Life is full of ironies and paradoxes, the tighter we try to hold onto something the more we are in danger of losing it.

Painting by Belynda Wilson Thomas

The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change. Carl Rogers

Another year is ending, and we look forward to the New Year with hopes in our hearts and sadness for what is past. There are people we may never speak to again that were part of our lives for years or moments. There are places we may never visit again, or maybe we moved houses this year. This might have been a year of big or small changes. Our family grew or got smaller, and families were joined while others disintegrated. Businesses were started, and some ended. Life for some of us will carry on pretty much the same.

We’ve had a tradition of going to The Apple Factory for pie. I’m not sure how many years we’ve been taking a scenic drive to pick up pie, but they closed on December 24th, I drove up one last time, but the shelves were empty and there was no pie to be had. The sign said “Last Day December 24th from 9:00 to 3:00 but it seems they ran out of pies on December 23rd.

We’ll need a new tradition, and maybe I should try making pies. Mom isn’t making pies anymore but she made the best pies. I have her pie crust recipe and when I spoke to my youngest sister she was making a pie for Christmas day. We didn’t have Christmas dinner, we had a lovely big breakfast, opened gifts, and then everyone went off to family for Christmas dinner. We started a Christmas breakfast tradition years ago, and it works, so our daughter and son can go to their in-laws for Christmas dinner and everyone gets Christmas with them on Christmas day.

This year our twenty-month-old grandson enjoyed opening presents and watching him have fun made it fun for us. Children make Christmas special for adults, and adults make Christmas special for kids. Basking in the warm glow of a family Christmas is the dream and if we are lucky that dream becomes a reality. When everyone left, my husband, the dog, and I settled in to watch a couple of movies and enjoy what remained of the day.

The paradox of our time is that we spend more, but have less. We buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more comforts, but less time. We have more information, but less knowledge, more questions, but fewer answers. Unknown

It’s time to set our goals for the New Year. What do we want to change, what do we want more of, and what is still possible in our lives that if we work hard at, we can accomplish? What would we consider the pinnacle of success, and if we reach that goal what is the one beyond that? Is our life crying out for change, have we come to the end of an era, do we have a new direction to go in? Do we have decisions to make that will change our lives, but putting off those decisions just delays the inevitable?

In John Eldredge’s book, “Wild at Heart,” he says: “Deep in his heart, every man longs for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue.” He says, “Women want to be romanced, an irreplaceable role to play, and beauty all our own to unveil.”

I think he nailed it and there is a lot of scope for us if we get what we want out of life, love, and adventure. Are we as women making our men feel needed, appreciated, and respected? Are our men making us feel loved, beautiful, and irreplaceable?

If we can meet our partner’s deepest needs and desires and they can meet ours we can walk hand in hand throughout life. What if knowing what those needs are is what we need to know, so we can do our best to fulfill them? What if giving someone what we want, instead of what they want, is one of our problems? What if we have to quit trying to make everything better, what if desiring a positive experience is itself a negative experience, and accepting a negative experience is a positive experience? What if we have to let go of trying to control everything and let life unfold and accept the paradoxes of life? What if trying to be happy is one of the things that lead to unhappiness, and accepting unhappiness leads to happiness?

The world is full of paradoxes and life is full of opposites. The art is to embrace the opposites, accommodate the paradoxes and live with a smile. Sri Ravi Shankar

It is a paradoxical but profoundly true and important principle of life that the most likely way to reach a goal is to be aiming not at that goal itself but at some more ambitious goal beyond it. Arnold J. Toynbee

Life has three rules: Paradox, Humor, and Change. – Paradox: Life is a mystery; don’t waste your time trying to figure it out. – Humor: Keep a sense of humor, especially about yourself. It is a strength beyond all measure. – Change: Know that nothing ever stays the same. Dan Millman

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The magic of Christmas is faith, hope, joy, and love in our hearts.

