Just two weeks of shopping days for you, my friends. Now don’t panic. There is already too much panic in today’s society. Remember you can always make a list (checking it twice of course) and hit one of the department stores and in one fell swoop do all of your shopping.

No? Well, of course you don’t want to do it that way. Do you know what I would do if I could? I’d visit a book store and pick out a good “keeper” book for each of my loved ones, OR, I might give them a subscription to some good periodical of their particular interest that they could look forward to receiving monthly for the next year.

For instance, I have a neat little book of a collection of Oprah Winfrey’s writings. It is titled “What I Know for Sure.” It is well-written, witty and thought provoking. I was given this little jewel and find it both entertaining and absorbing. I have often thought about trying to put out a work of that nature myself. As I have told you before, there is a story in each one of us. It might shock us though if we ever found out how many people have had the same or similar learning experiences as you and I have had.

Think about your life, the things you’ve learned from your successes and failures, all the way from the scolding and/or paddling you got growing up through the years, and the failures and embarrassments you have weathered throughout your adolescence and into your adulthood and old age. Remember we are never too old to learn.

One of my fellow residents just brought in to show me a wooden plaque she had created in our optional craft sessions. It was really quite attractive, and I told her she should hang it in her little den. It is light weight and you can get little stick-on hangers for displaying framed photos and art work on the walls. Of course, nails are taboo. The stick-ons work though. I have a grouping of my middle daughter’s water color paintings arranged on one of my walls. I love them. Two of them are portraits she painted of her two grandmothers, my mother and my mother-in-law.

I think she is working on a replica of a very large oil painting I have of a depiction of the Lord washing the feet of a disciple. The original is much too heavy to hang here with the stick-ons, but I do cherish the theme of it. It is precious to me because my eldest daughter had a classmate, crippled by polio, paint it for me when she was still in high school. That painting has hung in our home ever since.

All of the artwork we have here at my retirement home was selected for display because it has sentimental value. I have works of clay made by each one of my children when their little hands were being guided by some patient (I hope) elementary school teacher.

Among these one-of-a-kind works are a spotted horse, a reclining cat and dog, several little uniquely shaped clay bowls, painted and baked. One rather battered wooden boat with I don’t know how many layers of paint made by my son and his father is among the decor. Each of my children’s work is represented, and a few of my grandchildren’s as well. It is my family “gallery.” My kids thoughtfully salvaged them when we vacated my house.

There are some books I treasured which I haven’t gotten my hands on yet, but I believe they will find their way back to me eventually. I had many photo albums and I’m quite sure they were not junked. One of the books was the “Stephenson County History 1970” researched, printed and hard-back bound by a huge local committee of those named to plan the local celebration and commemoration of the 1976 United States Bi-Centennial.

The late Freeport historian Mary X. Barrett headed the effort to publish the history which has turned out to be a valuable edition, and if you happen to have one of the copies, prize it highly, and take good care of it. It contains information on those key persons, events, industries and institutions which is not compiled any place else. Most of those individuals involved are long gone.

That huge cumbersome book was always at my elbow during those 30 years I wrote the weekly feature called “Looking Back” for the Sunday editions of The Journal-Standard. The volume contains vintage photos of Stephenson County’s landmarks, industries, agriculture, schools, hospitals, businesses, museums and leaders. You might even spot an ancestor, or your own property in it.

There are copies of the 1970 history in the Local History Room at Freeport Public Library, but I am quite sure they are not available for checking out. Patrons can use them in the presence of a library employee.

Also, the local newspapers are on microfilm in that section, and I believe there are still micro-film machines there which can produce photo copies of articles for patrons seeking family genealogical or other historical information. In the past I used it regularly and found the library staff most gracious in providing assistance.

There is an area where anyone may come in to read newspapers and magazines or just to browse. I’ve said it before, and allow me to say it again. I believe the public library is one of the institutions in our nation most exemplary of our true democracy. All citizens and organizations may share freely, equally and responsibly in the utilization of the wealth of resources found there.

Harriett Gustason is a columnist for The Journal-Standard. She can be reached at 815-235-3855 or hgustason@frontier.com.