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Fall asleep counting your blessings
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Lately, it seems all you read or hear is bad news.

• The Associated Press reported that American intelligence agencies said more terrorists are learning how to make dirty bombs, biological and chemical weapons. And we should expect attacks in the next five years.

• Over 3,000 service men and women have been killed during active duty in Operations Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) and Iraqi Freedom (Iraq). There are currently 500,000 servicemembers stationed or deployed overseas.

• The economy is in the toilet, with analysts saying that the gross national product will continue to decline at an annual rate of 6 percent - the worst showing in 26 years.

• Nine people were killed in a Christmas Eve slaying by a man dressed in a Santa suit in Southern California.

• Unemployment in Stanislaus County is at a decade high.

It's just natural for people to talk about the economy, the war and how there are too many senseless killings in the world today. I've noticed, though, with all this talk there isn't a feeling of comfort in numbers, but rather an exponential increase in fear.

Franklin D. Roosevelt's famous words, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself' is relevant for today. FDR spoke his famous words during his inaugural address in 1933, a year that saw this nation in the depths of our great economic depression.

Now you might be thinking, "I have many things to fear: Terrorists, unemployment, foreclosure..." All of these things are real and should be given the thought and planning they need, but when careful consideration grows into non-stop worry, all-out fear and anxiety is next. And the decisions we make out of fear often turn out badly.

I know this is going to sound corny, but whenever I start to feel anxious or fearful about the world around me I sing the song "Count Your Blessings" in my head. This song may be one of the corniest songs ever written in a time full of idealistic, Americana fluff in entertainment, but it helps me none the less.

I'm sure you all have seen the movie "White Christmas" (if not, then you are missing a key part of your cultural upbringing). Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney sing this little ditty while sitting by the fireplace at the Columbia Inn in Vermont (you know - snow, snow, snow). Here is an excerpt:

"When I'm worried and I can't sleep; I count my blessings instead of sheep; And I fall asleep counting my blessings.

"When my bankroll is getting small; I think of when I had none at all; And I fall asleep counting my blessings."

I don't know why these simplistic verses ease my fears, but they do. Maybe their simplicity is the key. Living day by day and being thankful for the things we do have is a basic, but profound idea.

The next time you are feeling overwhelmed by the events around the world, the nation or in your life, feel free to borrow my anti-fear mantra.

To contact Kristin Hacker, e-mail