Painting by Belynda Wilson Thomas

Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love. Hamilton Wright Mabie

Have we thought about what life would be like without Christmas? The lights, the merriment, getting together with family, and the hope and good tidings Christmas brings? Is it a surprise that at the darkest time of the year, we have something to celebrate that brings a smile to our faces, hope in our hearts, and brings out the best in people?

We had our book club Christmas dinner on Tuesday and we were talking about how hard it might be to live a life without faith. If we felt truly alone in the world and didn’t feel there was a force to lean on, uplift us, and give us hope when all seemed hopeless, how would we manage?

If we are fortunate enough to have faith in a higher power, ourselves, our family, the economy, and the future, how can we share that belief with those who don’t have faith? There is a lot of doom and gloom for people to contend with and everyone is not living in peace and plenty.

How do people face this Christmas with joy if their mortgage is being renewed in February? The bill to buy groceries is getting higher and higher for less and less. We know hard times make strong people, but we also know some break under the weight or come close to breaking.

We have never had access to so much information on how to live a good life, how to save and invest for prosperity, how to build strong relationships, and how to live the good life, and yet mental health has never been poorer for many people. Is part of our problem that we see what we want to see and when we look at the same things, some see hope and opportunity, and others see lack and all the things that will hold them back? How do we shift our vision or someone else’s?

Poverty, meaning lack of money is terrible, but poverty of spirit is something money can’t fix, and is the spirit of Christmas the antidote, but it can’t be only at Christmas? We have to keep a spirit of hope alive the whole year through. Hope that life will be better when… Hope that relationships can be healed. Hope that we can get through the winter to spring. That in spring we can plant a harvest we will reap in the fall so next winter is not so hard.

The joy that you give to others is the joy that comes back to you. John Greenleaf Whittier

Hope that we will manage the hard times to get to better times. Hope, that our family will thrive and prosper, not just this generation but through the generations. Hope, that if we practice the principles that lead to a good life, they truly will lead to that good life for us and our family. Hope that enmity between people will be healed. Hope the future will be better than the past. This is a hard one for those of us who have fewer years ahead of us than behind us, and who have lived wonderful lives with privileges and advantages. Privileges and advantages we got largely because of who we were born to and when we were born.

If we live our lives right our children and grandchildren can be privileged and advantaged because they are part of our family. We are leaving a legacy behind and if it is one of hope, joy, gratitude, and faith then we are doing our part. Money can be won and lost in a generation, but putting our faith in money is the worst place to put it. It might be where the hopelessness comes from, because without money we feel like nothing, and with it, we feel empty and alone.

Finding meaning and purpose in life is about more than money. Money has its place and is important as long as we keep it in perspective and don’t expect more from having money than it can bring. Money can build and heat a home but not fill it with a family that loves and respects us. It can fill our bellies but not our hearts. It gives security but not joy, and if we don’t have someone to share our money with, we may look at everyone who looks at us as if they only want us for our money. It is a great servant but a terrible master.

Wishing you all the joy that Christmas brings filled with what matters in life. May hope, peace and joy be yours this Christmas and always as we move from this year into the next. We won’t find the magic of Christmas under the tree but our hearts can be filled with joy, and goodwill to all. Merry Christmas!

The joy of brightening other lives, bearing each other’s burdens, easing other’s loads and supplanting empty hearts and lives with generous gifts becomes for us the magic of Christmas. William Carey Jones

I truly believe that if we keep telling the Christmas story, singing the Christmas songs, and living the Christmas spirit, we can bring joy and happiness and peace to this world. Norman Vincent Peale

There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward. Khalil Gibran

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Are we living the message of Christmas and spreading love, hope, and joy?

Painting by Belynda Wilson Thomas

If you want to experience the true meaning of Christmas, give something to someone who can offer nothing in return. Toni Sorenson

Twas the week before Christmas and all through the house… Here we are the week before Christmas. Last week my husband and I went looking for a Christmas tree and they were sold out. Snooze you lose, and everywhere we went they were sold out too. Our daughter agreed to set her tree upstairs. My daughter and grandson helped decorate the tree, and he had the most fun. When we plugged in the lights his little face lit up. At twenty months this is a fun Christmas for him and because of him, it is a fun Christmas for us.

