Pattye Benson

Conduct Unbecoming . . . Hate Mail Targets Local Blogger!

For the second time in 8 days, fellow blogger Carla from Save Ardmore Coalition has endured hate mail . . . that is, personally addressed mail with no note, only feces. The first envelope arrived at her home on February 10 and latest envelope addressed to her, arrived today at the post office box of Save Ardmore Coalition. This mail too contained fecal material.  Who would do this, and why?

As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “. . .  if you passively accept a wrong, you are as much involved in it as the one who perpetrates it. If you accept the wrong without protesting it, King said, you are really cooperating with it.”

Hate mail, whatever its form, is harassment, and it is wrong. Why should expressing your opinion result in foul and abusive hate mail?   Regardless of our roles – political figures, pundits, community activists – is this the price of free speech?   

Call it sisterhood, kindred spirits or one ‘blogger to another’, Carla’s incident has shaken me.  Every writer who says something slightly provocative or controversial is a target for hate mail.  And hate mail can come in many forms – including blog posts, anonymous comments, email and letters.  Hate mail never intends to start a discussion.  The goal is to silence.

The recent violence in Arizona shows us the level of anger and vitriol that some people are carrying around in today’s society.  Near-fanatical hatred drives personal attacks on people with whom they may disagree.  It is a Federal offense to send feces through the US Postal service and I hope that the Lower Merion Police Department can track down this criminal.  

Beyond adding awareness and offering my support through this post on Community Matters, I am feeling helpless. Is this the price tag for freedom of speech?

Below is Carla’s latest post on Save Ardmore Coalition.

So today started like any other day, except it was warm and beautiful out. Then around noon, Ria from Save Ardmore Coalition contacted me to let me know I had SAC mail at the P.O. Box in Ardmore – it happens occasionally.

But given what happened to me recently (being sent poop in the mail as documented in the post Is This a Price of Free Speech), I asked her to describe the envelope. What she described was a doppelgänger of the first poopy-gram.

Oh HELLO groundhog day! Seriously?

So I went to pick up the envelope and it was identical except the address was the SAC P.O. Box and the postmark was Philadelphia not Southeastern. Same pencil, same caps/block printing, same stinky contents.

I did not open the envelope and instead took myself right to the Lower Merion Police Department. I made an additional report and BOTH envelopes have been taken into the Lower Merion Police Department as evidence. They are being processed as evidence and the LMPD is taking this second incident seriously.

I have to tell you the LMPD was wonderful today. The LMPD actually opened the envelope which arrived today – and yes – the contents were the same: shit. (Of course I wonder how the post office people in Ardmore couldn’t smell this, because this one did stink.)

I also called NBC10, and yes, this will be a news story – they find the topic newsworthy and before someone rolls up here and says self-aggrandizement, I want you to stop and think how disgustingly timely this is. Think about what the blogging teacher in Bucks County, Natalie Monroe is going through – even if she is turning this into a national media tour. More to the point, were the scary assed threats the Notre Dame Teacher who blogged, Elizabeth Collins was subjected to.

The commonality is, like it or not, in my head – targeting bloggers, specifically female bloggers. This is a crime against women, like it or not. I don’t believe in crime against women.

Now, the country not heard from: The United States Postal Service. In spite of calls from high level customer service personnel at the United States Postal Service who have told me mailing shit is a federal offense, in spite of having been directed to a Philadelphia area inspector via (877)-876-2455, I have yet to have a phone call back from any postal inspector.

I write about lots of things, but I don’t believe this is any politician – not their M.O. – they just denounce me from podiums and lump me into small mean spirited groups of individuals and twaddle on about decorum as they eviscerate citizens for exercising their right to free speech.

Do I know who this is? No. But to be honest, this isn’t the first time I have had an “admirer”.

Not all of you may like my writing style or poking fun at politicians, but I do have standards and do not believe ANY blogger or ANY woman deserves this.

I thank all of you out there for your support and caring and concern – from the police to friends, fellow bloggers and members of the traditional media.

I will continue to provide the police with any poopy-grams and any threats I receive.

To the person out there who is doing this – I am not sure what I did, but I am sorry you are upset. But seriously, you need to stop, as what you have done apparently is actually illegal. To me it makes it SO not worth it.

