My Dear Friends of HMI,

It has been a year of challenges – AGAIN – for many of us.  I feel like it’s that movie, “Ground Hog Day” since 2020 showed it’s ugly unwanted pandemic again in 2021.

I started 2021 with high hopes for moving our HMI mission forward and writing/publishing another hometown biography book, but then HMI and I ran into a bump or two.  We did have success in that we became a partner with the national program, The Dolly Parton Imagination Library.  It was thanks to a generous donation by the Cameron County Commissioners that HMI could bring over 70 babies of Cameron County, a free book from Dolly each month.

This is a huge achievement for such a little hometown as Emporium and an even smaller nonprofit corporation like HMI.  A special thanks to Cameron County Commissioners for believing in HMI and our ability to carry out the project.

From the euphoric high of affiliating with TDPIL, my hope and energy started to wane as I got sick with an energy zapping virus in the beginning of October.  Tests revealed that it was not Covid, so I thought I would magically come back to health within minutes.  That didn’t happen.

I spent much of October in a self induced “PITTY PARTY” but by the end of October, I was well enough to attend a Book Club event at the Tel Hai Retirement Community, as the invited speaker.

By the second week in November, I rallied to attend a much needed family early Thanksgiving gathering at my sister’s home.  What a wonderful time of reliving memories during a family trivia game and the bitter-sweet site of seeing my granddaughter on the big TV screen as she joined us virtually from her Army base in Virginia.  We had not been together since 2019 and it was time.

My husband and I almost didn’t make it to the gathering because of an emergency visit to the ER by my husband on the day before we were to travel to the out-of-state party.  The good news was that they helped him with the issue that took him to the ER, but the bad news was that they found a large mass on his kidney.  Surgery to remove his kidney is scheduled for the latter part of January.  The wait is very difficult and even so, that date is not guaranteed because of the large numbers of people who are coming into the hospitals with Covid.

One of my elderly aunts, born in the late eighteen hundreds, had a favorite phrase when I was little.  She would say, “OH FOREVER MORE”!  She was a teacher in Ridgway who taught in the 1930’s and 1940’s and it always reminded me of Edgar Allen Poe.  Was this from his poem, THE RAVEN?  I’ll have to ask Siri.

Psalm 118:24 in the Bible says, “This is the day that the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.”

I don’t know about you, but this was not easy for me to do in 2021.  There were several virtual visits between me and a talk therapist for clinical depression.  I haven’t done that since my late husband’s brain injury back in the nineteen hundreds.

However, the effect on me from Covid, was not as a result of the virus physically affecting my body but Covid had brought out the massive, clinical-depressive best in me.

Some days, I could barely see a purpose for getting out of bed.  Showering was too difficult and so deodorant was applied if I had to run an errand.  And yet sometimes, it was too difficult to even care.  No make-up and no cares what I looked like are not a good combination for anyone.

After all, for 40 years during my career, I made myself up every day for the office.  My thinking was, “Why do it now when I’m rarely seen anyway?”

Finding energy and hope was such hard work.  I’m pretty sure there is at least one other person out there who can relate.

It seemed to me that every day, during 2021, we learned of more friends sick with the virus and some of them passed away.

It’s not a matter of “if”, people told me, it’s a matter of “when” we will get it.

We tried to stop the spread with masks and staying out of crowds and we were jabbed last year, which gave me a sense of security until the Omacron variant hit.  Now we must get a booster plus the flu vax.  In my life, I have never had a flu shot, but this year might be the first.  My Mother always said, “There is a first time for everything”.

Oh, forever more!!

How do we go on?

How do we get up wanting to take a shower and put on make up?

How do we look outside on a dreary gray day and find the sunshine?

You do this by counting what you HAVE and not what you do not have.

The saying goes that if you count your blessings, you will always have enough.  If you count your desires/needs, you will always want more.

So, I’m looking at this New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2021, as a springboard into 2022.  We are counting our blessings and January 1, 2022, will be a new beginning with anticipation into a bright new year.  I’m hoping to finish that biography along with a trip to Alaska in June 2022, with my cancer-free husband.

I’m also giving a friend my business as she helps me with making myself up each day.  Why bother?  Because I’m worth it.  That’s why.

By-the-way, do you remember the anxiety on December 31, 1999?  Y2K!!  OH NO COMPUTERS WILL ALL CRASH!!

It’s really amazing, when you think about it, that we made it to 2022!  Amazing and only possible because of Immanuel, God with us.

I started this amazing journey in 1953 and I plan to continue on this path for a while.  I will not give up and I pray that you will not give up too.

After all, I have so very much to teach my grandchildren.  Here is my encouragement for the masses that read our blog.

December is my birthday month.
12/12 is my day.
12:12 is my time of day and
Romans 12:12 is my Bible Verse, as it says, “Be Joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer”.
My prayer for you this New Year, is that you too will adopt this verse for the year as a sign of HOPE and JOY and LOVE from The Great God of the Universe.  Adopt it directly into your heart, for there lives The Holy Spirit.  Get closer to Him in our loneliness and live a life that blesses Him and yourself in the months ahead.
Luke 2:10:  “Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord”
Matthew 1:23 tells us that “….they will call him Immanuel” (which means God with us)
From something so simple as a lowly manger, with people so plain as working shepherds, GLORY came down and shown all around.  May we all fall more deeply in Love with Jesus, The Prince of Peace, during the year 2022.
With encouragement,
Cathy Swarmer, Volunteer Exec. Dir.
Hometown Mentors, Inc.