Christmas is about spending time with those we love and reflecting on the meaning of Christmas. There is magic in Christmas and it comes from the heart. The message of Christmas is buried in gifts and hustle and bustle. But underneath all the decorations, gifts, and frivolity is the meaning of Christmas.

Every Christmas in many homes is the hope that this Christmas will be better. Where there is discord, we hope there will be healing. That family members not talking to each other will reconcile. That peace and forgiveness will be the order of the day.

We expect a lot out of Christmas. We travel long distances to be with family in the hopes we can bask in the feeling of togetherness we once had, or never quite attained. We often want things from Christmas we can’t quite manage at other times of the year. The problem with expectations is often the people we want to meet our expectations don’t know what they are, and we can’t even put them into words.

The Christmas spirit is a spirit of giving and forgiving. James Cash Penney

Unmet expectations are one of the dangers of Christmas, but if we realize perfection is not possible, and we should only put expectations on ourselves and not push them onto others we might have a chance of meeting them. We can expect ourselves to be grateful, kind, cheerful, loving, understanding, forgiving, and patient, and if we can manage it, others might manage it too.

Christmas is truly a time to expect more from ourselves and less from others, and by doing this we might feel the way we want to feel. If we can forgive ourselves and others for not being perfect, and love ourselves and others warts and all then we give ourselves and others space to find our way to being the best we can be. We can have our expectations so high they can’t possibly be met and by doing so end up bitter. This is not in keeping with the message of Christmas which is goodwill toward all.

One of the problems we face in life is expecting to get without giving, but if we change that to giving without getting then we can put a smile on someone else’s face instead of waiting for someone to put one on ours. We can be generous with compliments, time, and money. We take charge of our lives and by placing fewer expectations on others, we allow them to exceed our expectations, and that is a win for everyone.

Can we love ourselves and others even when we don’t deserve it, especially if we don’t deserve it, isn’t that the message of Christmas? Can we spread love, hope, and joy this Christmas?

Christmas is a season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart. Washington Irving

Christmas is a time when you get homesick – even when you’re home. Carol Nelson

The smells of Christmas are the smells of childhood. Richard Paul Evans

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Life is an adventure, riding the roller coaster of life and making the most of what life brings.

Painting by Belynda Wilson Thomas

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all. Helen Keller

If we wonder how we will get everything done, we need to tackle what is most important first. Then, even if everything doesn’t get done, if we get the important things done, it is a good day. If we get all the unimportant things done, but not what was most important, it isn’t such a good day.

Last week, I was getting up at five every day, and by Thursday, I felt like I was coming down with something. A nap in the afternoon, and getting up later on Friday made whatever it was disappear. We need to take care of ourselves because we can’t care for others well if we aren’t in good form.

What if we can have what we want if we know what it is and make it a priority in our lives? Are we setting goals, prioritizing our time, and living the life we want? If we have things we want in life we don’t have yet, what do they look like, and what would it take to get them?

Do we need a life renovation or just a tweak here or there? Is travel one of our goals, where do we want to go, for how long, and what keeps us from booking the ticket? Is there a hobby or interest we would like to bring into our life? Can we start small?

We don’t have control over some of the things we might want in our lives. Other people have to make our dream of becoming a grandparent come true. We aren’t in control of that, but many parts of our lives we do control. By controlling what we can and figuring out what is most important to us we can make the time we have count.

The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experiences. Eleanor Roosevelt

It seems eighty years old is the age when people start doing less, so we need to get to the things we want to do, and the places we want to go before that magical age.

A new year is fast approaching, what goals will we set? Is this the year we… When we look over the year ending did we accomplish what we set out to do? Did we make some special memories and tick something off our bucket list? Do we have a bucket list of things we want to do before we die? Have we written down our dreams so they can become goals and then turn them into reality? Do our goals seem too small or too big, too few, or too many?

