably contribute to you getting a nasty cold. And while I'm all for spring, especially after a cold winter, does it really count as a favorite thing? I mean, for something to be yourfavorite I would think it would need to be something with a little weight behind it, not just something that you kinda like. Unless you're incredibly vapid and just happen to be sixteen going on seventeen. Ohmigod Ilove Justin Bieber! Ilove One Direction! Ilove Channing Tatum! I love Hot Topic! Ilove the mall! Ilove my pink and silver Sketchers! ::gag:: I'm starting to feel more and more personally offended, the further into this nonsense I get.
When the dog bites When the bee stings When I'm feeling sad I simply remember my favorite things And then I don't feel so bad.
And now we get to easily the most egregious part of the whole ditty. I've gotta tell ya, if I've just been mauled by a pit bull, thinking about warm woolen mittens isn't going to distract me a whole hell of a lot. And if I'm busy going into anaphylactic shock after a chance encounter with the hive, giddily reflecting on how much I'm dearly in love with doorbells isn't going to reverse the effects. This is clearly advice for an idiot.
Now perhaps it was never an over-medicated illness but simply possession by dark spirits that has caused me to rotate 180 degrees on my formerly beloved movie musical. But really, this insipid song is quite possibly the worst ever written and should be burned in effigy as far as I'm concerned. Nothing mentioned in the song should be a favorite thing for anyone with anything more than an elementary-school education. And since I'm ranting on the silliness of some of the musical selections in this movie, allow me to bring up another point that has annoyed me ever since I first saw this film.
Now, I understand the construct of a movie musical. And I am more than willing to suspend my disbelief at the necessary points. I know that in reality, people do not burst into song as exposition or at certain climactic moments in the narrative. And for the most part I am totally okay with the excessive non-realism although even I have my limits. Pretty much any of the old-school musicals annoy me to varying degrees. Oklahoma, West Side Story, Carousel—all a bunch of hooey. I don't buy the characters and I find it impossible to suspend my disbelief. Oddly enough, I'm down with whatever Lloyd Weber would like to throw at me. So the people wrapped in foil whooshing around on roller skates are really singing, emoting trains? No prob. Jellicle cats? No worries. But the dance-belt-wearing Sharks and Jets as gang members? I think not.
But I digress. Even though up until a few days ago I was cool with nearly the whole Sound of Music experience, one part has always perplexed and annoyed me. SPOILER ALERT! After battling each other's past, personality quirks and prejudices, dancing around the impending Nazi advance, climbing ev'ry mountain, fording ev'ry stream and outmaneuvering a bratty baroness, Maria and the Captain finally realize their love for each other. The movie has been building and building to this point and honestly we're, what? seven, eight hours in at this point? This is a hellishly long film! Anyways, they've finally worked around to the goddamn gazebo, they kiss, he tells her he loves her and she responds by…….bursting into song. The hell? Even as a child this struck me as wrong. It totally brings me out of the moment. As soon as the orchestra swells I'm done. For whatever reason, I have never been able to just go with it for this sequence. I have no issues with The Lonely Goatherd, but My Favorite Things and Something Good make me go from calm to enraged in approximately 2.5 seconds. It has always driven me crazy and continues to do so now. So instead of just zoning out and getting a little rest the other day, I spent it shouting obscenities at the screen until I was hoarse and bemoaning the state of entertainment these days because of these two songs. It offends my delicate sensibilities, I tell you. That, and I probably just need to ease up on the Nyquil…
So, where to begin.Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.When you read you begin with godDAMN YOU, SOUND OF MUSIC!!!YOU INVADE EVERYTHING!!!Okay, okay, I'm cool, I'm okay.Just got a little carried away there. I'll go into my particular issues with that movie later. Thank goodness I'm not on the Austria trip or I would be completely off my nut inside of a week.But I digress, as I so often do.
