Thanksgiving opens the joyous holiday season--unless you are an unpartnered single unable to spend it with your children or other family.
Then it can be just plain depressing. But it doesn't have to be.
We talked with some county singles who have taken control of the holidays by building a comfort zone with creative thought and deliberate effort. Perhaps their stories will encourage others to think of ways to make this Thanksgiving a special one.
Linda Nixon, retail leasing specialist, Laguna Niguel: "I moved from the San Fernando Valley just a few months ago and don't have many friends yet.
"It's easy to get lonely sometimes, but I feel thankful that I am able to work in such a beautiful community. I am driving to Oceanside to have Thanksgiving with my family, and I am bringing someone from my apartment complex who is alone for the holidays. My family is very open and friendly--I think she will feel welcome."
Donna Bradshaw, owner, American Shelf Lining, Santa Ana: "I have a daughter who lives with me, a grown son and a sister who lives nearby--so I am thankful for that. The rest of my family lives in Missouri.
"Every Thanksgiving I extend an invitation to all my single friends--especially those who won't be with their boyfriend, girlfriend or their kids. That's what Thanksgiving should be about--not just being thankful for what you have, but sharing it with others."
Ken Webster, home remodeling contractor, San Clemente: "I have two grown daughters. I was divorced from my first wife more than 20 years ago, and I later remarried.
"Due to my second wife's jealousy, I was forced to cut off a pleasant platonic relationship with my former wife. Last year I was divorced again after 12 years of marriage. It was rough, but my first wife was there for me through it all--a true friend. We are spending the holiday with our daughters and their husbands in Lake Arrowhead--our first Thanksgiving together since 1967.
"Thanksgiving can also be a time for healing old wounds."
Marcy Tayback, college student, Orange: "My family is in Minnesota, and I don't have a special boyfriend right now. Last year I volunteered to serve Thanksgiving dinner to senior citizens at a restaurant here in Orange County. It felt good to help other people, and it took my mind off my own loneliness.
"I had such a good time that I volunteered again this year, and I convinced two of my friends to volunteer too."
Anthony Andrisano, hardware sales representative, Huntington Beach: "I am thankful for my job. Last year the company I worked for folded, and I was out of work for about four months.
"It was scary, and I got real depressed. My whole family lives in Massachusetts, so there was no one to lean on.
"I'm thankful this year that I am able to fly home and see all my relatives--our first Thanksgiving together in five years."
Melody Andersen, sales clerk, Brea: "My relationship ended a few weeks ago, and I started to get really depressed just thinking about the holidays coming up.
"So I got six people from work who have nowhere to go for Thanksgiving and we rented a cabin in Big Bear."
John Haig, computer consultant, Cypress: "I am extremely thankful that my father, who had a stroke 10 weeks ago, is on his way to a complete recovery. We didn't know at first if he would survive, let alone walk or talk again.
"I am especially thankful for the kindness of two people--a nurse and an orderly--while he was in the hospital. We know that their dedication helped save him. We have invited them to join our family for Thanksgiving."
Jeffrey Ullman, founder of Great Expectations, the video dating service, has published a free booklet to help singles beat the holiday blues, which can be obtained through any Great Expectations office.