Wherever we are on our journey it is time to take stock. What do we want next year to be like? What do we want to be, to have, or do? Is there a big, hairy, audacious goal we have yet to reach? If not, what would that goal look like, what would it take to set an audacious goal? How will it feel if we attain that goal? What goal will we set next?

If we attain the biggest goal we can imagine but don’t have another goal to set we will enjoy the victory but be lost without a new goal. Some goals are so big we never fully attain them like building the best marriage, family, and character, and becoming the kindest, most loving, grateful, and generous person. We can never read all the books; there will always be something to read and learn no matter how old we become.

This is our adventure, what will the next chapter bring? Are we riding the roller coaster of life with curiosity and enthusiasm?

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it within us or we will find it not. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Adventure isn’t about seeking danger or taking risks; it’s about embracing life with a sense of curiosity and enthusiasm. Unknown

An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered. Gilbert K. Chesterton

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Thank you to everyone who reads my books, and a special thank you to those who leave a review on Goodreads and Amazon. If you click on the Amazon link and purchase an item I receive a small percentage of the sale through the Amazon affiliate program.

Access your creativity and live a life that inspires you

Painting by Belynda Wilson Thomas

You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have. Maya Angelou

On Saturday, I attended the Cranberry Christmas Market hosted by the Mississauga Arts Council. To be part of the creative community is wonderful, and humbling. At the table beside us, a craftsman was selling wooden spoons and forks made using an axe and knives.

At another table, a gentleman was selling hand-made wooden pens and he included the story behind the wood in each pen. I bought one, and it is from a 250-300-year-old black oak that stood beside the rose garden in the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington, Ontario. I like the story as much as the pen, but the pen is wonderful to hold and write with. There were hand-crafted items of all sorts, jewelry, soap, hand-dyed yarn, decorative items, knitting, art, and books, and I’m sure I’ve left out some. Choirs entertained us and incredible musicians played chamber music. At our table, we were three authors representing the Mississauga Writers Group.

The craftsmanship in the items on display was amazing; one of the reasons to visit these markets is to get an idea of the array of crafts other people are creating. We might see something we want to purchase, but also items we would like to create. When there is a story behind an item it is more impactful to me, than if it is just the item.

The blankets I knit at Mom’s will be treasured because of the story behind them more than the craftsmanship, but when we make things there is a story behind each one. It might not be a story that would grab someone else, but when we look at the item we will be brought back to what we were doing and our mindset when we made it.

It’s no good being too easily swayed by people’s opinions. You have to believe in yourself. Donatella Versace

Creativity is a gift we give ourselves. I watch my daughter and grandson paint and the object is not what he creates, he loves the doing. Sometimes we think the treasure is the object we create, but the real treasure is what being creative does for us.

On Friday, we had a girls-night at a friend’s house and she showed us slippers she’s knitting for her family. What a lovely thought everyone will be wearing hand-knit slippers, knit by their mom, grandma, sister, or mother-in-law. What a special Christmas this will be, and how precious will those little slippers be as a keep-sake for her twp-and-a-half-year-old grandson? She also showed us a scarf she’s been knitting for her daughter, fine knitting, with beautiful yarn. It is truly a labor of love.

A fellow author at our table crocheted star bookmarks. What a lovely idea and one I might copy. The other author at our table has kept the blankets she made for her children and wishes she’d kept the sweaters knit for them by her mother. Often we are cleaning up, getting rid of what is no longer being worn, and we don’t think of the treasure we put in the bag to be given away or thrown out. We all probably have items we’ve given away or thrown out we’d love to have back, because of the story behind them.

If I’m lucky, I will get to knit more items at Mom’s, and help her finish her last quilt. If Mom hadn’t taught me to crochet on my last visit, I would look at the crocheted bookmarks as a great idea, but not one I would create myself.

Being crafty has pitfalls, we need to find a repository for what we create, or we might become overwhelmed by our creations. The more we create the more we want to create, and I’ve wondered how some authors are so prolific but now I know, they love writing, and when they finish one project they start another one, and over time it adds up.

I’m not sure it matters what we create, what is most important is we find some form of creativity that feeds our soul, and if we end up making a little money at it, so much the better.

