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My favorite things aren't found in a store

These days, many are thinking about what to get people for Christmas. To help, Oprah Winfrey has a show she calls "My Favorite Things." Though I often tune in to see what she's talking about, this is one episode I avoid. Truth is, I find it a bit distasteful. I also find it a bit irritating that with that title, she has co-opted -- and commercialized -- the idea behind one of the sweetest songs from the "Sound of Music."

So, more in keeping with the spirit of the song, I offer my list of favorite things, in no particular order -- and definitely not in rhyme.

Coincidentally, two things mentioned in the song make my list: sleigh bells and snowflakes. Just the other day a friend and I were driving somewhere when, from the radio, came the sound of sleigh bells. Though we had agreed we didn't want to listen to Christmas music, I couldn't switch it. There's something about the sound of sleigh bells that always brightens my mood and puts a smile on my face.

As for snowflakes, well, they've always been a favorite -- regardless of whether they're on my nose or eyelashes (or anywhere else). And, as far as I'm concerned, the bigger the flakes the better. I've often wondered whether being born in Buffalo was just a happy accident vis-a-vis my love for snow, or the reason for it.

I also love unexpected little bonuses, like discovering the milk you just poured in your coffee didn't curdle, even though the "best before" date on the carton was yesterday. Or glancing at the clock from bed and realizing you can roll back over because it's not time to get up yet.

Though I don't see them that often (I'm an early riser, but not that early), sunrises are on my list of favorite things. Though sunsets are often quite beautiful, I like sunrises better because they always seem ripe with possibility.

Laughing so hard that tears roll down my face is also on my list. I think what I like most about this type of laughter is that it's so unpredictable. I can't name anything that's guaranteed to provoke laughter strong enough to make the tears roll, but when something does, I relish it!

Peace and quiet also have a place on my list. I was reminded of this recently when I was walking home and I heard the sound of a child's blood-curdling scream in the distance. I was relieved when I saw that the little girl wasn't in danger.

As I got closer, I noticed a woman who was probably the girl's mother standing nearby, holding another, smaller (thankfully quiet) child. As I passed, I heard the woman's frustrated plea: "Shhhh. Please hush. Please." Hearing the child and the woman's weary reaction made me realize how precious peace and quiet can be.

Those are just some of my favorite things. Though not things one can make a gift of, I think you'll agree, they are gifts all the same.

So, this holiday season, go ahead and check out Oprah's list, and the malls and catalogs and online stores -- there's lots of stuff to be had. But remember that for many, their favorite things can't be bought.

Once you realize this, I think you'll find your time better spent making a list of what you might do, or be, for the people on your list, instead of thinking about what you can get them. And, if you act on that, I'm sure you'll end up high on their list of favorite things.

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