In retrospect, the year passed quickly in 2012. As I sit in front of my computer screen, my mind is boggled, and I have writers cramp?

Is that what it is? Or is it that I would much rather continue what I was doing, not writing per schedule to submit, but researching how to make better bread.

What is it about bread that is such a captivating subject to me? Not only is it good to eat, but it is a lesson for us throughout life.

As I pondered this question, I thought about the ingredients, and the order in which the recipe book says they must be added. Also what is absolutely necessary to come out with the finished product of wonderful taste, texture and appearance. Not every loaf of bread I bake can pass the scrutiny of a prize-winning outcome, but most have their own value. Or so, others have said -- perhaps to soothe my worried appearance.

As the year ends and Congress lags behind deadlines, unable to come to what they mistakenly feel might be the will of the people they are supposedly serving, I find there are some apt comparisons with making bread. I am writing this on the Sunday prior to the end of the year, so I do not know who fell off or held onto that uncertain "fiscal cliff," which has been the subject of every newscast.

I believe my sourdough bread is an example -- for much that happens in life for what we put into it, determines the outcome. Yes, the ingredients of both are crucial to the outcome. My sourdough starter, which now has the worthy status of being at least 5 years old, is an appropriate comparison in seven steps.

1) The starter is aged, it is truly sour, and it has the ability to give pretty good or wonderful texture, taste, buoyancy and appearance. However, if it is not used or replenished at least bimonthly with more honey or sugar, flour and water in the right proportions, it will not last and should be discarded. In other words, it does what it is supposed to do if it follows the rules.

2) Sweetener of honey, molasses or sugar in the correct amount is absolutely needed to allow the bread to rise with the help of the sourdough starter. Kind of like cooperation, compromise, energy and willingness to listen to other opinions.

3) Flour, quinoa, spelt, wheat bran, bulgur or other alternative grains in the correct amounts are added. This truly is the substance that determines the outcome. It can be changed but must be within the required amount of dry ingredients. I guess this is like being a team player and not striving to be noticed, re-elected or being uncooperative.

4) Salt is needed not just for taste, but to assist in the rising process and can be adjusted but not be totally omitted. Perhaps that can be likened to dependability.

5) Yeast still is needed although a sourdough starter is used. Adding yeast is like a sense of humor. If omitted, work becomes drudgery.

6) Oops, I almost forgot to write that the first ingredient I use is, yep, water. Without water, we cannot survive, nor can any of the above ingredients hold together. Guess it can be compared to good ol' common sense and truly caring about the good of the whole.

7) Good old extra-virgin olive oil is the last ingredient and might be compared to cooperation and compromise.

But the process is still not yet complete. Without extras that I like to add, such as sunflower seeds or herbs, the bread would not be a yummy, nourishing, gorgeous loaf.

Could this be compared to the diversity and the many cultures evident in our wonderful country?

But it is not just what the ingredients are that make the final product. The bread dough needs to be mixed, pulled together, allowed to rise, kneaded, punched down, divided, shaped, and given time and place to rise. And then the oven temperature must be correct, which can vary as to how the crust will be.

And then to brush or not to brush with egg wash, milk or just plain water to complete the process. Sounds like work, time, committment, cooperation, appreciation of what our completed (yet always a work in progress) product is and will be.

Makes me more than hungry just to think about it. I sure do wish that those who have been elected to maintain our wonderful country, the United States of America, appreciated how bread is made.

Hmm. Need I say more or is the comparison evident?

In this New Year of 2013, may we be worthy of our life in our wonderful country. God bless America.

Ruth Moriarity is a member of The Hays Daily News Generations advisory group.