If we can’t use creativity up, the more we do, the more we can do, and the more we want to do, are we as creative as we want to be? Is there a creative project we’d love to start, what’s holding us back?

Don’t wait for inspiration. It comes while working. Henri Matisse

The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. Sylvia Plath

Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun. Mary Lou Cook

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Thank you to everyone who reads my books, and a special thank you to those who leave a review on Goodreads and Amazon. If you click on the Amazon link and purchase an item, I receive a small percentage of the sale through the Amazon affiliate program.

Books written by members of the Mississauga Writers Group at the event:

Setting goals, a new year is coming, do we need to set new goals?

Painting by Belynda Wilson Thomas

You should set goals beyond your reach so you always have something to live for. Ted Turner

We are almost at the end of the year, and have we accomplished what we set out to do this year? It’s time to start thinking about what we want to make happen in 2024.

I haven’t been as good as I should have been about setting goals over the years, and goals we didn’t set often weren’t achieved. If we aren’t where we want to be in some areas of our life, perhaps it’s because those are the areas we didn’t set goals in. Is it too late to start setting goals? We can have personal goals, financial goals, work goals, travel goals, reading goals, family goals, health and fitness goals, and many other categories of goals. Do we sometimes not set goals because we don’t know where to start, and we don’t want to give ourselves a job of making the goal come true, so instead of working toward a goal we are aimless?

Do we think we’ll feel worse if we set a goal and don’t make it? Missing a goal and evaluating our progress is probably better than not setting a goal at all. Maybe we set too audacious of a goal, maybe we need to break it down into smaller goals, and maybe something changed, and it isn’t our most important goal anymore.

How many of us wish we’d set some financial goals years ago? Is it too late to set those goals now, it’s too late to reap the harvest of seeds we didn’t plant, but is it too late to start planting seeds now and reap a harvest? What would we still like to do, be, have, see, and experience? What is still possible in our lives and we need to be careful we don’t think everything is over for us too soon, what if we live to be one hundred? What can we do in ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty years or more? What if we make every year our best year, it’s the best one because it is the one we are living. It is the one that has the possibilities because we can’t change the past, the future hasn’t come yet, and everything we want to do has to be done in the present.

The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score. Bill Copeland

What if we make it our goal to make the present count? There is so much to do and see, we can’t do it all, but if we set our goals we can do the most important things. We might even find the more we do, the more we can do. We might think our life is too full to add one more thing to it, but if we find something we enjoy we’ll find time to fit it in.

This is what I am finding with knitting. Yesterday my daughter, grandson, and I went to Michaels to pick out yarn for a blanket I’m knitting him for Christmas. He wanted to touch everything, but we got out of the store with an assortment of blue yarns, and this time I’m deciding where the stripes start and finish. The beauty of knitting a blanket for Christmas is the deadline. I have until Christmas Eve to finish it, wrap it, and put it under the tree. I hope he likes it as much as the baby blanket I knit as a baby gift.

We live busy lives, and if we don’t lead busy lives then we sometimes think life is boring. We need to find the happy balance of doing enough, having enough goals, and choosing the right goals when we can’t do everything. When we look back over our lives and we had to give something up for something more important are we happy with our choices? If we made the right choices our lives have probably worked out pretty well.

Sometimes the choice is about two good things, and sometimes it is about making the best of what is, and what can be. If the choices we made were the best for our family then we are probably happy with our choices over the long haul. One of the goals of every parent I think is to set their children up for a good life. That doesn’t mean they won’t have to work for a living or that life will be easy, but we want them to have the tools to build a life they are proud of, and their children will be proud of.

2024 is coming soon, what goals will we set and accomplish? If we meet every goal too easily perhaps we need to set more audacious goals.

The victory of success is half won when one gains the habit of setting and achieving goals. Og Mandino

Focus on the process “Focus on the process more than the goal; goal leads to success or failure, the process leads to the goal.” Ashim Sarmah

If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy, and inspires your hopes. Andrew Carnegie

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Embracing creativity, wonky stripes and all.