Ok bloggers, weigh in.

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Citizen Journalists Can Make a Difference . . . Community Matters Keeping Company With CNN & Reuters News!

Who could have predicted that I would see my words and Community Matters quoted in a citizen journalist article . . . and keeping company with the likes of Reuters News  and CNN!  Yes, in “Citizen Journalists End 2010 With a Bang”, writer Susan Cormier refers to me as a blogger receiving notice from professional journalists as credible and worthy of adding to news sites.  (see article below).  To say that I am honored and flattered to be included in the article would be an understatement!

I feel that sometimes we all can become engulfed in the mainstream media, whether the outlet is MSNBC, CNN, FOX, New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer or our local newspaper.  We all have the ability, and the right, to state our opinion.  Citizen journalism allows for people to connect with one another regarding issues or opinions they have, . . . regardless if those involved are in agreement or not.  Citizen journalism is important and sometimes I think it’s underestimated. 

Tom Murray including Community Matters on the front page of Mainline Media News validated the value and place that it serves in mainstream media.  Susan Comier’s article salutes citizen journalists and credits those more traditional news outlets (like Mainline Media News) with appreciating and understanding the value of citizen journalists in today’s world.

Susan C. Cormier is from Denver, Colorado and has more than 28 years of experience in the media arts, including stints as a broadcast writer, legislative bureau chief, city editor and now citizen journalist. Susan is the head coach in charge of training at the National Association of Citizen Journalists (http://nacj.us/) and co-author of the “Handbook for Citizen Journalists”  (http://www.citizenjournalistnow.com/).

Thank you Susan for including Community Matters in your article – and here’s to making 2011, the ‘Year of the Citizen Journalist’!

Citizen Journalists End 2010 With a Bang

Exciting developments and investments involving citizen journalists were announced during the last couple of months of 2010.

Here are just some of the news items:

1) Thomson Reuters announced Dec. 14 that it will partner with citizen journalism site, Examiner.com, and other U.S. content providers as part of the company’s multimillion-dollar investment to help meet the needs of U.S. newsrooms. In a Dec. 14 press release, the news agency said its goal is to increase its domestic news offering, and to offer publishers and broadcasters the tools they need to increase efficiency, reduce cost and drive revenue. Examiner.com, whose 65,000 citizen contributors – or examiners – generate thousands of articles daily with “fresh, original and locally relevant content,” is just one of the entities involved in the Reuters America project, according to the press release. Other outlets distributing content through Reuters include The Wrap News, SportsDirect Inc., The Sports Xchange, US PRESSWIRE and SB Nation.

2) Yahoo announced on Nov. 15 that it was launching a contributor network to add the “voice of the people.” In its press release, Yahoo! said it “is inviting people to contribute to many of its most popular sites with the launch of the Yahoo! Contributor Network, a new platform for people to publish their creative content on Yahoo! The Yahoo! Contributor Network . . . will bring contributions from more than 400,000 writers, photographers, and videographers to the Internet’s largest media destinations. . . . ”

3) On Dec. 15, it was announced that blogging community network Global Voices and citizen journalism wire Demotix will begin sharing text and images.

On the Demotix blog, CEO Turi Munthe said: “We share a profound commitment to the ‘crowd’ and its power, and a profound commitment to opening the news conversation. Global Voices run the best network of global bloggers anywhere – to combine their work with our images has always made sense.”

4) CNN, which first began accepting citizen reports in 2006, celebrated citizens’ involvement with a video released Dec. 16 that showcases 194 iReports from 194 countries.

While these are some of the larger stories that have appeared in recent months, there also a couple of smaller stories that are worth noting as well.

Gannett is adding to its investment in TucsonCitizen.com, a community journalism site created when the Arizona newspaper closed down in May 2009. The site was designed to satisfy Justice Department requirements regarding Gannett’s Joint Operating Agreement with Lee Enterprises, publisher of Tucson’s other daily, the Arizona Daily Star.

With the persistent and very capable leadership of site editor Mark Evans, TucsonCitizen.com now has 65 citizen contributors and has nearly doubled its page views from the same time last year to almost 1 million a month.

Evans said he no longer fears that he will come to work one day and learn that the site will be closed down.

