A recognition he never craved

Here are 10 things you may not know about Saint Nicholas (also known as "Good Nicholas"):

• He lived almost 1,700 years ago
• He didn't know when everyone was sleeping or awake
• He lived in Turkey
• He never owned a single reindeer
• He was a bishop
• He was imprisoned for his devout Christianity and exonerated by Constantine
• He never set foot in the North Pole
• He believed deeply in helping the needy
• It is said his "do-gooding" was often done in disguise because of his modesty. And this is what we've turned him into:

What a pity that the man himself represented the true meaning of Christmas far better than the myth -- that blessing is doled out not according to one's naughty-or-niceness, but out of mercy. Let us all reflect on the event 2,000 years ago that still stands as the ultimate gift of mercy.

Merry Christmas!

Good shoes

My husband and I got into the strangest "discussion" awhile back. It was one of those where you start off on one thing and end up on another, inconsequential topic that puts someone on the defensive. The issue at hand was whether I would even want high-quality, expensive shoes when all I buy are Payless fare (not that there's anything wrong with that).

I like shoes just fine, but a Carrie Bradshaw I am not. I certainly don't display my shoes in a place of honor (you all remember my "ode to piles"). But one needs shoes to tromp about outside and keep one's toes warm, so shoes are necessary above all. The trouble comes when I have to budget for a new pair and can't justify paying a half-month's spending money on them. Yes, I'm one of those people who raise their eyebrows at a price tag of more than $15 or $20. And because I rarely go shoe shopping, I get so obsessed with finding the one perfectly versatile pair, that I drive myself crazy and leave the store empty-handed.

Quality is more important than quantity -- it's not like I have that mixed up. The number of shoes I own wouldn't turn anyone's head. But I run into a wall when it comes to buying shoes.

This is where the conversation took us, harmlessly enough. But for some reason I started acting upset, even wounded. It's not that what my husband pointed out wasn't painfully obvious. I just suddenly became very melancholy at the prospect of never needing "good" shoes again.

The one career-oriented goal I had seems like an old faded picture. And the fanciest place I go is to church. Not that I'm complaining; I love being a mom and spending the bulk of every day in a thick pair of socks. I'm simply looking at my life now and squinting down the road ahead, trying to imagine an occasion for which I'd need a really good pair of shoes -- except for perhaps sneakers (my go-to footwear for running errands).

Will I never need an excellent pair of sleek, black pumps again? Will I venture into some outing that requires tough, waterproof sandals? Does it matter?