No Sugar Added: Tidings of comfort, joy and toilet tissue

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As I drove my daughter home from her first semester of college last week, we both happily noted that this year neither of us feels as if we truly “need” or “want” anything for Christmas.

And I thought, “Wow. What a wonderful feeling this is.” It clearly has more to do with our mindsets than any recent accumulation of pricey material goods.

And so, as we reach the grand finale of another year and the curtain gets ready to close on 2011, I’ve been contemplating what causes us to feel truly happy, comforted and at peace. What is it that makes you feel as if you have everything you need? What makes you feel content?

For me, besides the obvious things such as a warm place to sleep, food on the table and the good health of myself, my children, family and friends, it’s knowing my home is well stocked with an abundance of toilet paper and other household necessities.

I don’t need to know I have a million dollars in a retirement account – I merely need to know I have 24 rolls of Northern toilet tissue in the closet at the end of my hallway, and possibly a spare container of Tide in my laundry room. This may not be what allows most people to go to bed with smiles on their faces and feelings of security in their hearts, but I have come to embrace and enjoy my quirks.

For the past few weeks, we’ve been bombarded by an endless stream of holiday sales advertisements, tempting us with more stuff that neither we nor the people on our “gift lists” probably need or even want – not only via radio and television, but now via computer as well. Over the years, I obviously made the mistake of purchasing items from stores like Williams-Sonoma and have now awakened each December morning to a bevy of emails about the latest $299 saute pan, shippable in time for Christmas at a 15 percent savings. Jingle. Jingle.

I know I could get my name removed from these insipid mailing lists, but I’ve found a kind of comfort in reading the ridiculousness each morning and then hitting delete. It keeps things in perspective and reminds me of what brings true happiness to my life (and it’s surely not upscale cookware). It also serves to make me very thankful for what I have. I may not own a gold-plated espresso machine, but I can still pay my heating bill – and afford my favorite brand of toilet paper. I’m a happy camper.

Not to get all melancholy during this merriest of seasons, but nine long years ago, I remember returning home from the hospital for a short break to see my children one evening and being greeted by a living room filled with bags of festively wrapped gifts. My mother relayed to me the story of the arrival of a limousine in our driveway earlier that day, and a driver coming to the door bearing an enormous offering of packages in every shape and size.

I recall feeling overwhelmed at the benevolence of this anonymous elf (or elves). I also recall thinking how very meaningless it all felt. My husband Drew was 20 miles away, dying. No enormous pile of “stuff” was going to change that, and although clearly a generous act, it felt quite disingenuous.

Had the elf brought us a year’s supply of Kleenex, it would have, for me, felt much more sensitive and conveyed more of the true spirit of the season. In retrospect, perhaps that was the start of my preoccupation with always having an abundant supply of household paper goods on hand.

My wish for you as we end one year and begin another is that you recognize and appreciate what it is that makes you feel truly abundant, fulfilled and at peace – that which puts a smile both on your face and in your heart. Chances are whatever it is, it won’t come wrapped in fancy paper, be delivered via FedEx or ordered from a catalog.

And whether it’s your husband, kids, dog or your toilet tissue, soak it in and celebrate your many blessings.

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No Sugar Added is Cape Elizabeth resident Sandi Amorello’s biweekly take on life, love, death, dating and single parenting. Get more of Sandi at or contact her at