“The one good thing about Christmas shopping is that it toughens you for January sales.” Grace Kriley

I have a friend who gathered all his family together for the holidays and rented a fabulous house in the warm climate. They bought all the ingredients for the holiday dinner and stocked the fridge with all their favorite food. As they were lounging by the pool, they noticed someone they considered the landscaper walking about the house. After a while they found a note on the front door stating the gas was shut off and the meter removed! No hot water, no gas stove to cook for the celebration and no other place they could use as a substitute by the rental company. They had the best time!

It turned out to be the most hilarious holiday they’ll ever retell - bar none. The grill ran out of gas, the microwave died (obviously too much was asked of it) and after the holidays, they were moved to another house. But let’s face it, the damage was done. He laughed while telling me one fiasco after another and I understood sometimes you’re placed in situations you have no control over. Fortunately, they all had a great sense of humor.

We’re told this is the most wonderful time of the year. Everything sounds crisper, looks brighter, smells sweeter and feels more alive. I agree! It’s time to wake up and appreciate the things and people we take for granted. We have so much to be thankful for and this season reminds us to smile more and laugh often. When you head to the gym, your senses are alert. The mat crunches under the weight of your footwork, there's a rhythm to the sound of your workout and swimming in the pool has a joyful noise of its own. Give everything you’ve got - in love and in life.

If you don’t think you have enough money to get everyone a great gift, I have a secret for you that you’ve heard over and over. The things that people truly need can’t be bought. When I worked with people who seemed busier than most and never seemed to have enough time, I found they were the easiest to please. I gave them the gift of time. I would hand them a card stating I’d volunteer “x” amount of my time in their name at their favorite charities. Sometimes it was a joy, sometimes it meant I experienced a challenge that would almost break my heart. Either way, everyone benefited - especially me.

Put your love into words. Write an overdue letter to someone that has already counted you out. Be there, if not in person then in spirit. You’ll never know how many times a letter will be read by someone who simply misses you.

Give away pieces of your heart by listening to people that have no one to share a moment with. Be that person that makes someone feel they matter. I learned that from my mother and father long ago. My sister has always led with her heart and I couldn’t be any more proud of her, her husband and my nephews. They have opened their hearts and home to many foster children. When, on the few occasions I’d go up to visit, we’d go walking in town or go to a grocery store. She was always met with “Hi Auntie Eileen” everywhere we went. She made every single person feel special and without saying it out loud, they knew and understood it. That’s a powerful gift to give anyone.

For years, I searched for the perfect Christmas tree. My husband dreaded the trek to the tree farms and Christmas tree lots. Then came the ritual of placing the perfect ornament on the perfect branch - still agonizing… One year I was down with the flu and my husband decorated the tree as I slept on the living room couch. Upon awakening, I was treated to the most hilarious vision of what one man, without any decorating sense, and three children who whole-heartedly were enjoying themselves, thought a perfect tree should look like. They had taken toilet paper and wrapped it from the tip top of the tree and all round down to the trunk! They loved that tree more than any perfect tree we ever put in the stand. I still have a picture of it. It’s one of my most treasured photographs. It was also the year when I learned to enjoy other people’s enjoyment.

I think about my dear friend who made lemonade out of lemons when his holiday plans went haywire. He lives each day knowing that no matter how good or bad your life is, you need to wake up each morning and be thankful you have a life.

Go out and share it. It’s the best gift you can give anyone. Merry Christmas and a most Happy New Year.