Picture by Belynda Wilson Thomas

You can be cautious or you can be creative, but there’s no such thing as a cautious creative. George Lois

Yesterday, I finished knitting a blanket for my daughter-in-law’s sister’s baby. When choosing the yarn, I had a few I liked and got my daughter-in-law’s opinion on what her sister would like, and she chose a lovely grey, pink, and white stripe. I went to the store to purchase the yarn and it was gone. At a different store, there was a grey, pink, and white stripe that was very similar. I got right to my knitting and soon the pile of knitting on my lap was getting quite large. I realized sixty stitches would be quite a bit bigger than the forty-inch quilt I was planning, so I made another trip to the store for yarn.  I’d almost given up when I found one last ball tucked away. I was also looking for a solid pink to crochet around the edges but none was to be found.

As I neared the end of my knitting I found to my horror the stripes were not looking like I wanted them to. They did in the beginning couple of rows, and I kept on knitting until I held it up to show my husband and he pointed out the uneven stripes. At this point, I was too far into the project to quit and the only solution to get stripes how you want them is to knit from solid yarn and start and end the color yourself. I know this now but didn’t do any research before starting with striped yarn, and I know hope is not a plan, but the yarn was pretty, and I didn’t think beyond that.

I’ve never knitted with striped yarn before and now I’m reading on Google this is a common complaint and when I mentioned it to Mom she was aware of the shortcomings of striped yarn. On Saturday, I went to another store to see if I could find a pink yarn for the crocheted edge and voila, there it was the right color, the right weight, the same manufacturer, and the exact pink of the stripe. Gleefully I made my purchase and got 40% off. I almost clicked my heels on the way out of the store. 

There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity there would be no progress and we would be forever repeating the same patterns. Edward De Bono

When I finished knitting I spread the blanket on the table and wondered if with wonky stripes it was good enough to give as a gift, but determined to finish it, I started crocheting the edge. The edge is the part of the blanket I am happiest with. On a blanket, I knit for my grandson the crocheted edge is pretty but not sturdy, so I looked online for an edge that would stand up. I found an easy scalloped crochet edge and did three rounds which gave it a nice border. Looking at the finished wonky striped baby blanket I shrugged as I folded it up, put it in the bag, wrote the card, and handed it to my daughter-in-law to give to her sister.

The thought crossed my mind, why didn’t I just pick up something for the baby instead of making something? Maybe part of the charm of that blanket will be its wonkiness, maybe sometimes perfectly imperfect is what we can do. It’s finished, it’s on its way to its new home, and I’ve learned a few lessons for the next one.

At Mom’s, one of the reasons she has so much yarn is she has been the repository of the knitting that never got finished. Projects were started and then for whatever reason given up on, and they ended up at her house. Some batches of yarn were not started but must have been purchased for a reason, then someone got too busy, found yarn they liked better, or gave up the idea of creating something altogether.

We never know when we start a project what the finished project will look like. At least I don’t, that is part of the appeal, and we have to manage our expectations. Sometimes when we start a project we realize we should have thought about it a little more, and done a bit more research, but sometimes we can spend so much time doing the research we never get around to doing the project.

When do we meet the fine balance of crippling our creativity trying for perfection, or being sloppy in our workmanship? It might be possible to create a baby blanket I’m really happy with, but I might run out of babies to give them to first.

It takes courage to put our creativity out there, and if we are courageous enough to put our creativity out there who knows where it might go, or who we might inspire. Is there any more creative act we will ever do, than the art of creating ourselves?

You use a glass mirror to see your face. You use works of art to see your soul. George Bernard Shaw

Everyone has a creative impulse, and has the right to create, and should. Patti Smith

Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen. Robert Bresson

Thank you for reading this post. Please come back and read some more, and have a blessed day filled with gratitude, joy, and love.

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Thank you to those who read my books, and a special thank you to those who leave a review on Goodreads and Amazon. If you click on the Amazon link and purchase an item, I receive a small percentage of the sale through the Amazon affiliate program.