My best friend from college and I shared a love of great words -- finding that perfect word that exactly described what we were feeling or doing or thinking. One of our favorite words was "maudlin," and it often crept into our discussions around this time of the year.

Maudlin is a great little word in part because it sounds so serious, yet by definition it is almost frivolous. "Tearfully or weakly emotional; foolishly sentimental," according to dictionary.com.

I'll admit it all sounds a bit negative, and in the most common use of the word, it is almost always more of an insult than not. But I choose to experience it in a more positive way, and if there is ever a time of year to embrace the full spirit of maudlin, it is now. At least for me. At this point in the year, I start to feel introspective and sentimental. My emotions run amok. I can weep at the drop of a hat.

And I'm ok with that.

While this is a time to celebrate families and traditions and great memories, it's also a time of year fraught with sadness and loss. Many of us have lost loved ones at the holidays. And so the memories become bittersweet in many ways.

When certain traditions or memories are too painful to relive each year, one way I have learned to deal with them is to replace them with something new. This year, for example, I enjoyed two new Thanksgiving traditions, both of which have made what is typically a sad holiday for me more bearable.

The first was having a "family Thanksgiving" in October. Now it didn't include the whole family and we celebrated a month before the actual day rolled around, but all the yummy favorites were there, and we got a chance to celebrate with my parents and one of my brothers and his family before my folks headed to Florida for the winter.

The other new tradition for me was actually organized by one of our awesome Madison County Public Library staff members, Kennedy Parks. She put together our first ever MCPL staff "Friendsgiving." I had heard the term before but had never actually gone to one. We all got together one Sunday evening after the library closed. Everyone brought a dish to share. Good music, good company, and the chance to relax and enjoy each other made the event one I know I will look forward to next year as well.

MCPL has several fun holiday events coming up that I hope you will find time to enjoy with us. Saturday, Dec. 7, is a great day for holiday festivities in Richmond. First, from 11:30 to 1:30, we invite everyone to join us for a free community meal. A Home for the Holidays is presented in partnership with Baptist Health Richmond (which is providing the meal) and a number of other community agencies.

Following the meal, you can join us in Community Room 142 to enjoy the sounds of the season as Model Lab students present a special holiday themed orchestral concert. And following that concert, we'll gather by the fireplace to enjoy Vagabond Stage Productions' presentation of "Christmas Memories," featuring the retelling of classic tales, comedic interludes, and much more.

The next Saturday, Dec. 14, stop by the Richmond location at 2 p.m for the annual tradition of pictures with Santa. Then that evening, the Berea Classic Chorale presents a special performance of "An American Christmas" at 7:30 p.m. Please note that this is an after-hours event, and entry will be through the parking lot entrance only that evening.

If you are in Berea that day, stop by the library there to enjoy Breakfast with Santa from 9:30 to 11:30. And Vagabond Stage Productions will present Christmas Memories by the fireplace from 4 to 5 p.m.

All events are free and open to the public.

So I will leave you this week with my wish that your holiday season captures moments of joy, even as we remember those we have lost. I'll see you soon at the library!

Ruthie Maslin is the director of the Madison County Public Library.

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