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Opinion

It ruffles my tail feathers that Thanksgiving is becoming a casualty of commercialism.

It's a great holiday. No gifts to worry about or songs to memorize. You’re not expected to send Thanksgiving flowers to anyone or to decorate anything. Food, football, friends, family - all the basics of life are included on the fourth Thursday of November. The bounty of the holiday is a reminder of things to be thankful for. However, Thanksgiving has now taken a support role as a staging point for the great retail holiday, otherwise known as Christmas.

The spending frenzy of Black Friday has infected the Thanksgiving holiday itself with major retailers opening doors Thursday to get the jump on the competition. A Forbes Magazine report states “A Black Friday spending analysis from the credit card giant (MasterCard) shows a whopping 70 percent of consumer spending happens at the first two stores they visit.” So, make sure you are one of those two stores. Locally, that’s going to be Walmart and somebody else. It’s the retail version of the “arms race,” with each competitive escalation needing to be matched to stay in the game.

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The North Carolina Senior Tar Heel Legislature (NCSTHL) heard from state leaders during its final meeting of 2013. In addition, the group also chose a new resolution to add to its current four resolutions sent to the North Carolina General Assembly for consideration. The group elected new executive officers and celebrated the outgoing Speaker.

The final report for the year came from Dennis Streets, director of the North Carolina Division of Aging and Adult Services (OMS). Streets offered encouraging words to the group and thanked everyone for their service stating "the difference that you have made since 1992 is immeasurable." He also explained how the federal government "shutdown" will impact OMS. "This reaches down into each of our communities,” explained Streets. "Many of our services are dependent on federal funds, and the hard part is to decide what will be affected." Streets stated that he is working to keep advocates as well as service providers posted on current and correct information as he receives it.

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Back in my younger days, the dominate filler expression in conversation was “you know.” It was a verbal comma that overpopulated speech. It sounded more hip than being silent or uttering, uh. It is said that nature abhors a vacuum and that must be true concerning speech as well. "You know" is still going strong, but has been replaced as the numberone speech extender by the word “basically.”

A few months ago while having a conversation with a person who is currently in his younger days, my attention was drawn to his propensity of interjecting “basically” in what seemed to be every other sentence. I decided that the next time he and I spoke, I would count the times “basically” was used in a two-minute span. I never made the survey because I discovered that I too, had been infected by the “basically” meme and unbeknownst to my conscious mind, had been regurgitating the word on a regular basis.

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Like many North Carolinians, I come from a strong military family. My father-in-law was a two-star Marine General. My father and brother served in the Navy, and my husband, Chip, is a Vietnam veteran. I also have two nephews on active duty.

As our servicemembers become veterans—who we honor this Veterans Day, and everyday—we must ensure they receive the benefits they’ve worked so hard to earn. That’s why I was stunned when I discovered that more than 7,000 veterans waited at least a year for the Winston-Salem Regional VA office to process their disability claims; worse yet, some waited as long as two years.

To address these unacceptable delays, I called on VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to act. Specifically, I urged him to send a senior official from VA headquarters to the Winston-Salem office to outline a plan to clear the backlog once and for all. In response to this request, he sent Undersecretary for Benefits Allison Hickey and hired 25 new employees for the Winston-Salem Regional Office.

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