There is truly nothing like the holiday season to remind you of what you have to be grateful for. The holiday season often comes with a touch of sadness for those you miss, someone or something you’ve lost recently or long ago, and of any regrets from the past year. However, the holiday season also comes with a boost of renewed focus for me. I am very fortunate that I am able to take off as much time as I have, and I always save up for the week before and after Christmas. This year, I took off the Thursday/Friday before Christmas and the entire week after Christmas (which fell on a Sunday this year). Several of my friends and family either had to work on Christmas Eve/Day or return to work the day after Christmas. The thought of having to do this reminds me of how grateful I am for the ability to take off the time that I can during Christmas.

People often ask me what I’m doing or where I’m going to warrant taking 7 days off of work. I’m not doing anything out of the ordinary (even for me) this year. Just taking the time off to be at my Mom’s house, hang out with my Mom, Dad, sister, niece, and brother in law. No schedule, no hurry, no traffic, no problems! In fact, I spent all day yesterday in my pajamas and felt great about it.

I am very lucky that my mom sees Christmas through the eyes of a child. She has always been in elementary education, so a lot of it comes naturally to her – however, she has a gift for Christmas that is unrivaled. My mom has always done everything to the extreme, but Christmas – well, there are just no words to describe. 4 Christmas trees, presents stacked for miles throughout the house, more casseroles and cookies and candies that you can even imagine. She even remembers (every year) what dishes are whose favorite and makes sure to cover everyone. She works her butt off at Christmas, but I know she loves it. Though I don’t have the extreme creativity gene that she does, I did inherit from her a huge appreciation for the season and what it means to our family. I may not have 4 trees at my house, but you better believe that on Christmas morning, I am more excited about seeing people open my gifts than I am for receiving gifts from others. I absolutely love it. My family’s Christmas is super awesome because we always take it slow and watch each other open gifts, so sometimes it will be hours before the last gift is opened.

This year, we spent Christmas Eve at my sister’s house so Mary Ashtyn could wake up Christmas morning to find what Santa left from her. This slight change in routine was great because 1) my sister’s family only lives about 10 minutes from my mom’s house and 2) Santa ‘redecorated’ and transformed Mary Ashtyn’s toddler room into a ‘big girl’ room, complete with full size bed, TV, and bookshelf. The discovery of her ‘new room’ was after she dug through the massive pile of toys left by Santa in the living room. Seeing her process all of ‘that’ and being a part of her excitement was more gift than I could ever ask for. It’s something I wish I could bottle up and have a slight whiff of every now and then when I’m feeling blue because her excitement was so real and so magical.

I know that many people celebrate many different things during this time of year, but I think that there is a common thread that all people acknowledge, love, and celebrate: FAMILY. Without my family, this season would be meaningless to me. Gifts and details will come and go, but family (or the memories of) lasts forever. Hopefully we all (myself included) can learn to put familial differences aside and be glad that we have the time together. Because every moment together counts.

And so, to everyone, everywhere – no matter who you are or what you believe and celebrate – I hope that your heart is filled with joy as mine has been so far.

Me, I’m looking forward to having the rest of the week off with no plans and no place to be (except with my family) is excitement enough for me.

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