You need new clothes, new shoes, and it'd be nice if you could find a pair of better-fitting, more expensive jeans. Your skin is old-looking, you need a tan, a firmer hindsection, lose that baby-weight, and wax those forearms.

Girls. The world owes you an apology. The television, the magazines, the news reports, and all mankind. They've done you wrong. And I, for one, am sorry about it.

They're trying to kill you. And once they've finished, they're going after your daughters.

Don't believe me? Just flip on the TV. They say you're not sexy enough. You're overweight. Your swimsuit isn't tiny enough. Your hair should be blonder, darker, straighter, and you need more volume.

Not only that, but you're dowdy. Your lips are too small; hips too big. You've got bags under your eyes, your teeth could be whiter, chest bigger, arms less flabby, midsection tighter.

I'm just warming up.

You need new clothes, new shoes, and it'd be nice if you could find a pair of better-fitting, more expensive jeans. Your skin is old-looking, you need a tan, a firmer hindsection, lose that baby-weight, and wax those forearms.

You talk too much. You don't cook enough. You're not strict enough with your kids. You need regular exercise twice per hour.

You need

more school, more credibility, more accredited classes, more professional know-how, management skills, leadership training, certifications, administrative growth.

And for God's sake, get a little confidence.

You drink too much coffee, not enough coconut water. You consume too much butter, not enough palm oil. You don't eat quinoa, pomegranate, kale, bone broth, kambucha, brewer's yeast.

What's wrong with you? Are you trying to kill yourself?

You eat too much bacon, butter, ham, beef, cheese, potatoes, and fried chicken. Clean up your diet. Clean up your potty mouth. And fold that laundry.

Read this book—everyone's reading it. Go see that movie—it's the most important film of our decade. Keep up with current events. Sign your boy up for every sporting team available. Make sure your daughter practices piano.

Hate these people, they deserve it. Don't talk to her, she's got a bad reputation. Never give handouts to…

Long ago, my college professor told us to choose a poem to recite in class. Students chose lofty selections from the greats. Whitman, Dickinson, Frost. I consulted Daddy's Hank Williams songbook.

10:40 P.M.—New Year's Eve. Hank Williams is on my radio. My wife is sleeping in the passenger seat. My coonhound is in the backseat.

To bring in the year, we've gone for a drive on county roads that weave along the Choctawhatchee Bay.

There are no cars out. The highway is vacant—except for police cruisers. I've never welcomed in a year like this.

As a boy, my father and I brought in holidays with shotguns. We'd march to the edge of creation and fire twelve gauges at the moon. Then, I'd sip Coca-Cola; he'd sip something clear.

Another year goes by without him.

11:02 P.M.—my tank is on E. I stop at a gas station. The pump card-reader is broken. My wife is still out cold.

I go inside to pay. The clerk is a young girl with purple hair. She wanted to be with her kids tonight, but someone called in with a sinus infection.

I buy a Coca-Cola in a plastic bottle.

I also buy a scratch-off lotto ticket. The last few minutes of the year, I'm

feeling lucky. I use my keys to scratch the ticket. I win five bucks. So, I buy another two. I win another dollar.

"Lucky you," the cashier says. "Wish I could buy one, but it's against store policy."

To hell with policy. It's New Year's Eve.

I buy her one.

She swipes a coin from the take-a-penny tray. She scratches. She wins ten bucks. We high-five.

It's only ten bucks, but seeing her win makes my year.

11:28 P.M.—I'm driving. My wife is still sawing pinelogs. I'm riding though the North Florida woods, sipping Coke. Trees grow so high you can't see the moon. It's almost like poetry.

Long ago, my college professor told us to choose a poem to recite in class. Students chose lofty selections from the greats. Whitman, Dickinson, Frost.

I consulted Daddy's Hank Williams songbook. He'd given…

Don't get me wrong, this thing isn't always petunias and soap bars. This thing can be hard as nails. Sometimes, it causes the greatest pain you'll ever feel. Even so, it's a pain worth feeling. Don't ask me why. I don't know.

It's too big to write about. But, I'm not going to let that stop me. That's because it's a pretty big thing I'm referring to. The biggest.

Jaden owes his very life to this thing.

Jaden was an abandoned infant born with crack-cocaine in his bloodstream. After his mother's arrest, he was adopted by Claire—sixty-eight-year-old single woman who heard about his situation through a friend.

Claire said, “I know I ain't got forty years to give'im like some young couples, but I'm a good mama, he can have every year I got left.”

Consequently, this "big thing" is the same thing that killed Bob Cassidy.

First, it compelled Cassidy to pull over on Highway 10 to change a woman's tire. A car struck him. It killed him on impact.

I know what you're thinking, "What a senseless tragedy." It wasn't senseless. All thanks to this thing we're talking about.

This thing also prompted Betty to adopt three rescue dogs from a kill-shelter. She brought them home and turned them loose on her twenty-acre farm.

“That's when it hit me,” she said. “I knew had enough room for lots'a dogs.”

So she drove back and adopted several more. Then a few more. Soon, the shelter started giving them to her.

Folks thought Betty was nuts. But she's not. She only looks that way to people who don't know about this thing—which often makes normal folks look like their a few bricks short of a load.

Don't get me wrong, this thing isn't always petunias and soap bars. This thing can be hard as nails. Sometimes, it causes the greatest pain you'll ever feel. Even so, it's a pain worth feeling. Don't ask me why. I don't know.

Something I do know:

this stuff is the fabric the universe. It's the only real thing out there. It's what makes average people sparkle, and ugly skies look pretty. It gives purpose to death.…

He was raised as a foot-washing Baptist and could quote the Old Testament backwards—eyes shut.

Foley, Alabama—I'm sitting in Lambert's restaurant. This is the "home of throwed rolls." Servers stroll the dining rooms, tossing yeast rolls at customers like four-seam fastballs.

A waiter lobs one at me. It hits me square in the teeth. He laughs. So does my wife.

It leaves a mark.

Our waitress brings our plates. Chicken-fried steak, collards, fried potatoes. She wishes me a happy New Year's and asks, "Have you had a good twenty-sixteen?"

You bet your suspenders I have.

While I haven't done anything noteworthy this year, I did get rid of our rusted 1974 mobile home. That was a biggie.

It got hauled to the county dump by a team of highly specialized ambulatory demolition experts with names like, Delmar, and—I'm not making this up—Willie Joe Mavis.

When the lovable single-wide left our property, it bore a yellow banner, reading, “oversized load.”

Willie played “Taps” on the bugle.

Another 2016 highpoint: I kept a New Year's resolution. A little over three hundred days ago, I resolved before King and country to go fishing every weekday at 2 P.M.—even

if only for ten minutes—and if need be, to include beer.

It wasn't always easy, but the Lord provides.

The truth is, this has been the best year of my life. And I'm not just saying that.

Let me tell you about Randy.

We grew up together. He was a kindhearted soul who raised four kids on a millworker's salary. He and his wife were salt-of-the earth folks. They ate healthy, abstained from alcohol, sodas, sugar, and barbecue.

He was raised as a foot-washing Baptist and could quote the Old Testament backwards—eyes shut.

I once watched Randy get caught in a fistfight outside a beer-joint. Randy wasn't drinking. He refused to throw a punch and he got beat to a pulp. His soft-spokeness was something to see.

Randy died this year. Doctors never saw it coming. Nobody did. His wife…