Thursday, December 30, 2010

Holiday Update and New Year Wishes

I hope everyone enjoyed a wonderful holiday season shared with family and/or friends. I apologize for yet another blogging absence, but the month of December was pretty hectic between Christmas shopping, volunteering, holiday visits and parties.

The month started off great, thanks to a hugely successful holiday cookie exchange. As you might recall, I signed up to participate despite my lack of culinary skills, but thanks to the help of my kind sister-in-law, I made my two cookie recipes (lemon lavender cookies and pumpkin cheesecake bars). It proved a great opportunity to share a few laughs with friends, as well as try some delish cookies. A new annual tradition was born.

The food pantry where I volunteer with food distribution every Thursday was crazy busy the first three weeks of the month due to the fact that the last two weeks, between the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, we’d be closed. On that last Thursday, in addition to the regular bags of food, we also distributed gift certificates to the local supermarket which families could use to purchase items for their holiday meal, and we had toys for the children that were contributed by a local church that had organized a toy drive in their parish. It was a horribly cold night, but the families were lined up outside our doors well before distribution time, and as soon as the doors opened, the little kids rushed inside and made a beeline for the toys table. The plan was to have families collect their food and certificates first and then stop by the toys table, so we ended up having to shoo the little ones away until they had their parents with them. Sadly, there were more kids then there were toys, so by the end of the evening, some children didn’t have a toy to take home with them. There was one moment which stays with me still. A little boy stood by the toys table for a while. Initially we told him he had to wait for mom and dad, so he stepped back and said he was just looking. As we saw the toys start to dwindle and still no parents, we asked him if he wanted to pick something out and we’d hold it for him, to which he solemnly responded “someone already took it.” As if that wasn’t bad enough, by the time he did come up, all the toys were gone and only books and gifts for teenagers were left. Ugh, I thought of him for days after that, and prayed mom and dad and/or Santa had been able to get him some of the toys he wanted for Christmas.

In between my office holiday dinner and shopping for gifts, I also made time to go visit Carmen at the nursing home. If you’ve read my '100 things', you know Carmen is an elderly friend which I made in the last few months of mom’s life while she was at a nursing home. Carmen is from Puerto Rico and doesn’t have any family here in the States. In fact, the only company she gets at the nursing home is a couple of parishioners from a local church which come to pray with her and me. I brought her my gifts, as well as one that my cousin had been kind enough to get for her. She was thrilled with her gifts, but more than the gifts she was just happy to see me. Her joy was a reminder of what the holidays are all about… not shopping or gifts or parties…it’s about having loved ones to spend it with.

So after much stress gift picking, shopping, and wrapping, the holidays went off without a hitch. My knuckleheads loved their gifts, as did most of my loved ones (I hope). Santa was very generous with me. I received a beautiful ring from my knuckleheads, a couple outfits and a coat, as well as gift cards. Another standout gift for 2010, that I have my friend to thank for, is a Kindle. It’s one of those things that I would ooh and ahh over, but would never dream of spoiling myself with. Well, I’m lucky enough to get to enjoy it thanks to a bunch of great friends and the darling little elf that made it possible. Above all the gifts, I am most grateful for all of my family and friends. I feel truly blessed to have so many wonderful people to love in my life.

Let me take this opportunity to wish all my family, friends and loved ones - and anyone else who happens to have stumbled across this page - a great 2011. May you each be blessed with health, happiness, peace, prosperity and love. Happy New Year!