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Happy New Year! As we enter 2009, I'd like to share some of the feedback I've received over the past year on this column.

Readers have been generous in sharing their own stories, their opinions and in suggesting other column topics.

I encourage you to do the same in this new year. Together we'll survive this parenting thing for at least another year!

Boxes: the perfect gift

Regarding the recent column on how much kids love boxes, I received this note:

Good article and how true! I just bought a new fireplace insert and before I was done, my grand-daughter was having a field day playing inside the box, I had to move it to the den.

D. McGregor

Donating 'Second Chances'

On another recent column regarding donating items as a way to give back to the community (AND clean out our closets), I received this feedback:

I just wanted to say 'nice article' about donations. It's a timely reminder as people are cleaning out their houses. We try to involve our children in the same process and they have gotten quite good at whittling things down as the years go by (but we all have a long way to go).

I have no involvement with any local charities, but I did a bit of research before deciding which one to take items to and I liked the fact that Second Chances -- located behind the Hickory Stick in Westminster (23 W. Green St., Westminster; 410-848-5599) -- offers their items for free, and passes on what they can't use to other local charities.

They are associated with the Human Services of Carroll County. Please consider including them in your list if a similar topic is covered in the future. Thanks and keep up the good articles.

Carol Riley

What's in a name?

I received this item a while ago, based on a column we did about names we give our children, and asked readers about the origins of their names:

Your Sunday column was interesting. I'll give you our stories.

My name is Emily.

I am nearly 70 years old, and in my youth that name was seriously absent. I never met another "Emily" until I was 16 -- and then she spelled it differently. I only know one person who is my contemporary now with that name.

I was named that by my mother, over the objections of my father. I have no idea why she liked that name, and she had no idea that my father had an old girlfriend by that name. When he admitted that, my fate was sealed. My mother allowed, later, that when she met this Emily, she did nothing to dissuade her from the notion that I was named after her. My mother was evil, in a way.

My husband is John M. Johnston the fifth. When we sent out birth announcements for our son, they read: "Mr. & Mrs. John M. Johnston V -- and last -- announce the birth of their son ... Arne." This is a Scandinavian name, pronounced "Arn-uh." However, we wanted it pronounced as one syllable -- "Arn."

Our son's first complete sentence was "The E is silent." He hates the name and now refers to himself as AJ. Maybe he'll get over it. I hated having a unique name, until I was about 20 or so. My husband hated having a common name and still does.

Our philosophy on naming children was essentially "Do no harm." Don't give a child a name that will interfere with his life. Don't name a girl "Tiffany." Why? Well, suppose she grows up to be a nuclear physicist. What credibility would you give to an article about bosons written by Tiffany Anybody?

And sorry, I wouldn't name anybody "Chance" either. Has no "authority" associated with it. Or Elvis. The choices for boys are less limited, but there are some and I think some names carry baggage.

One of the things I like (now) about my name is that I can sign off as ...

mle (say the letters)

Future book deal?

Finally, this comment wasn't in response to a particular column, but it did wonders for my ego:

I love your weekly articles and most hit very close to home. I was wondering if you have a book out or plan to write one or even publish a compilation of your short stories.


Not yet, Mike, but maybe I should make it a New Year's resolution -- if I can squeeze it into the schedule!

Kym Byrnes writes from Finksburg. Please e-mail her at

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