At the end of a year, I like to look back, count my blessings, and give thanks for whatever the new year may bring.
The older I get, the more I think the only real difference we can make in life is to be grateful.  It’s simple, but not always easy.
For my family, perhaps like yours, this year has been one of change. It began in that most dreaded of ways, with the loss of a loved one. In February, we buried my husband’s father, a man who’d convinced me, with the beauty of his character, that I’d be smart to marry his son.
A few days after his memorial service, I flew to South Carolina, to speak to preschool teachers in the Spartanburg County First Steps program. I told them there is no finer calling, no work more important than the role they play in helping children get a good start in life. And I smiled to see them nod in agreement.
A week later, hours ahead of a snowstorm, I arrived in Redkey, Indiana, to meet the children of Redkey Elementary, along with their parents and teachers. We talked about reading and writing and life, traded stories and hugs, and parted friends.
In March, I stayed home and did laundry. Then I spent Easter in California with my kids.
My youngest and his wife brought their 10-month-old to visit us in Las Vegas for the Fourth of July, leaving me with one of my happiest memories: Sitting at a window watching fireworks and rocking my grandson, while his parents and my husband swam in the pool.
In August, I flew to Charlotte, N.C., to meet the members of Turning Pages Book Club, most of whom were, or had been at one time, homeless.
They had just read a book I wrote about home and family, from growing up in the South to raising my children in California. We talked for an hour, sharing stories, asking questions, finding common ground. Given a chance, we might have talked for days.
In September, my husband and I were rewarded for all our years as parents with the arrival of two grandbabies _ a girl, born to his son and his girlfriend, and one day later, a boy, born to my daughter and her husband.
My sister came out from South Carolina for Thanksgiving, stayed two weeks, and we never ran out of people to talk about.
December was packed, as it should be, with visits to and from family and friends. Now I’m looking at a new calendar with pages yet to be filled.
A few nights ago, we went to see “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” Fearing it might be sold out, my husband bought tickets in advance on line. When we got to the theater, he dropped me in front and handed me his wallet.
“You might need my credit card to get the tickets,” he said, “I’ll park and meet you inside.”
Minutes later, when we were watching previews, I reached in my pocket to get his wallet. To my horror, it wasn’t there.
For a moment, I thought about my life, how good it had been, and how it was about to change.
“I’m going to the restroom,” I whispered. Then I sprinted to the kiosk where I’d printed the tickets. No wallet. I dumped out my purse. No wallet. I took off my coat and turned the pockets inside out. No wallet anywhere.
Finally, I went to the ticket window. “Did anybody by any chance turn in a wallet?”
The ticket person called the manager. A long minute later, the manager showed up smiling with my husband’s wallet.
I kissed him. Someone had found it on the floor and turned it in with cash and credit cards in tact. No, he said, they didn’t leave a name or number.
I told you that story to tell you this: If you think about the year ahead and wonder what it may bring, don’t worry. Be hopeful.
Things don’t always go from bad to worse. Stories don’t always end badly. Some people still do the right thing. And for that, I am truly thankful.


  1. Joan E. Avery says

    Hi Sharon –
    Reading your column again, reminds me of many wonderful mornings in Monterey! I was the Administrator at Monterey Bay Oncology when your beloved husband was ill. This was shortly after I had lost my own husband to cancer, and I always felt a connection to you.
    And just now, as I sit in my home in Mariposa watching the Mentalist — I was pleasantly surprised to see your eldest son. I remember so well when you wrote about his wanting to be an actor , “My son’t isn’t a real doctor, but he plays one on TV.”
    So pleased to see that you are happy and a gloriously happy Nana!
    Best Wishes,
    JoanE. Avery (Anaradian)

  2. Many years ago, my parents (now both gone) were in Europe on vacation. My father left Mom sitting at a train station and went to use the pay phone to call their hotel for the next night. Hours later, he confessed in a woeful voice “Hon, I think I left my wallet and all our money sitting on top of the phone!” My mother replied, “Oh, Joe, you don’t think I’d let you carry ALL our money, do you?” I still laugh when I think of that.

  3. Shelley Nondorf says

    Sharon, I am pretty sure we are klones!!! I just had my first granddaughter (well, my son did!!!) and hearing YOU talk about your grandbabies matches my thoughts exactly. It is SHEER HEAVEN!!! She (Kenzie) is the most beautiful and perfect child!!! Now, back to why I am really emailing you. I am an avid reader and would like to know the name of your book that you mentioned in your column, “Hope goes a long way” of Jan. 1. You discussed it w/the Turning Pages Book Club and it was about ‘growing up in the the South and raising your children in Calif. Great name for a book club btw-ours is called the Prairie Readers (we are in the nw corner of Kansas. However, I have been absent from bk. cl. for awhile due to extensive visits to aforementioned granddaughter!!! hehe She was born in Las Vegas (or all places) but, shortly after her birth, they moved to the middle of Kansas!!! (of ALL places!) Do you see why I think we are possibly klones? Have already told you in an earlier email how much I love and enjoy your columns, so Happy New Year and SPOIL THOSE GRANDBABIES!!!!

    • Sharon Randall says

      Thanks for asking, Shelley. My book is “Birdbaths and Paper Cranes: A Family Tale,” and it’s available from amazon.con. If you decide to order it, and would like a signed bookplate to paste in the jacket, send your mailing address to my email ( and I’ll drop one in the mail for you. And yes, I agree, sounds like you and I have lived parallel lives! Best to you and your family!

  4. I can’t wait to try these dutch babies. However, I do have a question. Did you use Self Rising Flour or All Purpose?

  5. Hi Sharon!! I updated the Turning Pages blog a little bit today & included a link to your website…so read a little on your site and low & behold, here is a story mentioning us. Kismet! OX’s from Charlotte!

  6. Wow! That reminds me of the time we left a wallet in a tiny village in Yorkshire, England. We contacted the “authorities”, but no one had turned it in. We cancelled the cards, replaced the license and the leather wallet. Six months later, a call from Yorkshire, where it was the middle of the night and a policeman was trying to stay awake. He’d come across the wallet in a lost and found, British and American money intact, ditto credit cards etc. He’d only use out money to mail it to us if we e-mailed him permission to do so first. What a great experience that was!

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