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What a surprise! I just started looking at the news again and found out it’s 2019! About two weeks ago, I thought it would be good for my mental health to break my obsessive attachment to the news. Reading a few mysteries, watching foreign language series with English subtitles, baking babkas for the neighbors – even taking walks made a welcome change. Did I miss much?

Of course, I’m getting caught up all too fast, and couldn’t tear myself away yesterday from the sight of a decidedly new-looking House of Representatives being sworn in. Meanwhile, however, the change was good. How about you? Did 2018 wind down easily for you? Are you glad it’s over or relishing good parts? Most important, how are you approaching 2019?

What changes are you hoping to see in 2019? For you, for the country, for the world. Your ideas spur the rest of us to new thoughts and actions. Click here and tell us, please.

The specific question is about 2019. Unfortunately, even with some small hope seeing the new Congress, I am not feeling hopeful. Every time I feel things in the world and specifically in this country cannot possibly get worse, they do. Although taking a news break seems like a good idea, and I have done it periodically, the catch-up is almost worse. Thousands of people are actually working without pay and with no real guarantee of getting back pay. Thousands more are furloughed and have no hope of getting back pay. They are not spending money on local shops and restaurants, so these businesses are affected. If I hope to get a tax refund, and there is no guarantee of that thanks to the new tax laws, even though I have consistently gotten one for years, no one seems to be working at IRS, so refund checks will be at best late. People who rely on SNAP for help in getting food to eat will soon not have that, as the funds for that are almost gone and the program has not been renewed because of the shutdown. And we have someone in the White House who does not care. At All. About anything but himself and maybe his daughter. So I take a break and work in glass. And lately, I have been doing much more glass than previously. And I am pretty pleased with my progress. So maybe I should just close my ears and eyes to everything but my work.

We have a brand-new woman governor in Maine, who immediately put into action health care for 70,000 Mainers, who is a woman’s advocate and thinks children should be the state’s priority. (As opposed to tourist industry.) I’m truly excited to know articles about her work and pictures of her smile are going to be in my morning paper, instead of the sorrowful blankety-blank who has held office for the past 8 years, during which time lack of adequate health care caused 3-4,000 deaths a year, sold out the environment for profit, and acted like a fool publicly. It’s a measure of hope for me, that this beloved nation can overcome our current chaos and redeem itself.

 For most of my life I have volunteered in hospitals. Now, at age 76 and partially handicapped, I volunteer at the front desk at a hospital on Saturdays, and this year we initiated a new program called “No one Dies Alone” ( NODA.) I am one of the first volunteers to be trained as a compassionate companion. When a person is dying and has no one to be with them, the hospital calls one of us to come in. We sit and talk gently with the patient, offering prayers based on their religious preference, or simply company by holding their hand or putting our hand on their arm so that they know someone is there for them. It is a program that gives comfort to not only the patient, but also their family that may be unable to come to their bedside due to distance or their own health.