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Sept. 14 is my 93rd birthday and I have a gift for you. Here are my gifts of reason.

In 1933, the U.S. went through the Great Depression. It wasn't that the depression was great, it was the people's strength that was great.

My pop and mom, brother and three sisters lived in a home my father built, with some help, in Beverly, Massachusetts. We had a two-bedroom, one-bath, a cellar and a large vegetable garden, 12 chickens and a cherry tree. At an early age, all I knew was we were a family that helped each other.

The Depression made most all citizens equal. The ones who suffered the most were the wealthy. They had a lot to lose, whereas we who were frugal continued to exist as we had been doing.

My parents came to America in the early 1900s through Ellis Island from Italy and Russia, were sponsored, learned and spoke only English, and became proud citizens of their new country.

In 1975 my father carved the Declaration of Independence and the history of this great nation on a square piece of wood and gifted it to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C., which was on display celebrating the country's bicentennial birthday.

We had a vegetable garden, and at 7 years old, I went around the neighborhood selling cucumbers, three for 10 cents, but even at the age of 7 I knew you had to have a gimmick to attract attention so I nailed my building blocks to my shoes to show I was grown up. I had long black curls with a big white ribbon and did sell all my cukes.

So, my first gift to you is this — be prepared for any disaster. With preparation, you will survive.

Being the youngest I got a lot of hand-me-downs but the best dress I remember was made by my mom from a beautiful flowered flour sack. I did have some new dresses. I had a Shirley Temple dress that, to this day, I remember every detail.

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I learned to sew, knit and embroider and still do, but added to my I-can-do list at the age of 60, taking tap-dancing lessons. At 85 I acted in Lompoc Civic Theater. At 87 I took drum lessons.

I have written and had several of my books published along with several self-published, including poetry and a calendar for the Chamber of Commerce in 2008 when I was an ambassador. Also, in 2005 I was Woman of the Year and won the Bed Race for best theme representation.

You're never too old to learn something new. In August 2019 I took up painting for the sheer pleasure of seeing what paint and canvas can produce, my fun art is whimsical with a hidden meaning in 3-D.

So, my second gift to you is strength, not the kind from a gym, but protecting yourself, take up something you have interest in, something new.

When leaving grade school, I was chased home and called WOP because of my Italian name. It hurt but I think it made me stronger. Have you heard the old saying "sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me”? True.

The third gift is, in most cases, your parents did not start out wealthy. They worked hard, gave a day’s work for a day’s pay, so don't think your parents owe you so you can be what it took them years to accomplish.

My fourth gift is my most cherished — my love of country and the right to freedom of speech. Speech is what you say, not the tearing down of monuments that remind us of past history that can't be changed. But you can learn from past mistakes.

So, I hope in some way, my gifts give you thoughts of what you have given to your country, and that they outweigh what you have taken for granted. God bless America.

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Anita Dwyer is a Lompoc resident.

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