Actually, I believe I shall start from the end and then jump back in time.I have to start at the end because what is going on right now is weighing fairly heavily on my mind, namely that I believe that I am minutes nay seconds away from a fiery death.Way back when, when we were asked if we would like to journey from Shannon to Dublin at the end of each trip by plane or by train we all jumped up and down like schoolchildren, clapping our hands with delight as we squealed "Ooh!!!The train!The train, please!"What fun, we thought!What adventure!What complete and utter idiots we were!
The Hogwarts Express this ain't, folks.I have my iPod cranked up to the maximum in the hopes of drowning out the strange noises emanating from my compartment and am making a vain effort to not stare in increasing horror at the compartment just ahead of me as it bounces around, seemingly connected to the one that I find myself in by a mere thread. However, it was amusing to hear my co-guides Louisiana and Princess getting into it about our mode of transport a few days prior to actually getting on it:
LA: So, is this like, going to be a train with wheels, or.....
Princess (interrupting) : Hold on a moment. I just need to know if this is going to be the stupidest question you've ever asked?
I'm still not sure what Louisiana was going for, except (in her defense) if my only contact with trains had been the ones that go 'round the Disney parks and, yes, the Hogwarts Express, I would prolly be a trifle confused myself. Still funny to see the look on Princess' face when she asked, though. Hee!
I'm pretty sure I'm going to have a nervous breakdown by the end of the summer as I have to do this little trip every week and a half.I'd rather deal with TSA than have to sit in this garishly upholstered death trap and slowly careen to my death.But there it is.What is a girl to do but suck it up and repeatedly say her prayers to every deity she can think of?I believe I shall erect a small shrine in the seat next to me each week with a rosary, star of David, statue of Ganesha, chicken foot, vial of blood and a small patchouli candle all arranged in whatever feng shui design will keep me alive the longest on this metallic tube of doom.
But enough about where I'm currently going (which is to my imminent demise), let's focus for a bit on where I've been.Which is not nearly as horrifying, I must say.
So about two weeks ago I hopped on my lovely little plane from sunny Florida to the center of modern civilization: Newark.Luckily, my connecting gate was right next door to the one I was deplaning from.UNluckily, this meant that I had no where to go, no meandering throughout the airport to accomplish, and even more time to sit at the gate staring listlessly into space.Sigh.I hate New Jersey.Fortunately, there was a Ben and Jerry's in the terminal and I made that single scoop last for nearly 45 minutes.Otherwise, I could be found sprawled over two cracked seats trying to cram more arcane Irish minutiae into my already over-stuffed brain.This was going to be a continuing challenge throughout the week.How to put more water into an already soaked sponge, if you will.Somehow, against all odds, the sponge seems to be doing just fine and is continuing to soak up trivia.I can now do a full-fledged 8-day trivia laden tour of the Emerald Isle.Huzzah!
And speaking of things that continued through the first week—we (my fellow guides and I who, as you may have guessed, shall be referred to as Louisiana-guess where she's from?, The Leprechaun-due to his stature and willingness to call himself one and Princess-because he is) all swiftly realized that nearly every story that we read about was the "bloodiest day in Irish history" and that this was not just about one day—they were ALL the bloodiest day in Irish history.This day saw hundreds dead, that day saw thousands.The Black Plague?Off with tens of thousands to a nasty end.No potatoes?There goes a third of the population.Celts, Vikings, Normans, the British are coming, the British are coming!Wave after wave of invaders banging down Ireland's doors and asking to come in for a spot of tea and pillaging.The old post office still has the bullet holes from one particularly lovely last stand in 1916.Ask about Sunday, Bloody Sunday and they'll ask back "Which one?" and I am not kidding.So that's all far from delightful.But despite it all, the Irish are truly the nicest people I have ever met.Across the board, they will just bend over backwards for you and are kind and generous to a fault.It actually takes a while to get used to, sadly enough.But I am planning on having my summer castle built here just as soon as I can manage.My primary residence shall still be that ranch I'm going to build in Wyoming, in case you were wondering.