Just the opposite appears to be happening. With Gannett funding, Evans was able to hire Anthony Gimino as a full-time employee beginning Jan. 3 to oversee the TucsonCitizen.com’s growing sports blogging network and to assist in the overall administration of the community website. Also in January, a part-time social media editor will be hired to help with the site’s social media efforts and to grow the site’s audience.

In Pennsylvania, Pattye Benson is among the bloggers being noticed by professional journalists as credible and worthy of adding to their news sites. Benson, who has been writing her blog, Community Matters, for a year, announced Dec. 17 that she could now be found on the newspaper website of Mainline Media News.

Benson notes on her blog: “There have been a few naysayers who have questioned if my blog was mainstream journalism. Tom Murray’s offer for Community Matters to ‘live in the space’ of the newspaper validates this citizen journalist and hopefully now quiets those critics.”

There may be many more smaller stories like these last two, but I just don’t know about them. All-in-all, I’d say the outlook is pretty bright for citizen journalists and bloggers. I can’t wait to see what 2011 brings.

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Blogs are Becoming Mainstream Media . . . Community Matters Now on Mainline Media News!

The question is no longer, whether blogs can be journalism. I think there is no question that blogs are now mainstream media and that citizen bloggers ‘are’ journalists.  And we are now seeing mainstream media coming in the other direction by more traditional media outlets adding blog content.  Blog sites are now touching tens of millions of people in the United States and the numbers of blog readers are projected to continue growing.

I recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of my blog, Community Matters.  Passing this marker, I found myself reflecting over the last 12 months.  Who could have forecasted that I would write 580 articles (and on a myriad of topics) or predicted that Community Matters readers would leave 7,800 comments as a result of my posts? 

In addition to the blog’s recent anniversary, another milestone has been realized for Community Matters.  I was approached by Tom Murray, editor for the Mainline Media News, about the possibility of adding my community blog to his newspaper’s online site.  Although intrigued by the offer, I had some reservations.  Would I maintain complete control over Community Matters . . . the blog’s contents and its comments?  Flattered by Tom’s interest in Community Matters, it was important that my writing and reader’s comments be protected and not compromised, edited or filtered.  Tom assured me that not only would I remain in control of Community Matters (Community Matters is password protected) but that when readers visited the newspaper online and clicked on Community Matters, the traffic would go directly to my site.  As a result, I am excited to announce that Community Matters can now also be found on the home page of Mainline Media News, http://mainlinemedianews.com/

Will citizen journalists garner respect in the mainstream journalism world?  I guess it is like anything, it will depend on the quality of the writing of the specific blogger and the standard of their blog. There has been a battle the last few years, bloggers vs. journalists. I don’t think that the rise of blogs equals the death of professional journalism. The media world is not a zero-sum game. Increasingly, in fact, the Internet is turning it into a symbiotic ecosystem — in which the different parts feed off one another and the whole thing grows.  That’s how I view the relationship of Community Matters with the local newspaper.  There is no reason a community blog cannot successfully exist independently but also keep company on the home page of Mainline Media News.  Hoping to increase traffic to Community Matters with this new venture, I view the opportunity as a win-win for me and for the newspaper.

There have been a few naysayers who have questioned if my blog was mainstream journalism.  Tom Murray’s offer for Community Matters to ‘live in the space’ of the newspaper validates this citizen journalist and hopefully now quiets those critics.

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In the Mood . . . Poodle Skirts, Blue Suede Shoes & Rockin’ to the Oldies

Counting down to Friday night and In the Mood, the Trust’s annual fundraiser.  This year’s party is 50’s themed and the committee is working hard to make it a night to remember.  I am hoping to fill the remaining spots for the night – would you please consider attending.  You can visit our website, www.tredyffrinhistory.org to order tickets or send me an email at tredyffrincommunitymatters@gmail.com and I will add your name to the ‘will call’ list and you can pay at the door 

Be ready to shake, rattle and roll. Dust off your blue suede shoes, whip out your poodle skirt, roll up your dungarees, polish your saddle shoes, curl your ponytail, and grease back your hair . . . the evening promises fun, laughter and rockin’ to the sounds of the 1950’s.
 

