It's a new year.

What will 2012 bring? Your guess is as good as mine.

Look at pages of your 2012 calendar. What do you see? Twelve months? Look closer. Each month has 28 to 31 empty squares. That's a lot of unknowns.

It's scary and exciting!

Nobody can predict the future, but I do know that, for most of us, 2012 will be filled with many changes, challenges, frustrations, successes and disappointments.

Like many people, I find myself being rather introspective, examining what happened in my life the past 365 days, perhaps seeking a hint of what the new year has in store.

One can look at the individual squares on the 2011 calendar and recall many happy, interesting, unexpected and sad events. Did you ever imagine any of those things would or could happen when you started the year?

Of course there's no way of knowing what course our lives will take in 2012. Will you have a child? Will somebody die? Will you get married? Will you lose your job? Or get a new one? Will you move away? Win the lottery? Will you go to the hospital? Will you go on a dream vacation?

The possibilities are endless. It's scary and exciting!

In 2011, I accomplished several personal and professional projects and goals, but left just as many unfinished, even unstarted. The Graves family had a relatively healthy year with no major accidents, illnesses or injuries. At the same time we learned that one of our dogs has a pancreatic insufficiency that will require daily care for the rest of his life.

My daughter Alia, now eight, quit gymnastics and became a budding thespian in local community theater.

We're living life on a tighter budget, focusing more on our needs than our wants. I was unable to lose that extra five pounds, but my wife still loves me. It all seems to balance out.

For those who enjoyed good fortune in 2011, I hope this year brings more. For those who have had a particularly rough year, perhaps the 2012 will bring relief and comfort. Someone famous once said that life is a great, big adventure. I think it's true, and each month of each year is a chapter filled with surprises.

It's scary and exciting?

I hope yours is more exciting than scary.


During the holidays, many people found the time to spread a little good will toward their fellow humans.

Unfortunately, those good intentions sometimes disappear as quickly as that unwanted fruitcake the day after Christmas.

Here are a few suggestions on how to keep the spirit of giving going all year long.

andbull;Develop your compassion for others. Put yourself in someone else's shoes, recognizing that their problems, pain and frustrations are every bit as real as yours.

andbull;Just for fun, agree with the criticism directed toward you andndash; and watch it go away.

andbull;Smile at someone and say a kind word. It may just start a chain reaction.

andbull;Be more interested in understanding others and less in having people understand you. In the end, it will save both sides a lot of frustration and improve overall communication.

andbull;Practice random acts of kindness. It can bring you contentment and remind you of the important things in life andndash; service, kindness and love.

If we all do a little something nice, it will make our community andndash; and the world andndash; a nicer place to live.