Jesus Christ that compartment is going to detach!!
Ahem.Sorry, just a small panic attack there.I beg your pardon.
Getting back to my narration, first off we decided to start our Irish adventure off right and nip on down to a pub for a pint of Guinness.Did you know that Guinness has fewer calories than a lite beer?It's true.It also fills you up like eating a loaf of bread—it's practically a meal in and of itself.And it does seem to be perfectly acceptable to drink your dinner here.And your lunch.And afternoon tea.And a snack.And on and on and on.I'm actually surprised that I remember anything from the last month since I've had more alcohol in the last four weeks than I have in the last four years.
I wasn't overly fond of Guinness at first but now that I've had it nearly every day I've grown to quite like it.And there are all sorts of variations you can try.There's some combination with Bailey's that is not an Irish Car Bomb (which, interestingly enough, no one seems to have heard of here as far as a drink is concerned. I would not recommend walking into any establishment in Ireland and asking for one as they will assume you mean the literal item and won't be very happy with you about it) as well as a Guinness and Champagne combo called a Black Velvet that is a horrific waste of good beer and good champagne as they don't mix well in the slightest and this thing called Guinness and Black for the ladies.Basically what this is is a pint of Guinness with a shot of black currant in it to make it sweeter.So for any girls that can't stomach Guinness as is, you can make it a little girlier and still be able to down a pint with the boys.
Up until about a week ago I had been having the regular stuff but kept meaning to try this Guinness and Black concoction.Despite the fact that when we mentioned it at the Guinness Storehouse, the fetus that was giving us the tour --- seriously, he was maybe 12?Although my fellow guides say that since he drinks he has to be at least 18 but I don't think so.He looked like a spiky-haired Howdy Doody and was about the same height.I swear he wasn't a day over 10.Although he seemed to have roughly the same amount of body hair as Robin Williams.It was an interesting combination he had going on there.Anyways…. he had a massive coronary at the mere suggestion of it.He also said (after he recovered from his fit) that it was an abomination in the eyes of Arthur Guinness and God (pretty much in that order) and at least a half-dozen angels and saints and that he would never speak to us again if we tried it.Still, I wanted to have a go.More so I can recommend it and/or describe it to my guests should they ask.So this is all in the name of science and guest service, really. Product knowledge, if you will. I'm a giver, what can I say? So I ordered one the other day and figured that it would just taste like a fruitier version of the norm.Hey, I like black currant, I like Guinness, what could go wrong, right?
I actually took an emory board to my tongue to try to get rid of the god-awful taste.It was easily the worst thing I have EVER tasted in my entire life.EVER.EASILY.How could two tasty things combine to produce something so foul?It was like drinking something that had died several days prior and been left in the sun to marinate.I would rather lick a beggar's armpit in Arizona in July than EVER have that EVER again.Bleh.NEVER. AGAIN.I shall have to warn others about this monstrosity. I seriously want to go on the talk show circuit specifically to warn people.So, in summation, I didn't like it very much.
::: shudder :::
AAAHHHHH!!!!Ohmigodohmigodohmigod another train just blew past us and I swear we nearly derailed.::: breathing slowly and shakily through my nose and out through my mouth :::
Moving right along, have I mentioned yet how the animals here are all incredibly lazy?I mean, I suppose there's not much to their day besides wondering how close the end of the line is for them.But I had always heard that if you see cows and such lying down then it meant it was going to rain.Because, you know, they want to keep their undersides dry.Don't laugh—other people had heard of that, too!And as we all know, animals can predict the weather.Hurricanes and earthquakes and the like. It's on the internet so it must be true. So it stands to reason that they can tell if it might mist a bit today.But oh, no.These animals are just lazy.They are always lying down!Cows, horses, sheep, doesn't matter.You drive by and they're all splayed out in the field like they're reclining on a chaise and waiting for tea to be served. Although it's a fair point to say that it is always about to rain in Ireland so there's that, I suppose. Gotta stay green somehow.