Date:             Friday, October 22
Time:            7 PM
Location:       Barn at King’s Grant Farm,  869 Yellow Springs Road, Malvern, PA 19355
Tickets:          $75   Purchase tickets online at www.tredyffrinhistory.org
Questions:     Pattye Benson, 610.644.6759 or Judy DiFilippo, 610.688.772.

The evening promises to be a great party and all proceeds of the event go toward a great cause – Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust’s Phase II of the Jones Log Barn reconstruction project at historic DuPortail.  Phase I that includes the barn’s foundation and stonework is completed and with the public’s help, we can complete the final phase of the project.  Once reconstructed, the Jones Log Barn will be living history museum for the entire community to enjoy for many years to come!  Will you help us with the final phase of the Jones Log Barn project . . . by purchasing a ticket to In the Mood?

I hope that you will show your support of the Jones Log Barn project and historic preservation in our community by purchasing a ticket to In the Mood.

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Board of Supervisors Meeting Goes to the 11th Hour . . . Student Housing Ordinances and Public Budget Meetings are Late Night Decisions

Last night’s Board of Supervisors Meeting and public meeting on student housing was a marathon!  After 4-1/2 hours, the meeting finally ended at 11:45 PM . . . a long meeting by any standard; plus there was no air conditioning!  By the time the meeting ended at nearly midnight, all that remained of the audience was myself and 2 other residents, the township staff and the supervisors.  I didn’t realize until I got home but the taping of the meeting stopped at about 11:20, which was prior to the 3 important votes – decisions of the evening.

Many who attended last night’s supervisors meeting waited patiently for the public hearing on the two proposed college student housing ordinances – the Registration Ordinance and Zoning Ordinance Amendment.  As the hour got later and later, a decision was made to suspend the regular supervisors meeting, conduct the public meeting on the student housing ordinances and then complete the regular supervisors meeting. 

As was discussed in an earlier post, the Planning Commission had come up with very strict language in their proposed ordinances.  In my opinion, the proposed ordinances provided as much future protection against student rentals as was possible within the law.  In fact, some of the restrictions (including a 10 ft. wide buffer on the sides and back of the student rental properties struck me as a bit ‘over the top’  and overly restrictive).  It was obvious that some of the supervisors had a clearer understanding of the proposed ordinances than others – at one point, it was suggested that the public meeting be continued until a future date.  But Supervisors DiBuonaventuro and Donahue pushed for resolution last night on the ordinances.

Many Mt. Pleasant residents attended last night’s meeting and were determined that their voices would be heard.  And heard they were!  On one side, the residents very much wanted to see the proposed ordinances passed but they also wanted more to be included in the proposed zoning ordinance amendment.  Specifically, the residents sought to remove the grandfathering rights of the landlords from the ordinance.  The residents wanted the same restrictions for new student rentals to be imposed on existing student rentals.  But as they were told, this is simply not possible legally.  Not because of township laws, but because of Pennsylvania state law. 

Supervisor Kichline and the township solicitor explained to the residents that those properties that were existing student rentals would be allowed to continue operating and would not be subject to the proposed zoning amendment ordinance.  However, all current student housing landlords would have to conform to the proposed registration ordinance.  Mt. Pleasant residents questioned if other municipalities had taken out the grandfathering clause from their student housing ordinances, why couldn’t Tredyffrin.  As township manager Gleason explained, other municipalities may not permit grandfathering in their student housing ordinances but it is not enforceable by law.  Period.  Not the answer the residents wanted; they had to accept the proposed zoning amendment could not legally include existing student rentals. 

The supervisors passed the student registration ordinance with minor tweaking but there seemed to be endless discussion on the proposed zoning ordinance amendment.  Lamina made a motion to continue the discussion on the zoning amendment to the 2nd meeting in September.  The motion was seconded but failed to receive the necessary votes.  There was more discussion and a motion was made on the proposed zoning amendment ordinance – to pass it ‘as is’ .  I don’t know if it was the lateness of the hour (by this point it was 11:30!), the audience remarks, or what . . . but the motion was seconded and passed unanimously.  That’s right, Tredyffrin Township now has a very strict zoning amendment ordinance for student housing and a student registration ordinance.  Although the newly passed ordinances are not going to solve all of the student housing issues in Tredyffrin, I think great strides were made in the right direction.  Gold stars to the residents, the Planning Commissioners, the township staff and to the supervisors for working together for resolution!

The public meeting ended, many in the audience departed and the regular supervisors meeting resumed.  The  meeting agenda finally got to the new matters – Board members, and I waited to see if the suggestion of public budget meetings discussed at the July board meeting would be re-visited.  And yes, Supervisor Donahue once again brought up the suggestion of a public budget meeting (to be scheduled in advance of the traditional November budget discussions.) 

All 7 supervisors agreed in favor of a public budget meeting. Supervisor Olson suggested a Saturday morning meeting at the township building as a good time to schedule the meeting.  Lamina suggested either Saturday, September 18 or 25 but Supervisor Kichline quickly pointed out that September 25 was my historic house tour (thank you Michelle!) and maybe the budget meeting should not be scheduled on that date.  Lamina asked Mimi to look at the calendar and see about setting up the public budget meeting in September.  Under new matters – citizens, Dariel Jamieson thanked the supervisors for setting up the public budget meeting and asked if the BAWG recommendations could be included in the  meeting . . . the supervisors seemed to think that was a good idea and will include BAWG updates at the meeting.

Thank you supervisors for choosing transparency and citizen participation in the township budget process –  we will wait to hear the date and time of the public budget meeting.

Just a couple of other items from the supervisors meeting. As a member of HARB, I joined the other members in thanking Jim Garrison, a historical architect, for his 12 years of service to the HARB.  Jim and his wife recently moved from the township and therefore he is no longer permitted to serve on HARB.  In their move, the Garrison’s have joined the ranks of ‘old house owners’.  They purchased a 250-yr. old stone farmhouse that is on the National Register.  Congratulations to Jim but the HARB will miss him! 

The other item of personal interest from last night  has to do with Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust.  Newly appointed Trust board member, Jean Sauer, presented an update and PowerPoint presentation on the Jones Log Barn project. She provided a short history and background on the barn.  The Trust is now in Phase II (final phase) of the project with an intended completion date of 2011.  On behalf of the Trust, thank you Jean for providing a wonderful overview of the project.  

I updated the supervisors on our Trust fall events, including the 6th Annual Historic House Tour on Saturday, September 25. our annual In the Mood fundraiser on Friday, October 22 and our Fall Lecture Series.  (Tickets for the house tour are now available on our website, www.tredyffrinhistory.org)  The Trust is underway with the Capital Campaign to raise the remaining $200K for Phase II.  Please contact me directly at tredyffrincommunitymatters@gmail.com if you would like to help with the Capital Campaign, the house tour, In the Mood fundraiser, the Jones Log Barn reconstruction project, etc. – we will be put your time and talents to good use!

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Judy DiFilippo . . . Leading by example to make Tredyffrin a better place!

Reminder:  Gazebo Dedication Today @ 3 PM — Please attend as Judy is honored!

‘Leading by example to make Tredyffrin a better place’  describes former township supervisor Judy DiFilippo and are the words chosen as the inscription for the gazebo to be named in her honor, at Wilson Farm Park.  The dedication and reception will take place this Sunday, 3 PM at Wilson Farm Park. This special recognition is to honor Judy’s work in creating Wilson Farm Park and also to thank her in a very small way for her 20 years of public service to the township as a supervisor.

My friendship spans 20+ years with Judy and I cannot imagine a more deserving person for this honor.  She may have retired from the Board of Supervisors, but her volunteer efforts continue . . . Judy is on the board of the Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust and is helping raise the necessary remaining funds for the rebuilding of the Jones Log Barn at DuPortail.  Together, she and I will be again co-chair In the Mood, the Trust’s annual fundraiser (Friday, October 22).  

I hope that you will take a break from your summer activities and join me at Wilson Farm Park on Sunday afternoon to celebrate a very special person — my friend . . . Judy DiFilippo!

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State’s Rights of Interstate Tolling May Pose an Additional Transportation Issue for Drucker & Kampf . . . Tolling of I-95 in Pennsylvania?

The topic of 422 tolling has spurred much debate and discussion on Community Matters – along with the cost to develop the proposed 422 master plan and questions about how it would be financed.  As a result, I was interested to read that there are plans in the works in Harrisburg for a special session to discuss transportation issues state-wide.

After recently passing the state’s budget, the idea is that the special session on transportation would present an opportunity to address Pennsylvania’s estimated $3 billion in needed revenue for transportation projects.  A funding gap of $450 million was created when the Federal Highway Administration denied the tolling of I-80; the special session focus is to encourage the lawmakers to reach a consensus on how to fund the transportation funding gap. 

Unfortunately, the $450 million number continues to increase.  In May, the Transportation Advisory Committee said that it would take $3.5 billion annually to maintain Pennsylvania’s roadways over the next 20 years.  That need is strongly linked to the increase of traffic predicted for the state’s roads.  One report estimates that the number of trucks on Pennsylvania’s interstates will increase by 50% by 2030.

No date yet set for the special session but probably will occur in late August.  It is hoped the meeting will encourage consensus building in tackling the considerable transportation issues.  One of the specific areas of focus for the lawmakers will be I-95 as it runs through Philadelphia.  This section is one of the most expensive to maintain because it is elevated nearly its entire route through the city.  But I-95 is also one of the most important roads through the city and not an easy one to close for repairs and upgrades.

With tolling of I-80 off the table, I have read about some interesting proposals to help the transportation shortfall including a series of suggestions by State Rep Rick Geist (R-Blair) who serves as the minority chair of the Transportation Committee.  One of Blair’s suggestions is to ask the federal government for the right to toll I-95 as it did for I-80.  I don’t really see how there is any difference between the request to toll I-95 vs. I-80.  In denying the I-80 toll request, the  US Department of Transportation told the governor no tolling because state plans for use of the proceeds are not permitted under existing federal law

My guess is that there is a grassroots effort to encourage the change in the law and to give the use of the state tolling revenue back to the individual states and out of the federal government hands.  This poses an interesting situation regarding federal vs states rights as it relates to tolling of interstate highways.  The state of North Carolina has determined that if they were to toll their 185 mi. stretch of I-95, revenue would be $300-350 million annually.  So maybe the lawmakers in Harrisburg are going to seriously consider the tolling of I-95.  But to expect a different outcome than received from the I-80 toll request would require Pennsylvania to join the movement to change the federal law and give authority of how the tolling dollars are spent to the individual states.  How do we feel about changing federal law and giving more rights to the individual states as applied to interstate tolling?  Remember the federal vs. state control issues . . .

Another idea of Griest’s is to raise the ceiling on the Oil Company Franchise Tax, which reached its current ceiling in 2006, and divesting the state police from the Motor License Fund, which could free up $500 million annual for transportation.

The chair of the House Transportation Committee, State Rep Joseph Markosek (D-Allegheny) said one idea which had gained some support was the use of public-private partnerships (known as P3’s), which allow private firms to manage public properties such as highways. 

As an aside, a toll increase on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in January will make it the most expensive long toll road in the nation. This past week the Turnpike Commission approved a 3 percent increase for users of E-ZPass and 10 percent increase for cash customers, effective Jan. 2, 2011.  That will raise the cash cost of driving the turnpike to 8.5 cents per mile, highest of the 11 U.S. toll roads of 100 miles or longer. Currently, the Pennsylvania and New Jersey turnpikes are tied at 7.7 cents per mile.

It is looking like 422 tolling may not be the only transportation topic debated in the upcoming Drucker – Kampf square off . . . I look forward to hearing the 157 candidate’s opinion on I-95 tolling and on federal vs. state’s rights on interstate tolling.  

And just when we thought it was safe to go back in the water . . .

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And so this is Christmas. . .

And So This Is Christmas;
And What Have We Done?
Another Year Over; A New One Just Begun;
And So Happy Christmas;
I Hope You Have Fun;
The Near And The Dear Ones;
The Old And The Young.


~John Lennon
Happy Christmas (War is Over)

____________________________

My very best wishes to all during this holiday season. . . may you use this time for thoughtful reflection and appreciation for what is truly meaningful in your life. To my own family and friends, I am grateful for your support during the difficult last few months.  Sometimes there really is a silver lining when you least expect it.  In the words of Martin Luther King, We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope. 

And I am hopeful for 2010.

~ Pattye Benson

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