I think many of us are having trouble finding the Christmas spirit this year. Where is the joy, the generosity, the warmth of kindness that makes this one of my favorite times of the year? Perhaps this year we all need to look a little harder.

The shootings in Newtown, CT have landed a heavy blow to the spirits of many of us this year. Our hearts ache for the loss of so many children. Our spirits recoil in the presence of whatever it was that drove a young man to devastate so many lives.


Over the next few weeks, billions of dollars will be spent in this country to celebrate several religious and cultural observations. We take this opportunity to prove to our nearest and dearest that we really do know what they like, to let someone know we're thinking about them and they matter to us, and to thank those who have made our lives a bit easier during the past year.


If the recent election carries any message -- and I'm sure there are many lessons to be learned -- one of the most important has to do with the strength and power of female Americans.

It was a discouraging year for women, as we heard unbelievable statements come from the mouths of elected officials and candidates. Most of them showed complete ignorance of basic biological functions, and dismissed the horror of the crime that is rape.


For those people who don't think their votes count, consider the number of individuals and groups who are trying to influence or supress it.

It used to be that we received campaign materials from candidates, sometimes sent right from their very own dining room tables. We'd get stuff from their campaign committees, which is pretty much the same thing in my mind. Every now and then we'd get a card from a political party.


I don't understand people who do not vote in elections.

The first time I voted was a major event in my life. The law had just changed so that 18-year-olds could vote. Instead of having to wait until I was 21, I could, instead, participate in the election of a president. It was exciting. It was empowering.

I don't think I've missed voting in many elections since that long ago event in 1976.


When it comes to political advertising these days, the entry of political action committees into the campaign wars has pretty much guaranteed that no blow is too low. Until recently, however, the mud-slinging has been focused primarily on statewide and national races. Now, it's oozing into our backyards.

The relationship between candidates and PACs is interesting. On one hand, the candidate can point to the offensive literature and say "I didn't have anything to do with that. It was the PAC!" And sometimes that is quite true.


There is a little trick that magicians use to make their illusions successful. It's called misdirection. Basically, the magician uses some tactic to pull your attention away from where the "magic" is really happening -- waves a scarf, calls upon a scantily-clad assistant, sets off a couple minor explosions. You see what you're supposed to see, and not anything that will break the illusion that is being created on stage.

Magicians, it seems, are not the only ones who use misdirection in their work, and the results are not always so entertaining.


Zillions of sociological and psychological studies have been done on the "Us vs. Them" mentality -- its benefits, its dangers, how it develops. The potential for evil and dangerous behaviors to grow from such a mentality is so great that people need to do some brutal fact-checking on themselves every now and then.


Planting trees has become an international movement. Who doesn't realize the massive impact trees have on everything from the economy to the climate? In a world that is slowly realizing that the earth's resources are not finite, trees are the poster children for the green movement.

So why the fuss over spending $2,500 to plant some trees in a Bellevue park?