This brings me to several points, actually.The first being that I heard before I got here that you could experience all four seasons in one day in Ireland.What they failed to mention is that this happens EVERY day, not just on bank holidays and the occasional Tuesday.From freezing cold and wind blowing to bright and sunshiny to pouring down rain to a light mist.This cycle repeats about every 30 minutes or so.It's a bit difficult to get used to at first.But by the end of the first tour when it went from bright sunshiny warmth to rain to hail pounding down in the span of about ten minutes and my guests were all slack-jawed at the rather violent and surprising turn the outside world had just taken, I was able to shrug it off knowing full well that the sun would be back in precisely 5.7 minutes time.Which it was.Right on schedule.
What in the hell was THAT???The conductor keeps making announcements but I can't understand what he's saying!!! :: panicky breaths ::Imagine the most unintelligible fast food drive-thru monitor and then add in a thick Irish brogue.I can not make out a damn word!What if he's giving out crucial information?I don't even know if my seat cushion can be used as a flotation device!!!!!panicpanicpanicpanic
Oh, pardon me. I was just having a minor myocardial infarction.My second point is about tea and the vast quantities that I have consumed since getting here.And as anyone who knows me knows, I run on coffee like most appliances run on electricity.That is to say, a steady stream of it.But I have made the switch.I am very well hydrated due to the extreme amount of liquids constantly going into my body, those liquids mainly consisting of tea and Guinness.I have found, as I have long suspected, that there is nothing so delightful than curling up in a large squashy armchair in front of a roaring fire and having a lovely spot of tea and scones with clotted cream and black current jam.Did I mention that I'm in a castle while I'm doing this?And shall be for the next several months?Don't hate.
THERE!You see what I mean?!?I just passed a field full of cows and not a one of them was standing up!Lazy lazies, the lot of them!I mean, you'll even regularly see horses lying down on their sides!WTF?When I come back around I want to be a horse in Ireland.
Anyway, where was I?Oh yes, I was getting 'round to my third point.So as we careened around the countryside on the roads that were the exact opposite of straight and wide, we kept passing these sheep with colored blotches on their backs.Some were red, some were blue, green, purple, all sorts of colors.We figured at first that this was some kind of ownership mark or whatever.Well, how wrong we were!
Turns out that all the little boy sheep have this paintball contraption thingy strapped to their boy parts.And after they have a little Irish rendezvous with one of the girl sheep she ends up with the colored paint on her wool to show that the two of them engaged in a deep, meaningful conversation one moonlit night.This way the farmers know who might have a delivery from the stork in a few months time.And each farmer just picks a color, doesn't really matter which one since their property is fenced off.We all really started to feel for the sheep with a whole rainbow on their backends as they have obviously been having quite a few discussions with quite a few gentlemen.I think this is an excellent way to see if your guy is running around as well.
Imagine if you're out for an evening with the girls and make a shocking discovery: "Maude!Isn't that Harold's color on your skirt?How DARE you??"I think this will simplify things a great deal and we should implement a system as soon as possible.
Ohmigod, we're slowing down.I wonder if there's a cow on the track?Sheep?Dear God my nerves can't take much more of this.
At the end of the trip we get to stay in this absolutely gorgeous castle (the one with the squashy fireside armchairs and yummy tea service) and I have to say, I think this is where I should stay ALL of the time.I simply don't see why I have to stay in a house when a castle is perfectly capable of holding me and all my worldly possessions in the manner to which I have become accustomed.Sadly this castle does not appear to be haunted and I'm really not sure what's up with that.I thought all castles came standard with a few ghosts but apparently not.It does have a cat, however.And as I am The Cat Whisperer, we have become fast friends.
I first saw my furry little buddy as he shot through the halls with half the tuxedoed castle staff in hot pursuit.I was reclining with a proper Irish Coffee in the outdoor lounge while Princess nursed a Jameson's and Camel Ultra when kitty decided to come say hello.He jumped right up into each of our laps to see what we were all about and then sniffed around our drinks.I wasn't too concerned because I figured the strong smell of whiskey would put him off.Unfortunately for me and my coffee, this was a true Irish cat and he plunged his face right into my glass.By the time I had gotten a second glass, he had cleaned all the cream off his face and was now trying to drink Princess' whiskey as well.We explained to him that this was not how good kitties should behave but he seemed unimpressed by our speech.He finally curled up on my lap, purring the entire time, and promptly fell asleep.We repeated this little routine for several days (except for the part where he sticks his face in my Irish coffee, though not for lack of trying) and each time I come back to the castle, he finds me and makes a home in my lap or arms.I also seem to be the only person who can peaceably extricate him from the castle whenever he sneaks inside since he will usually come when I call.I've named him Whiskey, since he seems to enjoy the stuff so much.
How in the hell is Louisiana asleep??????? I am so high-strung right now that I'm currently in the overhead luggage rack.Upside-down.Clutching the ceiling.
So let's talk about the food over here—hopefully that will take my mind off the possibility of derailing.There seem to be an awful lot of puddings over here for some random reason.Everything is a pudding yet none of it is even remotely similar so I'm at a bit of a loss about it.I always thought that pudding was something that was typically of the chocolate variety and came in a little clear plastic cup with a tear-away seal that said "Jell-O" on it.Not so here.There is Christmas pudding and sticky toffee pudding—both delightful and delicious and both I would call closer to cake than pudding but whatever.When something tastes that good I don't give a rat's ass what you call it as long as I can have some more, please.Then there's black pudding and white pudding.They both look like little mealy discs.They are ground up sausage and I think some other stuff plus a secret ingredient.In the black pudding, the secret ingredient just so happens to be cow's blood.In the white pudding, we've exsanguinated a sheep.Mmmm, who wants some?Actually, I must admit that they're both pretty good.I've taken to telling guests to try some and then to ask what it is.
In addition to puddings of every variety, Guinness is not just for drinking with your meals and/or between them.It is a part of your meal as well!It is used in just about everything.Beef and Guinness pie, Guinness sauces, Guinness marinades, Guinness sweetbreads and of course baked into that completely awesome brown artisan bread that you get with everything.A bowl of thick Irish soup or stew and a few paving stone-sized slabs of bread with pure sweet local butter and you're full to bursting.Yet despite all of the yummy food (I actually haven't had anything I haven't liked the whole time I've been here), I will still probably lose weight over the course of the summer.The chips (crisps as they are called) aren't greasy and even fried foods don't taste heavy and gross—they're not loaded down with enough preservatives to make a mummy happy, they're just fresh which is nice for a change.My body is probably going to go into convulsions the first time I break down and go to Taco Bell while home.
What was that sound????Whatwas that sound?!?!?!?!Stupid iPod and its stupid short battery.Maybe I shouldn't have had that espresso prior to boarding the train.I'm beginning to think that that was a serious error in judgment.Not that boarding the train AT ALL was a bright idea in the first place, but still I'm fairly certain that it shouldn't be making sounds like it's having a hard time digesting something.
Well, the train is nearly to Dublin so I've got to wrap this up. Thank God in heaven and all the angels and saints that this is a direct train.These little stops we've been making at these other stations are simply not adequate!They give the poor bastards approximately 30 seconds to grab their crap and fling themselves from the train to the station before we speed off again!If I had to switch trains I am 100% positive that I would have a complete and total breakdown.
In parting allow me to answer an age-old question - we've been told that there are actually 692 shades of green here! I am making it my mission to see every one of them.And as much of this gorgeous, amazing country as possible.
As we head into the new year, may everyone carry this blessing with them: